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The term regenerate; in what sense applicable to baptized infants. then accompany the outward emblem with the blessing which it represents."*
But if He does not do this at the time, this ordinance places the child within the pale of the christian covenant, and in the language of one of the thirty-nine articles, “is a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church : che promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed.”. Such an entire regeneration as this, therefore, is promised to those infant children who receive baptism right. ly—that is according to the will and appointment of God. When this spiritual change is to take place, we know not. No one, at the time, can say it does not take place in baptism. Infants are undoubtedly capable of spiritual sanctifica. tion. The Savior himself declared, that regeneration, or being born again, was indispensable to salvation. If infants then are capable of salvation itself, they are necessarily capable of every thing which is an indispensable antecedent to it. It will not do, therefore, to say that infants are not capable of regeneration. Baptism is always a sign of regeneration, and inasmuch as it guaranties, when it is received rightly, by the very fact of its being a “seal of the righteousness of faith”--the blessing of spiritual regeneration, may we not with propriety speak of those who are baptized, as regenerate? Of course, if their first career as voluntary moral agents is begun in rebellion against God, as is the case with too many baptized children, we shall be obliged to conclude that they are still in a state of unregeneracy. Nevertheless, inasmuch as they have been brought within the covenant-inasmuch as its promises are conditionally secured to them—inasmuch as God has conditionally promised to them the blessing of regeneration, without specifying when it should take place, whether in baptism, or afterwards, is it not proper that the Church, laying hold of this promise by faith, and taking God at his word, should speak of what is sure to be, as though it existed already? I say, what is sure to be : For is not real and full regeneration, earlier or later, sure to follow this act of dedicating children to God, if they are dedicated to Him according to his will—and the conditions annexed to the
* Miller on Baptism. p. 57.
The promise made to Abraham. promise of the covenant are complied with? And in form. ing a public service, is not the Church obliged to suppose in reference to those thus dedicated to God, that the conditions will be complied with? To call all baptized infants regenerate then, is nothing more than to speak in the strong language of faith. Does the Church in the baptismal office, then, do any thing more than use such language? And may she not do this on the ground that God is sure to fulfil his promises and also on the presumed fact that all things will be as they ought to be on the part of those offering their children in covenant ?
Is there nothing analagous to this, recorded in Holy Scripture, under the former dispensations of God with his Church? Take the case of Abraham. When doubts began to arise in the Patriarch's mind in relation to the possession of Canaan, God renewed his covenant to him under the most solemn cir. cumstances, and immediately said, “Unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt, unto the great river the river Euphrates.” Now I ask, might not Abraham at that moment with the greatest propriety, have fallen down before the Lord, and said, “I yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to give this land to my offspring. The lines have fallen to them in pleasant places; they have a goodly heritage?” Would there have been any impropriety in the use of such language? No. Though they did not come into possession of this country till four hundred years after: and though many of them through unbelief fell in the wilderness, and never came into actual possession of it; yet, inasmuch, as it was prospectively and conditionally theirs, there was no impropriety in saying that it had been given to them—that they were the proprietors of the soil—that it was theirs.
So in like manner, since God has promised full regeneration to all who are rightly given up to him in covenant, is there any impropriety in speaking of those who are presumed to be thus given up to him, as though this blessing were already theirs, and to thank God that he had conferred it? When the Church thus speaks of her children, can this be regarded in any other light than as the bright anticipation of faith? If children are fit subjects for the initiatory ordinance
The promise of the covenant conditional. into the christian covenant, is not the principal blessing of that covenant-regeneration—as distinctly promised to them, as Canaan was to the decendants of Abraham? And if it was not improper to say that Canaan was the property of the seed of Abraham, long before they came into possession of itcan there be any palpable impropriety in speaking of the subjects of the christian covenant as though they were already in possession of the blessings of that covenant ? It will not militate at all again. .hu force of this reasoning to say, that most commonly, as far as we can judge, children baptized in infancy, exhibit no more evidence of regeneration than the unbaptized—and that thousands brought into the christian covenant in infancy, live and die in impenitence. This is not
the fault of God, nor owing to any failure in his promise. • Who is prepared to say that in one single instance among all
those numerous cases where the blessing has not been realized, that the conditions of the covenant were complied with even on the part of parents? How many children are given up in covenant without the required faith?
How many pa. rents offer their children to God, and then take no pains to rear them “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Are not these implied conditions in the covenant? Will any one pretend to say that they can produce a single instance where children have been really given up to God in faith, and have been truly reared“ in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and have failed ultimately to become pious and holy? I am bold to say that I greatly doubt whether any such instance can be produced.
But were it otherwise, still our argument for the use of the term regenerate, applied to baptized infants, as describing a prospective blessing, or one of which they may be in actual possession, remains unshaken. The descendants of Abraham had an inheritance given them in the land of Canaan.—God spoke of it as alreadly theirs; yet it is manifest that it depended greatly upon them, whether they entered upon the
possession of it or not. We know that many of them did not, be. cause of unbelief. “ They despised that pleasant land, and believed not God's word," and consequently their carcases fell in the wilderness.” In like manner, how many baptized children there are that despise all the blessings of the covce
nant, and “receive the grace of God in vain.” must warn, that double wrath hangs over them, and that they cannot escape, if they neglect so great salvation.
This then is our conclusion—that in whatever sense you understand the term regenerate, the use of it as it occurs in the baptismal office for infants in the Episcopal Church is entirely defensible.
In illustration of the idea, that children when given up in covenant to God in faith, and educated as though they were his children, will earlier or later become subjects of his regenerating grace, I purpose to call the attention of the reader to the following narrative sketch, some of the facts of which fell under my own observation, and those that did not, have been derived from a source, that ensures their entire correct
Twenty-five years ago, in a retired village in the eastern states, there stood amid a cluster of pines a small neat Grecian edifice, where the worshippers of the Most High weekly assembled to offer up their devotions. It was in the lovely month of May, on a Sabbath morn, while all nature was radiant with the beams of the great luminary, that hung resplendent in the heavens, that there might have been seen moving to that edifice, two parents with five children. The two elder sons were bounding along with all the buoyancy of young boyhood, full of life and spirits. The hand of the mother was leading a little one about two years old, while that of the father was guiding the steps of another that might have been twice that age. A domestic, bearing an infant neatly clad, and that was sweetly smiling as it gazed around upon the new scene, amid which it was borne, brought up the train. They entered the house of God. The service pro. ceeded. At length a call was made, that the children which were to be baptized, should be brought forward. This family then rose and approached the baptismal font, to enter into covenant with God.
The scene was one of deep and absorbing interest. The parents felt that no transaction in which they would ever be engaged for their children could be more solemn or momentous than this. They fully realized that they were in the presence of Jehovah. They believed what he had spoken by the mouth of his holy prophet—“the promise is to you and
In what manner Mr. R—'s children were dedicated to God. your children.” They considered that that promise did guarantee to the infant children of believers, who were rightly given up to God in covenant all the blessings of the covenant.
This act therefore of dedicating their children to God was with them no empty, thoughtless ceremony. For weeks they had prayed over this subject, and entreated God to prepare them rightly to offer their children to him in the way of his appointment. And now as they stood before the Lord with their little infant band around them, overshadowed by all the solemn considerations which the occasion was calculated to awaken, and presented one and another of their dear offspring to the man of God, to be sprinkled in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, they fully believed, that God would bless and save each one.
When they retired from the house of the Lord, and at night-fall gathered their little group around the family altar, they felt that their whole household had now been given up to God, and that they must live as a family that were preparing to dwell forever in his holy presence. With them religion was the main business of life. They now felt that they were under the most solemn obligations, to rear up their offspring as God's children. Had the child of a nobleman been committed to their care, to bring up, they would have endeavored to have brought it up, as a nobleman's child. And now that there had been committed to their care five of the Lord's children to bring up, they determined to bring them up, as the children of the Lord.
At the time to which reference has just been made, these parents had four sons and an infant daughter. The Lord subsequently blessed them with five other children, four of whom were daughters, and the youngest a son. These were all successively offered to the Lord in baptism. Perhaps the members of no family were ever happier in each other than were these. Naturally amiable and sweet tempered, religion was the great bond which united them by its sacred influences in harmony and love. Every day was begun and ended with God. It could hardly be conceived that in such a soil, and under such benign and heavenly influences, there could spring up rank immorality or open vice.—There were indeed no indications of this. The children were strictly moral in their external deportment, but still none of them erinced as