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II. The Case of INFANTS. We shall give here a general and brief sketch of our views respecting the case of infants, and then we shall more minutely attend to the particulars respecting them. It appears to us that both in the Scripture and by the Church of England, infants are spoken of and dealt with as adults.
1. They seem to be involved with their parents and to be treated like them, until they come of years to answer for themselves. The evidence of this truth will appear both from the nature of the case and from matter of fact : -First, Male infants under the Abrahamic covenant were bound to be circumcised as well as their fathers. Yet from the necessity of the case they must depend on their parents for qualifications, conditions, pledges and expectations ;-secondly, in fact, the male child, if uncircumcised after eight days, was esteemed and treated as violator of God's covenant. (Gen. xvii. 14.) The punishment, however, as in the case of Moses, might be transferred to the parent, who from his neglect was the person actually guilty. (Exod. iv. 14.)
2. May we not then inquire, why should not the infant be as capable of being esteemed a due receiver of the covenant as the violator of it? It must be admitted that there was double guilt in the violation, that is, the original guilt of the infant and the actual guilt of the parent. But as God's judgments visit only “ three or four generations,” and his mercies " a thousand,” why should we object to his blessing the infant in the parent, if he chose to do so ?
3. God involved Adam's posterity in his behaviour ; and the promise to“ Abraham and his seed,” as a type of Christ, the second Adam, appears to involve and include his posterity.
4. This union of the parents and children, with its consequences, seems to have been believed as a doctrine and complained of as a fact, by the carnal Jews in Ezekiel's days. And while they appear to have derived from God's threatenings and dealings a “proverb," not always untrue in itself, they made a wrong application of it; and thus endeavoured to throw the guilt of their sinful imitation of their wicked parents, upon God's providence, and so to excuse themselves. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.” And we may observe that God's reproof of their misapplication of the proverb, is only applicable to those who were come to years of discretion, and who therefore should be dealt with according to their own actual conduct. It is truly a matter of fact that during infancy children are often treated, in the course of providence, as the parent.
5. We have before shewed, that the covenant and the promise of Abraham, is “
the Gentiles,” or the Christian church, and has come by faith. The same divine economy therefore respecting the infants of Christian believers, must be looked for and acted upon under the new as under the old or patriarchal dispensation.
6. This idea of a natural union between the Christian and his offspring, forming the basis of a covenant union between those infants and the Most High, seems to have been esteemed by the early fathers, and is still esteemed by our church as a principal and sufficient ground for dealing with them as with adults. “ Else were your children unclean; but now are they holy," or clean, is a text generally considered, we believe, by the fathers and by moderns too, as referring to the natural right of such infants to be spiritually dedicated to God; and also to God's right to expect, that Christian parents should dedicate their offspring to Him.
7. The substitution of sponsors is, in the case of infants in civil life, practised every day in our own and every other civilised nation; which, though it do not wholly reach the case before us, may nevertheless serve to illustrate and justify it. In civil cases the infant is supposed to concur in and to allow the transaction of his guardians on his behalf, and is legally bound accordingly. And something like this, or in a way similar to it, must have been implied in the case of circumcision.
First. Infants are by our church baptised as adults. This is a position that cannot be fairly denied by any who carefully attend to the structure of her baptismal documents and to the source from which she derives the right of infants to baptism. And we think, that a due consideration of the evidence on this point, and of the natural consequences resulting from it, will lead us to a very sufficient answer to those who contend for the necessary and universal regeneration of infants in baptism.
believe God's holy word, and obediently keep his commandments ;"-4. That the promise of Christ respecting adoption, pardon, justification and salvation, is here viewed as essentially one promise, though including many united blessings ; and that the promise to renounce the devil and his works, to believe in God and to keep his commandments, is in reality but one promise, which is to be faithfully made, and constantly observed to the end of life ;5. That the attempt therefore to separate regeneration, here called sanctification by the Holy Ghost, from salvation, and so to make regeneration absolute and dependent on no condition whatever, and salvation dependent on future contingencies,-is a violation of reason and of all analogy ;-6. That the whole is set forth as a true stipulation, covenant and promise on the part of the child, as well as on the part of our Saviour, and that though it be certain on his part, it would be insanity to assert that it is so on the part of the infant, though it be charitably admitted to be so. It must be, therefore, an inevitable conclusion, that regeneration in baptism is in every way hypothetical, when applied to infants, as well as when applied to adults ;-—7. That the blessings prayed for and said to be “promised," may be admitted to belong spiritually to every one who is spiritually of the kingdom of heaven, whether infant or adult, and that it is no unfair inference, that those blessings are hypothetically promised to all, but absolutely only to the spiritual members ;-8. That as our Lord cannot be understood to mean, that all infants, whether baptised or unbaptised, are of the kingdom of heaven," and that as there is here no direct allusion to baptism, nor any express promise to infants with respect to baptism, our church seems to have acted wisely and cautiously in not considering the passage in that express and exclusive form ;-9. That we may therefore infer, that she has derived her mode of baptising infants from the general principles and directions of the Gospel" If thou believest”-".
repent and be baptised;" but that she has derived boldness and encouragement from our Lord's language and conduct towards these children, in hoping for and expecting his blessing upon them ;-10. That in the case of infants, our church considers “ all these things,” that is, reception, pardon, sanctification and salvation, as suspended on and connected with the promise of Christ, on
his part, and on the promise of the infant, faithfully made at the time, and constantly observed on his part, as to renunciation, faith and obedience, to the end of his life.
4. The office of confirmation recognises the engagements made by the candidates in their infancy, as engagements of their own: and they are consequently considered and supposed to have spiritually entered into covenant with God at their baptism, to have become regenerate by water and the Holy Ghost, and to have actually received the forgiveness of all their sins, even as adults, coming in repentance and faith,” are allowed to have done. And it must be specially noticed, that at their confirmation they are not called upon to enter into a new covenant and engagement with God, but to ratify,“ openly before the church,” and to confirm the same engagement which has been already made in their name at their baptism; and that they do not then make but“ renew the solemn promise and vow, that was made in their name at their baptism, ratifying and confirming the same in their own persons, and acknowledging themselves bound to believe and to do all those things which their godfathers and godmothers then undertook for them."
We need not multiply arguments on a point so clear. It is most obvious that our church baptises infants on the same ground with adults, speaking of them, and pronouncing respecting them, exactly as if they were adults.
SECONDLY. Of the circumstantial difference between infants and adults, our church makes no account.
That there is a circumstantial difference, there can be no doubt. Adults can answer for themselves, infants cannot. But our church views the subject scripturally and charitably; and what therefore is wanting on the part of infants, she trusts will be graciously supplied, on the part of our kind and compassionate Lord, who will have mercy rather than sacrifice, through the medium of those who represent them, and who, as far as one person can stand in the place of another where mercies and blessings so numerous and needful are presented to us, answer in their name, that they shall fulfil the engagements made for their benefit.
The church seems to have two important things in view, -the necessity that exists as to infants, they being sinful as well as adults,-and the mercy of God indicated in his
previous dispensation, and apparently renewed by our Lord in his conduct towards them.
We hence offer the following remarks :-1. The baptismal offices and the Articles, on the true foundation of Scripture, consider both infants and adults as partakers of " original sin" and guilt in Adam, and as lying under certain condemnation on its account. 2. When therefore the church introduces adults or infants by baptism, into the Christian covenant, she does so, in both cases, with the express desire and prayer, that they may attain those blessings, under the covenant of grace, which “ by nature they cannot have."-3. The church charitably hopes, that Christ, who was “much displeased” with his disciples, because they forbade little children to come unto him, will graciously accept infants, brought unto him by the goodwill of their representatives, as if they came in their own
And they pray for them, believe and bless them, and accordingly declare them regenerate and blessed. 4. It is moreover obvious, that it is a new, internal renovation and sanctification of soul, that is sought for, pledged, and hypothetically pronounced to be obtained; for that alone can answer the necessities of the case, and repair the deadly effects of original sin, or cure “the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam." Forasmuch as every man is by nature it very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit," nothing but a spiritual regeneration or renovation of his nature, can serve his turn, or designate his character as born of God, as a member of Christ in the covenant of as an heir of everlasting glory; as we especially proved in our first number on the nature of regeneration.
THIRDLY. A fair conclusion may be hence drawn as to the church's view respecting the regeneration of infants in baptism.
That she admits the regeneration of infants in baptism, cannot be denied. But she does the same with respect to adults : of which we have been speaking, and may speak more hereafter. The present question is simply respecting the regeneration of infants. On this point the controversy very greatly hinges. Our opponents, we believe, do strenuously contend for it as a fact, and not merely as