« PreviousContinue »
and still importunately supplicate him to save your children from sin and from despair.
2. This subject addresses all the children who are in this assembly. My dear young friends, I have been pleading your cause with your parents, and now let me entreat you to listen to the admonitions and instructions of these parents, to remember and to practise them. They speak to you from a tender concern for your everlasting happiness. They are qualified to instruct you, for they have the wisdom and experience of many years. They are commanded by Him who made and preserves them and you, to admonish and instruct you. They dare not neglect to obey this command: can you refuse to listen to them? The subject they are chiefly anxjous to impress upon your minds, is the most important, the mediation and death of Jesus Christ, through whom alone you can be forgiven and saved. By your perverseness and neglect of their instructions, you will become hardened in sin, and prepared for that world of torments where there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth. “ Hear then, ye children, the instructions of a father: let your hearts retain his words; keep his commandments, and live.”
3. Finally, this subject addresses us all. Over each of us our parents cried, “ What manner of child shall this be?” Have we answered their expectations and their hopes? There are some of you who by your piety have cheered their hearts, and rewarded them for all their cares. Let your thanksgivings rise mingled with theirs for the grace that has been displayed to you. There are others who by their irreligion have filled the hearts of their pious parents with anguish. If these parents still live, they shudder while they contemplate your present cha
racter and your future doom. If they are dead, you perhaps planted thorns in their dying pillow. Turn at last unto the Lord, and these parents, if living, shall rejoice in you; or if dead, their happy spirits shall cry
6 Our child was dead, but is alive again; he was lost, but is found.” Since he has given himself to God, we know “ what manner of child he shall be;" we know that he shall ever dwell with us in the kingdom of blessedness.
SALVATION OF INFANTS.
2 SAM. xii. 23.
Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring
him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not
return to me.
Millions of the descendants of Adam expire in infancy. They just open their eyes upon the world, excite the hopes and affections of their parents, and then are tortured, convulsed, and in agonies sink into the tomb. While fastening our eyes on their little corpses, or hanging over their graves, there are two questions which we naturally ask; Why did these infants die ? and, What is their present state ? To the first of these questions, neither unassisted reason nor bold infidelity can afford a satisfactory answer. Incapable of actual transgression, these departed children could not personally violate any of the commandments of their Creator. How then was it consistent with the justice of the Lord, and with the goodness of the Most Merciful, to inflict upon them the sufferings of disease, and make them the victims of death? This difficulty appeared so great to many of the ancient schools, especially the Platonic, that they supposed these persons existed and sinned in a former state of being, and that their sufferings in the present world are a punishment for former transgressions. This opinion we know to be unfounded. This difficulty is answered only by the volume of revelation; only by that voice from heaven, which cries, “ Sin entered into the world, and death by sin: 'and so death reigned over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression."
But it would be of little avail to explain to mourning parents the cause of the bereavements they endure, if we could not, at the same time, answer the interesting inquiry which bursts from their bleeding hearts, • What is now, and what will ever be, the situation of our departed babes?' Here, again, infidelity is dumb, or can give only wavering hopes; and the only light that can cheer you, beams from the word of God. Close the holy volume, and what consolation have you left. Extinguish the torch of revelation, and then, looking at the mouldering corpse of your infant, ask, “ Can these dry bones live ?" To this question there is no answer. Reason alone can never show that this sleeping dust shall wake from the long slumber of the grave, at the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God. Reason alone
can never show that this “corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal, immortality;" that this tender plant, cut down, and apparently withered, shall hereafter spring up, beautiful and immortal, in the paradise of God. This is a doctrine peculiar to revelation; taught only by him who has “the keys of death and the grave;" and who cries, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Unassisted reason is equally unable to decide what is the state in which the spirits of infants enter at their death. Are they plunged into the gloomy gulf of annihilation, to be heard of no more, and their existence for ever terminated ? Since they were incapable of moral good or evil, are they not also incapable of reward or punishment in the future world? Since it appears to be the general plan of Divine Providence to place intelligent creatures in a state of trial before they are crowned with glory, or sentenced to misery, are not children in the world of spirits undergoing such a probation? To these, and a thousand similar questions, mere reason can afford no conclusive answer. It is only in the precious “gospel of the grace of God,” that the bereaved parent can be assured that his 'departed babes are in the regions of glory; it is only from the decisions of revelation that the believer, when anticipating his own salvation, is enabled confidently to say, 'I shall go to that child who was early torn from my embraces; although he will not return to me upon earth, I shall meet him again before the throne of God.'
It is to this interesting doctrine of infant salvation that I devote the remainder of this exercise. Do not suppose that it is an unnecessary subject. The universality of this salvation has been denied, not only by individuals of distinguished reputation, but
also by whole churches. And, besides, in those who embrace the doctrine that I am about to establish, I have generally found that their belief was rather the expression of their wishes and their hopes, than the result of a cool examination of the testimony of God. And, finally, nothing is more common than to hear even Christian parents defending infant salvation on grounds inconsistent with the scriptures; on principles that oppose, not only the doctrine of original sin, which is so plainly taught in the word of God, so fully confirmed by experience, and so evidently recognised in the initiating ordinance of our religion, but that also overlook the absoluté necessity of the atonement and sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of every child of Adam. It is in perfect consistence with both these doctrines, that we maintain that God has ordained to confer eternal life on all whom he has ordained to remove from this world before they arrived at the years of discretion.
The following are the chief sources of argument in defence of this doctrine:
1. The interesting history of which our text forms a part.
2. The conduct and discourses of the Saviour with regard to infants.
3. The attributes of God, and his relation to infants.
4. The declarations that he has made concerning them.
5. The nature and extent of redemption through Christ.
6. The nature and design of the ordinance of baptism.
7. The mode of procedure at the final judgment. 8. The nature of the torments of hell.