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not depend on his eating the passover, any more than on his discharging any other duty or act of worship. True, as a member, bound to perform the duties of a member, he was required to eat the passover, under pain of church censure; but as for his membership, it had been sealed by a previous and different ceremony. Indeed, his right to the passover depended, among other things, on his having previously been sealed as a member of God's church. Even the membership of females was sealed by this ordi nance. To them it could not be personally administered; but they were viewed as represented by the males, and as circumcised in them-daughters in their fathers, wives in their husbands. This is proved by the fact, that they were permitted to eat the passover, from which every uncircumcised person was excluded by express statute.* Maimonidest says, that women were not only admitted to the paschal feast, but that at times there was a company which consisted only of women. The visible church, from the time of Abraham to the commencement of the evangelical dispensation, consisted of circumcised persons. They, and they only, had the token of God's covenant upon them; and the authoritative assurance that they belonged to the holy society, which Jehovah had set apart for himself, and on which he was bestowing the blessings of salvation; not, indeed, on all, but on as many of them as he, in the exercise of his sovereign grace, should be pleased to select.
*Exo. xii. 48.
i de Pasch. c. 2. § 5.
Baptism, as we have proved in our preceding. letter, has now taken the place of circumcision; consequently, baptism is now the one seal of the Abrahamic covenant. It is only by baptism that any one can, under the gospel dispensation, be formally declared to be within the church, and entitled to the privileges of visible membership. No matter what a person's faith and piety may be; no matter how good his standing may be, as it respects the invisible church, and the eternal world; he is not to be acknowledged a member of the visible church, while the ordinance of baptism is neglected by him.
Persons (says a writer*) may be virtually in covenant by their own or their parents faith; but they are not visibly and professedly in covenant or in church, till they have passed under the appointed ceremony. When we speak of persons being admitted into the church by baptism, we mean not that this conveys the right of admission; for it presupposes the right and the qualification or relation, in which the right by divine institution is founded: but that it declares the right, and thus introduces to visible privileges. God says, "The uncircumcised man-child shall be cut off from among his people. he hath broken my covenant." He was previously in covenant else he could not be said to break it by his uncircumcision. So also the unbaptized person is to be cut off, or excluded from the privileges of the Christian church."
Dr. Joseph Lathrop's Sermons on the mode and subjects of Christian baptism, p. 52, note.
The visible Christian church is, then, made up of baptized persons. Their baptism has sealed their membership; and until that membership has been destroyed by proper authority, their standing in the visible church, and their claim on the privileges of the visible church, are not to be controverted, especially when they furnish evidence that they are qualified to participate in such privileges. The practice of calling communicants, members in contradistinction from those who have been baptized, and not subsequently cut off, is altogether unjustifiable; and this wrong has been the source of many other wrongs. That every baptized person is bound, at a suitable period of life, to assume his baptismal engagements, and to obey the dying command of the Saviour, in the devout celebration of the supper, no one will deny. All that we contend for is, that his so doing does not form a new relation, but only completes the relation declared to exist at the time. of his baptism. It is no more than an act of duty devolving on him, as a member of the church, by which he acknowledges his relation to the church, and personally takes hold of God's covenant. Going. to the table of the Lord no more makes a man a member of the church, than praying to God in his family, or performing any other Christian duty, makes him a member. Whatever spiritual blessings are sealed to the believer in the sacrament of the supper, his relationship to the visible church is not so sealed: His right to approach the table of the Lord is, in part at least, a result of his membership,
sealed by a previous and different ordinance. Baptism, and baptism alone, is the seal and badge of membership; and membership can be taken away only by the destruction of this seal and badge. Even in the excommunication of professors of religion, the censure inflicted can have reference only to the relationship recognized in baptism. We thus guard against the profanation of sealing ordinances by declaring the membership, sealed in baptism, to have been forfeited. If this be not the fact-if excommunication only contemplates the sacrament of the supper-why do we exclude from baptism the children of excommunicated persons? Certainly excommunication breaks up the relation between the offender and the church : It declares him to be a heathen; it nullifies his baptism during the time of his excision, so far as it respects the distinguishing privileges to which members in good standing are entitled. If this be correct, there can be no necessity, nor propriety, in delaying church censures until a profession of religion has been made. The sentence of excommunication may, with as much propriety, be passed upon a baptized member as upon a communicant; and the necessity for it is of much more frequent occurrence, in most of our churches. These remarks are in this place, however, only brought forward as hints, naturally suggested by the view we have taken of the Abrahamic covenant. They will be resumed, and considered. more in detail, in subsequent communications. At present, I conclude with transcribing three proposi
tions of the excellent JONATHAN MITCHEL, one of the distinguished divines of the New England Church, in her puritan days. They have a bearing upon the subject we have considered; and present it in a plain, and, to me, satisfactory point of view. These are his propositions :
"First. The whole visible church, under the New Testament, is to be baptized.
Secondly. If a man be one in the church (whether admitted at age or in infancy,) nothing less than censurable evil can put him out.
Thirdly. If the parent be in the visible church, his infant child is so also."
These propositions are followed up by the remark, "that all the baptized are, and ought to be under discipline in particular churches.”*
*See Cotton Mather's Magnalia, vol. ii. p. 82. Hart. Ed 1820.