[@] Baptism & Fellowship (6)

OK -- after having a tire blow out at 70 MPH on I-40 at 11 PM in the middle of nowhere in Arkansas, this discussion seems a little academic, but since I started it I have a responsibility to keep up with it. Daniel has chimed in with his view of the matter:
In the WCF baptism is referred to by the term "sacrament" - that is, it is explained as a way to bestow some measure of grace upon the physically baptized party. Even if one doesn't have a dictionary to look up what the word sacrament actually means, the idea is spelled out plainly enough in the sixth paragraph:

"by the right use of [baptism].. the grace promised is... exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost... in His appointed time.
Without being insulting to Daniel, I think we are about to experience death by elipsis. What the WCF says is:
The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinancy the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.
Given that the qualifiers of the WCF are that the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the administration of the act and that grace is conferred to such as the grace belongs to, it is rather hard to make the charge that Presbyterian paedobaptism "bestow[s] some measure of grace".

It is even harder to say what comes next:
If case that is blurry for some, the WCF is teaching that baptism confers some measure of grace to the baptized party - if not immediately - eventually. For those who are discerning, that is the heart of this contention – not whether paedobaptists are believers, whether we should fellowship with them, or share the Lord’s table – it is whether or not baptism confers (in any measure or in any way) grace. The LBCF calls baptism an ordinance, and removes all references to the imparting of grace through the physical act.
There is no doubt -- and if I have left any doubt, let me draw the line with a big fat Sharpie marker right here in the blog -- that we should reject any kind of baptism that claims to be regenerative, redemptive, or part of a works-plus formula for salvation.

In that, we should let the Presbyterians speak for themselves, which they do clearly in the Larger Catechism:
    Question 165
    What is Baptism?

    Answer 165
    Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's.
Daniel's contention is that "a sign and seal" means "a vehicle for or a vessel which pours out", but in the context here the phrase means "a visible indicator (sign) and a visible marker (seal)". In that, it is hardly different than the language used by the LBCF except that it applies the word "sacrament", and in that one has to ask what they mean by this word.

Being very logical men, the Westminster divines did not leave us guessing about what they meant:
    Question 162
    What is a sacrament?

    Answer 162
    A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.

    Question 163
    What are the parts of a sacrament?
    Answer 163
    The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ's own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.
Notice something important here: the actual grace (the inward spiritual matter) is not the sensible sign. In making that distinction, the Westminster divines remove from the table the charge that they are saying that the sacrament actually procures grace. And they go on:
    Question 166
    Unto whom is Baptism to be administered?

    Answer 166
    Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
The primary candidate for baptism in their scheme is anyone who ought to be inside the church -- not any who is necessarily saved. In that, they require that children of those professing faith ought to be baptized.

Now why would that be? Why not just allow that children ought not to be baptized until they confess faith? They case they make is simple: Christ would not refuse children to come unto him, and the promise Christ makes is for the believer and his children.

In that, they make a final statement about baptism that cannot be overlooked:
    Question 167
    How is our Baptism to be improved by us?

    Answer 167
    The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.
If baptism were the actual transfer of grace, in what way could it be improved? What this paragraph makes plain is that the Westminster standard is a clear affirmation that our baptism stands as an indicator of the faith we claim to be part of -- it is the indicator that we ought to be inside Christ's spiritual body and doing the work of His spiritual hands and feet. We improve our baptism by living out the affirmation is signifies -- and if they were talking about a vehicle for grace, to say it could be "improved" is awkward at best.
The LBCF teaches that baptism is an ordinance (commanded by Christ) that rightly pictures what has already taken place spiritually - that being the spiritual immersion (baptism if you will) of the repentant sinner into the body of Christ. This is the fundamental difference: The credo-Baptist believes that baptism pictures something that has already happened, the paedobaptists believes that water baptism is a guarantee (i.e. a seal and sign) that something will happen.
I disagree, and I point upward to the sections of the Larger Catechism already cited to underscore why.
Am I off on this? The primary reason a paedobaptist is willing to pour water on his child is because he believes that doing so confers grace upon his child. The Baptist position is that the ordinance only pictures the grace that was conferred already by Christ. On the one hand you have Christ conferring grace, on the other, the parents. That is a BIG difference.
I think you are mistaken, Daniel, about the WCF/paedo view, and when I get a moment to dig out my copy of Reymond's Systematic Theology, I'll offer a few more notes on the matter.

My thanks for your interesting and useful thoughts.

By the way, I turned 40 this week. Pray for me.