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they cannot, they are incapable of learning any thing of God's truth ; and then they could not possibly be made disciples of, as the text plainly commands all nations to be made.
But, again to throw the burden of proof upon those who first raised this question in the church, upon them to whom it justly belongs, Why cannot infants be taught? Is it because they cannot yet read the book ? Remember that it is only of very recent date that the Church of Rome (which had no right to do so) withheld the Scriptures from the congregations of the laity; but that for no less a period than fourteen hundred years The ALMIGHTY (who had the right) did the same! for printing was invented in the fifteenth century only, and till then the nations could not read. Why cannot infants be taught? Is it because they cannot hear the preacher ? but thus saith the Holy Ghost, in Rom. x. 18, “Their sound went into all the earth, their words unto the ends of the world;" and in Psalm xix. we find it of the “speech of the day,” and the "night's knowledge;" yea, even of "their words,” and “their voice," their speech, and their sound.
Cannot infants be taught? The Scriptures answer this question in the affirmative. First, in the parallel of the text of Matthew, now before us (i.e. Mark xvi. 15), it is written, “Go ye and preach the Gospel to EveRY CREATURE—He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved." Secondly (for it is not true even of inanimate creatures that they cannot be preached to; there is a method in which even they are effectually addressed, from one end of the Scripture to the other, although not after the same manner in which men are addressed or affected), we find such passages as the following: Deut. xxx. 19, &c., “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you” (Isa. i. 2; Micah vi. 2): Mark vi. 11, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence shake off the dust under your feet, for a testiniony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” And to the like effect Matt. x. 14, and Luke ix. 6, together with Acts xiii. 51, where it is done. But, again, look at Luke xix. 40, “The stones would immediately cry out;" and the cursing of the tree at the word uttered, Matt. xxi. 19.
And cannot the suckling infant be spoken to? Oh yes. though you may doubt that inanimate nature can hear and obey the word of the Lord, you may not doubt that Nature teaches it. He who bears the eternal office, the uncreated name, of “ Father," in his smile and in his frown, in his manly presence, in his paternal arms; he, in the authority and dignity he bears, although he feeds not, he impresses truth, even lessons of eternal truth, upon the observant child. He is a lord, and (if a Christian parent) he is " as God” before it. He, as a father acting in
the spirit of the Christ, represents and personates the Father of Christ. And if the mother be indeed what that lofty name implies, her character is the doctrine of the Jerusalem above, of the inheritance reserved in heaven for us, and of the office of Christ's spouse, for ever.
So shall Jesus recognize his blood, and she her offspring-foster child—for ever and ever. Only study infancy, and you shall therein learn, with the help of His Spirit, all the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the obedience of love. Love is the fulfilling of the law.” And why does the little untaught child obey its parent, fear his frown, and do his command? Can the wits of this or any
Can the wits of this or any other age reply but that BECAUSE IT LOVES HIM?” Because it loves its parent, the hapless infant follows the track of evil example, and from its cradle onward declines from bad to worse ; and its fault is the father's and the mother's. But let the believing parent's suckling child be reared and nurtured from its cradle in Christ's ordinances of father, mother, brother, child, &c.; only keep it in what its cradle taught it, the love, the reality of those ordinances; and there shall be found no truer or more perfect reflection of the Gospel of Christ than that child.
Love is all that the child first learns (and happy the child that learns it unalloyed !) Love is the first obedience, all the obedience of infancy. There may be more in the speculative schemes of man, but there is no other trait of eternal bliss in God's own holy word, in God Himself, than Love ; for it is the obedience, it is the holiness, it is the godliness, of all that know his name; and it is their sufficient eternal bliss.
See how the child, from Love alone, believes and obeys its parents; and learn, O adult, from the little child (placed as it were by Christ in the midst of us), that to love is to obey. To love, is truly to worship, truly to know, truly to acknowledge, Jesus, as our own Brother, our own Lord, The everlasting Father, and our God.
All children are and must be “ disciples ;" all children of true believers are and mụst be disciples of CHRIST, as far as the lesson of the truth spread before them is requisite to make them so; for it is spread wide open before every one of them, in the home that cherishes their helpless age; in all creation appealing to their impartial, their yet unprejudiced, thoughts; and otherwise "the invisible things of God from the creation of the world have (not) been clearly seen; even His eternal power and Godhead being made known by the things that are made” (Rom. i. 20).
Baptism itself teaches : St. Paul makes the ordinance of baptism to teach, Rom. vi. 3 et seq., and Col. ii. 12: and if we will only contemplate the sublime ordinance as Christ received it, and as our national Common Prayer also prescribes its performance (with the exception only of the weak ”), we shall find
in the eloquent act in which it consists lessons of eternal truth, unutterable by human tongue, and beyond the grasp of fallen intellect.
When an earthly ambassador declares war in the name and by the authority of his sovereign, the power and presence of the monarch (and not that of the delegate) performs the act; and how much more is it the monarch's act, if not only done in his name and authority, but in his special and actual presence too? Baptism is done, not only in the name and authority of God, but moreover in his special and actual presence too; as he says in the words of the statute, “Behold I am with you always, unto the end of the age.” God Almighty (not the minister of God, but Jehovah Himself) is He who alone baptizes in the Christian churches. In the officiating minister you see but the member of Christ; in the officiating minister you see God's arm on earth animated of His will, as our members by the mandates of our will. And what is the whole of the transaction, in which it cannot be denied that the only Lord and Giver of life thus visibly performs the first and essential part? The child of fallen man is taken from its natural parents, and buried in that element which was made of old the grave of the human race. The child of sinful Adam is dead and buried : and now the arms of Him who put it to death have brought it back from the tomb, no more to be restored to its natural parents in their own right upon it: it is a risen being; it is the child of God," being the child of the resurrection” (Luke xx. 36): it hath no name but the new one; its surname is that of the family of the living God; it is baptized into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It is committed by the church (oh sacred and solemn trust!) to chosen representatives of Him who hath done this honour upon it, and of her who shall henceforth feed it with the milk of his word.
And now, should the godfathers and godmothers (as delegates of God and his church) entrust it again to its natural father and mother, with whom the passions of our evil nature will and must have play, with whom human blood rises when it ought not, and is often cold and indifferent when it ought to be roused ; let them recognise the holiness of their ward, and remember evermore that they are but its honoured guardians in God's sight; that it is His offspring whom they are called to rear, and not theirs. Although it still please the world, and gratify their carnal taste, to dignify themselves with the high and holy names of father and mother, let them evermore remember that they are but the representatives of the Father and the mother on high. Let the parents know that the child of God is entrusted to them; and never, never let their children doubt that He who raised them in that promise, in that great all-eloquent act, is
their true and only Father, their Portion, and their God. And here I would affirm, that little infants no more regard or know the outward shape, than the language or letters, of mankind around them. It is the character of every soul which their cloudless eye contemplates. It is the character alone that they converse with. O parent! if thy character be holy, and thy deportment Christ's ; this is thy privilege, this thy reward, that God is beheld, the Son of God contemplated, the living bride feasted on by thy suckling babes. Thy child's heart, modelled in thy smiles, is therein affiliated unto God. In every act of the father let God be seen; in every act of the mother, Jerusalem high. Do they frown ? let it be the frown of God upon the suicidal delinquencies of those whom he died to save. Do they smile? let it be the smile of approving Heaven on the fruits of love. Are they joyful ? let it be the joy of the Holy Ghost in the meek and lowly Jesus, as lying in the manger, escaped from Herod, increasing in wisdom, baffling the enemy, and risen from the dead. Do they grieve ? let it be the grief of Him who remembereth his holy covenant, and forsaketh not his saints; whose mercy endureth for ever. So shall the tiny infant, untaught in earthly speech, be already eminent in the school of God; being taught of him in that character which alone it descries: or, in other words, “ beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” and meditating on all it hath ever seen, “it shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. iii. 18). I tell you, Christian reader, it cannot fail.
All children are and must be “disciples.” I ask again, what need they to become “disciples of the Christ?” This alone can they need ; a disposition to be taught of God. “For thus saith the High and Lofty One who inhabiteth eternity ; I dwell in the high and holy place, also in the humble and contrite heart will I dwell.”
Who can give this docility, this grace, this disposition to prefer and to learn what is godly, to the infant, to any ? Only He who sheweth mercy to thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments : ” only He who hath promised in a hundred passages of bis word, saying (in Genesis) to Isaac, “ I will bless thee, and multiply thy seed, for my seryant Abraham thy father's sake” (in Exodus); “ Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children”(in Leviticus); “ Unto Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests; ” and in every book of the Bible to the same effect. I say, that only He can give this docility. And that he will give it at bis servant's humble prayer, is no less certain than that his word is true; for we read in Joel ii. 28, Acts ii. 19, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters," &c.; and the same
thing in Acts ii. 39; and in innumerable other passages, to be collected by a reference to the words “his seed," "thy seed,” &c. in the Concordance; but above all in the New Testament, the last will of our dying Lord, where I find it written, "WhatsoEVER ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John xiv. 13).
Not only is an infant capable of being taught of Christ, if only its beart be moved of God's Holy Spirit unto docility and the love of virtue ; but in very truth it is capable of teaching, years before it can read a letter, or understand a word of the idolized Book. I say, years before it can be taught out of the idolized Book ; for whosoever believes that volume to be the only channel of Divine instruction, the only revealer of God, hath made it an idol; and done dishonour to the Father, as though a book could make Him known who is only to be known in the God-man; and dishonour to the Son, the true whole of Truth, the true and only complete Word or Revelation of the Divine Majesty; and dishonour to the Holy Ghost, making him dependent upon the letter, as though He who proceeded forth to the creation of the universe of angels and men, yea also to the generation of the Son of Man, had in any of these transgressed or fallen short of his Divine office, which is “ to take of the things of the living Christ and shew them to our souls,” or as if he had fulfilled it in a book only.
In Him may infants teach. “ Have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise ?” (Matt. xxi. 16 ; Psa. viii. 2; and e.g. Luke i. 41–44.) “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.”
Fathers and mothers, have ye seen your children hungry? (Blessed are the poor, for they will understand this !) “ So the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Reader, so the Almighty pitieth thee. Can a book teach it thee as it is taught thee by thy famished babe? Or have you seen the offspring of your holiest affection distrustful and afraid of you? So is thy Creator grieved at thy distrust. Or have the infant's smile, its soft caresses, its imploring look of grateful confidence, ever warmed thy heart to love it with ardour stronger than death? So thy God loveth thee. Or have you felt the jealousy, cruel as the grave, the jealousy of the parent for the child ? Such is the safeguard of the family of God; for if any man offend them “it were better for him that a mill-stone had been hung about his neck, and that he had been cast into the depths of
O my baptized infants, children of the living God, I have learned that from your untaught lips which never book could teach, or hell or the world shall unteach! God be gracious to you, my babes!