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says: “For the promise,' both the general promise respecting the Messiah, and the blessings of his kingdom, as made to Abraham their father; and the particular promise of the Spirit quoted from Joel, was made, or proposed, to them and to their children." And again: “ The promise, as made to Abraham, included also his posterity; and that of the New Testament did the same to those who should be interested in
“ The male descendants of Abraham were circumcised, as included in the promise, and as a part of the visible church; and this passage may intimate, that the infant offspring of Christians, being also included in the promise, and in the covenant of their parents, and being a part of the visible church, should be admitted to baptism, which is the outward sign of the same spiritual blessings as circumcision was.”
In the farther consideration of this subject, we shall attempt to establish the following propositions:
1. That the Abrahamic covenant, in its principles and design, embraced the Christian dispensation.
II. That infants were included in that covenant as parties to its conditions and its promises.
III. That baptism has taken the place of circumcision, as the seal of the covenant.
IV. That the right of infants to this ordinance has been recog. nized by Christ, the apostles, and their successors.
If we can sustain these propositions with scriptural arguments, the right of infants to the ordinance of baptism will be established on a foundation that cannot be moved.
1. The Abrahamic covenant, in its principles and design, embraced the Christian dispensation. See Gen. chapters 12, 15, and 17. The parts of the covenants with Abraham to which we now refer, are as follows: " I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Gen. 12:2, 3. « Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” “ In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." Gen. 15:5, 18. In the 17th chapter these promises are renewed and extended, and the seal of circumcision subjoined, in confirmation of the faith of the believer, and the faithfulness of the Promiser.
1. There is the promise of an innumerable offspring. This promise has been fulfilled in the most enlarged sense of the terms in which it is expressed. Without including the numerous tribes, and innumerable multitudes of Abraham's race, that have for thirty-five centuries inhabited, or traversed the deserts, the rocks, or the fertile fields of Arabia; or the ten tribes of whom so little is now known; the Jews themselves, the special children of the promise, would be as difficult to enumerate as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea-shore. And when we consider the remarkable preservation of that separate and wonderful people, through so many centuries of indescribable suffer. ings, and waste of life, we cannot but believe that " God has provided some better thing for them;" when in yet more resplendent colors, the wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness, of the God of Abraham to his seed, will be displayed in “ redeeming Israel from all his troubles.”
But the promise of God to his spiritual seed, or to “all the families of the earth," in the grandeur of the design, and the glory of the accomplishment, will fill, not the earth only, but also heaven, with songs of praise. By the figure of an olive-tree, the native branches—the Jews-are represented as broken off, and the Gentiles—or wild olives -as engrafted, and according to the promise, their re-ingrafting is sure, “ for God is able to graft them in again:" so that when “ the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, then all Israel shall be saved.” Rom. 11th chapter
But the relation of the Gentiles to the Abrahamic covenant and its promises, is still more explicitly stated. Gal. 3:16. - Now to Abra. ham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” In this we see that the promise of the covenant refers immediately to Christ, the Spirit of God being his own interpreter. Again it is said, “ There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3:28, 29. It appears, therefore, that God promised to Abraham an innumerable seed—that this promise had an especial reference to Christ-and that all, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, male or female, that are in Christ, are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise. This is yet farther confirmed by saying, “ Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” Gal. 4:28. Take these texts, in connection with the promise, Gen. 12:3, “ In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” which is repeated and renewed under both dispensations, and the evidence is conclusive, fully sustaining our proposition that the Abrahamic covenant embraced the Christian dispensation. If thus far the promise has been accomplished, both in relation to the children of the flesh, and the children of the promise, how sublime and glorious will be the fulfillment, when the “ fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved.” It was in the contemplation of this glorious result, that the apostle, in an ecstacy of wonder and delight, burst forth into that in. imitable exclamation, recorded in Rom. 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!" Bat the promise, in its final, best, and most triumphant accomplishment, will include not only the restoration of the Jews—the ingathering of the nations-and the millenial period, but that “multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, who will give glory to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." Rev. 7:9, 10.
2. The possession of the land of Canaan was another part of the promise to Abraham, to be to him and to his seed " for an everlasting possession.". This land, for its fertility and other properties, was
termed " a goodly land"-" the glory of all lands”-and “ Immanuel's land." But with all the beauty, fertility, and strength of that country, no doubt much of the glory of that land was derived from its typical character. As the unbelief of those who came out of Egypt proved a forfeiture of their claim to the possession, and He, who made the promise, sware in his wrath they should not enter into his rest;" so we are cautioned by the apostle, to “take heed lest we fall after the same example of unbelief." And as the Israelites rested from their journeyings and wanderings in the wilderness, when they obtained possession of the promised land; so, as the word of God declares, 6 there remaineth a rest for the people of God.” Heb. 4:9. It is, therefore, manifest that the promise, in both its aspects, had relation to the Gentile world; and from the nature of the promises, and the signs of the times, we cannot doubt their final accomplishment, in the restora. tion of the Jews to their own land, and their enjoying it as an "everlasting possession,” until the angel shall “lift up his hand to heaven, and swear that time shall be no longer.”
II. Our second proposition is, That infants were expressly included in the Abrahamic covenant, as parties to its conditions and promises.
The particular account of this transaction, to which we would refer, is contained in Gen. 17:9-14. There we find children of eight days old are specified as parties to the covenant--that the same conditions are presented to Abraham, the head of the covenant, at ninety-nine years
of age-Ishmael, the son of the bond-woman, at thirteen-and Isaac, the child of promise, at eight days old. The ordinance, however, not having been previously appointed, was of course unobserved by Abraham and Ishmael, as to the prescribed time of observance, intimating very plainly that time or age was not essential to its right administration, which is confirmed by other examples.
The inquiry has been made, “What advantage hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” The same objection, in substance, is made respecting baptism, and the same answer will apply with equal force. That is, “ Much every way, chiefly, because unto them are committed the oracles of God." They are placed under the influence of means which God has graciously adapted to the end, and in his goodness has appointed, for the ingathering of his people, and the building up of his kingdom in the world.
It is still, however, farther objected in connection with this, that infant children are incompetent to the comprehension, or fulfillment, of the obligations implied and imposed in the sacrament of baptism; and it is, therefore, inferred, that they ought not to be subjected to them. This position has nothing to sustain it, but either inattention or presumption. We think the former most general. Let it then be remarked, that, were we under no obligation to acknowledge or serve God, until we had covenanted or promised to do so, the objection would have some force; but as we are, from the first moment of our existence as rational beings, bound to love and serve God--and as we can by no means and under no circumstances divest ourselves of this obligation --we are bound to this service independent of any covenant transaction. Such an act, then, as covenanting in whatever form, is only the recognition of the ties by which we and our offspring are bound, and
implies our promise to bring them up under a sense of their responsibility in these matters.
This doctrine is, we apprehend, fully sustained in the covenant transaction recorded in Deut. 29:10—15, as follows: “Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: that he may establish thee to-day for a people unto himself: and that he may be unto thee a God as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abra. ham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day."
On this passage we remark, 1. That this covenant transaction, as appears from verse first, was by the express command of God, and 66 beside” the covenant that was made at Horeb. 2. That not only all ranks but all ages are included, even to little ones; and not only those that were present, but also those that were absent; proving clearly that neither age, presence, nor consent, are necessary to constitute obligation. 3. That an awful penalty is denounced against those who should, from any of these reasons, excuse themselves, or attempt to evade the force of their obligations. v. 18, ult. 4. That this covenant involved an explicit recognition of the Abrahamic covenant, in its application to little children. v. 13. These views are still farther confirmed by the following statement, where Moses is instructing the Israelites how to act when they obtain possession of the land of Canaan. “Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law; and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.” Deut. 31:12, 13. Here then is the command of God to Abraham to enter his children of
eight days old” into the covenant of God--to Moses to bring their “ little ones" into the same engagements—and then the children that have “not known any thing.' Who has then a right to say that children are not competent, in the face of such commands as these? This proposition being established, we proceed to proposition
III. Viz. That baptism has taken the place of circumcision, as the seal of the covenant.
That baptism has been instituted in the room of circumcision, is manifest from the following, among other considerations. 1. From the nature of both. On this subject Jones says,
« Circumcision was that rite of the law by which the Israelites were taken into God's covenant; and in the spirit of it was the same as baptism among Christians. For as the form of baptism expresses the putting away of sin, circumcision was another form to the same effect. The Scripture speaks of a 'circumcision made without hands, of which
that made with hands was no more than an outward sign, which de. noted the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh,' Col. 2:11. and becoming a new creature; which is the sense of our baptism. Of this outward, and spiritual grace the apostle speaks expressly in another place: “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that cir. cumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God.'” Rom. 2:28.
That the spiritual signification was the true one, and so understood from the beginning, is farther evident: Deut. 10:16. « Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked." And again, in Deut. 30:6, “ And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”
2. From the fact that circumcision was done away, it is manifest that baptism has been substituted in its place. As we presume no one will deny that circumcision has been discontinued by divine authority, there is left no seal to God's covenant, unless it is baptism. Is there nothing then to seal the promise of God to believers and their offspring! Is there nothing to strengthen the faith of believers in those promises? Surely not, unless baptism supplies that want. And farther, if baptism does not supply that place, the boast of the Jew as to the covenant privileges of their children, has become the reproach of the Christian, whose privileges, instead of having been enlarged by the present dis. pensation, must have been greatly impaired or some of them entirely taken away.
But if, as we contend, baptism is the seal of the covenant, it must have come in the room of circumcision, and the right of infant children to it is undeniable, as well as their competency; both of which are, in the word of God, placed beyond dispute, in the places already quoted.
8. The transfer of metaphor by the apostle, when speaking of these two ordinances, lead us to the same conclusion. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Col. 2:11, 12. We should suppose that it will be admitted by every candid mind, that the “circumcision without hands," the “circum. cision of Christ,” and being “buried with him in baptism,” all mean the same thing, and very plainly intimate that the introduction of the one was essentially connected with discontinuance of the other.
4. This change of the seal was both appropriate and necessary, upon the change of the dispensation. For, as under the law," almost all things were purified with blood," a bloody rite was best adapted to express what was intended by circumcision-because without shedding of blood there was no remission-but, when Christ had entered into the holiest of all by his own blood, and had made a full atonement for the sins of his people, shedding of blood was no longer required nor accepted; and a rite, which gives a more appropriate representation of the purifying efficacy of the word and Spirit of Christ, became neces. sary, especially where there is no longer “male nor female; but all