THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 95. To whom is baptism to be administered?

ANSWER: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him: but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptised.


Q. 1. Who may administer the sacrament of baptism?

A. Neither of the two sacraments "may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the word, lawfully ordained.[145]

Q. 2. How do you prove, that ordination by presbyters is lawful and valid, without a diocesan bishop?

A. From express scripture testimony, asserting the validity of ordination to the ministry, by "the laying on of the hands of the PRESBYTERY ," 1 Tim. 4:14.

Q. 3. Why should ministers lawfully ordained, and no other persons whatsoever, dispense the sacraments of the New Testament?

A. Because they only are the "stewards of the mysteries of God," 1 Cor. 4:1; and have the sole commission and authority from Christ to preach and baptise, Matt. 28:19 -- "Go ye, therefore, and TEACH all nations, BAPTISING them," &c.

Q. 4. Is public prayer requisite before the administration of baptism?

A. It is evident, that our Lord, at the first institution of the supper, and his apostles, afterwards, according to his example, prayed for the divine blessing to attend the dispensation of that solemn ordinance, 1 Cor. 11:24; and therefore, by parity of reasoning, ministers ought to pray, and the people to join in it, for the same blessing upon the administration of the sacrament of baptism.

Q. 5. Ought not teaching, or preaching of the word, to go before baptism?

A. Yes; because our Lord has joined them together, Matt. 28:19 -- "Go ye, therefore, and TEACH all nations, BAPTISING them," &c. And accordingly it was the uniform practice of the apostles to preach when they baptised, Acts 2:38-41; 8:35, 38, and 16:32, 33.

Q. 6. Is naming of children necessary at baptism?

A. No; baptism dispensed by sprinkling of water, together with the words of institution, is every way valid and complete, though the person baptised is not named at all.

Q. 7. But was not the naming of children, at circumcision, an ancient practice among the Jews? Luke 1:59.

A. It was so; and the names of children may be published at baptism still, provided it is not looked upon as essential to that solemn ordinance; for it is the parent, and not the minister, who gives the name.

Q. 8. May baptism be administered in private?

A. It is more agreeable to the nature of this ordinance, when the Lord gives his people peace and opportunity for their public assemblies, that it be administered wherever the congregation is orderly called together, to wait on the dispensing of the word, Acts 2:41.[146]

Q. 9. What if the child should be removed by death, before such a regular opportunity can be had?

A. Then the parents may comfort themselves in this, that they were neither guilty of an unnecessary delay, nor of contemning the ordinance; and that, in these circumstances, the want of it cannot harm the child, 2 Sam. 12:18, 23.

Q. 10. With what frame and disposition of mind ought this sacrament to be dispensed and witnessed?

A. With a firm persuasion that it is an ordinance of God; with a filial and reverential fear of him on our spirits; and with gratitude and thankfulness for the inestimable benefits that are signified and sealed in it.

Q. 11. How often is baptism to be administered to any person?

A. But once only, Acts 19:4, 5.

Q. 12. Why but once only?

A. Because when our ingrafting into Christ (which is the comprehensive benefit signified and sealed in baptism) once takes place, it is never repeated, but remains firm and inviolable for ever, John 17:23.

Q. 13. To whom is baptism not to be administered?

A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church.

Q. 14. Whom do you understand by those that are out of the visible church?

A. All infidels, or such as are Jews, or Heathens, and their children.

Q. 15. Why may not these be baptised?

A. Because being strangers from the covenant of promise, they can have no right to the seals of it, Eph. 2:12.

Q. 16. May infidels in no event be baptised?

A. Yes, they may, so soon as they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him.

Q. 17. What is it to profess faith in Christ?

A. It is to profess a belief of the whole doctrines of the Christian religion, Acts 8:37.

Q. 18. What is it to profess obedience to him?

A. It is to yield an external subjection to all the ordinances and institutions of Christ, Acts 2:46.

Q. 19. Whom does such a profession respect?

A. It respects only the adult, or such as are grown up to ripeness of age.

Q. 20. Have not INFANTS (who can make no such profession) a right to baptism?

A. Yes; the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptised.

Q. 21. Who are the members of the visible church?

A. They "are all such as profess the true religion, and their children."[147]

Q. 22. What are we to understand by the true religion?

A. We are to understand by it the whole of those doctrines deduced from the holy scriptures, which are contained in our Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, as agreeing, in the main, with the Confessions of other reformed churches, 2 Tim. 1:13 -- "Hold fast the form of sound words."

Q. 23. What is it to profess the true religion?

A. It is openly to acknowledge, on all proper occasions, a steadfast adherence to the whole of divine truth; without espousing or countenancing any opposite error, Psalm 119:105. Rom. 10:10.

Q. 24. Is a bare profession of the true religion sufficient?

A. No; for "faith without works is dead." James 2:26.

Q. 25. Upon what ground have the infants of such as are members of the visible church a right to baptism?

A. Upon the ground of the grace and goodness of God in the promise, including them in the same covenant with their parents; as in the promise made to Abraham, Gen. 17:7 -- "I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee -- to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."

Q. 26. But what if this promise of including the seed in the same covenant with the parents have a respect only to the natural offspring of Abraham, and to none else?

A. The apostle Peter plainly affirms, that it is a promise of the covenant of grace, extending to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; and, at the same time, that it is the foundation of church-membership, and consequently, of baptism, when he says, Acts 2:38, 39, "Repent, and be baptised, every one of you; -- for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

Q. 27. How does it appear from the text, that the promise of assuming the children into the same covenant with their parents, extends to the Gentile nations?

A. Because the apostle says, that the promise is unto "all that are AFAR OFF, even as many as the Lord our God shall call;" namely, by the external call or the word, which is appointed to be published "to every creature," Mark 16:15.

Q. 28. How does it appear, that this promise is the foundation of church-membership, and consequently of baptism?

A. It appears from this, that the apostle enforces his exhortation to repent, and be baptised, upon the adult persons to whom he is speaking, from this powerful and encouraging motive, that then their children should have a right and title to the privileges of the same covenant of promise, and the seal of which they themselves were to receive in their baptism; "Repent," says he, "and be baptised; for the promise is unto you and to your children."

Q. 29. To what promise does the apostle here point?

A. He points at the promise made to Abraham, Gen. 17:7 -- "I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."

Q. 30. What seal was annexed to this promise, or promulgation of the covenant of grace, made to Abraham?

A. The seal of circumcision, ver. 10 -- "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you; -- Every man-child among you shall be circumcised." And ver. 12 -- "He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you."

Q. 31. What connexion is there between circumcising the seed of Abraham on the eighth day, under the Old Testament, and baptising the children of professing parents under the New?

A. The connexion is, that though circumcision and baptism be different signs, yet they are both of them seals of the same covenant of grace; and since the infant-seed of Abraham received the seal of circumcision under the Old Testament, by parity of reason, the infant children of professing parents should receive the seal of baptism under the New; especially as baptism is now come in the room of circumcision.

Q. 32. How do you prove, from scripture, that baptism is come in the room of circumcision?

A. From Col. 2:10-12 -- "Ye are complete in him -- in whom, also, ye are circumcised with the circumcision made WITHOUT hands -- buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him."

Q. 33. How does it appear, from this text, that baptism is now come in the room of circumcision?

A. From the plain and obvious scope of it, which is to show, that there is no need now of that circumcision which was outward in the flesh, as we have all the blessed fruits and effects of Christ's death and resurrection more clearly, and, at the same time, more extensively, represented and sealed in baptism; which is dispensed equally to both sexes.

Q. 34. What would be the consequence, if the infants of professing parents, under the New Testament, were not admitted to the initiating seal of the covenant, as well as the infants of the Jews under the Old?

A. The consequence would be, that the privileges of the New Testament church would be more abridged and lessened, than those of the Old, whereas they are rather increased and enlarged, Isa. 54:2, 3.

Q. 35. How can infants be baptised, when they are incapable of making a profession of their faith, which seems to be required in order to baptism? Acts 8:37.

A. An explicit or formal profession of faith, is required only of them that are adult, or come to age, when they are to be baptised: but not of infants now, any more than when they were circumcised of old, on the eighth day after their birth.

Q. 36. Are infants capable of the blessings signified and sealed in baptism?

A. Undoubtedly they are; for some of them have been filled with the Holy Ghost even from their mother's womb, Luke 1:15; and, consequently, by grace capable of regeneration, pardon, and eternal life; wherefore the sign and seal of these blessings ought not to be withheld.

Q. 37. How are children of professing parents designated in scripture?

A. If any one of the parents be a visible believer, or regular church-member, the children, on that account, are called holy, 1 Cor. 7:14 -- "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy."

Q. 38. What holiness is here meant?

A. Federal holiness, or being admitted to church membership, together with their believing or professing parent.

Q. 39. May not this holiness be understood of legitimacy, or being lawfully begotten?

A. No; because marriage being an ordinance of the law of nature, the children of married parents, though both of them be infidels, are as lawfully begotten as those of professing Christians.

Q. 40. How does federal holiness entitle an infant to baptism?

A. Federal holiness necessarily supposes a being within the covenant, in virtue of the credible profession of the parent; and, consequently, a right to the initiatory seal of it.

Q. 41. Is there any express precept in the New Testament for baptising the infants of visible believers?

A. The privilege of the infant seed of visible church members, having been settled ever since Abraham's time, and never reversed, there was no need of any more than the general precept, "Go, teach and baptise," Matt. 28:19.

Q. 42. Why is there need of no precept more express than this general one?

A. Because the infants' privilege of being assumed into the same covenant with their parents is declared to be continued in New Testament times, Acts 2:39 -- "The promise is unto you, and to your children."

Q. 43. Have we any scripture example for infant baptism?

A. Yes; the apostles baptised whole households or families at once; such as the household of Lydia, Acts 16:15; all the jailer's family, ver. 33; and the household of Stephanas, 1 Cor. 1:16.

Q. 44. But there is no mention of their baptising infants in those families.

A. Neither is there mention of their baptising adult persons in them; only, since they baptised the whole, it may be inferred that there were some infants, or young ones, among them.

Q. 45. "How is our baptism to be improved by us?"

A. "By serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it; -- by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to our engagements; -- and by endeavouring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ, and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptised by the same Spirit into one body."[148]

Q. 46. When should we thus improve our baptism?

A. "All our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others."[149]


[145] Ibid. chapter 27 ยง 4.

[146] See Act X. Assembly, 1690.

[147] Larger Catechism, Question 62.

[148] Larger Catechism, question 167.

[149] Ibid.


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