Imatges de pÓgina
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amply stored with all things necessary for our salvation, and for the attainment of the great end of our being, the promised happiness of a future and eternal state. It cannot have been without reason, that

any

addition was made to such a religion. Some important end the further appointment of the sacraments must have had. And such an end it is impossible to assign, as will not imply some benefit to result from a participation in them, corresponding to the place they occupy in the system. They cannot, like the earliest appointment of external religion, by which our first parents were put to trial, be intended as mere tests of obedience, though even that would not necessarily affect the expectation of benefit from their observance. For the trial of obedience (though incidentally they may still serve that purpose also) external appointments could no longer be necessary, when the whole moral code being grafted upon Christianity, (with the superadded obligation arising out of the known injunction of a superior,) the neglect of the rule of life, deducible from the principles of an

enlightened reason, has been itself made an act of disobedience to a divine command. Some other object of their appointment must therefore be sought. And in a religion of grace and mercy, a religion which takes credit to itself for the abolition of a burdensome ceremonial, and every

other provision of which is obviously for the benefit of those to whom it is proposed, we can come to no other conclusion, than that the sacraments also are channels of favour to those who are invited and enjoined to partake in them. As it must have been for some important purpose that they were introduced at all into a religion, in every other respect essentially spiritual; so it must have been in some way for the benefit of the partakers in them, that they were introduced into a religion, of which grace and mercy are the most distinguishing features.

So much would seem to follow from the very nature of the religion of which the sacraments form a part. But the consideration of the very peculiar feeling under which they were appointed in it, adds strength to the conclusions derived from the spiritual character of Christianity itself. For it is of the utmost importance to a fair view of the subject to observe, that it was with a full and declared sense of the inefficiency of mere outward observances, with a deep feeling of the abuses to which an excessive reverence for them had led in Judaism, and with an anxiety, constantly discernible, and openly manifested on many remarkable occasions, to draw off the minds of men from an attention to a mere ritual service, to the observance of the weightier matters of the Law, that our Saviour appointed the two external ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper to be perpetually and peremptorily observed by all the members of his church.

In proportion as the acknowledged abuse of such institutions under the Mosaic dispensation, would have been a just reason for avoiding their enactment in a subsequent system, is their introduction into the religion of the Gospel the more remarkable. It would seem to afford the last confirmation of our inferences from the universality of their appointment in former systems

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revelation, that some great objects of all real religion are in fact unattainable without them. It would seem to imply, that the benefits to be derived from their due observance were such, as to surmount every scruple which the experience of their abuse was calculated to excite.

It may, however, in reference to our observations under the last head be urged, and not without some appearance of truth, that the necessity and beneficial tendency of such appointments may be made manifest, without the intervention of such an annexation of benefits to a participation in them, as the inquiry in which we are engaged seems to suppose in the Christian sacraments. External observances, it may be said, are the natural and obvious bands of every visible society; and as such their appointment even in Christianity may have been indispensable.

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In this view it was that the Christian sacraments presented themselves to the mind of St. Austin". Without outward ceremo

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h Epist. liv. (al. cxviii.) ad Januarium : sive lib. i. ad inquisit. Januar.g.1. Augustin. Op. Bened. vol. ii. col. 124.

nies of some sort, especially without some open and visible acts of initiation into the society, and of continuance in its communion, the Christian society of the church of God could not have subsisted. By these it is bound together; and the wisdom and mercy of God is shewn in the selection of such, as are, to use the expression of the same father, “so few in number, so easy “ of observance, and so excellent in signifi6 cation.”

This is indeed most true; but then the very admission of this, as the primary end of the appointment of the Christian sacraments, would seem to carry with it every thing that in the present stage of our inquiry we could desire. It does not indeed determine precisely, what the benefits are, of which the sacraments become the channels to individuals; but it implies of necessity that they are communicative of some. (It settles the question, whether any.) For what is it that constitutes the inducement by which men are led to desire admission into any society, whether secular or religious ? what but the expectation of per

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