The devout Lutheran mother presses her baptized child to her bosom, looks into its eyes, and thanks her Saviour from the depth of her heart, that He has blessed her child; that He has breathed into it His divine life, washed it, sealed it, and adopted it as His son or daughter. How sweet the consolation to know that her precious little one is a lamb of Christ’s flock, “bearing on its body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
But Christian parents have not fulfilled their whole duty in having children baptized into Christ. The children are indeed in covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. But it is their bounden duty and blessed privilege to keep their little ones in that covenant of Grace. Of this more in the next chapter.
THE BAPTISMAL COVENANT
CAN BE KEPT UNBROKEN.
AIM AND RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS.
We have gone “to the Law and to the Testimony” to find out what the nature and benefits of Baptism are. We have gathered out of the Word all the principal passages bearing on this subject. We have grouped them together, and studied them side by side. We have noticed that their sense is uniform, clear, and strong. Unless we are willing to throw aside all sound principles of interpretation, we can extract from the words of inspiration only one meaning, and that is that the baptized child is, by virtue of that divine ordinance, a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Here let us be careful, however, to bear in mind and keep before us that we claim for the child only the birth of a new life. It has been born of water and the Spirit. A birth we know is but a very feeble beginning of life. So faint are the flickerings of the natural life at birth, that it is often doubtful at first whether any life is present. The result of a birth is not a full-grown man, but a very weak and helpless babe. The little life needs the most tender, watchful and intelligent fostering and care.
So it is also in the Kingdom of Grace. The divine life is there. But it is life in its first beginnings. As yet only the seeds and germs of the new life. And this young spiritual life also needs gentle fostering and careful nourishing. Like the natural life of the child, so its spiritual life is beset with perils. While the germs of the new life are there, we must not forget that the roots of sin are also still there. Our Church does not teach with Rome that “sin (original) is destroyed in baptism, so that it no longer exists.” Hollazius says: “The guilt and dominion of sin is taken away by baptism, but not the root or tinder of sin.” Luther also writes that “Baptism takes away the guilt of sin, although the material, called concupiscence, remains.”
Unfortunately for the child these roots of sin will grow of their own accord, like the weeds in our gardens. They need no fostering care. Not so with the germs of the new life. They, like the most precious plants of the gardens, must be watched and guarded and tended continually. Solomon says: Prov. xxix. 15, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” And this may be true even of a baptized child.