ROMANS, iv, 9 - 15.

"Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcisien also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, bnt in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, vns not to Abraham, or to his sced, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketb wrath; for where no law is, there is no transgression."

IN the passage which stands immediately before, Paul had asserted of Abraham, that it was his faith and not his obedience which was counted unto him for righteousness; and that it was through the former medium, and not through the latter, that he attained the blessedness of those to whom God did not reckon the guilt of their offences. And from this particular instance, does he proceed, in the verse before us, to a more general conclusion upon t4e subject.

Ver. 9, 10. He resolves the question proposed in the 9th verse by adducing the case of Abraham. In what state was he when righteousness was lmputed to him? The historical fact is, that he found acceptance with God, several years before the rite of circumcision was imposed upon him. The case of their own Abraham, was the case of one who was justified in uncircurncision. An agreement between him and God had previously been made. A covenant had previously been entered upon. There was a promise by God; and there was a faith by Abraham, which gave him a right to the fulfilment of it - and all this antecedent to his being circumcised. And when it was laid upon him as a binding observation, it was as the token or the memorial of what had passed between them. It was not the making of a new bargain. It was the sealing or the ratifying of an old one. It was not another deed of conveyance, but an infeftrnent upon the deed that had already been drawn out; and though circumcision should at any time be abolished, and some other form, as that of baptism, be substituted in its place, this no more affected the great principle upon which man acquires a right of property to a place in heaven, than the great principles of justice upon which an earthly possession is transferred from one man to another, would be affected by a mere change in the forms of an infeftment. The promise of God who cannot lie makes it sure; and yet a visible token may be of use in impressing its sureness, by serving the purpose of a more solemn declaration. It is just expressing the same thing symbolically, which had before been expressed by words. By refusing the second expression you draw back from the first; by joining in the second expression you only repeat and ratify the first. Thus circumcision is a sign - not a covenant itself, but, in the language of Genesis, the token of a covenant. And thus also it is a seal, marking that more formal consent, (to a thing however that had been before agreed upon) which lays one or both of the parties under a more sure, or at least more solemn obligation.

Ver. 11. The term sign may be generally delined a mark of indication - as when we speak of the signs of the times, or of the signs of the weather. A sign becomes a seal, when it is the mark of any deed or any declaration, having actually come forth from him who professes to be the author of it. It authenticates it to be his - so that should it be a promise, it binds him to performance; or should it be an order, it carries along with it all the force of his authority; or should it be an engagement of any sort, it fastens upon him the obligation of discharging it. It may sometimes happen that a seal marks the concurrence of two parties in the matter to which it is affixed - and the sign of circumcision was just such a seal. It was enjoined by God. It was consented to by Abraham. God sealed by it the promise which He had formerly made of a righteousness to Abraham who believed; and Abraham expressed by it that he was a believer. It did not change the footing upon which Abraham obtained the favour that was due to righteousness. It only gave the form and the solemnity of a symbolical expression to that, which was already in full reality and effect, though it had only yet been the subject of a verbal expression. The symbolical expression may afterwards be changed, or it may be dispensed with altogether; and yet the original connection between faith and the imputation of righteousness, subsist as it was at the beginning. Abraham is the primary model of this connection, and remains so after the abolition of that temporary rite which marked the Jewish economy. And now that that economy is dissolved, he is still the father of all them who believe though they be not circumcised - that like as righteousness was imputed to him when uncircumcised, so may it be imputed unto them also.

Ver. 12. It is not enough that they be of the circumcision, that they may be the children of Abraham, in the sense under which the apostle contemplates this relationship in the passage before us. It is faith which essentially constitutes this relationship. They who have the faith are his children, though they have not the circumcision. They who have the circumcision are not his children if they have not the faith. The sign without the thing signified will avail them nothing. It is true that circumcision is a seal set to by the will and authority of God, and guarantees a promise of righteousness on His part. But it is of righteous ness unto faith; and when there is no faith, there is no failure of any promise connected with this subject, though it should remain unfulfilled. The way to ascertain the reality of this faith, is not by the simple act of a man submitting to have the seal of circumcision put upon him. It is by his walking in the steps of that faith which actuated the doings and the history of Abraham; and in virtue of which he obtained a meritorious acceptance with God - even prior to the rite of circumcision being laid upon him.

Ver. 18. Not heir of the present evil world, but of a better country than this, that is an heavenly - a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God - a new earth, as well as new heavens, wherein dwelleth righteousness - Not to inherit this world, but to be counted worthy of obtaining that world upon which the righteous are made to enter after their resurrection from the dead. The promise of all this was not to those who obey, but to those who believe - not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Ver. 14. If it be of the law, then it must be of perfect obedience to that law. It cannot be through the medium of a broken, but through the medium of an observed law; and not till its conditions are fulfilled, can faith have any warrant to lay hold of the promises. This is just as good as nullifying faith altogether; and just as good as rendering the profuse quite ineffectual - because in fact there has been no perfect obedience. There have been infractions of the law by all, and all therefore are the children of wrath.

Ver. 15. To escape from this, there must be some other method of making out a righteousness unto eternal life than through the law; for, admit the arbitrations of the law, and wrath will be wrought out of them. Condemnation will be the sure result of this process. It must and will pronounce the guilt of transgression upon all; and, to get quit of this, there must be some way or other of so disposing of the law, as that it shall not be brought to bear in judgment upon a sinner. It has been so disposed of. It has been magnified and made honourable in the person of our illustrious Redeemer; and so borne away from the persons of those who through faith in Him are made, by the constitution of the economy of the gospel, partakers of His righteousness. The judgment of the law has been shifted away from them; and, with this, the charge of transgression has been lifted away from them. The following is the paraphrase.

"Doth the blessing of an imputed righteousness come then upon the circumcision only - or may it also come upon those who are uncircumcised? We have said that it came upon Abraham, and that it was faith which was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Now in what circumstances was he at the time when it was so reckoned? Was he in circumcision, or uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And circumcision he received, merely as a token or as a seal of the righteousness of that faith which he had when he was uncircumcised - that he might be the great exemplar of all those who after him should believe, though they were not circumcised - that to them also, even as unto him, there might be an ixnputation of righteousness - and that he might further more be the exemplar of those who were circumcised; and were at the same time, more than this, walking in the steps of that faith which their father Abraham had while uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should obtain the inheritance, was not to Abraham or his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they only are to inherit who fulfil the law, then faith is rendered powerless, and the promise can have no fulfilment. Because the law "worketh wrath and not favour"; and it is only when it is taken out of the way that transgression is removed and righteousness can be imputed."

The first lesson we shall endeavour to draw from this passage is, that it seems to contain in it the main strength of the scriptural argument for Infant Baptism. It looks a rational system, to make sure of the thing signified ere you impress the sign - to make sure of the belief ere you administer the baptism - if this outward ordinance signify any thing at all, to make sure that what is so signified be a reality. And all this has been applied with great appearance of force and plausibility to this question; and the principle educed out of it, that, ere this great and initiatory rite of our faith be laid upon any individual, he should make a credible profession of that faith. In confirmation of this, we are often bidden look to the order in which these two things succeeded one another in the first age of Christianity. We read of this one convert and that other having believed and been baptized; not of any having been baptized and then believing.. And so this should be the order with every grown up person who is not yet baptized. Should there be any such person, who, from accidental circumstances, has not had this rite administered to him in his own country - demand the profession of his faith, and be satisfied that it is a credible profession, ere you baptize him.

Let missionaries, these modern apostles, do the same in the pagan countries where they now labour - just as the first apostles did before them - just as was done with Abraham of old, who, agreeably to Paul's argument, first believed and afterwards underwent the rite of circumcision. But mark how it fared with the posterity of Abraham. He, the first Hebrew, believed and was circumcised; and it was laid down for a statute in Israel, that all his children should be circumcised in infancy. In like manner, the first Christians believed and were baptized; and, though there be no statute laid down upon the subject, yet is there no violation of any contrary statute, when all our children are baptized in infancy. At the origin of the two institutions the order of succession is the same with both. The thing signified took precedency of the sign. Along the stream of descent which issued from the first of them, this order was reversed, and by an express authority too, so as that the sign took precedency of the thing signified: And so has it been the very general practice, with the stream of descent that issued from the second of them; and if the want of express authority be pled against us, we reply that this is the very circumstance which inclines us to walk in the footsteps of the former dispensation. Express authority is needed to warrant a change; but it is not needed to warrant a continuation. It is this very want of express authority, we think, which stamps on the opposite system a character of presumptuous innovation. When once bidden to walk in a straight line, it does not require the successive impulse of new biddings to make us persevere in it. But it would require a new bidding to justify our going off from the line, into a track of deviation. The first Christians believed and were baptized. Abraham believed and was circumcised. He transmitted the practice of circumcision to infants. We transmit the practice of baptism to infants. There is no satisfactory historical evidence of our practice having ever crept in - the innovation of a later period in the history of the church. Had the mode of infant baptism sprung up as a new piece of sectarianism, it would not have escaped the notice of the authorship of the times. But there is no credible written memorial of its ever having entered amongst us as a novelty; and we have therefore the strongest reason for believing, that it has come down in one uncontrolled tide of example and observation from the days of the apostles. And if they have not in the shape of any decree or statutory enactment that can be found in the New Testament, given us any authority for it - they at least, had It been wrong, and when they saw that whole families of discipleship were getting into this style of observation, would have interposed and lifted up the voice of their authority against it. But we read of no such interdict in our Scriptures; and, in these circumstances, we hold the inspired teachers of our faith to have given their testimony in favour of infant baptism, by giving us the testimony of their silence.

It is vain to allege that the Jewish was a grosser dispensation not so impregnated with life and rationality and spiritual meaning as ours - with a ceremonial appended to it for the purpose mainly of building up a great outward distinction, between the children of Israel and all the other families that were on the face of the earth; and that this was one great use of circumcision, which, whether affixed during the period of infancy or advanced life, served equally to signalize the people, and so to strengthen that wall of separation, which, in the wisdom of Providence, had been raised for the sake of keeping the whole race apart from the general world, till the ushering in of a more comprehensive and liberal dispensation. The flesh profiteth nothing, says the Saviour, "the words I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life." But it so happens that in the ordinance of circumcision, there are the very spirit and the very life which lie in the ordinance of baptism. Viewed as a seal, it marks a promissory obligation on the part of God,. of the same privileges in both cases; and that is the righteousness of faith. Viewed as a sign, it indicates the same graces. It indicates the existence of faith, and all its accompanying influences on the character of him who has been subjected to it. That is not circumcision which is outward in the flesh, says Paul; but circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter. That is not baptism, says Peter, which merely puts away the filth of the flesh; but baptism is the answer of a good conscience unto God. If the baptism of infants offers any violence to the vital and essential principles of that ordinance - the principles of the ordinance of circumcision are altogether the same. Circumcision is the sign of an inward grace; and upon Abraham, in the previous possession of this grace, the sign was impressed. And, in the face of what might have been alleged, that it was wrong when the sign and the thing signified did not go together - this sign of circumcision was nevertheless perpetuated in the family of Abraham, by being impressed on the infancy of all his descendants.

In like manner, when an adult stands before us for baptism, should we be satisfied that he has had the washing of regeneration, then may we put the question - Can any man forbid water, that he should not be baptized who has received the Holy Ghost as well as we? But should any man go further, and forbid water to the infants of his present or his future family, he appears to do so on a principle which God Himself did not recognize; and, while he seems to exalt faith over forms, by waiting for the rise of this inward grace ere he will impose the outward ceremonial, he stamps a reflection on that very procedure that was instituted for him who is called the father of the faithful. But is it not wrong, when the sign and the thing signified do not go together? Yes, it is very wrong; and let us shortly consider who they generally are that are in the wrong, when such a disjunction at any time occurs. In the case of an adult, the thing signified should precede the sign. When he offers himself for baptism, he asks to be invested with the sign that he is a disciple - and he makes a credible appearance and profession of his being so. Were it not a credible profession, then the administrator is in the fault, for having put the outward stamp of Christianity on one whom he believed to be a counterfeit. Were it a profession rendered credible by the arts of hypocrisy, then the minister is free; and the whole guilt that arises from an unworthy subject, standing arrayed in the insignia of our faith, lies upon him who wears them.

But in the case of an infant, the sign precedes the thing signified. The former has been imprest upon him by the will of his parent; and the latter remains to be worked within him by the care of his parent. If he do not put forth this care, he is in the fault. Better that there had been no sign, if there was to be no substance; and he by whose application it was that the sign was imprinted, but by whose neglect it is that the substance is not infused - he is the author of this mockery upon ordinances. He it is who hath made the symbolical language of Christianity the vehicle of a falsehood. He is like the steward who is entrusted by his superior with the subscription of his name to a space of blank paper, on the understanding that it was to be filled up in a particular way, agreeable to the will of his lord; and, instead of doing so, has filled it up with matter of a different import altogether. The infant, with its mind unfilled and unfurnished, has been put by the God of providence into his hands; and after the baptism which he himself hath craved, it has been again made over to him with the signature of Christian discipleship, and, by his own consent, impressed upon it; and he, by failing to grave the characters of discipleship upon it, hath unworthily betrayed the trust that was reposed in him; and, like the treacherous agent who hath prostituted his master's name to a purpose different from his master's will, he hath so perverted the sign of Heaven's appointment, as to frustrate the end of Heaven's ordination.

The worthies of the Old Testanment, who, in obedience to the God whom they served, circumcised their children in infancy, never forgot that they were the children of the circumcision; and the mark of separation they had been enjoined to impose upon them, reminded them of the duty under which they lay, to rear them in all the virtues of a holy and a separate generation; and many a Hebrew parent was solemnized by this observance into the devotedness of Joshua, who said, that whatever others should do, he with all his house should fear the Lord; and this was the testimony of the Searcher of hearts in behalf of one who had laid the great initiatory rite of Judaism upon his offspring, that He knew him, that he would bring up his children after him in all the ways and statutes and ordinances that he had himself been taught; and it was the commandment of God to His servants of old, that they should teach their children diligently and talk to them as they rose up and sat down, and as they walked by the wayside, of the loyalty and gratitude that should be rendered to the God of Israel.

Thus was the matter ordered under the old dispensation. The sign was impressed upon the infant, and it served for a signal of duty and direction to the parent. It pointed out to him the moral destination of his child, and led him to guide it onward accordingly. There ought to he a correspondence between the sign and the thing signified. At time very outset of the child's life, did the parent fix upon its person the one term of its correspondence, as a mark of his determination to fix upon its character the other term of it. It was as good as his promissory declaration to that effect; and if this be enough to rationalize the infant circumcision of the Jews, it is equally enough to rationalize the infant baptism of Christians. The parent of our day, who feels as he ought, will feel himself in conscience to be solemnly charged, that the infant whom he has held up to the baptism of Christianity, lie should bring up in the belief of Christianity; and if he fail to do this, it is he who has degraded this simple and impressive ceremonial into a thing of nought - it is he who has dissolved the alliance between the sign and the thing signified - it is he who brings a scandal upon ordinances, by stripping them of all their respect and all their significancy. Should the child live and die unchristian, there will be a proper and essential guilt attached to him in consequence; but it will at least not be the guilt of having broken a vow which he was incapable of making. And yet the vow was made by some one. It was made by time parent; and in as far as the ruin of the child may be resolved into the negligence of him to whom he owes his birth, it is he who moved the baptism and it is he who hath profaned it.

This ordinance lays a responsibility on parents - the sense of which has, we doubt not, given a mighty impulse to the cause of Christian education. It is well that there should be one sacrament in behalf of the grown up disciple, for the solemn avowal of his Christianity before men; and the very participation of which binds more closely about his conscience all the duties and all the consistencies of the gospel. But it is also well that there should be another sacrament, the place of which in his history is, not at the period of his youth or manhood, but at the period of his infancy; and the obligation of which is felt, not by his conscience still in embryo, but by the conscience of him whose business is to develope and to guard and to nurture its yet unawakened sensibilities. This is like removing baptism upward on a higher vantage ground. It is assigning for it a station of command and of custody at the very fountain-head of moral influence; and we repeat it to be well, that Christianity should have here fixed one of its sacraments - that it should have reared such a security around the birth of every immortal - that it should so have constituted baptism, as to render it a guide and a guardian, whose post is by the cradle of the infant spirit; and which, from coming into contact with the first elements of tuition, has, we doubt not, from this presiding eminence, done much to sustain and perpetuate the faith of the gospel from generation to generation.

We have one observation more. Baptism, viewed as a seal, marks the promise of God, to grant the righteousness of faith to him who is impressed by it; but, viewed as a sign, it marks the existence of this faith. But if it be not a true sign, it is not an obligatory seal. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. But he who is baptized and believes not shall be damned. It is not the circumcision which availeth, but a new creature. It is not the baptism which availeth, but the answer of a good conscience. God hath given a terrible demonstration of the utter worthlessness of a sign that is deceitful, and hath let us know that on that event as a seal it is dissolved. He thus stands emancipated from all His promises, and adds to His direct vengeance upon iniquity, a vengeance for the hypocrisy of its lying ceremonial. When a whole circumcised nation lost the spirit, though they retained the letter of the ordinance, He swept it away. The presence of the letter, we have no doubt, heightened the provocation; and beware, ye parents, who regularly hold up your children to the baptism of water, and make their baptism by the Holy Ghost no part of your concern or of your prayer - lest you thereby swell the judgments of the land, and bring down the sore displeasure of God upon your families.

This affords, we think, something more than a dubious glimpse into the question, that is often put by a distracted mother, when her babe is taken away from her - when all the converse it ever had with the world, amounted to the gaze upon it of a few months or a few opening smiles, which marked the dawn of felt enjoyment; and ere it had reached perhaps the lisp of infancy, it, all unconscious of death, had to wrestle through a period of sickness with its power and at length to be overcome by it. Oh, it little knew, what an interest it had created in that home where it was so passing a visitant - nor, when carried to its early grave, what a tide of emotion it would raise among the few acquainances it left behind it! On it too baptism was imprest as a seal, and as a sign it was never falsified. There was no positive unbelief in its little bosom - no resistance yet put forth to the truth - no love at all for the darkness rather than the light - nor had it yet fallen into that great condcmnation which will attach to all who perish because of unbelief, that their deeds are evil. It is interesting to know that God instituted circumcision for the infant children of Jews, and at least suffered baptism for the infant children of those who profess Christianity. Should the child die in infancy, the use of baptism as a sign has never been thwarted by it; and may we not be permitted to indulge a hope so pleasing, as that the use of baptism as a seal remains in all its entireness - that He who sanctioned the affixing of it to a babe, will fulfil upon it the whole expression of this ordinance: And when we couple with this the known disposition of our great forerunner - the love that He manifested to children on earth - how He suffered them to approach His person - and, lavishing endearment and kindness upon them in the streets of Jerusalem, told His disciples that the presence and company of such as these in heaven formed one ingredient of the joy that was set before Him - Tell us if Christianity do not throw a pleasing radiance around an infant's tomb!

And should any parent who hears us, feel softened by the touching remembrance of a light, that twinkled a few short months under his roof, and at the end of its little period expired - we cannot think that we venture too far, when we say that he has only to persevere in the faith and in the following of the gospel, and that very light will again shine upon him in heaven. The blossom "which withered here upon its stalk," has been transplanted there to a place of endurance; and it will then gladden that eye which now weeps out the agony of an affection that has been sorely wounded; and in the name of Him who if on earth would have wept along with them, do we bid all believers present, to sorrow not even as others which have no hope, but to take comfort in the thought of that country where there is no sorrow and no separation.
0, when a mother meets on high
The babe she lost in infancy,
Hath she not then, for pains and fears -
The day of woe, the watchful night -
For all her sorrow, all her tears -
An over-payment of delight?

We have put forth these remarks, not for the purpose of inspiring a very violent distaste towards the practice of others in respect of baptism, but of reconciling you to your own; and of protecting you from any disturbance of mind, on account of their arguments. It forms no peculiarity of the age in which we live, that men differ so much in matters connected with Christianity; but it forms a very pleasing peculiarity, that men can do now what they seldom did before, they can agree to differ. With zeal for the essentials, they can now tolerate each other in the circumstantials of their faith; and under all the variety which they wear, whether of complexion or of outward observance, can recognize the brotherhood of a common doctrine and of a common spirit, among very many of the modern denominations of Christendom. The line which measures off the ground of vital and evangelical religion, from the general ungodliness of our world, must never be effaced from observation; and the latitudinarianism which would tread it under foot, must be fearfully avoided; and an impregnable sacredness must be thrown around that people, who stand peculiarized by their devotedness and their faith from the great bulk of a species who are of the earth and earthly. There are landmarks between the children of light and the children of darkness, which can never be moved away; and it were well that the habit of professing Christians was more formed on the principle of keeping up that limit of separation, which obtains between the church and the world - so that they who fear God should talk often together; and when they do go forth by any voluntary movement of their own on those who fear Him not, they should do it in the spirit, and with the compassionate purpose of missionaries.

But while we hold it necessary to raise and to strengthen the wall by which the fold is surrounded - and that, not for the purpose of intercepting the flow of kindness and of Christian philanthropy from within, but for the purpose of intercepting the streams of contamination from without - we should like to see all the lines of partition that have been drawn in the fold itself utterly swept away. This is fair ground for the march of latitudinarianism - and that, not for the object of thereby putting down the signals of distinction between one party of Christians and the object of associating them by all the ties and another; but, allowing each to wear its own, for the recognitions of Christian fellowship. In this way, we apprehend, that there will come at length to be the voluntary surrender of many of our existing distinctions, which will far more readily give way by being tolerated than by being fought against. And this is just the feeling in which we regard the difference, that obtains on the subject of baptism. It may subside into one and the same style of observation, or it may not. It is one of those inner partitions which may at length be overthrown by mutual consent; but, in the mean time, let the portals of a free admittance upon both sides be multiplied as fast as they may along the whole extent of it; and let it no longer be confounded with the outer wall of the great Christian temple, but be instantly recognized as the slender partition of one of its apartments, and the door of which is opened for the visits of welcome and kind intercourse to all the other members of the Christian family.
Let it never be forgotten of the Particular Baptists of England, that they form the denomination of Fuller and Carey and Ryland and Hall and Foster; that they have originated among the greatest of all missionary enterprises; that they have enriched the Christian literature of our country with authorship of the most exalted piety, as well as of the first talent and the first eloquence; that they have waged a very noble and successful war with the hydra of Antinomianism; that perhaps there is not a more intellectual community of ministers in our island, or who have put forth to their number a greater amount of mental power and mental activity in the defence and illustration of our common faith; and, what is better than all the triumphs of genius or understanding, who, by their zeal and fidelity and pastoral labour among the congregations which they have reared, have done more to swell the lists of genuine discipleship in the walks of private society - and thus both to uphold and to extend the living Christianity of our nation.
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