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The ground upon which the first part of this plea ftands, refpects the incapacity of children to fulfil the conditions of the baptismal covenant.
But this argument, if it prove any thing in the cafe, proves too much. For if no perfons are to be baptized who are incapable of fulfilling the conditions of baptism, our SAVIOUR himself was, of all others, the most incapable of baptifm.
The baptifm of JOHN was a baptifm unto repentance. "He came (we read) preaching the baptifm of repentance for the remiffion of fins." But our bleffed SAVIOUR had no fins to repent of. He was "the Lamb of GOD without fpot." On this account we find JOHN refusing to baptize our Saviour, confidering him an improper fubject for the ordinance. "I have need to be baptized of thee, (fays the baptift) and comeft thou to me;" But our SAVIOUR, by his anfwer, convinced him, that though he had no fins to repent of, yet some other end was to be anfwered by his being baptized. "Suffer it to be fo now, (fays CHRIST) for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousnefs." Matt. iii. 15.
In like manner infants, though incapable of fome of the ends of baptifm, are not incapable of all. They cannot, it is true, make profeffion either of
their faith or repentance; because they cannot understand what is meant by the one, nor are they in want of the other; having no actual sins to repent of. But, as infants, they are capable of receiving a sign of God's grace and favour. They are capable, for instance, of being admitted into the communion of the Christian church, and of having the privileges of the Gospel covenant consigned to them; although they are too young to understand the nature of that covenant, or perform the duties enjoined upon its members. In a word, they are capable of being washed from their original corruption, and of receiving the sign of their restoration to God's grace; though they may not at the time be capable of understanding the condition upon which it is suspended.
And if God has been pleased to regard the offspring of believing parents as holy from their birth, (as the Apostle hath plainly told us, 1 Cor. vii. 12) and thereby given them a present interest in, and fort of hereditary right to, those means which Christ appointed for the sanctification of his church; ought we not rather to rejoice, that God's covenant of mercy to man is bestowed with a latitude extending to persons of all ages, than seek to set limits to Divine goodness, by restraining it within the narrow
bounds of our own uncharitable prejudices? If CHRIST was pleased to leave the door of his church, which was open to children under the Jewish difpenfation, still open to them under the Christian; as he gave his disciples to understand, by telling them to "fuffer little children to come to him, for of fuch was the kingdom of GoD;" (or, as the meaning may be better expreffed, for theirs is the kingdom of GOD, or the kingdom of GOD belongs to them;) it feems an unaccountable infatuation, that parents, who in all other cafes fail not to manifeft a zeal for the maintenance of their children's privileges, fhould in this be fo ready to give them up.
I would ask fuch parents a question-Do they think that their children, dying unbaptized, are capable of admiffion into the kingdom of heaven? Relying on the mercy of GOD, (though uncovenanted mercy is all upon which they can, in this instance, place any juft dependence) they will doubtless answer, Yes. But perfons who are capable of the greater, are certainly capable of the lefs, which is contained within it. If through Divine mercy, then, unbaptized children are capable of admiffion into the kingdom of GOD in heaven, they are furely capable, through the fame mercy, of admiffion into the
church, which is the kingdom of GOD on earth. If they are capable of receiving the fulness of Divine mercy in the poffeffion of everlasting bleffedness in heaven; where CHRIST has told us, "their angels continually behold his Father's face," (Matth. xviii.) they are furely capable of being admitted into that church membership, which was defigned only as preparatory to it.
Although infants, therefore, fhould not fuffer for the negligence, obftinacy, or self-opinion, of their parents; yet parents would do well to confider what may be the confequence to themselves, for fhewing lefs attention to the fpiritual condition of their children, than GOD has done; by ftraitening that covenant, which, in the original delivery of it, was exprefsly extended to them; and, in the Jewish church, fcrupulously continued to them. At the fame time they may remember, that though the child of Mofes fuffered no punishment for the delay of his circumcifion, yet the father (as we read Exodus iv. 24) very narrowly escaped it on a memorable occafion.
But it may be observed further, in answer to thofe who object to the admiffion of infants to baptifm on ' account of incapacity, that the Jewish infants were admitted into the covenant by circumcifion at eight
days old, by GoD's exprefs command. That there is the fatne reason for infants of Christian parents to be admitted to baptifm, is to be thus proved.
The covenant entered into by GOD with ABRAHAM (an account of which we have in the feventeenth chapter of Genesis) was, as ST. PAUL plainly tells us in the third chapter of Galatians, the Gofpel cove"The fcripture, (fays the Apostle) foreseeing that GOD would juftify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel to Abraham," delivered beforehand the glad-tidings of that event to ABRAHAM in the following words: "In thee fhall all the nations of the earth be bleffed." "Now to ABRAHAM and his feed were the promises made. He faith not, And to feeds, as of many; but as of one: And to thy feed, which is CHRIST. This I fay, that the .covenant that was confirmed before of GOD in CHRIST; the law which was four hundred and thirty years after cannot difannul, that it fhould make the promise of none effect." "From these words, which diftinguish fo plainly between the covenant which GOD made with ABRAHAM, or the promife which he made unto him, and the law; it is evident, that the beginning of the Jewish church, purely confidered as a church, is to be dated from