« AnteriorContinuar »
they sustained. Just so it is with baptism. If entire passivity be also understood in communicating at the Lord's table, then it may be correct to argue from the one to the other. But the case is quite otherways. In this respect the ordinances are totally dissimilar. Personal, intelligent agency, is always supposed in a participation of the supper. The law is, "Take, eat; this is my body, broken for you. This do in remembrance of me." Can this law apply to an absolute ideot? Is he capable of fulfilling it? Can he evangelically discern the Lord's body? The infant is, if possible, more incompetent to the agency required than the ideot. The enquiry then, Why do you not put infants to communicating, presents no kind of objection to to the hypothesis of their membership.
As the infant is not qualified to come to the table of the Lord, neither does it follow from its membership, that it is qualified to vote in the deliberations of the Church, or to sustain an office. "Now this I say that the heir as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all. But is under tutors and governors, untill the time appointed of the father." There is an analogy between the two cases.
Moral agents can never be bound any farther than they have natural ability to act. If knowledge is requisite, as it is with respect to these duties, it must be possessed. If bodily strength is necessary, it must be enjoyed. If opportunity be wanting, it must be giv
Children become obliged so far as, and no farther than, they become possessed of capacity.
If the means used are blessed to the apparent sanctification of these children, there will be no hesitation, on the part of the Church, to admitting them to the table of the Lord. If not, the opposite will appear in contumacious and ungodly conduct, which will make it necessary for the Church to separate them from their society.
To what period trial is to be protracted, and forbearance is to be exercised, the word of God does not seem clearly to determine. It does not with respect to
adults, whose characters are doubtful, or who are brought under a diciplinary process. God sets us an example of long suffering; which it would seem we ought to imitate. But his long suffering has its limits, and there ought to be bounds to that of his people. Á regard to the general interest of Christianity must govern,
Excommunication, though an act of just severity, is a kind expedient. It is calculated; and were the plan of the covenant carried into faithful, uniform, and efficient practice, would be much more powerfully calculated, than we can now well conceive, to save the soul from death. That such is the natural tendency, and end, of all discipline, and of excommunication itself, is evident from Paul's words, I Cor. v. 5. "To deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
No believing parent can be unwilling to yield his child to such a maternal treatment from the Church, He who refuses to do so, must be considered as re jecting the covenant, despising the authority of God, and cruelly disregarding the eternal well being of his child.
If such a system of instruction, watchfulness, and dicipline, were pursued with respect to infant members, it is evident, no reason could exist, for the objection which some are disposed to make to the doctrine of infant membership, that it is a principle calculated to destroy the spirituality of Churches, and turn them into societies of formalists and hypocrites. "It is the direct way," it is said "to form great national Churches, which are good for nothing; but a real, living, spiritual Church, cannot exist upon this principle." Let us not judge too rashly. Let us well consider what sort of premises they are, from which we draw so for, midable a conclusion. Let us beware how we make use of the horrid neglects of men to decry the economy of God. Has the all wise God established his Church upon a constitution calculated to ruin it? Does not the opposite very plainly appear? Is not the system consistent in itself? Has it not an extent and grandeur, consonant to the covenant, and worthy of its contriver? Is it not
disembarrassed of the contradictions in practice of other theories? Are not the means adapted to the end? Is not the end secured by absolute promise? If the scheme of infant membership were faithfully carried into execution must not the Church, altogether more than upon the opposite principle, "look forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and be terrible as an army with banners?" Can it be possible that, with such an object in view, and with such perpetual activity in the employment of means, a Church should sink into greater carnality, than without the object, and in the disuse of the means?
But it is said farther, "such discipline is impracticable." Why impracticable? Nothing is to be done, but what may easily be done; nothing but what benevolence dictates. It is indeed difficult to serve God, and Mammon; to be diligent in the duties of piety, and at the same time buried in worldly pursuits. By many Churches, every essential doctrine and duty of Christianity is trampled in the dust; experimental religion is discarded; nothing that is right is practicable. They have a name to live, but are dead. The covenant of God is not with them, and nothing is done in compliance with it. The institutions of God are sunk into abuse; and his offerings made offensive.
But with real Christians, with men who are created anew in Christ Jesus, and led by the Spirit of God, there is nothing in the scheme of infant membership which is impracticable. Very much indeed will be to be done. But we are told to do, with our might, whatsoever our hand findeth to do, in obedience to to Christ, and for the glory of his kingdom, while it is day; for that the night cometh wherein no man can work. Self denial must be practised. But in vain do we expect to meet the final approbation of our judge without the constant practice of it. For "if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Therefore we labor, that whether present, or absent, we may be accep ted of him."
Respecting the abrogation of the Sinai Covenant, and the difference between the dispensation which preceded, and that which followed, the advent of the Messiah.
THE Sinai Covenant has been examined, distinguished from the Covenant of circumcision, proved to have been superadded to it, and temporay in its duration; and it has been shewn, that it terminated at the appearing of the Messiah. Its purpose being answered as an intervening mean, it was then abolished. But it becomes a question of great importance, in what sense, and how far it was abolished. It is as dangerous to consider those institutions of the Deity annulled, which remain in all their force; as it is to perpetuate appointments, which he, by his authority, has made void.
The explanations which have been given, will assist us to understand what is meant in the scriptures by the abrogation or disannulling of the Sinai covenant. They will aid us to determine what, pertaining to this covenant is, and what is not, now obligatory upon chris. tian believers. For our greater security, we will here collect the several passages in the New Testament, which expressly speak of this subject.
The first distinct mention of it that I observe, is in II. Corinthians iii. 7. The words in this place are, "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away." The term glory is a supplement made by the translators. Perhaps it is correct. But this glory, which seems to have been external and visible, was expressive of the inherent excellency of the law.
It was the law which was written, and engraven in stones. The law is the Testament to which the New Testament is contrasted in the context. The law is the letter which killeth; as we have it in the preceding verse. The law, and that only, is the ministration of death, and condemnation. That it is the law, which the apostle speaks of as done away, is evident from the 11th verse. "For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." It was not properly the glory which was done away; but that which is characterized as glorious. This was the law. Law, we have seen, was the constituent principle, the chief matter of the Sinai Covenant.
The next passage, which speaks of the abrogation of the Sinai Covenant, is in Gal. iii. 19. "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." Here the Sinai covenant is spoken of expressly as the law. It was evidently the law which was added. The conditional promises were not. For they are involved in, and published with God's gracious covenant, under every dispensation of it. The curse was not added as peculiar to this covenant. It extends to all times, and applies to every individual, who is not interested in God's gracious covenant. The law also meets the design which the apostle expresses. It was added because of transgressions; "i. e. to convince of sin, and keep up a remembrance of it; to remove all hope upon the ground of personal desert, and to impress the absolute necessity of salvation by grace. An equivalent manner of expression we have in Hebrews x. 13. "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of
sins every year." In like manner the apostle says, Romans vii. 7. "Nay, I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." These passages unite in the idea, that the great design of the dispensation of the Si