Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. Genesis 17:14.
The Westminster Confession teaches that ‘it is a great sin to contemn or neglect’ the ordinance of baptism (XXVIII.V). This, however, raises the question of whether or not people who refuse to have their children baptised are to be disciplined by the church. In the extract cited below from the Westminster divine, William Gouge, neglect of the sacraments is deemed to be a very grave offence:
If they partake not of the Sacraments, they cast themselves out of the communion of Saints. Gen. 17.14. Num. 9. 13. Luk. 14.24.
William Gouge, The Sabbath’s sanctification (London, 1641), p. 5.
The reference to Genesis 17 implies that Gouge believed a failure to pass on the sign of the covenant to one’s children required them to be cast out of ecclesiastical fellowship. Although this may appear harsh to us, Gouge is accurately reflecting the teaching of the verse in question. If failure to circumcise one’s sons required excommunication in the Old Testament, then those who believe that baptism is the replacement for circumcision in the New Testament are logically required to believe that those who neglect the baptism of their children are also worthy of excommunication. To assume that neglecting to pass on the sign of the covenant was a censurable offence in the Old Testament, but is not in the New Testament, is a glaring inconsistency. Since the New Testament gives us no indication that the principle stated Genesis 17:14 has been abrogated, it is incongruous with covenant theology to assume that it has and thus it is inconsistent to admit those of anti-paedobaptist sentiments to the Lord’s table. This position is not adopted in order to be unkind to differing brethren, but to admonish and instruct them in biblical doctrine (Leviticus 19:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).