Question 71. Where has Christ promised us that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism?
Answer. In the institution of baptism, which is thus expressed, “Go ye, there fore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;” “he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This promise is also repeated, where the scripture calls baptism “the washing of regeneration, and the washing away of sins.”
The words employed by Christ in the institution of baptism, which are- recorded by Matthew and Mark, embody the proof of the definition, and principal ends of baptism which we have already explained, “Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mat. 28:19. Mark 16:16.) These words require a short explanation.
Go ye, and teach all nations: as if he would say, do not confine your instructions to the posterity of Abraham, or to particular nations; but go and teach the whole world. Christ here removes the wall which had hitherto separated the Jews from all other nations, and makes a distinction between the sacraments of the Old and the New Testament. The Old were instituted for the Jews only, but Christ here declares that baptism was not for the Jews only, but for all nations.
Baptizing them: that is, all those who come unto me through your teaching, and are made my disciples. The children, also, of such as come unto Christ, and are his disciples, are included amongst the number of those who are proper subjects of baptism; for these are also disciples of Christ, being born in the church, which to infants is the same as a profession of faith. The order which Christ here lays down must be observed. He commands that they should first be taught, and afterwards baptized, because he speaks of adults who might be converted to Christianity, and declares that the sacraments should not be alone, but joined with the word. The word ought to precede, and the sacraments follow in the case of adults.
In the name of the Father , and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: The words in the name of, signify, 1. That baptism was instituted by the command and authority of the three persons of the Godhead in common, and that they command that those who will be members of the church should be thus baptized. When the minister baptizes, his act is just as valid as if God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost performed it. From this it follows in like manner, that these three persons are the three divine, and consubstantial subsistents of the Godhead, and that they constitute the one true God in whom we are baptized. 2. They signify that these three persons confirm unto us by their own declaration, that they receive us into their favor, and will truly grant us all the benefits which are signified by baptism, if we believe. And this, we may here observe, is the principal end of baptism. 8. To be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is to bind the person baptized to the knowledge, faith, worship, trust and honor of this true God, who is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which is the second end of baptism, which Paul thus expresses: “Were ye baptized in the name of Paul;” (1 Cor. 1:18;) as if he would say, Ye ought to bind yourselves to him, in whose name ye were baptized.
He that believeth: The condition of faith is joined to the promise; for those who are baptized do not receive that which is promised and sealed by baptism unless they have faith, so that without faith the promise is not ratified, and baptism is of no profit. In these words we have expressed in a concise manner the proper use of baptism, in which the sacraments are always ratified to those who receive them in faith; whilst the sacraments are no sacraments, and profit nothing in their improper use.
The proper use of baptism consists in these things: 1. In observing those ceremonies and rites which are of divine appointment; all others are to be rejected. Hence it is evident that the various corruptions which the Papists have connected with the administration of this sacrament, such as the use of oil, spittle, exorcism, tapers, salt, and such like are to be thrown away as idle inventions. And as to the argument which the Papists employ in justifying these things; that they belong to the order, and significance of baptism; we may reply that the Holy Ghost knew full well what was necessary for the order and propriety of baptism; and as he has not instituted them, they do not properly belong to it. And as to their signification it is sufficient to reply that it does not belong to men to institute signs to express the will of God; which may be said in regard to all other corruptions of a similar nature.
2. The right use of baptism consists in administering it to those for whom it was instituted, that is for those who are converted and members of the church, and when they receive it in true faith, according as it is said: “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest be baptized.” (Acts 8:37.)
3. Baptism is properly used when it is observed with the design for which it was instituted, and not for the healing of cattle and abuses of a similar character.
4. When it is administered by the ministers of the church to whom Christ has limited it, and whom he has sent to teach and baptize, and not by women and others whom God has not sent.
And is baptized: Christ designs to confirm us by this sign. Hence he adds, and is baptized, that we may know by this external washing with water, as well as by our faith, that we are of the number of those who shall be saved.
Shall be saved, that is, he that is baptized may know that he enjoys the benefits which are signified by this sacrament, which consist in justification, and regeneration if he believe. For the promise is not ratified without faith, neither is baptism of any profit when thus received. The promise of salvation is added both to faith and baptism, but in a different respect. It is added to faith, as the necessary means by which we receive salvation; and to baptism, as the sign which seals that which faith receives.
He that believeth not, shall be damned; that is, even though he may have been baptized. The use of baptism does not save without faith. Not to be baptized does not condemn, if there be no contempt of this sacrament; for not the want, but the contempt of the sacraments condemns. But there can never be any contempt of the sacraments where there is faith. And hence it is that Christ does not retain both members of the first proposition in that which stands in opposition to the promise; he merely says: “He that believeth not, shall be damned.” Christ makes this distinction, because there is not the same necessity for faith and baptism to salvation. Faith is absolutely necessary to salvation, so that no one can be saved without it: for “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:16.) But the sacraments are necessary when they may be observed according to di vine appointment. Contempt of the sacraments under such circumstances, is inconsistent with faith. This is the reason why Christ promises salvation to those that believe and are baptized, keeping in view the distinction which is here made. Yet he does not deny salvation to those who are deprived of this sacrament.
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