« AnteriorContinuar »
He hath entered into a new one with Mankind, through Jesus Christ: in which He hath promised to free us, both from the Mortality, which our first Parents had brought upon us, by restoring us to Life again; and from the Inability, by the powerful Asistance of his Holy Spirit. Nay further yet, He hath promised, (and without it the rest would have been of small Use) that should we, notwithstanding his Aslistance, fail in our Duty, when we might have performed it; as we have all failed, and made ourselves, by that Means, Children of Wrath, in the stricteft and worst Sense: yet, on most equitable Terms, He would still receive us to Mercy anew. And thus the Christian Covenant, delivering us, if we are faithful to it, from every Thing we had to fear, and bestowing on us every. Thing we could hope, brings us into a State so unspeakably different from our former; that it is juftly expressed by being dead to that, and born into another. And this
new Birth being effected by the Grace or Goodness of God, external and internal, we, the Children of it, are properly called the Children of Grace. Now Baptism is not only a sign of this Grace; (as indeed it fignifies very naturally the washing off both of our original Corruption, and our actual Guilt) but the appointed Way of entering into the Covenant that intitles us to such Grace; the Means whereby we receive the fame, and a Pledge to asure us thereof..
Indeed the mere outward Act of being baptized is, as St. Peter, in the Words already mentioned, very truly expresses it, the mere putting away of the Filth of the Flesh; unless it be made effectual to save us, as he teaches in the fame Place it must, by the Answer of a good Conscience towards Goda: that is, by the sincere Stipulation and Engagement of Repentance, whereby we forsake Sin; and Faith, whereby we believe the Promises of God, made to us in that Sacrament. For it is impollible that He should forgive us our past Sins, unless we are sorry for them, and resolved to quit them: and it is as
impoflible that we should quit them effectually, unless a firm Perfuafion of his helping and rewarding us excite and support our Endeavours. These two Things therefore we see our Catechism justly mentions as necessary, in Answer to the Question, What is required of Persons to be baptized? Both have been explained in their proper Place, and therefore I enlarge on neither here.
But hence arises immediately another Question: If these Conditions are necessary, why are Infants baptized, when by Reason of their tender Age they cannot perform them? And as this Difficulty appears to some a great one, I shall give a fuller Solution of it than the Shortness of a Catechism would easily permit. Repentance and Faith are requisite, not before they are possible, but when they are possible. Repentance is what Infants need not as yet, being clear of personal Guilt: and happy would it be, were they never to need it. Faith, it may be reasonably presumed, by the Security given for their Christian Education, they will have, as soon as they have Occasion to exert it. And in the mean time, Baptism may very fitly be administred : because God, on his Part, can certainly express by it, both his removing, at present, the Disadvantages which they lie under by the Sin of Adam; and his removing hereafter, on proper Conditions, the Disadvantages which they may come to lie under by their own Sins. And though they cannot, on their Parts, expressly promise to perform these Conditions; yet they are not only bound to perform them, whether they promise it or not; but (which is the Point that our Catechism infifts on) their Sureties promise for them, that they shall be made sensible, as soon as may be, that they are so bound; and ratify the Engagement in their own Persons : which when they do, it then becomes complete. Firit is by no Means necessary, that a Covenant Thould be executed, by both the Parties to it, at just the same Time : and as the Chriftian Covenant is one of the greatest Equity and Favour, we cannot doubt, to speak in the Language
of our Liturgy, but that God favourably alloweth the charitable Work of bringing Infants to his holy Baptism. For the Promise of the Covenant being expressly said to belong to us and to our Children', without any Limitation of Age; why should they not all, since they are to partake of the Promise, partake also of the Sign of it? especially, since the Infants of the Jews were, by a solemn Sign, entered into their Covenant; and the Infants of Proselytes to the Jews, by this very Sign, amongst others, of Baptism. So that, supposing the A poftles to imitate either of these Examples, as they naturally would, unless they were forbid, which they were not; when they baptized (as the Scripture, with out making any Exception, tells us they did) whole Families at once"; we cannot question but they bap
tized (as we know the primitive Christians, their Suc: ceffors, did) little Children amongst the rest; concerning whom our Saviour says, that of such is the Kingdom of Godd: and St. Paul says, they are holy e; which they cannot be reputed, without entering into the Gospel Covenant: and the only appointed Way of entering into it is by Baptism ; which therefore is constantly represented in the New Testament as necessary to Salva-tion.
Not that such Converts, in ancient Times, as were put to Death for their Faith, before they could be baptized, loft their Reward for Want of it. Not that fuch Children of Believers now, as die unbaptized by sudden Illness, or unexpected Accidents, or even by Neglect, (since it is none of their own Neglect) shall forfeit the Advantages of Baptism. This would be very contrary to that Mercy and Grace, which abounds through the Whole of the Gospel Dispensation. Nay, where the Persons themselves do designedly, through mistaken Notions, either delay their Baptism, as the Anabaptists; or omit it intirely, as the Quakers; even of these it belongs to Christian Charity not to judge Acta ii. 39. Afts xvi, 15, 33. a Mark X. 14. ' 1 Cor. vii. 14.
hardly, as excluded from the Gospel Covenant, if they die unbaptized; but to leave them to the equitable Judgment of God. Both of them indeed err: and the latter especially have, one should think, as little Excuse for their Error as well can be : for surely there is no Duty of Christianity which stands on a plainer Foundation, than that of baptizing with Water in the Name of the holy Trinity. But still, since they solemnly declare, that they believe in Christ, and defire to obey his Commands; and omit Water-Baptism only because they cannot see it is commanded; we ought (if we have Cause to think they speak Truth) by no Means to consider them in the fame Light with total Unbelievers.
But the wilful and the careless Despisers of this Ordinance; who, admitting it to be of God's Appointment, neglect it notwithstanding; these are not to be looked on as within his Covenant.
And such as, though they do observe it for Form's Sake, treat it as an empty insignificant Ceremony, are very unworthy of the Benefits which it was intended to convey. And, bad as these Things are, little better, if not worse, will be the Case of those, who, acknowledging the folemn Engagements into which they have entered by this Sacrament, live without Care to make them good. For to the only valuable Purpose, of God's Favour and eternal Happiness, He is not a Christian, which outwardly; neither is that Baptism which is outward in the Flesh: but He is a Christian, which is one inwardly; and Baptism is that of the Heart, in the Spirit, and not in the Letter ; whafe Praife is not of Men, but of God,
Rom. ii, 28, 29,
Of the LORD's Supper.
S by the Sacrament of Baptism we enter into the
Christian Covenant; so by that of the Lord's Supper we profefs our thankful Continuance in it: and therefore the first Answer of our Catechism, concerning this Ordinance, tells us, it was appointed for the continual Remembrance of the Sacrifice of the Death of Chrift, and of the Benefits which we receive thereby. Now the Nature and Benefits of this Sacrifice have been already explained, in their proper Places. I shall therefore proceed to Thew, that the Lord's Supper is rightly said here to be ordained for a Remembrance of it, not a Repetition, as the Church of Rome teaches.
Indeed every Act, both of Worship and Obedience, is in some Sense a Sacrifice to God, humbly offered up to Him for his Acceptance. And this Sacrament in particular, being a Memorial and Representation of the Sacrifice of Christ, solemnly and religiously made, may well enough be called, in a figurative Way of speaking, by the fame Name with what it commemorates and represents. But that He should be really and literally offered
up in it, is the directest Contradiction that can be, not only to Common-sense, but also to Scripture, which expressly says, that He was not to be offered often, for then muft He often have suffered; but hath appeared once to put awary Sin by the Sacrifice of Himself á, and after that, for ever sat down on the right Hand of God: for by one Offering He hath perfeited for ever them that are fanétified This Ordinance then was appointed, not to repeat; * Heb, is, 25, 26,
b Heb. Xo J2, 14. N 6