I embarked on my journey on Friday, July 5, at 10 pm with the other members of my youth group from the West Sayville church parking lot, and arrived with them back at the church parking lot on Friday, July 26, at 10 pm. In the course of that time period of exactly three weeks, an incredible number of exciting and edifying things took place, some of which I may write about later. For now, however, it’s time to catch up on some sadly-neglected areas of URC Psalmody, beginning with our series journeying through the Heidelberg Catechism.
We left off in our series on the Heidelberg Catechism with Lord’s Day 26, which introduced the first of the two Biblical sacraments: baptism. Lord’s Day 27 delves deeper into the nature of baptism with words of comforting instruction.
72 Q. Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
A. No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit
cleanse us from all sins.
73 Q. Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?
A. God has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
the blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins
just as water washes away dirt from our bodies.
But more important,
he wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign,
that the washing away of our sins spiritually
is as real as physical washing with water.
74 Q. Should infants, too, be baptized?
Infants, as well as adults
are in God’s covenant and are his people.
They, no less than adults, are promised
the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s blood
and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.
Therefore, by baptism, the mark of the covenant,
infants should be received into the Christian church
and should be distinguished from the children of unbelievers.
This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision,
which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.
210, “O Praise the Lord, His Deeds Make Known” (Psalm 105)
“[H]e wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign, that the washing away of our sins spiritually is as real as physical washing with water.” The Reformed faith emphasizes baptism primarily as a covenant sign and seal, marking believers and their children as belonging to God and not to the world. Thus, while Psalm 105 says nothing specific regarding baptism or circumcision, it is perfectly appropriate as it calls us to behold the words and works of our covenant God.
Ye children of God’s covenant,
Who of His grace have heard,
Forget not all His wondrous deeds
And judgments of His word.
The Lord our God is God alone,
All lands His judgments know;
His promise He remembers still,
While generations go.
While yet our fathers were but few,
Sojourners in the land,
He sware that Canaan should be theirs,
And made His covenant stand.
He suffered none to do them wrong
In all their pilgrim way;
Yea, for their sake were kings reproved
And covered with dismay.
At their request He sent them quails,
And bread of heaven bestowed;
And from the rock, to quench their thirst,
The living waters flowed.
His sacred word to Abraham
He kept, though waiting long,
And brought His chosen people forth
With joy and thankful song.
150, “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds” (Psalm 78)
“Infants, as well as adults are in God’s covenant and are his people. They, no less than adults, are promised the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.” Without a doubt, infant baptism is one of the most controversial doctrines in the Reformed faith, and a theological treatise on it is far beyond the scope of this blog. But it is profitable to note the correlation between the practice of infant baptism and the intergenerational nature of God’s covenant, as spoken of in Psalm 78:
Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old,
Which in our younger years we saw
And which our fathers told.
He bids us make His glories known,
The works of power and grace,
That we convey His wonders down
Through every rising race.
Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
And generations yet unborn
Must teach them to their heirs;
Thus shall they learn, in God alone
Their hope securely stands;
That they may not forget His works,
But honor His commands.
222, “O Give the Lord Whole-hearted Praise” (Psalm 111)
The baptism of an infant or adult is a joyous occasion for many reasons, but most of all it points to the continuation of God’s covenant with his people as he calls them out of darkness into his marvelous light. Psalm 111 is a song of praise in response to the Lord’s covenant faithfulness.
O give the Lord wholehearted praise,
To Him thanksgiving I will bring;
With all His people I will raise
My voice and of His glory sing.
His saints delight to search and trace
His mighty works and wondrous ways;
Majestic glory, boundless grace,
And righteousness His work displays.
The wondrous works that God has wrought
His people ever keep in mind,
His works with grace and mercy fraught,
Revealing that the Lord is kind.
God’s promise shall forever stand,
He cares for those who trust His word;
Upon His saints His mighty hand
The wealth of nations has conferred.
His works are true and just indeed,
His precepts are forever sure;
In truth and righteousness decreed,
They shall forevermore endure.
From Him His saints’ redemption came;
His covenant sure no change can know;
Let all revere His holy Name
In heaven above and earth below.
In reverence and in godly fear
Man finds the gate to wisdom’s ways;
The wise His holy Name revere;
Through endless ages sound His praise.