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of and extolled; and let it decide which of the following two hypotheses appears most probable, and consequently most eligible and safe: Whether the hypothesis which holds, that Christ, the acknowledged Head of his extensive family, the church, did leave the ordering, constitution, and government of it, to the fluctuating caprice of every age and

generation of man; or the hypothesis which holds, that the wisdom and goodness of Christ did authoritatively fix some certain and determinate model, for

perpetual duration, and for universal observance-not to be departed from, without committing an heinous sin, and incurring a manifest danger. Let the most liberal minded only assimilate the government of the church of God to the case of a well-regulated state ; let him only allow the divine institutor of the former to have been possessed of equal regard for his disciples, as every wise and discerning earthly potentate would wish to display for his subjects, in instituting a beneficial form of civil polity; and I, for my own part, am ready to submit to his decision.

LET.

LETTER XXVI.

HAVING instituted a church, against which the gates of hell itself are, at no period, so to prevail, as wholly to extinguish it, we are taught to believe, that Jesus Christ admitted into this mystical body, and is graciously pleased to retain in it, menbers of all ranks and degrees, and that, by certain positive rites, called Sacraments. Besides being few in number, these Sacraments are easy of observance, and are of most excellent signification. They consist of two only; and are known by the names of BAPTISM, and the SUPPER OF OUR LORD. Resting as they do, upon the immediate authority of Christ himself, we are expressly assured by his evangelist, that the sacraments were consecrated by his powerful blessing; and being set apart for the great purposes of our Redeemer's mercy and goodness, were enjoined to be of perpetual observance, and to be received as ordinances of perpetual efficacy in his church to the end of time. It is with this view, that the christian church does devoutly and thankfully accept and retain them, venerating them not only as peculiar badges of christian pro

fession,

fession, which they certainly are in an eminent degree, but as being the sanctified means of conveying inward and spiritual grace, and as being efficacious pledges to assure us of it, on the express authority of their divine institutor.

The sacraments are therefore believed to be so strictly essential to the very being, much more to the well-being of a church, the relation so close, and the connection so inseparable, that there can be no real church without sacraments, nor real sacraments without a church. The one necessarily includes and requires the other.

But, at the same time, it is carefully to be observed, that although the church catholic, or any particular church may, for the support of order and decency, appoint such rites and ceremonies as, it is to be hoped, will meet with the cheartul observance of every sound member of the same; yet neither has the church catholic, nor any partieular church, power or authority to increase or diminish the number of sacraments, or to affix the gracious and spiritual effects of sacramental institution to any ordinance of human introduction. On this account it is, that the episcopal churches of England and Scotland do, in their articles, so expressly reject the five additional sacraments adopted by the church of Rome; since they are, in no way, to be held as sacraments of the gospel, · being such as have grown, partly of the corrupt following

of

* of the apostles, partly are states of life allowed by * the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of sa*craments with baptism and the Lord's Supper ;' and therefore are not to be put on an equal footing with the two most venerable institutions ordained by Christ himself.

In proof that these sentiments, respecting the necessity of the christian sácraments to the being of of a church, have been in a great measure universally acted upon, I need only remark, that no sect or party, professing itself christian, did ever assume the title of a Church, without using something under the name of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper; insomuch, that the sectarian tribe, known by the designation of Quakers, having boldly rejected these two incoñtestable ordinances of divine institution, does not pretend, or even wish to be called a church. In this part of their creed they undoubtedly err with a high hand; yet they have the merit of consistency, in not aiming at a title which they are, by their own confession, precluded from enjoying.

Yet, general as the reception of the christian sacraments has been, the doctrine which flows from their adoption has been exposed to a variety of subtle and intricate questions. Indeed the term sacrament, though for ages common in theological language, does by no means appear to be ha pily applied to the two grand institutions to which it has

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been appropriated. SACRAMENT is well known to be a word of Latin derivation. In the sense ascribed to it by heathen authors, it signifies a military oath. And, in this very sense of oath or obligation, many of the Latin Fathers have applied “sa* cramentum' to things of ecclesiastical observance; but which have no relation to the two gospel institutions which have been thus designated. It would seem however, that the authority of this application of the term, by the Latin Fathers, was that, on which the Romish church built their introduction of other rites, into the catalogue of sacraments, than those of our Saviour's immediate appointment. This may be gathered from the case of marriage, one of the five rites, which they have dignified with the title of a sacrament. For they pretend, by means of the Vulgate transla'tion of a passage in St Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, (which translation the Council of Trent has declared to be authoritative), that the apostle himself countenances their erroneous tenet. translation, literally from the Greek, we read the passage, . This is a great mystery'' The Rornanist reads, This is a great sacrament;' and strangely argues, that, from the promiscous use of the two words, and from the sacraments being currently denominated the mysteries of our religion, all mysteries ought to be called sacraments. Nor should we quarrel with the Romanist on this head, were

the

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1 Ephes: V. 32.

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