Page images

that assistance of the Holy Spirit which is still necessary for his condition, to enable him to "fight the good fight of faith,"* and which he certainly will obtain, provided he do not ask amiss; he does not expect to receive assistance which the circumstances of his case do not require.

Should extraordinary events take place in the Christian world, he rests assured, from the experience of former times, that the same Holy Spirit who "divideth to every man severally as he will,”+ and to whose trust the spiritual concerns of Christians have been committed, will not be wanting to the occasion.

A distinction is, therefore, to be made between the ordinary and extraordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit; each being adapted by Divine wisdom to the particular condition of the party concerned. In the present day, the extraordinary assistance which attended the infant Church is not expected, because it is not wanted. That it is not granted, can be no subject for controversy; whilst those who pretend to it, are unable to produce a proof of it. They neither work miracles, nor do they possess the gift of tongues; though from a want of knowledge of the languages in which the Scriptures were originally written, they are frequently leading their hearers into error; which certainly they would not be permitted to do, if, like the Apostles, they were, as they pretend to be, under the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit.'

All pretence, therefore, to this extraordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit, which tends to super* 1 Tim. vi. 12. † 1 Cor. xii. 11.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

sède the use of those general methods of attaining Divine knowledge, which are suited to the present state of things in the world, and calculated to establish the faith and practice of the Christian professor on the firm ground of sound argument and rational conviction, is the offspring of enthusiasm; which has been productive of more disgrace to the Christ

ian cause, and more mischief to mankind, than

almost any principle that has ever actuated the human mind. And it is from a want of a proper distinction having been made between the effects of the Holy Spirit, which were peculiar to the Apostolic age, and those which a change of circumstances render still necessary to be continued in the Church, that all the mistakes upon this subject have arisen.

A consideration, which speaks a language sufficiently intelligible to every discriminating mind, in favour of that rational and edifying form of worship established in our Church, as best calculated to form that temper of sober piety and solid virtue, which never fails to produce correspondent effects upon the practice of all who sincerely use it. Especially when it is observed, as in truth and justice it ought to be, that most of the errors which have crept into the Church, are to be traced up to the ignorance and incapacity of those, who from time to time have deemed themselves qualified to be interpreters of holy writ.

In proof of the foregoing position, it may be sufficient for our present purpose to produce one instance. The original commission delivered to the Apostles, as it stands recorded in St. Matthew's

Gospel, runs thus: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," &c. From the letter of this commission, as it stands in our translation, a conclusion has been drawn by some, that a previous acquaintance with the principles of Christianity is a necessary qualification for admission into the Christian Church; and that infants, in consequence of their incapacity to learn, are of course excluded from that privilege. But had the early patrons of this erroneous opinion in this country, been acquainted with the original language, in which the Apostolic commission was first delivered to the world, they would have been satisfied, that a con, elusion, the very opposite to the one drawn by them, is what the passage in question seems designed to point out. In proof of this position, it is to be observed, that the words teach and teaching, which occur in this remarkable passage, are in the original Greek expressed by two words, conveying two different meanings. In conformity with which, the commission in question may with propriety be read thus: "Go ye, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, &c.; and when admitted into the Church by baptism, teach them to observe all things," &c. Children, therefore, are admitted into

* The Gospel according to St. Matthew was originally written by him in Hebrew, for the benefit of the Jews at Jerusalem; but afterwards translated by him, or some apostolical person, into Greek, and in that language received into the canon of the New Testament by the whole primitive Church.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

a state of discipleship in the Church, or school, of Christ, upon the same idea that they are admitted into that state in any other school; not because they have been already taught, but in order that they may learn. In confirmation of the foregoing remark, it may be observed, that in the Eastern Churches, where the Gospel of St. Matthew was read in the Greek language, the erroneous opinion here alluded to, respecting the incapacity of infants for admission into the Church by baptism, never prevailed.

Another text which has been pressed into the same service, by the patrons of this erroneous opinion, will also be found unequal to the weight that has been attempted to be laid it. upon Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."* But in the original it is, “except a person, any one be born,” &c. a term of general import, and applicable, consequently, to all ages and persons, to man, woman, and child. I have thought it necessary to point out these two passages of scripture to notice, with the view of showing the reader the narrow ground upon which the objection to infant baptism originally stood. The arguments since drawn from some other circumstances recorded in holy writ in support of it, have been brought forward to prop up a feeble cause, which its zealous advocates having once espoused, have thought themselves obliged, at all events, to maintain. Whilst, on the other side, is to be placed that momentous consideration respecting the religious education of children, which reason,

* John iii. 5.

[ocr errors]

experience, and scripture, uniformly recommend to parental attention.

Reason tells us, that if a plant be disposed in its infant state to take an untoward growth, early training is the only mode calculated to correct the natural tendency. What this plant is in the physical, man is in the moral world; a being who, from the corruption of his nature, is disposed to evil. Vicious affections, like noxious weeds, are the natural pro duce of the human soil; which will of course ripen into maturity, if early pains be not taken to eradicate them, and plant in their room those graces of the Christian temper, which as they are exotics in the soil of the human heart, require, in order to their being preserved in health and vigour, early nursing, constant superintendence, and assiduous care. The royal instructor, therefore, in his directions to "train up a child in the way that he should go," spake the language of sound wisdom; of a man acquainted with the actual state of human nature, and solicitous of providing the only remedy, under God, against its prevailing corruption.

The experience of mankind informs us that the welfare, we might say the existence, of civilized society, in a great measure depends upon the proper discharge of the parental duty. And with respect to religious education in particular, the Jewish historian informs us, that there were never less among the Jews than four hundred houses of catechizing, where the law and the Talmud were regularly expounded: and, moreover, that there was an act made at Jerusalem, which obliged all children of

* Prov. xxii. 6.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »