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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

by
Thomas Vincent


XCV. Ques. To whom is baptism to be administered?
Ans.
Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible Church are to be baptized.

Q. 1. Is baptism to be administered unto all?
A. Baptism is not to be administered unto all, nor to any that are out of the visible Church, because they, being out of the covenant, have no right unto the seals of the covenant. "At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."— Eph. 2:12.

Q. 2. May not heathens and infidels be baptized?
A. Heathens and infidels, who are without the Church whilst they continue infidels, ought not to be baptized; but if, upon the preaching of the gospel unto them, they repent and believe, and make profession of their faith and resolution of obedience, they are thereby virtually within the Church, and then have a right to this ordinance of baptism, and it ought not to be denied unto them. "And he said, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved," &c.— Mark 16:15, 16.

Q. 3. May not infants be baptized?
A. 1. No infants of heathens aud infidels, whilst such, may be baptized, because both parents and children are out of the covenant. 2. The infants of Christians or believing parents, being visible Church members, may and ought to be baptized.

Q. 4. How do you prove that the infants of such as are visible Church members, may and ought to be baptized?
A. That the infants of such as are visible Church members may and ought to be baptized may be proved, because they are in covenant; and the promise of the covenant belonging unto them, this seal of the covenant doth belong to them also. "The promise is to you and to your children."— Acts 2:39. It is upon account of the promise of the covenant that any have the seal; hence it was that not only Abraham, but all his seed, whilst in their infancy received the seal of circumcision, because the promise of the covenant was made to both and by the same reason, not only believing parents, but also their infants, are to receive the seal of baptism, the promise being made to both. "I will establisb my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man-child among you shall be circumcised."— Gen. 17:7, 10.

Q. 5. How do you prove that because the infants of the Jews, under the law, had the promise and seal of the covenant of grace, namely, circumcision, whereby they were admitted to be visible Church members; therefore, that the infants of Christians, under the gospel, have the promise of the covenant of grace, and ought to have the seal of haptism, to admit them to be visible Church members also?
A. 1. That the infants of Christians have the promise of the covenant of grace made with Abraham is evident., because that covenant was an everlasting covenant. "I will establish my covenant for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee" (Gen. 17:7); which covenant Christ is the Mediator of; and it is renewed in the New Testament with all believers, and that as fully as under the law: and, therefore, if the infants under the law were included, the infants under the gospel are included too. 2. That the privilege of infants (being made Church members) under the law, doth belong to the infants of Christians under the gospel, besides the parity of reason for it, and equality of right unto it, is evident, because this privilege was never repealed and taken away under the gospel.

Q. 6. How do you prove that the privilege of infants being made visible Church members under the gospel was never taken away?
A. That the privilege of infants being made visible Church members was never taken away under the gospel is evident— 1. Because, if this privilege were repealed, we would have some notice of its repeal in the Scripture; but we have no notice or signification of God's will to repeat this privilege throughout the whole book of God. 2. Because Chnst did not come to take away or straiten the privileges of the Church, but to enlarge them; and who can, upon Scnpturo grounds, imagine that it was the will of Christ that the infants of the Jewish Church should be Church members, but the infants of the Christian Church should be shut out like heathens and infidels? 3. Because the Scripture is express, that the infants of Christians are holy. " I'lse were vour children unclean, but now they are holy."— 1 Cor. 7:14. As the Jews are called in Scripture a holy nation, because by circumcision they were made visible Clinrch members; so the infants of Christians, as well as themselves, are called holy; that is, federally holy, as they are by baptism made visible Church members.

Q. 7. How doth it appear that baptism doth make members of the visible Church?
A. That baptism doth make members of the visible Qliurch under the gospel is evident, because it is the sacrament of initiation and admission into the Church, by which our Saviour gave his disciples commission to admit persons into his Church. "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them," &c. (Matt. 28:19); or, make and admit disciples, as the Greek word signifleth disciple them.

Q. 8. But doth not Christ first require that people should be taught and believe, at least make a profession of their faith, before they be baptized; and therefore, all infants being incapable of being taught, and making profession of their faith, are they not hereby excluded from the privilege of baptism?
A. 1. That which our Saviour required of teaching, and an actual profession of faith, before baptism, is to be understood of the heathen nations, unto whom he sent his apostles to preach, who, without this, were not to be baptized; but there is not the same reason concerning the infants of such as are themselves members of the visible Church. 2. The infants of Church members being incapable of being taught and making an actual profession of faith, doth no more exclude them the privilege of baptism than their being incapable of working doth exclude them the liberty of eating, when the command is express, "If any work not, neither shall he eat."— 2 Thess. 3:10. Notwithstanding which command, infants being incapable of working, yet they may eat; and so infants, being incapable of professing their faith, may be baptized. 3. Infants, though they are incapable of being taught by men, and making an actual profession of their faith, yet they are capable of the grace of the covenant, by the secret work of the Spirit; "for of such is the kingdom of heaven." And who will say that all infants, dying in their infancy, are damned, as they must be, if they are incapable of the grace of the covenant? and if they be capable of the grace of the covenant, they are capable of this seal of baptism.

Q. 9. How caii infants have right to baptism, when we do not find, throughout the whole New Testament, either precept or example for their baptism?
A. 1. The ordinance of baptism, as to the substance of it, is expressly appointed by our Saviour in the New Testament; but it is not needful that the circumstance of the time of its administration should be appointed too, when the time mav be so clearly deduced by Scripture consequence. 2. We do not find, in the Scripture, any precept or example in the very words, that women shall partake of the Lord's supper; yet we believe that they did partake of the Lord's supper in Scripture time; and, they being Church members, and believers capable of the aettial exercise of grace, have an undoubted right unto that sacrament. 3. We have proved from Scripture that Christian infants have a right to be Church members, and therefore they have a right to baptism, which admits them thereunto, and that there is no Scripture repeal of this privilege. 4. We have no precept or example concerning the infants of such as were baptized themselves, that they should be, or that any of them were, kept unbaptized from their infancy, until they were grown up unto years of maturity, and did make an actual profession of their faith, and then did receive the ordinance of baptism; and why, then, will any do this which they have no Scripture precept nor example for? 5. There is great probability that the infants of be]ievers, in some recorded cases of Scripture, were baptized in their infancy. Where whole households were baptized together, it is not said that the infants in such houses were excluded; and why, then, should we exclude infants from the ordinance, whom God bath nowhere excluded?

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