As I prepare for the baptism of my infant twin daughters this coming Lord’s Day, I found the following exposition by John Flavel on the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 95 to be a helpful examination of the subject:
WSC Q. 95. To whom is baptism to be administered?
A. 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 suck as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.
Q. 1. Who are to be baptized?
A. Believers, and their infant-offspring; Acts 2:39. For the promise is to you, and your children, and to all that are afar off, even many as the Lord our God shall call.
Q. 2. How doth it appear, that the infant-seed of believers ought to be baptized?
A. It appears by this, that they being Abraham’s seed, were taken into covenant with God, and ordered to have the sign of the covenant applied to them; and that grant was never reversed; Genesis 17:7, 10. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; 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; even every man-child among you shall be circumcised.
Q. 3. But was not that the covenant of works; and so will not hold, to infer their privilege under the covenant of grace?
A. No, it was not; for God never did, nor will become a God by way of special interest to any people; by virtue of the covenant of works, since the breach of it by the fall.
Q. 4. But if it were the covenant of grace, how doth it appear the right of believers infants is still the same it was before in Abraham’s time?
A. It appears plainly from the apostle’s own words and arguments; Acts 2:39. For the promise is to you, and to your children, &c.
Q. 5. But though infants then were members of God’s visible church among the Jews, how doth it appear they are so now, when God hath cast them off?
A. It appears, the membership and privileges are as free and complete to them now, that are the children of Gentile believers, as ever they were to the Jewish infants; Romans 11:17. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou being a wild olive tree, were graffed in amongst them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree.
Q. 6. How else doth it appear they are within the covenant?
A. It appears by this, that they are pronounced holy; 1 Corinthians 7:14. Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy. Which is a federal holiness, and none out of covenant can be holy by covenant.
Q. 7. But may not that place mean only their legitimacy?
A. No, it cannot; for then the apostle must pronounce all the infants in the world bastards, that descend not at least from one believing parent.
Q. 8. But infants are not capable to covenant with God, or to perform covenant-duties; and therefore why should they be admitted to covenant-privileges?
A. A child now of eight days old, is as capable of being admitted into covenant with God, as children of the same age were in Abraham’s days: and then it is manifest they were admitted.
Q. 9. Though they were admitted by circumcision then, will it follow, they may be so by baptism now, seeing that ordinance is abolished?
A. Yes, it will: For though circumcision cease, yet baptism is come in its place; Colossians 2:10-12. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism, &c.
Q. 10. But circumcision was a seal of the covenant of works; and the argument will not hold, from a seal of the covenant of works, to a seal of the covenant of grace?
A. Circumcision never was, nor was intended to be a seal of the covenant of works, but of the righteousness of faith; Romans 4:11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet, being uncircumcised, &c.
Q. 11. But have we no express command in the New Testament to baptize infants?
A. There needed no new command; their privilege had been settled many ages before upon them, and never reversed by Christ, or his apostles, hut their former right declared to continue still to them; Acts 2:39. For the promise is to you and to your children, &c.
Q. 12. But if they have a right, we might expect to find some examples of their baptizing?
A. It is manifest that believers households were baptized with them; Acts 16:15, 33. And when she was baptized, and her household, &c. Ver. 33. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his straightway. And if infants are not named, so neither are any of age, born of Christian parents.
Q. 13. But many trust to their infant-baptism, as to their regeneration, and so much mischief is done?
A. They do so; yet the duty is not therefore to be neglected. The preaching of Christ is to some a stumbling-block; yet Christ must be preached for all that.
Q. 14. But many baptized infants prove naught?
A. And so do many baptized at age too. Duties are not to be measured by events.