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LECTURE XLVIII.

ON INFANT BAPTISM.

MATTHEW, Xix. 14.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

THE

HE case of those who are admitted to baptism when of riper years, and that of backsliding Christians (that is, such as, by neglecting the grace afforded them at baptism, have fallen into trespasses and sins), engaged the inquiries in my former Discourse on this Christian rite; I shall, therefore, confine myself at present to some useful considerations on the nature of INFANT BAPTISM. Laborious treatises, and much controversy, have been employed on this subject; but attempts of this kind do not come within the compass or design of this undertaking; the end of these Lectures being merely to supply a short, plain, and scriptural exposition of the articles of faith and practice contained in the Church Catechism, and to illustrate the same

by familiar application: and we humbly trust, that every unlearned Christian that is willing and content to strive after that degree of instruction which the Church supplies, will experience profitable information by a serious attention to the several subjects that have been explained and enlarged upon with this view to their improvement.

The words of the text afford us a valuable proof of the happy state of infants in general, through the merits of a Redeemer; and of those in particular, who are suffered to come unto Christ; for you see that the Master himself declares positively that of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he assures us still more expressly in another place (Mark, x. 15), that whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein. The sense of these last words may be interpreted two ways, with equal propriety: first, they may be supposed to signify a plain sanction of the ceremony of infant baptism itself, and to intimate a severe threat against those who should wilfully refuse this means of grace, as on that account they would not be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven, that is, taking the kingdom of heaven, in the acceptation it is often used, for the privileges of the Gospel, and the new covenant established by Christ; as, by such obstinate refusal of bringing children to baptism, in obe

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dience to Christ's command, they would exclude them from the benefits promised to all who take of this holy sacrament. Or, secondly, it may be understood to imply, that those who finally shall be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, considered as an actual state of reward, must first be qualified by such humility as becomes the state of little children, who can have no attainments or pretensions but through the assistance of their superiors, on whom they depend. Thus, whichever way we take the words, we are plainly taught, that whatever share we may now have in that kingdom of God which is said to be within us, it must proceed from the free gift of God, through Christ, which grace is communicated as a seed sown at baptism: or whether we finally attain to the blessed inheritance of the saints above, by a profitable cultivation of that seed, and the means of grace provided for us as a preparation; still, with the submission of infants, we must attribute such astonishing goodness of God to the merits of his Son Jesus Christ, for whose sake as a faithful and tender father, and in compassion to our infirmities, he vouchsafes to show mercy as to children, that cannot possibly have deserved any good at his hands. Upon the whole, we see the necessity of divine assistance, and are thereby led to acknowledge our own unworthiness and insufficiency, which, in proportion as

the confession is sincere, likens and reduces us to the state of helpless and dependent little children, who need being guided and instructed, to render them capable of acting with propriety and advantage to themselves and others.

From this short view of the text, there is the greatest encouragement to bring your children to Christ, that is, to be baptized, or entered into the Christian covenant; since our blessed Lord declares, of such is the kingdom of heaven: and as he has promised infants an interest in his death (barely by this deed), in case of their being removed from the world before they are accountable for their actions; since, having been born in sin, and consequently children of wrath, they stand in need of an atonement, or infinite satisfaction, to deliver them from the stain and curse of original sin; so, in order that they may finally become children of grace or free favour, through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, this call in the text must be most religiously attended to; and, therefore, it argues a great degree of sin and unbelief, to refuse a compliance with this gracious invitation, whatever humble hope may be entertained, that, in the depth of God's uncovenanted mercy, he will receive the spirits of such children, through the efficacy of the atonement for original sin, though they should not be baptized; and they whose duty it is to attend to this good work of

bringing children to baptism, and yet despise the positive command, do certainly provoke God to punish their disobedience, and may well expect some judgment to befall them, in consequence of their neglect.

I shall now proceed to a more particular examination of that very obvious question, which our Catechism proposes upon the subject of the infant's incapacity to receive this sacrament.

On the part of grown persons, it has been very fully shown you, that repentance and faith are absolute conditions of any benefit to be derived from the sacrament, whether we consider the case of the first proselytes to Christianity in our Saviour's time, or now, or that of those persons who have done despite to the spirit of grace, by living in habitual sin since their being baptized. All, therefore, who come to baptism after years of discretion, must heartily repent of all their sins, and firmly resolve never more to return to the wilful commission of them. This is fully asserted by the words of the text made choice of to the former Lecture (Matt. iii. 11), I indeed baptize you with water unto REPENTANCE; and (Acts, iii. 19), Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out; where St. Peter positively determines the condition of future help (Acts, ii. 38), Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, and ye shall re

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