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nor the spiritual circumcision of his disciples, but Christian baptism, is evident from the twelfth verse, in which he explains this to be the signification. I am aware, that to this interpretation it mav be objected: Baptism is made by hands; and the apostle is speaking of a circumcision made without hands. But the force of the objection will be dissipated, if it be considered that he speaks, first, of the thing signified, a work of grace on the heart, denominated circumcision made without hands;' and, then, of the sign of this work, which he terms, The circumcision of Christ.”
It may be enquired, if children born of a member of the visible Church are visibly holy, and belong to the visible Church, in what manner are they to be treated? Mr. Williams in his Inquiry, and Dr. Romeyn in the Report drafted by him, make it their object to answer the interrogation. As by the divine constitution of domestic relations, all the children born in a family or adopted by the head, are entitled to all the privileges of children, so soon as they are qualified to enjoy them; so in the Family of God, all the members, in visible subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ, are entitled to all church-privileges for which they are qualified. They are to be instructed, fed, and governed, according to their natural capacities and moral improvement. It no more follows, because baptized infants are members of the church, that they are to partake of the Lord's supper in infancy, than that natural babes are to be fed with roast beef, when they can receive only milk. Nor is it any more a just conclusion, that because they cannot celebrate the Lord's supper, therefore they are not members of the church; than, because they cannot receive strong meat, instead of the breast of nourishment, that they are not children of the family.
All the members of the church are to be taught, by their parents, and the rulers in the church: children are to be early made acquainted with the nature of baptism and the Lord's supper; for neglect of any, and every duty, they are to be admonished; for open immorality, or heresy, persisted in, they are to be censured, sus. pended, or excommunicated; on profession of penitence are to be restored; if parents, and not in a state of suspension or excommunication, are to be permitted to present their children in baptism; and so soon as they credibly profess to have knowledge to discern the Lord's body, and faith to feed on him, are to be received to full communion at the Lord's sacramental table. Infants are in full membership, but not in full communion. Mr. Williams quotes the Rev. Mr. Norton, one of the re. nowned Pastors of Boston in the days of her puritanic glory, as saying,
“Members in respect of their communion, may be said to be complete or incomplete, because communion receives more or less, and may be enjoyed either in whole or in part. But in respect to membership they cannot be said to be complete or incomplete, because membership being a relation doth not receive more or less: as a little member is as truly a member as the greatest; the hand of a child is as truly a hand, and member of the whole, as the hand of a man. Besides, the notion of the halfway covenant, and halfway members, has been much exploded and derided of late years; but should we assert that baptized children are members, only in a sort, or in some sense, and something more absolutely necessary to admit them to full standing; we shall, perhaps, fall into that class of Christians, who are said to be for the halfway.”
The accuracy of this distinction is attested by all our certificates of dismission and recommendation of com. municants, for if all members were in full communion, or if none else but persons in full communion were members, it would be useless to certify that “the bearer is a member in full communion.”
Mr. Williams lays down the principle, and we see not how it can be invalidated, that the child of any baptized person not under the censures of the church, is entitled to baptism, because it is by the divine organization of the visible church, constituted a member, without any new profession on the part of the parent; and the New-England churches have to this day, so far retained the practice of their puritanic fathers, as to baptize the children of all whom they still consider members, without requiring of them at the time of administering the rite, any profession. It is true, that the greater part of the Eastern Congregational Churches in modern times consider communicants alone as members; but the children of communicants being publicly presented in the
congregation, prayer is offered, and the child is baptized, in most instances, without any profession, explanation, or exhortation.
It is also true, that the “Directory for Worship,” of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, in the prescribed form “of the administration of Baptism," does not require profession of faith to be made by the parent or parents, offering a child in baptism, but simply that the administrator shall “ use some words of instruction, respecting the institution, nature, use and ends of this ordinance;' “exhort the parents to the careful performance of their duty;" and require them to comply with certain peculiarly important obligations. Some of our ministers require, indeed, a profession and consent to a covenant, which they propose; but the Directory requires no such thing. “When unbaptized persons” themselves "apply for admission into the church, they shall, in ordinary cases, after giving satisfaction with respect to their knowledge and piety, make a public profession of their faith, in the presence of the congregation; and thereupon be baptized.” Direct. ch. ix. sec. 4.
Since, then, the children of all baptized persons not suspended or excommunicated, are to be baptized, it becomes a very important matter to decide, what baptized members ought to be suspended, or excommunicated, and consequently denied the privilege of baptism for their families. It is universally admitted that all, who being often reproved by the teaching and ruling Elders, persist in any course of profligacy, ought to be cut off from the congregation of the Lord. Mr. Williams very powerfully urges the duty of publicly rejecting all notoriously heretical or immoral persons.
But shall a baptized adult, who declines professing knowledge to discern the Lord's body, and faith to feed upon him, and who lives in habitual neglect of the commandment, " this do in remembrance of me," be suspended? Dr. Emmons unhesitatingly asserts in opposition to Dr. Hemmenway, that if all baptized persons were members, they ought to be cut off, so soon as they come to years of discretion, if they refuse to celebrate the Lord's supper. He admits not, however, that all baptized persons are members; but many who differ from him in this particular, agree with him in his conclusion.
The strongest argument adducible in favour of this opinion is derived from the fact, that any circumcised person who refused to celebrate the passover, after he was made acquainted with its nature, and his duty of celebrating it, was, by a divine statute, to be cut off from the visible church. “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, (that is, whoever shall not celebrate the passover,] that soul shall be cut off from Israel.-Whoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.” Exodus xii. 15, 19.
It is contended, that all baptized persons are under the same obligations to celebrate the Lord's supper, that all circumcised persons were the passover, and consequently, if the neglect of the passover excluded from the church, the neglect of the eucharist must in like manner.
Certainly a baptized person, who has arrived at years of reflection, ought to walk in all the ordinances of the Lord in a blameless manner: and we hesitate not to teach, that a baptized person who is acquainted with the nature of the Lord's supper, and with his obligations to celebrate it with a right heart, ought to be suspended, after suitable pains have been taken with him by the elders, if he shall wilfully and perseveringly contemn the ordinance and authority of Jehovah. One who renounces his obligation to celebrate the death of Jesus, and professes no desire to approach the Lord's table; one who openly, wilfully, and perseveringly renounces the bands of the covenant which God has imposed upon him, ought to be cut off, by a solemn judicial act of the eldership, and his children ought not to be baptized. Until he is judicially suspended, however, his children are entitled to baptism; and if a church neglects her duty in such a case, she is to be censured, and not the pastor exclusively, who administers baptism to all the little ones of the flock.
None ought to be excluded who have not been previously dealt with upon the subject of their omission of duty, in the wholesome exercise of ecclesiastical discipline. If any persons who are baptized members of the church should appear to be conscientious, should profess a desire to celebrate the Lord's supper aright; should express a hope of being enabled to perform their duty; and should own themselves under covenant obligations to him who brought them into his family: we should be slow to proceed to suspension from such privileges as they deemed themselves qualified to enjoy; we should not excommunicate them, until they have manifested a persevering and wilful rejection of their covenant God.
Should a parent be cut off from the congregation of the Lord, for open and wilful contempt of the eucharist, he could subsequently be restored by a credible profession of penitence; and upon this ground we justify the requisition of a confession, of all who, having been baptized, have been suspended from privileges; before they are admitted to the communion, or to the enjoyment of the rite of baptism for their children.
That all baptized children are members of the church, until excluded by a judicial act, was the doctrine of the ancient churches of New England.
In a letter written by the Rev. John Cotton of Boston, and subscribed by himself, together with Thomas Oliver and Thomas Leveret, and which was addressed by the unanimous consent of the whole church in Bos. ton, to that in Dorchester, dated Dec. 16th, 1634, it is said, “ We
“ We may not account such parents, for Pagans and Infidels, who are themselves baptized, and profess their belief of the Fundamental Articles of the Christian Faith, and live without notorious Scandalous Crime, though they give not clear evidence of their regenerate state.”* Mr. Cotton in another letter says, “For such members are like the church members, with us baptized in their In
* See " The First Principles of New England, concerning the Subject of Baptism,” &c. By Increase Mather, printed in Cam. bridge, in 1675. p. 3.