The Confession of Faith: A commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith

by A. A. Hodge

A. A. Hodge

Chapter 28

Of Baptism

SECTION I: Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,[1] not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church;[2] but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[3] of his ingrafting into Christ,[4] of regeneration,[5] of remission of sins,[6] and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life.[7] Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.[8]

1. Matt. 28:19
2. I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27-28
3. Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12
4. Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:5
5. John 3:5; Titus 3:5
6. Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; 22:16
7. Rom. 6:3-4
8. Matt. 28:19-20

SECTION II: The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.[9]

9. Acts 8:36, 38; 10:47; Matt. 28:19

SECTION III: Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.[10]

10. Heb. 9:10, 13, 19, 21; Mark 7:2-4; Luke 11:38

IN these sections we are taught the following propositions: --
l. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, instituted immediately by Christ, and by his authority to continue in the Church until the end of the world.

2. As to the action which constitutes Baptism, it is a washing of the subject with water (the manner of the washing not being essential), in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a lawfully ordained minister.

3. It is done with the design and effect of signifying and sealing our ingrafting into Christ, our partaking of the benefits of his covenant, and our engagement to be his.

1. Christian Baptism is an ordinance immediately instituted by Christ himself, and designed to be observed in the Church until the end of the world. Washing the body with water, to represent spiritual purification and consecration, was a natural symbol which prevailed among all ancient Eastern nations -- as the Persians, Hindoos, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and pre-eminently among the Jews. Paul summarily describes the ancient ceremonial as consisting "in meats and drinks, and divers baptisms." Heb. ix. 10. John, the forerunner of Jesus, came baptizing also. But this was not Christian Baptism, because -- (1.) John was the last Old Testament prophet, and not a New Testament apostle (Luke i. 17); (2.) He did not baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; (3.) His baptism was unto repentance, not into the faith of Christ; (4.) He did not by baptism introduce men into the fellowship of the Christian Church, as the apostles did at Pentecost (Acts ii. 41, 47); (5.) Those baptized by John were baptized over again by the apostles when they were admitted to the Christian Church (Acts xviii. 24 -- 28; xix. 1 -- 5). For analogous reasons we believe that the baptism performed by his disciples previous to the crucifixion of the Lord (John iii. 22; iv. 1, 2) was not the permanent Christian sacrament of Baptism, binding its subjects to the faith and obedience of the Trinity, and initiating them into the Christian Church; but that, on the contrary, like the baptism of John, it was a purifying rite, binding to repentance, and preparing the way for the coming kingdom.

It is certain that we have the true warrant of the Christian sacrament of Baptism from the lips of the great Head of the Church in person, in Matthew xxviii. 18 -- 20: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

Some, as the Quakers, have not understood that this command imposes the obligation of the perpetual observance of this ordinance. That the observance is to endure until the second coming of Christ is plain -- (1.) From the universal maxim that every law continues binding until it is abrogated, or until the reason for it has ceased. But this command has never been recalled, and the reason for its observance remains precisely what it was when the command was given. (2.) The plain terms of the command reach (a.) to all nations, and (b.) until the end of this world (aion). (3.) The example of the apostles. Acts ii. 38; xvi. 33. (4.) The constant practice of all branches of the Christian Church from the beginning to the present time.

2. As to the action which constitutes it, Baptism is a washing with water (the manner of washing being indifferent) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a lawfully ordained minister. The reason that Baptism should be administered only by a lawfully ordained minister has been considered under the last chapter.

The Confession teaches that the command to baptize is a command to wash with water in the name of the Trinity. It is often, but erroneously, supposed that the controversy between our baptist brethren and the rest of the Christian Church with respect to Baptism is a question of mode; they affirming that the only right mode is to immerse -- we affirming that the best mode is to sprinkle. This is a great mistake. The real Baptist position -- as stated by Dr. Alexander Carson (p. 55) -- is, that the command to baptize is a simple and single command to immerse, in order to symbolize the death, burial, and resurrection of the believer with Christ. The true position maintained by other Christians is, that Baptism is a simple and single command to wash with water, in order to symbolize the purification wrought by the Holy Ghost. Hence the mode of washing has nothing to do with it. It is necessarily perfectly indifferent, so that it be decent. According to our view, the essential matter is the water, and the application of the water in the name of the Trinity. According to their view, the essential matter is the burial, total immersion, in water or sand, as the case may be. The evidence of the truth of the view entertained by the vast majority of Christ's Church is as follows: --

(1.) The word baptizo, in its classical usage, means to dip, to moisten, to wet, to purify, to wash. Dr. Carson admits that he has all the lexicons against him.

(2.) In the Septuagint, Bapto and baptizo occur five times. Thus, Dan. iv. 33, Nebuchadnezzar is said to have been wet (baptized) with the dew of heaven. Ecclus. xxxiv. 30: "He that baptizeth himself after the touching of a dead body;" -- but this purification was performed by sprinkling. Num. xix. 9, 13, 20. See also 2 Kings v. 14, and Judith xii. 7.

(3.) In the New Testament, baptizo is used interchangeably with nipto, which only means to wash. Compare Mark vii. 3, 4; Luke xi. 38; Matt. xv. 2, 20: and observe -- (a.) That to baptize is there used interchangeably with to wash. (b.) The washing was to effect purification, for the unbaptized hands are called the unwashed and unclean hands. (c.) The common mode of washing hands in those countries is to pour water upon them. The rich have servants to pour the water on their hands; the poor pour the water on their own hands.

(4.) When John's disciples disputed about baptism, it is expressly said to have been a dispute about purification. John iii. 25; iv. 2.

(5.) The same idea is uniformly expressed by the word baptism, or baptisms, in-the New Testament. In Mark vii. 2-8 we read of the baptisms of cups, pots, brazen vessels, and tables (couches upon which several persons reclined at table). These things could not be, and were not, immersed. The whole object of the service was not burial, but purification. In Heb. ix. 10 Paul says that the first tabernacle "stood only in meats and drinks, and divers baptisms;" and below, in verses 13, 19, 21, he specifies some of these divers baptism--" For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh;" -- and " Moses sprinkled both the book and all the people, and the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry."

(6.) Baptism with water is emblematical of baptism by the Holy Ghost, the object of which is spiritual purification. Matt. iii. 11; Mark i. 8; Luke iii. 16; John i. 26, 33; Acts i. 5; xi. 16. Spiritual baptism is called "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Tit. iii. 5. Baptism with water symbolizes baptism by the Holy Ghost. But baptism by the Holy Ghost unites us to Christ, and makes us one with him in his death, in his resurrection, in his new life unto God, his righteousness, his inheritance, etc., etc. Spiritual baptism carries all these consequences, and water baptism represents spiritual baptism; therefore we are said to be baptized into Christ, into his death, into one body -- to be buried with him, to rise with him, so as to walk with him in newness of life -- to put on Christ (as a garment), to be planted together with him (as a tree), etc. None of these have anything to do with the mode of baptism because it is simply absurd to suppose that the same action can at the same time symbolize things so different as burial, putting on clothes, and planting trees. The real order is: washing with water represents washing of the Spirit; washing of the Spirit unites to Christ; union with Christ involves all the consequences above mentioned.

(7.) Baptism of the Holy Ghost, of which water baptism is the emblem, is never set forth in Scripture as an "immersion," but always as a " pouring" and " sprinkling." Acts ii. 1 -- 4, 32, 33; x. 44 -- 48; xi. 15, 16. Of the gift of the Holy Ghost it is said, he " came from heaven," was " poured out," " shed forth," " fell on them." Isa. xliv. 3: " I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed." Isa. lii. 15: " So shall he sprinkle many nations." Ezek. xxxvi. 25 -- 27: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean," etc. Joel ii. 28, 29: " I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh."

(8.) The universally prevalent manner of effecting the rite of purification among the Jews -- from the analogy of which Christian Baptism was taken -- was by sprinkling, and not by immersion. The hands and feet of the priests were to be washed at the brazen laver, from which water poured out through spouts or cocks. Ex. xxx. 18 -- 21; 2 Chron. iv. 6; 1 Kings vii. 27 -- 39. See also Lev. viii. 30; xiv. 7, 51; Ex. xxiv. 5 -- 8; Num. viii. 6, 7; Heb. ix. 12 -- 22.

(9.) In 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, the Israelites are said to have been "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Compare Ex. xiv. 19 -- 31. But the Egyptians who were immersed were not baptized; and the Israelites who were baptized were not immersed. Dr. Carson (p. 413) says Moses got "a dry dip!" In 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21, it is said that Baptism is the antitype of the salvation of the eight souls in the ark. Yet the very gist of their salvation consisted in their not being immersed.

(10.) Among all the recorded instances of Baptism performed by John the Baptist and the apostles, there is not one in which immersion is asserted, while there are many in which it was highly improbable -- (a.) Because the apostles baptizing and the early converts baptized were all Jews, accustomed to purify by pouring and sprinkling. (b.) Because of the vast multitudes baptized at one time, and the known scarcity of water in Jerusalem and generally in the situations spoken of. The eunuch was baptized on the roadside in a desert country. Acts viii. 26 -- 39. Three thousand were baptized in one day in the dry city of Jerusalem, which depends upon rain-water stored in tanks and cisterns. Acts ii. 37 -- 41. Vast multitudes swarmed to John. Matt. iii. 5, 6. The jailer was baptized in prison at midnight Acts xvi. 25 -- 33. Paul was baptized by Ananias right at his bedside. Ananias said, " Standing up, be baptized;" and " standing up he was baptized." Acts ix. 18; xxii. 16. (c.) The earliest pictorial representations of baptism, dating from the second or third century, all indicate that the manner of applying the water to the body of the baptized was by pouring. (d.) It is done in the same way universally by Eastern Christians at the present time.

That it is essential that this baptismal washing should be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is plain -- (1.) From the explicit command to that effect expressed in the words of institution. Matt. xxviii. 18 -- 20. (2.) From the fact that Baptism, as a seal of the covenant of grace, and as the divinely appointed rite of initiation into the Christian Church, introduces the baptized into covenant with, and the public profession of, the true God, who is none other than the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

3. The design of Baptism is -- (1.) To signify, seal, and confer, to those to whom they belong, the benefits of Christ's redemption. Thus -- (a.) It signifies or symbolizes the " washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," whereby we are united to Christ and made participants in all his redemptive grace. (b.) Christ herein seals the truth of his covenant, and thereby conveys to all the beneficiaries of that covenant the grace intended for them. The design of Baptism is, (2.) That it be a visible sign of our covenant to be the Lord's, and devoted to his service; and hence it is a public profession of our faith and badge of our allegiance, and hence of our formal initiation into the Christian Church, and a symbol of our union with our fellow Christians. 1 Cor. xii. 13.

SECTION IV: Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ,[11] but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.[12]

11. Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 16:14-15
12. Gen. 17:7-14; Gal. 3:9, 14; Col. 2:11-12; Acts 2:38-39; Rom. 4:11-12; Matt. 19:13; 28:19; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17; I Cor. 7:14

As to the subjects of Baptism, our Standards teach --
l. As to adults: "Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him." L. Cat., q. 166, and S. Cat., q. 95.

This is of course self-evident, since the intelligent and honest reception of Baptism itself obviously involves precisely this profession of faith in Christ and obedience to him. And in order to secure this, the usage of the Presbyterian Church requires that the pastors and church session should inform the applicant that only a person who has experienced the grace of regeneration, and who has consequently truly repented of sin and exercised faith in Christ, can honestly do what all necessarily profess to do when they are baptized. And to this end the pastor and session must require of the applicant the evidence (1.) Of a competent knowledge of the fundamental truths of Christianity, and of the nature and binding obligation of Baptism; (2.) Of the fact that he makes a consistent profession of a personal experimental faith and promise of obedience to the Lord, and of due subjection to the constituted authorities of the Church; (3.) Of the fact that his outward walk and conversation do not belie his profession. After this, the entire responsibility of the step must lie upon the person talking it. The church officers have no authority to sit in judgment upon the genuineness of his Christian character, because God has given to no class of men the ability to judge aright of such matters. Some Churches, as, for instance, our Covenanting Presbyterian brethren, demand, as a condition of adult baptism -- or, what is the same thing, admission to the Church -- in addition to the profession of faith in the fundamental truths of the Gospel, adherence to certain "Testimonies" embodying non-fundamental, denominational peculiarities. This we believe to be entirely unauthorized. The Church is Christ's fold, designed for all his sheep. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the common rights of all the Lord's people. If any man holds the fundamentals of the gospel and professes allegiance to our common Lord, and acts consistently therewith, we have no right to exclude him from his Father's house. It is just as presumptuous to make terms of communion which Christ has not made as it would be to make terms of salvation which he does not require.

2. As to infants, our Standards teach that an infant, one or both of whose parents are believers (Conf. Faith, ch. xxviii. section 4) -- -- i.e., one or both of whose parents profess faith in Christ and obedience to him (L. Cat., q. 166) -- is to be baptized. A bare outline of the abundant Scriptural evidence of this truth may be stated as follows: --

(1.) In constituting human nature and ordaining the propagation of infant children from parents, God has in all respects made the standing of the child while an infant to depend upon that of the parent. The sin of the parent carries away the infant from God; so the faith of the parent brings the infant near to God.

(2.) Every covenant God has ever formed with mankind has included the child with the parent; -- e.g., the covenants formed with Adam; with Noah, Gen. ix. 9 -- 17; with Abraham, Gen. xii. 1 -- 3; xvii. 7; with Israel through Moses, Ex. xx. 5; and again, Deut. xxix. 10 -- 13; and in the opening sermon of the New Testament dispensation men are exhorted to repent and believe, " because the promise (covenant) is unto you and to your children," etc. Acts ii. 38, 39.

(3.) The Old Testament Church is the same as the New Testament Christian Church. (a.) Paul says (Gal. iii. 8) that the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. xvii. 7) is the "gospel;" and in the whole epistle to the Hebrews he shows that the Old Testament ritual was a setting forth of the person and work of Christ. See above, under chapter vii. (b.) Faith was the condition of salvation then as well as now. " Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness" (Rom. iv. 3); so that he was the great typical believer, "the father of all them that believe" (Rom. iv. 11); and all who believe in Christ "are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. iii. 29. See also the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. All the Israelites, even those only "according to the flesh," professed to believe. And all "true" Israelites did believe. "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." Rom. ii. 28, 29. (c.) Circumcision, precisely in the same sense and to the same extent as Baptism, represented a spiritual grace and bound to a spiritual profession. This is taught in the 0ld Testament, as witness Deut. x. 16; xxx. 6. It was the seal of the Abrahamic covenant, which Paul says is the gospel. Gen. xii. 3; xvii. 7, 10; Gal. iii. 8. It was the seal of the righteousness of faith. Rom. ii. 28, 29; iv. 11. True Circumcision unites to Christ and secures all the benefits of his redemption. Col. ii. 10, 11. And Baptism has now taken the precise place of Circumcision: " For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ......And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. iii. 27, 29. (d.) This Church is identically the same with the New Testament Church. It has the same foundation; the same condition of membership, faith and obedience; sacraments of the same spiritual significancy and binding force, The ancient prophecies declare that the same old Church is to be enlarged, not changed. Isa. xlix. 13 -- 23; 1x. 1 -- 14. The ancient covenant, which was the fundamental charter of the Church, included "many nations" (Gen. xvii. 4; Rom. iv. 17, 18; Gal. iii. 8), which was never fulfilled until after the expansion of the Church in the New Testament dispensation. And Paul says that the Jewish Church, instead of being abrogated, remains the same through all change -- the Jewish branches being cut off, the Gentile branches being grafted in; and that hereafter the Jews are to be restored, not to a new Church, but "into their own olive tree." Rom, xi. 18 -- 24. See also Eph. ii. 11 -- 22.

(4.) Infants were members of the Church under the Old Testament from the beginning, being circumcised upon the faith of their parents. Now, as the Church is the same Church; as the conditions of membership were the same then as now; as Circumcision signified and bound to precisely what Baptism does; and since Baptism has taken precisely the place of Circumcision -- it follows that the church membership of the children of professors should be recognized now as it was then, and that they should be baptized. The only ground upon which this conclusion could be obviated would be that Christ in the gospel explicitly turns them out of their ancient birth-right in the Church.

(5.) On the contrary, Christ and his apostles uniformly, without exception, speak of and treat children on the assumption that they remain in the same church relation they have always occupied. Christ, speaking to Jewish apostles, who had all their lives never heard of any other than the old Padobaptist Church, into which they had been themselves born and circumcised (and their infant circumcision was the only baptism they ever received), never once warns them that he had changed this relation. On the contrary, he says, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" (i.e., new dispensation of the old Church). Matt. xix. 14; Luke xviii. 16. He commissioned Peter to feed the lambs as well as the sheep of the flock (John xxi, 15-17); and all the apostles to "disciple all nations," by first baptizing and then teaching them. Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. If only one of the parents is a Christian, the children are said to be "holy," or "saints;" which is a common designation of church members in the New Testament. 1 Cor. vii. 14. In the old Jewish Church every proselyte from the heathen brought his children into the Church with him. So the Jewish apostles write the brief history of their missionary labors precisely as all modern Padobaptist missionaries write theirs, and as no Baptist missionary ever wrote from the first rise of their denomination. There are only eleven cases of Baptism recorded in the Acts and the Epistles. In the case of two of these, Paul and the Ethiopian eunuch, there were no children to be baptized. Five of the cases were large crowds. After Stephanas was baptized with the crowd among "the many Corinthians," Paul baptized his household. Also were the households of Lydia, of the jailer, of Crispus, and probably of Cornelius, baptized. Thus in every case in which the household existed it was baptized. The faith of the head of the household is mentioned, but not that of the household itself, except in one case, and that as a general fact. The apostles also address children as members of the Church. Compare Eph. i. 1 with Eph. vi. 1 -- 3, and Col. i. 1, 2 with Col. iii. 20.

(6.) This has been the belief and practice of a vast majority of God's people from the first. The early Church, in unbroken continuity from the days of the apostles, testify to their custom on this subject. The Greek and the Roman, and all branches of the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches, agree in this fundamental point. The Baptist denomination, which opposes the whole Christian world in this matter, is a very modern party, dating from the Anabaptists of Germany, A.D. 1687.

Our Standards teach that precisely the same requirements are made the condition on the part of the parent of having his child baptized that are made the condition of approach to the Lord's table. S. Cat. q. 95: "Infants of such as are members of the visible Church are to be baptized." This is explained, L. Cat., q. 166: "Infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ;" and Conf. Faith, ch. xxviii., section 4: " Infants of one or both believing parents." In the [American] Directory for Worship, ch. vii., the minister is to require of the parents, among other things, "that they pray with and for (the child); that they set an example of piety and godliness before it; and endeavor by all means of God's appointment to bring up their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The [American] General Assembly in 1794, in answer to an overture on the subject, declared that the above passage in the Directory is to be understood as bringing the parent under an express engagement to do as there required by the minister.

Some have supposed, since the church-membership of the child follows from that of the parent, that every person who was himself introduced into the Church by Baptism in infancy has an indefeasible right to have his children baptized, whether he professes personal faith in Christ or not. But this is manifestly absurd -- (a.) Because all members of the Church have not a right to all privileges of church-membership. Thus baptized members have no right to come to the communion until they make a profession of personal faith. Until they do this they are like citizens under age, with their rights held in suspension, as a just punishment for their refusal to believe. These suspended rights are those of communing and having their children baptized. (b.) A person destitute of personal faith can only commit perjury and sacrilege by making the solemn professions and talking the obligations involved in the baptismal covenant. It is a sin for him to do it, and a sin for the minister to help him to do it.

Section V: Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[13] yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it;[14] or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.[15]

13. Gen. 17:14; Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; see Luke 7:30
14. Rom. 4:11; Acts 10:2, 4, 22, 31, 45, 47
15. Acts 8:13, 23

Section VI: The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;[16] yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.[17]

16. John 3:5, 8
17. Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27; I Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38, 41

Section VII: The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.[18]

18. Rom. 6:3-11

These sections teach: --
1. That grace and salvation are not so inseparably united to Baptism that only the baptized are saved, or that all the baptized are saved.

2. That, nevertheless, it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance; for its observance is commanded and, in the right use of it, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such (whether of age or infants) as the grace belongeth unto.

3. That the efficacy of Baptism, even in cases in which the grace signified is really conveyed, is not tied down to the moment of time wherein the sacrament is administered, but is conveyed to the recipient according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

4. The sacrament of Baptism is to be administered but once to any person.

The ground taken here is intermediate between two opposite extremes --

(1.) The extreme held by Papists and Ritualists of baptismal regeneration. (a.) This is not taught in Scripture. The language relied upon to prove it (John iii. 5; Acts ii. 38) is easily explained on the principle that, in virtue of the sacramental union between the sign and the grace signified, what is true of the one is metaphorically predicated of the other. There is nothing said of the efficacy of Baptism which is not likewise said of the efficacy of the truth. James i. 18; John xvii. 19; Pet. i. 28. But the mere hearing of the truth saves no one. (b.) Baptism cannot be the only or ordinary means of regeneration, because faith and repentance are the fruits of regeneration, but the prerequisites of Baptism. Acts ii. 38; viii. 37; x. 47. (c.) Universal experience in Romanist and Ritualistic communities proves that the baptized are not generally regenerated. Our Savior says, " By their fruits ye shall know them." Matt. vii. 20. (2.) Our Standards oppose the other extreme, that Baptism is a mere sign of grace and badge of Christian profession. Their doctrine is --

(a.) That Baptism does not only signify, but really and truly seal and convey, grace to those to whom it belongs according to the covenant -- that is, to the elect.

(b.) But that this actual conveyance of the grace sealed is not tied to the moment in which the sacrament is administered, but is made according to the precise provisions as to time and circumstance predetermined in the eternal covenant of grace. So property may be sealed and conveyed in a deed to a minor, but the minor may not actually enter into the fruition of it until such time and upon such conditions as are predetermined in his father's will.

(c.) The efficacy of the sacrament is not due to any spiritual or magical quality communicated to the water.

(d.) But this efficacy does result (1.) From the moral power of the truth which the rite symbolizes. (2.) From the fact that it is a seal of the covenant of grace, and a legal form of investing those persons embraced in the covenant with the graces promised therein. (3.) From the personal presence and sovereignly gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, who uses the sacrament as his instrument and medium.

(e.) That through these channels the grace signified is really conveyed to the persons to whom, according to the divine counsel, it truly belongs; yet this grace and the influences of the Holy Ghost are not so tied to the sacrament that they are never, or even infrequently, conveyed in any other way. The very grace conveyed by the sacrament must be possessed by the adult as a prerequisite to Baptism, and is often subsequently experienced through other channels.

(f.) Hence the necessity for being baptized arises (1.) From the divine command. Obedience is of course necessary where there is knowledge. (2.) It is the proper and only efficient method of making a profession of faith and allegiance to Christ. (3.) It is eminently helpful as a means of grace.

That Baptism is never to be administered more than once to any person appears (1.) From the symbolical significance of the rite. It signifies spiritual regeneration -- the inauguration of the divine life. Of course it can have but one commencement. (2.) It is the rite of initiation into the Christian Church, and as there is no provision made for getting out of the Church when once in, so there is no provision made for coming in more than once. (3.) The apostles baptized each individual but once.

Text scanned and Edited by Michael Bremmer

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