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Spirit will live and grow in them-by which they will have power and strength to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh. This is the contest to which they are now devoted. They have forsaken the ranks of the ungodly; they have engaged in the service of a heavenly Leader; and, armed with the weapons of his grace, and animated by his presence and power, they are to fight the good fight of faith; children of God and of the light, they are to walk answerably to their Christian calling, and as becometh the children of light. Thus renewed by God's holy Spirit, and endued with heavenly virtues, they will be finally rewarded in the fruition of those immortal glories to which in baptism they received a title.
2. But what is the case of adults who receive baptism unworthily, in a false profession of penitence and faith?
Are they made members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven?
Are they regenerated?
In order to answer these inquiries, we must lay down the principle, that the institutions of God all take effect, except so far as there exist insuperable disqualifications in those who receive them. Now, those adults who come to baptism with faith and repentance, actually receive in this ordinance the forgiveness of their sins, the favour of God, and a title to the happiness of heaven. But those adults who come to baptism without faith and repentance, are disqualified from the actual enjoyment of these privileges. Still these defects do not render them incapable of being admitted into the church, and of receiving in baptism a solemn proffer, on the part of God, of all the privileges of this mystical
body, and a title to them, on the conditions of repentance and faith. Thus far, then, they are made members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven; they received in baptism a solemn proffer, on the part of God, of all these privileges, and of his grace to enable them to secure them by true repentance and faith. A conditional grant of all the blessings of the Gospel covenant is made to them in baptism, to take effect when they shall truly repent. Baptism, then, conveying to them a solemn proffer of grace, and pardon, and everlasting life, which, without being again baptized, they may secure by repentance and faith, so far their state is changed; from a state of nature, in which they have no title to the privileges of the Gospel, they are translated into a state of salvation; in which, as soon as they repent and believe, pardon, and mercy, and everlasting life are conferred upon them, not only according to the general promises of God, but by the terms of their baptism. In this sense they are regenerated.
If baptism in no respect takes effect as it regards those who unworthily receive it-if it does not even admit them to the privileges of the church, the mystical body of Christ-we should expect to find commands in Scripture for rebaptizing these hypocritical penitents and false believers; but no such commands appear. Simon Magus received baptism on the profession of a faith which, as he soon afterwards attempted to bribe the apostles to bestow on him the power of conferring the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, is supposed to have been hypocritical; but, admitting this conclusion, it does not appear that his baptism was void, or that he was not regenerated, so far as to give him a right to
divine grace, and to the privileges of the Gospel, on his repentance; for if he had not this conditional right, it would have been mockery to exhort him to repent, in the hope of forgiveness. But the language of the apostle to him was, not to be baptized, not to be regenerated, but to repent of his wickedness, and to pray to God for forgiveness.
The unworthy recipients of baptism are therefore translated by this sacrament into a state of salvation-into the kingdom of heaven, or church of Christ; otherwise they would need a new baptism to admit them into this state. But this state of salvation necessarily implies the conditional grant of pardon, of grace, and a title to everlasting life; these blessings to be actually conferred when the conditions are fulfilled. The regeneration of baptism takes full effect when these unworthy receivers of it repent of their wickedness, and experience the renewing of the Holy Ghost; otherwise the rejection of the privileges thus, by a visible sign and pledge, solemnly proffered and assured to them, will add to the guilt of hypocrisy, and most awfully aggravate the terrors of their condemnation.
3. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration and renovation admits of an easy application to the case of infants.
Infants have no actual sins for which they are to repent; and on account of their freedom from actual transgressions, and of their affections, though liable to excess when assailed by temptation, being as yet uncontaminated by wilful impurity, they are held forth by our blessed Lord as models of innocence. Inherit they do a fallen nature, in which principles and passions that, before the fall, were duly regu
lated, but now tend to excess, constitute that depravity which Scripture and experience demonstrate is the inheritance of all the posterity of Adam. Thus, as our church expresses it, "far gone from original righteousness, and of their own nature inclined to evil," it is necessary that for those infirmities and sins of which, through "the lusting of the flesh against the spirit," they may be guilty when reason puts forth its powers and the will exerts its energy, they should promise repentance by their sureties. Their sponsors also make for them a profession of faith, a renunciation of sin, and a promise of faithful devotion to God. These promises and professions their heavenly Father is pleased to accept instead of repentance, which they do not need, and of actual faith, of both of which, through their tender age, they are incapable.
Infants, then, are proper subjects for baptism; agreeably to the declaration of our blessed Lord, "of such is the kingdom of God." They are put in the actual possession of all the privileges of this holy sacrament.
By nature they are "born in sin and the children of wrath;" not that they are the subjects of eternal wrath on account of the sin of Adam, in which they had no participation, and of that evil nature which, inheriting from their degenerate first parent, is their misfortune, not their crime; for reason teaches, and Scripture confirms the position, that man is not accountable for any sins but those committed in his own person, and contrary to the light and grace received. But they are children of wrath, inasmuch as they are far gone from original righteousness, and subject to death, and all the other effects of Adam's sin. From children of wrath, by
baptism they are made children of grace. They come into the world aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, members of the apostate family of mankind, and of course possessing no covenant title to the favour of God. By baptism they are made members of that family, that holy society, which Christ hath separated from the world; and in it they enjoy the influences of the Divine Spirit, and all the means of grace which, by the ministry and ordinances which Christ hath established in it, he abundantly furnishes. Their original sin is washed away in the laver of regeneration; this is the mean by which they are interested in the merits of that atonement which Christ made for the sins of the whole world, both original and actual. The justice of God prevents him from inflicting punishment hereafter, except for actual voluntary transgressions: still, all sin being the object of his displeasure, the "fault, or defect and corruption of our nature, considered in itself, deserves God's wrath and damnation;" and therefore he saw fit to appoint an atonement for it; so that it does not subject mankind, except so far as they cherish it, or freely comply with its dictates, to guilt or condemnation. In baptism, the sacrament instituted for this mystical washing away of sin, infants are so far freed from original pollution, that God does not view them, on account of it, with displeasure, but accepts them as his children. In this sense they receive the inward and spiritual grace "of a death unto sin," and they experience a new birth unto righteousness, by receiving the Holy Spirit, which is the principle of this spiritual birth. They come into the world subject to the curse of death: VOL. II. 62