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practice of a person's being put under the care of one who is qualified to instruct him, whose disciple he is said to be, in order to his being taught by him; and therefore they suppose, that we are made disciples by baptism, and afterwards to be taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ hath commanded; and this is taken notice of in the marginal reading of our Bibles; which supposes that the word may be rendered, make disciples of all nations: But, I cannot think this sense of the word so defensible, or agreeable to the design of our Saviour, as that of our translation, viz. Go teach all nations ; which agrees with the words of the other evangelist, Go preach the gospel to every creature: And besides, while we have recourse to this sense to defend infant-baptism, we do not rightly consider that this cannot be well applied to adult-baptism, which the apostles were first to practise; for it cannot be said concerning the heathen, that they are first to be taken under Christ's care by baptism, and then instructed in the doctrines of the gospel, by his ministers *. (a)
Moreover, a profession of faith in those who are baptized when adult, is agreeable to the practice of the Christian church in the first planting thereof: Thus it is said, in Acts ii. 41. They that gladly received the word were baptized: And this might also be observed in the account we have of the jailor and the Eunuch's being first converted, and then baptized, in Acts xvi. 31,-33. chap. viii. 37, 38. But, if it be retorted upon us, as though we were giving up the cause of infant-baptism, it must be observed, that this does not, in the least, affect it; for when our Saviour gave forth his commission to the apostles, to teach or preach the gospel to all nations, and baptize them, it is to be supposed, that their ministry was to be exercised among the adult, and that these then were utter strangers to Christ and his gospel; therefore it would have been a preposterous thing to put them upon devoting them
* Vid Whitby in Loc.
(a) This then is a repetition; go, teach, baptize, teach. This commission was to disciple the world, baptizing and teaching are the specification, and are participles agreeing with the nomination.
It is no inference from the position of baptizing before teaching are that adults might be first baptized. This was the institution of the ordinance of baptism as well as the apostolic commission; yet it neither contains any direction either as to the mode or subjects; because Christ spoke to Jews, who knew that adult proselytes were carefully examined, whilst infants were circumcised with their parents without such examination. They also knew the various modes of religious purifications among the Jews; both John the Baptist, and they having under that dispensation baptized. Neither is faith essential to the validity of baptism, nor is the profession of it required of such as are incapable of making it.
selves to him, before they were persuaded to believe in him; neither could they devote their children till they had first dedicated themselves to him, and this leads us to consider,
III. The right of infants to baptism, provided they, who are required to dedicate them to God therein, are believers; and particularly, that such may be baptized who descend from parents of whom only one is a believer. This will appear,
1. If we consider baptism as an ordinance of dedication: Accordingly, let it be observed,
(1.) That it is the indispensible duty of believers, to devote themselves and all they have, to God, which is founded in the law of nature, and is the result of God's right to us and ours. Whatever we have received from him, is to be surrendered or given up to him; whereby we own him to be the proprietor of all things, and our dependence upon him for them, and that they are to be improved to his glory. This is, in a particular manner, to be applied to our infant-seed, whom it is our duty to devote to the Lord, as we receive them from him: However, there is this difference between the dedication of persons, from that of things, to God, that we are to devote them to him, in hope of their obtaining the blessings which they are capable of, at present, or shall stand in need of from him, hereafter. This, I think, is allowed, by all Christians. Nothing is more common, than for some who cannot see that it is their duty to baptize their children, to dedicate or devote them to God, by faith and prayer; which they do in a very solemn manner; and that with expectation of spiritual blessings, as an encouragement of their faith, so far as they apprehend them capable of receiving them.
(2.) We shall now consider, that baptism, in the general idea thereof, is an ordinance of dedication or consecration of persons to God. If this be not allowed of, I cannot see how it can be performed by faith, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; or how this can be a visible putting on of Christ, as the apostle styles it, Gal. iii. 27.
Object. This proposition would not be denied, if baptism were to be considered as an ordinance of self-dedication, but then it would effectually overthrow the doctrine of infant-baptism; for since infants cannot devote themselves to God in this ordinance, therefore it is not to be applied to them.
Answ. To this it may be replied, that as there is no other medium, which, I apprehend, can be made use of to prove that the solemn acts of consecration or dedication to God in baptism, is to be made only by ourselves, but what is taken from a supposition of the matter in controversy, by those who assert that infants are not to be baptized: So if this method
of reasoning be allowed of, we might as well say, on the other hand; infants are to be baptized; therefore baptism is not an ordinance of self-dedication, since they cannot devote themselves to God; and that would militate against what, I think, is allowed of by all, that baptism, when applied to the adult, is an ordinance of self-dedication. That which I would therefore more directly assert, in answer to this objection is, that baptism is an ordinance of dedication, either of ourselves, or others; provided the person who dedicates, has a right to that which he devotes to God, and can do it by faith. When I do, as it were, pass over my right to another, there is nothing required in order hereunto, but that I can lawfully do it, considering it as my property; and this is no less to be doubted concerning the infant-seed of believers than I can question, whether an adult person has a right to himself, when he gives up himself to God in this ordinance. (a)
(3.) It follows, from the last head, that parents, who have a right to their infant-seed, may devote them to God in baptism, provided they can do it by faith; and therefore a profession of faith, is only necessary in those who are active, in this ordinance, not in them that are merely passive. This we are obliged to maintain against those who often intimate that children are not to be baptized, because they are not capable of believing Or when it is replied hereunto, that they are capable of having the seeds of faith, though not the acts thereof; this is generally reckoned insufficient to support our argument, by those who are on the other side of the question; inasmuch as it cannot well be determined, what infants have the seeds of faith, and what not; and, I think those arguments which are generally brought to prove that the infants of believing parents, as such, have the seeds of faith, on the account whereof they are to be baptized can hardly be defended; because many good men have wicked children.
Therefore what we insist on in this argument, is, that believing parents may give up their children to God in baptism,
(a) To be brought into the visible church, is a high privilege, of which infants are as capable now, as under the former dispensation. Consent is not necessary; for infants receive inheritances. This is by force of municipal laws. But are not the laws of God of equal force ?-Baptism implies obligations, which can be founded only on consent. Then it will follow that infants are not bound by hu man laws, for they have not assented to the social compact; they are under no obligation to obey parents, guardians, or masters, because they either did not choose them, or were incompetent to make such choice; they are not bound by the laws of God himself, which is this very case, because they have not consent. ed to his authority; and if they never consent, they will be always free equally from all obligations, and all sín. Such are the consequences of the above ob jection:
in hope of their obtaining the blessings of the covenant, (a) whether they are able to conclude that they have the seeds of
(a) The dictates of nature, uncontrouled by revelation, are the will of Christ, and our rule of duty. The will of Christ, expressed in these dictates, requires us to benefit our children as they are capable. Baptism, as the initiatory seal of God's covenant, is a benefit of which infants are capable-This evidence is not eclipsed, but brightened, by scripture authority, as we shall see in the sequel of this chapter.
Let the reader carefully notice, that we do not suppose, by insisting on this argument, the insufficiency of direct scripture evidence: for this has been frequently urged with advantage, to satisfy persons of the best dispositions and abilities. That is, reader,“ some of the most eminent Pædobaptists that ever filled the Professor's chair, or that ever yet adorned the Protestant pulpit." But since our opponents insist, that what has been so often urged, is not conclusive; and modestly affirm, it is only calculated to catch "the eye of a superficial ob"server" they are desired once more impartially to weigh this reasoning, and then, if they are able, to refute it. Let them know, however, that hackneyed phrases without meaning-principles taken upon trust-and empty declamation-must not be palmed on us instead of solid arguments.
Were it necessary, it would be easy to shew, that the principles above urged are no novelty; but are perfectly agreeable to experience,-and to the practical judgment of the most serious Padobaptists, both illiterate and learned. But waving this, we proceed next to another corroborating proof of the main pro position.
What we contend for is. That it is the will of Christ we should baptize our infant children. In proof of this we have shewn, first, that the dictates of right reason require us to benefit them, and consequently to baptize them; as baptism is always a benefit when administered to capable subjects. We come, secondly, to shewThat God has constantly approved of this principle, in all preceding dispensations. In other words-That the principle of the last argument is so far from being weakened by scripture evidence, that the Lord's approbation of it, in his conduct towards the offspring of his professing people, in all the dispensations of true religion, is abundantly illustrated and confirmed.
Mr. B's misapplied but favourite maxim-" Positive laws imply their negative," has no force in the baptismal controversy, until he demonstrates, in opposition to what is advanced, that the dictates of right reason must be smothered, or else, that revelation countermands their influence. But to demonstrate the former, in matters about which, on the supposition, scripture is silent, is no easy task. And the difficulty will be increased in proportion as the sacred o. les corroborate reason's verdict. Let us now appeal to these oracles.
We appeal to that period of the church, and dispensation of grace, which extended from Adam to Noah. The inspired narrative of this long space of time is very short on which we make the following remarks. We then assert,
Whatever exhibition of grace was made to antediluvian parents, was constantly made to their offspring, and consequently whatever seals of grace were granted to the former, must equally appertain to the latter if not voluntary rejectors of them. Therefore, all such parents had a revealed warrant to regard their offspring as entitled to the seals of the covenant, in like manner as themselves, according to their capacity. For,
All allow that Gen. iii. 15. contains the promulgation of gospel grace; nor are we authorised to question the interest of children therein with their parents, without an express contravention. For, it were unnatural for a parent to confine such a benefit to his own person to the exclusion of his children, who are not only parts of his family but of himself. To which we may add, that the phrase thy sced, though principally referring to the Messiah, respected Eve's natural secil as sharers in common with herself in the exhibition of mercy; and we suppose
grace or no; they may devote them to God in hope of regeneration; though they cannot know them to be regenerate, as
not less so than her husband. For this application of the phrase thy seed, compare Gen. xvii. 7. and Gal. iii. 16. Again,
It is generally agreed, that not only the institution of sacrifices, but also the coats of skin, (Gen. i. 21.) were emblematic of covenant blessings; and not only so, in common with mere types, but seals of the covenant, as earnests and pledges of exhibited favour. "Who will deny," says Witsius, "that God's cloathing our first parents was a symbolical act? Do not Christ's own words (Rev. iii. 18.) very clearly allude to this?" As for sacrifices, they were slain at God's command after the promulgation of the covenant. For, if Abel offered by faith, (Heb xi. 4.) it presupposes the divine institution of them. And this institution, most probably, took place when God-taking occasion from the insufficiency of the aprons of fig-leaves, which the fallen pair sewed together, to cover the shame of their nakedness-himself cloathed them with coats of skins. And most divines agree, that it is very probable, these were the skins of those beasts which were slain for sacrifices. However, God gave testimony to these oblations of the ancient patriarchs, that they were acceptable to him; but this cannot be supposed without admitting them to be divinely instituted. Besides, a distinction of clean and unclean animals was observed before the deluge; which was not from nature, but the mere divine pleasure; and may we not add, with a particular respect to sacrifices? Now,
If, according to Witsius and others, these skins of beasts, and sacrifices, were appointed seals of the righteousness of faith; I would ask-Was the covenant directed for the use of their seed in common with the parents, and not the seal in like manner? For, if the seals be affixed to the covenant for confirmation of its contents, as well as, in another view, for signification; I would fain know, by what rule of construction we can infer, that the covenant itself belongs to the parents and their seed in common, while the confirmation of it belongs exclusively to the former? Is it not contrary to custom and unreasonable to conclude, that a charter of privileges, or a testamentary instrument, (which by the way express the nature of the covenant) belongs to a man and his heirs alike, but the confirming seal respects the former only; while on the supposition, the sovereign, or the testator, has given no ground for such partiality? Besides,
If the covenant itself be a benefit to the persons to whom it is directed, as it certainly is in every dispensation of it, it follows that the confirmation of it is so; for parents, therefore, to deny their offspring all the share in such common benefits they are capable of, without a divine warrant, is unnaturai, and an act of inJustice. We may therefore conclude-that from Adam to Noah, the covenant and its seals appertained to infants in common with their parents.
We appeal next to that period of the church which extended from Noah to Abraham: On which we observe,
Whatever benefits and privileges belonged to the former dispensation, continue to flow on to the present, if not expressly repealed; for the change of a dispen sation of itself, is no adequate cause of their abrogation. That would be as unreasonable as to suppose that the bare change from night to day was, of itself, an adequate cause of a man's being disinherited. Or we may as well say, that the abstract notion of an epoch in chronology has a real influence on the sequence of events. Whatever covenant privileges, therefore, belonged to Noah and his family before the deluge, if not expressly repealed, must belong to them after the deluge. But,
So far were these privileges from being abridged at this period, that they were greatly enlarged and confirmed, by additional discoveries. For thus we read, Gen. vi. 18. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. Again, chap. vii. 1. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou, and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. And again, chap.