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their practice, but as far as they were authorized by the divine institution to extend it.
I must here pause, and God willing, shall resume and finish the subject in another discourse.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR BAPTISM.
ACTS II. 38, 39.
6. Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost
. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”'
From the reasoning in the last sermon the conclusion was drawn, that under the Old Testament dispensation, visible piety in the parent, was a requisite qualification, when the church did its duty, to give him a right in the sight of the church to offer his child in circumcision. And hence the inference was drawn, that since baptism has come in the room of circumcision, when a person offers a child in baptism, he covenants with God, and professes true religion, and if he professes what he has not, he acts bypocritically; that to offer his child acceptably in the sight of God, he must do it in the exercise of real piety; and that the requisite qualifications in the sight of the church ought to be visible evidences of real piety.
We now proceed to offer other arguments in support of the same position, that a person to have a right to offer his child in baptism, ought to give credible evidences of real piety.
2. As far as we have any supposed examples in Scripture, of infant baptism, they are in favour of this sentiment. The households of Lydia and the jailer were baptized. In both these cases the heads of the families, who we suppose were the offerers, gave evidences of true religion; and the families were baptized on this ground, that the heads had embraced true religion, and were really pious. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul, and then she was baptized and her household. And the jailer was convicted, anxiously enquired what he should do ; was told to believe and he should be saved, and then was baptized, he and all his straightway, and rejoiced, believing in God.
3. The same may be argued from the nature of baptism. Circumcision was a token of the Abrahamic covenant,which, as has been shown, was the covenant of grace. And it was a seal of the righteousness of faith. Baptism has come in its room, and is therefore a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. It has been shown that the child's right is in virtue of the parent's standing in the covenant. The most lax will at least plead as the reason why they claim baptism for their children, that they themselves have been baptized, and are therefore, visibly, in the covenant. They therefore do acknowledge their own baptism and standing in the covenant, when they present their children for baptism. And by acknowledging their own baptism and standing in the covenant, they do profess to be the Lord's, and to be obligated to fulfil all that is required of those who are in the covenant of grace. And therefore they undoubtedly ought to have true religion, which they profess to have ; or they act bypocritically, and are guilty of what the Scriptures call lying unto God. And here will apply that solemn text, Ps. L. 16, 17; *** Unto the wicked God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou batest instruction, and castest my words behind thee." To admit to sealing ordinances, the church ought to require visible evidences of what God really requires. For the visible church ought to be, as far as is consistent with human fallibility, what the invisible church really is. But there can reasonably be no question that God requires real piety, to render the act acceptable in his sight; and therefore the church ought to require visible evidences of real piety. Further, if the parent, as has been shown, does really, when he offers his child, make the same covenant with God, as when an adult offers himself in baptism, what reason can be given why he should not have the same qualifications ? But it has been fully shown that unbaptized persons have no right to baptism for themselves, unless they give evidences of true religion. And if the covenant made is the same, why admit persons to make a covenant of true religion, by offering their children, without evidences of piety, when we would not admit them without such evidences, to make the very same covenant, by offering themselves in baptism. Surely if the covenant is the same, the natural inference is, that the same qualifications should be required.
4. The same may be argued from this consideration, that when a person offers a child in baptism he dedicates it unto God. But most assuredly a heart-searching God looks for sincerity of heart, and no dedication can be acceptable to him, where it is not done with sincerity of heart. But the carnal mind is enmity against God;" Rom. viii. 7. And how is it possible for a person with such a mind to make an acceptable dedication ? He cannot. It is contrary to the nature of things, and God has told us in his word, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord;" Prov. xv. 8. Further a person destitute of religion, when he offers his child in baptism, undoubtedly does not exercise a scriptural faith ; but the Scriptures expressly teach, “ Without faith it is impossible to please God;" Heb. xi. 6. And “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin;" Rom. xiv. 23. The person therefore who pretends to offer a child, while destitute of faith, which is an essential branch of true piety, cannot please God by such an offering, but on the contrary, sins against him. And most assuredly it cannot be that God authorizes such a person to offer his child; or that the church has a right to admit him, when he gives no evidence that he has that faith without which it is impossible to please God.
5. Another argument in favour of the truth of our position may be drawn from this consideration; one great reason why God has appointed that the seal of the covenant should be put upon infants, evidently was, to secure their religious education. When a child is baptized, the church becomes responsible for its religious education, and is bound to attend with paternal solicitude to its spirtual interests. But the church when it receives a child, must commit it back again to its parents to be educated by them. It therefore concerns the church, when it admits a child into its pale, to have a security that the offerer will train up this child for God; otherwise one great end of baptism, the religious education of the child will be defeated, and the church will be guilty of receiving into its bosom, a child for God, and then suffering it to be trained
up for the service of Satan. This being the case the church ought to be careful to receive no children but those for whose religious education they have good security. And the only sufficient security they can have is the visibly religious character of the parent.
Thus my hearers I have presented before you some arguments to prove that persons ought to have true religion, to offer their children in baptism acceptably in the sight of God; and to give them a right in the sight of the church, they ought to appear to be what God requires they should be, truly pious.
Let us briefly review the arguments which have been used. Under the Old Testament dispensation, visible religion was requisite according to the divine institution, to entitle a person in the sight of the church to offer his child in circumcision, and baptism has come in the room of circumcision. They whose households were baptized, as recorded in the New Testament, gave evidences of piety. Baptism is a seal of the covenant of grace, and they who come to this ordinance, for their children as well as themselves, profess to be in the covenant and therefore to have true religion. Offering a child in baptism is a dedication of it unto God, which, without true religion, a man cannot really or acceptably make. And one great end of baptism is to secure the religious education of the child, for which the church has no security unless the parent has visible religion.
From all these arguments we draw the conclusion, that visible piety is a requisite qualification, to entitle a person in the sight of the church, to offer his child in baptism.
And this has been the opinion of the church generally with but few exceptions. It is as far as I am capable of understanding them, the doctrine of all the Confessions of Faith, which I have been able to examine. And I believe that even most of those ministers, who are considera
bly lax in their practice, act upon this principle ; they hope that the persons they admit to baptism for their children, have religion, or at least they cannot prove that they have not; and thus they baptize their children on the principle for which we are contending:
That the opinion of the Reformed church generally bas been, that visible piety is a' requisite qualification to entitle a person to offer a child in baptism, I would now deavour to show, from the Confessions of Faith of several numerous and important branches of this church. In the form of baptism of the Protestant Episcopal church, the sponsors do, “ In the name of the child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh; and promise obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same through life.” And in the charge, which the minister gives to the sponsors after the child has been baptized, he tells them, that it is their part and duty, among other things, to provide that the infant may learn all things which a christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health; and may be virtuously brought up to lead a godly and christian life. Is not here a profession of true religion implied ? For even if it is not meant that sponsors expressly promise themselves, to renounce the devil and all his works &c; but only that the child shall do this, how can they promise this for the child, but upon the principle, that they, or the parents to whose immediate care it must be committed, will so instruct the child, and set such anexample of piety before it, and so pray for it, as under the blessing of tod may lead it thus to act? And how can any but a truly pious person give such religious instruction, set such a pious example and so beseige the throne of grace in behalf of a child as to have any reasonable prospect that the Lord will bless his exertions, to the conversion and salvation of the child ?
In the Confession of Faith of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands, adopted by the Synod of Dort 1618, and which is the standard of the Reformed Dutch Church in this country, under the head of baptism, we have this sentence, “ The infants of believers, we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children of Israel formerly were circumcised.” And a