“I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I… He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire…”
” Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Romish Baptism is Valid
Sacraments Administered Privately?
Sacraments in Extra-Ordinary Circumstances
Baptism for the Dead 1 Cor. 15:29
7 Sacraments of Romanism
Order of Contents
Who is to Baptize, Where & is it Valid?
Only Ministers are to Baptize
May Baptism be Administered Privately?
Validity (or Not) of the Baptism of Sects & Heretics
John’s Baptism in Relation to Christian Baptism
How Persons Enter the Visible Church through Baptism
Sprinkling, Pouring or Immersion?
Being Baptized: Not of Itself a Grounds of Assurance
Godfathers & Godmothers
Who is to be Baptized?
Not Sure if One has been Baptized?
Baptizing those of Other Denominations
Turretin, Francis – Institutes (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, ‘The Sacraments’
Question 11, ‘What is baptism and of how many kinds is it?’, pp. 377-84
Question 12, ‘Was baptism only a temporary rite, distinguishing believers form unbelievers, which ought to continue only for a time? We deny against the Socinians.’, pp. 384-6
Question 13, ‘Is baptism absolutely necessary to salvation?’ We deny against the Romanists.’, pp. 386-93
Question 19, ‘Does baptism take away sins in such a way that they are not, or only that they do not reign and are not imputed? Does it take away past and present sins only and leave future sins to repentance? Or does it extend itself to sins committed not only before but also after baptism? The former we deny; the latter we affirm against the Romanists.’, pp. 410-14
Berkhof, Louis – ‘Christian Baptism’ 1950 35 paragraphs, from his Systematic Theology
Warden, John – A Practical Essay on the Sacrament of Baptism: wherein, the Doctrine of that Divine Ordinance is Opened & Explained, the Controversies Concerning it are Stated & Determined… (1724) 290 pp.
Warden (d. 1764) was a reformed minister in the Church of Scotland.
M’Crie, Thomas – Lectures on Christian Baptism 1850 230 pp.
Marshall, William – Popery in the Full Corn, the Ear, and the Blade; or the Doctrine of Baptism in the Popish, Episcopalian, and Congregational Churches; with a Defense of the Calvinistic or Presbyterian View, to which is Subjoined a Translation of on Essay on the Efficacy of Baptism by Herman Witsius (Edinburgh, 1852)
Marshall was a friend of J.A. Wylie of the Free Church of Scotland.
Dabney, Robert – Fiction, No Defence of Truth: or a Review of Theodosia Ernest; or the Heroine of the Faith (1859) 166 pp.
Theodosia Ernest was a then-current, popular, fictional novel where the main story revolved around the baptist convictions of the heroine. Here is Dabney’s review of it.
John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan
To his daughter Maria:
“The Lord gave you to me, and I gave you back to Him before and in baptism.”
To his daughter Annie:
“Annie, you were baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It is a holy name that is named upon you. Let it point you evermore to Jehovah, who sanctifieth Israel, and remind you of the call: ‘be ye holy’.”
ch. 24, ‘Baptism’ 72 in A Forest of Sayings & Examples out of Sacred Scripture by which Christian Doctrine in Common Places are Distributed & Confirmed (Herborn, 1621), pp. 72-74
ch. 15, ‘Of Baptism’ 314 in Theological Theses, vol. 2 (Herborn, 1606-1607)
ch. 24, ‘Baptism’ 160 in Theological Common Places, Exposited in Brief Thoughts, or Aphorisms of Christian Doctrine, the Greater Part of which are Excerpts from the Institutes of Calvin (Herborne, 1589; 1605)
ch. 50, ‘Of Baptism’ 185 in The Divisions of Theology Framed according to a Natural Orderly Method (Basil, 1590; Geneva, 1623)
ch. 55, ‘Of Baptism’ in A System of Theology (Hanau, 1609; 1615), vol. 2, pp. 3184-99 Some duplicated pages and retro-numbering are present.
Bachoff, Reinhard – Baptism, Questions 69-73 in Catechism of the Christian Religion, which is Taught in the Churches & Schools of the Palitinate (Hanau, 1603) This is a commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, following the order of its questions.
Keckermann, Bartholomaeus – bk. 3, ch. 8, ‘The Sacraments, Miracles & Conversion,’ ‘Baptism’ 451 in A System of Scriptural Theology 2nd ed. (Hanau, 1607; 1610)
Keckermann (1572-1608). See Joseph Freedman, ‘The Career & Writings of Bartholomew Keckermann (d. 1609)’ in American Philosophical Society, vol. 141, no. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 305-64.
Pareus, David – Theological Collections of Universal Orthodox Theology, where also All of the Present Theological Controversies are Clearly & Variously Explained (1611/20)
Collection 1, 17. Baptism 75
Collection 2, 45. Baptism 357
Collection 3, 14. Sacraments, Baptism, Holy Supper &
. Antichrist 461
Collection 4, 14. Sacraments in General, & of Baptism 521
Collection 5, 18. Sacraments in General & of Baptism 588
Collection 6, 10. Baptism 629
Collection 7, 10. Baptism 673
Collection 8, 11. Baptism 722
Collection 9, 10. Baptism 773
Collection 10, 15. Sacrament of Baptism 838
Collection 1, 16. Baptism 63
Collection 2, 15. Baptism 129
Collection 3, 19. Baptism 166
Collection 5, 17. Baptism 210
Collection 6, 18. Sacrament of Baptism 264
Collection 7, 11. Sacraments in General, in Specific of Baptism
Collection 8, 11. Sacraments in General & of Baptism 359
Collection 9, 22. Bellarmine’s Vanities on the Sacrament of Baptism & of Confirmation 503
Alsted, Johann Heinrich
A Lexicon of Theology, in which the Terms of Holy Theology are Clearly Explained in a Series of Common Places (Prostat, 1612), 12. ‘Sacraments’
‘Sacraments in Specific, & First of Baptism’ 310
‘Of the Giving of Proper Names’ 316
ch. 24, ‘Baptism’ 139 in Theological Common Places Illustrated by Perpetual Similitudes (Frankfurt, 1630)
ch. 31, ‘Baptism’ 124 in Logical Theology (1625)
ch. 39, ‘Baptism’ 275 in Theological Questions Briefly Set Forth & Exposited (Frankfurt, 1627)
Polemical Theology, Exhibiting the Principal Eternal Things of Religion in Navigating Controversies (Hanau, 1620; 1627),
Pt. 2, A Major Catholic Symphony: Theological Common Places, 23. Baptism 238
Pt. 4, Controversies with the Romanists, Baptism & Confirmation 475
Hommius, Festus – 70 Theological Disputations Against Papists (Lugdunum Batavorum, 1614)
ch. 44, Baptism 267
ch. 45, Baptismal Ceremony 273
Mylius, Conrad – Catechetical Essays, or Homilies in the Heidelberg Catechism (Hanau, 1618)
ch. 28, Baptism 576
ch. 29, The Promise in Baptism is Most Apt & Efficacious 598
Pelargus, Christoph – 17. Baptism 105-13 in A Repetition of 20 Principal Articles of the Christian Faith (Eichorn, 1606)
Wendelin, Marcus Friedrich – 22. Of the Gospel in Specific, so called, & of Baptism 353-79 in Christian Theology (Hanau, 1634; 2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1657), bk. 1, of the Knowledge of God
Crocius, Ludwig – 13. Baptism 1142 in A System of Sacred Theology (Bremen, 1636), bk. 4, Of the Principles & Means of Human Salvation
Who May Baptize & Where?
Only Ministers are to Baptize, with No Exceptions
Reformed Churches of France 1559
ed. John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata (London, 1692), vol. 1
The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France, Ch. 11, ‘Of Baptism’, Canon 1, p. xliv
“Baptism administered by an unordained person is wholly void and null.”
2nd Synod at Poictiers (1560), ch. 6, sections 8 & 11, p. 18
Synod of Gap (1603), ch. 6, section 12, p. 239
Synod of Rochel (1607), ch. 5, section 18, p. 272
Synod of Alanson (1637), ch. 25, p. 389 (mid)
Synod of St. Maixant (1609), ch. 6, section 17, p. 328
Comfortable Notes upon the Books of Exodus & Leviticus… (London, 1604), on Exodus, ch. 4, p. 60
“11. ‘Then Zipporah tooke a sharpe knife and cut away the foreskin of her son.’
The two things that here might be considered (namely, that doctrine of Popery concerning the danger of children dying unbaptized, and secondly of such an absolute necessity of baptism, as that women must administer it in time of supposed need) I forbear to stand upon now: I have sufficiently touched them in my Notes upon Genesis.
Therefore do but remember with yourself (touching the first) that we make a great difference betwixt want [lack] of the sacrament and contempt of the same; contempt, damning; and want, not, through the strength of God’s promise; meaning, by want, when God so prevents by death, that it cannot be had, according to the manner allowed in the Word.
And, touching the second, observe, that this act of Zipporah, here, in circumcizing her child, was merely extraordinary, and does no way warrant women to baptize now-a-days.”
Samuel Rutherford 1642
A Defense of the Government of the Church of Scotland, Article 5
“The minister or pastor only may baptize, as he only may preach the Word (as Matt 28:19; Jn. 4:2; 1 Cor. 1:14-16).”
The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), pt. 1
“You [John Robinson] will happily say [Rutherford approving], there is no such necessity of baptizing as of ordination of ministers; and baptizing is incommunicable, because we read not that any in the apostolic Church baptized but pastors.”
“2. There is no such moral necessity of the sacraments as there is of the ministry of the Word, and consequently of some use of the keys where a scandalous person may infect the Lord’s flock. For where vision ceases the people perish, but it is never said, where baptism ceases the people perish; and therefore uncalled ministers in case of necessity, without ordination or calling from a presbytery, may preach and take on them the holy ministry and exercise power of jurisdiction, because the necessity of the souls of a congregation in a remote island requires so, but I hope no necessity in any [of] the most extraordinary case requires that a midwife may baptize, or that a private man remaining a private man may celebrate the Lord’s Supper to the Church without any calling from the Church.”
An Analytical Exposition of the Whole First Book of Moses, called Genesis, & of XXIII chap. of his Second Book, called Exodus… (d. 1667; 1672), on Exodus, ch. 4, p. 693
“Question: Did Zipporah do well in this act of circumcising her son?
Answer: 1. This act is unparalleld in all sacred history, therefore hereupon dubious.
2. Though the law before this time doth not declare to us the ad∣ministratour strictly, yet this worke was first committed to Abraham, and afterwards in the setlement of the Church to Ministers fit for the doing of it; and this sheweth what was right to be done in former times.
3. It was doubtles her husbands duty, and for her to do it in his presence could not belong to her but upon necessity, he being at that time by the opposition of Gods hand disinabled.
4. Doubt∣les here was infirmity in all, which though God pardoned, yet he did not allow.
5. This was a singular ex∣traordinary act, therefore not to be drawn into imitation by any against Gods law of administration of baptism under the Gospel, as the Papists do.
D. 2. It is the wife’s duty and praise to save the husband from perishing under God’s hand.
D. 3. Sacrament-administration may reconcile, where the neglect has provoked God.
D. 4. God has born with weak and unfit hands in such adminis∣trations, but not to approve them.
D. 9. Forms of words are useful in the Sacraments, such as are sutable to their nature, but not arbitrary.”
ch. 17, ‘The Sacraments’, pp. 224-5 in Wesley White, A Translation with Introduction to A Summary of Elenctic Theology by Leonard Rijssen a Masters thesis (GPTS, 2009)
“Controversy 3 – Can the sacraments, especially baptism, be administered by anyone, including women? We deny against the Papists, Socinians, Arminians, and Anabaptists.
1. Christ gave the power of administering the sacraments only to the apostles and ministers of the Church (Mt. 28:19).
2. And these alone are stewards and dispensers of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1).
3. The administration of the sacraments is joined with the preaching of the Word; thus, whoever cannot do one, cannot do the other
4. Calling is required (Jn. 1:33, 1 Cor. 1:17).
5. It is forbidden for women to speak in the Church or to do any ecclesiastical duty (1 Cor. 14:34-35).
1. Zippora circumcised her son (Ex. 4:25). Reply: Their relation to circumcision is one thing and their relation to baptism another, and the fact that it was done by a woman is not approved.
2. Philip the deacon baptized (Acts 8:38). Reply: First, he was a deacon. Later, he was an evangelist (Acts 21:8).
3. So did Ananias (Acts 9:18). Reply: He had a special command (v. 10), nor is there proof that he was not a minister.”
French Reformed Churches – Answer 3, ‘Concerning Baptism… Answer of a Letter to Certain Arguments Urged for the Validity of Baptism Administered by Private Persons’ in 4th Synod at Lyons (1563), ch. 21, ‘Three Answers of the Pastors & Professors of Geneva, & of Some of the Ministers who were Deputed unto the National Synod…’, pp. 50-53
Beza, Theodore – The Other Part of Christian Questions & Answers, which is Concerning the Sacraments… (London, 1580)
Question 140, ‘Of Baptism Ministered of Private Persons, or by such as Execute Not the Ministey of the Word?’
Question 141, ‘But what if Necessitie do Urge it?’
Question 142, ‘But are not private persons and those which are not lawfully called, to be thought in like place & degree? Which if it be true, certainly the baptism administred by popish priests must be in vain and serve to no purpose’
Question 146, ‘But what if in the mean time the child die?’
4th Question, ‘Whether Women & Laymen ought to Baptize’ in Synopsis Papismi, that is, a General Viewe of Papistry… (London, 1592), On the Church Triumphant, 12th Controversy, ‘Of the Sacrament of Baptism’, pp. 432-34
4th Controversy, ‘Against the Baptism of Infants by Women’ on Ex. 4:25 On Exodus, ch. 4, 5. Places of Controversy, p. 48 in Hexapla in Genesin & Exodum… (London, 1633)
Bucanus, William – Institutions of Christian Religion Framed out of God’s Word… (London, 1606), 47th Common Place, ‘Of Baptism’
‘Whose Office is it Properly to Administer Baptism?’, p. 699
‘Is there any Allowance of Woman’s Baptizing in the Church?’, pp. 702-3
Turretin, Francis – Question 14, ‘Is baptism by laymen or women lawful in any case? We deny against the Romanists.’ in Institutes (P&R), vol. 2, 19th topic, ‘The Sacraments’, pp. 393-6
Beza, Theodore – ‘Whether in the case of extreme necesity women may baptize infants? [No]’ in The Response of Theodore Beza to the Acts of the Colloquy of Montisbelgard, the Tubingen Edition Parts 1 (2nd ed.) & 2 (1st ed.) bound together (Geneva, 1588), pt. 2, on Baptism, pp. 125-44
Alsted, Johann Heinrich – Controversy 1, ‘Whether it may be allowed for a private person, whether male or female, to administer baptism? [No]’ in Polemical Theology… (Hanau, 1620; 1627), pt 5, ‘An Examination of the Controversies which are now agitated in these times between Evangelicals, which are commonly called Lutherans and Calvinists’, class 6, ‘Controversies on Baptism’, pp. 655-56
Maccovius, Johann – IV. ‘Whether baptism, in the case of extreme necessity, administered by a religious woman or lay-person, may be true, lawful and legitimate? [No]’ in Johannes Maccovius Revived, or Manuscripts of his… ed. Nicolaas Arnoldi (Amsterdam, 1659), ‘Anti-Eckhardus [a Lutheran]’, 19. On Baptism, pp. 676-77
Voet, Gisbert – questions 1-2, 7 & 23-4 in ch. 1, ‘Of the Minister of Baptism’ in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1 (Amsterdam, 1663-1676), pt. 1, bk. 2, tract 2, Section 2, ‘Of the Public Administering of the Word of God’, Section 3, ‘Of the Administration of Baptism’, pp. 631-35, 638, 644-5
De Moor, Bernardinus – section 12 of ch. 30, ‘Of Christian Baptism’ in A Continuous Commentary on John Marck’s Compendium of Didactic & Elenctic Christian Theology (Leiden, 1761-1771), vol. 5
On the Validity (or Not) of the Baptism of Sects & Heretics
See also That Romish Baptism is Valid.
For more understanding on where Rutherford is coming from (and that he is right), see his whole section on the Fundamentals, starting on p. 221, as well as his other writings on Church communion, the sacraments and excommunication, which are on this website.
The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), pt. 2, pp. 228-9
“8th Distinction… yet will it not follow that these few fundamentals [such as in the Apostles’ Creed] received by all Christians, Papists, Lutherans, Arians, Verstians, Sabellians, Macedonians, Nestorians, Eutychanes, Socinians, Anabaptists, Treithitae, Antitrinitarii (for all these be Christians and validly baptized) do essentially constitute a true Church, and a true Religion.
Because all Christians agree that the Old and New Testament is the truth and Word of God, and the whole faith of Christian Religion is to be found in the Old Testament, acknowledged both by Jews and Christians; for that is not the Word of God indeed in the Old Testament which the Jews say is the Word of God in the Old Testament. Yea the Old and New Testament, and these few uncontroverted points received universally by all Christians, are not God’s Word as all these Christians expone them, but [rather are] the dreams and fancies of the Jews saying that the Old Testament teaches that Christ the Messiah is not yet come in the flesh, the Treithitae [Tritheists] say there be three Gods, yet are the Treithitae Christians in the sense of Doctor [Christopher] Potter [a Laudian Anglican]: so that one principal as that, There is one God, and Christ is God and man, and God is only to be adored, not one of these are uncontraverted, in [the] respect [that] every society of sectaries have contrary expositions upon these common fundamentals, and so [they have] contrary religions.
Who doubts but all Christians will subscribe and swear with us Protestants the Apostolic Creed, but will it follow that all Christians are of one true Religion, and do believe the same fundamentals? Now these fundamentals are the object of faith according as they signify things. To us and to the Treithitae this first article, ‘I believe in God’, as I conceive, does not signify one and the same thing; now join this, ‘I believe in God’ with holy obedience, as we expone it, and as the Treithitae expone it: it could never be a step to everlasting salvation; for it should have this meaning: ‘I believe there is one only true God, and that there be also three Gods,’ and what kind of obedience joined with a faith made up of contradictions can be available to salvation?
3. One general catechism and confession of faith made up of the commonly received and agreed upon fundamentals would not make us nearer peace, though all Christians should swear and subscribe this common Christian catechism, no more than if they should swear and subscribe the Old and New Testament, as all Christians will do, and this day do.”
Turretin, Francis – Question 15, ‘Is Baptism Administered by Heretics Lawful? We Distinguish’ in Institutes (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, ‘The Sacraments’, pp. 396-8
Rijssen, Leonard –
John’s Baptism in Relation to Christian Baptism
Bucanus, William –
Turretin, Francis – Question 16, ‘Was John’s baptism essentially the same as Christ’s baptism? We affirm against the Romanists.’ in Institutes (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, ‘The Sacraments’, pp. 398-403
Rijssen, Leonard –
The Due Right of Presbyteries… (London, 1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, pp. 218-9
“We teach not that baptism constitutes the Church simply, as the Church, but that it is a seal of a visible membership; and all baptized by John Baptist and the disciples of Christ were thereby entered in a visible profession that they believed in Christ already come, and so were made members and citizens by that public symbol and seal that they were members of the Christian Church, though as yet it received not that name of a Christian Church, and they were members both of the Jewish and Christian Church: For these are not contrary incorporations, and they needed not to be baptized again when they were added to the Christian Church, for they were never added to the visible Christian Church, nor needed they to be added, seeing they were members of that Church before.”
In What Way a Person Enters the Visible Church through Baptism
Rutherford’s 2 Distinctions
A Survey of the Survey of that Sum… (London, 1658), bk. 1, ch. 21, p. 116
“[1.] I distinguish the simple being of a visible member [of the Church] actu primo [in the first act]; such are infants born within the Covenant visibly made to parents; the promise is made to Church-members, Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39, from the solemn entry and admission into the visible Church.
2. I distinguish between [the] simple being of a member and actual solemn communion or visible profession: so speaks the renowned [Westminster] Assembly, so Calvin, Bucan, Tilen, professors of Leiden, Beza, Ursine, Trelcatius, Peter Martyr, Junius, Pareus, Waleus:* its a seal for our solemn admission and solemn engrafting and adopting into the visible Church, 1 Cor. 12:13, ‘For by one Spirit we are baptized into one body,’ etc.
* The Due Right of Presbyteries, pt. 2, [ch. 4, section 5] question 2, pp. 210-11, 218; Synod at Westminster of Great Britain, Confession, ch. 28, p. 58. Larger Catechism, p. 137; Calvin, Against the Anabaptists, article 2, Homo in communionem Ecclesiae per baptismum cooptatur. Calvin, Institutes, bk. 4, ch. 15, sect. 15, Est confessionis nostrae symbolum—•otestamur nos in ecclesiam Dei ingredi, 1 Cor. 12:12; Bucan, locus 47, question 53 [‘What are the ends of baptism?’], In unum corpus (•o) baptizati sumus, 1 Cor. 12. Tilen, Syntagma, disputation 59, thesis 4, In familiam patris coelestis cooptati per baptismum. Synopsis of Pure Theology, disputation 44, thesis 34, In ecclesiam visibilem et particularem insertio. Beza, Book of Questions, p. 150 [question 150?], Christianos tum a reliquis hominibus sejungit, tum inter se quasi unum sub eodem capite corpus consociat, ut Apost., 1 Cor. 12:12. Pareus on the Catechism, question 69, article 2, p. 387, Tertius finis, ut sit symbolum ingressus et receptionis in ecclesiam, quia Deus omnes Ecclesiae suae cives vult hoc modo recipi. Peter Martyr, Commentary on Rom. 6, Inferi autem nos visibili sacramento (baptismi) in Christum et ecclesiam declaratur hoc loco.”
Question 2, ‘Whether or no children be received into the visible Church by Baptism’ in The Due Right of Presbyteries… (London, 1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, pp. 210-20
Rutherford gives 4 considerations and then answers objections of the congregationalists. His conclusion is:
“Hence baptism is a seal of our incorporation in Christ’s visible Church;” Rutherrford cites 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41; Mt. 28:19; Acts 8:38; 10:47; 16:15,23. His 4 considerations are:
1. Baptism is not that whereby we are entered into Christ’s mystical and invisible body as such, for it is presupposed we be members of Christ’s body, and our sins pardoned already, before baptism come to be a seal of sins pardoned; but baptism is a seal of our entry in Christ’s visible body, as swearing to the colors is that which enters a soldier to be a member of such an army, whereas before his oath, he was only a heart friend to the army and cause.
2. Baptism as it is such is a seal, and a seal as a seal adds no new lands or goods to the man to whom the charter and seal is given, but only does legally confirm him in the right of such lands given to the man by the prince or state; yet this hinders not but baptism is a real, legal seal, legally confirming the man in his actual and visible profession of Christ, remission of sins, regeneration, so as though before baptism he was a member of Christ’s body, yet quoad nos [as far as us], he is not a member of Christ’s body visible until he be made such by baptism.
3. On the controversy anent the efficiency, working and operation of the Sacraments”
Sacraments are considered as Sacraments, in abstracto, in genere signorum [in the genera of signs]; the reprobate do receive holy seals and sacraments, else they could not be said to profane the holy things of God, and so they may be sacraments and work no grace either by themselves or from God; all operation from, or about the sacrament then must be accidental to a sacrament.
2. Sacraments are considered in concreto, according to all which they include in their use, to wit, as they consist of the sign, the thing signified, the institution of God, and the promise of grace.
4. Sacraments are considered: 1. as holy signs; 2. as religious seals; 3. as instruments by which faith works; 4. as means used by us out of conscience of obedience to Christ’s commandment who has willed us to use them.
bk. 1, ch. 21, ‘Whether Mr. Hooker does prove this Conclusion (which Mr. Rutherford never said, nor wrote, nor thought) That Baptism gives formality, or makes a Member of a visible Church’ in A Survey of the Survey of that Sum… (London, 1658), pp. 115-22
The Baptismal Formula
The baptismal formula traditionally used in the Church, and sometimes legislated therein, is the minister pronouncing the words, ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost’ (based upon the Great Commission of Mt. 28:19) when baptizing someone.
Gillespie argues below that this verbal formula, while lawful and good to do, is not prescribed by Scripture (and hence necessary), nor does the omission of it make a baptism invalid.
The importance of the question, besides ecclesiological practicalities, is careful discernment of, and faithfulness to, the will of God revealed in Scripture. Gillespie argues for the Lord’s Supper, on the others hand (in the same chapter as the first quote below), that the Sacramental words, ‘This is my body, etc.’, are morally required for a proper observance of the Supper, though they are not essential to its validity. The reason for the difference is due to the level of detail that God has revealed with regards to the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the spiritually significant words that attend it. Christ says, with reference to all of it: ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’ There is no parallel for Baptism.
In relation to this topic, be sure to note: the passages in the New Testament which speak of baptizing ‘in the name of Christ’ (Acts 2:38; 8:12,16; 19:5; whereas there is no instance in Scripture of a baptism being done ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’), John 17:20-21,24,26 and the Trinitarian words of John 17:23:
“Jesus… said… ‘If a man love Me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
English-Popish Ceremonies, part 4, ch. 7, p. 209
“It is sounder divinity to say, that the consecration of a sacrament does not depend ‘on some certain form of words.’¹ For it is evident that, in baptism, there is not a certain form of words prescribed, as [Robert] Bellarmine [a Roman Catholic] also proves;² because Christ says not, ‘Say, I baptize thee in the name, etc.’ But only he says, ‘Baptizing them in the name, etc.’ So that he prescribes not what should be done. [Thomas] Aquinas likewise holds,³ that the consecration of a sacrament is not absolutely tied to a certain form of words.
¹ [William] Ames, Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in Worship, book 4, ch. 6, ‘ex certa aliqua formula verborum’
² in Ames, Fresh Suit, book 1, ch. 2
³ Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 3, Question 60, article 8″
Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, p. 110-111
“But where I added, that in the name of Jesus Christ we baptize, though I said no more than the Scripture says [i.e. Acts 2:38; 8:12,16; 19:5], yet he [Mr. Hussey] is pleased to object against me… I cited plain texts to prove that baptism is done in the name of Christ…
But how does baptizing in the name of Christ, as Mediator, agree with the commission to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost?…
First, I say, the question is of things or actions, not of words. Mr. Hussey (it seems) did apprehend my meaning, as if I had intended an expression to be made in the act of baptizing, thus: ‘I baptize thee in the name of Jesus Christ.’ But [on the contrary] I speak of the action, not of the expression, even as in another instance I gave: our assembling together is in the name of Christ, though we do not say in terminis [in the very terms], ‘We are now assembled in the name of Christ.’
In baptism Christ does not command us to say either these words, ‘I baptize thee in the name of Christ;’ or these, ‘I baptize thee in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost:’ but we are commanded to do the thing, both in the name of Christ as Mediator, and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but in different respects.
A minister of Christ does both preach and baptize in the name of Christ, as Mediator; that is, vice Christi, in Christ’s stead [see 2 Cor. 5:20], and having authority for that effect from Christ, as Mediator; for Christ, as Mediator, gave us our commission to preach and baptize, by Mr. Hussey’s confession. So that to preach and baptize epi to onomati Iesou Christou [in the name of Jesus Christ] (which we find both of preaching, Lk. 24:47, and of baptizing, Acts 2:38), comprehends a formal commission, power and authority, given and derived from Christ. I say not that it comprehends no more, but this it does comprehend.
But when Christ bids us baptize eis ta onoma, ‘unto’, or ‘into’, or ‘in the name’ of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Mt. 28:19, this does relate to the end and effect of baptism, or the good of the baptized (if we understand the words properly), not the authority of the baptizer, as if a formal commission were there given him from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
So that to baptize on ‘in’ or ‘unto’ the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is properly meant both of sealing the parties’ right and title to the enjoyment of God Himself, as their God by covenant, and their interest in the love of God, the grace of Christ, and of the communion of the Holy Ghost; and of dedicating the party to the knowledge, profession, faith, love, and obedience of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
Beza, Theodore – The Other Part of Christian Questions & Answers, which is Concerning the Sacraments… (London, 1580)
Question 153, ‘Whether thou think that this form, ‘I baptize thee in the name, or into the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Ghost’, be precisely and in so many words and syllables necessarily to be used. For thou art not ignorant that the Grecians say, ‘Let the servant of Christ be baptized into the name of the Father’?
Question 155, ‘Is the minister therefore precisely bound to use the form commanded by Christ, the words only altered by the sound of another tongue?’
Question 156, ‘What thinkest thou of these same speeches, ‘I baptize thee’, or by ‘The servant of Christ be Baptized.’?’
Turretin, Francis – Question 17, ‘Is the formula of baptism prescribed by Christ to be observed in its administration? And what does it imply?’ in Institutes (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, ‘The Sacraments’, pp. 403-5
Sprinkling, Pouring or Immersion?
Baillie, Robert – Anabaptism, the True Fountain of Independency, Brownism, Antinomianism, Familism, and the most of the other Errors (which for the Time do Trouble the Church of England) Unsealed. Also the questions of Paedobaptism and Dipping handled from Scripture. In a second part of the Dissuasive from the Errors of the Time (Londno, 1647)
Whitsitt, William H. – A Question in Baptist History: Whether the Anabaptists in England Practiced Immersion Before the Year 1641? With an Appendix on the Baptism of Roger Williams at Providence, R.I. in 1639 (Louisville, KY, 1896) 164 pp. no ToC
Whitsitt was a baptist and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
A Baptismal Prayer
Rites & Institutions of the Zurich Church (1559)
“Then the minister continues, saying:
Be mindful that God our savior wills all people to come to the knowledge of the truth through the only mediator, Jesus Christ, who handed himself over as a ransom for many.
God also wills for us to join in many prayers, that we should arrive at the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, our redeemer. Therefore we ask the Lord to grant faith to this little one, that the external baptism should take place internally through the Holy Spirit in [by means of?] the salvific water.
Therefore, pray in this way:
Almighty, eternal God, who through the flood, in accordance with your severe but just judgment, condemned the unbelieving world and saved, on the grounds of your immense mercy, faithful Noah’s eight; you who submerged hardened Pharaoh with all his people in the Red Sea, but then led your people Israel across with dry feet, a prefiguring of baptism —
We beseech you through your immense mercy that you would deign to look mercifully upon your servant, [name], and kindle in his heart the light of faith, so as to be grafted into your Son, buried together with him in death, and also raised into a new life, in which he would eagerly follow your son in bearing his cross daily and cling to him in true faith, firm hope, and ardent love, so that for your sake, he could boldly despise this life, which is nothing other than death, and on the last day present himself fearlessly at the universal judgment of your Son.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God throughout all ages. Amen.”
That Having Been Baptized is Not of Itself a Grounds of Assurance for Eternal Salvation
‘The Order which Mr. Theodore Beza used in Comforting Afflicted Consciences’ appended to William Perkins, A Golden Chain… (Cambridge, 1600)
An Excellent Treatise of Comforting such as are troubled about their Predestination, Taken out of the Second Answer of Mr. Beza to Dr. Andreas in the Act of their Colloquy at Mompelgart, etc.
“Unless” (says Dr. [Jacob] Andreas [a Lutheran]) “regeneration be always united to baptism, and remains in such as are baptized, how should the troubled consciences of those be eased and comforted, who because they feel not in themselves any good motions of God’s Holy Spirit, find none other refuge but the Word and sacraments, especially the sacrament of baptism? Now this remedy would be of small force except it be opposed against those imaginations which the Devil casts into a troubled heart; yea, except it taught such that God is greater than our heart, who in baptism has not only offered us the adoption of sons, but hath indeed bestowed the same upon us: as it is said by Christ, ‘He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.’ And by Paul, ‘Ye which are baptized, have put on Christ.’ David being armed with the like comfort from his circumcision, feared not to join battle with that great giant Goliath: and if this were not so, it must needs follow that baptism were nothing else but an idle ceremony, and also the persons of the Trinity would be thought liars. Wherefore those afflicted men, when Satan assaults them, must resist him with these words: ‘Depart from me Satan, thou hast neither part nor portion in the inheritance of my soul, because I am baptized in the name of the holy Trinity, and so am truly made the son of God by adoption.”
And are these the strong weapons, which so many times and in so many words, have been objected against me by Dr. Andreas? and whereby he has gotten the victory? But because this his reason is somewhat intricate, I will explain it after this sort. First, for the place of Scripture which he alleges, namely, that God is greater than our hearts: It is so far from comforting an afflicted conscience, that it will rather drive him to despair. Neither does John 1st Epistle, 3.20, make mention of it, to ease such as are in despair, showing unto them by that sentence, the greatness of God’s mercies; but rather that he might thereby, even bruise in pieces the hearts of proud persons, when they consider the greatness of God’s majesty. And for the other place, when as a man doubts of his salvation, and feels no testimonies of faith in himself (for such an one we here speak of) what comfort, think you, can he have in these words: He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved? For he would rather reason contrarily thus: I indeed am baptized, yet for all that I believe not, and therefore my baptism is not available, I must needs be condemned. For the saying of Augustine in his treatise upon John 6 is very true, who speaking of Simon Magus, says, ‘What good did it to him to be baptized? brag not therefore, says he, that thou art baptized, as though that were sufficient for thee to inherit the kingdom of heaven. As for the place of Paul, Gal. 3, I showed plainly before, how Dr. Andreas did violently wrest it to his purpose.
Neither are his reasons taken from the absurdity that would follow, of more force than the former, albeit he makes them especial pillars to underprop the truth of his cause. For, I pray you, is God of less truth, because his truth is neglected, and derided of them that contemn it? Is the ceremony of baptism therefore in vain, because some refuse the grace offered in baptism: others (if we may believe Dr. Andreas) reject that grace when they have received it? What? Is not the Gospel therefore the power of God to salvation, because it is to such as believe not, the savor of death to eternal death? May not the Supper of the Lord, be a pledge of Gods covenant, because so may abuse these holy signs, or (as Dr. Andreas is of opinion) the very body and blood of our Savior Christ? And, that I may reason from that which is true in the experience of every child, can the sun be said to be without light, because they which are blind and asleep have no benefit by the light thereof, neither such as shut their eyes so close, that they will not enjoy the comfort of the light? But amongst all, this one is most childish, that Dr. Andreas will make this his principal argument, namely, that in vain did men, thus tempted, fly at all unto Baptism, unless we conclude with him, that all such as are baptized, are in baptism adopted the sons of God. For first, if this were a good consequent from baptism, it were in vain, for such an afflicted conscience, to gather unto himself a testimony from the word of God, and the other sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, unless we make all those to be in like sort regenerate and adopted, unto whom the Word of God is preached, and the Lords supper administered, either of which, for Dr. Andreas to affirm, is a bold untruth.
But to omit this, what if we grant this which Dr. Andreas requires concerning baptism? May not for all that, any that is so tempted, by Satan’s policy, refell this great comforter, by his own argument? after this sort: I will grant Dr. Andreas your question: suppose I have been baptized and adopted the son of God, yet seeing you teach, that the grace of God is not so sure but that I may fall from the same, as indeed I feel that I have grievously fallen, what do you now else but lift me up with one hand to heaven, and with the other cast me down into hell? What mean you therefore to teach me those things which are so far from easing me, as that contrarily, they do more and more lay out unto me mine abominable and ungrateful heart? See now what sure consolation, consciences grievously afflicted may reap by this doctrine of their comforter Dr. Andreas.
Now if any be desirous to know, what spiritual comfort is most meet to be ministered unto consciences so troubled, I will show them that which is grounded upon a sure foundation, and which I myself have often found to be true in mine own experience: the which also I purpose to handle more largely, for the benefit of the Christian reader. First therefore we teach, contrarily to that which Dr. Andreas does most falsely object against us, that the eternal decree, or as Paul speaks, the purpose of God, must not be sought in the bottomless counsel of God, but rather in the manifestation of it, namely, in his vocation, by the Word and sacraments. This I speak of such as are of years of discretion, as they must needs be, whom we seek to comfort in this place.
Now because that external vocation, is not proper only to the elect (for many are called, but few are chosen) but such a vocation as is effectual, that is, whereby the understanding is not only enlightened with the saving knowledge of God, but in the will also there is created a true, though not a perfect hatred of sin, from whence arises an abhorring of sin, and love of that which is good, or rather a desire to will, and do that which is right. Therefore when we see one thus dangerously tempted, we apply unto his afflicted conscience, that true Nepenthes, and comfortable and restorative medicine, which is taken from Gods effectual vocation, as it were out of an Apothecary’s box.
If therefore I have to do with such an one, who either was never called by the preaching of the Gospel, or if he were called, yet seems both to himself and others, never to have regarded him that called: and hence concludes that he is not in the number of them, whom God hath purposed to take pity upon: I forthwith tell him, that Satan plays the Sophister, in teaching him thus to conclude: for this his reason is as untrue, as if a man looking at midnight, & seeing that the Sun is not then risen, should therefore affirm that it would never rise. And this is that which when I objected to D. Andreas, p. 482, he very boldly corrupting my meaning printed this as mine assertion, Say unto a man that is afflicted, the sun is risen, although as yet it be not risen. But I teach not lies, howsoever this depravation of my words came from Dr. Andreas printers, or himself. And whereas D. Andreas excepted, that this consolation were to no purpose, because he that was afflicted might doubt whether this sun would ever rise or not: I answered to him, that which the printers have quite left out, and which I will now therefore more fully repeat. I was wont therefore to tell the party thus troubled, after he had forsaken his false and devilish position: that although an external vocation were not of force enough to appease an afflicted conscience, yet it was of sufficient force and efficacy against the Devil. For I tell him that they which never had external nor internal calling, they (if we regard an ordinary calling) must needs perish: but whosoever is once called, he hath set as it were• his foot in the first entry into the kingdom of heaven: and unless it be by his own default, he shall come afterwards into the courts of God, & so by degrees into his Majesty’s palace. And for the confirmation of this, I use diverse ways. For why, say I, doubtest thou of his good will towards thee, who in mercy hath sent me a minister to call thee unto him? thou hast no cause, unless thou allege the number of thy sins. If this be all, why, oppose the infinite greatness of Gods mercy against thy sins, who hath sent me to bring thee unto him. The Lord vouchsafes to bring thee into the way of the elect, why art thou a stumbling block unto thy self? & refusest to follow him? If thou feelest not as yet inwardly thy elf to be stirred forward, pray that thou mayst be-know this for a most sure truth, that this desire in thee is a pledge of God• fatherly good will towards thee. He neither can, nor will be wanting to this which he hath stirred up in thee. After these exhortations, I show him, how some are called at the eleventh hour, how the Gentiles after many thousand years were called to be Gods people, how the thief was saved upon the cross: these and other remedies I used, whereof, I never remember, that it repented me.
But if I deal with such as have before obeyed the Lords calling, and either by reason of some grievous sin into which they have fallen, or because they have absented themselves from the Church of God, or in that they, refusing public and private admonitions, have been offensive to the Church, or which in mine experience, has befallen many very good and godly persons, whilst they satisfy not themselves they are so altogether busily conversant in reprehending and judging themselves that they for a while forget the mercy of God: with these, to omit such as for some natural infirmities, are, if they procure not speedy help of some expert Minister, most dangerously tempted, with these I say, I use this order.
First, I desire that they intimate unto me, that which especially grieves thē, and as I understand both, the thing, and measure thereof by them: I take especial care of this, that they being already overmuch cast down, that I then, by the severe denunciation of the Law, do not quite overturn them: yet so as that I do not altogether withdraw them either from condemning their former sins, or the meditation of God’s judgment: And so, as much as I can, I temper the words of consolation, as that I nothing cloak Gods anger against them for their sins.
After I have thus prepared them, I then demand, whether they have been ever in this case or no? Nay (say they, for the most part) the time was, when I was in great joy and peace of conscience I served the Lord, then was I an happy person, full of faith, full of hope: But now wretch that I am, I have lost my first love, and there is nothing vexes me more, then to remember those times past. But say I, whether consideration is more grievous unto thee, the apprehension of God’s judgments, or the dislike of thyself that thou shouldst offend so gracious and so loving a father? Both, say they, but especially the latter. Therefore, say I, sin also displeases thee in that it is sin, namely, because it is evil, and God who is goodness itself, is offended with it? It is even as you told us, say they, and I am now ashamed that so vile and wicked a wretch as myself, should come before so gracious and merciful a father. Then I tell them, that no man is offended, but rather is glad, when he can injury one whom he hates: this they grant, and withal say, God forbid, that albeit the Lord hate me, I in like sort should hate him, unto whom, if it were possible, I would be reconciled again. Then I add this: Bee of good comfort, my dear brother, you are in good case. For who can love God, especially when he is wounded by him? who can bewail the loss of his friendship? Who can desire to come again into his favor, but he, whom God still loves although for a time he be angry with him? except peradventure you have not learned thus much, that the knowledge of our salvation comes not from flesh and blood, but from God himself, who first vouchsafed to instruct vs, and from Christ Jesus, manifesting the Father unto vs: And that it is God’s blessing, that we do love God, who loved us first, when we were his enemies. You have therefore, my good brother, just cause, why you should be greatly displeased with many things past, but there is no cause why you should despair. Briefly, you have inwardly, and, as it were, dwelling with you, evident testimonies of you future reconciliation with God: especially if you cease not to pray unto him earnestly, who hath laid the foundation of repentance in you, to wit, a dislike of sin, and a desire to be reconciled unto him. The sheep which wandered out of the fold ceased not to be a sheep, albeit it went astray for a time: you now are that sheep, to whom that faithful shepherd of all those sheep, which the father hath committed to him, leaving those ninety and nine, doth not so much by my ministry, declare that he seeks you, as having already sought you, though you not seeking him, hath indeed found you. Knock (says He) and it shall be opened unto you. And have you now forgotten those promises, which were so often made to them that repent? and also which they had experience of, who in the sight of the world were in a desperate case. But I, says he, again feel no motions of the Comforter, I have now no sense of faith, or hope: but I feel all the contrary. Nay say I, you deceive yourself, as I told you before. For it is the Comforter alone, which teaches you to hate sin, not so much for the punishment, as because it is evil and dislikes God, albeit he show not himself so fully at the first: because you had so many ways grievously offended him, as that he seems for a while quite to forsake you. And, that you have not quite lost him, but that he is yet in some secret corner of your soul, from whence at your instant prayers he will show himself unto you, this will plainly declare unto you, which I now admonish you of the second time. But let us grant as much as you can say: yet, sure it is, that your faith was not dead, but only possessed with a spiritual lethargy. You lived in the womb of your mother, and there were ignorant of your life. A drunken man, although he loose for a time the use of reason, and also of his limbs, yet he never looses reason itself. You would think that in winter the trees were dead, but they spring again in the summer season. At night the sun sets, but in the next morning it rises again. And how often see wee by experience, that he which at one time took the foil in a combat, at another did win the price? And know this, that in the spiritual combat of the flesh with the spirit, the like we may see in many, partly by reason of the weakness of our nature, partly through sloth to resist, and partly for default to beware. To these he replies for such temptations are very hardly removed, I would to God, says he, I could persuade myself that these promises belonged to me. For my present estate constrains me to doubt, whether I am the child of God, or not.
Laus Christo nescia finis. [Praise to Christ without end.]
On Godfathers & Godmothers
Need to get from French Reformed Churches.
The Due Right of Presbyteries... (1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, p. 193
“…Godfathers, who are civil witnesses that the parents shall take care to educate the child, in the true faith…”
Who is to be Baptized?
What if a Believer is Not Sure if They Have been Baptized Before?
Synopsis of a Purer Theology (Brill, 2020), vol. 3, Disputation 44, ‘On the Sacrament of Baptism’, sections 55-56, pp. 169-71
“But if anyone either on the testimony of the church, or parents, or witnesses, or of others cannot be sure about the baptism that he had received in infancy, or if it happened that he was moistened by no other baptism than that of the midwives or private individuals, we are of the opinion that such a man may be baptized without any scruple.
For the baptism applied by the last-mentioned people is not baptism at all, and the baptism of the first mentioned people is worthless, as the Council of Carthage [AD 418] has rightly decided (5.3):
‘Concerning infants it has been decided that whenever no very certain witnesses are found who testify without a doubt that they were baptized, and whenever they themselves are not, on account of their age, in a position to give an answer about the sacraments that were given to them, they should be baptized without any scruple, lest that doubt should cause them to be bereft of the cleansing of the sacraments.’
For as Leo [AD 400-461] rightly added, ‘what is not known to have been done cannot be said to have been repeated.’
And consequently we should not approve of a conditional baptism that the papal teachers are used to observing in such cases, according to this formula: ‘If you have not been baptized, then I baptize you.’ For a baptism of this kind lacks any precedent in Scripture and changes the form for baptism that Christ had taught, and it also leaves the one who has been baptized in doubt as to which baptism is the real one–which goes against the purpose of baptism that does not make the promises of God ambiguous but establishes and seals them.”
On Baptizing those of Other Denominations
French Reformed Churches
2nd Synod of Charenton (1631), ch. 22, ‘An Act in Favor of the Lutheran Brethren’, p. 297
“4. The province of Burgundy demanding, Whether the faithful of the [Lutheran] Augustane [Augsburg] Confession might be permitted to contract marriages in our churches, and to present children in our churches unto baptism, without a precedaneous abjuration of those opinions held by them, contrary to the Belief of our churches?
This synod declares that inasmuch as the churches of the confession of Augsburg do agree with the other Reformed churches in the principal and fundamental points of the True Religion, and that there is neither superstition nor idolatry in their worship, the faithful of the said confession, who with a spirit of love and peaceableness do join themselves to the communion of our churches in this kingdom, may be, without any abjuration at all made by them, admitted unto the Lord’s Table with us; and as sureties may present children unto baptism, they promising the consistory [local session], that they will never solicit them, either directly or indirectly, to transgress the doctrine believed and professed in our churches, but will be content to instruct and educate them in those points and articles which are in common between us and them, and wherein both the Lutherans and we are unanimously agreed.”
Historic Reformed Quotes on the Visible Church being Outwardly in the Covenant of Grace