The Federal Holiness of Infants | Samuel Rutherford

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Samuel Rutherford

The Covenant of Life Opened

pp. 82-85

Q.5. What holiness is it that is called federal, or Covenant holiness which is in Infants? 

Ans. It is not so much personal holiness (though it may so be called, because the person is a Church member, separated from the world to God) as holiness of the seed, Society, Family, or Nation, which is derived from father to son, as if the father be a free man of such a City, that privilege is so personal, as it is by the Law hereditary freedom derived from father to son, if the father have jus ad media salutis right to the means of salvation, so hath the son. Hence this was first domestical, God made the Covenant with Abraham and his family: I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed (Gen. 17), it was extended to him, not as a father only, but as to the head of the family; the children of Servants born in Abraham’s family were to be circumcised and to be instructed as having right to the means of salvation. He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man-child in your Generations (so it is Generation-holiness) he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, that is not of thy seed (Gen. 17.12). So God shows clearly that in Abraham he chose the Nation and the house, I know Abraham, that he will command his children (that is too narrow a Church Visible) and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord (Gen. 18.19).

2. Afterward he chose the Nation to be a peculiar people holy to himself, Deut. 7.6-7 but not with another new distinct Covenant, but in the same Covenant. 8. But because the Lord loved you, and would keep the oath that he had sworn to your fathers, to wit, to Abraham. Deut. 10.15. He chose their seed after them, even you, above all people, not above all houses. You only have I known of all the families of the earth (Amos 3.2). So the external Church Covenant and Church right to the means of grace is given to a society and made with Nations under the New Testament (Isa. 2.1-3, Psal. 2.8-9, Psal. 22.27, Psal. 87. 2-4, Rev. 11.15, Matth. 28.19-20) And not any are baptized in the New Testament, (except the Eunuch, and Saul, Acts 8.39.) who were baptized firstly, but they were baptized as publick men representing a seed; also, societies are baptized. All Judea (Mat. 3.3), All the land of Judea (Mark 1.5). All the multitude, all the people (Luke 4.7, 21). Sure the fathers were so Christianed and Baptized as their children had right to the same seal. So Joh. 3.22-23, 26. Cornelius his house and all with him were baptized (Acts 10.33, 47). Three thousand at once (Acts 2.39-41). The Jailer and his house (Acts 16.33), servants and friends. The household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1.16) was Baptized.

3. And this is holden forth as the Church, as the household of Narcissus which are in the Lord, Rom. 16.11. Aquila and Priscilla, and all the Church at their house. v. 5. The Church at the house of Philemon, Phil. v.3. which teacheth that the Covenant holiness is of societies and house under the New Testament as in Abrahams house, and as Abrahams house was Circumcised, so are whole houses under the New Testament Baptized.

4. Paul aptly calls it the holiness of the lump, or Nation, and the first fruits, root-holiness, the holiness of the root and the branches. Of the Olive Tree and the branches, Rom. 11. 16,17.

5. The special intent of God in sending the word of the Covenant must evidence this; he sends not the Gospel unto, and for the cause of one man, to bring him in, but to gather a Church and his elect ones, by a visibly and audibly Preached Covenant to a society, to a City; to Samaria. Acts 8. To the Gentiles, Acts 13. To all Nations, Mat. 28. 19,20. that they and their children may have right to salvation and to the means thereof, and to the Covenant, and therefore we are not curiously to inquire whether the faith of the father be real or not, if the Gospel be come to the Nation, to the House, to the Society. The Lord in one Abraham, in one Cornelius, in one Jayler, (whom he effectually converts as far as we can gather from the Scriptures) chooses the race, house, society, nation, and gives them a Covenant-holiness, the mans being born where the call of God is, does the turn, as much as the faith of the Parent. For by the root is not necessarily meant the Physical root the father. For Abraham was not the Physical root and father, nor Cornelius of all the servants and friends in the house. But if a friend be in the house, or society, and profess the Gospel, he and his obtain right to Baptism and the means of salvation. But as touching real holiness, it is not derived from a believing father, to make the son a believer, Scripture and experience say the contrary. Nor 2. is internal and effectual confederacy with God, that, by which one is a son of promise, Rom. 9. and predestinate to life, a national favour. For 1. no man is chosen to life in his father, because the father is chosen: A chosen father may have a reprobate son. 2. Election to life is not of nations or houses or societies, but of single persons. It is not said, before the nation had done good or evil, I chose this nation all and whole, not this, but I loved this man, not this man. 

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