A Short Catechism about Baptism
By John Tombes, B.D., 1659Edited by Kurtis Amundson
To the Christian Reader, Many are the things at this day charged on antipaedobaptists in their doctrine and practice, which have been proved to be unjustly imputed to them, by many large treatises extant in print. For a more facile understanding of the truth than by reading larger tracts, is this compendium, in a manner of a catechism composed and published in this time, in which others of different judgment, have thought fit to declare their way to the world. This is done, not because the disagreement in other things is either small or of particular persons (whose cause is to be severed from that which is commonly held) and therefore requires not a distinct confession or declaration from that which is by others published.
This I have thought necessary to be done because of the importance of restoring right baptism, the doctrine of which is one article of the foundation of Christianity (Heb. 6:2), whereby we put on Christ (Gal. 6:27), united to his Members (Eph. 4:5), conformed to Christ (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3–5), required with faith to salvation (Mark 16:26), with repentance to remission of sins (Acts 2:38), with express profession of the baptized's faith required (Acts 8:37), upon manifestation of conversion (Acts 10:47; Acts 11:17), as the duty of the baptized, and not a mere privilege (Acts 22:16), most solemnly administered in the primitive times, with strict examination and greatest engagement of persons baptized, accounted the chief evidence of Christianity, of as much or more significance than the Lord's Supper; insomuch that some conceived from Heb. 6:4 that falling away after it irreparable.
But the pretended baptism of infants, as now used slightly and profanely done, quite different from Christ's institution and the apostles' is practice by ministers and people in so wholly and carnal manner. It is with gross untruths and perverting of holy Scripture imposed on unwary souls with a pretence of a baptismal vow, which is a mere fiction, and so many ill consequents both in Christian conversation and communion and church-constitution and government, that were men sensible to their evil as they should be, they would tremble at such mockery of God and abuse of so holy an ordinance of God's worship and men's souls by it, and with such arrogant presumption in avowing such a manifest invention of men as God's precept.
And to speak truth, if the history of this corruption were fully cleared, it would be found that the undue ministration of this ordinance was the inlet to the antichristian darkness and tyranny which overspread and oppressed the Christian churches. The aim of the composer of this catechism is the manifestation of the truth, wherein he does rejoice, and desires you may rejoice with him. His motion is that of the Apostle:
"As many of us be perfect let us be thus minded, and if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." (Phil. 3:15,16)
A Short Catechism about Baptism
1. Is baptism with water an ordinance of Christ, to be continued by his disciples until the end of the world?
Baptism with water is an ordinance of Christ, which is to be continued by his disciples until the end of the world; as appears by his command (Mat. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16). It is to be joined with preaching of the gospel and making disciples, by preaching and teaching them to observe all that Christ commands; and so to be continued while these are to continue, which is proved to be until the end of the world, by Christ’s promise of his being with them until then, which were vain, if the things appointed were not to be done so long.
2. Is not the end of the world, as much as the end of the age?
It appears that Matthew means by the end of the world, the last time, or day, in which there will be a separation of good and bad, the one to be burned with fire, and the other to shine as the sun. In those places where Matthew uses the same form of speech (viz. Mat. 13:39,40,49; Mat. 24:3) he cannot be understood to mean another.
3. May not the baptizing in Mat. 28:19 and Mark 16:16 be understood of some other baptism than that of water?
The baptism there must necessarily be understood of baptism by water, since wherever "baptizing" is performed by John the Baptist or the Disciples (which they did or were to do) is intended of baptizing with water—as John 4:1,2 and in many other places it appears. And the Apostles by their practice and command (Acts 2:38,41; Acts 10:47,48), show that this is how they understood Christ's appointment (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:16).
4. May it not be meant of baptizing by the Spirit, or afflictions?
It cannot be understood this way since baptizing with the Spirit is nowhere ascribed to any other than Christ (Mat 3:11; Luke 3:16). Neither is baptism with the Spirit a duty for us to do, but a free gift of Christ. And to appoint them the baptizing by affliction would have been to make the Apostles persecutors.
5. Why did Paul then say, Christ sent him not to baptize (1 Cor. 1:16)?
Not because he was not appointed at all to baptize (for if so, he would not have baptized those he did baptize [1 Cor. 1:14,16, etc.]), but because it was not the chief thing he was to do: as, when the washing of water is said not to save (1 Pet. 3:21), because it is not the only, or principal means of saving.
6. What is the baptizing appointed by Jesus Christ?
The baptizing appointed by Jesus Christ, is the dipping of the whole body in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as is manifest from the term baptizing, and the use of going into and coming up out of water (Mat. 3:16; Acts 8:38,39), the use of much water (John 3:23), the resembling, by the baptism used, the burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), and the testimonies of the ancients of the first ages.
7. May not the sprinkling or pouring water on the face be the baptism of Christ?
Neither the Scripture, nor any other ancient author call sprinkling, or pouring water on the face, baptism, nor any use of it in the primitive times does countenance it, and therefore such sprinkling or pouring water is not the baptism which Christ appointed.
8. What is it to baptize into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
It is not to baptize only with the naming of those persons, but into the profession of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as our master or teacher, as appears by the words of Paul (1 Cor. 1:13). Which show that if the Corinthians had been baptized into the name of Paul, they had professed him to be their master.
9. Are they rightly baptized, who are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, though no other person be named?
They are: it being all one to baptize into the name of Jesus Christ, and to baptize into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as appears by the precept (Acts 2:38) and practice (Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5). Though the expression of each person is convenient.
10. Are the persons to be baptized altogether passive in their baptism?
No: For baptism is their duty required of them as well as the baptizer (Acts 2:38), and Paul is commanded to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).
11. Who are appointed to baptize?
They who are appointed to preach the gospel (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:15,16).
12. Whom are they appointed to baptize?
Those who repent of sin, believe in Christ Jesus, and are his disciples (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:37).
13. Were not infants baptized when whole households were baptized (Acts 16:15,33)?
No: For it does not appear there were any infants in the houses, and the texts show they were not baptized, since the word was spoken to all in the house (ver. 32) and all the house rejoiced believing God (ver 34) and elsewhere the whole house is said to do that which infants could not do (Acts 18:8; Acts 10:2; 1 Cor. 16:15; compared with 1 Cor. 1:16; John 4:53).
14. Is not Christ’s speech and action to little children (Mat. 19:14,15; Mark 10:14,15,16; Luke 18:16,17) a warrant to baptize infants?
No: but an argument against it, since Christ did neither baptize nor appoint those little children to be baptized.
15. Why should not Infants be baptized, since they were circumcised?
The reason why male infants were to be circumcised, was a particular command of God to Abraham’s house for special ends belonging to the time before Christ, which baptism has not, nor is there any command to use baptism according to the rule of circumcision.
Did not baptism come in the room of circumcision (Col. 2:11,12) and so to be used as it was?
The Apostle’s words do not mean that our baptism came in the room of the Jews circumcision. For there is no mention of any bodily circumcision but Christ's, which our baptism cannot be said to succeed to (it is there made the cause of spiritual circumcision) without appropriating to it that which belongs to Christ alone. And baptism is mentioned with faith as the means whereby we are in Christ and complete in him.
16. May we be said to be complete as the Jews without infant baptism?
Our completeness is not that we have ordinances as the Jews had, but we are complete in that we have all in Christ without them (Col. 2:8–10).
17. Have not our children then less privilege than the Jews had?
No: For circumcision was a privilege only for a time, and comparatively to the estate of the gentiles who knew not God; but of itself was a heavy yoke (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1–3).
18. Why did the Jews then so much contend for it (Acts 15:1,5)?
Because they too much esteemed the Law and knew not their liberty by the Gospel.
19. Had it not been a discomfort to the believing Jews to have their children unbaptized, and out of the covenant?
The want of baptism to infants was never any grievance to believers in the New Testament, nor were they thereby put out of the covenant of grace.
20. Was not the proper reason of circumcising the infants of the Jews the interest which they had in the covenant to Abraham (Gen. 17:7) to be a God to him and to his seed?
The end of circumcision was indeed to be a token of the whole covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 17:4–8). Not only the promise (ver. 7), but the formal proper distinguishing reason why some were to be circumcised and others not, was God's command alone, not the interest in the covenant; since Ishmael who was not a child of promise (Gen. 17:20–21; Rom. 9:6–9) and those who were in Abraham’s house, though not of his seed, were circumcised, but no females, or males under eight days old.
21. Was not the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17) the covenant of grace?
It was, according to the hidden meaning of the Holy Spirit, the evangelical covenant (Gal. 3:16). But according to the open sense of the words, a covenant of special benefits to Abraham’s inheriting natural posterity, and therefore not a pure gospel covenant.
22. Are not believers’ children comprehended under the promise, to be a God to Abraham and his seed (Gen. 17:7)?
No: unless they become Abraham’s seed according to the election of grace by faith.
23. Did circumcision seal the gospel covenant (Rom. 4:11)?
That text speaks not of any one's circumcision but Abraham’s, which sealed the righteousness of faith he had before circumcision, and assured thereby righteousness to all (though uncircumcised) who should believe as he did.
24. Are not the sacraments of the Christian Church in their nature seals of the covenant of grace?
The Scripture does nowhere so call them, nor does it mention this as their end and use.
25. Does not Peter (Acts 2:38,39) exhort the Jews to baptize themselves and their children because the promise of grace is to believers and their children?
Those he then spoke to were not then believers; and therefore, the words (Acts 2:39) cannot be understood of a promise to believers and their children as such, but the promise is to all, fathers and children as called of God; nor are any exhorted to baptism without foregoing repentance: nor is the promise alleged as conferring right to baptism, but as a motive to encourage them and hope for pardon, though they wished Christ’s blood to be on them and their children (Mat. 27:25) in like sort as Joseph did (Gen. 50:19–21).
26. Are not the children of believers holy with covenant-holiness, and so to be baptized (1 Cor. 7:14)?
There is nothing there ascribed to the faith of the believer, but to the marriage relation (which was the only reason of their lawful living together) and of which alone it is true that all the children of those parents, whereof one is sanctified to the other, are holy, the rest unclean, that is, illegitimate.
27. Are not the gentile believer’s children to be engrafted by baptism with their parents, as the Jews children were by circumcision (Rom. 11:16–17)?
The engrafting there is by giving faith according to election, and therefore not meant of parents and children by an outward ordinance into the visible Church.
28. Are not infants of believers, made disciples by their parents' faith, to be baptized (Mat. 28:19; Acts. 15:10)?
No: For the disciples there are only such as are made by preaching the gospel to them, nor are any termed disciples, but those who have heard and learned: and the putting the yoke (Acts 15:10) was by teaching brethren (ver. 1) and therefore the disciples (ver. 10), not infants.
29. Are not the infants of believers visible members of the Christian Church, by a law and ordinance, by God's promise, to be God to them and their seed, and precept to dedicate them to God, unrepealed?
There is no such ordinance or law extant in Scripture, or deducible from the law of nature, nor are infants anywhere reckoned as visible members of the Christian Church in the New Testament.
30. Has God not promised (Gen. 22:16–18) to make every believer a blessing, so as to cast ordinarily elect children on elect parents, and thereby warrant infant baptism?
The promise does not pertain to any believer’s seed but Abraham’s, who are (Heb. 6:12–14; Gal. 3:8,9; Acts 3.25) expounded to be Christ and true believers only, who are to be baptized, not their infants, until they themselves believe in their own persons.
31. Did not Christ appoint (Mat. 28:19) the disciples to baptize children with parents, as the Jews did proselytes?
If the Jewish baptism had been the pattern for Christians, the Apostles would have so practiced, but their not so doing shows they did not understand it to be Christ's intention.
32. Is not the infant baptism sufficient if it is affirmed at age?
It is not a sufficient discharge of their obedience to Christ's command, which requires each person to be baptized after his own repentance and believing in Christ (Mark 16:16; Mat. 28:19; Acts 2:38; Eph. 4:5).
33. What is the chief end of baptism?
To testify the repentance, faith, hope, love, and resolution of the baptized to follow Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Cor. 15:29), calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22.16).
34. How came infant baptism to be common in the Christian churches?
As infant communion came from a mistake of John 6:53. So infant baptism began about the third century of the Christian church, from a mistake of John 3:5, the opinion of its giving grace, and the necessity of it to save the dying infant from perishing, and after Augustine's time became common, which before was not so frequent.
35. Is there any evil in it?
Infant baptism tends much to harden people in presumption, as if they were Christians before they know Christ, and hinders much the reformation of Christian churches, by filling them with ignorant and scandalous members, besides the great sin of profaning God's ordinance.
35. Have not all opposers of infant baptism, been wicked in the end?
Blessed be God, experience proves the contrary, though some previously proved seditious and entertained great errors.
36. Is there any good by baptizing persons at age, which otherwise might not be, if infant baptism was continued?
Yes, for thereby they would be solemnly engaged to adhere to Christ, which is a strong tie on the consciences, when it is done by a person understandingly, according to Christ's mind, besides the assurance thereby of union and conformity to Christ, and righteousness and life by him (Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 3:21).
37. What are Christians to do when they are baptized?
To associate together in church-communion, and to walk according to their engagement, in obedience to them who are over them in the Lord.
38. Are persons so joined to separate from those they have joined to upon deficit in outward order and ordinances, or variation from the rule therein by pastors or people?
No, unless the evil is such in faith, worship, or discipline, as is not consistent with Christianity, or the estate of a visible church, or is intolerable oppression, maintained with obstinacy, after endeavors to cure them, to which end each member should keep and act in his station.
Copyright © 2016 Kurtis Amundson. Artwork: The baptism of the Eunuch, Aelbert Cuyp, c. 1653