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doctrines have operated on his experience; who prosesses faith in the Lord Jesus, and supports that profession by a constant and exemplary discharge of the duties imposed by Christianity, is unquestionably to be received as a member of God's visible church, even though his heart should be as corrupt and unholy, as that of Judas Iscariot, or Sinon Magus.
The person thus received, on his own confession of faith, as a member of the church, is to have bis membership confirmed and sealed by the ordinance of baptism. Having been admitted into God's visie ble church, the token of the covenant is to be put upon him; and he is to wear the badge of Abraham's seed in its evangelical form. Abraham“ ceived circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised."* And when those who were aliens before, give evidence that they are partakers of Abraham's faith, they become entitled to the distinction of Abraham's children.
Upon this principle the Jews proceeded, in relation to the surrounding heathen. When any one embraced the faith of the Jews, he was received into their communion ; and his admission was recog. nized in the ordinance of circumcision. Upon this principle the church has proceeded in every age. Upon this principle we proceed in our day. Such as have not been baptized in infancy, and who consequently have not the covenant token of relationship to the church, must not be received and bap
* Rom. iv. 116
tized as members, until they give evidence of pentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The words of the institution of baptism clearly specify that this is the course to be pursued in relation to unbaptized adults. “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them,” &c. According to the tenor of this commission Peter acted on the day of Pentecost“Repent, and be baptized.” So also Philip, in the case of the Eunuch-" If thou believest, thou mayest.” Adults must be taught, they must hopefully repent and believe before they are baptized. “It is not lawful (says our form, for the administration of baptism to adult persons,) to baptize those who are come to years of discretion, except they first be sensible of their sins, and niake confession both of their repentance and faith in Christ.” And again: “ It is not lawful now-a-days to baptize any other adult persons, than such as have been taught the mystery of holy baptism by the preaching of the gospel, and are able to give an account of their faith, by the confession of the mouth."
All who thus give evidence of having been called by the word and Spirit of God, though they were afar off, and unrelated to the church before, must be acknowledged and baptized as her visible members.
This is the first way in which the church is to be perpetuated and extended-viz. by accessions from amon those who before were not related to her ; and who, in the way of original connexion, have come to own her covenant and her God.
2. A second way, in which the church on earth is to he preserved and enlarged, is by the birth of children within her pale. “ The relations and benefits of the covenant (it has been justly remarked,) are the birth-right of parents, who are themselves of the geed.” Tbus runs the promise-" I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."* The covenant, as we have already seen, was not only established with Abraham, and his im* mediate seed; it embraced his posterity : not his natural, but his spiritual seed in their successive generations, for an everlasting covenant.
According to this constitution, it is a standing law, that if the parents are members of the visible church; yea, if but one of the parents be a member of the visible church, in good standing, the child is born within the church. Matthew Henry remarks: “The King of England would give those small thanks who should cut off all the children of the kingdom. Our law calls natural allegiance, high allegiance; and he that oweth it, is called subditus natus, natural liege subject. It is the privilege of the subject, and the prerogative of the King, that it should be
This is manifestly the doctrine of the Apostle Paul. “For the unbelieving husband (says he,) is sanctified by the wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now they are holy." You must be sensible, that the term holy, as here used by the Apostle, does not mean real or internal holiness : For the children of the most godly parents aré, by nature, as depraved and unholy as the children of the most abandoned and profane; although, in consequence of pious counsel and example, they may be kept back from making such an awful exhibition of it. They are children of wrath, even as others ; dead in law, and dead in sin. What the Apostle means is federal holiness ; or an interest in the provisions and benefits of the covenant made with Abraham, by which the church was visibly constituted. The remark of Tertullian on the passage is this: “ If either parent were Christian, the children were enrolled in Jesus Christ, by early baptism ;" and it fairly implies infant baptism in the days of Paul.
* Gen. xvii. 7. 4 Letter iv. 1.1. Cor. vii. 14.
Our form, for the administration of baptism to infants, uses a similar expression to denote the same truth: They are sanctified in Christ; and therefore, as members of his church, ought to be baptized."
Here we have two important ideas.
1. Children being sanctified, or, as the Apostle has it, being holy, means that they are, by birth, members of the visible church, as embraced in the covenant made with Abraham.
2. That none but such as are, by birth, members of the church, ought to be baptized.
These are ideas worthy of your serious consideration: Ideas, supported both by scripture and the form used by us, when we administer baptism to infants. And yet, you cannot be ignorant of the fact, thai, uot a few among us, who are unwilling to acknowledge themselves members of the church, who, when spoken 10 on the subject, openly and unhesitatingly declare, that they are not; nevertheless wish to have their children baptized. Now, if the parent be not a member of the church, how can the child be a member? And, if the child be not a member, how can the seal of membership be applied to it?
But more of this hereafter. We are treading on disputed ground. And until we have ascertained more fully, that it is the will of God that the sacrament of baptism shall be administered to some children, it is needless to spend our time in enquiring what description of children are entitled to that ordinance. The proof of the doctrine of infant baptism will be presented for your consideration in
my next letter.