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entering into covenant with parents, extends the promises and blessings of his covenant to their children, which are suspended on the character and conduct of their parents on their fulfilling the covenant on their part, or not. It is presumed this is undeniably certain from the passages of Scripture which have been here cited.
As this has, in fact, been the way of God's dealing with mankind, and this is declared to be his method of conduct and the tenor of his covenanting with his people in the second command, - not as a temporary, but a perpetual rule of his proceeding and covenanting with man, -- and this appears rational and natural, no reason can be suggested why it should not take place under the gospel to as great a degree, if not greater, in God's covenanting with Christians; but this gives good reason to conclude, with great certainty, that this is the way in which God deals with Christians and Christian churches universally, and that his covenant with them includes their children also.
This is thought to be one good and strong argument for the baptism of children of parents who are visible believers, and are in covenant with God, and members of a Christian church. Since the covenant has respect to their children as well as to them, and the children are really included in it, this is a good reason why the seal of the covenant should be plied to them, as well as to their parents; therefore, they are proper subjects of baptism.
2. That the above reasoning is right and conclusive, from the facts and declarations recorded in Scripture, which have been mentioned; that the children of those who enter into covenant are proper subjects of the seal of the covenant, and have an equal right to it with their parents, is confirmed by the express direction and command of God to administer and affix the seal of his covenant to the children, as well as to their parents. Of this there is indisputable evidence, both from precept and from fact.
When God entered into covenant with Abraham, the father and pattern of all believers to the end of the world, and formed a visible church in his house and family, and appointed circumcision to be a token and seal of the covenant, his children, and all the children in his family, were included in the covenant, and by an express direction and command were to be circumcised at eight days old. And this was the seal of the covenant between God and the seed and posterity of Abra. ham, and all who were proselyted and joined with them, by which they were visibly in covenant, and distinguished from others, and was constantly applied to children, from Abraham
down to the Christian dispensation, and till the rite of circumcision was expressly set aside and abolished in the church, and another rite appointed in the place of it by divine authority, which is baptism with water. And the circumcision of infants was so strictly enjoined, and made so important and necessary, in order to continue and maintain a visible church, that when a parent neglected to circumcise his children, the covenant was broken with respect to the children and the parent, and they were cut off from the church. (Gen. xvii. 9, 10, 14. Ex. iv. 24-26; xii. 48.)
The Abrahamic covenant, and that into which the children of Israel entered, which is in substance the same, included the promise of spiritual blessings, even all the good things which are contained in the covenant of grace, which takes place between God and the visible churches of Christ, and eyery individual believer; and the latter is the same with the former, in the essence and substance of it. Nothing greater or more is promised to man in the Bible, nor can more be promised by God than that he will be a God unto them. This promise was contained in the covenant made with Abraham and his seed. (Gen. xvii.) And this promise contains all the blessings of the gospel covenant, or the new covenant, called so to distinguish it from the covenant published from Mount Sinai, in the form of a covenant of works, which did, however, under that form, more darkly contain the covenant of grace. (Jer. xxxi. 31-34. Ezek. xxxvii. 27. Heb. viii. 10. Rev. xxi. 7.) And nothing more is to be promised, on man's part, than to keep this covenant, which was enjoined upon Abraham and his seed. “ And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee, in their generations." (Gen. xvii. 9.) To enter into covenant with God, and acknowledge and receive him as their God, is to engage to do all the duty enjoined in the covenant which is necessary in order to partake of the promises; to love God and keep his commandments; which is expressed to Abraham in the following words: “ The Lord appeared to Abraham, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Verse 1.)
This covenant did, indeed, contain a promise of temporal blessings, and of possessing the land of Canaan; but this does not make it essentially different from the covenant under the gospel; for this contains a promise of temporal good things, which shall be proper and needed. It has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. iv. 8.)
Therefore, the token or seal of this covenant, on the part of those to whom it was applied, signified a new heart, a heart to love God, a humble, penitent, obedient heart. And a heart opposite to all this is called an uncircumcised heart. « Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deut. x. 16; xxx. 6.) “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled." (Lev. xxvi. 41.) “ Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” (Acts vii. 51.) “ He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter.” (Rom. ii. 29.) Circumcision, therefore, implied, and did signify as much, and the same thing, as baptism does, when applied to the adult or any
person. The argument from this fact and divine constitution is stated in the following manner: When God formed a church in the family of Abraham, and in Israel his posterity, upon the same foundation and covenant, as to substance, with that upon which the church, under the gospel, is founded, requiring the same character in order to be members of it, and containing the same mutual promises and engagements, and appointed a token or seal of this covenant, by the application of which persons were introduced as visible members of this church, and were distinguished from all others as a visibly holy people; he did, at the same time, order this distinguishing seal of the covenant to be applied and administered to their children, and they were taken into covenant with their parents. The children of parents in the Christian church are as capable of being included in the covenant with their parents, and of having the qualifications for baptism, and the things signified by it, as the infants of Abraham and his posterity were of being included in the covenant made with them, and of having the qualifications and those things which were signified by circumcision, these being in substance the same, there being no other alteration or change but that which is circumstantial, and the ancient initiating rite and seal of the covenant changed from circumcision to baptism with water, which is the Christian circumcision. Therefore, the children of believers in the Christian church are included in the covenant into which the parents enter, and are to have the initiating seal of the covenant applied to them, as being the proper subjects of baptism. And the divine command to Abraham and his posterity to circumcise their children is as binding on Christians, who are the children of Abraham, to baptize their children, unless this command and institution of God be expressly or clearly, by necessary implication, repealed and set aside; which is not to be found in the Bible, nor the least intimation of any such thing, but the contrary, as will be shown under the next particular. It was a favor and privilege to both parents and children, in the Abrahamic church, to have the latter admitted into covenant with their parents, and to have the seal of the covenant applied to them; and no reason can be given or thought of, why it is not as great a favor and privilege to both now, as it was then: no man, therefore, can set this divine institution aside, unless he have a warrant from heaven to do it, without disobedience to God, and injuring the church of Christ, and offending those little children, the children of believing parents.
God, by instituting a church in the family of Abraham, set a pattern, and appointed a form of a church, in all the essentials of it, agreeable to his own wisdom and goodness, in which he included both parents and their children, and ordered the initiating seal of the covenant to be applied to infants, hereby declaring them to be the proper subjects of it. This was a great favor and privilege to parents and children, and was, therefore, strictly enjoined, and much insisted upon as an important duty, the neglect of which brought the parents under censure, and excluded them from the privilege of the church, and injured the children. Therefore, this institution continues, and is binding on the Christian church, and will continue to the end of the world, and there is no reason to expect or desire that it should be set aside, and be made to cease, or that it should be expressly enjoined again, and the command renewed under the gospel, because this is wholly needless; it having been once expressly enjoined, and actually put into practice, a total silence about it afterwards is a tacit command to continue the observance of it.*
3. It has been just now observed, that if nothing be recorded in the New Testament that was said or done by Christ or his apostles, contrary to including the children of believers in the
They who are expecting and demanding that Christ or his apostles should expressly renew and enjoin on Christians the appointment and command of God to apply to the infants of believers the initiating seal of the covenant, in order to warrant men to do it, refusing to acquiesce in the decision of this point, which God had already made, if the argument above be conclusive, are imitating Balaam, who did not rest satisfied with the decision which God had once made, respecting his going to curse Israel, but expected and required that God should speak again, if he did really forbid his doing it; and are acting as the scribes and Pharisees did, who demanded a sign from heaven to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, while they disregarded all the signs and the abundant evidence which had been given to confirm this truth. VOL. II.
covenant with their parents and baptizing them, then the constitution which God had already made in his church with respect to this must stand unrepealed; and it may be safely concluded, that it is the will of Christ that this should take place in his church, and that it actually did take place, and was practised, though nothing be said directly concerning it. But it must be now observed, that there are things said in the New Testament which do imply this, and show that the children of believers were then considered in the same light and character, and treated as the children were in the Abrahamic church.
What Christ said of little children and infants, and did to them which were brought to him for his blessing, is remarkable. The disciples rebuked those who brought them for doing it; but Christ was much displeased with them for doing so, and said to them, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And he took them in his arms, and laid his hands on them, and prayed for them, and blessed them. (Matt. xix. 13-15. Mark x. 13, 14. Luke xviii. 15, 16.) Upon this the following things are to be observed :
1. They who brought those children and infants to Christ were believers in him, and friends to him, for none but such would in these circumstances bring their children to him, to obtain his blessing.
2. They were not brought to Christ to be cured of any bodily disease: for if this had been the case, and the children had need of healing in this sense, the disciples would not have rebuked them for bringing them to be healed; besides, there is not a word said, intimating that they were cured of any bodily disorder, or that they had any.
3. Christ encouraged their bringing their little children and infants to him, and discovered his approbation, by showing his displeasure with his disciples for discouraging and forbidding them to do it, and charging them not to do so again, and by granting the request of those who brought them.
4. Christ, by taking them in his arms, and praying for them and blessing them, declared that they were capable of receiving spiritual saving blessings; of being the subjects of all the blessings contained in the covenant of grace, and of all that is sig. nified in the ordinance of baptism; and that he actually fixed this character upon them, and conferred these blessings, and numbered them among the saved, those who are redeemed by him. For his praying for them, and blessing them, must imply all this, as he was always heard, and they whom Christ blesses are blessed, and shall be blessed forever.