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Answ. 1. Such persons have a certain imperfect, irregular kind of profession, and so of membership; their visibility or visible Christianity is not such as Christ hath appointed. As those that are married, but not by legal celebration, and as those that in cases of necessity are ministers without ordination; so are such Christians as Constantine and many of old without baptism.
2. Such persons ordinarily are not to be admitted to the rights and communion of the visible church, because we must know Christ's sheep by his own mark; but yet they are so far visible Christians, as that we may be persuaded nevertheless of their salvation. As to visible communion, they have but a remote and incomplete 'jus ad rem,' and no ‘jus in re,' or legal investiture and possession.
3. The same is the case of unbaptized infants of believers, because they are not of the church merely as they are their natural seed; but because it is supposed that a person himself devoted to God, doth also devote his children to God: therefore not nature only, but this supposition arising from the true nature of his own dedication to God, is the reason why believers' children have their right to baptism : therefore till he hath actually devoted them to God in baptism, they are not legally members of the visible church, but only in 'fieri' and imperfectly as is said. Of which more anon.
Quest. xxxv. Is it certain by the Word of God that all in
fants baptized, and dying before actual sin, are undoubtedly saved; or what infants may we say so of?
Answ. I. 1. We must distinguish between certainty objective and subjective, or more plainly, the reality or truth of the thing, and the certain apprehension of its.
2. And this certainty of apprehension, sometimes signifieth only the truth of that apprehension, when a man indeed is not deceived, or more usually that clearness of apprehension joined with truth, which fully quieteth the mind and excludeth doubting.
• Since the writing of this, there is come forth an excellent book for Infant Baptism by Mr. Joseph Wbiston, in .wbich the grounds of my present solutions are notably cleared.
3. We must distinguish of infants as baptized lawfully upon just title, or unlawfully without title.
4. And also of title before God, which maketh a lawful claim and reception at his bar; and title before the church, which maketh only the administration lawful before God, and the reception lawful only in foro ecclesia,' or externo.'
5. The word 'baptism' signifieth either the external part only, consisting in the words and outward action, or the internal covenanting of the heart also.
6. And that internal covenant is either sincere which giveth right to the benefits of God's covenant, or only partial, reserved, and unsound, such as is common to hypocrites. . · Conclus. 1. God hath been pleased to speak so little in Scripture of the case of infants, that modest men will use the words, 'certainly' and ' undoubtedly,' about their case with very great caution. And many great divines have maintained that their very baptism itself, cannot be certainly and undoubtedly proved by the Word of God but by tradition: though I have endeavoured to prove the contrary in a special Treatise on that point.
2. No man can tell what is objectively certain or revealed in God's Word, who hath not subjective certainty or knowledge of it.
3. A man's apprehension may be true, when it is but a wavering opinion, with the greatest doubtfulness. Therefore we do not usually by a certain apprehension, mean only a true apprehension, but a clear and quieting one.
4. It is possible to baptize infants unlawfully, or without any right, so that their reception and baptizing shall be a great sin, as is the misapplying of other ordinances. For instance: one in America where there is neither church to receive them, nor Christian parents, nor sponsors, may take up the Indians' children and baptize them against the parents' wills ; or if the parents consent to have their children outwardly baptized, and not themselves, as not knowing what baptizing meaneth, or desire it only for outward advantages to their children : or if they offer them to be baptized only in open derision and scorn of Christ; such children have no right to be received. And many other instances nearer may be given.
5. It is possible the person may have no authority at all from Christ who doth baptize them. And Christ's part in reception of the person, and collation and investiture in his benefits, must be done by his commission, or else how can we say that Christ doth it? But open infidels, women, children, madmen, scorners, may do it that have none of his commission.
6. That all infants baptized without title or right by misapplication, and so dying, are not undoubtedly saved, nor any Word of God doth certainly say so, we have reason to believe on these following grounds.
1. Because we can find no such text, nor could ever prevail with them that say so, to shew us such an ascertaining Word of God.
2. Because else gross sin would certainly be the way to salvation. For such misapplication of baptism, by the demanders at least, would certainly be gross sin, as well as misapplying the Lord's supper.
3. Because it is clean contrary to the tenor of the new covenant which promiseth salvation to none but penitent believers and their seed : what God may do for others unknown to us, we have nothing to do with : but his covenant hath made no other promise that I can find; and we are certain of no man's salvation by baptism, to whom God never made a promise of it. If by the children of the faithful, be meant not only their natural seed, but the adopted or bought also of which they are true proprietors, yet that is nothing to all others.
4. To add to God's words, especially to his very promise or covenant, is so terrible a presumption, as we dare not be guilty of.
5. Because this tieth grace or salvation so to the outward washing of the body, or 'opus operatum,' as is contrary to the nature of God's ordinances, and to the tenor of Scripture, and the judgment of the Protestant divines.
6. Because this would make a strange disparity between the two sacraments of the same covenant of grace: when a man receiveth the Lord's supper unworthily in scorn, in drunkenness, or impenitency) much more without any right (as infidels,) he doth eat and drink damnation or judgment to himself, and maketh his sin greater; therefore he that gets a
child baptized unworthily and without right, doth not therefore infallibly procure his salvation.
7. Because the apostle saith, 1 Cor. vii. 14. “Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy;" and the Scripture giveth this privilege to the children of the faithful above others : whereas the contrary opinion levelleth them with the seed of infidels and heathens, as if these had right to salvation by mere baptism, as well as the others.
8. Because else it would be the greatest act of charity in the world, to send soldiers to catch up all heathen's and infidels' children, and baptize them; which no Christians .ever yet thought their duty. Yea, it would be too strong a temptation to them to kill them when they had done, that they might be all undoubtedly saved.
Obj. ‘But that were to do evil that good might come by it.' Answ. But God is not to be dishonoured as to be supposed to make such laws, as shall forbid men the greatest good in the world, and then to tempt them by the greatness of the benefit to take it to be no evil: as if he said, “If soldiers would go take up a million of heathen's children and baptize them, it will put them into an undoubted state of salvation : but yet I forbid them doing it: and if they presently kill them, lest they sin after, they shall undoubtedly be saved; but yet I forbid them doing it. I need not aggravate this temptation to them that know the power of the law of nature, which is the law of love and good works, and how God that is most good is pleased in our doing good. Though he tried Abraham's obedience once, as if he should have killed his son, yet he stopt him before the execution. And doth he ordinarily exercise men's obedience, by forbidding them to save the souls of others, when it is easily in their power ? Especially when with the adult the greatest labour and most powerful preaching, is frequently so frustrate, that not one of many is converted by it.
9. Because else God should deal with unaccountable disparity with infants and the adult in the same ordinance of baptism. It is certain that all adult persons baptized, if they died immediately, should not be saved. Even none that had no right to the covenant and to baptism; such as infidels, heathens, impenitent persons, hypocrites, that have not true repentance and faith. And why should baptism
save an infant without title, any more than the adult without title? I still suppose that some infants have no title, and that now I speak of them alone.
Obj.' But the church giveth them all right by receiving them.
Answ. This is to be farther examined anon. If you mean a particular church, perhaps they are baptized into none such. Baptism as such is a reception only into the universal church, as in the eunuch’s case, Acts viii. appeareth.. If you mean the universal church, it may be but one single ignorant man in an infidel country that baptizeth, and he is not the universal church! Yea, perhaps is not a lawfully called minister of that church! However this is but to say, that baptism giveth right to baptism. For this receiving is nothing but baptizing. But there must be a right to this reception, if baptism be a distinguishing ordinance, and all the world have not right to it. Christ saith, Matt. xxviii. 19. “ Disciple me all nations, baptizing them-:" they must be initially made disciples first, by consent, and then be invested in the visible state of Christianity by baptism.
10. If the children of heathens have right to baptism, and salvation thereby, it is either, 1. As they are men, and all have right; or 2. Because the parents give them right; 3. Or because remote ancestors give them right; 4. Or because the universal church gives them right; 5. Or because a particular church giveth them right; 6. Or because the sponsors give them right; 7. Or the magistrate; 8. Or the baptizer. But it is none of all these, as shall anon be proved.
II. But as to the second question, I answer, 1. It will help us to understand the case the better, if we prepare the way by opening the case of the adult, because in Scripture times, they were the most famous subjects of baptism. And it is certain of such, 1. That every one outwardly baptized is not in a state of salvation. That no hypocrite that is not a true penitent believer is in such a state. 2. That every true penitent believer is before God in a state of salvation, as soon as he is such ; and before the church as soon as he is baptized. 3. That we are not to use the word baptism as a physical term only, but as a moral, theological term. Because words (as in law, physic, &e.) are to be understood according to the art or science in which they are treated of.