By John Norcott
Answers to common objections.
Such is the corruption of man’s heart that he will make objections against the clearest truth in the blessed Word of God, and therefore do men raise objections against Believer’s Baptism. Yet we do not marvel; for which of the truths of God has not been cavilled at? Yea, has not God himself been objected against? But I may say of
baptism, as Paul once said, “This thing was not done in a corner.” I only give this Scriptural caution: it is written of some that “they have closed their eyes lest they should see and be converted, and I should heal them;” Take heed of closing your eyes! But if you are willing to see the truth, then I am sure you will be made willing to follow this ordinance in the day of God’s power. Still, if in conscience you are somewhat doubtful and desire satisfaction, consider the answers to the following objections.
Some have said that water baptism is only to last for a while and has now come to an end; for, they say, it is said in Matthew 28.19-20, ‘To the end of the world” and by that is meant, “To the end of the age,” and no longer.
To which I answer, This cannot be the sense of the text. First, because Christ bids the apostles teach them “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Matt. 28.20. Now do you think that all things the apostles were to teach them to observe, were only to the end of that age? Christ commanded them to repent, to believe, and to be holy, as well as to be baptized; and are we to repent, believe and be holy, no longer than to the end of that age? Secondly, Christ promises His presence to the end of the world, Matt. 28,20 “Lo, I am with you alway, unto the end of the world.” Now has Christ promised His presence only to the end of the Jewish age? This would be a dreadful doctrine. He has said, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee,” Josh .1.5. The promise of His presence is to last throughout all ages, for the word may be rendered; I will be with you in ages, or, to the end of the world; therefore observe all things to the end of the world.
But water baptism was John’s baptism.
I answer.Â—Was the Baptism of John from heaven or of men? John’s Baptism was from heaven. Matt. 21,25. Then further, John was but to prepare Christ’s way before him, Luke 1.76. “Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his way”, so that John did but prepare Christ’s way: this therefore was Christ’s way, not John’s way. But further, has not Christ commanded, and have not the churches practised baptism after John’s death, and Christ’s resurrection? Did not Christ say, Go teach and baptize; and will you say this is John’s baptism?
But neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything, but a new creature.
I answer.Â—Once circumcision was something, for the Lord would have killed Moses because of his neglect of the circumcision of his son, Exod. 4.24,25,26. Moreover, the Lord said that, “whoever was not circumcised, he should be cut off from the people”, Gen. 17.14. Under the Gospel circumcision is nothing, because it is abolished, Gal. 5,2. “If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” But will you hence conclude if circumcision be nothing because God has abolished it, that therefore baptism is nothing which he has not abolished but commanded? This would be a vain argument indeed. Baptism is a command of the Lord Jesus, Matt. 28.19. Will you say that His command is nothing? Let this be far from you.
I am baptized with the Spirit, which is the substance; water baptism is but the shadow.
I answer.Â—You may as well say so of all other ordinances, they are but shadows: the Supper is but a shadow; prayer, hearing and preaching are but shadows; and when you have reached that point and given up all these, where will you run? Then further, the question is not whether it be a shadow; but is it a command of Christ? If a command, dispute not Christ’s authority lest He be angry. Whether it be a shadow or not is not your business; do not question with your Lord, but take the counsel of the virgin Mary, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Moreover, call water baptism a shadow, yet consider Christ subjected Himself to it, and who are you to refuse it? Will you be wiser than Christ? Furthermore, in Acts 10.47,48, we read of those who were with Cornelius. They were baptized with the Spirit, and spake with tongues, and yet they were baptized in water. Then answered Peter, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” Remember, he that is faithful in the least is faithful in much.
Does not Baptism come in the place of circumcision?
I answer.Â—No surely, for there is not any word of God for such a thing, and you must not be wise above what is written. And then consider, circumcision concerned only the males; but we read in Acts 8.12, “When they believed, they were baptized, both men and women.
But are not very learned men for infant-baptism?
I answer.Â—There is no error which has not found advocates among those who are reputed to be learned; while for the most part truth has suffered at their hands. The pharisees and lawyers (the learned men of the times) rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized of John. Luke 7.30. Do not say as they said, “Which of the rulers have believed in him?” Listen to Christ’s answer. “Jesus answered, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes.” Matt. 11.25. And further, if learning were an argument in this case, are there not many cardinals and Jesuits learned men? Are you therefore to become a papist?
But are there not very godly men, pastors of churches, that hold infant-baptism?
I answer.Â—Doubtless such is the case; but you are not to follow an Apostle further than he follows Christ. Paul says, 1 Cor. 11.1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Bring no examples of good men against an express word of God, for even good men may err. You have an express word, in Acts 8.12; “When they believed, they were baptized, both men and women,” and against this the example of good men and pastors cannot weigh for a moment. Elias was a good man, he called for fire from heaven; but we must not do so. Jehoshaphat was a good king, but yet in his reign the high places were not removed, 1 Kings. 22.43. Follow no example against the clear word of the Lord. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” Exod. 23.2.
But there is not a word in Scripture against baptizing infants?
I answer.Â—Nadab and Abihu were burned with fire, because they did that which the Lord commanded not. Lev. 10.2,3. Take heed of worshipping the Lord in a way which is not expressly commanded. Again, if you mean by a word, and express word, then where have you a word against the inventions of the papists? Do we read in the Bible, Thou shalt not baptize bells? Where have you a word, saying, Thou shalt not use spittle, cream or salt, in baptism, as the Romanists do? You would not allow a popish priest such an argument, why then do you use it yourself? you must know, that it is enough to condemn infant baptism that it is not commanded by the Lord.
But were there not whole families baptized?
I answer.Â—That it is expressly said, that “They all believed.” Concerning the Jailor we read, Acts 16.33, “He was baptized, he and all his, straightway,” but we find in ver. 34 that “he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house”. Crispus, “the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized”, Acts 18.8. Lydia and her household were baptized, Acts 16.15. Here is no mention made of husband or children, nor are we told whether she was a maid or a widow; only those who were in the house of Lydia are called “Brethren,” ver. 40. There are many baptized households in our day in which there are no infants, and there were such in the Apostles’ day, for Luke tells us they all believed, which infants cannot do.
Infants were once church-members, and we do not find that they were cut off.
I answer.Â—That the Jewish people who were the natural branches were broken off by their unbelief. If they come to believe, they may be grafted in again; but till then they are broken off, Rom. 11.20,21. So that all privilege which came to Jewish infants by way of fleshly descent has come to an end, neither may any man plead it, since under the Gospel the axe is laid to the root of the trees; and every tree that brings not forth good fruit, is cut down and cast into the fire, Matt. 3.9, Therefore you must not think to say you have Abraham, (or any other believer,) for your father, for you must yourselves believe if you would have power to become sons of God. This is the sure word of God, and it was acted on of old, for the Sadducees were rejected, when they came for baptism, thinking to say, they had Abraham for their father, Matt. 3.7,8,9. Furthermore, infants were members of the national church of the Jews: But where were they members of any gospel church? When infants were members, then servants that were bought with money were also members, Gen. 17.12; for the Lord bade Abraham ;circumcise all his servants, even those which were not of his seed. Does any man argue that as all Abraham’s servants were circumcised, therefore all a believer’s servants should be baptized and made members of the Church whether they believe or not?
God now in the Gospel seeks those to worship him, “who worship him in spirit and in truth,” John 4.23; how then can carnal descent avail? And further, there was once a middle wall of partition between the natural seed of Abraham and the rest of mankind; but ;his middle wall of partition is broken down, Eph. 2.14. And now God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, such as fear him and work righteousness, are accepted of Him, Acts. 10.34,35.
But is the privilege of believers’ children less under the gospel, than it was under the law?
I answer.Â—What do you mean by privilege? Was it a privilege to be under the law? Is it not a greater privilege to hear the gospel? or do you mean by privilege, to have the promises which the Apostle tells of? If so, remember Rom. 9.8. “They which are children of the flesh, are not the children of promise.” Or do you think it was a great privilege to partake of the visible ordinance of circumcision, and so to come under the ceremonial law? Is that a privilege which the Apostle calls a yoke, that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear: is this the privilege you mean? Acts 15.10.
But the seed was in covenant? God made a covenant with Abraham and his seed.
I answer.Â—What do you mean by covenant? Do you mean the covenant that was made on Mount Sinai, or the covenant of works? Are you so very desirous to put your babe under that Covenant? Do you mean the Covenant of Grace, wherein God promises to be their God? And do you judge, that Esau, Saul, Absalom, and Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and all such, were in the Covenant of Grace because they were circumcised? Or do you judge that they lost their interest in the Covenant of Grace, and so indeed made it a Covenant of Works? You are in a maze which has no clue. Therefore consider, God did make a covenant with Abraham and his natural seed, to give them the land of Canaan, Gen. 17.7,8; but as to the promise of life and salvation, this was made to Abraham and his spiritual seed, Gal. 3.16. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” If you will believe this text, there’s little difficulty in the objection, for “the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Rom. 9.8. Believers are the seed of Abraham, and to these, even though they be babes in grace, all spiritual blessings belong;
but as for your children after the flesh, they which are born after the flesh are not counted for the seed.
But they were so far in the covenant as to give them a right to the ordinance?
I answer.Â—Circumcision was entailed on Abraham and his seed, and his servants; but where is baptism entailed upon a believer’s natural seed? Answer this, or give up the argument.
The priesthood, by a covenant, was entailed on the tribe of Levi and their seed, as you may read, Josh. 18.7. Numb. 25.13: will you
now entail the ministry on preachers and their natural seed? Yet the case is much the same. But as to the point of baptism: Were there not many that came to be baptized, to whom John said, “Think not to say you have Abraham for your father,” Matt. 3.9? Did not this show that their carnal right was cut off by the gospel? “Now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Religion is now a personal thing, and birth according to nature has no sway. And note further, Abraham had the express word of God to warrant his circumcising his seed; but where is there a word for baptizing infants?
But Christ said, “Suffer little children to come to me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
I answer.Â—The text tells you plainly, they were not brought to be baptized, but that Christ might lay his hands on them, and pray for them, Matt. 19.13. Mark 10.16. Here is nothing of baptism. No, not so much as a trace of it. Yes, we go further, we are sure that he did not baptize them, for “Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.”
But it is said, “The promise is unto you, and to your children.” Acts 2.39.
I answer.Â—Do so much justice to your own soul as to read the whole text; and you shall find, that it is said, “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Here you see the promise is to such as are called, whether they are your children or afar off. Now if you say this word call relates not to the children, but to them that are afar off, I answer, it must needs relate to the children and their parents, and all afar off, because Peter says. Acts 2.16,17, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” In Joel 2.32, it follows, “And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for on mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” Now if the promise of the Spirit be to children, though not called; then either :the promise fails; and that’s a fearful thing to think; or else all the children of believers partake of this glorious Spirit; but as to this last supposition, daily experience shows the contrary, since many of believers’ children are carnal, not having the Spirit; and it is fulfilled only to such whom the Lord our God shall call.
But I have been baptized in my infancy, therefore why need I be baptized?
I answer.Â—It is not water thrown on the face that makes baptism;
but it is a free consent and subjection to Christ according to His rule, that makes baptism. Now when you were an infant you gave no consent; you cannot tell of any such thing but by report; you do not know when it was; you had no faith in the act; indeed, the act was .none of yours. According to Christ’s law you are not yet baptized.
Consider what defects have been in your infant-baptism? First, there was no rule to baptize you while an infant. Then you were not a right subject, for you ought to believe and be baptized. Moreover you were only sprinkled, not buried in baptism, as Christ was, and as He has commanded believers to be. Now will you call that baptism which was only a tradition received from your forefathers, when the Lord Jesus did shed His most precious blood to redeem us from our vain conversation received by tradition from our fathers I Pet. 1.18,19)?
But many lay so much stress on baptism, that we are made backward to it.
I answer.Â—Is there more stress laid upon it by any than is laid upon it by Christ, who said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved?” Is it not our duty to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints?” They lay too much stress upon it who imagine that infants are born again thereby, but not those who put it in the place which their Master appointed for it.
But the children of believers are holy, therefore they ought to be baptized.
I answer.Â—As it is said the children are holy, so it is said the unbelieving husband is holy, or sanctified by the believing wife. This holiness applies wholly to the use of marriage, for the Apostle is in that place (1 Cor. 7.14.) speaking of marriage, and whether those who have believed should live with unbelieving husbands, or put them away, as in 1 Cor. 7.13. So that the holiness here spoken of refers only to that point, and must not be carried beyond it, or else it will be proven that unbelieving husbands and wives are to be baptized because of their believing spouses: which no man pretends. Moreover it is said, Zech. 14.20, There shall be holiness on the horse’s bells, and every pot in the Lord’s house shall be holy. Now do you think this is a sufficient warrant to baptize bells, as Romanists do? Assuredly not. There is a being holy for the use of
the believer, as “every creature is sanctified by the word of God and prayer,” 1 Tim. 4.4,5. And “to the pure, all things are pure,” Tit. 1.15.Â—that is, to their use. Thus children are holy, and unbelieving husbands are holy, that is, sanctified to their use. But if you think that believers’ children are inherently holy, does not your experience tell you the contrary? Do you not see that sometimes good men have ungodly children, and that bad men have holy children? So that the meaning of the text is that the husbands and wives are holy for their use, and their children are not born in uncleanness.
When they were at first circumcised, men of years were circumcised, but afterwards infants were circumcised; and so under the gospel, when baptism was first administered, men and women were baptized, but afterwards infants were baptized.
I answer.Â—Not so, for when God first commanded circumcision He commanded that it should be administered to children. Gen. 17.10. “Every man-child among you shall be circumcised.” But when Christ commanded baptism, He commanded that persons should first be taught, and that they should believe and then be baptized; but He never gave a command to baptize children. Consider also that we have the lives and acts of the apostles and primitive churches for some years, and we find not one infant baptized. Paul was converted sometime after Christ’s ascension, and he writes of “fourteen years ago” when he was “a man in Christ”, 2 Cor. 12.2. In these fourteen years surely some children were born, yet not one was baptized that we read of.
Those who were baptized in the Apostles’ day had been heathen.
I answer.Â—Was the Lord Jesus a heathen? He was baptized. Was not the Eunuch a worshipper of the true God? Was not he baptized when he confessed his faith? Cornelius, a man whose prayers and alms came to God for a memorial, was he a heathen? No, do not those who baptize infants, baptize heathens? “We are by nature the children of wrath,” Eph. 2.3. The infant sprinklers plead for the baptizing of heathens, we plead for the baptizing of believers.
But Paul says, 1 Cor. 1.17. “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach.”
I answer.Â—Suppose the words to mean that which you think, yet if Paul was not sent to baptize, yet you are commanded to be baptized, and your Lord may well say to you, “What is that to thee?
follow thou me.” But Paul did baptize, 1 Cor. 1.14,16. He baptized Crispus and Gaius, and the household of Stephanas, and various others. Now what he did, he did by commission or by presumption;
but he did it not by presumption, therefore he did it by commission. He was sent to preach, and baptism fell in as a part of his preaching office. Philip was chosen a deacon, yet he baptized the Eunuch:
baptism fell in as part of his work, Acts 8. So he that is called to be a preacher, needs no call to baptize, for it falls in as part of his work. He may also by infirmity be driven to leave the actual performance of baptism mainly to others who labour with him; but what of that? Baptism is just as truly God’s ordinance, though here and there a preacher may not be able to baptize believers with his own hands. Someone will be found to baptize you when you enquire for him.
But there were three thousand baptized in one day, how could all these be dipped in one day? They might be sprinkled, but not dipped.
I answer.Â—They might well be immersed, for there were twelve Apostles, and seventy disciples, as we see in Luke 9.1, and 10.1. that is eighty-two men at the least. These might well baptize three thousand in a day. Besides which, those men who were immersed could many of them immerse others. Immersion is not such a difficult task as those who do not like it would make it out to be. Those who sprinkle in our day take quite as much time in the doing of it as might well suffice to dip.