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be members of the same churches, though baptized in different modes.
3. The proper subjects of baptism, if adult, are those who by profession, and in appearance, are believers in Christ, and true friends to him. None but they who are really such do in heart “put on Christ,” and approve of the covenant of grace and the way of salvation by him, and devote themselves to his honor and service, which all who come to baptism profess to do, and by this transaction are admitted into the church as the servants of Christ, and are visibly interested in the blessings of the covenant of grace, and are considered as among the number of the saved, and are thus distinguished from all others, as saints, or holy persons. They must, therefore, be really holy, in order to put on this visibility and profession of it, with propriety and truth, which they do in baptism; for if they be not really such, they are utterly unqualified, in the sight of God, to be admitted to baptism, as it is, on their part, only a piece of hypocrisy. Therefore none are to be admitted to this ordinance but those who in the view of the church appear to be true friends to Christ, or believers in him, and really holy, and are justly considered by them as such, who can judge only by outward appearance, and cannot certainly know what is in the heart.
That none but such who are thus visibly, and in the charitable judgment of the church, and of those who administer this ordinance, believers in Christ, and really holy, are the proper subjects of this ordinance, and to be admitted to baptism, is abundantly evident from Scripture, as well as from the nature of the transaction, and the reason of things. The apostles, when they first began to administer Christian baptism and form a church, baptized none but such who “gladly received the word.” (Acts ii. 41.) When the eunuch desired to be baptized, Philip said, " If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” (Acts viii. 37.) This implies that he was not qualified for baptism, or a fit subject of that ordinance, unless he were a true believer in Christ; and that he could not baptize him unless he professed and appeared to be such a believer. Hence, all who were baptized and formed into churches were considered and addressed by the apostles, in their letters to them, as saints or holy persons, believers in Christ, and friends to him, as those who were saved, and heirs of eternal life; or, which is the same, as real Christians : of which every one must be sensible, who reads the Acts of the Apostles and their epistles.
WHETHER infants, the children of visible believers, and members of the visible church, who have been now described, are the proper subjects of baptism, is an important question, upon which professing Christians are greatly divided, and which has been the subject of much dispute in the three last centuries. It is not thought proper, or that it will answer any good end, to enter here very particularly into this dispute, upon which so much has been written on both sides. It will be sufficient briefly to state the chief argurnents for the baptism of such children, and the ground and import of this ordinance, when applied to them.
ARGUMENTS FOR INFANT BAPTISM.
1. The arguments may be exhibited under the following particulars:
1. It is observed from the Scripture, that God, in his dealings with men, in his constitutions and conduct, and covenants with them, does connect children with their parents, and considers the former as included in the latter; so that the children take their moral character and visible relation to God, and derive good or evil, a blessing, or the contrary, from their parents, according to their character and conduct.
When God first made man, he considered the children of Adam as included in him, and they were included in the covenant made with him; so that they were to be blessed or not, according to the conduct of their parent, and his moral character and conduct were to determine and fix theirs,
fix theirs. Though there were some things peculiar in this constitution, especially as it was more general and comprehensive, taking in all the natural descendants from Adam to the end of the world, yet thus much is to be gathered from it, viz., that children may be included in the covenant which is made with their parents, so as to take their moral character from them, and derive good · or evil, according to the moral conduct of their parents, and that God has actually done this in a perspicuous and most striking instance, in which he may be considered, perhaps, as setting a pattern and example of his conduct with mankind, in his public covenant transactions with them, and that in all such covenants children are to be considered as included with their parents.
When God made a covenant with Noah, after the flood, his children and seed were included; and God's covenant with Abraham was with him, and his seed after him; and his children and posterity had favor and blessings in consequence of this covenant, and out of respect to it." He remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant. And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness. But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” (Ps. cv. 42, 43. Isa. xli. 8. See also Gen. v. 4, 5, 24. Ex. vi. 5. Lev. xxvi. 42.) And God saved the children and posterity of David from evil, and showed them special favors for his sake, and out of respect to the covenant made with him. (1 Kings xi. 12, 13, 32, 34, 36. 2 Chron. xxi. 7. Isa. xxxvii. 35.)
From these instances it appears that God has, in fact, entered into covenant with parents, in which their children or seed were included in such a sense and degree that he has showed favor to them out of respect to such covenants, and to the parents with whom the covenant was made. When God entered into covenant with the children of Israel, on the plains of Moab, their children — even their little ones, or infants are expressly included in the covenant. (Deut. xxix. 10–12.) They are said to enter into covenant with their parents. Therefore, infants and children did enter into covenant with their parents, as included with them in the solemn transaction.
Agreeably to this, God says, “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Ex. xx. 5, 6.) Here, on the one hand, God says he brings evil on the children and posterity of wicked parents, as the consequence of their iniquity. "It hence is evident that the moral character of the children of wicked parents is, by divine constitution, affected, formed, and fixed by, or in consequence of, the parents' iniquity, who are enemies to him; for God has declared that the child who does not imitate his father in his iniquity shall not suffer for his father's wickedness. (Eze. xviii. 1-20.) The words cited from the second commandment are not repeated or contradicted by this passage in Ezekiel, as some have sug. gested, but are explained; and hereby we learn that visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children does not intend punishing the children for the iniquity of their fathers, — whatever be the moral character and conduct of the children, and though they abhor and renounce their father's iniquity, and fear and love God, — but their moral character is supposed to be like that of their wicked father, and is necessarily implied in the iniquity of their father being visited upon them; - that they shall not renounce, but approve of, the sins of their father, and suffer natural evil or punishment for their own disposition and conduct, and because their moral character and conduct is like their father's. Hence it appears that the moral character of the children of wicked parents is the consequence of the iniquity of their parents, and is formed by it, as the foundation of the natural evil which they suffer; and that this is meant by visiting the iniquity of the fathers, who hate God, upon their children. These fathers do hand down, and entail to their children, their iniquity, or their own moral character, as there is no other possible way in which their iniquity can be visited upon their children.
On the contrary, God shows mercy unto a thousand generations successively of them who love him and keep his commandments. This is God's covenant with such; which appears from the words of Moses, in which he has reference to the declaration and promise in the second command: “Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him, and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." (Deut. vii. 9.) From these words we learn two things:
First. That the mercy mentioned in the second command, which God exercises and shows, is covenanted mercy, - mercy which he has promised to them who love him and keep his commandments, who have entered into covenant with him.
SECONDLY. That thousands, in the second command, means a thousand generations, and so is a promise of mercy not only to those individual persons now on the stage of life who love God and keep his commandments, but that these, by fearing God and keeping his commandments, shall transmit and hand down mercy to the next generation, or to their children; and those children, by faithfully following their parents' steps, and keeping covenant, shall likewise procure mercy for their children of the next generation. And, in this way, unless the covenant be broken by unfaithfulness and disobedience, mercy will go down from one to another, even to a thousand generations, – that is, to all generations, - and the course can never be interrupted; and, in this respect, it is an everlasting covenant.
And that this is the meaning of the words in the second commandment is evident from the words themselves taken together; for the promise is set in opposition to the threatening. The threatening respects posterity, or children, or generations yet to come—“unto the third and fourth generation." Generation is not in the original, but is necessarily understood,
and, therefore, properly supplied by our translators. Therefore, the promise has respect to the same; and “showing mercy unto thousands” means a thousand generations, and might have been thus translated and supplied with as much reason and propriety as the foregoing clause, and agreeable to the sense Moses gives of the words in the place just cited. As evil descends from father to children to the third and fourth generation, so, on the other hand, mercy descends from parents to children to a thousand generations ; – that is, to all generations without any limitation, — a certain number, or many, being mentioned for an unlimited one. The descent of evil from father to children, from generation to generation, is limited, and has an end, either by the interposition of mercy, to put a stop to the succession of evil, as it sometimes does, and so “ mercy rejoices against judgment,” or, by cutting off the posterity, and putting an end to the succession of evil, which is often the case. But mercy descends from parents to children, from generation to generation, without limitation or end, unless the succession be interrupted and cut off by disobedience and breach of covenant by the parents.
And as the disobedient parents transmit a bad moral character to their children by their iniquity, - this being implied in the threatening, as has been shown,
— and their iniquity is, in this way, visited upon their children, so by the promise, which is opposed to the threatening, the love and obedience of the parents affect and form the moral character of their children; so that their piety and obedience do, by the promise, convey spiritual blessings to their children, which is the mercy promised and shown to the parents who love God and keep his commandments, in opposition to the judgment and evil threatened to disobedient parents. As their impiety and disobedience is, in judgment, visited on their children in the manner above explained, so, on the contrary, the piety and obedi. ence of them who love God and keep his commandments is, in mercy, visited upon their children, transmitting a good moral character to them, and all those blessings which are implied in this; and thus, as the Psalmist declares, “the generation of the upright shall be blessed; his seed shall be mighty upon the earth.” (Ps. cxii. 2.)
All that is to be inferred from this passage at present, though further use may be made of it before this subject is finished, — and from those mentioned before under this particular, is, that God, in his transactions and covenanting with men, does include children with their parents, and they are so connected together that children derive their moral character, at least in many instances, from their parents; and God, in