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Answ. Distinguish between 1. Heart-covenanting, and mouth-covenanting. 2. Between being in covenant before God, and visibly before the church.
1. No person is to be baptized at age, whose inward heart-consent before professed, giveth him not right to baptism. Therefore all the adult must be in covenant, that is, consent on their part to the covenant, before they are baptized.
2. Therefore it is so with the seed of the faithful, who must consent by their parents, before they have right: otherwise all should have right, and their baptism be essentially another baptism, as sealing some other covenant, or none.
3. If there be no promise made to the seed of the faithful more than to others, they have no right more than others to baptism or salvation. But if there be a promise made to them as the seed of believers, then are they as such within that promise, that is, performers of its conditions by their parents, and have right to the benefit.
4. If the heart-consent or faith of the adult, do put themselves into a state of salvation, before their baptism, then it doth so by their children; but, &c.
5. But this right to salvation in parents and children upon heart-consent before baptism, is only before God : for the church taketh no cognizance of secret heart-transactions; but a man then only consenteth in the judgment of the church, when he openly professeth it, and desireth to signify it by being baptized.
6. And even before God, there is a necessitas præcepti' obliging us to open baptism after heart.consent; and he that heartily consenteth, cannot refuse God's way of uttering it, unless either through ignorance he knoweth it not to be his duty, (for himself and his child,) or through want of ability or opportunity cannot have it. So that while a man is unbaptized, somewhat is wanting to the completeness of his right to the benefits of the covenant, viz. A reception of investiture and possession in God's appointed way; though it be not such a want, as shall frustrate the salvation of those that did truly consent in heart.
7. I take it therefore for certain, that the children of true believers consent to the covenant by their parents, and are as certainly saved if they die before baptism, as after ; though those that despise baptism, when they know it to be a duty, cannot be thought indeed to believe or consent for their children or themselves.'
Quest. XXXVIII. Is infant's title to baptism and the covenant
benefits given them by God in his promise, upon any proper moral condition, or only upon the condition of their natural relation, that they be the seed of the faithful.
Answ. That which is called a mere natural condition is properly in law sense no condition at all ; nor doth make a contract or promise to be called conditional in a moral sense. But it is matters of morality and not of physics only that we are treating of; and therefore we must take the terms in a moral sense. For a physical condition is either past, or present, or future, or not future: if it be past or present, the proposition may indeed be hypothetical, but it is no such conditional promise as we are speaking of; for instance, if you say, 'If thou wast born in such a city, or if thy name be John, I will give thee so much. These are the words of an uncertain promiser ; but the promise is already either equivalent to an absolute gift, or null. So if the physical condition be ‘de futuro,' e. g. 'If thou be alive to-morrow, I will give thee this or that; or if the sun shine to-morrow, &c.' This indeed suspendeth the gift or event; but not upon any moral being which is in the power of the receiver, but upon a natural contingency or uncertainty. And God hath no such conditional covenants or promises to be sealed by baptism. He saith not, . If thou be the child of such or such a man, thou shalt be saved, as his natural offspring only.' If the Papists that accuse us for holding that the mere natural progeny of believers are saved as such, did well understand our doctrine, they would perceive that in this we differ not from the understanding sort among them, or at least, that their accusations run upon a mistake.
I told you before that there are three things distinctly to be considered in the title of infants to baptism and salvation. 1. By what right the parent covenanteth for his child. 2. What right the child hath to baptism. 3. What right he hath to the benefits of the covenant sealed and delivered in baptism.
To the first, two things concur to the title of the parent to covenant in the name of his child: one is his natural interest in him ; the child being his own is at his dispose. The other is God's gracious will and consent that it shall be so; that the parent's will shall be as the child's for his good, till he come at age to have a will of his own.
To the second, the child's right to baptism is not merely his natural or his birth relation from such parents, but it is in two degrees as followeth, 1. He hath a virtual right, on condition of his parent's faith : the reason is, because that a believer's consent and self-dedication to God doth virtually contain in it a dedication with himself of all that is his : and it is a contradiction to say that a man truly dedicateth himself to God, and not all that he hath, and that he truly consenteth to the covenant for himself and not for his child, if he understand that God will accept it. 2. His actual titlecondition is his parents (or owners) actual consent to enter him into God's covenant, and his actual mental dedication of his child to God, which is his title before God, and the profession of it is his title before the church. So that it is not a mere physical but a moral title-condition, which an infant hath to baptism, that is, his parent's consent to dedicate him to God.
- 3. And to the third, his title-condition to the benefits of baptism hath two degrees, 1. That he be really dedicated to God by the heart-consent of his parent as aforesaid. And 2. That his parent express this by the solemn engaging him to God in baptism ; the first being necessary as a means • sine qua non,' and the second being necessary as a duty without which he sinneth, (when it is possible,) and as a means coram ecclesia' to the privileges of the visible church.
The sum of all is, that our mere natural interest in our children is not their title-condition to baptism or to salvation, but only that presupposed state which enableth us by God's consent to covenant for them; but their title-condition to baptism and salvation, is our covenanting for them, or voluntary dedicating them to God; which we do 1. Virtually, when we dedicate ourselves, and all that we have or shall have. 2. Actually, when our hearts consent particularly for them, and actually devote them to God, before bap
tism. 3. Sacramentally, when we express this in our solemn baptismal covenanting and dedication.
Consider exactly of this again ; and if you loathe distinguishing, confess ingenuously that you loathe the truth, or the necessary means of knowing it.
Quest. xxxix. What is the true meaning of sponsors, “patri
mi,' or godfathers as we call them? And is it lawful to make use of them?
Answ. I. To the first question; all men have not the same thoughts either of their original, or of their present use.
1. Some think that they are sponsors or sureties for the parents rather than the child at first; and that when many in times of persecution, heresy, and apostacy, did baptize their children this month or year, and the next month or year apostatize and deny Christ themselves, that the sponsors were only credible Christians witnessing that they believed that the parents were credible, firm believers, and not like to apostatize. 2. Others think that they were undertakers, that if the parents did apostatize or die, they would see to the Christian education of the child themselves. 3. Others think that they did both these together : (which is my opinion ;) viz. That they witnessed the probability of the parents' fidelity ; but promised that if they should either apostatize or die, they would see that the children were piously educated. 4. Others think that they were absolute undertakers that the children should be piously educated, whether the parents died or apostatized or not; so that they went joint undertakers with the parents in their lifetime. 5. And I have lately met with some that maintain that the godfathers and godmothers become proprietors, and adopt the child, and take him for their own, and that this is the sense of the Church of England. But I believe them not for these reasons.
ve 1. There is no such word in the liturgy, doctrine or canons of the church of England : and that is not to be feigned and fathered on them, which they never said.
2. It would be against the law of nature to force all parents to give the sole propriety, or joint propriety in their children to others. Nature hath given the propriety to themselves, and we cannot rob them of it.
3. It would be heinously injurious to the children of noble and learned persons, if they must be forced to give them up to the propriety and education of others, even of such as perhaps are lower and more unfit for it than themselves.
4. It would be more heinously injurious to all godfathers and godmothers, who must all make other men's children their own, and therefore must use them as their own.
5. It would keep most children unbaptized ; because if it were once understood that they must take them as their own, few would be sponsors to the children of the poor, for fear of keeping them; and few but the ignorant that know not what they do, would be sponsors for any, because of the greatness of the charge, and their averseness to adopt the children of others.
6. It would make great confusion in the state, while all men were bound to exchange children with another.
7. I never knew one man or woman that was a godfather or godmother on such terms, nor that took the child to be their own ; and if such a one should be found among ten thousand, that is no rule to discern the judgment of the church by.
8. And in confirmation the godfather and godmother are expressly said to be for this use, to be witnesses that the party is confirmed.
9. And in the priest's speech to the adult that come for baptism, in the office of baptism of those of riper years, it is the persons themselves that are to promise and covenant for themselves, and the godfathers and godmothers are only called,“ these your witnesses. And if they be but witnesses to the adult, it is like they are not adopters of infants.
II. Those that doubt of the lawfulness of using sponsors for their children, do it on these two accounts: 1. As supposing it unlawful to make so promiscuous an adoption of children, or of choosing another to be a covenanter for the child instead of the parent, to whom it belongeth ; or to commit their children to another's either propriety or education, or formal promise of that which belongeth to education, when they never mean to perform it, nor can do. 2.