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Justin Martyr, born near the close of the first century, observes, when speaking of those who were members of the Church, that " a part of these were sixty or seventy years old, who were made disciples to Christ from their Infancy." But there never was any other mode of making disciples, from Infancy, except Baptism.
Irenæus, born about the year 97, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, says, " Christ came to save all persons, who by him are born again unto God; Infants and little ones, and chil. dren, and youths, and elder persons." By being born again, Irenæus intends being baptized, as he himself elsewhere clearly shows.
Clemens Alexandrinus, born about the middle of the second century, says, “If any one be a Fisherman ; let him think of an Apostle, and the children taken out of the water.” Clement is here giving directions concerning images, to be engraven on seal-rings. These engravings were sometimes indecent, and sometimes idolatrous. Clement exhorts Christians to adopt such, as are becoming and useful; and particularly exhorts Fishermen to choose the image of an Apostle baptizing Infants. This furnishes a decisive proof, that in Clement's view, the Apostles baptized Infants; and that this practice was, in his own time, the general practice of the Christian Church.
Tertullian, born about the same time with Irenæus, says, “ The delay of Baptism is more useful, according to every person's condition, and disposition, and even their age : but especially with regard to little children.” The reason, which he urges for this delay, is, that their faith was not entire, or complete. As Tertullian is here directly opposing the common opinion; it is obvious, that little children were then commonly baptized. The reason, why Tertullian proposed this delay, was, that he attributed to Baptism an importance, not given to it by the Scriptures.
Origen, born about the year 184, and a man of more information than any one of his time, says, “ Infants are baptized for the remission of sins." And again; “ The Church hath received the tradition from the Apostles, that Baptism ought to be administered to Infants."
Cyprian, who was contemporary with Origen, says, that “ sixty-six Bishops, being convened in a Council at Carthage, having the question referred to them, Whether infants might be baptized be fore they were eight days old, decided unanimously, that no Infant is to be prohibited from the benefit of Baptism, although but just born."
Gregory Nazianzen, born in the early part of the fourth century, exhorts parents to offer their children to God in Baptism.
Saint Augustin, born in the middle of the fourth century, says, “The whole Church practises Infant Baptism ; it was not instituted by Councils, but was always in use." He also says, that he did not remember eder to have read of any person, whether catholic or here
* tic, who maintained, that Baptism ought to be denied to Infants. “ This," he says," the Church has always maintained.”
Pelagius, a contemporary with Augustin, declares, that “he had never heard even any in pious Heretic, who asserted, that Infants are not to be baptiz.d.” Again he asks, “ Who can be so impious, as to hinder the Baptism of Infants ?" Pelagius is here a witness of high authority. He was born in Britain ; and travelled through France, Italy, Africa Proper, and Egypt, to Jerusalem. Had such a practice existed in his time; it seems impossible, that he should not have heard of it. He was also an inquisitive and learned man; and must, therefore, have been well informed concerning preceding periods. At the same time, the doctrine of Infant Baptism was objected against his own opinions by St. Augustin, in such a manner, that Pelagius knew not how to answer the objection. Still these are his own assertions.
A person who employed himself extensively in examining this subject, gives the following result of all his inquiries. During the first four hundred years from the formation of the Christian Church, Tertullian only urged the delay of Baptism to infants, and that only in some cases; and Gregory only delayed it, perhaps, to his own children. But neither any society of men, nor any Individual, denied the lawfulness of baptizing Infants.
“ 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.
6 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 rejecủed 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 bistory of them have been found.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.—NO INFANTS, BUT THL
CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS, PROPER SUBJECTS OF BAPTISM. MODE OF ADMINISTRATION.
Acts ii. 38, 39. Then Peter said unlo 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 unlo you, and 10 your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
THE 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 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 baptized, 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 declaration of God to Abraham; it follows, that they being baptized, and thus introduced into the covenant under the Christian Dispensation, 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 naturally arises, What is it to be baptized? It will be the design of this discourse, to show,
1. That Infant Baptism is, in the Scriptures, confined to the chil. dren 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 Scrip beres, 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 scal 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, cither widened, or narrowed, by man; it 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 alteration 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 inose, 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 ihe 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 hating brought their children lo 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 lillle children, but Suffer the
little children to come unto me, and forbid them not. The words in all the threc Evangelists, who have recorded this story, arc, sa tasdia, the little children; and cannot be pleaded as a warrant for bringing to Christ in Bartisin 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, specifics 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 Chillern, then, among the Gentiles, as are born of those, wilo profess tragion 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 wise, 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 10 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 considerable numbers of divines, and other Christians; and, among them, by many men of learning and piety.
One class of those, who have rejected this doctrine, have considered children as entitled to baptism in their own right; and wilhout any reference to the relation, which they bear to their parents. These, I supposc, build their scheme on the fact, that the Jewish children were universally circumcised, on the direction given by