These 'covenant children', as they are described, are to be looked upon and treated as being 'the children of God'. They must therefore be treated, not as the enemies of God, but as members of, and brothers and sisters in, the kingdom of God. They are even to be welcomed to the Lord's Table in many instances from an early age and encouraged to be partakers of the bread and wine.
This view goes under a number of different titles such as: 'Covenant Succession', 'Presumptive Regeneration', 'Presupposed Regeneration', 'Dormant Regeneration' or 'Covenantal Regeneration'. All with slight variations of meaning in each term, and maybe in some cases no difference of meaning at all. Some adherents certainly engage in semantics where they deny they believe in or hold to 'Presupposed Regeneration' but rather describe their view as 'believing covenant promises' or 'trusting in covenantal election'. Same thing only different words!
In this new series of posts on this Blog there is a desire to explore whether this is a Scriptural position to adopt or just a self-deluded fallacy. What saith the Scriptures on this matter? This is the most important question to ask. It matters not what others think, say or write. What the Word of God say, is to be our final rule? A consideration of the Word of God will suggest that this is nothing less than a fallacy.
Believing parents are to trust implicitly that their 'covenant child' is already regenerated and that their little infant will grow up trusting in Christ alone for salvation. It is acknowledged that only God can grant a 'covenant child' a new heart and if a child has been renewed, it will show itself in their faith, love and obedience. If not, their baptism will be a constant reminder of God’s mercy in providing a Saviour for them and of their need to repent and believe on Him. If these little infants were to continue into adulthood in unbelief, their baptism would become a witness against them that they are a covenant breaker and their condemnation would be all the more severe.
As a starting position for this thesis, Genesis 17:7, is often quoted: And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. The argument runs along the lines that this covenant made with Abraham and his seed is identified with the Gospel in Galatians 3 and as it contains an emphatic reference to Abraham's physical children, here therefore, is the principle of 'Covenant Succession'.
A number of other Scripture references are pressed into service to support this assertion. For example, it is taken that Joshua is referring to 'Covenant Succession' when he speaks of himself and his house serving the Lord, Joshua 24:15: …but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Another interesting portion that is used in the same vein is Isaiah 54:13: And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
Psalm 22:9,10, But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly;
Psalm 71:5,6 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
As a result of holding to this view, adherents believe/presume that as a rule the Spirit of God regenerates the child of a believer, ie a 'covenant child', early in childhood, even in its mother's womb before they are born, and that they then grow into conversion where they become aware of their election in Christ. Repentance unto life is viewed as something to be repeated many times over in life and not once at a conversion experience. 'Covenant children' born in these circumstances will be expected to grow up as Christians, will be treated as Christians at home by their parents and in the church by the oversight and congregation.
For those who believe in 'Covenant Succession', the salvation of their children is dependent to a large extent on whether or not a parent is faithful in bringing up their children. Much emphasis is placed upon parents creating a Christian culture or atmosphere in their home; diligently teaching their children the ways of God; and generally treating their children as Christians and not as unsaved or unregenerate.