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promised to us in the covenant. Water applied by the “ ministers and stewards of God's mysteries,” under His authority and commission, is of the same meaning and import as the setting of the hand and seal to a contract, either by one of the parties, or by one lawfully empowered to sign and seal in his name. It is the seal with which Christ's Apostles and Ministers have been solemnly empowered to ratify, in His name, the covenant of mercy and grace with those who should be desirous of sharing its blessings; giving to those thus sealed the pledge of their Master, and assuring those entering into this covenant of the promises made in it.
Now this draws us directly to the chief object of our discourse, the connexion of Baptism with Confirmation.
Water is the seal of a covenant; but a covenant implies two parties, at least, to it, and usually something promised to be performed on both sides.
There may be also something required by the party granting the privileges of the covenant from the other, without the faithful performance of which the latter will finally forfeit those privileges. This, though a condition of the covenant, may not be in the nature of an equivalent, or price given, for the privileges. These privileges may be of pure grace and favour, granted by the bounty of the Donor. But the condition He requires, though not the price of the favour covenanted, may be one, in default of which the receiver may cease to be a fit object of the favour, may incur a forfeiture of the privileges, and, by a breach of the covenant, render it of none effect in his case. If a man claim the privileges of a covenant, he must comply with its terms, and fulfil his part of it.
Now let us apply these principles to Baptism. Therein we have an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; the sign, or seal, ordained by Christ, is water ; and His ministers are lawfully empowered by Him, as our text declares, to affix this sign, or seal, “ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” But this sign or seal, as we have shown, is a pledge not only assuring us, on the truth of God, to the blessings of the Gospel covenant, but also, by its very figurative signification, binding us to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; with that purity and faith which becomes those born again to the hopes, and assured of the advantages and helps, of that covenant.
The minister, therefore, before he seals on behalf of his Master, declares the engagements entered into by those, who desire to become partakers of this covenant of grace. What is required of persons to be baptized, as their part of the covenant, may be best answered in the words of the Catechism :-“ Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God made to them, in that sacrament." But, if repentance and faith be required, there very naturally arises the question of the Catechism
why then are infants baptized, when, by reason of their tender age,” they cannot perform either of the conditions, that is, they cannot have either repentance or faith? The answer to this question comes home directly to our present subject, the connexion of Baptism with Confirmation.
Infants, though they cannot themselves give the pledge required by the Church, are nevertheless baptized, “ because they promise them both,” (that is, both the conditions--repentance and faith)" by their sureties, which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.”
They give to the ministers of the visible church the best public pledge and acknowledgment, of which the circumstances of the case admit; and they are bound to the Lord of the Church, to perform these conditions on pain of forfeiting the privileges of the covenant, then sealed to them. The Godfathers and Godmothers become sureties, pledging themselves to the Church and in the presence of God, that they will, according to their best ability, see that the children be brought up with such knowledge, as may enable them to understand the engagement which has been made for them, and may induce them, when of sufficient age, to take it upon themselves, and so to fulfil it, that they may finally secure all its blessings.
It is not intended, by this regulation, to withdraw the responsibility and office of Christian
education from the hands of parents, where it ought always to be vested; but to give additional solemnity to the engagement, and to provide an additional security, in case of the parents' death, or of their being negligent of this duty, or too ignorant, or too wicked, to be sensible of its importance.
The sponsors are bound, and in the early ages of the church great stress was laid on their obligation, to see that the children be“ brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life.” The office they undertake (in whatever light they may choose to regard it) is very serious and responsible. They may be considered as pledging themselves to God for the child, as Judah pledged himself to Jacob for Benjamin “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him. If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.”
They do not quite undertake to set him before God, and to bring him unto God; but they do engage to endeavour to the best of their power so to do. And if the child, to their knowledge, grows up in ignorance and wickedness, without any effort on their part to prevent it, and to acquaint him with the nature of the pledge given in his name, then they will deserve to “ bear the blame for ever.”
But that the sponsors may, in due time, be released from their pledge, and the infants baptized may themselves solemnly before the congregation declare their assent to the vows made for them,