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Original Covenanter 1881 Subjects of Baptism

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  • Soles
    SUBJECTS OF BAPTISM The nature of baptism and it s outward mode of administration having been treated of in a former article, the next thing that falls to be
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 5, 2004
      The nature of baptism and it's outward mode of administration having been treated of in a former article, the next thing that falls to be considered is the proper subjects of the rite. These are unquestionably the members of the visible church. Once within her bounds, no one can forbid water, that they should not be baptized. The church has a law, and to it we must appeal and not to our own notions of the fitness of things, if we would ascertain who have a right to membership. A law may be very old, and may have long lain in abeyance; but if it stand unrepealed by the proper authority it is still of binding force. Let us go back, then, to the constitutional law of the church for a determination of the question of church membership.
      The covenant of grace is the foundation upon which the building of mercy is erected. But this covenant is not formally the charter of the visible church. God has  enacted an administrative covenant incorporating the church as a visible society, through whose instrumentality the provisions of the unchangeable covenant of grace are outwardly dispensed. The first instance that we have of such a covenant is that made with Abraham. In that federal transaction the church was first visibly organized; and under that covenant she still exists and will continue to exist until her end be accomplished, and the distinction between the church visible and invisible be done away.
      To make it appear that those embraced within the Abrahamic covenant were really the church, and not simply a national society with peculiar religious privileges, it is necessary only to compare the original transaction with teaching of the apostles in the New Testament. Thus, in Gal. 3:8, the apostle Paul shows that it promised justification by faith. He expressly calls the promise of that covenant the gospel. It was ratified by circumcision, which was not merely a badge of national distinction and carnal descent, but a "seal of the righteousness of faith." It was not confined to Abraham's natural seed; but made provision for the admission of others to its privileges. Gen17:5, and the heir of the world, Rom.4;1,3; and the Galatians, who were Gentiles, and all of every nation who accept the gospel offer are called Abraham's seed and heirs, according to the promise. Gal.3:29. These considerations are sufficient to establish the fact the Abrahamic covenant embraced the visible church. And the right of infants to membership in that society cannot be questioned. The promise was to the children equally with the parents. "And I will establish my covenant me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee." Gen.17:7. To make this stronger if possible, we refer to the 14th verse, where it is said of the man-child who was not circumcised, "he hath broken my covenant." The infant must have had a part in the covenant or he could not in any proper sense be said to break it.
      The next point to be established is the perpetual force of the Abrahamic covenant as the law and privilege of the church. The more formal organization of the church at Sinai was only a renewal of the covenant. The apostle, Gal.3:17, says, "the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years, cannot disannul that it should make the promise of none effect." As the introduction of the legal dispensation could make no alteration in the covenant, neither could the abrogation of it upon the advent of Christianity. It was then in force when the apostles began their preaching, and, instead of their saying that the covenant is abrogated, Peter in his first sermon assures his hearers that it is still in force, and urges them, upon that very account, to accept of the gospel for themselves and their children. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2: 38,39.
      The moral identity of the church under all dispensations is also clearly asserted in the Scriptures. The promises of the Old Testament, such as those found in Isaiah lx, that the church should be gloriously enlarged and extended by the bringing in of the Gentiles, show that no new organization was contemplated in their fulfillment. The language of the Holy Spirit is, " The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." And it is to be observed that these words are written of the first admissions to the church after the first sermon of the apostle.
      The point is placed beyond all rational dispute by a reference to Rom. 11: 17-24. The church is there called the olive tree. The Jews who were off for their unbelief are called the branches. Their being broken off, however, did not destroy the tree. It merely made room for the grafting in of the Gentiles in their place. There is a promise also, that they shall be grafted in again. Parents and their offspring were unquestionably branches of that good olive tree before they were broken off; and if words mean anything, the grafting in again of the Jews plainly imports that the children were broken off, as well as the parents, will constitute the number. And as there will be no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the church, we may be assured that when the Jews and their children are brought into the fold, they will find the engrafted Gentiles and their children enjoying the same privileges.
      The argument, then for infant baptism, deduced from the foregoing observations, is simply this: The Head of the church admitted infants into the membership of the visible church, and recognized and ratified their covenant right to such privileges by a religious ceremony. That church remains the same as an institution until the end of time. God has never repealed the law with respect to infants. They have, therefore, a right to membership, and to have that right confirmed by the New Testament circumcision, baptism. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." C.Clyde
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