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Though circumcision had been, and still might be a mark of discrimination between the worshippers of the true God and idolatrous heathens, yet, after the institution of baptism, the former rite would not so clearly discriminate between christians and unbelievers in general ; for unbelieving Jews would still use circumcision. It was therefore proper, that the circumcised Jew, when he embraced the gospel, if he had before openly opposed it, should submit to baptism, to testify his belief that Jesus of Nazareth, whom he had rejected, was the promised Messiah; that the doctrine preached by the apostles, in his name, was divine; and that the ancient distinction of Jew and Gentile, male and female, was abolished, and all were to become one in Christ. Had none of the believing Jews been baptized, there might have remained too great an appearance of a distinction between them and Gentile believers; a distinction which, after all, many of the Jewish christians were strongly inclined to preserve, and which the apostles were no less solicitous to extinguish. It was Christ's design, that his church should
be, and appear to be one; that, while it was distinguished from the world, it should harmonize with itself, and keep a unity of spirit in the bund of peace.
Suppose a prince, who had appointed a particular uniform for his soldiers, should think proper, on the introduction of a new discipline, and the acquisition of new subjects, to appoint for these another uniform.; might we not expect, that he would allow, and in case of a rebellion raised on this occasion, would require many of his former subjects to adopt the same, that there might be no distinction kept up between old subjects and new; but all might become one harmonious body? And would any man, in this case, imagine that the new livery came not in the place of the old? Or that the one had not been, as the other was now, a badge and token of allegiance ?—No more can we, on this ground, pretend, that baptism succeeds not iu*the place of circumcision.
It will perhaps be asked; 'Why then ought not baptism to be administered on the eighth day according to the law of circumcision V
We answer: It was not essential to the 'validity of circumcision, that it should be administered on the eighth day. It was not to be delayed beyond that day without occasion ; nor ought we, without occasion, to delay baptism. But where circumstances admitted not so early an application of the seal, the delay was not faulty then, nor would it be now. Circumcision, indeed, might not be performed earlier than the eighth day; but for this delay there were particular reasons, not applicable to baptism. One reason might be the tenderness of the infant, and the weakness of the mother, which would render an immediate operation of this kind dangerous to both. But the principal reason was the legal impurity of the mother and the consequent impurity of the child for the first seven days. This reason is expressly assigned in the divine law ;* If a woman have bom a man child, she shall be unclean seven days—and on the eighth day he shall be circumcised. But as the legal impurities have ceased under the gospel,
there is no such reason for the delay of baptism.
Thus, I think, it undeniably appears, that baptism stands in the place of circumcision, and that the arguments to the contrary, are futile and impertinent. And if it stands in the same place, it is certainly to be applied to the same subjects, the infants of God's people.—I proceed to another argument.
3. THE right of infants to baptism may be clearly inferred from the words of our Saviour, Mark x. 14, compared with those, John Hi. 5. Suffer little children to come to me—-for of such is the kingdom of God.—And, Except a man (ean me tis, except any one) be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
By the kingdom of God must be understood either the Church, God's visible kingdom on earth ; or Heaven, his invisible kingdom above. Into the former we are admitted by baptism, which is the sign of that spiritual renovation, by which we are prepared for the latter. These Utile children are called infants; they were brought to Christ; were taken up in his arms; doubtless therefore they were under the age of discretion. They who brought them we,re believers; otherwise they would not have sought a blessing from Christ for them. The phrase being bom of water, signifies being baptized: So the author of the letters understands it, and numbers it among the passages that speak of baptism.*
Now if, by the kingdom of God, we understand the church, then here is an express declaration,that infantsbelongto thechurch, are Christ's disciples, and visible members of his body : And consequently have a right
* The author of the letters says, 'Christian baptism was not yet instituted.' This doubtless is true but Johu preached, saying, The kingdom of God is at hand; and he baptized with the baptism of repentance to prepare the people for this kingdom. It was therefore very seasonable for Christ now, to instruct Nicodemus, that baptism, or being born of water, was soon to be the rite of admission into his kingdom. But whether we understand the phrase, of mtward baptism, or inward sanctificationj our argument from it will be equally conclusive.