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) 1968 Translated from the Holland and printed by the Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America Contents 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 Beloved, 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 itself? 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 covenant. 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-- II 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. III 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 baptized? 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 come!" 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 .