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tized person becomes a parent, and makes application for the baptism of a child. If the baptized person should never have occasion to apply for the baptism of a child, is he, therefore, to be treated as an outcast, or a heathen? Has the church nothing to do with him? Is he not one of her members ? born within her pale, and recogoized as one of her members, by the solemnity of the baptismal service?"
To me, it is most evident, that all who have been baptized are, from childhood up, to be treated as members of the church ; and that the church has a right, and that it is her duty, to exercise discipline on such as have been baptized, as well as on such as have made a public prosession of religion, is no more a question with me; than it is, that the church has a right, and that it is her duty, to instruct them.
What! shall a baptized person, a sealed member of the church, advance and propagate the most erroneous and destructive sentiments ? Shall he be guilty of a practice, which openly and wantonly violates the laws of God's house; and shall the church be denied the power to call him to account, and to inflict discipline upon him? No, brethren; it cannot be: Reason, common sense, scripture, conscience-every thing serious, and every thing sacred -testify, that it cannot be.
It is certainly high time that these principles are understood. No child can be baptized, unless it be, by birth, a member of the church.-No child can, by birth, be a member of the church, unless, at least, one of the parents be a member. In baptism, then, the standing of both parents and children, as members of God's visible church, is recognized. This fact, we think, we have clearly established, in our remarks on the Abrahamic covenant.* And if both parents and children are members, the church has an unquestionable right to exercise discipline on both, whenever it shall become proper, and necessary to do so : For it is absurd in the extreme, to talk of a society, which has not power to control its own members.
I am well aware, that this doctrine, which I have advanced in relation to the exercise of discipline on baptized persons, and especially as it respects the formal excommunication of such, may appear a novelty to the serious, and perhaps call forth the sneers and taunts of the ungodly and the profane.
To the first, I would say, this doctrine appears like a novelty, only, because church discipline has fallen into an awful state of decay ;-and in no particular does the church appear to have been more wanting, in the exercise of her power, than in this. Even in churches, in which the sacrament of baptism is most closely guarded, and in which no children are baptized, unless one of the parents be a communicant, this branch of discipline is greatly neglected. Indeed, that very practice seems to say to all who are not in full communion with the church,
you are not members of the church, and therefore we cannot baptize your children.
* See Letter iv;
In this neglect, have originated many of the evils which spread through our churches, as well as the diversity of practice in relation to baptism: And here, if we are to see better days in the American churches, it appears to me, reformation must begin. The young, are the hopes of the church, as well as of the state ; and to the young the care and attention of the church must be directed. They must have an interest in her prayers: They must receive the law at her mouth : They must be taught to reverence her authority; and early to understand, that apostacy, on their part, will compel the church of God to disown them, and rank them with those, “ concerning whom she has no promises to plead." Oh! who can tell how many wanderers from the path of truth and duty might be reclaimed by the affectionate counsel, and prudent interposition of the church? How many, just entering on the downward course, might be induced to stop; and how many already far advanced, might be induced to retrace their steps; nothing, but a faithful experiment, can enable us to judge. Let the church discharge her duty; and her Master will not leave himself without a witness : He will own and bless the ordinances of his house. Faithfulness on her part will, no doubt, secure to her, by the blessing of her God, a holy seed ; and make her glad, in the fulfilment of the promise, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the
* Ps. xlv. 16.
But this doctrine is not so great a novelty as you may, perhaps, imagine. The Christian church, in her purest and best days, has always attended to the instruction and correction of her baptized members. The children, born within her pale, and baptized as her property, were nurtured at her side, and chastened by her authority. In proof of this assertion, L might refer you to an excellent REPORT on the subject of disciplining baptized children, made to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, at their Sessions in 1812.* But as many of
you may never have it in your power to see that report, I will favour
with a few extracts from it. This, (says Cave,) was the discipline, under which Christians were brought up in those times. Religion was instilled in them betimes, which grew up and mixed itself with their ordinary labours and recreations.» (Primitive Christianity, p. 173, 174, 7th ed. Lond.) As an instance of this, he quotes Jerome, as saying of the place where he lived," you could not go the field, but you might hear the ploughman at his hallelujahs, the mower at his hymns, and the vinedresser singing David's Psalms.”+
“The censures of the church, (Bingham informs
* This REPORT, while it exhibits the views and practice of the primitive church in relation to baptized members, gives us also to understand that some of our Presbyterian brethren (I hope many,) feel anxious to have this branch of discipline extensively introduced, and faithfully enforced. We regret, that the General Asseinbly did not unhesitatingly express a favourable opinion of the principles it contains.
| Page 16.
as, b. 16, ch. 3, s. 11,) seldom or never touched them, whilst minors, or children, under age, there being more proper punishments thought fit for them -such as fatherly rebukes, and corporal correction : And to infict the highest censures upon such, was rather thought a lessening of authority, and bringing contempt on the discipline of the church.” “Thus, the same author savs, Augustine, who flourished in the fourth century, (Epis. 159 to Marcellinus,) assures us, the kind of punishment, by stripes, was often or commonly used, not only by school-nasters and parents, but by Bishops in their consistories also.” “ One of the rules of Isidore of Seville, who flourished in the sixth century, was, 'that they, who were in their minority, should not be punished by excommunication, but according to the quality of their negligence or offence, be corrected with congruous stripes.'"*
From these extracts, detailing faithful historical testimony, we may learn what were the views and practice of the primitive church, in regard to her baptized children. The views and practice of the churches of the Reformation are next noticed in the l'eport. “ The Reformed Churches of Bohemia, of France, of Holland, waiving any notice of others, in their standards, have recognized the principle, that. baptized children are under the watch and discipline of the church. By the two last, especially, specific regulations are given for the education of their children; and schools are directed to be established un
* Pages 17, 18.