The truth, therefore, is not that the ground of infant baptism is a certain presumptive regeneration. That, first. Nor is the ground that the promise of the covenant is for all that live under the dispensation of the covenant. That, second. But, thirdly, the ground rather is that God establishes His covenant in the line of continued generations, while in those generations there are children of the promise, and, at the same time, carnal children that never receive the blessing of the promise and that trample under foot the covenant of God.
Thus it was in. the old dispensation. At that time the covenant of God was confined within the limits of the nation of Israel. They formed one nation. They all lived under God’s dealings with His own. They were all delivered with a mighty arm from the house of bondage. They were all witnesses of God’s terrible wonders. They all passed through the Red Sea. And they were all baptized into Moses. They all ate of the spiritual bread and drank of the spiritual rock that followed them in the desert. They were the nation that received the law, to whom the Word of God was entrusted, whose were the prophets, the priests, the kings, the service of the temple, the altar and the sacrifices. Yet, with the majority of them God was not well pleased. There were in the generations of the people. of God of the old dispensation two seeds, the true children of; the promise and the carnal children that despised God’s covenant and trampled under foot the holy things of the covenant of Jehovah, His Word and His precepts. Yet it was the will of God that all would receive the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness which is by faith.
Nor is it different in the new dispensation. The church in the world is the gathering of confessing believers and their children. They form one people even though the course of God’s covenant is no longer confined to one single nation. And to this people God reveals His covenant. They are called after His name. And outwardly all that belong to them are subject to the same dealings. All are according to the will of God baptized in the name of God Triune. To all the Word is preached. And all, unless they violate the covenant of God before they ever come to confession of faith in the church, celebrate the death of the Lord Jesus Christ at the communion table. Yet also to the church of the new dispensation apply the words of Romans 9:6-8: “Not as though the word of, God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but I the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Always there are in the line of the generations of the people of God the true spiritual seed; but there also develops always again the carnal seed, that live in close proximity and outward fellowship with the spiritual seed, dwell in the same house with the latter, go to the same church, are subject to the same influences as these, are under the preaching of the gospel, but are not children of the promise and receive not the grace of God in their hearts. And the significance of the presence of this carnal seed within the generations of the people of God is very evident both from Scripture and from actual experience. Because of the perpetual presence of that carnal element in the church of Christ in the world, the church must fight her hardest battle in her own house. For it is by this carnal element that the measure of iniquity is filled. And from the carnal seed is constantly developing, until the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, the culmination of all the forces of iniquity. And thus it is, according to the will of God, revealed in His Word, that the sign of baptism is to be administered to all the children that are born in the line of the generations of God’s people. While the sign and seal of the covenant is a savor of life for the children of the promise, it is at the same time a savor of death unto death for the reprobate that trample underfoot the covenant of Jehovah.
Our calling, therefore, is to watch and fight the good fight even unto the end. We must not say, “We have Abraham to our father.” For all are not Israel that are of Israel. Neither are they all children of God because they are of Abraham’s natural seed. Nor must we ever say that the Word of God has fallen out: for God certainly realizes His promise to all His people. His Word never fails! Nevertheless, it is our calling, our sacred obligation, our responsibility, to keep our part of the covenant. As the Baptism Form has it: “Thirdly. Whereas in all covenants, there are contained two parts (Mind you: not two parties, but two parts): therefore are we by God through baptism, admonished of, and obliged unto new obedience, namely, that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that we trust in him, and love him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, and with all our strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.”
And the Baptism Form in this part continues: “And if we sometimes through weakness fall into sin, we must not therefore despair of God’s mercy, nor continue in sin; since baptism is a seal and undoubted testimony, that we have an eternal covenant of grace with God.”
This, then, is the Reformed and Biblical conception and presentation of the covenant of God as it runs in the line of continued generations. We must have nothing of presumptive regeneration, which is not real. We must have nothing of the conception of Heyns, which would assign a certain subjective grace to all the children of the covenant. But we must maintain, and strongly maintain, that God’s covenant runs in the line of continued generations, and that therefore not all the children are children of the promise, but nevertheless the children of the promise only are counted for the seed.
THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
The sacraments, and especially the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, have a large place in the confessions of the church in the Heidelberg Catechism no less than three Lord’s Days are devoted to the discussion of this sacrament. And we will quote at least part of them.
Question 75 reads: “How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord’s Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
“A. Thus: That Christ has commanded me and all believers, to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, in remembrance of him, adding these promises: first, that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes, the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hand of the minister, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.”
And then, further, in Question 76: “What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?
“A. It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also; besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding ‘Flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone’; and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.”
In the same Lord’s Day mention is made of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and, in connection therewith, of the promise which Christ gives to those that partake.
Further, in Lords Day XXIX, Question 78 we read: “Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?
“A. Not at all: but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and confirmation thereof appointed of God; so the bread in the Lord’s Supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, it is called the body of Christ Jesus.”
Then in Question 79 the Catechism discusses the fact that Christ calls the bread His body and the cup His blood, and that also Paul calls the supper the communion of the body of Christ. And this is answered in the 79th answer.
Moreover, in Lord’s Day XXX the difference between the Lord’s Supper and the popish mass is discussed in Question 80. And in Questions 81 and 82 the subject concerns the proper partakers of the Lord’s Supper; and the Catechism answers that the Lord’s Supper is instituted only for those who “are, truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere heart, eat and drink judgment to themselves.” Thus, in Question 81. And Question 82 speaks of those who are wicked and therefore are not to be admitted to the Supper of the Lord, and, in connection with this, introduces the idea of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Also in the Netherlands Confession there occur three articles on the sacraments. In Article 33 the Confession speaks of the sacraments in. general. In Article 34 it speaks of Holy Baptism in particular. And in Article 35 it speaks of the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in the latter we read: “We believe and. confess, that our Savior Jesus Christ did ordain and institute the sacrament of the holy supper, to nourish and support those whom he hath already regenerated, and incorporated into his family, which is his Church. Now those, who are regenerated, have in them a twofold life, the one corporal and temporal, which they have from the first birth, and is common to all men: the other spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth, which is effected by the word of the gospel, in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is not common, but-is peculiar to God’s elect. In like manner God hath given us, for the support of the bodily and earthly life, earthly and common bread, which is subservient thereto, and is common to all men, even as life itself. But for the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, he hath sent a living bread, which descended from heaven, namely, Jesus Christ, who, nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers, when they eat him, that is to say, when they apply and receive him by faith in the spirit. Christ, that he might represent unto us this spiritual and heavenly bread, hath instituted an earthly and visible bread, as a sacrament of his body, and wine as a sacrament of his blood, to testify by them unto us, that, as certainly as we receive and hold this sacrament in our hands, and eat and drink the same with our mouths, by which our life is afterwards nourished, we also do as certainly receive by faith (which is the hand and mouth of our soul) the true body and blood of Christ our only Savior in our souls, for the support of our spiritual life. Now, as it is certain and beyond all doubt, that Jesus Christ hath not enjoined to us the use of his sacraments in vain, so he works in us all that he represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the meantime we err not, when we say, that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood of Christ. But the manner of our partaking of the same, is not by the mouth, but by the spirit through faith. Thus then, though Christ always sits at the right hand of his Father in the heavens, yet doth he not therefore cease to make us partakers of himself by faith. This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates himself with all his benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both himself, and the merits of his sufferings and death, nourishing, strengthening and comforting our poor comfortless souls by the eating of his flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of his blood. Further, though the sacraments are connected with the thing signified, nevertheless both are not received by all men: the ungodly indeed receives the sacrament to his condemnation, but he doth not receive the truth of the sacrament. As Judas, and Simon the sorcerer, both indeed received the sacrament, but not Christ, who was signified by it, of whom believers only are made partakers. Lastly, we receive this holy sacrament in the assembly of the people of God, with humility and reverence, keeping up amongst us a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, with thanksgiving: making there confession of our faith, and of the Christian religion. Therefore no one ought to come to this table without having previously rightly examined himself; lest by eating of this bread and drinking of this cup, he eat and drink judgment to himself. In a word, we are excited by the use of this holy sacrament, to a fervent love toward God and our neighbor. Therefore we reject all mixtures and damnable inventions, which men have added unto, and blended with the sacraments, as profanations of them: and affirm that we ought to, rest satisfied with the ordinance which Christ and his apostles have taught us, and that we must speak pf them in the same manner as they have spoken.”
Thus far the confessions.
Now the main question concerning this second sacrament is that which is concerned with the proper interpretation of the words which the Savior spoke at the institution of this sacrament, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood.” It deals with the relation between the sign and the thing signified. At the present time, four different views have developed and are held by the church. There is, first of all, of course, the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation, meaning that the sign and the thing signified are identified: the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of the Lord. There is also, as undoubtedly you know, the Lutheran view, which is that of consubstantiation. According to this view; the sign and the thing signified are not identified, yet objectively connected: the body and blood of the Lord are really present in, with, and under the bread and wine. Then there is the third view, which is connected with the name of Zwingli. It probably may be called the symbolic view: the Lord’s Supper is a mere feast of commemoration. And lastly, there is the view of the Reformed churches, according to which the relation between the sign and the thing signified are purely spiritual.
As might be expected, none of these four views had been definitely and distinctly developed in the earliest period of the church. It stands to reason that the church first of all simply accepted the sacraments and observed them without critically entering into the deeper significance of them. The church did not at once give herself account clearly and distinctly of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper or of the relation between the sign and the thing signified. It may be observed, however, that also to this sacrament, as well as to that of baptism, a profound significance was attached by the church generally, although, as I have said, she had no idea of its deeper meaning. Nevertheless, it may also be remarked that by various writers of the earlier period of the church the seeds were sown for the development of all the various views of the Lord’s Supper that were to be developed in a later period. The present Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation was entirely unknown in the first period of the church. Yet, since the church generally held that somehow the flesh and blood of Christ Were received at the Lord’s Supper, and the question as to how Christ was present in the signs was not always clearly answered, nevertheless it may be said that the tendencies can be found that would point in the direction of the Roman Catholic conception of the Lord’s Supper. Then too, the views of Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus remind us of the present Lutheran doctrine. They emphasize the real presence of the body and blood of the Lord without identifying, however, the sign and the thing signified. It must be remembered, however, that also these fathers did not clearly define the manner in which the body and blood of Christ were present in the Lord’s Supper. The North African Church revealed rather clear tendencies to what is called the Reformed view of the sacrament, Origen inclining toward the Zwinglian view, but Clement, Tertulliati, and Cyprian adhering rather to the Calvinistic conception. The idea of sacrifice in the Roman Catholic sense of the word, that, namely, the body and blood of the Lord are really offered up by the church through the priests, was not known in the early church. It is true that the church in that early period does indeed use the term sacrifice in connection with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but means something radically different from that which the Romish Church teaches at the present time. Not Christ is offered, but the church offers herself in prayer and thanksgiving and alms, etc. However, Cyprian, with his hierarchical tendencies, already suggests the idea that not only the church, but the priest offers an imitation of the sacrifice of the Lord.
In the second period, say, from about 300 to 750 A.D., the ideas of the sacraments in general and of the Lord’s Supper specifically were further developed. The relation between Christ and the signs in the Lord’s Supper was often compared to the union of the two natures in Christ. But the doctrine of transubstantiation, the Romish view, certainly was not at this time part as yet of the accepted doctrine of the church. The bread and wine are called types and antitypes of the body and blood of Christ. They are frequently called symbols. Augustine writes that Christ’s declaration that He would give us His flesh to eat must not be understood in the literal sense of the word: “His grace is not consumed by tooth-biting.” The idea of sacrifices was still emphasized, although at this period also the term does not convey the same meaning as that of the Romish Church at the present time. It was rather conceived of as a thank-offering, consisting in prayers, alms, etc. But this was held to be effective both for the living and the dead. At the end of this period, however, Gregory the Great plainly speaks of the Eucharist as a sacrifice which we offer.