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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Of Baptism.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lordís.

Q. 1. What is the external part of baptism?
A. It is pure unmixed water; Hebrews 10:22. And our bodies washed with pure water. And therefore it is a vile practice of Papists, to add oil, salt, and spittle, to water in baptism.

Q. 2. What doth water in baptism signify?
A. It signifies the blood of Christ; Revelation 1:5. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.

Q. 3. What is the first resemblance it hath to Christís blood?
A. In the freeness of it to all, it represents the unpurchased blood of Christ; Isaiah 55:1. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price.

Q. 4. What is the second resemblance to Christís blood?
A. It resembles it in its refreshing quality; water refresheth the thirsty, so doth Christís blood; John 6:55. He that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Q. 5. What is the third resemblance it hath to Christís blood?
A. The cleansing property of water shews the purifying virtue of Christís blood; Hebrews 9:14. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living



Q. 6. What is the fourth resemblance it hath to Christís blood?
A. It resembles it in the necessity of it: For as the body cannot live without water, so neither can the soul without Christís blood; Hebrews 9:23. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

Q. 7. What is the fifth resemblance of water to the blood of Christ?
A. As water neither refresheth nor purifies the body without application; so neither doth Christís blood refresh or purify the soul till applied; 1 Corinthians 1:30. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

Q. 8. Is it necessary to plunge the whole body under water, in baptizing every person?
A. The word [baptize] signifying as well to wash, as to plunge; a person may be truly baptized, that is not plunged. And we cannot think by the circumstance of time and place, that the jailor, in the night, was carried to a river out of the city; Acts 16:33. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his straightway.

Q. 9. But it is not said, John 3:23. That John also was baptizing in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized?
A. The word signifies many waters, that is, springs of waters there; which are known by travellers to be small, not capable of plunging into.

Q. 10. What are the benefits accruing to us by baptism?
A. The benefits are twofold: some external, called the fatness of the olive-tree; i. e. ordinances, and visible membership; Romans 11:17. And thou being a wild olive-tree, wert graffed in amongst them, and with them partakers of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. And some spiritual and saving; 1 Peter 3:21. The like figure whereunto, even baptism, doth also now save us, (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Q. 11. What engagements are laid on the baptized?
A. They are engaged to be the Lordís people, and to walk suitably to that engagement; Romans 6:4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Q. 12. Is baptism to be reiterated, as the Lordís supper?
A. No; for the Lordís supper is a sacrament for nourishing, but this for implantation; Romans 6:4-5. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we should be also in the likeness of his resurrection.

Q. 13. Doth baptism regenerate men, and confer saving grace?
A. No, it doth not, in its own virtue, convey grace, no more than the Lordís supper; but the Spirit of God is the author of grace, and works it as he pleases, ore or after baptism.

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