Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the title an empty one only ; but, when to any human institution, however sacred and solemn, a title is given, which conveys the idea of an effectuality of grace, and a conveyance of blessing, the same with what we know to be annexed to Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and when we are required to view them in the same light, then does our dissent become a matter of duty; as dissenting from what we are certain is contrary to Scripture, was unknown to antiquity, and sanctioned only in dark and corrupt times, more with a view to serve the interests of worldly policy, than the interests of true and undefiled religion.

But there are other two questions which arise naturally out of the general doctrine of the sacraments; and which are so interwoven with each other, that they cannot well be discussed singly : and these questions relate to the necessity of partaking of both the christian sacraments, and to the person at whose hands we ought properly to partake, so as to do it efficaciously. On the one hand, the belief of the absolute necessity of the sacraments (which appears to be the side of the one question most warranted by holy writ) seems to throw open the administration of them to all and sundry ; as it will be deemed little short of injustice to man, to make that absolutely necessary to salvation which is without his power, and must depend on the will and pleasure of another. On the other hand, the belief of a regularly commissioned admi

002

nistrator

[ocr errors]

nistrator being essential to the reality of a sacrament, (which appears to be the side of the other question most warranted, both by holy writ and primitive usage), seems to have produced the declaration that the sacraments are only “ generally necessary to salvation', by which expression however, we are to understand, that they are only not absolutely necessary, when they cannot be regularly and duly partaken of. Both positions have been ably argued, and strenuously maintained by theologians ; while both, in point of reasoning, are liable to much embarassment and confusion.

To discuss the merits of both, or of the controversy to which they have given birth, would be to fill volumes; since ancients and moderns, Romanists and protestants, have entered the lists on this diffusive subject ; and, from their modes of management, (although, upon the main, both parties may be free from wilful error), have left the matter in the same state of doubt and difficulty as before. It becomes me therefore simply to observe, and I do it with the utmost deference, that to me the whole of this laboured disputation appears finally to resolve itself into the same dilemma, with the case of the heathen already noticed. In such a case, the same mode of solution becomes applicable to both. For, I trust that it will, on all hands, be acknowledged, that the constitution of the christian church, and the institution of its sacraments, do exclusively belong to Christ, and are arbitrarily vested in him; and therefore, both the one and the other we are bound and obliged to receive, in terms of his divine appointment, without drawing consequences; or, by our sagacity, making provision for such difficulties, as are the offspring of the idly curious, and unsettled mind.

church,

I See Church Catechism.

One thing will surely be granted, that, however much the wisdom of God incarnate may see fit, or however much his mercy may incline him to relax any precept which we may deem rigorous in his law, it would, on our part, be the most unpardonable presumption, by any prudential gloss or interpretation, to assign to any such precept a meaning contrary to the real intendment of it. It is, therefore

upon this principle of implicit submission to our great lawgiver, that, in my estimation, the matter can ever be satisfactorily adjusted. For, as he has constituted his church upon a firm and invariable basis, so has he instituted sacraments for the necessary observance and support of its members, (but whe- . ther absolutely, or generally necessary, whether necesșitate medii, or necessitate præcepti, or under any other nice distinction, is not for us to determine), while he has committed the exclusive administration and dispensation of these necessary institutions to those, whom he has entrusted with the stewardship of his precious mysteries, and with the external government of the household of faith. Indeed it is nei. ther within our province, nor within reach of our faculties, to be deciding peremptorily in, at best, hypothetical cases; which, while they appear difficult, and sadly perplexing to our shallow understandings, are easily adjusted by Almighty power, guided by boundless mercy, and directed by infinite wisdom; being made to work together for the advancement of his own glory, and for the furtherance of God's gracious purposes of love and favour to fallen man.

ther

LETTER XXVII.

HAVING briefly laid before the reader the nature and institution of the sacraments of our religion, in general, I come now to treat of them individually. The sacrament of Baptism claims precedence; being the necessary rite of initiation, by which, as by a door of admittance, we enter into the fold of Christ, the society and communion of his flock, and become, in the language of the church, members of • Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the • kingdom of heaven.' But great as are these pri

vileges

vileges of the baptized - servant and soldier' of Christ, they do not comprehend the whole benefits of this holy sacrament. It is by baptism duly administered, and faithfully received, that we are washed and purified from the original pollution of corrupted human nature ; that we are solemnly consecrated to be the peculiar property of the holy and undivided Trinity; and are blessed with the first seeds and elements of that progressive sanctification, which, in virtue of Christ's promise to his church, the spirit of holiness, if not openly resisted, and at last totally quenched, will carry on within us, in just proportion to our necessities; and until, in his own good time and manner, he bring us • unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christi'

Of this salutary institution the matter or outward and visible sign is water : the form is ‘in’or • into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of

the Holy Ghost ;' and the ministring is committed by its divine Institutor to his apostles, and to their successors in office; with whom, being sent as the Father did send the Son, that Son hath promised, that he will be • always, even unto the end of the • world.'

Such being the sacred nature, and manifold blessings of the baptismal sacrament, it will be readily admitted, that young children stand in especial need of obtaining that which by nature they

cannot

« AnteriorContinuar »