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“ Secondly; In the next seven hundred years, there was not a society, nor an Individual, who even pleaded for this delay; much less any, who denied the right, or the duty, of Infant Baptism.
“ Thirdly; In the year eleven hundred and twenty, one sect of the Waldenses declared against the Baptism of Infants ; because they supposed them incapable of salvation. But the main body of that people rejected the opinion as heretical; and the sect, which held it, soon came to nothing.
“ Fourthly; The next appearance of this opinion was in the
Had the Baptism of Infants been ever discontinued by the Church; or had it been introduced in any age, subsequent to that of the Apostles; these things could not have been ; nor could the history of them have been found.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of
you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,
persons, here addressed by St. Peter, were a collection of Jews. Of course, they were persons, on whom God had placed his covenant, and to whom he had affixed the seal of circumcision. They were persons, who had regularly partaken of the passover through life. They were not excommunicated persons. They were, therefore, still in the covenant. On this
. ground, St. Peter declares to them, that the promise was still to them, and to their children.
Still they were gross sinners; and had imbrued their hands in the blood of the Redeemer. They had not, indeed, been employ. ed in the external act of putting him to death: this was done by Vol. V.
the Roman soldiery. But they had sought, and procured, his death with a disposition, probably more malignant, and abominable, than that of his real murderers. Thus, they were gross sinners; and were therefore, called upon to repent. They were also required to be baplized, every one of them, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins ; because Baptism was now become the initiatory seal of the covenant. As the promise was to them and to their children, according to the gracious decla. ration of God to Abraham ; it follows, that they being baptized, and thus introduced into the covenant under the Christian Dis. pensation, and made members of the Church under that dispensation, their children also were placed under the same covenant, and were to be baptized according to the appointment of God. These persons, I say, were to be baptized. The question na
. turally arises, What is it to be baptized ? It will be the desiga of this discourse, to show,
1. That Infant Baptism is, in the Scriptures, confined to the children of professing Christians; and,
II. To show what Baptism is, considered as an external religious rite.
1. I shall attempt to show, that Infant Baptism is, in the Scriplures, confined to the children of professing Christians.
This doctrine I derive,
All the Israelites were circumcised. All of them, as was shown in a former discourse, made a public profession of religion: or entered publicly into covenant with God. They all, also, partook regularly of the passover. Thus, the children of every Jew were the children of a Professor of religion; and, as such, received the initiatory seal of the covenant of grace.
As the covenant under the Christian dispensation is, unless in some respect, or other, altered by the authority which first promulged it, exactly the same, as it was under the Abrahamic dispensation, and cannot be lawfully, either widened, or narrowed, by man; il follows, that children are now to be considered in exactly the same light, as under the former dispensation, unless the Scriptures have evidently changed the state of their relations and privileges. But, in these respects, no such altera
tion can be pleaded : for the Scriptures evidently contain none. The Church is not now confined to a single Nation; nor are the Individuals of any one nation, as such, made members of the Church. But the duty of professing the religion of the Scriptures, and the peculiar duties, and privileges, of those, who have professed it, are now, in substance, exactly what they were under the dispensation, made to Abraham.
It is evident therefore, that, since no children, beside the children of those, who publicly professed the religion of the Scriptures, could lawfully receive the initiatory seal of the covenant under the Abrahamic Dispensation, no children, but such as these, can lawfully receive this seal under the Christian Dispensation ; unless the covenant, with respect to this subject, can be shown to have been altered. But this, it is presumed, cannot be shown.
2. The Parents, who are represented in Matthew xix. 13, 14, as having brought their children to Christ, that he might bless them, were Professors of religion.
As they were Jews ; this will not be disputed. In addition to this, they were Evangelical believers. They brought their children to Christ, that he might bless them; and therefore believed that He was able to give them an efficacious blessing. Of consequence, they believed, that he was the Messiah. For as he declared himself to be the Messiah, if he was not, he was an Impostor ; and, therefore, utterly unable to communicate any blessing. At this time of Christ's ministry it is hardly possible, that these parents should have been ignorant of this subject : since it was the great topic of inquiry, and debate, among their countrymen. Nor is it conceivable, that they should have adopted this remarkable conduct, if they had not acknowledged him as the Messiah.
It is to be observed, that Christ, when he opposes the conduct of his disciples, who would have hindered these children from being brought to him, says, not, Suffer little children, but Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not. The words in all the three Evangelists, who have recorded this story, are, sa maidia, the little children; and cannot be pleaded as a warrant for bringing to Christ in Baptism any other children,
than such as are in the like circumstances, with those, mentioned in this passage.
3. The Text directly declares the same doctrine.
The promise, says St. Peter to the Jews, is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Those, who were afar off, were Gentiles; as St. Paul has taught us, Eph. ii. 17. Christ came, says the Apostle, and preached peace to you, who were afar off, and to them that were nigh; that is, to the Ephesians, and other Gentiles, and to the Jews. The promise, St. Peter informs us, is to as many of these Gentiles, as the Lord our God shall call. That it is to them in the same manner, and on the same terms, as to the Jews, is decisively concluded; because neither St. Peter, nor any other scriptural Writer, specifies any difference. The cions of the wild olive, St. Paul informs us, were graffed on the good olive ; where they grew, and partook of the fatness of the root, in exactly the same manner, as if they had been the natural branches. The terms, it is to be remembered, are the same: and the promise conveys no more, as well as no less, to the Gentiles than to the Jews; unless the alteration is declared. Such Children, then, among the Gentiles, as are born of those, who profess the religion of the Scriptures, are included in the covenant, and are to be baptized. But the warrant extends to no others.
4. The same doctrine is declared still more explicitly in 1 Corinthians vii. 14.
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.
In this passage St. Paul declares, that, if both parents are unbelievers, their children are unclean: that is, may not be offered to God; or, in other words, may not be baptized : there being no other mode of offering children to God under the Christian Dispensation. Thus the doctrine under discussion is, I think, clearly evident from the Scriptures. Accordingly, it has been adopted as the doctrine of almost all protestant Churches; and exists, in the plainest language, in almost every protestant catechism, and confession of Faith.
This doctrine has, however, been opposed in two ways, and by