Dr. William Ames (1576-1633)
What is this sacrament of the NT all about? And who is able to be baptized?
Baptism by Dr. William Ames
1. The sacraments of the New Testament follow from its nature. They are few in number, easy to prepare and observe, and very clear in their meaning.
2. They were sanctified and instituted by Christ himself. Although the one sacrament was first used by John the Baptist yet by that very fact he became the forerunner of Christ so that he might show that it did not become an ordered institution by the ministry of John but through the institution of Christ himself.
3. The sacraments are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. No other sacraments or sacramental signs were delivered to the church by Christ or his apostles, nor can others be appointed by men in the church.
4. Because of God’s institution it is of greatest necessity for believers to use these sacraments diligently and devoutly. But they are not so necessary to salvation that the absence or mere lack of them deprives one of salvation. Given the institution, they are not to be celebrated by any who are not lawful ministers or who are outside of a church assembly.
5. Baptism is the sacrament of initiation or regeneration.
6. Although it seals the whole covenant of grace to all believers, when it is specially made our own, it represents and confirms our very ingrafting into Christ. Rom. 6:3, 5, We have been baptized into Christ Jesus . . . being planted together with him; 1 Cor. 12:13, We have been baptized into one body.
7. From the time of our first ingrafting into Christ by faith a relationship of justification and adoption is entered into. As the sacrament of that ingrafting, baptism stands for the remission of sins, Mark 1:4. And it stands, also, for adoption in that we are consecrated by it to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whose names are pronounced over the baptized.
8. And because holiness always comes from Christ into whom we are ingrafted, to all the faithful, baptism is also the seal of sanctification. Titus 3:5, He has saved us … by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit; Rom. 6:4-6.
9. And since glorification cannot be separated from true holiness it is at the same time the seal of eternal glory, Titus 3:7, That we might…be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life; Rom. 6:8, If we are dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live together with him.
10. Because those benefits are sealed by initiation in baptism, it should be noted, first, that baptism is only to be administered once. There is only one beginning of spiritual life by rebirth as there is but one beginning of natural life by birth.
11. Second, baptism ought to be administered to all those in the covenant of grace, because it is the first sealing of the covenant now first entered into.
12. The infants of believers are not to be forbidden this sacrament. First, because, if they are partakers of any grace, it is by virtue of the covenant of grace and so both the covenant and the first seal of the covenant belong to them. Second, the covenant in which the faithful are now included is clearly the same as the covenant made with Abraham, Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:7-9—and this expressly applied to infants. Third, the covenant as now administered to believers brings greater and fuller consolation than it once could, before the coming of Christ. But if it pertained only to them and not to their infants, the grace of God and their consolation would be narrower and more contracted after Christ’s appearing than before. Fourth, baptism supplants circumcision. Col. 2:11, 12; it belongs as much to the children of believers as circumcision once did. Fifth, in the very beginning of regeneration, whereof baptism is a seal, man is merely passive. Therefore, no outward action is required of a man when he is baptized or circumcised (unlike other sacraments); but only a passive receiving. Infants are, therefore, as capable of participation in this sacrament, so far as its chief benefit is concerned, as adults.
13. Faith and repentance no more constitute the covenant of God now than in the time of Abraham, who was the father of the faithful. Therefore, the lack of these ought not to prevent infants from being baptized any more than it prevented them from being circumcised then.