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into the Christian church, has neither the authority of fcripture, antiquity, or reason for its support, it consequently follows, that the example of Christ, in this case, was not meant to apply to his disciples.
But there is another and still more effential consideration belonging to this subject, which it is my duty to place before you.
Baptism is the seal of a covenant; a pledge, to assure the parties to whom it is applied, of the performance of those conditions, by which a gracious God has been pleased to bind himself to man. The affixing this seal God has made the peculiar office of his appointed ministers.
Now we know, that in all human covenants the size or shape of the seal, whether it be large or small, round or square, is a matter of no importance; the validity of it depending solely upon the character of the person who makes the impression. In a cafe where the affixing the seal is not the personal act of the contracting party, should the person who undertakes to do it, not be authorized to represent that party,
the fignature becomes ineffectual; and the covenant into which this self-appointed representative has presumed to enter, of course not binding. Apply this to the subject of baptism, and the conclusion, it is presumed, will
be, that it is not a matter of so much consequence, where baptism is administered, as by whom ; and that the baptism in the church is valid, not on account of the particular form in which it is administered, but because those who administer it, have received a commission to bind the contracting party; and that the baptism out of the church, whether the service be performed in a river or elsewhere, is not so, for the opposite reason.
Much more might be faid, and has been faid upon this subject at different times; though, alas! with little effect; because men wedded to an opinion, however ill-founded, are seldom in a disposition to be convinced; the best arguments appearing weak and unfatisfactory, when opposed to inveterate prejudices.
Indeed, when I consider the liberal nature of the Gospel covenant, the general tenour of the Apostolic commission, and the universal practice of the primitive church consequent thereupon, I cannot tell where to find ground for a dispute upon this subject. But when I consider the nature of man, together with the many absurdities which have at different times found their strenuous advocates in the church; I am surprised at no conclusion that may be drawn by a being, who, as the world now goes, claims a right of judging absolutely for himself in all religious matters: because zeal being a much more common thing than knowledge, it must often happen, even upon the most charitable construction, that sincerity and error will be so intimately blended together, that justly to discriminate between them will surpass the common powers of the human mind. *
* A learned and elaborate investigation of this general subject, the reader will find in “ the History of Infant Baptism,” by the Rev.W. Wall. For the manner in which this subject, as applicable to our present purpose has been handled in the foregoing Chapter, the reader will find abundant authority in “ the Case of Infant Baptism” above referred to; written by that most learned divine and ornament of the Church of England, the Rev. G. HIÇKE$, D.D.
On LIBERTY of CONSCIENCE.
O the pleas already advanced in justification of
separation from the church, may be added those general ones which respect the hacknied fubjects of liberty of conscience, toleration, and the right of private judgment in religious matters; upon each of which it may be necessary to say a few words: because vulgar errors of some magnitude have been attached to these popular phrases, which have led many well-meaning people to dangerous conclusions. And the history of this country in particular proves, that it is a matter of importance to prevent people from running away with words; because there is a certain unaccountable magick in the sound of some words, which operates beyond what can be reasonably accounted for: the ill effect of which, upon minds unqualified to discriminate, it is always difficult, fometimes impossible, to counteract. ,