In 2004, Sinclair Ferguson gave one of the finest lectures on the history of the Westminster Assembly and Baptism. The talk was given at the first annual Westminster Confession into the 21st Century Conference, hosted by RPTS. The title of the lecture was “The Westminster Doctrine Of Baptism And Current Reformed Trajectories.” You can purchase an audio copy of it here. You can download the pdf of the Stephen Marshall sermon that Ferguson references in the lecture here. Stephen Marshall’s book on Baptism can be downloaded here.
Michael Lynch provided the following digest of some of Ferguson’s points from the talk concerning the reasons why the Assembly included their statements on Infant Baptism:
1. The covenant in Christ is the same substance as the covenant made with Abraham
2. The consolations of the New Covenant in Christ are greater than the consolations made with Abraham
3. The children of Abraham had a right, by God’s promise, to the privileges of the covenant including the seal of circumcision
4. In the enlargement of the consolation of the New Covenant the same is true for New Testament believers; circumcision replacing baptism as the visible/material sign and seal of the covenant
5. Christ received little children and said that as such shall receive the kingdom of God.
6. Children are sanctified by the faith of a believing parent
7. All this is implied in Acts 2:38-39
Stephen Marshall shared three concerns with the Divines over against anti-paedobaptism polemics
1. Exactly the same reasoning inevitably abolishes the reasoning for the Sunday Sabbath. (same covenantal transition, same lack of command, same type of boundary marker)
2. Single most divisive act in a united kingdom of Christ’s church
3. Puts believer’s children in the identical status as pagans. Turks and Indians (in the language of Marshall) to be exact. It implies that on the day of Pentecost when 3000 were baptized, a multiple of 3000 were simultaneously excommunicated (the children of believers). For Marshall it is the inconceivability that the Jews at the moment of their baptism were inevitably excommunicating (God was excommunicating) there children from the covenant (Abrahamic covenant)
Summary of Marshalls doctrine of IB with respect to anti-paedobaptists polemic
1. Contra, no explicit command in the NT that form of reasoning not only collapses the necessity of infant baptism but also collapses a host of other beliefs which Baptists and paedo-baptists are actually agreed. Examples: Polygamy, women to take the Lord’s Supper, laws of consanguinity and affinity. We draw these conclusions by reasoning theologically so that verbal reference is many times not the issue but rather good and necessary consequence.
2. Contra the anti-paedobaptist exegesis of Acts 2:38-39 Marshall points out that you don’t have covenant retraction but rather covenant expansion (to all who are far off)