The Subjects of Baptism

Charles Hodge

From The Princeton Review, volume 33 (1861).

The question now to occupy our attention is, who are the proper subjects of baptism?

It is universally admitted that this rite may be properly administered to adult believers, if they have not been previously baptized. On this point, therefore, as there is no difference of opinion, we shall consume no time with discussion. But are believers the only persons to whom it may be administered? To this our Baptist brethren reply in the affirmative; we, on the other hand, with the great mass of Christendom, in the negative. We believe that the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized, the Lord having made it both their privilege and their duty to consecrate their offspring to him in the use of this ordinance. In defence and confirmation of this belief, the most of what we desire to say may be appropriately arranged under three distinct arguments, each having force in itself, and when combined, forming an arch that cannot be broken or swept away by our opponents. They are not new indeed, but are not the less worthy of our regard on that account. To consider how these ancient pillars stand, and how they are related together in the temple of truth, will reassure those who already agree with us in the general view of the subject, and perhaps tend to convince those from whom we differ.

I. The first to which we ask the attention of the reader is this. In the original constitution of the church, the covenant into which God entered with his people included their children. The external mark or seal of the covenant was applied to them. And until it can be shown that this covenant has been abrogated, or that the children of the faithful have been excluded from its provisions, they are and must be entitled to the same privilege still. The mere lapse of time, or change of circumstances, or substitution of one seal for another, does not affect them. They stand still just where they originally stood, unless excluded.

The church may be compared to a company chartered with certain rights and privileges. If, in the lapse of time, without revoking the charter, or disbanding the company, any modifications should be made, such as substituting a new for an old seal, changing the field of operations, readjusting the officers, or the like, this of course would only affect the company to the extent of these alterations and what they necessarily imply. All original rights and privileges remain, unless withdrawn or changed by subsequent legislation. Whatever might or might not be done at the first, would be still lawful or unlawful unless prohibited or permitted under the modification. The correctness of this statement as to all mere human organizations will not be questioned. No one will affirm that an organized company loses or gains anything by a modification of its charter, expect what is expressly stated or necessarily implied in the action taken. Whatever is not thus affected, remains as it was.

Now we maintain that the same is true in regard to the church. All her rights, privileges, and duties, as expressed under the old dispensation are still in force, unless they have been canceled under the new. The children of his people were embraced in the covenant at first. That covenant has never been abrogated. They have never been excluded. Therefore, they are embraced in it still and are entitled to its seal.

It will be perceived just here, that everything depends, as to the force of this argument, on the view that is to be taken of the Christian church. If it be an entirely new and independent organization, then of course there is no connection between it and the old charter, and the argument just stated has not force; but if it be only a perpetuation of the original church of God, under a somewhat modified form, then the argument is relevant and unanswerable. It will be necessary, therefore, to examine this point before we proceed. Is the Christian church an entirely new organization, or is it only a modified continuance of the one church of God? We maintain the latter — the identity of the church, just as we maintain that the boy and the man are the same person, though the form, age, and circumstances, may have changed. Our anti-paedobaptist brethren maintain the former, i.e., that the church is not the same, but a new organization, succeeding the former indeed, but not a perpetuation of it. This entire separation of the New from the Old has been sometimes carried so far as to deny that the Scriptures of the Old Testament are a part of our rule of faith. They may contain what is good, true, and even profitable, in history, doctrine, and biography, but the New Testament alone is our rule of faith. We have no more connection with the Old Testament, as a law, than we have with the old colonial constitutions and laws under which our ancestors lived before we became independent States. This seems to be a necessary conclusion from their theory of the church, and is of itself sufficient to shock our Christian sensibilities. Argument on such a topic is scarcely needed, but yet it will be proper to notice some of the many considerations which go to establish the identity of the church under both dispensations.

(a) The promises and prophecies of the Scriptures cover the whole period of the church’s existence, and in their spirit, letter, and scope, evidently contemplate but one and the same body. They begin with the church in its earliest days, and run on into its later and more enlarged development, implying continuance, prosperity, growth, but utterly forbidding the idea that the church then existing was to be supplanted by another. “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your brethren; him shall ye hear.” “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains . . . . and all nations shall flow unto it.” “Arise, shine,” says the prophet to Zion, in anticipation of her coming glory — “Arise, shine: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. . . . . The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. . . . . Then shalt thou see and flow together, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee.” Quotations of this character might be multiplied almost indefinitely, were it necessary. These are simply sufficient to show that the one church of old was not to be supplanted, but enlarged, and made to embrace the Gentile world. The pious Jews so understood them, and therefore looked forward with exultant anticipations to their fulfillment. The church since has ever regarded them as in part fulfilled in her enlargement, and as indicating a blessed legacy yet to be received.

(b) As a counterpart to this argument, it is observable, also, that the formal, didactic, and argumentative statements of the New Testament clearly teach the same thing, i.e., the identity of the church under both dispensations. It is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.” The Gentiles are “fellow-heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” To believers it is said, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Through Christ, both Jew and Gentile have access by one Spirit unto the Father, and are, therefore, equally fellow-citizens and of the household of God. Eph. 2:18-19. The olive tree originally planted is the same. The old and decayed branches may have been broken off, and new branches from the wild olive grafted in, but the tree is the same. This illustrative argument of the Apostle is utterly inapplicable and unmeaning, if the church has not been preserved. The same is true also of the representation that Christ now occupies the throne of David. Where were the truth or relevancy of this representation, if the throne of David had perished? The New Testament, therefore, clearly teaches the same on this point, the identity of the church, as the promises and prophecies of the Old. These considerations mutually illustrate and confirm each other, and would fully establish our position, if nothing more could be said.

(c) The actual history of the Christian church in its first developments, is in entire accordance with these teachings of the Old and New Testament. The uniform tenor of the prophetic announcements was, that Zion should live and be enlarged; that David should never want a successor to sit upon his throne. The unvarying testimony of the apostles is that it did live, is receiving its promised enlargement, and is now under the dominion of Christ on the throne of David. Now with all this the facts of her early history perfectly agree. Of whom was the early Christian church composed? Of believing Jews unquestionably. They held the Jewish Scriptures, received the Messiah long before promised to the Jewish church, and claimed all the promises made to Zion as their legacy. “They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” The apostles were all Jews. For a considerable time they “preached the gospel to none but the Jews only.” By divine direction they opened the door to the Gentiles, and then went among them, preaching the gospel long before made known to Abraham. Can it be that by receiving Christ and preaching him to others, they thereby separated themselves from the church of God, and forfeited their interest in the promises? Certainly not. This was the very thing which united them to, and kept them in the one living church of God. “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

(d) In addition to all these facts and teachings, the identity of the church may be established in another way. The object of worship is the same — the living and true God. But all who worship him acceptably, in any age, place, or country, must have the same religion and belong to the same church; for what is the church but the company of those who worship the true God. The way of life, also, is the same under both dispensations, to wit: by faith in Jesus Christ. “Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious stone — he that believeth shall not make haste.” This was “the gospel preached before unto Abraham.” Christ was the glory, beauty, and strength of the old dispensation as well as the new. Its types, ceremonies, and shadows, pointed to him, and were so understood by the faithful. “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it.” “They all drank of that rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” Ancient believers, therefore, were as truly Christians, though not called by that name, as we are at the present day. But can that be a different or new church, which lives by the faith of a common Savior?

And still farther; there was, and is, the same entire dependence on the power of the Holy Ghost under each. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” is equally the law of both. And then the nature of life communicated is also the same — a life of love to God and man. The sum of spirituality under each is “to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.” Thus, in every respect they are one — one object of worship, one Mediator between God and man, one Spirit of life and power, and one inward disposition belonging to all.

Let the reader now review, for a moment, what has been advanced in proof of the identity of the church. It is established, by the uniform tenor of the promises and prophecies of Scripture, by the constant teachings of the apostles, by the actual occurrences in the early history of the Christian church, and by the perfect oneness of the two dispensations as to the object of worship, the way of life through Christ, dependence on the Holy Ghost, and the internal spirit or disposition of the people. The church of God is unquestionably but one and the same under both dispensations. That church, in its original constitution, included the seed of the righteous. They are still entitled to this privilege, unless it can be shown that they have been excluded. We insist, therefore, that those who deny this right are bound to show by what authority they exclude them. They were once included. By what authority are they shut out? The burden of proof must, in all fairness, rest upon our opponents, and not on us. They, indeed, demand of us a “thus saith the Lord” for receiving the children of believers into the church. We, on the other hand, ask for equally explicit testimony for their exclusion. Until this is produced, we contend that direct testimony on our side for receiving them, is not necessary or even to be expected. Why should there be any testimony or command on such a matter, when for centuries the practice of the church had been uniform in this respect? The privileges of the seed of the righteous continue of course, unless prohibited. Where is the prohibition? This our opponents are bound to produce. This we are confident they can never do. . . . . They tell us, indeed, that there is no explicit mention of infant baptism in the New Testament; but the obvious reply is, silence, if it be admitted, does not exclude them. There is no repetition of the fourth commandment in the new dispensation, but this does not abrogate the law of the Sabbath. The old regulation is still in force. There is no mention of female communion in the New Testament; but this does not exclude them from the Lord’s table. They ate the passover, and were members of the church under the former economy; and of course are entitled to the corresponding privileges under the latter, unless forbidden. Authority for admitting them, therefore, is not required, but for excluding. Until this is produced, their privileges are unabridged of course. There was apparently no occasion for commanding it; but everything indicates that they did commune, though it is neither enjoined nor expressly mentioned. Precisely so in regard to infant members. They were received under the original charter. They had always been included. There was no occasion, therefore, for enjoining their admission; but at the same time every incidental allusion (as we shall see presently) shows that they were received with their parents. More authority than this we certainly do not need, and in the circumstances could scarcely expect. They take their place of course, like females at the communion table, unless prohibited. The very silence of Scripture, therefore, is significant for our views and practice. If it had been intended to exclude females from the Christian passover, or to abrogate the fourth commandment, these points would have been mentioned. Nothing being said about them, and the practice of the apostles being clear, these ancient usages remain unaltered. If it had been intended to deprive children of their status in the church, it would have been stated. Nothing being said about it, they of course stand unaffected within the pale of the covenant, and entitled to its seal.

But infant membership, it is sometimes said, was a part of the Mosaic ritual, and therefore passed away when that was abrogated. We reply by an utter denial of the premise assumed. Infant membership was not a part of the Mosaic ritual. It was held and taught in the family of Abraham, where the church is generally supposed to have been organized, at least four hundred years before the times of Moses. “I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee and unto thy seed after thee.” . . . . “This is my covenant which ye shall keep, between me and you, and thy seed after thee: Every man child among you shall be circumcised.” Gen. 17:7, 10. Here is the law of infant membership given long before Moses appeared. The abrogation of his ritual, therefore, enacted as it was at a subsequent period, can have no effect on the original covenant. An unbiased judgment alone would assure us of this; but we have also the testimony of inspiration directly to the point. “The covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law which was four hundred and thirty years after cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” Gal. 3:17. The old charter still remains unaffected by the ceremonial law.

A reply very similar to this, may be made to the allegation that the Jewish church was a secular organization, and hence the fact that children belonged to it does not prove that they belong also to the Christian church, which is a spiritual body. We answer, that the Jewish church, though it had a civil and ceremonial code given by the hand of Moses, yet was also a spiritual body, and had an existence embracing children long before their civil laws were enacted. It was organized in the family of Abraham four hundred years before Moses. The ceremonial law was an appendage, given for a specific purpose, to wit, that the Jews might be kept distinct from all other nations until the coming of Christ. After his appearance the necessity for a separate national existence ceased, and therefore the national ritual with all its types and shadows was set aside; but without affecting in the least the original covenant made with Abraham. This still remains to him and to his seed, as truly as on the day it was first formed. This covenant is yet in existence, and lies at the very foundation of the visible church. Believers now are the children of faithful Abraham, and the covenant and the promise is to them and their seed as truly as at the first, notwithstanding the law of Moses, as to some of its requirements, has been annulled.

Such then is the first, and we may say the main, argument for admitting the children of believers to a place in the visible church. It was done by divine appointment in the original organization of the church in the family of Abraham. The constitution of the church in this respect has never been changed. The privilege of children has not been withdrawn, nor the duty of parents revoked. The seed of the righteous, therefore, are still entitled to a place in the visible kingdom. The only escape from this argument is by denying the identity of the church under both dispensations. But this, as we have shown, cannot be maintained. The church of God is one — one family of children — one brotherhood of believers, in every age and country, whatever external modifications may have been made. Unless the children of pious parents have been debarred, therefore, they are yet within the household.

Before proceeding to the next argument in support of our practice, we propose to submit two or three preliminary considerations which are pertinent just here. It is an unquestionable fact, that the church originally embraced the faithful and their seed. The covenant embraced both. The seal was applied to each. Now (a) if a change so important and radical as the exclusion of one-half the membership was made by our Savior and the apostles, it would at least be reasonable to suppose that some distinct mention of it would be made. Otherwise how would their intention be known? But no such intimation is given. On the other hand, as we shall see presently, intimations of a directly opposite nature are abundant, showing that the same order was to continue. Is this possible upon the theory that they intended to forbid infant membership? Again (b) if they had introduced such a change in the constitution of the church, it is in the highest degree improbable that it would have been unnoticed both by friends and foes. The Jews prized their covenant relation to Abraham very highly. They were, moreover, peculiarly sensitive as to every departure from their laws and customs. Would they not have noticed this, supposing it to have been made? Or, if they had been silent, would not the disciples of Christ themselves have asked for some explanation? The children of the faithful have heretofore belonged to the church; are they now to be excluded? They have hitherto stood in a peculiar relation to God; are they now to be put on an equality with the children of the heathen? That some allusion to the change, supposing it to have been made, should not be found, either from friend or foe, is utterly incredible. And yet not a word is on record from either, implying even that any change was made in this respect. On the other hand, much is found implying the continuance of the old order. How is it possible to reconcile this with the Baptist theory?

But farther, (c) if no change were contemplated in the constitution of the church — if the privileges of believers were to continue in this respect, just as they always had been, then all that we would reasonably expect in the way of authority would be, not an express injunction to incorporate their seed with themselves into the church (for this were unnecessary, the thing was already understood and practiced), but an occasional or incidental allusion to it as an existing usage. And this is precisely what we do find, as we shall now proceed to show. No notice of a change; no question or complaint from any quarter implying it, but various allusions and statements which clearly show its continuance.

II. Some of these are now to be presented as a second argument in favor of our practice. Take, in the first place, the declaration of the apostle Peter to his brethren the Jews. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off.” As Jews, they had been accustomed to associate their offspring with themselves in all the privileges and blessings of the church. Now if they were to be deprived of this privilege when they became Christians, it is certainly very strange that the old covenant relation should be thus referred to. Repent and be baptized, . . . for the covenant is to you and to your children. Is it possible that such an inducement would have been mentioned, if their children were to be, by the faith of the parents in accepting Christ, cut off from the church? We think not. It may be, indeed, that the language we have quoted is not to be considered as enjoining infant baptism, but to our apprehension it is utterly at war with the idea, that the offspring of believers are in a less favored condition under the new than under the old dispensation. It goes on the presumption that the covenant of God with his people is unchanged in this respect. This intimation is given, too, almost at the very commencement of the Christian dispensation, when, if an entirely new order was to be instituted, a very different intimation would seem to have been called for. Instead of being left to infer the continued status of their children, they should have been told distinctly that henceforth they were not to wear the seal of the covenant.

Take, in the next place, the important passage in I Cor. 7:14. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.” In what sense are the children “holy” when there is one believing parent? Not inherently, certainly, for this is not true of them by nature when both parents are pious. It must refer to the covenant or church relation in which such children are placed, and was no doubt intended to solve a practical difficulty that arose very early in the church. They seem to have been at a loss what to do when only one parent was pious — a difficulty, by the way, which never could have arisen if the children were to be left out any how, even if both parents were believers. In this perplexity the apostle says, that the faith of one parent is sufficient to guaranty their covenant standing. They are not to be excluded. “On the maturest and most impartial consideration of this passage,” says Doddridge, “I must judge it to refer to infant baptism. Nothing can be more apparent than that the word holy signifies persons who might be admitted to partake of the distinguishing rites of God’s people.” “I cannot but conclude, after long attention to the subject,” says Scott, “that the baptism of the infant offspring of believers is here evidently referred to as at that time customary in the churches.” No other interpretation of this passage with which we have met, is at all plausible. Olshausen, who denies its reference to infant baptism, finds the benefit arising to the unbelieving partner to lie “in the highly important idea, that a relative sanctification can be effected merely by contact with those who possess it. There is,” he says, “in those who are closely united with believers, without fully yielding to their power, a certain resistance always to be conceived; the mighty power of Christ unites itself with the better part in them, and elevates it to a certain degree.” And in the holiness or cleanness, represented as belonging to the children where one parent is pious, he finds only “a destination for conversion, and a means of facilitating this, unquestionably included. This is the blessing of pious ancestors.” Shade of Abraham! And yet even he admits that “in the thought which the apostle here expresses, lies the full authorization of the church to institute this rite of infant baptism.” “What pertains to the children of Christians in virtue of their birth, is affirmed to them in baptism, to be really and fully imparted to them at their confirmation or spiritual baptism.”

Another allusion of a less definite nature, is found in the familiar words of our Savior. “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God,” or of heaven. The kingdom here referred to is the church. Children had been brought into it from the first. If they were henceforward to be excluded, this is certainly a strange declaration. Instead of an implied continuance of their right, we might have expected an explicit denial of it. We cannot but believe that this would have been given, if he had intended to cut them off from their covenant relation. An appropriate occasion certainly was here afforded for promulgating the new order. So far is he from issuing it, however, that he seems to sanction the old usage. In this manner the pious generally have understood his words; and have joyfully consecrated their offspring to him, in the fond hope that they will be watched as lambs of his fold, and received at last into the kingdom above. Have they been feeding on delusion?

These are some of the principal allusions, going to show that as under the old so under the new dispensation, the children of believers are embraced in the covenant, and have a right to its seal. The Savior says they belong to the kingdom. The apostle affirms that the promise includes them. And, in a case where they were at some loss what to think or to do, instructions are given which recognize their standing. We submit that these allusions, in the absence of everything of a contrary nature, and in connection with the former practice of the church, ought to have great weight in deciding the matter. It is to our mind inconceivable that these implied sanctions should have been given, if the seed of the righteous were to be no longer admitted to a standing in the visible kingdom. This conviction, too, is greatly strengthened by the remaining argument, which we now propose to state.

III. The practice of the early Christians seems clearly to have coincided with the interpretation we have given them, and with the ancient usage of God’s people. The evidence of this is found in the family or household baptisms recorded in the New Testament. Of these, four are mentioned distinctly, i.e., the families of Cornelius, Lydia, Stephanas, and the jailer; and four others are referred to in a way which renders their baptism highly probably — the household of Crispus, Onesiphorus, Aristobulus, and Narcissus. In such a number of families it is highly improbable that all would be found without children. Take eight or even four families promiscuously in any community or age, and the probabilities are almost a thousand to one that children will be found in some of them. That there were none in any of these, it is next to impossible to believe. But if there were, they were baptized as well as the parents.

The way, too, in which one of these family baptisms is mentioned is worthy of remark, as tending to show a prevailing custom. “And when she was baptized and her household,” as though the baptism of the family were as much a matter of course as of the parent or head. This is the more significant also, when we remember that under the old dispensation, whenever a parent professed the true religion, a proselyte, for example, the initiatory ordinance was applied to his family as well as to himself. He and his were circumcised, and thus publicly consecrated to God by the seal of his covenant. Allusion to this ceremony would have been very natural in just such language as is here employed in regard to Lydia. And when he was circumcised and his family — and when she was baptized and her household — the one as naturally following conversion as the other. Nothing could be more artless than this allusion. The evidence thus afforded is scarcely less strong and satisfactory than if it had been directly affirmed, that according to the tenor of the covenant, and the common practice of the apostles, she and her household were received into the church by the same ordinance, and upon her individual faith. This and the other cases mentioned, are to be regarded only as samples of what was common in that day. The mere passing allusion to them is unaccountable on any other theory.

It might be shown that the early history of the church confirms the conclusion to which we are brought by these arguments. But we prefer to lay before our readers at present only the scriptural view of the subject. This can be understood and appreciated by all who are capable of reasoning. If this be accepted, nothing more is needed. If in this we have failed, we should not wish to be sustained by uninspired history. The main positions that have been taken are, in the first place, that the children of believers were included in the covenant, belonged to the church, and received the initiatory ordinance in the original organization of God’s house — that that constitution has not been abrogated — that it is the law of the church still. They are, therefore, yet included in the covenant, and of course the rite of initiation belongs to them still. If they are shut out, the authority for so doing must be brought by those who exclude them. This they can never do. But, in the next place, instead of waiting for them to prove their exclusion, we have shown that various declarations imply very clearly the continuance of this usage under the gospel. And then, in the third place, the practice of the church seems to have been founded upon it.

As observed at the beginning, each of these arguments has independent weight, but when combined, they strengthen each other immeasurably. Like circumstantial evidence, they confirm each other. God has placed the children of believers within his church at the first. They belong to it still, unless they have been excluded. This alone were enough. We might sit down here, and wait for our opponents to produce a “thus saith the Lord” for excluding them. But we go farther, and show that their continued covenant relation is taught by Christ and his apostles. This, in the absence of everything to the contrary, gives additional strength to the former conclusion. And then, to make the demonstration complete, we have shown that the practice of the apostles also, as well as their didactic teaching, is favorable to infant baptism. Believing parents in those days brought their children as naturally as themselves to receive this ordinance. What are we, then, that we should forbid it to be done at the present time? To our apprehension the privilege and duty are scarcely less clear than they were in regard to circumcision.

Several of the most common arguments against the views we hold have already been answered. There is no command to baptize children. But silence does not exclude them. An injunction was not necessary. The former practice of the church and the example of the apostles gave all requisite information and authority. A prohibition would have been requisite to exclude them, and would doubtless have been given if they were to be deprived of their former standing. Infant membership was a part of the Mosaic ritual, and terminated with its abrogation? We deny the assertion in toto. Infant membership was instituted in the family of Abraham, and, as to origin or continuance, had nothing to do with Moses. But the Jewish church was a secular organization, and membership in it cannot imply the same in the Christian church, which is a spiritual body. We reply, that the church of old existed before, and independent of, the national organization; and was then as truly a spiritual body as now. The Jewish economy was only a temporary device, for a specific purpose, enacted long after the church’s existence, and terminated without affecting the covenant.

One or two other objections require to be noticed before we close. The conditions of baptism, it is said, are repentance and faith. Only those who can perform these conditions are proper subjects of the ordinance. Children cannot repent and believe, therefore they are not to be baptized. Our reply to this is three-fold. (a) The same process of reasoning will exclude them from heaven as well as from the church. Repentance and faith are the conditions of salvation as plainly as of baptism. “Testifying repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” was the sum of Paul’s preaching. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” “He that believeth not, shall be damned.” But children cannot repent and believe, therefore they cannot be saved. The argument proves too much, and is therefore good for nothing. (b) The terms prescribed have respect to adults. They prove nothing in either case as to children. This is the belief of all as to their salvation, should they die in infancy. Why is it not equally true as to their baptism? (c) Under the old dispensation, faith and submission to God were required of proselytes. Their infant offspring were not capable of performing these acts; yet they were received on the authority of the covenant, and the seal applied. Why should not the same course be pursued under the new?

But it is said, What good does baptism do them? No little merriment is sometimes made at the expense of paedobaptists under cover of this inquiry. The sprinkling of unconscious babes is sneered at as the height of folly. (a) The same might have been said, perhaps was said, by some, of circumcision. What sense or profit is there in subjecting them to a painful ceremony? Nay, but O man! who art thou that repliest against God? What are we, that we should accuse God of folly? To know that he requires it, should be enough for us. This is our first reply. (b) And another is, that our inability to discover the utility of the ordinance, does not prove it to be without value. The water may have no cleansing efficacy of itself — we have never dreamed that it has. But still, the religious use of it in the way prescribed, may be valuable. If it be done in obedient love to God, consecrating therewith our children to him, who can say, that through it, and through the training it implies, an unspeakable blessing may not descend upon all the parties concerned — parents, children, the church, and the world. It is a remarkable fact that the church of God has lived and descended from age to age very much through the families of the righteous. Who can say how much the consecration of their offspring to God may have contributed to their welfare, the comfort of their parents, the prosperity of Zion, and the good of the world? We are convinced that the observance of this ordinance has been an incalculable blessing, and that to banish the usage from the church would be injurious in the extreme. With all the solemn considerations and advantages by which it is enforced, we are yet too prone, alas, to neglect the proper training of our children, and they to neglect their high interests and obligations. What would be the result if it were banished from the church? But on this we cannot enlarge at present. The practical bearing and value of the ordinance may, perhaps, be discussed at another time. For the present, we rest with having established the continued privilege of regarding our children as with us in the ark, and of consecrating them to our covenant-keeping God. At every stage of the argument we have been more and more convinced that our usage is scriptural, and that in the conscientious observance of it we have every reason to expect the divine blessing.