A Practical Discourse concerning Vows: with a Special Reference to Baptism and the Lord's Supper - by Edmund CalamyCovenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride
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When dealing with Covenant Theology “simple” is a good thing. After the Bible, this work is the FIRST that you should read, or one that you should introduce to a friend if they are struggling with covenant concepts.
There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.
Of the Baptismal Vow, as to those Baptized in Infancy.
An account of the distinct concern of Parents and Children in it; and a distinct address to each concerning the Duty Thence resulting.
Though the case of Persons Baptized when Adult be more clear, yet is more common in the days we live in; and so hath been in the church for Several Ages. Though the obligation of the former by the Baptismal Vow be more immediate, and therefore more obvious and sensibly discernable, yet is that of the latter, as fully and sufficiently evident, if rightly stated.
I design not to run out into disputes; and shall therefore take that foe granted which so many eminent Persons of all professions have so laboriously and clearly proved, viz. that it is the duty of all Christian Parents to enter their children, while infants, into the covenant, by baptism, and so from the first to bring them under the vow foregoing. I lay that down here as a postulatum; and take it to be but a reasonable one: and supposing it evident, shall set my self to show what apprehensious we are to form of the engagement which such baptized infants come under, and of the manner of their coming under it. And here I think it undeniable, that as it is in the Parent’s right, that infants are admitted to Baptism, so it is by their engagement, that they are brought under the Vow, which that solemnity carry in it. That we may be clear in this matter therefore, it is needful distinctly to consider, 1) The part and work of Parents in devoting their children to God and bringing them under the Baptismal Vow; 2) The concern of children in what upon that occasion is dine by their parents for them, and on their behalf; and 3) The parents power to bring them, and the children’s capacity of being brought, under such an obligation as the Baptismal Vow.
1) As for the part and work of Parents in devoting their children to God, and bringing them under the baptismal Vow; that is comprised under the following particulars:
1. They disclaim all right to their children that is inconsistent with God’s absolute propriety; and resign them as a part of themselves, entirely to his management and disposal. Form him they received them, and to him they return them, begging his acceptance of them for his own.
2. They bring them to god for his blessing; and hold them up before him, with earnest desires that th4ese little parts of themselves, may be not only under his providential Care, but under the entail of his Covenant Love. As they embrace that Covenant which the Gospel offers for themselves, so is it also their earnest request, that their children may partake of the inestimable blessings of it; in order whereto, they bring them to receive the instituted seal of the covenant that so that promise (of pardon, favor, grace, and mercy (Acts 2:39)) which is to their children as well as them; may actually reach them.
3. They consent for their children, to all God’s claims and demands; and bind them (if they live) to all the duties of the covenant, as ever they expect or desire they should share in the blessings of it. That their children shall eventually live in God’s fear, and walk in his ways, and carry it as his devoted servants, is not in the power of the best parents to promise; that can only be brought about by the aid of divine grace, which is not at their dispose; but having a natural power and right to judge for them, and act for them, till they become capable of judging and acting for themselves, they consent on their behalf to the justness and equity of the Covenant’s demands, and engage for them to a compliance therewith; and so bring them under a Vow of the same nature with that before recited, with reference to the adult, its personality only excepted.
4. THESE Children being born in Christ’s Family, to which their Parents belong, they bring them to His Authorized Representative, that they may be Enrolled in the list of his Servants, and receive his Badge, and put on his Livery, in order to their sharing in all the blessed Privileges of his Domestics. It was ordained in the Levitical Law, “that if any one had Children during his servitude they should be his Masters; for they were Born in his family (Exo. 21:4).” So all the children of Christians may be laid to be born in Christ’s Family, and to be a part of his peculiar Propriety; which Propriety of his is owned in their Infant Dedication : For Parents in that Solemnity, acknowledge our Blessed Redeemer to be the Rightful Lord and Master both of them and theirs, to the Rules and Orders of whole Family they bind-both themselves and their Children to keep close: And he on the other side is Graciously pleased to testify his acceptance of theirs as well as them, by certain Solemn Rites, he hath appointed to be used by his Ministers.
5. Christian Parents do as it were enter a Protest against the fruit of their own Bowels, and Solemnly lay them under the Curse of God, if they live to cast off his Yoke, and lay aside his Fear, and revolt from his Covenant. I believe this is but rarely so much as the matter of an actual thought of a Parent upon such an occasion: But it is the language of the Solemnity itself. A Vow cannot be made; without a Penalty, either supposed or expressed: And all Sacrament’ vows, in their own nature carry imprecations in them. The Baptismal Vow made personally by any one hath this imprecation implied in it, if not expressly intimated; The Lord do so to me and more also, if I perfidiously break it; the Lord shut me for ever out of the number of the Blessed, and verify all his Threatenings in my Exemplary punishment, if I wickedly revolt from him; So also when Parents come to devote a little one of theirs to God in Baptism, such is the nature of their Transaction on its behalf, that they do as it were say, The Lord renounce thee my Child, if ever thou livest to renounce this Vow I am entering thee under to be his; the Curse of God be upon thee if thou breakest his Bonds, and irreclaimably persist in Rebellion against him.
6. PARENTS Solemnly Vow and Promise to do all that in them lies, as their Children grow up, to make them sensible of their engagement and obligation to be the Lords; to whom they were so early Consecrated and Devoted. They oblige themselves, it they and their Children live, to Instruct them in the great Principles of Religion; to help them understand what their Baptism obliges them to; and to engage them to live answerably to that Sacred Vow they then entered them under; and to bring them understandingly seriously and personally to renew it themselves; that so its binding and obliging force may be the stronger upon them, and the entail of Covenant Blessings, may be the more firmly secured to them. THIS in short is Parents work in the Baptismal Consecration of their little Ones: Whence it appears, that they in that Solemnity, not only bring their Children under a Sacred Vow, but also come under one themselves.
YOU may take the Sum of their Vow in Form briefly thus: “Behold (O Lord) we who have devoted ourselves, and all that we are and have to thee, do according to thine injunction and expectation, particularly now Consecrate a little one of ours, to thee from whom we have received it. We own it to be more thine than ours by Right; and we desire that thy Right may take place. It was born in thy Family; we therefore bring it to be enrolled in the List of thy Servants, and to receive thy Badge, and put on thy Livery, in order to its sharing in all the Blessed Privileges of thy Domestics. We have handed it into a Miserable World; and been instrumental to convey a corrupt nature to it, but thou alone by giving it thy Grace canst make it Happy. We present it to thee for thy Blessing. We now enter it into thy Covenant; the Blessings whereof thou haft in thy word been Graciously pleased to declare do descend from Believers to their Infant Seed. We offer it to receive the outward Seal, and beg that thou wouldst convey and assure, the great things thereby betokened and intimated: We humbly lay hold of thy Covenant for ourselves and this little one; on whose behalf we freely confess to all thy claims and demands; Hoping that if it shall please thee to remove it out of this sinful and troublesome World, before it shall become capable of Transacting with thee Personally for itself, thou wilt take it to thyself, and make it happy in thyself; and firmly binding and engaging it if thou shalt please to spare its life, to live in thy Fear, and walk in thy Ways, and sincerely keep all thy Holy Commandments, as ever we desire or expect it should share in the Invaluable Blessings which thou hast promised to thy Servants. And if (which we humbly beseech thee Mercifully to prevent) it should live personally to break thy Bonds, and wickedly to Revolt from thee, and persist to doing, without being reclaimed, we can desire no other, than that it may be treated as an Insolent Contempter of thy Covenant and a perfidious Revolter from it: To prevent which nevertheless, we Solemnly Promise, as in thine especial pretence, to do all that lies in our power; by Wholesome Instructions, and Serious Admonitions, Parental Counsels, Seasonable Reproofs, and Suitable Corrections, as we can discern occasion: Which endeavors of ours we humbly and earnestly beseech thee to accompany with thy Heavenly Blessing; that they may be Effectual.”
let’s now consider the concern of Children, in this Transaction of their Parents on their behalf; of which you may take an Account in the following Particulars.
1. THEY are hereby bound to lead a life of Holy Devotedness to God the Father, Son, and Spirit. To this they henceforth fraud bound, not only by that Divine Law that requires it of them, but alto by their Parents Engagement and Stipulation; which in matters of plain Duty to be sure is binding, whatever it may be in things that are indifferent. We find Samuel under the Law, thought himself obliged by his Mothers Vow, and therefore gives himself freely to serve the Lord in his Tabernacle, according to the dedication she had made of him: Yea, Jepthah’s Daughter complies with her Fathers Vow, though (as most think) it was to be offered up in Sacrifice: My Father (faith she) if thou haft opened thy mouth to the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth. (Judges 11) How much more then must those Children who were in Infancy entered into the Christian Covenant by their Parents, be obliged to stand to it, when it engages them to nothing but what was of itself antecedently their Duty. It’s a part of the Honour Nature hath made due to Parents from their Children, that they own themselves bound by their engagements for them; and interest in this case falls in with Duty; the advantages of a compliance with their Parental Dedication being very great; and the mischiefs of a Refusal evident and notorious. Withal they are bound to conform to the Rules of that Family in which they were born, and to the Matter whereof their Parents brought them to pay so early an Homage: And to continue in the service of that Lord whose Badge they so soon received; till they can find a better; and if they stay till then without all question they’ll never quit him. The Obligation Infants by virtue of their Baptism come under to an Holy Devotedness, is of a mixed Nature: Tis partly Natural and partly Positive. Tis Natural, so far as it is an effect of the Parental power duly exercised: Tis Positive so far as there is any force in the Rites then used, which are of Divine Institution; and the case was in this respect the same as to Circumcision of old. St. Paul observes, “That every man that is Circumcised is a debtor to do the whole Law”. Circumcision obliged all that received it to a subjection to the whole Mosaic Law; and that although it was administered to all of Jewish Extraction in their Infancy, and on their Parents Account, and at their desire; they were bound by it without staying for their consent: So also are all Baptized Persons, though Infants, bound to a subjection to the whole Gospel. And the denial hereof by any so Baptized, is a spitting in their Parents face, nay a pouring contempt on God’s Sacred Institutions.
2. THEY are bound to own their Baptismal Obligation, as soon as capable. If they are bound to stand to it, there’s certainly all the reason in the World they should own they do so. They are bound to own it in Duty to their Parents; who by giving them up to God, more effectually consulted their Happiness and Welfare than they could have done any other way: They are bound also to do it in Gratitude to God, for so Inestimable a Privilege, as is so early an admission into his Family, and coming under his Covenant. It’s necessary they should do it in order to the securing the entail of Covenant Blessings; to which their own personal taking upon them that Vow which they first came under in Baptism is necessary. For they are no longer to be considered as part of their Parents, than till they arrive at a Capacity of acting for themselves; at which time God expects both that they should own their Baptismal Dedication to have been a signal Mercy, declare their readiness to stand to the Vow they were then entered under, and personally make it for themselves, and in their own Names, as ever they expect to reap the Blessed Benefits that depend thereon. And though this Vow was really binding when it was merely Parental, yet is it more firmly binding when it thus becomes Personal. And those must look upon the power of Parents over Children to be very small, that question whether there they may rightfully exert their Authority in bringing their Children under a Bond to do that when they come to Age, which is their unquestionable Duty then to do, whether there be such a Prior Engagement or not; But however We may hence observe another notion of the Baptismal Vow that is proper enough, vis. That it is that Vow which we by virtue of Infant Baptism are obliged to make explicitly when we come to Age; in which case the Form drawn up in the foregoing Chapter is as suitable, as tis with reference to those who are not Baptized till they are Adult.
5. THOSE who stand not to their Infant Baptismal Obligation when they grow up; are liable to be treated as obstinate condemners of the Divine Favour; as Sacrilegious Alienators of what was peculiarly devoted; and as perjured Violators of God’s Covenant. Their case is not the fame with that of the rest of the World, who remain Undedicated, and Unconsecrated to God: But as their Advantages would be great if they were Faithful, so will their Miseries be great if they are false to the Vow they came under in their Baptism. That very Bond that should have kept them close to God, will consign them over to the more aggravated Woes, when put in suit against them. For though Parents were the main Agents, yet are they mainly concerned and bound, and on them therefore will the Penalty annexed take place.
4. THE Minister that Baptized them, their Parents that Devoted them, and as many as were Spectators of their Infant Consecration; are so many Witnesses for God against them, if in their afterlife they break God’s bands in sunder, and cast away his cords from them. They are Witnesses (I say) for God against them, and as such will be ready to appear at the last day. Ministers will then be ready to say, “Lord here are such and such that we Baptized in thy Name, and introduced into the visible Church, in the method which thou Instituted, and thine Apostles practiced: But before we did so, we thought we bound them fast unto thee; we exacted of their Parents, on their behalf, a Renunciation of the Flesh, the World, and the Devil, and a free consent to all thy claims and demands; that they were engaged to this, we arc Witnesses.” If they have broken therefore the Vow they then came under, and persisted in doing, we can testify they are perfidious Traitors; and Faithless Rebels, and deserve the Severest Treatment. Pious Parents will also be ready to say, “Behold O Lord we gave these Children of ours to thee, from whom we received them, in thy Service we Lifted thereto, and under thy Bonds we brought them with the Instituted Solemnity, even in their very Infancy: and we did all that in us lay to bring them under as strong and firm engagements as was possible; and often did we as they grew up, endeavor to make them sensible how much they were obliged to live to thee to whom they were Devoted; their Blood therefore be upon themselves: If they have wickedly and obstinately Revolted from thee, their Ruin will lye at their own doors, whereof we are Witnesses.” All others also who were present at the Solemnity of their Baptism, will be ready to bear Witness, that they came early under God’s Gracious Covenant, and were entered in a Bond to be faithful in all the Duties of it, which if they have wickedly neglected, and lived to themselves instead of living to God, they can attest they have broken a Divine Vow that was upon them, which implies a highly aggravated Guilt. And Oh! How sad a thing will it be, for Persons to have Ministers, Parents, and Christian Friends, Rising up in Judgment against them at last, for their Revolting from that God to whom they in their Infancy were Consecrated, and breaking those Bands that should have fastened them to him?
BUT after all, because there are some to be met with, that Question Parents power to bring their Children while Infants, under such an Obligation as that of the Baptismal Vow, and make their Incapacity Personally to consent a Grand Objection against this Practice.
I shall now, 5thly, A little distinctly confider the Power of Parents to bring them, and the Children’s Capacity of being brought under such an Obligation as the Baptismal Vow.
1. AS for die Parental Power; it’s the greatest that Nature gives. The Interest of Parents in their Children is great; and such also must their Power over them needs consequently be. Children have no use of their Understandings to deliberate, or wills to choose; they have no Power to act; Nature inverts Parents therefore with a right of Deliberating, Choosing, and Acting for them, during their own Incapacity.
Children are the product even of their own Bowels, and therefore it may be well supposed they’ll do their best for them: And they can never make their Parents a return for what they have received from them; can never pay them the Debt that is naturally owing them, and therefore may well be supposed ready to hearken to them, and comply with them in any thing that is reasonable. Nature puts Parents in the place of God to Children. During their Infant State, they have as great a power of Command over them, even as over their own Hands or Feet, or any other Members of their Body, where provided they keep within the limits and inclinations of Nature; i.e. Love and Cherish, and are tender of them, they cannot overdo. All Civil Laws have allowed great scope to the Parental Power, because its presumed wouldn’t be used for their Children’s Good. In no Countries hath it been so straitened by any particular Laws, as that Parents have not had a free liberty of disposing of their Children, and entering into Contracts for them, which shall be binding upon them, and of laying Charges and Commands on them, which shall be Obligatory: We have a known instance of this latter sort in the case of the Rechabites, who were charged by Jonadab their Forefather, that none of them, their wives, their Sons, or their Daughters, drink any wine; that they should neither Build House, nor Sow Seed, -nor plant vineyard, nor have any; but all their days dwell in Tents; Which charge they punctually Obeyed; And there is a Solemn Blessing given them by God, for this their Obedience. And can it be supposed, Parents should have great Power over their Children, in Natural Matters, and Civil Affairs, and none in Religious Concerns? God takes care of the Infant Seed of Pious Parents, hath made great Promises, and extends his Covenant to them, and offers to entail the Blessings of it on them; And have Parents no Power to give up their Children to him, and enter them into his Covenant, and bind them to the Duties of it? Children are bound to stand to any Engagements their Parents come under for them, unless in any thing Sinful and of dangerous consequence? And can they safely reject the force of the Vow they bring them under in Baptism to be the Lord’s; and plead that it was a stretch of the Parental Power? Why if Parents have power to choose a physician for their Bodies, an instructor for their Minds, a Matter for their Calling, what would hinder their Power from extending to the choosing God for the Portion of their Souls, and binding them to discharger the duties owing to him? It may perhaps be pleaded, That Parents would not want Power in the case, were but their children capable of such an obligation in their Infant State; but they are unmeet subjects for the exercise of such a Power, and therefore it is insignificant.
Let’s therefore, 2. A little consider Children’s Capacity of coming under such a Bond as the Baptismal Vow; i.e. their Passive, not their Active Capacity, which is not pretended or pleaded for; And here I desire it may be considered,
1. That they are capable of being bound in Civils, Why not in Spirituals? To Man: Why not to God? An infant may have an estate made over and focused to him by Law; he is capable of becoming a tenant, and being obliged to paying a certain rent and Homage when he comes to Age; and in the mean time of having provisions from the estate he hath a Title to; In such a case none will deny but a Parent or even a Guardian may act for him, and that so as that he shall stand Engaged; If so, Why is he not as capable of being obliged by a Sacred Vow, whereby his Parents would bind him to God, in order to the securing the Everlasting Inheritance, which He, by Gospel-grant, hath settled on all his Children. Let it therefore here be observed, That whatever is pleaded, in proof of the Incapacity of Infants, to come under a Vow to God in Baptism, by virtue of their Parents transacting on their behalf, proves them equally incapable of coming under any obligation whatsoever, till they are able to transact for themselves; which is contrary to the sense of all the Wise and Prudent that have lived in all Ages of the World.
2. LET it be further observed, That Infants (even while such) are capable of sharing in the Blessings of God’s Covenant; And if So, Why not of coming under an Obligation to the duties of it? They are capable of sharing in the merits of Christ’s Blood, and the Influences of his Spirit, and other marks; of Divine Favour; and of being treated by God as his Children; and that by their Parent means, whose Covenant Interest is Available for their Good in their Infant State; Why may they not then by their means also, come under an Engagement and Obligation to carry it as becomes the Members of God’s Family as soon as they become capable? But these things deserve a more accurate handling, than I can (at least at present) pretend to give them.
FOR a close of this Chapter, I shall Annex a brief Admonition both to Christian Parents that have brought their Children under the Baptismal Vow in their Infant State; And to their Children, that so early came under an Obligation, to be the Lord’s, and to live to him, with reference to Duty consequent thereupon.
AS for you that have Devoted your Children to God in Baptism, remember (I beseech you) and take care to breed them up for him, to whom you have Consecrated them, expecting to be called to an account about your carriage towards them, and management of them another day. Take care to season their tender minds well; Instruct them diligently in the knowledge of God, and their Duty to him; and in the Nature and Import of that Divine Vow you brought them under: Shew them what will be the Benefit of keeping it, the danger of breaking it, and the Duties they are obliged to by it: and do what you can to bring them to take it upon themselves, and renew their Covenant with God in their own Per-sons, as soon as they are capable. Preserve them as much as may be from the Infections of an Evil Age: Set them Good Examples yourselves, and get them among as many other lively Patterns of Serious Godliness as you can; That you may thereby provoke them to Imitation: Insure them to Holy experiences from their Youth up; Possess them with as great a Reverence of the Holy Scriptures as you can: Narrowly watch their Tongues from the first that they begin to use them; and do what in you lies, betimes to learn them to govern their Appetites: Teach them the worth of Time; and spur them on to make a diligent Improvement of it; Encourage them when they do well; and Reprove and Correct them when they do amiss. Whatever Neglects or Miscarriages you overlook or pass by, be sure you allow them in nothing that is Sinful; This will be the way for you to have Peace and Comfort, whatever be the Consequences.
Remember how many ways you are obliged hereto, how solemnly you have promised it; how certainly God expects it; and how severely He’ll punish the neglect of it. How sad a thing will it be, to have the Blood of your Children’s Souls lying at your door on the account of your Carelessness in this matter, where your utmost Diligence was required? Should they hereafter prove Crosses and Heart-breaking Afflictions, through their Undutifulness; What a Sad Aggravation will it be of your Trouble, to think that all this hath arisen from your want of Care in their Education? How will they cry out upon you hereafter, if ever they come to be Sensible and Awakened, for your Unnatural Cruelty; who though you might be tender enough of them, and kind enough to them in other respects, yet minded not their Souls, took not any suitable care to Breed them up for him to whom you Devoted them? Nay, How will they in another World, if they finally persist in Wickedness, exclaim against you who were the instruments of conveying their Being to them, as their Soul Murderers, and the first Occasions of their endless Ruin, by your neglect to cake that care of them which you engage to when you Baptized them? I beseech you therefore, if you have any regard to God, any desire to see True Religion, Serious Piety and Godliness flourish; if | you have any Love to the fruit of your own Bowels, and any regard to your own peace now or hereafter; that you would make Conscience of this matter; Pay the Vow you made, when you devoted your Children to God in Baptism.
AND as for you who through God’s great Goodness and your parent’s care, had the happy Privilege of an early Baptism: Oh be not so foolish as to avail yourselves out of the benefit of it. Your Parents brought you under vows to God; O desire not to be released. Had their been a considerable temporal estate of some hundreds a year, settled on your Family before, you were born upon some certain easy conditions to be performed not only by your parents, but by you after them; to the performance whereof, they should have obliged not only themselves, but you their Children; Would you not in such a case, where the profit on the one hand, and Hazard on the other, is so sensible and apparent; own the binding force of their Obligation upon yourselves in order to your keeping the Inheritance? And will you be more unjust to God, than you would to man? Will you own your Parents power to engage you for a Trifle, and not in order to an Everlasting Crown? But however if you think your Parents did you wrong, and that you are hardly dealt with, you may be out of Covenant when you will:
But at the same time be it known to you, if you disown it, you forfeit the Benefits of it; if you renounce your Vow, you cast off God, and reject his Favour, and must never expect an Admission into the Kingdom of Heaven.
BUT if you have any concern for your Souls, any sense of the Wretched-net’s of your Natural State, and of the desirable benefits of the favour of God through a Christ, you cannot but prize your early Dedication to God, as an Invaluable Mercy: Oh Prize it, Improve it, Heartily Bless God for it, and stand to the Vow you then came under, and let it be the business of your Lives to Discharge and Pay it. Don’t pretend its Hard and Strict; For there’s nothing in it but what is necessary; Be not impatient of its Confinements, for they are all for your Good. Think often and Seriously of the Unsuitableness of your Carriage and Behavior to the Vow that is upon you, and that with Sorrow and Lamentation; Think what would become of you should God take your Forfeitures of the Blessings of his Covenant; And if you have any regard to God, any Love to your Own Souls, any desire to be happy here or hereafter, lay aside all Excuses, and without delay, Freely and Solemnly own and acknowledge this Vow of God that is upon you, and set yourselves with all your might to Live answerably to it.
The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
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The Covenant of Grace Opened by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)
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The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace by Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
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