Children of Professing Believers are Baptized Because They are Outwardly in the Covenant

“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee…  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be for a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.”

Gen. 17:7,11 

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

Acts 2:39

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.”

1 Cor. 7:14



Order of Contents


The Westminster Standards
Pareus, Melancthon, Keckerman
Samuel Rutherford
Anthony Burgess




Gillespie, George – Book 3, ch. 12, ‘Whether the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper be a Converting or a Regenerating Ordinance’  in Aaron’s Rod Blossoming  1646

Gillespie treats of both sacraments and answers the question: ‘No’.  Rather, as he shows, the Reformed held that the sacraments are confirmatory in their nature, as sealing something already possessed, rather than converting.

Harrison, Michael – Infant Baptism God’s ordinance, or, Clear Proof that all the Children of Believing Parents are in the Covenant of Grace and have as much a right to baptism the now seal of the covenant, as the infant seed of the Jews had to circumcision, the then seal of the covenant  1694  58 pp.

Harrison was reformed.



The Wesminster Larger Catechism

#162.  What is a sacrament?

A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.

#166.  Unto whom is baptism to be administered?

Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.

[The phrase ‘the covenant of promise’ was often used synonymously with the Covenant of Grace in the 1600’s as is documented in the tables of contents of these three puritan works:

John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace, 1645, this work was very influential upon the Assembly.

Isaac Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus, 1658

Francis Roberts, The Mysteries and Marrow of the Bible: viz. God’s Covenants with Man, 1657.  A summary of this work is given by Wom Lim in his dissertation, The Covenant Theology of Francis Roberts]



The Westminster Directory of Public Worship

Of the Administration of the Sacraments

Of Baptism

Before baptism, the minister is to use some words of instruction, touching the institution, nature, use, and ends of this sacrament, shewing,

“That it is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ: That it is a seal of the covenant of grace, of our ingrafting into Christ, and of our union with him, of remission of sins, regeneration, adoption, and life eternal: That the water, in baptism, representeth and signifieth both the blood of Christ, which taketh away all guilt of sin, original and actual; and the sanctifying virtue of the Spirit of Christ against the dominion of sin, and the corruption of our sinful nature: That baptizing, or sprinkling and washing with water, signifieth the cleansing from sin by the blood and for the merit of Christ, together with the mortification of sin, and rising from sin to newness of life, by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ: That the promise is made to believers and their seed; and that the seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church, have, by their birth, interest [a legal right] in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the church, under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament; the covenant of grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before: That the Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, For of such is the kingdom of God: That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh: That they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized: That the inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reacheth to the whole course of our life; and that outward baptism is not so necessary, that, through the want thereof, the infant is in danger of damnation, or the parents guilty, if they do not contemn or neglect the ordinance of Christ, when and where it may be had.”

In these or the like instructions, the minister is to use his own liberty and godly wisdom, as the ignorance or errors in the doctrine of baptism, and the edification of the people, shall require.

He is also to admonish all that are present,

To look back to their baptism; to repent of their sins against their covenant with God; to stir up their faith; to improve and make right use of their baptism, and of the covenant sealed thereby betwixt God and their souls.”




Theodore Beza, A Plain and Simple Treatise on the Lord’s Supper (1559, RHB, 2016), p. 146-7

“…we do not suppose that our salvation depends upon the sacrament of baptism, but upon our adoption according to the formula: “I will be your God and that of your seed.” [Gen. 17:7]  We diligently attend to this adoption in the children of the saints according to the Word of the Lord since it has been sealed upon them through the sacrament of baptism…

…little corruptions have arisen from no other source than from the understanding that baptism is necessary for salvation, which we consider entirely false.  We hold this view to be false because adoption by God must take place before anyone can be baptized rightly.  Otherwise, why is a confession of faith required of adults before thy are baptized?  We believe, however, that the children of the saints have already been adopted right in the womb according to the covenantal formula.  And so we baptize them.

…We count as nonsense his assertion that children are holy–that is, in the outward company of the church–before their baptism.  For the opposite is true: those children whom (we claim) the Lord has already truly adopted before, according to the covenantal formula, are introduced into the outward company of the church through baptism.”


David Pareus (1548-1622), Philip Melancthon (1497-1560) and Bartholomew Keckerman (1571-1608)

As quoted by Samuel Rutherford, A Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland, Ch. 12, Argument 9

And [David] Pareus says,¹ the children of Christian parents are holy before baptism by a covenant and external holiness, jure (by God’s right), being born of Christian parents; and after baptism they are holy, de facto, formally and actually.  So say [PhilipMelancthon² and [BartholomewKeckerman

¹ Commentary on 1 Cor. 7
² Commentary in location, p. 383
³ Systema Theologiae, 3., p. 453


Samuel Rutherford  1642  **

A Defense of the Government of the Church of Scotland, Article 5, Rutherford is defending the accepted practice and views of the Church of Scotland during his day.

The presenter of the child [for baptism] is the father, or some friend if he be dead or absent, because the child is received in the covenant because the fathers are within the covenant, and so sealed with the same seal of the covenant (Acts 2:37,38; Rom. 11:14; Gen. 17:7-10)…


Anthony Burgess  1652  **

Spiritual Refining, Sermon 64, p. 394-6

Under the New Testament, that such an external, visible enjoying of the ordinances does also bring a kind of external holiness (which heathens and pagans have not) is apparent first by that place, 1 Cor. 7:14, ‘Else were your children unclean, but now they are holy’.  What holiness can this be?

Therefore thirdly, it must be meant of an external Covenant-holiness, whereby believers were in outward manner owned by God and by that their children also had a right to baptism and so are not born as children of heathens in the outward power of Satan and wrath.  For although by nature they are children of wrath, yet being born within the Covenant, they have an holiness; that is, a right to such ordinances they are capable of, which the children of pagans have not.  




“For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…  My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect…”

Ps. 139:13-16




Related Pages


Infant Baptism

The Covenant of Grace

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Visible Church being Outwardly in the Covenant of Grace