Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Volume 2

The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons

Rev. G. H. Kersten, Late Minister of the Netherlands Reformed
Congregation, Rotterdam, Holland

Volume II
(Lord's Day 27-52)


Translated from the Holland and printed by the Netherlands Reformed
Congregations in America


    Lord's Day

    27 - The Essential Value of Baptism
    28 - The Communion of Faith With Christ
    29 - The Spiritual Nourishment of God's Children in the Lord's Supper
    30 - The Proper Use of the Lord's Supper
    31 - Of the Keys of the Kingdom
    32 - The Necessity of God Works
    33 - True Conversion
    34 - The Law of God
    35 - Of Divine Worship According to God's Word
    36 - The Hallowing of the Lord's Name
    37 - Swearing An Oath Religiously
    38 - Keeping the Lord's Day Holy
    39 - The Required Obedience to the Authorities God Has Set Over Us
    40 - God's Watch Over the Life of Man
    41 - The Sanctity of Marriage
    42 - Of Property
    43 - Bearing False Witness Forbidden
    44 - The Fountain of Sin Discovered
    45 - Of Prayer
    46 - Of the Address of Prayer
    47 - Hallowing God's Name
    48 - The Coming of the Kingdom of Heaven
    49 - The Petition That God's Will Be Done
    50 - The Petition for the Provision of Temporal Needs
    51 - A Supplication for Remission of Sins
    52 - The Petition for the Lord's Protection


The Essential Value of Baptism

Lord's Day 27

Psalter No. 206 st. 3
Read I Cor. 7:1-17
Psalter No. 125 st. 1, 2, 6, 7
Psalter No. 425 st. 4, 5
Psalter No. 48 st. 8


    Of all the kings who reigned over the Ten Tribes of Israel, there
was not one who feared the Lord. Immediately after their revolt, the
tribe of Ephraim withdrew from the true worship of Jehovah. Their first
king, Jeroboam, anointed by Ahijah upon the command of the Lord, drew
the people away from Jerusalem's temple service. He feared that if
Israel would go to Jerusalem three times a year according to God's
command to celebrate the great feast days, the kingdom would revert to
the House of David. To prevent this, Jeroboam introduced the worship of
the golden calves, transgressing the second commandment, which soon led
to total idolatry. Thus he not only led his royal house to a speedy
end, but the whole kingdom was led to ruin.
    It is not a matter of indifference how the Lord is to be
worshipped. He alone is God, and He will not tolerate any gods beside
Himself. He has prescribed in His law the manner in which His service
was to be conducted. In the Ceremonial Laws He directed Israel to
Himself, in Whom alone is righteousness and holiness for a lost sinner,
and if the eyes of the people were opened, by faith they embraced Jesus
Christ and His blood for reconciliation and remission of all their
sins. Jeroboam's calves at Dan and Bethel did not speak of this Blood.
As the idolatrous calf-worship of Jeroboam did not reveal redemption in
Christ, no more does the self appointed and idolatrous worship of the
Church of Rome. She appropriates to herself the grace which is in
Christ, and confers this upon the laity through her priests by means of
the sacrament of baptism. Thus the external water would wash away the
sins committed before baptism. The Catechism clearly rejects this
erroneous doctrine as being in opposition to God's Word and the nature
of the Sacrament. Instead it maintains the true meaning of baptism and
vindicates its position regarding the administration of baptism to
infants, which is opposed by the Anabaptists, as appears in Lord's Day
27, to which we now wish to devote our attention in the consideration
of the following questions and answers:

    Lord's Day 27

Q. 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin

A. Not at all; for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost
    cleanse us from all sin.

Q. 73. Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism "the washing of
    regeneration," and "the washing away of sins?"

A. God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to
    teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water,
    so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ;
    but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure
    us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as
    we are externally washed with water.

Q. 74. Are infants also to be baptized?

A. Yes; for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the
    covenant and church of God; and since redemption from sin by the
    blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is
    promised to them no less than to the adult; they must therefore by
    baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the
    Christian church; and be distinguished from the children of
    unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by
    circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted in the new
    Whereas Lord's Day 26 laid the foundation concerning the sealing
power of Baptism for God's elect for the remission and cleansing of
their sins, this Lord's Day explains the essential value of baptism
under the following considerations:
      I. That it is only represented by water;
     II. That it is exhibited in the thing signified;
    III. That it calls for the baptism of infants.
    Lord's Day 26 taught us that in baptism there are two benefits
derived from the sacrifice of Christ which are bestowed, signified, and
sealed to true believers, viz., justification and sanctification. The
external water baptism seals these benefits to God's people. In baptism
God binds Himself as with an oath to those purchased by Christ's blood
and regenerated through the Holy Spirit, to grant complete recovery
from the depths of destruction into which they have sunk in Adam's fall
and to which they are subject in God's righteous judgment. This
complete recovery lies only in the reconciliation of the guilt, and the
purification from the pollution of sin.
    It is in no way possible for us to pay the penalty for our guilt,
nor can we purify ourselves from the pollution of sin. Can the
Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also
do good that are accustomed to do evil. Through human effort alone,
restoration into the state of grace is impossible. "For though thou
wash thee with water, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is
marked before me, saith the Lord God." That which is impossible with
man Christ has obtained and God, the Holy Spirit grants the same to His
own, namely, an atoning righteousness and sanctifying holiness.
    Now in Lord's Day 27, we come to consider the essential value of
baptism to find that it is merely represented by water. Let us beware
of an erroneous interpretation, in conflict with the testimony of the
Holy Spirit, of those portions of Scripture where baptism is called
"the washing of regeneration" and the "cleansing from sin", as is
brought out in the last question of Lord's Day 26. Although Scripture
in these places speaks of baptism, yet here it does not pertain to
external baptism as such. The instructor calls our attention to this by
asking: "Is then the external baptism the washing away of sin itself?"
The answer is an absolute negative: "No, because only the blood of
Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us of all sin." Rome teaches
that by the sign in the ministration of baptism sin is remitted. She
ascribes to the sign of baptism such efficacy as though by external
baptism, sanctifying grace is conferred upon all who receive this sign,
even though they do not believe. Alas! Luther himself was not
completely purged of Rome's overestimation of baptism. Although, in
Luther's opinion, grace was not conferred through the sign of baptism,
he joins it to the sacrament and views the external water baptism as a
conveyance of grace. Our instructor opposes both the Church of Rome and
the Lutheran interpretation of this sacrament. God's Word is unjustly
used to affirm their overestimation of this doctrine. We read in Acts
2:38: "baptized... for the remission of sins"; also in Acts 22:16 "...
be baptized and wash away thy sins"; also in I Peter 3:20 (b): "while
the ark was a preparing wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by
water. The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us;"
and Paul writes in Titus 3:5: "Not by works of righteousness which we
have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of
regeneration"; yet in not one of these places is the external water
baptism said to have the efficacy to wash away sin.
    On the contrary, Scripture speaks here of the thing signified in
baptism, and the thing signified is twofold: the blood and spirit of
Christ. These are the washing of regeneration and by these alone sins
are washed away. In Titus 3 the Apostle adds to the aforementioned
words: "... and renewing of the Holy Spirit which He shed on us
abundantly by Jesus Christ our Savior", and as he clearly speaks in I
Corinthians 6:11: "but ye are washed (not by external water of baptism)
but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord
Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." The sign of circumcision was to
Abraham a seal of the righteousness of faith which was imputed to him
as the token of the covenant was in the foreskin. Likewise to the true
believer, baptism is a seal of justification and sanctification which
he became partaker of, only through the Holy Spirit by virtue of
Christ's self sacrifice; objectively, because the elect are
comprehended in the Covenant of Grace from eternity, and subjectively
by the application of the Holy Spirit. God's grace does not always
accompany the external administration of the Sacrament. Some baptized
persons have perished, such as Judas, Simon the Sorcerer, Ananias,
Sapphira and many others who had received the sign of baptism, yet they
were ruined by their careless and godless lives. "For he is not a Jew
which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward
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." Those who
place their confidence in external baptism, as their ground of hope for
heaven, will be eternally confounded. We must be washed in the blood of
Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. "And the blood of
Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." (I John 1:7).
Everything else falls short of this; yet that blood is sufficient: "How
much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit
offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead
works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:4).
    In spite of the insufficiency of external water baptism to cleanse
us from our sins, we may not underestimate it. Baptism is more than an
external ceremony; it is more than a mark of distinction which
externally distinguishes Christians from unbelievers. Socinians,
Zwinglians and Remonstrants may think differently, but God's Word
teaches us that baptism is not only a sign but also a seal. "Therefore
the signs are not in vain or insignificant, so as to deceive us. For
Jesus Christ is the true object presented in them, without Whom they
would be of no moment." (Article 33, Confession of Faith). Though
heaven is barred for many who have been baptized, nevertheless baptism
is a Sacrament which teaches and seals the washing away of sins; and is
in its signification the baptism of regeneration; in its truest sense,
it is the washing away of sin.
    Baptism must also be administered according to the institutions of
Christ; in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,
and only by those who are authorized to officiate at this service in
the Church. In the previous Lord's Day we pointed out and now repeat
with emphasis, that neither a physician, nor a midwife, nor anyone
outside of the constituted office of the Church, is permitted to
administer the Sacrament of Baptism. Should this take place, the name
of the Lord is profaned and the administrator denies his own confession
through folly and lack of principle. The Church could not recognize the
baptism-of-extremity instituted by the Church of Rome and rejected the
thesis that baptism is necessary for salvation; yet the church
maintained that baptism is essential by virtue of Christ's command. We
repeat once again: Baptism does not confer grace. The Eunuch and
Cornelius believed before they were baptized. The water of baptism can
no more wash away sins than the blood of bulls and goats of the Old
Testament covenant could purify the conscience from all dead works.
Though external water baptism does not take away sin, yet baptism is of
great significance. Let us consider this in the second place as we
learn from our instructor--
    that the essential value of baptism is exhibited in the thing
signified. In Question 73, the Catechism enters more deeply into this
matter. There it reads: "Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism 'The
washing of regeneration', and 'the washing away of sins'?" Why is this
question asked if the external sign of water baptism does not actually
wash away sin? Must there not be peculiar reasons why the Lord places
such great emphasis upon this in His Holy Word? There are indeed,
peculiar, specific reasons. "God speaks thus not without great cause."
We should devote our entire attention to it and meditate on it. For
many who esteem baptism too lightly, this word of the instructor should
serve as an admonition. We are so easily taken in by extremes. We
remain far off from the exaggeration of the Church of Rome, because
Scripture constrains us to. Yet we so easily fall into another extreme,
viz., that of using baptism out of custom, not discerning its
significance and efficacy, but underestimating them. The instructor now
opposes the undervaluing of this God-given sign and seal, which often
results in a lukewarm use thereof. God calls baptism the washing of
regeneration and the washing away of sins (viz., baptism in its truest
meaning) not "without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach
us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins
are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially
that by this divine pledge and sign He may assure us, that we are
spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are externally
washed with water."
    The reason God calls baptism "the washing of regeneration" is not
because baptism can regenerate us or that external water can wash away
our sins; but that God, thereby, would have it serve as a lesson to
teach and assure us. Both the teaching and the assurance agree with the
sign given in baptism. As water cleanses in taking away the impurities
of our bodies, likewise sin is removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus
Christ. Thus through the water of baptism we are directed to the blood
and Spirit of Christ. Oh, what an indispensable lesson! How we do seek
salvation apart from Christ! By nature we do not know Him nor do we
wish to know Him. We are filled with enmity toward God and His
Anointed. Even though God may have overpowered our heart, we still seek
peace and rest for our guilt-stricken soul outside of Christ; yes, even
though we may have found rest in God through faith, we can all too
often do without Christ and continue to rely on our conversion and
comfort ourselves with our justification. This proceeds from our
blindness. Therefore it is necessary to continue to grow in the
knowledge of Christ. Though the lesson taught in baptism is so
necessary for us, it is nevertheless precious. What could be of more
comfort to our soul? What would enliven our hope more, than the
manifestation of complete remission of sin by Christ? Every avenue of
healing for our broken hearts is closed; yet in this soul saving lesson
given in baptism, the only way of deliverance from sin is revealed.
This lesson will make us treasure Christ above all else and drive us to
the Fountain which is opened in His Blood. As a result it causes us to
realize that we cannot live apart from Christ because--
        Apart from Jesus there is no life,
        But eternal destruction of soul.
    There is still more. Baptism is not merely a sign. God will also
assure that we are spiritually washed from our sins. This is the
precious benefit that gives rest to the soul. There are many who lack
this assurance, although not entirely, for faith is followed by
assurance. When God's children are privileged by faith to flee to
Christ, sin and guilt fall away and the efficacy of Christ's blood is
impressed upon the soul, causing the most concerned of God's people to
enjoy at times a peace which the world knows not of. But the strivings
of unbelief and the buffeting of Satan which follow have the upper hand
so often, that assurance gives place to doubt and God's people are
vexed with a thousand fears and woes. If the eye of faith is permitted
to see that which God has assured in baptism, how much more desirous
would we become for the assurance of the Holy Spirit, Who delivers us
from these doubts and subdues the power of these assaults.
    What formal Christians we are most of the time. The Sacrament of
Baptism is administered repeatedly from year to year. How are we
disposed under the administration thereof? Do our hearts go out to the
Blood and Spirit of Christ? We, ministers of the Gospel, address the
congregation at baptismal services. Do these addresses point to Christ
and to the benefits bestowed by God in baptism to teach and assure
God's people? Do they offer comfort to the disconsolate, that they have
a portion in Christ and His righteousness which the Lord has sealed to
them in baptism? If so, then faith would surely be more active and this
sacrament would be more highly esteemed. Every baptismal service
involves the whole congregation, not the individual parents only who
present their children to be baptized. In baptism the Lord gives His
people a pledge or guarantee of His faithfulness and abiding Covenant.
Moreover, He proclaims with divine power to every unconverted person
the salvation which is in Christ for condemned sinners and the dreadful
destruction that awaits those who harden themselves in their sins and
unbelief, whether they are young or old. Let us bear this in mind as we
follow the instructor in his explanation that the value of baptism also
includes, and therefore calls for the baptism of infants. This forms
our third point of consideration.
    As we follow the explanation given in the Catechism, we find the
answers to the following three questions:
    a. Shall infants be baptized?
    b. On what basis are they to be baptized?
    c. Which children shall be baptized?
    (a) The Catechism affirms the baptism of infants with a decided
"yes". This question is directed at the opponents of infant baptism,
viz., Anabaptists, Baptists, and many Darbyites, along with several
other sects in our days. These opponents of infant baptism support
their objections by stating that there is no exact command given in the
Bible to baptize infants. The argument can be offered regarding the
observance of Sunday instead of the Sabbath. Such arguments reveal
gross ignorance of God's Word. Is the Bible a kind of law book which
contains specific laws for the explanation and disposition of any and
all questions that arise, enabling one to conclude that if something is
not specifically commanded it is to be rejected? God's Word is not that
kind of reference book, and it manifests great superficiality when one
expects to find a specific text for every doctrine.
    Moreover, the sacrament of circumcision had always been
administered to young children; therefore no new statute was necessary
for the administration of baptism under the New Covenant because,
according to Colossians 2:11, 12 baptism came in the place of
circumcision. In fact, the administration of baptism is more inclusive
than that of circumcision, because the female generation is included in
baptism, not in circumcision. Think only of Lydia in Acts 16:15. May
infants then be deprived of this benefit? But the Anabaptists object by
saying that it is written, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved." Faith, then, precedes baptism! The Ethiopian was baptized
following his profession of faith, consequently infant baptism is not
permissible since infants are not able to make a profession of faith.
Therefore the rule is: First believe, then be baptized. This erroneous
conclusion is reached by not reading the Word of God relatively.
    On the mission field the circumstances are naturally different from
those in an established congregation and a different rule must be
followed. What procedure is followed then in missionary work? Does the
missionary begin immediately among the heathens by baptizing infants?
Indeed not! First he comes in contact with the adults and instructs
them in the Word. Then, when the parents are brought to the faith and
become disciples (as is revealed in Matthew 28:19), both the parents
and children are baptized. Only the children of the congregation
receive the Sacrament. The Form For The Administration of Baptism
refers quite properly to the blessing of children. Some of the young
children who were brought to Jesus were infants who had to be carried.
When the disciples tried to restrain these infants from approaching
Christ, He was greatly displeased and said, "for of such is the Kingdom
of Heaven." They were children of Israel, children of the people of the
Covenant, which the natural seed of Jacob were and which (as we shall
observe later) the children of the congregation are now. However, only
the elect who are regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit are
actually incorporated in the Covenant.
    Since children are heirs of the Kingdom, may the sign and seal of
the Covenant be withheld from them? Obviously not. Therefore the
aforementioned sects do not understand the covenant when they conclude
that the Administration of Baptism may be administered only upon
personal profession of faith. This is contrary to Scripture. Could the
Apostles have baptized the Jailer and Lydia and all their House on the
basis of personal faith? They could do so only by virtue of the
covenant as was done in the Old Testament by Circumcision, to which the
instructor also refers. The Lord expressly commanded that circumcision
be performed on the eighth day, even upon threat of death (Gen. 17),
and circumcision was "the communication of the sacrament of the
suffering and death of Christ", as Baptism is in the New Covenant. Can
anyone then, who is guided by Scripture, refrain from having his child
    Although the appointment of the eighth day was ceremonial and the
Ceremonial Laws were abolished, nevertheless our church fathers grasped
its meaning when they taught that baptism should be administered to our
children as soon as possible.
    Now let the opponents of infant baptism prove that this baptism is
unlawful! What text can they produce as proof? Being spiritually
ignorant, they are blind to the doctrine of the Covenant in which we
and our children (although only in an external relationship) are
comprehended. This was true also in ancient time of Abraham and his
seed who were included in the Covenant, even though all of Abraham's
children did not possess grace or share in the benefits of the
Covenant. Yet they were circumcised because it was mandatory.
Therefore, our children must also be baptized, since baptism has come
in the place of circumcision. Does not Paul teach in the Epistle to the
Colossians, that the significance of baptism is the same as that of
circumcision? In Chapter 2 he testifies that the believers at Colosse
were circumcised in Christ, "with the circumcision made without hands
in putting off the body of sin of the flesh by the circumcision of
Christ," and this circumcision was not performed with the knife of
Moses, but through baptism; because there follows in verse 12: "Buried
with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the
faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead." Thus,
circumcision and baptism are the same in significance, baptism having
taken the place of circumcision. Therefore baptism must be administered
to children.
    The answer to our second question: (b) "On what basis are they to
be baptized?" is given by the Catechism in these words: "For since
they, as well as the adults are included in the Covenant and church of
God, and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ and the Holy
Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the
adult." God's Covenant and promise form the basis for infant baptism.
In other words, we stand upon an objective foundation and we are safe
in doing so. We do not wish to exchange it for any subjective
foundation, for example, whether the parents or the infants are
regenerated or not regenerated, because this consideration in no way
alters the requirement that the children of the church are to be
baptized. On the other hand, to make presumptive regeneration the basis
for infant baptism not only denies the doctrine of our fathers, but
deceives souls for eternity.
    The manner in which we have proposed to explain the Catechism at
this time does not permit a full discussion of this point of dispute. A
few remarks will be sufficient. Dr. A. Kuyper writes in his book (E.
Voto Vol. II): that the church "is to presume that the newly-born are
already regenerated," and that the church "must baptize them on this
ground." Therefore, baptized children must be urged to come to
repentance. This doctrine of presumptive regeneration caused such great
controversy in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands that it
resulted in schism. Is it a wonder? Consider for a moment this opinion
of Dr. A. Kuyper, Jr.--"It must be presumed that Paul was regenerated
while he was a blasphemer and a persecutor of the church." How dare
anyone write such things. The controversy which took place at that time
should open our eyes for the dreadful consequences of such a doctrine.
You must presume that your newborn child is regenerated and on that
basis you have the liberty to have it baptized. Upon this presumption
you bring it up and it grows up believing itself to be regenerated and
an object of God's grace. Even though it serves the world, lives a life
of sin, hates God's people and persecutes those who name the name of
Jesus, the grown child must not relinquish this presumption. Even
though he died without any visible evidence of bearing fruit worthy of
repentance, one must not be too critical in judgment but maintain this
presumption, because "who knows what work God performed in the last
hour of life?" Such a doctrine is delusive and blindfolds for hell. We
and our children are dead in trespasses and sins and we bear fruit unto
death. Scripture makes no allowance for presumption, but it excludes
all who live in sin. "Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves
with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers,
nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God." All false security
is excluded.
    Cast away therefore all your presumption and seek the true
conversion, namely: regeneration by God which bears fruit worthy of
faith and repentance. You cannot enter eternity with a presumption.
Even though the whole world presumes your regeneration, what would it
profit you as long as you have an uncircumcised heart? Though some may
speak of the "seed of regeneration" or of "grace in the root" or of
some other expression which is contrived to make you believe that from
your birth on some ground of salvation can be found in you, how will
you be able to meet God if you do not partake of Christ and His
righteousness through faith? Let us with firm determination reject all
notions of presumptive regeneration at infant baptism. Our Reformed
Church Fathers never made this doctrine the foundation for infant
baptism. Calvin rejected presumptive regeneration when writing to
Bullinger, he stated, "in this respect baptism is more of a symbol for
future grace than of present grace." Beza, the disciple and successor
of Calvin believed "that it would be extremely bold for one to deny
that the elect, who have come to years of discretion, are first
regenerated when they are endowed with saving faith which comes by
hearing." Other theologians were of the same opinion. Rev. Brakel
wrote, "not the regeneration already wrought in the elect, but the
right of the elect to future grace is sealed in baptism." With good
reason Rev. Appelius wrote, "to argue that a person must be regenerated
before he is baptized is nothing more than inexcusable ignorance or
open departure from the doctrine of our Church." Rev. Smytegeldt, Rev.
Vender Kemp and Justus Vermeer were of the same opinion. In particular,
read Comrie's Catechism and also Comrie's Examination of Tolerance,
wherein he clearly explains the doctrine and significance of baptism as
a seal of God's promises to His elect which He fulfills in His own
time. Not the grace which is already wrought in the soul, but the grace
which the elect objectively possess in Christ and which God applies in
His own time, is sealed in baptism. Let the congregation and the youth
be reminded repeatedly of the necessity of regeneration and let each
sermon stress the need for conscientious self-examination, so that with
an imaginary heaven we do not plunge into eternal perdition like the
"almost Christian" who is cast out.
    As a ground for infant baptism, the Catechism speaks of God's
covenant and church in which both adults and young children are
included. This is according to the Holy Scripture. The Lord does not
only speak in Genesis 17:7 of establishing the Covenant "between me and
thee", but also "and thy seed after thee." When Moses before his
departure, reminded the God of Israel once again of the bond of the
Covenant which was established by God Himself, he refers especially to
the children, even to the generations not yet born, as those "who are
not now present with us." Children are also included in the Covenant
and in the church. Upon this objective ground, infant baptism rests.
God has His elect also among children who die in infancy, because the
elect only are assuredly included in the Covenant of God and in His
church, which has been purchased with the blood of Christ. Children
will also rejoice before the Throne of God. Not all adults are saved,
nor all children who die in infancy. But some of the latter will surely
be saved. This was evident in the child of Jeroboam, "because in him
there was found some good thing toward the Lord", as was also evident
in the child of David. Must we conclude then that only elect children
may be baptized? This leads to our final point of consideration,
namely, to answer the question: (c) "Which children shall be baptized?"
    It is impossible to limit baptism to the elect. The only reason
being that it is unknown to us who are elect and who are reprobate. As
the natural generation of Abraham had to be circumcised because it
stood in an external relationship to the Covenant of Grace and formed
the visible congregation of Israel, so must all children be baptized
who are members of the visible church, and they only. No children of
unbelievers, Mohammedans, or Jews may be baptized, because they do not
stand in any relation to the Covenant and the church. When Paul
summarizes the privileges of the Jews and the benefits of circumcision
in his epistle to the Corinthians, he says: "... all our fathers were
under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized
unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same
spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they
drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was
Christ." All were included in an external relationship to the Covenant
and all were included in the number of the visible congregation of the
Lord, from which the heathen were excluded. Yet - Oh, listen with awe!
- "But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were
overthrown in the wilderness." Natural Israel fell away. It has brought
down upon itself the judgment of Christ's blood, but in its place has
come the visible church of the New Testament in which we and our
children are comprehended. For this reason our children have a right to
baptism. Nevertheless, we are and remain eternally lost, unless we are
born again and implanted in the Covenant; unless we are subjectively
sanctified in Christ through fellowship with him by faith. Children
must indeed be baptized, but only those children who are externally
related to the Covenant and the visible church. However, only God's
elect are truly sanctified in Christ - in his crucifixion, resurrection
and ascension. In God's time all of them shall obtain salvation in
Christ. This God assures us in baptism; but not that each individual
child which dies in infancy will go to heaven. This was not the intent
of the church fathers of Dort in their struggle against the
Remonstrants when they wrote in the Canons, Art 17: "that godly parents
have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their
children, whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their
infancy." They wrote this to defend themselves against the slander of
the Armenians who accused them of condemning all infants, because they
taught election based on eternal sovereignty, not an election founded
on foreseen faith and good works.
    The Reformed Church Fathers rejected this accusation, confessing
instead that not each individual child who dies in infancy is saved;
but that God saves all His elect, including elect children who die in
infancy. It is not true, therefore, that each child which is taken into
the church is elected in his parents and at a later date may fall out
of the Covenant. Election, as Rev. Comrie has so clearly expressed it,
"does not take place in the parents but in Christ as the representative
head of the elect in the Covenant of grace, out of which they can never
fall, because the Covenant is fixed and immovable in the death of the
Testator and baptism is a sign and seal of it." God shall, in His own
time, gather in those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of
Life. The Lord gave us a pledge and seal thereof in baptism, that the
in gathering of those who shall be saved will not cease until the last
one has been redeemed. God's promise shall not come short of
fulfillment. Let us sing about this from Psalter 425:5.
         Jehovah's truth will stand forever,
         His covenant-bonds He will not sever;
         The word of grace which He commands
         To thousand generations stands;
         The covenant made in days of old
         With Abraham He does uphold.
    Beloved, with strong convictions of truth and with your whole soul,
reject not only the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran overestimation of
the Sacrament of Baptism, but also the teaching of a presumptive
regeneration, even though Dr. Kuyper renounced from the Reformed faith,
all those who did not accept his doctrine. Abide by the teaching of
Scripture, which tells us that baptism is a seal of the salvation of
God's elect in Christ. It is an assurance that the Holy Spirit will
apply to them which they have in Him (and who are they other than those
given to Christ by the Father). In Him they have this salvation
already; they are set down with Him in heavenly places; but the Spirit
must apply the benefits which the elect possess in Christ. Are you
acquainted with this application? Have you ever pondered the meaning of
baptism? Or do you live on without any serious consideration of the
eternal welfare of yourself and your children? Some day the Lord will
require an accounting at His Tribunal. Even though we stand in an
external relationship to the covenant shall not our souls give heed to
the things which pertain to our peace? Oh, parents, with what reproach
will we be confronted if we allow our children freedom in the ways of
sin? God spoke once to His forgetful, idolatrous people, who were
serving Moloch, "You have slain my children and have sacrificed them
when you made them to pass through the fire." What a tremendous
responsibility we have to our children! Do you speak to them regarding
these truths in the days of their childhood and youth? Do you with
tender affection remind them of those things which pertain to their
eternal welfare? Or is there no more time left for your most precious
earthly possession?
    Children, let me remind you that you bear the seal of baptism on
your foreheads and are remembered in the prayers of God's servants.
Perhaps you have God-fearing parents who remember you at night in their
prayers to God. Probably some of you have parents who already rejoice
before the Throne. How dreadful to think that some day they may help in
your damnation. Grace is not an inherited blessing. You are not in the
covenant of grace by virtue of your parents. We are born in a broken
covenant of works and therefore are subject to condemnation, even
though we live under the external administration of the covenant of
grace. Do not rely upon this external relationship to the Covenant. You
will be disappointed in the end. May the Lord awaken us before He
appears "whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His
floor." Then baptism will burn upon your soul and be a seal to your
condemnation. Redeem the time while it is yet today, before it is too
late. You are yet in the day of Grace and God is still willing to
convert sinners. This is the message of baptism. May you receive a
place among them.
    May baptism as a divinely instituted sign and seal have greater
meaning for God's children. Are there not some among them who neglect
the baptism of their children and allow them to grow up as heathens? Is
it because they understand nothing of the command and ordinance of
Christ? For themselves baptism is not only a sign, but also a seal.
Through baptism they receive the assurance that the Lord remembers His
covenant forever. What indeed would become of the Church if the Lord
did not remain faithful? Many of God's dear saints have gone before us.
Their warfare is accomplished; but where are the new recruits? How
seldom is a true conversion heard of in these dark days? Although the
Lord continues to gather in His elect, how many there are who seemingly
come no further than their nativity. What a sad picture is presented by
the Church of God in her visible state. She is scattered as bones at
the grave's mouth. The direct testimony of man's state of depravity and
of God's sovereign grace is too hard a doctrine for many; something new
is sought. Knowledge of the truth steadily diminishes. The rising
generation shows very little interest for the pure truth, and still
less respect for God's people. We have known better times. Where does
the fault lie? With us. Judgment must begin at the House of God. The
declension of God's people has a paralyzing effect upon our posterity.
Should not this touch our heart? Again the Lord wishes to assure us in
baptism that He will continue to maintain His Church. The
administration of baptism has a message for God's people. May the
burden of it drive them to the Lord with this prayer, "Thy Kingdom
    May the Lord preserve His Church here and throughout the world. May
He spread His wings over our children who are constantly exposed to
great temptations. May His protecting care be over those especially,
who have been called into military service both at home and abroad. Let
prayers ascend to the Throne of Grace on their behalf, since out of
their numbers God's Church is to be built and future office bearers are
to come. The Lord has promised it and sealed it in baptism that He will
remember His Covenant and gather in His elect. Oh, that they might
"spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses." The
Lord grant those whom He has drawn from darkness to His marvelous
light, the privilege of obtaining the assurance of their life in Christ
for the comfort of their souls, and may they continually receive from
the fountain of blessing the cleansing of their sin. This will enable
them as poor and needy, to live in communion with Him and to enjoy the
benefits of the signs and seals of baptism, whereby it will become
evident that they seek another country, being dead unto sin but alive
unto God. Amen.
        The Lord's unfailing righteousness
        All generations shall confess,
        From age to age shall men be taught
        What wondrous works the Lord has wrought.
                        Psalter 48:8

Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2
(continued in part 2...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc2-01.txt