Page images

alluding to the well-known extent of the administration of baptism, says, "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

Accordingly, though we have inspired epistles written to Churches during a series of sixty or seventy years after the first promulgation of the gospel, no one allusion is found to any class of unbaptized youth, which must have been numerous in every Church, within a few years after its being founded, had the infants of the converts not been admitted with them into the covenant of mercy.

The universal practice of the apostolic and early Christian Church confirms this view of the case as it lies in Scripture. The heretics of the first four centuries, when they wished to evade the confession of their sentiments, as to the fall of man, still avowed their faith in the baptism of infants, as a point never questioned. Nor was it till the sixteenth century that any body of Christians arose to deny the validity and extent of baptism, as applicable to the children of the faithful. And even now, after eighteen ages, the whole universal Church, including all the Lutheran and Protestant communities, and the smallest subdivisions of persons separated from national Churches, with the single exception of the small body who are known by the name of Baptists, hold the primitive doctrine of infant baptism.

The subordinate question of the mode of adminis tering the rite, I pass over as of little consequence. Our own Church baptizes by immersion, except when the parents can plead the inability of the infant by reason of health. But baptism by sprinkling, especially in the colder regions of Christendom where necessity dictates it, is agreeable to the general goodness of that God, who "will have mercy and not sacrifice." The import of the original word is

allowed to be capable of either interpretation. And the greater or less quantity of the emblematical element is, under a spiritual dispensation, surely of subordinate moment.

It is important further to observe, that all the supposed advantages of baptism in adult years are secured by the primitive and edifying rite of Confirmation, which is retained, after the example of the apostles, in all the branches of Christ's Holy Church; when the parents and sponsors resign their charge, and the catechumen, ratifying and confirming his vows, is solemnly admitted, after due examination, by prayer and the imposition of hands, to the profes sion of his faith in his own name, and all the personal blessings and privileges of the covenant of grace. '

The minds of the young and unstable are sometimes disturbed by persons misinterpreting or misapplying our Lord's command, 66 Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." This passage, say they, is clearly against the baptizing of infants; for if believing be a requisite qualification for baptism, as children cannot believe, so ought they not to be baptized. It is surprising that those who reason thus, do not advance a step further still, and contend that as believing is here represented as necessary to salvation, it follows also that, as infants cannot believe, so neither can they be saved. Arguments that involve such glaring contradictions must necessarily be false. The truth is, the objectors here introduce into their conclusion an entire class of individuals who were never thought of in their premises. For to whom amongst the heathens and Jews was the gospel preached at the promulgation of the gospel? Was it not to adults? And to whom amongst the heathen, Jews and Mohammedans now, is it still preached? Is it not to adults, i. e., to persons capable of faith or unbelief? And of them every one that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." The error of applying such passages to infants, is seen at once when other passages of a similar construction are considered. instance, let us try to apply the argument to the apostolic rule, "If any will not work, neither shall be eat;" infants cannot work; therefore neither shall they eat. And yet, absurd as

As an


6. But I return from this digression, if it may so termed, to notice the spirit of patient labor and suffering of the ministers of Christ in the execution of the preceding course of instruction. How do they perform their task? In what spirit do they go to all nations? How do they meet trials, opposition, perverseness, prejudice, banishment, imprisonment, martyrdom? Do they draw the sword of war? Do they enlist their converts under the banners of blood? Do they return evil for evil? Do they

disturb the civil order of Government ?

No; patience, silence, prayer, the rendering of good for evil is their spirit and temper.


They obey magistrates, are no brawlers, but gentle towards all men, and ready to every good work.” These are their arms. When they are " persecuted in one city, they flee to another." "Being defamed, they entreat." They pass through "honor and dishonor; through evil report and good report; as deceivers and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known;" rejoicing that "they are counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ."

Such a religion, propagated by such authority, and in a manner so entirely benevolent, speaks for itself. Nothing can be so reasonable, so humane, so beneficial, as to use all fit endeavors in diffusing a revelation, which thus adapts itself to the state and wants of man, not only in its contents, but in the manner of its propagation; and which relies simply on the divine authority which issued the commission, and the divine help and grace which first accompanied, and accompanies still, the discharge of it.

such an argument is, it is the only one in the least plausible advanced by those who object to the baptism of infants. Let it be well noted, once more, that there is not one single instance, in the whole New Testament, of any person born of Christian parents, ever having been baptized when grown up.

For we have to consider,


III. The promise of all needful succor made to those engaged in the work; And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Here lies the secret of the amazing success of the gospel in all ages. The presence of Christ with his Church gives it an efficacy not its own. This promise includes the grace which moves secretly the hearts of men ; the raising up of ministers to succeed in the apostolical work; and the communication of such support as their cases require.

1. The grace which secretly subdues and sways the rebellious heart of man is principally intended by these words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." They import that our Lord would accompany by his internal power, the outward doctrine, evidences, invitations, instructions given in compliance with his commission. "By the grace of God I am what I am," said the apostle of the Gentiles." The hand of the Lord was with them, and many believed and turned unto the Lord." "The God of all grace calleth us to his eternal glory." "It is God that worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure." "Then hath God unto the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life.' By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God"-such is the language of Scripture on this subject.

"9 66

It is thus the apostles went forth. Christ their master was with them. He inwardly disposed the hearts of men to behold the gospel miracles with candor and docility, to become learners in the Christian school, to make by the appointed baptismal rite a profession of their faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and to receive gradually all other things which Christ had commanded them. It is thus in every age. The weakness of the

E e

instruments only the more illustrates the mighty power of Christ. He is with all his faithful people in all ages and in every part of the world. He secretly and in a manner undiscovered to us, opens the hearts of men, as of Lydia; or breaks them, as in the case of the Jailer. It is to him all the glory is to be ascribed. The force of reason, the conviction of truth, the alarms of fear, the invitations of love would all be in vain, unless Christ, the Primary Teacher, vouchsafed his effectual and special grace and mercy.

And therefore it is that the true power of the gospel has ever been lost or revived, in proportion as the doctrine of the grace of Christ has been maintained or forgotten. It was for this St. Austin contended in the fifth century, and the Reformers in the sixteenth. Means indeed are not to be superseded or undervalued, the responsibility of man is in no way to be called in question, the efforts of his conscience, will and affections are to be stimulated by their appropriate objects; abuses which would "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness" are scrupulously to be guarded against. But the grace of Christ itself, as the source of all spiritual good in man, is to be avowed, preached, relied on, magnified.

2. All this supposes a succession of faithful ministers to be provided by the same Divine Redeemer, to carry on the work begun by the apostles. The commission was evidently given not only to the eleven, but to those also by implication, as well as by the perpetual assurance of divine aid, who might be joined with them, or succeed them in the work; to say nothing of the case of St. Paul, whose commission, though subsequent to that of the twelve, was directly from Christ. The words were clearly addressed to the apostles as the stewards of an

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »