William Ames on the sacrament of baptism...

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Puritan Board Sophomore
Having just finished thinking through Ames' Marrow of Theology, the part that still has me wondering what he was getting at is in Book 1, Chapter 40 on pp. 210-211.

On one hand he repudiates baptismal regeneration, and then in the next couple of sentences he seems to legitimize such a view.

4. ...(the sacraments) are not so necessary to salvation that the absence or mere lack of them deprives one of salvation.

5. Baptism is the sacrament of initiation or regeneration.

Huh? Is it that I simply don't understand how he is defining what a sacrament is? (probably) I have always understood regeneration to mean "new life" which parallels being "born again."
Am I wrong on this assumption?

Also, Ames makes mention of some "other" types of seals:

8. And because holiness always comes from Christ into whom we are ingrafted, to all the faithful, baptism is also the SEAL OF SANCTIFICATION. Titus 3:5, He has saved us ... by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit; Rom. 6:4-6

9. And since glorification cannot be separated from true holiness it is at the same time the SEAL OF ETERNAL GLORY, Titus 3:7, that we might ... be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life; Rom. 6:8, If we are dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live together with him.
10. Because those benefits are sealed by initiation in baptism, it should be noted, first, that baptism is only to be administered once. There is only one beginning of spiritual life by rebirth as there is but one beginning of natural life by birth.

Are his "seals" here just figures of speech or is there something more to this?

Once again, in point 10 (above), he seems to intimate that spiritual re-birth begins at baptism or is, at least, legitimised by baptism. I know that he can't be so confused as to be saying both.
What am I missing here?
I have a hunch that it has something to do with his high view of the church and ecclesiology (something which, -being the rebellious American who has held a low view of the church [by absorption I believe], I have a very weak understanding of).

Can anyone help me here???:think:

[Edited on 6-12-2004 by SmokingFlax]

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Ames did not believe in baptismal regeneration as you noted. It's a form of presumptive regeneration. Children are to be given the covenant sign of baptism because they are in covenant with God. God has promised to be a God to them too. Baptism is the initiatory right into public church membership. Since the children of believers are counted in the church they also must be set apart from the world by the sign of baptism to be raised in the faith as disciples of our Lord.

And you must not seperate too greatly the difference between the sign and the thing signified. Baptism pictures for us many things, including regeneration, sanctification, and resurrection in Christ. And it seals these things to us through faith. It is a testimony of God's faithfulness to us. Through faith we trust the God who has sealed us as His own that He will accomplish all that He promises us in baptism. For children, this does the same thing, as they grow in maturity of faith and knowledge, we teach them what those promises mean and how to embrace them so that their baptism seals those promises to them too.

Does this mean the things symbolized happen when the sign is applied? Not necessarily. The efficacy of the sacrament is not tied to the time of the administration. Regeneration may have been present before, during, or occur later (even much later) after the baptism is applied. But the testimony of those promises still remain.

If they, like Esau grow up to reject these promises, then woe be unto them... Hope this helps.
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