Q. How is it, that we ought to improve our baptism?
A. 1. Be sensible of the greatness of the privilege and dignity conferred upon you, in being baptized in the name of Christ, and sacramentally sprinkled with his blood for the remission of sin; and think much upon it. Alas, there are many who never think on Christ, or his blood, and put no value upon their baptism. I have read of Lucian a scoffing Atheist, when he apostasized from the profession of Christianity, he mocked at his baptism, saying, 'He got nothing by it, but a syllable to his name; he was Lucian before, and at baptism was called Lucianus.' And what do many get by their baptism, but a name? Why, they undervalue their baptism, never think on it, nor study any way to improve it.
2. You ought personally and explicitly to renew your covenant and solemn dedication to God sealed at baptism. It is not enough that you are Christians by your parents dedication, but you must be so by your own also, by ratifying your parents deed, when ye are of age; otherwise your baptism will profit you nothing; nay, instead of profiting you, it will be a witness against you, if you do not personally transact with God in Christ, and give away yourselves to the Lord in truth and sincerity.
3. Improve your baptism, by labouring to secure and clear up your interest in the pardon of sin, adoption, sanctifying grace, and other blessings sealed to you in that sacrament. Remember, that these blessings were only sealed to you conditionally, upon your believing in Christ; and that they are not actually conferred, till you be sensible of sin, and close with Christ and his righteousness. Go then, O penitent sinner, apply to the blood of Christ by faith, which was sacraementally applied to you at baptism as a strong argument for it, say, "Lord, have I not thy seal, as well as thy promise for my pardon? God I not a pledge of it from thee at my baptism? Behold thy ring and thy bracelets; are they not thine? Lord, make good thy word, thy sealed promise;" I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.
4. Press also for the joyful sense of this benefit of pardon sealed to you in baptism; the having whereof, is the most comfortable thing in the world. We see the Eunuch, when he had got this seal of baptism, "went on his way rejoicing: O now (thought he) my case is blessed, I am a pardoned man, God hath received me into his family, and taken me into covenant with himself, and implanted me a member of his mystical body: I that was the plant of a strange vine, am now ingrafted into a noble stock: and shall I not be glad and rejoice in his salvation?" Thus, O believer, improve the seal of baptism, in order to your growing up to the comfortable assurance of your pardon of sin, and adoption into God's family: seeing these blessings are irreversibly promised and sealed to you in that sacrament.
5. Improve your baptism as a spur to holiness and diligence in Christ's service; forget not him whose name you bear, whose livery you wear, and whose colours you are sworn to. Seeing you are solemnly dedicated to God, and all you have is consecrated to him at baptism; O then live as these who are not your own; spend your strength and time, not in serving sin and the world, but in worshipping of God, in loving, praising and glorifying him, whose you are, and whom you ought to serve. Alas, there are many, who lift themselves into God's service by baptism, and yet turn deserters, and go over to the devil's camp, taking on to fight against their King and Lord to whom they are sworn. They live as if they had been solemnly devoted to, and baptized in the name of the cursed trinity of hell, the devil, the world, and the flesh, instead of the ever blessed and glorious Trinity of heaven: Alas, they live as if they had renounced that, and not the other; which is certainly a most fearful guilt, and cannot miss to be attended with a severe doom.
6. Be humbled for your manifold pollutions, your falling so much short of the grace of baptism, and walking unsuitably to your solemn engagements. Have you not cause to lament before God, for forgetting and slighting the free love of God manifested to you in baptism; and for having so little recourse to the fountain that was opened to you therein, for sin, and for uncleanness; and that you feel so little of the efficacy of the precious blood of your Redeemer (which was represented and applied to you in that ordinance) for melting of your hearts, cleansing you from sin, and quickening you to holiness.
7. Improve your baptism as a shield against Satan's temptations; 1. Are you tempted to despairing thoughts of mercy, or troubled with perplexing doubts and fears? Then remember the seal of free love you got in baptism. Christ himself was tempted after his baptism, to doubt of his filiation and sonship; but gave Satan a peremptory repulse; teaching us thereby to do the same. Luther saith, that all his answer to the devil, when he tempted him to despair, was, baptizatus sum, et credo in Christum, I am baptized into the belief of Christ. 2. Are you at any time tempted to sin? Then remember your baptism: Luther also tells of a holy virgin, that when she was tempted to sin, replied, baptizata sum, I am baptized. And indeed this is a sufficient answer to all Satan's temptations, "I am baptized and dedicate[d] solemnly to God; I am not my own but the Lord's; I am sworn to Christ, and how shall I serve the devil?" Profanity in a Christian is apostacy from Christ, and on the matter a renouncing of his baptism, which is a fearful, nay, a devilish sin.
8. Improve it as an argument to courage and resolution in time of danger or persecution. Stedfastly adhere to the doctrine of the Trinity, in whose name you are baptized; be not ashamed of Christ or his truths, seeing his name is called upon you, and you solemnly owned him before the whole congregation. "He that is ashamed of me (saith Christ) and of my words, in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels," Mark viii. 38. Dionysia, encouraged Majoricus her son, an African martyr, when he was going to die, with these words, "Remember, son, that thou was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
Lastly, Do not trust to your baptism, and your having the name of Christ called upon you: an empty name and profession of Christianity will not save you; Simon Magus was baptized, and yet perished: many go with baptismal water on their faces, and sacramental bread in their mouths to hell at last. Kings have both their common and privy seals. Rest not in the outward seal, but seek the inward seal of God's Spirit, changing your natures, and applying the blood of Christ for cleansing your souls.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Remember Your Baptism
John Willison, A Sacramental Catechism, pp. 56-59: