The following quotations are taken from Robert L. Dabney, Lectures In Systematic Theology.
p. 790: “They say they can prove in each case there were none: Cornelius’ by vss. 2, 44. But see Genesis xviii: 19; II Chron. xx: 13; Ezra viii: 21; Matt. xxi: 15, 16. That Lydia’s house were all believing adult children, or servants, or apprentices, they argue from Acts xvi: 40, ‘brethren.’ But see vss. 14, 15, nobody’s faith is mentioned but Lydia’s, and doubtless Paul had many other converts out of Lydia’s house. The proof is, that the whole context shows the meeting in vs. 40 was a public one, not a family one; and the Philippian church, a flourishing body was now planted.”
Note: This quotation is significant because it shows that Dabney’s view was that there was already a Philippian church organized at the time when Paul baptized the jailer.
p. 794: “When our standards say, ‘all baptized persons are members of the Church,’ this by no means implies their title to all sealing ordinances, suffrage, and office. They are minor citizens in the ecclesiastical commonwealth, under tutelage, training, and instruction, and government; heirs, if they will exercise the graces obligatory’ on them, of all the ultimate franchises of the Church, but not allowed to enjoy them until qualified. They are, justly, under ecclesiastical government.”
Note: We are not interested here in Dabney’s argument concerning the difference between children and adults who are members of the church. This is the question which he is discussing in the context. We are, however, interested in the fact that he proceeds on the assumption that. baptized persons aremembers of the church, and that, too, in its visible, institutional sense. This is quite in harmony with the current position of the Reformed confessions and of Reformed dogmaticians that baptism is the sacrament of our incorporation into the visible church. Baptism which does not function as such is not proper baptism and is, not recognized either in our Reformed confession or in Reformed dogmatics.
The following is translated from Dr. A. KuyperDictaten Dogmatiek IV, Locus De Sacramentis.
p. 41: “According as the sacrament is a means of grace, it belongs in the Church, and is incapable of existence outside the Church; and according as Christ no more appears directly in the sphere of the visible, he brings the sacrament into existence at present only mediately through the Church.
“Seeing that the sacraments belong to the realm of the visible, in this connection by the Church is to be understood the Church as she appears in the realm of the visible; not a visible Church next to the invisible, but the invisible, which appears in the visible. Now this Church is not something next to, outside of, or over against Christ, but His body, which by Him as her Head is inspired and ruled. He is her subject. By her intruding into the visible, however, she causes her unity to go into hiding; she bedims her holy character, and she can let the works of Christ be seen in no other way than through the office.
“The action of the church as such is:
“1. That she appears as visible institute in order to be Christ’s instrument, in order that He may bring forth His sacraments: on this account she is bound to His institution, to the form determined by Him, to the Word given by Him and to the purpose prescribed by Him.
“2. That she in the name of the Mediator and thus in the name of the Triune God administers these sacraments to everyone who reckons himself to be member of the body of Christ in the realm of the visible.
“3. That by means of discipline she guards both against the non-use of the sacrament by him for whom it is, and against the use of the sacrament by him for whom it is not proper.
“Also in the determination of time and place the Church is not free; not in regard to place,—for she can only administer the sacrament there where she becomes revealed as Church, whether in the gathering of believers or in the gathering of the office bearers, representing the Church; and also not with respect to time, in so far as the determination of time arises out of the nature of the sacraments, even though there is left to the Churches a judgment of discretion in this.”
p. 42: “The sacrament is bound to the Church; not to individuals in that Church. A believer has indeed a mystical life, can allow Christ to operate through the Word upon his consciousness, but the sacrament he does not have. This belongs to the, Church as institute as organism.
“Besides it is bound. to the Church in the visible, the visible instituted Church, not to a circle of believers: This arises out of the nature of the sacrament as visible sign. . . .”
p. 45: “Always must the Church as institute administer the sacrament. There can be a Church in the realm of the visible, not yet instituted, for example in the case of moving, but then the administration of the sacrament may not take place there.”
Kuyper then goes on to explain his position in this regard and to emphasize strongly and repeatedly the necessity of the institute.
p. 47: “But what rule follows from the ordinance of the sacrament? This only in the gathering of believers may there be baptism. Not in, the absolute sense; but where the Church as instituted Church appears in the organs of her office bearers.”
p. 113: “The Reformed have excluded every magical conception and said that the Church can only exist in the heart of believers (Luke 17:20); she is naos tou theou(temple of God), seeing that the Holy Ghost dwells in her. That Holy Ghost is the Pneuma (Spirit) of all the believers; and therefore it must be maintained that the Church is only there, where the believers are.
“Therefore also baptism must take place in the midst of the congregation. Where there are no believers, the rite of baptism is not complete.
“The Romish appeal to the eunuch and the jailer at Philippi. But those are exceptions. They tell us only that baptism without praesentia fidelium is not impossible.
“Baptism in the midst of believers must be strongly maintained, secondly, because baptism is the quest after a good conscience. (I Peter 3:21), and, thirdly, because the sacrament, as sign of being received into the covenant of grace, is not possible with the exclusion of the love of the remaining members, who therefore must also manifest themselves as Church.”