Holy Baptism is a Sacrament, by which the Lord is regenerating men, by water and the Spirit, to a new and spiritual life, purifying them from their sins, adopting them as His children and making a covenant with them, with the assurance that, if they remain in the same, they are to be heirs of eternal life.
632. The first Sacrament of the Christian is holy baptism, concerning which we following nine points are to attended to.
a. The name of this Sacrament. It is baptism; this means to dip, to wash. Thus Naeman dipped into the Jordan when making the ablutions which he had been advised to try, 1 Kings. 5, 14. Thus the Israelites were all baptized in passing through the sea, I Cor. 10, 2. — In the same way the washing of the Christian is called baptism or a dipping, both an account of the external, bodily, and the internal and spiritual act thereby executed. — This act is also called the visible pouring out of the holy Ghost, Matth. 3, 11: “he that cometh after me, shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost,”
633. The act of baptism is also designated with many other names, such as: Water, John. 3, 5: “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit” etc.; — also: the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus, 3, 5; — finally: the washing of water by the word, Ephes. 5. 26.
634. b. The nature of this Sacrament. It is a spiritual action, instituted and ordained by Christ, by the performance of which a man is baptized with water, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost; and by means of which be receives forgiveness of sins, is received in God’s covenant of mercy and is made partaker of the merits of Christ, of adoption and of eternal salvation. — We propose to consider the essentials of the preceding definition more particularly.
635. i. Wherever we find baptism spoken of in scripture, we ought never to imagine it to refer to the outpouring, or the gift of the Holy Ghost, which favour even in our days is not denied to some faithful Christians; nor to the baptism of death, which the holy Martyrs had to endure; — but that it means to imply nothing else, but the baptism of water.
636. ii, Baptism is not a mere external ceremony, whereby publicly to confess the faith in Christ. This opinion is not derived from scripture, nor could it be supported by any part of the latter. Baptism is a much more beautiful and a truly divine operation, which could not be brought about by a mere outward ceremony, even if this ceremony was for the purpose, of publicly confessing Christ.
637. iii. Baptism is not a sign of the regeneration, that is to take place in man, sometime after baptism had been conferred upon him. For as baptism causes regeneration, it cannot be said to signify the same. We have, therefore, not to consider it as a mere token, because baptism has not been given us merely as a sign, but as a means of regeneration.
638. c. The way in which baptism, has been announced and promised to us in the Old testament. This has taken place:
i. In words, Ezek. 36, 25: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness,” Joel. 3, 18: “A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim;” Zach. 13, 1: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness.
ii. In types, such as:
1. The flood, 1 Pet. 3, 20. 21: “In the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water; the like figure whereunto even baptism both also now save us.”
2. Circumcision, Coloss. 2, 11. 12: “In whom (Christ) also ye are circumcised, with the circumcision made without hands, in putting of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism.”
3. The passage through the red sea, during which the children were led by a cloud, 1 Cor. 10, 12: “A11 our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
4. The river that was flowing out from under the temple, in the vision of Ezek. 47, 1. 8. 9: “The waters came down from under the right side of the house, and he said unto me, these waters issue out toward the east country, and go down in the desert and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live,” This same healing river is also mentioned Revel. 22,. 1; ff.; and can therefore not be understood to refer to any thing, else but to baptism;. —
As such types remain to be mentioned: the levitical water of separation. Numb. 19, 9. 10, ff.; — the levitical purifications, Levit. 15, 6. ff.; — the cleansing of Naeman, 2 King. 5, 14. ff.
639. d. By whom baptism has been instituted and ordained. Every Sacrament must be instituted by God, else any action could not carry this name; which proves that baptism must have been commanded by God, and cannot have any other foundation. — The institution has taken place, in the first place, in that John received the command to baptize, Luk. 3, 2. 3: “The word of God came unto John, and he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” John. 1, 33: “He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending” etc. Accordingly the baptism of John is spoken of as being from heaven, Matth, 21, 25; and in another place it is called: God’s counsel, Luk. 7, 30: “But the Pharisees and Lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him (John).” — In the same way as John, Christ did also baptize John. 4, 1. 2. Which command he repeated, when he sent his disciples into all the world to preach the Gospel, Matth. 28, 19: “Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them” etc —And as, of baptism itself, we are: told, that it is “the answer of a good conscience toward God,” 1 Pet. 3. 21; — “a washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus. 3,’ 5, — and the washing of the water by which God sanctifies his Church, Ephes. 5, 26, it follows that it must have been instituted by God.
640. 2. The persons, who are called upon to administer the Sacrament. God, although having instituted baptism, had yet the same administered by John, Luk. 3, 3; the Lord baptized by his disciples, John. 4, 1. 2. Thus we have, a right to ask (seeing that God is hot administering baptism Himself,) who has been ordained by Him to baptize man? This question has been partly discussed already #. 625; and in this place is but remains for us to state, that God has ordained whom baptism to be conferred by those men he has called to the ministry of His word. Accordingly he commands: teach all nations and baptize them. Baptism is one of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, concerning which St. Paul writes 1 Cor. 4, 1: “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” — If therefore, there happens to be a baptism to be conferred, it must be administered by a properly ordained minister. But with reference to this we have to make the following inquiries:
641. i. Whether, a minister, who maintains and teaches erroneous, doctrines, is entitled to confer the Sacrament of baptism? Such schismatic teachers there are two kinds, viz:
aa. Some that do not keep to the strict command of the Lord, employing for baptism another substance than water; whilst others do not baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, thereby perverting the mode of the institution. Such persons have no right to administer baptism, not because of their being in themselves unfit for this purpose, but because of their perverting Christ’s command and ordinance.
bb. Some false teachers there, are who retain the mode of the baptism entirely unchanged. Such have a full right to administer the Sacrament of baptism, without depriving the receiver of the benefits this act is able to confer; always understood that such people, who know this minister to maintain errors, should not go to him, nor bring their children to him for receiving baptism, except in cases of the utmost necessity.
642. This can be proved by the fact
1. that men’s unbelief cannot make void the faith of God, Rom. 3, 3: Like as for instance an honest man never fails to fulfil his promise, although he is obliged to have the same executed by a bad and faithless servant; exactly so God fulfils His promise, to grant unto us, by baptism, the regeneration of our souls and other spiritual gifts, although he that administers the Sacrament happens to be, because of his false teaching, unfaithful to his God.
2. If men’s unbelief was able to make void the faith of God, almost every man would have to despair of being baptised rightly. For who can be thoroughly assured of His minister teaching in all points the right doctrine, or being in every respect right minded, and accordingly almost no man could feel himself assured of the benefits or of the fruits of baptism.
3. We know also that other religious acts have lost nothing of their efficacy, although he that officiated maintained certain errors. Thus, for instance, the sacrifices were not found fault with, for reason of their having been prepared by perverse priests; the virgin Mary offered sacrifices, with the assistance of a priest of the same description, Luk. 2, 24; and the Lord Jesus Christ himself commanded the priests that persecuted him (and thereby erred) to offer sacrifices, Matth. 7, 4; Mark. 1, 44.
Nor do we know of any instance, of any questions having been started, during the Old testament dispensation, concerning the Orthodoxy of him, who administered circumcision; and it is more than probable that the Lord Jesus has been circumcised by one, who had been attached to the (erroneous) doctrine of the Pharisees. — Exactly so it is in the case of the Gospel of Salvation being preached by ungodly people. The word cannot be said to have lost its power and efficacy, in consequence of this circumstance. For although the Lord Jesus himself warned his hearers with respect to the erroneous teaching of the Pharisees, Matth. 16, 6. 12, he commanded them nevertheless to do whatever the Pharisees bade them do in accordance with the law of Moses. “The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do,” Matth. 23, 2. 3. St. Paul rejoices that the word of God had been preached, though it was not done of good will, but of envy and strife and in pretence, Philip. 1, 15. 18.
Now in the same way as sacrifices, circumcision and the preaching of the word of God do not become void of their efficacy, by being administered by ministers who maintain erroneous doctrines, so baptism cannot be made ineffectual by the errors of him who confers the same upon him. And all that has been said, with reference to the latter, holds also good in the case of a minister who leads an ungodly life.
643. A second question we have to consider is
ii. Whether such as are not ordained, or laymen are permitted to administer baptism. We answer as follows,: It is true, that the functions of teaching and preaching the word, are to be exercised but by properly ordained ministers; nevertheless if there should be none to be procured and the case most urgent, they may be exercised by one, not ordained for the holy office. The same is also permitted in the case of baptism being required, if it was impossible to procure a properly ordained minister for the purpose. This can be proved from the following:
aa. The teaching of the word as well as the dispensing of the Sacraments, form alike part of the office of the ministry. As in cases of necessity the exercise of the first is permitted to the laymen, so also must be the latter.
bb. The Sacraments of the Old testament have not been administered by the Priests only. Thus we find circumcision nowhere spoken of as one of the peculiar functions of the priestly office. The Passover every man was at liberty to kill and prepare for himself, Exod. 12, 6. Which proves that, in cases of necessity, the Sacrament of baptism may be administered with safety by persons, who are not ordained for the ministry.
644. iii. Are women permitted to confer baptism? Whatever has been said with regard to laymen, holds also good in the case of women. That, in cases of necessity, women are permitted to baptize, appears evident team the facts:
1. that in Christ Jesus all believers are made One, and that henceforth the difference between men and women has been abolished, Gal. 3, 28;
2. That women have even been permitted to teach in some of the churches; as for, instance, Phoebe in the church of Canchrea; — Priscia Paul’s, helper, v. 3, concerning whom we have also a right to suppose, that they have also administered baptism.
3. Nor do we lack instances of women having conferred circumcision; thus we read of Zipora, the wife of Moses having circumcised her son, Exod. 4, 25. In the time of the persecutions under Antioch, many godly women circumcised their children, as we are told 1. Maccab. 1, 61; 2. Maccab. 6, 10.
645. f. Who has a right to receive baptism. It is the will of God that all men should enter his covenant of grace, and therefore that all should receive baptism. Accordingly there’ is no reason for excluding any man, old or young; rich or poor; man or wife from the benefits, of the same, — unless any one unfits himself for its reception.
646. The question: whether children are to receive baptism immediately after their birth, and before they have come to the full use of their senses, and have been able to be instructed concerning God’s will, — we answer in the affirmative; and this for the following reasons:
i. The Lord Jesus has issued a general command: “Go ye, and teach all nations,”- Matth. 28, 19. The term “all nations” cannot but be understood to include also little children. And if it pleases God to include all, men within the range of His merciful purposes, it does not befit man, to withhold these benefits from any body; and if God commands all men without any distinction, to be baptized, we have no right to deny this Sacrament to anybody, even not to little children.
ii. Little children are denizens of the covenant of grace. For the Lord Jesus himself declares: that “of such (children) is the kingdom of heaven,” Mrk. 10, 14. This covenant is made by baptism, which Peter calls “an answer of a good conscience towards God,” 1. Peter 3, 21. From which follows, that whosoever belongs to the covenant of grace is entitled to receive baptism. Children we have just seen to belong to this covenant, — consequently they must be baptised.
iii. The Lord Jesus has given us the following general rules; “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven;” and “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven,” John. 3, 5; 1. Cor. 15, 50. — From this we conclude: nobody can inherit the kingdom of heaven as long as still flesh and blood; but the children being begotten in the natural way are flesh and blood, consequently they cannot see the kingdom of heaven. Nevertheless we have seen it to be the will of God that they should enter the kingdom of heaven; and it becomes therefore indispensably necessary for them to be regenerated. But this regeneration is brought about by no other means than by baptism, which we know to be the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus. 3, 5; as also the Lord Jesus himself declares regeneration to be by water and the Spirit. Consequently it is necessary for children to be baptised.
iv. Besides, the Apostle Paul tells us, that, even circumcision of old has been a seal of righteousness, Rom. 4, 11; and a means of the covenant between God and the seed of Abraham, Genes. 17, 11. 12. After the abolition of circumcision, baptism has been given us in its place, to be to us an answer (or a covenant) of a good conscience towards God, 1 Peter 3, 21. Now as with respect to circumcision, God did not take in consideration the human age, but commanded all children to be baptised on ‘the eight day, without awaiting their having come to an age, in which he would be able to comprehend the importance of the covenant made between God and Abraham; — so also is it His will, in the New testament dispensation, not to limit His grace in such a way, as to exclude little children from entering on the enjoyment of gifts, to which they were admitted under the law. On the contrary. He is willed that all children, without reference to their age and reasoning powers, should be baptized and that they should be made partakers of His covenant of grace, even before they have come to the full enjoyment of their reason.
647. Again it has been asked: Whether evil doers, Schismatics and unbelievers ought to be admitted to baptism. We answer: Every one who cannot receive baptism worthily is not to be baptized, as long as he is remaining in such a state. There are three things that unfit a man for baptism, viz: false teaching; gross sins, and ignorance and unbelief. — Suppose one. who is teaching erroneous doctrines, or is sunk into sin in such a manner as to withstand the Holy Ghost, and to unfit himself for the operations the latter, — such an one ought not to be baptized, until he has put away from him his errors and his sins, according to the advice of Peter, Acts, 2, 38: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” If he happens to be an adult, but has not yet received any instructions in the Christian faith, it is, of course, above all things requisite for him, previous to his baptism, to be properly instructed. On the occasion of the Eunuch’s asking Philip to baptize him, saying: “See, here is water I what does hinder me to be baptized,” Philip answers: “If thou believest with thy whole heart thou mayest;” Acts. 8, 36. ff. The same was done by Peter and Silas at Philippi on the occasion of their, converting their keeper. They first preached to him the word of God, and baptized him afterwards. Acts, 16, 32. 33.
648. g. The external means for administering baptism. As in the administering of every Sacrament two essentials are to be considered viz: an earthly and a heavenly, we now intend, to do this with regard to baptism.
The earthly part of the same is water. For water has been used by John, when baptizing near the Jordan, Matth. 3, 5-, John. 1, 33. Nor has this been altered by the Lord Jesus at the time he instituted the Sacrament; his disciples also baptized with water Acts. 8, 38. At the time the, Holy Ghost had been poured out upon the believers, on the occasion of their preaching in the house of Cornelius, Peter said: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?” Acts. 10, 47. Paul moreover calls baptism “the washing of the water,” Ephes. 5, 26.
649. No other fluid therefore, than pure water is to be used for the purposes of baptism. For in the words of its institution we are expressly commanded to use water; and we read of the Apostles having used the same fluid for their baptismal functions. Besides how do we know, that it is not God’s intention to work regeneration — as far as externals are concerned — just by means of water, and to allow only such a baptism full value, as has been performed by means of water?
650. Another essential part in baptism, the heavenly part of the same, we find to be the name of the Triune God, or as it is expressed in the words of the institution, of the father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Lord Jesus bids his Apostles to go and teach all nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” Matth. 2,8, 19. — And like as the Trinity itself descended upon the Lord, immediately after he had been baptized, so now the Holy Ghost, descends upon him who is being baptized. By this act he is adopted by God (the Father), who having regenerated him, says to him: this is my beloved son (or daughter) with whom I am well pleased; and God the Son washes and purifies him from his sins, Ephes. 5, 26: “That he (Christ) might sanctify and cleanse it (his church) with the washing of the water by the word.” Now if a man, by being baptized is purified from his sins, this purification must necessarily be brought about by the blood of Christ. For this blood alone, and nothing else, cleanseth us from all sin, 1. John. 1, 7; Ephes. 1, 7. — The Holy Ghost gives, as it were, the seal to this covenant, 2. Cor. 1, 22; he is the “earnest of our inheritance,” Ephes. 1, 14; he “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” Rom. 8, 16; as it is also said, that we are born again by the Spirit, John. 3, 5; whilst of baptism we are told, that it is the “renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus 3, 5.
651. h. The ceremonial of this Sacrament. This is to be determined in accordance with the word baptism. We have therefore to inquire:
Which action is implied by the word baptism, in its original and proper signification? — and What is it intended to signify in the Sacrament before us?
652. To baptize means to immerse, to sprinkle, to purify (#. 632). It is therefore entirely unnecessary to trouble ourselves, whether one who is to be baptized ought to be immersed, or washed, or sprinkled, seeing that the word to baptize, originally includes these different significations. It is therefore, in this respect, quite indifferent in which way baptism is performed; and it is advisable for every one to retain the peculiar way he has been accustomed to, without giving himself any farther concern about it.
653. Moreover it is to be remembered, that the institution of the Sacrament of baptism, did not as much intend the mere washing or sprinkling with water, — than rather that this washing etc., be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Baptism cannot yet be rightly called so, unless a washing or sprinkling has been performed; but it would be a mere washing and not a baptism, if this act was not done in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The term “in the name” denotes, in the first place, that baptism has been commanded to be performed by the Holy Trinity; just as to go, to speak, to do etc., in the name of Lord, means nothing else, as to do these things by His commands — It denotes secondly that baptism is performed in the strength and by the cooperation of the Triune God. — Thus we read of David having slain Goliath in the name, that is, by the power of God, 1,. Sam. 17, 45; of Assa having gone out to fight against the Ethiopians in the name (that it in the strength) of God and with His assistance, 2. Chron. 14, 11; of David despising and triumphing over his enemies, in the name (in the strength) of the Lord, Pslm. 20, 6; 44, 6; 118, 10. — Whereby we learn that baptism is not intended to be performed in the strength of man, but in that of the Triune God.
Finally the term “in the name” signifies that, in the performance of baptism, the Holy Trinity is to be expressly named, prayed to and adored. For to speak, to preach and to prophesy in the name of the Lord, means nothing else, than to speak and to preach the words of the mouth of the Lord; Jerem. 44, 16. 17; Acts. 5,’ 40; Luk. 24, 27; Matth. 7, 22. — To swear in the name of the Lord means, as much as, in the act of performing an oath, to name His name as an holy name, and thereby to honour Him; Deutr. 6, 13; 1. Sam. 20, 46. — To bless in the name of the Lord means: in the act of blessing to mention the name of the Lord, and thereby to honour Him as that God, from whom all our blessings flow; 2. Samuel. 6, 18; 1. Chron. 17, 2; Pslm. 129, 8; Numb. 6, 23ff.: “Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, on this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them:
“”The Lord bless thee and keep thee;
“”The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee;
“”The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.””
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”
All this leads us to the following conclusions. In order to bless in the name of the Lord, it is necessary for us to name His name, thereby honouring and acknowledging Him to be the source of every blessing. To perform miracles in the name of the Lord, means: in the act of performing the same, expressly to make mention of Christ’s name, and by means of naming the same to perform miraculous works. Thus the Lord Jesus gave unto his disciples power, in his name to cast out devils, to heal the sick etc., Mark. 16, 17. 18; which they accordingly did, performing wonderful works by mentioning the name of the Lord, Acts. 3, 6: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk;” cf. ibid, 9, 34; 16, 18. And like as all these works have been performed in the name of God and of Christ, by mentioning the same, — so we are commanded to perform baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. For giving therefore to the act of baptism its full value it is necessary, whilst sprinkling the child with water, expressly to name the name of the Holy Trinity.
654. Besides it is not to be overlooked that, in being baptised, man is entering a covenant with God, 1 Peter 3, 21. In making a covenant it is indispensably necessary to mention the names of the contracting parties. And accordingly if a man is to enter into a covenant with God, it is but just to have mentioned the names of the parties; more especially to show that this covenant is not concluded with idols, “with angels, departed saints, or with an unknown God. — but with God the Father, the Son mid the Holy Ghost.
655. We have now to consider
I. the effect baptism has upon man. It does not appear necessary to repeat again, in this place, the effects by which, in general the Sacraments are accompanied, and to apply them more especially to baptism; such as the openly confessing the faith in Christ, and the fact of their being a seal of the promises of God, It but remains for us to state the effects which are ascribed, more especially, to the Sacrament of baptism. Such are:
i. The forgiveness of sins: Mrk. 1, 4: “John did baptize and preach the baptism of repentance;” Acts. 2, 38: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins;” ibid. 22, 16: ” Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins;” Ephes. 5, 26. ff.: “Christ gave himself for the Church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should he holy and without blemish.” Zach. 13, 1: “In that day shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness.”
ii. Regeneration; John. 3, 5: “Except or man be born of water and of the Spirit” etc.; Titus. 3, 5. we read that God saved us “by the washing of regeneration” etc. — Regeneration again brings about other effects, such as; adoption which is a fruit of our having been born again by the Holy Ghost, and accordingly by God. Thus in the new birth we become the children of God; and if by baptism we become children of God, this is brought about by faith, Galat. 3, 26. 27: ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” — Faith again comes by the hearing of the word, Rom. 10, 17. And accordingly we “find Peter, I Epist. 1, 23. mentioning as the source of regeneration the divine word: “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” — Finally faith bringeth about the enjoyment of Christ’s merits, Galat. 3, 27: “as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”
iii. The covenant with God; 1. Pet. 3, 21: “baptism doth save us, not the putting of the filth of the flesh, but the answer (covenant) of a good conscience towards God.”
iv. The renewing; Titus. 3′, 5: “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Col. 2, 11. 12:” In whom (Christ) ye also are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein ye also are risen with him’ through the faith of the operation of God.”
v. Eternal life; Mrk. 16, 16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” cf. 1 Pet. 3, 21. _ This is sufficient to convince us, that baptism is not meant to serve only as an act for openly confessing Christ, or as a sign of regeneration; — but that it is a powerful means in the hand of God, whereby he performs such works within man that tend to his eternal salvation.
656. k. Other circumstances connected with baptism. Of these we have to mention five different points:
i. The sponsors, who accompany and carry the child to the font. We think it right here to observe, that the efficacy of baptism by no means depends on the presence of such sponsors. — But in the case of their undertaking this charge, they take upon themselves the following duties:
1. as witnesses, to take care that the Sacrament be duly administered, in accordance with the words of the institution;
2. after the child has come to the full use of its senses, to testify to the child, that baptism has been really conferred upon him, according to Christ s will;
3. to pray, that it might please God, after having graciously admitted the child into the covenant of his mercy, to retain him in the same, to bless him in his body and soul and finally to make him an heir of eternal salvation;
4. to confess in the act of baptism, in the “place of the child, the faith in which he desires to be baptized and afterwards brought up;
5. and, finally, to exert himself to have the child brought up in the faith he confessed at the font, and to beware his being mislead into errors that might hurt his soul.
It was for this reason that the Church commanded, in the case of baptism, to admit as sponsors none but godly people, who might be induced to benefit the children, by putting the above mentioned duties into practice. For individuals who maintain erroneous doctrines, ought not to be chosen as sponsors, because of their not being fitted for the proper exercise of these duties.
657. ii. Exorcism, this preceds the act of baptism, and consists in the following words “I conjure thee, thou impure spirit, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost that thou leavest and departed from this servant of Jesus Christ” etc. — But by these words it is by no means intended to say, that the body of the child is possessed by the Evil One. For every one is acquainted with the fact that the power Satan has over man, is of a twofold nature; he has namely first, power over the body and then, power over the soul. The devil has power over the body of a man, when he has made himself, as it were, master of his victim’s limbs, using them as he listeth; — and over the soul, if he has got the same into his power, leading it, according to his pleasure. Christ speaks of such a possession of the spirit, Luk. 11, 25. 26: “And when he cometh he findeth it (his house) swept and garnished; then goeth he and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there.”
658. Now if, in the act of baptism, we find the devil bid to depart from the child, we ought not to understand this to be a bodily, but a spiritual possession. Nor are these words to be considered as being put to the devil, that thereby the child might be delivered from his power, or that they might exercise any other power over him; — they are merely intended:
1. To remember those who are present that they are born of flesh and in sins. We all, as well as the child that is to be baptized, are conceived and born in sins, Pslm. 51, 7; by nature children of wrath, Ephes. 2, 3, and accordingly, held captive in the power of Satan, until we are made, free by the grace of God; and
2. This act is intended to be a figure of the power and effects of the act of baptism itself. For by the one act the devil is, bid to give up the power he held over the child, and by baptism this is accomplished and put into effect.
659. We do not deny that an exhortation of this kind (#. 658, 1) might be conveyed in a more fitting and appropriate manner. Yet this is no reason for an entire abolition of the act of exorcism; for there is not a ceremony, nor any external custom of the Church, which does give room for improvement; while yet to the Church there remains the choice of having the same abolished or not.
660. iii. The sign of the cross, which is drawn with the forefinger upon the brow and the breast of the child. This is not done in order that thereby some spiritual operation might be effected upon the child. On the contrary it is only intended to indicate that the child is to be baptized into the death of Christ, and being thereby delivered from the power of Satan, to make a covenant with God. It is for this and no other reason that the church has retained this custom.
661. iv. The not repeating of this Sacrament. Every one who has once had baptism conferred upon him, according to the commands of Christ, need not have the same repeated again. The reason of this is, that God, by the act of baptism, is making a covenant with man, and if God has once concluded this covenant, a repetition of the act tending thereunto is unnecessary, seeing that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, Rom. 11, 29. For although it may happen on the part of man, to commit himself by, breaking the covenant, yet this never comes to pass on the part of God, — as long namely as this time of mercy lasts, during which He entices sinners to become partakers of His covenant. The covenant in which God promised not to send any more the flood, we do not find to have been repeated, as little as that of circumcision. In the same way we are nowhere commanded to repeat baptism, nor is there anywhere an instance to be found of its having been repeated. It is, therefore, best for us to obey simply the commands of the Lord, without allowing our reason to mislead us on that score.