Thomas Watson
The Ten Commandments
File 25
(... continued from file 24)

4.4 Baptism 
    'Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the 
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching 
them,' &c. Matt 28: 19. 
    I. The way whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of 
redemptions, is, in the use of the sacraments. 
    What are the sacraments in general? 
    They are visible signs of invisible grace. 
    Is not the word of God sufficient to salvation? What need then 
is there of sacraments? 
    We must not be wise above what is written. It is God's will 
that his church should have sacraments; and it is God's goodness 
thus to condescend to weak capacities. 'Except ye see signs, ye will 
not believe.' John 4: 48. To strengthen our faith, God confirms the 
covenant of grace, not only by promises but by sacramental signs. 
    What are the sacraments of the New Testament? 
    Two: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. 
    Are there no more? The Papists tell us of five more, viz., 
confirmation, penance, matrimony, orders, and the extreme unction. 
    (1) There were but two sacraments under the law, therefore 
there are no more now. I Cor 10: 2, 3, 4. 
    (2) These two sacraments are sufficient; the one signifying our 
entrance into Christ, and the other, our growth and perseverance in 
    II. The first sacrament is baptism. 'Go ye, therefore, and 
teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of 
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them,' &c. 'Go, teach all 
nations;' the Greek word is 'Make disciples of all nations.' If it 
be asked, how should we make them disciples? It follows, 'Baptising 
them and teaching them.' In a heathen nation, first teach, and then 
baptise them; but in a Christian church, first baptise, and then 
teach them. 
    What is baptism? 
    In general, it is a matriculation, or visible admission of 
children into the congregation of Christ's flock. More particularly, 
'Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing or sprinkling with 
water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, does signify 
and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits 
of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's.' 
    What is meant by the parent when he presents his child to be 
    The parent, in presenting the child to be baptised, (1) Makes a 
public acknowledgement of original sin; that the soul of his child 
is polluted, therefore needs washing from sin by Christ's blood and 
Spirit; both which washings are signified by the sprinkling of water 
in baptism. (2) The parent by bringing his child to be baptised, 
solemnly devotes it to the Lord, and enrols it in God's family; and 
truly it is a great satisfaction to a religious parent to have given 
up his child to the Lord in baptism. How can a parent look with 
comfort on that child who was never dedicated to God? 
    What is the benefit of baptism? 
    The party baptised has, (1) An entrance into the visible body 
of the church. (2) He has a right sealed to the ordinances, which is 
a privilege full of glory. Rom 9: 4. (3) The child baptised is under 
a more special providential care of Christ, who appoints the 
tutelage of angels to be the infant's life-guard. 
    Is this all the benefit? 
    No! To such as belong to the election, baptism is a 'seal of 
the righteousness of faith,' a laver of regeneration, and a badge of 
adoption. Rom 4: 11. 
    How does it appear that children have a right to baptism? 
    Children are parties in the covenant of grace. The covenant was 
made with them. 'I will establish my covenant between me and thee, 
and thy seed after thee, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God 
unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.' Gen 17: 7. 'The promise is 
to you and to your children.' Acts 2: 39. The covenant of grace may 
be considered either, (1) More strictly, as an absolute promise to 
give saving grace; and so none but the elect are in covenant with 
God. Or, (2) More largely, as a covenant containing in it many 
outward glorious privileges, in which respects the children of 
believers do belong to the covenant of grace. The promise is to you 
and to your seed. The infant seed of believers may as well lay a 
claim to the covenant of grace as their parents; and having a right 
to the covenant, they cannot justly be denied baptism, which is its 
seal. It is certain the children of believers were once visibly in 
covenant with God, and received the seal of their admission into the 
church; where now do we find this covenant interest, or church 
membership of infants, repealed or made void? Certainly Jesus Christ 
did not come to put believers and their children into a worse 
condition than they were in before. If the children of believers 
should not be baptised, they are in worse condition now than they 
were in before Christ's coming. 
    [1] Objections. The Scripture is silent herein and does not 
mention infant baptism. 
    Though the word infant baptism is not in Scripture, yet the 
thing is. Mention is not made in Scripture of woman's receiving the 
sacrament; but who doubts but the command, 'Take, eat, this is my 
body,' concerns them? Does not their faith need strengthening as 
well as others? So the word Trinity is not to be found in Scripture, 
but there is that which is equivalent to it. 'There are Three that 
bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and 
these Three are one.' I John 5: 7. So, though the word infant 
baptism is not mentioned in Scripture, the practice of baptising 
infants may be drawn from Scripture by undeniable consequence. 
    How is that proved? 
    The Scripture mentions whole families baptised; as the 
household of Lydia, Crispus, and the jailer. 'He was baptised, he 
and all his.' Acts 16: 33. Wherein we must rationally imagine there 
were some little children. If it be said, there is no mention here 
made of children; I answer, neither are servants named; and yet it 
cannot be supposed but that, in so great a family, there were some 
    But infants are not capable of the end of baptism; for baptism 
signifies the washing away of sin by the blood of Christ. Infants 
cannot understand this; therefore what benefit can baptism be to 
    Neither could the child that was to be circumcised understand 
circumcision; yet the ordinance of circumcision was not to be 
omitted or deferred. Though an infant understand not the meaning of 
baptism it may partake of the blessing of baptism. The little 
children that Christ took in his arms, understood not Christ's 
meaning, but they had Christ's blessing. 'He put his hands upon them 
and blessed them.' Mark 10: 16. 
    But what benefit can the child have of baptism if it understand 
not the nature of baptism? 
    It may have a right to the promise sealed up, which it shall 
have an actual interest in when it comes to have faith. A legacy may 
be of use to the child in the cradle; though it now understand not 
the legacy, yet when it is grown up to years, it is fully possessed 
of it. But it may be further objected: - 
    The party to be baptised is to be engaged to God; but how can 
the child enter into such an engagement? 
    The parents can engage for it, which God is pleased to accept 
as equivalent to the child's personal engagement. 
    If baptism comes in the room of circumcisions, and the males 
only were circumcised, what warrant is there for baptising females? 
Gen 17: 10. 
    Females were included, and were virtually circumcised in the 
males. What is done to the head is done to the body; the man being 
the head of the woman. I Cor 11: 3. What was done to the male sex 
was interpretatively done to the female. 
    [2] Having answered these objections, I come now to prove by 
argument, infant baptism. 
    (1) If children during their infancy are capable of grace, they 
are capable of baptism; but children in their infancy are capable of 
grace, therefore they are capable of baptism. I prove the minor, 
that they are capable of grace, thus: if children in their infancy 
may be saved, then they are capable of grace; but children in their 
infancy may be saved; which is thus proved: that if the kingdom of 
heaven belongs to them, they may be saved; but the kingdom of heaven 
may belong to them, as it is clear from, 'Of such is the kingdom of 
God' (Mark 10: 14); who then can forbid that the seal of baptism 
should be applied to them? 
    (2) If infants may be among the number of God's servants, there 
is no reason why they should be shut out of God's family; but 
infants may be in the number of God's servants, because God calls 
them his servants. 'He shall depart from thee, and his children with 
him, for they are my servants.' Lev 25: 4I. Therefore children in 
their infancy, being God's servants, why should they not have 
baptism, which is the tessera, the mark or seal which God sets upon 
his servants? 
    (3) 'But now are they (your children) holy.' I Cor 7: 14. 
Children are not called holy, as if they were free from original 
sin; but in the judgement of charity they are to be esteemed holy, 
and true members of the church of God, because their parents are 
believers. Hence that excellent divine, Mr Hildersam, says, 'that 
the children of the faithful as soon as they are born, have a 
covenant holiness, and so a right and title to baptism, which is the 
token of the covenant.' 
    (4) From the opinion of the fathers and the practice of the 
church. The ancient fathers were strong asserters of infant baptism, 
as Irenaeus, Basil, Lactantius, Cyprian, and Augustine. It was the 
practice of the Greek church to baptise her infants. Erasmus says 
that infant baptism has been used in the church of God for above 
fourteen hundred years. And Augustine, in his book against Pelagius, 
affirms that it has been the custom of the church in all ages to 
baptise infants. Yea, it was an apostolic practice. Paul affirms 
that he baptised the whole house of Stephanus. I Cor 1: 16. 
    Having seen Scripture arguments for infant baptism, let us 
consider whether the practice of those who delay the baptising of 
children till riper years, be warrantable. For my part, I cannot 
gather it from Scripture. Though we read of adult persons, and grown 
up to years of discretion, in the apostles' times, being baptised, 
yet they were such as were converted from heathenish idolatry to the 
true orthodox faith; but that in a Christian church the children of 
believers should be kept unbaptised for several years, I know 
neither precept nor example for it in Scripture, but it is wholly 
apocryphal. The baptising of persons, grown up to maturity, we may 
argue against ab effectu, from the ill consequence of it. They dip 
the persons they baptise over head and ears in cold water, and 
naked; which, as it is indecent, so it is dangerous, and has often 
been the occasion of chronic disease, yea, and of death itself; and 
so is a plain breach of the sixth commandment. How far God has given 
up many persons, who are for deferring baptism, to other vile 
opinions and vicious practices, is evident, if we consult history; 
especially if we read the doings of the Anabaptists in Germany. 
    Use one. See the riches of God's goodness, who will not only be 
the God of believers, but takes their seed into covenant with them. 
'I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed 
after thee, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed.' Gen 17: 7. A 
father counts it a great privilege, not only to have his own name, 
but his child's name put in a will. 
    Use two. Those parents are to be blamed who forbid little 
children to be brought to Christ; and withhold from them this 
ordinance. By denying their infants baptism, they exclude them from 
membership in the visible church, so that their infants are sucking 
pagans. Such as deny their children baptism, make God's institutions 
under the law more full of kindness and grace to children than they 
are under the gospel; which, how strange a paradox it is, I leave 
you to judge. 
    Use three. For exhortation. (1) Let us who are baptised, labour 
to find the blessed fruits of it in our own souls; not only to have 
the signs of the covenant, but the grace of the covenant. Many glory 
in their baptism. The Jews gloried in their circumcision, because of 
their royal privileges; to them belonged the adoption, and the 
glory, and the covenants. Rom 9: 4. But many of them were a shame 
and reproach to their circumcision. 'For the name of God is 
blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.' Rom 2: 24. The 
scandalous Jews, though circumcised, were, in God's account, as 
heathens. 'Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians to me? saith the 
Lord.' Amos 9: 7. Alas! what is it to have the name of Christ, and 
want his image? What is baptism of water without the baptism of the 
Spirit? Many baptised Christians are no better than heathens. O let 
us labour to find the fruits of baptism, that Christ is formed in us 
(Gal 4: 19); that our nature is changed; that we are made holy and 
heavenly. This is to be baptised into Jesus. Rom 6: 3. Such as live 
unsuitable to their baptism, may go with baptismal-water on their 
faces, and sacramental bread in their mouths, to hell. 
    (2) Let us labour to make a right use of our baptism. Let us 
use it as a shield against temptations. Satan, I have given up 
myself to God by a sacred vow in baptism; I am not my own, I am 
Christ's; therefore I cannot yield to thy temptations, for I should 
break my oath of allegiance which I made to God in baptism. Luther 
tells us of a pious woman, who, when the devil tempted her to sin, 
answered, Satan, baptizata sum, 'I am baptised;' and so beat back 
the tempter. 
    Let us use it as a spur to holiness. By remembering our 
baptism, let us be stirred up to make good our baptismal 
engagements; renouncing the world, flesh, and devil, let us devote 
ourselves to God and his service. To be baptised into the name of 
the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, implies a solemn dedication of 
ourselves to the service of all the Three Persons in the Trinity. It 
is not enough that our parents dedicate us to God in baptism, but we 
must dedicate ourselves to him; this is called living to the Lord. 
Rom 14: 8. Our life should be spent in worshipping God, in loving 
God, in exalting God; we should walk as becomes the gospel. Phil 1: 
27. We should shine as stars in the world, and live as earthly 
    Let us use it as an argument to courage. We should be ready to 
confess that Holy Trinity, into whose name we were baptised. With 
the conversion of the heart must go the confession of the tongue. 
'Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man 
also confess before the angels of God.' Luke 12: 8. Peter openly 
confessed Christ crucified. Acts 4:10. Cyprian, a man of a brave 
spirit, was like a rock, whom no waves could shake; like an adamant, 
whom no sword could cut. He confessed Christ before the pro-consul, 
and suffered himself to be proscribed; yea, chose death rather than 
betray the truths of Christ. He that dare not confess the Holy 
Trinity, shames his baptism, and God will be ashamed to own him at 
the day of judgement. 
    Use four. See the fearfulness of the sin of apostasy! It is 
renouncing our baptism. It is damnable perjury to go away from God 
after a solemn vow. 'Demas has forsaken me.' 2 Tim 4:10. He turned 
renegado, and afterwards became a priest in an idol-temple, says 
Dorotheus. Julia the apostate, Gregory Nazianzen observes, bathed 
himself in the blood of beasts offered in sacrifice to heathen gods; 
and so, as much as in him lay, washed off his former baptism. The 
case of such as fall away after baptism is dreadful. 'If any man 
draw back.' Heb 10: 38. The Greek word to draw back, alludes to a 
soldier that steals away from his colours; so, if any man steal away 
from Christ, and run over to the devil's side, 'my soul shall have 
no pleasure in him;' that is, I will be severely avenged on him; I 
will make my arrows drunk with his blood. If all the plagues in the 
Bible can make that man miserable, he shall be so.

Watson, The Ten Commandments
(continued in file 26...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: wat10-25.txt