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The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Baptism’s True Position in Faith - 30 November 2018, Anno Domini

This devotion is an excerpt from Bishop J.C. Ryle’s work entitled, Knots Untied. It is the fourth and final in a series of commentary on Baptism.

ARTICLE XVII, Of Baptism, (the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion)
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.
The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

Part III. Let us now consider, in the last place, what position baptism ought to hold in our religion.

This is a point of great importance. In matters of opinion man is ever liable to go into extremes. In nothing does this tendency appear so strongly as in the matter of religion. In no part of religion is man in so much danger of erring, either on the right hand or the left, as about the sacraments. In order to arrive at a settled judgment about baptism, we must beware both of the error of defect, and of the error of excess.

We must beware, for one thing, of despising baptism. This is the error of defect. Many in the present day seem to regard it with perfect indifference. They pass it by, and give it no place or position in their religion. Because, in many cases, it seems to confer no benefit, they appear to jump to the con­clusion that it can confer none. They care nothing if baptism is never named in the sermon. They dislike to have it publicly administered in the congregation. In short, they seem to regard the whole subject of baptism as a troublesome question, which they are determined to let alone. They are neither satisfied with it, nor without it.

Now, I only ask such persons to consider gravely, whether their attitude of mind is justified by Scripture. Let them remember our Lord’s distinct and precise command to “baptize,” when He left His disciples alone in the world. Let them remember the invariable practice of the Apostles, wherever they went preaching the Gospel. Let them mark the language used about baptism in several places in the Epistles. Now, is it likely,—is it probable,—is it agreeable to reason and common sense,—that baptism can be safely regarded as a dropped subject, and quietly laid on the shelf? Surely, I think these questions can only receive one answer.

It is simply unreasonable to suppose that the Great Head of the Church would burden His people in all ages with an empty, powerless, unprofitable institution. It is ridiculous to suppose His Apostles would speak as they do about baptism, if, in no case, and under no circumstances, could it be of any use or help to man’s soul. Let these things be calmly weighed. Let us take heed, lest in fleeing from blind superstition, we are found equally blind in another way, and pour contempt on an appointment of Christ.

We must beware, for another thing, of making an idol of baptism. This is the error of excess. Many in the present day exalt baptism to a position which nothing in Scripture can possibly justify. If they hold infant baptism, they will tell you that the grace of the Holy Ghost invariably accompanies the administration of the ordinance,—that in every case, a seed of Divine life is implanted in the heart, to which all subsequent religious movement must be traced,—and that all baptized children are, as a matter of course, born again, and made partakers of the Holy Ghost!—If they do not hold infant baptism, they will tell you that to go down into the water with a profession of faith and repentance is the very turning-point in a man’s religion,—that until we have gone down into the water we are nothing,—and that when we have gone down into the water, we have taken the first step toward heaven! It is notorious that many High Churchmen and Baptists hold these opinions, though not all. And I say that although they may not mean it, they are practically making an idol of baptism.

I ask all persons who hold these exceedingly high and lofty views of baptism, to consider seriously what warrant they have in the Bible for their opinions. To quote texts in which the greatest privileges and blessings are connected with baptism, is not enough. What we want are plain texts which show that these blessings and privileges are always and invariably con­ferred. The question to he settled is not whether a child may be born again and receive grace in baptism, but whether all children are born again, and receive grace when they are baptized.—The question is not whether an adult may “put on Christ” when he goes down into the water, but whether all do as a matter of course. Surely these things demand grave and calm consideration!—It is positively wearisome to read the sweeping and illogical assertions which are often made upon this subject. To tell us, for example, that our Lord’s famous words to Nicodemus (John iii. 5), teach anything more than the general necessity of being “born of water and the spirit,” is an insult to common sense. Whether all persons baptized are “born of water and the Spirit” is another question altogether, and one which the text never touches at all. To assert that it is taught in the text, is just as illogical as the common assertion of the Baptist, when he tells you that because Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,”—therefore nobody ought to be baptized until he believes!

The right position of baptism can only be decided by a careful observation of the language of Scripture about it. Let a man read the New Testament honestly and impartially for himself. Let him come to the reading of it with an unprejudiced, fair, and unbiased mind. Let him not bring with him pre-conceived ideas, and a blind reverence for the opinion of any unin­spired writing, of any man, or of any set of men. Let him simply ask the question,—“What does Scripture teach about baptism, and its place in Christian theology?”—and I have little doubt as to the conclusion he will come to. He will neither trample baptism under his feet, nor exalt it over his head.

(a) He will find that baptism is frequently mentioned, and yet not so frequently as to lead us to think that it is the very first, chief, and foremost thing in Christianity. In fourteen out of twenty-one Epistles, baptism is not even named. In five out of the remaining seven, it is only mentioned once. In one of the remaining two, it is only mentioned twice. In the two pastoral Epistles to Timothy it is not mentioned at all. There is, in short, only one Epistle, viz., the first to the Corinthians, in which baptism is even named on more than two occasions. And, singularly enough, this is the very Epistle in which St. Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you,”—and “Christ sent me not be baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” (1 Cor. i. 14, 17.)

(b) He will find that baptism is spoken of with deep rever­ence, and in close connection with the highest privileges and blessings. Baptized people are said to be “buried with Christ,”—to have “put on Christ,”—to have “risen again,”—and even (by straining a doubtful text) to have the “washing of regenera­tion.” But he will also find that Judas Iscariot, Ananias and Sapphira, Simon Magus, and others, were baptized, and yet gave no evidence of having been born again. He will also see that in the first Epistle of John, people “born of God” are said to have certain marks and characteristics which myriads of baptized persons never possess at any period of their lives. (1 John ii. 29; iii. 9; v. 1, 4, 18.) And not least, he will find St. Peter declar­ing that the baptism which saves is “not the putting away the filth of the flesh,” the mere washing of the body, but the ‘“answer of a good conscience.” (1 Peter iii. 21.)

(c) Finally, he will discover that while baptism is frequently spoken of in the New Testament, there are other subjects which are spoken of much more frequently. Faith, hope, charity, God’s grace, Christ’s offices, the work of the Holy Ghost, redemption, justification, the nature of Christian holiness,—all these are points about which he will find far more than about baptism. Above all, he will find, if he marks the language of Scripture about the Old Testament sacrament of circumcision, that the value of God’s ordinances depends entirely on the spirit in which they are received, and the heart of the receiver. “In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor un­circumcision; but faith which worketh by love,—but a new creature.” (Gal. v. 6; vi. 15.)“He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is out-ward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Rom. ii. 28, 29.)

It only remains for me now to say a few words by way of practical conclusion to the whole paper. The nature, manner, subjects, and position of baptism have been severally considered. Let me now show the reader the special lessons to which I think attention ought to be directed.

(1) For one thing, I wish to urge on all who study the much-disputed subject of baptism, the importance of aiming at simple views of this sacrament. The dim, hazy, swelling words, which are often used by writers about baptism, have been fruitful sources of strange and unscriptural views of the ordinance. Poets, and hymn-composers, and Romish theologians, have flooded the world with so much high-flown and rhapsodical language on the point, that the minds of many have been thoroughly swamped and confounded. Thousands have imbibed notions about baptism from poetry, without knowing it, for which they can show no warrant in God’s Word. Milton’s Paradise Lost is the sole parent of many a current view of Satan’s agency; and uninspired poetry is the sole parent of many a man’s views of baptism in the present day.

Once for all, let me entreat every reader of this paper to hold no doctrine about baptism which is not plainly taught in God’s Word. Let him beware of maintaining any theory, however plausible, which cannot be supported by Scripture. In religion, it matters nothing who says a thing, or how beautifully he says it. The only question we ought to ask is this,—“Is it written in the Bible? what saith the Lord?”

(2) For another thing, I wish to urge on many of my fellow Churchmen the dangerous tendency of extravagantly high views of the efficacy of baptism. I have no wish to conceal my meaning. I refer to those Churchmen who maintain that grace invariably accompanies baptism, and that all baptized infants are in baptism born again. I ask such persons, in all courtesy and brotherly kindness, to consider seriously the dangerous tendency of their views, and the consequences which logically result from them.

They seem to me, and to many others, to degrade a holy ordinance appointed by Christ into a mere charm, which is to act mechanically, like a medicine acting on the body, without any movement of a man’s heart or soul. Surely this is dangerous!

They encourage the notion that it matters nothing in what manner of spirit people bring their children to be baptized. It signifies nothing whether they come with faith, and prayer, and solemn feelings, or whether they come careless, prayerless, godless, and ignorant as heathens! The effect, we are told, is always the same in all cases! In all cases, we are told, the infant is born again the moment it is baptized, although it has no right to baptism at all, except as the child of Christian parents. Surely this is dangerous!

They help forward the perilous and soul-ruining delusion that a man may have grace in his heart, while it cannot be seen in his life. Multitudes of our worshippers have not a spark of religious life or grace about them. And yet we are told that they must all be addressed as regenerate, or possessors of grace, because they have been baptized! Surely this is dangerous!

Now I firmly believe that hundreds of excellent Churchmen have never fully considered the points which I have just brought forward. I ask them to do so. For the honour of the Holy Ghost, for the honour of Christ’s holy sacraments, I invite them to consider seriously the tendency of their views. Sure am I that there is only one safe ground to take up in stating the effects of baptism, and that is the old ground stated by our Load: “Every tree is known by his own fruit.” (Luke vi. 44.)When baptism is used profanely and carelessly, we have no right to expect a blessing to follow it, any more than we expect it for a careless recipient of the Lord’s Supper. When no grace can be seen in a man’s life, we have no right to say that he is regenerate and received grace in baptism.

(3) For another thing, I wish to urge on all Baptists who may happen to read this paper, the duty of moderation in stating their views of baptism, and of those who disagree with them. I say this with sorrow. I respect many members of the Baptist community, and I believe they are men and women whom I shall meet in heaven. But when I mark the extravag­antly violent language which some Baptists use against infant baptism, I cannot help feeling that they may be justly requested to judge more moderately of those with whom they disagree.

Does the Baptist mean to say that his peculiar views of baptism are needful to salvation, and that nobody will be saved who holds that infants ought to be baptized? I cannot think that any intelligent Baptist in his senses would assert this. At this rate he would shut out of heaven the whole Church of England, all the Methodists, all the Presbyterians, and all the Independents! At this rate, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Baxter, Owen, Wesley, Whitfield, and Chalmers, are all lost! They all firmly maintained infant baptism, and therefore they are all in hell! I cannot believe that any Baptist would say anything so monstrous and absurd.

Does the Baptist mean to say that his peculiar views of baptism are necessary to a high degree of grace and holiness? Will he undertake to assert that Baptists have always been the most eminent Christians in the world, and are so at this day? If he does make this assertion, he may be fairly asked to give some proof of it. But he cannot do so. He may show us, no doubt, many Baptists who are excellent Christians. But he will find it hard to prove that they are one bit better than some of the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, and Methodists, who all hold that infants ought to be baptized.

Now, surely, if the peculiar opinions of the Baptists are neither necessary to salvation nor to eminent holiness, we may fairly ask Baptists to be moderate in their language about those who disagree with them. Let them, by all means, maintain their own peculiar views, if they think they have discovered a “more excellent way.” Let them use their liberty and be fully persuaded in their own minds. The narrow way to heaven is wide enough for believers of every name and denomi­nation. But for the sake of peace and charity, let me entreat Baptists to exercise moderation in their judgment of others.

(4) In the last place, I wish to urge on all Christians the immense importance of giving to each part of Christianity its proper proportion and value, but nothing more. Let us beware of wresting things from their right places, and putting that which is second first, and that which is first second. Let us give all due honour to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as sacraments ordained by Christ Himself. But let us never forget that, like every outward ordinance, their benefit depends entirely on the manner in which they are received. Above all, let us never forget that while a man may be baptized, like Judas, and yet never be saved, so also a man may never be baptized, like the penitent thief, and yet may be saved.—The things needful to salvation are an interest in Christ’s atoning blood, and the presence of the Holy Ghost in the heart and life. He that is wrong on these two points will get no benefit from his baptism, whether he is baptized as an infant or grown up. He will find at the last day that he is wrong for evermore.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Who to be Baptized - 28 November 2018, Anno Domini

This devotion is an excerpt from Bishop J.C. Ryle’s work entitled, Knots Untied. It is the third in a series of commentary on Baptism.

ARTICLE XVII, Of Baptism, (the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion)
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.
The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

Part III. Let us next consider the subjects of baptism. To whom ought baptism to be administered?

It is impossible to handle this branch of the question without coming into direct collision with the opinions of others. But I hope it is possible to handle it in a kindly and temperate spirit. At any rate it is no use to avoid discussion for fear of offending Baptists. Disputed points in theology are never likely to be settled unless men on both sides will say out plainly what they think, and give their reasons for their opinions. To avoid the subject, because it is a controversial one, is neither honest nor wise. A clergyman has no right to complain that his parishioners become Baptists, if he never instructs them about infant baptism.

I begin by laying it down as a point almost undisputed, that all grown-up converts at missionary stations among the heathen ought to be baptized. As soon as they embrace the Gospel and make a credible profession of repentance and faith in Christ, they ought at once to receive baptism. This is the doctrine and practice of Episcopal, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and Inde­pendent missionaries, just as much as it is the doctrine of Baptists. Let there be no mistake on this point. To talk, as some Baptists do, of “believer’s baptism,” as if it was a kind of baptism peculiar to their own body, is simply nonsense! Believer’s baptism is known and practised in every successful Protestant mission throughout the world.

But I now go a step further. I lay it down as a Christian truth that the children of all professing Christians have a right to baptism, if their parents require it, as well as their parents. Of course the children of professed unbelievers and heathen have no title to baptism, so long as they are under the charge of their parents. But the children of professing Christians are in an entirely different position. If their fathers and mothers offer them to be baptized, the Church ought to receive them in baptism, and has no right to refuse them.

It is precisely at this point that the grave division of opinion exists between the body of Christians called Baptists and the greater part of Christians throughout the world. The Baptist asserts that no one ought to be baptized who does not make a personal profession of repentance and faith, and that as children cannot do this they ought not to be baptized. I think that this assertion is not borne out by Scripture, and I shall proceed to give the reasons why I think so. I believe it can be shown that the children of professing Christians have a right to baptism, and that it is a complete mistake not to baptize them.

Let me remind the reader at the outset, that the question under consideration is not the Baptismal Service of the Church of England. Whether that service is right or wrong,—whether it is useful to have godfathers and godmothers,—are not the points in dispute. It is mere waste of time to say anything about them.4 The question before us is simply whether infant baptism is right in principle. That it is right is held by Presbyterians, Independents, and Methodists, who use no Prayer-book, just as stoutly as it is by Churchmen. To the consideration of this one question I shall strictly confine myself. There is not the slightest necessary connection between the Liturgy and infant baptism. I heartily wish that some people would remember this. To insist on dragging in the Liturgy, and mixing it up with the abstract question of infant baptism, is not a sign of good logic, fairness, or common sense.

Let me clear the way, furthermore, by observing that I will not be drawn away from the real point at issue by the ludicrous descriptions which Baptists often give of the abuse of infant baptism. No doubt it is easy for popular writers and preachers among the Baptists, to draw a vivid picture of an ignorant, prayerless couple of peasants, bringing an unconscious infant to be sprinkled at the font by a careless sporting parson! It is easy to finish off the picture by saying, “What good can infant baptism do?” Such pictures are very amusing, perhaps, but they are no argument against the principle of infant baptism. The abuse of a thing is no proof that it ought to be disused and is wrong. Moreover, those who live in glass-houses had better not throw stones. Strange pictures might be drawn of what happens sometimes in chapels at adult baptisms! But I forbear. I want the reader to look not at pictures but at Scriptural principles.

Let me now supply a few simple reasons why I hold, in common with all Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Independents throughout the world, that infant baptism is a right thing, and that in denying baptism to children the Baptists are mistaken. The reasons are as follows.

 (a) Children were admitted into the Old Testament Church by a formal ordinance, from the time of Abraham downwards. That ordinance was circumcision. It was an ordinance which God Himself appointed, and the neglect of which was denounced as a great sin. It was an ordinance about which the highest language is used in the New Testament. St. Paul calls it “a seal of the righteousness of faith.” (Rom. ii. 4.) Now, if children were considered to be capable of admission into the Church by an ordinance in the Old Testament, it is difficult to see why they cannot be admitted in the New. The general tendency of the Gospel is to increase men’s spiritual privileges and not to diminish them. Nothing, I believe, would astonish a Jewish convert so much as to tell him his children could not be baptized! “If they are fit to receive circumcision,” he would reply, “why are they not fit to receive baptism?” And my own firm conviction has long been that no Baptist could give him an answer. In fact I never heard of a converted Jew becoming a Baptist, and I never saw an argument against infant baptism that might not have been equally directed against infant circumcision. No man, I suppose, in his sober senses, would presume to say that infant circumcision was wrong.

 (b) The baptism of children is nowhere forbidden in the New Testament. There is not a single text, from Matthew to Revela­tion, which either directly or indirectly hints that infants should not be baptized. Some, perhaps, may see little in this silence. To my mind it is a silence full of meaning and instruction.

The first Christians, be it remembered, were many of them by birth Jews. They had been accustomed in the Jewish Church, before their conversion, to have their children admitted into church-membership by a solemn ordinance, as a matter of course. Without a distinct prohibition from our Lord Jesus Christ, they would naturally go on with the same system of proceeding, and bring their children to be baptized. But we find no such pro­hibition! That absence of a prohibition, to my mind, speaks volumes. It satisfies me that no change was intended by Christ about children. If He had intended a change He would have said something to teach it. But He says not a word! That very silence is, to my mind, a most powerful and convincing argument. As God commanded Old Testament children to be circumcised, so God intends New Testament children to be baptized.

(c) The baptism of households is specially mentioned in the New Testament. We read in the Acts that Lydia was bap­tized “and her household,” and that the jailer of Philippi “was baptized: he and all his.” (Acts xvi. 15, 33.) We read in the Epistle to the Corinthians that St. Paul baptized “the household of Stephanas.” (1 Cor. i. 16.) Now what meaning would any one attach to these expressions, if he had no theory to maintain, and could view them dispassionately? Would he not explain the “household” to include young as well as old, chil­dren as well as grown-up people? Who doubts when he reads the words of Joseph in Genesis,—take food for the famine of your households(Gen. xlii. 33);—or, take your father and your households and come unto me(Gen. xlv. 18), that chil­dren are included? Who can possibly deny that when God said to Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark,He meant Noah’s sons? (Gen. vii. 1)For my own part I cannot see how these questions can be answered without establishing the principle of infant baptism. Admitting most fully that it is not directly said that St. Paul baptized little children, it seems to my mind the highest probability that the “households” he baptized comprised children as well as grown-up people.

(d) The behaviour of our Lord Jesus Christ to little children, as recorded in the Gospels, is very peculiar and full of meaning. The well-known passage in St. Mark is an instance of what I mean. They brought young children5 to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.(Mark x. 13-16)

Now I do not pretend for a moment to say that this passage is a direct proof of infant baptism. It is nothing of the kind. But I do say that it supplies a curious answer to some of the arguments in common use among those who object to infant baptism. That infants are capable of receiving some benefit from our Lord, that the conduct of those who would have kept them from Him was wrong in our Lord’s eyes, that He was ready and willing to bless them, even when they were too young to understand what He said or did,—all these things stand out as clearly as if written with a sunbeam! A direct argument in favour of infant baptism the passage certainly is not. But a stronger indirect testimony it seems to me impossible to conceive.

I might easily add to these arguments. I might strengthen the position I have taken up by several considerations which seem to me to deserve very serious attention.

I might show, from the writings of old Dr. Lightfoot, that the baptism of little children was a practice with which the Jews were perfectly familiar. When proselytes were received into the Jewish Church by baptism, before our Lord Jesus Christ came, their infants were received, and baptized with them, as a matter of course.

I might show that infant baptism was uniformly practised by all the early Christians. Every Christian writer of any repute during the first 1500 years after Christ, with the single exception of perhaps Tertullian, speaks of infant baptism as a custom which the Church has always maintained.

I might show that the vast majority of eminent Christians from the period of the Protestant Reformation down to the present day, have maintained the rights of infants to be bap­tized. Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, and all the Continental Reformers,—Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and all the English Reformers,— the great body of all the English Puritans,—the whole of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Independent, and Methodist Churches of the present day,—are all of one mind on this point. They all hold infant baptism!

But I will not weary the reader by going over this ground. I will proceed to notice two arguments which are commonly used against infant baptism, and are thought by some to be unanswer­able. Whether they really are so I will leave the reader to judge.

 (1) The first favourite argument against infant baptism is the entire absence of any direct text or precept in its favour in the New Testament. “Show me a plain text,” says many a Baptist, “commanding me to baptize little children. Without a plain text the thing ought not to be done.”

I reply, for one thing, that the absence of any text about infant baptism is, to my mind, one of the strongest evidences in its favour. That infants were formally admitted into the Church by an outward ordinance, for 1800 years before Christ came, is a fact that cannot be denied. Now, if he had meant to change the practice, and exclude infants from baptism, I should expect to find some plain text about it. But I find none, and therefore I conclude that there was to be no alteration and no change. The very absence of any direct command, on which the Baptists lay such stress, is, in reality, one of the strongest arguments against them! No change and therefore no text!

But I reply, for another thing, that the absence of some plain text or command is not a sufficient argument against infant baptism. There are not a few things which can be proved and inferred from Scripture, though they are not plainly and directly taught. Let the Baptist show us a single plain text which directly warrants the admission of women to the Lord’s Supper.—Let him show us one which directly teaches the keeping of the Sabbath on the first day of the week instead of the seventh.—Let him show us one which directly forbids gambling. Any well-instructed Baptist knows that it cannot be done. But surely, if this is the case, there is an end of this famous argument against infant baptism! It falls to the ground.

 (2) The second favourite argument against infant baptism is the inability of infants to repent and believe. “What can be more monstrous,” says many a Baptist, “than to administer an ordinance to an unconscious babe? It cannot possibly know anything of repentance and faith, and therefore it ought not to be baptized. The Scripture says, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’ and, Repent, and be baptized (Mark xvi. 16; Acts ii. 38.)

In reply to this argument, I ask to be shown a single text which says that nobody ought to be baptized until he repents and believes. I shall ask in vain. The texts just quoted prove conclusively that grown-up people who repent and believe when missionaries preach the Gospel to them, ought at once to be baptized. But they do not prove that their children ought not to be baptized together with them, even though they are too young to believe. I find St. Paul baptized the household of Stephanas(1 Cor. i. 16); but I do not find a word about their believing at the time of their baptism. The truth is that the often-quoted texts, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,—andRepent ye, and be baptized,will never carry the weight that Baptists lay upon them. To assert that they forbid any one to be baptized unless he repents and believes, is to put a meaning on the words which they were never meant to bear. They leave the whole question of infants entirely out of sight. The text “nobody shall be baptized except he repents and believes,” would no doubt have been a very conclusive one. But such a text cannot be found!

After all, will any one tell us that an intelligent profession of repentance and faith is absolutely necessary to salvation? Would even the most rigid Baptist say that because infants cannot believe, all infants must be damned? Yet our Lord said plainly, He that believeth not shall be damned(Mark xvi. 16)—Will any man pretend to say that infants cannot receive grace and the Holy Ghost? John the Baptist, we know, was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. (Luke i. 15)—Will anyone dare to tell us that infants cannot be elect,—cannot be in the covenant,—cannot be members of Christ,—cannot be children of God,—cannot have new hearts,—cannot be born again,—cannot go to heaven when they die?—These are solemn and serious questions. I cannot believe that any well-informed Baptist would give them any but one answer. Yet surely those who may be members of the glorious Church above, may be admitted to the Church below! Those who are washed with the blood of Christ, may surely be washed with the water of baptism! Those who can be capable of being baptized with the Holy Ghost, may surely be baptized with water! Let these things be calmly weighed. I have seen many arguments against infant baptism, which, traced to their logical conclusion, are arguments against infant salvation, and condemn all infants to eternal ruin!

I leave this part of my subject here. I am almost ashamed of having said so much about it. But the times in which we live are my plea and justification. I do not write so much to convince Baptists, as to establish and confirm Churchmen. I have often been surprised to see how ignorant some Churchmen are of the grounds on which infant baptism may be defended. If I have done anything to show Churchmen the strength of their own position, I feel that I shall not have written in vain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Devotion on Hymns of the Church – Lo! He comes, an Infant Stranger- 27 November 2018, Anno Domini

HO hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

            This hymn does not appear in the 1940 Hymnal, but is a classic among Advent/Christmas hymns and carols. Written in 1833 by Richard Mant, the tune is the composition of Martin Madan entitled, HELMSLEY. It speaks of the commonality of appearance in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at first Advent. He died a shameful death as well, but those points are the ones that raises His glory and purpose above every other. He was a Prince, a King, the Son of God – yet, He did not hesitate to offer His all on a cruel cross for us. He was a stranger whom we esteemed not.

Lo! He Comes an Infant Stranger

Lo! he comes, an infant stranger, of a lowly mother born,
Swathed and cradled in a manger, of his pristine glory shorn!
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise the incarnate Word of God!

Lo! he comes, by man unfriended, fain with stable-beast to rest;
Shepherds, who their night-fold tended, hailed alone the new-born guest.
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise ye Jesse's tender rod!

Lo! he comes; but who the weakness of his coming may declare,
When, with more than human meekness, more than human woes he bare?
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise him, emptied of his might!

Lo! he comes, around him pouring all the armies of the sky;
Cherub-, seraph-host, adoring, swell his state and loudly cry:
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise ye him, the living Light!

Lo! he comes, around him pouring all the armies of the sky; Cherub-, seraph-host, adoring, swell his state and loudly cry: Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise ye him, the living Light! There is much contradiction in the first coming of Christ and the second. Indeed, His first coming was attended by the singing of the heavenly chorus, but only a select few heard that divine performance; and these were mere lowly shepherds – not the royalty of the palace grounds. He came as a baby, but He also came in might. Even as a baby in a manger, He yet wielded the scepter of infinite Sovereignty. His title and claim was wrapped up in that of the Father, and the Father in Him. He came a Light shining in darkness and, of course, the darkness comprehended it not. Judah, and the entire world, was shrouded in primitive spiritual darkness ere the Son of God came as a child in a manger. He was born quietly and without ceremony in a small but historic hamlet called Bethlehem. Wherever His name is called in faith today, there you will see the Light that penetrated the darkness from the first day of Creation.

 Lo! he comes, by man unfriended, fain with stable-beast to rest; Shepherds, who their night-fold tended, hailed alone the new-born guest. Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise ye Jesse's tender rod!Indeed, He came by man unfriended. There was not even room found for Him in the Inn. Perhaps there is no room for Him today in the Inn of your heart, but I pray that there is. The beasts of burden, and of sacrifice, among which our Lord was born were privileged far above us to witness this glorious event. Without Christ in our hearts, we are worse than those beasts for they saw Him and knew Him if only for a night. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee. . . .   (Joel 1:20)If the beasts cry unto God, how much more should we who are endowed with greater spiritual awareness? Shepherds were the lowest of the lot in Israel; yet these were honored above kings and princes to witness that Holy Night and the Angel Choir. These poor men were the only witnesses of that first night of jubilation.

 Lo! he comes; but who the weakness of his coming may declare, When, with more than human meekness, more than human woes he bare? Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise him, emptied of his might! Not emptied of His might, but having that might held in reserve by the Providence of the Father. Yes, He was born among the beasts of the field, and laid in a manger – an instrument for the feeding of beasts. But He also came as the Bread of Heaven to feed our emaciated souls and to quench, as the Water of Life, our spiritual thirst. He was, at the same time, the poorest among us and the wealthiest! We can take nothing from the glory of His coming. That Angelic Choir that heralded His first coming shall return with Him in the Armies of Heaven to bring Judgment upon the dying world of sin and greed.

 Lo! he comes, around him pouring all the armies of the sky; Cherub-, seraph-host, adoring, swell his state and loudly cry: Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! Praise ye him, the living Light! Unless we consider the bending of light near massive gravitational bodies in distant space, light always travels in a straight line. It does not make banking turns. It is steady as long as the Source remains steady. After 400 hundred years of darkness – from the close of Malachi’s prophecy until John the Baptist – the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.(Isaiah 9:2)

That Light came as a candle (a small baby); but was truly the Light of the World and the Sun of Righteousness! (see Malachi 4:2)As the Candle of the Lord burned during His ministry, He waxed greater in revealed Light for us. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts(2 Peter 1:19)The faith of Abraham was born up on the Promise of a coming Messiah. But we today have a more sure Word in the accomplished event. The dawning of the day is a gradual revelation of more and more light until the Day Star (the Sun of Righteousness) arises in our hearts and we know and understand more fully.

Yes, He is the Light of the world; and He tells us that we who are the called according to His purpose are also the Light of the world, but not in the same sense as is He. He is the Light Source (as the Sun) and we bear His reflected Light (as the Moon). We must carry the Light always and every place. We must all be the Olympic Torchbearers for Christ. As they carry the torch of friendly competition from Mt. Olympus to every country wherein the world event occurs, we must carry the Torch of Christ to every nation, kindred, and tongue of God’s green earth. Perhaps we should begin, as did Christ, with our neighbors.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sermon Notes - Sunday next before Advent - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 25 November 2018, Anno Domini

The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
TIRup, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen

I would like to first address the very meaningful COLLECT for today and its significance:

HEREFOREI put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Tim 1:6-9)

            A strong counsel for the Christian of any time of persecution, and of those who live, as we do, in a world of watered-down faith and easy-believism. Regardless the number of the Sundays in Trinity Season, this COLLECT must always be the COLLECT of choice on the Sunday next before Advent Season.  The title[1]referenced above was not used by Cranmer but was restored to its ancient title by the 1892 American Prayer Book (from the Sarum Missal). The Collect was famous for its beginning words – “Stir up” – so much so that the Sunday of its use was popularly labeled, “Stir Up Sunday”!

            The words, “Stir up,” summarizes the fullness of the Gospel preached in its entirety.  It relates to that most powerful aspect of the human nature – the WILL! If it is the will of a man or woman to become rich in the material riches of this world, it is very likely that he or she shall surely become wealthy if that will is strong enough – even to the detriment of character and virtue! The WILL is that overt and compelling manifestation of what is hidden in the heart. The heart that belongs to Christ may, indeed, become wealthy in giving and caring, but wealth is never the superseding goal of such a heart. The problem with the rich young ruler was not his wealth, but that he allowed his wealth to blind his eyes to his duty to God. (see Mark 10 & Luke 18)When we take all virtue, all godliness, all compassion, all love, et all., that we have been granted in Christ, we need to ‘stir-up’ these qualities and devotions from time to time in order to bring them back up from the depths of forgetfulness and revive them to a fresh and lively currency.

            The will of the sinner, while free of the godly restraints of righteousness, is a completely free will. However, when a heart is given over to Christ as Lord and Savior, it is that Mind and Will of Christ that takes possession of that former will of the world and transforms the heart to godliness. Do not preach to me of Calvin or Arminius – but only of Christ and His Word. Both these men were stellar scholars. Each ‘got it right’ at some point, but those moments of correct interpretation only followed learning of truth gained from Holy Scripture. So why not, instead of quoting some good man, go to the Fountain of Truth Itself rather than drinking downstream?

            You may ask: “How do we ‘stir up’ our Godly wills of faithfulness to God?” We do not, but God DOES! He does so through the preaching and hearing of the Word! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)But wait! Suppose you have already heard the glorious Gospel and yet sleep? One of my favorite means to allow God to ‘stir up’ my faith is through the singing of hymns – whether alone of with family, or friends. Nothing touches my soul more than scripturally-based classical hymns. (You may keep your Gospel songs filled with pabulum, thank you!) But suppose my heart is closed to every means of being stirred up by conscious rebellion? How will God elect to ‘stir up’ my faith? But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.  But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.(Romans 10:18-19)I personally prefer the more gentle stirring of love and remembrance than to be stirred up by jealousy and anger. But God will use whatever mechanism He deems useful to stir us up.

            Though God may use the wills of evil nations in bringing judgment, He only stirs up the wills of faithful people in service to Him. With what result does God stir up our hearts? With the results that our faith again becomes foremost in our daily living, and our fruits of righteousness and good works are multiplied over and over again. Such fruits are not ours, but belong to the Sower who sowed the Seed in our hearts at the beginning. When we are a useful vessel to God, He will use us more and more as a favored vessel in His Hand just as a loving mother may have an old iron skillet or stone bowl that she treasures above even more expensive and beautiful vessels in her kitchen. If we, as Christians, are able to hold our ‘heat of the Spirit’ as the heavy iron skillet holds its heat from the oven, God will be more disposed to use such a proven and useful vessel. Moreover, He will reward such a vessel by placing it is a favored place in the cabinet of Heaven. He will often clean and polish it even more for future use. Personally, I would rather be an old, blackened iron skillet than a beautiful, French porcelain vase on the mantle. If God will use me to prepare food for His Children, how much greater honor can I have?

            We have a mere four more Sundays before the blessed observance of Christmas. The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a precious baby at Bethlehem stirred the hearts of kings, rulers, wise men, and shepherds. Christ always stirs our hearts!

            When God stirs up the wills of His faithful people, such a stirring can only result in greater production of fruit somewhat as life-giving rain on a parched field planted with wholesome seed. If we produce plentifully in good works, this gives the Father the opportunity to reward us with even more Rain of Blessing. Is there a smell of rain in your heart today, dear Reader?

The Holy Gospel 

HENJesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world(John 6:4-14)

            What a wonderful Season of the Church Year is Advent. All good things in the lives of men – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Apostles, and us – begins with the Coming of Christ, both spiritually and physically, to us. Having longed to see the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Seed of Promise, Abraham hoped in the Gospel of Christ and was blessed to see His Coming. Christ comes to us that we may be enabled to come to Him. We see this truth enacted in today’s Gospel sermon text. Those who hunger for Christ will find Him if even on the mountain heights of the Galilean coasts. Those who hunger for Christ will:

1.    Discover (through the Word and Spirit) where He may be found;
2.    Leave the place where that are presently (sin and error) and GO to Him;
3.    Not give thought of what the morrow may bring, but trust in Him to provide their every need;
4.    Be fed with the Bread of Heaven.

            When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him This is most prophetic of that company of souls that will come, over the expanse of centuries and millennia, to Him in faith and trust.  They shall come seeking that Bread of Life which will satisfy eternally and not temporarily. They shall, on the day of God’s own choosing – and not that of greedy spiritual speculators – come to meet Him in the air, and not a mountain, on His glorious Second Coming. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17)

            Christ often challenges the faith of His chosen vessels just as He tests that of Philip. Knowing the mind of Philip in His spiritual growth, Jesus asks: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat A lesser prophet than Christ once asked the same question of God in the Wilderness: Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat(Num 11:13)It is certain Christ wants us to know a greater prophet than Moses stands before us. Without the presence and power of Christ, the world is in constant worry about this matter sustenance. Shall we have bread to eat and raiment to wear? Of course, the world takes the matter a step further: How can we enjoy the most opulent of cuisine and the most fashionable and elegant raiment – delicacies and raiment that will set us apart from the common people and that will exalt us in our pride? The starving child on the backstreets of Calcutta does not wish for delicacies, but only a morsel of bread to appease his gnawing hunger. It is so because the starving child knows not of delicacies or of elegant silken robes, but only his desperate NEED. So, the sinner (rich or poor), when he comes face-to-face with his depravity, can recognize no righteousness at all in his feeble works, but starves for the Redemption made available in Christ. Rather than the bread of wheat, he starves for the Bread of Heaven. This Bread cannot be bought with money, so Christ gives Philip a thought to nourish his soul. 

            Philip’s mind has not progressed to that perfection of understanding, as yet, that might be expected from so close a disciple! Clearly, under the terms of the world, a small fortune would be required to buy sufficient bread to feed so many. There were many more than five thousand present for there were five thousand men alone, plus women and children. Has Philip forgotten that He who provides food and lodging for the sparrows of the field is in his presence? Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would cost two hundred days of wages - And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard (Matt 20:2) And even at such an expense, there would certainly be no leftovers for each would only “take a little.” All of our labors and wages from our birth until now will not purchase a single morsel of that Bread from Heaven. The combined wealth of the world would not do so. It is a gift of pure Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            There was one disciple among the lot who accepted there was a mystery in the Person of Christ that enabled Him to provide plenty from little of nothing. He knew not the manner in which might do it, but he nonetheless believed that the mystery would be realized even in a meager amount. God takes our talents and multiplies them when we are willing to share them. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so manyWhat are five barley loaves among a multitude so great, yet, Andrew suspected that Christ would use even a small amount to supply a great need – and He did! Now, we must recognize the innocence of youth in this circumstance. The little lad had labored to bring his two fishes and five loaves over a great distance and even up the slopes of the mountain. Were he a mature man of wisdom, he probably would have refused to share so little claiming that it would not suffice so many hungers and, moreover, he had the foresight to bring them for himself and it would be consumed by him. But the little child has a heart that is closer to the Kingdom of Heaven and has not grown calloused by the world. The child willingly shared his small treat with the Lord. Though we have little, if we share what we have, the Lord will multiply the gift an hundredfold, or more!

            And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. The rubrics of the Prayer Book indicate when we are to kneel, stand, or sit, and we must comply with each and every rubric of the Prayer Book if we are able. The Lord expects all things to be done in good order and, here, He is about to feed the multitudes with His Bread. The Bread of the Prayer Book is the Sermon delivered from the Lectionary appointed for the day. So, the people sit to hear the Word preached. It is the means by which faith is received and increased. So, then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God(Romans 10:17)Contrary to the Romanist approach, preaching takes precedence over every other act of worship including Communion for, without the Word, Communion is meaningless. So Christ asks that the men be seated to receive His blessing of Bread. When men receive from the Lord, they do not stand in their own power as if they contribute to His miracle. “Stop your labors, have a seat, and see the works of the Lord!”

            The Lord will always comfort our needs in green pastures - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures (Psalms 23:2) Now there was much grass in the place (vv 10)So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Obedience before the Lord comes most surely when men realize their need. These men were hungry and were expectant that Jesus could, indeed, feed them. They obeyed Him.

            And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks Here, Jesus gives us the perfect example to follow in returning thanks for the blessings of Heaven. He never failed to thank His Father in Heaven for every blessing of food and drink. Do we do so, Friends? “….he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.” Please observe a stark lesson here for us. We do not serve ourselves at the Communion Rail, but kneel reverently (according to the Prayer Book form of worship – and the Holy Bible) to be served the Cup and the Bread. We do not innovate and do according to what seems right in our own eyes, but serve according to the good order required. The Lord allows His servants to have a hand in assisting in His important work. They serve the bread, but the Bread is given by Christ – it is not their own. We, as ministers, preach the Word, but the Word is His and not OURS! Note also, that each person on the grassy slopes received as much as they wanted of the bread and fish. The cupboard of the Lord has no bottom of blessings. There will always be more than enough to satisfy our hunger. We must return to the Bread Table daily for our “Daily Bread.”

            When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Notice that all were FILLED! You never come to the Lord hungry and go away hungry. He fills you with the desperate need of your heart. Another important lesson in this verse is the one of stewardship. We are to be good a faithful stewards in the economy of resources with which God has blessed us. We are to use His blessings of talents we receive in satisfying the hunger of those God has placed in our hands (parents included) but we are to waste nothing! When we travel field and forest to gather souls for Christ, our efforts do not end at the early confession of faith – we must continue to teach and nourish the soul in the Word so that the convert will grow strong spiritual bones and muscles. We must not lose a single flower from the bouquet….that nothing be lost!

            Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Let us count the balance sheet of the Lord here: there were a mere five loaves at the start. Now the remnants taken up fill TWELVE BASKETS! Do you believe this is too amazing? Do you believe that the Creation of the stars in the expanse of space too amazing, or the earth with all of its wondrous beauty too amazing, or billions of people – all with different faces and features – amazing? What is so amazing that the Word which created all that has been created could multiply a few morsels of bread into such an immense supply? He is able to likewise multiply the smallest mite of the widow’s heart when given out of her need to Christ! He is able to multiply that love scattered abroad from that heart brimming over with the love of God so that the residue is always of plenty.

            What is the result of receiving the blessed Bread of Heaven? How should our hearts respond to so mighty a miracle as salvation, forgiveness, grace, and faith? Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. Faith is confirmed from pillar to post when we have tasted the Bread of Heaven. The multitude recognized that Christ was a prophet of even greater miraculous power and virtue than Moses – their greatest prophet beforehand. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken (Deut 18:15)Christ is, indeed, that Prophet! In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men…… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4,14) 

Friend, believest thou this? AMEN

[1]See rubric following the Gospel for 24th Sunday after Trinity in 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BoCP), or following the Gospel for 25th Sunday in the 1662 English BoCP.