William Perkins On Infant Baptism

Infants of believing parents are likewise to be baptized. The grounds of their baptism are these. First, the commandment of God, “Baptize all nations” (Matt. 28:19), in which words the baptism of infants is prescribed. For the apostles by virtue of this commission baptized whole families (Acts 16:15, 31–33). Again, circumcision of infants was commanded by God (Gen. 17:14), and baptism in the New Testament succeeds in the room of circumcision (Col. 2:11–12); therefore baptism of infants is likewise commanded. The second ground is this. Infants of believing parents are in the covenant of grace. For this is the tenor of the covenant: “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed” (Gen. 17:7). It may be said that this promise was made in this sort only to Abraham, because he was to be the father of the faithful. Answer. It pertains to all believing parents. God promises “to show mercy to thousands of them that love Him” (Ex. 20). Peter says to the Jews that heard him preach, “The promises belong to you, and to your children” (Acts 2:39). Paul says, “If the parents believe, the children are holy” (1 Cor. 7:14). If holy, then are they in the covenant. Now they are holy because we are in the judgment of Christian charity to esteem them all as regenerate and sanctified, secret judgments (in the mean season) left to God. Now then because infants are in the covenant, they are to be baptized. For this is the reason of St. Peter. To whom the promises belong, to them belongs baptism. But to you and your children belong the promises. Therefore you and your children are to be baptized (Acts 2:38–39).

William Perkins | The Works of William Perkins, ed. Paul M. Smalley, Joel R. Beeke, and Derek W. H. Thomas, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 230–31.


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3 comments

  1. There seems to be in most circles either baptism is for those who confess their faith (Baptist), and those who see the act of baptizing children as regeneration (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, etc.). The Reformed keeps the signs (circumcision and baptism) of the covenant consistent in transition between the Old and New Testament. Baptism truly is a sign and seal of the new covenant (WSC 94). Thanks for the good stuff Dr. Clark!

    • Hi Marc,

      I discuss this a bit in the episode of the Heidelcast (Sun AM). The short answer is that it’s the promise to Abraham in Gen 17:7: “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Gen 17:7; ESV). We don’t have to speculate. Peter alludes this very verse in Acts 2:39, “for the promise is to you and to your children.”

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