Baptist History Homepage

A Treatise of Baptism
By Henry Danvers, 1674

The Preface

      Amongst all those Ordinances and Institutions of Christ, that the Man of Sin hath so miserably mangled, metamorphosed and changed, none hath been more horribly abused than that of Baptism; which as to Matter and Form, Subjects and Circumstances, hath suffered such apparent Alteration and Subversion, that nothing but the very name of the thing remains, and yet that also very improperly too, if duly considered.

      Which the better to Demonstrate, you have here not only a Platform of the Primitive Institution, in Christ's Commission, the Apostles Precepts and Practice, and the Spiritual Ends thereof, plainly laid down from the Scriptures, and confirmed by the Learned, but the change it self of Believers into Infant-Baptism, traced out and detected, with all the foppish, ridiculous Superstitions, and Fooleries, made essential to Apostolical Traditions, as their impious Forgeries would impose upon us;

      Than which, as nothing did ever more tend to defile and ruine [sic] the true Church, and reproach the Wisdom and Authority of Christ their Head; So nothing could rationally more establish and confirm the false, or more apparently promote the Sovereignty and Dignity of Antichrist their Head; which is so plain, that he that runs may read.

      For if the very Act of Sprinkling, or pouring a little Water on the Child[']s Head or Face (with the Charms attending it) must give Grace, Regenerate, take away Sin, save the Soul, adde to the Church, and give right to all the ordinances; as Mr. Pope hath been pleased, sitting in the Temple of God, as God, to Ordain and Decree, and that with Anathema's too, against every one that shall not so receive it:

      How naturally must it needs follow;

      First, That Christ's Conversion, and the powerful Preaching of the Gospel, his means to effect it, must be slighted and despised; Ignorance and Prophaneness, the true Interest of this State, necessarily brought in; Christ's Baptism, with all its Spiritual Ends and Uses, outed and contenined [sic]; the Jewish Antichristian Rites of a National Church and High-Priest-hood, with all the Apputtenances [sic], introduced.

      But Secondly, That as the Nations should accept this New Project of being made Christians and Church-Members by the Popes Christening, they necessarily oblige themselves by receiving his law, to embrace also his Government and to be Ruled in chief by himself (as the greatest part, called Christendome, have done accordingly) who can deny it? To erecting a Throne for the Beast, and to give that vile Person (who blasphemorsly they call his Holiness) cause to say (looking over his goodly Fabrick, with his Father of old, Dan. 4.30) Is not that great Babylon, that I have built by the might of my Power & for the honor of my Majesty)? And so hath it become the Corner and Foundation-stone of the Antichristian Church and State.

      For as they who take (as far as they can judg[e]) living Stones ( called the Spiritual seed, Saints by Calling, or Believers) to build Christ a House or Church, Orderly joyning them together by Dipping, do yield Obedience to Christ's command, conform to the Primitive Pat[t]ern of the New-Testament-Churches, ascribe honour and glory to the Lord Christ the Institutor:

      So they, who take the Carnal Seed, viz. Ignorant and Unconverted ones, to make the National, or any particular Church, joyning them together by Sprinkling, do thereby yield Obedience to the Popes Canons, conform to the Jewish and Antichristian pat[t]ern, and reflect Honour and Dignity to their Sovereign Lord the Pope, the Conformer and Imposter thereof. And is not this very observable, that Pope Innocentius the first, (that Abaddon and Apolyon) that had so many marks of Antichrist, as you'd find in the account here given of him, was the first conformer and imposter hereof.

      But that which is most to be lamented is, That the Protestant Reformers, who detected and cast away so many Antichristian Abominations, should yet hold fast such a Principal Foundation-Stone of their Buildings

though it is granted, with the rejecting of many of its Superstitions, and also upon other pretended Grounds. For when the Rottenness of the Popish Grounds aforesaid did appear for Infants-Sprinkling, It had certainly faln [fallen] to the Ground, but for some new Contrivances to support it, though therein they have not been so happy to agree amongst themselves in their Conclusion.

      For some are for Baptizing all Children, whose Parents are never so wicked; others only the Children of Professors; whilst others are for the Baptizing the Children of such Professors only, whose Parents are Inchurched, viz. Belonging to some Particular Congregation. Some are for Baptizing Children upon their own particular Faith, (which with much confidence 'tis affirmed they have.) Others deny that with great Vehemency, affirming they ought only to be Baptized upon an Imputative Faith, viz. upon the Faith of others, though herein, as you'l find, they vastly differ; some saying, it must be the imputative Faith of the Church; others of the Gossip; others of the Parents or Proponent in Covenant upon the account of Federal Right.

      So that some are for Baptizing upon an Ecclesiastical Faith, some an Imputative, some a Seminal, some an Habitual, some a Dogmatical and some upon a Justifying Faith.

      Upon which Variety of Differences, you have Mr. Baxter himself in the beginning of his Book of the Sacraments saying, that it may seem strange, that after 1600 years use of Christian Baptism, the Ministers of the Gospel should be unresolved to whom it doth belong; yet so it is (saith he) and I observe it is 4 Question[s] that they are now very solicitous about: and I cannot blame them, it being not only about a matter of Divine appointment, but a practical of such concernment to the Church.

      And it is no wonder, that such Contradictions should proceed from such contrary Principles; For if from one Baptism, Ephes. 4. Christ would oblige and engage us to Unity, Let it not be thought strange, that from a Baptism so different from Christs, such Differences and Divisions should flow.

      For as one ingeniously observes, That as it happens to Travellers, when they are out of the way, one conjectures

he should go this way, another that, and sometimes at not Disputes and Contentions about it, and in the contest many By-wayes are attempted. Yet still the further they go, the more they are out of the way, till they can come to the true Road again. So it hath been with the Baptizers of Infants, they are faln into many Devices to maintain it, which hath occasioned many hot Contests, Breaches and Arguments ad Scripture-Presences for the practice, you have also Examined and Answered.

      The Antient Waldenses you find here from good Authority, were great asserters of this Primitive Institution of Believers Baptism, and faithful Impungers of Infants, as a Human and Antichristian Tradition and Invention.

      And is it not very strange, that the Protestants, who pretend to derive their Succession from them, should so much degenerate in so principal a Foundation, and give thereby so much advantage to the Common Enemy to reproach their whole Separation? For since they assert but two Sacraments in opposition to their Popish seven, how lamentable is it that by this deviating from this Primitive Rule and Patern, they should so miserably differ in both, but more especially in this of Baptism?

      But is may be objected, That if the business of Believers Baptism, be a thing so clear, as you would make it; how cometh it to pass, that so many learned and pious men, so many fearing God, both Men and Women, should so zealously and conscientiously cleave to such a piece of Error and Darkness, in Sprinkling their Children, whilst so few, in comparison, do embrace this great Truth of Baptizing Believers?

      In answer to which Enquiry I present the following Considerations for Satisfaction, viz.

      1. That the Wisdom and Grace of God may more appear, that many times Reveals his Truths to Babes and weak ones, which he withholds from the wise and prudent, to prevent boasting, and that flesh should glory in his presence, and to fulfil his holy good Pleasure opens Hearts and Ears, and gives Understanding, as seemeth him good:

      2. To demonstrate that great Truth, That as God's

People went into Mystical Babylon gradually, that Inquiry prevailing by Steps; so must their coming our be, some at one time, and some another, as they came out of Literal Babylon.

      Therefore hath it been, that some Ages have recovered much of the Doctrinal part, whilst yet they have been very corrupt in Discipline, and held fast many Dregs of Antichristianism; as Luther and many of these Reformers, that under their zealous pleading for the Doctrine of Justification against Popish Merits, &c. yet held fast Images in Churches, and Consubstantiation, and many other things. And again,, many that have got light in the Discipline, have yet been very corrupt in Doctrine, if not in Manners. Many have recovered the Form of Godliness, that have not lived up to the Power; and on the contrary many who have lived much in the Power of Godliness, and holy living, that have been zealous opposers of the Right Form.

      And as to that of Discipline, how Gradually hath it god Ground, sometime in the negative, opposing false Worship and Superstition; sometime in the Positive part; some Age getting and recovering one piece, some others another: as for instance;

      How zealous have the Protestants been in opposing Popery in one Age, and yet as zealous opposers of any further Light that sprang up in the next? And again, how zealous the Puritans and Non-conformists were in opposing the Mitrarchy and Prelacy, and yet as zealous opposers of a further Reformation as to Church Order and Discipline according to Christs Patern? Oh what a strange thing was Independency among many holy, zealous and learned Men a few years since, and how few were there that stood up to assert it! But especially what a monstrous, prodigious thing was Anabaptism!

      3. Another Reason may be from the inconsiderable Persons, as to Gifts, Parts, Learning, Worldly Power and Greatness, that have been in the Profession and Practice of it, few but the Poor having embraced it.

      4. Another from Contemptibleness of the thing it self, in the Administration thereof, being calculated not for the Meridian of fleshly Wisdome, or the shew, but the quite contrary; yet exceedingly accommodated to further

Grace, Humility, Mortification, Self-denial, to encrease Faith, love, holiness, &c.

      5. An other may be from the Reproaches and Slanders cast upon the Professors thereof; or real Falls and Scandals of those under it, who may be suffered to fall for the offence of others that seek it; for it is said, that offences must needs be, Matth. 18.

      6. And lastly, to instruct Humility in all attainments, having nothing but what we have received, and therefore to exercise Tenderness and Compassion to those that differ, knowing that he which is first may be last, and he which is last may be first.

      But why have you so many Quotations from Pᴂdobaptists? As though it were probable, that men that so much oppose your Practice, would advantage you by their assertions , if truly urged.

      Answ. 1. To which I reply, that it must be granted, that there needs no better Testimony, than the Confession of Parents themselves; and herein, I conceive, there is enough from their Pens, to contradict and condemn their own, and to justifie our Practices in every par thereof. And if they have injured themselves by their acknowledgments, it will be their parts to shew their own Mistakes, or to reconcile, if they can, their Contradictions.

      2. It is not so much from the force of the Authorities, as the strength of the Reason urged by them, that they are produced; not that any new thing is brought forth by them that hath not been offered by some of our own; But Arguments from some Persons of Note among themselves, prevail forty times more than the very same, from persons they have a prejudice against. And therefore Paul quoted their own Poet, Acts 17.

      And viz. By how much they are against the Truth in their Practice, by so much the power and Providence of God may appear so, to make their own Pens and Tongues to fall upon themselves; witness what more especially is quoted from Mr. Baxter's Right to Sacraments, and Dr. Taylor's Plea for the Anabaptists in his Liberty of Prophecy.

      But it is possibly to be imagined, that Mr. Baxter, that hath been esteemed the great Maule of the Anabaptists, should make Assertions so much in Contradiction

to his former Position? Hath he then changed his mind, and revoked his for Apprehensions?

      Answ. That he hath made all these Assertions, and many more to the same purpose, his own Books are witness, from whence they are faithfully quoted, especially that which he calls, The Second Disputation of the Right to Sacraments: From whence it is that Mr. Tombes fetches the twenty Arguments he wrote against Mr. Blake, and improves them all against him, discovering Contradiction to his former Principles in every one of them, in his Book which he calls Felo de fe or The Self-Destroyer; to which Mr. Baxter hath never made the least Reply, that I have heard of; though in the end of Mr. Tombe's said Book he provoked him to a Reply, by these words, viz. By the reading of this book, all Intelligent Persons may perceive Mr. Baxter's deceitfulness, or heedlessness, and if he persist in defending Infant-Baptism, his unreasonable pertinacy in his own Conceit; and if he do not declare his forsaking his Doctrine in his Book of Baptism, his Impenitency, and unrighteous dealing with the Church of God, which he hath injured. Therefore how much is he concerned to give some account, how such Assertions can be reconciled to his former Writings, which in the apprehensions of such ignorant Creatures as we are, seem to be contrary to each other, as Light to Darkness.

      Though I doubt not, but that through the Profoundness of his Speculation, and Subtilty of his Distinction (having therein so much outdone Thomas Aquinas himself in his late Writings) he will soon Reconcile these seeming Contradictions, as many of his former, wherein he hath so much abounded, (none more that I know of,) being, as you'l find, sometimes a great Opposer, then a great Defender of Episcopacy; sometime for Nonconformity (in whose Tents he hath seemed to shelter himself in the Storm, and with their Indulgence to come forth again.)

      As to those other Quotations that are so often cited from Dr. Taylor's Liberty of Prophecy; I know it is usually said, That what he wrote therein, was not his own Judgment, but done on purpose to set the Parliamentarians together by the ears, in taking so much the part of the most hated Sect amongst them

      To which I would say, That surely Dr. Taylor had the Reputation of a person of more Integrity, Conscience, and Honesty, than so egregiously to prevaricate in the things of God.

      Yet is that really was his design in bringing forth so much Truth (with such fulness of Demonstration) though in guile, envy, and deceit, we are yet therein to rejoyce, as saith the Apostle, Phil. 1.4. And the more also to magnifie the Power, Wisdome, and Grace of God, so to take the wise in their own craftiness, and that can make Balaam himself, that designs to curse his People, to bless them altogether.

      But why do you take so much pains, and Quote so many Authors, to prove Believers Baptism? Who ever denied it? For is it not all along urged, that Pagans and Infidels should not otherwise be Baptized, but upon Profession of Faith, and that the Children of Christians, if not baptized in Infancy, should be baptized upon Profession of Faith?

      To which I Answer, That the Arguments in the first part, are not so much To prove that Believers professing Faith are to be Baptized; but that they only are so to be, and not others. And that the Authors that are produced to prove Believers Baptism, whether from the Commission, Orders, or Ends thereof, do also by Substantial Arguments conclude against the Baptizing of any other; and so necessarily, by their own Grants, exclude Ignorant and Unconverted ones. And besides, as so many of themselves acknowledg[e], the Catechumens were not only the Children of Heathen, but of Christians Also, and such too as were born to them after their Christianity; witness those many instances given in the Fourth Century, and by Mr. Baxter himself.

      And as for Baptizing Professors, whether the Children of Pagans or Christians, we ask no more, Because Sprinkling of Infants, as by many Arguments you'l find, is a meer Nullity, no Baptism, if not worse than none, as you'l find made good: An Ordinance being so prophaned, and the Name of God taken in vain, where neither true Matters, nor right Manner is observed.

      But it may be said, and I have already met with it, To what purpose is this coming forth, in a point so controversal [sic] at this juncture, where there is more need of Healing than Dividing Subjects?

      To which I reply, That if Paul useth so powerful an Argument from one Baptism, Eph. 4. to press Union and Peace, then if there hath been another Baptism set, on foot in opposition to it, that must needs be a Makebate with a witness, it being not less than an Error in a Foundation, nay that which doth assert two Foundations, and two Principles; And if so,

      Then what more helpful Endeavours can there be put firth to effect Peace, than to discover and remove such a Rock of offence, by Delivering from the false, and Recovering to the true and one Baptism, which doth not only heal the Division betwixt the Baptist and Pedobaptists, but the Pedobaptists amongst themselves, who are, as you have heard, as so great adds in the point, and so solicitous, as Mr. Baxter tells us, in a Practical of such Concernment.

      Without which, there being such an Error in the Principle, such a Foundation of Antichristian held fast, all Exhortations to Union, viz. In Church-fellowship and Communion will signifie little. Therefore let the cause be removed, the bone of contention taken away, the peaceful effects necessarily follow.

      A faithful Pleading and Pressing whereof, is the upright design of this Understanding, and is therefore with the more Faith and Confidence recommended to the Blessing of God, and to the hearts and Conferences of all Sincere, upright Ones, that desire to keep the Commandments of God, and the Testimony of Jesus Christ.

      With this earnest Desire and Expectation, that the Candid, Ingenuous Reader, however, contrary-minded, will overlook what of frailty and weakness he may take notice of, which may be too much; and eye principally the Design, Drift, and Scope thereof. And that if by the multitude of Quotations, through so ancient a track, he finds any particular mistake, misquotation, or misapplication, that he will not so dwell, or insist upon it, to reject the Truth of all the rest, that are full and clear without exception; which is the way that Carpers and Sophisters take, and the method that Papists have all along taken in Reply to our Protestant Writers. Though this withal I can assure you, that I have not willingly given any such occasion; But have either transcribed the Authorities from their Works, or

from some Authentick Writers, that have so done, and especially from the Magdiburgensian History, so much esteemed amongst the Protestants, and whereof I shall be accountable to any judicious Enquirer, that may doubt the truth hereof.

      Though by the way, it must be remembered, that all Humane Authority urged from Antiquity, is the best but Argumentum ad Hominem: It being Scripture Authority only, that is of Divine force, and, as coming from God, can oblige the Conference.

      Therefore if you will but please, before you make your Judgment, and pass the Definitive Sentence, read the whole, and laying all parts together, weigh them (with an impartial mind) in the Balance of the Sanctuary; you will find, I doubt not, That as the Ordinance of Jesus Christ is more fully and clearly asserted from the Scripture, founded with greater Wisdom and Righteousness, or of more excellent life to the Church, than that of Believers Baptism, however it hath been contemned, nick-named, and reproached:

      So no Invention of Man, or Innovation of Antichrist, hath been more pernicious, either to the Church or World, or founded upon less of Reason, Righteousness, and Truth, than that of Sprinkling Infants, though it hath so long and so currently pass for Christ's Ordinance of Baptism.

      Lastly, if any shall be offended at this Witness (though thus made good by a seven-fold Demonstration twice told) Let them know, (that the Providence of God hath so ordered, as they'l find herein) that they cannot oppose it, without opposing and contradicting themselves; there being scarce one Argument, in the whole Book, that is not substantially confirmed by some eminent men of their own.


Index to Danvers
Baptist History Homepage