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And I wish you distinctly to understand, that the question, now to be considered, is not whether all infants have a right to baptism? This, no one, so far as I know, contends for. The children of Jews, Pagans, Mahometans, &c. while the parents continue such, have manifestly no title to this holy institution. The simple question now before us is this: Have any children whatever a right to the ordinance of baptism? On this question, we take the affirmative; and rest our cause on the following consider
1. We contend, that children have a right to the ordinance of baptism, in virtue of the covenant made with Abraham, the father of the faithful. This is the first argument suggested in our Heidelbergh Catechism (section 27,) in support of infant baptism. "They, as well as adults, are included in the covenant and church of God."
Of the covenant made with Abraham, and in him, with the church, and of the interest of the "iniant seed" in that covenant, we have a full and distinct account in the xviith chapter of Genesis, as we noticed in our ivth letter.
To refresh your memories, and place this argument in its full force before you, we will repeat so much of that interesting chapter as has immediate bearing on the point now under consideration. "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.Thou shalt keep my
covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee, in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee: Every man-child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you; every man-child in your generations: He that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised. And my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man-child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people: he hath broken my covenant." 7-14.
Here the interest of infants in the covenant, made with Abraham, and in the church, established in his family, is unequivocally asserted ; and the badge of church-membership expressly enjoined to be put upon them, by divine command. Here the right of infants to the seal of the covenant, because they are embraced in that covenant, is, by the declaration of scripture, rendered incontrovertible.
Intelligent Baptists will not undertake to deny this. They themselves must acknowledge, that, under the old testament dispensation, God invested children with the privilege of church-membership; and directed that this privilege should be sealed to them by the ordinance of circumcision.
This right of infants to the seal of the covenant, which Baptists must acknowledge to have been valid under the old testament dispensation, we contend must continue valid, unless the covenant made with Abraham, securing to children that right, has been abrogated: or unless the church, under the gospel dispensation, be a different church from that among the Jews. Both these suppositions will, upon examination, be found to be unscriptural.
1. The covenant made with Abraham, investing children with the right of church-membership, has not been abrogated. This is evident from the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost. On that auspicious, eventful day, being the very commencement of the gospel dispensation, that Apostle recognized the Abrahamic covenant as in full force and operation; and, addressing the converts, recited to them a part of that gracious transaction. "The promise is to you, and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call:"* That is, As in the days of Abraham, so now, God is the covenant God of believers, and also of their children; and that not only among the Jews, but also among the Gentiles: Such as are now afar off; sinners, not of the Jews, but of the Gentiles-" even as many as the Lord our God shall call." These all, when called, shall be acknowledged, with their children, as the special property of the Most High, and the spiritual descendants of faithful Abraham.'
Acts ii. 39.
This covenant is, then, still in force. And now, we ask, how the right of infants to the seal of membership has been extinguished? The privilege of church-membership was originally conferred on children, by the Great Head of the Church. He alone, therefore, has authority to abrogate that right. And we now call for the evidence of such abrogation of privilege. We now ask for positive command, so confidently spoken of in this controversy? We ask for a thus saith the Lord? When or where was the right of children to a place in the church and covenant of God taken away? Where is the countermand recorded? On what page of the Bible is it to be found? Let us be convinced of this: Let us hear God saying in his word-Infants are no longer members of my church: I revoke the privilege which I conferred upon them in the days of Abraham." Let us hear this, and we have done.
We drop the weapons, and leave the field of controversy: or, rather, we unite our force, with that of the opposers of infant baptism, and arm ourselves for the exclusion of infants, from a privilege to which they are no longer entitled.
But, reader, depend upon it, it is impossible to find such a countermand. God has never abrogated the church-membership of infants. They are still members of the church; and must be members of the gospel church, unless the gospel church be a different church from that among the Jews?
2. This is the second supposition we have stated ;
and this, upon investigation, will be found to be as erroneous as the former.
That the church is now under a different dispensation, that she has undergone a change, as it respects the forms and ordinances of worship,-is acknowledged by all. But change of dispensation, and of the externals of religion, cannot effect the existence of the church, nor destroy her identity? The church is one; and remains essentially the same, under every dispensation. This is the doctrine of Paul, in the xith chapter of his Epistle to the Romans; where he tells us, that the unbelieving Jews, as unfruitful branches, were broken off; and that the believing Gentiles were grafted into the same stock, from which these Jews had been broken off. Yea; he further asserts, that the Jews themselves will, at some future day, be grafted in again into their own olive tree: that is, they will belong to the very same church, from which they were formerly ejected. The gospel church, and the Jewish church, according to this statement of the Apostle, must be essentially one and the same church, built, as he elsewhere expresses it, "upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."*
To conclude this argument: The covenant made with Abraham, by which children are invested with the right of church-membership, is to this day in force; and the church is essentially the same now * Eph. ii. 20.