One of the unforgettable events in our life is the worship on a Lord’s Day in which we made profession of our faith in the midst of the congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The richness of that experience depends upon the attitude of the confessor and that in turn stands in causal relation to what has happened between the time of baptism and this admittance to the table of the Lord.
I am not thinking now of those who by the grace of God are brought into the church, who make confession of faith before they receive the sacrament of baptism. I can well understand that the heart of such a one is filled to overflowing with gratitude to God and to the church as an instrument in the hand of God, which brought him out of the darkness of sin to the glorious light of the gospel. ‘When angels sing because of the repentance of a sinner, the church also is happy when tho work of preaching the gospel to those who are outside is thus blessed.
This, however, is the exception in the established church. Every congregation should be faithful in making know the tidings of salvation in its immediate vicinity. This work surely bears Fruit, for the Word of God is never preached in vain. It will always accomplish that to which the Lord sends it. But it has pleased God to build his Church out of the church. This is one of the great blessings which God has given to his people. Therefore as a rule when profession of faith is made in our churches, it is usually by those who received the sacrament of baptism in their youth.
TIle church addresses such a one by mouth of the minister and declares: “We thank our God concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that you were made desirous of professing your faith publicly, here in the presence of God and His holy church, and of obtaining the privileges of full communion with the people of God.” The church thanks Cod for the one who comes to profess his faith. The church sees in such a one the answer to the prayer made at the time of his baptism. “We beseech Thee through Him, Thy beloved Son, that Thou wilt always govern this child by Thy Holy Spirit. that it may be nurtured in the Christian faith and in godliness, and grow and increase in the Lord Jesus Christ, in order that it may acknowledge Thy fatherly goodness and mercy, which Thou hast shown to it and to us all.”
Of course the depth of this gratitude to God stands in direct relation to the earnestness of the plea made. Sad to say not every member of the church, not every parent presenting a child for baptism pleads with God for this grace. Though warned against it, I am afraid that sometimes the presentation of a child for baptism is out of custom or still worse out of superstition. If this is true there cannot be much depth to the thanks of such a parent for God’s grace when such a child comes to make profession of faith. There is even danger that such a profession is also for any of a number of reasons except the only one acceptable to God. I know that we cannot and may not weigh the hearts. But the evidence of such sad condition is so plain that I warn everyone to examine his own heart in this respect.
It is for this reason that I said: it makes so much difference what happened between the receiving of baptism and the profession of faith. The riches of this experience depends upon the seriousness with which the parents have accepted and discharged the obligation which they took upon themselves when their child received the holy sacrament of baptism.
The parents are charged by God to instruct their children in the meaning of their baptism. They must make plain to their children what it means to stand in covenant relationship to the triune God. They must show their children in word and example what it means to “live in all righteousness under our only Teacher, King, and High Priest, Jesus Christ; and manfully fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion.”
There is no one who can take the place of the parents in this education and moulding of the child. There is sometimes the tendency on the part of parents to entrust this training to the school and to the church. But if the parents do not instruct the child in these things, neither the school nor the church will be able to supply what is lacking. Of course both church and school can be of great help and humanly speaking are indispensable aids to the godly parent. The parents who take the training of the child in the way of the Lord seriously, will see to it that their child will find the same atmosphere and instruction in the school and in the church which is created in the home. And if this is done we can plead upon the promise of God that He will guide the feet of our children upon the way everlasting.
With such a background the profession of faith becomes an unforgettable moment both in the life of the individual and his parents. It becomes a blessing to the church. There will be a song of praise in the heart of the person making profession of faith and in the hearts of the parents, and the congregation will with them thank God for his grace that it pleases him to build his church out of the christian home and the church. Thanks to God for his grace, for the pious heart knows that even though the home, the school and the church labored diligently, the training was in weakness, for even our best works in this life are imperfect and polluted with sin.
We will thank God not because he added another member to the church. What a pity that so many who ought to know better speak of profession of faith as a joining of the church. How can one join something to which he already belongs? Parents confess concerning their children that they as members of the church ought to be baptized. No, we thank God that by means of the training given he has graciously brought a covenant child to a conscious and willing acceptance of the salvation which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thus the profession of faith becomes a sincere declaration that one understanding the teaching of the word of God as presented by the confession of the church is heartily willing and determined to live his life as before the face of God. It is in this moment that the love for God and Christ becomes a holy passion, and we experience the love of God in Christ for us as the greatest good that can ever come to us.