« PreviousContinue »
ed in duty to come to the LORD's table. Yea, he says, (Appeal, p. 30. edit, 2.) " It is a scandal if they do not, and the church may call them to an account for their neglect. It is a visible contempt cast upon the ordinance." He held the Lord's supper to be a converting ordinance. And that unconverted men, knowing themselves to be such, might law fully come. And that it was as lawful to come to the Lord's supper as to baptism, p. 77.; so that there was no room for any half-way covenant or half-way practice, on his scheme. For unconverted men, knowing themselves to be such, may on his schme come not only half-way, but to all ordinances, and to one as well as to another.
P. I never heard of these things till now, and I know not what to think or what to say. It seems as if the half-way covenant, and the half-way practice, could not be made consistent on any scheme.
M. If the covenant owned is the covenant of grace, and if the parent acts understandingly and honestly in the affair, he is a good man, he has a right before God to baptism for his children, and an equal right to the LORD's supper; yea, that command of CHRIST, in Luke xxii. 19. renders it his indispensable duty to attend the Lord's supper. But if the covenant owned is not the covenant of grace, those who have owned it, have in the sight of Gon no right to either of those ordinan. ces, which are seals of that covenant, and of no other: no more right than if they had given their assent to any chapter in the apocrypha. Did you never hear it observed and talked of, that those who own the covenant, make as full and large a profession as they who join in full communion?
P. Yes. And my former minister read the same covenant to such as owned the covenant, as he did to those that joined in full communion, word for word, only one did not promise
Under the Jewish dispensation it was lawful for an Israelite, not hindered by any external impediment, voluntarily to absent himself from the passover, if he was ceremonially unclean. But under the Gospel, an Israelite indeed, of suffi cient age and understanding, and not hindered by any natural impediment, may not voluntarily absent himself from the Lord's supper, unless disqualified by spi ritual uncleanness, by his own personal wickedness unrepented of, or for which he has not made Gospel satisfaction. And such an one is equally unfit to offer his child in baptism. Num. ix. 13. Mat. v. 23, 24.
to come up to all ordinances, and the other did. And I must confess this sometimes stumbled me.
M. If you please, sir, I will repeat the covenant we use when any join in full communion, the same that was read to me by my minister, when I joined to the church about three and thirty years ago, A brief summary of it is this: "You do now in the presence of the dread Majesty of heaven and earth, and before angels and men, in the sincerity of your soul, avouch the Lord Jehovah to be your sovereign Lord and supreme Good, through Jesus Christ; and solemnly devote and give up yourself to his fear and service, to walk in all his ways, and keep all his commands, seeking his glory," &c. And is this more full and express than your former minister used when persons owned the covenant?
P. I think not; it is very much like it.
M. So far as I am acquainted, the forms in use all over the country, a very few instances excepted, are very much alike. The only difference of any consequence lies in practice : I think it my duty, in private as well as public, to explain the covenant, and to see to it, that persons understand it before they make it, and know what they are about to do, and are sufficiently instructed that it is a wicked thing to lie to God with their mouths, and flatter him with their lips.
P. Very well, sir, no doubt this is a minister's duty. But, alas! for me, I never knew what I was about, nor considered the import of the words I publicly gave my consent unto. I knew myself to be unconverted. I meant to own the covenant, as the phrase is, and have my children baptised; but I had no design to profess godliness, or to pretend a real compliance with the covenant of grace. This godly people may do: but it had been great hypocrisy in me to do it. To lie to men is bad, but to lie to God is worse. I supposed that owning the covenant, was what the unconverted might do.
M. How can a man that knows himself to be unconverted, dead in sin, and destitute of the grace of God, stand up before the whole congregation, and say, "I do now in the presence of the dread Majesty of heaven and earth, and before angels and men, avouch the Lord Jehovah to be my sovereign
Lord and supreme good, through Jesus Christ, and solemnly devote and give up myself to his fear and service, to walk in all his ways, and keep all his commands, seeking his glory?"
P. I freely own I knew not what I did, when I owned the covenant. But you hinted just now, that this is not the custom in all the churches where the half-way practice takes place.
M. I have heard of a few churches where the ministers have of late drawn up a new form for those who own the covenant, essentially different from that which is used when any one is admitted to full-communion; which new form designedly leaves out the covenant of grace, and contains a profession, which unconverted men may make, and yet speak true. And this, with greater propriety, may be called the half-way covenant, although indeed it does not go half-way, and gives no right to those ordinances which are seals of the covenant of grace. Besides, God never did propose any covenant to mankind but which required real holiness on man's part; and any covenant short of this is a mere human device. It is teaching for doctrine the commandment of men, directly contrary to the express orders of Jesus Christ to his apostles, and all their successors. Mat. xxviii. 20. Teaching them to observe whatsoever I command you. The covenant with Adam required perfect holiness, without any provision for pardon in case of transgression. The covenant at Sinai written on the two tables of stone, called the tables of the covenant, containing ten commands, according to our Saviour's interpretation, required them to love God with all their heart, and their neighbour as themselves, in which the sum of all virtue consists; (Mat. xxii. 37-40,) but, however, it made provision for pardon to the true penitent, through shedding of blood, but not for impenitent sinners. Lev. xxvi. 1 Kings viii. And it is acknowledged on all hands, Antinomians excepted, that repentance toward God, and faith toward Christ are required in the covenant of grace, as revealed in the Gospel. These ungracious.covenants, therefore, are not from heaven, but of
P. My conscience is convinced. I am obliged to give up the half-way covenant; but it is with no small reluctance: for what will become of my child? must it remain unbaptised? I cannot bear the thought. What shall I do?
M. Is it lawful for a minister of Christ to baptise any one without a divine warrant ?
M. Is baptism, administered without a divine warrant, a likely means to do a child any good?
P. No. But where is your commission to baptise? and what is the tenour of it?
M. In Mark. xvi. 15, 16. Go preach the Gospel to every creature. Thus unlimited is the commission to preach the Gospel. And he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved. The faith which entitles to baptism is a saving faith. Accordingly, when the multitude were pricked at the heart, on the day of pentecost, Peter did not say, own the covenant ; nor did he say, join in full communion ; but repent first of all, and then be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins. Acts ii. 38. And with the same sacred regard to the divine commission, Philip said to the eunuch, if thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. Acts viii. 37. And it is a settled point on all hands, that if parents have no right to baptism for themselves, their children can have no right on their
P. Is it lawful for me to join in full communion, when I know I have no grace? can I answer it to God?
M. You remember when the King came in to view the guests, he saw a man among them not having on a wedding garment, to whom he said, friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment? and he was speechless. To make a false and lying profession is inexcusable wickedness. It is true, there will be tares along with the wheat, but it is the devil sows them there, and not the servants. And if false brethren come into the church, they creep in unawares; they have no right to be there.
P. But does not my own baptism render me a church member, and entitle my child to baptism, although I am destitute of faith and repentance ?
M. "Circumcision verily profiteth if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. For he is not a Jew that is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh." Rom. ii. 25. 28. One baptised in infancy, who in the sight of God practically renounces his baptism when adult, as all do who reject Christ and continue impenitent, is not considered by God as entitled to the blessings of the new covenant, but as under the curse of the law. "He that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him." John iii. 19. 36. And what right hath this man to the seals of the covenant of grace, in the sight of God, who is by Christ himself declared to be under condemnation and wrath?
P. Well, if I have no right to baptism for my poor child, I must be silent. But I wish it might be baptised..
M. Will you allow me to examine the earnest desire of baptism which you express?
P. I ought to be willing. I ought to know the motives that influence me: for God knows them, whether I do or not.
M. I am glad to see your mind so serious and candid. If this temper should continue, I should hope all your doubts would be removed. For I can tell you seriously, I am willing to baptise your child, provided you do understandingly and with all your heart desire it.
P. And do I not? I should be a cruel parent if I did not. M. Baptism, you know, is administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In baptism, therefore, you dedicate your child to God the Father, through Jesus Christ his Son, to be sanctified by the Holy Ghost; and so give up your child with all your heart to the Lord for ever to be educated for God, and to be for him, and for him alone, in time and to eternity. And do you love God to that degree, as thus to give him your child for ever? if so, why do not you give yourself to God, first of all? you love your child, but you love yourself better. First of all then cease to be cruel to your own soul; no longer practically renounce your own baptism, by turning your back on God and the Redeemer; but act up to its genuine import; give yourself to God,