DAY OF BAPTISM.
Question 69. How art thou admonished and assured, by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?
Answer. Thus, that Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding thereunto this promise, that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away.
Concerning baptism we must enquire particularly:
The first two propositions belong properly to the 69th and 70th Questions of the Catechism and will be considered in the exposition of these questions * the third and fourth belong to the 71st; the fifth to 71st and 72nd; the sixth to the 73rd; the seventh and eighth will be explained when we come to treat the subject of circumcision which immediately follows.
The word baptism comes from the Greek baptizw, which is derived from baptw, which means to plunge, to dip, to wash, or to sprinkle. In the eastern church they were ordinarily immersed. Those, however, who lived in the colder regions of the north were commonly sprinkled with water. But this is a matter of no importance, as washing may be performed either by dipping or sprinkling. Baptism now is a washing.
The Catechism defines baptism to be an external washing with water instituted by Christ, to which this promise is added, that when we are baptized, we are as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of our souls, that is from all our sins, as we are washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away. It may also be thus defined: Baptism is a sacred rite instituted by Christ in the New Testament, by which we are washed with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to signify that God receives us into his favor, on account of the blood which his Son shed for us, and that we are regenerated by his Spirit; and that we, on the other hand, bind ourselves to exercise faith in God, and to perform new obedience to him. Or, it is a sacrament of the New Testament instituted by Christ, which seals unto the faithful, who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the remission of all their sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the ingrafting of them into the body and church of Christ; whilst they, on the other hand, profess that they receive these blessings, and that they ought, and will henceforth live unto him. Or more briefly: It is a washing with water appointed by the Son of God, during which these words are repeated: baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to declare that he who is thus washed, whether by dipping or sprinkling; is reconciled to God by faith, and is sanctified by the Holy Spirit unto eternal life. We are said to be received into divine favor on account of the blood of Christ shed for us in his death upon the cross, which is the same as to say that we are reconciled on account of the entire humiliation of Christ applied unto us by faith. The words of the institution of baptism confirm this definition: “Go and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;” (Matt. 28:19) that is, testifying by the sign of baptism, that they are received into favor by the Father on account of the Son, and are sanctified by his Spirit. “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 1:4; 16:16.)
Baptism, therefore, includes these three things: 1. The sign, which is water, and the ceremony which is connected with it. 2. The things which are signified thereby, which include the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, the mortification of the old man, and the quickening of the new man. 3. The command arid promise of Christ, from which the sign obtains its authority and power to confirm.
Obj. 1. Baptism is called an external washing with water. Therefore it is nothing more than a mere sign. Ans. This objection separates things which ought not to be disjoined; for when we say that baptism is an external sign, we connect with it the thing signified. Hence we do not add the exclusive particle only. Baptism without the promise would, indeed, be a mere naked sign; and to unbelievers, who do not receive the promise with faith, it is only an external washing with water, as in the case of Simon Magus; but the promise and the thing signified are joined with the sign in the proper use of the sacraments.
Obj. 2. There were baptisms, or washings under the Old Testament. Therefore baptism is not a sacrament peculiar to the New Testament. Ans. There is a great difference between the various washings prescribed by the law, and baptism as we have it. 1. Those washings were not signs of initiation into the church as baptism is. 2. Those washings were instituted for the purpose of removing ceremonial uncleanness, as if any one had polluted himself by touching a dead body, or any unclean thing, his ceremonial uncleanness had to be removed by a ceremonial washing: baptism, on the other hand, has been instituted for the purpose of washing away moral uncleanness, or sin. It is for this reason that the Scriptures declare baptism to be the washing away of sin. 8. Those washings signified a cleansing by and for the sake of Christ who was to come: baptism seals the same by and for the sake of Christ already come in the flesh. 4. Those washings were binding upon the Jews alone; baptism is binding upon all nations, or the whole church. Lastly, those washings were abolished by Christ, because ceremonial impurities, together with the ceremonial law itself, ceased when Christ came into the world: baptism, on the other hand, will continue to the end of time; for it is said, “Baptize all nations; and lo, I am Avith you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Those, there fore, who urge this objection are deceived by the ambiguity of the word washings, which has nothing in common with baptism, properly so called, except the name.
The chief end of baptism is, the confirmation of our faith, or a solemn declaration by which Christ testifies that he washes us with his blood and Spirit, and confers upon us remission of sins, and the Holy Ghost, who regenerates and sanctifies us unto eternal life. Or it is a sealing of the promise of grace, that is, of our justification and regeneration, and a declaration of the will of God, to this effect, that he here grants these gifts to those who are baptized, and that he will for ever grant them. For he himself baptizes us by the hand of the minister, and declares to us this his will.
That baptism is a declaration and confirmation of the will of God concerning our salvation which he promises to effect, and grant is evident: 1. From the formula of baptism, according to which we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. By this act we are given over to God the Father. Son, and Holy Ghost, and declared to be his property. 2. From the promise annexed to the rite of baptism: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16.) God declares, therefore, by this rite that he will save those that believe and are baptized. 8. From other passages of Scripture in which baptism is spoken of as a saving ordinance. “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the nain2 of the Lord.” “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death. Therefore we are buried with him in baptism,” &c. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” &c. “According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 22:16. Rom. 6:3. Col. 2:11. Titus 3:5.)
From this it is evident why baptism is not repeated; because it is the sign of our reception into the favor and covenant of God, which remains for ever sure and valid in the case of those who repent. He, therefore, that has lost a sense of God s favor by falling into sin, does not need another application of baptism, but repentance for his sins. The same thing is also evident from the fact, that regeneration does not take place more than once in the same individual. We are born but once, and renewed but once: for he who is once truly ingrafted into Christ, is never w r holly cast away: for “him that cometh to me,” said Christ, “I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37.) Hence it is sufficient that baptism which is the washing of regeneration, should be received but once, especially since regeneration and salvation do not absolutely depend upon baptism; otherwise it would be necessary for us to be rebaptized as often as we might sin. To these reasons we may yet add, that baptism has taken the place of circumcision, which was never performed more than once upon the same individual.
From what has been said it is also evident that the baptism of John was the same in substance with Christian baptism. John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, that those who heard him might believe on Jesus Christ, who was to come after him. This now is the character of the baptism which we have, with this difference, that we are baptized in the name of Christ as already come, and not about to come. Hence the baptism of John, and of the apostles, and that which we administer is the same as to substance, differing only as to the circumstance of signification. John baptized in the name of Christ who was to suffer and rise again: the apostles baptized, and we are now baptized in the name of Christ, who has already suffered and risen again: otherwise our baptism would not be the same as the baptism of Christ, who was baptized of John.
Obj. John said, “I baptize with water.” Therefore it was a baptism of water only. Ans. John uses this language for the purpose of distinguishing his own ministry from the efficacy of Christ in baptism: for if this were not so it would follow that Christ was baptized merely with water; and that we are baptized in the same manner, or else we have not the same baptism which Christ had.
2. Another end of baptism is the declaration of our duty to God, and the binding of ourselves and the” Church to gratitude, or to faith and repentance. To faith, that we may acknowledge for the true God, no one but this God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and that we may worship him alone, and receive with faith the benefits which he offers. To repentance, that being continually admonished by this rite, that we are washed by the blood of Christ, and renewed by his Spirit, we may walk in newness of life, and thus shew our thankfulness to God for his benefits, according to what is said: “John preached the baptism of repentance.” “Such were some of you; but ye are washed,” &c. “How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein. Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death.” Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like us Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Mark 1:4. 1 Cor. 6:11. Rom. 6:2, 3, 4.) To be baptized into Christ s death, is to be made the partakers of all the benefits of his death, just as if we ourselves had died; and also to die unto sin, or to mortify the lust of the flesh by virtue of his death, and with him, be raised to a new life: for God promises, and binds us to this mortification of the old man in our baptism. 3. Baptism was appointed to be the sign of our entrance and reception into the church; because God will have all those who are members of his church to be admitted in this way, so that those who are not baptized, when they enjoy sufficient opportunities, are excluded from the church. It is proper to make mention here of those passages of Scripture which affirm that all those who became Christians, as the Ethiopian Eunuch, Cornelius the centurian, the Philippian Jailor, Lydia, Paul, &c., were immediately after their conversion, baptized. It is for this reason also that the Lord’s Supper is given only to such as are baptized: for they alone have been received into the church. The words of the institution of baptism are also here in place: “Go, and teach all nations, baptizing them,” &c. The word which is here translated teach, means, according to its proper signification, make disciples, so that it may more properly be translated, go and make disciples, baptizing them, &c. It is thus rendered by John, in the fourth chapter and first verse of his gospel: “The Pharisees had heard, that Jesus made, and baptized more disciples,” &c. The same thing is also established by the substitution of baptism in the place of circumcision, which was the sacrament of reception into the Jewish Church.
4. Baptism serves as a mark by which the true church may be discerned from all the various Sects which exist in the world. This end naturally grows out of the former; for those who are received into the church by a public sacrament, are by this, as by a badge, distinguished from the rest of man kind. “Go, and teach all nations, baptizing them,” &c., as if he would say: “Gather me a church by my word, and those whom ye shall make my disciples, who believe with their whole hearts, baptize all of them, and them alone, and separate them for me from the rest of mankind.”
5. Baptism was instituted to signify our taking of the cross, and to afford comfort concerning the preservation and deliverance of the church from all her afflictions. Those who are baptized are plunged, as it were, in affliction; but with the full assurance of deliverance. It is for this reason that Christ speaks of afflictions under the name of baptism, saying, “Are ye able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? “ (Matt. 20:22.) The ceremony connected with baptism intimates deliverance from our varied afflictions. We are immersed, but not drowned, or suffocated. It is in respect to this end that baptism is compared to the flood; for as in the flood, Noah and his family who were shut up in the ark were saved, yet not without much anxiety and peril, whilst the rest of mankind who were without the ark perished; so, those who are in the church, and who cleave to Christ, will most certainly be delivered at the proper time, although they may be pressed with afflictions and dangers from every side; whilst those who are out of the church will be overwhelmed “with the deluge of sin and destruction. We may here appropriately refer to the passage of Paul, where he compares the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea to baptism: “All were baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea.” (1 Cor. 10:2.)
6. Another end to be effected by baptism is to declare the unity of the church, and to establish that article of the Creed: I believe in the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” “There is one word, one faith, one baptism.” (1 Cor. 12:13. Eph. 4:5.) This end may be embraced under the fourth; because baptism in separating and distinguishing the members of the church from the rest of mankind, connects and unites them with the church, and with one another.
7. Baptism contributes to the preservation and spread of the doctrine which promises free salvation for the sake of Christ s death. It furnishes a suitable occasion for those who are baptized to learn who is the author, and what the signification and use of this sacrament.
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