Baptism declares unto us that we in ourselves are unclean and therefore the objects of God’s wrath. God has emphatically stated:—“Cursed is everyone who remaineth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” The sacrament of Baptism is a reminder that we should not be in church as the pharisee; but that the attitude of the publican behooves us. The contrite of heart will pray:—“Be merciful to me, a sinner.”
However, baptism does not only speak of sin and unrighteousness and of judgment. Baptism also assures us of the washing away of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Therefore it does not only tend to cause us to cry:—“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Jehovah;” it also puts upon our lips the song of praise—“blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom Jehovah imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”
It is possible that while reading these lines you say to yourself that the administration of baptism never brings such thoughts to your mind. Or if you think of these truths, you do not experience a strong emotional reaction. I realize that this is often the case even with the most spiritual of God’s people. Whatever may be the cause of this failure to enter upon a real participation in the administration of the sacrament of baptism, you can be sure of this, it robs us of the blessing which our witnessing of the administration of this sacrament could bring us.
Sacraments are signs. They have been given us that we may see and behold the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. They are seals and therefore seek to convey a message to us. But of course we cannot enjoy a picture, no matter how beautiful, unless we open our eyes; and we cannot hear nor understand a message, no matter how convincing, unless we pay attention. When we fail to experience the depth of despair of lying under the wrath of God and the height of exultation of being justified and having peace with God, the fault does not lie with the sacrament, but in our failure to make the proper use of it.
The soul that understands the message of the sacrament that we are conceived and born in sin and therefore subject to all misery, yea to condemnation itself, will shout for joy when it hears the blessed proclamation: In the blood of Jesus Christ is the power to cleanse us from all sin. That this spiritual experience is often absent so that we remain cold and unmoved before the display of God’s loving kindness towards the sinner, should drive us to pray with the apostle Paul that God may grant us according to the riches of his glory, that we may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; to the end that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled unto all the fulness of God.
If your emotions are not aroused when you have the privilege to witness the ad· ministration of the sacrament of baptism, do you ever stop to ask yourself why this is so? I am not thinking of a mere display of emotion. It is well that we control ourselves; but if there is no need of self control because there is no overwhelming feeling, we must face the truth that there is neither understanding nor appreciation of the grace and mercy of our God.
When we are deeply moved, we talk about it. In this case we will speak about the things which God has done unto our souls. Altogether too often the individual, whether an adult or a child, receiving the sacrament is much more the center of attention than the Triune God, who manifests himself in all the depth of his love and tender mercy.
We are baptized into the Name of the the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. If we have ears to hear and hearts to perceive we would rejoice in the message which comes to us from “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” Baptism speaks to us of the washing away of our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is because of this that baptism speaks to us of the saving activity of the Triune God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In baptism we behold Jesus as the Mediator standing between God and the sinner. The Mediator who reconciles God with man and man with God. He speaks to us of a God who has had thoughts of peace even from before the foundation of the world. The Christ is the visible realization of these thoughts of peace. It is through him and through him alone that we come to the Triune God, and thus our soul finds rest there where it can be found.
Therefore we are baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons of the One Eternal Being speak to us in and through baptism and they speak peace unto the people of God. The question is whether we hear what they say. It makes no difference whether we hear this for the first or for the hundredth time. The words of the Triune God to and for his people remain a delight unto the soul.
When we are baptized into the Name of the Father it is God the Father who assures us that he makes an eternal covenant of grace with us. He places himself on our side. He becomes our ally and makes our cause his own. He stands at our side over against our enemies, who seek our destruction. But even more than this, he assures us that he grants us the adoption unto children. He makes us his children and heirs. All the riches of his grace and al1 things in this world and the world to come, they are ours. He will provide for us as a father. All good is ours and even the evil which so often threatens us in life will be turned by him unto our profit. What a world of rest and peace, what a life of happiness unfolds itself before the eye of faith. God our Father allows us to abide under the shadow of his wings. There is nothing to fear. He will be our sun and shield. He is our shepherd and we shall not want.
Listening to a message like this there steals over our soul the peace, which passeth all understanding. In such assurance the curse of God is swallowed up. No longer do we need to fear the wrath of God, he is for us and not against us. Thus divine worship become the ladder which reaches into heaven and causes us to rest in the bosom of the father.