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Saviour, we find it to have been the custom of the Jews solemnly to baptize, as well as to circumcise all their profelytes. As their writers treat largely of the reasons for this rite, and give no hint of its being a novel institution, it is probable, that this had always been the custom antecedent to the time of Moses, whose account of the rite of circumcision, and of the manner of performing it, is by no means circumstantial. Or baptisin, after circumcising, might have come into use gradually, from the natural propriety of the thing, and its easy con: formity to other Jewish customs. For, if no Jew could approach the tabernacle, or temple, after the most trifling uncleanness, without bathing, much less would it be thought proper to admit a profelyte from a state so impure and unclean as heathenism was conceived to be, without the same mode of purification,
When a master of a family became a proselyte to Judaism, he was required to circumcise both himself and his houshold. Thus Abraham was expressly commanded
to circumcise both his fon Ishmael, who had no interest in the promise of which circumcision was a seal, and also all his slaves, “ those who were bought with his money.” Gen. xvii, 13.
The reason of this practice does not easily appear to us, whose customs and modes of thinking are so different from those which prev iled, and which still prevail, in the East. The power of a master of a family was very extensive, and the actions and customs by which he expressed his own character or resolution, generally extended to all the branches of it. Thus, when the Ninevites made folemn profession of their repentance, they clothed even their cattle in fack-cloth, and made them fast as well as themselves; not that they could imagine that the brute beasts were capable of repentance, or could have done any thing to displease God; but this mournful appearance of every thing about them, was conceived to be expressive of their own contrition and humiliation. Jonah iii. 7.
It being the univers:1 custom, therefore, for the m:after of a family to circumcise, and probably, also, to baptize his children and 1aves, as well as himself, upon his making profeffion of Judaifin ; and the propriety of the thing being exceedingly obvious to all people in the E:f, it would be taken for granted, that baptism, if it was used at all, was to be administered in the lime und inguiihed manner, when a person mauc 10fession of christianity; and the command to baptize al nations would neceffirily have been understood in this sense, unless our Lord had added some express restriction.
Accordingly we find, that when the jailor, who had the custody of Paul, wus converted, both himself was baptized, and all bis. Ads xvi. 33. Also when Lydia wus converted, it is said, that she was baptized, and ker houshold. Acts xvi. 15. Now, by this phrase, a Jew, and even a Roman, would necessarily understand, that both the principal person himself, and all who were under his immediate power, either as a parent or a master, were included.. . Z 4
What the Jews did with respect to young men, grown up to years of understanding, but living with their parents, when they were converted to Judaism, is not faid; but it is probable, that they were not circumcised without their own confent, as in general it must have been the case with Naves. And since christianity is evidently more of a personal concern, and men are chiefly interested in it as individuals, and not as members of societies, or even of families, it may be taken for granted, that only young children were required to be baptized along with their believing parents.
As Naves, we find, were often converted without their masters, and christianity made no distinction between bond or free, as being of the same value in the eye of God, it will hardly be thought probable, that slaves were ever baptized without their own consent. At least, the custom did not continue long, especially as llaves were about that time growing more independent of their masters, acquiring civil as well as religious privileges; till at length, through
the influence of maxims which christianity greatly countenanced, they were universally manumitted in Europe.
The baptism of children, therefore, is to be considered as one part of a man's own profession of christianity, and consequently an obligation upon him to educate his children in the principles of the christian religion. If a child have no parents, or none who will engage for his religious instruction, other persons, who will undertake this kind office, are so far its parents, and therefore may baptize it, as they would do their own children.
Lastly, I would observe, that it is an argument in favour of the baptizing of infants, to which I do not see how any fatiffactory reply can be made, that it appears, from the history of the christian church, to have been the content practice from the time of the apostles. The first mention that is inade of it is as of an uncontroverted practice, and it is even argued from, as an universally received custom, against very in