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a person is called a Mahometan, because he embraces Mahamet's Alcoran as a rule of faith, we cannot think this general account of baptism, as an external badge of Christianity, to be a sufficient explication of what is intended by it as a sign, or significant ordinance.
There are several things mentioned in this answer, of which, it is said, to be a sign and seal, viz. of our engrafting into Christ, and obtaining remission of sins by his blood, of our regeneration by his Spirit, our adoption, and resurrection unto eternal life, which include in them all the benefits of Christ's mediation; which have been particularly explained under some foregoing answers: But there is one that contains in it all the rest; and accordingly it is generally expressed, by divines, as that which is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, and all the duties, obligations, and privileges that are either enjoined or bestowed therein. What this covenant is, together with the blessings thereof, and how the grace of God is manifested therein, has been likewise considered under some foregoing answers. Therefore all that I shall now add con cerning it, is, that it contains all the promises in which our salvation is included, of which there is one that comprehends all the rest, whereby it is often expressed, namely, that God will be a God unto his people, Gen. xiv. 1. their shield, and exceeding great reward, chap. xvii. And elsewhere that he will put his laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, and will be to them a God; and they shall be to him a people, Heb. viii. 10. There are very great privileges contained in this relation, namely, our being under the special care and protection of Christ, having a right to what he has purchased, and that inheritance which he has laid up in heaven for his children, their enjoying communion with him here, and being made happy with him hereafter.
Now the main thing to be considered, is, how baptism is a sign and scal thereof? To this it may be answered, that we are not to suppose that this, or any other ordinance, confers the grace of the covenant, as the Papists pretend t; for it is, at most, but a significant sign or seal thereof; whereas, the grace of the covenant is the thing signified thereby. There are, as has been before observed two ways, by which persons may be said to be in covenant with God, namely, professedly, or visibly, which is the immediate intent and design of this ordinance; and there is a being in covenant, as laying hold on the grace of the covenant, when we give up ourselves to Christ, by faith; and, as the consequence thereof, lay claim to
See vol. II. Quest. XXXI, XXXII. Page 167, & 185.
†There is a common aphorism among them, that the sacraments, and baptism in particular, confer grace, ex opere operato.
the blessings of his redemption. Now baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace in both these senses, though in different respects. The ordinance itself is a professed dedication to God, or an acknowledgment that the person baptized is obliged to be the Lord's; and signifies his right to the external blessings of the covenant of grace, which are contained in the gospel-dispensation. There is also more than this contained in a person's being given to God in baptism, whether it be by himself as in those who are baptized when adult; or by his parents, as in the case of infants, in that the person who dedicates, expresses his faith in Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, and hopes for the saving blessings which he has purchased for his people. It is one thing, for this ordinance to confer these blessings, and another, for it to be an instituted means, in which we express our faith and hope, that these blessings shall be bestowed, the person being devoted to God with that view.
There are other two things that are more especially signified in baptism, namely, privileges expected, and obligations ac knowledged.
1. The privileges expected are such as accompany salvation, which are the special gift of the Holy Ghost, viz. the taking away the guilt and pollution of sin, and our being made partakers of all the blessings that Christ hath purchased, and God the Father, in him, has promised to the heirs of salvation. I do not say, that all who are baptized are made partakers of these privileges; but they are given up to God, or give up themselves to him in this ordinance, in hope of obtaining them.
2. Here is a public profession, or acknowledgment of our obligation to be the Lord's. This is, from the nature of the thing, implied in its being a dedication to God. When we make a surrender of ourselves to him, we do hereby declare, that we are willing to be his servants and subjects, and entirely at his disposal: This is contained in a fiducial act of selfdedication to God, and cannot be done by one in the behalf of another And, it is to be feared, that many, who give up themselves to God in this ordinance, when adult, though they make a profession of their faith, yet do not give up themselves by faith; but that is only known to the heart-searching God: Nevertheless, as we express our faith and hope, in this ordinance, concerning the privileges but now mentioned; so we, in this act of dedication, confess, that God has a right to us, and that it is our indispensible duty to be his, so that hereby we are, either by our own consent, as in self-dedication, professedly the Lord's; or this is acknowledged by those who have a right to dedicate, and thereby to signify this obligation; which, because it is highly just and reasonable, the persons de
voted are obliged to stand to, or else are brought under a great degree of guilt, in not being stedfast in God's covenant.
There is one thing more mentioned in this answer, namely, that the person baptized, is solemnly admitted into the visible church, which I rather choose to pass over; since it is hard to understand what some mean by the visible church, and a person's becoming a member thereof by baptism. We have elsewhere considered the difficulties that are contained in the description of the visible church; together with the qualifications for, and admission of persons into church-communion. * If, by being admitted into the visible church, we are to understand that a person has a right to all the ordinances of the church by baptism, without being admitted afterwards into it by mutual consent; this is contrary to the faith and practice of most of the reformed churches. And if, on the other hand, they mean hereby, that here is a public declaration of our hope, that the person baptized shall be made partaker of those privileges which Christ has purchased for, and given to his church: This is no more than what has been already explained in our considering the baptismal expectations and obligations; but, whether this can be properly called an admission into the church, I rather leave to be determined by those who better understand what they mean, when they say that this is done in baptism, than I do. (a)
* See vol. II. page 166-216.
(a) The Gospel is glad tidings of great joy, not a system of new and terrifying restrictions and exclusions; so far from retracting formerly conceded privileges, and confining the church within narrower limits, it publishes peace and salvation, and invites the whole human family to participate in these blessings. It must either be referred to the impressions it has made, or to uninterrupted usage that females have, by a general consent, been deemed to possess an unquestionable right to approach the holy communion, though neither precept for it is found, nor an example of it recorded in the Scriptures. This baptism of Anfants was still less necessary to be enjoined by, and less likely to have been noviced in the short history given us of apostolical transactions.
He who gave parental affection, and is the Lord of his church under every dispensation, conferred on children at an early age of the world the privilege of sharing with their parents in the seals of grace, and bearing the tokens of his Covenant. Jewish christians having themselves experienced such benignity, and been given to the same God, whom they now served under brighter displays of bis eternal and unchangeable love, could not have expected, that, an entrance into the milder gospel-church would have been denied to the seed whom God had given them, and whom they had devoted to him not only in prayer, but in that ordinance which he had appointed for the purpose. An ordinance which being now obsolete was supplied by another, apparently as proper for their children as themselves. Because infants are incapable of repenting and be lieving, these duties were not required nor expected of them, either under the old, or new dispensation; but though incapable of actual sin, and therefore free from obligations of obedience unto the law, yet their nature is not pure, and consequently needs the sanctifying influence of divine grace, which can correct
QUEST. CLXVI. Unto whom is baptism to be administered? ANSW. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptised.
N this answer, which principally respects the subjects of baptism, we have,
I. An account of those who are excluded from this privilege, viz. such as are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise. The visible church is here considered in the most large and less proper acceptation of the word, as denoting all who profess the true religion; and in this respect is opposed to the Jews and heathen, and those who, though they live in a Christian nation, are grossly ignorant of the gospel, and act as though they thought that it did not belong to them, not seeing themselves obliged to make any profession thereof: These may be ranked among infidels, as inuch as the heathen themselves; and, according to this sense
the latent enmity, and renew the soul. They are capable, therefore, of spiritual blessings, and may consequently be members of the invisible church, and received into the church triumphant. The obvious reasonableness of the pri vilege of being received with their parents into the society of the worshippers of God, a privilege publicly known to have been conferred by the great Head of the church, equally prevented the supposition of an implied repeal, and the necessity of a renewal of the right.
If indeed there had been a different religion introduced; if christians were not engrafted into the old stock; if they worshipped some other than the God of Israel; if there was another moral law, another Christ than he whose day the fathers anticipated, and another faith; this privilege of receiving infants into the church might have been interrupted; and in that case unless expressly again enjoined, it ought not to have been regarded in practice. But if the christian religion is founded upon the prophets; if the peculiarities of the Jewish worship were but shadows of gospel things; if both were directed to the same glory of God and salvation of men; if they both enjoined the same holiness and presented the same object of faith; if those who were saved under the Old Testament shall be associated with those who are saved under the New; the privileges formerly granted to children will remain the same; and it is not wonderful that the first christian should obey the dictates of parental tenderness; and that desiring the salvation of their children as well as their own, should cause their households to be baptized as well as themselves. To have affirmed in the gospel history expressly, that children were a part of the household, could have answered no purpose in the first days of christianity, but would have been thought repetitions and unmeaning until modern times. In the fifth, in the third and even so early as in the second century, the baptism of infants was the established usage of the church, and it was then thought, and not disputed, to have been the prac tice of the apostles themselves.
of the word, are not members of the visible church; and, consequently, while they remain so, are not to be admitted to baptism. This is agreeable to the sentiments and practice of most of the reformed churches; and it cannot but be reckoned highly reasonable, by all who consider baptism as an ordinance in which a public profession is made of the person's being devoted to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and, if he be considered as adult (and of such we are now speaking) there is a signification, and thereby a profession made, that he gives up himself to God; and, if the ordinance be rightly applied, there must be an harmony between the inward design of the person dedicating, and the true intent and meaning of the external sign thereof; which, by divine appointment, is a visible declaration of his adhering by faith, to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and embracing that salvation which takes its rise from them. This therefore must be done by faith; or else the ordinance is engaged in after an hypocritical manner; which will tend to God's dishonour, and the prejudice rather than the advantage of him, to whom it is administered.
II. We are now to consider the necessity of their making a profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, who being adult, are admitted to baptism. It was supposed, under the last head, that if there be not an harmony between the internal frame of spirit, in the person baptized, and the intent of the external sign thereof, the ordinance is not rightly applied to him, inasmuch as he pretends to dedicate himself to God; but, in reality does not do this by faith: And now it may be farther considered, that it is necessary that he should make it appear, that he is a believer, by a profession of his faith; otherwise, he that administers the ordinance, together with the assembly, who are present at the same time, cannot conclude that they are performing a service that is acceptable to God; therefore, for their sakes, as well as his own, the person to be baptized, ought to make a profession of his subjection to Christ, as what is signified in this ordinance.
This is agreeable to the words of institution, in Matt. xxviii. 19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them, &c. and in Mark xvi. 15. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, &c. I am sensible that some, who have defended infant-baptism, or rather attempted to answer an objection taken from this, and such like scriptures against it, have endeavoured to prove the Greek word * signifies, make persons disciples; and accordingly it is a metaphor taken from the