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And it was, therefore, doubtless understood and believed in the churches constituted by the apostles, which, with other doctrines and practices enjoined by them, was soon corrupted, misunderstood, and, in a great measure, lost in darkness and error. And that this was an apostolic institution may be argued from the opinion which was handed down in the Christian church, that baptized infants were regenerated : and hence their baptism was called regeneration, which appears by the writings of those who lived in the second century of the Christian church and since. Though the true reason of baptized children being considered and called holy — viz., their being the children of parents who dedicated them to God, and had engaged to bring them up for God, on which condition they were to be holy and saved, according to the divine promise — was, soon after the days of the apostles, too generally overlooked and misunderstood, yet the doctrine that such children were to be considered to be regenerated and holy was still taught and believed, and has been embraced by many, even to this day. But, instead of understanding the true ground of this, and giving a rational and scriptural account of it, the most of them have either given no reason for it, or attributed it not to what the parents had done or should do for them, and the promise made to them in the covenant of grace upon their faithfulness, but to the efficacy of the ordi. nance of baptism itself, and thought that the bare administration of baptism would sanctify and save them, without regard to any condition to be performed by their parents or others.
Ass. 2. This doctrine has been expressly asserted by writers of this and the last centuries." And many divines, if not
“ Baptism seals our introduction and initiation into the visible church and body of Christ, and our adoption to the heavenly inheritance.” Calvin, Epist. 185.
Dr. Thomas Goodwin, in his discourse on 1 Cor. vii. 14, — Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy, — says, “The meaning is this : that, whereas unbelievers' children are, in the account of the gospel and of God himself under the gospel, pronounced unclean, – that is, as remaining in the state in which they were born, viz., of sin and uncleanness, — on the contrary, (saith he,) your children, although born in sin, as others, are yet, by God's true sentence of them, in his word and revealed will, proclaimed holy, and so are to be judged of by us as truly regenerate and born again. He means, therefore, evangelical holiness ; – that, though they be born in sin, as others are, yet they are, in part, sanctified, or regenerate, and made holy in state, and so are not in a state of sin, but of evangelical holiness.
“For the terminus or object of our thoughts, it is real holiness ; that is, which we are to think real and true. Some divines have said that, because the church was to judge any such child holy, though all were not so, that, therefore, it is but a reputative holiness, and an outward, sacramental holiness, that we, in our judgments, are to give them. But they are mistaken; for though in the event, indeed, it proves in many of them but a reputative holiness, and only in esteem, yet, still, so as the terminus of the church's judgment, or
most, who have written in favor of infant baptism, have said that which really implies this doctrine, while they assert that the children of believers are received into covenant with their parents, and have a visible title to the promise of the covenant, which is, that God will be a God to them, or their God, -and, therefore, are federally holy, which implies the whole that has been now advanced on this point, if these words be taken in any proper consistent sense, or if, indeed, they have any real meaning. It cannot be denied, indeed, that many of these same authors have passed over this point without an explanation, or have so explained this assertion as to leave it without any consistent sense, or nothing but words without any meaning, and have denied that to be the meaning which is the only natural and consistent one.
Ans. 3. If this doctrine were wholly neglected and lost ever since the age in which the apostles lived, and had not been revived or thought of till this time, or even till the millennium shall commence, this would be no argument against the truth of it, whenever, upon inquiry, it be found to be contained in the Bible.
Those doctrines and duties of Christianity which are most contrary to the selfishness, pride, worldliness, and the various natural corrupt inclinations of men, are most exposed to be soon rejected and lost, or greatly corrupted; and though once taught and established, and continuing to be contained in divine revelation, will be neglected and discarded when the power and spirit of true religion declines; and they will not be long maintained and practised in their original purity and strictness in Christian churches, unless divine influences be granted, to form the hearts of successive generations to discern and love the truth and practise it. This observation has been verified by fact and experience. The Christian church, in general, soon became corrupt, and sunk into darkness and error, in principles and practice, after the days of the apostles; and this declension and apostasy from the truth once delivered to the saints became greater and more general as the spirit of true religion vanished, and error in doctrine, and superstition and corruption in practice, increased. There were, from time to time, some degree of partial revivals of truth and religion, and particular men were raised up to investigate and declare some of the most important truths contained in the Bible, and oppose the general corruption in Christian doctrine and duty; and this took place to a remarkable degree and extent in the reformation from popery. But who will presume to say or think, that any of the different sects and denominations of Christians in the Protestant world have come up to the purity in doctrine and practice of the primitive church; or that the Bible is yet understood in all the important branches of truth and duty, as they are there revealed? Christians in general are still in a great degree of darkness, and much of the light held up in the Bible is not received, through the inattention, prejudices, and blindness of men. The Scripture has not been so well and so fully understood, as it will be in the days of the millennium, when the Spirit of God shall be poured out on Christians in general, in much greater degrees than it has been, by which they shall have more discerning, and be disposed to search the Bible with a sincere and earnest desire to know the truth, and a strong disposition to receive it, and practise agrecable to it. The Bible will then be improved to much better purpose than it had ever been before, and many important truths and duties, which had in ages before not been understood or seen, will then appear plain and easy to be understood. Then the Bible will answer the end for which it is given to men, as it never had done before, as it was chiefly designed for that day, by the proper improvement of which, the knowledge of God and of all revealed truth will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.
that holiness which they are, in their judgments, to attribute to them, is true, real holiness, – but it is called reputative only in respect to the event, in that we should attribute true holiness to those who prove not so, (yet still the holiness we are to think in them is no other than real to our thoughts, even as it is in our judging those of riper years to be saints, when admitted into churches,) - it follows not that it is a mere outward holiness that is to be the terminus of our thoughts, or that which we are to content ourselves to find in them, or think of them, but that they are truly and really holy, though, in the event, it proves no other, in many, than an outward, titular holiness : yet the holiness we pitch upon, and aim at, and judge of, and embrace men for, is a holi. ness to our judgments real, though we be often mistaken.” – Dr. Goodwin's Works, Vol. II. Of Election, pp. 406, 422.
The Assembly of Divines, at Westminster, in the Shorter Catechism, composed by them, say, “ Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the blessings of the corenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's.”. And in the next sentence say, * The infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized. This catechism is received by the church of Scotland, and by all or most of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches in England, Ireland, and America, and taught to their children. If baptism signifies and seals what it is here said to do, then infants, when they are baptized, are visibly, or, in the view of the church, ingrafted into Christ, and partakers of the blessings of the covenant of grace; which is the same with being entitled to holiness and salvation on some condition, which, if not expressed, is supposed and understood.
The doctrine now under consideration may be then well understood by all, and the evidence of it appear much more strong and clear than it can be made to do now, and being reduced to practice, the good effect of it will be seen, as has been observed above. This doctrine, taken in its full length - and breadth, when reduced to a practice agreeable to it, is
directly contrary to the natural disposition of man, and peculiarly so in many respects; and it is not expected that, however evident the truth of it is from the Bible, it will be generally believed, and that it will be received and properly conformed to and practised by many churches, if by any, in the Christian world, at this day. Religion, even the true spirit of Christianity, must rise much higher than it now does, in order to practise the duties implied in the baptism of infants, and many other duties which are commanded, and ought to take place among Christians and in Christian churches.
Ques. 8. If a right account of infant baptism has now been given, then the baptism of children of believers is an institution of vast importance and an indispensable duty, as well as a great privilege; and they who deny that infant baptism is a Christian institution, and refuse to practise it, are very erroneous and wicked. Ought they not, therefore, to be rejected as no Christians ?
Answer. They who believe the baptism of infants is evidently a Christian institution, and think it to be as important and useful, and suited and designed by Christ to be of such advantage to parents and their children and to the church, as has been represented above, must look upon those who refuse to comply with this institution, but oppose it, as in a great error, and as offending Christ and those little ones, who, being the children of believing parents, ought to be considered and received as believers in him. (See Matt. xviii. 5,6. Luke ix. 48.) But they are to be thought of and treated with great candor, tenderness, and Christian charity; especially since there is reason to believe that most, if not all, who believe in the baptism of children, and practise it, are more guilty and offensive to Christ, in their treatment of this institution, than the antiPedobaptists are. The Pedobaptists believe infant baptism to be a divine institution, and baptize their children; but most of them, if not all, refuse to comply with and practise the most important and essential duties implied in the institution, which they solemnly profess and engage to do. They make use of the external rite, buť treat it as a mere ceremony, because it is the custom of their denomination, or to gratify their pride or superstition: they generally show that they do not heartily devote their children to Christ, by their neglect to educate them for him. In this respect, their children are not distinguished from those who are not baptized; and let them behave as they will, they are not treated as being under the care of the church, or subjects of discipline, and most, if not all the parents who bring their children to baptism, do not
desire they should be censured and cast out by the church, if, when they are adult, they refuse to obey Christ, but stand ready to oppose it. It is a common practice to baptize the children of those who are not visible believers, who do not obey Christ, in attending upon all his institutions, and, in many instances, are in other respects immoral; and in those churches where no children are baptized but of parents who make a profession of religion, and are members of the church, the baptism of children is generally treated as a mere ceremony. When that is performed, no more is done for the children by the parents or the church than is done for those who are not baptized. How short do they come of the duty which is reasonable and important, and solemnly engaged by the parents and the church, if the above representation of this duty be in any measure just! How greatly is this institution abused and perverted even to bad purposes, by most of the Pedobaptists! The error and sin of the anti-Pedobaptists consists in their not believing infant baptism to be an institution of Christ, and therefore rejecting it as a mere human invention. Theirs is a sin of ignorance. Their ignorance and unbelief are criminal; but who are the greatest criminals in their treatment of this institution, it is easy to determine.
The words of Christ to them who brought to him a woman guilty of adultery, and said Moses commanded such to be stoned, are applicable to this case: “ He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Too many of the Pedobaptists have treated those who deny infant baptism with unreasonable censoriousness and severity; especially since they themselves have been so faulty in this very matter, and have denied or neglected, in principle and practice, the
most useful, important, and essential part of this institution. To such may be applied the words of the prophet Oded to the host of Israel, with a little variation : « Ye have condemned and censured your brethren, with a severity and rage that reacheth up to heaven. But are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God?” (2 Chron. xxviii. 9, 10.)
This subject will be concluded by observing, that what has been offered from the Scripture to prove that the baptism of infants is a divine institution, and whatever other arguments from it have been mentioned by others, or may be thought of, stand good, and ought to be considered in their full weight, independent of what has been now said, to show what is the design and import of this institution, and whether this can be sufficiently supported from Scripture or not; though it is thought that the view which has been here given of it, if it be admitted, will serve to strengthen the evidence that it is an in