QUESTION 94. What is baptism?

ANSWER: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth 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.

Q. 1. What is the proper signification of the word baptism?

A. It is of Greek origin, and properly signifies a washing, sprinkling, or pouring out, in order to cleansing, Mark 1:8 -- "I indeed baptise you with water, but he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost;" that is, he shall pour his Spirit upon you, according to the promise, Isa. 44:3 -- "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring."

Q. 2. Who is the author of baptism?

A. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator and Head of the church.

Q. 3. When did he institute and appoint it, as a sacrament of the New Testament?

A. A little before his ascension into heaven, when he gave his apostles that solemn charge, Matt. 28:19 -- "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Q. 4. Was not baptism used before that time?

A. It was used long before by the Jews, in receiving their proselytes, but not by divine institution.

Q. 5. When came baptism to have a divine warrant and institution?

A. When God SENT John the Baptist to baptise with water, John 1:33.

Q. 6. Was there any difference between the baptism of John, and the baptism dispensed by the apostles after Christ's ascension?

A. There was no essential difference between them; for both of them had the same visible sign, and the same blessings signified by it. The difference was only circumstantial, in respect of time, and the objects of administration.

Q. 7. How did they differ in respect of time?

A. The baptism of John was dispensed before Christ had finished the work which his Father gave him to do; but the baptism of the apostles was mostly after Christ had suffered, and had entered into his glory.

Q. 8. How did they differ as to the objects of administration?

A. The baptism of John was confined to Judea only; but the baptism of the apostles extended to all nations, to whom the gospel was preached, Matt. 28:19.

Q. 9. Did not Paul rebaptise some disciples at Ephesus who had been before baptised by John?

A. No; he only declares, that they who had heard John preach the doctrine of repentance and faith in Christ, were by John baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and so needed not to be rebaptised by any other.

Q. 10. Why did Christ, who had no need of it, condescend to be baptised by John?

A. He gives the reason himself; "It becometh us," says he, "to fulfil all righteousness," Matt. 3:15.

Q. 11. Did Christ himself baptise any?

A. No; "Jesus himself baptised not, but his disciples," John 4:2.

Q. 12. Why did not Christ baptise any himself?

A. That he might commend the ministry of men of like passions with ourselves; and to show that the efficacy of the ordinance did not depend upon the administrator, but upon the divine blessing; even as the words spoken by him on earth, when they were efficacious, were so, not merely as spoken or uttered from his lips, but as accompanied with his own almighty power, Luke 5:17.

Q. 13. What is the visible sign, or outward element in baptism?

A. Only water, pure and unmixed, Acts 10:47.

Q. 14. How is water to be applied to the body in baptism?

A. "Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary, but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person."[134]

Q. 15. How does it appear from scripture, that baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person?

A. From repeated instances of the administration of baptism by the apostles in this manner; particularly when three thousand were baptised by them, Acts 2:41, water must have been sprinkled upon them, as the apostles could not have time, in a part only of one day, to take them one by one, and plunge them into it. Nor is it probable that the jailer, Acts 16:33, had such store of water in the night season, as was sufficient for himself and whole family to be dipped into; or that they went abroad in quest of some river for that purpose; it is much more reasonable to infer, that in both the above instances, they were baptised by sprinkling. The same may be said of Paul's baptism, Acts 9:18; and of the baptism of Cornelius and his friends, Acts 10:47, 48.

Q. 16. Why is it most expedient to sprinkle water upon the face in baptism?

A. Because the face is the principal part of the body, and the whole person is represented by it, Ex. 10:29.

Q. 17. What is signified by water in baptism?

A. The cleansing virtue of the blood of Christ, Rev. 1:5, and Spirit of Christ, Tit. 3:5.

Q. 18. What is the difference between cleansing by the blood, and cleansing by the Spirit of Christ?

A. The blood of Christ cleanseth meritoriously, 1 John 1:7; the Spirit of Christ efficaciously, Ezek. 36:27. By the former, the guilt of sin is, at once, taken away in justification; by the latter, the blot and stain of it is gradually carried off in sanctification.

Q. 19. What is signified by sprinkling of water upon the body?

A. The application of the blood of Christ to the soul, by the Spirit of God, Tit. 3:5, 6.

Q. 20. What is the analogy, or resemblance, between the sign in baptism, and the thing signified?

A. Water makes clean, what before was foul; so the blood and Spirit of Christ purify from the guilt and pollution of sin, Zech. 13:1:water is open and free to all; so Christ and his benefits are freely offered to all the hearers of the gospel, Rev. 22:17.

Q. 21. In whose name are we baptised?

A. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Matt. 28:19.

Q. 22. What is it to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?

A. It is not only to be baptised by the will, command, and authority of the Three-one God; but likewise to be, by baptism, solemnly dedicated and devoted to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as our God and portion for ever, Isa. 44:5.

Q. 23. What is it to be baptised by the command and authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?

A. It intimates that the Trinity of persons do not only authorise and appoint baptism to be a sacrament of the New Testament; but that they become jointly engaged to make good all the blessings of the covenant, signified and sealed by that ordinance, Jer. 31:33 -- "I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Q. 24. What is included in our being by baptism, solemnly dedicated and devoted to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as our God and portion for ever?

A. It includes a solemn profession, that these three adorable persons have the sole right to all our religious worship, Ps. 5:7; that all our hope of salvation is from them, Psalm 62:1, 5, and that we should be wholly and for ever the Lord's, Psalm 48:14.

Q. 25. Is it necessary that baptism be dispensed in these express words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?"

A. Yes; because ministers are peremptorily commanded by Christ, to baptise in this very form, Matt. 28:19 -- "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Q. 26. Did not the apostles baptise in another form, when they baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus? Acts 8:16.

A. It is not to be supposed, that the apostles would alter the form, so expressly delivered to them by their glorious Master; and therefore, when any are said to be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, it is not designed by this to notify to us in what form of words they were baptised; but only that they were baptised by the authority of Christ, who appointed this sacrament; and to faith in him, and communion with him.

Q. 27. How ought the mentioning of the holy Trinity to be introduced in baptism?

A. It is proper that it be introduced by words in the first person, expressing the present act of administration; and likewise setting forth the authority that a minister, lawfully called, has to dispense this sacrament; such as, "I baptise thee, in the name," &c.[135]

Q. 28. What are the ends and uses of baptism?

A. They are to signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace.

Q. 29. What is it to signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ?

A. It is to signify and seal our union with him, and consequently the imputation of his righteousness to us, Gal. 3:27 -- "As many of you as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ."

Q. 30. What are the benefits of the covenant of grace, the partaking of which is signified and sealed in baptism?

A. They are "remission of sins by the blood of Christ; regeneration by his Spirit, adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life."[136]

Q. 31. What is the consequence of its being signified and sealed to us in baptism, that we partake of such great and glorious benefits?

A. The consequence is, that on this account, we enter into an open and professed engagement to be -- the Lord's."[137]

Q. 32. What is included in our engagement to be the Lord's?

A. That we shall be his "wholly and only."

Q. 33. What is it to be his wholly?[138]

A. It is to be his, in all that we are, soul, spirit, and body, 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; and in all that we have, whether gifts, graces, or worldly comforts, 1 Chron. 29:14.

Q. 34. What is it to be the Lord's only?

A. It is to be his in opposition to all his rivals and competitors, every one of whom we profess to renounce in baptism, Hos. 14:8.

Q. 35. Who are these rivals and competitors with God, whom we profess to renounce in baptism?

A. They are sin, Rom. 6:6; Satan, Acts 26:18, and the world, John 17:14.

Q. 36. Does baptism make or constitute persons church members?

A. No; they are supposed to be church-members before they are baptised, and if they are children of professing parents, they are born members of the visible church, 1 Cor. 7:14.

Q. 37. Why must they be church-members before they are baptised?

A. Because the seals of the covenant can never be applied to any, but such as are supposed to be in the covenant; nor can the privileges of the church be confirmed to any that are without the church.

Q. 38. Why then do our Confession,[139] and Larger Catechism,[140] say that "the parties baptised are solemnly admitted into the visible church?"

A. Because there is a vast difference between making a person a church-member, who was none before; and the solemnity of the admission of one, who is already a member. All that our Confession and Catechism affirm, is, that, by baptism, we are SOLEMNLY admitted into the visible church; that is, by baptism we are publicly declared to be church-members before, and thus have our membership solemnly sealed to us: "For by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body," 1 Cor. 12:13.

Q. 39. Is it warrantable to call the baptising of any, the Christening of them?

A. No; because this is an encouraging of the superstitious Popish notion, that baptism makes even those who are born within the visible church, to become Christians; and that by the want of it, they remain infidels, and are left to uncovenanted mercy.

Q. 40. What are the extremes about the necessity of baptism?

A. The Socinians and Quakers deny that it is necessary at all; on the other hand, the Papists, and some others, maintain that it is so absolutely necessary, that no salvation can be expected without it.

Q. 41. What is the doctrine of our Confession of Faith, on this head?

A. That "although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated and saved without it; or that all who are baptised are undoubtedly regenerated."[141]

Q. 42. In what consists the greatness of the sin of contemning and slighting this ordinance?

A. It consists in despising an express and positive institution of Christ, appointed to be administered in his church to the end of the world, Matt. 28:19, 20; and in slighting all the great and glorious benefits and privileges signified and sealed by it, Luke 7:30.

Q. 43. How does it appear that grace and salvation are not inseparably annexed to baptism?

A. From the instance of Abraham, who had the righteousness of faith before he was circumcised, Rom. 4:11; of Cornelius, who feared God, and was accepted of him, before he was baptised, Acts 10:2, 4; and from the instance of the thief on the cross, who was saved without being baptised at all, Luke 23:43.

Q. 44. How does the scripture evince, that all who are baptised are not regenerated and saved?

A. From the instance of Simon Magus, who was baptised, and yet, after baptism, remained "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,"[142] Acts 8:13, 23.

Q. 45. Does baptism give a right to covenant-blessings; or, is it only a declarative sign and seal of them?

A. It is only a declarative sign and seal of them, as circumcision was, Rom. 4:11.

Q. 46. What, then, gives a right?

A. The promise of the covenant, which is endorsed to the children, as well as to the parents, Acts 2:39 -- "The promise is unto you, and to your CHILDREN."

Q. 47. Is baptism designed to make the covenant more sure, or our faith stronger?

A. It is designed only to make our faith stronger; for the sureness of the covenant flows from the faithfulness of God, which is inviolable and unchangeable, Psalm 89:33, 34; Isa. 54:10.

Q. 48. In what consists the efficacy of baptism?

A. It consists in sealing and ratifying the right to covenant blessings, which persons have from the promise, so infallibly, that they shall certainly be put in possession of them, Eph. 5:25, 26. For, according to the doctrine of our Confession, "the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age, or infants,) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time."[143]

Q. 49. Is baptism efficacious at the time of its administration?

A. Not always: "the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered,"[144] but may take place afterwards, as God in his sovereignty has fixed it; "for the wind bloweth where it listeth," &c., John 3:8.

Q. 50. What may we learn from the nature of baptism?

A. The infinite goodness of God, in appointing an initiating ordinance, irreversibly sealing all the blessings of the covenant to the elect seed, Gen. 17:7.

[134] Confession of Faith, chapter 28 § 3.

[135] See the Directory for Public Worship, on the head of Baptism.

[136] Larger Catechism, Question 165. See all these explained, Part 1, On justification, sanctification, adoption, and resurrection.

[137] Larger Catechism, Q. 165.

[138] Ibid.

[139] Confession of Faith, Chapter 28 § 3.

[140] Larger Catechism, Question 165.

[141] Confession of Faith, chapter 28 § 5

[142] Ibid.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid.

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