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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 94. What is baptism?

A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's.

1. Philip Henry drew up the following short form of the baptismal covenant, for the use of his children: 'I take God the Father to be my chief good and highest end. I take God the Son to be my Prince and Saviour. I take God the Holy Ghost to be my Sanctifier, Teacher, Guide, and Comforter. I take the Word of God to be my rule in all my actions, and the people of God to be my people in all conditions. I do likewise devote and dedicate unto the Lord, my whole self, all I am, all I have, and all I can do. And this do I deliberately, sincerely, freely, and for ever.' This he taught his children; and they each of them solemnly repeated it every Lord's-day in the evening, after they were catechised, he putting his amen to it, and sometimes adding, 'So say, and so do, and you are made for ever.'

2. Matthew Henry has left the following testimony in his Treatise on Baptism: 'I cannot but take occasion to express my gratitude to God for my infant baptism; not only as it was an early admission into the visible body of Christ, but as it furnished my pious parents with a good argument (and, I trust, through grace, a prevailing argument) for an early dedication of my own self to God in my childhood. If God has wrought any good work upon my soul, I desire with humble thankfulness, to acknowledge the moral influence of my infant baptism upon it.'

3. Philip Henry declined the private administration of the Lord's Supper to sick persons, as judging it not consonant to the rule and intention of the ordinance. He very rarely, if ever, baptized in private, but would have children brought to the solemn assembly on the Lord's-day, that the parents' engagement might have the more witnesses to it, and the child the more prayers put up for it, and that the congregation might be edified. He very much persuaded his friends to put off feasting till another occasion, observing, that Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned, not the same day that he was circumcised.

4. A Greenlander for many years had communication with the Moravian missionaries, but could never resolve to forsake his land, where he was held in great respect. On one occasion, however, being at the capelin fishery, he got a sight of his daughter, who had removed from him, and was baptized, and showed his resentment at it. But she modestly told him the reasons that induced her to it and set forth the happiness of believers, concluding with these words: 'So happy may you also be; but if you will not, I cannot stay and perish with you.' This softened his heart, and he began to weep, went with her to the missionary, and declared his intention now was, not to take away his daughter from the baptized, but rather go with her. He expressed his resolution to remain with the missionaries, and his wish that the rest of his children might be baptized. 'As for myself' said he, 'I dare not think of baptism, as I am very bad, and old too, and incapable of learning much more; but yet I will live and die with you, for it is very reviving to me to hear of our Saviour.'

This material is taken from THE SHORTER CATECHISM ILLUSTRATED by John Whitecross revised and republished by the Banner of Truth Trust edition 1968 and reproduced with their permission.

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