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The exercise begins in a familiar manner, which seems to have been adopted in condescension to tender years, by a demand of the name of the catecumen: what is called the Christian name being intended; because that alone is connected with the rite to be brought immediately into view. The catechist, on receiving an appropriate answer, asks further—" Who gave you this name?” And is informed—“My sponsors in baptism: wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven."
The name is supposed to have been received in baptism. In the Jewish church, there prevailed the custom of conferring the intended name in circumcision; as appears in the account given of the circumcising of John the Baptist, in the first chapter of the gospel of St. Luke. From the Jewish church, it descended to the Christian; and was carried so far, that it became common, on the baptizing of an adult, to add a name to any other name which the party might have born be. fore: and it was probably in this way, that the Apostle of the Gentiles, from being known by the name of Saul only, began to be also called Paul.*
There being no wish to state any institution of our Church, without resting it on its proper ground; it is necessary to mention, that the present matter rests in the Christian church, as it did in the Jewish, on the authority vested in every social body, of providing for “the doing of all things decently and in order.” It would be a needless refinement, for any person to object to the words of our Catechism, that they do not strictly apply to persons who had born the names long before baptism, which are afterwards continued to them. Those names are formally and solemnly pronounced, during the administration of that rite: and it is then, that the Church begins to recognise them and their concerns.
“A Member of Christ.” This is a metaphor grounded on what we read in several places of scripture; but especially in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. The Church is there compared to a body, of which Christ is the head, and the professors of his name are the respective members. To interpret this of a visible membership merely, would be contrary to the spirit of the passage referred to, which describes the members spoken of, as being “by one spirit all baptized into one body,” and as being all made to drink into one spirit."* In short, the expression goes fully to the sense of a state of acceptance with God: which will be confirmed by the other descriptive titles, in the same sentence.
* Acts, xiii. 9,
ti Cor. xiy, 40,
“ A Child of God." There is certainly a sense, in which God is the father of all men; who are accordingly all his children. But there is a peculiar sense in which we become so, by being brought within the Christian covenant; and by thus having benefits conferred on us, for which, in nature, we had no claim.
We are assured by the Scriptures, that all right to immortality—a right originally of grace, and having the pledge of the conditional promise of the Creatorwas forfeited by the first transgression. It is by a new act of grace, that we are put to another probation; of which the requisition, to persons under the Christian dispensation, is obedience to the laws of Christ. In reference to our natural, thus contrasted with our Christian state, we are called in scripture “Aliens,”+ “Strangers,” I “Foreigners," and the like. In contrariety to this, it is represented as a property of our Christian character, that we are made, “Children of God,"I “Sons of God,''I there being used other terms, expressive of the same idea. Now, whatever comes under the meaning of “Child of God,” the Church contemplates as bestowed in baptism.
“And an Inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” It would seem, that the Church contemplated the benefit
• 1 Cor. v. 13. † Eph. ii. 12. Gal. iii. 16. 1 1 John, iii. 1.
$ Ib. 19.
of baptism as so important; and was so desirous of conveying her sense of the nature of the institution, that she designedly varied her phrases, in order that no room should be left to doubt of the Christian state of any person, duly entered by baptism into the visible profession of Christianity. We all know what is meant, in the common affairs of life, by the terms "heir” and * inheritance:” and there'is perspicuity in those places 'of scripture, which speak of “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,"'* of an "eternal inheritance;”?+ of -"- the inheritance of the saints in light." The extent of the sense of these expressions is affirmed to belong "to baptism.
Next, the cathechist having asked:6What did your sponsors then for you?"; "the answer is made: “They did promise and vow three things in my name: first, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinfut lusts of the flesh; secondly, that I should believe all the articles of the Christian faith; and thirdly, that I should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of
!04.1.13 The first particular here renounced, is the devil and all his works:" that is, whatever is contrary to religion and good morals; it being agreeable to scripture, to'ascribe every thing of this sort to the agency of that wicked spirit; according to the saying of our Lord: “For this the son of God was manifested, that
he might destroy the works of the devil." The i other two articles of renunciation, are in fact compre
hended in the first article: and hence it is, that this alone is found in the earliest accounts of the promise made in baptism. Accordingly although there was perceived a use in the further specifying of the classes of sins, to be avoided; yet they are a mere amplification of the present clause; not strictly containing any * Rom. viii. 17. Heb. ix. 15. · Col. i. 12.
$ 1 John, ji. 8.
thing but what comes within its meaning. When so much is ascribed in scripture to the agency of apostate spirits, known there under the general term mentioned in the answer; it would be presumptuous in us to deny their existence, or the influence which they may be permitted to exercise over the affairs of men. On the other hand, we carry this matter to an extent not warranted in scripture, if we imagine, that they can in any instance compel to sin. We know in what way one man may tempt another, by bringing before him inticements, known to be such as are correspondent to his frailties. Now it is but to suppose of spi. ritual beings, that they may present to the mind images which are correspondent to, and therefore have a tendency to call into action the bad dispositions or desires of the persons tempted; which does not suppose them to be possessed of an overruling influence, nor yet of that knowledge of our thoughts, which is the prerogative of God alone. The power thus ascribed to evil spirits, is declared in many passages of scripture; such as speak of being “taken in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will;"* and of “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”+ The extreme against which there was a caution giyen, may be evident from other passages; such as where we are told: “Resist the devil and he will fee from you,” | and: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able.”
As to what we read in the Gospel, of persons possessed by evil spirits, those cases had nothing to do with siņ in any shape. They were bodily disorders, induced by the physical agency of demons. Some, when they read of such incidents in holy writ, to which they see nothing answerable in the present state of the world, find a stumbliog block in this particular species of human sufferings. But the sacred historians record nothing of the sort, with which there are not consenting facts in Jewish and Heathen authors. For what rests on such strong testimony we are under
* 2 Tim. ii. 26. + Eph. 2. ii. James iv.7. S Cor. x. 13.
no necessity of accounting. But it will not be rash to suppose a reason for it proper to the period, in which Satan was to be “ seen as lightning fall from heaven,”* under the control of the higher powers of the Son of God; not only over all nature, but over the kingdom of darkness also, as was most illustriously mani. fested in the matter which has been before us.
“The pomps and vanities of this wicked world.” These words have discouraged some scrupulous consciences, from taking on themselves the obligation of a promise, which has seemed to them a restraint from compliance with custom, in matters wherein no moral depravity is necessarily included. It will therefore be proper to explain them.
Although the application of the word “ wicked," and the frequent use of the word “vanity," as meaning sins, might show that nothing, in itself innocent, is within the meaning of the engagement; yet the real design of the terms may be the best understood from the history of the introduction of them into the form of the Baptismal Promise. They were introduced at an early period into the Christian Church; and were levelled at the publick shows of the Heathen.
The circumstance the most prominently offensive in those shows, was the idolatry accompanying them: the joining in which was considered as absolutely inconsistent with the profession of Christianity. When it became the religion of the empire, the idolatry, before attached to the publick games, was abolished by the authority of the government. This remedied a part of the evil only. For those exhibitions continued to be accompanied by such lewdness in words and in actions, as no modest ears and eyes could bear. Hence the occasion for the continuance of the promise: and even if there had been no cause for it, in the particular species of celebration which gave rise to the words; it is too probable, that such a degree of laxity will always exist in the state of publiek morals, as to produce the toleration, if not the sanction of some cus
Luke x. 18.