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Catechism, is a 'saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.' Obedience to Christ is obedience to the moral law, which according to the answer to the 40th question is the rule God gave to man at first, and to which, according to the answer to the 97th question of the larger Catechism, they that believe in Christ are bound to conform themselves as the rule of their obedience.
From this brief analysis of the nature of that profession of the true religion, which constitutes membership in adults, according to the acknowledged standards of the Presbyterian Church, we see that it is a solemn and serious matter. And yet this is the profession which so many who call themselves Presbyterians make with the utmost lightness and irreverence in the baptism of their children; though at the very time, they are informed, according to the Directory for Worship, chap. 7, sect. 4, that baptism is a seal of the righteousness of faith, and that the seed of the faithful, have no less a right to this ordinance, than the seed of Abraham, to circumcision under the Old Testament;' and are also solemnly required, to pray for, and with their child-to set an example of piety and godliness before it, and endeavor by all the means of God's appointment to bring it up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Truly it is painful to contemplate the fact for a moment. Corresponding to the manner in which the privi
lege is received, will be its improvement. Children thus baptized, are left to themselves by their parents, to discover moral and religious truths. They are never reminded of their duty and interest, but suffered to wander at large as their fancy and appetite dictate.
Why do parents offer their children to God in baptism? Is it to conform to custom, or to comply with duty? If the former, they profane the ordinance. To them the question put to the Jews, may be applied with awful emphasis, Who hath required this at your hands? They solemnly mock God, and deserve the severest rebuke. For the sake of custom they violate truth, for they profess what they do not believe, and promise, what they never mean to fulfil. This is dishonorable, and yet this, men from custom, will do in religion. They would startle, with horror, from similar conduct in common affairs.
Are parents desirous of performing their duty to their children? They ought to understand the nature of the duty, or else their performance of it will be superstitious. It is a solemn transaction, in which the parents covenant with God to train up their child or children in his fear, and God graciously condescends to own them as his covenanted seed. Now can the parents do this, if they are not members of the visible Church-that is, if they do not profess faith in Christ and obedience to him? Or can God own their children as his? What is the medium of intercourse between God and sinners? It is the
Covenant of Grace, in which God 'freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him, and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith with all other saving graces: and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation' (answer to Q. 32, larger Catechism). Now if persons do not profess this faith and display this holy obedience, they cannot be considered as included in this covenant; and of course the seals cannot be administered to them. If they are not included, their children are not.
To determine whether it be their duty to offer their children in baptism, let parents ascertain what is their own standing in the visible Church? Are they baptized? their bap-. tism has imposed upon them, the obligation of walking before God in newness of life. The character baptism has impressed upon them is indelible. They are the Lord's property, and are bound to glorify and serve him. Do they do this? Are they in actual covenant with God? Have they given themselves to the Lord as his seed? If they have not yet done this, do they mean to do it in the baptism of their children? Are they prepared to profess faith in Christ intelligently and credibly, and to engage sincerely to walk before God in all holy obedience? If not they have lost
their place in the house of God, and forfeited their privileges, till they return and repent. By their own unbelief and disobedience they thus injure their children, and deprive them of the sacrament of baptism. Refusing to give themselves to the Lord, they are, whilst they thus remain, utterly incapaci tated to give their children to him. Rejecting the Covenant for themselves, they cannot on any principles of common sense, reason or scripture, acknowledge it for their children. The children of such parents may be baptized, but not by virtue of their parent's standing in the visible Church. Others! who have a credible standing in the visible Church, may present such children, if they are providentially placed under their control; but then they become the moral parents of those children and are responsible for them. There is nothing in the word of God, or the standards of the Presbyterian and other Reformed Churches, to forbid sponsors in infant baptism-but the sponsors must be members of the Church.
By members we do not mean merely communicants. Persons must be members before they are communicants. They are admitted to the Lord's table in the same manner that they are admitted to their own baptism, if they have not been baptized in their infancy, or to the baptism of their children, viz. on the fact of their being already in the Church. Their credible profession of faith in Christ, and of holy obedience to him con
stitutes the test of their membership. On such a profession they are received to full privileges. The same profession is required for the one sacrament as the other. The scriptures make no difference between these two, nor do the standards of the Presbyterian Church. Whether the profession be made first at the baptism of a child or on admission to the Lord's table, is perfectly immaterial. Persons who have been baptized in infancy, are bound to make the same profession whenever they come to years of understanding, or they must be excluded from the privileges of the Church. This does not invalidate the fact of their infant membership, any more than the requirement of a profession, invalidates the fact of an adult's having been, through the grace of God, made a member of his Church. The profession in both cases is the profession of a fact that has already taken place, to which we must give credence when it is proved by a corresponding life, i. e. a life of religion as well as morality.
With these prefatory remarks, explanatory of what the received standards of the Reformed Churches, and especially of the Presbyterian Church, teach on this subject, we recommend the following discourses, to the serious, attentive perusal of the reader. They are written with sufficient perspicuity of style to make them intelligible, and are replete with sound divinity and the most important practical lessons. A few notes are added to this edition, to prevent misunderstanding of some