Chapter 42 – Outlines of Theology

Baptism:  its Nature and Design, Mode, Subjects, Efficacy and Necessity

The Nature and Design of Baptism

1. State the facts with regard to the prevalence of washing untie water, as a symbol of spiritual purification, among the Jews and Gentile nations before the advent of Christ.

No other religious symbol is so natural and obvious, and none has been so universally practiced. Its usage is distinctly traced among the disciples of Zoroaster, the Brahmen, the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and especially the Jews. In the original tabernacle, the pattern of which God showed Moses on the mount, a large laver stood between the altar on which expiation was made for sin, and the Holy House. At which laver the priests continually washed ere they entered the presence of God. This symbolism penetrated all their religious services and language (Ps 26:6; Heb 9:10), and at the time of Christ it was carried into all the details of secular life (Mark 7:3-4).

The religious washing of the body with water lay, therefore, ready to the use of John the Baptist, and the disciples of our Lord.

2. Was John’s baptism Christian baptism ?

The “Council of Trent,” (session 7, “De Baptismo,” Son 1:1-17) decided,“ If any one should say that the baptism of John had the same effect with the baptism of Christ; let him be anathema.” For controversial reasons Protestants, especially those of the school of Zwingli and Calvin, took the opposite side, and decided that the two were identical (4.15.7-18, Turretin, Institutes, Topic 19, 16th Question).

We believe Calvin, etc., to have been wrong, for the following reasons:

1st. John belonged to the Old and not to the New Testament economy. He came “in the spirit and power of Elias,”Luke 1:17, in the garb, with the manners, and teaching the doctrine of the ancient prophets (Matt 11:13-14; Luke 1:17).

2nd. His was the “baptism of repentance,” binding its subjects to repentance, but not to the faith and obedience of Christ.

3rd. The Jewish Church yet remained in its old form. The Christian Church, as such, did not exist. John preached that “the kingdom of heaven was at hand” but he did not by baptism gather and seal the subjects of that kingdom into a separate visible society. While he lived his personal disciples were never merged with those of Christ.

4th. It was not administered in the name of the Trinity.

5th. Those baptized by John were rebaptized by Paul (Acts 18:24-28; 19:1-7).

3. Were the baptisms practiced by the disciples of Christ previous to his crucifixion identical with that practiced by the Apostles after his ascension?––See John 3:22; John 4:1-2.

Up to the time of his death Christ, like John, conformed to the usages and taught the doctrines of the Jewish dispensation. His crucifixion and resurrection mark the actual transition of the new out of the old dispensation. The nature of His kingdom and His own divinity, and hence the doctrine of the Trinity was not clearly discerned, and the Christian Church as a distinct communion was not yet organized. He preached like John, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” Matt 4:17, and He commissioned His disciples to say “the kingdom of God has come nigh unto you.” Luke 10:9.

We, therefore, believe that this baptism practiced by his disciples before his crucifixion was, like that of John, simply a preparatory purifying rite binding to repentance.

4. Where is the record of the real institution of Christian baptism contained?

Matt 28:19-20.––“Go ye therefore, and disciple (μαθητευσατε) 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.”

5. Prove that its observance is of perpetual obligation.

This has been denied by Socinians on rationalistic grounds, and by Quakers (Barclay, Apology, Prop 12), on the ground of a false spiritualism, and by some parties of AntiBaptists, who hold baptism to have been exclusively designed for the initiation of aliens to the church, and therefore not to be applied to those born within the church, in established Christian communities.  That it was designed to be observed everywhere and always is plain:

1st. From the command given in the words of institution.

(1.) “All nations,” and

(2) “alway, even unto the end of the world.”

2nd. The commands and practice of the apostles. Acts 2:38; 10:47; 16:33

3rd. The reason of and necessity for the ordinance which determined its existence at the first, remains and is universal.

4th. The uniform practice of the entire church in all its branches from the beginning.

6. How is baptism defined in our standards?

Con. of Faith,” Chap. 28.; “Larger Catechism”, Q. 165; “Shorter Catechism,” Q. 94.

The essential points of this definition are––

1st It is a washing with water.

2nd A washing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3rd It is done with the design to “signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

7. What is essential to the “ matter” of baptism?

As to its “matter,” baptism is essentially a washing with water. No particular mode of washing is essential:

1st. Because no such mode is specified in the command.  See below, Questions 12–21.

2nd. Because no such mode of administration is essential to the proper symbolism of the ordinance.  See below, Question 11.  On the other hand, water is necessary:

1st. Because it is commanded.

2nd. Because it is essential to the symbolism of the rite. It is the natural symbol of moral purification (Eph 5:25-26), and it was established as such in the ritual of Moses.

8. What is necessary as to the form of words in which baptism is administered?

It is essential to the validity of the ordinance that it should be administered “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This is certain:

1st. Because it is included in the command.  Matt 28:19.

2nd. From the significance of the rite. Besides being a symbol of purification, it is essentially, as a rite of initiation into the Christian church, a covenanting ordinance whereby the recipient recognizes and pledges his allegiance to God in that character and in those relations in which he has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures. The formula of baptism, therefore, is a summary statement of the whole Scripture doctrine of the Triune Jehovah as he has chosen to reveal himself to us, and in all those relations which the several Persons of the Trinity graciously sustain in the scheme of redemption to the believer. Hence the baptism of all those sects which reject the scriptural doctrine of the Trinity is invalid.

The frequent phrases, to be baptized in “the name of Jesus Christ”, or “ in the name of the Lord Jesus”, or “in the name of the Lord” (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 19:5), do not at all present the form of words which the apostles used in administering this sacrament, but are simply used to designate Christian baptism in distinction from that of John, or to indicate the uniform effect of that spiritual grace which is symbolized in baptism, viz., union with Christ.  Gal 3:27.

9. What is the meaning of the formula “to baptize ”in the name (εις το ονομα ) of anyone?

To be baptized “in the name of Paul” ( εις το ονομα), 1Cor 1:13, or “unto Moses,” ( εις το Μωυσην), 1Cor 10:2, is, on the part of the baptized, to be made the believing and obedient disciples of Paul and Moses, and the objects of their care, and the participants in whatever blessings they have to bestow. To be baptized in the name of the Trinity (Matt 28:19), or “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Act 19:5), or “into Jesus Christ,” (Rom 6:3), is by baptism, or rather by the grace of which ritual baptism is the sign, to be united to Christ, or to the Trinity through Christ, as his disciples, believers in his doctrine, heirs of his promises, and participants in his spiritual life.

10. What is the design of baptism?

Its design is:

1st. Primarily, to signify, seal, and convey to those to whom they belong the benefits of the covenant of grace. Thus:

(1.) It symbolizes “the washing of regeneration” “the renewing of the Holy Ghost,” which unites the believer to Christ, and so makes him a participant in Christ’s life and all other benefits. 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal 3:27; Tit 3:5.

(2.) Christ herein visibly seals his promises to those who receive it with faith, and invests them with the grace promised.

2nd. Its design was, secondarily, as springing from the former:

(1.) to be a visible sign of our covenant to be the Lord’s, i.e., to accept His salvation, and to consecrate ourselves to His service.

(2.) And, hence, to be a badge of our public profession, our separation from the world, and our initiation into the visible church. As a badge it marks us as belonging to the Lord, and consequently (a) distinguishes us from the world, (b) symbolizes our union with our fellow–Christians.  1 Cor. 12:13.

11. What is the emblematic import of baptism?

In every sacrament there is a visible sign representing an invisible grace. The sign represents the grace in virtue of Christ’s authoritatively appointing it thereto, but the selection by Christ of the particular sign is founded on its fitness as a natural emblem of the grace which he appoints it to represent.

Thus in the Lord’s supper the bread broken by the officiating minister, and the wine poured out, are natural emblems of the body of Christ broken, and his blood shed as a sacrifice for our sins.

And in like manner in the sacrament of baptism the application of water to the person of the recipient is a natural emblem of the “washing of regeneration.” Tit 3:5. Hence we are said to be “born of water and of the Spirit,” John 3:5, i.e., regenerated by the Holy Spirit, of which new birth baptism with water is the emblem; and to be baptized “by one Spirit into one body,” i.e., the spiritual body of Christ; and to be “baptized into Christ,” so as “to have put on Christ,” Gal 3:27; and to be “baptized into his death,” and to be “buried with him in baptism …so that we should walk with him in newness of life,” Rom 6:3-4, because the sacrament of baptism is the emblem of that spiritual regeneration which unites us both federally and spiritually to Christ, so that we have part with him both in his life and in his death, and as he died unto sin as a sacrifice, so we die unto sin in its ceasing to be the controlling principle of our natures; and as he rose again in the resumption of his natural life, we rise to the possession and exercise of a new spiritual life.

Baptist interpreters, on the other hand, insist that the Bible teaches that the outward sign in this sacrament, being the immersion of the whole body in water, is an emblem both of purification and of our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. Dr. Carson says, p. 381,

The immersion of the whole body is essential to baptism, not because nothing but immersion can be an emblem of purification, but because immersion is the thing commanded, and because that, without immersion, there is no emblem of death, burial, and resurrection, which are in the emblem equally with purification.

He founds his assumption that the outward sign in the sacrament of baptism was designed to be an emblem of the death, burial, and resurrection of the believer in union with Christ, upon Rom 6:3-4, and Col 2:12.  We object to this interpretation:

1st. In neither of these passages does Paul say that our baptism in water is an emblem of our burial with Christ. He is evidently speaking of that spiritual baptism of which water baptism is the emblem; by which spiritual baptism we are caused to die unto sin, and live unto holiness, in which death and new life we are conformed unto the death and resurrection of Christ. We are said to be “baptized into Christ,” which is the work of the Spirit not “into the name of Christ.,” which is the phrase always used when speaking of ritual baptism. Mat 28:19; Acts 2:38; 19:5.

2nd. To be “baptized into his death” is a phrase perfectly analogous to baptism “into repentance,” Matt 3:11 and “into remission of sins,” Mar 1:4, and “into one body,” 1 Cor. 12:13, i.e., in order that, or to the effect that, we participate in the benefits of his death.

3rd. The Baptist interpretation involves an utter confusion in reference to the emblem. Do they mean that the outward sign of immersion is an emblem of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, or of the spiritual death, burial, and resurrection of the believer? But the point of comparison in the passages themselves is plainly “not between our baptism and the burial and resurrection of Christ, but between our death to sin and rising to holiness, and the death and resurrection of the Redeemer.”

4th. Baptists agree with us that baptism with water is an emblem of spiritual purification, i. e., regeneration, but insist that it is also an emblem (in the mode of immersion) of the death of the believer to sin and his new life of holiness.  Dr. Carson, p. 143.  But what is the distinction between regeneration and a death unto sin, and life unto holiness.

5th. Baptists agree with us that water baptism is an emblem of purification. But surely it is impossible that the same action should at the same time be an emblem of a washing, and of a burial and a resurrection. One idea may be associated with the other in consequence of their spiritual relations, but it is impossible that the same visible sign should be emblematical of both.

6th. Our union with Christ through the Spirit, and the spiritual consequences thereof; are illustrated in Scripture by many various figures, e.g., the substitution of a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, Eze 36:26; the building of a house, Eph 2:22; the ingrafting of a limb into a vine, John 15:5; the putting off of filthy garments, and the putting on of clean, Eph 4:22-24; as a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection, and as a being planted in the likeness of his death, Rom 6:3-5; as the application of a cleansing element to the body, Eze 36:25. Now baptism with water represents all these, because it is an emblem of spiritual regeneration, of which all of these are analogical illustrations. Hence we are said to be “baptized into one body,”1 Cor. 12:13, and by baptism to “have put on Christ,” Gal 3:27. Yet it would be absurd to regard water baptism as a literal emblem of all these, and our Baptist brethren have no scriptural warrant for assuming that the outward sign in this sacrament is an emblem of the one analogy more than of the other. See Dr. Armstrong’s “Doctrine of Baptisms” Part 2., Chap. 2.

The Mode of Baptism

12. What are the words which, in the original language of Scripture, are used to convey the command to baptize?

The primary word (βαπτω) occurs four times in the new Testament (Luke 16:24; John 13:26; Rev 19:13), but never in connection with the subject of Christian baptism. Its classical meaning was,

1st, to dip;

2nd, to dye;

3rd, to wash by dipping or pouring.

The word (βαπτιζω) in form, though not in usage, the frequentative of (βαπτω), occurs seventy–six times in the New Testament, and is the word used by the Holy Spirit to convey the command to baptize. Its classical meaning was,

  1. dip, submerge, sink;
  2. to wet thoroughly;
  3. to pour upon, to drench;
  4. to overwhelm.

Besides these, we have the nouns of the same root and usage, (βαπτισμα) occurring twenty–two times, translated baptism, and (βαπτισμος) occurring four times, translated baptism, Heb 6:2, and washing, Mark 7:4; Mark 7:8; Heb 9:10. The only question with which we are concerned, however, is as to the scriptural usage of these words. It is an important and universally recognized principle, that the biblical and classical usage of the same word is often very different. This effect is to be traced to the influence of three general causes.––See “Baptism, its Modes and Subjects,” by Dr. Alex. Carson; “Meaning and Use of the Word Baptizein,” by Rev. Dr. Conant, and “Classic, Judaic, Johannic, and Christian Baptism,” by Rev. James W. Dale, D.D.

1st. The principal classics of the language were composed in the Attic dialect. But the general language used by the Greek–speaking world at the Christian era was the “common, or Hellenic dialect of the later Greek” resulting from the fusion of the different dialects previously existing.

2nd. The language of the writers of the New Testament was again greatly modified by the fact that their vernacular was a form of the Hebrew language (Syro–Chaldaic); that their constant use of the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures had largely influenced their usage of the Greek language, especially in the department of religious thought and expression; and that, in the very act of composing the New Testament Scriptures, they were engaged in the statement of religious ideas, an in the inauguration of religious institutions which had their types and symbols in the ancient dispensation, as revealed in the sacred language of the Hebrew scriptures.

3rd. The New Testament writings are a revelation of new ideas and relations, and hence the words and phrases through which these new thoughts are conveyed must be greatly modified in respect to their former etymological sense and heathen usage, and “for the full depth and compass of meaning belonging to them in their new application we must look to the New Testament itself, comparing one passage with another, and viewing the language used in the light of the great things which it brings to our apprehension.”

As examples of this contrast between the scriptural and classical usage of a word, observe, αγγελος, angel; πρεσβυτερος presbyter or elder; εκκλεσια, church; βασιλεια του θεου, or των ουρανων, kingdom of God, or of heaven; παλιγγενεσια, regeneration; χαρις, grace, etc., etc.––Fairbairn’s “Herm. Manual,” Part 1; section 2.

13. What is the position of the Baptist churches as to the meaning of the Scriptural word βαπτιζω and by what arguments do they seek to prove that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism?

“That it always signifies to dip, never expressing any thing but mode.”––“Carson on Baptism,” p. 55. He confesses: “I have ALL the lexicographers and commentators against me.” Baptists insist, therefore, upon always translating the words βαπτιζω and βαπτισμα by the words immerse and immersion.

They argue that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism:

1st. From the constant meaning of the word βαπτιζω.

2nd. From the symbolical import of the rite, as emblematic of burial and resurrection.

3rd. From the practice of the apostles.

4th. From history of the early church.

14. What is the position occupied upon this point by all other Christians?

1st. It is an established principle of scriptural usage that the names and attributes of the things signified by sacramental signs are attributed to the signs, and on the other hand that the name of the sign is used to designate the grace signified. Thus, Gen 17:11; Gen 17:13, the name of covenant is given to circumcision; Mat 26:26-28, Christ called the bread his body, and the wine his blood; Tit 3:5, baptism is called the washing of regeneration. Thus also the words BAPTIZE and BAPTISM are often used to designate that work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, which the sign, or water baptism, signifies.––Matt 3:11; 1Cor 12:13;Gal 3:27; Deut 30:6. It follows consequently that these words are often used in a spiritual sense.

2nd. These words when relating to ritual baptism, or the sign representing the thing signified, imply the application of water in the name of the Trinity, as an emblem of purification or spiritual regeneration, and never, in their scriptural usage, signify any thing whatever as to the mode in which the water is applied.

The precise question in debate is to be stated thus. Baptists insist that Christ’s command to baptize is a command to “immerse.” All other Christians hold that it is a command to “wash with water,” as a symbol of spiritual purification.

I have answered, under Question 11, above, the second Baptist argument, as stated under Question 13. Their first and third arguments, as there stated, I will proceed to answer now.

15. How may it be proved from their scriptural usage that the wards βαπτιζω and βαπτισμα do not signify immersion, but WASHING to effect PURIFICATION, without any reference to mode?

1st. The word occurs four times in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, in three of which instances it refers to baptism with water.

  • 2Kings 5:14––The prophet told Naaman to “wash and be clean,” and “he baptized himself in Jordan, and he was clean.”
  • Eccl 34:25––“He that baptizeth himself after the touching of a dead body.”
  • This purification according to the law was accomplished by sprinkling the water of separation.––Num 19:9; Num 19:13; Num 19:20, “baptized herself in the camp at a fountain of water.” Bathing was not performed among those nations by immersion; and the circumstances in which Judith was placed increase the improbability in her case. It was a purification, for she “baptized herself,” and “so came in clean.”

2nd. The question agitated between some of John’s disciples and the Jews, John 3:22-30; John 4:1-3, concerning baptism, is called a question concerning purification, περι καθαρισμου.

3rd. Matt 15:2; Mark 7:1-5; Luke 11:37-39. The word βαπτιζω is here used

(1) for the customary washing of the hands before meals, which was designed to purify, and was habitually performed by pouring water upon them, 2Ki 3:11;

(2) it is interchanged with the word νιπτω, which always signifies a partial washing;

(3) its effect is declared to be to purify, καθαρισιεν;

(4) the baptized or washed hands are opposed to the unclean, κοιναις.

4th. Mark 7:4; Mark 7:8, “Baptism of pots and cups, brazen vessels, and of tables κλιναι, couches upon which Jews reclined at their meals, large enough to accommodate several persons at once. The object of these baptisms was purification, and the mode could not have been immersion in the case of the tables, couches, etc.”

5th. Heb 9:10, Paul says the first tabernacle “stood only in meats, and drinks, and divers baptisms.” In verses 13, 19, 21, he specifies some of these “divers baptisms” or washings, “For if the blood of bulls and 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.”—Dr. Armstrong’s “Doc. of Bapt.,” Part 1.

16. What argument in favor of this view of the subject may be drawn from what is said of baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; 1Cor 12:13.

If the word βαπτιζω only means to immerse, it would be incapable of the figurative use to which, in these passages, it is actually subjected. But if, as we claim, it signifies to purify, to cleanse, then water baptism, as a washing, though never as an immersion, may fitly represent the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.  See next Question.

17. What argument may be drawn from the fact that the blessings symbolized by baptism are said to be applied by sprinkling and pouring?

The gift of the Holy Ghost was the grace signified. Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:32-33; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 11:15-16. The fire which did not immerse them, but appeared as cloven tongues, and “sat upon each one of them,” was the sign of that grace. Jesus was himself the baptizer, who now fulfilled the prediction of John the Baptist that he should baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. This gift of the Holy Ghost is set forth in such terms as “came from heaven,” “poured out,” “shed forth,” “fell on them.”

These very blessings were predicted in the Old Testament by similar language.––Is. 44:3; 52:15; Eze 36:25-27; Joel 2:28-29. Hence we argue that if these spiritual blessings were predicted in the Old Testament by means of these figures of sprinkling; and pouring, and if in the New Testament they were symbolically set forth under the same form, they may, of course, be symbolized by the church now by the same emblematical actions.

18. What argument may be drawn from the mode of purification adopted under the Old Testament?

The rites of purification prescribed by the Levitical law were in no case commanded to be performed by immersion in the case of persons. Washing and bathing is prescribed, but there is no indication given by the words used, or otherwise, that these were performed by immersion, which was not the usual mode of bathing practiced in those countries. The hands and feet of the priests, whenever they appeared to minister before the Lord, were washed, Exo 30:18-21, and their personal ablutions were performed at the brazen laver, 2Chron 4:6, from which the water poured forth through spouts or cocks.––1 Kings 7:27–39. On the other hand, purification was freely ordered to be effected by sprinkling of blood, ashes, or water.––Lev 8:30; Lev 14:7; Lev 14:51; Exo 24:5-8; Num 8:6-7; Heb 9:12-22. Now, as Christian baptism is a purification, and as it was instituted among the Jews, familiar with the Jewish forms of purification, it follows that a knowledge of those forms must throw much light upon the essential nature and proper mode of the Christian rite.

19. How may it be shown from 1Cor 10:1-2, and from 1Pet 3:20-21, that to baptize does not mean to immerse?

1Cor 10:1-2. The Israelites are said to have been “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”––Compare Exo 14:19-31. The Israelites were baptized, yet went over dryshod. The Egyptians were immersed, yet not baptized. Dr. Carson, p. 413, says, Moses “got a dry dip.”

1Pe 3:20-21. Peter declares that baptism is the antitype of the salvation of the eight souls in the ark. Yet their salvation consisted in their not being immersed.

20. What argument as to the proper mode of baptism is to be drawn from the record of the baptisms performed by John?

1st. John’s baptism was not the Christian sacrament, but a rite of purification administered by a Jew upon Jews, under Jewish law. From this we infer

(1) that it was not performed by immersion, since the Levitical purification of persons was not performed in that way; yet

(2) that he needed for his purpose either a running stream as Jordan, or much water as at AEnon (or the springs), because under that law whatsoever an unclean person touched previous to his purification became unclean, Num 19:21-22, with the exception of a “fountain or pit in which is plenty of water,”Lev 11:36, which he could not find in the desert in which he preached. After the gospel dispensation was introduced we hear nothing of the apostles baptizing in rivers, or needing “much water” for that purpose.

2nd. In no single instance is it stated in the record that John baptized by immersion. All the language employed applies just as naturally as accurately to a baptism performed by effusion (the subject standing partly in the water, the baptizer pouring water upon the person with his hand). The phrases “baptized in Jordan,”“coming out of the water,” would have been as accurately applied in the one case as in the other. That John’s baptism was more probably performed by affusion appears

(1.) from the fact that it was a purification performed by a Jewish prophet upon Jews, and that Jewish washings were performed by effusion. The custom was general then, and has continued to this day.

(2.) This mode better accords with the vast multitudes baptized by one man.––Matt 3:5-6; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:3-21.

(3.) The very earliest works of Christian art extant represent the baptism of Christ by John as having been performed by affusion.––Dr. Armstrong’s “Doctrine of Baptisms,” Part 2., Chap. 3.

21. What evidence is afforded by the instances of Christian baptism recorded in the New Testament?

1st. It has been abundantly shown above that the command to baptize is a command to purify by washing with water, and it hence follows that even if it could be shown that the apostles baptized by immersion, that fact would not prove that particular mode of washing to be essential to the validity of the ordinance, unless it can be proved also that, according to the analogies of gospel institutions, the mere mode of obeying a command is made as essential as the thing itself: But the reverse is notoriously the fact. The church was organized on certain general principles, and the public worship of the gospel ordained, but the details as to the manner of accomplishing those ends are not prescribed. Christ instituted the Lord’s supper at night, reclining on a couch, and with unleavened bread. Yet in none of these respects is the “mode,” essential.

2nd. But, in fact, there is not one instance in which the record makes it even probable that the apostles baptized by immersion, and in the great majority of instances it is rendered in the last degree improbable.

(1.) The baptism of the eunuch by Philip, Act 8:26-39, is the only instance which even by appearance favors immersion. But observe

(a) the language used by Luke, even as rendered in our version, applies just as naturally to baptism performed by effusion as by immersion.

(b.) The Greek prepositions εις here translated “into” and εκ here translated “out of”, are in innumerable instances used to express motion, toward, unto and from.––Act 26:14; Act 27:34; Act 27:40. They probably descended from the chariot to the brink of the water. Philip is also said to have “descended to,” and to have “ascended from the water,” but surely he was not also immersed.

(c.) The very passage of Isaiah, which the eunuch was reading, Is. 52:15, declared that the Messiah, in whom he believed, should “sprinkle many nations.”

(d.) Luke says the place was “a desert,” and no body of water sufficient for immersion can be discovered on that road.

(2.) Every other instance of Christian baptism recorded in the Scriptures bears evidence positively against immersion.

(a.) The baptism of three thousand in Jerusalem on one occasion on the day of Pentecost.––Acts 2:38-41.

(b.) The baptism of Paul.––Act 9:17-18; Act 22:12-16. Ananias said to him “standing up, be baptized,” and “standing up, he was baptized.”

(c.) The baptism of Cornelius.––Act 10:44-48.

(d.) The baptism of the jailer, at Philippi.––Act 16:2-34. In all these instances baptism was administered on the spot, wherever the convert received the gospel. Nothing is said of rivers, or much water, but vast multitudes at a time, and individuals and families were baptized in their houses, or in prisons, wherever they happened to be at the moment.

22. What has been in the past, and what is in the present, the usage of the churches as to the mode of baptism?

In the early church the prevalent mode was to immerse the naked body. For several ages trine–immersion was practiced, or the dipping the head of the person standing in the water, three times. In cases of extreme danger of death, and when water was scarce, affusion or sprinkling was considered valid (Bingham’s “Christ. Antiquities,” Bk. 2., ch. 11.; Neander’s “Ch. Hist.,” Vol. 1., Torrey’s Trans., p. 310; Schaff’s “Ch. Hist.,” Vol. 2., & 92). The Greek Church has insisted on immersion. The Romish and Protestant churches admit either form. The modern customs favor sprinkling.

The Baptists maintain that immersion is the only valid baptism. All other western churches deny this and maintain the equal validity of pouring and of sprinkling.––“Con. faith,” Ch. 28., & 3.

No advocate of sprinkling can, in consistency with his own fundamental principles or with the historical usages of the Christian Church, outlaw immersion. The opposition of most churches to immersion arises from the narrow and arrogant claims of the Baptists, and from their false views with respect to the emblematic import of baptism, making it a “burying,” instead of a “washing”; against THIS we mean to protest.


23. Who are the proper subjects of baptisms?

Con. of Faith,” Chap. 28.; “Larger Catechism”, Q. 166; “Shorter Catechism,” Q. 95.

All those, and those only, who are members oft the visible church, are to be baptized. These are,

1st, they who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ;

2nd, the children of one or both believing parents.

24. What in the case of adults are the prequisites of baptism?

Credible profession of their faith in Jesus as their Savior. This is evident––

1st. From the very nature of the ordinance as symbolizing spiritual gifts, and as sealing our covenant to be the Lord’s.

2nd. From the uniform practice of the apostles and evangelists.––Act 2:41; Act 8:37. For a full answer to this question, see below Ch. 43., Ques. 25, for conditions of admission to Lord’s table, which are identical with those requisite for baptism.

25. Upon what essential constitutional principle of human nature does this institution rest? and show how that principle is recognized in all God’s providential and gracious dealing with the race.

The grand peculiarity of humanity is that while each individual is a free responsible moral agent, yet we constitute a race, reproduced under the law of generation, and each newborn agent is educated and his character formed under social conditions. Hence everywhere the “free will of the parent becomes the destiny of the child.” Hence results the representative character of progenitors, and the inherited character and destiny of all races, nations, and families.

This principle runs through all God’s dealing with the human race under the economy of redemption. The family and not the individual is the unit embraced in all covenants and dispensations. This may be traced in all God’s dealings with Adam, Noah (Gen 9:9), Abraham (Gen 17:7, and Gal 3:8), and the nation of Israel (Exo 20:5;Deu 29:10-13). The same principle is continued in the Christian dispensation as asserted by Peter in the first sermon.––Act 2:38-39.

26. What is the visible church, to which baptism is the initiating rite?

1st. The word church, εκκλησια is used in Scripture in the general sense of the company of God’s people, called out from the world, and bound to him in covenant relations.

2nd. The true spiritual church, therefore, in distinction to the phenomenal church organized on earth, consists of the whole company of the elect, who are included in the eternal covenant of grace formed between the father and the second Adam.––Eph 5:27; Heb 12:23.

3rd. But the visible church universal consists of “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children, and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”––“Confession of Faith,” chap. 25, section 2. This visible kingdom, Christ, as Mediator of the covenant of grace, has instituted, as an administrative provision, for the purpose of administering thereby the provisions of that covenant; and this kingdom, as an outward visible society of professors, he established by the covenant he made with Abraham.––Gen 12:1-3; Gen 17:1-14.

4th. Christ has administered this covenant in three successive modes or dispensations.

(1.) From Abraham to Moses, during which he attached to it the ratifying seal of circumcision.

(2.) From Moses to his advent (for the law which was temporarily added did not make the promise of none effect, but rather administered it in a special mode, Gal 3:17), he added a new seal, the passover, emblematic of the atoning work of the promised seed, as set forth in the clearer revelation then vouchsafed.

(3.) From Christ to the end of the world, when the promise being unfolded in an incomparably fuller revelation, the original seals are superseded by baptism and the Lord’s Supper. See below, Question 26.

5th. That the Abrahamic covenant was designed to embrace the visible church of Christ, and not his mere natural seed in their family or national capacity, is plain.

(1.) It pledged salvation by Christ on the condition of faith.––Compare Gen 12:3, with Gal 3:8; Gal 3:16; Act 3:25-26.

(2.) The sign and seal attached to it symbolized spiritual blessings, and sealed justification by faith.––Deut 10:15-16; Deut 30:6; Jer 4:4; Rom 2:28-29; Rom 4:11.

(3.) This covenant was made with him as the representative of the visible church universal. (a.) It was made with him as the “father of many nations.” Paul said it constituted him the “heir of the world,”“the father of all them that believe,”Rom 4:11; Rom 4:13, and that all believers in Christ now, Jew or Gentile, are “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”––Gal 3:29. (b.) It contained a provision for the introduction to its privileges, of those who were not born of the natural seed of Abraham.––Gen 17:12. Multitudes of such proselytes had been thus introduced before the advent of Christ, and many such were present ill Jerusalem as members of the church under its old form on the day of Pentecost “out of every nation under heaven.”––Act 2:5-11.

6th. That the church thus embraced in this administrative covenant is not the body of the elect, as such, but the visible church of professors and their children, is evident, because,

(1.) the covenant contains the offer of the gospel, including the setting forth of Christ, and the offer of his salvation to all men (all the families of the earth) on the condition of faith. Gal 3:8. But this belongs to the visible church, and must be administered by means of inspired oracles and a visible ministry.

(2.) As an indisputable fact, there was such a visible society under the old dispensation; and under the new dispensation all Christians, whatever theories they may entertain, attempt to realize the ideal of such a visible society, for Christian and ministerial communion.

(3.) Under both dispensations Christ has committed to his church, as to a visible kingdom, written records, sacramental ordinances, ecclesiastical institutions, and a teaching and ruling ministry. Although these are all designed to minister the provisions of the covenant of grace and to effect as their ultimate end the ingathering of the elect, it is evident that visible signs and seals, a written word and a visible ministry, can, as such, attach only to a visible church. Rom 9:4; Eph 4:11.

(4.) The same representation of the church is given in the New Testament, in the parable of the tares, etc.––Matt 13:24-30; Matt 13:47-50; Matt 25:1-13. It was to consist of a mixed community of good and evil, true and merely professed believers, and the separation is not to be made until the “end of the world.”

7th. This visible church from the beginning has been transmitted and extended in a twofold manner.

(1.) Those who are born “strangers from the covenants of promise,” or “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, “Eph 2:12, were introduced to that relation only by profession of faith and conformity of life. Under the old dispensation these are called proselytes. Act 2:10; Num 15:15.

(2.) All born within the covenant had part in all of the benefits of a standing in the visible church by inheritance. The covenant was with Abraham and his “seed after him, in all their generations, as an everlasting covenant,” and consequently they received the sacrament which was the sign and seal of that covenant. Hence the duty of teaching and training was engrafted on the covenant, Gen 18:18-19; and the church made a school, or training institution, Deu 6:6-9. In accordance with this, Christ commissioned his apostles to disciple all nations, baptizing and teaching them. Mat 28:19-20. Thus the church is represented as a flock, including the lambs with the sheep, Is. 40:11, and as a vineyard in which the scion is trained, the barren tree cultivated, and, if incurable, cut down.––Is. 5:1–7; Luke 13:7-8.

27. How may it be shown that this visible church is identical under both dispensations, and what argument may be thence derived to prove that the infant children of believers should be baptized?

1st. The church, under both dispensations, has the same nature and design. The 01d Testament church, embraced in the Abrahamic covenant, rested on the gospel offer of salvation by faith.––Gal 3:8;Heb 11:1-40 :Its design was to prepare a spiritual seed for the Lord. Hence––

(1.) Its foundation was the same––the sacrifice and mediation of Christ.

(2.) Conditions of membership were the same.

(a.) Every true Israelite was a true believer.––Gal 3:7.

(b.) All Israelites were at least professors of the true religion.

(3.) Its sacraments symbolized and sealed the same grace as those of the New Testament church. Thus the passover, as the Lord’s Supper, represented the sacrifice of Christ.––1 Cor. 5:7. Circumcision, as baptism, represented “the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh,” and baptism is called by Paul “the circumcision of Christ.”Col 2:11-12. Even the ritual of the Mosaic law was only a symbolical revelation of the gospel.

2nd. They bear precisely the same name. εκκλησια κυρια , the church of the Lord, is an exact rendering in Greek of the Hebrew קְהַל יְהוָה translated in our version the “congregation of the Lord,”––Compare Psa 22:22, with Heb 2:12. Thus Stephen called the congregation of Israel before Sinai “the church. in the wilderness.”––Compare Act 7:38, with Exo 32:1-35 :Thus also Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew Messiah, and the elders of the New Testament church are identical in function and name with those of the synagogue.

3rd. There is no evidence whatever furnished by the apostolical records that the ancient church was abolished and a new and a different one organized in its place. The apostles never say one word about any such new organization. The pre–existence of such a visible society is everywhere taken for granted as a fact. Their disciples were always added to the “church,” or “ congregation” previously existing.––Act 2:47. The Mosaic ritual law, by means of which the Abrahamic character of the church had been administered for about fifteen hundred years, was indeed abolished. But Paul argues that the introduction of this law, four hundred and thirty years after, could not make the promise of none effect, Gal 3:17, and consequently the disannulling of the law, could only give place to the more perfect execution of the covenant, and development of the church embraced within it.

4th. There is abundant positive evidence that the ancient church, resting upon its original charter, was not abolished by the new dispensation.

(1.) Many of the Old Testament prophecies plainly declare that the then existing visible church, instead of being abrogated by the advent of the Messiah, should thereby be gloriously– strengthened and enlarged, so as to embrace the Gentiles also.––Is. 49:13–23, and 60:1–14. They declare also that the federal constitution, embracing the child with the parent, shall continue under the new dispensation of the church, after “the Redeemer has come to Zion.”––Is. 59:21,22. Peter, in Act 3:22-23, expounds the prophecy of Moses, Deu 18:15-19, to the effect that every soul which will not hear that prophet (the Messiah) shall be cut off from among the people, i. e., from the church, which of course implies that the church from which they are cut off continues.

(2.) In precise accordance with these prophecies Paul declares that the Jewish church was not abolished, but that the unbelieving Jews were cut off from their own olive–tree, and the Gentile branches grafted in in their place; and he foretells the time when God will graft the Jews back again into their own stock and not into another. Rom 11:18-26. He says that the alien Gentiles are made fellow–citizens with believing Jews in the old household of the faith.––Eph 2:11-22.

(3.) The covenant which constituted the ancient church also constituted Abraham the father of many nation. The promise of the covenant was that God would “be a God unto him and to his seed after him.” This covenant, therefore, embraced the “many nations” with their father Abraham. Hence it never could have been fulfilled until the advent of the Messiah, and the abolishment of the restrictive law. Hence the Abrahamic covenant, instead of having been superseded by the gospel, only now begins to have its just accomplishment. Hence, on the day of Pentecost, Peter exhorts all to repent and be BAPTIZED, BECAUSE the Abrahamic covenant still held in force for all Jews and for their children, and for all those afar off, i. e., Gentiles, as many as God should call. Act 2:38-39. Hence also Paul argued earnestly that since the Abrahamic covenant is still in force, therefore, from its very terms, the Gentiles who should believe in Christ had a right to a place in that ancient church, which was founded upon it, on equal terms with the Jews. “In thee shall all nations be blessed, so THEN,” says Paul, “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham,” and all who believe in Christ, Jew or Gentile indiscriminately, “are,” to the full intent of the covenant, “Abraham’s seed” and heirs according to the promise, Gal 3:6-29, which promise was, “I will be a God to thee, and TO THY SEED AFTER THEE.”

The bearing of this argument upon the question of infant baptism is direct and conclusive.

Ist. Baptism now occupies the same relation to the covenant and the church which circumcision did.

(1.) Both rites represent the same spiritual grace, namely, regeneration.––Deut 30:6; Col 2:11; Rom 6:3-4.

(2.) Baptism is now what circumcision was, the seal, or confirming sign, of the Abrahamic covenant. Peter says, “be baptized FOR the PROMISE is to you and to your children.”—Act 2:38-39. Paul says explicitly that baptism is the sign of that covenant, “for as many as have been baptized into Christ are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,”Gal 3:27; Gal 3:29; and that baptism is the circumcision of Christ.––Col 2:10-11.

(3.) Both rites are the appointed forms, in successive eras, of initiation into the church, which we have proved to be the same church under both dispensations.

2nd. Since the church is the same, in the absence of all explicit command to the contrary, the members are the same. Children of believers were members then. They ought to be recognized as members now, and receive the initiatory rite. This the apostles took for granted as self–evident, and universally admitted; an explicit command to baptize would have implied doubt in the ancient church rights of infants.

3rd. Since the covenant, with its promise to be “a God to the believer and his seed,” is expressly declared to stand firm under the gospel, the believer’s seed have a right to the seal of that promise.––Dr. John M. Mason’s “Essays on the Church.”

28. Present the evidence that Christ recognized the church standing of children.

1st. Christ declares of little children (Matthew, παιδια, Luke βρεφη, infants) that “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”––Matt 19:14; Luke 18:16. The phrase “kingdom of God and of heaven” signifies the visible church under the new dispensation.––Matt 3:2; Matt 13:47.

2nd. In his recommission of Peter, after his apostasy, our Lord commanded him, as under shepherd, to feed the lambs, as well as the sheep of the flock.––John 21:15-17.

3rd. In his general commission of the apostles, he commanded them to disciple nations (which are always constituted of families) by baptizing, and then teaching them.— Matt 28:19-20.

29. Show that the apostles always acted on the principle that the child is a church member if the parent is.

The apostles were not settled pastors in the midst of an established Christian community, but itinerant missionaries to an unbelieving world, sent not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.––1Cor. 1:7. Hence we have in the Acts and Epistles the record of only ten separate instances of baptism. In two of these, viz., of the eunuch and of Paul, Act 8:38; Act 9:18, there were no families to be baptized. In the case of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, the people of Samaria, and the disciples of John at Ephesus, crowds were baptized on the very spot on which they professed to believe. Of the remaining five instances, in the four cases in which the family is mentioned at all, it is expressly said they were baptized, viz., the households of Lydia of Thyatira, of the jailer of Philippi, of Stephanas, and of Crispus.––Act 16:15; Act 16:32-33; Act 18:8; 1Cor 1:16. In the remaining instance of Cornelius, the record implies that the family was also baptized. Thus the apostles, in every case, without a single recorded exception, baptized believers on the spot, and whenever they had families, they also baptized their households, as such.

They also addressed children in their epistles as members of the church.––Compare Eph 1:1, and Col 1:1-2, with Eph 6:1-3, and Col 3:20. And declared that even the children of only one believing parent were to be regarded “holy,” or consecrated to the Lord, i. e., as church members.––1 Cor. 7:12–14.

30. What argument may be inferred from the fact that the blessings symbolized in baptism are promised and granted to children?

Baptism represents regeneration in union with Christ. Infants are born children of wrath, even as others. They cannot be saved, therefore, unless they are born again, and have part in the benefits of Christ’s death. They are evidently, from the nature of the case, in the same sense capable of being subjects of regeneration as adults are. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.”––Matt 21:15-16; Luke 1:41; Luke 1:44.

31. What argument may be drawn from the practice of the early church?

The practice of infant baptism is an institution which exists as a fact, and prevails throughout the universal church, with the exception of the modern Baptists, whose origin can be definitely traced to the Anabaptists of Germany, about A. D. 1537. Such an institution must either have been handed down from the apostles, or have had a definite commencement as a novelty, which must have been signalized by opposition and controversy. As a fact, however, we find it noticed in the very earliest records as a universal custom, and an apostolical tradition.

Justin Martyr, writing A. D. 138, says that “There were among Christians of his time, many persons of both sexes, some sixty and some seventy years old, who had been made disciples of Christ from their infancy.”

Irenaeus, born about A. D. 97, says, “He came to save all by himself; all I say who by him are born again unto God, infants, and little children and youths.”

It is acknowledged by Tertullian, born in Carthage, A. D. 160, or only sixty years after the death of the apostle John.

Origen, born of Christian parents in Egypt, A. D. 185, declares that it was “the usage of the church to baptize infants,” and that “the church had received the tradition from the apostles.”

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage from A. D. 248 to 258, together with an entire synod over which he presided, decided that baptism should be administered to infants before the eighth day.

St. Augustine, born A. D. 358, declared that this “doctrines is held by the whole church, not instituted by councils, but always retained.”

This Pelagius admitted, after having visited all parts of the church from Britain to Syria, although the fact was so repugnant to his system of doctrine.––See Wall’s “Hist. of Infant Baptism,” and Gingham’s “Christ. Antiquities” Bk. 11., Ch. 4.

Our argument is that infant baptism has prevailed

(a) from the apostolic age,

(b) in all sections of the ancient church,

(c) uninterruptedly to the present time,

(d) in every one of the great historical churches of the Reformation.

While its impugners (a) date since the Reformation, (b) and are generally guilty of the gross schismatical sin of closed communion.

32. How is the objection, that faith is a prerequisite to baptism, and that infants can not believe, to be answered?

The Baptists argue––

1st. From the commission of the Lord, “Go preach; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned,”  Mark 16:16, that infants ought not to be baptized because they can not believe.

2nd. From the nature of baptism, as a sign of a spiritual grace and seal of a covenant, that infants ought not to be baptized, since they are incapable of understanding the sign, or of contracting the covenant.

We answer––

1st. The requisition of faith evidently applies only to the adult, because faith is made the essential prerequisite of salvation, and yet infants are saved, though they can not believe.

2nd. Circumcision was a sign of a spiritual grace; it required faith in the adult recipient, and it was the seal of a covenant; yet, by God’s appointment, infants were circumcised. The truth is that faith is required, but it is the faith of the parent acting for his child. The covenant of which baptism is the seal is contracted with the parent, in behalf of the child upon whom the seal is properly applied.

It is besides to be remembered that the infant is not a thing, but a person born with an unholy moral nature, and fully capable of present regeneration, and of receiving from the Holy Spirit the “habit” or state of soul of which faith is the expression. Hence Calvin says (“Institutes 4.16.20), “The seed of both repentance and faith lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit.”

33. How can we avoid the conclusion that infants should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, if they are admitted to baptism?

The same reason and the same precedents do not hold in relation to both sacraments.

1st. Baptism recognizes and seals church membership, while the Lord’s Supper is a commemorative act.

2nd. In the action of baptism the subject is passive, and in that of the Lord’s Supper active.

3rd. Infants were never admitted to the Passover until they were capable of comprehending the nature of the service.

4th. The apostles baptized. households, but never admitted households as such to the Supper.

34. Whose children ought to be baptized?

“Infants of such as are members of the visible church,”“Shorter Catechism” Q. 95; that is, theoretically, “infants of one or both believing parents,”“Con. of Faith,” Chap. 28., sec. 4; and practically, “of parents, one or both of them professing faith n Christ.”––“Larger Catechism,” Q. 166. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, the Protestants of the continent, the Presbyterians of Scotland (and formerly of this country), act upon the principle that every baptized person, not excommunicated, being himself a member of the visible church, has a right to have his child regarded and treated as such also. Even when parents are unbelievers Catholics and Episcopalians will baptize their infants upon the faith of sponsors.

It is evident, however, that only the children of such parents, or actual guardians, as make a credible profession of personal faith ought to be baptized.

1st.. Because of the nature of the act. Faith is the condition of the covenant of which baptism is the seal. The Gen. Assembly of 1794 decided that our “Directory for Worship” demands that the parent enters before God and the Church into an express engagement, “that they pray with and for the child, that they set an example of piety and godliness before it” etc. And the Gen. Synod of 1735 asserts that if other than parents professing piety are encouraged to take these engagements “the seal would be set to a blank” (“Moore’s Digest,” pp. 665 and 666). Hence it is evident that the conditions prerequisite for having one’s children baptized are precisely the same with those prerequisite for being baptized or admitted to the Lord’s Supper one’s self, i. e., credible profession of a true faith.

2nd. Sponsors who are neither parents nor actual and permanent guardians are evidently neither the providentially constituted representatives of the child, nor in a position to make good their engagements.

3rd. Those who having been baptized, do not by faith and obedience discharge their baptismal vows when they are of mature age, are ipso facto in a state of suspension from covenant privileges, and cannot, therefore, plead them for their children.

4th. The apostles baptized the households only of those who professed faith in Christ.


35. What is the Romish and Ritualistic doctrine as to the efficacy of baptism?

The Romish doctrine, with which the “Tractarian” doctrine essentially agrees, is,

1st, that baptism confers the merits of Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost, and therefore

(1) it cleanses from inherent corruption;

(2) it secures the remission of the penalty of sin;

(3) it secures the infusion of sanctifying grace;

(4) it unites to Christ;

(5) it impresses upon the soul an indelible character;

(6) it opens the portals of heaven. Newman, “Lectures on Justification” p. 257; “Cat. Rom.,” Pt. 2., Chap. 2. Q. 32–44.

2nd. That the efficacy of the ordinance is inherent in itself in virtue of the divine institution. Its virtue does not depend either on the merit of the officiating minister, nor on that of the recipient, but in the sacramental action itself as an opus operatum (works performed). In the case of infants, the only condition of its efficiency is the right administration of the ordinance. In the case of adults its efficiency depends upon the additional condition that the recipient is not in mortal sin, and does not resist by an opposing will.––Dens “De Baptismo,” N. 29.

36. What is the Lutheran doctrine on this subject?

The Lutherans agreed with the Reformed churches in repudiating the Romish doctrine of the magical efficacy of this sacrament as an opus operatum. But they went much further than the Reformed in maintaining the sacramental union between the sign and the grace signified. Luther, in his “Small Cat.,” Pt. 4., sec. 2, says baptism, “worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and confers everlasting salvation on all who believe” and, in sec. 3, that “it is not the water indeed which produces these effects, but the word of God which accompanies, and is connected with the water, and our faith, which relies on the word of God connected with the water. For the water without the word is simply water and no baptism. But when connected with the word of God, it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life, and a washing of regeneration.” This efficacy depends upon true saving faith in the adult subject:“Moreover, faith being absent, it remains only a naked and inoperative sign.”

Hence they hold––lst. Baptism is an efficient means of conferring the forgiveness of sins and the grace of Christ.

2nd. It contains the grace it confers.

3rd. Its efficacy resides not in the water but in the word and in the Holy Spirit in the word.

4th. Its efficacy, in the case of the adult, depends upon the faith of the subject. Krauth’s “Conservative Reformation”, pp. 545–584.

37. What was the Zwinglian doctrine on this subject ?

That the outward rite is a mere sign, an objective representation by symbol of the truth, having no efficacy whatever beyond that due to the truth represented.

38. What is the doctrine of the Reformed churches, and of our own among the number, on this subject ?

They all agree,

1st, that the Zwinglian view is incomplete.

2nd. That besides being a sign, baptism is also the seal of grace, and therefore a present and sensible conveyance and confirmation of grace to the believer who has the witness in himself, and to all the elect a seal of the benefits of the covenant of grace, to be sooner or later conveyed in God’s good time.

3rd. That this conveyance is effected, not by the bare operation of the sacramental action, but by the Holy Ghost, which accompanies his own ordinance.

4th. That in the adult the reception of the blessing depends upon faith.

5th. That the benefits conveyed by baptism are not peculiar to it, but belong to the believer before or without baptism, and are often renewed to him afterwards.

Our “ Confession of Faith,” Chap. 28., sections 5 and 6, affirms,

“1st. That 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.”

2nd. That baptism does not in all cases secure the blessings of the covenant.

3rd. That in the cases in which it does the gift is not connected necessarily in time with the administration of the ordinance.

4th. “That these blessings depend upon two things:(1) the right use of the ordinance; (2) the secret purpose of God.”–Dr. Hodge.

39. What in general is the doctrine known as Baptismal Regeneration? On what ground does it rest? and how can it be shown to be false?

The Protestant advocates of Baptismal Regeneration, without committing themselves to the Romish theory of an opus operatum, hold that baptism is God’s ordained instrument of communicating the benefits of redemption in the first instance. That whatever gracious experiences may be enjoyed by the unbaptized, are uncovenanted mercies. That by baptism the guilt of original sin is removed, and the Holy Ghost is given, whose effects remain like a seed in the soul, to be actualized by the free–will of the subject, or neglected and hence rendered abortive. Every infant is regenerated when baptized. If he dies in infancy the seed is actualized in paradise. If he lives to adult age, its result depends upon his use of it (Blunt’s “Dict. of Theology,” Art. Baptism). See above, Ch. 29., Ques. 4.

They rest their doctrine on a large class of Scripture passages like the following, “Christ gave himself for the church that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water, by the word”Eph 5:26, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.”––Act 22:16. Also Joh 3:5;1Pe 3:21;Gal 3:27, etc.

The Reformed explain these passages on the following principles.

1st. In every sacrament there are two things (a) an outward visible sign, and (b) an inward invisible grace thereby signified. There is between these a sacramental or symbolical relation that naturally gives rise to a usus loquendi(meaning of words by usage), whereby the properties and effects of the grace are attributed to the sign. Yet it never follows that the two are inseparable, any more than it proves the absurdity that the two are identical.

2nd. The sacraments are badges of religious faith, and necessarily involve the profession of that faith. In all ordinary language, therefore, that faith is presumed to be present, and to be genuine, in which case the grace signified by the sacrament is, of course, always not only offered but conveyed (“Shorter Catechism,” Ques. 91 and. 92).

That baptism can not be the only or even the ordinary means of conveying the grace of regeneration (i. e., for initiating the soul into a state of grace) is plain.––

1st. Faith and repentance are the fruits of regeneration. But faith and repentance are required as conditions prerequisite to baptism.— Act 2:38; Act 8:37; Act 10:47; Act 11:17.

2nd. This doctrine is identical with that of the Pharisees, which Christ and his apostles constantly rebuked.––Mat 23:23-26. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love––but a new creature.”––Gal 5:6; Gal 6:15; Rom 2:25-29. Faith alone is said to save, the absence of faith alone to damn.––Act 16:31, and Mar 16:16.

3rd. The entire spirit and method of the gospel is ethical not magical. The great instrument of the Holy Ghost is the TRUTH, and all that is ever said of the efficacy of the sacraments is said of the efficacy of the truth. They are means of grace therefore in common with the word and as they contain and seal it (1Pe 1:23, and Joh 17:17; Joh 17:19). Our Saviour says “by their fruits ye shall know them.”––(Mat 7:20).

4th. This doctrine is disproved by experience. Vast multitudes of the baptized of all ages and nations bring forth none of the fruits of regeneration. Multitudes who were never baptized have produced these fruits. The ages and communities in which this doctrine has been most strictly held have been conspicuous for spiritual barrenness.

5th. The great evil of the system of which the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is a part, is that it tends to make religion a matter of external and magical forms, and hence to promote rationalistic skepticism among the intelligent, and superstition among the ignorant and morbid, and to dissociate among all classes religion and morality.


40. What is the Romish doctrine as to the necessity of baptism?

That it is by the appointment of God the one means, sine qua non, of justification (regeneration, etc.) both for infants and adults. In the case of adults they except only the case of those who have formed a sincere purpose of being baptized, which has been providentially hindered. In the case of infants there is no exception.

41. What is the Lutheran view?

Their standards state the necessity of the sacraments without apparent qualification (See “Aug. Confession” Art. 9, and “Apol. Aug. Confession,” p. 156, quoted under last chapter). But Dr. Krauth has shown from the writings of Luther and their standard theologians, that their actual view was that

(1) baptism is not essential(as e. g., Christ’s atonement is), but that

(2) it is necessary, as the ordained ordinary means of conferring grace, yet

(3) not unconditionally, because the “necessity” is limited

(a) by the possibility of having it, so that not the deprivation of baptism, but the contempt of it condemns a man, and

(b) by the fact that all the blessings of baptism are conditioned on faith.

(4) Baptism is not always followed by regeneration, and regeneration is not always preceded by baptism, and men may be saved though unbaptized.

(5) That within the church all infants are saved although unbaptized. (6) As to infants of heathen, the point undecided, because unrevealed, but hopeful views entertained.––Krauth “Conserv. Reform.,” pp. 557–564.

42 What is the Reformed doctrine?

That it is “necessary” because commanded, and universally obligatory, because it is a divinely ordained and most precious means of grace, which it would be impious knowingly and willingly to neglect. And because it is the appointed and commonly recognized badge whereby our allegiance to Christ is openly acknowledged. Under the circumstances, intelligent neglect of the sacraments looks very like treason.

But baptism does not ordinarily confer grace in the first instance, but presupposes it, and the grace it symbolizes and seals is often realized both before and without their use.–“Confession of Faith,” Ch. 28., “Cal. Instit.,” Bk. 4., ch. 16., & 26.