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This mixture is entirely heterogeneous; and calculated to blind and stupify. more and more the unawakened sinner, Pierce has proved that it was far otherways in the primitive church. He says, page 134, "I think in the primitive church, none were allowed to be present at any of their prayers, but such as had a right to partake of the Lord's supper. And indeed the only ordinary stated prayers they seem to have made then in the church, were at the administration of this ordinance. Heathens, catechumens of all sorts, and excommunicated persons, were suffered to be present at the reading of the scriptures, and at the exhors tations, sermons, or homilies; but none might remain in the assembly, but the faithful, at their prayers.”_ And he produces several authorities from the writings of the Fathers. Hallet agrees with Pierce, and confirms his account. Yet it is undeniable that infant child. ren were brought to the assemblies of christians, and associated with adult believers in the prayers and prais, es, which were publicly performed while they were together. Any supposed incapacity in the infant actually to partake of these services, is no valid objection to this argument. If the public prayers and praises of the church were considered ascommunional exercises, from which the world were avowedly excluded, and yet in. fants were not excluded from the assemblies of the faithful, when these exercises were performed ; but there was care that they should be present, it certain. ly follows, that in the account of the church, they were members,
FROM the perpetuity of infant membership, as. an important part of the economy of the Church, the transition to infant baptism is natural, and inevitable. As Dr. Gale observes with respect to John, iii. 5.“ It was not strange, that after the Fathers of the Church adopted the idea, that this passage embraced infants,
as well as adults; and of course that baptism was an indispensable requisite to their salvation; they should generally go into the practice of infant baptism;" SO it would seem very strange, if any one were to deny the propriety and obligation of infant baptism, who had adopted fully the principle of infant membership. They are so obviously and so inseparably connected, that infant baptism seems to have been gone into as a matter of course, and explicit precepts enjoining it, as in the case of female communion, appear to have been omitted, as superfluous. The additional evi. dence we have of it, comes in therefore by the by. The Jewish believers wanted no farther proof of the propriety of continuing to circumcise their children, than the divinely authorized principle upon which Israel had ever practised, that they were born unto God as an holý sced. And as baptism was appointed to the Gentiles in the room of circumcision, and a seal of the one gracious covenant, upon which the Church was founded, no farther proof seemed to be necessary to warrant the application of baptism to their infant children. Baptism was administered to adults upon their becoming united to Christ, and as a token of their membership in him. And if the infant seed stood in the same relation to him as members of his body, the consequence was inevitable, that it behoved them to be baptized. The law of circumcision, especially as it had been extended by God to proselytes, involved an obligation to baptize them ; just as the fourth commandment involves an obligation upon us to keep the Lord's day. The reason of the law remained in all its force; and it could not cease to be obligatóry, in the spirit of it, merely because the seal was changed, in kind.*
* To infant baptism, as necessarily following upon infant membership, Dr. Gill declares himself ready to submit. " Let it be proved," says he, 6s that infants are or ought to be members of Gospel Churches, and we shall readily admit them.” i. e, to baptism. Answer to Dickinson, page 89. A full demonstration, of this, it is thought has been given. The reader must judge. But let him beware of being swayed by prejudice against it. This prejudice is extensive. It has had deep possession of the author's mind; owing to the mis. representations which have been given of this sort of membership, and the abuses to which it has been subjected. If it be God's plan of building up the Church, it is undoubtedly a wise plan, and niust not be rejected.
· Notwithstanding infant, baptism follows so necessa rily from infant membership, it is proper to confirm it · by other evidence. We shall therefore spend a little
time in considering the collateral, and incidental proofs of it, which the Gospel furnishes.
1. Let us notice the evidence contained in the commission given by Christ to his disciples, to preach the Gospel over the world. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Fathers of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commended you; and lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.". Math. xxviii, 19, 20. We have already commented upon this passage; and shewn, that it proves the continuance of infant membership in the Christian Church. It has appeared, that the commission is. incapable of being executed but upon the supposition of it. Had the preaching of the Gospel been so extensive, and so effectual, as to recover all nations to Christ; and to interest them in his salvation, a multitude of infants would necessarily have been brought into his church. But then they must as necessarily have been baptized. For the direction to baptize, is coextensive with the objects whom the commission respected. “Baptizing them,” the nations. :': .........
Had there been no alteration of the seal, and had the term circumçïsing been used by Christ, instead of baptizing, there is not probably an individual on earth, who would not conclude, without a moment's hesita tion, that circumcision was to be extended to the households of converted Gentiles. The opposite principle „would have produced such a manifest difference be. tween the Jewish, and Gentile believers, as would have destroyed the unity of the church....
The law respecting circumçision; the nature of the covenant of which it was a token ; the blessing it seal. ed; the language of God respecting the children of his people, as born to him ; and the uniform practice of the Israelitish church, led irresistibly to this conclu. sion. And can the mere circumstantial difference, in
the nature of the token, be of any force with a candid mind, to weaken this conclusion? At any rate, we see that the commission of Christ, from the very terms of it, necssari y involves infant baptism.
2. The declaration of our Savior, John iii. 5, is of weight to determine that baptism ought to be extend. ed to the infant seed of believers. « Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man, (Tio, any one) be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Here water baptism is. placed in connexion with the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the former is made as essential to an en. trance into the kingdom of God as the latter.* It is made as essential to infants as to adults ; if they equals ly need regeneration ; and if they are comprehended. under the universal term tic. This declaration of Christ, introduced with a double asseveration, is equivalent with that of the apostle Peter, I Peter, iii. 21. ". The like figure whereunto, even baptism doth now save us." It is equivalent also with what God told Abraham, with respect to circumcision. “And the uncircumcised manchild, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his peo. ple." These passages concur in the absolute necessity of our observing the ordinances of God when made known to us. To trample upon any of them is fatal.
· As to this passage in John, it is certain, that the primitive fathers very generally understood it as precluding salvation, at least in ordinary cases, without water baptism; and this with respect to infants as well as adults. The letter of the passage certainly concludes in this principle. And the parallel places coincide with it. Let who dare go directly in the face of the Sa. vior's declaration and say, that millions may enter the kingdom of God, who are not born of water.t Dr.
* It is supposed, that in this case, as in the case of circumcision, a neglect, not founded in permission, or involuntary ignorance, but in impiety, is that which excludes from the kingdom of God. An adult may be disinherited of the blessing by this impiety; and he may, according to divine constitus tion, disinherit his child. It is as great in piety to trample upon an instituted rite, as to live in the commission of any other sin. ** + Some persons insinuate, that water baptism is not here intended. Dr Bald. win seems to take this for granted. But upon what grounds I cannot conceive,
in this priocho dare and say,
Gale denies that this passage has any application to in. fants. His reason is, that not being subjects of sin, they are incapable of renovation of heart. They are, according to him, to be classed with brutes, is incapa- ;: ble of any sort of moral action, and therefore both of the blessing and of the curse. This l'elagian doctrine, it is apprehended few, who oppose infant baptism, will in these days, readily adopt. Certainly many antipedobaptist writers contend for the opposite sentiment.The limitation, which the Doctor's construction makes, is against the letter of the passage ; and the principle upon which it is founded, is repugnant to the current. of scripture. It is not contended, that infants are to bame that they are not baptized. Nor were they to blame, under the former dispensation, if they were not. circumcised. But all are by nature children of wrath ; and God has a sovereign right to extend salvation to whom he pleases ; and to except whom, and in such a way as appears to him wisest, from being subjects of it. Allowing that, if infants are saved, they are saved. wholly by grace, and as subjects of sanctification, we cannot reasonably consider the words of our Savior as less applicable to them than to 'adults. And if he de.. signed the salvation of any of them; and we see that the promise of salvation terminates upon the seed, we shall be constrained to admit, that he has made provi. sion for their being baptized. The passage then con. cludes, that baptism, according to Christ's institution, extends to proper subjects among infants, as well as. to proper subjects among those who have arrived 10 adult years. Whether by the kingdom of God, is to be understood, the real church of the Messiah on earth; or that church in its glorified state in heaven, the con. clusion is the same ; though it seems necessary to understand the latter.
Surely no words can be plainer. Dr. Doddridge understands the passage of water baptism ; and so did ali antiquity. I do not see how it is possible to give any other construction of it, which shall be at all in agreement with the analogy of scripture, or with common sense. Poole, it is true, introduces a manner of constructing the passage, which some have been disposed to adopt, which makes this clause altogether figurative. Biit it is too absurd to be entitled to notice. Here is nothing like a figure, unless it be in the term born.