« EelmineJätka »
“Then they are sanctified, when they are born again by both sacraments.” St. Cyril and St. Ambrose, writing purposely of sacraments, speak but of two. St. Austin,' to Januarius, " Christ hath subjected us to a light yoke, to sacraments of the smallest number, easy in observation, excellent in dignity; baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and the communion of Christ's body and blood ;” and if any thing else be commanded in Scripture. And many allude to that number from Cant. iv. 5: Thy breasts are like two young roes that are twins."
Here is a brief survey, how God, in all ages, hath communicated with us in sacraments,
May the reason of it be discovered ? Nay, “ Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor ?" Yet it is no trespass against the sobriety of wisdom to ask, why the Christian religion depends so much upon visible sacraments ?
1. It is to give faith a third manner of corroboration ; and a threefold cord is not easily broken. First, God hath promised us all blessings in Christ : Secondly, He gave an oath for it unto Abraham, “ That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation :'3 Thirdly, after he had pledged both oath and promise, he hath given us holy signs to confirm it. When God had both promised and sworn, durst we of ourselves have asked a sign to confirm it, to make us more believing ? No, truly, we durst not ; for an evil and an adulterous generation seeketh after a sign :" it were a great blemish in faith, if we should appoint God to lend us a crutch to lean upon. But God hath prevented us herein ; and, as we say in the Common Prayer, “ That which for our unworthiness we durst not ask,” he hath supplied of his own accord, and hath instituted sacred signs, wrapt up in the creatures, of most ordinary use, to make it more easy to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.
1 Ep. 118.
3 Heb. vi. 18.
2 Rom. xi. 34.
2. Secondly; Every great deliverance in God's book was accompanied with some outward sign, to make it more comfortable upon so remarkable an impression. As Moses, being appointed to be the captain to lead Israel out of Egypt, was bade to cast his rod before the people, and to let it turn into a serpent, and return into a rod again ; to make his hand leprous, and whole again in an instant, by putting it into his bosom, and by drawing it out. And Moses shewed these signs in the sight of the people, and they believed.' It would be tedious to recite the stories of Asa, Hezekiah, Joash, &c.
These were persuaded, by the signs of God, that he would visit them with a mighty deliverance. But there is no deliverance like unto that which is brought to pass for us through the death and bloody passion of Christ. And the two sacraments are the remonstrance of that great salvation which hath set us free out of the hands of all our enemies.
3. Thirdly; It is meet that great benefits should be fastened to our memories by a sure nail. Therefore, God, distrusting man's memory, represents his greatest works of mercy in the ordinances of manifest signs, to prevent forgetfulness. The help of some outward mark doth avail, by experience, to bring that to mind that else would have slipt away. · As upon occasion, we use to tie a thread about our fingers, or to unloose the gemmal of a ring, to make us mindful of a promise, or some weighty business.
4. Fourthly ; Though all our worship must hold its tenure, as it were, 'in capite,' from the Spirit, if we hope to have it acceptable to God; yet we are better capable of such worship by the opportunity of material conveyances. Only angels and blessed souls in heaven can serve God in the pure
1 Exod. iv. 31.
and immaterial zeal of their mind. But while we are clothed with flesh, the mind receives all it takes in from bodily objects; and what passeth in by the pipes of the senses, it is connatural to us to apprehend with more tenacity and fast hold.
Finally; as Christ descended into the womb of his mother, to walk with us upon earth ; so God hath vouchsafed to offer his word and promise to us in the creatures of the earth ; setting a seal unto the word, which makes the patent very valid, and of force and comfort. For if a commandment of promise were remarkable, that of honouring our parents, “the first commandment of promise" in the second table, much more is a seal and sacrament of promise remarkable. Doubt not, then, but as faith is our hand to receive Christ, so the sacraments are, as it were, God's hands to give him unto us.
The Sacrament of Baptísm.
Being past the general survey of visible sacraments, it is time to enter into the consideration of BAPTISM; which God hath exalted to marvellous virtue and consolation, by his omnipotent appointment. The Jews, that first received it, will teach us, that they expected this new and gracious ceremony upon the coming of Christ. For “the priests and Levites sent
* Ephes. vi. 2.
to ask John, Why baptizest thou, if thou be not the Christ?" &c. It seems they had a tradition, that baptism should come into the Church with the Messias ; which they derive, as I take it, from two of the prophets. Isaiahstates out a famous praise of Christ's kingdom ; then it brings in this, “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious ; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Sion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof.' The other place is a plain prophecy of Christ's kingdom, and he thus describes it: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed from all your filthiness." John made way unto this sacrament, and it came from heaven; therefore, the “ Pharisees rejected the counsel of God, being not baptized of John.' But in the fulness of the Gospel, Christ confirmed it. For he that made the promise, was the only able person to set the seal to ratify it. Except his admired doctrine and his miracles, all things else about Christ did make no show to outward appearances; so he would go no higher in the institution of an outward sign of cleansing and regeneration, than to bring the people to a river to be washed, or to a vessel of water to be sprinkled. For faith is drawn through these narrow and abject means, that, like himself, have no comeliness in specie;' and when we see the there is no comeliness that we should desire them."
Nevertheless, it is fit we should be well taught in the contemplation of the hidden virtue enclosed in baptism, or else we could never think it worth our labour and obedience. Our Common Prayer Book a storehouse of rare divinity) tells us what is to be expected at that laver for them that come to be baptized. 1 John i. 25. 2 Isa. iv. 3. 3 Ezek. xxxvi. 25. 4 Luke vii, 30.
5 Isa. liii. 2.
1. That God hath promised to be the father of the faithful and of their seed, and will most surely perform and keep his promise with them; and by this introduction we are incorporated into the holy congregation. Behold, they whom we love above all others by nature, our children, are naturalized to be the citizens of the heavenly kingdom, and enter into it through this door of grace.
2. Secondly; as God did save Noah and his family from perishing by water, and safely led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, while their enemies were drowned ; so the millions of the nations whom God hath not given to Christ for his inheritance, are drowned in their own lusts and corruptions. But, O what a privilege is it to be among those few, that are received into the ark of Christ's Church, to be exempted from the common deluge, and to be the faithful seed of Abraham, led through the channel of the sea, and baptized in the cloud, that went along with them, when the armies of the mighty are mightily consumed !
3. Thirdly; we may gather out of our churchoffice for baptism, that the everlasting benediction of heavenly washing affords two comforts : it signifies the blood of Christ to cleanse us 'per modum pretii,' as the price that was paid to ransom us from death : and the sanctifying of the Holy Spirit to cleanse us, per modum habitûs,' by his inbeing and celestial infusion : and both are put together in one collect, • that all that are baptized, may receive remission of sins by spiritual regeneration.' There is no remission of sin without blood," says the apostle, meaning the invaluable blood of the Lamb of God. And the heavenly thing is represented by the visible element of water: for there must be some aptitude between
1 Heb. ix. 22.
2 Ver. 14.