A second presentation of the seed of believers, as they are, along with believers, included in the covenant and church of God, has in recent times again come to the fore especiallyr through the labors of Dr. A. Kuyper, and perhaps still more through the many who so eagerly desire to commend themselves as disciples of this great man. We refer to the view which, is perhaps best known among us by the expression “presupposed regeneration.” According to this view, the entire church of Christ here on earth, with respect to all its members, young and old, is to be considered as the gathering of the elect and the regenerated, as long as the opposite does not “very definitely appear; and it is to be presupposed of every child, head for head, and soul for soul, who is born in the sphere of the church, that it has already been regenerated through the grace of the Holy spirit.
The point of departure of this view really lies in a certain conception of Baptism, in. a certain answer to the question as to whom the sacrament of Holy Baptism may be administered by the church of Christ on earth. Indeed, according to that conception, only then can it be said that there is a sacrament in the real sense of the word, when, at the very moment that the sign of the sacrament is administered by the church, there is a certain very special, sacramental operation of grace proceeding from heaven through Christ upon the individual who receives the sacrament. If at that very moment that operation of grace does not proceed from Christ upon the person who receives the sign of the sacrament, then there is not really a sacrament. To limit the discussion to Holy Baptism, thus only can it be said that there is a sacrament of Baptism, if the baptized person also receives baptismal grace, that is, a certain subjective grace which is joined by Christ to the sign of Baptism. Thus Dr. A. Kuyper writes in “E Voto,” II, pp. 534, ff.:
“And if you ask what then that essential significance might be, then our answer is that the essence of the sacrament always consists in this, that at the very moment of Holy Baptism or of Holy Communion there is a two-fold act taking place, the one upon earth by the minister who administers the sacrament, and the other by Christ out of heaven Who has instituted the sacrament only where these two operations coincide and unite is the operation of the sacrament present; and as often as this operation from heaven does notaccompany the administration of the form of the sacrament, so often not the sacrament, but only an appearance; is present. Then both your Baptism and your Communion are a lamp without light, a hearth without fire, a lung without breath, a heart without a beat: . . . The alternatives are these: either there are no sacraments, and the Lord has not instituted any such thing; or if He has truly instituted a sacrament, then the essence of this sacrament always consists herein, that He says to His ministers and to His church, “You do this: set forth these outward signs; and when in obedience to your Lord you thus set forth these signs, then I from the throne of grace in heaven will work the grace belonging therewith in the soul.
“As often, therefore, as Holy Baptism is administered in the midst of the congregation, you are to understand that at the very same moment when the minister administers the water of Baptism, your Mediator and Savior performs a work of grace in the soul of the baptized child or person from heaven, where He is exalted at the right hand of God . . . .
“He who teaches differently cuts the church loose from Christ; he bases the sacrament on the work of man instead of on an operation of the Lord. And he is responsible for it, if, through this unholy conception, the church sinks back into death.”
Further, Dr. Kuyper, both in this work and in his “Dictaten Dogmatiek,” confronts the question what this special operation of grace might be which is specifically joined to the sacrament of Baptism by the Lord. And then he elaborates for a moment on the concept grace, particularly grace in the subjective sense of the word, grace as God’s people receive it in their hearts from Christ. He makes a three-fold distinction with respect to this subjective grace. In the first place, we can speak of a certain root-grace, a grace which is wrought in the deepest root of our existence. That is the grace of regeneration. However, this grace of regeneration is not wrought in us at baptism, and it is not bestowed by Christ at baptism. It is much rather to be presupposed that he who receives the sacrament of Baptism is already regenerated. In the second place, Kuyper speaks of a grace which is realized in the branches of our life, in our consciousness, in our thinking and willing, a grace whereby the issues of our life are turned about through sanctification into a new spiritual direction. Also this grace of sanctification, or of conversion, however, is not bestowed in and with baptism. And finally, according to Kuyper, we can still speak of a certain grace whereby God in Christ also produces the fruits of good works in that renewed life, in harmony with everyone’s disposition, character, and place in life. Least of all can one think of grace in this latter sense in connection with baptism. No, there is another, wholly unique and special grace which we receive at baptism and which is called baptismal grace by Kuyper. And this baptismal grace he then describes as follows:
“If the question is asked, what is the proper domain of this altogether special and peculiar sacramental grace, then I Corinthians 12:13 points us in the right direction: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” This is precisely the same thought as inEphesians 4:5, “(There is) one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” For also in Ephesians you read in the immediately preceding verse, “There is one body, and one Spirit.” In order to understand this sacramental grace, therefore, you only have to bear in mind that as a human being you are a member of a body. As a creature out of Adam a member of the one body of the human race; and as a new creature in Christ a member of the one body of those who are perfectly righteous. It is not sufficient, therefore, that grace is merely wrought in you personally. Only then does grace come to its own, when it does not merely affect you individually, but when it at the same time sets you in connection with the body to which you organically belong. A man dwelling on an uninhabited island indeed is alive; nevertheless he has no life, simply because man is adapted to live in organic association with others and to see this come to expression in his life. Now thus it is also with the new man in Christ Jesus. Also for him it is not sufficient that he personally has life; no, this new life must be granted to him also in organic connection with the mystical body of Christ. Otherwise he may be alive indeed, but he does not enjoy living. If it is to be well with him, there must, therefore, be a bond, a connection, established between his life and the life of that mystical body. Only when this takes place, and is become a matter of his consciousness, has the fulness of the new life truly dawned upon him. This, after all, is the peculiar characteristic of the life of the child of God, that he does not possess that life all by himself, but that he partakes of all the life of the entire body, and that he has a part in all that God has bestowed upon that body. Not all alone, but along with all the saints must he know and acknowledge the love of Christ.”
(to be continued)