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CHRIST THE HEALING OF MANKIND.
He breathe into us the breath of life, as in our first, so in our second birth. This is the very law of our regeneration, whereby we are taken out from the first Adam, and incorporated into the second; whereby we are made “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones ;'* and are made partakers of His Incarnation, and of the virtues of healing, life, and resurrection, which go out of His flesh, which He gave " for the life of the world.”
* Eph. v. 30.
HOLINESS IN CHILDHOOD.
St. Luke ii. 40.
“And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom:
and the grace of God was upon Him."
If any proof were needed of the true and proper humanity of our blessed Lord, we should have it in these words. He was subject to the laws and conditions of our nature ; He was as truly a child as we have been ; He grew; He waxed strong in spirit ; He was endowed with gifts from His heavenly Father, being “filled with wisdom :" His understanding, reason, and conscience, were illuminated as ours; "the grace of God," the spirit of holiness, humility, love, “was upon Him.” This subjection of His person to the laws of human nature is again recorded where St. Luke says, He “came to Nazareth,” being about twelve years old, " and was subject unto them.” " And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” One of the earliest Fathers of the Church says, He came “not disdaining nor going in a way above human nature; nor breaking in His own person the law which He had set for mankind; but sanctifying every age by the likeness.it bears to Him. For He came to save all men by Himself,-all, I mean, who are by Him born again unto God,—infants, and little ones, and children, and youths, and those of older age. Therefore He went through the several ages; for the sake of infants being made an infant, sanctifying infants ; to little ones He was a little one, sanctifying those of that age, and giving them an example of godliness, righteousness, and dutiful subjection."*
In this passage we have many great truths recorded. One is the baptism of infants; another is the regeneration of infants baptized, in which assertion, without so much as naming it, their right to baptism is affirmed; and lastly, the parallel between the perfect holiness of our Lord in all ages from childhood, and the sanctity of those in whom the grace of regeneration has its true and perfect work.
There is evidently a correspondence, by way of analogy, between His miraculous conception and our regeneration through the Spirit. He took our natúre not by natural descent, but by a miracle ; we received, by supernatural operation in holy baptism, that thing which by nature we could not have.
Again : there is the same kind of analogy between the sanctity of our nature in His divine Person, and the sanctification of our person by the grace of our new birth. The sanctity of. His divine nature prevented in His humanity every motion of the reason, heart, and will. The whole inward nature of His human soul, with all its faculties, powers, affections, was filled and hallowed by the Godhead of the Eternal Word.
* 8. Iren. lib. öi €. 39.
And such, in measure and proportion, it is the design of God that our regenerate life should be. We were born again in infancy, when we were passive and unconscious, for this very end, that before we become conscious and active, the preventing grace of God might begin its work upon us. Baptismal regeneration is the very highest and most perfect form of the doctrine of God's free and sovereign grace, preventing all motions, and excluding all merit on our part. Strange that the jealousy which some profess for this great doctrine of the gospel does not make them of keener sight to discern it. If we were not passive and unconscious ; if our will had begun actively and consciously to unfold itself, and follow its own inclinations, we should become at once sinners in act, and the natural resistance of our hearts to the grace of God would be aggravated and confirmed. And this, in fact, we do see in unconverted heathen, and may believe of persons who have not received baptism, and of those who after baptism have sinned against the grace they have received. It is strange, I say, that they who rest all their theological system upon the sovereignty of God's grace should not perceive that its very highest and most perfect form is baptismal regeneration; and still stranger it is that, by a happy inconsistency, they act as if they had faith in that blessed truth which they profess not to believe; for we find that they universally address children with the words of divine truth, and set before them spiritual things, which can only be spiritually discerned. To do this without believing them to have received the preventing grace of God is simple Pelagianism, which such persons religiously abhor. I hardly know whether to say that they disbelieve it or no; for though they do not believe it, they so act as nothing but faith in it would make reasonable ; and that is much better. Their practice is more pious than their theory. Indeed, it is seldom found, that they do not believe the regeneration of their own children, or something equivalent to it, call it by what name you will. But although they may break the full effect of an imperfect belief, yet it is not possible to be wanting in it, or in any measure to withdraw the thankful trust of our hearts from that mystery of grace, without serious danger, great forfeitures of blessing, and sometimes lamentable evils; for without a real and active faith in the grace of regeneration, there can hardly be a true view of the nature of the regenerate life. Accordingly we find the same persons incredulous of the degree of illumination, conscientiousness, and self-government, of which children are capable. They treat them as imperfect beings, give them dangerous liberty, postpone the age of responsibility, make light of their early wildness, on the theory that it is inevitable, and may be recovered in after years. They suffer the development of childish faults, and let their characters grow distorted, and their gait, as it were, to become artificial and faulty.
Whatever may be said of the care and wise instruction of parents and teachers who have a defective faith in holy baptism, it must be self-evident that all their guidance and watchfulness would be made indefinitely more sensitive and vigilant, if they fully believed the great grace which God had bestowed upon their children. How highly the parental office is elevated by the thought that they are made the guardians of regenerate souls! That which is by nature so sacred, by faith how much more hallowed is it! There is committed to them not the one talent which nature gave, but the ten talents of God's kingdom. They are