« PreviousContinue »
It is sometimes asked-Where is the record in scripture, of the baptizing of an infant? It may more properly be asked-Where is there a record of the baptism of any person born of Christian parents, and grown up under their authority, to maturity? Some of the epistles were written long after the interval of time, which this requires. But although we have precepts to parents concerning the religious education of their children; and other precepts to these, concerning the honouring of their parents; yet there is neither precept nor example, that relates to the baptizing of such children, become men and women. Even the actual baptism of infants, under circumstances in which there was no call to particularize, seems implied in the baptizing of whole families; as in the cases of Corne. lius, of Iairus, of Lydia, and of Stephanas, with their respective households. The same is more strongly implied in 1 Cor. vii. 14, where it is said
"Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy:" That is-"Saints;" as the word is elsewhere translated, to denote persons in the full membership of the Church. The Scriptures know of no admission to such membership, but by baptism.
It may be thought necessary to say something on the kindred question-Whether baptism ought to be by immersion, or by affusion. I dare not deny or conceal, that in the gospel age, and for some ages afterwards, the former was the usual mode. But that the other was also practised, is presumable from the baptizing of whole households; and that suddenly and on emergencies, as in some of the cases alluded to. The contrary cannot be proved; and the presumption is strengthened by its being found, that in the succeeding ages, where the ceremony had been performed by affusion, the sufficiency was not questioned on that account; and no repetition of the ordinance was required, or even permitted. Now this was at a period, when so great a change as the contrary theory supposes,
could not have happened; and especially without some resistance of the innovation.
There is another point, arising out of this department of the Catechism; and giving further evidence to what was insisted on in the first lecture, in relation to baptized infants; that they are made Christians, in the most ample sense of the term. In the initiatory part of the Catechism, they are said to be in a state of salvation," and to be made "members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven;" with other things to the same effect. In the present stage of the instrument, baptism is described relatively to them -as to adults, on the condition of repentance and faith-"To be an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to them”—not which may perhaps be given in time to come. And they are again said to be made by baptism "Children of grace." In agreement with this, is the article of our Church concerning baptism; which affirms it to be "a sign of regeneration or the new birth; whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are engrafted into the Church; the promise of the forgiveness of sin and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed."* So far as the sense of our Church is of weight in these things, they are entirely against those indiscriminate calls to conversion, which suppose all baptized persons to be under the wrath of God, and to remain in a state of sin, until overtaken in that way. God forbid, that a word should be said, which might be construed as a discouragement from the calling of baptized sinners from the errour of their ways. That is a different subject, as was explained in the first lecture: Wherein there were also produced the scriptural authorities, on which our Church grounds her decisions as to this point. [See Dissertation VII.]
• Art. 27.
I proceed to the other Sacrament-The Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper. On the demand of the reason of this ordinance, the answer is-"For a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby." As within the pale of the Church of England, there have been some divines, who affected the introduction of hypotheses not easily understood, and not at all to be allowed of; it may be well to note, that the publick voice of the said Church and of our own, knows of nothing which will not come under the head of commemoration: the matters commemorated being of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and the resulting benefits.
After a question concerning the outward part or sign, and an answer given, that it is "bread and wine;" elements made use of agreeably to command; there is put another question, concerning the inward part, or thing signified: And the answer is -"The body and blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper." The service of the Church of England has for "spiritually"-" verily and indeed." I know of no reason of the change, except, that the latter expression had been much misunderstood: For spiritual benefit may be as real, as any that is called temporal.
Our Church is safe, in using the words of the institution. Her interpretation of them may be discovered in the general tenour of her services and of her articles. The expressions admit of but two meanings: one of them literal, and contradicted alike by our reason and by our senses; and the other,* the result of considering the words as a figure. To the latter we are further drawn by the circumstance, that on another occasion, when our Lord, in
That is according to the idiom of our language: For it is proposed to show in the attendant Dissertation, that according to the idiom of the language in which the words were delivered, they were not figurative.
the use of the same metaphor, found himself misunderstood, he explained it thus-"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.”* He also calls himself "a vine" and "a door:" and what confusion would it make, to found doctrine on these terms!
Still, under the sign, there is a spiritual grace. This the gross sense being excluded-can be nothing else, than the results of Christ's offering of his body and of his blood; the cause being thus identified with its effects. These results are the pardon of sin, grace to assist, and whatever else can come under the head of the purchase of the sufferings and the death of the Redeemer. Of these, the. elements of bread and wine, received agreeably to divine command, are an assuring pledge. But it should be remarked, that the benefits thus assured, are not restricted to the times of receiving the pledges of them; although such times are peculiarly proper for the realizing of them to our minds.
Another question occurs" What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?" Answer"The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the body and the blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the bread and wine." This carries us from the results of the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ, as they are in themselves, to their beneficial influence on those who duly receive the pledges of them. Whatever is edifying, and whatever is encouraging in the Christian economy, has its origin in that propitiatory sacrifice, as its source. How then can this be meditated on with devotion, without its being followed by the religious improvement contem. plated in the answer?
The last question is" What is required of them who come to the Lord's Supper? Answer "To examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins, steadfastly pur⚫ John, vi. 63.
posing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men." The specified qualifications are not arbitrary, but grow out of the subject. Repentance is required; because it is only to penitent sinners, that the mercy of God in Christ is offered. But that grace cannot subsist, without purpose of amendment. Throughout the gospel, faith is made an essential qualification, in a recipient of its benefits. The essence of the ordinance, is its being in remembrance of the death of Christ; and certainly nothing short of a thankful remembrance can have been intended. The being in charity with all men, is dictated by the beneficent spirit of the Christian revelation. So far as relates to our forgiveness of others; it is made, in our asking forgiveness of God, a condition without which we acknowledge the justice of a rejection of our petition. And as to the seeking of the forgiveness of our own offences against our fellow men, there cannot be overlooked, as applicable to the present subject, the instruction of our Saviour" If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way. First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."*
The first scheme to be noticed, differing from our sense of the ordinance, is that which rejects it altogether. To enforce our adherence to it, there is the solemn injunction of the great Head of the Church in person-"Do this in remembrance of me." If there should be any doubt of the meaning of the precept, it is best explained, as laws and precepts in general are, by early practice under them. And that the disciples so understood and so practised after the ascension, is a fact not denied. Again, if general practice and perpetuity be the matter
* Matt. v. 23, 24.