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covenant. The badge of church-membership can; with propriety, be put only upon such as are members of the church. To baptize a person, is not to make him a member ; but to recognize his previous membership. It is a public declaration, that the person so baptized is a member of the church of God, as visibly organized in the family of Abraham. This sentiment is found in our form for the administration of baptism to infants ; "and therefore, as members of the church, ought to be baptized.” To baptize any others, would be to mis-apply and profane a sacrament-to alienate a privilege, which God has ceded only to his church-and to seal a palpable falsehood.

The great question, then, to be resolved, is this: Who are members of the church ; and in what way is this distinction acquired? This is certainly a question of primary importance; and we design to bestow upon it a suitable degree of attention.

In our examination of the Abrahamic covenant, we ascertained that the church, as visibly organized, in the family of that distinguished patriarch, embraced believing adults, together with their infant offspring. Not only the natural seed, but all under the care and government of Abraham, whether born in his house, or bought with money; for of all such he was the moral parent.* “ In the self-same day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael, his son. And all the men of his house, born in the house, and

See Gen. xvii. 12, 13.

bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him."*

But further than this; we ascertained in our investigation of the Abrahamic covenant, that it makes provision for a succession of church members; and for the maintainance, until the end of time, of a visible church on earth, to serve as a channel for the transmission of revealed truth, and as a nursery to the church invisible. It was not the design of Jehovah, as we have already remarked, that the church on earth should die with her first members. Eternal truth has declared, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.”+ In spite of all opposition, she shall live and prosper, until all the glorious things spoken of Zion, the city of our God, shall be accomplished, and the last redeemed soul be brought home to glory

Two ways are pointed out, in the covenant made with Abraham, in which the succession of churchmembers, and the enlargement of the church, are to be secured.

1. By accessions from among adults, previously without the pale of God's church and covenant. It is one of the laws of God's house, that all who embrace the truths of his word, and make a credible profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, be admitted as members of his church. No matter what their former character may have been,-no matter whether they before were Jews, Mahometans, Pagans, or infidels. Such strangers to the covenant of * Vers. 26, 27.

Mat. xvi. 18.

promise are to be admitted in the way of original connexion, whenever they embrace the religion of the Bible, and make a credible profession of faith in the Son of God, and of subjection to bis divine authority.

I say a credible profession of faith, &c. For the Lord of the Church has adapted her government, and her terms of admission, to the capacities of men, constituted by his own authority office-bearers in his house. They cannot search the heart, and they are not required to do it. True; the applicant for church fellowship, in addition to acquaintance with the doctrines of revelation, and a strictly moral deportment, ought to be able to give a rational account of Christian experience. Any examination, which should rest entirely on the knowledge and the morals of the applicant, would certainly be very defective ; and defective in the most important point. We well know that the most correct and extensive acquaintance with the system of revealed religion, even when such acquaintance with the truth is conpected with the most unexceptionable deportment, will not bring a singer to glory. The sinner, in order to be saved, must be “ justified and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

The truths of God's word must revolutionize his soul-must teach him that he is a sinner, condemned and helpless,---must bring him to the foot of the cross-must make him anxious for mercy to pardon him, and equally anxious for grace to help him in every time of need. In one word; this applicant, to meet the Divine approbation, and to be accepted as a member of the invisible church, must be a new creature in Christ Jesus, created unto good works.

Of this, he is to be apprized. In relation to this, he is to be questioned. And unless he can give rational account of Christian experience; of the operations of Divine grace, on his understanding, his heart, and his practice, the door of church-fellowship is not to be opened for his admission. For while nothing short of true faith, and vital piety; can give a right to sealing ordinances in foro Dei, before God; nothing short of the evidence of true faith and vital piety can give a right to sealing ordinanees, in foro ecclesie, before the Church.

But aster all, we are liable to be deceived and imposed on. This is not our fault; neither is it contrary to the intention of the Head of the Church. He who makes the wrath of man to praise him, and who restrains the remainder of wrath, works out his designs, in part, by allowing to hypocrites and deceivers a place in his visible church. To answer an important end, Judas was included among the twelve. For some wise design Simon Magus was permitted to enter the church, and receive the sacrament of baptism. It is the will of the Lord of the harvest, that the tares shall mingle with the wheat, until the gathering of the harvest, when a perfect and final separation shall take place.* God alone can search the heart; and the constitution of the visible church never contemplated real religion, as a term of fellowship. Every attempt to make the visible church perfect, by confining her limits to true believers, has proved as ineffectual as it has been presumptuous and unscriptural. The idea of a perfect visible church is not to be found in the Bible ; and whenever it has lodged itself in the brains of enthusiasts, who happened to have influence, it has been productive of the most unpleasant consequences. This idea of a perfect church lies at the foundation of the Baptist error; and, as all acquainted with the history of the church, well know, produced the greatest disorder and excesses at the time of the Reformation, when the Menonites, or Anabaptists, as they were called, first made their appearance in Germany.*

* Mat. xiii. 28-30.

I therefore repeat it; the evidence of real religion is all that is, or can be demanded, in the admission of adults to the fellowship of the church. The man, who is acquainted with the doctrines of revelation, who furnishes reason to believe that these

* The Menonites or Anabaptists, of the sixteenth century, were probably the offspring of the Petrobrussians; a small branch of the Waldenses, who, in the twelfth century, denied the propriety of infant baptism, because they contended that infants could not be saved; and who were the first that presented any thing like combined opposition to the doctrine of infant baptism, since the commencement of the Christian era. Dr. Robertson, in his history of Charles V. (see vol. ii. p. 295 et seq. Phil. Ed. 1812.) gives an affecting account of the extravagance and wickedness of the Anabaptists, in the sixteenth century. See also Mosheim's Eccles. History, vol. iv. p. 434 et seq. Phil. Ed. 1798,

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