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THE CONSTITUTIONAL CITIZENS OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.
SEQUEL OF TRACTS ON BAPTISM-No. II. Having in our preceding Tract stated and partially developed our views of Hierarchies, National Churches and Secular Religions, in contrast with the pure and holy church of Jesus Christ, we now proceed to the investigation of what constitutes a legal or constitutional citizen or subject of Christ's kingdom.
It is altogether unnecessary to assume that any of our readers needs to be told, or to have proved to him, that the Lord Jesus Christ claims to be regarded as a king, and that he has a kingdom which he himself in person proclaimed, and afterwards by his Apostles ordained and established in the world. Any one that either denies this fact, or assumes that Messiah's kingdom preceded his personal advent in the flesh is not in our present horizon; and, therefore we address the reader of this essay as one that admits that Jesus Christ is a king, was born on earth to be a king over his own kingdom soon after his departure to be established upon a new con. stitution, and not after the model of any kingdom then existing in the world.
The Jewish nation, and every Pagan nation then on earth, were in their nature worldly, temporary and founded on fleshly relation, without any spiritual qualification. They had in them, indeed, words and figures which might be so arranged as to give a full and graphic view of what was to follow after their fall and dissolution. But they went no farther. Jesus Christ could not be a king till after he was born again, and, consequently, he could only speak of it in parables and represent it as afterwards, and at no very distant day, to be organized and revealed. Hence both his precursor and himself spent their ministry proclaiming it to be near at hand, and in giving right conceptions of its great peculiarity. SERIES III.-VOL VI.
The Jewish kingdom of this world, in its commonwealth character and with its peculiar constitution, and national worship, served most essentially to introduce, illustrate and establish the kingdom of heaven announced as “at hand,” during the personal ministry of the Messiah while in the flesh. But he always, or for the most part, delights to enforce its peculiarities-showing it to be spiritual and not of this world.
Bicod, then-Adamic, Noahic, or Abrahamic-could not introduce into it, or convey to any one the right of citizenship. Those who might have boasted of a very near fleshly relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the days of his flesh, when inducted into the nature of his kingdom, renounced all such glorying with a “FAR BE IT,” “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross”-not in the blood or lineage—"of the Lord Jesus Christ.” “For though we have known Christ after the flesh,” [as a man and a Jew,]“we know him no more on that account.”
Faith, then, and neither flesh nor blood, can prepare a man for the new or Christian kingdom. Not faith, however, in general, but a very special and peculiar faith. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and all the Prophets and saints of the olden time had faith, some of them most sublime and transcendant faith. But not one of them had the faith necessary to admission to citizenship into that kingdom Jesus Christ came to constitute and erect on faith.
Their faith, indeed, was a divine and sometimes a transcendant faith, triumphing over all opposition. But its defect was not in its strength, sublimity and grandeur as a principle of action. Its inadequacy or incompetency was not there.
It had not the proper object. Even many of those who believed that Jesus was a Prophet sent from God, that he cast out demons by the Spirit of God, and that he was an extraordinary messenger of Jehovah, had not the faith required to admission into his kingdom. The object of that faith was still more captivating and soul subduing. It was the sublime proposition that Jesus, the Son of Mary, was the only begotten Son of God and the Saviour of the world. And that which made it worthy of all acceptation was that he became ours and that we became his whenever we embraced him. The cordial recognition of this glorious fact and submission to it is the grand and indispensable prerequisite to admission into his kingdom.
This persuasion ever was, and still is, the grand condition of citizenship in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. A man may, indeed, be a nominal citizen of this kingdom without this faith; but a real one he
cannot be. It is also true that a man may, in his heart, be a Christian in a national hierarchy. Yet that hierarchy is not, on that account,the kingdom or church of Jesus Christ. It will be admitted that there are republicans in Rome, and democrats in England. But this admission will not convert Rome into a republic, nor England into a democracy. And, for the same reason, it must be conceded that an admission that Christians may be found in the national hierarchies of Europe, will not convert these hierarchies into the churches or kingdom of Jesus Christ. And all the reasons that go to prove that a republican can neither enjoy his privileges, nor exhibit his principles under a monarchy or an aristocracy, will equally show that a Christian can neither enjoy his Christian privileges nor exhibit his principles in the full display of Christian excellency in any secular and worldly church. It is, therefore, all important that a man have the true faith, and be a member of Christ's own church, to enjoy his privileges and to display the true excellencies of a Christian character. An enlightened faith is, therefore, by all enlightened men regarded as an essential condition of Christian church membership.
But faith in Christ as the Saviour of all that obey him is not the only qualification for admission into his kingdom. His kingdom is a constitutional kingdom, and its constitution a written one. It must be understood and acquiesced in by all worthy of being placed under it.
But this requires some Christian learing as well as faith. Faith is not every thing in religion. It is but an admission of its truth, and a confidence in its gracious promises. But this is not bereditary. No one is born into the world with an enlightened understanding and a believing heart. Hence no one ever was, or can be, a Christian in virtue of his birth. Hence the importance and necessity of the illumination of the understanding, the conviction of the conscience and the acquiescence of the heart. For this purpose
the gospel must be read or preached. It must be, in some good measure, understood, and acquiesced in, else these fruits cannot follow.
And it is here that the folly and incongruity of all secular churches appear most obvious. They plead for two sorts of members, one of faith, and one of blood. To the first they administer one ordinance, to the other two ordinances. They baptize, or as they say, christen the first, and in addition administer the supper to the se. cond. Thus the secular churches have two sorts of members, one born of blood, or of the flesh; the other, born of the Spirit. But the former are the more numerous. For there are always four or five to one who are constituted members in virtue of their parents, for one that is received on his own faith. Nay, in most cases the whole church are baptized before they believe, and in all cases the majority are only born of the flesh, and, therefore, have no relish for any thing that is spiritual. Nay, they carnalize more than evangelize the whole community. Hence in all national and secular churches the majority stamp their image on the minority more deeply and enduringly than the minority their views or character on the majority.
In process of time, the flesh prevails over the Spirit, and the whole community becomes rather a synagogue of Satan than a church of Christ. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye and the pride of life, in full development, give laws and customs to the community. Thus the world swallows up the church. To call such, a “communion of saints” is to perpetrate the greatest outrage upon faith, and reason, and common sense.
The introduction of the world into the church, by christening infants in the name of the Godhead, is no trivial affair. The door into the church is, in all nations where this Papal rite obtains, thus made as wide as the door into the world. Indeed, there are not wanting those who argue, that if the parent be a member of the church, for that same reason his offspring, male and female, are born in the church. Hence some of our Protestant ministry assume, in open day and before the world, that infants are not to be baptized to make them members of Christ's church or kingdom, but because they are so already by natural generation. They argue from an analogy, which they first assume, viz:- That baptism is but Christian circumcision, standing in the same place and covering the same ground; and, therefore, as Abraham's male offspring were circumcised, not to make them his children, but because they were already his children, therefore Christians should baptize their sons and daughters, not to make them Christians, or members of Christ's church, but because they are born members of that church, in virtue of the covenant which God made with Abraham. And when any one is so sceptical as to ask them why they baptize female infants, inasmuch as none but Abraham's male descendants were circumcised, a very popular and much approved response is:—“That Christ came to enlarge our privileges rather than to intrench upon them, and he demonstrates his superior magnanimity and generosity in taking our girls as well as our boys into his spiritual kingdom."
Of the two schools, those who baptize infants because they are born Christians, and those who baptize them to make them Christians, I am not able to say which is the wiser or more magnanimous. I will only say, that so long as the practice wants a divine precept, or an approved example from Jesus Christ or his Apostles, we must regard it as a waste of genius, or learning, and of time to attempt to decide where doctors so pious and profound are constrained to differ. We baptize those first taught and constrained to believe, merely because Jesus Christ did not say, according to the common version, baptize them first and then teach them; but because he did say, teach the nations, then baptize them, &c.
If this be not to carnalize and secularize the church, and so far as a nominal Christianity obtains, to bring the whole world into the church without illumination, faith, or penitence, I ask how can this thing be done! To how little purpose, in this view of the matter, did the great teacher say—“My kingdom is not of this world,” if the whole world, wherever his kingdom exists, be brought into it by virtue of natural birth and baptism into the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
These churches by law established, and those of the same faith and order with them, not by law, but by assumption established, to be the church of Jesus Christ, divide their members into two classes, technically called “communicants” and “con-communicants," with reference to one institution, although really all communicants in their theory and practice of infant baptism.
This, according to the apostolic style, is an unanswerable argument against their theory of church organization, provided only that Christianity is fully taught in the Christian scriptures. For who does not read, in the New Testament, as much about “Purgatory” and “Peter Pence" as about “communicants and non-commucants," in the Church of Christ? A change of names is always necessary when a change of things
A "vicar of Christ”-an "arch bishop"—a “prebendary of St. Paui's” or St. Peter's,” arë not, indeed, more foreign to the language of inspiration than "infant baptism," "church communi. cants," and wchurch non-communicants.” But such new coin from the ecclesiastic mint is indispensable. They have new institutions, new ordinances, new marners and customs, and must have a new nomenclature.
Having, then, seen that infant baptism is not only a door' into the church, but the great door into all secular and national churches, and all other communities called by whatever ́name; Papistical, Prelatical, Presbyterial, Congregational, or Methodistic, let us careful. ly glance at its tendencies. These' all receive into the church the infants born of the flesh, SERIES III.- VOL. VI.