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N. B. Should the Index and the Southern Baptist publish my original article on this subject, then you might, Mr. Editor, generously allow three columns for one by admitting this lengthened reply.
THE ALLEGED DECREASE OF INFANT BAPTISM. The cause of ducking grown persons (we use the words as the only proper contrast to the contemptuous nickname ascribed to us by the editors of the Southern Baptist,) is based essentially upon the letter which killeth, and not upon the Spirit which giveth life.
Of this we have a striking example in a long article inserted in the above paper by one who has gone under the water," and been ducked after having received "baby sprinkling," and who seems desirous therefore that others should submit to the same “ordinance of man.”
In this article it is gravely attempted to prove that infant baptism is on the decrease because of the small number of reported baptisms in the printed minutes of the General Assembly of our Church, compared with the number of members in many particular churches.
Now on this argument we would observe that it is very inconclusive. It is so, 1st. Because the number of children baptized may be necessarily less during one year than another: 2d. Because there may be, as there undoubtedly is, great negligence in making up an accurate record and report: 3d. Because there may be typographical error in the printing of the figures, as in the case of one church mentioned, where the number ought to have been at least sixteen, as there have been at least 12 baptisms in it within six months; and 4th. Because a real decrease of infant baptism would be shown by the real increase of adult baptisms in the same report, which is however not the case.
The foundation of the argument therefore is baseless, and only shows how eager "the friends of adult ducking" are to "compass sea and land to make one proselyte." It conveys however an admonition to all our pastors to be more careful in reporting all the baptisms, both white and coloured, which have taken place in their congregations.
The same paper feels called upon to vindicate their denomination against the "charge of being remiss in the religious training of their children." While doing so, they say:
"There is one body of christians that we candidly confess surpasses us in fidelity to the young. We mean the Presbyterians. To no other religious society do we feel under obligation to make this concession, and there are probably those who will question the justice of even this acknowledgment. Whatever may be the cause or causes that have secured for our Presbyterian brethren an honorable pre-eminence in this department of christian duty, one thing is very clear-Infant Sprinkling is not that cause. If it were, then would Episcopalians be in advance of them, and Methodists not behind them, whilst, in fact, both are quite as far behind as ourselves.
“We have said this much, not to excuse Baptists for their sins, but to repel an unjust insinuation sometimes made against us, and upon the fallacy of the argument in favor of sprinkling infants, which commonly goes along with that insinuation.”
We leave our Episcopal and Methodist brethren to profit by the lesson given to them, and trust our own friends will endeavor by increased devotion to the religious training of the young to deserve the encomium, and maintain the supremacy here generously awarded them. As however we can see no manner of reason in the repudiation here given to the moral influence of infant baptism as a motive to diligence in the work of religious education, we must maintain that the superior attention given to this duty by the Presbyterian church is owing VERY GREATLY to her high sense of THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL BENEFITS AND OBLIGATIONS OF THAT MOST HOLY AND DIVINE INSTITUTION-INFANT BAPTISM. By this she regards every child as constituted a member of the catholic visible church, and a disciple in the school of Christ, and whom therefore she is bound to “teach all things whatsoever Christ has commanded.” Infant baptism therefore is not a mere controversial or theoretic dogma-a standard about which to rally and to fight-"it brings much advantage every way.”
We are persuaded that, rightly observed, the ordinance is rich in practical piety, and eminently fitted to endear that Redeemer whom it so vividly exhibits as the Saviour of the little children, the shepherd carrying the lambs in his bosom. Of this we give an extract from the Life of that eminent Presbyterian, Philip Henry:
“In dealing with his children about their spiritual state, he took hold of them very much by the handle of their infant baptism, and frequently inculcated that upon them, that they were born in God's house, and were betimes dedicated and
given up to him, and, therefore, were obligated to be his seryants. Psalm cxvi. v. 16, 'I am thy servant, because the son of thine handmaid. This he was wont to illustrate to them by the comparison of taking a lease of a fair estate for a child in the cradle, and putting his life into it. The child then knows nothing of the matter, nor is he capable of consenting; however, then he is maintained out of it, and hath an interest in it; and when he grows up, and becomes able to choose, and refuse, for himself, if he go to his landlord, and claim the benefit of the lease, and promise to pay the rent, and do the service, well and good, he hath the benefit of it, if otherwise, it is at his peril. Now, children, he would say, our great Landlord was willing that your lives should be put into the lease of heaven and happiness, and it was done accordingly, by your baptism, which is the seal of the righteousness that is by faith; and by that it was assured to you, that if you would pay the rent and do the service, that is, live a life of faith and repentance and sincere obedience, you shall never be turned off the tenement; but if now you dislike the terms, and refuse to pay this rent, (this chief rent, so he would call it, for it is no rack,) you forfeit the lease. However, you cannot but say that you had a kindness done you, to have your lives put into it. Thus did he frequently deal with his children, and even travail in birth again to see Christ formed in them, and from this topic he generally argued; and he would often say, 'If infant baptism were more improved, it would be less disputed.'”
And in conformity with the foregoing thus writes Philip Henry's son, the illustrious commentator :
“I cannot but take occasion to express my gratitude to God for my infant baptism; not only as it was an early admission into the visible body of Christ, but as it furnished my pious parents with a good argument (and, I trust, through grace a prevailing argument) for an early dedication of my ownself to God in my childhood.
"If God has wrought any good work upon my soul, I desire, with humble thankfulness, to acknowledge the moral influence of my infant baptism upon it.”
To these we only subjoin at present an extract from the journal of a late co-presbyter, the devout and truth-loving John Macdonald.
"Sabbath, November 24.—This day, in the kind providence of God, have I been permitted and enabled to dedicate my little offspring to my covenant God in baptism; and for this I give thanks. O what a privilege is it! I trust I have had communion with the Lord in this deed, if ever I had it. Many encouragements have I felt, and no misgivings as to infant baptism in its faithful form. Yes, I praise God for such an ordinance. I know God's willingness to bless infants. I know that He did of old receive them into His covenant by seal. I know also that infants are capable of enjoying the blessings of the covenant of grace—that the want of faith in those who are incapable of faith is just as applicable to salvation as to baptism, and therefore constitutes no argument against it. I believe that the seal of the covenant will be just as valid to the child when it afterwards believes, as if baptized when adult, that it is a great privilege to have it externally united with the Church, and for a parent to say, "This, my child, has been solemnly and publicly given to God, it is federally holy. I believe that the commission of Christ included the children of believers, and that the apostles baptized such; and I know that the holiest of men in all ages have had communion with their God in this ordinance. But why enlarge? Oh! my Lord, I bless thee for saving me from falling into the cold and forbidding doctrines of antipædo-baptism! O give me grace to improve thine ordinance! Look in mercy on my little Catharine. Oh! Spirit of the Lord, inhabit her, regenerate her! I have given her to thee—make her thine own! Bless mother, father, and daughter. Oh! bless us! All glory be to God!”
Dew DROPS OF HUMANITY.
The Substance of an Address Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Smyth,
Charleston, S. C., at the Baptism of His Three Grandchil
dren—the Children of Three Different Sons. A more beautiful analogy was never formed than that drawn by the Holy Spirit in the 110th Psalm-where, in depicting the future triumphs of the kingdom of Christ, the drops of dew in the womb of the morning are compared to the dew drops of humanity created by the wonder-working power and wisdom of God in the womb of Providence. Each particular drop of dew, how small and yet how perfect, containing as it were a diamond in a crystal of light! How pure amidst the impurities of surrounding earthliness! How gladsome and refreshing to every drooping herb and flower! How dark and opaque, and yet how capable when the sun shines upon it, of becoming brilliant with beauty, and of reflecting a full-orbed picture of the heavens above it! How evanescent, "the morning cloud and the early dew soon vanishing away,” and yet when it does expire, how is it attracted upwards until absorbed in the bosom of heaven's own light! In like manner, each individual dew drop of humanity—how little and yet how complete; a perfect microcosm of full developed humanity! How comparatively pure, gentle, and lovely, in contrast with the ugliness of matured depravity! With what gladness is it welcomed into every household, as its life, light, and joy! How mortal, and yet how immortal! How earthly, and yet how heavenly! How voiceless and inarticulate, and yet there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard—their sound has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the end of it, proclaiming the glory and the grace of God their heavenly Father! How frail and fleeting are they, coming forth like a flower, and in great part soon cut off and vanishing away, as in the gracious purpose of God it is so ordered, for the very end of securing their everlasting salvation. When they do, therefore, leave our earthly homes, how bright and blessed is the hope with which we follow them to their more blessed home in their Father's house with many mansions!
God has therefore led us to regard these little dew drops of humanity as of transcendant interest and importance, containing as they do within themselves in touching and impressive form, the most practical and necessary lessons both as to His nature and as to that fatherly heart, which leads Him to exercise all gentleness and tender mercy towards those who love and trust Him. Nor is the instruction imparted by these little ones accidental, or even incidental to that law of humanity according to which we all come into existence in the form of infancy. On the contrary, God has expressly tanght us that this very law-according to which these dew drops of humanity are formed on the trees of life scattered up and down along the green pastures and quiet waters of our earthly homes--is itself ordained by Him for the express purpose that, out of the mouths of these babes and sucklings, He might perfect the praise of his glorious grace.
For would we have conveyed to us in the most expressive manner an image of the tripersonal existence in the unity of the ineffably blessed Godhead-upon which depends the whole scheme of redemption and the method by which it may become