Page images

be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

This text is one among innumerable passages of Scripture, which represent the Deity as a being of the highest and most inflexible justice. He is not only the Creator and Preserver, but also the Governor of the universe. He reigns over his creatures, as their rightful Sovereign. To bim they are accountable for all their conduct. His dominion, however, is not a mere arbitrary supremacy founded on infipite migbt. There are certain definite and immutable principles, originating in the eternal rectitude of his own nature, by which his government is administered. In pursuance of these principles, which he can no more abandon than he can cease to exist, be always deals with voluntary agents according to their moral deserts. It is impossible for him to treat the good and the badthose who obey, and those who disobey his laws—in precisely the same manner. Of this truth Abraham, even at an early age, when the lights of reason and revelation were both comparatively dim, was fully convinced. He assumed it as a point that could not be denied, or doubted; and it formed the basis of his intercession in behalf of Sodom. He was sure, that it would be far from God to destroy the righteous with the wicked-to involve opposite characters in indiscriminate destruction. Such a procedure he scrupled not to intimate, would be unjust on the part of his Maker. Thus he emphatically asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

It is certain, then, that in the universe of God, a due distinction will, in every instance, be ultimately made between the virtuous and the vicious. We say ultimately, because there can be no doubt, that, in the present world, such a distinction does not uniformly obtain. Here men are not dealt with exactly according to their merits. The sun rises to enlighten and bless the evil and the good, Rain descends on the just and on the unjust. The wicked sometimes enjoy a large measure of temporal blessings, wbile the righteous are visited with every kind and degree of affliction. Nor could it be otherwise in a state of probation, where voluntary agents, instead of being rewarded and punished in strict accordance with the demands of justice, are to be tried and prepared for their ulterior destination. The period is coming, when all these inequalities will be rectified—when every cloud that now seems to hang over the moral goveroment of Deity will disappear -when his character as the Judge of all the earth will shine forth with unsullied lustre when he will weigh, in even scales, the deserts of all intelligent beings, and determine their fate for eternity on such principles, as shall constrain the whole universe to acknowledge and feel the equity of his decisions.

The general doctrine inculcated in the text before us, is capable of many applications. The justice of God is a fruitful theme, from which a variety of important conclusions may be drawn. We propose, on the present occasion, to consider it in reference to a question, which, though not very often discussed in the pulpit, or even in books, is frequently a topic of conversation, and occasionally occupies the thoughts, and awakens the speculations, of every serious mind. We allude to the future destiny of those who die in infancy. It is a matter of equal surprise and regret, that a subject of so much interest should be so rarely adverted to by those who speak and write on the prospects of man as a religious being. To tell us, that the Scriptures reveal little or nothing in relation to this point, is not a sufficient apology for the silence maintained by preachers and writers, since other topics—such, for example, as the title of children to baptism-respect

ing which the disclosures of Revelation are scarcely more explicit, have employed many an eloquent tongue, and many a prolific pen. Our theological libraries exhibit no deficiency of erudite and elaborate works on the comparatively unimportant point, whether infants may be baptized, while we may minutely examine the contents of whole shelves of volumes, without finding a page, or even a sentence, that has a bearing on the question, whether the large number of human beings, whom death removes from our earth before they are capable of moral error, shall be saved or lost.

This silence of so many of our most approved religious writers and speakers, in reference to the future destiny of infants, has led to a result deeply to be deplored. A very general impression has gone abroad, that theologians of our own denomination in particular, imagine, that some who die in infancy are lost. The preacher to whom you are listening, has been asked, with much gravity and concern, whether all Presbyterian ministers really held the opinion, that “there are children in hell not a span long," as it is commonly expressed. Indeed, an elaborate attempt has recently been made by the Unitarians of NewEngland, in one of their leading periodical works, to show, that the damnation of infants is not only an inferential point necessarily flowing from Calvinism, but an article of belief actually adopted, and explicitly avowed, by some of the most eminent Calvinistic divines. Under these circumstances it becomes, in our apprehension, the solemn duty of every minister in the Presbyterian church, publicly to declare, on all soitable occasions, what are his views in relation to this subject. By thus acting he will quiet the minds of many in his own church, at the same time that he contributes to wrest from the hands of others, a weapon which they have successfully wielded to the

detriment of the entire denomination of which he is a member.

Before we advance further, it is but fair to state, that very few, if any, Calvanistic divines have avowed a belief in the damnation of infants. The contrary impression, however generally it may prevail, and however it may have been encouraged by the erroneous representations of those who ought to know better, does not accord with the truth. The utmost that can be correctly affirmed, is that some Calvinistic divines have expressed themselves doubtfully on this subject. They have taken the ground, that, as the Scriptures are silent in relation to the future fate of infants, the readers of the Scriptures ought to consider the point as among those secret things which belong to the Lord our God, and with which, therefore, it is impertinent for human curiosity to intermeddle. On the other hand, there are some Calvinistic divines who have avowed, in terms the most explicit and unqualified, their clear and settled persuasion, that all who die in infancy shall be saved. For example, Toplady, than whom a fiercer and more thorough-going Calvinist never stepped on the arena of polemics, gives it as his unhesitating conviction, that “the souls of all departed infants are with God in glory; that in the decree of predestination to life, God hath included all whom he intended to take away in infancy; and that the decree of reprobation hath nothing to do with them." Let us next hear John Newton. In a letter of condolence to a friend on the loss of a child, he says, “I cannot be sorry for the death of infants. How many storms do they escape! Nor can I doubt in my private judgment, that they are included in the election of grace. Perhaps those who die in infancy, are the exceeding great multitude of all people, nations and languages, mentioned Revelation vii. 3. in distinction from the visible body of professing believers, who were marked in their forebeads, and openly known to be the Lord's.” The same author in another place, thus writes : “Children who die in their infancy, have not yet done any thing in the body, either good or bad. It is true, they are by nature evil, and must, if saved, be the subjects of a supernatural change. And though we cannot conceive how this change is to be wrought, yet I suppose few are so rash as to imagine it impossible that any infants can be saved. The same power that produces this change in some, can produce it in all; and, therefore, I am willing to believe, till the Scripture forbids me, that infants of all nations and kindreds, without exception, who die before they are capable of sinning after the similitude of Adam's transgressoin, who have done nothing in the body of which they can give an account, are included in the election of grace. They are born for a better world tban this; they just enter this state of tribulation; they quickly pass through it; their robes are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and they are admitted for his sake before the throne.” More passages of a similar purport might be quoted from other Calvinistic writers. But we shall merely add the opinion of Dr. Scott. In commenting on that saying of our divine Lord, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," he remarks, that the passage may be understood as intimating, that the “ kingdom of heavenly glory is greatly constituted of such as die in their infancy.” He further says, “Infants are as capable of regeneration as grown persons; and there is ground to conclude, that all those who have not lived to commit actual transgressions, though they share in the effects of the first Adam's offence, will also share in the blessings of the second Adam's gracious covenant; without their personal faith and obedience,

« PreviousContinue »