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persons addressed or referred to, as belonging to the first churches of Christ, were precisely of the classes said to have been circumcised in the family of Abraham. They were parents, and children, and servants, that is, slaves born in the house or bought with money. See Ephes. vi. 1–9. Col. iii. 20—25. iv. 1. 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2. Titus ii. 1-10. 1 Pet. ii. 18-25. iii. 1-12. As all these classes were circumcised under the old Testament, they were, and therefore are to be still, baptized under the New Testament. I do not say, that we might have come to this conclusion of ourselves, and have originated the practice. But, since we have the example of the practice of inspired men, and the means of comparing it with their doctrine, we may see the conclusion to which they were guided, and are bound in duty and with gratitude to follow their practice.
We may now understand also the benefit connected with this extensive administration of Baptism. It is this, that in the house of the believer, “a remnant shall be saved.” This exceeding great and precious promise, of which family Baptism is a sign, is not limited to one generation, but abides with the family, in every successive descent, as long as it shall exist upon earth. It proves a blessing equally to parents and children. It is perfectly consistent with the necessity of the salvation of individuals, even from their childhood, by faith in Christ. It leaves room for all the force of parental desire, and exertion, and jealousy, and fear. But still it feeds hope. It increases gratitude, where there is an appearance of success :
it provides consolation under the trial of disappointment. If not in our own life-time, the promise may be verified after our heads are laid in the grave. Many a Christian parent have I known, whose case I believe I am now describing, from what I have, since their death, seen of their children. And, where it is otherwise, who can tell but in generations to come, the Lord may yet remember his promise to the fathers, and raise up from among their ungodly posterity a godly seed; as we are taught to expect he will one day do to the ungodly race of unbelieving Jews? This hope is perfectly consistent with the truth, that “ as many as believe in Christ are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” It is also consistent with the awful declaration, that “ the last shall be first and the first last.” But still “ I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee,” is an exceeding great and precious promise, of which many parents feel the value, while trembling at the thought of having been intrusted with the charge of immortal souls. Many a delightful hour is spent by their anxious minds in meditating on this promise. It contains all that we can wish for ourselves and our children, in time and in eternity. Without it, one would think, that to be a parent would be one of the greatest trials which a serious mind could possibly experience.
While parents thus have their faith encouraged, concerning their children, they are led to adore the riches of the grace of God, in adopting themselves into his family. And thus the promise becomes a
blessing, not only to parents, but to children. If they know that any of their own progenitors were Christians, they will say with delight, as Paul did, 2 Tim. i. 3. “ I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers.” How strongly Paul felt this consideration, and what a powerful appeal he could draw from it to the conscience and the heart of one still without, we may see from Acts xxvi. 6; 7. “ And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers : unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come; for which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” If again Christians have been called from among sinners of the Gentiles, they will humbly remember, “ that at that time they were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Eph. ii. 12. On the other hand, they will find themselves saluted by an apostle, as adopted into all the privileges of Abraham's seed, who is thus made a father of many nations. 1 Pet. ii. 9, 10. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."
In the book of Psalms, which are provided for the devotional exercises of the people of God in all ages,
we find a mutual interest cherished between the fathers and the children. Ps. xliv. 1. “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” Even the Messiah is represented as confirming his faith, while left to drink the cup of suffering, by a consideration of this nature. Ps. xxii. 3-5. “ But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.” On the other hand, the joy set before him was, that he should “ see his seed,” Ps. xxii. 30, 31. “A seed shall serve him ; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” Ps. cii. 27, 28. “ But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.”
I might here introduce also, the prescribed confession of the offerer of first fruits; the song of Moses ; the final appeal of Joshua; the confession of Daniel; the commemorative confessions and prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah. But the time would fail, to tell the value of the exceeding great and precious promise, “ I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Every favour granted to Israel of old, or to be granted to him in the latter day, is ascribed to the promises made to the fathers. This was the reason assigned for the redemption from Egypt; the giving of the
As for me,
law, the statutes, and the judgments at Sinai ; the giving of the inheritance of Canaan ; the restoration from the Babylonish captivity ; the long expected coming into the world of the Saviour himself; the raising up of the tabernacle of David in the kingdom of Christ; the preaching of the gospel, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile ; here was the display of faithfulness without monopoly, unchanging love to the chosen, but no respect of persons. And what is our hope for both Jews and Gentiles, in the latter day? It is precisely the blessing of Abraham come upon both. Isa. lix. 20, 21. “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord ; My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever."
That we may not suppose that children, according to the flesh, are omitted under a spiritual dispensation, it is expressly said, Jer. xxx. 20-22. " Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And his glori . ous One shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord. And ye shall be my people,