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435 W. But pray, Thomas, how is it that you have now got to think of this, so very differently from what you formerly did ?
T. Why, William, since you and I conversed together on the prayers which we use in the Church, I have considered them all, over and over again, very carefully; and I see how wonderfully fulí they are of real religion, and how they teach us to ask for every thing we can want. The religion of Christians is indeed there; and, the more I consi. der this, the more I feel assured of it; and this has led me to look at other parts of the service, such as Baptism and Confirmation, and Matrimony and the Visitation of the Sick, and the rest; and I see that they are all in the self-same spirit; all done so as to guide us through this world like those who are travelling to a better. It was by reading carefully the service for Baptism, that I learned what a sacred thing Baptism is. I should like to have some conversation with you on all these services : at present, the matter uppermost in my mind is the Baptismal Service. I know nothing more about it than just what I find in the Prayer. Book ; but this seems to me to give a very clear view of the subject. Perhaps you can tell me something more about it.
W. Why, I know no more about it myself, Thomas, than what I have read there ; but I think the Prayer-Book seems to contain just what one should wish to know about it, if we would but consider it properly, and act according to it.
T. Yes; but how many people are there who never look at the service at all before they take a child to be christened, -and so know nothing about what they are doing.
W. Yes, that is a sad thing indeed, Thomas; but it is no excuse for Us, you
* See“ Village Conversations on the Liturgy," &c.
T. No, I am aware of that: and, indeed, nobody is more to blame in this way than I have been myself; but it is my wish to take my child to church this time with a better knowledge of what I am doing, and with a sincere desire that it should become " a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven."
W. I trust it will be so; and since I see that you are really in earnest in what you are going to do, I shall be truly glad if my poor assistance can be of any use to you; and I will consent to be one of the godfathers to your child, with all my heart.
T. Thank you heartily, my good friend. I have another neighbour in my eye to stand with you, who seems to think very much of that which is good; and my wife has asked a relation of her's to be the godmother, but she has not given us a fixed answer yet; she is a religious woman, and she thinks very seriously of the duty of a godmother
, and that is the very reason why we wished to have her; but she seems afraid of entering upon so weighty a business.
W. I think that is a pity, Thomas. To undertake such a thing lightly is very wrong indeed ; but to stand for a child is a great opportunity of being useful; and it would be a sad thing if all religious people were to refuse the office, for fear of doing wrong
T. I think so too; for that would be leaving it altogether in the hands of those who were the worst fitted for it. But if you are not in a very great hurry, William, let us just look at the service for Baptism in the Prayer-Book; all people should certainly do this before they carry a child to be baptized.
W. To be sure they should. Pray lend me your book. I think it is a very solemn thing for a child to be baptized according to Christ's command, and to be received into the congregation of his flock. Some people make it a rule to have their children
437 baptized at home, almost as soon as they are born, for fear they should die, as they say, without a nane.
T. Yes, that was always my way; I always wished to have the children named, and then we carried them to Church to be christened any time afterwards; we have sometimes waited a year and more; and one time we had two of our children christened at once.
W. Aye, now, that is what I cannot say I agree with you in.
T. I would not do so now, William ; we always used to think the great matter was to have the child named, or, as some people call it, half-baptized ; but I think I see the matter differently now. I should not, indeed, like a child to die without being named, but it is not for the sake of the name, but because I take Baptism to be a sacrament ordained by Christ himself." Our Saviour has appointed his sacraments as the “outward signs” by which we receive “ inward and spiritual grace, and are made partakers of the promises of the Gospel. Water is the outward sign in the sacrament of Baptism; and, therefore, when the water is used, then is the Baptism. We should not call this being half-baptized, for it is being wholly baptized. The other part which we commonly call being christened, is the public admittance into the Church, where the whole congregation put up their prayers together, that the child now admitted * into Christ's flock, may ever continue in the number of Christ's people, and lead the rest of its life according to this beginning.” This, as I think, ought to be done at the same time, as soon as it can conveniently be done. I would not keep a child back from its Christian privileges if I could help it. W. Certainly not. In case of illness, private Baptism is allowed; but the other is the proper way.
T. To be sure it must; and I am very glad that our Minister now always baptizes the children
immediately after the last lesson," instead of waiting till service is over and the people all gone. It is a beautiful service, and it must do the people good to hear it; besides it certainly is a service which belongs to the congregation, they are to join in it; and how much more may we expect that the dear infant, to be dedicated to God," should continue his faithful servant,” when a whole congregation of Christian worshippers is pouring forth their prayers in its behalf.
W. Certainly; and this is the way in which the rubrick directs that it should be done. You know what the rubrick means, now, Thomas.
T. Oh, yes, the directions : you explained that to me before.
W. Well, these directions say that Baptism should be administered " when the most number of people come together,” and that it should be
immediately after the last lesson,” either in the morning or evening service; and therefore I am glad that our Minister does it at these times; and, I believe, besides the blessing which we may thus hope for the child, it is a great call to every one of us to remember our own vows; and to think to what great blessings, and to what great duties, as Christians, we are called. There may, however, be perhaps some good reasons for altering the time. But, whenever this service is performed, it is our business to think very seriously what we are about, and to consider that a child is to be offered to the service of its Maker and Redeemer by a solemn sacrament, according to the direction of Christ himself. The Baptismal Service, likewise, brings to our view the great doctrines of our holy religion,
439 and shews us our obligation to walk in its appointed ways. It begins by reminding us that we
" born in sin, and that none can enter into the kingdom of heaven except he be regenerate and born anew of water and of the Holy Spirit.” Now it is the Spirit of God that regenerates us,
and makes us fit to enter into the kingdom of heaven; it is this “inward spiritual grace” which the Scriptures, the Catechism, and the Baptismal Service all teach us to be the thing needful to prepare sinful mortals for heaven : it is this that changes those who are by nature children of wrath, into children of grace, and that makes those who are “ born in sin” to be heirs of the Gospel promises,—“ inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.” Now, of this “ inward and spiritual grace”? the water is an 6 outward and visible sign;" it is a sign“ ordained by Christ himself;" and we may truly expect, if we receive it rightly, that God's blessing will go with it.
T. We certainly may trust that it will be so. As our blessed Saviour has said, “ suffer little children to come unto me," I could not be happy without publicly offering my child to the service of the Lord; and I really and faithfully trust that I may then have the comfort and happiness of believing that it is really one of the flock of Christ.
W. I firmly believe so, I assure you, Thomas ; and, if the child should die, I should have the greatest confidence that it would be taken, through the merits of its Saviour, into the happiness of heaven.
T. Yes, and if the child should live, I think that, having been thus admitted into the flock of Christ, in the way of Christ's own appointment, it might look for those privileges and promises which are given to Christians in the Gospel.
W. I think so myself; and it is my opinion, that we are many of us apt to think too lightly of this