Baptism as distinction

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Puritan Board Junior
This post is more of a question for Rev. Winzer so I was going to PM, but decided to make it public in case anyone else is struggling with this as I am. :candle:

I saw your post here quoting Thomas M'Crie on baptism. To shorten the quote:
"[Baptism] is not used in the sense of securing the person, or of distinguishing him from others."

And then the WCF 27.1 " put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world..."

Can you explain the supposed discrepancy (not to assume there is one)?
The point of that whole section of M'Crie is on the nature of baptism as a seal, particularly a "third sense," i.e. to a secretive, confirmatory quality; versus its function in other ways, as sign which are not being addressed. At least, I take him to mean that the former senses are more specifically covered by the term "sign."

In para. 3 he uses the terms "symbol" and "sign" for that which his distinguishes from "seal". And here, he puts it literally: "As a symbol, it is a badge of distinction from the world; as a seal, it stands related, not to the person, but to the covenant."

If you note carefully the WCF's 27:1 statement, it is precisely addressed to the nature of sign or visibility. In that case, baptism serves a clearly distinguishing purpose.
Well put Bruce. There is a tendency to forget, in Sacraments, that there is a necessity to distinguish between what is signified by a sacrament and what is sealed by a sacrament.

This is why the term sacrament is useful because, by the single notion, two distinct aspects may be considered individually but then they are properly united as one considers the sacramental relation of one to another. Because some fail to make this distinction, they read of a Presbyterian speaking of baptism (as an example) being applied to infants and they don't understand that the signatory action by the minister does not imply that we believe that the graces signified have been sealed merely by the "working of the works". It is proper to understand the the Scriptures have commissioned Churches to signify visible boundaries between the visible Church and the world while respecting the truth that the hidden things belong to the Lord and that He is sovereign as to who the graces of the Covenant are sealed to. Sealing occurs according to God's sovereign pleasure and is not visible to the world. Nobody can look at a man and see that he is marked out by the world by considering whether God has elected him or not. That said, the sign is not a mere sign because God is pleased to attend His grace with the sign for the elect so they can sacramentally relate the reception of the sign to the graces freely given by God.

A few errors exist that are worth noting that Reformed theology avoids. One is to assume that by the mere administration of the sign that all the graces signified are conferred by the Church. In this schema, no respect is given to the hidden things of God and that election belongs to His hidden counsel. Another error is to divorce the sealing actions of God from the administration of the sign altogether so that the sacrament becomes a bare sign. This does not merely distinguish but divorces the sign from the seal and leaves the believer and the Church with no historical witness to the grace of God. God still confers grace in such a schema but it is individualistic and mystical and independent from the sign that is intended to act as a visible witness to the believer.
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