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Title: The Baptism of the Prince - A Sermon
Author: Alexander, John L.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1842 Josiah Fletcher edition by David Price.



                        THE BAPTISM OF THE PRINCE.


                                * * * * *

                                 A SERMON

                               PREACHED IN

                     PRINCE’S STREET CHAPEL, NORWICH,

                    ON SUNDAY MORNING, JAN. 23, 1842,

           IN ANTICIPATION OF THE BAPTISM OF HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
                           THE PRINCE OF WALES.

                                * * * * *

                            BY JOHN ALEXANDER.

                                * * * * *

                          Published by Request.

                                * * * * *

                                 NORWICH:
                    JOSIAH FLETCHER, UPPER HAYMARKET;
              SOLD ALSO BY JARROLD AND SONS, NORWICH; AND BY
                       JACKSON AND WALFORD, LONDON.

                                  1842.

                            _Price Fourpence_.

                                * * * * *



PREFACE.


THE Author of the following discourse hopes it will appear from the
perusal of it, that the baptism of infants is a practice which he not
only believes to be scriptural, but which he warmly and devoutly loves.
As a parent, and as a pastor, one of his most delightful employments has
been the dedication of his own children, and of the children of others,
to the God of mercy.  He endeavours also to cherish in his own heart, and
in the hearts of others, the assurance that baptism is a sign of
spiritual influences, which our covenant God will graciously bestow upon
our children, if we disciple them to Christ by gospel instruction as well
as by water, and if we “teach them to observe all things whatsoever
Christ has commanded.”  The connection between our baptized households
and church membership is so intimate, that children should be trained for
communion by the parent, as well as by the pastor; and every baptized
family should thus strive to be a church of Christ, and seek to possess,
by the grace of God, a domestic as well as an individual relationship to
“the general assembly and church of the first-born.”  Were this made the
object of more anxious and prayerful effort, the degree of success,
divinely granted, would surprise and bless our hearts; the sacred
ordinance in which we delight, would be less ridiculed than it is; the
fatal mistakes which are made relative to it, would be corrected; and it
would soon become, as in primitive times, universally practised.  “If
infant baptism were more improved,” says Philip Henry, “it would be less
disputed.”

The following discourse is not put forth as a complete treatise on the
subject of baptism.  It is the mere outline of one branch of an argument
which is briefly stated, and which is not even defended from the
customary objections.  It was preached, and is now published, not so much
for those who deny the ordinance to their children, as for those who
practice it; to remind them of the privilege which they enjoy, and of the
consequent responsibility which they incur.  Nothing is said in the
sermon about _the mode_ of baptizing, because the object which the
preacher had in view did not require it; and because, during the time of
its delivery, he was desirous to occupy the attention of his hearers with
matters of more importance than the question, Whether, in baptism, the
water is to be applied to the person, or the person to the water?—though
he believes that the former mode is more scriptural and more seemly than
the latter.

AS THE DISCOURSE WAS OCCASIONED BY THE BAPTISE OF THE PRINCE OF WALES,
THE HEIR APPARENT TO THE BRITISH THRONE, IT IS NOW PUBLISHED WITH THE
EARNEST DESIRE AND PRAYER, THAT HE MAY BE SPARED TILL, AT SOME DISTANT
DAY, HE SHALL REALIZE “THE TRUE IDEA OF A PATRIOT KING;” AND THAT THE
ROYAL HOUSE INTO WHICH HE IS BORN, MAY FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER,
PRESENT SUCCESSIVE PRINCES TO THE THRONE OF BRITAIN, WHO SHALL RULE IN
RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND WHO, IN THE SCRIPTURAL SENSE OF THE LANGUAGE, SHALL BE
“NURSING FATHERS, AND NURSING MOTHERS,” TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.

NORWICH, FEBRUARY 1, 1842.



SERMON.


MY DEAR FRIENDS,

As it has been publicly announced that the infant Prince of Wales will be
baptized on Tuesday next, a suitable opportunity is now afforded for
directing your attention to the subject of baptism generally, and
especially to the interest which little children have in the affections
of the Saviour; I propose, therefore, to address you this morning from

                              MARK x, 13–16.

    “And they brought young children to him that he should touch them;
    and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.  But when Jesus
    saw it he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little
    children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the
    kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive
    the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
    And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed
    them.”

The scene presented by these words is indescribably lovely; and the eye
that contemplates it, must affect the heart of the beholder with every
tender and grateful feeling.  It exhibits the eternal Son of God holding
in his arms the infant of a day; laying his mighty and merciful hand upon
its head; and bestowing upon it his own effectual blessing.  Wonderful as
all this is, it is however in perfect harmony with the whole of his
character, and of the great work which he came to accomplish.  The
infants which were now brought to him, ignorant and helpless as they
were, were creatures which he himself had formed, and which he had
inspired with the breath of life, and with the germ of all those
intellectual and moral faculties which would render them immortal and
responsible to God.  He, therefore, who guides the flight of the sparrow
as well as of the archangel, cares for the infant as well as for the man;
and he has testified his care, not only now, when he was gathering these
lambs in his arms, but through all the preceding dispensations of his
mediatorial reign.  His disciples, influenced by the same mistaken
feelings which led the multitude to rebuke the blind men, who cried for
mercy to the son of David, rebuked the parents, who were now desirous
that their infants should receive his gentle touch, and “that he should
put his hands on them and pray;” “but when Jesus saw it he was much
displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto
me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God,” and “of such
is the kingdom of heaven.”  When heaven was more immediately his
residence, he had there been accustomed to gather little children in his
arms, and to introduce them to the joys and royalties of his celestial
palace; and when that palace is completely furnished with guests, little
children, who have died in their infancy, will constitute no small
portion of the glorious number.  When he first formed a church on earth,
and separated the subjects of his own kingdom from others, he did so
_with an express reference to the children of his people_; and he
appointed the ordinance of circumcision to be administered to them at
eight days old, as the token of his everlasting promise, “I will be a God
unto thee, and unto thy seed after thee.”  When that church was
reorganized by Moses, and during the whole period of the Jewish
dispensation, the same divine regard to infants is manifested, and their
dedication to God, by “the token of the covenant,” is continued.  When,
during that dispensation, the gospel times of the church are predicted,
children are always represented as sharing in the same privileges which
they had been accustomed to possess; for then, says Isaiah, “the people
shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the
seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.”  And now
in the fulness of time, when Christ himself personally appears in the
world, he manifests the same regard to little children that he had shown
from the beginning.  When they were brought to him, “he took them up in
his arms;” not indeed to baptize them, for he never baptized any one,
either infant or adult; but to acknowledge their continued connection
with his kingdom, and their capacity for receiving, not only an important
sign, but the spiritual blessings which that sign denoted.  “Of such,”
says he, “is the kingdom of God,” or, as the phrase signifies, of such is
_the church_ of God; and their being thus of his church, is given as the
reason why they should be brought to him as the head of the church.
Having thus declared that infants, under the gospel dispensation,
sustained the same relation to his spiritual kingdom which Jewish infants
had sustained, he proceeds to treat them accordingly.  “He put his hands
on them;” which was a sign, as significant as the token of circumcision
or of baptism; for it was the sign of his own blessing.  “He put his
hands on them,” as Jacob put his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh, when he
lifted up his voice to heaven and said, “the angel that redeemed me from
all evil bless the lads;” or as the high priest put his hands on the
people, when he blessed them in the name of the Lord; or as this great
High Priest himself afterwards lifted up his hands and blessed his
disciples, when he ascended from mount Olivet to heaven.  True it is,
that, as infants, they could not understand the meaning of this sign, any
more than they could understand the meaning of circumcision or of
baptism.  They knew it not then, but they would know it hereafter.  Yet,
notwithstanding their present ignorance, he did not refrain; he put his
hands upon them.  And not only so, but as a manifestation of his power
and grace, he accompanied the sign with the thing signified, “and he
blessed them;” he baptized them, not with water, but with his own
blessing; and thereby fulfilled his gracious promise, “I will pour my
spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring.”

The history which our text records is therefore the consummation and the
climax of a series of circumstances, which are intended to show _the
interest which the children of believers have in the Saviour’s kingdom_.
And as such we receive it with joy and thankfulness.  There is, in the
heart of every christian parent, an earnest desire that his children, as
well as himself, should participate in the enjoyment of spiritual
blessings; and when he receives his new-born babe into his arms, the
first wish of his heart is to lay it on the arms of Christ, and to
dedicate it to him for ever.  So strong is this feeling, that many
persons, who deny infant baptism, are so convinced of the desirableness
of having some mode of dedicating their offspring to God, that they hold
a special meeting for the purpose, in which the pastor of the church sets
their children apart by a solemn dedicatory service.  Even the ancient
Greeks and Romans, guided probably by imperfect tradition, as well as by
the light of nature, were accustomed, a few days after the birth of a
child, to carry it to the temple, and to commend it to some patron deity.
Instructed by the sacred scriptures, it is our privilege to believe that
He who awakens this desire in the parental bosom, has appointed
appropriate means whereby it may be expressed and gratified; and that
having instituted circumcision, for such as were of the kingdom of God
under the former dispensation, he has now instituted baptism for such as
are of that kingdom, whether they be adults or infants.  Some proof of
this has already been afforded by the history to which your attention has
been called; for if Christ has declared that our children now, as well as
formerly, are “of the kingdom of God,” and if he gave to them the sign of
his blessing, and the blessing itself, “can any one forbid water, that
these should not be baptized?”  But a variety of additional evidence is
still presented by this holy book, our only divine and authoritative
guide.  The great question which we have to ask on this subject is, _What
is the will of Christ_? and in seeking an answer to that inquiry, we are
not to dictate to the divine Spirit the manner in which the will of
Christ is to be made known to us, but we are thankfully to receive it, in
the form of express command, or by any other mode of intimation that may
seem good in his sight.  As there is, in the New Testament, no
_prohibition_ of infant baptism, we are not much concerned about a direct
_injunction_ to practise it.  There are some institutions belonging to
former dispensations of religion, which it was not necessary should be
formally re-enacted in the New Testament; because the will of Christ
respecting their continuance can be gathered by evidences less direct.
And as such a mode of teaching often requires thoughtful and continuous
reading to ascertain the mind of God, we thereby gain a more extensive
and intelligent acquaintance with the scriptures, than we could have
gained if every thing had been stated as expressly and minutely as it is
in the book of Leviticus.  The sabbath, for instance, was instituted at
the creation; it was continued during the patriarchal age; it was
observed during the Jewish dispensation till the time of Christ; there is
no command enjoining it in the New Testament; and though some passages
seem at first sight to discountenance the observance of a christian
sabbath, yet, from various remarks and circumstances, incidentally
scattered through the sacred book, we are led to believe it to be the
will of Christ that a sabbath should be continued through the gospel
dispensation, and that it should be transferred from the last day of the
week to the first; and when we consult early ecclesiastical history, we
find all our convictions confirmed by the fact, that the first day of the
week was universally observed by the christian church as a day of rest
and worship.  The ordinance of circumcision, in its connection with
baptism, is similarly circumstanced.  It was instituted in the time of
Abraham, and it continued to be observed till the time of Christ, as a
memorial of God’s everlasting covenant, and of the relationship which he
had established between believing parents and their children.  In the New
Testament, we find that the ordinance itself is changed from circumcision
to baptism; just as the sabbath is changed, from the seventh to the first
day of the week.  But this is the principal change relative to the
ordinance which the New Testament declares.  The old ordinance and the
new have precisely the same spiritual signification.  Faith, in an adult,
was as necessary to precede circumcision, as it is now necessary to
precede baptism.  Infants are quite as capable of being baptized, as they
were of being circumcised; and that it is the will of Christ they should
be baptized, is quite as evident, from scripture testimony, as that the
first day of the week is the divinely appointed christian sabbath.
Indeed, their right to baptism seems to follow as a matter of course from
the fact declared in our text, and already illustrated, that _our
children now sustain the same relation to the kingdom of God_, _that the
children of believers did formerly_; especially when we find that Christ
not only said, “of such is the kingdom of God,” but also that “he put his
hands on them, and blessed them.”

The evidence which the New Testament affords of _the right of infants to
baptism_, is, however, abundant and various; so much so, that scarcely an
outline of it can be given in the small space allotted to it in this
discourse.  The commission which Christ gave to his apostles, refers not
only to baptism, but also to the christian instruction with which baptism
is to be connected, and which it is the great design of the ordinance to
secure.  “Go,” says he, “and teach all nations, baptizing them unto the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them
to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  Circumcision had
been confined principally to one nation, baptism is to be extended to all
nations; and as the sphere of the ordinance is thus enlarged, is it at
all likely that the subjects of the ordinance are to be diminished? and
that children, who were admitted to the initiatory rite of the limited
Jewish dispensation, are to be excluded from the initiatory rite of the
universal dispensation of the gospel?  If they had been excluded, would
the Jews have been silent about it?  Would they not have made it a
subject of complaint? and would they not have referred to the exclusion
of their children as an argument in favour of Judaism, and against
Christianity?  Undoubtedly they would; and their silence is a strong
presumptive evidence that the baptismal, as well as the circumcisional
commission, included infants.  The word “teach,” in the former part of
the passage, is not, in the original, the same word as that which is
translated “teaching” in the latter part; but a word which literally
signifies to disciple, or to make disciples; so that the apostles were
directed to “go and make disciples,” not of Jews only, but “of all
nations.”  And how was this to be done?  By baptizing and by teaching.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them.”
The language of course implies that some degree of instruction must go
before baptism, in the case of ignorant adults; but it is evident that
_the_ “_baptizing_” _is to be introductory to the_ “_teaching_” just as
circumcision was.  The first persons who would be baptized, would of
course be adults, as was the case when circumcision was instituted; but
there is nothing, either in the nature of baptism, or in the terms of
this commission, to exclude infants.  If it had been written, “Go and
make disciples of all nations, circumcising them, and teaching them all
things,” who would have said that the language excluded infants from
circumcision? and as baptism has succeeded circumcision, and as it means
the same thing, why should infants be excluded by a mere change in the
ordinance? especially as the ordinance of baptism seems to be more suited
to an infant than circumcision was.  If, nevertheless, it be maintained
that no person is to be baptized until he has been taught—taught to
observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, infants I admit will
then be excluded from baptism, and so for the most part will adults be,
and no persons can be baptized at all; for such “teaching” comprehends
the entire gospel, and can be afforded only by long continued pastoral
instruction.  The conduct of the apostles in executing the commission,
is, however, the best interpretation of its language; and they considered
that a single sermon to the three thousand, and a single conversation
with the eunuch, and a few words to the jailor, were quite sufficient to
precede baptism; and it was not till after baptism, that the principles
and duties of the gospel were more fully taught; nor was it till after
baptism that they expected to perceive the fruits and the influences of
knowledge and of faith.  Instruction has therefore precisely the same
relation to baptism that it had to circumcision.  It follows rather than
precedes.  It does so, principally, in the case of adults; it does so,
entirely, in the case of children.  Baptism is merely an initiatory rite.
It introduces the disciple into the school; and it places him there, that
he may be “instructed in the way of God more perfectly,” and taught not
only to understand, but also “to observe all things whatsoever Christ has
commanded.”

Long before the time of John the Baptist, “divers baptisms” had been
practised by the Jews.  They appear to have been in the habit of
baptizing, as well as of circumcising, the households which were
proselyted from heathenism to Judaism.  They had therefore become
familiar with the ceremony, and consequently expressed no surprise that
John should come among them baptizing with water.  John indeed baptized
unto repentance, and he refused this baptism to none by whom it was
requested.  The apostles baptized unto Christ; and therefore unto his
death, his burial, and his resurrection—unto all that he had done and
suffered as the mediator between God and man.  And when they go forth to
make disciples of all nations, how exactly their practice corresponds
with the principles I have stated.  These apostles were Jews.  They
rejoiced in the exceeding great and precious promise which God had made
to Abraham and to them, “I will be a God unto thee, and unto thy seed
after thee.”  Authorised and encouraged by this promise, they had been
accustomed to disciple and to dedicate their children by circumcision,
which one of them calls “a yoke upon the neck of _the disciples_.”  On
the day of Pentecost, they began their work by declaring that the same
promise that had been the hope of Jews, was now given to the Gentiles
also, and to their children.  They made the same distinction between the
children of Christian parents and other children, that they had been
accustomed to make between the children of Jews and of heathens; for they
called the one class “unclean,” and the other class “holy;” “else were
your children unclean, but now are they holy;” that is, externally and
ceremonially holy—holy as all children are who are discipled and
consecrated unto Christ.  They made baptism, just what circumcision was,
a domestic as well as a parental service.  They baptized the family as
well as the man; not as an extraordinary circumstance, but as a common
practice; just as our missionaries do, who are placed in circumstances
similar to those of the apostles; and who baptize not only men and women,
but families also—the household of Stephanas; Lydia and her household;
the jailor, and all his straightway.  When they wrote epistles to the
churches which they had baptized, they addressed children as well as
parents, and appealed to them in the name of the Lord.  And though the
history of their labours extends over a period of sixty years, yet in all
that time they baptized none but Jews and heathens; they never baptized
any adult, who was an infant when his parents were baptized; nor is there
an instance upon record, of a person who had been taught the gospel from
his infancy, and whose baptism was deferred till the maturity of life.

The argument on behalf of the baptism of infants, which has been thus
briefly and imperfectly sketched, is full of conviction and satisfaction;
it is an argument for the understanding and the heart; and it is in
blessed harmony with all that a believer desires on behalf of his
children.  We thank God for it; and we thank God that having withheld a
direct and formal precept for the practice, he has been pleased to make
known his will to us in such a way, as enables us more fully to
understand and to appreciate his word.  We consider that baptism in any
case, but especially to our children, is a valuable privilege; not indeed
as a mere ceremony, but as a token of the goodwill of our heavenly
Father.  We regard the rainbow, not merely because of the beauty of its
arch, but because it betokens the covenant which preserves the earth, and
perpetuates the seasons.  And we regard baptism, not superstitiously, as
if it contained some mystic charm, but because it is a memorial of God’s
covenant mercy, and the means by which our offspring are dedicated and
discipled.  And we regard it too, because it is an institution which is
in beautiful harmony with the whole system of revelation, in the Old and
New Testaments.  As the substitute for circumcision, it connects the
church at its origin, with the church in its progress, and in its gospel
maturity.  Whilst the promise, “I will be a God unto thee, and unto thy
seed after thee,” remains the same, baptism now attaches to it the sign
and the seal which was once affixed by circumcision.  The language and
the conduct of Christ to little children, in the case before us, is in
perfect harmony with their baptism, and with all the principles on which
their baptism is practised.  And when the apostles baptized households;
when they called the children of believers “not unclean but holy;” and
when they addressed children in the epistles which they wrote to the
churches, they adopted a style of speaking and of action, which is not
only in accordance with infant baptism, but which would not have been
used if they had considered infants unfit for the ordinance.  There are
indeed some christians, worthy of our esteem and love, who do not
perceive the force of this great argument, and who, therefore, deny to
their children the blessed privilege which we thankfully enjoy.  But it
was not so formerly.  The nearer we approach to apostolic times, the more
the practice of the church accords with the principles I have advocated;
and the most careful and learned ecclesiastical historians bear
undeniable testimony to the fact, that for hundreds of years, immediately
after the apostles, _the baptism of infants was universal in the church_.

II.  In proceeding, from the subject of infant baptism generally, to
consider the baptism of the Prince of Wales, I cannot, with propriety,
refrain from adverting to some appendages which will be made to his
baptism, and which the Church of England sanctions, but which I conceive
to be unscriptural and injurious.  I allude principally to the sponsors;
to the sign of the cross; and to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.

The persons who are most interested in the baptism of a child are its own
parents.  They are its natural guardians; and they are its divinely
appointed ministers, to dedicate it to God, and to plead on its behalf
the promise of the everlasting covenant.  But in the Church of England,
the parents seem to be entirely excluded from participating in the
service.  The twenty-ninth canon declares, not only that “no parent shall
be admitted to answer as godfather for his own child,” but that “no
parent shall be even urged to be present” at its baptism.  And when the
parents are thus wrongfully set aside, another class of persons are
introduced, called _sponsors_—godfathers and godmothers, who may indeed
be relatives or friends of the child, but who sometimes are entire
strangers, and who may be foreigners residing in a distant country.  The
appointment of such persons, however ancient, is not scriptural; and
however desirable they may appear to be, when the parents are dead, they
are worse than useless when the parents are living.  The responsibility
which these sponsors take upon themselves is indescribably awful.
Standing in the presence of God, they solemnly promise and vow that the
child shall renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of
this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; that he shall
believe all the articles of the christian faith; and that he shall keep
God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of
his life.  Such are the things which every sponsor engages shall be done;
and I ask, ought any human being to enter into such an engagement?  If he
does enter into it, will the Lord hold him guiltless if he does not
fulfil it?  And yet how often is this solemn vow addressed to God, by the
thoughtless and profane?  And how many sponsors, when they have made it,
never afterwards care for the soul of the child, and perhaps never
afterwards see its face.

In imitation of the Church of Rome, the Church of England uses _the sign
of the cross_ in baptism; and having poured water on the child, the
priest marks him on the forehead with a cross, “in token that hereafter
he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and
manfully to fight under his banner.”  This ceremony is not authorized by
the Scriptures.  The sign of the cross was never used by Christ and his
apostles, either as a part of baptism, or as an appendage to it.  The
Church of England, therefore, has no right to command it.  By so doing,
she renders imperative what Christ has not required, and what many of his
people deem a vain superstition.

But the most objectionable part of the service, is that which ascribes to
baptism _regenerating efficacy_, by which the soul of the child is said
to be purified and saved.  The language used by the Church of England on
this subject, is as follows:—“Dearly beloved brethren, this child is
regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s church.”  “We yield
thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to
regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own
child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy church.”  “I
certify you, that in this case all is well done concerning the baptizing
of this child; who, being born in original sin, and in the wrath of God,
is now by the laver of regeneration in baptism, received into the number
of the children of God, and heirs of everlasting life.”  In accordance
with these declarations, the child himself is afterwards taught to say by
the catechism,—“in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the
child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.”  And when this
same child is brought for confirmation, his baptismal regeneration is
declared and ratified by the bishop, when he says, “Almighty and
everlasting God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by
water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all
their sins.”  All this, you perceive is the language not of a commentator
but of the Church herself, uttered by her formularies, in which she
plainly, emphatically, and repeatedly declares, that all the children she
baptizes are, by their baptism, spiritually regenerated, so as to be the
pardoned, adopted, and purified children of God.  So decidedly is this
doctrine the belief of the Established Church, that the liturgy seems to
be constructed entirely on the principle that all her members are
spiritually renewed.  There is in it, confession of sin, and petition for
pardon, such as any regenerated person might offer, but there is in it no
prayer that any in the congregation may be born again, and renewed in the
spirit of their mind; for that is a change which it is supposed has
already taken place in baptism.  If, however, it should be thought that
we attach too strong a meaning to her language, listen to a statement
contained in the charge, which the present bishop of Exeter delivered to
his clergy in the year 1836.  “The church,” says he, “is a visible body,
into which its members are admitted by a visible sign, the sacrament of
the new life; in baptism is regeneration; without it we have no warrant
of scripture to affirm that the new birth takes place at all; without it
we are yet in our sins, in a state of spiritual death, of enmity with
God, and of fellowship with the arch enemy in his hatred, and in its
everlasting punishment!”  Now, in the first place, this doctrine of
baptismal regeneration is _unscriptural_, and utterly subversive of the
gospel of Christ.  No writer in the New Testament ascribes spiritual
efficacy to water baptism.  John declares that he could baptize with
water only, and that Christ alone could baptize with the Holy Ghost and
with fire.  Paul thanks God that he had baptized but few of the
Corinthians, and declares that Christ sent him not to baptize but to
preach the gospel, which certainly would not have been the case if
baptism effected regeneration.  There is indeed a baptism, emphatically
called the “one baptism,” which does regenerate and save; but it is not
water baptism; it is not “the putting away the filth of the flesh;” it is
not ceremonial purification; but it is “the renewing of the Holy Ghost,”
and “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”  What has been said of
circumcision, may, therefore, with equal propriety, be said of baptism;
“He is not a Christian who is one outwardly; neither is that baptism
which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly;
and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter;
whose praise is not of men, but of God.”  Secondly, the doctrine of
baptismal regeneration is _injurious to the souls of men_.  There is a
strong tendency in the depraved heart of man to exalt ceremonies above
morals, and to substitute ritual observances for spiritual religion.
This has been done, both with circumcision and with baptism.  Some of the
Jews taught circumcisional regeneration, and declared that every
circumcised man was safe.  Precisely the same error has been connected
with baptism; and equally injurious consequences follow.  By thus
substituting a ceremony for faith and for divine influence, and by
ascribing to that ceremony what the Spirit of God alone can secure, the
word of God is made of none effect; spiritual religion is reduced to a
merely mechanical operation; the worldly-minded and the immoral are
taught to regard themselves as pardoned and saved, because they have been
baptized; and thus thousands perish, whose blood will be required at the
watchman’s hand.  And thirdly, this doctrine, independently of other
circumstances, renders our _nonconformity with the Church of England_,
_and our dissent from its services_, _a solemn and imperative duty_.
When the present Prayer Book was issued on St. Bartholomew’s day, in
1662, and an “unfeigned assent and consent” to the doctrine of baptismal
regeneration, and to other antichristian doctrines, was demanded, no less
than two thousand clergymen refused their signatures.  They could not,
with a good conscience, declare “that the Book of Common Prayer
containeth in it nothing contrary to the word of God;” and therefore they
retired from the church in which they had ministered, and submitted to
much poverty and persecution.  While we desire to value whatever is
scriptural in that church, and while we would love all who love Christ,
yet, with our convictions of the unscriptural character of this doctrine,
and of other doctrines taught in its liturgy, conformity would be a sin,
a wilful and presumptuous sin, for which we should have to answer in the
great and terrible day of the Lord.

III.  Having thus stated the doctrine of infant baptism as it is taught
in the Scriptures, and having shown you what is objectionable in the
baptismal service of the Church of England, I desire now to connect this
latter part of the discourse more immediately with the former; and
therefore keeping in view the baptism of the prince, I shall address you
as subjects, as parents, and as children.

_As subjects of the British throne_, the feelings with which you hailed
the accession of our beloved Queen Victoria are, I am persuaded, still
fresh and joyous in your hearts.  Her youth; her education; her deceased
father, and her still living and honoured mother; her known attachment to
civil and religious liberty, inherited from her royal ancestors of the
House of Brunswick; and her virtuous character; all conspired to brighten
and to bless the day of her accession, and to fill our hearts with joy
and praise.  Nor did we fail, as members of the Church of Christ, to make
her the subject of special, fervent, and united prayer.  And it is a most
important and impressive fact, that probably no sovereign, either in
Britain or in any other nation under heaven, ever ascended a throne
accompanied by more earnest and affectionate supplications than Queen
Victoria did.  May all those prayers be answered, in the divine
bestowment of a long and prosperous reign, followed by a holy and a happy
eternity!  Nor did the royal marriage tend to lessen either our joy or
hope.  It enhanced them both.  Prince Albert is favourably known to the
lovers of protestantism and of piety in this country, as the branch of an
illustrious family, which at the era of the Reformation, protected and
patronized the immortal Luther, when he was kindling in Germany that
sacred flame which rapidly spread through this county, and consumed many
of the corruptions and abominations of popery.  And now, the royal pair
having become parents the second time—the parents of a prince, and heir
apparent to the British throne, we earnestly pray that his baptism may be
accompanied and followed by an unction from the Holy One, and that he may
grow, as the Babe of Bethlehem grew, “in wisdom and in stature, and in
favour with both God and man.”  Vast indeed is the influence and the
responsibility to which, as a British prince, he is probably destined;
and much indeed, under God, will depend on the education he may receive;
on the talents he may possess; and especially upon the moral and
religious character he may acquire.  In his reign, if he be spared to
reign, and if not before his reign, rank and wealth may have to yield
more of their influence to intellect and character, and the many may have
to take a still greater share in those national affairs which are now
principally conducted by the comparatively few.  Ancient monopolies,
however serviceable they may have been in former times; and
ecclesiastical establishments, injurious at all times, will have to
endure a more searching examination than they have even yet experienced,
and will probably have to give way to better institutions.  And in the
prospect of these changes—changes which seem demanded by the interests of
the nation and of the Church of Christ: and changes which will require,
in their introduction and completion, much of wisdom, human and divine,
we feel the necessity of constant earnest prayer, that our rulers and our
fellow subjects may be all under the guidance of “Him, by whom kings
reign, and princes decree justice.”  Believing too that the principles,
on which the congregational churches in this country are founded, are
scriptural principles, and that they are favourable to civil and
religious liberty, to all the national interests, and to the purity and
progress of christian truth, we desire to maintain them, as our
forefathers did, firmly and devoutly; especially now, when attempts are
making to extend among us the superstitions of popery, and the fatal
results of priestly domination.  If the existence of an Established
Church in this country, renders us dissenters, we trust that we are not
dissenters from the Church of Christ.  Our motto is, Conformity to the
Church of Christ in every thing; and nonconformity to every church which
has dissented from Christ’s institutions.  These are principles,
brethren, which are too sacred and important, not only to be trifled
with, but even to be advocated by carnal and worldly minds.  They belong
to “a kingdom which is not of this world;” and we pray that all by whom
they are professed, may be equally desirous “to render unto Cesar the
things which are Cesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.”

In addressing you _as parents_, who have dedicated your children to God
by baptism, I would affectionately remind you of the duties which you owe
both to yourselves and to them.  The apostle tells you that “they are not
unclean but holy”—holy, as the sabbath and the temple were; and holy as
all children are who are dedicated to God by a religious rite.  When you
brought them to the waters of baptism, you thereby testified your
conviction of their depravity and of their need of cleansing grace; you
thereby testified your belief that the great promise, “I will be a God
unto thee, and unto thy seed after thee,” which was once to the Jews, is
now unto you and unto your children; and at the same time you testified
your intention “to teach them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has
commanded.”  Remember then, that the great and blessed privilege which
you have enjoyed, is connected with corresponding obligations.  Having
given your children to God by baptism, you are to regard them as being
peculiarly his; and you are to regard yourselves not as their
proprietors, but as trustees, appointed by Christ, to train them up for
the church, and for the service of their Lord and Master.  Baptism, you
are aware, does not constitute a man a member of any particular church;
but it gives him a ceremonial qualification for membership.  And this is
just the position in which baptism has placed your children.  They are
candidates for communion with the church; and, as “holy children,” they
possess the ceremonial qualification for communion.  Now, as you have
been the means of giving them the one qualification, you may also be the
means of giving them the other.  You may, through the divine blessing, be
the means of making them spiritually as well as ceremonially holy.  And
it is the will of God that you should.  For that purpose he has committed
them to your charge; for that purpose he has authorized you to baptize
them; and for that purpose he has given you the blessed assurance,
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, AND THY
HOUSE.”  One of the great principles on which the God of mercy acts, in
his moral government of the world, is to bless children for the sake of
their believing parents; and the number of such children which are
received into our churches, and which are engaged in the christian
ministry, is an evidence of the fact, and of the faithfulness of Him by
whom the promises are made.  But you are not to expect this blessing
unconditionally; nor are you to expect it from the mere fact of their
baptism.  When God made promise to Abraham, and gave him the sign of
circumcision as the token of his covenant, he made the fulfilment of that
promise to depend on Abraham’s personal piety, and on the religious
education of his children.  “Abraham,” said he, “shall surely become a
great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be
blessed in him.  For I know him, that he will command his children and
his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do
justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he
hath spoken of him.”  And in like manner you are to be known to God, and
to command your children and your household after you, to keep the way of
the Lord, and to do justice and judgment.  As parents, you are to have
and to exercise authority in your own families.  You are not only to
advise and to recommend, but you are to command, and to be obeyed.  You
are “to rule your children and your own houses well; having your children
in subjection with all gravity; teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever Christ has commanded;” and ever, acting in accordance with the
vow which you have made, “as for me, _and my house_, we will serve the
Lord.”  Having baptized your children unto Christ, you have motives and
encouragements of the most powerful and constraining character, to “bring
them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  You can appeal to
them by the fact that you have given them to Christ; that you “have
opened your mouth unto the Lord concerning them, and you cannot go back;”
and that, by their baptism, they and you have incurred responsibilities
from which neither of you can be released, and which should lead both of
you to serious consideration, and to unreserved consecration to God.  Oh!
then, christian parents, use the power and the privilege which God hath
thus put into your hands; use them in connection with earnest and
unceasing prayer; enforce them by consistent and holy example; cherish
“the full assurance of hope” that, through the grace of God, you will
succeed.  And you shall succeed; “the Lord will bring upon you that which
he hath spoken.”  “He will be a God unto you, and unto your seed after
you.”  Your house shall be saved as well as yourself.  “He will pour out
his Spirit upon your seed, and his blessing upon your offspring; and they
shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One
shall say I am the Lord’s; another shall call himself by the name of
Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and
surname himself by the name of Israel.”

Finally, I appeal to you as _baptized children_; and while I congratulate
you on the blessed privilege of having been dedicated to God in your
infancy, I would seriously admonish you of the obligations and
responsibility which your baptism has imposed.  Almost as soon as your
existence commenced, you were brought to an ordinance which, like the bow
on the cloud, is the sign of God’s better and enduring covenant.  When
you were almost as unconscious as the cloud on which the rainbow shines,
God fixed upon you the sign and the seal of his new covenant
righteousness.  He did not wait till you had attained to years of
maturity, or even of intelligence; but before you could understand, he
taught you; before you could hear, he spoke to you; and his significant
language was, “You are come into a world of mercy as well as of pollution
and sin; and this baptismal water is an emblem of that ‘blood of
sprinkling,’ through which mercy may come to you.”  That baptism, beloved
young friends, has brought you into circumstances of great
responsibility.  It is an evidence that you were born into the midst of
gospel privileges.  It is a mark by which you are known to have been
dedicated to God.  It is a mark which never can be obliterated; which no
human efforts can wash out; which you will carry to the grave; and which
will be found upon you at the bar of God!  With this mark upon you, there
you will stand, not as “unclean children” and heathens, but as “the
children of the kingdom;” as disciples who have been introduced into
Christ’s school, and taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has
commanded.  By that baptism which you have received, and by those
commands which you have been taught to observe, you will then be judged.
And what will be your end, if you obey not the gospel of God!  In your
case especially, obedience is expected, because, in your case, it is
especially encouraged.  If there was much profit in circumcision, because
that unto them were committed the oracles of God, how much more profit is
there in baptism, because to you are committed, not only the Old
Testament oracles, but the New.  If he that was circumcised became
thereby “a debtor to do the whole law,” and “to fulfil all its
righteousness,” how much more are you, the baptized, debtors to believe
and to practice “the glorious gospel.”  You have been baptized unto
Christ, have you put on Christ?  You have been ceremonially qualified for
church communion, are you spiritually qualified?  You have been dedicated
to God by others in your baptism, have you dedicated yourselves to God?
You have been “born of water,” have you been “born of the Spirit?” “for
except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God.”  Nay, except you go back to your own infancy, and become
spiritually now, what you were naturally then—“except ye be converted and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of
heaven;” and “VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, WHOSOEVER SHALL NOT RECEIVE THE
KINGDOM OF GOD AS A LITTLE CHILD HE SHALL NOT ENTER THEREIN.”

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                   PRINTED BY JOSIAH FLETCHER, NORWICH.





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