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religious duty, ought to receive them as their special charge; a charge sacred, and of incalculable value.
And now ought the work of training them up for God to be unitedly taken up, and steadily, and vigorously pursued. Every brother and sister should have a kindred interest in this matter. Their united, unceas. ing intercessions should be offered for them as subjects of believing prayer. At as early a moment as possible, they should be brought to the sanctuary ; and by the united dedicatory vows of the whole church, be devoted to God in baptism. As they become capable of moral impressions, they ought to be addressed with all the means which God has provided ; called, the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
1. They ought to have the whole weight of a strictly pious example, addressed to them constantly, not by their parents only, but by the whole church. Example has a mighty effect. It is more familiar and intelligible than argument, It naturally draws to imitation. It engages the early attention of the infant mind.
That example may benefit, it should be uniform. It should not be self contradictory. It should appear in the many, and ever speak the same language. A mere moral example is not the thing intended. Itmust be an example flowing from a sanctified heart, a heartenriched with zcal for God, and his glory; zeal, which sanctifies all the words and actions of a man, and makes him a living image of Him, who was holy, harınless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
To the influence of a uniformly holy example should be added a prudent and energetic government. This, during infancy and childhood, must necessarily be confined very much to parents.
"I know Abraham,” said God, “ that he will command his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that God may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” It is true that religion cannot be forced into the mind of
It is in all cases voluntary. But is not authority among the means which God is graciously
pleased to use with us to reclaim and redeem us? Is not the discipline of his Providence, found, in many examples, salutary? Are not the severe strokes of his hand, and the terrifying denunciations of his word, adapted to awaken, to deter, and to bring sinners to Christ? The more gentle means of persuasion, it may be, are to be preferred. But are governmental restraints to be neglected ? It is the determination of God, “He that spareth the rod, hateth his child.” What son is there whom the affectionate father chasteneth not? Government is to be maintained, not with rashness, and undue severity, but under the influ. ence of a tender concern for the everlasting welfare of the child. If professing parents should avail themselves of the whole weight of the authority of the church, when they find their own exertions ineffectual, it would coincide with the plan of infant membership which God has established in his kingdom. The children of the church may, and must be restrained from mingling, by a careless intercourse, with the irreligious and profane children of the world. They must be kept from temptation. They must beguarded against errors, and bad impressions of every kind; from partaking in fashionable follies, and from the seductive influence of badexample. “Evilcommunications corruptgood manners.” It would be extremely desirable, and great sacrifices ought to be made for the sake of it, if these children of the church had their common school education entirely by themselves ; in which case their instructor might be always a man of piety, and pious instruction might be wrought into all the daily exercises of the school. I cannot but urge upon christians the very great importance of such an arrangement.
3. The children of the church should have addres. sed to them from their parents ; as occasion may offer from the brethren of the church ; and from the pastor; and this with much tenderness and diligence, strict religious instruction. Instruction, in the domestic circle, was expressly enjoined by God upon primitive Israel, as an essential mean of carrying into effect the
promises of his covenant. The parent was required to
The earliest moments of capacity should be embraced. These are the golden moments of a religious education. In the spring of life should the seed of grace be diligently sown; and never should the parent withhold his hand. No seeming want of success should slacken his labors. Patience should have its perfect work ; and perseverance its full effect. At as early a period as possible, these children should be made conversant with the holy scriptures. They
should be carefully catechized, taught pious hymns, and suitable prayers. They should be put as much as may be, in the way of receiving religious impressions, and guarded as carefully from every thing of an opposite tendency. They should be brought from their early childhood, and with constancy to the house of worship on Lord's days. The brethren, and especially the pastor, should unite promptly, with the parent in this work of instruction. And it should be address. ed to the minds of children with interest. Obligation should be set before them in all its weight. They should be urged with duty, and as it were, compelled to yield to it.
Such a procedure is the grand mean of salvation which the covenant has provided. Ephesians vi. 4. " And
fathers provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord.” In the nature of it, it implies long forbearance. “ Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early, and the latter rain.”
God is a sovereign, and he will give efficacy to these means or not, as pleaseth him. But his word shall prosper unto the thing whereunto it is sent. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him, Undiminishable is the fountain of grace. Infinitely disposed must God be to succeed institutions, and give efficacy to means of his own appointment. His absolute promises secure their effect in the entire salva. tion of the seed. The abundant, and endearing encour. agements of his word, are calculated to warm the hearts of the parent, of the brotherhood, and of the pastor ; to give wings to their zeal, and importunity to their prayers, in behalf of the lambs of the flock. Motives rush on the mind, to rouse its vigor, and prompt to diligence. And with much diligence, much success is to be hoped for. But these means will certainly have their effect in the one way or the other, as a sa
Four of life unto life ; or of death unto death. As they are multiplied, the mind of the child will shew its character. A listless indifferency will be impossible. Unholy affection repels instruction, as certainly and as uniformly, as holy affection receives it. In an evident fitness for admission to the holy supper, and a participation in all the privileges of a believing state, or for formal excommunication, this process will certainly result.
The membership of infants, though as complete as that of adult believers, is of a lower grade, not involving the same profession, not leading to the im, mediate enjoyment of the same privileges, nor binding to the same duties. Infants are complete members of the family into which they are born; but they are at present mere objects of care. They are incapable of the services which devolve upon the grown members of it.
They are complete members of the State. But they are not fit to be turned into soldiers, or clothed with office.
It is often asked, if children are born members of the Church, and are to be baptized as being such, Why are they not all to be led to communicate at the Lord's table? It might as pertinently be asked, if children are born members of the state, Why are not some of them sent ambassadors to foreign courts? When it shall be proved, that membership in a civil community always involves a capability of performing every part of the service which is done in it, then it may be admitted, that infant membership in the Church, involves a capabili. ty to communicate at the Lord's table. If no other qualifications are necessary for communicating, than are necessary for baptism, then undoubtedly baptized infants ought immediately to communicate. It has been proved that the entire passivity of the infant in circumcision was understood. Circumcision had its most express signification upon this principle. The seed were covenanted about. The covenant fully embraced them while as yet they were perfectly ignorant of it, and unconscious of the design of the circumcision