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The importance and advantages of baptism.
WHEN noticing the last objection* urged against infant baptism, by the opposers of that doctrine, I promised, in a future paper, to call your attention more particularly to the importance, and advantages of that ordinance. I now propose to fulfil that
And suffer me to observe, in general, that every divine institution must, and does bear the marks of wisdom and utility. God does nothing in vain. And to question the beneficial tendency of any of his ordinances, is as great presumption, as it is to question the wisdom and goodness of Him who appointed them. An infidel, whose darkened understanding, and whose carnal mind, have shut out the rays. of divine truth, may ask, What use is there in reading the Scriptures, or in attending on public worship? And because his wicked heart has not received the truth in the love of it, he may draw the impious conclusion, that no benefit is to be derived from the reading, or the preaching of God's word; when, at the same time, thousands of God's people, who, because they were ordained to eternal life, have through grace believed-have found them to be the
*See Letter. viii.
power of God, and the wisdom of God, unto salva
But the part which, the infidel acts, in relation to the system of revealed truth, is not more unreasonable and wicked, than is the conduct of those, who, in relation to the ordinance of baptism, and especially infant baptism, continually, and with an air of triumph, ask, What is the use of it? What good does it do? What purpose can it answer to sprinkle a child, or even a man, with a few drops of water?' To all objections and questions of this sort, a "thus saith the Lord" is a sufficient reply. God has commanded it to be done, and therefore we are bound to do it; and to do it too under a deep conviction and belief, that the institution, like every thing else which proceeds from Him, is holy, and wise, and good.
A practical writer* on the sovereignty of God, observes "Be subject to his ordinances. If he please to command the using such means, as have no natural virtue towards such an effect, as in Moses. stretching his hand over the sea, and smiting the rock with his rod; so water in baptism, and bread and wine in the Lord's supper: Presume not to say What is there in these ? Godliness is a mystery, which only faith can understand. There is no divine institution but hath meat in it, which you know not of, which, if rightly used, will speak for itself. If he please to make clay of dust and spittle, con
* Elisha Coles, see Practical Discourses, p. 40.
demn it not; but submit to his will and way, and be thankful for thy cure."
But it is not necess essary, neither would it be an act of kindness and faithfulness to you, to dispose of this subject in so summary a manner. I conceive it to be evident, from what has already been said, and, as I think, proved, that whatever benefits resulted from circumcision, must be secured by its substitute, baptism; together with such additional advantages as belong to the improved character of the evangelical dispensation.
Now, that circumcision was a great privilege, attended with peculiar advantages, is evident from the following considerations.
1st. God, who cannot trifle, and who will not deceive any of his creatures, declared repeatedly that the separation of Abraham from his idolatrous relatives, and his removal out of Ur of the Chaldees, was designed to secure to him, and his posterity, most important privileges and blessings.-Do you ask, what privileges and blessings? I answer, the privilege and honour of giving birth to Messiah, the desire of all nations, and the Saviour of the election of grace. I answer again, the privilege and blessing of having the church, the pillar of truth, and the repository of revelation, organized in his family.-I answer, thirdly; the privilege and the blessing of circumcision, as the visible token of membership in the church so constituted; and the authorized seal of the righteousness of faith.-These certainly occu>
py the highest rank among the blessings promised and secured to faithful Abraham, and his seed.
Further: The peremptory manner in which the ordinance of circumcision was enjoined-the penalty of excision, by which it was enforced-and the displeasure of God against Moses for neglecting to circumcise his children-all prove the institution to have been important; and the observance of it necessary to secure the advantages promised by God to his covenant people.
2. Consult now the feelings of the Jews; feelings produced by the most enlightened views of truth and duty, and identified with the best exercises of the heart. The seal of the covenant was, in every period of the Jewish church, and especially in periods of reformation and distinguished piety, deemed by every Hebrew a prerogative of inestimable worth.
Uncircumcised," to use the words of another"uncircumcised, was the most bitter. and disdainful reproach, which his mouth could utter: He would sooner lay his children in the grave, than permit them to go without the token of their being Abraham's seed."
This feeling of the Jews was interwoven with their very constitution; and twining its tendrils round every fibre of their hearts, exerted itself in all its power on the day of Pentecost; and with all the propriety of reason, with all the authority of revelation, and with all the tenderness of parental affection, loudly called for privileges and rights in behalf of their offspring.
When the Apostle directed the anxious, enquir ing, and believing multitude, to be baptized-and thus to receive, as Christian converts, the seal of the covenant under its evangelical form-all the tenderness and solicitude of the parental heart, now softened by divine grace, were brought into liveliest exercise. What! exclaims the anxious Jew, What is to become of my children, the fruit of my body, for whose recognition, as members of the visible church, God made special provision in his covenant with my great progenitor Abraham? I cannot accede to terms like these. I cannot cross the threshhold of the Christian church, and leave my babes. behind. I cannot, I must not accept of baptism, as the token of the covenant in the place of circumcision, and thus unchurch the children whom God has given me!
Peace! peace, says the Apostle. The form of sealing the covenant only is changed. The covenant, in all its extent and operation, in all its privileges and immunities, remains untouched. The promise is still to you and your children. Bring your infant offspring with you-and let them, with you, receive the seal of God's covenant in its Christian form.
Such were the feelings of the Jews in relation to circumcision; and that these feelings were not superstitious and unauthorized is evident from the words of the inspired Paul, who, in answer to the objection, "What advantage hath the Jew, and what