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thing formed is not to fay to him that formed it, Why haft thou made me thus?
Taken in this fenfe then, not as referring to the perfonal election of individuals to Divine favour in exclufion of others, but to the election of nations to particular and temporary privileges, for the purpose of carrying into effect the great myftery of godliness for the more general benefit of mankind, the argument here made use of by the Apofile is plain, regular, and confiftent: and to press an argument beyond the fubject to which it was originally applied, is to take the way moft likely to lead into error.
[The Reader will fee this fubject more largely, and, I flatter myself, more conclufively treated, in the Fourth Letter of the Appendix.]
On the SACRAMENT of BAPTISM, considered as furnishing a Plea for Separation from the' Church.
To the two pleas already advanced, a third is
to be added, refpecting the SACRAMENT of BAPTISM; which, as it is administered in the church, is by fome maintained to be invalid, for the following reafons: First, because children are incapable of being fubjects of it; and fecondly, because, after the example of our SAVIOUR, who was baptized in Jordan, it ought to be administered by the immersion of grown persons in a river. Did this plea stand upon firm ground, it ought, as relating to an effential service of the church, to have weight; but standing as it does, according to our ideas, on no foundation, it can, in our judgment, have no weight at all, But as this conftitutes one of the mafter-prejudices against the church, it may be proper to give it fome confideration.
The ground upon which the first part of this plea ftands, refpects the incapacity of children to fulfil the conditions of the baptifmal 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 baptifm, 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 refufing 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 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 fo now, (fays CHRIST) for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteoufnefs." 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 fins to repent of. But, as infants, they are capable of receiving a fign of God's grace and favour. They are capable, for inftance, of being admitted into the communion of the Christian church, and of having the privileges of the Gospel covenant configned 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 fign of their restoration to God's grace; though they may not at the time be capable of understanding the condition upon which it is fufpended.
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, thofe means which CHRIST appointed for the fanctification of his church; ought we not rather to rejoice, that Gon's covenant of mercy to man is beftowed with a latitude extending to perfons of all ages, than feek to fet limits to Divine goodness, by restraining it within the narrow