Vol.XII No.IV Pg.6
June 1975

Subjects Of Baptism

Robert F. Turner

We present the third in a series of quotes from Christs Commission to His Apostles, by Archibald McLean; first published in 1786. In this portion note especially his reasoning on how to establish authority —precepts and examples and their uses.


The subjects of baptism are signified in the commission by the word, them — baptizing them. Not every individual in the nations; but only such as they should previously teach with effect, or make disciples by teaching. The word (autous) them, in the original, is masculine, and does not agree with (panta ta ethne) all nations, which is neuter; but refers to (mathetas) disciples, which is included in the verb (matheteusate) to teach or disciple. This is clear from the parallel place in Mark, which restricts baptism to him that believeth It is plain, therefore, that none are commanded to be baptized but such as are first taught or made disciples and profess to believe the gospel.

But what puts this beyond all possibility of doubt, is the uniform practice of the inspired apostles in executing this commission, who never baptized any until once they had made them disciples by teaching. (Acts 2:41; 10:44-48; 15:9; 8:12, 35-38; 16:13-15, 40; 16:32-34; 18:8.... (We must omit the discussion of each case of N.T. baptism, for want of space. rft) These are all the instances of baptism, in consequence of our Lords commission, which are expressly recorded in the scriptures; and we see it was administered to none but professed disciples .... Whether, therefore, we consider the plain words of the commission itself, or the uniform practice of the inspired apostles in executing it, it is evident to a demonstration, that baptism does not belong to professed infidels, ignorant persons, or mere infants, but only to professed believers of the gospel....

The Pedobaptists in general confess that there is neither express precept nor indisputable example in the word of God for the baptism of infants; yet they think it may be established by analogy and inference. But it should be carefully remembered that baptism is not like natural or moral duties, which are founded in, and may be inferred from the nature and relation of things. It is a positive institution, which depends entirely upon the will of the Institutor, both as to its nature and all its circumstances; and it becomes our duty merely by the revelation of that will, either in express precept, or in such clear and approved precedents as necessarily infer that such a precept was originally given. If neither of these can be produced for the baptism of infants, all argumentation on the subject is vain; for a positive institution can never be made out by mere reasoning. Further, if the commission restricts baptism to professed believers, and if it was administered only to such, as has been shown, then every argument for the baptism of infants must be false, because infants fall not under that description; and this as clearly forbids their baptism, as their inability to examine themselves, or discern the Lords body, prohibits their admission to the Lords supper.