« הקודםהמשך »
are, most certainly, in a state of condemnation, and are treated as sinners. 2. That they are, therefore, capable of justification or remission, and stand in absolute need of it; in as much as, without it, they must eternally lie under the sentence of death. 3. As they are capable of this grace, and stand in absolute need of it, express provision is made, in the constitution of the gospel-covenant, for their being justified and saved. But 4. All who by the gospel-covenant are entitled to justification,' salvation and life, are entitled also to baptism ; for baptism is a rite, instituted by God, to signify or betoken that those, who are entitled to the blessings of his covenant, shall certainly receive them.
The baptism of infants, viewed in this light, is a very rational institution. The great parent of mankind having, in the wisdom of his providence, subjected so vast a part of the race to miseries and pains through no default of their own, it was quite reasonable to believe, that his mercy would appoint them some testimony of his favour, some monument or pledge that he had not abandoned this noble part of his creation to the ruin and death under which they were fallen. That, as they continually suffered the visible tokens of his displeasure in a variety of tormenting agonies ; so, he would graciously ordain them also some visible token of his good will, some perpetual and standing sign, of his still accounting them his children, and that they were yet the objects of his tender and parental regard. It was perfectly just, I say, and reasonable to imagine that the great Parent of these tortured and suffering innocents, whenever he erected a church upon earth, would appoint some such standing token of his mercy and favour to them. Now this, we see, he did under the two former dispensations, both of Abraham and of
Moses: and great consolation it, doubtless, gave their pious parents under these dispensations, when they saw him languishing in extreme pains and giving up the ghost, to reflect upon the solemn token by which the Almighty had accepted them as his children, and had promised to be their God. But, can it ever be conceived, that the dispensation of Jesus Christ is defective in this important point! That it, herein, comes behind, and is inferior to both the former! That it has no such standing token of God's mercy to condemned infants, nor any rite by which he visibly admits them now, as he formerly did, into his family or church !—Is he a God in covenant to the Abrahamic, and to the Jewish infants only, and not to Christian infants also? With great assurance we can say, to christian infants also.
We are not to imagine, that all infants dying such, but those of believers, or all which die unbaptised, will be annihilated or never rise again, but the superior advantage to believers' infants, above others, is :-1. That with respect to these, God has been pleased to lay himself under a more particular covenant or promise of a resurrection to a future happiness; whereas the other are left more to his uncovenanted mercy. And 2. Their circumstances in a future state may agreeably to all the moral perfections of God, be supposed more happy and advantageous than theirs who were never thus solemnly devoted to him. It being an evident and important part of the scheme of God's moral government, that great blessings and favours shall be conferred upon some, in consequence and as a roward of the earnest and sincere prayers and piety of others.
All rational creatures, there is reason to believe, are, somewhere or other, placed in a state of discipline or probation, before they pass into a state of fixed and unalterable bliss. Heaven itself was, if it be not at present, a state of trial to angels. Infants dying such, therefore, there is ground to presume, pass into such a state. Now, as in our present state of trial, some are placed in circumstances far more advantageous and favourable than others, so, probably, is it in the state to which dying infants pass. Abraham's posterity were put in circumstances more favourable, for attaining virtuc and bap
And as it thus evidently appears, that, in the original construction and frame of his church, provision was made that the infants of God's people should be admitted into his covenant, so it may be added—that such a solemn dedication, as is made in baptism, of an infant by its parents to God the Supreme Parent, seems to be a most natural and rational service : a service which a pious mind can scarce possibly forbear. Having received so great a gift and trust from the Almighty Sovereign, how natural and proper is it, that soon upon its birth, and while a sense of the obligation is yet warm upon the heart, he should make some solemn acknowledgment that he has received it from God; should openly devote it to him, and lay himself under a sacred vow to educate it religiously, and bring it up in his fear! The light of nature itself seems plainly to have taught this. It was the custom of the Romans, on the ninth day from the child's birth (which was called the lustrical, or the day of purification) for its friends and relations to bring it to the temple, and before the altars of the gods, to recommend it to the protection of some tutelar deity. A ceremony of the same nature also, was performed among the Greeks. Is not this evidently, a becoming temper and action, upon receiving such a trust? Would it not naturally have a good influence on the conduct of the parent, with regard to his child; disposing him either to resign it more chearfully, if taken from him by death; or to train it up more religiously if its life be con
piness, than other nations of the earth, on account of their fa. ther's piety. The same may be justly hoped as to the dying infants of good men ; who, according to God's command, have been solemnly devoted to him, whom he hath acknowledged for his children, and to whom bu bath, by a sacred sovenant, promised to be a God,
tinued? And might it not be hoped, that God would graciously accept and reward the piety of such a parent, with peculiar blessings on such a child ?
But, from this general view of the several dispensations of religion with respect to infants, from which their right to baptism may be strongly presumed, --We proceed farther to establish it by clear and direct proofs.
The FIRST ARGUMENT shall be presented under
the following Propositions. I. It is an incontestable fact, that the infants of believers, were, in former dispensations or ages of the church, taken together with their parents into covenant with God; and had, by his express cominand, a sacrament or rite given them, as a token that Jehovah was their God; and that in consequence hereof, he counted them for bis children, and as standing in a peculiar relation to himself. Gen. xvii. 7, 10, 11, 12. Deut. xxix. 10, 11, 12. EZEK. xvi. 20, 21, See these scriptures already cited, pages 4-6.
II. When these infants of believers were thus taken into covenant, it was certainly, a great privilege, a favour or grant most thankfully to be received; for, by this token, the Most High obliged himself and covenanted to be the God of that infant. And what that implies, see before explained, pages 4, 5. Now
III. If this great privilege was once granted by God to his church, it is a privilege still subsisting, and is now in actual and full force, if it has not been revoked. But
IV. This privilege or grant has never been revoked. No such revocation, nor any shadow of it, appears in the whole book of God. Therefore,
V. The infants of believers having still a right to their antient unrepealed privilege, of being admitted with their parents into covenant with God, and of having its token applied to them; it hence necessarily follows, that they have a right to christian baptism ; for baptism is now the only appointed token or ceremony of admission.
These propositions it is huinbly apprehended, amount to a demonstration of the point in debate. Which of them can be denied ? Will any man say, 1. That the infants of believers, in the former ages of the church, were not taken, with their parents into covenant with God; bad not, by his express command, a sacrament or rite given. them in token that Jehovah was their God; and that in consequence of this, they were not considered and treated as being in a peculiar manner his? This no man will affirmn. Will it then be said :-2. That this, though it was granted to the infants of good men of old, was really no privilege nor favour to them? Neither durst any man assert this.
Can it be urged then :-.3. That this privilege, though granted antiently to the church, and enjoyed by it many ages, does not, now, continue to it, nor ought, now, to be enjoyed by it; though it be at the same time acknowledged not to have been repealed ?_Absurd to imagine! Will it be said then :-4. That this antient privilege or grant has, indeed, been repealed? Let the repeal be shewn, and the point shall be given up. There appears no such repeal, nor any thing like it, in the whole sacred scriptures : on the contrary, there appear many things, as will presently be seen, abundantly to confirm this invaluable privilege; and to strengthen and enlarge it. And, in