« PreviousContinue »
are to be considered and used as the land-marks of truth and duty. Several of these principles, in relation to the doctrine of baptism, have been ascertained in our preceding discussions; and it will now be necessary to call in their aid to assist us to determine the question under consideration.
You will then recollect: 1. That the visible church has been organized, in
of a covenant made with Abraham, which remains in full force and operation to this day.
2. That in that covenant provision was made for the church membership of infants : “ I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee."
3. That circumcision was, by divine appointment, the token of the covenant, and the confirmation of membership, until the time of the evangelical dispensation; when baptism, by the same divine authority, was substituted in its place.
4. That this token of the covenant, and confirmation of church membership, belong only to such infants as are born within the covenant, and members of the church.
5. That no child can, by birth, be within the covenant, and a member of God's visible church, unless, at least, one of the immediate parents sustains that relation. 1 Cor. vii. 14.
These principles have all been asserted and established, in preceding papers, we have now only to make a practical application of them to the subject ander consideration.
From these principles, you will at once perceive; it results most clearly, that the children of Jews Mahometans, and Pagans, while the parents remain such, have no right to the ordinance of baptism. If the parents should embrace the truth, and on confession of faith enter the church, in the way of original connexion, their children would come in with them, and with them partake of the initiatory seal of God's house. (Acts ii. 39.) But while the parents remain Jews, Mahometans, or Pagans, having no visible relation to the church of Christ, their children, as well as themselves, must be viewed as strangers and aliens. The badge of membership may not be
put upon them.
This rule admits of but one exception. It is this: If a Christian should adopt into his family the child of a Jew, Mahometan, or Pagan, so as to have the complete direction of the child's education, it might with propriety be baptized. The person adopting becomes the moral parent; and the case falls within the provision made Gen. xvii. 12, 13.
Again; among the inhabitants of Christendom, the children of parents both unbaptized; have no right to the ordinance of baptism. If the Lord should, however, touch the hearts of these parents, and bring them under the bond and token of the covenant; or, if this should be the case with but one of them, their children would then be viewed as holy, in the sense of the Apostle, 1 Cor. vii. 14; and consequently be entitled to the seal of the covenant.
With this practice you are well acquainted. You
know, that a child of parents, both unbaptized, cannot be admitted to baptism. But have you ever searched out the reason of this ? Why is it so? The plain reason is this. The parents bear no evidence, no token of membership: they are strangers and aliens, and as was said Gen. xvii. 14, in the case of the uncircumcised male child, these unbaptized parents, notwithstanding they live in the heart of a Christian land, are cut off from God's visible people—they have broken his covenant:
The same is true; suffer me here to add, concerning church members, who have been exconmunicated. Their children have no right to the ordinance of baptism, while the parents remain in a state of excision ;. but if the parents should afterwards give satisfactory evidence of repentance and reformation, and be thereupon readmitted into the fellowship of the church, the seal of the covenant may with propriety be applied to their children, born to them during the period of their alienation, as in the case of an original connexion.
These negatire remarks have prepared the way for a positive conclusion ; which is this: The children of parents, one or both visibly related to God's church, and bearing the seal of his covenant, are entitled to baptism. This includes not only such parents, as have made a public profession of religion ; but also all others, who have been baptized in infancy, and have not subsequently been cut off, for violating the terms of the covenant.
This conclusion, you will at once perceive, so far as it respects baptized parents, (and that is the only point in controversy among pedobaptists,) goes on the well supported principle, that all baptized persons are publicly recognized members of God's church; and that, while they retain their standing, their children, being born in the church, are also members. This is their birthright. And therefore, to draw the conclusion in the words of our excellent form—and therefore, as members of his church, oughtto be baptized.
But this presents, for consideration, another subject of vital importance, and nice distinction. It respects the continued standing of baptized persons in the visible church. That every baptized person has been acknowledged a member of the church, no one will deny. That this membership may be forfeited is equally undeniable. For unless it be admitted, that baptized persons may loose their standing in the church, we must at once throw open our church doors, in the use of a sealing ordinance, to the greatest infidels, and vilest offenders, who happen to have been baptized in infancy. If they have not been unchurched by themselves, nor by others, the standing of their children is good, and their claim on the badge of membership not to be resisted. But from consequences so impious-from so gross a desecration of a holy institution, the serious mind revolts, and most earnestly exclaims : Such parents can have no place in the church of God! They have lost their standing; and neither they, nor their chil.
dren, can be acknowledged as belonging to God's covenant! They have broken the law; and their circumcision has become uncircumcision. Rom. ii. 25.
Baptism most certainly imposes on all its subjects a solemn obligation to be the Lord's entirely and forever; to love bis truth, to confess his name, and to shew forth his glory in a holy practice. The wilful and impenitent violation of this obligation, involves a forfeiture of all the privileges and blessings which baptism was designed to secure.
Those who have in infancy been solemnly dedicated to the God of the covenant, are sacredly bound, as their capacities enlarge, and according to the advantages they enjoy, to cultivate an acquaintance with the system of revealed truth. It is not left at their option, whether they will or not, read the word of God, and examine the standards of our church. They are bound to do so. And if it should be manifest, that they have neglected to do so—if it should appear that they are grossly ignorant of the Bible revelation, and of those excellent" forms of sound words," the Belgic confession of faith, the Heidelbergh catechism, and the canons of the Synod of Dort; all of which have been adopted as standards in our church, and which form the bond of ecclesiastical union among us; it is sufficient evidences, that they have lightly esteemed the covenant of their God, and that they are utterly unprepared to say, at the baptism of their children, " that they be