« PreviousContinue »
to determine positively upon the character; we could not search the heart; but if are receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater......If, when a man comes forward, and says I am the Lord's; and, after proper examination, nothing appears in his character that disproves his declaration, we feelourselves bound toreceive his profession, as a ground of charitable hope, and to treat him accordingly; how much more are we bound to receive the declarations of God himself, in favor of the children of his people; which are so remarkable, so full, and dispersed through every part of the Bible, that they belong to that holy people, of whom he has taken the covenant charge, as their Lord, their God, and their Redeemer.
Very soon upon this, there appeared a new phenomenon in the church.....A reverend gentleman in Connecticut, who professed to hold Infant Baptism, in a very labored manner, took up the subject. He acknowledged a great inconsistency between our principles and cur practice; but instead of faulting our practice, he choso rather to fault our principles; and instead of bringing our practice up to our profession, he would rather reduce our profession to our practice...... The business then before him was to dig away the whole ground, upon which the institution of Infant Baptism had ever been defended; and, if possible, to substitute some other ground, lower and more congenial to the declined state of the churches, in the room of it..
This attempt was reacily encouraged by a number of his neighboring brethren; and not long after, a reverend gentleman in Massachusetts, of distinguished talents, who, besides, has beat out sundry new tracks for the feet of the faithful, appeared for the support of the same side; and though his scheme, in many respects, was original, yet it was well calculated to em
brace the same general object.....Our author has followed in the same enterprize, but with a bolder step than either; for he does not stop at a ground which relates merely to the standing of our children, but goes down to the centre of the covenant of promise; and by his scheme of proposals and promises made on conditions to individuals, as distinct from Christ, he has strenuously attempted the very foundations of the Gospel.
After The discussions alluded toabove had been nearly carried thro', with all the means of forming a judgment upon the great subject, the Tabernacle Church in Salem came to a resolution to adhere to the old principle, and that they would practice agreeably to such a profession. Accordingly, in order to carry their sentiments into full effect, they entered into a written agreement, with all the proper solemnities of renewing covenant.
In this writing, styled Agreements of the Church respecting their baptized Children, the following are the two first articles :
I. “ The visible church is constituted of all « those who make a credible profession of faith “ in Jesus Christ, together with their infant seed.
II. « The children of the church we view and “ consider as being holy, and belonging to the
kingdom of heaven, and such as God claims “ for his peculiar property; and they are to be “ watched over, trained up, and treated as church “ members as much as their parents, according “to their capacities; and must attend all christi“ an duties according to their knowledge and a“bility; and, therefore, as soon as they have
knowledge to discern the Lord's body, and the
nature of sacraments, they are with the church « to receive the Lord's Supper.”
These agreements, after a careful examination by the church, for several months, were adopted
by the vote of the church, October 30, A. D. 1797. Some of these heads of agreement, particularly the two first above quoted, were agreed to by the church several years before, and at this time they were all adopted with great unanimity and solemnity.
“ Ye did run well, who did hinder you, that “ye should not obey the truth?”
Our author appears to have liad two objects in view in his discourses, viz. to bring his own church off from the ground they had thus taken; and, at the same time, to defend himself against the Bap tists..... The first of these objects he may perhaps accomplish, for it is much easier pulling down hill than up; but as to the second, he has only raised a bulwark of straw against fire.
Controversy, to me, is an unpleasant task; but, as already remarked, there is a necessity of dispelling, by particular application of the true principle, the otherwise impenetrable darkness of false principles, so that if any man has an eye to see he may see.
SECTION IV..... The Promises of the Covenant, Yea
THE importance of the subject, relative to the unconditional nature of the promises, and the darkness and perplexity in which it has been involved by confounding it with the subject of mor: al obligations, requires that we give to it some further illustration.
To do which, it is necessary to observe, that the obligations and requisites existing in the nature of bestowments, though they be stipulated
in the transaction, are of a very diferent character from obligations and requisites which are im posed as conditions of bestowments. Tlus important distinction we shall illustrate by some plain
David bestowed upon Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the privileges and blessings of his house and table, in the most absolute and unconditional manner. Without any probation, or trial of his faith or fidelity, he was received at once into the house of the king..... It is plain, however, that as a member of this family, he was laid under strong obligations..... It was indispensably requisite, in the nature of things, that he should observe the order, keep the peace, and side with the honor and interest of the house. At the time of the rebellion of Absalom, Mephibosheth was reported to David by Ziba his servant, as being unfaithful to him, and saying, To-day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my Father.....Had this insinuation been true, all his in. terests in the family of David, so liberally bestowed upon him, had surely been forfeited; and though, in this case, nothing of this nature was expressly stipulated, yet, as fidelity to a family is ever an indispensable duty of its members, if Mephibosheth had lost these blessings by such misconduct, it would never in the least have tarnished the beauty of the generosity and kindness of this memorable act of David. But if David had imposed upon Mephibosheth, as some suppose was the case of Abraham and his children, certain conditions and pre-requisites in order to his being taken into his family; if they were no more than that he should furnish the evidence that he was of an honest and good character, it would have wholly changed the nature of the transaction, and it would not then have been worthy of being made, as it now is, a me. morial to his everlasting honor.
The words of David, respecting this transaction, are worthy of special notice; he said, “Is “there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I
may shew THE KINDNESS OF GOD unto him, for " Jonathan's sake?” This intimates that what he intended to do was of the same nature with the covenant mercy of God to his people. David had made a covenant with Jonathan, and had confirmed it with the oath of God, that he would shew kindness to him, and to his house after him for ever..... And the Apostle uses the same words respecting the grace of the Gospel, as bestowed upon the poor Gentles, Titus iii. 4, 5. “But af« ter that THE KINDNESS AND LOVE OF GOD our Sa“ viour appeared, not by works of righteousness, « which we had done, but according to his mer“cy he saved us.”
In the parable concerning the sums of money, which a nobleman gave to his servants, the obligation inseparable from the bestowment is expressed; Occupy till I come...... In that of the talents, which is nearly or quite the same, it is not expressed; but whether the duty, in such a case, be expressed or not, it must ever be understood; for, of what valuable consideration is money or goods, but for improvement....A sum of money laid
up in a napkin, or a talent of gold hid in the earth, is as useless as common clay. For a benefactor to require, and make provision, that his bounties be well improved, is so far from lessening the liberality of his deeds, that, on the contrary, it adds greatly to the lustre of his goodness; and so far are such requisitions from restricting the full title of possession in the hands of the recipients, that they add only to the security with which the bounties are made their own. The sums of money and the talents, as stated in these parables, were bestowed in a manner the best calculated to shew the liberality and excel