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MATT. xxviii. 19.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them.
THE order of investigation proposed in these Lectures referred us to two principal heads of inquiry; first, whether any benefits are in fact annexed to a due participation in the Christian sacraments; and secondly, what those benefits are?
That benefits, real and important, though as yet undefined, were to be expected from such a participation, was the conclusion to which we were led, as the result of our inquiry under the first head, in my last discourse. The line of argument then pursued, did not indeed attempt more, than the establishment of a strong presumption in favour of that expectation; it was both calculated and intended, rather to smooth the way for future investigation, by the removal of prejudices hostile to a fair inquiry, than to ex
hibit the just grounds, on which the assertion of the actual benefits annexed to the sacraments must ultimately rest.
It will now be my object to shew, that the antecedent presumption thus raised is sustained by the fact of the case; and to confirm our conclusion, that some benefits are so annexed, by pointing out specifically what they are.
In the pursuance of this object, the mode of proceeding, which first suggests itself, is to take up the consideration of the sacraments in that particular point of view, in which we were led to contemplate them in the conclusion of the preceding Lecture, and in which they presented themselves to the mind of St. Austin; namely, as the appointed observances by which the visible society of the Redeemer's church is maintained and bound together. As rites of initiation into the society, and continuance in it, their federal character is undeniable: and from this alone, antecedently to any more particular information we may possess upon the subject, might at once be inferred generally, a reciprocation of blessings and
duties between the parties to the covenant. In taking upon us the obligations, we become entitled to the benefits of our engagement; in performing our part of a covenant of grace, we establish a claim to the promises made in it. And where both the establishment and the continuance of such a federal connection, as is implied in our becoming members of a peculiar society, depend upon the performance of distinct and specific acts, testifying in the one instance our admission, and in the other our continuance in the society, it is plainly by the performance of these acts, so appropriated, that we become entitled to the advantages resulting from the connection.
Such indeed would be the case in the most general way of reasoning, and in reference to societies the entrance to which is purely voluntary: but the inference is yet more forcible, where, as in the case of the Christian church, an obligation to enter into the society exists; and where, especial promises being made to those who enter in and adhere to it, both the act of admission, and the discharge of any special obligations,
incumbent upon the members as such, assume the character of pledges, assuring them of the promised benefits. Nor will it, as has been already observed, avail in opposition to this, to contend, that the primary object of the appointment of the sacraments was the maintenance of the society itself, rather than the conveyance of benefits to its members. For admitting the fact, still the Christian church must, like every other association of individuals, be considered as established ultimately, not for the furtherance and aggrandizement of the abstract body, but for the benefit of the members composing it; and it would therefore be manifestly unjustifiable, to limit the uses of the sacraments to their efficacy in relation to the former object only. Whatever is indeed the end of the society, to the attainment of that end must all acts done in reference to it after their capacity conduce; whether this be, as in the case of merely voluntary and secular associations, the advancement of some temporal interest of the members, or, as in the case of the church of Christ, the promotion of their