In the seventeenth-century polemics of paedobaptism and credobaptism, one of the common arguments asserted by the English Particular Baptists was that their paedobaptist brothers agreed that a profession of faith was a necessary prerequisite for baptism. To make their point, Particular Baptists like Andrew Ritor, Benjamin Coxe, William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, and Thomas Patient appealed to the catechism of the Church of England, which was appended to the Book of Common Prayer. The catechism specifically required a profession of faith and repentance before admission to baptism.
Here is the portion to which they referred:
The Particular Baptists viewed this as inconsistent credobaptism, or perhaps we could call it “credopaedobaptism.” If actual repentance and faith were necessary, how could these be promised by parents or godparents? Given their strong Calvinism, the idea of promising actual faith and repentance (which could only be given by God) for another was an absurdity. To the Particular Baptists, this presupposed the election and thus salvation of children, many of which were not saved. If the children were presupposed as elect, then salvation could be lost. If the children were not presupposed as elect, then there could be no presupposition of God-given repentance and faith in them.
When the Westminster Assembly began its work reforming the Church of England in order to impose national uniformity through a new Confession of Faith, Catechism, and Directory for Public Worship (with a few more documents), they inherited the unlucky task of wrestling with the question of a profession of faith in baptism. George Gillespie’s Notes of Debates and Proceedings of the Westminster Assembly give us a glimpse into how the Assembly handled it. Read below and decide for yourself if their conclusions about credopaedobaptism were satisfactory.
Interestingly, though the divines voted to include a profession of faith at baptism, Parliament removed this from the Directory for Public Worship. For more on this, see David Wright’s article, “Baptism at the Westminster Assembly.” The article is available online here.
8 thoughts on “The Westminster Assembly Debates Credopaedobaptism”
Fascinating. Thank you.
Can you recommend any particular resources regarding the question of communicant membership vs. non-communicant, as well as profession of historical faith vs profession of saving faith as requirement for membership? Edmund S. Morgan peaked my interest in this question in his book “Visible Saints” about Congregationalists and I’d love to find more primary sources on it.
I meant primarily Presbyterian resources (though any are welcome)
Reblogged this on Feileadh Mor and commented:
Worth a read.