The Covenant of Circumcision: No Just Plea For Infant Baptism
(This article has been slightly modified from its 1843 format to make it more readable for those who are accustomed to modern rules of style and grammar.)
Is there in the word of God any requisition upon Christians to attempt the introduction of their infant offspring into the visible church? Is the rite of baptism to be administered to them with this view? And though they cannot answer for themselves, nor exercise faith and repentance, are they to be baptized upon the alleged faith of their parents? To these questions all Baptist reply, NO. They thus place themselves in opposition to the prevalent belief and practice of a large portion of the Christian world. Nor is it only the current belief and practice of the Christian world to which they stand opposed, but to the opinions and customs of past ages. The position which they assume is in bold and open contradiction to the authority and learning of very many names, venerable for piety and usefulness, both in ancient and modern times. For it cannot be dissembled that the authorities for infant baptism date as far back as the close of the second century and the beginning of the third, so that it has at least the sanction of antiquity. And were it not that New Testament authority is wanting to it, that the sacred scriptures neither implicitly nor explicitly teach it, and that reason dissuades it, Baptist might be justly alarmed at the singularity of their attitude, and urged to compliance with a custom so ancient and respectable. They persuade themselves that they love their infants as much as others, that they as earnestly desire their salvation, and that they are as ready as others, to promote and facilitate by every lawful means their conversion to God; but they cannot be persuaded to adopt as a religious rite any tradition how ancient soever, nor to conform to a custom which, in its very institution, presupposes a defect in the Divine Law and Testimony. They conceive the inspired code of the Lord to be too perfect to leave space for any supplementary acts on their part, and therefore feel it solemnly binding on them to abjure the presumption of practicing uncommanded ordinances.
The Paedobaptist Position
It has been assumed that the connection subsisting between believing parents and their children, under the gospel dispensation, is precisely similar to that which previously intervened between parents and their offspring under the covenant of circumcision. Or, to express the matter more definitely, it is asserted by the advocates of infant baptism, that among all those embraced in the covenant of circumcision there was, between parents and children, a certain connection by virtue of which the children were circumcised, and admitted to all the blessings of the said covenant. This being the covenant of grace, and circumcision the seal of it; and the covenant of our Lord and Saviour being also the covenant of grace, and baptism being the seal of it, therefore, they allege, that the infants of those under the gospel covenant should be brought within the pale of the visible church by the ordinance of baptism.
To show that I do not mistake their views I shall here adduce the language of a few of their most judicious writers.
“The perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant, and of consequence the identity of the church under both dispensations, is so plainly taught in scripture, and follows so unavoidably from the radical scriptural principles concerning the church of God, that it is indeed wonderful how any believer in the bible can call in question the fact. Every thing essential to ecclessiastical identity is evidently found here. The same Divine Head, the same precious covenant, the same great spiritual design, the same atoning blood, the same sanctifying Spirit, in which we rejoice as the life and glory of the New Testament church were also the life and the glory of the church before the coming of the Messiah. It is not more certain that a man arrived at a mature age, is the same individual that he was when an infant on his mother’s lap, than it is that the church, in the plenitude of her light and privileges, after the coming of Christ, is the same church, which many centuries before, though with a much smaller amount of light and privilege, yet as we are expressly told in the New Testament, Acts vii. 38, enjoyed the presence and guidance of her divine head in the wilderness.”
“The point of primary importance in the present argument is, the connection established under the former economy between parents and their infant offspring. By virtue of that connection infants were circumcised, and if that connection has never been by divine appointment dissolved or diminished, then by virtue of that connection infants should be baptized. It is a connection in the covenant of grace, the covenant of redemption, the everlasting covenant, embracing all that man can desire, and all that Jehovah can impart.”
“Abraham was admitted to the rite of circumcision which was a testimony of his dependence upon the covenant of grace, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised.” Rom. iv. 11. That ordinance is now abolished. But we celebrate another which has succeeded it, and which is the standing means of admission into the Christian church.
“The covenant with Abraham being in reality the gospel covenant, set forth in types and figures according to the manner of ancient times, may we not from the use and efficacy of circumcision, believe that baptism the rite of initiation into the Christian church, is like it, a seal of the gospel covenant, and a declaration on the part of God, that he will count the faith of the baptized person for righteousness? And that like circumcision it may be administered to infants, to assure their parents that their future faith shall be accounted, and rewarded as righteousness, or if they die in infancy, that they shall be raised to eternal life? In this view the baptizing of infants is a reasonable rite, and must afford the greatest consolation to all pious parents.”
The production of authorities to prove the reliance of paedobaptists upon the Abrahamic covenant for the justification of infant baptism might be carried to an indefinite extent. All their writers, so far as I know, make this the main hinge of the whole argument. If there be any material disagreement among them I am not aware of it. Their comments upon the rite of circumcision from very ancient times, as may be seen both in the Greek and Latin writers, unite generally in assigning to it an import typical of baptism. The ancients in this particular have been followed by the moderns, and as often as the vindication of infant baptism has been attempted, so often the old Abrahamic seal has been re-proclaimed as an unanswerable argument. This has been pointed to as a standing monument whose inscription was to be known and read of all men, whose meaning was to admit of no doubt, and whose expressive evidence was to silence all disputation. Baptist and those of similar opinions have often examined and re-examined this Abrahamic monument with a view to ascertain its import; and after the most impartial investigation, and sober inquiry, and wakeful scrutiny, have brought back the solemn report, that it points to nothing bearing even the semblance of baptism.
We have reached and established (at least in our own minds) this conclusion by a careful discussion of the grounds and positions assumed and methodized by our opponents into what they consider, one irrefragable argument. The argument as we understand it is this.
“Under the former economy there existed betwixt parents and their infant offspring, a certain connection or relation, by virtue of which infants received circumcision, the then apparent sign or seal of the covenant of grace, and henceforth became entitled to all the benefits of that covenant. That connection or relation has not been dissolved under the gospel dispensation, the church of the former, being identical with the church of the latter, and differing from it only, as an infant on it mother’s lap, differs from the adult man. Therefore infants under the gospel dispensation are entitled to receive baptism–the seal of the new covenant and, consequently, it is the duty of their parents to have it administered to them.”
The foregoing paragraph contains as far a reduction of the several propositions as can be made under the circumstances of the case. It is a faithful abstract of the authorities referred to, and in my judgment, of all other reasonings and comments instituted with the view of substantiating the same propositions. Let the reader now revert to the three members of the formula and keep them steadily in view while the discussion is proceeding.
Parents and Children in the Old Testament
The first member of the argument asserts that under the former economy there existed between parents and their infant offspring, a certain connection or relation, by virtue of which infants received circumcision, the then visible sign or seal of the covenant of grace, and henceforth became entitled to all the benefits of that covenant. To the truth and justness of this proposition several exceptions occur which must be fatal to it. Let them emerge from obscurity and the whole argument is lost.
1. It is assumed that the covenant of circumcision is mainly and primarily the covenant of grace. But, had not the covenant of grace existed long before Abraham? And had it not been imparting its blessings to those who lived and died in faith long before that patriarch? By what covenant was it that righteous Abel was accepted and justified; that Enoch was raised to the dignity and privilege of walking with God; that Noah, impelled by faith in God’s revelations, prepared an Ark to the saving of himself and family and became a preacher of righteousness; and that the Spirit of God, when once his long suffering waiting in the days of Noah, sustained the litigation, the strife in human hearts, against human depravity? Surely it were an impossible presumption that faith and repentance, and all godly affections were produced and nurtured under a covenant of works. The promise of Jehovah to Abraham that he should be the honored progenitor of the Messiah; and the consequent extension of blessings to all the nations of the earth through him, did but define and ratify the gracious promise according to which he had been already justified while in uncircumcision, Rom. iv. 11. The former part of Hebrews xi. shows that the whole plan and process of justification by faith, was in operation for nearly two thousand years before circumcision was known.
2. The position to which we are now attempting to apply the test of truth affirms that the infant offspring of parents under the Abrahamic covenant had a title to all the benefits and blessings of that covenant and by consequence to the covenant of grace. From this we are left to infer most inevitably that the infant offspring of all believers anterior to Abraham had not this title; and therefore, if they participated at all in the provisions of the covenant of grace, it must have been a sort of unauthorized intrusion upon a province to which they had no claim. At this rate the children of the righteous men who were the very contemporaries of Abraham, such as Job and Melchizedek, would have been lawfully excluded from the consolations of that religion which had cheered and supported their parents in this life, and had fixed their hopes upon a glorious future. The truth, however, is, that Jehovah has never been, and never will be, a respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears God is accepted of him, irrespectively of all external distinctions and privileges. Circumcision then, could have brought the descendants of Abraham no nearer to grace, than uncircumcision, which latter was no bar to grace.
3. We are now prepared to deny the assumption, that the covenant of circumcision was mainly, or primarily, the covenant of grace. That it was collaterally and inferentially so is admitted. But if it were primarily and mainly so [then] the exclusion from grace of all mankind not embraced with the seal must follow as a necessary consequence. And this consequence has been not only admitted but strenuously urged by a large majority of those who have maintained the notion of identity of the Abrahamic dispensation with that of the Evangelical. According to them, infant baptism has been held as a rite, without the due administration of which, there was no obvious possibility of salvation to infants. Thy are at least consistent with themselves. If I could believe that baptism has come in lieu of circumcision, and that the latter rite was necessary to secure an interest in the covenant of grace under the former economy, then should I most assuredly believe that baptism is necessary to the salvation of the infants of all believing parents.
If it be asked, what was then the Abrahamic covenant of which circumcision was the seal, if it were not the one, true, and only covenant of grace? I reply: It did embrace prospectively the blessings of the Messiah’s Kingdom, and these blessings were to be irrespective of ceremonial marks, or limitation–and it did actually embrace the temporal provision of good things for those descendants of Abraham, who should bear the impress of the seal. The seal then had nothing to do with the spiritual and gracious import of the covenant, but only with its political and temporal bearing.
The learned Photius, patriarch of Constantinople about the middle of the ninth century, though admitting circumcision in a secondary sense to be a type of baptism, yet maintains its primary meaning to be political. He says, “Circumcision appears to me to intend three things. The first without doubt, is, that as a sign or seal it might separate, and distinguish from other nations, the posterity of Abraham.” Chrysostom, 39th Homily on Genesis, assigns the same reason for it. “The sign of circumcision,” he says, “separated the Jews from the other nations.” Theodoretus writes to the same effect. “The Jews in Canaan were about to be in the immediate proximity of nations differing from them, wherefore, they required of necessity a certain sign or mark to distinguish them from other nations.” Many other quotations might be presented, clearly indicative of the opinions of the most learned Greek fathers on the design of circumcision. But these may suffice.
The only portion of scripture which will be thought to oppose the foregoing opinion, is Rom. iv. 11, to which allusion has been already made. “And he, Abraham, received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised.” This scripture in no wise opposes the ground now taken. To Abraham as an individual, as one believing and acting for himself, and for no body else, circumcision was the seal of his justification by faith. It was to him the remembrancer of God’s unmerited grace in his election to salvation through faith and that not of himself, but the gift of God. But when this seal came to be applied to male infants of the children and posterity of Abraham, did it speak to them the same language that it did to him? In that case, many thousands of confirmed reprobates must have had, all the time of their profligacy and ungodliness, the seal of their justification by faith.
4. A certain connection or relation between believing parents and their offspring, is made a plea for infant baptism. To be sure, there is a certain connection or relation between all parents and their infant offspring. This cannot be denied. But is this anything more than a physical relationship? Does one imagine that gracious dispositions are transmissable by consanguinity? It is without doubt a great mercy to be descended of pious parents, a privilege by no means to be despised; but it is a privilege dependent wholly upon external circumstances. The child of the greatest saint on earth is naturally no nearer to God, than that of the greatest reprobate.
5. The argument of our Paedobaptist brethren takes for granted that baptism is the seal of New Testament blessings and therefore to be applied to infants. Against this position we must likewise raise the strong voice of protestation. We have only to deny their assumption and it instantly ceases to avail anything–for in the absence of proof, we may boldly deny any principle or any inference unless it be self evident. But in the whole New Testament history of baptism there is not the remotest intimation of such an idea. It appears not to have entered into the mind of our Lord, nor of his disciples, nor immediate successors, ever once to drop a hint which, even by allusion, can be so interpreted. Still the sacred word is not silent respecting the seal. Believers are sealed unto the day of redemption, and they are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, and hence derive a permanent, indelible character, which is true circumcision of the heart in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. This is the only act of obsignation which can be reasonable and proper; that which it is supposed baptism constitutes is preposterous, for if it can be called a seal, it is a seal for the ratification of a nonentity–nothing is sealed.
On this head there is some diversity of opinion among Paedobaptists. A large class of them hold and defend the idea that the obsignatory act of baptism, as they term it, does seal something; that some grace is imparted to the recipient and a new character impressed upon him. The baptismal service in the liturgy of the Episcopal Church requires the return of thanks to God for the presumed regeneration of the child by the act of baptism. This class of Paedobaptists are much opposed by their brethren who, on the other hand, deny the communication of any spiritual or moral qualifications in the baptismal administration to infants.
In my opinion the baptismal-regeneration class are more consistent at least with the principle assumed by both, and that is: that baptism is the seal of character and the evidence of title to privileges. Those advocates for infant baptism who admit that no spiritual or inward grace is conveyed thereby to the soul of the recipient seem to me to be inconsistent with themselves when they contend that baptism is a sealing ordinance. To call it the outward sign of an invisible grace is truly a misnomer, since no grace is thereby imparted. Should it be said that the grace derived from their pious parents, is that on which the seal is impressed, in the baptism of infants, the matter is still more inexplicable. The taint of original sin appears to run in the blood from father to son; and has assumed this order of propagation from Adam down to the present time. But if the word of God makes a true representation, there is no channel except that of regeneration, through which can flow those sanctifying virtues that go to correct this taint and cleanse the soul from its inherent pollution.
6. But if all the intents and purposes of circumcision be responded to and verified by baptism, how are we to account for the remarkable declarations in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians touching the subject of circumcision? In chapter the fifth he strongly deprecates the imputation of preaching circumcision and clears himself of the charge by repeated denials. In declining to preach it he had suffered persecution, had in a manner expatriated himself from his nation, and become the demolisher of that which he once built up. His Jewish brethren converted to the Christian faith and others who thought that the covenant of circumcision should be still observed, is the part with which he is contesting the important point.
Had it been a fact that baptism had taken the place of circumcision, it is wonderful that Paul refrained, under such circumstances, from its assertion. As the party which he labored to convince, attached so much importance to circumcision, and were therefore almost pertinacious in their purpose of retaining it, to satisfy their scruples, he could have said, and in my judgment should have said, “It is true that circumcision was the seal of the Abrahamic covenant, that all the male descendants of that patriarch, received this seal, and were thereby admitted to the blessings and privileges of the covenant; but NOW, a new seal is introduced, a new ordinance, more befitting the diffusive nature of gospel blessings, and more reasonable in point of signification; that ordinance is baptism, which is applied not only to the male but to the female offspring of all believers who become in consequence the spiritual seed of Abraham.” There is, however, no such intimation in anything which the apostle utters. Wherever he mentions circumcision as having a typical sense, it is invariably referred to the work of moral renovation by the spirit of God. “He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God,” Rom. ii. 29. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ,” Col. ii. 11. “For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Phil. iii. 3. This transfer of the literal and external idea of the rite to the characteristics of the spiritual and internal grace, is most forcible and apposite. As an illustration it is replete with a meaning that must reach every heart. But the same idea transferred to baptism whether of infants, or of adults, falls vapid and insignificant upon the understanding of everyone.
7. In the baptismal controversy much reliance has been placed upon the assumed identity of the Jewish and the Christian church. It is urged that they differ in no other respect than that in which the periods of infancy and mature age differ in the same individual. The church of God, it is said, was in its minority under the former dispensation, and in the latter, it is the same church having attained the manly age and freedom. From this identity it is argued that the infant offspring of those within the gospel church, have a sort of a birth-right privilege, founded upon their descent.
To exhibit the utter futility of this argument, we have only to suppose a case. A preacher of the gospel stands for the first time before a congregation of unconverted persons, of whom one half are the children of pious parents who took early care to draw over them the veil of the covenant, as they thought, by applying to them the substitute for circumcision, namely baptism. The other half are the children of parents who adopted no such precautions. The preacher opens and expounds the terms of his commission to this whole company. He informs them that, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; that God now commands all men everywhere to repent,” that a free and full salvation is now proclaimed without distinction of men or nation, to all the human family; and adds with full and gracious emphasis, “Whosoever will, let him come, and take the water of life freely.” I ask, does the preacher furnish a just view of the gospel commission? If he does, he places the whole congregation upon one footing, and offers for the conversion of the privileged portion no facilities or encouragements more than to that which stands upon uncovenanted ground. But the moment he draws a line of distinction between this ungodly assemblage and represents a part of them as being more welcome to the Saviour than the rest, he compromises his commission, and also the Truth itself. Where then, I ask, are the covenanted privileges of infant baptism? Infant baptism must either accomplish something, or nothing. If no object be attained by it, then it is a perfect nullity, if not worse. If some end, some good purpose, some benevolent intention be ensured by it, what is that end, that purpose, that design? Does it introduce the infant into the visible church? Does it more certainly procure for it the privileges of the covenant of grace? Does it supply motives and circumstances by which gracious predispositions to godliness and piety are excited within it, or else thrown about it? If it accomplish all this, or even any part of it, then baptized infants are not the same strangers from God and aliens from the covenant of promise as others. They are not sinners in the same sense as others, they need not repentance in the same sense as others, their calling and election, require not the same efficiency of grace for their certification, and they accordingly need a less effort of grace for their justification and deliverance from the effects of sin.
It is unnecessary to proceed in developing the consequences which must unavoidably result from the assumptions of those who defend infant baptism. Such consequences are as abhorrent from the deductions of sound reason as they are from the genius of the gospel. For in real, sober, unaffected truth, the baptism of infants leaves them just where it found them. It is not possible in the nature of things nor according to the constitution of the gospel economy that it should modify either their state or moral character. We have for many centuries, as a denomination, borne our strong, and decided testimony against it. Our opinions are gaining ground, and the doctrines held by our paedobaptist brethren are surely receding from the bold stand which they once occupied. There is scarcely a Paedobaptist church, either in England or America, without some anti-paedobaptists. They are to be found where they are, from causes and circumstances wholly disconnected with Paedobaptist predilections. They are permitted to remain there in the open neglect of an alleged duty; and even while their opinions and sentiments are known to be opposed to that alleged duty. But is there a Baptist church in existence, which admits to fellowship in the privileges of the Lord’s house those who neglect conformity to the requisition of Christ, in regard to baptism, and who justify themselves in that neglect? Should it be said, that this is because we are less liberal than others, we reply: Let us be forever delivered from that liberality which prostrates the authority of Christ.
Baptism and Circumcision
In the remarks for which the limits of this work allow further space, I shall prove to the satisfaction at least of the unprejudiced that there can be no proper and rational connection or similitude between circumcision and baptism. This I shall attempt by comparing the nature, uses, and ends of both.
1. Circumcision had no necessary connection with the covenant of grace, for if it had then it should have been administered to all the saints prior, and subsequent to Abraham. It is altogether admissible, nay it is manifest that the church as it existed in spiritual relation to Jehovah, and to its own members, was the same before and after Abraham. Faith in God was the common bond of union and the basis of identity. In this respect Abraham and his pious descendants were in exact agreement and similarity with Abel and Seth and Enoch and Noah and Lot, as Melchizedek and Job and all the members of the antediluvian as well as the postdiluvian church, who knew nothing about circumcision. The rite in question, therefore, was not essential to an interest in the covenant of grace. But it was indispensably necessary to an interest in the national blessings promised to Abraham and his posterity under the seal of circumcision. A linial descendant of Abraham if uncircumcised was excluded by the express command of God from citizenship in the Jewish nation and from all its attendant privileges.
From all this it follow incontestably that circumcision was the mark of nationality, that it belonged to a temporal policy, and was not the necessary obsignation of moral character. Baptism on the other hand, though not essential to salvation, [is closely attached to it] by an order of events which no man dares to change. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The first duty after faith is baptism. This is the law of the evangelical economy, and so universally binding is it, that its wilful neglect and violation must be always attended with sin in a greater or less degree. Many, it is true, may be admitted to a participation in the benefits of salvation without baptism. Their sin of omission may be excused and forgiven, on various grounds; but neither its excusableness nor its forgiveness can in any wise invalidate the order of scripture. The succession of salvation to faith and baptism stands as the permanent and unalterable gradation of events in the gospel plan. The great author and finisher of our faith has not informed us how this gradation may be disturbed without destroying the hope of salvation; but he has plainly intimated to us that the servant who knows his Lord’s will and doeth it not, may expect no very favorable reception of his Lord, but may rather look for the infliction of stripes.
2. Whatever circumcision might have been, it did not distinguish the righteous from the wicked. It did distinguish one family from all other families, and nations. It was a discriminating mark, by which that one family should be kept within the line of its own proper descent from one generation to another. But amid the most open, and grievous apostacies of the Jewish people, their national seal continued to be impressed upon all their male offspring as strictly as in the most prosperous times of piety; nor was it ever a doctrine among them that impiety of conduct subsequent to the reception of the seal in any manner annulled their claim to the privileges of which it was the sign. As an ordinance enjoined in the terms of the new covenant, baptism is a rite designed to distinguish between the godly and the ungodly. In it believers are buried and risen with Christ; it is the signal of their crucifixion and resurrection with their Lord and Saviour and the remembrancer of their entire consecration to his service. Deliberate and continual wickedness after baptism manifestly excludes the delinquent party from all the privileges of the visible church and places him in no better relation to that church than a heathen may possess.
3. The covenant of grace had its accomplishment in the person, offices, sufferings, and crucifixion of Christ. He undertook to fulfil its stipulations and did actually, and truly conduct it to the glorious height of a full consummation. Thus completed, thus secured against all possibility of change or retraction, it is in due course of administration under the plans and arrangements of the gospel dispensation. This is Messiah’s kingdom, a kingdom not of this world, but of the spiritual, invisible world. It stands open for the reception of people of all nations, and kindreds, and tongues. It creates a holy unity among all those embraced within its influence by the infusion of a gracious spirit into their hearts and by imparting to them the cementing charities of regeneration. They have become “A chosen generation, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness, into his marvellous light.” There is henceforth “Neither Jew, nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female,” but all are one in Christ. The extension of blessings to all mankind, and the wide diffusion of light and mercy in the joyful sound of salvation are the well known characteristics of the New Testament dispensation. Does any rite or ordinance, commemorative of the restrictive and circumscribed economy of an obsolete ceremonial, comport with the expansive benevolence and grace of the gospel? To our Paedobaptist brethren we must speak on this topic with great frankness and affection. When your children, on whom you have procured the administration of baptism, ask you, “What mean ye by this service?” what reply, which shall not perplex and mystify the word of God, can you make? Will you tell them that baptism is a substitute for circumcision; that they are now under the seal of the covenant of grace, and entitled to all its privileges; and that they are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise? And if they ask you again, what mean ye, by the word seal? You must surely tell them, if consistent with yourselves, that it is the external sign of an internal grace. But if you inform them that it is a sign that signifies nothing, that it is merely the shadow of a shade, they will surely think that an illusive mockery has been practised upon them. And if you persuade them that baptism is regeneration, and they are induced to believe what you say, as a matter of course they will seek no other regeneration and will rest in the groundless confidence that they are already secure of all the provision of the gracious covenant.
4. Circumcision preceded all knowledge and consciousness on the part of the male infants upon whom it was inflicted. According, however, to the very institution of baptism, it succeeds knowledge, faith, and the conscious persuasions of the mind. So often as baptism is mentioned in the entire New Testament, so often is it preceded by the mental and moral actions of its recipients. John baptized only upon a profession of repentance; the Saviour commanded baptism only as consequent upon faith. The apostles and primitive disciples, so far as we know, baptized none except upon profession of faith in Christ. The baptism of infants breaks the sacred order of succession in the gospel plan and inverts the scale of duty. For duty proceeds from conviction and faith, while Paedobaptism places action even before rational consciousness of any sort. Surely we do not misname it, when we say it is preposterous. It places the consequent where the antecedent should be, and thus disturbs the settled harmony of truth and obedience.
Can it therefore be imagined that circumcision which was applied to passive and unconscious subjects was intended to typify baptism, which was never applied, according to New Testament authority, to any but intelligent, conscious, and responsible agents?
5. Baptism affects the whole body, being its thorough immersion into water in the name of the adorable Trinity. Of this fact, there can be little doubt left to any reader of the New Testament, in any language. Had we been present at the administrations of this ordinance, which took place in the days of our Saviour and his apostles, and were now about to render in our testimony, as to the mode which was then adopted, we might of course speak with irresistible confidence and certainty. As eye witnesses, if our credibility in other respects were not impeachable, we should be entitled to the most explicit belief. But, neither have we been eye witnesses, nor has one come from the dead to certify to us the rectitude of our views and practice. The ground of our confidence, however, in their exact accordance with the views and practices of the apostolic age are as strong and undeniable as if they were vouched for by eye-witnesses or by those who arose from the dead. The strong, repeated, and unambiguous terms in which the form of baptism is made known to us allow very little room even for captiousness to exert itself. It must be a mind addicted to quibbling, and exceedingly unhinged by the oscillations of doubt which can find uncertainty in the meaning of the word baptism. If is a word of full and definite import. It is expressive of an action, with accompany facts and circumstances which cannot be misunderstood. Water sufficient for immersion is, in the New Testament, often placed in direct connection with baptism and is always necessarily presupposed. The word in English most nearly equivalent to it is immersion, and though every immersion is not baptism, yet every baptism is immersion. That the baptism of the Saviour himself was the immersion of his body under the waves of Jordan’s stream by John, cannot be well and fairly doubted, because it is expressly said, He emerged, which he could not have done unless he had been first immerged. And that the Saviour commanded in the great commission the administration of baptism in the same sense, in which he himself had received it, cannot be consistently questioned. Is there any expressiveness in circumcision consonant with this just and scriptural view of baptism? Can any possible analogy be traced between the two rites?
In conclusion, Let us rejoice that Christ has made us free from the covenant of circumcision, that the old Mosaic yoke is broken, that we are the subjects of a dispensation in which God deals with all men alike, and is graciously willing to accept all who come to him through Christ Jesus.