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as any children of Pagan unbelievers. To support an assertion so opposite to the ordinary import of the term holy, must require some invention. But invention, I apprehend, will be found a feeble auxiliary in this service.
The term holy, as it is used in the scriptures, has but two senses. A thing is holy internally, or externally ; in itself, or by some relation. As that which is unclean, must be so, internally or externally ; in itself, or hy some relation. It is not necessary, that by the term holy, as used in the passage before us, we should understand that which is internal, or that all these children were subjects of real sanctification. Though, if this interpretation were to be adopted, the membership of infants would, it is evident, follow of
For there can be no debate whether children, who are known and testified, by an infallible authori. ty, to be really sanctified, belong to the Church.
The term holy, as it respects that which is visible, and by relation, has its determinate meaning in the scripture. The people of Israel, in their collective ca. pacity, are repeatedly called holy. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, an holy nation.” By this epithet, an idea is conveyed to us of their external character, as visibly separated from the world, and appropriated by, covenant institution to God, as his pe. culiar people. We have mention made of holy ground, the most holy place-most holy offerings—most holy things—of the holy mountain, and of the holy temple. All consecrated things are termed holy. Visible chris. tians are called holy, in distinction from profane men, who form another sort of society. The sense of the term holy, is precisely the same in all these cases, It intends peculiar appropriation to God, as his ; and this, as either subject to the covenant, or subservient to it. And what else do we, or can we mean by membership in the Church of Christ ? A consecration to God; and to his service, according to the provisions of the covenant of grace, involving a relative union to his people, is the essence of church membership.-
Forms are circumstàntial things. Dedication, if it re? spect a person, amounts to this membership. To unite ourselves to the Church of Christ, is to dedicate our. selves to his service, in that Church; and vice versa. The one is inseparable from the other. If a child is appropriated by God as his, it becomes necessarily a member of his kingdom, by virtue of that appropriation. Nothing less can possibly be signified by it. If it is dedicated by the parent, in an instituted manner, that dedication necessarily involves members ship. The meaning of the term holy, as used here, in opposition to unclean, has besides its explanation under divine, authority Acts x. 15.
" What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” This di- . rection had respect to the ingathering of the Gentiles into the kingdom of the Messiah. Clean, or holy then, characterizes those who are brought into this kingdom. But if this be the proper meaning of the term holy, as expressing a visible character or relation, the declaration of the apostle, respecting the children of the Church of Corinth, absolutely concludes in behalf of the extension of infant membership among the believing Gentiles, as well as of the perpetuity of it among the believing Jews.
To evade the force of this evidence, the opposers of infant membership allege, that by the term holy, the apostle means legitimate. But this is a term much more equivocal than the other. We have to ask, In what sense legitimate ? Legitimate is a relative term, which always has respect to some existing law. According to what law then does the apostle assert these children to be legitimate ? Is it a law of God? If it be, then it must be that law, for it can be no other, which obliged the Israelites to confine their matrimonial alliances entirely to themselves. Such a law there was. Marriages formed within these limits were religiously lawful. Marriages formed beyond them, or with the idolâtrous nations, were religiously unlawful. The offspring of the former, having a descent in agreeinent with law, were counted for the seed. The offspring of the
latter, being the product of a prohibited alliance, and of a breach of covenant, were accounted not of the seed; or unclean ; and were to be put away, as such, from the midst of the holy people. * If the children of the Church of Corinth, are pronounced by the apostle holy, in respect to this law, why then, it amounts to the same thing exactly, with their being holy in the sense just established ; i. e. visibly and relatively holy, or within the Church of Christ. Was this a political law ? Was it a law of the civil government under which these christians lived ? Did the holy apostle mean to pronounce these children legitimate, in opposition to their being bastards, according to the laws of this government? If so, why did he not cut the matter short, and say what he intended, in the use of a term which could be understood, instead of introducing one appropriate to the church, and to scripture, and never before used under this signification ? But this is not the case. The apostle was a minister of Jesus. He had resolved he would know nothing but Christ, and him crucified. He had nothing to do in settling mere civil questions,
Legitimacy in this sense, did not at all relate to the subject of enquiry. The question referred to the decision of the apostle, respected a christian, and his duty as a follower of Jesus Christ. It would seem from the introductory verse, that there were several questions sent by this Church to Paul, for his solution. What they were, we are not told. It is probable they all related to marriage. The one, which the passage before us particularly respected, it would seem, was this.Whether a believer ought to repudiate his or her unbelieving correlate ? This question is the same as, Whether the continuance of the matrimonial alliance, under such a circumstance, were right, religiously considered ? This is a question entirely distinct from the other, whether it were right according to the civil law. Such a question they had no occasion to put; and the apostle was the last person to whom such a question could be pertinently referred. The civil law
had nothing to do with belief or unbelief; and the apostle was no determiner of civil questions. The answer which he returns is such as supposes the enquiry to have respected religious right. He sanctions the continuance of the connexion, though one be an unbeliev
He says it is made religiously right, by the faith of the other. If it were not, if the connexion were criminal, in a religious sense, the issue of it would stand just where the children of the idolatrous world do, in an uncovenanted state. As it is, the children are holy. They are like the offspring of Israel, born to God. For his people cannot be deprived of the blessing, by the unbelief of their connexions. Upon the whole, the evasion is frivolous, and shews the des. perate state of the cause it was invented to support.
But our Baptist brethren tell us, our construction is embarrassed with insuperable difficulty, from the
application of the term sanctified to the unbelieving parent. They say, if holy, (ayioi) involves church membership, as applied to infants, sanctified, (nyiuolai) as applied to the unbelieving husband, must signify the same thing with respect to him. If the consequence follow, be it so. There is no evading the premise. But the consequence is denied. We cannot determine the force of a verb, when applied to a particuular object, from the force of an adjective, when applied to a very different object, though derived from the same root. The verb does not characterize. The adjective does. The verb merely expresses an action which passes from the agent to the object. Though in a passive form, it expresses an effect only, which effect may not extend to character. Let it be suppos. ed that by sanctified, is meant dedicated ; let it be supposed moreover, that there is an instrumental agency on the part of the believing wife, or a natural tendency in her piety, to make the husband a religious man; a character is not given. Though therefore, it be admitted that an agency is expressed by the verb, corresponding with the character given by the adjective, there is no concluding from the one to the other. The
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 Ju:dea, continued to practice circumcision upon their in. fant 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 sourçes. 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 keepest 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