07 March 2004

french reformed on baptism (part i)

I've been trying to research the baptismal doctrines of the 16th and 17th century French Reformed. I've collected a number of different writings, but, unlike the bulk of Scottish divines, many of the relevant texts need to be translated from either French or Latin. Other texts, though I have their titles, are difficult to access.

Thus, these posts will be occasional, as I find more sources and have time to do translation, where necessary. For this reason, also, my posts will not survey relevant authors chronologically, but rather in a more haphazard fashion.

I've already referred on this blog to both Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713) and the Gallican Confession regarding baptism. Moreover, some texts have already been translated into English and are more readily accessible. Thus, that is where I will begin.

Jean Daille (1594-1670) studied philosophy at Poitiers and Saumur, after which he was appointed by Phillipe du Plessis-Mornay as a tutor for his grandsons. In 1626 Daille was called to be a minister of the church at Charenton, where he served for many years. Daille was involved in a number of important French Reformed synods and was the author of numerous works, both expository and polemical.

The following is taken from his Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, particularly his comments on chapter 2. He writes,And thus you see what are the fruits of our communion with Jesus Christ, namely, the destruction of our old man and the creation of the new, signified by the apostle in these words: we are buried and risen with him again.Daille goes on to consider the various means by which God makes us partakers of these fruits, namely, the word and the sacraments, beginning with baptism. Regarding Paul's statement that we are "buried with Christ in baptism, wherein also you are raised with him," Daille comments,Thus so I take these words--rendered "wherein," not "in whom"--and referring this term not to Jesus Christ, but to baptism, as if it had been said, "in which baptism you are also risen again together with the Lord..." though, in reality, it makes no difference which of these two ways it is taken, since both amount to the same meaning, whether you say that we are risen again in baptism or in Jesus Christ.What is true of baptism is true of "all the means of which God makes use in religion" for they "have no other tendency than to communicate Jesus Christ to us as dead, buried, and risen again for us, to the end of destroying our old man and vivifying the new." Daille adds, "Nor do these means ever fail to produce these two effects in any of those who receive them as they ought..."

Regarding the sacraments in general, then, Daille maintains that "the sacraments of Christ are not vain and hollow pictures, in which the benefits of his death and resurrection are nakedly portrayed, as in a piece of art." Rather, he insists, "They are effectual means, which he accompanies with his power and fills with his grace, effectively accomplishing those things in us by his heavenly power which are set before us in the sacrament, when we receive it as we ought."

With regard to baptism in particular, the effect is that of washing from sin and new life. Daille say that God "washes and regenerates that man within who is rightly consecrated by baptism."

According to Daille, in Colossians 2, Paul is focusing on baptism in particularbecause it is the first seal which we receive of our Savior and the proper sacrament of our regeneration, which contains the initiation and beginnings of our spiritual life in the house of God. Consequently, when treating the same subject in his Epistle to the Romans (6:3-4), he makes mention of baptism in the same manner: "Do you not know," he says, "that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism."

...It is not only in this place that the apostle attributes so great an effect to baptism; he speaks thus of it constantly, as, for example, when he says that Christ sanctifies the church, "cleansing it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph 5.26), and "as many as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27), and again, "by one Spirit we all are baptized into one body" (1 Cor 12:13).
With regard to the mode of baptism, Daille suggests that it is not essential and that immersion, pouring, or sprinkling are all equally efficacious. Whatever the mode, "the power of holy baptism is still the same: that Jesus, whom in it we put on, communicates to us, by the power of his Spirit, the mystical image of his burial and resurrection, that is, as we have shown, the annihilation of the old man and the creation of the new."

Concerning the baptism of infants and the efficacy of baptism, Daille says, "if the infirmity of infancy prevents the effect from appearing at the instant the children are baptized, yet his power does yet accompany his institution, to preserve itself in them, and to bring forth its fruits upon them in their season..." Thus baptism is not effective only when the water is upon the recipient, but is the ongoing sign standing over the whole Christian life, as is clear from Daille's later exhortations to live out our baptism in faith, for instance: "by faith in the Gospel, mortify and destroy sin, according to the intention of your baptism."

We see this same emphasis on the objective character and efficacy of the sacrament with regard to how Daille describes those who receive baptism and remain in unbelief. He writes,If we meet with any baptized persons, as these are but too many, in whom the old man is so far from being buried that he lives and reigns with absolute power and the new man has neither life nor action at all, it must not be imputed to Jesus Christ who always accompanies his sacraments with his saving power. Rather, it is the person in his own unbelief who repels the operation of the grace of Christ and deprives it of all the effect, which it would have assuredly produced in them, if their unworthiness had not frustrated its efficacy towards them. For I acknowledge that neither baptism nor the word works in any but such as receive them with faith.In conclusion, then, we see several emphases in Daille's doctrine of baptism. First, that baptism is an efficacious means of grace for those who receive it rightly, in which God, by the power of his Spirit, communicates Christ and all his benefits.

Second, in particular these benefits are death to sin--understood in terms of the forgiveness of the sins and the breaking of sin's power, crucifying the old man--and newness of life or regeneration--understood in terms of ongoing renewal of the new man in Christ.

Finally, Daille maintains the objectivity of the sacrament as a means by which God is active and truly offers and presents Christ the recipient of the sacrament in the saving power of his Spirit. Nonetheless, the offered gift may not be received unto salvation when received in unbelief. Therefore, we must all the more believe the Gospel and trust in Christ as he is communicated to us in this holy sacrament.