A Guide to the Holy Sacraments in a Series of Lectures on the Baptismal Service, Delivered in Trinity Church, New Haven, Preparatory to Confirmation.
By Harry Croswell.
New Haven: G.B. Bassett and Co., 1857.
"That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." I Peter n: 24.
What is meant by the prayer, that the old Adam, in the baptized person, may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him? That all sinful affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit, may live and grow in him?
These expressions in the baptismal service are designed to teach the necessity of that moral change, without which no man can enter into the kingdom of God. They are founded on a variety of Scriptural passages, of which our present text is a specimen. Here, this change is enumerated among the fruits of the atonement of Christ. "Who," says the Apostle, quoting from the prophet, "his ownself, bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." And in every case, either in the Bible or Prayer-Book, where this [73/74] change is mentioned, the strongest figures of speech are employed to show that the change is a complete and radical transformation of the whole man from sin to holiness. The "old Adam" is but another name for what the Article calls that "fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam." And the "new man" is the renovated and regenerated being who is born anew in Christ Jesus. This old Adam--such is the purport of the language--must be dead, buried, extinguished--while the new man must be raised up, as by a resurrection, or new creation. This is what is meant by the prayer, that all sinful affections may die in the baptized person, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. And the same idea is carried out, not only in the baptismal service, but in the other standards of the Church. The figure is adopted in the last prayer in the office for baptism: "And humbly we beseech thee to grant that he, being dead unto sin, and living unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that, as he is made partaker of the death of thy Son, he may also be partaker of his resurrection." And again, in the exhortation, where we are charged to remember "that baptism doth represent unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Savior Christ, and to be made like unto him; that, as he died, and rose again for us, so should we, who [74/75] are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness." In the Catechism also, the spiritual grace signified in baptism, is said to be "a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." And to give a single example from the Liturgy, in the Collect for Easter Even, the idea is expressed in language of inimitable beauty:--“Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections, we may be buried with him; and that, through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord."
It is admitted, that the language thus employed by the Church to represent that moral change, without which no man can enter into the kingdom of God, is remarkably strong and forcible. And it plainly indicates that this change is a complete and radical transformation of the whole man from sin to holiness. But it will be found, on a very slight examination, that the strongest figures of speech here employed, are in perfect correspondence with the language of Scripture, and that, in teaching the necessity of this change, the Prayer-Book aims at nothing more than to inculcate the doctrine of the Bible. We have already seen how the Apostle represents this change, in enumerating the fruits of the Savior's mediation. And it will be observed that he derives the sentiment which he so eloquently [75/76] expresses from an ancient prophet. Isaiah describes, in his own peculiar style, this death and burial of the old man, and this raising up of the new man, as a work of moral reformation, effected through the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. And other prophets express the same idea, sometimes in highly figurative, and sometimes in more simple language. Ezekiel, for example, in his remarkable vision of the valley of dry bones; and then, again, in the plain, practical precept, "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit." And David also, while bewailing his own inherent corruption and depravity, offers up his fervent supplication for this moral renovation: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." These examples might be greatly multiplied. But instead of drawing farther from the Old Testament Scriptures, we prefer to confine ourselves to a single passage from the New Testament, where the doctrine taught in the Prayer-Book, and especially in the Baptismal Service, is presented and illustrated in the most striking and satisfactory manner. The citation is long, but it will admit of no abridgment, and it certainly requires no paraphrase to render it easy of comprehension: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by [76/77] the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. vi: 3-11.
We think that we have now said sufficient to show what the Church means by the prayer, that the old Adam in the baptized person may be so buried that the new man may be raised up in him. That all sinful affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. We wish we could as confidently believe that some suitable attention had been awakened to the subject of the great moral change, indicated in this language of the Church. But we can hardly indulge this hope. It is undeniable that there prevails among us a lamentable degree of insensibility, with regard to the baptismal engagements. The weight of these engagements is not duly felt. The responsibility [77/78] incurred in this sacrament seems to sit lightly upon the recipients. They come to baptism, they listen to the exhortations of the Church, they make the solemn vows and promises required of them, and they join, ostensibly at least, in the prayers. They especially invoke the God of all power and grace, that the old Adam may be buried, that the new man may be raised up, that all sinful affections may die in them, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in them. And then they go their way and, to all appearance, think no more of the matter. Now, it is this prevalent insensibility that gives rise to so much cavilling and scepticism on the subject of baptism. One will say, I do not perceive the great importance of this ordinance. Another, I do not believe in baptismal grace. And another, that in the life and conduct there is no perceptible difference between the baptized and the unbaptized. And so, the inconsistency of man is brought up as an argument to disparage the institutions of God. But what do you believe? That God has instituted the sacrament of baptism cannot be denied,--and that he has promised to bless and sanctify the ordinance, as a means of grace, is equally true. That the Church prays for the fulfillment of this promise, is apparent on the face of her ritual. But, says the sceptic, this is all a matter of form without efficacy. If this be so, whose fault is it? You would not impeach the veracity of God, nor would you deny the divine mission of the Church.
 If then baptism becomes a lifeless and ineffectual rite, the fault must lie at the door of the recipient. It cannot be charged either to the Author or to the administrator of the ordinance. The plain truth is, there are two capital errors on this subject, and either of these may be productive of the insensibility of which there is so much reason to complain. The one makes every thing of baptism, the other makes nothing of it. By the one, baptism is, in itself, sufficient to secure the salvation of the soul. By the other, it is only a simple external ceremony, without the slightest spiritual benefit. Both of these errors it is our duty and our desire to combat. And this we are enabled to do by the Scriptural helps which are so abundantly provided, and to which we have already called your attention. According to the figures which the Church has adopted from the Bible, baptism is the planting of the seed and salvation is the harvest. And it is but a simple, common-sense deduction from these premises, that no crop can be produced unless the seed be sown. But between this sowing and the gathering in "of the final fruit, there must be, of necessity, many intermediate stages of progress. And it is this consideration that throws such an immense weight of responsibility upon the recipient of baptism, and confutes, in a word, the erroneous views already mentioned. Let us suppose, then, for such is the teaching, as in a figure, of the Bible and the Prayer-Book, that in baptism, the seed is planted or buried in the ground; [79/80] that from this seed a new plant springs up, and that this plant is to be cherished, and trained, and nourished, that it may live and grow, and bring forth abundant fruit. It is only necessary to pursue this teaching for a moment to show, first, that baptism is not, of itself, sufficient to secure the salvation of the soul. It is only the beginning. It is the initiatory step, and is but a pledge and earnest of future care and attention. It is a step, in a certain sense, necessary to salvation; or, in other words, it is the fruit of the two sacraments, which the Catechism declares to be "generally necessary to salvation." And the Article teaches that "Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will toward us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him."
We see then, how far baptism is essential to salvation. It is like a foundation, without which no superstructure can be built. Or, to return to the figure, it is the first sowing of the seed; and until this seed be sown, no plant can be produced. Until the old Adam be buried, the new man cannot be raised up. When, however, the new life begins, when the plant springs up, then it is that culture and training become indispensible to bring it to maturity and perfection. If there are many ways in which the young and tender plant may be destroyed, so are the ways [80/81] equally numerous through which the new life springing up in the heart of man may be rooted up, and thus left to perish and die. But while we are thus taught that baptism is not, in itself, sufficient to secure the salvation of the soul, it is equally plain that it is not a simple external ceremony, without the slightest spiritual benefit. All that is shown in the figure is plainly asserted in the Catechism, and in the Article. According to this joint instruction, Baptism is the origin of a new principle in the heart, the beginning of a new life, the seed from which the plant springs up. And the vows and promises made in baptism are a solemn pledge, that this rising plant shall not be neglected, and abandoned, and given up to ruin; but that it shall be nourished, and reared, and cherished, until enabled, through the help of divine grace, to bring forth abundant fruits of holiness.
Here, then, we have a complete confutation, as well of the one as of the other of these errors. We see what an immense weight of responsibility rests upon the recipient of baptism. We perceive that no baptized person, is at liberty to repudiate his vows, or to shake off his responsibility. How sad is it then to witness any evidence of a disposition to stand out against a plain rule of duty. How sad to see so much insensibility on this subject. How sad the reflection, that out of the vast number of baptized persons, so few, comparatively, are ready, on the call of the Church, to ratify and confirm their baptismal vows: [81/82] And how few again, even after this ratification, are prepared to set the seal to their profession in the fellowship of the holy communion. Shall nothing be done to remedy this prevalent evil? Nothing conformable to the spirit of the prayer of the Church, that the old Adam may be buried, and the new man raised up? Shall nothing be done to mortify, and subdue, and overcome the sinful affections? Nothing to encourage the growth and maturity of the new and living spirit of holiness? To feel constrained to ask such questions is always painful. But more painful still is the apprehension that they will call forth no response.Under such circumstance, we can only hope that our hearers may be persuaded to examine more thoroughly, and to weigh more considerately, the luminous instructions of the Church, on the various points of practical duty; that they will compare her standards with the plain and obvious teachings of the holy Scriptures; and that they will resolve, by the help of God, to pursue a course more consistent with their positive or implied obligations, and more conducive to their present growth in grace, and to their future and eternal welfare.