Calvin’s Baptismal Service from Genevan Book of Order

Order of Baptism First note, that forasmuch as it is not permitted by God’s word, that women should preach or minister the sacraments; and it is evident that the sacraments are not ordained of God to be used in private corners as charms or sorceries, but left to the congregation, and necessarily annexed to God’s word as seals of the same;[5] therefore the infant which is to be baptized shall be brought to the church, on the day appointed to common prayer and preaching, accompanied with the father and godfather. So that after the sermon, the child being presented to the minister, he demands this question: Do you present this child to be baptized, earnestly desiring that he may be engrafted in the mystical body of Jesus Christ? The answer: Yes, we require the same.

The minister proceeds:

Then let us consider, dearly beloved, how Almighty God has not only made us his children by adoption,[a] and received us into the fellowship of his church; but also has promised that he will be our God, and the God of our children, unto the thousandth generation.[b] Which thing, as he confirmed to his people of the Old Testament by the sacrament of circumcision,[c] so has he also renewed the same to us in his New Testament by the sacrament of baptism;[d] doing us thereby to wit, that our infants appertain to him by covenant, and therefore ought not to be defrauded of those holy signs and badges whereby his children are known from infidels and pagans.[e] Neither is it requisite, that all those that receive this sacrament have the use of understanding and faith; but chiefly that they be contained under the name of God’s people:[f] so that remission of sins in the blood of Christ Jesus does appertain to them by God’s promise. Which thing is most evident by St. Paul,[g] who pronounces the children begotten and born, either of the parents being faithful, to be clean and holy. Also our Saviour Christ admits children to his presence, embracing and blessing them.[h] Which testimonies of the Holy Ghost assure us, that infants are of the number of God’s people; and that remission of sins does also appertain to them in Christ. Therefore, without injury, they cannot be debarred from the common sign of God’s children. Neither yet is this outward action of such necessity, that the lack thereof should be prejudicial to their salvation,[i] if that prevented by death, they may not conveniently be presented to the church. But we (having respect to that obedience which Christians owe to the voice and ordinance of Christ Jesus, who commanded to preach and baptize all without exception),[k] do judge them only unworthy of any fellowship with him, who contemptuously refuse such ordinary means as his wisdom has appointed to the instruction of our dull senses. Furthermore, it is evident that baptism was ordained to be ministered in the element of water,[ l] to teach us, that like as water outwardly does wash away the filth of the body, so inwardly does the virtue of Christ’s blood purge our souls from that corruption and deadly poison wherewith by nature we were infected:[m] whose venomous dregs,[n] although they in this our flesh, yet by the merits of his death are not imputed unto us,[o] because the justice of Jesus Christ is made ours by baptism.[p] Not that we think any such virtue or power to be included in the visible water or outward action (for many have been baptized, and yet never inwardly purged),[6] but that our Saviour Christ, who commanded baptism to be ministered, will, by the power of his Holy Spirit, effectually work in the hearts of his elect[q] (in time convenient) all that is meant and signified by the same. And this the scripture calls our regeneration,[r] which stands chiefly in these two points:[7] in mortification (that is to say, a resisting of the rebellious lusts of the flesh), and newness of life, whereby we continually strive to walk in that pureness and perfection wherewith we are clad in baptism.

And although we in the journey of this life are encumbered with many enemies,[ s] which in the way assail us, yet we fight not without fruit. For this continual battle which we fight against sin, death, and hell,[t] is a most infallible argument that God the Father, mindful of his promise made unto us in Christ Jesus, does not only give us motions and courage to resist them, but also assurance to overcome and obtain victory.[u] Wherefore, dearly beloved, it is not only of necessity that we be once baptized, but also it much profits oft to be present at the ministration thereof; that we being put in mind of the league and covenant made betwixt God and us,[x] that he will be our God, and we his people, he our Father, and we his children,[y] may have occasion as well to try our lives past as our present conversation, and to prove ourselves, whether we stand fast in the faith of God’s elect, or contrariwise have strayed from him through incredulity and ungodly living;[z] whereof if our consciences do accuse us, yet by hearing the loving promises of our heavenly Father (who calls all men to mercy by repentance),[a] we may from henceforth walk more warily in our vocation. Moreover, you that are fathers and mothers may take hereby most singular comfort, to see your children thus received into the bosom of Christ’s congregation, whereby you are daily admonished that you nourish and bring up the children of God’s favour and mercy, over whom his fatherly providence watches continually.[b] Which thing, as it ought greatly to rejoice you (knowing that nothing can chance unto them without his good pleasure),[c] so ought it to make you diligent and careful to nurture and instruct them in the true knowledge and fear of God.[d] Wherein if you are negligent,[8] you do not only injury to your own children,[e] hiding from them the good will and pleasure of Almighty God their Father, but also heap damnation upon yourselves, in suffering his children bought with the blood of his dear Son, so traitorously (for lack of knowledge) to turn back from him. Therefore it is your duty, with all diligence, to provide that your children, in time convenient, be instructed in all doctrine necessary for a true Christian, [f] chiefly that they be taught to rest upon the justice of Christ Jesus alone, and to abhor and flee all superstition, Papistry, and idolatry.[9] Finally, to the intent that we may be assured, that you the father and the surety consent to the performance hereof, declare here before God and the face of his congregation, the sum of that faith wherein you believe, and will instruct this child. Then the father, or in his absence the god-father, shall rehearse the articles of his faith; which done, the minister exhorting the people to prayer says in this manner, or suchlike, kneeling:

[10] Almighty and everlasting God, which of thy infinite mercy and goodness hast promised unto us that thou wilt not only be our God, but also the God and Father of our children: we beseech thee, that as thou hast vouchsafed to call us to be partakers of this thy great mercy in the fellowship of faith,[a] so it may please thee to sanctify with thy Spirit,[b] and to receive into the number of thy children this infant, whom we shall baptize according to thy word,[c] to the end that he coming to perfect age, may confess thee only the true God,[d] and whom thou hast sent Jesus Christ, and so serve him, and be profitable unto his church in the whole course of his life;[e] that afterthis life is ended, he may be brought as a lively member of his body unto the full fruition ofthy joys in the heavens,[f] where thy Son our Christ reigneth, without end. In whose name we pray as he hath taught us: Our Father, etc.

a. Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 1:5; 2:18-19

b. Gen. 17:7; Ex. 20:6; Deut. 7:9; Isa. 59:21

c. Gen. 17:7ff.; Rom. 4:11

d. Col. 2:11-12; Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:38-39

e. Acts 10:47-48

f. Acts 2:38-39; 1 Cor. 7:4

g. 1 Cor. 7:14

h. Mark; 10:13-16; Matt.; 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-16; Ps. 22:9-10

i. Rom. 4:10; Gal. 3:1fff.; Gen. 15:6; 17:12

k. Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:19

l. Matt. 3:11; 1 Pet. 3:21; 1 John 5:6,8; 1 Cor. 10:1-4

m. Eph. 2:1ff.

n. Rom. 7:5ff.

o. Rom. 4:1ff.; Gal. 3:1ff.; Ps. 32:1-2

p. Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27

q. Acts 2:41-42; 13:48

r. Eph. 2:1ff.; 1 Cor. 12:9-11; Rom. 6:3-6; Col. 2:12-13[?]

s. 1 Pet. 5:8; Luke 22:31; Job 7[?]

t. Rom. 5:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:5-7; Jam. 1:2-4; Eph. 6:10-18

u. 1 Cor.; 15:57-58; Hos. 13:14; Heb. 2:14-15; Job 19:25ff.[?]

x. Deut 6:1ff.; Josh. 1:8

y. Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:8-12

z. Eph. 4:22ff[?]; Col. 3:8ff.; Heb. 13:9[?]

a. Ezek.; 18:21-22; Acts 11:18; 2 Pet. 3:9; Deut.; 4:29-31; 6:1ff.

b. Matt. 18:12-14

c. Matt. 6:25-34; Luke 12:6-7

d. Deut. 4:9; 6:7; 11:19; Eph. 6:4

e. 1 Sam.; 2:22-25; 2 Kings; 2:23-24

f. Gen. 18:19; Deut. 32:46

a. Gal. 3:26-29; 1 Pet. 1:5; Phil. 3:9; Rom. 3:22; 4:11-17

b. 2 Cor.; 5:17ff.[?]; Rom. 8:14-17; Eph. 2:18-22; 3[?]

c. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-41

d. Rom. 10:9-10; John 17:3

e. Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 12[?]; 2 Thess.; 5:11[?]

f. 1 Cor. 2:9; Rom. 6:22; Titus 3:7

When they have prayed in this sort, the minister requires the child’s name, which known, he says: N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.[a] a. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38-41 And as he speaks these words, he takes water in his hand and lays it upon the child’s forehead: which done, he gives thanks as follows: Forasmuch, most holy and merciful Father, as thou dost not only beautify and bless us with common benefits, like unto the rest of mankind, but also heapest upon us most abundantly rare and wonderful gifts,[a] of duty we lift up our eyes and minds unto thee, and give thee most humble thanks for thy infinite goodness, which hast not only numbered us amongst thy saints,[b] but also of thy free mercy dost call our children unto thee, marking them with this sacrament as a singular token and badge of thy love. Wherefore most loving Father, though we are not able to deserve this so great a benefit, (yea, if thou wouldst handle us according to our merits,[c] we should suffer the punishment of eternal death and damnation), yet for Christ’s sake we beseech thee, that thou wilt confirm this thy favour more and more towards us, and take this infant into thy tuition and defence, whom we offer and present unto thee with common supplications, and never suffer him to fall to such whereby he should lose the force of this baptism,[d] but that he may perceive thee continually to be his merciful Father, through the Holy Spirit working in his heart, by whose divine power he may so prevail against Satan, that in the end, obtaining the victory, he may be exalted into the liberty of thy kingdom.

a. Eph. 2:1ff.; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Hos. 2:23; 2 Pet. 3:13-14

b. 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Eph. 2:19-22

c. Rom. 2:1ff.; Jer. 3:24-25; Isa. 40:6-7; Luke 17:10

d. 2 Cor. 6:16-18[?]