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The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia


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It would be difficult to say with any degree of certainty at what period the office of Sponsors was established, but it appeared in the very earliest ages of the Christian Church. It is supposed that persecution and the presence of heresy led to its institution. During the time of those early persecutions it stands to reason that the heads of the Church must have been aware of the probability of some at least of those who had been baptized of receding from their vows and thus sinning away their Baptismal grace. It was but natural that they should adopt every precaution to ascertain the character of those whom, by Baptism, they admitted to the Christian covenant. They required, therefore, that some of their own body answer for the real conversion of the presumed neophyte, and should also be SURETIES for the fulfilment of the promises then made. Then there were the probabilities during persecution that the parents might not outlive the violence of the times and be enabled to watch over the moral and religious education of their baptized children. The Church was anxious not to lose these lambs of the Flock, and so it was a wise and godly provision that there should be some one who, in default of their parents, surviving or in case of their apostasy, might see to it that their godchildren were "brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life." The advantages arising from this ancient institution of Sponsors were so great that it has been continued throughout all ages of the Church. And even in this present time, if all Sponsors would fulfil their duties, many a child now lost to the Church, might have been saved to it and brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In the case of Baptism of Infants, the significance of Sponsors is very great, in that Baptism is a covenant, in which God on the one hand is represented by His Minister, and the child is represented by his Sponsors, who answer for him and agree to see to it that this child shall be virtuously brought up and so trained that it shall lead the rest of his life according to this beginning. The Sponsors are called Godfathers and Godmothers because of the spiritual affinity created in Baptism, their responsibility for the training of the child being almost parental. (See BAPTISM, HOLY; INFANT BAPTISM; also NAME, THE CHRISTIAN.)

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Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Sponsors'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. 1901.

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