“Baptism has no significance for Calvin if it does not mean admission to the visible church on th ground of the covenant promise, which includes presumptive regeneration of the children in the covenant. Calvin looks upon the child in the covenant as God’s child, forgiven of sin and regenerated, with the new life as a latent seed, already at work in its heart. The child then opens its eyes redeemed on a world in which by careful nuture it is expected to grow and develop in the Christian ideal of life and character. The important point is that this child is presumptively a Christian. That Calvin so meant we see clearly from this passage:
‘The offspring of believers are born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant of eternal life. Nor are they brought into the church by baptism on any other ground than because they belonged to the body of the Church before they were born. How who admits aliens to baptism profanes it…For how can it be lawful to confer the badge of Christ on aliens from Christ. Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause of half salvation merely, buy gives salvation entire; and this salvation is afterwards ratified by Baptism.'”
(Lewis Bevens Schenck, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, p. 13)
Last week I wrote how we are to embrace difficultes with joy that we might follow in the footsteps of our Lord. While the truth of this applies to all, there are particular groups prone to thinking things really should be easier. Here is some advice to those groups.
1. Parents need to carefully examine their attitude toward their children. It is very easy to approach young ones (or teenagers!) as a necessary duty, but not a joy. Children and all the difficulties associated with them can quickly become a burden. Instead of recognizing that raising children is the essence of building the Kingdom of Christ, we see our duties at home as obstacles to “the real work.” We will bear little fruit if we see children as a burden and do not raise them in joy.
2. Pastors are frequently guilty of this approach to their flocks. They imagine that Paul never had things as bad as they do. The apathy, the immorality, the pettiness can create a perspective on God’s people that is unbibical. A pastor can find himself looking on the flock as a great drain on his time and energy. He sees what God has given to other men and assumes that he deserves those things and that the path God has given these other men is easier than his. Both of these are carcinogens to the soul. The minute a man believes things are better somewhere else is the minute he begins to lose his passion for those in front of him. He is not called to be a Piper or MacArthur. He is called to embrace with joy the flock in front of him.
3. Finally, with the church in America in such disarray, we should expect God to raise up reformers whom God will use to call His people back. Young reformers in particular tend to think this type of thing is easy, a quick fix. The persecution, hatred, back-biting, and general animosity that often accompanies attempts at reform are forgotten. A good dose of church history will cure that. Reformers always pay a dear price for their attempts. From Jeremiah to Paul to Wycliffe to Bonhoefer the cost is heavy. All is rosy at the beginning, but the long, hot road of reform can discourage many a man. We are fools if we believe the recovery of the Gospel in our age will leave us or our loved ones unscarred.
In 1544 John Calvin published a book calling the German princes to support the Reformation in Europe. Calvin anticipates that many princes will not take up the mantle of the Reformation believing the work to be too difficult. Here is what he says, “However, considering, according to the well-known sentiment of an old proverb, that there is nothing illustrious which is not also difficult and arduous, can we wonder, that in the greatest and most excellent of all causes we must fight our way through many difficulties.” How quickly we forget that all good things come at a great cost. Die with joy knowing that the Lord loves to raise the dead.