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Heaps his foulest reproaches upon them; and threa-tens, on account of the obnoxiousness of their doctrines, to destroy and consume the catechism, and other standards, of the very church, in which he claims membership for himself and children! This certainly betrays so much duplicity, dishonesty, falsehood, and perjury, that we would suppose a very small degree of regard for a man's own reputation would induce him, after making such acknowledgments, and promises at the baptism of his child, to hold his peace for ever on the subject. But, whether a man will publish his own disgrace or not; the fact being ascertained, the church can hold no parley with him. The case requires prompt and decided attention; and it is sufficient to tell such a man-You are the advocate of doctrines, which God's word, and God's church, declare to be false and heretical: You have broken the covenant, and forfeited your standing, and your claim on its privileges.'
But it has been asserted, that a wicked life is the greatest of all heresies.' Without enquiring into the correctness of this assertion, I will observe, that immorality, or an unholy life, is a manifest violation of baptismal obligations; and the person so offending has unquestionably forfeited his standing, as a member of God's visible church. Baptized persons, who, as they grow up, betray an utter disregard for the authority, the Sabbath, and the worship of God; who indulge themselves (as is too much the case with the young among us,) in almost every descrip
tion of folly, of dissipation, and of sin; who are guilty of profaneness, of intemperance, of gambling, and uncleanness; certainly give distressing evidence that they have broken through the bonds of the covenant; and that the church is fully justifiable in treating them as strangers and foreigners. Such speak not the language of Canaan, but the language of Ashdod. The grand term of the covenant is, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect."
I adventure not, let me assure you, on uncertain or untenable ground, when, in order to bring these remarks to a close, I assert, that the same love of truth, and the same correctness of conduct, are required from a baptized person, to retain his standing in the visible church, which are required from at communicant to retain his standing. Certainly nothing less than this would be required from the parent, if he were unbaptized to gain admission into the church; and as the child must derive its right from the immediate parent, nothing less than this can maintain the standing, which a baptized parent is acknowledged to have, and give to his child a right to baptism.
You have bound me to be subordinate to the Judicatories of the Reformed Dutch Church; and you have promised to submit to their authority yourselves. The highest court in the Dutch Church is the General Synod : let us hear her decision on the subject under consideration; and let us receive the law from her mouth. At the Session of the General
Synod, in 1804,* the following report was received, and adopted; viz.
"1. That the right or privilege of infant baptism does not rest upon what is called full communion, nor is the partaking of the Lord's supper by one or both of the parents, an indispensable test, for admitting infants to be baptized in the Reformed Dutch Church.
"2. That, in avoiding one extreme, which straitens admission into the church of Christ, by making a test not commanded in the word of God, it is necessary to watch against the opposite evil, which makes no distinction between the pure and the vile and which, by an indiscriminate administration to all who apply, relaxes Christian discipline, and prosti-: tutes the sacred ordinance of baptism: The Gentral Synod, therefore recommend and enjoin, that when both the parents openly profess such errors or heresies; or are chargeable with such immoralities, and improper conduct, as ought, if they were in full communion, to exclude them from the table of the Lord; they shall not, during such apostacy, in doctrines or manners, be permitted to present their infants to baptism but shall be denied that privilege, until they profess repentance, and shew amendment. When one of the parents shall be thus guilty, and the other is a decent and peaceable professor of the religion of Jesus Christ, the infant shall be baptized at the request, and upon the right of the professing pa*See Appendix to Minutes of 1814, p. 69.
rent; who alone shall stand, and present the child. And lastly; when the minister, and one or more of the elders, find great ignorance in the parents, and such a want of knowledge, in the first principles of our holy religion, as to render them unfit to make a public profession of their faith; it shall be their duty to withhold them for a time, notwithstanding their decent moral conduct and profession, and frequently and affectionately instruct them previous to their admission to the ordinance, that thus, if possible, the confessions and vows, at the baptism of their infants, may be made with knowledge, sincerity, and truth."
This is substantially all that General Synods have ever done in relation to the subject, so far as I can ascertain from their minutes; unless it be to require from parents, who apply for the baptism of their children, more full and satisfactory evidences of faith and piety, than were supposed to be required by the resolution of 1804. In- the minutes of 1814, p. 39, minutes of 1816, p. 24. and minutes of 1817, pp. 24, 26, you will find all their proceedings in relation to this subject. The whole result of which, is this: That, although partaking of the Lord's supper, by one or both the parents, is not an indispensable test for admitting infants to be baptized; yet it is required of the parents, that they know and embrace the truth-that their practice be moral and exemplaryund that, when they come to offer up a child, as that is an act which calls for the exercise of faith, they be able to give evidence that they possess such faith.
The Dutch Church proceeds on consistent principles. She dares not deny her own seal: But re cognizes as members all baptized persons, who love the truth, and make a practical acknowledgement of the authority of Jesus Christ.
Such she dares not denounce as apostates. Neither can she, in the legitimate exercise of discipline, cut off such as are not guilty of the overtacts of wickedness.
The application of such parents, or of one parent sustaining such character, is not to be resisted; especially if the applicant be able, in addition to soundness in doctrine and correctness in practice, to satisfy the officers of the church that he is prepared to put his hand, in faith, to God's covenant-to assume his own baptismal engagements, as well as vow for his child; and, in one word, to make a full and public profession of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That every parent, who presents a child before the Lord in baptism, does make such a public profession of religion, I purpose to shew hereafter. It will however, previously, be necessary to enquire in what way, or by whose act, unfaithful and apostate baptized members are to be deprived of their standing in the church, and excluded from the ordinance of baptism for their children.-This will claim our next attention.