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into the Christian church, has neither the authority of fcripture, antiquity, or reafon for its fupport, it confequently follows, that the example of CHRIST, in this cafe, was not meant to apply to his difciples. But there is another and ftill more effential confideration belonging to this fubject, which it is my duty to place before
Baptism is the feal of a covenant; a pledge, to affure the parties to whom it is applied, of the formance of thofe conditions, by which a gracious God has been pleased to bind himself to man. The affixing this feal GOD has made the peculiar office of his appointed minifters.
Now we know, that in all human covenants the fize or shape of the feal, whether it be large or small, round or fquare, is a matter of no importance; the validity of it depending folely upon the character of the person who makes the impreffion. In a cafe where the affixing the feal is not the perfonal act of the contracting party, fhould the person who undertakes to do it, not be authorized to represent that party, the fignature becomes ineffectual; and the covenant into which this felf-appointed reprefentative has prefumed to enter, of course not binding. Apply this to the fubject of baptifm, and the conclufion, it is prefumed, will
be, that it is not a matter of fo much confequence, where baptism is administered, as by whom; and that the baptifm in the church is valid, not on account of the particular form in which it is administered, but because those who adminifter it, have received a commiffion to bind the contracting party; and that the baptifm out of the church, whether the fervice be performed in a river or elsewhere, is not fo, for the oppofite reason.
Much more might be faid, and has been faid upon this fubject at different times; though, alas! with little effect; because men wedded to an opinion, however ill-founded, are feldom in a disposition to be convinced; the best arguments appearing weak and unfatisfactory, when opposed to inveterate prejudices.
Indeed, when I confider the liberal nature of the
Gofpel covenant, the general tenour of the Apoftolic commiffion, and the univerfal practice of the primitive church confequent thereupon, I cannot tell where to find ground for a dispute upon this fubject. But when I confider the nature of man, together with the many abfurdities which have at different times. found their ftrenuous advocates in the church; I am surprised at no conclufion 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 conftruction, that fincerity and error will be fo intimately blended together, that justly to difcriminate between them will furpafs the common powers of the human mind. *
* A learned and elaborate inveftigation of this general fubject, the reader will find in "the Hiftory of Infant Baptifm," by the Rev. W. Wall. For the manner in which this fubject, as applicable to our present purpose has been handled in the foregoing Chapter, the reader will find abundant authority in "the Cafe of Infant Baptifm" above referred to; written by that most learned divine and ornament of the Church of England, the Rev. G. HICKES, D.D· ·
On LIBERTY of CONSCIENCE.
To the pleas already advanced in justification of feparation from the church, may be added thofe general ones which refpect the hacknied fubjects of liberty of confcience, toleration, and the right of private judgment in religious matters; upon each of which it may be neceffary to fay a few words: because vulgar errors of fome magnitude have been attached to these popular phrases, which have led many well-meaning people to dangerous conclufions. 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 found of fome words, which operates beyond what can be reasonably accounted for: the ill effect of which, upon minds unqualified to difcriminate, it is always difficult, fometimes impoffible, to counteract.