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on this point. We must, therefore, go to the law and the testimony; and if we think and speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in us, while it shines sufficiently clear in the Bible.
2. As to the mode of baptism, and the form and manner of using and applying water in this ordinance, to the person baptized, it does not appear to be decidedly fixed in the Scripture, whether it be by plunging, pouring on water, aspersion, or sprinkling. Each of those ways have been embraced and practised by different churches, and some do insist that plunging the person wholly under water is the only scriptural mode of baptism, and that none are really baptized, who are not thus plunged. But when the Scripture is carefully examined, it will not appear that this form of baptism was instituted by Christ, or practised by the apostles; or that the word in the original, translated baptism, or to baptize, invariably signifies plunging the whole body in water. This has been particularly considered and proved over and over again, by writers on this subject. Therefore, their opinion and practice, with regard to baptism, seems to be most agreeable to Scripture, who think no particular form of applying water in baptism is prescribed there, by precept or example, or by any thing that is there said on this point; therefore, every church is left to adopt that particular mode which appears to them most decent and convenient; or that different persons may be baptized in different ways of application of water, as shall be most agreeable to them, allowing all to be really baptized, to whom water is religiously applied by a proper person, in the name of the sacred Trinity, whether by plunging, pouring on water, or by aspersion and sprinkling, as the Christian baptism does in no degree consist in the particular manner of using and applying water; and that it is as real baptism, according to the institution of Christ, when performed in different modes. And they seem to be rigid beyond any Scripture warrant, and in a degree superstitious, who insist that all shall be baptized by plunging, and reject all those to whom water has not been applied in this particular mode, as not baptized. This is doubtless making that essential to this ordinance which the Scripture has not made so, and rejecting those from Christian communion and the privileges of the visible church whom Christ receives. If they who have adopted this mode of baptism by plunging did not make it a term of communion, and exclude all as not baptized who have not had water applied to them in this particular way, and not visible Christians, the dispute and contention would be at an end, and they who think and practise differently might hold communion with each other, and
be members of the same churches, though baptized in different modes.
3. The proper subjects of baptism; if adult, are those who by profession, and in appearance, are believers in Christ, and true friends to him. None but they who are really such do in heart “put on Christ," and approve of the covenant of grace and the way of salvation by him, and devote themselves to his honor and service, which all who come to baptism profess to do, and by this transaction are admitted into the church as the servants of Christ, and are visibly interested in the blessięgs of the covenant of grace, and are considered as among the nunter of the saved, and are thus distinguished from all others, as. saints, or holy persons. They must, therefore, be really holy, in order to put on this visibility and profession of it, with propriety and truth, which they do in baptism; for if they be not really such, they are utterly unqualified, in the sight of God, to be admitted to baptism, as it is, on their part, only a piece of hypocrisy. Therefore none are to be admitted to this ordinance but those who in the view of the church appear to be frue friends to Christ, or believers in him, and really holy, and are justly considered by them as such, who can judge only by ontward appearance, and cannot certainly know what is in the heart.
That none but such who are thus visibly, and in the charitable judgment of the church, and of those who administer this ordinance, believers in Christ, and really holy, are the proper subjects of this ordinance, and to be admitted to baptism, is abundantly evident from Scripture, as well as from the nature of the transaction, and the reason of things. The apostles, when they first began to administer Christian baptism and form a church, baptized none but such who “gladly received the word.” (Acts ii. 41.) When the eunuch desired to be baptized, Philip said, “ If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” (Acts viii. 37.) This implies that he was not qualified for baptism, or a fit subject of that ordinance, unless he were a true believer in Christ; and that he could not baptize him unless he professed and appeared to be such a believer. Hence, all who were baptized and formed into churches were considered and addressed by the apostles, in their letters to them, as saints or holy persons, believers in Christ, and friends to him, as those who were saved, and heirs of eternal life; or, which is the same, as real Christians: of which every one must be sensible, who reads the Acts of the Apostles and their epistles.
WHETHER infants, the children of visible believers, and members of the visible church, who have been now described, are the proper subjects of baptism, is an important question, upon which professing Christians are greatly divided, and which has been the subject of much dispute in the three last centuries. It is not thought proper, or that it will answer any good pad, to enter here very particularly into this dispute, upon which so much has been written on both sides. It will be sufficient briefly to state the chief arguments for the baptismn of such children, and the ground and import of this ordinance, when applied to them.
ARGUMENTS FOR INFANT BAPTISM.
I. The arguments may be exhibited under the following particulars:
1. It is observed from the Scripture, that God, in his dealings with men, in his constitutions and conduct, and covenants with them, does connect children with their parents, and considers the former as included in the latter; so that the children take their moral character and visible relation to God, and derive good or evil, a blessing, or the contrary, from their parents, according to their character and conduct.
When God first made man, he considered the children of Adam as included in him, and they were included in the covenant made with him; so that they were to be blessed or not, according to the conduct of their parent, and his moral character and conduct were to determine and fix theirs. Though there were some things peculiar in this constitution, especially as it was more general and comprehensive, taking in all the natural descendants from Adam to the end of the world, yet thus much is to be gathered from it, viz., that children may be included in the covenant which is made with their parents, so as to take their moral character from them, and derive good or evil, according to the moral conduct of their parents, and that God has actually done this in a perspicuous and most striking instance, in which he may be considered, perhaps, as setting a pattern and example of his conduct with mankind, in his public covenant transactions with them, and that in all such covenants children are to be considered as included with their parents.
When God made a covenant with Noah, after the flood, his
children and seed were included; and God's covenant with Abraham was with him, and his seed after him; and his children and posterity had favor and blessings in consequence of this covenant, and out of respect to it. “ He remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant. And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness. But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” (Ps. cv. 42, 43. Isa. xli. 8. See also Gen. v. 4, 5, 24. Ex. vi. 5. Lev. xxvi. 42.) And God saved the children and posterity of David from evil, and showed them special favors for his sake, and out of respect to the covenant made with him. (1 Kings xi. 12, 13, 32, 34, 36. 2 Chron. xxi. 7. Isa. xxxvii. 35.)
From these instances it appears that God has, in fact, entered into covenant with parents, in which their children or seed were included in such a sense and degree that he has showed favor to them out of respect to such covenants, and to the parents with whom the covenant was made. When God entered into covenant with the children of Israel, on the plains of Moab, their children — even their little ones, or infants are expressly included in the covenant. (Deut. xxix. 10–12.) They are said to enter into covenant with their parents. Therefore, infants and children did enter into covenant with their parents, as included with them in the solemn transaction.
Agreeably to this, God says, “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Ex. xx. 5, 6.) Here, on the one hand, God says he brings evil on the children and posterity of wicked parents, as the consequence of their iniquity. It hence is evident that the moral character of the children of wicked parents is, by divine constitution, affected, formed, and fixed by, or in consequence of, the parents' iniquity, who are enemies to him; for God has declared that the child who does not imitate his father in his iniquity shall not suffer for his father's wickedness. (Eze. xviii. 1-20.) The words cited from the second commandment are not repeated or contradicted by this passage in Ezekiel, as some have suggested, but are explained; and hereby we learn that visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children does not intend punishing the children for the iniquity of their fathers, — whatever be the moral character and conduct of the children, and though they abhor and renounce their father's iniquity, and fear and love God, but their moral character is supposed to be like that of their wicked father, and is necessarily implied in the iniquity of their father being visited upon them; - that they shall not renounce, but approve of, the sins of their father, and suffer natural evil or punishment for their own disposition and conduct, and because their moral character and conduct is like their father's. Hence it appears that the moral character of the children of wicked parents is the consequence of the iniquity of their parents, and is formed by it, as the foundation of the natural evil which they suffer; and that this is meant by visiting the iniquity of the fathers, who hate God, upon their children. These fathers do hand down, and entail to their children, their iniquity, or their own moral character, as there is no other possible way in which their iniquity can be visited upon
their children. On the contrary, God shows mercy unto a thousand generations successively of them who love him and keep his commandments. This is God's covenant with such ; which appears from the words of Moses, in which he has reference to the declaration and promise in the second command: “Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him, and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." (Deut. vii. 9.) From these words we learn two things:
First. That the mercy mentioned in the second command, which God exercises and shows, is covenanted mercy, - mercy which he has promised to them who love him and keep his commandments, who have entered into covenant with him.
Secondly. That thousands, in the second command, means a thousand generations, and so is a promise of mercy not only to those individual persons now on the stage of life who love God and keep his commandments, but that these, by fearing God and keeping his commandments, shall transmit and hand down mercy to the next generation, or to their children; and those children, by faithfully following their parents' steps, and keeping covenant, shall likewise procure mercy for their children of the next generation. And, in this way, unless the covenant be broken by unfaithfulness and disobedience, mercy
down from one to another, even to a thousand generations, - that is, to all generations, — and the course can never be interrupted; and, in this respect, it is an everlasting covenant.
And that this is the meaning of the words in the second commandment is evident from the words themselves taken together; for the promise is set in opposition to the threatening. The threatening respects posterity, or children, or generations yet to come — “unto the third and fourth generation." Generation is not in the original, but is necessarily understood,