Ralph Wardlaw.

A dissertation on the Scriptural authority, nature, and uses, of infant baptism online

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tuig any thing in the room of Christ. Let us be-
ware of refusing to acknowledge, in the character of

♦ Job xii. 2, 3.

B



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18 INTRODUCTORY OBSBRYATIONS.

"brethren beloved," any who give evidence that
"Christ has received them." To a believer's mind,
there is something inexpressibly awful in the idea of
his affections being confined within narrower limits
than the love of Jesus ; — of any consideration being a
bar against admission into his heart, that does not
exclude from the heart of his Divine Master ; — of any
being refused a part in his prayer for the household
of faith, who are subjects of the Saviour's intercession
within the vail !

Pitiably dreary must be the mind of that man, who
can look round on the wide world, and count his
dozen or his score, whom alone he can salute as
brethren, or expect to accompany to heaven! — ^Far
from me and from my christian friends be that self-
sufficient bigotry, which freezes the fountain of love,
and keeps the heart cold under the melting beams of
the sun of righteousness ! — ^While we seek the Spirit
of Christ for the discernment of truth and duty, and
for enabling us, meekly but firmly, to adhere to what
we deem his revealed will ; let us, on the point before
us, and on other similar particulars, bear with diver-
sity of judgment in those who "hold the Head," and
who give evidence, in their general character, that
they do not resist or trifle with the authority of the
same Lord — "both theirs and ours."

" Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus
Christ IN SINCERITY !" — whose love to him is not the
faithless profession of lying Ups, nor the lukewarm
fickleness of a heart divided between him and the
world, — ^but unfeigned, supreme, and constant; — ^re-



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INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS. 19

garding its object in his true character, as the Divine
and only Saviour; — ^and evincing its reality by a life
of holy obedience and unreserved submission to his
will, — ^by a desire to know and to follow, in every
thing, the light of his word !

Under the influence of such feelings as these, I
desire to pursue the present discussion. I shall divide
niy argument into three general heads, and shall allot
to each a distinct section : —

I. The divinely instituted practice, previously to
the New Testament dispensation, and the absence of
all evidence authorising a departure from that prac-
tice under it : —

n. Evidence of the fact, that, instead of such de-
parture being authorised, the children of converts to
the faith of the gospel were actually baptized along
vnth their parents, in the time of the apostles : —

lU. The important truths and duties which the
baptism of infants exhibits, and impresses upon our
minds; and the perfect consistency of the adminis-
tration of this ordinance to them with all that the
Bible teaches us respecting them, as subjects of salva-
tion, and of the kingdom of heaven.



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20 OLD TESTAMENT PRACTICE,



SECTION I.



THE DIVINELY INSTITUTED PRACTICE PREVIOUSLY TO THE
NEW TESTAMENT DISPENSATION, AND THE ABSENCE OF
ALL EVIDENCE AUTHORISING A DBFA&TURB FROM THAT
PRACTICE UNDER IT.

We State our argument thus : — Before the tfmmg of
Christy the covenant of grace had been revealed; and
under that covenant there existed a divinely institut-
ed connexion between children and their parents ; the
sign and seal of the blessings of the covenant was,
^ divine appointment, administered to children ; and
there can be produced no satisfactory evidence of this
connexion having been done away.

It is not my purpose to enter very largely into
the mde field which these propositions^ directly and
indirectly, emhrace. I shall endeavour, as briefly as
I can, to establish the two following points: — 1.
That the covenant of promise made by Gknl with
Abraham was, in substance, the new covenant, — ^the
covenant of grace, — the same covenant which, under
a fuller, and clearer, and simpler discovery of it, forms



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AND NO PROOF OP REPEAL. 21

now the basis of the christian ohnroh t-Hmd^ 2. That
the ordinance of circumcision was connected with the
Abrahamic covenant, in this view of it.

1. (X the first of these two propositions^ that the
covenant made with Abraham was the gospel cove-
nant, the proof is, or ought to be, very short. It is
the plain and positive declaration of an ini^ired
iqiostle.. The reader will find it in the third chapter
of the Efostle to the Gaktians, the 17th and 18th
verses: — '^And this I say, that the covenant which
*'waa confirmed before of God in Christ, the law,
''which w» four hundred and thirty years after,
''caDBot disannul, that it should make the promise
''of God of no effect. For if the inheritance be of
"the law, it is. no more of promise; but God gave
"it to Abraham by promise." — 1 have never, I con-
fess, been aUe to fancy to myself any thing plainer
than this; and althon^ much has been said and
writt^i calculated^ to mystify ihe subject, and involve
it IB perplexity, h^re it stands as plain as ever. The
covenant q>di:en of in these words was not the law,
or SmaiHt eavmant; for it existed four hundred and
thirty years before it, and was not at all disannulled
or set aside by it : - ^it was a covenant of jpromue, as
opposed, m the apostle's reasoning, to any thing rest-
ing on the conditions of law : — it was "confirmed
before of God in Chrui,*' -^sn expression whidi,
translate it as you will, can be naturally apj^ed to
no other covenant but one :-^and believers in Christ,
under the New Testament diiq[>ensation, are declared,
in the concluding verse of the same chapter, to be



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22 OLD TESTAMENT PRACTICE,

"heirs according to the promise" of that coTenant.
Take the three expressions, in the 16th, the 18th,
and the 29th verses in connexion, (for there is no-
thing in the intermediate statement and reasoning to
disjoin them, but only Unks that bring them toge-
ther), and this will be strikingly apparent : — "Now
to Abraham and his seed were the promises made :'*
— "If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of
promise ; but God gave it to Abraham by promise :'*
— "and if ye be Christ's, then are ye AhrahanCs seed,
and heirs according to the promise,'* — Heirs of what ?
Of the inheritance promised, in the covenant, to Abra-
ham and his seed. The covenant, therefore, contain-
ed the promise of the heavenly or eternal inheritance.
But, except as couched under the promise of the earth-
ly, the temporal, the typical inheritance, it contained
no such thing. Both the earthly and the heavenly,
'then, were the subjects of promise; and of both alike
it is affirmed, that they were obtained and held, not
by law, but btf faith in the promise. Had it been
otherwise, the type would have failed in one of the
most important and interesting points of resemblance.
— ^The same lesson is taught with no less plainness
and decisiveness, in Rom. iv. 13, 14. "For the pro-
"mise, that he should be the heir of the world, was
"not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law,
" but through the righteousness of faith. For if they
" who are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and
" the promise made of none effect." — ^It is needless
to enlarge on the particular phrase here used^ " the
promise that he should be the heir of the world.'*



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AND NO PROOF OF REPEAL. 23

It holds the same place in the reasoning in this pas-
sage, that the simpler designation ** the inheritance "
does, in the epistle to the Gkdatians. It will be ad-
mitted to include the promise of the earthly Canaan ;
— ^for the literal terms of the covenant specified it,
and it alone ; and it were strange if the inheritance
specifically mentioned in the terms of the covenant,
should not be meant at all when the promise of the
covenant is spoken of: and there can be as little
doubt that in the apostle's reasoning the heavenly in-
heritance is assumed to be also included, since it is
respecting it that his inferences and conclusions are
drawn. — ^The covenant, then, which was ^^ confirmed
of Grod in Christ," — ^which preceded the law by four
hundred and thirty years, and was entirely indepen-
dent of it, — which was founded in free promise, in
opposition to legal conditions, — and which contained
amongst its promises that of the heavenly inherit-
ance, of which New Testament believers are heirs ; —
this covenant must be in substance the same with
the gospel, or the covenant of grace.

2. Our second proposition, and one of primary
importance in the present discussion, is, that the rite
of circumcision was connected with this covenant, as
a covenant of spiritual blessings. I have dwelt the
more briefly on the first, because the discussion
of the second will serve further to illustrate and
confirm it.

This second proposition appears to me as evident,
as the terms of a plain historical narrative can make
it. The following is thp account of the matter in



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24 OLD TKSTAMENT PRACTICE,

the book of Genesis : — ** And when Abram was
''ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to
''Abram, and said nnto him, I am the Ahnighty
"God; walk before me, and be thon perfect. And
"I will make my covenant between me and thee,
"and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram
"fell on his face : and God talked with him, saying,
" As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and
" thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neidier
"shall thy name any more be called Abram; but
"thy name shall be Abraham : for a father of many
" nations have I made thee. And I will make tibee
" exceeding fruitful, aiid I will make nations of thee,
"and kings shall come out of thee. And I will
"establish my covenant between me and thee, and
"thy seed after t^ee, in their generations, for an
"everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and
" to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto dtee>
" and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou
" art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an ever-
" lasting possession ; and I will be their God. And
"God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my
"covenant ther^ore, thou, and thy seed after thee,
" in their generations. This is my covenant^ whidi
" ye shall keep between m^ and you, and thy seed
" after thee : — ^Every man-child among you shall be
" circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of
" your foreskin ; and it shall be a token of the cove-
" nant betwixt me and you." Gen. xvii. 1 — 11.

Such are the terms of the covenant to which the
ordinance of circumcision was annexed, and which



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AND NO PROOF OF REPEAL* 25

we affirm to be in substance the ooTenmit of gnoe. —
There are two theories of explatiatioii» bj which our
biqptist brethren have attem^^ed to evade the oondn-
sion to vrbidi this would lead. To each ai these I
must beg the reader's attention.

1. The first of the two, and the moie ordinary
one, is that whidi all^pes, that the covenant made
with Abraham consisted properly of two dtsHnet eave-
nantSy the one a covenant of temporal promiaes, the
other of ^nritual; the former having reference to
the natural, and the latter to the spiritual seed of
Abraham ; and that it was with the former, and not
with the lattOT, that circumcision was connected.

On thas representation of the case let it be ob-
served.

In the firH pkce, that no iuch duHndum appear*
on the face of the narrative. Circumcision is en)oin-
ed, as die token of ''the covenant,'* considered as
comprdiending all the hleemnge enumerated as per-
taining to it. It is not said, that ciroumctsion was
to be the token of that part of the covenant that
engaged for ten^nd blessings to Abrahun's fleshly
seed ; but of the covenant throuffhout, as exhibited in
the above passage. There is nothing whatever in the
simple statement of the history, not even ihe most
remote insinuaticm, that warrants the introduction of
the distinction in question*

Seeondkf : No such distinction is any where dis-
cenuble tn the apoetl^e reasoning^ It is neither di-
rectly made, nor even incidentally aUuded to. The
blessings of the covenant in gi^iieiid, all its blessings.



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26 OLD TESTAMENT PRACTICE^

temporal and spiritual, and especially the two inheri-
tances, the earthly an\i the heavenly, the typical and
the typified, are there represented as alike given by
promise, as obtained and held by the same seed, on
the same ground: — Gal. iii. 15, 16 — "Brethren, I
" speak afler the manner of men : though it be but a
" man's covenant, yet, if it be confirmed, no man dis-
"annulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham
" and his seed were the promises made : he saith not,
" And to seeds, as of many, but as of one. And to
"thy seed, which is Christ." — ^What we have at
present to notice is, not the promises themselves, or
the seed to whom they were made, but the simple
£iict, stated in terms the most plain and unequivocal,
that "the promises*' of the covenant, without any
hinted discrimination, were made to the same seed
on the same ground.

Thirdly : The rite of circumcision itself is admitted
by our baptist brethren in general, to be significant
of spiritual blessings : — ^who, indeed, that attentively
reads either Old or New Testament, can question it ?
It is significant, according to a writer on that side of
the controversy, of " cleansing from sin " — ^and " not
" only of the purity of moral hoHness, but also of the
"cleansing from the guilt of sin in justification."
And, agreeably to this spiritual import of the rite, we
so frequently read of the " circumcision of the heart,"
with other equivalent phrases ; which the apostle fine-
ly explains, when he says, " He is not a Jew who is
" one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is
"outward in Uie flesh ; but he is a Jew who is one



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AND NO PROOF OF REPEAL. 27

'^ inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in
" the spirit and not in the letter ; whose praise is not
''of men, hut of God." Rom. ii. 28, 29. Now it
is not easy to perceive, with what propriety, or con-
sistency, a sign, admitted to he significant of the
highest spiritual hlessings, should he made the seal,
or the token, of a covenant of temporal promises and
temporal hlessings alone. — Consistency seems to re-
quire, either that the spiritual signification of circum-
cision should he given up, or that the covenant, of
which it was the appointed token, should he allowed
to have contained spiritual as well as temporal pro-
mises.

Fourthly : Circumcision is most expressly prcnounc'
ed by the^apoatle, to have heen a sign and a seal of
^ritual hlessingsy and especially of that first hless-
ing of the gospel covenant, justification by faith .—
'' Ahraham," says he, ''received the sign of drcum-
" dsion, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which
"he had heing yet undrcumdsed ; that he might he
"the fisither of all them that helieve, though they he
"not circumcised, that righteousness might he imput-
" ed unto them also," Rom. iv. 1 1 : — the meaning of
which words evidently is, not that the sign of circum-
cision was to Ahraham the seal of his own personal
justification, — ^for this would have heen incompatihle
with subsequent trial, and with his "giving diligence,"
like other believers, " to make his calling and election
sure," — ^inasmuch as it is impossible to arrive at a
greater degree of certainty, than that which is given
by the sealed testimony of God ; — ^but rather, that



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28 OLD TESTAMENT PRACTICE,

it was the seal of that covenant* according to whose
provisions, all sinners, believing as he believed, were,
like him, to be justified by faith. — ^To this covmant,
according to the apostle, circumdrion was ann^ed.

Fifthly: By those who hold this distinction, the
temporal half of the covenant is supposed to have
been the same with the law or Sinai covenant, which
was entered into four hundred and thirty years after
with the people of Israel, the natural descendants of
Abraham. — 'Now I must beg the reader to observe,
how greatly this view mars the force, and invalidates
the conclusiveness, of the apostle's argument, with re«
gard to the ground of Abraham's justification. — In
dioae parts of his Epistles to the Romans and to the
Galatians where this subject is treated of, his leading
design is to prove, for the estaUishmmt of Jewish
and Grentile believers, for the conviction of his un-
bdieving countrymen, and for the refutation of £^e
teadiers, the doctrine of ju^ification by grace, as hav-
ing been, from the beginning, the doctrine of the word
of God* He selects, as an instance to his purpose,
the case of Abraham. He shows that this patriarch,
in whom the Jews ware wont to glory, was himself
justified, not by the law, but on the footii^ of a cove-
nant which was made four hundred and thirty years
before it. Now, if this covenant be considered as
entisdy distinct i&om the law, the ai^ument is per-
spicuous and condusive. But it requires no great
measure of penetration to perceive, how much its
force and decisiveness ase impaired by the view which
I am opposing; according to i^i^iidi, the law, instead



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AND NO PROOF OF REPEAL. 29

of being four hundred and thirty years after this
covenant^ and altogether distinct from it, was in ftct
coeval with it, and formed one of its branches. I
appeal to every candid and discerning mind, if this
does not introduce confusion and feebleness into the
apostle's reasoning. Surely, without some further ex-
planations and dbtinctions, which he has not thought
it necessary to introduce, it cannot be deemed a y^
appropriate or satisfactory inference, — that Abraham
coidd not be justified by the Imo, beeause he was justi-
fied on the footii^ of a eovenant of whit^ the law
was apart!

11, The second of the two theories of explanation,
by which our baptist brediren parry the conclusion,
dedudble from the annexation of the rite of dreum-
dsicm to a covenant of spiritual promises and bless-
ings, is this : — they distinguish between the difierent
appearances of God to Abraham, recorded, respective-
ly, in the twelfth, the fifteenth, and the seventeenth
chapters of the book of Genesis, and represent them
as having been, not repetitions of the same covenant,
in different forms, under different circumstances, and
with different d^rees of enlargement and particular-
ity of detail, but so many distinct covenants. — ^That
whidi was made first, and which is contained in
the twelfth chapter, is conceived by them to be the
one referred to in the apostle's reasoning, as having
been four hundred and thirty years before the law,
because, upon calculation, this time corresponds with
the date of it, and, consequ^itly, of i,t only. This
they admit to be the gospel covenant, containing the



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30 OLD TESTAMENT PRACTICE,

specific promise, " In thee shall all the families of the
earth be blessed." That, on the contrary, of which
we have so particular an account in the seventeenth
chapter, they conceive to be a covenant of temporal
blessings only, and to bear relation solely to the flesh-
ly seed or natural o£Pspring of Abraham. To this
covenant, it is alleged, circumcision was annexed, and
not to the former; and it is it that is denominated
*' the covenant of circumcision."

This is the view adopted by the late Mr Archi-
bald Maclean, in his Review of my Lectures on the
Abrahamic Covenant. In his previous publications,
he had avowed and argued upon the other. Whe-
ther, when he adopted this new theory, he had at all
felt his former ground insecure, I will not presume
to say. But although Dr. Cox, in his Treatise before
referred to, pronounces the Review a "masterly per-
formance," and, on the subject now before us, adopts
the ground on which it proceeds, it does, I con-
fess, appear to me to be ground far less tenable than
even the former. If the former was sand, this is
quicksand.

The following is the brief record of the transaction
in the twelfth chapter: "Now the Lord had said unto
" Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy
"kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land
" that I will show thee : and I will make of thee a
"great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy
" name great ; and thou shalt be a blessing : and I
" will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that
" curseth thee : and in thee shall all families of the



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AND NO PROOF OF REPEAL. 31

" earth be blessed." Gen. xii. 1 — 3. I have formerly
quoted the tenns of the covenant of circumcision in
the seventeenth chapter. See page 24. It ought to
require no more than the simple reading of the two
passages together, to satisfy any unprejudiced mind,
that the latter, though not containing the precise words
which are alleged to be the gospel promise, is yet but
an amplification of the former : — especially when it is
considered, that the covenant recorded in the fifteenth
chapter, on the statement of which the apostle founds
his principal argument for the justification of Abra-
ham hy faith without the deeds of the law, doe% not
contain the promise, on which so much stress is laid,
that *' in him and in his seed should all the families
" of the earth be blessed." It contains no more than
the assurance of the increase of his seed: — "He
"brought him forth abroad, and said. Look now
" toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able
" to number them : and he said unto him, so shall
"thy seed be. And he beUeved the Lord, and he
" counted it to him for righteousness." Gen. xv. 5, 6.
The gospel, then, must have been involved in the
, promise thus given and believed : — for it will not
surely be disputed, that it was by the faith of the
gospel that Abraham was justified.

But what most of all surprises me, in regard to this
hypothesis, is, that that particular covenant which is
supposed to be a covenant of temporal blessings only,
to the natural offspring of Abraham, should be the
very covenant of which the terms are most distinctly
and most frequently quoted, in the New Testament,



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32 OLD TESTAMENT PRACTICE,

with a spiritual interpretation. That Mr Maclean
should haTe been goiltj of such an oversi^tt, affords,
I fear, only one exemplification amongst many, of a
defect to iidnch even the acutest and most yigonras
minds are liable, the unconsciously blinding intu^ioe
of attachment to system. — But let me brin^ a proof
or two of my position : —

1. Gen. xvii. 4, 5. *' As for me, behold my ooTe-
*'nant is with thee, and tkou 9haU be a father of
" many natiana. Neitiier shall thy name be caUed any
'* more Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham ; for
*' a father (^ many nations have I made ihee.^' — It
was not, a priori, probable, that the memorable cir-
cumstance, of the divinely intimated change of the pa-
triardi's name, should have been associated with any
covenant inferior to that whidi contained the best and
highest blessings ; which God here, as in many other
places, appropriately dedgnates "my covenant."* —

'*' The diange of Sarah*8 name on the same oocaaon, is far
from affording any vidid o^fection to this remark. It is true
that the seal of the covenant Tvas exdusively appropriate
to one sex. But to talk of this is mere trifling; as if any
one ever alleged that Abraham^s change of name had been '
introduced on account of his circumcision f No : it was on
account of the Covenant of which drcumeision was the seal :
and of that covenant Saxah was, by faith, a subject, as well as
he, and equally interested in its provisions, both as they regard,
ed herself and her promised offspring. That the promise of
her being '' a mother of nations *' was " of purely temporal
reference,'' is by no means so manifest as has been hastily and
confidently assumed. Connected as it is, on the same occasion,
with Abraham's being a ** father of many nations," there is



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AND NO PROOF OF REPEAL. 33^

Accordingly, the very promise in the above verses is
most expressly applied, by the apostle, to the spiritual
seed of Abraham as the father of the faithful, — ^the
^siritual father of believers in all nations : — Bom. iv.
16, 17. ''Therefore it is of faith, that it might be
'' by grace ; to the end the promise might be sure



Online LibraryRalph WardlawA dissertation on the Scriptural authority, nature, and uses, of infant baptism → online text (page 3 of 25)