Friday, June 25, 2004
Master. - How many are the sacraments of the Christian Church?
Scholar. - There are only two, whose use is common among all believers.
Master. - What are they?
Scholar. - Baptism and the Holy Supper.
Master. - What likeness or difference is there between them?
Scholar. - Baptism is a kind of entrance into the Church; for we have in it a testimony that we who are otherwise strangers and aliens, are received into the family of God, so as to be counted of his household; on the other hand, the Supper attests that God exhibits himself to us by nourishing our souls.
Master. - That the meaning of both may be more clear to us, let us treat of them separately. First, what is the meaning of Baptism?
Scholar. - It consists of two parts. For, first, Forgiveness of sins; and, secondly, Spiritual regeneration, is figured by it. (Eph. v. 26 ; Rom. vi. 4.)
Master. - What resemblance has water 'with these things, so as to represent them?
Scholar. - Forgiveness of sins is a kind of washing, by which our souls are cleansed from their defilements, just as bodily stains are washed away by water.
Master. - What do you say of Regeneration?
Scholar. - Since the mortification of our nature is its beginning, and our becoming new creatures its end, a figure of death is set before us when the water is poured upon the head, and the figure of a new life when instead of remaining immersed under water, we only enter it for a moment as a kind of grave, out of which we instantly emerge.
Master. - Do you think that the water is a washing of the soul?
Scholar. - By no means; for it were impious to snatch away this honour from the blood of Christ, which was shed in order to wipe away all our stains, and render us pure and unpolluted in the sight of God. (1 Pet. i. 19; 1 John i. 7.) And we receive the fruit of this cleansing when the Holy Spirit sprinkles our consciences with that sacred blood. Of this we have a seal in the Sacrament.
Master. - But do you attribute nothing more to the water than that it is a figure of ablution?
Scholar. - I understand it to be a figure, but still so that the reality is annexed to it; for God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.
Master. - Is this grace bestowed on all indiscriminately?
Scholar. - Many precluding its entrance by their depravity, make it void to themselves. Hence the benefit extends to believers only, and yet the Sacrament loses nothing of its nature.
Master. - Whence is Regeneration derived?
Scholar. - From the Death and Resurrection of Christ taken together. His death hath this efficacy, that by means of it our old man is crucified, and the vitiosity of our nature in a manner buried, so as no more to be in vigour in us. Our reformation to a new life, so as to obey the righteousness of God, is the result of the resurrection.
Master. - How are these blessings bestowed upon us by Baptism?
Scholar. - If we do not render the promises there offered unfruitful by rejecting them, we are clothed with Christ, and presented with his Spirit.