|Kripplein Christi church, Fraustadt (Wschowa).|
(2) We therefore begin by praying and recalling the words of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 7; Luke 11): “Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Our posture is in every respect as if we stood at the door of heaven and sought entrance. This is exceeding beautiful. A prayer also is employed in which there are two likenesses: (a) the flood, after 1 Peter 3; and (b) the Red Sea, after 1 Corinthians 10. This teaches us to understand also (I know that many of them do not consider it), we beseech God to let the child’s sin be drowned by this spiritual flood of grace, as long ago all sinners died in the flood, and to sustain the child in the spiritual Church of Christendom unto life everlasting, as Noah did with his children. Likewise, we beseech God to make all the might of the infernal Pharaoh over our baptized child to be destroyed in this water of Baptism, which is in His eyes “a crimson flood, / By Christ’s own blood empurpled.” [LSB 406:7]
(3) In these two prayers also, the infernal Pharaoh, the wicked, unclean spirit, is read his judgment, that he shall and must depart from this new courtier of Jesus Christ; he shall never for eternity gain power over him. At this we consider two things: first, our great, pitiable misery wherein we lie on account of sin, whereof we also sing, “To th’ devil I a captive lay, / In death I then had perished” [LSB 556:2]; secondly, we also recall the great consolation in Holy Baptism to which we were brought by the grace of Jesus Christ. “The snare’s in two and we are free / God’s Son from bondage loosed us” [TLH 267:3]. Thus we are truly free people (John 8). There shall be nothing condemnable in us (Rom. 8).
(4) The child is given a new name, for it has become a new citizen of heaven; its name must be written in the civic roll of heaven (Luke 10), yea, in God’s hand (Is. 49) and recorded in the register of the elect children of God, in Christ’s genealogy, that it may never be forgotten (Ps. 12). The child has become a young student of the Church, so his name must be included in the heavenly matricule. The child is not given an evil name; it must not be called Cain or Judas, but bear a holy name. Here the sponsors express the wish, “God help thee, little godchild, to carry thy name in deed, and to prove as godly as those blessed persons which bore that Christian baptismal name before thee.”
(5) The sign of the holy cross is made over the child’s breast and forehead. Here we remember that every Christian’s heart must be a little posthole for the cross of Jesus Christ; their motto is, “Thy cross, Lord Jesus Christ, alone, / My highest comfort is, I own.” Besides this we remind ourselves that baptized Christians cannot be free of cross and misery; they must bear their cross into the pit. They are true brothers of the Order of the Cross, of which the Lord Jesus is Himself the Grand Master.
(6) Hereupon the Gospel Mark 10 is read, concerning how many pious mothers brought their children to the Lord Jesus. In this we are reminded firstly that we may bring our children to Baptism without reservation. For the Lord Jesus fills those sophists full to the ears with rebuke who would prevent children being brought to Him. He says, “Let the children come unto Me, and prevent them not, for of such is the kingdom of God” (if the gold is theirs, who would withhold the purse from them?), and He embraced them, and laid His hands upon them, and blessed them. The examples of Scripture also agree with this, for in Acts 16 the warden’s whole house is baptized, and in 1 Corinthians 1[:16], whole families. Origen says it had always remained customary since the time of the Apostles, and Cyprian, who lived 150 years after Christ’s birth, writes that people were punished in the council who delayed Baptism until the eigth day, after the example of circumcision. Emergency also demands it, for our children are conceived and born in sin, as David testifies in Psalm 51, which we justly believe. They are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2), and so they must be born anew by water and the Spirit (John 3). Isaiah even saw it in the time of the Old Testament, when he says (ch. 49), “They shall bring Thy sons in their arms, and bear Thy daughters on their shoulders.” The witless Anabaptists say, “Our children do not yet believe, so Baptism is of no use to them.” But we stick with Christ’s words in Matthew 18, “Whosoever offendeth one of the least of these that believe on Me…,” etc. How else could they please God (Heb. 11)? The more our reason staggers at it, the greater the hidden artwork of the Holy Spirit. Others appeal to Christ’s example, who was not baptized until He was thirty years old. Answer: He was not, however, thirty years old before He was circumcised. Now of course our Baptism has taken the place of circumcision (Col. 2). If they had already had Baptism in the land of the Jews when Christ was born, He would not have postponed it. In addition, those who have been asked to be sponsors are reminded of their duty. They do no differently from the good-hearted mothers who brought their dear heartlings to the Lord Jesus and laid them in His arms, praying, “O Lord Jesus, please take the dear godson from our arms. Press it to Thy loving heart, and stroke it with Thine hand of grace. Pronounce a mighty blessing upon our godson, in which it may live as a Christian and die blest. Let it increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” From this it is obvious that the office of sponsor is not for inexperienced children, drunken fools, or the ungodly and unsaved, who are incapable of prayer. Sponsors are the child’s advocates, just as these mothers spoke to Christ on behalf of their children.
(7) On this firm basis that Jesus will bless our children that we bring to Him and bearing these things in mind, we pray the Our Father.
(8) After this the minister of Christ says, “The Lord keep thy going out”—out of your old estate of sin in which you were conceived and born; “and thy going in”—into the communion of the blessed, believing Church. Indeed, may He keep thy going out from the world and going into life everlasting. God help us, how comforting this is!
(9) Now the holy waters of Baptism are approached. Then you are to think, “The Lord Jesus by His intercession will secure heaven for the child; the Holy Ghost will descend, albeit invisibly, yet fruitfully and efficaciously, and renew the child, consecrating it as a temple of God; the heavenly Father will receive the young baptizee as His own beloved child.”
(10) But first the child must renounce the devil and all that he is, for no one can serve two masters (Matt. 6). You are to keep this in mind for all your days.
(11) Hereupon the child must be sworn to the blood-red banner of Jesus Christ, and distinctly confess the three Articles of the Apostles’ Creed.
(12) The child is sprinkled with water thrice. Long ago adults who converted to Christianity were actually immersed in the water to the glory of the most Blessed Trinity, who was certainly present, and in remembrance of the three parts comprising true repentance, which is signified by baptizing with water, as St. Paul explains in Romans 6.
(13) The child is distinctly addressed with these words: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” For the preacher is only Christ’s minister, and performs the outward work according to Christ’s ordinance, but God Himself is the baptizer, and when the preacher baptizes people with water outwardly, then through this ministry God, out of His divine power, baptizes them inwardly in their heart. Through this blessed heavenly washing God the heavenly Father cleanses for Himself His beloved children of heaven. The Lord Jesus washes them through the power of His holy blood: “…The eye alone the water seeth, / As men pour out the water, / The Spirit’s faith the pow’r perceives, / Of Jesus Christ’s blood crimson, / To God it is a crimson flood, / By Christ’s own blood empurpled, / Which healeth every injury / Inherited from Adam, / And by ourselves committed.” [LSB 406:7] The Holy Ghost renews the dear little heart and sanctifies it to be the child and blessed dwelling of God. Thus it is well that no more than three sponsors be requested. Additional pageantry is most often only an odious display of wealth of which Christians ought justly to be ashamed.
(14) When the Baptism has been administered, the child is dressed in a white hood and a white gown as a reminder that it has been clothed head to toe in the beautiful, white silk of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and in the lambskins of His innocence, for Paul says in Galatians 6, “As many of you as are baptized have put on Christ”; and also as a reminder that it is obliged to cultivate the purity of body and soul with earnest.
(15) The godparents lay their hands on the child, as it were assuring with a handshake in the child’s stead that it will remain in the new, established covenant of the good conscience. The godparents also indicate herewith that they will bear witness in the future to the validity of the Baptism, and if (God forbid) the young godchild should forsake the true faith, that they will faithfully warn it to turn back.
(16) Then the minister of Christ prays that the baptized child, being born again through water and the Holy Ghost, might be sustained unto life everlasting. Finally, all the sponsors and the baptizer kneel and thank God from the heart for receiving the young little heart as His child, crowning the parents with His blessing, and again enlarging Christendom with a young shoot of the Church.
(17) When this has happened, the godparents and the child approach the high altar and remember that, all its days, their godchild, like all Christians, has a bold right to come before God’s presence.
(18) The godmother goes a little lower and puts the child in her lap. Here we remember: Now the dear, godly, young heart is lying in the lap of the heavenly Father’s grace; now it is lying in the arms of Jesus Christ, now it is resting under the henlike wings of His merit.
(19) This is followed by the sponsorial gifts. Here the thoughts of the godparents are as follows: Dear godchild, thou hast three godparents and witnesses to thy Baptism on earth, and thou hast three godparents in heaven which bear witness to thy Baptism and salvation: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost [1 John 7]. These godparents in heaven have here shown themselves in a worthy and generous manner; God has filled your heart with consolation. We would fill your purse with good coinage. May God enlarge what is little! Then each one contributes according to his means and custom of the land.
(20) At last the godparents kneel with the young godchild and a conclusion is made with a heartfelt prayer, just as it was began. Here the circle of Baptism is complete.
|Interior of Kripplein Christi, |
recently under renovation.
(Translated by M. Carver from C.F. Ledderhose, Leben Valerius Herbergers, Bielefeld, 1851, pp. 36–46. Exterior photo courtesy of Wikipedia; other photos from Marek Chwistek.)