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to as many as believe, God imputeth righteousness without works. It is not the intention of Christ's death to save us from punishment in a way of sin; but to procure for us pardon in the way of repentance. "He bore our sins, that we, being dead to sin, should live to righteousness." The mercy of God is inclined to pardon and save sinners; but his wisdom saw fit to dispense pardon and salvation only through the blood of a Redeemer, that thus sin might be condemned, God's justice displayed, and his law magnified. God sent his son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he, by a sacrifice for sin, might condemn sin in the flesh. He set him forth a propitiation, that he might be just and the justifier of them who believe. The law therefore is not made void, but established through faith. I would observe,
4. Our subject removes the principal objection urged against the dedication of infants to God in the ordinance of baptism. For it shews, that some may be benefited by the faith of others.
It is often asked "What advantage is baptism to infants? They have no knowledge of the use and design of it. They have not that faith, which is required to baptism. If they are baptised, it cannot be on their own faith; it must be on the faith of their parents: And what benefit can they derive from the faith of another ?"
But this is no more an objection against the bap tism of infants, than against intercession for infants. If your children are sick, you pray for the preservation of their lives. If they appear to be in danger of death, you pray for their reception into the world of glory. If when they come forward in life, you see them wickedly inclined, you pray for divine restraints. Yea, whatever be their case, you commend them to God's care and protection, and pray that he would impart to them his sanctifying
and saving grace. And do you not pray in faith ; with a belief that God is merciful and gracious, and that your prayers may avail to obtain for them some real benefits? But if the faith of the parent can be no advantage to his children, Why should you pray for them? If it can be an advantage, Why may you not dedicate them to God in baptism? The objection certainly is no stronger in the latter case, than in the former. They are as ignorant of what you do in one case, as in the other. Christ often bestowed healing mercy on children, when he was applied to in their behalf. And when some brought little children to him, that he should pray for them, he complied with their request. He took them into his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them, and said, Suffer the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
We see that the faith and prayers of parents may procure some advantages for children: Why should the doubt arise in the case of baptism only? There seems to be no doubt in any other case.
It is not the faith of the parent, which saves his children. If they are saved, it is by the mercy of God through the redemption that is in Christ.
But then God has instituted a gracious covenant, in which he promises, that he will be a God to believers and to their children. In token of his faithfulness, he has appointed baptism as a seal of this covenant. The believing parent dedicates his children to God, trusting that he will be a God to them; that if they are removed in infancy, he will receive them to his kingdom; if they are continued in life, he will grant them the means of salvation, and will pour on them his spirit and blessing. At the same time, he resolves, that he will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Now does it seem unreasonable that God should exercise mercy towards children? That he should express his
designs of mercy, by comprehending them within his covenant, and by making promises in their favour? That he should require parents to give them up to him, and should institute a particular form and ceremony to be used on the occasion? Is it no advantage to children to have the prayers of parents, and the prayers of the Church of God in their behalf? Is it no advantage that they should be brought up under the care of those, who have actually given them to God, and solemnly engaged to train them up for him? If there is any advantage in these things, then their baptism is a reasonable service.
But shall we imagine, that no children are saved but the baptised offspring of christians? I answer, God's tender mercies are over all his works; but the promises of the covenant are to believers and their children; not to unbelievers or heathens, as such, and their children. These we are to leave, where the scripture leaves them, in the hands of a righteous and merciful God. But, Is it no comfort to reflect, that there are given to us exceeding great and precious promises? Admitting that all who die in infancy will be saved, yet, Can it be thought unreasonable, that the baptised offspring of pious Christians should have some advantages, in the kingdom of heaven, above those who are not with the covenant of promise? The mercies of God are free, and he distributes them with a sovereign hand, as his wisdom directs. Our business is to attend to God's institutions and commands, and in the way of duty to trust his promises.
We are acting not
5. Our subject teaches us the
importance of the
A holy and religious life is certainly of vast importance to ourselves; for on this depends the happiness of our existence through all the succeeding ages of eternal duration. But when we consider ourselves as standing in a near connexion with our fellow probationers; when we realize, how much good a sinner may destroy, or a saint promote; how many souls may be corrupted by the example of the one, and how many may be converted by the influence of the other; the importance of our personal religion rises beyond all conception.
You view the minister, the ruler, and the parent, as having a station assigned them, in which others are deeply interested. You think, that they ought to act in their places with anxious fidelity, because on this may depend the happiness of multitudes. But remember, no man lives to himself alone. You are in a capacity to do much good; and your abuse of this capacity may in its consequences, prove the ruin of thousands.
Viewing yourselves in this light, you will, in regard to the happiness of others, as well as your own, be careful what manner of persons you are.
6. We see that benevolence must be an essential part of true religion.
If God has placed us in such a connexion with those around us, that their virtue and happiness will be affected by our conduct, we are evidently bound to act with a regard to their interest.
We are, indeed, more capable of serving our own interest, than that of others; and the interest, of our friends, than that of strangers. We are, therefore, first charged with the care of ourselves, and next with the care of our families and dependents. We know our own and their wants more perfectly, and feel them more sensibly, than we can the wants of those at a distance. But we are to wish well to all; to do good, as we have opportunity; and to
pray for those, to whom our actual beneficence cannot extend.
Benevolence is a principle which ought uniformly to govern us, in the common duties of life and religion. We are to work with our hands the thing which is good, that we may not only supply our own wants, but give to them who need. And we are to maintain the practice of piety and virtue, that we may not only secure our own reward, but assist others in securing theirs.
On this principle also, we are to exercise forbearance and condescension to one another, and to seek, not merely our own profit, but the profit of many. The Christian, who, under pretence of promoting piety in his own heart, acts, in doubtful matters, with a haughty indifference to the peace and edification of his brethren, plainly shows that he is void of that charity, which is the glory of religion, and without which all his zeal will profit him nothing.
Let us therefore, as becomes Christians, exhort and comfort, strengthen and encourage one another in every good work, and thus be fellow helpers to the kingdom of God.