Order of Holy Baptism
This is the collection of Fr. Dunbar’s series of short papers on the Order of Holy Baptism, as set forth in its historic and normative Anglican form in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and 1928 American Prayer Book. We are certain you will enjoy his in-depth examination of baptism – the sacrament of regeneration. You may also wish to download a PDF version of this essay.
The Bible is not one book, but many, as the word “Bible” indicates; for it comes from the Greek, ta biblia, ‘the books’; a book of many books, which tells a story of many stories. In simplest terms it is the story of the creation, uncreation, and new creation, a story that runs from one man’s disobedience at the tree of paradise, to another man’s obedience at the tree of the cross. This is the story that the church by ancient tradition begins to read on Septuagesima, three Sundays before Lent, and which comes to its climax in Easter, in the feast of Christ’s death and resurrection, where the powers of uncreation – of sin and death – were defeated, uncreation itself was put in reverse, and the new creation began.
But is that story also our story? We become part of Adam’s story by birth and natural generation; we start where he left off, alienated from the Creator and at odds with the created order. To become part of Christ’s new story we must be born again, by spiritual regeneration. That is where baptism comes in – the sacrament of regeneration, of new birth and new creation, by union with Christ in his redemptive death. We begin here a series of short papers on the Order of Holy Baptism, as set forth in its historic and normative Anglican form in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and also (with some abbreviation), in the 1928 American Prayer Book.
First a note on the overall structure. As with other Prayer Book services, its basic logic is that of the gospel itself, the Pauline triad of “guilt, grace, and gratitude”: guilt, which elicits repentance; grace, which elicits faith; and gratitude, moving us to good works. This triad is arranged around the elements of word and sacrament, by which the grace of Christ is promised and conferred. It starts with an acknowledgement of our sin and need for regeneration (guilt); then comes the proclamation of the word of the gospel (grace). Third, at the heart of the service, are the promises of the sponsors or godparents on behalf of the child (faith). Fourth comes the sacrament, the effectual sign of grace promised in the word. In the prayers after baptism, gratitude finds expression in prayers for the fulfilment of baptism in life, and beyond death.
The core of the service therefore is a covenant (a binding agreement) initiated by God, in the promise of Christ in the gospel; accepted in the godparents’ promises of faith, made on the child’s behalf; and sealed in the sacrament. This covenant is nothing other than the new and eternal covenant (or testament) between God and his elect people, ratified in the blood of Christ’s death. God puts himself under obligation to us; and we put ourselves under obligation to him. It is not merely a legal contract, a transaction: it establishes a permanent relationship, communion between the Christian and Christ, whereby “my beloved is mine, and I am his”. It is “the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church” (Ephesians 5:22-33), wherein, by the wedding ring of faith, Christ the bridegroom is united to the Church his bride. Christ takes what is ours – a dowry of sin and death; judgment and hell – and in exchange gives us what is his – righteousness for sin, life for death, favor for wrath, and heaven for hell.
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part II
The first of the five parts of Baptism begins where we all start – with the acknowledgement that “all men are conceived and born in sin”, for which the only remedy is a new birth: “none can enter into the kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and the Holy Ghost” (John 3:5). The child of sinful Adam must be born again in Christ if he is to be the child of God. In a regrettable concession to theological liberalism, the 1928 Prayer Book omitted the scriptural allusion to man’s conception and birth in sin (Psalm 51), but there is no need for a new nature received by regeneration, if the nature we are born with is sufficient. That’s why we pray “for that which by nature we cannot have” – baptism by Water and the Holy Ghost, and reception “into Christ’s holy Church”.
As the Catechism teaches, the grace of regeneration is “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness”. It results in the entire renewal of the nature of man, and our reformation in the likeness of Christ. But many who have been baptized exhibit no signs of moral transformation. Though much ink has been spilled on this question, it is most likely that (unlike contemporary evangelicals) the compilers of the Prayer Book made a distinction between the grace of regeneration conferred by God in baptism, and the response of faith (conversion) whereby it takes effect in their lives. By baptism we are received into the Church, are brought into the covenant of grace with God, made eligible for the forgiveness of sins and the help of his Spirit, and the prospect of eternal life hereafter – but these blessings are conditional on the faith promised for us by our sponsors. If the blessings promised of God do not come to pass, the failure is not from him, but from us.
Our need for regeneration is expressed in two fine prayers. The first of these, omitted in the 1928 Prayer Book, is based on one composed by Martin Luther and called the “flood prayer” for reasons that shall appear. It begins by recalling scriptural acts of salvation through water that prefigured Baptism – Noah and the ark; the children of Israel safely led through the Red Sea. It also recalls that in “the Baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ, in the river Jordan”, God did “sanctify Water to the mystical washing away of sin. On this basis, it petitions God to wash the child and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church; and being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally, he may come to the land of everlasting life”. In baptism there is a washing from sin, sanctification by the Spirit, deliverance from wrath, and reception into the church, wherein by faith, love, and charity, we pass (as did Israel in the Red Sea and Noah in the Flood) from death to life. The regeneration we pray for comprehends the whole of our life and beyond this life our eternal destiny.
The second prayer is a translation of a Latin prayer in the pre-Reformation rite of Baptism. It invokes “Almighty and immortal God” in terms warranted by Scripture as “the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to thee for succour, the life of them that believe, and the resurrection of the dead”. On the basis of such omnipotence, we dare to ask for “remission of his sins by spiritual regeneration”; and to that end, we claim the promise of Christ: “Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Luke 11:9,10): So give now unto us that ask; let us that seek find; open the gate unto us that knock; that this Infant may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord”. As Stephen Sykes observes, the promise of Christ is twice invoked, “as though daring the participants in the rite to disbelieve”. In the next two parts of the service, the promise of Christ, and our belief in this promise, are central.
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part III
The first of the five parts of the Prayer Book service of Infant Baptism acknowledges the child’s need for the “remission of sins by spiritual regeneration”. We must be born again, “of water and of the Holy Ghost”. In the second part, the service sets forth God’s gracious response in his Word to our prayer. It consists of three elements: a gospel reading; an address to the congregation; and a prayer of thanksgiving.
The Gospel lesson (Mark 10:13-16) was part of the service of Baptism well before the Reformation, not because it addresses Baptism itself – whose imperative has already been acknowledged – but because it speaks (as Sykes notes) to the quality of Jesus’ response to little children who were brought to him, and to the grounds for baptizing them, who are not able to affirm a faith of their own, as the Bible requires (Mark 16:16). In the exhortation that follows this gospel (unfortunately omitted in the 1928 Prayer Book) the priest explains how this applies to the child:
Beloved, ye hear in this Gospel the words of our Saviour Christ, that he commanded the children to be brought unto him; how he blamed those that would have kept them from him; how he exhorteth all men to follow their innocency. Ye perceive how by his outward gesture and deed he declared his good will toward them; for he embraced them in his arms, he laid his hands upon them, and blessed them.
As Stephen Sykes comments, this “emotionally powerful image of the child being embraced in the arms of Jesus’ mercy forms the affective heart of the liturgy”. What is proclaimed in word will be effected in the sacrament: “when the priest at the height of the drama takes the child into his arms [to baptize him] he is doing what Christ himself did” (Sykes). Jesus’ receiving of little children – a key word used ten times in this service – is the justification for baptizing infants and the basis for the appeal for faith:
Doubt ye not therefore, but earnestly believe, that he will likewise favourably receive this present Infant; that he will embrace him with the arms of his mercy; that he will give unto him the blessing of eternal life, and make him partaker of his everlasting kingdom. Wherefore we being thus persuaded of the good will of our heavenly Father towards this Infant, declared by his Son Jesus Christ; and nothing doubting but that he favourably alloweth this charitable work of ours in bringing this Infant to his holy Baptism; let us faithfully and devoutly give thanks unto him…
At this point, gratitude for this grace gives rise both for hope of growth to maturity on the part of the adult worshippers, as well as hope for new birth in the child now presented:
… we give thee humble thanks, for that thou hast vouchsafed to call us to the knowledge of thy grace, and faith in thee: Increase this knowledge, and confirm this faith in us evermore. Give thy Holy Spirit to this Infant, that he may be born again, and be made an heir of everlasting salvation….
The gospel lesson is not the occasion for a sentimental cult of children: it is seeing how children and adults alike are engaged in the progress of a new spiritual life in Christ, from its beginning to maturity.
Infants and little children are not of course capable of making the required confession of faith; but then, neither can they reject faith. They are accordingly admitted to full privileges in the covenant of grace on the basis of sponsorship, and to that we turn in the third part of the service of baptism.
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part IV
The first of the five parts of the Ministration of Baptism to Infants acknowledges the child’s need for the “remission of sins by spiritual regeneration” through baptism. In the second part, the service sets forth God’s gracious response, in Jesus’ will to “receive” children, and to “embrace them in the arms of his mercy”. After these two moments of guilt and grace, the triad is complete with a moment of gratitude, the grateful faith that claims the promises of grace. This consists of the promises made by the godparents, and, in a series of short prayers, that begin with the word “grant”.
The promises sought from the godparents are made on the basis of confidence in the promises of grace made in the gospel generally, and extended to children based on the gospel lesson from Mark 10:13-16:
Dearly beloved, ye have brought this Child here to be baptized, ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him of his sins, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life. Ye have heard also that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his Gospel to grant all these things that ye have prayed for: which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this Infant must also faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties, (until he come of age to take it upon himself,) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God’s holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments.
Little children are not capable of affirming faith as the Scripture requires (Mark 16:16); yet are not excluded from the privileges of the covenant, any more than their Jewish forbears were. “The promise is to you, and to your children” as Peter says in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:38, 39). After all, for the same reason that they cannot believe the gospel, they also cannot refuse to believe. Infants are baptized, as the Catechism says, “Because they promise them both [i.e. repentance and faith] by their Sureties [the godparents]: which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform”. Infants are not excluded from the privileges of grace, solely because of mental defect, yet the promises of the godparents confirm that faith is required of them once they become capable of it.
The baptismal promise is threefold. First, a renunciation of “the devil, the world, and the flesh”, the Biblical names for the enemies of God and man. The devil is a fallen angel – created good but made evil by rebellion. Likewise the world and the flesh are not God’s good creatures, but fallen creatures wrongly worshipped in the place of the Creator, and separating us from him. If we are to have the right relationship with the Creator and his creatures, we must cease treating them as gods.
If we thus renounce the powers of sin that separate us from God, we also promise faith in God as he has revealed himself in his Word, and as this revelation is summarized in the “Articles of the Christian Faith”, the ancient Catholic baptismal creed. “The child is not left at random, to take up its religion by chance or interest, but is here fixed in the true and unquestionable verity, which will lead it unto everlasting life”, which is “the rule which God hath given us to unite us in one bond of peace” (Comber), in the body of Christ. And third, because we are “delivered out of the hand of our enemies”, to the end “that we may serve him in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74, 75), the sponsors promise the child will “obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of [his] life”. Baptism is not treated as an isolated moment, but as the beginning of a life-long growth towards maturity.
After the promises, come the short prayers: for the child’s regeneration (the death of the “old Adam”, and the rising of the “new man”), for his sanctification (the death of “carnal affections”, the life and growth of “all things belong to the Spirit), for his power and victory against spiritual enemies, and for “heavenly virtues” and “everlasting reward”. It’s impossible to miss the “biographical” scope of these prayers. Delivery from sin through baptism puts the Christian on a life-long journey of sanctification that ends in glory. Baptism not only the beginning of Christian life, but its principle, and so supplies the template for the whole of Christian life.
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part V
In the first three parts of the five-part Baptism service, we move through the moments of “guilt, grace, and gratitude”, first seeking remission of sins by spiritual regeneration, second hearing the word of Christ’s promise of grace in his receiving children, third in the godparents’ grateful promises to renounce, believe, and obey, and in the short prayers for sanctification, in the fulfilment of baptismal grace in the entire life of the baptized. This third, and central part acts as a bridge from the Word to Sacrament: for in the fourth part of the service, there is a prayer for the sanctifying of the water of baptism, which precedes the holy action of baptism itself, and a solemn reception of the child into the church and his consignation. We will look at this fourth part in this and the next essay.
The prayer for the sanctification of the waters of the font begins by commemorating the water and blood which God’s “most dearly beloved Son… for the forgiveness of sins did shed out of his most precious side” after it was pierced with the spear, an incident recorded in John 20:34. Recalling the blood that in the Old Testament’s sacrifices was shed in atonement for sins, and the water of its ablutions in which was sought purification from all that defiles, this double stream flowing from his pierced side is a double sign that Christ’s death makes satisfaction (atonement) for our sins, and washes us from their guilt. Moreover, according to Augustine, in the piercing of his side “was opened the gate of life, from whence the sacraments of the church flowed, without which we cannot enter into that life which is the true life”. The sacraments show us the lifegiving power of Christ’s death, that by faith we may receive from him the grace they signify.
As he died for the forgiveness of sins, so for that purpose also in his resurrection Christ expressly commissioned his church “to make disciples of all nations” (a much better translation of the Greek than “to teach all nations” – this is one place where moderate amendment of the Prayer Book would be judicious), “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (a direct quotation of Matthew 28:18). As his atoning death calls us to faith, so his institution of the sacrament commands our obedience, and on that basis, the prayers of the congregation now follow, that God might “sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin”, a prayer for the efficacy of the sacrament – that it may effect and realize what it signifies. Following the teaching of the Church Fathers, the English reformers distinguished between the outward natural sign, whose substance abides unchanged, and which cannot be the source of supernatural grace, and the inward supernatural grace which comes from the Holy Spirit alone. The outward sign is ordained by the word of Christ as the instrument or means by which the Spirit’s grace is given and received, and as a pledge assuring us that we have in fact received it. Though the water’s nature is unchanged, in virtue of the Word and Spirit of God that are added to it, it acquires an efficacy that is supernatural.
The efficacy of the sign is conditional, however, on its reception in faith – for Christ does not give himself to unbelief, he gives himself to faith alone; and so follows the prayer that the person to be baptized may be fitted to “receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children”. It’s a prayer that the child may not only be admitted into the number of those chosen by God for the privileges of the gospel in this world, but may also make its calling and election sure, by a lively faith active in good works, and in the acquisition of the virtues that belong to a holy life (2 Peter 1:5-10). The gift of grace promised in baptism is real, but the promises are given on the condition on their being rightly received, by faith, and the obedience of faith. Once again, as already in the service, the Order of Baptism is careful to situate the ceremony in relation to the whole of a Christian life.
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part VI
After the prayer for sanctification of the water, follows the naming and the baptism itself, wherein the covenant already made in this service, is sealed, ratified, and brought into effect. “All things being thus prepared”, says Comber, recalling the Baptism Gospel from Mark 10, “when we see the minister take the infant in his arms, it should mind us of the mercy of Jesus, who in like manner embraced those that were brought unto him, and we are to hope that he will as lovingly receive the soul thereof as his minister doth the body”. A name is elicited to be formally bestowed, the “given” or “Christian” name, because it is the name by which we are brought into relation with Christ, and recorded (we hope) not only in the Church’s register, but in the Lamb’s book of life.
The ancient custom was to immerse the child in the waters of the font, with sprinkling a concession to children who are not strong; but in the first American Prayer Book of 1789 both are allowed as options without any reluctance. (The rector who brought me to St. John’s, Father Ralston, employed such minimalism in the matter of water as to make it almost a matter of faith that water had indeed come in contact with the child’s head.) It is sufficient that the child has “gone under the water” – by immersion or affusion – this is the action required by the outward sign; for this washing is a washing of the most radical kind, it is the washing the earth received in the flood sent by God in the days of Noah, a washing that consists in drowning, death, and resurrection, dying to live anew.
As this action is performed, the minister addresses the child by name, and says, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”, the formula prescribed by Christ (Matthew 28:18). The words indicate not just the authority by which the action is performed, but also its effect, which is to bring the child into fellowship with the Triune God, such that the child now belongs to the Lord, and owes him entire allegiance – and Lord in turn, belongs to this child, as his God, and his Savior, with the mutual obligations already rehearsed in the promises make explicit.
Immediately after the baptism itself follows a solemn reception of the child into the church, and his consignation. Since baptism is the sacrament of our initiation into Christ and our incorporation into his Body the Church, the minister declares that the child is and ought to be recognized and welcomed as a member of the visible Church, with full right to the privileges of his baptism. Baptism not only brings us into relation with God, but into relation with one another as members of Christ’s Body.
The minister also marks the child’s forehead with the sign of the cross “in token “that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end”. Of the numerous ceremonies associated with baptism before the Reformation, consignation was the only one retained (not without much controversy), as one that was “apt to stir up the dull mind of man to the remembrance of his duty to God” (Of Ceremonies). From early times, the cross has been the pre-eminent sign of Christ’s victory over the powers of evil, and our deliverance from them. In hoc signo vinces, ‘in this sign thou shalt conquer’: in Baptism, the Christian enters the spiritual warfare, to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). To quote at length Dean Comber: “what more auspicious sign [of our calling] could we choose than the trophy of the cross, since our victorious Redeemer did triumph over those enemies which we renounced, by it, yea, upon it, so that it is a terror to the devils, and a great encouragement to the Christian, to remember he fights under that triumphant banner which hath been so successful; it is a shame to follow such a Leader with a faint heart, or to fly from those happy colours, when we have so good assurance that if we keep close to them, in this sign we shall overcome; the cross doth show our captain died for us, and therefore it doth incite us to follow him, unto the death striving against sin; and if we die in this service, that death shall be to us as it was to him, the way to a glorious and everlasting life. Let the world deride a crucified Lord, and atheism mock at the cross of Jesus, we are so far from being ashamed of our faith, that we glory in nothing more than in the cross of Christ, and therefore we print it upon the proper seat of blushing” (Comber).
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part VII
In the fifth and final part of the service of Baptism the priest calls the congregation to prayer:
Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits….
The relation of baptism to regeneration (the new birth spoken of in John 3) has been the occasion of much disagreement in the church, even among those whose views are otherwise aligned, and is not without its subtleties. So it is with some trepidation that I set forth two common views about it, before proceeding to that of the Prayer Book and Articles.
One view is that baptism confers the grace of regeneration unconditionally – ex opere operato, the sacrament achieving its purpose (the infusion of sanctifying grace into the soul) simply by being performed. The difficulty with this view is that so many of the baptized show no signs of any such infusion of grace in their subsequent lives. Indeed, if the infused grace of regeneration can be conferred unconditionally, then why would you not take a fire-hose to everyone you meet? They would be wet, and mad, but they wouldn’t burn in hell!
One alternative to this approach holds that regeneration has nothing to do with Baptism, that when Christ spoke of the new birth “by water and the Spirit” John 3), he was using the word “water” in a figurative sense. Regeneration, in this view, is a real inward change in nature, worked by the Spirit alone, through the preaching of the Word, and it infallibly issues in conversion of heart and change of life. Indeed, many identify regeneration with the conversion experience itself (“being born again”). This makes Baptism a ceremony in which a believer makes the public profession of faith required in Scripture. One may note that conversion experience is no guarantee of regeneration, as many “born again” Christians exhibit as few signs of moral regeneration as do those who received infant baptism.
The Prayer Book language, “seeing now … that this child is regenerate”, is, taken in isolation, patient of the prior interpretation, as if the mere administration of the rite secured salvation. That interpretation is inconsistent , however, with the general teaching of the Prayer Book and Articles on the Sacraments. Those who reject an ex opere operato understanding sometimes take these words as a “charitable hypothesis” (like that which is employed in the burial of the dead) made in view of the promises of Christian nurture made by the godparents. I think it more likely, however, that the Prayer Book’s position is this: that in Baptism, the grace of regeneration (along with remission of sins) is promised and effected in the baptized, but on the condition of its being “rightly received” (Article XXVII), that is, according to the stipulations of the baptismal vows and covenant, by repentance and faith; and that the regeneration named here refers to the child’s entrance by baptism into the covenant of grace, with all its benefits. Where this grace is not hindered or neglected but “rightly received”, there ensues an inward change of nature, or moral renewal, of which the Catechism speaks: “A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace”. (The Collect for Christmas makes a similar distinction between re-generation and renewal: “that we, being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit”). Thus in baptism infants are “grafted into the Body of Christ’s Church”, they enjoy all the benefits of the covenant of grace, which brings about moral renewal and conversion, in repentance and faith. It is in the right reception of the benefits of baptism, and not merely in the rite itself, that we attain eternal life.
On the basis of this understanding of regeneration in baptism, it is logical that the priest invites the congregation “with one accord [to] make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning”. These are prayers for the fulfillment of baptismal grace in this life and in the life to come, and to them we shall turn next.
Order of Holy Baptism Essay: Part VIII
The child still moist from the font, the congregation is invited to give thanks for the benefits of his baptism, and to pray that “this child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning” – one of many hints throughout the service that Baptism is not merely a moment in life, but a structure for the whole of life.
The response to this invitation begins with the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that belongs to the disciples of Christ, and the template for all Christian prayer. As often in the Prayer Book, it is placed at a beginning point, either at the outset of a service, or when we have attained – as here after the Baptism proper – to a new and higher starting point. Now we join in prayer to “our Father” with a consciousness of praying with and for a new child of God.
Our response to the invitation is then particularized in a Collect. We give thanks for the infant’s regeneration, adoption as the child of God, and incorporation into his holy Church – the graces signified by Baptism and bestowed on condition of their being rightly received. Accordingly we then ask for the fulfilment of these benefits in the child’s life. The 1662 text (abbreviated in 1928) is as follows:
And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, and living unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that, as he is made partaker of the death of thy Son, he may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom….
As Comber notes, the sum of these requests is, “to desire that whatsoever is shadowed forth in the outward part, and signified in the rite, may in substance and reality be fulfilled”. The core idea (drawing especially on Romans 6) is our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, by means of baptism. As Christ died and rose again for us, so we pray that the baptized may die and rise again in him, first morally and then physically, until their entire nature is renewed. It is a process which begins in this life in mortifying or putting to death the sinful nature -“crucifying the old man, and utterly abolishing the whole body of sin” (Romans 6:6) – and is completed in the life to come, in the resurrection. Between this first death and this final rising is a continual dying to sin and rising again to righteousness (mortification and vivification, as the theologians call it), which culminates in physical death and resurrection. What begins as an moral renewal (the death to sin) ends in the physical renewal of resurrection (life in glory). It’s another reminder that the sacrament itself provides the structure of the whole of life.
It is fitting, therefore, that the liturgy concludes with a call to action, a charge to the godparents:
to see that this Infant be taught, so soon as he shall be able to learn, what a solemn vow, promise, and profession, he hath here made by you. And that he may know these things the better, ye shall call upon him to hear Sermons; and chiefly ye shall provide, that he may learn the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, in the vulgar tongue, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul’s health; and that this Child may be virtuously brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life.
Catechizing and sermons are both necessary to the formation of a personal faith, “the one Informing, the other Inflaming” (Herbert). “Sermons are appointed to convince the judgment, persuade the will, and move the affections of such as have been initiated in the first principles of religion”; yet “sermons will do little good until a good foundation be laid” in the catechism (Comber).
This education of the mind has its complement in moral training, and as the exhortation makes this point (in terms that once again echo Romans 6), it pivots from “this infant” to all the baptized:
remembering always, that Baptism doth represent unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that, as he died, and rose again for us, so should we, who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living.
With this exhortation to all the Baptized who are present, the service of Baptism comes to an end; or rather, because it was not meant to stand alone, but to take place after the second lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer, it leads into a canticle, the creed, and the prayers, the child and his family thus taking their place in the faith and worship of the church.
Baptisms are sometimes occasions for “baby worship”, yet in the baptism of an infant (however cute) the Prayer Book service speaks to the faith and life at every stage of growth to Christian maturity.