A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg/24 Baptism

 

BAPTISM.


Baptism was instituted for a sign that a man is of the church, and for a memorial that he must be regenerated; for the washing of Baptism is no other than spiritual washing, or regeneration.

All regeneration is effected by the Lord, by means of the truths of faith and a life according to them. Baptism therefore testifies that a man is of the church, and that he can be regenerated. For in the church the Lord is acknowledged, who alone regenerates; and there the Word is, wherein are the truths of faith by which regeneration is effected.

The Lord thus teaches in John:—"Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." In the spiritual sense water is the truth of faith from the Word; the spirit is life according to it; and to be born of them is to be regenerated by them.

Since every one who is regenerated also endures temptations, which are spiritual combats against evils and falsities, therefore these also are signified by the waters of baptism.

Because baptism is for a sign and a memorial of these things, a man may be baptized as an infant; and if not then, he may be as an adult.

Those who are baptized should therefore know that the Baptism itself confers neither faith nor salvation; but testifies that they may receive faith, and that they may be saved if they are regenerated.

From this it is evident what is meant by the Lord's words in Mark:—"He that believeth and is baptized shall he saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned" (ch. xvi. 16). He that believeth is he who acknowledges the Lord and receives truths from Him through the Word; he that is baptized is he who is regenerated by means of them by the Lord. (H. D. n. 202-208.)


Baptism Commanded.

That baptism was commanded is very manifest from the baptism of John, in the Jordan, to which there went out all Judea and Jerusalem (Matt. iii. 5, 6; Mark i. 4, 5); and from the fact that the Lord our Saviour Himself was baptized by John (Matt, iii. 13-17). He moreover commanded the disciples that they should baptize all nations (Matt, xviii. 19). (T. C. R. n. 668.)

The reason why the Lord Himself was baptized by John was, not only that He might institute baptism for the future, and lead the way by His example, but also because He glorified His Humanity and made this Divine, as He regenerates man and makes him spiritual, (ib. n. 684.)


The First use of Baptism.

The first use of Baptism is introduction into the Christian church, and then, at the same time, insertion among Christians in the spiritual world. . . . Baptism was instituted in the place of circumcision; and as circumcision was a sign that the circumcised were of the Jewish church, so Baptism is a sign that the baptized are of the Christian church. But the sign effects nothing more than that they may be known; as the swaddling-clothes of different colour placed upon the infants of two mothers, that they may be distinguished, and not changed. . . . Not only infants are baptized, but also all foreign proselytes, young and old, who are converted to the Christian religion, and this before they have been instructed, merely upon a confession that they desire to embrace Christianity. This too did the Apostles, according to the Lord's command that they should "make disciples of all nations, and baptize them" (Matt, xviii. 19). . . But this is done on earth. In the heavens, on the other hand, the infants are introduced by Baptism into the Christian heaven; and angels are assigned them there by the Lord, who take care of them. As soon therefore as infants are baptized, angels are appointed over them, by whom they are kept in a state to receive faith in the Lord. But as they grow up, and come to act of their own right and of their own reason, the guardian-angels leave them, and they draw to themselves such spirits as make one with their life and faith; from which it is plain that Baptism is also insertion among Christians in the spiritual world. (T. C. R. n. 677.)

The reason why not only infants but in fact all are inserted by baptism among Christians in the spiritual world, is, that in that world peoples and nations are distinct, according to their religions. Christians are in the centre; Mahomedans around them; after them idolaters of various kinds; and at the sides the Jews.[1] Moreover, all of the same religion in heaven are arranged in societies, according to the affections of love to God and towards the neighbour; and in hell, in congregations, according to the affections opposed to these two loves, thus according to the lusts of evil. In the spiritual world,—by which we mean both heaven and hell,—all things are most distinctly organized, in the whole and in every part, or in general and in every particular. Upon the distinctive organization there the preservation of the whole universe depends; and there could not be this distinctiveness unless every one after he is born were known by some sign, [showing] to what religious body he belongs. For without the Christian sign, which is Baptism, some Mahomedan spirit or one of the idolaters might attach himself to Christian infants newly born, and also to children, and breathe into them an inclination for his religion, and so distract their minds and alienate them from Christianity; which would be to distort and destroy spiritual order. (T. C. R. 678.)

The Mahomedans, as all the Gentiles, who acknowledge one God, and love justice, and do good from a religious motive, have their heaven; but outside of the Christian heaven. (ib. n. 832.)

Infants and children born without the Christian church, [who depart this life in infancy or childhood] after reception of faith in the Lord, are designated for the heaven of their religion by other means than baptism; but they are not intermingled with those who are in the Christian heaven, (ib. n. 729.)

Every man as to his spirit, although he does not know it, is in society with spirits while he lives in the body. Through them a good man is in an angelic society, and an evil man in an infernal society. (H. H. n. 438.)

This first use of baptism is, that it is a sign in the spiritual world, that the baptized is a Christian,—where every one is inserted in the societies and congregations there, according to the quality of the Christianity within him or without him.[2] (T. C. R. n. 680.)


 

John's Baptism as an Illustration of the Effect of the Sign of Baptism in the Spiritual World, and thence upon the Baptized on Earth.

Baptism is holy, and a sacrament, because it is a sign and a memorial that the man can be regenerated by the Lord, by means of truths from the Word,—a sign for heaven, and a memorial for man; and that a man is introduced by it into the church,—as the children of Israel by passing over the Jordan were introduced into the land of Canaan, and as the inhabitants of Jerusalem were prepared by the Baptism of John for the reception of the Lord. For without that sign in heaven before the angels, the Jews could not have subsisted and lived at the coming of Jehovah, that is of the Lord, in the flesh. (A. R. n. 776.)

The Baptism of John prepared the heavens, that the Jewish people might subsist when God Himself should appear among them. (Letter to Beyer, Swed. Doc., p. 170.)

John was the prophet who was sent to prepare the way of Jehovah God, who was to descend into the world and accomplish the work of redemption. He prepared that way by baptism, and then by announcing the coming of the Lord; and without that preparation all there would have been smitten with a curse, and would have perished. (T. C. R n. 688.)

The reason why a way was prepared by John's Baptism was, that by that baptism they were introduced into the future church of the Lord, and in heaven were inserted among those there who expected and desired the Messiah, and so were guarded by angels, lest devils should break forth from hell and destroy them. . . .

If the way had not been prepared for the descent of Jehovah into the world by means of Baptism, the effect of which in heaven was that the hells were closed, and the Jews were guarded from total destruction [they would have perished]. (ib. n. 689.)

After quotation and exposition of some illustrative and confirmatory passages from the Word, the author adds:—

These few examples illustrate with what a curse and destruction the Jews would have been smitten, if they had not been prepared by the Baptism of John to receive the Messiah, who was Jehovah God in the human form, and if He had not assumed the Human and so revealed Himself. And they were prepared by this, that in heaven they were enrolled and numbered among those who in heart expected and desired the Messiah; in consequence of which angels were then sent, and became their guardians, (ib. n. 691. See also A. E. n. 724.)
 

The Second Use of Baptism.

The second use of Baptism is, that the Christian may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and follow Him. This second use of Baptism, which is that one may know the Lord the Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ, inseparably follows the first, which is introduction into the Christian church, and insertion among Christians in the spiritual world. And what is this first use without the second but a mere name? . . . To bear the name of a Christian, of one belonging to Christ, and not acknowledge Him, and follow Him, that is, live according to His commandments, is as empty as a shadow, as a smoke, and useless as a blackened picture. For the Lord says,—"Why call ye me Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke vi. 46); "Many will say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord. . . . And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you" (Matt. vii. 22, 23). (T. C. R. n. 681.)


The Third Use op Baptism.

The third use of Baptism, which is its final use, is that the man shall be regenerated. This is the very use for the sake of which Baptism was instituted, and is thus its final use; because a true Christian knows and acknowledges the Lord the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who as He is the Redeemer is also the Regenerator; and because a Christian possesses the Word, in which the means of regeneration stand plainly described,—and the means therein are faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbour. This is the same as what is said of the Lord, that,—"He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire" The Holy Spirit means the Divine truth of faith; and fire, the Divine good of love or charity, both proceeding from the Lord; and by these two all regeneration is effected by the Lord. (T. C. R. n. 684.)

From what has been said before, and now, it may be seen that the three uses of Baptism cohere as one,—after the same manner as the first cause, the mediate, which is the efficient case, and the ultimate cause, which is the effect; and the end itself for the sake of which the former exist. For the first use is that one may be named a Christian; the second, following from this, is that he may know and acknowledge the Lord the Redeemer, Regenerator, and Saviour; and the third is, that he may be regenerated by Him; and when this is done he is redeemed and saved. Since these three uses follow in order, and unite in the last, and hence in the conception of the angels cohere as one, therefore when Baptism is performed, read of in the Word, or mentioned, the angels who are present do not understand Baptism, but regeneration. Wherefore, by these words of the Lord, "Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall he saved, but whosoever believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark xvi. 16), it is understood by the angels in heaven, that he who acknowledges the Lord and is regenerated is saved. (ib. n. 685.)

As regards the Baptism of John, it represented the the cleansing of the external man; but the Baptism which is at this day among Christians represents the cleansing of the internal man, which is regeneration. We therefore read that John baptized with water, but that the Lord baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire; and for this reason the Baptism of John is called the Baptism of repentance. . . . The Jews that were baptized were merely external men; and the external man cannot become internal without faith in Christ. It may be seen in the Acts of the Apostles (ch. xix. 3-6) that those who were baptized with the Baptism of John became internal men when they received faith in Christ, and were then baptized in the name of Jesus. (ib. n. 690.)


Baptism itself has no Saving Efficacy.

He who believes that baptism contributes anything to the salvation of a man, unless he is at the same time in the truths of the church and in a life according to them, is greatly mistaken. For baptism is an external rite, which does nothing for salvation without its internal; but when the external is conjoined with the internal it does. The internal of baptism is, that by means of truths from the Word and through a life according to them, evils and falsities are removed by the Lord, and man is thus regenerated,—as indeed the Lord teaches in Matthew xxiii. 26, 27. (A. E. n. 475.)


Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

It is said in John, that the Lord "baptized with the Holy Spirit," and in Luke, that He baptized "with the Holy Spirit and with fire." In the internal sense, to baptize signifies to regenerate; to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, is to regenerate by the good of love,—fire, is the good of love. . . . The Holy Spirit signifies, the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord; fire, signifies the Divine good proceeding from Him; and baptism signifies regeneration by the Lord, by means of Divine truths from the Word. (A. C. n. 9229; A. E. n. 475.)

  1. The reader should not think of this as of an arrangement in space, but rather according to state. A little reflection will show an arrangement to some extent similar, although less perfect, in this world. Christians here are in the centre,—the centre of light and civilization; others are grouped around them, and, in a common and important aspect, are considered nearer or more remote from Christendom according as they have more or less of the light and life which characterize it.
  2. What the author means by the Christianity without a man may be gathered from the following in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture:—"The church is in man; the church which is without him is the church among the many who have the church in them." (S. S. n. 78.)