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but only of a relatiye and convenanted holiness, by virtue of which, being born of believing parents, themselves are accounted in the number of believers, and are therefore called holy children under the gospel, in the same sense that the people of Israel were called a holy people under the law, as being all within the covenant of grace, which, through the faith of their parents, is thus sealed to them in their baptism.
Not that I think it necessary that all parents should be endued with what we call a saving faith to entitle their children to these privileges, for, then, none but the children of such who have the Spirit of Christ truly implanted in them would be qualified to partake of the covenant; but even such, who, by an outward historical faith, have taken the name of Christ upon them, are by that means in covenant with God, and so accounted holy in respect of their profession, whatever they may be in point of practice. And if they are themselves holy, it follows of course that their children must be so too, they being esteemed as parts of their parents, till made distinct members in the body of Christ, or, at least, till they come to the use of their reason and the improvement of their natural abilities.
And, therefore, though the seal be changed, yet the covenant-privileges, wherewith the parties stipulating unto God were before invested, are no whit altered or diminished; believers' children being as really confederates with their parents in the covenant of grace now, as they were before under the Jewish administration of it. And this seems to be altogether necessary; for otherwise infants should be invested with privileges under the type, and be deprived of or excluded from them under the more perfect accomplishment of the same covenant in the thing typified; and so the dispensations of God's grace would be more strait and narrow since, than they were before, the coming of our Saviour; which I look upon to be no less than blasphemy to assert.
And upon this ground I believe it is as really the duty of Christians to baptize their children now, as ever it was the duty of the Israelites to circumcise theirs; and therefore St. Peter's question, Can any man forbid wa
ter, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? may very properly be applied to this case. Can any one forbid water, that children should not be baptized, who are in covenant with the most high God as well as we? For what is it, I pray, that the right to baptism doth depend upon ? Surely not upon performing the conditions of the covenant; for then none should be baptized but such as are true believers in themselves, and known to be so by us, and, by consequence, none at all; it being only God's prerogative to search their hearts, and to know the truth of that grace which himself hath been pleased to bestow upon them. But children's right to baptism is grounded upon the outward profession of their believing parents; so that as a king may be crowned in his cradle, not because he is able to wield the sceptre or manage the affairs of his kingdom, but because he is heir to his father, so here children are not therefore baptized because they are able to perform the conditions of the covenant which is sealed to them, but because they are children to believing parents. And this seems to be yet farther evident from the very nature of seals, which are not administered or annexed to any covenant because the conditions are already performed, but rather that they may be performed; and so children are not baptized, because they are already true Christians, but that they may be so hereafter.
As for a command for infant-baptism, I believe that the same law, that enjoined circumcision to the Jewish, enjoins baptism likewise to Christian children, there being the same reason for both. The reason why the Jewish children were to be circumcised was, because they were Jewish children, born of such as professed the true worship of God and were in covenant with him; and there is the same reason why Christian children are to be baptized, even because they are Christian children, born of such as profess the true worship of the same God, and are confederates in the same covenant with the Jews themselves. And as there is the same reason, so likewise the same end for both, namely, that the children might be actually admitted into the same covenant with their Div. No. I.
parents, and have it visibly confirmed to them by this initiating seal put upon them; so that circumcision and baptism are not two distinct seals, but the same seal diversely applied; the one being but as a type of the other, and so to give place to it whensoever, by the institution of Christ, it should be brought into the church of God. And, therefore, the command for initiating children into the Church by baptism remains still in force, though circumcision, which was the type and shadow of it, be done away. And for this reason I believe, that was there never a command in the New Testament for infant-baptism, yet, seeing there is one for circumcision in the Old, and for baptism as coming into the place of it in the New, I should look upon baptism as necessarily to be applied to infants now, as circumcision was then.
But why should it be supposed that there is no command in the New Testament for infant-baptism? There are several texts that seem to imply its being practised in the first preaching of the gospel, as particularly in the case of Lydia and the keeper of the prison, who had their whole families baptized. And we no where find that children were excepted; on the contrary, St. Peter, exhorting the converted Jews to be baptized, makes use of this argument to bring them to it, For the promise, says he, is unto you and to your children, which may as reasonably be understood of their infants, as of their adult posterity. But, besides, it was the express command of Christ to his disciples, that they should go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The meaning of which words I take to be this-Go ye and preach the gospel amongst all nations, and endeavour thereby to bring them over to the embracing of it; that, leaving all Jewish ceremonies and heathenish idolatries, they may profess my name and become my disciples, receive the truth and follow me; which if they do, I charge you to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:" for the word μaηreúσare doth not signify to teach, but to make disciples, denoting the same here, that μαθητὰς ποιεῖν doth upon a like occasion, John iv, 1. And this is the sense that all the ancient translations
agree in; nor indeed will the text itself bear any other, especially, not that of teaching; for though the apostles should have taught all nations, yet they were not presently to baptize them, unless they became disciples and professors of the doctrine that they were taught. A man may be taught the doctrine of the gospel, and yet not believe it; and even though he should believe, yet unless he openly professes his faith in it, he ought not presently to be baptized; for without this outward profession, the very possessing of Christ cannot entitle a man to this privilege before men, though it doth before God, because we cannot know how any one stands affected towards Christ, but only by his outward profession of him. It is the inward possession of Christ's person that entitles us to the inward spiritual grace; but it is the outward profession of his name only that entitles us to the outward visible sign in baptism; so that a man must of necessity be a professed disciple of the gospel, before he can be admitted into the church of Christ. And hence it is, that the words must necessarily be understood of discipling or bringing the nations over to the profession of the Christian religion; or else we must suppose, what ought not to be granted, that our Saviour must command many, that were visible enemies to his cross, to be received into his church; for many of the Jews were taught and instructed in the doctrine of the gospel, who, notwithstanding, were inveterate enemies unto Christ. They were taught, that he was the Messiah and Saviour of the world, and that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, and they had all the reason in the world to be convinced of it: yet, I hope, there is none will say, that the bare knowledge of, or tacit assent unto, these things is a sufficient ground for their reception into the Church.
Now, as it was in the Jewish church, when any one became a proselyte, not only himself, but whatsoever children he afterwards had, were to be circumcised, so in the church of Christ-whensoever any person is brought over into the profession of the Christian religion, his seed are all equally invested with the outward privileges of it with himself, though they be not as yet come to years
of discretion, nor able of themselves to make their profession of that religion they are to be received and baptized into. For so long as children are in their infancy, they are, as I before observed, looked upon as parts of their parents, and are therefore accounted holy by the outward profession which their parents, under whom they are comprehended, make of it; and in this sense, the unbelieving husband is said to be sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband; that is, man and wife being made one flesh, they are denominated from the better part holy, and so are their children too.
And hence it is that I verily believe, that in the commission which our Saviour gave to his apostles to disciple and baptize all nations, he meant that they should preach the gospel in all nations, and thereby bring over all persons of understanding and discretion to the profession of his name, and in them their children; and so ingraft both root and branch into himself, the true vine, by baptizing both parents and children in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The main objection against this is, that infants are not in a capacity either to learn and understand their duty in this covenant, or to stipulate and promise for their future performance of the conditions of it. But this difficulty is easily removed, when I consider, that it is not by virtue of their own faith or knowledge, but that of their parents, that they are admitted to this sacrament; nor is it required that they should stipulate or promise in their own persons, but by their godfathers or sponsors, who enter into this engagement for them, and oblige them, when they come of age, to take it upon themselves; which accordingly they do. And this engagement by proxy does as effectually bind them to the performance of the conditions, as if they were actually in a capacity to have stipulated for themselves, or sealed the covenant in their own persons; for these spiritual signs or seals are not designed to make God's word surer to us, but only to make our faith stronger in him; nor are they of the substance of the covenant, but only for the better confirmation of it,