Points of Difference Between the First and Second Covenants
James Smith, 1858
Our paedobaptist brethren, when writing on the subject of baptism, are constantly referring us to the first covenant (Hebrews 8:7, 9:1); and insisting upon it, that because male children were to be circumcised under that covenant, therefore all children are to be baptized under the second. Losing sight of its typical nature, they appear to me to run into error, and confound things that differ. There are many points of difference between the covenant which was found fault with (the Old Covenant), and that which was established in its place (the New Covenant); but the following have particularly struck me as bearing upon the subject of baptism which at present engrosses so much attention.
1. Children were introduced into the first covenant by a natural birth; so that all the natural seed of Abraham, were in covenant with God, Genesis 17:4, 14.
But there is no introduction into the second covenant but by a spiritual birth: so that only believers are in that covenant, John 3:3-7; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16, 17.
2. Children under the old economy were circumcised because they were the seed of Abraham, in covenant with God, and it was expressly commanded, Genesis 17:10, 11.
But under the present dispensation no people are in covenant with God, or are reckoned of the seed of Abraham, or are commanded to be baptized but believers alone. Only the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3:26, 27; are permitted and required to be baptized, Acts 8:36, 37; Mark 16:16: such, and such only, are recognized as in the covenant of grace.
3. Under the first covenant people were admitted to the Passover, and other appointed feasts, because they were circumcised and included in that covenant, Exod. 12:43-49.
But under the new dispensation, believers only were admitted to all the privileges of the gospel, as being born again, baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and capable of holding fellowship with God through them, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, 2:14, 15.
4. Under the former economy no people were entitled to the privileges of the sanctuary except they were the seed of Abraham, or became proselytes, though they were circumcised, (witness the Ishmaelites and the posterity of Abraham by Keturah).
And under the present economy, no people are entitled to church fellowship or the Lord's supper, though they are baptized, except they prove that they are born from above by the holiness of their lives. Gospel privileges are intended only for the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3.
5. The first covenant gave every circumcised, obedient Jew, a title to an inheritance in the land of Canaan.
But the second covenant gives every regenerate, baptized, obedient Christian, a title to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away, which is reserved in Heaven for all such, 1 Peter 1:4.
No Jew under the typical dispensation would have dreamt of circumcising a dead child, knowing it to be incapable of enjoying any of the privileges to which circumcision gave a right; and knowing also, that circumcision was not intended to raise the dead to life; but was only the token of a covenant existing between the living God and the living seed of Abraham, Genesis 18:11. But paedobaptists have baptized (so they call the rite they administer), thousands of children destitute of all spiritual life, and totally incapable of discerning, or enjoying any of the ordinances of the gospel, though they knew that baptism was not intended to give spiritual life, or raise the dead in sins to a life of righteousness.
Surely if we take the New Testament only for our guide on this subject, we must see that no person, child or adult, if dead in sins, if Christless and hopeless ought to be baptized or admitted to the Lord's supper; seeing the apostles required the signs of spiritual life in those they admitted to these holy institutions. They required knowledge, repentance, and faith; ability to perceive and enter into the kingdom of God, to discern the spiritual nature and meaning of these significant rites.
Baptism was not intended to regenerate, or produce a new and spiritual life; but to afford an opportunity to those who were begotten of God to show their faith in Christ, to profess their entire dependence on Christ for everlasting salvation, and to manifest their cheerful obedience to Christ as the only King in Zion.
The past dispensation was typical the present is spiritual. The church then comprised the whole nation now it only includes the faithful believers in Christ Jesus. The Jewish children were born in the church and of the church not so the children of New Testament believers. The sanctuary was worldly, the ordinances carnal, the covenant faulty; the temple now is Heavenly, the ordinances spiritual, and the covenant perfect.
Consequently only those who are partakers of the Heavenly calling, only those who are spiritual, only those who are in the new and better covenant have any title to a place in the church, or right to the ordinances of the gospel.
"But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Acts 8:12
"Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized." Acts 18:8
"So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture. As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, 'Look, theres water! What would keep me from being baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart you may.' And he replied, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." Acts 8:35-38
The New Testament order appears to have been as follows:
the Word was preached,
the soul was quickened,
faith was professed,
the believer was baptized,
the baptized were added to the church, and
the church surrounded the Lord's table as one holy, obedient, loving family.
Such was the first church, and such were the first Christians, who continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayer.
But someone may be ready to ask, "What is to become of our children?" May I ask also, What becomes of them now? What does infant baptism do for them? Does it regenerate them? Does it give them a saving interest in Christ? Does it raise them one inch above, or place them one step before the unbaptized? It does not!
Then some may ask, "Why do we baptize them?" Truly, why do you baptize them? God has not commanded you. His Spirit does not sanction you. His Word does not command you. Infant baptism has done a world of mischief but it never did any good. It is doing incalculable mischief at the present time; may the Lord root it up, and root it out, of his church entirely and forever!
"But what are we to do with our children?" Do! bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Teach them that by nature they are without Christ, afar off from God, and exposed to everlasting misery! Show them that they form no part of the Church of God, which is composed only of His friends but they are numbered with His enemies. Inform them of their need of the pardon which the gospel proclaims, of the sanctifying Spirit, and the finished work of Jesus to furnish them with a title of everlasting life. Teach them that they must repent of sin or perish; that they must personally believe in Jesus or be forever condemned. Set forth Christ in all His love and loveliness; and by a holy life, by frequent exhortation, by leading them to the house of prayer, and by endeavoring to render religion lovely strive to bring them to decision and salvation.
I cannot see that infant baptism . . .
gives a parent any assistance,
imparts to the child any blessing,
brings to the Lord any honor,
or does any party the least good!
But it does appear to me . . .
to throw a stumbling block in the way,
to lead to soul-deception,
and to do much mischief.
Infant baptism is, in my view . . .
a pillar of popery,
the principal basis of all corrupt religious establishments,
and one of Satan's strongest holds.
Infant baptism . . .
divides the Lord's people,
unites the world and the church together,
and leads thousands into mischief and misery!
It is to me truly astonishing, that a practice . . .
so destitute of all Scriptural authority,
so totally and entirely useless,
so opposed to the nature of the present Gospel dispensation
should be practiced, approved, and defended by so many!
May the Lord hasten the time when the watchmen on the walls of Zion shall see eye to eye; and until that period arrives, give us all that Christian meekness, brotherly love, and ardent desire after truth, which the present imperfect state of the church so much requires!