图书图片
PDF
ePub

cases of the parent and the child are altogether differ . ent. The parent is in character an unbeliever; the child is not. The covenant embraces one, not the other. "

10. It is an undeniable fact, that the believing Jews, who were of the mother church in Jerusalem and Judea, continued to practice circumcision upon their infant seed, during the administration, and under the eye of the apostles, and so long as we have any account of them as a distinct part of the kingdom of the Messiah. Evidence is furnished of this fact, from several sources. But we will rest in one passage ; which, of it. self, is entirely conclusive. This passage is in Acts xxi. 20, 21; and is as follows. “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest brother, how many thousands there are of the Jews which believe, and they are all zealous of the law. And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses ; saying, that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor to walk after the customs. What is it therefore ? The multitude must needs come together, for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee; we have four men which have a vow on them. Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads, that all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing ; but that thou thyself walkest orderely, and keep. est the law. As touching the Gentiles, which believe, we have written, and concluded, that they observe no such thing, only &c. Then Paul took the men the next day, and purifying himself with them, entered into the temple to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.” · This rumor, which excited such agitation among the multitude of the believing Jews, that Paul had taught the Jews, living in foreign countries, to discontinue the circumcising of their children ; and the expedient adopted to soothe their minds, and prove

to them, that it was without any foundation ; clearly imply the fact, that the believing Jews continued to circumcise their children as they ever had done. And Paul's readiness to use this expedient, for the reason urged, without saying one word in confirmation of the truth of the report proves, that he did not teach the discontinuance of circumcision; and therefore, that it continued to be practised, among all the believing Jews, not only throughout Judea, but through other countries. If it had always been practised, upon the principle of infant membership, as we have proved, doubtless it continued to be practised upon the same principle still. Had this very impor. tant part of church institution been revoked, it would have been the indispensable duty of Paul, and of the other apostles, to preach down infant circumcision ; and the believing Jews would certainly have gone into . the immediate disuse of it. They would have treated their children as no longer united with them in cove. nant bonds. The fact then, of the continuance of in. fant circumcision, till the distinction between Jew and Gentile was quite worn away, concludes strongly, in favor of the transmission of infant membership into the Gospel Church. - 11. This last article of proof will be confirmed, and considerable evidence added, to substantiate the truth of the continuance of infant membership, under the christian dispensation, if we consider that the baptism of households is repeatedly mentioned, with respect to the Gentiles, but not once with respect to the Jews. This is a remarkable circumstance, which deserves to be noticed more than it has commonly been. There must have been some reason for it. The opposers of infant baptism tell us, that these households consisted of believers only. They say this without one jot of evidence. But suppose it were true; were there probably no similar cases among the many thousands of Jews, who embraced the Gospel in Judea, and in other countries ? It can scarcely be doubted. Whence then this noticeable difference? "

There are several intimations in the Acts, and the Epistles, respecting the union of Gentile households to the Church. The case of Cornelius is pretty clear, Acts xi. 14. “ Who shall tell thee words whereby thou, and all thy house shall be saved." But the cases of Lydia, and her household ; of the Jailor, and his household , and of Stephanas, and his household, are express

Respecting this last case, particular remarks claim to be made. Stephanas was a member of the Church of Corinth ; the children of which, the apostle pronoun, ces holy. With our eye upon the testimony of Paul, that all the children of this church were holy, let us attend a moment tothe case of the baptism of Stephanas, and his household. It is mentioned in the first chapter of the Epistle; and it is mentioned in a very singular manner. “ And I baptized also the household of Stephanas ; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gos. pel.” He had said before, “I baptized none of you buț Crispus and Gaius, lest any man should say I baptized in mine own name.” Many others were baptiz. ed ; but the apostle left it to be performed by other hands ; wishing to avoid the danger of being acknowl. edged the Master. But he corrects himself, and says, : “ And I baptized also the household of Stephanas," and adds, “Besides, I know not whether I baptized any other." Here he seems to indulge a momentary pause. He is not certain. He has recourse to his récollection, lest he should mistake, He does not positively affirm. But if baptism were, in all other cases, confined to believers, as a personal thing; aş Paul was the founder of this church, and well acquainted with its organization, why this hesitation ? No cause of doubt could have existed. It is submitted to the reader therefore, whether this mode of speaking does not strongly imply, that, agreeably to the relative character given by the apostle of all the children of the church baptism was applied to them, though administered by other hands. It is wished that this consid. .

the grounow comes into Gentile con There see

cration may have its proper weight in the reader's mind, and no more. - To return, without controversy, we have express mention of the baptism of three households, in which it is but reasonable to presume that there were some, so young at least, that they could not be baptized upon the ground of their personal faith. But be this as it may. How comes it to pass, that households, are thus mentioned among the Gentile converts, but no such thing with respect to the Jews? There seems to be but one reason for it. The households of the Jews were circumcised ; and those of the Gentiles were not. And this by the way accounts for it, that baptism is not once mentioned with respect to the children of believing Jews. · 12. And finally ; no inconsiderable degree of evi. dence of the perpetuity of infant membership, in the Church of Christ, is furnished from the source of history. Historic testimony, drawn from works of mere human composure, and not dictated by the infallible Spirit of truth, is not proper to be produced, as having authority of itself, to bind our faith. But it may be auxiliary. It may serve to strengthen our confidence in the construction we put upon God's word.

The historic evidence for infant membership may be classed under four divisions.

.1. The first is, the entire silence of history with respect to the discontinuance of it. We are here to remember that the subject of enquiry is, whether the revocation of infant membership have taken place under the immediate direction of Christ, or his apostles ; not whether it have taken place at a subsequent period, and by mere human authority. And we now resort to history, merely as witness to fact. It hath been shown that such a charge could not have been made without affecting materially the economy of the Church, and exciting much public notice; and that we must have found records of it in sacred histo. ry; or at least evident allusions to it. For the same reason, it is hardly possible it should not have been brought into view by Ecclesiastical Historians, and Commentators. Tradition is always active. It transmits its laws with a permanent effect, and must have told us something about it. But no such record is to be found. No such tradition is delivered.

2. The second species of historic evidence for infant membership, is the fact of the actual prevalence of this principle, recognized in doğmas, opinions and prac. tices, asserting or implying it almost universally through Christendom, from the first century down to the present period, without the possibility of tracing it to an origin, short of the covenant which God estab. lished with Abraham. I say almost universally. The antipædobaptists have dissented from this doctrine. But they have been a very inconsiderable portion of Christendom. They have been a sect. They have been opposed, and condemned by the whole body of

the church; both the eastern and the western. Their - origin, according to Dr. Mosheim, is hidden in the remote depths of antiquity, and is unascertainable. It will not be denied, that the Greek Church has ever embraced, and acted upon the doctrine of infant membership. This is equally undeniable, with respect to the Latin Church. True, it has been holden in un. righteousness, and turned to awful abuse. And so have the holy supper, the sabbath, and the Gospel. . But who will deny, that the transmission of the sup. per, the sabbath, and the Gospel, as sacred deposits, by the concurrence of the whole church, through ev. ery period of it, is evidence that they are of a divine authority ? Corrupters of a divine institution, may be as good witnesses of the authority of that institution, as pious observers of it. To invalidate their testimony, infant membership must be shewn to be itself a corruption. But the corruptions which have been intro. duced into the church, are capable of being traced to their origin in human authority. This is not true of infant membership. It is therefore no corruption. The reformation did not reject it as such ; but incorporated it into its system of faith, as an important part

« 上一页继续 »