Should Babies Be Baptized?

Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church:

“Perhaps you were baptised as a believer, but have never considered that this sign of cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16; 1 Pt 3:21) and union with the Lord (Rom 6:1-6; Gal 3:27) should be given to your children. Or perhaps you were baptised as an infant and are considering the significance of your baptism. Or perhaps you are a believer thinking about the baptism of your own child. Surely this Old Testament narrative causes us all to pause and ask – “What does this covenant sign of baptism mean to me and my children?””

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Known to the Whole Christian Church from the Beginning

“If anyone disapproved of the congregation singing, Father would say, “I am sure it is no secret to any Christian that it is a good thing and pleases God to sing spiritual songs.  The prophets and kings in the Old Testament praised God by singing songs to the accompaniment of cymbals and stringed instruments.  Psalm-singing has been known to the whole Christian church from the beginning.”

~Louise A. Vernon, Thunderstorm in Church, page 112

Is Baptizing Children Pointless?

Wilhelmus a Brakel:

Objection #2: Small children are baptized who do not as yet have understanding and are as yet unable to be believingly exercised with their baptism in order to be sealed by it. Baptism either has no efficacy—and is thus administered to them in vain—or by reason of inherent efficacy must beget grace in a natural sense. Since the first concept is absurd, the second is therefore confirmed.

Answer 1) The children in the Old Testament were circumcised and their circumcision was not in vain; it nevertheless had no inherent efficacy to circumcise the heart. It is thus evident that a child‟s reception of a sacrament can be of benefit, even though the sacrament has no inherent efficacy to beget grace. 2) Since baptism functions as a sign and a seal, a child can likewise be sealed. God, the congregation, and thus also the parents, view him as being sealed. The parents derive their comfort from this, and the baptized child, upon coming to the years of discretion, derives from his baptism its sealing efficacy to his comfort and sanctification. (TCRS, vol. 2, p. 502).

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Let Them Have More Of Jesus Christ

Robert Traill (By what Means may Ministers best win Souls), Works 1:247:

It was a sad observation of the fourth century, that it became a matter of learning and ingenuity to be a Christian. The meaning was, that too much weight was laid on notions and matter of opinion, and less regard had unto the soundness of the heart and holiness of the life. In the beginning of the Reformation from Popery, the worthies whom God raised up in several countries, did excellently in retrieving the simplicity of the gospel from the Popish mixtures. But that good work took a stand quickly, and is on the declining greatly. How little of Jesus Christ is there in some pulpits! It is seen, as to success, that whatever the law doth in alarming sinners, it is still the gospel-voice that is the key that opens the heart to Jesus Christ. Would ministers win souls? Let them have more of Jesus Christ in their dealing with men, and less of other things that never profit them that are exercised therein.

Source:, Comment 1

As in the Heart, So in the Ministry

Robert Traill (By what Means may Ministers best win Souls), Works 1:241-242:

Take heed unto thyself, that thou be a lively, thriving Christian. See that all thy religion run not in the channel of thy employment. It is found by experience, that as it fares with a minister in the frame of his heart and thriving of the work of God in his soul, so doth it fare with his ministry both in its vigour and effects. A carnal frame, a dead heart, and a loose walk, make cold and unprofitable preaching. And how common is it for ministers to neglect their own vineyard? When we read the word, we read it as ministers, to know what we should teach, rather than what we should learn as Christians. Unless there be great heed taken, it will be found that our ministry and labour therein may eat out the life of our Christianity., Comment 1

Common Objections to Exclusive Psalmody

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Giving Opportunity to Evil

Thomas Hodges on  ministers who refuse to fight against heresy:

“…alas, here is the sad root of this misery, that either the ministers are ignorant,[1] and unable to maintain the truth, confute and stop the mouths of gainsayers; or they are wicked and scandalous, like Eli’s sons, whose profane and ungodly courses lose all repute to the truth, making the things of God, (by those who measure truth by the lives and carriages of them that maintain it), to be abandoned and abhorred.[2] If neither of these, yet perhaps they are careless, negligent, and inadvertent, not heeding how truth thrives, or how error spreads,[3] as if to them it were of very small or no concern. In point of benefit they are greedy dogs, zealous enough for their profit,[4] looking after that from every quarter; but in point of duty they lack heart,[5] the fire of zeal for God’s glory is not in them, therefore they love their ease, to sleep, slumber, and take their rest; by which they give not only an opportunity to the evil one to sow his tares, but to those tares to take root and prosper.”

[1] Isaiah 56:10.

[2] 1 Samuel 2:13.

[3] Revelation 2:20.

[4] Isaiah 56:11.

[5] Revelation 3:15.

“The Growth and Spreading of Heresy, (54).”

Source:, Comment 1

Must We Baptize By Immersion?

From a church’s enquirer’s/communicant membership class booklet through the Westminster Confession of Faith (Ch. 28):

28:3: Dipping (or dunking) a person is “not necessary”; this does not mean immersion is an option, but rather that the practice is only “rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling”.[1] Jay Adams explains: “ … mode cannot be separated from meaning. The sacraments are symbolic. If so, then ‘mode’ and ‘symbol’ are one and the same … Mode and symbol, and therefore mode and meaning, cannot be divorced.”[2] A number of considerations are in order about baptism’s mode and meaning:

a. Christ’s baptism was related to His anointing to office as with the sprinkling or pouring of oil over the head of priests and kings (Ex. 29:7; Num. 8:6-7; 1 Sam. 10:1; Ps. 2:2: King Jesus is “my anointed”). As well, the sacrament represents the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which in Acts 2:17-18, 33, is said to be “poured out” on the Apostles, and later to have “fell on them” (and so they were “baptized”) in 11:15-16.[3] Van Dixhoorn says “ .. the actions of sprinkling and pouring repeatedly symbolize the divine work of salvation in the Bible in a way that immersion simply does not.”[4]

b. The Greek word for to baptize (βαπτίζω) has a broad usage, but primarily means to dip, to purify, to wash; it is used interchangeably with another Greek word that means “to wash” (baptism represents inner cleansing and purification by the regenerating and renewing washing of the Holy Ghost that unites us to Christ).[5] Ward explains, “The root idea of the Greek word baptize is not total immersion but an intensive dipping which involves a transformation (cf dyeing) …”[6] So, in Mark 7:4, “wash” and “washing” is the Greek “baptize” and “baptizing”, including a table (not immersed). In Lk. 11:38, the Pharisees marveled that Jesus had not “washed” (“baptized”) before dinner (see Mt. 15:2 of His disciples), and they didn’t mean diving into a lake, but using a utensil.

c. Heb. 9:13, 19, 21, and 10 refer to the OT “sprinklings” of blood to ceremonially cleanse, atone, or sanctify the people and the tabernacle and its ceremonial tools as “baptisms” (translated “washings”; see the connection with 10:22, 24 related to sprinkling of Christ’s blood to cleanse consciences.)[7]

Moses and the OT Church were “baptized” under the cloud (Christ) and by the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-4), just as Noah and His family were “baptized” by the flood waters (1 Pet. 3:20-22); they were savingly sprinkled by merciful mist while God’s enemies were immersed with judgment.

e. Paul was baptized standing up by a bedside (Acts. 9:18, 22:16), and, “In the case of Saul’s baptism, the baptism of the household of Cornelius, and that of the household of the Philippian jailer, since each of these acts of baptism was carried out within a home (Acts 9:11; 10:25; 16:32), and in the last case sometime after midnight (Acts 16:33) but before dawn (v. 35), it is virtually certain that these baptisms would not have been by immersion, since few homes in those times would have had facilities for such an act …”[8]

f. When it is said of outdoor baptism events that they were “coming out of or up from the water” (Mark 1:9-10; Acts 8:36-39), note that Luke says such of Philip and the eunuch, but Philip was not baptized—he did the baptizing; and, the Eunuch had just read Isaiah 53, which is preceeded by 52:15: “So shall he sprinkle many nations …” (see also Ezek. 36:25)[9] They came up from out of the water location (not out from under the water). So when Israel crossed the Jordon River into the Promised Land, the priests stepped their feet into water, but then the waters were blocked up and they crossed over on dry land, of which they then were said to “come up out of” (Josh. 3:13; 4:16-19). R.C. Sproul points out that with where the Ethiopian and Philip were (Acts 8:26), “It is doubtful that in that ‘desert’ between Jerusalem and Gaza … there was enough water for an immersion.”[10]

g. Van Dixhoorn cites these other considerations: “ … there were times when too many people were baptized to permit immersion. Acts 2:41 tells us that 3,000 people were baptized on one day in Jerusalem. It is hardly possible …” Also, “ … there were times when baptism happened too quickly … at once … (Acts 16:33). The language of immediate baptism [with the Philippian jailer and his family] does not suggest that they went through the city and were baptized at the river, or a pool. Paul probably reached for a jug or a bowl and, after explaining baptism, poured or sprinkled water on these new converts.” As well, “The only plausible picture of immersion in baptism is that of Romans 6 or Colossians 2, but arguably it is plausible to us because we think of burials vertically, six feet under the ground, whereas in hard Palestinian soil burials were often effected horizontally, behind a rock in a cave.”[11] More importantly, Rom. 6 and Col. 2 are figures of speech for union with Christ.

h. “Total immersion lacks Old Testament precedent or clear New Testament justification.”[12]

[1] While not directly addressing the WCF here, John Murray’s comments seem to reflect this interpretation, if not of the Confession, of the Scriptural doctrine on mode: “ … there are numerous instances in which the action denoted does not imply immersion and which prove that baptism does not mean immersion (cf. Lev. 14:6, 51; Matt. 15:2 Mark 7:2-5; Luke 11:38; 1 Cor. 10:2; Heb. 9:10-23) … the ordinance is properly [correctly] administered by sprinkling or affusion.” “Baptism” in Collected Writings, vol. 2, 373.

[2] Jay E. Adams, TheMeaning and Mode of Baptism, vi.

[3] Adams, 23.

[4] Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 371.

[5] A. A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Commentary, 341.

[6] Rowland Ward, The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Study Guide, 176.

[7] Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 933.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 932.

[10] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. 3, 119. David Dickson, Truth’s Victory Over Error: A Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, 219-220: “ … we read of three thousand baptized in one day, in the streets of Jerusalem, by twelve apostles at the most, where there was no river to dip them into (Acts 2:4I). And was not Jerusalem and all Judea and the region round about Jordan baptized by John the Baptist alone, which could not be done to all and every one by dipping (Matt. 3:5-6)?”

[11] Van Dixhoorn, 371, 372.

[12] Ward, 176.

The Necessity of Singing the Psalms

Preface to the Bay Psalm Book (1640)

A discourse declaring not only the lawfulness, but also the necessity of the heavenly ordinance of singing Scripture Psalms in the churches of God.

The singing of Psalms, though it breathe forth nothing but holy harmony, and melody: yet such is the subtlety of the enemy, and enmity of our nature against the Lord, and his ways, that our hearts can find matter of discord in this harmony, and crotchets [i.e. fanciful notions] of division in this holy melody.

For there have been three questions especially stirring concerning singing. First, what psalms are to be sung in churches? whether David’s and other scripture psalms, or the psalms invented by the gifts of godly men in every age of the church. Secondly, if scripture psalms, whether in their own words, or in such metre as English poetry is wont to run in? Thirdly, by whom are they to be sung? whether by the whole churches together with their voices? or by one man singing alone and the rest joining in silence, and in the close saying amen…

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Samuel Rutherford on Infant Baptism

Samuel Rutherford on Infant Baptism (Part 1)

Chapter 13 of The Covenant of Life Opened (published in 1655)

There are two sorts of Covenanting, one external, professed, visible, conditional, another internal, real, absolute and the differences betwixt them. 2. Infants Externally in Covenant under the New Testament 3. Some Questions touching infants. 

Persons are two ways in Covenant with God, externally by Visible profession, and conditionally, not in reference to the Covenant, but to the thing promised in Covenant, which none obtains, but such as fulfill the condition of the Covenant: For consent of parties, promise and restipulation whether express, by word of mouth, Deut. 5.27. We will hear and do, Josh. 24.24. And the people said unto Joshua, the Lord our God will we serve and his voice will we obey. Or yet tacit and implicit by profession. I will be thy God, and the God of thy feed, makes parties in Covenant. The keeping or breaking of the Covenant, must then be extrinsical to ones being confederate with God. And 2. Infants born of Covenanted Parents are in Covenant with God, because they are born of such Parents, as are in Covenant with God, Gen. 17.7. I will be a God to thy seed after thee. (2.) The Covenant choice on Gods part is extended to the seed, Deut. 4.37. And because he loved thy Fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them. Deut. 10.15. Only the Lord had a delight in thy Fathers, to love them, (and) he chose their seed after them, (even you (Fathers and Children) above all people, (as it is) this day. And the Covenant choice of seed is extended to the seed in the New Testament. Act. 2.39. For to you, and to your children is the promise made. He speaks in the very terms and words of the Covenant, Gen. 17.7., every one of you be baptized, he saith not every one of you, old and young, Parents and Children, repent. For that command of Repentance is given only personally to them who moved the Question, What shall we do, Men and Brethren? (v. 37). For we are under great wrath, and crucified the Lord of Glory. The Answer is, you aged, Repent. (v. 39). True. But ah, we prayed, his blood be upon us and our Children. He Answers to that, every one of you be baptized. Why, that must be every one of you who are commanded to repent? No. It must be every one of you to whom the promise is made, but the promise is made to you and to your children. (The promise of the Covenant must be made to infants, else the meaning cannot stand, Acts 2.39)…

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