Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

pable of performing. What now, Sir, is you answer to these objections of the dissenters? Why truly, the first, which is indeed the chief, you very prudently slip over; and attempt not the least apology for setting, aside the parents; so that you leave us still to consider this, as a thing utterly indefensible, unlawful, absurd, and which will admit of no escuse.

But as to the second, viz. the solemn oow and obligation under which the sureties lay them, selveș ; to this you largely speak, and tell me, “ It is a gross mistake to imagine that the pro“ mises there made by the sureties concerning “the future faith and practice of the child, are " made in their own name; as if they engaged “ thereby, that when it is grown up, it shall actu- . “ally believe all the articles of the Christian faith, “ shall renounce the devil and all his works, &c. " whereas, the church considers these answers

as the child's answers, only made by its repre“sentatives : they contain its part of the bap“ tismal covenant, or contract; which, because,

by reason of its tender age, it cannot itself

utter, is uitered by its sureries.”* But, if this be, Sir, a gross mistake, the most celebrated of your own writers have led us into it. « sureties in baptism," says your learned Dr. Nichols,t "religiously engage for the faith of " the baptised, that they shall sincerely be" lieve all that is revealed in the gospel, and “shall, direct the subsequent actions of their lives

by the laws of Christ." A cloud of witnesses, I believe, can be brought from the doctors of your church, whose judgment is the same. But nowonder the learned differ in so mysterious a point. You go on, and affirm, “ That the sureties are by " the church, considered in this affair, no othera " wise than as the mouth of the child. You see,

« The

• Letter I. p. 31. † Nichols's Defence, &c. Part II. p. 2730.

“ Sir, here are no promises, nor engagements, “ which any besides the child are supposed to en“ ter into, and to be bound by. Read over the of“ fice of public baptism, you will not find, I as

sure you, any promises, or stipulations, at all “ made by the sureties in their own name: I mean any

that are explicit”* But this account of the matter is to me very dark and obscure, and seems rather to strengthen than remove our objections. For,

First, it represents the church as acting a very extraordinary and unaccountable part; viz. as receiving a child to baptism on account of its own faith and its own promise, uttered by its own sureties, when at the same time, it knows the child neither does nor can, either promise or believe any more than the font at which it is baptised. It considers the child as actually covenanting and contracting, yea, as the only covenanting and contracting party in this solemnity, when it knows it to be absolutely incapable of either. It represents the church as very solemnly asking the child,“ Dost thou believe? Wilt thou “ be baptised? Dost thou forsake the devil,” &c. when it is fully persuaded of its utter inability to believe, or resolve, or will, any thing about it. Now, when a deist stands by, and sees a learned and grave divine thus asking, and talking, and covenanting, with a child, can you wonder, Sir, if he smiles, and merrily treats the whole transaction as a jest?

“ The answers,” you say, are considered by " the church as only the answers of the child, " and contain its part of the baptismal covenant; “ which because, by reason of its tender age,

it “ cannot itself utter, is to be uttered by its sure“ ties.” That is to say, the child thinks, but cannot speak. It really covepants, contracts, pro

* Letter I. p. 31. 32.

mises, but not being able, by reason of its tender age, to utter its good intentions, these sureties are its mouth to utter them for it. But why, good. Sir, its mouth to speak for it, and not its 'understanding also to think for it, its will to 'promise for it, and indeed, its soul, and its very self to coyenant and contract for it? Is not the child by reason of its tender age, as absolutely incapable of covenanting as it is of uttering of contracting as it is of speaking? If the surety, therefore, does one of these good offices for it, he undoubtedly does the other also. But,

Secondly. If there be, as you say, no promises nor engagements which any besides the child are supposed to enter into, or to be bound by, the consequence is extremely plain, that then there are no promises nor engagements entered into at all for its religious education. For the child purely does not engage for its own religious education. If the sureties, therefore do not enter into any promise of this kind, it evidently follows, that there are no express engagements entered into by any one for the child's education. And thus, behold your boasted double security turns out at last to be no security at all! But a surety not bound ! a sponsor promising nothing ! a sem curity unengaged! This is language, which, in the mercantile, whatever it may be in the scholastic line of Afe, would be absolutely unintelligible. And, to retort your own instance, my lawyer I should think a very wrong headed man, who should pretend to lend my inoney upon a double security, and make a merit of so doing, when at the same time he confessed there were no promises nor engagements, by which either of the securities were explicitly bound.

To be plain, Sir, as for this business of a child's believing, promising, covepanting, by representative, or proxy, I cannot but think a gentleman of your penetration will easily perceive it to be

a thing absolutely inexplicable, impossible, and absurd : a thing utterly repugnant to reason and common sense, and without the least shadow of foundation in the christian religion. For, if by the constitution of the gospel-covenant, a child may believe, repent, vow, promise, and contract, by proxy, he may also, no doubt, be saved or be damned by proxy. But into what a jest will this turn the religion of Christ?

As for the antiquity of this practice, sponsors in baptisın, you have the good sense and ingenuity not to pretend it was ever known, or so much as thought of, in the primitive apostolie church. Tertullian, who lived about Anno Dom. 200, is the first, I apprehend, of all the christian writers, that makes any mention of them. Nor does it at all follow from what he says, that these sponsors were any other than the parents of the child. Justin Martyr who wrote fifty years before him, when he particularly describes the method and form of christian haptism in his days, says not a single word of any such But we learn from St. Austin, about the

year 390, (one of the earliest of the christian writers, in which any mention of them is found) when, and upon what occasion these sponsors were admitted. A great many,” says he, are offered “to baptistn, not by their parents, but by others, - “ às infant slaves are sometimes offered by their

masters. And sometimes when the parents are " dead, he infants are baptised, being offered by « any who can afford to shew this compassion « 'to them. And sometimes infants, whom their "parents have cruelly exposed to be brought up

by those who light on them, are now and then " taken up by the holy virgins, and offered to " baptism by them who have no children of their

such persons.

66

* Vide Lord King's. Inquiry, Part II. p. 67, 68.

own, nor design to have any.”—These are Austin's * own words. Observe now Dr. Wall'st ingenuous confession on them, (and the good doctor, you know, was never partial in favour of dissenters, but a severe remarker on them :) “ here we see the ordinary use then was for pa“ rents to answer for the children: but yet, that “it was not counted so necessary as that a child “could not be baptised without it.”

Hence then, it is plain that parents never were set aside when they were capable and willing to offer their children for baptism, and that sponsors were admitted only in cases of parents' incapacity; and, in all such cases, dissenters also use ihem. Why, now I beseech you, Sir, in defiance of this acknowledged usage and practice of the ancient church, as well as of common sense, does your church severely decree,“ That “no parent shall be urged to be present at his “ child's baptism, nor be admitted to answer as “ godfather for it?" What! would the parents standing forth together with the sponsors, and promising jointly with them, at all detract from this solemnity, or render it less effectual to secure the child's religious education ? It is most evident it would not, and that your practice in this point is undoubtedly an innovation, an unreasonable and arbitrary deviation from the usage and institution of the primitive apostolic church ; an absurdity very generally acknowledged and complained of by the members of your church, though not attempted to be reformed.

“ But, by this institution of godfathers and

godmothers, you say, “ your church affords its “ members some great and special advantages “ towards growing in grace and goodness above “ what are found amongst us ;” and you tell me

you lay a great stress upon it, as a wise, an

• Epist, ad Bonifac.

† His. Inf. Bap. Vol. I. p. 190.

« PoprzedniaDalej »