Page images
PDF
EPUB

sence of her husband, and that husband not a private man, but Moses, the principle prophet of God, who was never succeeded by a greater in Israel; which was no more lawful for her to do, than it is for women now to baptise in the presence of a bishop. But this controversy will easily be decided by the establishment of this principle; that infants are not excluded from the kingdom of heaven, who happen to die before they have had the privilege of baptism. But we have seen that it is no small injustice to the covenant of God, if we do not rely upon it as sufficient of itself, since its fulfilment depends not on baptism, or on any thing adventitious. The sacrament is afterwards added as a seal, not to give efficacy to the promise of God, as if it wanted validity in itself, but only to confirm it to us. Whence it follows, that the children of the faithful are not baptised, that they may thereby be made the children of God, as if they had before been strangers to the Church; but, on the contrary, they are received into the Church by a solemn sign, because they already belonged to the body of Christ by virtue of the promise. If the omission of the sign, therefore, be not occasioned by indolence, or contempt, or negligence, we are safe from all danger. It is far more consistent with piety to shew this reverence to the institution of God, not to receive the sacraments from any other hands than those to which the Lord hath committed them. When it is impossible to receive them from the Church, the grace of God is not so attached to them, but that we may obtain it by faith from the word of the Lord.

CHAPTER XVI.

[ocr errors]

Pædobaptism perfectly consistent with the Institution of Christ

and the Nature of the Sign. As some turbulent spirits in the present age have raised fierce disputes, which still continue to agitate the Church, on the subject of infant baptism, I cannot refrain from adding some observations with a view to repress their violence. If any one should think this Chapter extended to an immoderate length, I would request him to consider, that purity of doctrine in a capital point, and the peace of the Church, ought to be of too much importance in our estimation for us to feel any thing tedious which may conduce to the restoration of both. I shall also study to make this discussion of as much use as possible to a further elucidation of the mystery of baptism. They attack infant baptism with an argument which carries with it an appearance of great plausibility, asserting that it is not founded on any institution of Christ, but was first introduced by the presumption and corrupt curiosity of man, and afterwards received with foolish and inconsiderate facility, For a sacrament rests on no authority, unless it stands on the certain foundation of the word of God. But what if, on a full examination of the subject, it shall appear that this is a false and groundless calumny on the holy ordinance of the Lord? Let us, therefore, inquire into its first origin. And if it shall be found to have been a mere invention of human presumption, we ought to renounce it, and regulate the true observance of baptism solely by the will of God. But if it shall be proved to be sanctioned by his undoubted authority, it behoves us to beware lest, by opposing the holy institutions of God, we offer an insult to their Author himself.

II. In the first place, it is a principle sufficiently known, and acknowledged by all the faithful, that the right consideration of sacramental signs consists not merely in the external ceremonies, but that it chiefly depends on the promise and the spiritual mysteries which the Lord has appointed those ceremonies to represent. Whoever, therefore, wishes to be fully informed of the meaning of baptism, and what baptism is, must not fix his attention on the element and the outward spectacle, but must rather elevate his thoughts to the promises of God which are offered to us in it, and to those internal and spiritual things which it represents to us. He who discovers these things, has attained the solid truth and all the substance of baptism, and thence he will also learn the reason and use of the external sprinkling. On the other hand, he, who contemptuously disregards these things, and confines his attention entirely to the visible ceremony, will understand neither the force nor propriety of baptism, nor even the meaning or use of the water. This sentiment is established by testimonies of scripture too numerous and clear to leave the least necessity for pursuing it any further at present. It remains, therefore, that from the promises given in baptism, we endeavour to deduce its nature and meaning. The scripture shews, that the first thing represented in it, is the remission and purgation of sins, which we obtain in the blood of Christ; and the second, the mortification of the flesh, which consists in the participation of his death, by which the faithful are regenerated to newness of life, and so into communion with him. This is the sum to which we may refer every thing delivered in the scriptures concerning baptism, except that it is also a sign by which we testify our religion before

men.

III. As the people of God, before the institution of baptism, had circumcision instead of it, let us examine the similarity and difference between these two signs, in order to discover how far we may argue from one to the other. When the Lord gave Abraham the command of circumcision, he prefaced it by saying, “ I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee;" at the same time declaring himself to be “Almighty," having an abundance of all things at his disposal, that Abraham might expect to find his hand the source of every blessing. (2) These words contain the promise of eternal life, according to the interpretation of Christ, who deduces from this declaration an argument to evince the immortality and resurrection of the faithful. “For God,” says he, “is not the

(:) Gen. xvii. 1-14.

[ocr errors]

God of the dead, but of the living.” (a) Wherefore also Paul, in shewing the Ephesians from what misery the Lord had delivered them, concludes, from their not having been admitted to the covenant of circumcision, that “at that time” they “were without Christ, strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God;" (6) all these things being comprehended in that covenant. But the first access to God, the first entrance into immortal life, is the remission of sins. Whence it follows that this promise corresponds with the promise of baptism respecting our purgation. The Lord afterwards stipulated with Abraham, that he should walk before him in sincerity and purity of heart: this belongs to mortification, or regeneration. And to preclude any doubt that circumcision is a sign of mortification, Moses more expressly declares it in another place, when he exhorts the Israelites to circumcise their hearts, because the Lord had chosen them for himself above all the nations of the earth. As God, when he adopts the posterity of Abraham to be his people, commands them to be circumcised, so Moses pronounces it to be necessary to circumcise the heart, thereby declaring the true signification of that carnal circumcision. (c) Then, that no one might attempt this in his own strength, he teaches the necessity of the grace of God.(d) All these things are so often inculcated by the prophets, that there is no need to collect here the numerous testimonies which every where present themselves. We have ascertained, therefore, that a spiritual promise, the very same which is given to us in baptism, was given to the Fathers in circumcision; which represented to them the remission of sins and the mortification of the flesh. Moreover, as we have shewn that Christ, in whom both these things are obtained, is the foundation of baptism; the same must be evident of circumcision. For he was promised to Abraham, and in him the blessing of all nations; and the sign of circumcision was added in confirmation of this grace.

IV. There is now no difficulty in discovering what similarity or what difference there is between these two signs. The promise, in which we have stated the virtue of the signs to consist,

(a) Matt. xxii. 32. Luke xx. 37, 38.
(c) Deut. x, 16.

(6) Ephes. ii. 12.
(14) Deut. xxx. 6.

is the same in both; including the paternal favour of God, remission of sins, and eternal life. In the next place, the thing signified also is one and the same, namely, regeneration. The foundation, on which the accomplishment of these things rests, is the same in both. Wherefore there is no difference in the internal mystery, by which all the force and peculiar nature of sacraments must be determined. All the difference lies in the external ceremony, which is the smallest portion of it; whereas the principal part depends on the promise and the thing signified. We may conclude, therefore, that whatever belongs to circumcision, except the difference of the visible ceremony, belongs also to baptism. To this analogy and comparison we are led by the apostle's rule, which directs us to examine every interpretation of Scripture by the proportion of faith. (e) And indeed the truth on this subject is obvious to the slightest observation. For as circumcision was a pledge to the Jews, by which they were assured of their adoption as the people and family of God, and on their parts professed their entire subjection to him, and therefore was their first entrance into the Church: so now we are initiated into the Church of God by baptism, are numbered among his people, and profess to devote ourselves to his service. Hence it is evident beyond all controversy, that baptism has succeeded in the place of circumcision.

V. Now if it be inquired, whether baptism may rightly be administered to infants, shall we not pronounce it an excess of folly, and even madness, in any one who resolves to dwell entirely on the element of water and the external observance, and cannot bear to direct his thoughts to the spiritual mystery; a due consideration of which will prove, beyond all doubt, that baptism is justly administered to infants, as that to which they are fully entitled? For the Lord in former ages did not favour them with circumcision without making them partakers of all those things which were then signified by circumcision. Otherwise, he must have deluded his people with mere impostures, if he deceived them by fallacious symbols; which it is dreadful even to hear. For he expressly pronounces that the circum

e) Rom xii. 3, 6.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »