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answer. But forasmuch as by the next question these observations are themselves undertaken to be obviated, let this next question, with the answers which it is employed to call forth, be first heard.
Question 17.- Why then are infants baptized, when, by reason of their tender age, they cannot perform them?
Answer.-Because they promise them both by their sureties: which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.
[Perform them?]-Perform what ?-Here may be seen a cloud of obscurity and ambiguity, derived from a sort of source-a purely grammatical one-such as in a composition so highly elaborated, and so abundantly examined, would not naturally have been looked for. Of such things as are in their nature capable of being “performed,” the last thing mentioned, -not to say the only thing,—is what is brought to view by the word promises. Yet, on a little reflection, these things, viz. promises, (it will be seen) can not be among the things here in view.-Why ?-Answer Because God is the person by whom these promises were stated as being made. But, not even in such a composition as this, can it have been supposed or pretended, that when God is the person by whom a promise is made, the person by whom that promise is to be performed is an infant.-An infant ? Yea, a just-born infant :—the time allowed for performance being no longer than the interval between its birth and the age at which baptism is commonly administered : an interval commonly of between a week and a fortnight.
Look a little forwards however, and then a little backwards, and it will be sufficiently clear, that, though the things to be performed are indeed promises, yet the person, by whom they are to be performed, is-not the least antecedent, viz. God, but the infant : the infant who is considered as the subject of the operation in question, viz. baptism. Why not God but the infant ?- Answer, for this plain reason :- because the acts which are held up to view in the character of subjects of promise are “ Faith and Repentance;" to wit, the Faith and Repentance above spoken of.
It is not, however, without some violence to grammar some violation of the rules of grammar—that the language is here reconcileable to the rules of common sense. The number employed in the 16th question is the singular aumber.-—“What is required :” the number employed in the 17th question, by which, with its answer, the answer to that 16th question is undertaken to be explained, is the plural number: Perform them,” says the 7th question : promise them, says the answer to it. And this promise them, of what is it the representative? Why—as turns out immediately after-of two things. Here then, between question the 16th (i.e. the question, to which, it being, and with so much reason, considered, that explanation is wanting, explanation, such as we see, is accordingly given)-between this 16th question and question 17th (i.e. the question employed to explain it) a contradiction exhibits itself. Believe the explained question, there is but one thing required : believe the erplaining question, there are two things-two very different things, both, required : viz. the faith and the repentance. These are the them which, viz. by their sureties, the children promised : these are the them which, viz. by themselves, they are to perform. For so it is, that according to this law and this divinity,
they themselves are thus to be sureties for their own sureties.
From the grammatical, return we now to the religious ground : and thereon to what remains of the task which the poor child has to go through with.
Two things, as above, he is required to do: and that because once upon a time, without knowing any thing about the matter, he promised to do them: he promised, that is other people did, which comes to the same thing. These things are—to repent of sin,whether he has committed any or no: and to believe,-and that “stedfastly," whatever he may think of it,--what, for that purpose, is thereupon put into his hands. This is—that when, a few days after his birth, the Clergyman threw a little water on his face,saying over him at the same time a few words without a meaning,—God was all the while making him promises, which promises might however as well have not been made, since nobody has so much as pretended to know what they were.
Another task, which his believing faculty is, at the same time, put to,—though without any express mention of it,-consists in the believing bad principles to be good principles, and bad reasons good reasons.
Example of bad principles :—that it is in the power of any three persons, two of them being of the one sex and one of the other, by making, in the name of a new-born infant, a parcel of promises, to saddle it with a load of obligations : amongst others, that of believing,-how incredible soever, when the time comes, they may appear to him,-things upon things, which, had he not been thus saddled, he could not have believed.
Example of bad reasons :--that a man's having taken upon him to promise, that a child shall believe so and so, affords any reason for the child's believing as much, or so much as trying to believe it.
The point of time, at which these two exploits are to be performed-in this may be seen a point, in relation to which, if the babes and sucklings should, any of them, succeed in forming to themselves any thing like a clear conception, they will have done more than seems to have been done by the sages, by whom this task has been thus put into their hands.
“What is required of persons AFTER they have been baptized ?” Had the question stood thus, the meaning would have been clear enough. Thus however it, unfortunately, does not stand : instead of so doing, it stands thus :“ What is required of persons TO BE baptized ?” In this way of putting it, the child's having done these things, that are thus“ required” of him, is what, in the language of lawyers, is called a condition precedent to his being baptized. These things, then, which he is to do before he is baptized—that is, before he is a fortnight, or perhaps before he is a week old-what are they ?– The question has been already answered. He is to repent—to repent of the sins which, in nobody can say what numbers, in his way from the breast to the cradle and back again, he has already committed: and he is to believe-to believe with all his might, all the fine things which for that purpose have been provided. All this while, if so it be, that a child, almost as soon as born, may promise by proxy, why not repent and believe by proxy? The sponsors, when they have promised for him, why not as well perform for him ? Having undertaken for the performances, as they are all along called,—viz. a quantity of repentance, and moreover, a quantity of faith,—who so proper as they to execute these several performances ?
To a child of a week or a fortnight old, the finding sios of its own to repent of, may not be altogether so easy a task, as on this occasion seems to have been supposed :to the good men and woman, or the good man and women, by whom all these promises are made for it, the matter may, every now and then at least, be a matter of much less difficulty.
The order in which these same two performances are required and expected to succeed one another;—in this may be seen another exemplification, of the muddiness of the fountain, from which all this instruction flowed. In the natural course of things, the motive comes before the act. If the course here prescribed were to be pursued, the act would take the lead : and then, with a manifestation of humility, of which any example would not easily be found elsewhere, up comes in the train of it the generating and directing motive. According to the scheme of Jesus, faith was of course every where the seed, repentance one of the fruits of it: it was because a man believed-expected to experience the eventual fulfilment of the threats and promises held out to him-it was because a man believed that he was to repent,---not because he repented, that he was to believe. Into the conception of any man besides this Catechism-maker, did any such idea ever enter, as that of addressing threats and promises to a man, to no other purpose than that of making him do what he had done already? But, if the mind, in which both these fruits were to be produced by the genial virtue of this ceremony, was a new-born infant's, either of them would be as ready to come forth as the other : and thus the Catechism-maker is justified.
Question 18.—Why was the sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained?