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teger.3 In consequence of this natural, or constitutional unity, it has, in each case, an individuality of its own,— a community of thought, sympathy, purpose, character, which distinguishes it from all other families. The central and predominating influence of the head is interradiated and reflected and diffused through the members; and, to some extent, a common moral, as well as psychological, gleam appears on all. If the head be pious; even if but one parent be a Christian, owing to the unity of the family, its identity undergoes a proportionate, corresponding change, and the other members stand in a different relation to God from the one they otherwise would have held — a truth which the Apostle asserts: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." •
God recognizes this unity of the family; and deals with families as families, through their responsible centres, or heads. In what is called the Abrahamic covenant, e. g. the transaction was not so much with the detached individual Abraham, as with him as personating and involving a family; and God covenanted with him and his seed. And in the New Testament this covenant with families is perpetuated; for each christian parent occupies the same position as Abraham, in this particular; and covenants with God with his arms, as it were, around the whole household. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise;" "For the promise is unto you, and to your children." 3
Now, as the family is a unity, as the parent is its representative and responsible head, and as he has taken it with him and consecrated it to God as a whole, so it should receive as a whole — i. e., in all its members, for whom he acts — the consecratory sign. There is an obvious incongruity in dividing up the subjects of a common devotement, by applying the rite, the very meaning of which is devote
ment, to some of them, and excluding it from others. The unity of the consecratory transaction demands a corresponding unity of the consecratory rite. And the christian parent, the heart of the household, who diffuses the invisible aroma of piety through the group; whose pulses of spiritual life penetrate all its members, and draw it into a certain christian, though in itself unsaving, oneness — acting for his offspring, whose life and welfare are wrapped up and represented in him, should see to it that they, as well as himself, receive the symbol of their common consecration to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And this — we may remark — we believe to be in accordance with Apostolic usage. The Apostles recognized the unity of the family. This is clear from the statement of Paul that the piety of a single christian parent imparts a relative sanctity to the whole group; and also from the remark to the Jailer, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." 1 They also practised household baptism; and the presumption, in the case of Lydia,2 and the Jailer, 3 is, that they did it on the faith of the head of the family. There is no evidence that there were either little children or infants, in either of these families; but whoever were in them — certainly in the former,— were baptized, according to the clear intimation of the narrative, on the faith of the head. In the case of Lydia and her family, she only is spoken of as sharing in the immediate spiritual advantages of the Apostle's visit. It was she " whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul." But come to the rite of consecration, she was present with her family; and "when she was baptized, and her household" — the narrative proceeds in terms indicating that she regarded them as represented by her and consecrated to God by her faith — " she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us." Now, if these were little children, who were
baptized on the faith of Lydia, we have an example, in the Scriptures, of infant baptism; if they were servants or children pa'lly grown, then the argument for the baptismal consecration of infants becomes so much the stronger from this circumstance. In either case, therefore, we conclude that the Apostles practised household baptism on the faith of the head of the household; and that they taught the disciples that the united consecration of the family should be signalized by a united participation in the consecratory service.
But there is, further, a still more emphatic evidence of this duty, in the relation of baptism to circumcision. It comes out in this way:
The principles of the Divine economy in dealing with man, contained in the Old Testament, are not interrupted by the giving of the New; but (low down into it, though with a more advanced and spiritual development. Their forms may vary, but the principles are vital; they interlace the two sections of the Church; make them continuous, and parts of one system.
By looking back to the Old Testament we ascertain the divinely appointed relation which children hold to their pious parents and the covenant with God; that they are included in it with them. The same relation consequently must exist now; this being one of the living principles which cannot drop out of the constitution of the Church.
Moreover, to express this principle, and show that the parent took the child with him into covenant with God and devoted it to Him, the rite of circumcision was instituted under the old economy. That this was its import is evident from the statement of the Lord to Abraham, at the time of its institution, that the Object or End of his Covenant was that He might be a God unto him, and to his seed after him;1 and that circumcision was "a token" of this covenant.2 As, however, the father represented the family and acted for it, so the sons represented the daughters and acted for them: and hence they only received 1he rite.
Now, since a consecratory rite was employed in the Old Testament, to denote the participation of the children in the covenant, and their consequent dedication to God; since the same relation of children to the parents and the covenant exists now; since the former consecrating symbol is, by common consent, regarded as no longer in accordance with the Divine will; and since Christ has appointed a new one, having the same general import, which is binding,— the only question is, whether it shall be extended to children, as that was, or be confined to adults. To us there can be no question. The very statement of it, in its connection with the facts, answers it. To suppose the contrary, without, any Divine warrant, and thus to deviate, in essential particulars, from the original design and usage of a consecratory rite, would be to take baptism out of its analogies and antecedents, and make a new ordinance of it; to tear it off from the point of its harmonious union with the former dispensation, and thrust it as a foreign and fresh invention into the new,— joining on to nothing kindred; with no preparations demanding it; and in effect throwing the two economies ajar.
If it be objected to this argument, that the Apostle Paul says that Abraham "received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised;" i and that this language points to the purificatory, rather than dedicatory, import of this rite,— we reply: The Apostle is not here speaking of the strict meaning of circumcision; but he adduces the fact of Abraham's 'circumcision as evidence of previous faith and justification. And so it would be. When Abraham publicly took Jehovah to be his God and the God of his family, and designated this devotement to Him by circumcision, this rite would, indirectly but unmistakably, testify to a previous faith. It would thus be, but in no other sense, " a seal" — token, proof, a(f>payh — "of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised."
1 Kom. 4: 11.
Again, if it be objected that Jewish Christians, for some time after Christ, were both circumcised and baptized, and that this would not seem to indicate that the latter rite was designed to take the place of the former,— it may be remarked, that this very fact indicates that there was not felt, by those Christians, to be any inconsistency in the import of the two; that the fact that circumcision was gradually abandoned by them, and only baptism retained, shows that they came at length to see that the former was superfluous and useless, having all its valuable significance and uses supplied bythe latter; and thatthe Gentile Christians never, to any considerable extent, adopted circumcision, because they regarded baptism as a substitute for it, for them. One of the earliest of those whose writings have come down to us,
Justin Martyr, says: "We Gentile Christians have not
received that circumcision which is according to the flesh; but that circumcision which is spiritual; and moreover, for we were sinners, we have received this circumcision in baptism." 1 And Chrysostom, nearly two centuries and a half later, though he exalts the purificatory element of baptism above its consecratory import, as was so general in that age, testifies to the fact of its taking the place of the corresponding Jewish rite: "There was pain and trouble in the practice of that Jewish circumcision; but our circumcision, I mean the grace of Baptism, gives cure without pain; and this for infants as well as men."3
While, then, we are not to look for an abrupt and violent transition from the rite of the law to the rite of the gospel; while in fact we find, for a time, the one sometimes overlapping the other, from ignorance, or weakness, or prudential reasons — as in the circumcision of Timothy,— yet there is sufficient evidence that it was in accordance with the Divine Mind that circumcision should cease, and baptism take the place of it, as the consecratory rite; and hence we infer that, like that, it also should be administered to the children of God's people.