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sider and look upon it in this light, as being one in their view, and so far as they are to judge, really holy, and among the number of the saved. Of this holiness the child is as capable as the parent; and by the command of Christ, who has put this character upon all such children, and said, they are holy, they are to be considered and received by the church as such; that is, in appearance, to their view, really holy. He has commanded his church to receive all those adult persons who make a proper profession and appearance of real holiness, and to look upon them as being really holy; that is, to consider and treat them as being really what they appear to be, though they may not, in fact, be really what they appear to men to be; though they may not be really holy, and there be no reason to believe that they are all such; and how great the number is of those who are visible saints, that is, who appear to the church to be real saints, and whom they are commanded to receive and treat as such, and yet are not really saints, none can tell. In like manner, he has commanded his people to receive their children, whom they bring to the church, in the same character with their parents, as really holy; that is, as appearing to them to be really holy, which is the same with being visibly holy, because he has put this character upon them, which he has put upon their parents, and ordered them to be called saints, or holy, though they may not be really so; and there may be as many, among such children, not really holy, as there are among their parents, or the adult members of the church, or more. Their connection with their parents, and having the same character put upon them by Christ, by saying, “ Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God," and calling them saints, or holy, is a good warrant to the church to receive them, with their parents, into the visible, holy covenant, and apply the seal of the covenant to them, as the children of the parents of the ancient church were, and were called holy, and the holy seed.
I'wo reasons may be given why the Redeemer has affixed the same character to the children of believing, visibly covenanting parents, as he has to the parents themselves, and ordered them to be taken into the same covenant, and to have the seal of the covenant applied to them, and to be numbered among the redeemed, both in his ancient church and in that under the gospel.
1. Because he has ordered that those who are made really holy, and are saved, should be chiefly taken from, and found among, visible believers and their children. Therefore, he has directed us to look there for really holy persons that shall be
saved, and no where else. He has, for wise reasons, determined that real holiness and salvation shall briefly and ordinarily descend in this line from believing parents to their children. Therefore, he has ordered them all to be looked upon by the church to be holy, and to be numbered among the saved, for the same reason that all adult professing believers are to be received by the church as really holy, viz., because they who are really holy and shall be saved are to be found among those who have this appearance, and are to be looked for among them; and one cannot be distinguished from another, so as to be known to be really holy, and the other not; therefore, all such must be considered as really holy, and have this character put upon them.
That it is God's common way, to convey saving blessings down from godly parents to their children, and to bless the children for the sake of their parents, may be argued from many passages of Scripture, some of which have been mentioned heretofore. " The righteous is ever merciful and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. The just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth. The generation of the upright shall be blessed.” (Ps. xxxvii. 26; cxii. 1, 2. Pr. xx. 7.) God promises his church, which has a special respect to the gospel church, that he will bless them and their children with spiritual blessings, and the promise is made as much to their offspring as to them. “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty; and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” (Isa. xliv. 3.) And still speaking of the church, he says, “ As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: my spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.” (Isa. lix. 21; lxv. 23.) “ And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.” (Jer. xxxii. 38, 39.) Thus the children are connected with their parents, and the good, the blessing, is represented as descending from parents to children, and the latter are included in the promises of good to the former. To the same purpose are the following words, which have reference to the gospel day: “ 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. xxx. 6.) And the covenant which God makes with his church and people is represented as conveying blessings from parents to children to a thousand generations, (Ex. xx. 6. Deut. vii. 9.) Thus piety and spiritual blessings are represented as descending down in a line from parents to children, in the church, and there we are to look and expect to find holiness, if any where; and the children of visibly pious, holy parents are to be considered and looked upon as of the same character with their parents, and as the blessed of the Lord, and holy with them, so long as they do not discover the contrary. Therefore, they are to be considered and treated as in the same covenant with their parents, and heirs of the same blessings with them, so long as they are incapable of acting for themselves, which cannot be done without applying the seal of the covenant to them by baptizing them.
Agreeably to the representation of Scripture, which has now been brought into view, this appears to be true, in fact, from what has taken place in the visible church in all ages. Ever since there has been a visible church in the world, those who have been saved have generally been members of that, and this salvation has been handed down from parents to children, until, by apostasy and open breach of covenant, they have been destroyed, or cast off by God, and ceased to be a visible church. When the church was erected in the family of Abraham, and was enlarged as his posterity multiplied, — which continued down to the crucifixion of Christ, and even to the destruction of the temple and nation of the Jews by the Romans, before it was wholly abandoned and destroyed, true religion, real holiness, and salvation were chiefly confined to that church, and handed down from parents to children. The most of the truly pious and holy people in the world were to be found in that church, during all that time, from generation to generation. This church was, therefore, called the inheritance of the Lord, and his heritage, and is represented by the apostle Paul by an olive-tree, which had flourished a long time a holy tree; but, when the branches were broken off by unbelief, and an open breach of covenant, the Gentiles were inserted in their place into the holy root of this olive-tree, and then the Gentile and Christian church — being, in the foundation and essence of it, the same with the church which had subsisted in the family and posterity of Abraham
was the visible, holy society, including parents and children. And as Christ says salvation was of the Jews, while they continued branches in the holy olive-tree, so, when they were broken off as a nation, and agreeable to the ancient prediction, the law went forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, unto the Gentile nations, and many people heard, and said, “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Isa. ii. 3.) From that time, salvation was of the Christian church, and has been handed down from parents to children to this day. And though some particular churches, or branches of the Christian visible church, and however many and great, have been broken off by apostasy, yet still the true visible Christian church subsists, and will continue from parents to children to the end of the world; and the parents and children of which it consists are visibly holy, and heirs of salvation, and no others are or can be so.
2. Another reason why the same character is affixed to the children of believers, which the latter sustain, and why they are received into covenant with them, and have the seal of the covenant applied to them, - and which may be considered as the foundation of what is observed as a reason of this, in the foregoing particular, - is this: that real holiness and salvation are secured to the children of believers, by the covenant into which the parents enter with God as it respects their children, if the parents faithfully keep covenant, and fulfil what they profess and promise respecting their children, when they offer them in baptism.
It has been observed that parents' offering their children in baptism is a covenant transaction between God and them, with regard to the children to whom the seal of the covenant is administered, and that there are mutual promises and engagements between the parties covenanting, without which it would not be a covenant transaction; and it has been also observed that the baptism of children has been generally considered in this light by those who have believed it to be a divine institution, and have vindicated it as such. The parent, in this transaction, professes to devote his child to Christ, and give it away to him, asking his blessing on it as the greatest and only portion he wishes for his child, and promises, that if he and the child shall live, to bring it up for Christ as belonging to him, as one of his lambs in his flock, and bearing his mark and name - to train it up in the way in which he should
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And Jesus Christ, as the other party in this covenant transaction, visibly receives the child as belonging to him; and on the condition which the parent professes, and promises to perform, he promises to bless the child, and bestow salvation
upon it. Therefore, such children are visibly saints, and numbered among the saved; for the profession and engagements of the parents are to be relied upon by the church, and that they will fulfil their promises respecting their children, upon which the promise of Christ will be made good to them.
That this is the tenor of the covenant between God and believing parents, respecting their children, seems to be evident from the transaction itself in baptism, as it has been now stated and explained, and this will fully account for the children of believers belonging to the visible kingdom of God, and their being called holy, or saints. But this may be further confirmed by those passages of Scripture which contain promises of saving grace, or of salvation, to the children of those parents who are faithful in keeping covenant with God.
The covenant with Abraham which has been mentioned, by which a visible church was formed in his house and family who is the father and pattern of all believers, — and which covenant and church was handed down in his posterity, and is not essentially different, but really the same covenant and church which still exists since the natural posterity of Abraham have been broken off or cast out by their unbelief and open breach of covenant, as has been shown, — this covenant with Abraham included his children, and the promise it contained was made as much to his children as to him. The words of the promise are, “to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” The promise to be a God unto Abraham included the blessings of the covenant of grace, even saving mercies, and it must imply the same when made to his seed. This promise was made on a condition on Abraham's part, which is implied, and is expressed in the context: “ The Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, Walk before me, and be thou perfect, and I will make my covenant between me and thee.” (Gen. xvii. 1, 2.) The condition of the covenant, which was required of Abraham, is here expressed in these words: - Walk before me, and be thou perfect." And the condition of the covenant, or promise, is again expressed in the following words : “ This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you, and thy seed after thee: Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” (Gen. xvii. 10, 11.) The external rite of circumcision is not here intended as the only condition of the covenant, but this implies the things signified by circumcision, — the sign being mentioned as including what was the import and signification of it. Therefore, it is here called the token of the covenant. When Abraham circumcised his chil.