William Attersoll's Badges of Christianity (8) - The Four Inward Parts of Baptism.
Having previously set out William Attersoll's handling of all the outward parts of baptism we now proceed to the inward parts.
Editor’s Note: The original work has been edited and re-formatted by the writer and it is hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning.
The inward parts of baptism are such as are represented by the outward. Those are four in number: First, God the Father: Secondly, the Spirit: Thirdly, Christ: Fourthly, the soul cleansed, as we see Math. 28:19. Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. Here we see these four inward parts are named and expressed. This is also evidently proved Math, 3, in the baptism of Christ, where the Trinity of persons was manifested.
These inward parts do directly and fitly answer to the outward. The Father is represented by the minister: the Spirit works by the word: Christ is sealed by the water: and the soul cleansed is signified by the body that is washed. Now, there is a notable agreement, a singular union, and fit proportion between these parts, where the minister has relation and reference to the Father, the word to the Spirit, the water to Christ, and the body dipped to the faithful cleansed. For even as the minister by the word of institution, takes and applies the water to the washing of the body: so God the Father, through the working of the Spirit offers and applies the blood of Christ, to the cleansing of the faithful.
Having seen the proportion of the parts between themselves, let us consider of them particularly and in order.
The First Inward Part is God the Father, represented by the minister.
The minister calling upon the name of God, uses the water to wash, and washes the party baptized with the element of water, which seals up God's incorporating and engrafting of the baptized into Christ, and our spiritual regeneration. Hence it is, that when John baptized, the Father was present, as president of the work, when lo, his voice came from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Now let us come to the uses.
This use first of all, to strengthen our faith in the remission of our sins, in imputation of Christ's righteousness, in mortification of sin by the force of Christ's death, and in sanctification through Christ's resurrection. Wherefore, although the minister does nothing, touching or toward the cleansing of the soul: yet in regard of God's ordinance and our benefit, the ministry of man is somewhat, which whosoever despises, does despise God the author of it. For whensoever the eye of the body sees the minister pouring on the water, and washing the body: we must behold by faith God the Father, offering the blood of his own son, to be water of life to our souls. And let us all make this use of the Church's baptism to the comfort of our own hearts, so often as we see it administered: let us not rest in it, as in a work done to another, and nothing concerning ourselves, but evermore help our inward affection by the outward action: and always as the eye of the body beholds the minister, let the eye of the faith, be fastened firmly upon the Father, who makes the sacramental rites available, which are openly done before us for our edification.
Again, it teaches, that we must not rest in the outward washing, nor in the external actions of the minister: but ever consider what is offered to our considerations therein, and when the Father offers to us his Son, let us not refuse him. For, he that satisfies himself with the outward work, is as he that catches after the shadow, and regards not the substance; or as one that makes much of the garments, but respects little the body itself, which ought to be had in greatest price and estimation.
Lastly, is God the Father an inward part of baptism? then we must take heed, we give not that to the minister which is proper to God the Father, whereby he is robbed of the honor and glory due to his great name. The minister may wash the body and cleanse the flesh, but can go no further: he meddles not with sanctification of the conscience from dead works, which is not in the power of mortal man to do: so that God gives the thing, and men give the sign, yea while the minister offers the one, God the Father gives the other.
The Second Inward Part is the Spirit of God, having relation to the Word and Promise of God.
This appears in Math, 3:11, He baptizeth with the Holy-Ghost and with fire: And verse 16, When Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. So the Apostle, 1 Cor, 6 says, ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. And chap. 12, of the same Epistle, By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Grecians, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. And Tit, 3. According to his mercy he saved us, by washing of the new-birth, and the renewing of the Holy-Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. All these testimonies teach us, that the Holy Spirit of God is a necessary inward part of this sacrament, and that the baptism of the Spirit joined to the word, gives force unto it, who works in our souls that which water does in our bodies, so that without the Spirit it is nothing.
From hence we learn, that it is not the dipping of us into, or the sprinkling of us with water, by the minister that makes us partakers of Christ, but it comes from the virtue of the Spirit, who in time performs what is represented by outward signs, and promised by the Word.
Again we learn hereby, that the Spirit is true God, equal with the Father and the Son. For who is able to make the word and sacraments available, but only God? Seeing then this is the proper work of the Holy Ghost, to open the heart, to teach the conscience, to seal up to the day of redemption, and to help our infirmities in heating, in praying, and receiving the sacraments: he must needs be acknowledged to be true God the giver of these graces. So we see, that in the form of the administration of this sacrament, the blessed Spirit is named and rehearsed, and has his order together with the Father and the Son. This therefore is a principle of our faith, to be learned, confessed, and believed.
Thirdly, we are hereby to take heed and beware, that we give not to the word that which is proper to the Spirit, he engrafts us into Christ, he keeps us that we fall not from Christ, he makes the word and promise of the institution profitable unto us, without whom it should be unto us as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Wherefore, as God the Father in mercy makes the promise, so his Spirit must assure it to the consciences of all the faithful.
Lastly, let us learn whensoever we come to the word or sacraments, to crave the gracious assistance of the blessed Spirit, to guide, direct, and regenerate us to eternal life, to sanctify us, and to assure us of God's endless favour in Christ Jesus, as 1 John 5. There be three which bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. The Holy Ghost by his grace and virtue works in us steadfastly to believe the truth of God's word, and the gracious promises of salvation: as he is the author, beginner, and begetter of faith in us, so he increases it, and makes us fit to receive Christ, and to apply him with all his gifts unto ourselves, and sends us into the full fruition and possession of Christ. He is our Comforter to certify us of our reconciliation to God, and to make us rejoice under the cross, knowing that tribulation brings forth patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. He is the earnest and seal of our inheritance, by whom we are sealed up to everlasting life.
Thus we see, that howsoever the increase and measure of faith is assigned to the sacraments: yet this grace proceeds from the Holy Ghost, who is unto our faith as marrow unto the bones, as moisture unto the tree, and as a comfortable rain unto the fruits of the earth. If this inward master and teacher be wanting, the sacraments can work no more in our minds, then if the bright sun should shine to the blind eyes, or a loud voice sound in deaf ears, or fruitful corn fall into the barren wilderness. Wherefore, least the word of salvation should sound in our ears in vain, and sacraments joined to the word should be present before our eyes in vain; the Spirit works in us whensoever we come unto them aright, he mollifies the hardness of our hearts, he frames us to new obedience, and assures us that God offers to us his own Son for our justification and salvation. For even as the seed that falls into a barren soil dies and rots, yet if it be so when in fruitful ground well tilled and manured, it brings forth good increase with gain and advantage: so likewise the word and the sacraments, if they hit upon an hard neck, and fall into a barren heart, become unprofitable and unfruitful: but if the effectual work of the Spirit accompanies the hearing of the one, and receiving of the other, they are profitable, available, and comfortable.
The Third Inward Part is Christ, represented and signified by the water.
For as the Apostle teaches that the blood of bulls and calves cannot take away sin: so the water in baptism cannot wash away sin. It touches the body, washes it, cleans and purges it, but it can proceed no further. For this cause the believers are said to be baptized in the name of Christ, as Act, 2:38. He baptized every one of you in the name of Christ. So chap. 19:5, They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Not meaning hereby the form and manner of baptizing, but the fruit, foundation, and end of baptism. Likewise, the Apostle shows the same, 1 Pet 3:21. Baptism answering to the figure of the Ark, saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no more force in outward baptism to save, the whole virtue and force flows from the stream of Christ's blood, as the true material cause thereof, wherein the power of inward baptism does consist. The truth being evident, that the pouring out of the blood of Christ is one of the inward parts of baptism, let us see the uses.
The use of this part teaches diverse points. First, that the outward washing with water, is not the washing away of sins: for then whosoever were dipped in it should receive forgiveness of sins, repentance from dead works, and sanctification of the Spirit, whether he believes or not: which is otherwise, as we see Act. 8:22. Also, they should not, and could not be Christians, and eternally saved, which are not outwardly washed, but departing this life without baptism, they should perish in the next world without redress or redemption, and so our condition were worse then the Jews their condition in times past, and the grace of God more restrained under the Gospel, then it was under the law, Moses offering more mercy then Christ himself. So then, the washing with water serves to ratify the shedding of Christ's blood for the remission of our sins, and the imputation of his righteousness to our justification, as 1 John. 1:7. The blood of Jesus Christ his son doth cleanse us from all sin. So Rev. 1:5. He hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, and made us kings and priests unto God even his Father. And Col. 1:14 the Apostle says, In him we have redemption by his blood, that is, forgiveness of sins.
Again, when we see with our bodily eyes the water poured upon the body of the baptized: we must behold and consider with the eyes of faith the blotting out of all our sins, as well original as actual, as well after baptism as before baptism, by the precious blood of Christ, that we may assure ourselves it is no idle action. For we must not behold the sacramental rites, as certain dumb gestures or stage-like shows without substance and signification but we must make them serve to further our faith and edification.
Lastly, it teaches us, not to be led by the outward senses to measure the truth or to judge of the substance of baptism by the outward sign and visible parts: but to have our faith fixed on Christ, crucified on the cross, and signified in baptism. The infidel seeing children solemnly baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, will rashly and ignorantly conjecture nothing to be there, but naked rites, and bare water: but the faithful and true Christian does behold the washing of the soul and cleansing of the heart by the dearest blood of Christ.
So in the Lord's Supper, to the unbeliever appears nothing but bread and wine, because we see with our eyes, we receive with our hands, we taste with our mouth no more: but the believer knows, that together with these signs, God the Father offers the body and blood of his Son to be spiritually received and digested. Even as he that is unlettered and unlearned, if he look upon the face of a book, beholds only black colours, and spots upon the paper, sees certain figures and characters of letters differing each from other, but cannot read the writing or comprehend the meaning: but he that has learned his letters and is able to read them, reaps great profit and instruction thereby: So is it in the sacrament. He that rests in the outward sign, deceives himself: but he that respects the thing signified receives the profit and advantage.
The cross of Christ, and preaching of the Gospel, are a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks. For the infidel hearing that Christ was crucified and nailed upon the cross, is offended at him, accounting it a foolish and weak means to save mankind, that life should spring out of death, glory come out of shame, power proceed out of weakness, and triumphant victory arise out of his contemptible sufferings: but the faithful soul acknowledges in this mystery of godliness, the high hand and unsearchable wisdom of God. It may seem ridiculous unto some men, that God should require circumcision of Abraham and of his household, young and old, bond and free, master and servants to uncover all their shames, and to open the hidden parts of nature: yet Abraham submitted himself to the ordinance of God. Naaman the Syrian thought it a toyish precept and prescript, when he was bidden to wash himself 7 times in Jordan, having many rivers in his own country as good as that: yet by obeying the prophet, he was cleansed of his leprosy. The inhabitants of Jericho scorned Joshua and the men of Israel, when they saw them compass their city strong and walled, and to blow with their rams horns: yet by this weak means the wall fell down, the enemies were destroyed, the city was sacked, and the people of God rejoiced. Christ seeing a blind man and willing to heal him, he spat on the ground, and made clay of spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the poole of Siloam: he obeyed, he went, he washed, he returned seeing.
Thus does God by simple, base, and weak things, oftentimes confound the mighty, strong, and wise of the world, that no flesh should rejoice in his presence, and crosses all the high conceits and proud imaginations of man's will and wit. Wherefore we must not follow our own understanding, nor measure the matters of God by the crooked rule of our carnal reason. Whosoever will yield obedience to God must deny himself, and renounce his own wisdom, and become a fool that he may be wise in God, as 1 Cor. 3, Let no man deceive himself, if any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him be a fool that he may be wise, for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Thus we see, that in the sacraments we must understand more then we see, and believe more then we can behold.
The Last Inward Part of Baptism is the soul cleansed; most lively represented by the body that is washed.
For as the outward receiver gives his body to be washed: so the faithful receiver does consecrate himself to God with joy, and forsake the flesh, the world, and the devil, and seals the inward washing of the Spirit, as Tit. 3:5, According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of the new birth, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. And the same Apostle, Eph. 5. Christ gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify it, and cleanse it by washing of water through the word, that he might make it unto himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle. Wherefore, this outward washing of the body commanded by Christ, signifies unto me, that I am no less assuredly cleansed in his blood by the working of his Spirit from the spots of my soul, that is, from all my sins, then I am outwardly washed by water, whereby the stains of the body are to be washed away: and it binds us that we ought ever afterward by our works and deeds to declare newness of life and fruits of repentance.
Let us now come to the uses of this last part of baptism.
Does the washing of the body represent the cleansing of the soul? And does the soaking up of the filthiness of the flesh signify the removing of the remnants of rebellion? Then we are all by nature unwise, unclean, unregenerate, unholy, disobedient, disordered, deceiving and being deceived: we are the vessels of wrath, the children of death, the bond-slaves of Satan, the heirs of damnation, we have our part and portion in the offence of Adam, as Rom. 5. By one man sin entered into the world: and ch. 7. I see another law in my members, rebelling against the law of my mind, and leading me captive unto the law of sin, which is in my members. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death. Hereunto also comes that which the Evangelist sets down in the conference between Christ and Nicodemus, John 3:6-7 That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit: marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. For this cause are infants baptized, because they are conceived in sin and born in iniquity, and cannot become spiritual, but by a new birth wrought by the Spirit, which is sealed up by the water in baptism.
Again, this serves to strengthen our faith when we behold the outward washing, pouring out of the water, and baptizing of the body, it assures the inward cleansing of the soul by the blood of Christ offered to all, and received of those that are elected to eternal salvation. This then is the right and holy use of baptism. Do you feel inwardly in thine heart, that through the corruption of thy nature and strength of concupiscence you are moved, tempted, and provoked to commit sin? And do you feel yourself ready to yield to Satan, and so to fall from God into evil? Begin to have some holy meditation, of that solemn vow which you make to God in baptism, when thou did consecrate and give up yourself wholly to his service, and did renounce obedience to the suggestions of Satan, to the allurements of the world, and to the corruptions of the flesh. For baptism is the Christian man's ensign given of God to us, that we should fight as it were under it against all the enemies of our salvation and overcome. It is the badge and banner of our captain, that we shrouding ourselves under his colours, should not coward∣ly turn our back in the skirmish, but courageously look the enemy in the face, nay tread him under our feet forever. Moreover, hast thou through weakness and infirmity, fallen once or twice into some sin to the dishonour of thy God, to the wounding of thine own conscience, to the slander of the gospel, or to the scandal offence of thy weak brother? have recourse to thy baptism as unto a board after shipwreck, as unto a medicine after sickness, as unto a plaster after wounding, or as unto a staff after falling, that you may receive strength, courage, and comfort to thy soul. For albeit baptism be once only administered for the reasons before alleged, of this present book; yet it being once delivered and received, testifies that all our sins past, present, and to come are washed away and shall be forgiven. The fruit or efficacy of the sacraments is not to be restrained and tied to the present time of receiving, but extends itself to the whole course of our life afterward.