Richard Hooker on Baptism

Rick had a post on baptism and Anglicans that caused me to look at Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity on the same subject. Hooker says of baptism:

…we make not Baptism a cause of grace; yet the grace which is given them with their Baptism, doth so far forth depend on the very outward Sacrament, that God will have it embraced, not only as a Sign or token [of] what we receive, but also as an Instrument or mean whereby we receive grace, because Baptism is a Sacrament which God hath instituted in his Church, to the end that they which receive the same might thereby be incorporated into Christ; and so through his most precious merit obtain, as well that saving grace of imputation which taketh away all former guiltiness, as also that infused divine virtue of the Holy Ghost which giveth to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life.
[…]
Predestination bringeth not to life without the grace of external vocation, wherein our Baptism is implied. For as we are not naturally men without birth, so neither are we Christian men in the eye of the Church of God but by new birth; nor according to the manifest ordinary course of divine dispensation new-born, but by that Baptism which both declareth and maketh us Christians. In which respect, we justly hold it to be the door of our actual entrance into God’s House, the first apparent beginning of life, a seal perhaps to the grace of election before received; but to our sanctification here, a step that hath not any before it. [V.60]

To try and bullet point his thinking:

  • Baptism is not a cause of grace
  • The grace given in baptism depends on the outward sacrament
  • It is not simply a sign of something, but is an instrument where we receive grace
  • Those who receive baptism are incorporated into Christ
  • Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer in baptism
  • The Holy Spirit begins our sanctification in baptism (our disposition is changed)
  • Baptism declares and makes us Christians

This should be a key part of any Anglican theology of baptism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.