« PreviousContinue »
Respecting the membership of infants in the Jewish, and Chris tian Church; the application of the seals to them; and the manner in which they are to be treated, by the officers, and adult members of the Church.
Dr. GILL, and several other Baptist writers, have freely conceded the fact, of the membership of infants in the Jewish Church. But they have not been candid enough to carry up this membership to its founda tion in the Abrahamic covenant, notwithstanding they can find no posterior law, ordaining such a revolution in the society of Israel. To get rid of this difficulty, which seems altogether insuperable, they set up their own authority against that of the Deity; and, in opposition to demonstrative evidence, convert the garden of God into an aceldema of dry bones.
It is presumed that the analysis which has been given of the Abrahamic covenant has proved, that infant membership was established in that covenant; that it was in fact, the most distinguishing feature of it. This covenant, it has been shewn, constituted a relig ious and an indissolvable society, which was to be transmitted, allowing for adult proselytism, seminally, from generation to generation to the end of the world.
It is accordingly a fact, that from Abraham to the Exodus, infants were comprehended in the covenant alliance, and went to compose the society of Israel. It is a fact, not to be contested, that this continued to be the case till the Sinai covenant. And it is a fact conceded, which therefore we have no need to spend time to prove, that it continued ever afterwards, to the coming of the Messiah. He himself became a member
of this society by birth. No law of the Sinai covenant, ordaining the membership of infants at all, and especially as a new thing, can be produced. Infants then must have held their membership, not by the Sinai covenant; but by the Abrahamic covenant only. The abolition of the Sinai covenant did not, of course, affect this establishment.
The only question therefore, now before us, on this subject is, Has the institution of infant membership been revoked under the christian dispensation? None, it is evident, could revoke it but God. For he only, who rightfully, and authoritatively establishes a law, is competent to repeal it. And if the revocation have taken place, it must have been as public, and express, as the law.
Now, that there has been no such revocation, and that infant membership is continued, in its full force, under the christian dispensation, may appear from the following considerations.
1. Infant membership cannot be annulled; because to annul it, would be to diminish materially the blessing, which the covenant secured. The covenant entailed, not the curse, but the blessing. "In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thee -and thou shalt be a blessing the blessing is in the house of the righteous and all that see them, shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." The blessing attached itself to the society perpetually. It was entailed upon the adopted, as fully as upon the natural seed. " I will bless him that blesseth thee." Galatians iii. 8. "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Here was an irrevocable grant of the entire blessing of the covenant to the believing Gentiles. It is therefore added, in the next verse. "So then, they which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." And at the 14th verse, "That the blessing of Abraham, night come on the Gentiles through Jesus
Christ." Here is the very blessing with which God blessed Abraham, full, and entire, determined by the apostle to have come on the Gentiles. Hence it is said in the two last verses, "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." The complete inheritance belongs to them, as proper heirs, by virtue of the absolute promise of the covenant. This blessing could neither be withdrawn, nor diminished; for it was given by will. It might be enlarged, at least in its ef fects. And we have abundant evidence, that at the advent of Christ, and in the Gospel day, it was enlarged. It was not narrowed into a more diminutive stream, but swelled into a broader river. "And I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream." Infant member. ship was an important part of the blessing. Its revocation cannot therefore have taken place.
2. Infant membership is not only secured in the covenant, as a part of the blessing; but it is so inseparably connected with the covenant, as to be essentialto its existence. If this be withdrawn, the covenant itself is done away. The seed is the great object of covenant promise. "I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed." Abraham was but one. The seed were to be innumerable, and were to come on, in succession, by birth. Infant membership must necessarily coexist with the duration, and execution of the cove nant. If it were to be annulled, the enquiry would present itself in a moment, Why? Is the covenant at an end? Has God reversed his engagement, that he will be a God to Abraham and his seed? Has God cast away people whom he foreknew? Has he chang his counsels, and forfeited his oath ?
3. If infant membership were revoked under the christian dispensation, it must have brought about a great revolution in the Church; and this revolution must have been a matter of public notoriety. It must
have impressed the minds of the adult members of the Church, especially the Jewish believers, very sensi. bly. It must have been a source of commotion, of objection, at least of solicitous enquiry; and it seems impossible that very much should not be found in the scriptures respecting it. Such a change could hardly have failed to be a subject of prophecy; and of history, after it had taken place. Infant membership had ex. isted about two thousand years; and all the habits of opinion and practice, in Israel, had become conformed to it. Changes of far less moment, and calculated to affect the feelings of individuals, and the economy of the Church, far less sensibly, were subjects of propheey, and of particular record. If a small Podobaptist Church in these days, becomes Antipodobaptist, or even a majority of them, it is noised all over the country, and becomes a matter of public agitation; of exultation on the one hand, and of regret on the other. But not a lisp of any such thing do we find in the scripture history.
4. If such a revocation has been given out, it is not lost. It is certainly somewhere in the scripture, and can be produced. But the opposers of infant membership have not been able, they have not even attempted to pros duce such a revocation; though urgently and publicly cal led upon to do it. And now they are once more challenged to produce such a revocation. A recourse to the miserable pretence, that the Sinai covenant was a political compact, and the Jewish Church a worldly commonwealth, will not be accepted in the room of it.
5. There are several prophecies and promises, in the Old Testament, which looked forward to the Gospel day, and which could not possibly be fulfilled, but upon the principle of the continuity of the membership of infants. Such, for example, is the promise, of making a new covenant with the house of Israel; on which we have so particularly commented in the course of this work. That clause only, will be here quoted, which respects the present point. "And they shall teach no more, every man his neighbor, and every man
his brother, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord." This prophecy had ultimate respect to a period yet future. It embraces the infant part of Israel as subjects of the salvation promised.But can they be subjects of this salvation, and yet have no covenant connexion with the people of God?
In the 46th chapter of Isaiah, the 3d and 4th verses, we have this gracious declaration, addressed to Israel, "Hearken unto me, a house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb. And even to your old age, I am he; and even to hoar hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear, even I will carry, and deliver you." This declaration is not merely descriptive of God's providence, which extends. to the world as much as to the Church; but it is covenant language. It expresses God's covenant care over the individuals of Israel, from their birth; and extends to all future, as well as to past time. But this language cannot apply, if infant membership is discontinued.
In the 30th chapter of Jeremiah, at the 18th verse, is the following gracious promise. "Thus saith the Lord, behold, I will bring again the captivity of Ja cob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof. And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving, and the voice of them that make merry; and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few, I will glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime." This promise, as is the case with the most of the promises of the Old Testament, had undoubtedly, immediate respect to the return from the Babylonian captivity; but ultimate respect to a period yet future, when the Jews shall be brought in with. the fulness of the Gentiles, and so all Israel shall be saved. But how is it possible the promise should be fulfilled, if there be a revocation of infant member