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offers a most favourable opportunity to admonish the parent for his unfaithfulness; to remind him that the renovation of his own heart is an object of greater importance to him than the baptism of his child; and to exhort him to seek, without delay, an interest. in the righteousness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; and then to come, and take hold of God's covenant on his own behalf, as well as on behalf of his child.*
But, if the parent still urges the baptism of his child, even though he is not permitted to make the dedication of it, what is to be done in such a case? The answer to this question, we conceive to be suggested, by asking another: What is to be done in the case of a child, whose parents were qualified to make the offering; but who were snatched away by death before they had an opportunity to present their child before the Lord in baptism? The church undoubtedly has a duty to perform in both these cases. She, as their mother, is to see to the bap→ tism of all children born within her pale: She is to present the child, whose parents are dead; and she, too, is to present the child, whose parents are unqualified to make the offering, especially when there is reason to believe that such parents will not interfere with the subsequent duties, which the church, as a
*This is what the General Synod calls withholding them for a time, that thus, if possible, the confessions and vows, at the baptism of their infants, may be made with knowledge, sincerity, and truth. See extract from Min. 1804.
mother, will owe this child, to bring it up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
. Cases of this kind will, however, be found to be of rare occurrence. Those who are destitute of true faith, and unqualified to offer up their children to God in baptism, we have every reason to suppose will commit such open sins, as will make it evident to all that they deserve to be cut off, and as will fully justify the officers of the church in passing upon them the sentence of excommunication.
But as some may think that it is carrying the matter too far, to assert that every person, who offers up a child in baptism, makes a public profession of religion, as much as he would if he were to come to the table of the Lord, it may be necessary, before we proceed any further, to establish our position.
1. Our first argument is drawn from the transaction itself. The promise "I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee," lies at the foundation of the baptismal rite. To this promise, the parent, at the baptism of his child, is supposed to respond, and to embrace the covenant, of which it is a prominent feature. This covenant cannot be partially embraced. The recognition and acknowledg ment of it may be hypocritical; but it must professedly be complete. That the parent, in offering up his child, acknowledges God as the God of his seed, is perceived at once. But he has no right to do so, while he leaves himself out of view. God never promised to be the God of the child, without being,
at the same time, and even previously, the God of the parent. The promise can only reach the child through the parent. In offering up a child in baptism, the parent, therefore, takes hold of the promise originally made to Abraham, and recognized by the Apostle Peter at the commencement of the gospel age: He assumes his own baptismal engagements, as well as vows for his child: He puts his own hand to God's covenant; and says openly, before God and his church, "God is my God, and God is the God of my seed." Now, you might just as well question, whether a man moves when he walks, or breathes while he lives, as to question whether he makes a profession of religion when he offers up his child in baptism.-He acknowledges God's covenant, or he does not. If he does not, he has no right to baptism; for baptism is secured only by this covenant. If he does, he publicly declares himself a member of God's church established by this covenant, and a professor of the true religion. The fact is, the whole transaction is significant, and proclaims an acknowledgment of the covenant of God; and a solemn consecration of both parent and child to his glory and service.
2. Our second argument, to prove that a person, in having a child baptized, makes a public profession of religion, is drawn from the FORM, used at the baptism of children among us. Cast your eye, in the first place, on the TITLE-"Form for the administration of baptism to the infants of believers." Now, who are believers? The church certainly
knows none as believers, but such as give her reason to view then in that light. There may be believers who are not professors; but the church does not know them. She can acknowledge those only as believers who make a credible profession of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. These she stiles believers, or faithful,* or beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ.t
Pass on now to the Form itself; and notice these words: "Whereas in all covenants there are contained two parts: Therefore are we by God, through baptism, admonished of, and obliged unto new obedience-viz. that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that we trust in him, and love him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, and with all our strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life."
To offer up a child in baptism is, then, to enter into covenant with God. In this covenant there are two parts: God's stipulation is the first part-" I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." The stipulation of the parent, on behalf of his child, is the second part: He is to cleave to the Triune God-to trust in him-to love him with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength;-he is to forsake the world, to crucify the flesh, and to walk in a new and holy life.
*See Conf. of Faith, art. xxxiv.
Address after the prayer.
What think you, reader. Is not this making a profession of religion? Could you promise more than this, if you were to approach the Redeemer's table? Would to God that all our communicants felt, from day to day, the binding power of such engagements, as parents make, when they offer up their children to God, in baptism!
3. We find a third argument in favour of our position, in the extract from the minutes of the General Synod of 1804, which I have already laid before you. If you turn back to that paper, you will find these words:" And lastly, where 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, that thus, if possible, the confession and vows, at the baptism of their infants, may be made with knowledge, sincerity, and truth.”
Here, then, the General Synod speak of a profession of faith, and again of a confession, made by those who have their children baptized, even though they have never come to the Lord's table; which, say they, is not the test for admitting infants to be baptized in the Reformed Dutch Church."
4. Finally; I argue from the case of the unbaptized adult. You understand perfectly, that such a man cannot be baptized, without making a credible profession of religion.-Now, I only ask, whether a man does less, when he has his child baptized, than