Page images

other, the sacrificed Lamb is represented as offered and slain for them. Now, the church having such fair probabilities and prudential motives, and no prohibition, if she shall use her power to the purposes of kindnesses and charity, she is not easily to be reproved, lest without necessity we condemn all the primitive catholic church, and all the modern churches of the east and south to this day: especially since, without all dispositions, infants are baptized, there is less reason why they may not be communicated, having already received <some real dispositions towards this, even all the grace of the sacrament of baptism, which is certainly something towards the other. And after all, the refusing to communicate infants entered into the church, upon an unwarrantable ground. For though it was confessed that the communion would do them benefit, yet it was denied to them, then when the doctrine of transubstantiation entered', upon pretence lest by puking up the holy symbols, the sacrament should be dishonoured; which indeed, though that doctrine were true, were infinitely unreasonable; as supposing that Christ, who suffered his body to be broken upon the cross, that he might convey grace to them and us, would refuse to expose the symbols to the accidents of a child's stomach, and rather deny them that grace, than endure that sight, who yet does daily suffer mice and mouldiness to do worse unto it.

But on the other side, they that, without interest and partiality, deny to communicate infants, can consider, that infants, being in baptism admitted to the promises of the Gospel, and their portion in the kingdom of Christ, can have upon them no necessity to be communicated. For by their first sacrament they are drawn from their mere natural state, and lifted up to the adoption of sons; and by the second sacrament alone they can go no further:- that although the first grace which is given in baptism, be given them as their first being, yet the second graces are given to us upon other accounts, even for well using the first free grace:that in baptism there were promises made, which are to be personally accepted and verified, before any new grace can be sacramentally imparted:- that it was necessity which gave them baptism before their reason, and that

Victoria. Relict. de Eucharist. ubi supra.

necessity being served, there can be no profit in proceeding upon the same method, without the same reason:- that baptism is the sacrament of the new-born, the beginning, the gate of the church, the entry of the kingdom, the birth of a Christian; but the holy eucharist is the sacrament of them that grow in grace, of them that are perfect in Christ Jesus: -and lastly, to him that lists to be contentious, we are to say, as St. Paul did, "We have no such custom, nor the churches of God.".

Now, these probabilities on both sides may, both of them, be heard, and both of them prevail in the sense of the former determination for, by the first, it may appear, that to communicate infants is lawful; but the second proves, that it is not necessary; for having in baptism received sufficient title to the kingdom of heaven, they, who before the use of reason cannot sin, and cannot fall from the grace they have received, cannot be obliged to the use of that sacrament, which is for their reparation and security; and therefore, in this case, the present practice of the church is to be our rule and measure of peace, and determination of the article.

[ocr errors]


Whether Innocents, Fools, and Madmen, may be admitted to the Holy Communion?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


To this I answer, that if fools can desire it, and can be kept innocent, the church did never deny it to them; but unless they be capable of love and obedience in some degree, they must in no case be admitted. A vicious fool is intolerable; and he that knows nothing of it, nor can be taught any thing, must be permitted to the mercies of God, and the prayers of the church; but he that is not capable of laws, can be no part of a society, and, therefore, hath nothing to do with communion. If he can but learn so much that it is good for his soul; if he can desire to go to God, and if he can, in any degree, believe in Christ, he will be judged according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not: but if he cannot discern between good and evil, but indifferently likes and does one and the other, though mercy

is to be hoped for him in the last account, yet because he does that which is materially evil, and cannot discern what is spiritually good, he must not be admitted so much as to the symbols of the divine mysteries.

But concerning madmen the case is otherwise; and, therefore, I am to answer with a distinction. If, from a state of sin and debauchery, they entered into their madness, their case is sad, and infinitely to be deplored; but their debtbooks are sealed up; they are like dead men; until they be restored to reason, they cannot be restored to grace, and, therefore, not admitted to the sacrament. But if they were men of a good life, they may, in their intervals, that is, when they can desire it, and when they will not use the sacrament irreverently, be communicated. For the seed of God abides within them, and no accident of nature can destroy the work of God and the impresses of the Spirit; nothing but their own wills can do that.


For, in these cases, it is a good rule, and of great use in the practice of the sacrament: Whoever can communicate spiritually, may be admitted to communicate sacramentally; - that is, they who are in a state of grace, and can desire it, must not be rejected: and, therefore, good men falling into this calamity, when they have any ease from their sadness, and that they can return to words of order, and composed thoughts, though but for awhile, though but in order to that ministry, are not to be rejected...

But, on the other side, whoever can hinder the effect of the sacrament, they are not to be admitted to it, unless they do not only not hinder it, but actually dispose themselves to it. For if they can do evil, they can and ought to do good; and, therefore, vicious madmen having been, and still remaining, in a state of evil, cannot be admitted till they do good; and, therefore, never, while their madness remains. The godly man that is so afflicted, may; but yet not till the fire that was hidden, makes some actual and bright emissions.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

But then, lastly; For others who are of a probable life, concerning whom no man can tell whether they be in the state of grace or no; because no man can tell whether he that comes with that sadness, be capable or no, no man can tell, whether he does well or ill and, therefore, he must

[ocr errors]

determine himself by accidents, and circumstances, and pru dential considerations, having one eye upon the designs and compliances of charity, and the other upon the reverence of the sacrament. And the case is in all things alike with dying persons, past the use of speech and reason.


Of actual Faith, as it is à necessary Disposition to the


BESIDES the faith that is previous to baptism, or is wrapped up in the offices of that sacrament, the church of God admitted only such persons to the sacrament, whom she called "fideles, or faithful,' by a propriety or singularity and emineney of appellation. They accounted it not enough barely to believe, or to be professors; for the penitents, and the lapsed, and the catechumens, were so: but they meant such persons, whose faith was operative, and alive, and justifying; such men whose faith had overcome the world, and overcome their lusts, and conquered their spiritual enemy; such, who by faith, were real servants of Christ, disciples of his doctrine, subjects of his kingdom, and obedient to his institution Such a faith as this, is, indeed, necessary to every worthy communicant; because, without such a faith, a Christian is no more but a name; but the man is dead; and dead men eat not. Of this, therefore, we are to take strict and severe accounts; which we shall best do by the following measures.

1. Every true Christian believer must consent to the articles of his belief, by an assent firmer than can be naturally produced from the ordinary arguments of his persuasion. Men believe the resurrection; but it is because they are taught it in their childhood, and they inquire no further in their age: their parents and their priests, the laws of the church and the religion of the country, make up the demonstration; but because their faith is no stronger than to be the daughter of such arguments, we find they commonly live at such a rate, as if they did neither believe, nor care whether it were so or no. The confidence of the article makes them not to leave off violently to pursue the interests

of this world, and to love and labour for the other. Before this faith can enable them to resist a temptation, they must derive their assent from principles of another nature; and, therefore, because few men can dispute it with arguments invincible and demonstrative, and such as are naturally apt to produce the more perfect assent, it is necessary that these men, of all other, should believe, because it is said to come from God, and rely upon it, because it brings to God,trust it, because it is good, acknowledge it certain, because it is excellent; that there may be an act of the will in it, as well as of the understanding, and as much love in it as discourse.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

For he that only consents to an article because it is evident, is, indeed, convinced, but hath no excellency in his faith, but what is natural,-nothing that is gracious and moral: true Christian faith must have in it something of obscurity, something that must be made up by duty and by obedience; but it is nothing but this, we must trust the evidence of God in the obscurity of the thing. God's testimony must be clear to him, and the thing, in all other senses, not clear; and then to trust the article, because God hath said it, it must have in it an excellency which God loves, and that he will reward. In order to this, it is highly considerable, that the greatest argument to prove our religion is the goodness and the holiness of it; it is that which makes peace and friendships, content and comfort; which unites all relations, and endears the relatives; it relieves the needy, and defends the widow; it ends strife, and makes love endless. All other arguments can be opposed and tempted by wit and malice; but against the goodness of the religion no man can speak: by which it appears, that the greatest argument is that which moves love, intending, by love, to con vince the understanding.

But then for others who can inquire better: their inquiries also must be modest and humble, according to the nature of the things, and to the designs of God. They must not disbelieve an article in Christianity, which is not proved like a conclusion in geometry; they must not be witty to object, and curious to inquire beyond their limit. For some are so ingeniously miserable, that they will never believe a proposition in divinity, if any thing can be said against it

« PreviousContinue »