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in-growth and propagation of piety, by mere natural laws and conditions. What higher ground of supernaturalism can be taken, than that which supposes a capacity in the Incarnate Word and sanctifying Spirit to penetrate our faller. nature, at a point so deep as to cover the whole spread of the fall, and be a grace of life, traveling outward from the earliest, most latent germs of our human development. It is only saying, with a meaning-My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.' Or, in still another view, it is only conceiving that those sporadic cases of sanctification from the womb, of which the Scripture speaks, such as that of Samuel, Jeremiah, and John, are to finally become the ordinary and common fact of family development.
"In such cases, the faith or piety of a single pair, or possibly of the mother alone, begets a heavenly mold in the predispositions of the offspring, so that, as it is born of sin, it is also born of the heavenly grace. If then we suppose the heavenly grace to have such power, in the long continuing process of ages, as tɔ finally work the general stock of parentage into its own heavenly mold, far enough to prepare a sanctified offspring for the world, what higher, grander fact of Christian Supernaturalism could be asserted? Nor is it anything more of a novelty than to say, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.' The conception is one that simply fulfills what Baxter, Hopkins, and others, were apparently struggling after, when contriving how to let the grace of God in our salvation match itself by the hereditary damage, or deprivation, that descends upon us from our parentage, and the organic unity of our nature as a race." pp. 204-6.
The last argument for this idea or doctrine of Christian nurture, is that derived from Infant Baptism-" a rite which supposes the fact of an organic connection of character between the parent and child; a seal of faith in the parent applied over to the child on the ground of a presumption that his faith is wrapped up in the parent's faith; so that he is accounted a believer from the beginning."
If there be any meaning whatever in infant baptism, it is that the child thus baptized is presumptively a Christian, and is expected to grow up a Christian, as certainly as the circumcized child of Jewish parents was expected to grow up a Jew. If the practice and propriety of infant baptism is to be vindicated at all, it must be vindicated on the truth of this idea; and all outside arguments derived from historical usage, the Abrahamic Covenant, the relation of baptism to circumcision, however important and valid as corroborative proofs, concern merely the shell, and touch not the real substance of the rite, or of its informing or essential idea. Once admit the organic connec
tion of character between the parent and child, by virtue of which the faith of the former includes and presumptively secures the faith and piety of the latter, and the meaning of God's Covenant with Abraham and his seed after him becomes apparent; the import too and beauty of infant baptism, as a seal of the same covenant, and based on the same organic law, becomes also apparent. The ordinance vindicates itself, aside from any express Scriptural or historical authority, and becomes one of the most significant and appropriate rites of the Christian Church. But deny this organic connection and unity of the family, or its sanctity as an appointed channel of divine grace; isolate the faith and character of the parent from all connection with that of the child; and adopt the dry and barren theory, that grace is a perfectly independent and arbitrary gift to certain elect individuals or units, owning no special and domestic relationships, and the Baptist is right in his narrow interpretation of the text, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
In such a theory there is no place for the idea which underlies the rite, and of course no propriety or significance in the practice of it. Hence we regard the idea of Christian nurture set forth by our author as the most potent and really unanswerable argument for pedobaptism against the objections of our Baptist brethren, that has ever been put forth. It bases the rite on the impregnable foundation of a divine law, which needs no express divine word for its authentication.
There is one idea connected with the act of infant consecration in baptism, which is not directly mentioned by Dr. Bushnell, but which we think of supreme importance to the highest validity of the ordinance, and the securing of what is presumptively implied in it-the actual regeneration of the child;-viz, the vicariousness of the parent's faith, as a power with God for its conversion and sanctification. That the faith of one person does avail for divine blessings upon others, both temporal and spiritual, no believer in revelation, or observer of the ways of God, can doubt. Witness the centu
rion, in the gospel, believing for his servant, and Jairus for his little daughter; and both receiving according to their faith. Witness also the many signal conversions constantly occurring in answer to the prayer of faith of others in their behalf. If such be the vicarious efficacy of faith in behalf of persons remotely connected with the believer, what may it not be when the subject is an infant and a part, as it were, of the life of the parent? Hannah consecrating the child Samuel to God, before its birth, and the answer of God in accepting and sanctifying him from the womb, is an example in point. Is it not the privilege of every Christian parent not only to offer his child to God in baptism, and so seal it as presumptively a Christian, but to believe for it so vitally and ef fectually, to consecrate it so really to God, that the act shall be accepted for the benefit of the child, and so such spiritual influences be secured, that it shall be born simultaneously of water and of the Spirit, as the rite of baptism itself signifies. In other words, does not even the phrase baptismal regeneration symbolize an important truth, if the regeneration is understood to be wrought not by the act of the priest through the application of water, but by the Spirit, through the faith of the parent.
This being so, the Christian nurture of the child, or the unfolding of its piety, would be only the fulfilling of the vows made in its behalf; and the result, as regards character, would be, according to the fidelity of the parent, the same as with the individual believer.
The historical development, and apostolic authority of infant baptism, form the topic of two most instructive chapters, which every one who wishes to study this question in all its bearings, should not fail to read. The relation of baptism to circumcision, is thus clearly and happily stated:
"Circumcision comes to our aid as another and distinct evidence. For it was given to be ‘a seal of the righteousness of faith,' and the application of it, as a seal, to infant children, involves all the precise difficulties-neither more nor less-that are raised by the deniers of infant baptism. Let the point here made be accurately understood. The argument is not that infant baptism was directly
substituted for circumcision. Of this there is no probable evidence. Such a substitution could not have been made without remark, discussion, oppositions of prejudice, and the raising of contentions that would have required distinct mention, many times over, in the apostolic history. But the argument is this: that the Jewish mind was so familiarized by custom with the notion of an inclusive religious unity in families, (partly by the rite of circumcision), that Christian baptism, being the seal of faith, was naturally, and by a kind of associational instinct, applied over to families in the same manner. Not to have made such an application would have required some authoritative interposition, some dike of positive hindrance, to turn aside the current of Jewish prepossessions. And if there had risen up, somewhere, a man of Baptist notions, to ask, where is the propriety of applying baptism, given as a rite for believers, to infants, who we certainly know are not old enough to believe, he could not even have begun to raise an impression by it. Was not circumcision given to Abraham to be the seal of faith? and has it not been applied from his time down to the present, in this way-applied to infant children eight days old? True, it is the doctrine of Christ, he that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved,' and our apostles, too, are saying, 'if thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest.' So we all say and think, as relating to adult persons; but do we not all know that what is given to the father includes the children, and that his faith is the faith of the house? Nothing, in short, is plainer than that every argument raised to convict infant baptism of absurdity, holds in the same manner, as convicting circumcision of absurdity, and all the religious polity of the former ages. Every such argument, too, mocks the religious feeling and conviction of all these former ages, in a way of disrespect equally presumptuous." pp. 147, 148.
The church membership of baptised children is discussed in a distinct chapter, in a manner which throws a flood of light upon this obscure and difficult question. The following is our author's conception of it:
"The conception of this membership is, that it is a potentially real one; that it stands, for the present, in the faith of the parents, and the promise which is to them and to their children, and that, on this ground, they may well enough be accounted believers, just as they are accounted potentially men and women. Then, as they come forward into maturity, it is to be assumed that they will come forward into faith, being grown in the nurture of faith, and will claim for themselves the membership into which they were before inserted.
"Nor is this a case which has no analogies, that it should be held up as a mark of derision. It is generally supposed that our common law has some basis of common sense. And yet this body of law makes every infant child a citizen; requiring as a point of public order, the whole constabulary and even military force of the state to come to the rescue, or the redress of his wrongs, when his person is seized or property invaded by conspiracy. This infant child can sue and be sued; for the Court of Chancery will appoint him a guardian, whose acts
shall be the child's acts; and it shall be as if he were answering for his own education, dress, board, entertainments, and the damages done by his servants, precisely as if he were a man acting in his own cause. Doubtless it may sound very absurdly to call him a citizen. What can he do as a citizen? He cannot vote, nor bear arms; he does not even know what these things mean, and yet he is a citizen. In one view he votes, bears arms, legislates, even in his cradle; for the potentiality is in him, and the state takes him up in her arms, as it were, to own him as her citizen. In a strongly related sense, it is, that the baptized child is a believer and a member of the church. There is no unreality in the position assigned him; for the futurition of God's promise is in him, and, by a kind of sublime anticipation, he is accepted in God's supernatural economy as a believer; even as the law accepts him in the economy of society to be a citizen. He is potentially both, and both is actually to be, in a way of transition so subtle and imperceptible that no one can tell when he begins to be, either one or the other." pp. 167, 8.
In this connection let us refer our readers to what the author says in another chapter, entitled "The Treatment that discourages Piety," concerning the holding back of children from an early recognition of their membership in the church, and an admission to the Lord's table; the discouraging and often fatal effect of this practice, and the proper remedy for it. The passage is too long for quotation here, but we hope that every Christian parent, and especially every pastor, will read and ponder it.
The idea of Christian nurture, as thus unfolded, does not concern merely the conversion and salvation of children; its scope is not to be limited to the family or the church as a visible institution; but reaches out in its relations and bearings into the whole vast sphere of the divine economy towards this world, and embraces in its results the future destiny and glory of humanity. It furnishes the best, if not the only solution of one of the darkest problems of human existence "the vindication of God in sin, suffering, punishment, and all evil pertaining to the race."
"How constantly is the question raised, why God, as an infinitely good and gracious Father, should put on foot such a scheme of existence as this; one that unites such oppressive disadvantages, and is to be such a losing concern? We begin life, it is said, with constitutions depraved and poisoned, and come thus into choice with predispositions that are damaged even beforehand. Idolatry, darkness, and guilt, overspread the world, in this manner, from age to age, and the vast majorities of the race, rotting away thus into death under sin, are being VOL. XIX. 32