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posed, we should naturally conclude, that they must of course be viewed as subjects of discipline. The church of Christ, like every other community, must be supposed to have authority over its members, and if children are members in consequence of their baptism, it is reasonable to suppose, that they are subjects of discipline, whenever they conduct in a manner unworthy of a standing in the church.
Will it be said, that they are members of the church, but not in the same sense with believing adults? We readily admit, that from the very nature of the case, it is impossible they should be members in all respects, as believing adults are members; young children are not capable of enjoying all the outward privileges which adults enjoy; nevertheless, if they are members of the church, they will of course be entitled to all the privileges of membership, which their capacities qualify them for enjoying, and after a few more years have passed over their heads, they may have, and actually will have that degree of knowledge and that enlargement of capacities, which shall render them capable of sharing in all the outward privileges of the kingdom of Christ. On the principle, that they are members in virtue of their baptism, why should they not be permitted, if they choose, and be required, if they decline to share in these privileges ? Will it be said, that they are not qualified to come to the ordinance of the Supper, and to take an active part in the transactions of the church, and that on this account they are not required to adopt this course ? If so, then, it follows, that the church has one class, and that a very large class of members, who are disqualified for, and who are not allowed, in case they desire it, nor required, in case they decline it, to share in the peculiar privileges of Christ's kingdom. This principle is a virtual denial of their membership, for although it supposes them members, it neither subjects them to discipline as members, nor admits them to the enjoyment of the privileges and rights of membership. It, therefore, tends directly to undermine the order of Christ's house, as it leaves a large class of members without the government of the church. On the principle, that baptism renders them members, consistency demands, as well as the order and peace of the church, that, as they arrive at years of discretion, they should be required to come to the ordinance of the sacrament, and in case of their refusal, be subject to censure, and in case of immorality of conduct, be cut off from the church. It is not easy to see how they can be regarded, as members, and yet not be subject to discipline, as members. Membership secures privileges, or it does not: if it secures no privileges, it is no membership ; and if baptized children are left without discipline, and are prohibited coming to the sacrament, their membership is in fact no membership, whatever it may be in name.
Very few will be willing to adopt that course, which consistency requires, on the principle that they are members. The course is this; to deal with them, as members, as soon as their age will justify the procedure, and if they do not conform to the order and discipline of Christ's house, cut them off or excommunicate them. It is obvi
ous, that this course would be attended with insuperable difficulties, and in the issue rend the church in pieces. The membership of infant children is attended with difficulties in almost every view which can be taken of the subject; and it is a fact, that so far as our information extends, nearly all who contend for their membership, do in practice renounce it.
It is alleged by some, that those children are born in the church, and are of course members by birth: just as a person born in the State of Connecticut, is an inhabitant of the State. But if children are members in consequence of their birth, their membership commences prior to baptism, and consequently baptismu does not constitute them members.
The late President Dwight, whose opinions on every subject are entitled to respectful attention, has given, as he supposed, a view of this subject, which obviates the difficulties attending it. He is one of those who regard them as members in consequence of their baptism ; yet, to avoid the difficulties, which have been sucrerested, as it would seem, he inakes them members, not of the particular churches, in which they were baptized, but of the church general. His language is—"they are members of the church of Christ:" i.e. “ of the church in general.” This illustration is, to our mind, involved in obscurity. With respectful deference to the opinions of the late President, we ask what does he intend by the church in general ? Does he intend the whole number of real believers in the world? i. e. the invisible kingdom of Christ on the earth ? or does he intend the visible kingdom of Christ, including the whole number of visible believers on the earth? If the former be intended, it surely cannot be supposed that all baptized children belong to it. To suppose them members of the church general in this sense, is to suppose them all, without exception, the subjects of faith in Christ. And no one will say, we have evidence to warrant us in adopting this supposition.
We adopt then the other construction, that, by the church in general, he intended visible believers, or the external kingdom of Christ on the earth. In this sense, the church general includes all the individual churches of Christ on the earth. Now, if baptized children are not members of the particular churches, in which they are baptized, how hare they come into the church general ? Not through particular churches, for on the very supposition, they are not members of particular churches, nor were they ever members of those churches. The cases which Dr. Dwight has proposed for illustration, do not, in our view, appear to be parallel. We will use his own words, speaking of baptized children, he says, “ They are members, in the same sense, in which the Eunuch was a member; in which those dismissed in good standing, and not yet united to other churches are members ; in which men lawfully ordained are ministers of the church ; in which adults after their profession and baptism are members, antecedently to their union with particular churches.”—(Dwight's Theol. vol. v. p. 298.) But is there not a manifest difference between the state of infant children and that of these persons? In these several cases, the individuals supposed, have
come into the church, by their own profession. The Eunuch was baptized in virtue of his own voluntary confession, and came into the church voluntarily : They, who have been dismissed and recommended to other churches, came in through the particular churches, to which they were at first united by their own free consent ; and it is questionable whether they ought not to be regarded, as members of these churches, until they are in fact united with other churches. Ministers obtained their membership through different individual churches and by voluntary profession, and notwithstanding they are made officers in the church, they are still amenable either directly or indirectly to the church. In all these cases, the persons must be viewed as liable to discipline in some manner in the church. Now in fant children do not become members by voluntary profession; of course, if they are members, their membership is obtained inroluntarily. There is, therefore, a wide difference between their membership and that of persons in the above specified cases. But, if they are rendered members involuntarily, and are in the same state with those, who have become members by voluntary profession, why should they be required to make a voluntary profession, in order to enjoy the privileges of inembership. The fact, that they are required to do this, is proof that baptism has not rendered them members. Involuntary membership is, in fact, no membership, until the subjects recognize the obligations of it in a voluntary profession. It is not easy to see how persons can belong to a kingdom, in which the allegiance of the subjects is voluntary, without their own consent. In the covenant of grace, there is a voluntary engagement on the part of those, who enter into it. But infants, as dedicated to God in baptism, have not made this engagement ; nor are they capable of making it. (We do not mean, that they are incapable of sanctification. We admit their moral agency-but we are contemplating them in relation to the visible terins of the covenant.) Will it be said, that their parents have made this engagement for them ? It is readily granted, that they are brought into a certain relation to the church, through the medium of their parents. Their parents are in the church, and in virtue of the membership of one or both their parents, they have been baptized. They may be sanctified and saved, or they may not be. Their relation to believing parents, by whom they are dedicated to God in baptism, does not of course secure their salvation; nor does it, so far as appears, secure them a standing in the visible church of Christ. It is clear, that they stand in a different relation to the church from unbaptized children, and that baptisın secures to them priviliges, which are not secured to unbaptized children. They stand related to the church through or by their parents. And all the instruction which the church can give them is either through their parents or with their consent; and all the discipline which it is in the power of the church to exercise over them is through their parents. Parents are under covenant obligation to educate them religiously, to restrain and govern them, to pray for them, and to use all the means of grace with them, appointed for their sanctification. If parents are negligent in their duty, the church have authorty to employ all becoming means to instruct parents into a knowledge of their duty, and to influence them to fidelity in the discharge of it. But, if such children, on arriving at years of discretion, give no evidence of piety, and evince no respect for what their parents did for them in dedicating them to God in baptism, or if they should prove notoriously profiigate, what authority has the church a right to exercise over them? or what, that it can exercise ?—Let those, who contend for their membership in the church define the extent of authority, which the church can exercise in this case, and the manner in which it should be exercised. Until this is done in a manner more satisfactory than we have yet seen, we shall remain of the opinion, that baptisin does not secure to them a standing in the church.
The question will then be asked, “ of what use to chililren is baptism ?"-In answer, it may be remarked, that the solidity of the ordinance depends on divine appointment, and is not to be determined by apparent utility or inutility to children. It will be agreed by all that it is not a saving ordinance, and whether baptized children will be saved or lost, depends not on the efficacy of baptism, but on the sovereign pleasure of God. Baptism secures to children a religious education, and does in this manner all that can be done instrumentally for their salvation. It is a seal of the covenant of grace, which God has made with their parents, and it brings them near to this covenant, and provides privileges for them without their consent, in great mercy to them, which they are at liberty to choose or to refuse. If they, on coming to years of discretion, piously choose the service of God, they will own Christ in a public profession, and voluntarily take the obligations on themselves, under which their parents solemnly devoted them to God in baptism. In this point of view, baptism secures for children all that their parents can do towards their salvation. And if baptism does this, can it be said in truth that it is an ordinance without profit to children 1-Is not a religious education of inestimable value to a child ?-Is it not of use to a child to enjoy all the means of grace which his condition and age render him capable of enjoying Or will it be said that believing parents would do all this without offering up their children in baptism, and that therefore the ordinance is useless ? This is calling in question the wisdom of God in appointing the ordinance. Has God required believing parents to make this dedication of their children to him, and to give this pledge of their fidelity to them? Who then will dare to say that parents would be as faithful without, as with this pledge ?-Who will thus arraign the wisdom of an ordinance divinely appointed ?
WOULD to heaven that the maxim “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” which sprung up among the men of old time, had passed away with that generation. We might naturally expect that such principles of conduct would be popular among the men who had never imbibed the peaceful spirit of the gospel. For, although common reason, if it were allowed its own prerogative, is sufficient to render most clear and palpable the impropriety and evil tendency of a spirit of retaliation; yet an acquaintance with the history of mankind and some knowledge of the current manners and customs of the world, force us to conclude that in this case, the loud and confident voice of reason is drowned in the single whisper of inward inclination. Men of the world have always cherished in their bosoms a revengeful viper, whose insatiate ranklings have alternately inflicted wounds on others and on themselves. Nothing so much as the uniform influence of this selfish principle, serves to identify human nature in every age, and to characterize the successive generations of men as belonging to the same family, and as of the same “father, whose works they will do."
Among barbarous nations, who know neither the refinements of human morality nor the virtues of the gospel of reconciliation, reprisal and revenge stalk abroad without dissimulation or restraint. And even in a civilized community, upon which the polishing hand of education has raised the gloss of politeness, and where many an example is found of christian forgiveness and long suffering charity, in the light of which the brazen face of selfishness is subdued, with shame, they still continue their ravages, by assuming the enchantments of ceremonious forms and auspicious names.
For man easily to imbibe and inveterately to retain an indignant sense of injury, is mean; and is devilish to meditate revenge. It inay be inferred, from the conduct of those who are so sensible to every real or imaginary infringement of that honour which they deem so inviolably delicate, in the first place, that they have not the spirit of Christ; and then, that their knowledge and ideas of things centre in themselves, and encircle them in a narrow sphere. For who that extends a liberal view abroad over the vast community of fellow beings that surrounds him, and sees that the true interests and pleasures of every one must be the same, and that they may and must be promoted in harmony, would not feel the impression, so natural and so just, that individual claims of self-gratification must not be extravagant, in order to be consistent with those of other inen; and that it is often best to relinquish some of one's own, though not inordinate, as a preservative of that balance in society which the avarice of others tends to destroy. Constantly to feel and express a sense of injuries received is therefore mean, because it bespeaks a person whose views are very erroneous or very limited in regard to his own importance in society, and the treatment which that importance entitles him to expect from those around him. And especially does it appear mean when beheld in contrast with that heavenly, that truly noble disposition, which “suffereth long, and is kind.”
But this is not all,—revenge is devilish. “ Vengeance belongeth unto the Lord. Vengeance is mine," saith God, “and I will repay it.” Now who is he that will not forgive his fellow mortal, and cannot assuage the pain that an injury has given, with aught but the gratification which full resentment brings; who meditates and ex