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or water, or time, this be not done, your believing dedication of your child to God, without baptism shall be accepted. For it is the substance, and not the sign, the will, and not the water, which God requireth in this case.
Quest. • But what then shall we think of the children of godly Anabaptists, whose judgment is against such dedication?'
Answ. Many whose judgment is against baptizing them, is not against an offering or dedicating them to God. And those who think that they are not allowed solemnly to enter them into covenant with God, yet really do that which is the same thing: for they cannot be imagined, to be unwilling, to dedicate them to God, to the utmost of that interest and power, which they understand that God hath given them : and doubtless they most earnestly desire that according to their capacity, they may be the children of God, and God will be their God in Christ. And this virtual dedication seemeth to be the principal requisite condition.
But yet as the unbaptized are (ordinarily) without the visible church and its privileges; so if any be so blind, as neither explicitly nor virtually to dedicate their seed to God; I know no promise of their children's salvation, any more than of the seed of infidels.
Direct. 3. If the children of true Christians dedicated by the parents' will to God, through Christ, shall die before they come to the use of reason, the parents have no cause to doubt of their salvation.'
It is the conclusion of the Synod of Dort in Artic. 1. And the reason is this.
If the parent and child be in the same covenant, then if that covenant pardon and adopt the parent, it doth pardon and adopt the child: but the parent and child are in the same covenant: therefore, &c.
God hath but one covenant on his part, which is sealed by baptism (as I have proved at large to Mr. Blake). Indeed some are only externally in covenant with him on their part, that is, they did covenant only with the tongue, and not the heart: and consequently God is no further in covenant with them, than to allow and command his ministers to receive them into the visible church, and give them its privileges; and is not as a promiser in covenant with them
at all himself, either for inward, or for outward blessings. He hath not one covenant which giveth outward, and another which giveth inward blessings.
And it is here supposed, that the only condition prerequisite on the infant's part, that he may have right to this covenant, and its blessing, is that he be the seed of a true believer, and dedicated in covenant to God by the parent's will or act. Actual faith is not pre-required : seminal grace may be inherent, but, 1. Not known to the baptizer: 2. Nor pre-required as a condition ; but more likely to be given by virtue of the covenant. Nothing else therefore being prerequisite as a condition, it followeth, that as the parents dedicating themselves to God, if baptized at age, is the condition of their certain title to the present blessings of the covenant, (viz. that God be their Father, Christ their Saviour, and the Spirit in covenant to operate in them to sanctification, and their sins are all pardoned, and they are heirs of heaven,) even so upon the parents' dedication of their children to God, they have right to the same blessings; else why do we baptize them, seeing baptism in the true nature and use of it, is a solemn dedicating them to God, in that same covenant, and a solemn investing them in the relations and rights of that same pardoning covenant, and not in any other.
I do not say that all baptized infants, so dying, are saved, be they the children of infidels, or heathens, and remaining their true propriety ; nor those that are offered and baptized never so wrongfully, or hypocritically ; nor will I stay to dispute for what I have asserted. But, 1. I exhort Christians believingly to dedicate their children in covenant with God in Christ : And, 2. To believe that if they so die, that covenant of Christ forbiddeth them to doubt of their salvation.
Direct. 4. Let your duty be answerable to your hope: and do not only pray for your children's sanctification, but if they live, endeavour it by all possible care, in a wise and godly education.'
Remember that nature, and your dedicating them to God, do bóth oblige you to this care of their salvation. And that the education of children, is one of the greatest duties in the world, for the service of Christ, and the pros
perity of church and state : and the neglect of it, not the smallest cause of the ruin of both, and of the world's calamity.
Many a poor, sottish, lazy professor have I known, who cry out against ignorant, dumb, and unfaithful ministers, as guilty of the blood of souls, and are so religious, as to separate from the assemblies that have ministers that are but partly such ; when as their own children are almost as ignorant as heathens, and they only use them to a few customary formal duties (while they think they are enough against forms), and turn over the chief care of their instruction to the schoolmaster. And are themselves so ignorant, dumb, and idle ; unfaithful and unnatural to their poor children's souls, as that it is a doubt whether in a well-ordered church they ought not to be denied communion themselves. They so little practise Deut. xi. 18, 19. vi. 7. Ephes. vi. 4, &c.
Direct. 5. 'If your children live to the flesh in an ungodly course of life, contrary to the covenant which by you they made, they forfeit all the benefits of the covenant: and you can have no assurance by any thing that you can do for them, that ever they should be converted (though it is not past hope). And if they be converted at age, their pardon and adoption will be the effect of God's covenant, , as then it was newly entered with themselves, and not as it was made before for them in infancy.'
Direct. 6. Yet because that still while there is life, there is hope, you ought not by despair or negligence to omit prayer, exhortation, or any other duty which you can perform in order to their recovery :' and though now they have wills of their own, their salvation is not laid so much upon you, as it was in infancy, at their first covenanting with God; yet still God will shew his love to his servants in their seed; and faithful endeavours are not vain or hopeless; and therefore it is still one of your greatest duties in the world, to seek their true recovery to Christ.
Direct. 7. If God make your children a scourge, or a heart-breaking to you, bear and improve it as becomes believers :' That is;
1. Repent of your own former sin; your own youthful lusts ; your disobedience to your parents ; your carnal
fondness on your children ; your loving them too much, and God too little; the evil examples you have given them; and your manifold neglect of a prudent, seasonable, earnest, unwearied instructing them in godliness ; your bearing with their sin, and giving them their own wills, till they were masterless, &c. Renew your repentance, and you have got some benefit.
2. Think how unkindly and unthankfully you have dealt with a gracious Saviour, and a heavenly Father.
3. Let it take off your affections from all things under the sun, and call them up the more to God: for who would. love a world, where none are to be trusted, and where all things are vexatious, even the children of your love and bowels.
Direct. 8. 'If they die impenitently, and perish, mourn for them, but with the moderation of believers : That is, l. Consider that God is more the owner of your children, than you are ; and may do with his own as he list. 2. And he is more wise and merciful than you; and therefore not to be murmured at as wanting either. 3. And it is an invaluable mercy that your own soul is sanctified, and shall be saved. 4. And the most godly have had ungodly children before you. Adam had a Cain, Noah had a Ham, Isaac had an Esau, David had an Absalom, &c. 5. And if all the godly that pray for their children's salvation must be therein gratified, all the world would then have been saved. For Noah would have prayed for all his children, and they for their's, and so to the world's end.
Object. 'Oh but my conscience telleth me, that it is my own sin which hath had a hand in their undoing.'
Answ. Suppose it be so; it is certainly a pardonable sin. Do you then repent of it, or not? If you repent; as you mourn for your relations; so you should rejoice that God hath forgiven you. For repented sin is certainly pardoned to you, and pardoned sin to you, is as great cause of joy, as unpardoned sin in your relations is cause of sorrow. Therefore mourn with such moderation, and mixed comfort and thanksgiving, as becometh one that liveth by faith. The affliction indeed is near and great; and heavier than any calamity that could have befallen their bodies, and is not to be slighted by an unnatural insensibility: but yet
you have a God who is better to you than a thousand children; and your cross is but as a feather, if you set it in the balance against your blessings, even the love of God, and your part in Christ, and life eternal.
How by Faith to order our Affections to public Societies, and the
Direct. 1. 'Take heed that you lose not that common love which you owe to mankind, nor that desire of the increase of the kingdom of Christ, which must keep up in you a constant compassion to the unconverted world, viz. idolaters, infidels, and ungodly hypocrites.'
It is pitiful to observe the unchristian senselessness of most zealous professors of religion in this point. Though God hath purposely put the three public petitions first in the Lord's Prayer, to tell them what they must first and most desire, that is, the hallowing of his name, and the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will on earth as it is in heaven ; yet they seemed not to understand it, or to regard it: but their thoughts and desires are as selfish, and private, and narrow, as if they knew nothing what the world or the church is, or cared for neither. Their mind and talk is all of their own matters, for body or soul, or of their several parties, and particular churches; or if any extend his care as far as this spot of land in Britain and Ireland, or some of the reformed churches, they go further than their companions; themselves, and their side or party is almost all that most regard : perhaps the poor scattered Jews have a few words in the prayers of some; but the miserable case of the vast nations of the earth, who seem to be forsaken of God is neglected by them. Five parts in six of the earth are heathens and Mahometans: and of the sixth part, the Protestants are but about a sixth, compared with the poor ignorant Abbassines, Armenians, Syrians, the Greek churches, and the Papists; (to say nothing what the most of the Protestants themselves are.) Yet are almost all these put by, with a word or two, or none at all, in the daily prayers of most professors : and it is rare to hear any to