William Attersoll's Badges of Christianity - Baptism (2)
In the first chapter of Badges of Christianity William Attersoll tells what baptism is and how it is to be understood. Now in this second chapter baptism is discussed in further detail by a consideration of its parts (shown to be two, partly outward and partly inward) and the good uses of these parts which put us in mind of holy duties.
Editor’s Note: The original work has been edited and re-formatted by the writer and it is sincerely hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning.
The Parts of Baptism
The parts are two: the outward and the inward parts. This appears from 1 Pet 3:21, The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: where the Apostle teaches, that sin cannot be washed away by that outward water, but by Christ’s inward working which the outward baptism shadows.
In like manner Mark 1:8, I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost: where John the Baptist showed that he baptized outwardly, but the force of it proceeds from Christ who baptizes inwardly. So Acts 2:38, Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Where the Apostle declared, that in such as repent and believe, the virtue of the Holy Ghost is joined with outward baptism. The outward parts therefore are one thing, and the inward parts are another: that which is seen is one thing, and that which is understood is another thing.
This division of the parts of baptism, affords various good uses, and puts us in mind of sundry holy duties.
The Good Uses of the Parts and Holy Duties
(1) The Outward and Inward Parts
And first of all, are there outward and inward parts of baptism? then we learn hereby, that the outward parts are no vain ceremonies, no fruitless rites, no unprofitable actions that may be neglected or contemned, but available signs, and effectual seals of the sprinkling of Christ’s blood for the forgiveness of all our sins.
(2) The Union of Parts
Again, seeing there is such an union of the parts between themselves, we must not contemn, or despise, or defer baptism. Wherefore the faithful, all delays, reasons, and pretences set apart, have speedily prepared themselves to do that which God commands. We have a worthy example in Abraham, when God required him to circumcise himself, his son, and all the males of his house, and thereby to uncover all their shames: he did not inquire why God required this at his hands, he did not complain or consult with flesh and blood: over all doubts faith got the victory, and subdued reason under her, and caused him with diligence, readines, and expedition to submit himself to fulfill the Lord’s will, and perform it the same day that he commanded it. Of this duty likewise in Acts 22:16 we see Paul was admonished by Ananias immediately after his conversion saying, And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Whereby he showed, that this tarrying and delay in the matters of God maketh us culpable in his sight.
True it is, it is not the want of baptism simply that is damnable (as is shown afterward) but the contempt of the sacraments is dangerous, and without repentance damnable, as it appears. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him (Luke 7:30). We know all neglect and contempt of heavenly duties is evil, and brings with it a certain curse as the prophet saith, Cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord negligently, (Jer 48:10). We see in human and worldly things, wise-men will not defer the sealing of their writings and calling of witnesses, when they have given a promise to another or made a bargain with another (knowing that unnecessary delay may breed unrecoverable danger) as we see by the example of Jeremiah, when he had bought a field of his uncle’s son, presently he weighed him the silver, & enrolled it in a book of remembrance, he signed it, he took witnesses, and left it written in roles or records, having an instrument or evidence fairly drawn and sealed with the common seal, if any thing should be called in question in time to come.
We cannot excuse ourselves of the neglect of an high and holy duty to God and our children. Indeed, we are not pricisely tied to a certain day in baptism, as the Jews were to the eighth day in their circumcision: but that which the eighth day was to them, a convenient and orderly time is to us. Now, what time can be more convenient, more comely, more fit, then the Sabbath day following, when the Church is assembled? That so it may be administred rightly, reverently, religiously, and conveniently in the public meetings of the faithful? Again, the needless and careless deferring of this work has a grievous threatning annexed of assured punishment and judgement, as it is set down. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant Gen 17:14. Whereby we see, that whosoever shall neglect circumcision, & not suffer himself be circumcised, or shall approve the negligence committed by his parents, shall be none of the people of God, but shall be shut out from the society and barred from the fellowship of the faithful, both in this world and in the world to come, unless he repent of this sin. And that the neglect of God’s ordinance draws his wrath, appears in the example of Moses; The Lord met him and would have killed him, because his son was not circumcised. He had dwelt in the land of Midian an idolatrous country 40 years, he began to savour of the manners thereof: but having called him to be a governor of people, would not be appeased toward him, until he had reformed his own house. For if any cannot rule his own house, how shall he care for the church of God? Now whereas he had two sons born unto him in Midian, the elder no doubt was circumcised the eighth day, according to the order and ordinance of God: why then did he defer the circumcising of the younger? No doubt he was scorned and derided among them for circumcising his first born, and his enemies were those of his own house, even the wife that lay in his bosom: yea he being then weak in faith, loved the praise of men more then the praise of God, and therefore the Lord would have slain him. Albeit the sign of circumcision seemed base and contemptible in outward show, and to savour of great cruelty toward little children: yet God would not suffer the deferring and neglecting thereof to go without punishment. Although grace be not tied to the sacraments, and that we may be saved without them: yet it is not left to the disposition of men, whether they will come to them or not, God will not have the outward signs contemned of us: for if we will be in the covenant, we must not despise the seal of the covenant.
(3) The Outward Parts United with the Inward
Furthermore, are the outward parts united to the inward? then this serves as a special means to comfort the very lowest estate of men and the poorest degree in the Church, that they doubt not of the fatherly favour of God towards them, but be assured of their acceptance with God, who will make them partakers of his eternal blessings in his kingdom, as well as other whose condition is greater and higher in the world. When God gave circumcision to Abraham, he commanded him circumcise all his servants bond or free, as well born in his house as bought with his money: thereby signifying that he adopted them for his children, and that albeit they were Abraham’s bond-men, yet they were the Lord’s free men. So unto baptism we admit and receive the poor as well as the rich, the servant as well as the master, the low as well as the high, without respect of persons. When the lord instituted the Passover, the lamb was eaten of all the congregation.
So touching the Lord’s Supper, it is an holy banquet for all degrees and conditions whatsoever, and therefore the Apostle checked the Corinthians for this abuse, that whereas the poorest soul eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, is as welcome to Christ as the governor of the feast as the richest, they did despise the poor and shamed them that had not. All these things duly considered, serve to assure the very meanest, lowest, and simplest in the church, that they are made heirs of eternal life as well as other, as they are partakers of the sign with other, if they believe with faithful Abraham. This the Apostle teaches Gal 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And Col. 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
(4) The Parts Consecrecated by God
Fourthly, are there outward rites, signs, and persons as external parts of baptism? And are there likewise inward parts whereby we are consecrated to God, teaching that we have vowed to renounce the lusts of the world, and to forsake the workes of the devil? Then this condemns those that depart out of the Church before this holy and public action be taken in hand. Baptism belongs not only to the witnesses and parties that bring the child, but to all the members of the church, that we may learn by our presence there, to renew our faith and repentance unto God. These men do much to disgrace and deface the dignity of this sacrament, not vouchsafing to remain at the administration thereof, as if it were not worthy to be solemnized before them: whereas they should quicken their faith in the covenant of God, by beholding the works of the minister, and ratifying them in their hearts, as we read. Luke 1 where they are said to circumcise, because they were all present at the work, consenting to prayers and thanks givings, of the Church: as also the Apostle said, Women pray and prophesy in the church, when they sit still and are partakers of the prayers and preaching used in the public assemblies. And as no member is cut off by excommunication, but in presence of all, to be witnesses thereof & to ratify their grief for the loss of a member of their body: so in baptism it is required, to witness and approve the public work by their presence, and to take comfort, that a fellow-heir is made partaker with them in the communion of saints.
The Excellency of Baptism
Moreover, the excellency of this sacrament is as great as of the other: they are of like worthiness in themselves, and to be had equal and indifferently in like price and estimation: they are both commanded and instituted by the authority of Christ: there is the same matter and substance of both, to wit, Christ with all his benifits: there is one and the same end of both, the increase and strengthening of our faith: therefore why should one sacrament be so much extolled above the other, and preferred before the other? So that whereas many come to the Lord’s Supper, few remain and abide in the Church at the administration of baptism. The whole assembly hears the word preached and delivered by the minister: the sacraments are instruments of our justification by faith as well as the word preached, saying that the word worketh by hearing only, the sacraments serve by the senses of seeing, handling, and tasting as well as hearing, to strengthen and increase faith in our hearts: and therefore it is requisite that we join in the one as well as in the other.
Furthermore, the excellency, and worthiness of baptism appears herein, in that it was instituted of God sealing up his gracious covenant, in that it was sanctified by Christ being baptized of John, and in that it was beautified by the heavenly revelation of the blessed Trinity appearing at it: so great honour, so great dignity and preeminence was never given to any ceremony? Did God institute it, and shall we contemn it? Did Jesus Christ come to John’s baptism, and shall we disdain to be at the baptism of Christ? Was the Holy Trinity present, & will we be absent? True it is, some of the sacrifices and burnt offerings were miraculously consumed by fire from heaven: but what is this to the glorious presence of the majesty of God, the blessed Trinity: declaring to us thereby, that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost are always present at the administration of baptism, and truly perform that which is out-wardly figured and represented. Here heaven was open, which for our sins was shut against us: here the Spirit descended in the visible form of a dove upon Christ, to signify unto us that being delivered from the terrors of sin and judgement, we are at peace with God: the voice of the Father is heard from heaven, saying, This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. All these things note out the special force and dignity of this sacrament. It is not therefore to be administred in a corner of the Church with three or four persons present to witness the baptism, the rest of the body of the congregation being departed, but in the face and open view thereof: forasmuch as God, to deliver it from contempt, has given it visible marks of greater honor.
The Apostle saith 1 Cor. 12:24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: As God has dealt with our bodies, so has he done in this sacrament. That which is most subject to contempt, dishonour, and disgrace, God hath lifted up with sundry excellent preeminences and prerogatives as we have seen in Christ’s baptism. And albeit there be a difference in the person baptized, yet there is none in the substance of the baptism. Seeing then God so highly esteems of this ordinance: it serves to convince, to accuse, and to condemn their carelessness and negligence, that refuse to be present at baptism, or if they vouchsafe to be present for a while, depart before the end of the whole action, and rush out of the church before the name of God be praised, and the whole work finished and concluded with prayer, as it was Luke 3:21, Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And Acts 22, Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins in calling on the name of the Lord. Wherefore we are not to depart, before God has been prayed unto, and praised for his benefits. The Apostle charges, that all things in the Church be done in order and comeliness. Now, what can be more comely and convenient, then that the churches begin the exercises of their holy religion together, and end them together? Forasmuch as nothing is done in the assembly, which tends not to the edification of the whole body.
Thus we see, that the union of the outward and inward parts together teach, that in baptism the outward rites are no needless ceremonies: that it must be ministred with all convenient speed, against those that defer the same many weeks and months: that it requireth our presence to the end of the administration therof, that prayers may be offered up by the church for infants to be baptized and ourselves learn what we have vowed to God. We have also learned that God testifieth his love even to the lowest in the Church. Nothing is done in the Church but to the benefit of the whole: and if we desire our children should be the children of God, why do we not stay to ask it of God? Or, how shall we better know, what ourselves have vowed and promised in our baptism to God, than by our continual presence when it is administered.