« PreviousContinue »
der the inspection of the eldership in every congregation."*
Having such authorities, to support their views, of church membership, and church government, as established by the word of God; is it surprising that the above mentioned report should contain sentiments, and suggestions, like the following: "The children of those parents, who profess faith and obedience, as before described, being thus the proper recipients of the privilege of baptism, are also legitimate subjects of Christian discipline. As members of the household of faith, they are subject to its rules and its authority, in the same manner as children are subject to the rules and authority of the house or family to which they belong. They are not subject as adults until they become adults, but as children; and that care and discipline, which is suited to their age and character, must be exercised over them. This is fully established, in the form of discipline and government of our church (Presbyterian) in that part which relates to forms of process, chap. 1. sect. 1, where it is said, "Inasmuch as baptized persons are members of the church, they are under its care, and subject to its government and discipline.' And in the Directory for Worship, chap. 9, sect. 1, it is said, 'Children, born within the pale of the visible church, and dedicated to God in baptism, are under the inspection and government of the church."
Again; after stating that baptized children must be admonished-1st, by THEIR PARENTS; 2nd, by
THEIR TEACHERS in the schools or colleges where their parents have placed them; and 3d, by the orFICERS OF THE CHURCH, in their official capacity: whenever they become the subjects of such admonition the report proceeds: "When admonition has failed, and a suitable time has elapsed, with a distinct understanding on the part of offending children of this issue, the church must proceed to exclude them from her communion. This duty belongs only to the church, through the instrumentality of her officers. Neither parents, nor teachers, have any share in this part of the discipline of Christ's house. Even the civil magistrate may not interfere; for he is himself subject, in his official capacity, to the spiritual authority of the church."*
One extract more from this valuable report, and we will dismiss it. It is a word of lamentation, in which we sincerely concur. Though THE PRinCIPLE, that baptized children are subjects of church discipline be thus acknowledged by the Reformed Churches generally, and by ours particularly, according to the unquestionable and laudable example of the primitive church, it is a lamentable truth, that it is not carried into effect in any of them, as it ought to be. In the earliest, and purest periods of their existence, they did, in a considerable degree, act upon this principle. But now, from the most of them, if not all, the glory, in this respect, is departed. Children of the faithful are still considered proper recipients of the privilege of baptism; yet * Page 45.
they are suffered to live as if they were not subjects of Christian discipline."*
The doctrine of disciplining baptized members was also well understood, and faithfully practised, by the New-England churches in their puritan days. In the PLATFORM OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE, agreed on at Cambridge 1649, they say (chap. xii. sect. 7.) They [that is, baptized members,] are also under chorch-watch, and consequently subject to the reprehensions, admonitions, and censures thereof, for their healing and amendment, as need shall require."+
In the answer of the Elders, and other Messengers of the churches, assembled at Boston in the year 1662, to the questions propounded to them, by order of the honoured General Court, they say: "The infant seed of confederate visible believers are members of the same church with their parents; and, when grown up, are personally under the watch, discipline, and government of that church."
In confirmation of this, they say, "That, when these children are grown up, they are personally under the watch, discipline, and government of that church, is manifest: For 1. Children were under Patriarchal and Mosaical government of old, Gen. xviii. 19, and xxi. 9, 10, 12. Gal. v. 3; and therefore under congregational discipline now.-2. They are within the church, or members thereof; and therefore subject to church judicature, 1 Cor. v. 12. Mather's Magnal. vol. ii. p. 196.
* Page 20.
Mather's Mag. pp. 239, 240.
3. They are disciples; and therefore under discipline in Christ's school, Mat. xxviii. 19, 20.-4. They are in church covenant; and therefore subject to church power, Gen. xvii. 7, with xviii. 19.—5. They are subjects of the kingdom of Christ; and therefore under the laws and government of his kingdom, Ezek. xxxvii. 25, 26.-6. Baptism leaves the baptized in a state of subjection to the authoritative teaching of Christ's ministers, and to the observation of all his commandments, Mat. xxviii. 19, 20; and therefore in a state of subjection unto discipline. -7. Elders are charged to take heed unto, and to feed, (that is, both to teach and rule, compare Ezek. xxxiv. 3, 4,) all the flock, or church, over which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers, Acts xx. 28. That children are a part of the flock, was before proved; and so Paul accounts them, writing to the same flock or church at Ephesus, chap. vi. 1, S. Otherwise irreligion and apostacy would inevitably break into churches, and no church-way left by Christ to prevent or heal the same; which would also bring many church members under that dreadful judgment of being let alone in their wickedness. Hos. iv. 16, 17.*
Upon this subject, I can also refer the reader to a series of excellent essays, from which I have derived great assistance; published some years since in the CHRISTIAN'S MAGAZINE, edited by the learned DR. MASON, then of New-York, now President of Dickenson College, Carlisle.†
*Mather's Magn. p. 248.
See particularly, vol. iii. pp. 18, 19, 20.
Neither has our own church been entirely unmindful of her duty to baptized members. In our General Synod of 1812, the following resolution was passed ;* viz. “Resolved that the question Are adult persons, living within the bounds of a congregation, who have been initiated by the ordinance of baptism in infaney, but who are not members in full communion, to be considered subjeets of discipline, and to be dealt with as such?" be answered in the affirmative; so far as it respects those who have been baptized in the Dutch Church, or have acknowledged themselves members of the congregation."
This, we think sufficient evidence, that the doctrine of disciplining baptized members is not a novelty.
With regard to the thoughtless and profane, whe may ridicule the idea of discipline to be exercised on them, as they are not professors of religion, and with the bold impiety of giants in wickedness" defy the armies of the living God;" I have only to observe, that, when a member of the church, no matter whether young or old, has arrived at such a pitch of wickedness, as to set at defiance the authority of the church, he most manifestly deserves her severest discipline. Neither would the exercise of such discipline be so completely disregarded, as offenders would, perhaps, wish us to believe. The public degradation, and excision of a few hold offenders, after
* This resolution is also found in the appendix to the last edition of our constitution, p. 264.