« AnteriorContinuar »
more lenient measures had been found ineffectual, could not but be felt in a congregation. And even if the offenders themselves were not reformed by it, many others, in the road to ruin, but less hardened in impiety, might take the alarm, pause, and turn back.
But the offenders themselves would soon be made sensible, that, notwithstanding all their unsanctified bravery, it is beyond the power of man to make discipline feel comfortable. "It will," says Dr. Mason, in the essay already referred to, "It will be no recommendation, even with thoughtless people, that a young person fled away from the voice of kindly instruction-much less that he was thrust out on account of his vices. Some there are, who, to serve the present hour, would applaud his spirit; and, on the first disagreement, would upbraid him with his disgrace. It is not in human nature to stand easily under an excommunication of any sort. Exclusion for faults, from any decent society, is, and ever will be, a stigma. Whoever disbelieves it, has only to try."
Such then, brethren, appears to me to be the duty of the church, in relation to her baptized members. Let the unholy and profane be cut off, and you at once guard against the profanation of the sacrament of baptism, and also free the officers of the church from endless perplexities, and most painful responsibility.
The assertion, that neither heresy nor immorality,. on the part of a Jew, debarred his child from the
ordinance of circumcision, can easily be proved to be incorrect. But, I believe, it would be exceedingly difficult to prove, that circumcision was ever denied to a child among the Jews, unless the parent's conduct had previously been noticed and censured by the proper authorities. "The Jews (says Boston,) were to be excommunicated for heresy, impiety, and profanity. This must needs be granted, unless we say, that there was no such thing as excommunication amongst them for who could be excommunicated but such?" And then adds, from GOODWIN'S Moses and Aaron, "that those among them that were excommunicated, with the least degree of excommunication, called NIDDUI; those who were the aposynagogoi, their male children were not circumcised."
Here then, as I remarked before,-here is the point at which reformation must begin! The church must be faithful to her members, before she can expect her members to be faithful to her.-May the Spirit of God be poured out on all the churches, and a pure and salutary discipline revived throughout all the borders of Zion!
Engagements made by parents, when offering up. their children in baptism.
Of all the subjects, which have hitherto claimed our attention, none is more important, than that which we are now to consider; viz. the engagements made by parents, when offering up their children to~ God in baptism. If this subject be correctly understood, I flatter myself, that there will be little difficulty in bringing about the reformation among us, which these letters are designed to produce. For I cannot but think, that correct views here, will deter many, who now manifest an anxious desire to have their children baptized, from assuming the dread responsibility, connected with one of the most solemn oaths that man can make-at least, until they are possessed of higher qualifications than they have heretofore expressed, either in words or actions.
But to proceed : We have stated, that the child of a parent, who has been acknowledged a member by baptism, who is possessed of competent knowledge, and who has not been cut off for error in sentiment, or immorality in practice, is, by birth, a member of the church; and as such, entitled to baptism-even though the parent has not taken his seat at the Redeemer's table. In the latter particular, he
has certainly neglected his duty; but as it is difficult, and even impossible, to determine at what precise period of life, a baptized person is bound to commune, under pain of excommunication, the church may well hesitate before she puts a promising youth, sound in doctrines, moral in practice, and respectful in all his deportment to the institutions of religion, to the chilling alternative of either violating his conscience, by coming to the table of the Lord, or else submit to be cut off as a heathen, and thrown into the same putrid mass with apostates and vile offenders.
Such baptized persons, sound in doctrine, and moral in practice, are rather, in the judgment of charity, to be viewed as believers; and upon giving credible evidence of this to the officers of the church, they are to be admitted to sealing ordinanceswhether the application is first made for a seat at the Lord's table, or for the baptism of a child, is immaterial.
I have never been able to discover the necessity, nor even the propriety, of compelling baptized persons to begin their profession of religion with the sacrament of the supper. The sacraments are equally holy; and to participate in one of the sealing ordinances of God's house is as much a public profession of religion, as to participate in the other, or in both. I know that it is not so understood by many. A large proportion of parents, who wish to have children baptized, are entirely ignorant of what is implied in that solemn transaction; and too many
even show that they care nothing about it. It is time-high time, that people should be made to understand this matter. It is high time that the applicant, for the baptism of his child, should be told. "Sir, you have come to take hold on God's covenant: you have come to perform an act-viz. the dedication of your child to the living God-which calls for the exercise of faith. In one word, you have come to make a public profession of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ." If he expresses a readiness and willingness to do this, let his examination, in relation to both Christian doctrines and Christian experience, be conducted with the same solemnity and strictness, which would be considered necessary, if, instead of applying for the baptism of. his child, he had made application for a seat at the Redeemer's table. If the examination be satisfactory, the child is to be admitted upon the presentation of the parent; who is ever after to be considered as, to all intents and purposes, a professor of religion.
But, if the parent refuses to submit to such an examination or if, upon being examined, he is unable to give evidence that he is prepared to make a public profession of religion-he cannot be permitted to act in this holy ordinance for his child. Yet, as he has not been cut off for any overt act of wickedness, his child is born within the pale of the church, and entitled to the seal of membership, although he is not qualified to make the offering.. What is to be done in such a case? Manifestly it