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sonal privileges or advantages, peculiar to the society, and communicable to the members of it? It is the promise of these, that in merely secular societies renders an admission into them the object of our pursuit; it is the assurance of these, which in the church of God leads men to press into it. It cannot be for the sake of aggrandizing a body, with which, till their connection with it is established, they have nothing in common, but for the sake of the personal advantage they hope to reap from the connection, that they are anxious to form it. When in it indeed, the prosperity of the body, as such, has its influence, and becomes an object to the members; and we may trace in the apostolic Epistles abundant evidence, that such an interest in the welfare of the Redeemer's church was presumed to exist in the minds of believers. But the exhortations to enter into it, we may also observe, are altogether personal; founded on the promise of the Holy Ghost, of the remission of sins, of life eternal; in short, upon the
i See preliminary remarks in bishop Butler's 1st Sermon on Human Nature.
assurance of God's special favour to the professors of the faith of Christ, and the members of his mystic body. And if, to partake of the benefits for which a society was insti. tuted, it be indispensable to become and to continue members of it; and if it be by peculiar and appropriate rites alone that men can be first admitted into the society, and afterwards retain and keep up
their conhection with it; then to the observance of those rites
may be not improperly attributed the conveyance of benefits, which can only be obtained through their instrumentality. Upon the whole, therefore, that benefits
, corresponding to the place they occupy in the Christian system, should be the result of a participation in the sacraments would seem to be the probable conclusion, both from our general experience in nature, and our particular experience in revelation. If our former observations have gone no further than to obviate prejudices against the
the latter may perhaps be considered as establishing a presumption in favour of some.
The more particular inquiry, what these
benefits are, will be the subject of future discussion. But before we part, I wish to make one observation, with which I will for the present conclude.
The principal points of real interest in the doctrine of the sacraments, are those which relate, first, to the benefits annexed to their observance; and secondly, to the qualifications for an effectual participation in them. It is into the nature and reality of the benefits, that we are about to inquire; and this inquiry, as it does not of necessity involve the consideration of the conditions upon which their enjoyment rests, so the limits of my undertaking will prevent my pursuing this part of the subject.
T'he two things are indeed distinct in nature, and capable of a distinct consideration. Yet the exclusive prosecution of the particular inquiry, to which we are of necessity confined, is liable to one inconvenience, which I am desirous of meeting, as far as it is possible, in the very outset. For it is not easy, the question of qualification being omitted or deferred, to insist upon the certainty of the benefits to be expected,
without the appearance, at least, of making their enjoyment unconditional. Nor is this, in truth, in any other way to be avoided, than by the constant recollection, that whatever benefits we may find justly attributable to a participation in the sacraments, are to be deemed so attributable only to a worthy participation in them; it being obvious, that however unquestionable the benefits themselves may be, if the person be not qualified to receive them, they are to him as if they were not. The reality of the benefits will no more confer this qualification, than the most ample rent-roll will give a right to a temporal estate. That will depend upon the validity of the title, in other words, upon the qualifications of the claimant.
The establishment of the benefits indeed, if not an indispensable preliminary, is essential to give a real interest to any inquiry touching the qualifications for enjoying them; and to this object will my efforts in the following course be directed. But if the nature of my undertaking confines me to the consideration of one part only of the
subject, let it not be inferred, that I am therefore insensible to the value of the other. Rather let it be considered, that the firmer the basis upon which the benefits themselves rest, the more important will the conditions of their enjoyment appear; and the more serious the obligation on the sincere disciple of his Lord, to use his best endeavours in fitting himself for their reception.