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vote his child to God in hope of his obtaining saving blessings; yet he cannot exercise any act of faith, that he shall obtain them: Therefore though he may perform this duty with a degree of hope, or, at least, with a desire hereof; yet he cannot do it by faith: Therefore, if children are to be devoted to God by faith, they are not the subjects of this ordinance.
Answ. To this it may be replied, that some things may be said to be done by faith, when we have not a certain ground to expect the saving fruits and effects thereof. Suppose an infant was expiring and the tender parent concerned about its salvation, whether he has a certain expectation that it shall be saved or no; yet he may, and ought to be earnest with God by faith and prayer, that the child may be happy when taken out of the world; and, if he finds that he has the lively exercise of faith, with respect to this matter, this will afford him some degree of hope, that God, who excited this grace in him, will own it by giving the blessings which he desires; which is the only comfort that a parent can take in the loss of his infant-seed: And, may there not be this act of faith, when he dedicates him to God in baptism? Did we assert that giving up our children to God by faith, necessarily infers their obtaining saving blessings, the objection would have some force in it; or if there could be no faith exercised, without our being certainly persuaded that this should have a saving effect; then it might be argued, that because we are not certain that infants shall be saved, therefore we cannot give them up to God by faith: But if there may be faith, where there is not this certain persuasion, or any ground by which this matter may be determined, then, I think, it will follow, that infants may be devoted to God by faith, as well as with a desire of their obtaining saving blessings, and, consequently, this objection does not take away the force of our argument. We are far from supposing that baptismal dedication necessarily infers these saving blessings, or is inseparably connected with them, so that the one cannot be without the other. Therefore, it is sufficient to our purpose, to suppose that they are capable of those blessings which faith desires, and, it may be, hopes for; and, consequently, of those things which are principally signified in baptism.
(2.) Infants are under an indispensable obligation to perform the duties which are incumbent on those who are given up to God in baptism, and signified thereby. This respects some things future, (they being, at present, incapable of performing any duty) and, indeed, obligations to perform duties may respect the time to come, as well as the time present; as when a person is bound to pay a just debt, this obligation is valid,
though it is not expected that it should be immediately paid. Thus infants are professedly bound, when given up to God, to be the Lord's: Whether ever they will give up themselves to him by faith, or no, is unknown to us, nevertheless, the obligation will take place as soon as they are capable of doing good or evil. Therefore it follows, that the parent may bind his child to be the Lord's, inasmuch as the obligation is just, as being founded in God's right to obedience, and when he has laid his child under it in this ordinance, he ought afterwards strictly to charge him to stand to it, as he would not contract double guilt; not only in neglecting to perform an indispensable duty, but to pay that debt of obedience which has been so solemnly acknowledged in this ordinance. These arguments taken from the nature and design of the ordinance of baptism, give me the fullest conviction concerning our warrant to apply it to infants: But there is one more which is not wholly to be passed over, viz.
3. It appears, that the infant-seed of believers, are to be consecrated or devoted to God in baptism, because they are included in the covenant wherein God has promised that he will be a God to his people, and to their seed; who are, upon this account, styled holy Ezra. ix. 2. And it is said concerning Israel, that they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their off-spring with them, Isa. lxv. 23. the branch is said to be holy, together with the root, Rom. xi. 16. and the children of the promise are counted for the seed, chap. ix. 8. that is included in that covenant in which God promised that he would be a God to children, together with their parents, as he says to Abraham; I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and to thy seed after thee, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, Gen. xvii. 7. And, in this sense, I think, we are to understand the apostle's words, in 1 Cor. vii. 14. (a) The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband; else were your chil
(a) Tertullian observes on this passage, that if either parent were christians, the children were enrolled in Jesus Christ by early baptism. And it fairly implies infant baptism in the days of Paul. For, having declared that the unbelieving partner was not to be divorced according to the law of Moses, which held the heathen to be unclean; he pronounces the unbelievers set apart by such marriage to God, as far as regarded that marriage; and in proof of this he refers to a fact as known to the Corinthians, namely that the children of such marriages were received into the church, and treated as holy, that is devoted to God. Now if the children of such marriages were not treated as heathens, but owned by the church, and this could be in no other way than by receiving them by baptism, there can be no doubt, that this was the case when both parents were believers. Axatapros & anos never mean illegitimate and legitimate; and if they did, this would be no proof that the unbelieving party was consecrated to God, so as that the children should be clean and devoted to him.
dren unclean, but now are they holy. By these, and other expressions of the like-nature, we are not to understand the special saving grace of regeneration and sanctification; for that is not a privilege that descends from parents to children by birth, as our Saviour says, We are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, John i. 13. Therefore, when some, who are on the other side of the question, think that we intend hereby the saving blessings of the covenant, or that holiness which is an internal qualification or meetness for heaven, they do not rightly understand our meaning. Some, indeed, may have given occasion to conclude that they intend this, who speak of the grace of regeneration as conferred in baptism; and assert, that it intitles persons to salvation, if they happen to die before they are adult: Whereas, if afterward they appear to be in an unconverted state, by the wickedness of their conversation, they are said to fall from that grace This is what I do not well understand; nor do I intend, when I speak of the infants of believers as an holy seed, that they are all internally regenerate or sanctified from the womb; but they are included in the external dispensation of the covenant of grace; which must be reckoned a greater advantage than if they had descended from Indians, who are strangers to it.
I am sensible, indeed, that they who deny infant-baptism, suppose that the holiness of the children spoken of by the apostle in the scripture but now referred to, who descended from parents, of whom one only was a believer, implies nothing else but their being legitimate: But that does not seem to be his meaning; inasmuch as marriage is an ordinance of the law of nature, which all, without distinction, have a right to, heathens as much as Christians; and the children of the one, are as legitimate as those of the other. Therefore, there is something else intended by their being holy, namely, the same thing that is meant in those other scriptures that we but now referred to, as taken for an external relative holiness, whereby God must be supposed to have a greater regard to them than to others who are styled unclean; and, if this does not infer, as was before observed, their being internally, regenerate or sanctified yet it is not a word without an idea affixed to it: Therefore we must understand thereby, an holiness in the lowest sense of the word; as children are said to be an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb his reward, Psal. cxxxvii. 7. or, it denotes the obligation they are laid under, by the privilege of their descending from believing parents, to adhere to their fathers' God; which obligation is professed or acknowledged, when they are dedicated to him in baptism, as has been before observed; and this is the use which I would make
of this account which we have of them in scripture, to prove their right to be devoted to God in this ordinance.
And, I think, we do not assert this without some warrant from scripture; for when God told Abraham, in the promise but now mentioned, that he would be a God unto him, and to his seed, which is the foundation of their federal holiness; this is assigned as a reason why they should be devoted to God in circumcision, Gen. xvii. 10. for we cannot but conclude circumcision, as we do baptism, to have been an ordinance of dedication or separation to God: And, in Acts ii. 39. when the apostle had been pressing those Jews, amongst the mixed multitude, to whom he had preached, to repent and be baptized; and encouraged them to hope for the gift of the Holy Ghost; he assigns this as a reason, namely, that the promise was to them and to their children, which refers to the promise of the covenant made with Abraham, and his seed; and it immediately follows, and to them that are afar off, that is, the Gentiles, who might claim this promise, when they believed, whom the apostle calls elsewhere, children of the promise, as Isaac was, Gal. iv. 28. These who are styled, before conversion, a people afar off, were after it reckoned the spiritual seed of Abraham, and so had a right to the blessings of the covenant, that God would be a God to them; and, by a parity of reason, in the same sense in which the seed of Abraham were children of the promise, the seed of all other believers are to be reckoned so, till by their own act and deed, they renounce this external covenant relation: Now, from hence it may be inferred, that if they stand in this relation, to God, this is publicly to be owned; and accordingly they are to be given up to him in baptism, as there is therein a professed declaration thereof.
As to what was but now inferred from the infant-seed of be lievers under the Old Testament having a right to circumcision, because they were included in the covenant which God made with their fathers, that therefore they have a right to baptism; this is not to be wholly passed over; though, I am sensible, they who deny infant-baptism, will not allow of the consequence. Some have argued, in opposition to it, that circumcision was ordained to be a sign and seal of that covenant of peculiarity, which God made with the Jewish church, or of those blessings which they were made partakers of, as a nation excelling others, in name, honour, and glory : But this, I think, comes far short of what the apostle says on that subject, viz. that it was a seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom. iv. 11. And, indeed, when we call that dispensation a covenant of peculiarity, we intend nothing else thereby, but some external privileges annexed to the saving blessings of the.
covenant of grace; and therefore, Abraham's faith was conversant on both of them; the righteousness of faith, which respected his own salvation, and that of his spiritual seed; and those privileges of a lower nature, which they who were, in other respects, his seed, were made partakers of, by virtue of the covenant, in which God promised that he would be a God to him, and to his seed. Moreover, it is generally denied, by those who are on the other side of the question, that baptism comes in the room of circumcision. This therefore remains to be proved, in order to our establishing the consequence, that since children were to be devoted unto God by circumcision under the law, they are to be devoted unto him by baptism, under the gospel-dispensation.
Now, that this may appear, let it be considered, that God has substituted some ordinances, under the gospel-dispensation, in the room of others, which were formerly observed under the ceremonial law. Thus the Lord's supper is instituted in the room of the passover; otherwise the apostle would never have alluded to one when he speaks of the other, and says, Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, &c. 1 Cor. v. 7, 8. And we have as much ground to conclude, that baptism comes in the room of circumcision, as we have that any gospel-ordinance comes in the room of another, that belonged to the ceremonial law, from what the apostle says, in whom ye are circumcised by the circumcision made without hands, buried with him in baptism, Col. ii. 11, 12. where he speaks of the thing signified by circumcision and baptism, as being the same, namely, our communion with Christ in his death; so that the thing signified by baptism, is styled, as it were, a spiritual circumcision: Therefore, since these two ordinances, signify the same thing for substance, and are set one against the other in this scripture, we may, I think, infer from thence, that baptism comes in the room of circum
And, it is farther argued, that baptism being the only initiating ordinance, at present, as circumcision was of old; so that the first visible profession that was made, especially by any significant ordinance, that they were the Lord's, was made therein, which is what we understand by an initiating ordinance under the gospel, as circumcision was under the law, then it follows, that it comes in the room thereof; or else no other ordinance does: But if it be said, that no ordinance comes in the room of circumcision, then the privileges of the church under this present dispensation, would be, in a very disadvantageous circumstance, less than they were under the former; and if infants received any advantage by being devoted to God by circumcision of old, but are not to be devoted to him