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neglecting, this testimony of his mercy to you. All' men are bound voluntarily to become his, and to consecrate themselves to his service. To this duty you are under peculiar obligations. By openly acknowledging you as his children, He has, if I may be allowed the expression, laid claim to you in a manner, which, while it demands of you the most intense gratitude, requires of you, also, to assume the character, which He has thus externally conferred; and with all the heart to devote yourselves in the covenant of grace to his service and glory. All men, under the Gospel, are immoveably bound to the performance of this duty. But the obligations, incumbent on you, are peculiar and pre-eminent. Let me request, you to ponder this subject with deep and solemn concern, ard to inquire with all earnestness of mind, whether you are not in imminent danger of sharing the doom of Capernaum, Chorazin, and
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.—THE OBJECTIONS
AGAINST INFANT BAPTISM ANSWERED.
MATTHEW XXviii. 19.-Go ye, therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
IN the preceding discourse, I considered, at some length, the Reality, and Intention of the ordinance of Baptism. According to the scheme, then proposed, I shall now proceed to inquire, Who are the proper Subjects of Baptism?
In answer to this inquiry, I observe,
1. That all those, who believe in Christ, and publicly profess their faith in him, are proper Subjects of Baptism.
That such a profession may be made with understanding, the person, who makes it, must be of sufficient age, and sufficient capacity, to know the great doctrines and duties of the Gospel; and must already have become acquainted with them. He must also understand, that it is the Religion of the heart, which is professed, and not merely a speculative belief of the truths and precepts, contained in the Scriptures. Without such knowledge no man can act, in this solemn case, with propriety, decency, or meaning. Nor do I know, that the absolute necessity of such knowledge has ever been questioned. A public declaration of our cordial belief in the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel is what is usually called in this country a Profession of Faith ; the ground, on which, indispensably, Adults are admitted to Baptism.
In addition to this, what is equally necessary to such admission, the Candidate also enters publicly into covenant with God; adouching Jehovah, the FATHER, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to be his God; giving himself up to the FATHER, through the Son, and by the Holy Ghost, as his child and servant; and engaging, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, he will lide soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world. This engagement is substantially what Tertullian calls Sponsio salutis ; the engagement of salvation; made universally by adults, who were baptized in his time.
One would think it hardly necessary to observe concerning this engagement, that it ought to be made with sincerity; or that the candidate ought to mean all that which is ordinarily inlended by the terms of the profession; or, in other words, that it ought to be made with the heart and not merely with the lips.
2. The Infant Children of Believers are also Scriptural subjects of Baptism.
This doctrine, as you well know, has been extensively disputed and denied ; so extensively, that those who have contended against it, have been formed into a distinct sect, existing in considerable numbers throughout most Christian countries. These persons, originally styled Anabaptists, and Antipædobaptists, have claimed to themselves improperly the title of Baptists; indicating, that they only. baptized, or were baptized, in a manner agreeable to the scriptural directions on this subject. While, therefore, I cheerfully acknowledge the distinguished piety and respectability of a considerable number of men in this class of Christians, particularly in Great Britain ; I protest against their assumption of this name, so far as it is intended to indicate, that others do not baptize, and are not baptized, agreeably to the principles of the Gospel. I acknowledge freely their right to their own principles. But their right to conclude, or to assert, that the point in debate between us and them, is settled in their favour, I neither admit nor believe. The name Anabaptists, originally given to them because they rebaptized those who had received baptism in infancy, is an appellation, in every view less objectionable.
* In discussing this subject, I shall state, and answer, the objections commonly made against it; and then attempt to support it by direct arguments.
1. It is objected by the opposers of this doctrine, that it is not enjoined by any express command, nor warranted by any express declaration in the Scriptures.
How far this objection is founded in truth, I shall consider here. after. At present, it will be sufficient to observe, that there are many duties incumbent on us, which are neither expressly commanded, nor expressly declared, in the Scriptures. The principle on which the objection is founded, when expressed generally, is this: Nothing is our duty, which is not thus commanded, or declared, in the Scriptures. According to this principle, Women are under no bligations to celebrate the Lord's Supper; Parents to pray with their children or families, or to teach them to read ; nor any of mankind to celebrate the Christian Sabbath ; nor Rulers lo provide the means of defending the country which they govern, or lo punish a tzw.ntieth part of those crimes, which, if left unpunished, would ruin mry country. The extent to which this principle, fairly pursued, Would conduct us, would, I think, astonish even those by whom it is urged.
It is impossible for the Scriptures, if they would be of any serisous use to mankind, to specify all the particular doctrines, and
duties, necessary to be believed, and practiserl. The volumes, in which such a specification, however succinct, must be made, would be too numerous even to be read, much more to be understood and remembered. The scheme of instruction, adopted by the
Scriptures, is that of stating the objects of our faith, and the rules of our duty, in a manner, which, iaken together, may be styled general: although I acknowledge it is, in many instances, to a considerable degree particular. These, it illustrates by examples, and frequently by comments on those examples. Both the instructions and examples, also, are intended to be still farther illustrated by a comparison of passages. Common sense, candidly employed, may easily, with these advantages, discover all those precepts, which direct the faith and practice of mankind in ordinary cases. Those, which in their nature are more involved, are left to the investigation of superior intelligence, and laborious study.
Such a Code of instruction, every man of thought will perceive, must lay a foundation for a great multitude of inferences. Of these, some will be distant and doubtful; others, variously probable; and others, still, near and certain. Those, which are included in the last of these classes, are ever to be received as being actually contained in the Scriptures, and as directing our faith and practice with divine authority. Every scriptural writer, by attaching this authority to his own inferences, teaches us this doctrine; and enforces upon use the duty of yielding obedience to inferences, clearly and certainly drawn from truths and precepts, expressed in the sacred Canon. I will only add, that, wherever our duty demands either the designed omission, or the adoption, of any given practice, we are obliged, wherever we cannot obtain certain evidence, to govern ourselves by the superior probability.
If, then, the duty of baptizing Infants can be certainly inferred, or inferred with a probability, superior to that, which is supposed to justify the omission of it, the Scriptures require, that Infants should be baptized.
2. It is objected, that there is no certain Example of Infant Baptism in the Scriptures.
To this I answer, that there is no instance, in which it is declared in so many terms, that infants were baptized. But there are instances, in which, according to every rule of rational construction, this fact is plainly involved. Lydia, and her house, and the household of Stephanus, were baptized. He, who has examined the meaning of the words, house and household, in the Scriptures, cannot fail to perceive, that in their primary meaning, they denote. Children, and sometimes more remote descendants. Thus St. Paul said to the Jailer, in answer to his question, What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ; and thou shalt be saded, and thy house. There is no reason to think, that Paul knew what family the Jailer had. On the contrary, he appears merely to have uttered the same doctrine, which had before been announced to the Jews by St. Peter; The promise is to you, and to your children; and to have used the word, house, necessarily from this ig. norance, in the manner, in which it was customarily used by his
edence then the day probe
countrymen. Of this manner we have many examples in the Old Testament. Come Thou, and all thy house, into the ark, said God to Noah; Genesis vii. 1. We know, that the house of Noah consist
d of his wife and children. Let thy house be like the house of Pharez, said the Elders of Bethlehem to Boaz; Ruth iv. 12. In this passage the meaning is precisely limited to Children. I rent the kingdom away from the house of David; I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam; I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam. The Lord shall raise him up a King, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam; 1 Kings viii. 10–14. I will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam, and like the house of Baasha, the son of Ahijah; 1 Kings xvi. 3, and xxi. 22. In all these passages, and in others almost innumerable, the Children only are meant. Thus the house of Israel, the house of Judah, the house of Joseph, are phrases exactly synonymous with the children of Israel, the children of Judah, and the children of Joseph. In this manner, then, Paul unquestionably, used the term in the passage already quoted. Accordingly it is subjoined, He was baptized, and all his, straightway.
In the same manner is the phrase used by St. Peter, in reciting the directions of the Angel to Cornelius ; Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who shall tell thee words, whereby thou, and all thy house, shall be saved. Acts xi. 13, 14.
When, therefore, we find the houses of these several persons baptized; we know, that the language, customarily, and therefore in the several cases certainly, means the Children of those, who are mentioned. When St. Paul said to the Jailer, Beliere on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house; he intended, either that the children of the Jailer should be saved; or his servants; or both. I am willing to leave it to my opponents to choose that side of either alternative, which they prefer : for they themselves will be compelled to admit, that the children are at least included.
From the manner, in which the baptizing of these families is mentioned, it appears strongly probable, that to baptize men and their households, was the standing practice of the Apostles : for there is nothing, which indicates, that they practised differently in these instances from what was common in others. And St. Paul declares to the Jailer, that, in consequence of his own faith, he and all his house should be saved. Shou this, however, be contested; there is strong reason to believe, that in some, or other, of these families, and not improbably in all, there were children, too young to be baptized on their own profession of faith.
3. It is objected, that Children cannot be the subjects of Faith; and that Faith is a necessary qualification for Baptism.
I know not how far this objection is urged; but it is certainly not founded in truth. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb; and was unquestionably a