Imatges de pàgina
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Ifmael, who had no interest in the promise of which circumcision was a real, and also all his slaves, “ those who were bought with his money." Gen. xvii. 13.

The reason of this practice does not easily appear to us, whose customs and modes of thinking are so different from those which prevailed, and which still prevail, in the East. The power of a master of a family was very extensive, and the actions and customs by which he expressed his own character or resolution, generally extended to all the branches of it. Thus, when the Ninevites · made solemn profession of their repentance, they

clothed even their cattle in fack-cloth, and made them fast as well as themselves; not that they could imagine that the brute beasts were capable of repentance, or could have done any thing to displease God; but this mournful appearance of every thing about them, was conceived to be expressive of their own contrition and humiliation. Jonah iii. 7.

It being the universal custom, therefore, for the master of a family to circumcise, and probably, also, to baptize his children and slaves, as well as himself, upon his making profession of Judaism ; and the propriety of the thing being exceedingly obvious to all the people in the East, it would be taken for granted, that baptism, if it was used at all, was to be administered in the same undistin

guished guished manner, when a person made profession of christianity; and the command to baptize all nations would necessarily have been understood in this sense, unless our Lord had added some express restriction.

Accordingly we find, that when the jailor, who had the custody of Paul, was converted, both himself was baptized, and all his. Ads xvi. 33. Also when Lydia was converted, it is said, that she was baptized, and her houshold. Acts xvi. 15. Now, by this phrase, a Jew, and even a Roman, would necessarily understand, that both the principal perfon himself, and all who were under his immediate power, either as a parent or a master, were included. :

What the Jews did with respect to young men, grown up to years of understanding, but living with their parents, when they were converted to Judaism, is not said: bụt it is probable, that they were not circumcised without their own consent, as in general it must have been the case with slaves. And since christianity is evidently more of a persoa nal concern, and men are chiefly interested in it as individuals, and not as members of societies, or even of families, it may be taken for granted, that only young children were required to be baptized along with their believing parents.

As llaves, we find, were often converted without their masters, and christianity made no distinc

tion between bond or free, as being of the same value in the eye of God, it will hardly be thought probable, that saves were ever baptized without their own consent. At least, the custom did not continue long, especially as Naves were about that time growing more independent of their masters, acquiring civil as well as religious privileges; till at length, through the influence of maxims which christianity greatly countenanced, they were universally manumitted in Europe.

The baptism of children, therefore, is to be confidered as one part of a man's own profession of christianity, and consequently an obligation upon him to educate his children in the principles of the christian religion. If a child have no parents, or none who will engage for his religious instruction, other persons, who will undertake this kind office, are so far its parents, and therefore may baptize it, as they would do their own children.

Lastly, I would observe, that it is an argument in favour of the baptizing of infants, to which I do not see how any satisfactory replý can be made, that it appears, from the history of the christian church, to have been the constant practice from the time of the apostles. The first mention that is made of it is as of an uncontroverted practice, and it is even argued from, as an universally received cuftom, against very intelligent persons, to whose

cause

261 cause it would have been of the greatest advantage to have proved it to be novel, or of no authority. This was more especially the case with Pelagius; for, though Austin, in support of his doctrine of original fin, appeals to the practice of infant baptism, as being necessary to do it away, his antagonist does not pretend to dispute the fact, but only denies that this was the use of it.

Now it is certainly highly improbable, that such a custom as that of infant-baptism should have been established so early as it appears to have been, contrary to the apostolical practice, and no trace be left of the innovation ; especially when every thing belonging to christianity, about which all persons were not entirely agreed, became so soon the subject of the most eager contention and debate. And it does not appear to be of any consequence by what argument we can infer, that any opinion or practice was apoftolical, whether by their own writing, or any other sufficient evidence. They could not themselves be mistaken in a case of this nature, and their practice is an authoritative rule for us.

§ 5. Of the Lord's Supper.

THE Lord's supper, consisting of eating bread,

and drinking wine, is a religious rite instituted by Christ, in commemoration of his death; the breaking of the bread more especially representing the wounding of the body of Christ, and the pouring out of the wine, the shedding of his blood; and this rite is to continue to be celebrated by the disciples of Christ till his second coming.

The design of this institution being to serve as a memorial, or record, of that important fact of the death of Christ, it may be considered as one monument of the truth of the christian religion, as was observed in a preceding part of this work.

Being more especially a memorial of the death of Christ, in which he chiefly manifested the love that he bore to mankind, it furnishes the most proper opportunity of recollecting the love of Christ, and rejoicing in the confideration of the blessings of his gospel. ,

Since this rite is peculiar to christians, it likewise serves as a public declaration of our being christians; and is, consequently, a recognizing of the obligation we are under to live as become christians. For no man can say that he is a christian, and efpecially in a public and solemn mana

ner,

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