Archive for the ‘Baptism’ Category

All I can find are three quotations.  The first is from the Bible Presbyterians really good resource on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Matthew Henry has left the following testimony in his Treatise on Baptism: “I cannot but take occasion to express my gratitude to God for my infant baptism; not only as it was an early admission into the visible body of Christ, but as it furnished my pious parents with a good argument (and, I trust, through grace, a prevailing argument) for an early dedication of my own self to God in my childhood. If God has wrought any good work upon my soul, I desire with humble thankfulness, to acknowledge the moral influence of my infant baptism upon it.” (s0urce)

And then there is Alexander Campbell in the Millennial Harbinger:

Matthew Henry. “In baptism,” says he, “our names are engraved upon the heart of this Great high Priest. God doth in this ordinance seal and make over to us all the benefits of the death of Christ. Baptism seals the promise of God’s being to me a God.” Treatise on Baptism, p. 12, 40, 42.

And finally, there is a blogger who posts the following as from Matthew Henry’s “Treatise on Baptism.”

As far as the parents are concerned, we are sure, that the children are not so regenerated, as not to need good instructions, when they become capable of them, and yet are so regenerated, that if they die in infancy, parents may take comfort from their baptism in reference to their salvation: and as to the children, when they grow up, we are sure, that their baptismal regeneration, without something more, is not sufficient to bring them to heaven: and yet it may be urged, (as I said before,) in praying to God to give them grace, and in persuading them to submit to it.

This last sounds uncannily like something I’ve seen from Holifield’s The Covenant Sealed. Does anyone have access to Matthew Henry’s treatise so I can verify these quotations and see the context?

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A meditation on Cana

Jonah was a man who would have rather died than see Nineveh repent, and because of his sin he was cast into the raging sea. Stormy waters are frequently a manifestation of God’s judgment in Scripture. Jonah went down to the deep, to the belly of Sheol, and there he experienced a type of death & resurrection. Similarly, Noah was delivered through the waters of judgment to a new world. The waters correspond to baptism, therefore baptism must be the water of judgment first. Under it one enters into death. Baptism remains as judgment for those who ultimately reject the promise offered therein, but for those who receive it rightly, the waters deliver to a new life.

The pattern in Scripture of passing through water from wickedness and death to new life is usually followed by wine making. Noah entered a new postdiluvian life in which his second act was to plant a vineyard; the Israelites passed through the water and entered a new life in Canaan, a land of enormous grape clusters and vineyards. Wine is a gift of God typifying new life and its celebration. It’s not surprising then to realize that the first miracle of Jesus, performed at Cana, was a miracle of death to life. The water pots at Cana were Jewish ceremonial vessels which contained water used to wash the uncleanness of death – the filth of the flesh. It was the water that served as a continual reminder of judgment and death that Jesus changed into the very best wine thus revealing his glory. He transformed death into life, the new covenant in his blood.

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Baptism is not Christian circumcision. There’s a lot of loose talk to that effect in Presbyterian circles; but it’s not accurate. The old world rite of circumcision was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism unites us to Christ and therefore makes us participate in the circumcision of Christ. Baptism is not, however, the new world equivalent or fulfillment of circumcision. The death and resurrection of Christ is.

Colossians 2, the only text that comes close to linking circumcision and baptism, actually links circumcision with the cross and resurrection of Christ. According to Colossians 2:8-13,

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by the putting off of the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your tresspasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him. . .

Baptism unites us to Christ so that we can be said to have died and to have risen with him. But the dying and rising of the flesh of Christ is the circumcision of humanity’s flesh.


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One of the indications of the way in which a phrase from the Nicene Creed would have been ‘heard’ in the ancient Church is to look at other sources that speak to the same issues the Creed addresses. When it comes to ‘one baptism for the remission of sins’, consider the following inscription on a baptistry in the Lateran Basilica, dating from the mid-fifth century, in the time frame that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was formulated.

Here a people of godly race are born of heaven;
the Spirit gives them life in the fertile waters.
The Church-Mother in these waves bears her children
the virginal fruit she conceived by the Holy Spirit
Hope for the kingdom of heaven, you who are reborn in this spring,
for those who are born but once have no share in the life of blessedness.
Here is to be found the source of life, which washes the whole universe,
which gushed from the wound of Christ.

Sinner, plunge into the fountain to wash away your sin.
The water receives the old man, and in his place makes the new man rise.
You wish to become innocent, cleanse yourself in this bath,
whatever your burden may be, Adam’s sin or your own.

There is no difference between those who are reborn; they are one,
in a single baptism, a single Spirit, a single faith.
Let none be afraid of the number of the weight of their sins:
those who are born of this stream will be made holy.

That is a remarkable theology of baptism and new creation, forgiveness and union with Christ and his Church.

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