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The ground upon which the first part of this plea stands, respects the incapacity of children to fulfil the conditions of the baptismal covenant.
But this argument, if it prove any thing in the case, proves too much. For if no persons are to be baptized who are incapable of fulfilling the conditions of baptism, our Saviour himself was, of all others, the most incapable of baptism. The baptism of John was a baptism unto repent
“ He came (we read) preaching the baptism of repentance for the remiffion of fins.” But our blessed Saviour had no sins to repent of. He was “the Lamb of God without spot.” On this account we find John refusing to baptize our Saviour, considering him an improper subject for the ordinance. “ I have need to be baptized of thee, (says the baptist) and comest thou to me;" But our SAVIOUR, by his answer, convinced him, that though he had no fins to repent of, yet some other end was to be answered by his being baptized. “Suffer it to be so now, (says CHRIST) for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Matt. iii. 15.
In like manner infants, though incapable of some of the ends of baptism, are not incapable of all. They cannot, it is true, make profession 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 fins 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 sort 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 feek 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 dispensation, still open to them under the Christian; as he gave his disciples to understand, by telling them to 66 suffer little children to come to him, for of such was the kingdom of God;" (or, as the meaning may be better expressed, 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 cases fail not to manifest a zeal for the maintenance of their children's privileges, should in this be so ready to give them up.
I would ask fuch parents a question-Do they think that their children, dying unbaptized, are capable of admission 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 just dependence) they will doubtless answer, Yes.
But persons who are capable of the greater, are certainly capable of the less, which is contained within it. If through Divine mercy, then, unbaptized children are capable of admission into the kingdom of God in heaven, they are surely capable, through the fame mercy, of admission into the
church, which is the kingdom of God on earth. If they are capable of receiving the fulness of Divine mercy in the possession of everlasting blessedness in heaven; where Christ has told us, “ their angels continually behold his Father's face,” (Matth. xviii:) they are surely capable of being admitted into that church membership, which was designed only as preparatory to it.
Although infants, therefore, should not suffer for the negligence, obstinacy, or self-opinion, of their parents; yet parents would do well to consider what may be the consequence to themselves, for shewing less attention to the spiritual condition of their children, than God has done; by straitening that covenant, which, in the original delivery of it, was expressly extended to them; and, in the Jewish church, fcrupulously continued to them. At the fame time they may remember, that though the child of Moses suffered no punishment for the delay of his circumcision, 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 admission of infants to baptism on account of incapacity, that the Jewish infants were admitted into the covenant by circumcision at eight
days old, by God's express command. That there is the same reason for infants of Christian parents to be admitted to baptism, is to be thus proved.
The covenant entered into by God with ABRAHAM (an account of which we have in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis) was, as St. Paul plainly tells us in the third chapter of Galatians, the Gospel cove
“ The scripture, (says the Apostle) foreseeing thát God would justify 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 shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." 6 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 say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in CHRIST; the law which was four hundred and -thirty years after cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." " From these words, which distinguish fo plainly between the covenant which God made with ABRAHAM, or the promise which he made unto him, and the law; it is evident, that the beginning of the Jewish church, purely considered as a church, is to be dated from