Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

of improving them, as he who had re- In short, it is the constant injunction of ceived only one; and would, if he had Scripture, in whatever station we are placed, hid his talents in the earth, have been to consider ourselves as God's servants, punished, in proportion to the abuse. and as acting immediately under his eye, Every man, even in the highest station, not expecting our reward among men, may find a proper employment, both for but from our great Master who is in heahis time and fortune, if he please: and he ven. This sanctifies, in a manner, all our may assure himself that God, by placing actions; it places the little difficulties of him in that station, never meant to ex- our station in the light of God's appointempt him from the common obligations of ments; and turns the most common duties society, and give him a licence to spend of life into acts of religion. Gilpin. his life ip ease and pleasure. God meant,

§ 118. On the Sacrament of Baptism. assuredly, that ho should bear his part in the general commerce of life that he The sacrament of baptism is next conshould consider himself not as an indivi. sidered ; in which, if we consider the dual, but as a member of the community; inward grace, we shall see how aptly the the interests of which he is under an obli- sign represents it.—The inward grace, or gation to support with all his power;- thing signified, we are told, is " a deatb and that his elevated station gives him no unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousother pre-eminence than that of being the ness:" by which is meant that great remore extensively useful.

novation of nature, that purity of heart, Having :hus seen, that we bave all which the Christian religion is intended to some station in life to support-some produce. And surely there cannot be a particular duties to discharge; let us now more significant sign of this than water, on see in what manner we ought to discharge account of its cleansing nature. As water them.

refreshes the body, and purifies it from all We have an easy rule given us in Scrip. contracted filth; it aptly represents that ture on this head; that all our duties in renovation of nature, which cleanses the life should be performed “as to the Lord, soul from the impurities of sin. Water, and not unto 'man:” that is, we should indeed, among the ancients, was more consider our stations in life as trusts re- adapted to the thing signified, than it is at posed in us by our Maker; and as such present among us. They used immersion should discharge the duties of them. What, in baprizing : so that the child being dipthough no worldly trust be reposed? What, ped into the water, and raised out again, though we are accountable to nobody baptism with them was more significant upon earth? Can we therefore suppose of a new birth unto righteousness. But ourselves in reality less accountable? Can though we, in these colder climates, think we suppose that God, for no reason that immersion an unsafe practice; yet the we can divine, has singled us out, and original meaning is still supposed. given us a large proportion of the things of It is next asked, What is required of this world (while others around us are in those who are baptized ? To this we anneed) for no other purpose than to equan- swer, “ Repentance, whereby they forder it away upon ourselves ? To God un- sake sin; and faith, whereby they steaddoubtedly we are accountable for every fastly believe the promises of God, made blessing we enjoy.. What mean, in Scrip- to them in that sacrament.” ture, the talents given, and the use as- The primitive church was extremely signed; but the conscientious discharge strict on this head. In those times, before of the duties of life, according to the ad- Christianity was established, when adults vantages with which they are attended ? offered themselves to baptism, no one was

It matters not whether these advantages admitted till he had given a very satisbe an inheritance, or an acquisition; still factory evidence of his repentance; and they are the gift of God. "Agreeably to till, on good grounds, he could profess his their rank in life, it is true, all men should faith in Christ : and it was afterwards live; human distinctions require it; and expected from him, that he should prove in doing this properly, every one around his faith and repentance, by a regular obewill be benefited. Utility should be con- dience during the future part of his life. sidered in all our expenses. Even the If faith and repentance are expected at vory amusements of a man of fortune baptism; it is a very natural question, should be founded in it.

“ Why then are infants baptized, when,

by reason of their tender age, they can world to God. “ This do," said our give no evidence of either?”

Saviour (alluding to the passover, which Whether infants should be admitted to the Lord's supper was designed to superbaptism, or whether that sacrament should sede) not as hitherto, in memory of your be deferred till years of discretion; is a deliverance from Egypt; but in memory question in the Christian church, which of that greater deliverance, of which the hath been agitated with some animosity. other was only a type: “Do it in rememOur church by no means looks upon bap- brance of me.' tism as necessary to the infant's salvation*. The outward part, or sign of the Lord's No man acquainted with the spirit of Chris. supper, is “bread and wine”--the things tianity can conceive, that God will leave signified are the “ body and blood of the salvation of so many innocent souls in Christ.”--- In examining the sacrament of the hands of others. But the practice is baptism, I endeavoured to shew, how very considered as founded upon the usage of apt a symbol water is in that ceremony. the earliest times: and the church observe Bread and wine also are symbols equally ing, that circumcision was the introductory apt in representing the body and blood of rite to the Jewish covenant; and that bap- Christ: and in the use of these particular tism was intended to succeed circumcision; symbols, it is reasonable to suppose, that it naturally supposes, that baptism should our Saviour had an eye to the Jewish be administered to infants, as circumcision passover; in which it was a custom to was. The church, however, in this case drink wine, and to eat bread.

He might hath provided sponsors, who make a pro- have instituted any other apt symbols for fession of obedience in the child's name. the same purpose ; but it was his usual But the nature and office of this proxy practice, through the whole system of his hath been already examined, under the institution, to make it, in every part, as head of our baptismal vow. Gilpin. familiar as possible: and for this reason

he seems to have chosen such symbols as § 117. On the Sacrament of the Lord's

were then in use; that he might give as Supper.

little offence as possible in a matter of The first question is an inquiry into indifference. the origin of the institution: “Why was As our Saviour, in the institution of his the sacrament of the Lord's supper ore supper, ordered both the bread and the dained ?”

wine to be received; it is certainly a great It was ordained, we are informed,- error in papists, to deny the cup to the “ for the continual remembrance of the laity. They say, indeed, that, as both sacrifice of the death of Christ; and of flesh and blood are united in the substance ibe benefits which we receive thereby.” of the human body; so are they in the

In examining a sacrament in general, sacramental bread; which, according to we have already seen, that both baptism, them, is changed, or, as they phrase it, and the Lord's supper, were originally transubstantiated into the real body of instituted as the means “ of receiving the Christ. If they have no other reason, why grace of God; and as pledges to assure do they adininister wine to the clergy? us thereof."

The clergy might participate equally of But besides the primary ends, they have both in the bread. -But the plain truth is, each a secondary one; in representing the they are desirous, by this invention, to add two most important truths of religion; an air of mystery to the sacrament, and which gives them more force and influence. a superstitious reverence to the priest, as Baptism, we have seeu, represents that if he, being endowed with some peculiar renovation of our sinful nature, which holiness, might be allowed the use of the gospel was intended to introduce: both. and the peculiar end which the Lord's There is a difficulty in this part of the supper had in view, was the sacrifice catechism,which should not be passed over. of the death of Christ; with all the be- We are told,“ that the body and blood of nefits which arise from it--the remission Christ are verily and indeed taken, and of our sing---and the reconciliation of the received by the faithful in the Lord's sup

* The catechism asserts the sacraments to be only generally necessary to salvation, excepting particular cases.

Where the use of them is jotentionally rejected, it is certainly criminal. --The Quakers indeed reject them on principle: but though we may wonder both at their logic and divinity, we should be sorry to include them in an anathema.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

per.” This expression sounds very like the earnest in this point; adds only a phari-
popish doctrine, just mentioned, of tran- saical hypocrisy to his other sins. Unless
substantiation. Thetrue sense of the words he seriously resolve to lead a good life,
undoubtedly is, that the faithful believer he had better be all of a piece; and not
only, verily and indeed receives the benefit pretend, by receiving the sacrament, to a
of the sacrament; but the expression must piety which he does not feel.
be allowed to be inaccurate, as it is capable

These “ steadfast purposes of leading a of an interpretation so entirely opposite new life,” form a very becoming exercise to that which the church of England hath to Christians. The lives even of the best always professed. I would not willingly of men afford only a mortifying retrospect. suppose, as some have done, that the com- Though they may have conquered some pilers of the catechism meant to manage of their worst propensities; yet the trithe affair of transubstantiation with the umphs of sin over them, at the various papists. It is one thing to shew a liberality periods of their lives, will always be reof sentiment in matters of indifference; membered with sorrow; and may always and another to speak timidly and ambi- be remembered with advantage; keeping guously where essentials are concerned. them on their guard for the future, and

It is next asked, What benefits we re- , strengthening them more and more in ceive from the Lord's supper? To which all their good resolutions of obedience. it is answered, “ The strengthening and And when can these meditations arise refreshing of our souls by the body and more properly, than when we are perblood of Christ, as our bodies are by the forming a rite, instituted on purpose to bread and wine.” As our bodies are commemorate the great atonement for sin ? strengthened and refreshed, in a natural To our repentance, and resolutions of way, by bread and wine; so should our obedience, we are required to add“ a souls bé, in a spiritual way, by a devout lively faith in God's mercy through Christ; commemoration of the passion of Christ. with a thankful remembrance of his death.” By gratefully remembering what he suf- We should impress ourselves with the fered for us, we should be excited to a deepest sense of humility-totally rejectgreater abhorrence of sin, which was the ing every idea of our own merit—hoping cause of his sufferings. Every time we for God's favour only through the merits partake of this sacrament, like faithful sol- of our great Redeemer-and with hearts diers, we take a fresh oath to our leader: full of gratitude, trusting only to his alland should be animated anew, by his ex- sufficient sacrifice. ample, to persevere in the spiritual con- Lastly, we are required, at the celebraflict in which, under him, we are engaged. tion of this great rite, to be " in charity

It is lastly asked, “ What is required of with all men.” It commemorates the them who come to the Lord's supper ?" greatest instance of love that can be conTo which we answer, “That we should ceived; and should therefore raise in us examine ourselves, whether we repent us correspondent affections. It should extruly of our former sins--steadfastly pur- cite in us that constant flow of benevoposing to lead a new life--have a livelylence, in which the spirit of religion con. faith in God's mercy through Christ- sists; and without which_indeed we can with a thankful remembrance of his death; have no religion at all. Love is the very and to be in charity with all men.” distinguishing badge of Christianity: “ By

That pious frame of mind is here, in this,” said our great Master, "shall all very few words, pointed out, which a men know that ye are my disciples." Christian ought to cherish and cultivate in One species of charity should, at this himself at all times; but especially, upon time, never be forgotten; and that is, the the performance of any solemn act of reli- forgiveness of others. No acceptable gift gion. Very little indeed is said in Scrip- can be offered at this altar, but in the spirit ture, of any particular frame of mind, of reconciliation.—Hence it was, that the which should accompany the performance ancient Christians instituted, at the celeof this duty; but it may easily be inferred bration of the Lord's supper, what they from the nature of the duty itself. called love-feasts. They thought, they

In the first place,“ we should repent could not give a better instance of their us truly of our former sins ; steadfastly pur- being in perfect charity with each other, posing to lead a new life.” He who per- than by joining all ranks together in one forms a religious exercise, without being common meal. By degrees, indeed, this


but guilt.

well-meant custom degenerated; and it world has long been divided on these submay not be amiss to observe here, that the jects; and a gracious God, it may be passages* in which these enormities are hoped, will pardon our errors. But in rebuked, have been variously misconstrua matters of practice we have no apology ed; and have frightened many well mean- for error. The great lines of our duty are ing persons from the sacrament. Whereas drawn so strong, that a deviation here is what the apostle here says, hath no other not error, relation to this rite, than as it was attended Let us then, to conclude, from the whole, by a particular abuse in receiving it; and make it our principal care to purify our as this is a mode of abuse which doth not hearts in the sight of God. Let us beseech now exist, the apostle's reproof seems not him to increase the influence of his Holy to affect the Christians of this age. Spirit within us, that our faith may be of

What the primary, and what the secon- that kind “ which worketh by love;" that dary ends in the two sacraments were, I all our affections, and from them our achave endeavoured to explain. But there tions, may flow in a steady course of obemight be others.

dience; that each day may correct the last God might intend them as trials of our by a since rerepentance of our mistakes in faith. The divine truths of the gospel life; and that we may continue gradually speak for themselves: but the performance to approach nearer the idea of Christian of a positive duty rests only on faith. perfection. Let us do this, disclaiming,

These institutions are also strong argu- after all, any merits of our own: and not ments for the truth of Christianity. We trusting in outward observances; but trusttrace the observance of them into the very ing in the merits of Christ to make up our earliest times of the gospel. We can trace deficiencies; and we need not fear our no other origin than what the Scriptures acceptance with God. Gilpin. give us. These rites therefore greatly tend to corroborate the Scriptures.

$ 118. A serious Erpostulation with UnGod also, who knows what is in man,

believers. might condescend so far to bis weakness, It were to be wished, that the enemies as to give him these external badges of re- of religion would at least bring themselves ligion, to keep the spirit of it more alive. to apprehend its nature, before they opAnd it is indeed probable, that nothing has posed its authority. Did religion make contributed more than these ceremonies to its boast of beholding God with a clear and preserve a sense of religion among man- perfect view, and of possessing him without kind. It is a melancholy proof of this, covering or veil, the argument would bear that no contentions in the Christian church some colour, when men should allege, that have been more violent, nor carried on none of these things about them, do indeed with more acrimony, and unchristian zeal, afford this pretended evidence, and this then the contentions about baptism and degree of light. But since religion, on the the Lord's supper; as if the very essence contrary, represents men as in a state of of religion consisted in this or that mode darkness

, and of estrangement from God; of observing these rites.-But this is the since it affirms him to have withdrawn abuse of them.

himself from their discovery, and to have Let us be better taught: let us receive chosen, in bis word, the very style and these sacraments, for the gracious purposes appellation of Deus absconditus; lastly, for which our Lord enjoined them, with since it employs itself alike in establishgratitude and with reverence. But let us ing these two maxims, that God has left, not lay a greater stress upon them than our in his church, certain characters of himLord intended. Heaven, we doubt pot, self, by which they who sincerely seek may be gained, when there have been the him, shall not fail of a sensible couvicmeans of receiving neither the one sacra- tion; and yet that he has, at the same ment nor the other. But unless our affec- time, so far shaded and obscured these tions are right, and our lives answerable to characters, as to render them imperceptithem, we can never please God, though ble to those who do not seek him with we perform the externals of religion with their whole heart, what advantage is it to ever so much exactoess. We may err in men who profess themselves negligent in our notions about the sacraments the the search of truth; to complain so fre

* See 1 Cor. xi.


quently, that nothing reveals and displays without giving themselves any trouble, or it to them ? For this very obscurity, under so much as any thought in this affair. which they labour, and which they make I cannot but be touched with a hearty an exception against the church, does itself compassion for those who sincerely groan evince one of the two grand points which under this dissatisfaction; who look upon the church maintains (without affecting it as the greatest of misfortunes, and who the other) and is so far from overthrowing spare no pains to deliver themselves from its doctrines, as to lend them a manifest it, by making these researches their chief confirmation and support.

employment, and most serious study. But If they would give their objections any as for those, who pass their life without restrength, they ought to urge, that they flecting on its issue, and who, for this reahave applied their utmost endeavour, and son alone, because they find not in themhave used all means of information, even selves a convincing testimony, refuse to those which the church recommends, seek it elsewhere, and to examine to the without satisfaction. Did they express bottom, whether the opinion proposed be themselves thus, they would indeed attack such as we are wont to entertain by popular religion in one of its chief pretensions: simplicity and credulity, or such as, though but I hope to shew in the following pa- obscure in itself, yet is built on solid and pers, that no rational person can speak immoveable foundations, I consider them after this manner; and I dare assert, that after quite another manner. The carelessnone ever did. We know very well, how ness wbich they betray in an affair, where men, under this indifferency of spirit, be- their person, their interest

, their whole have themselves in the case: they sup- eternity is embarked, rather provokes my pose themselves to have made the migh- resentment than engages my pity. Nay, tiest effort towards the instruction of their it strikes me with amazement and astonishminds, when they have spent some hours ment: it is a monster to my apprehension. in reading the Scriptures, and have asked I speak not this as transported with the some questions of a clergyman concerning pious zeal of a spiritual and rapturous dethe articles of faith. When this is done, votion: on the contrary, I affirm, that the they declare to all the world, that they love of ourselves, the interest of mankind, have consulted books and men without and the most simple and artless reason, do success. I shall be excused, if I refrain naturally inspire us with these sentiments; not from telling such men, that this neg- and that to see thus far, is not to exceed lect of theirs is insupportable. It is not the sphere of unrefined, uneducated men. a foreign or a petty interest, which is here It requires no great elevation of soul, in debate; we are ourselves the parties, to observe that nothing in this world is and all our hopes and fortunes are the de- productive of true contentment; that our pending stake.

pleasures are vain and fugitive, our trouThe immortality of the soul is a thing bles innumerable and perpetual: and that, which so deeply concerns, so infinitely im- after all, death, which threatens us every ports us, that we must have utterly lostour moment, must, in the compass of a few feeling, to be altogether cold and remiss years (perhaps of a few days) put us into in our inquiries about it. And all our the eternal condition of happiness, or miactions or designs ought to bend so very sery, or nothing. Between us and these different a way, according as we are either three great periods, or states, no barrier is encouraged or forbidden, to embrace the interposed, but life, the most brittle thing hope of eternal rewards, that it is impos- in all nature; and the happiness of heaven sible for us to proceed with judgment and being certainly not designed for those who discretion, otherwise than as we keep this doubt whether they have an immortal part point always in view, which ought to be to enjoy it, such persons have nothing left, our ruling object and final aim.

but the miserable chance of annihilation, Thus it is our highest interest, no less or of hell. than our principal duty, to get light into There is not any reflection which can a subject on which our whole conduct de- have more reality than this, as there is none pends. And therefore, in the number of which has greater terror. Let us set the wavering and unsatisfied men, I make the bravest face on our condition, and play the greatest difference imaginable between heroes as artfully as we can; yet see here those who labour with all their force to the issue which atteuds the goodliest life obtain instruction, and those who live upon earth.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »