« PreviousContinue »
render them incapable of receiving the blessing of Christ, and that on this account it would not be withheld. Some of the disciples, who had not much of the spirit of their Lord, rebuked these parents, and were putting their children away. But Jesus was greatly displeased with their conduct, and reproved them for their wrong views and feelings. He called to him those whom his disciples had rejected, and said, "Suffer the little children to come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such the kingdom of God belongs."* He then took them in his arms ; he placed his hands upon them; and he blessed them. It is not probable that children carried in the arms could receive much instruction; but it was not to them as infants that the disciples had objected, but as children. They would have hindered those who were a few years older, as well as these. And therefore our Lord, to correct the opinions and sentiments, which led them to act thus, declared, that the disposition of children, who could receive instruction, was required by him of all his followers. The humility, teachableness, and confidence of children beginning to receive a parent's instruction, all his disciples must possess.—“Verily I say to you, whoever will not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein.”—He will not obtain its blessings, who does not thus receive its doctrines, precepts, and promises.
That these children were infants, appears from the term used by St. Luke (Bpéon), and from their being carried to Jesus, and taken by him to his arms.
We therefore learn from our Lord's own declaration, that the infants of his disciples are included in the kingdom of God. To say that such children are not in any sense members of God's kingdom, but only older persons, who have childlike dispositions of mind, is to contradict the words of Christ himself. The statement that men of childlike character were subjects of his kingdom, could not possibly be any reason why little children should be received by Christ, if they were by their infancy excluded from his kingdom. After directing that these children should be brought to him, he gives a reason for his own conduct towards them, and for the sentiments which he wished his disciples to have. This reason must therefore relate to children, and to these children, whom improperly they had despised. By declaring that such infants were subjects of his kingdom,
Τών γάρ τοιούτων εστίν η βασιλεία του Θεού, When τοιούτος is used as here with the article, it invariably refers especially to the objects before mentioned, and not merely to those which resemble them. It occurs thus in thirty passages of the New Testament, and without one exception, they confirm this rule.—Matt. xix. 14; Mark ix. 37, 1. 14; Luke xviii. 16; Acts xix. 25, xxii. 22; Rom. i. 32, č. 2, 3, xvi. 18; I Cor. v. 5, 11, vii. 15, 28, xvi. 16, 18 ; 2 Cor. ii, 6, 7, x. 11, xii. 2, 3, 5; Gal. v. 21, 23, vi. 1; Eph. v. 27; Phil. ii. 29; 2 Thes. ii. 12; 1 Tim. vi. 5 ; Titus iii. 11. This passage therefore means, “ To these, as such, the kingdom of God belongs."
he did not say that they were regenerated, nor that they would certainly be regenerated and saved. He merely declared that they possessed some of the privileges of his kingdom : the attainment of other privileges, and their final salvation, would depend on their use of those which he first bestowed. The declaration here made is similar to other statements made by our Lord concerning his kingdom. It is not confined to the good. He compared it to a field, in which both wheat and tares were for a time suffered to grow together; and in his explanation of this parable said, “The Son of man will send his angels and collect together from his kingdom all that is offensive, even those who practise iniquity,”—Matt. xiii. 41. He compared it also to a pet cast into the sea, and drawing together fish of every kind, which afterwards were separated. “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels will come forth, and remove the wicked from amongst the righteous," — ver. 49. Infants are declared by our Lord to have a part in this kingdom. A reason is given applicable to all the infants of his disciples, therefore it cannot be supposed that our Lord here refers to that spiritual kingdom, which consists only of those who obey him ; or to his kingdom of glory. Had the impropriety of the conduct of the disciples depended on such a fact, they would have been excused by their necessary ignorance. The wrongness of their conduct resulted from its unsuitableness to what they knew, or might have known. But they could not have known that these children were regenerated, or that they would certainly be saved. The reason assigned by our Lord for his reproof had respect to all such children who might be brought to receive his blessing, and not to these individuals alone. Now the only kingdom of Christ, of which all the children of his disciples are members, is his visible kingdom; which consists of all to whom he has given certain privileges and promises, and of whom certain duties are required. This is the only kingdom to which the disciples could know that the infants they rejected belonged; consequently this is the kingdom of which our Lord spoke. The children of Jewish parents were born to share in the religious privileges of Judaism ; and the children of Christian parents are born to share in the better privileges of Christianity. In either case they might not live to enjoy these privileges, or they might fail to profit by them: and so also it might be with regard to any worldly inheritance, which nevertheless would belong to them, and be esteemed a valuable possession. But no earthly inheritance can be compared with theirs, who, by the providence which ordered the circumstances of their birth, have their lot people of God, and receive, at the commencement of their conscious existence, the knowledge of the Saviour of mankind.
But if infants have their place in the kingdom of Christ, surely the rite of initiation to his kingdom belongs to them. If he has declared that they have this connexion with him, why should we withhold from
them the sign of that connexion ? If to produce in the minds of his disciples right sentiments and conduct toward little children, he reminded them of the Divine goodness which had placed them in Christian families, ought we not to feel the influence of this consideration ? The expressive conduct of Jesus in taking these children to his arms would teach his disciples that an emblematical action, shewing the compassionate care of Christ for infants, is not a useless and unreasonable thing. We cannot, without some evidence, believe that he who declared that little children had their place in his kingdom, directed his disciples to withhold from them the sign by which this relationship was usually recognized; nor that he, who took infants to his arms to express his love for them, and show his willingness to bless them, would order his disciples not to administer to them the emblem of his promised blessing.
If it be maintained that these children were all capable of receiving religious instruction, and that they were themselves the models of bumility and teachableness, to which our Lord referred his disciples, it will but little affect our argument. These children were not made to pass through any course of instruction, examination, and probation, before they were acknowledged as connected with the kingdom of God, and received to the Saviour's arms. But simply as the children of his disciples they were recognized as belonging to him. They were declared to be the subjects of his kingdom, not because they were converted, but because they would grow up enjoying the privileges of Christian instruction and influence. They received from the Saviour, not an attestation to their goodness, but a token of his compassionate kindness, to which they were already indebted for these privileges; and an emblem of what he would do for them, if they would accept his salvation. We learn therefore from this narrative that the administration of Christ ian baptism to infants is in perfect accordance with his infinite wisdom and goodness. To reject them as incapable of receiving any benefit, or as unfit to receive in infancy the emblem of a favour which cannot then be understood and enjoyed, is to copy the conduct of the mistaken disciples whom he reproved, and not to imitate the example of our Divine Redeemer.
FURTHER REMARKS ON LADY HEWLEY'S CHARITY.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL MAGAZINE.
SIR,—Permit me to submit to your readers a few additional authorities, in confirmation of some of the statements in my paper, inserted in your January number, denied by the Rev. Richard Hunter :
That Presbyterianism was never “really established in England," will appear from the following testimony of his own witness, Neal.
“The Commons agreed with the Assembly in the doctrinal part of the Confession, and ordered it to be published, June, 20th, 1648. . . The Parliament not thinking it proper.... to annex matters of church government, about which they were not agreed, to doctrinal articles, those chapters, therefore, which relate to discipline, as they now stand in the Assembly's Confession, were not printed by order of the House, but recommitted, and at last laid aside ; as the whole thirtieth chapter of church censures, and of the power of the keys; the thirty-first chapter, of synods and councils, by whom to be called, and of what force, in their decrees and determinations; a great part of the twentyfourth chapter, of marriage and divorce, which they referred to the laws of the land; and the fourth paragraph of the twentieth chapter, which determines what opinions and parties disturb the peace of the church, and how such disturbers ought to be proceeded against, by the censures of the church, and punished by the civil magistrate. These propositions, in which the very life and soul of Presbytery consists, never were approved by the English Parliament, nor had the force of a law in this country; but the whole Confession, as it came from the Assembly, being sent into Scotland, was immediately approved by the General Assembly and Parliament of that kingdom, as the established doctrine and discipline of their Kirk, and thus it has been published to the world ever since, though the chapters above mentioned, relating to discipline, received no parliamentary sanction in England."*
To show that Baxter, that “distinguished representative of the old English Presbyterians," was not only willing to give up the odious name Presbyterian, but had no wish to “obtain the reality,” and that those who acted with him as leaders, in 1660, manifested no “preference for Presbytery,” in the Scottish sense of the term, I may produce the following passages, from a work of his, published in 1680, entitled “ The Second Part of the Nonconformist's Plea for Peace ; being an Account of their Principles, about Civil and Ecclesiastical Authority, Obedience, &c., and what their Nonconformity is not,” &c.
“Our accusations are, 1st, That we are Presbyterians and Fanaticks.
“What a Presbyterian is with these men is to us unsearchable ; what he is with those that have written for and against them is easily known; we take Dr. Heylin's description in his History against them. They are such as hold not only church government without bishops (for 80 do the Independents also) but also by Presbyteries consisting of two sorts of elders, preaching and ruling, (called by some, lay) and over these Classes, and over these a National Assembly, consisting of the same two sorts. Be it known, that whiles I disown anything of this, it is not that I think myself wiser or better than such as I have been acquainted with of that opinion. My own opinion I have oft enough
* Neal's "History of the Puritans," vol. iii. pp. 320, 321.
declared, viz., 1. That jure divino, one church hath no governing power over another. 2. That every particular political church should be a society capable of personal presential communion, and have their own elders to govern them, all of one order and office. ...3. That these churches should keep necessary correspondency for love, concord, and mutual helps, by messengers and synods of their bishops or pastors; but not as lawmakers to their brethren.
"But it is not my judgment only that is in question. Reader, judge by the proof that I shall offer thee what truth or modesty there is in our accusers.
“1. I have elsewhere told you, that when the king called us to signify our desires, in 1660, the ministers of London were commonly invited to come to Sion College, that their common consent might be known; and there we agreed to desire or offer nothing for church government, but Archbishop Usher's model of the primitive Episcopal government as it was then printed (which to me the archbishop owned); and was Usher a Presbyterian?
“ Bishop Reynolds, Bishop Worth, and Dr. Wallis agreed and joined with us in this offer. And were these also Presbyterians ?
“Abundance of country ministers, (and all that ever I heard from) joyfully expressed their approbation of what we did. In all the county of Worcester where I lived, there was but one minister, (Mr. Tho. Hall, of King's Norton,) taken for a Presbyterian from the year 1647, till the king came in, 1660. Nor did I hear of many out of London and Lancashire, that ever set up that government.
“I know not of one congregation now in London of English men (the French and Dutch are not accused as plotters) that exerciseth the Presbyterian government, nor ever did since the king came home. What they may be in secret judgment I know not, nor how far the experience of our late prelacy may have changed any; but 1. Certainly they have no National Assembly: 2. They have no Classes : 3. They have no coalition of many churches to make a Presbytery : 4. And I hear of none (unless perhaps the Independents, which I know not,) that have 80 much as ruling lay elders.
“ Set all this together, and tell me whether it be likely that those men believe a life to come, and a judgment of God, who would make king and people believe that parliaments, nonconforming ministers and their hearers are Presbyterians."*
Mr. Hunter states, that “ Dr. Edmund Calamy and all his [English] Presbyterian contemporaries were ordained according to the Directory of the Westminster Assembly,'”p. 28, ante. A pamphlet now lies before me, entitled, “A Directory for the Publique Worship of God throughout the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, together