Page images
PDF
EPUB

who advocate it, in the view of those who reject it, are guilty of corrupting an institution of Christ. Since these two thus widely differ, how can they be made to agree? There is not a single middle point on which they can meet. This being the case, the path of wisdom and duty, is for each to defend their individual sentiments, with moderation and candor, avoiding those harsh and unchristian expressions, which disgrace religious controversy and indicate an unfavorable state of mind.

One of the most formidable, because one of the most just objections, which the Anabaptists can make against infant baptism, is drawn from its abuse by those who practice it. To such a height has this risen, that it is no wonder pious minds are oftentimes perplexed on the subject. They hear and read that it is a religious rite, a sign and seal of covenanted mercies ; and yet see parents, who have no more idea of the mercies signified, than a man born blind has of the beauty of colors, who make no pretensions to real religion, and habitually neglect its peculiar duties, admitted to a participation of it. Reasoning on principles of common sense and proprie- ; ty, they know not how to reconcile the known, acknowledged want of personal and family religion, in the parent or parents who offer the child, and the admission of such parents to a privilege, the very nature of which, presupposes their possession and practice of real religion,

This abuse of infant baptism is a gross de· parture from the principles which are avowed

in the standards of all the Reformed Churches. In these standards. it is distinctly declared that the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper belong to those who are in the visible Church of God, to confirm their faith and manifest their separation from the world. Thus the former confession of Helvetia, which was written in Basil, an. 1536, says expressly

the sacraments do appertain to them which are in the Church.' The confession of Bohemia calls them the holy covenants of God with his Church and of the Church with God.' The French confession maintains there are

only two Sacraments common to the whole Church.' Similar to this is the doctrine taught in the Belgic confession art. 33-in that of Ausburgh art. 8 of Saxony art. 13of England art. 25.* .,

Concerning this Church these same stan. dards teach that it is the company of the faithful or true believers called by the grace of God out of the world, together with their children. In the latter confession of Helvetia which was written by the pastors of Zurich in the year 1566 and approved by their confederates of Bern and other parts of Switzerland, as also by those of Gerreva and the Churches of Hungary and Scotland, the Church is defined to be a community of all

saints, i.e. of them who do truly know and ' rightly worship and serve the true God in * Harmony of confessions, &c.

Jesus Christ the Saviour, by the word and the Holy Spirit, and which by faith are partakers of all those good graces which are freely offered through Christ. In the confession of Basil, written in the year 1532 by the ministers of the Church of Basil, and allowed by the pastors of Strasburgh, all they are said to be citizens of the Christian Church which do truly confess that Jesus is the Christ the Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world and do shew forth that faith by the works of love. The French confession drawn up in the year 1559 by the reformed in France in the 27th art. affirms out of the word of God that the Church is a company of the faithful which agree together in following the word of God and in embracing pure religion. The Belgic confession published by the Belgic Churches in the year 1566, art. 27, defines the Church to be an holy congregation of true Christian believers. The confession of Augsburgh presented in the year 1530 to Charles the 5th by the protestants of Germa. ny says to speak properly the Church of Christ is a congregation of the members of Christ j.e. of the saints who do truly believe and rightly obey Christ.'. The same doctrine is evidently taught in the confession of Bohemia, Saxony, Wirtemberg, and Sueveland. ♡ In the Church, thus understood, the children

of its members, that is of true believers are also included, according to the confessions already quoted. To them, they teach, and to no other children, may baptism be lawfully administered. Thus the latter, confession of Helvetia restricts the privilege to young infants born of faithful parents'-The former confession of Helvetia to such as are born

of the people of God'-The French confes. sion to infants born of holy parents'-the Belgic to the infants of believers, the children of the faithful the Saxon to those only which are ingrafted into the Church.

To these testimonies we add the forms for baptizing infants used by the French, Genevan and Dutch Churches, which are founded upon the fact supposed, that the parent or parents presenting the infant or infants are actually at the time in visible covenant with God, as belonging to the household of faith.* Most explicit indeed are the words in the form of the latter Church. The parents are called beloved in the Lord Christ' and are informed that baptism seals to them and their seed God's covenant. In consistency with which they profess their belief, that their children though subject to all misery and condemnation itself, as born in sin, are sanctified in Christ and therefore as members of his Church ought to be baptized. Who but a real believer, a person actually in covenant with God, can conscientiously and truly make this profession?

As the following discourses will most probably fall, chiefly, into the hands of Presbyterians, being specially suited to their state, we

* The Genevan form is in Calvin's Works, vol. 7. p. 38. Ed. Gen.

will more particularly confine ourselves, in the subsequent remarks, to their standards as our guide and authority.

In the confession of faith of the Presbyterian Church, chap. 27, sect. 1. sacraments are: declared to be holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace-to put a visible difference between those that belong to the Church and the rest of the world. Similar is the lan. guage of the larger Westminster Catechism, answer to ques. 162 where a sacrament is defined to be 'an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his Church to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace the benefits of his mediation.' Hence it is expressly stated in the answer to the 166 ques. of the same catechism that' baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church :' and provision is made in the 29th chap. of the Confession of Faith and in the answers to 169, 170, 171, 172 and 173 questions of the larger Catechism, to keep off from the Lord's table such as are not visi ble members of the Church.

The visible Church' according to the answer to the 62d question of the larger Catechism, is 'a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world profess the true religion, and their children. This profession in the answer to the 166th question of the same is more particularly specified to be

a profession of faith in Christ and obedience to him.' The faith meant, according to the answer to the 86th question of the shorter

« PreviousContinue »