Sufficient Consequences?

Benjamin Keach is a favorite Particular Baptist of mine. Here’s a good quote of his on infant baptism from the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies:

From Benjamin Keach: Gold Refin’d, or Baptism in its Primitive Purity (London: 1689), 69-70, 146 (orthography and punctuation modernized).

What commission our brethren have got, who sprinkle children, I know not. Let them fetch a thousand consequences, and unwarrantable suppositions for their practice, it signifies nothing, if Christ has given them no authority or rule to do what they do in his name. Natural consequences from Scripture we allow, but such which flow not naturally from any Scripture we deny; can any think Christ would leave one of the great sacraments of the New Testament, not to be proved without consequences?

We affirm, that in all positive or instituted worship (such as baptism is) which wholly depends upon the mere will and pleasure of the law-giver, it is absolutely necessary there should be an express command, or plain and clear examples, though in other respects we allow of natural deductions and consequences from Scripture for the confirming and enforcing of duties, and for the comfort and instruction of God’s people. But as there is neither express command nor example for infant-baptism; so it can’t be proved by any consequence or inference, that naturally and genuously rises from any Scripture, as we have proved, nor does draw any such consequences to prove it.

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  • Yes, I used to like Keach too and argued against baptizing covenant children the same way. Then it hit me Paul addresses children in the epistles as covenant members in the same way the Decalogue addresses them: “Honor your father and your mother”.

    So the children of believers are either covenant members without a ceremony indicating the reception or God’s promise or with such a ceremony.

    Because Paul addresses these children – in Ephesians for instance – in the same breath he addresses the obviously baptized adults – shouldn’t I assume they are baptized after the “household” principle of Genesis and Acts?

    M. F. Sadler’s work “The Second Adam and the New Birth” is something you might like since you like N.T. Wright, though Sadler wrote in the 1800’s. It’s free on Google Books.

    May the Lord bless your blogging.

  • Hey Charles, thanks for the comment and it is a good one! I just peeked at your blog and will spend some time poking around there.

    Just a few comments on your comment. First, you said, “children of believers are…covenant members without a ceremony.” But isn’t that the case with male children in the Abrahamic covenant? After all, of circumcision God said, “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen 17:14) Seems to me to break covenant, you need to be in it first. Circumcision didn’t initiate one into the covenant from what I can see.

    Second, you cite Ephesians 6 and that passage bothered me for a while. It sounds like the children are extended covenant promises. But a few observations are appropriate. Is “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” a New Covenant promise? From what I can see in Jeremiah 31, it doesn’t seem like it. But the inscription of the law on the heart is. If the Decalogue constitutes the moral law, then it isn’t necessarily a New Covenant promise that Paul cites here. Further, Paul adds the condition “in the Lord” to “parents”. It might be that Paul is not addressing natural children of natural parents but spiritual children of spiritual parents. Consider Paul’s language in passages such as 1Th 2:7,11; 1Ti 1:2; 2 Ti 2:1; Tit 1:4.

    Finally, you point out how Paul mentions children “in the same breath he addresses the obviously baptized adults” and ask “shouldn’t I assume they are baptized after the ‘household’ principle”? Well, I think that is a bit unwarranted, but sure, why not. Use the household principle, especially as articulated in Acts 16:31-32.

  • Hey Tim, great post and good reply above. I wonder if another plausible line of argument is that Ephesians 6’s address to children is part of the “preaching function” of the New Covenant.

    To be “in” the New Covenant is to be a recipient of the basic, unconditional New Covenant promises of blessing: to have the law written on the heart, to know God in regeneration, to be in saving possession of the Holy Spirit, etc.

    But, the commands of the New Covenant along with its *conditional* blessings are universal and preached to the whole world! EX: (1) Believe [command] and you will be justified [conditional blessing]! (2) Obey your parents IN FAITH (in the Lord) [command] and you will live long on the earth [conditional blessing].

    I submit that Ephesians 6:1-2 is simply gospel proclamation, which is not limited to New Covenant members, but extends to the whole world, just as the gospel message (the message of the NC) extends to the whole world. Whatdya think?

  • I think that has merit Tom. If the law written on everyone’s heart is the Decalogue, then the promise would be global and but not necessarily redemptive.

    I’m not really comfortable with “parents” here being spiritual parents, it seems alien to the text. Yours might be a better reading since children would be covenant non-members who would be under Paul’s preaching. His command and the blessing would seem to be a general command an a general blessing. I think that might work better and more honestly with the text than what either Charles or I have offered!

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