« PreviousContinue »
Why should not every sincere Christian, by the receiving
FALSE religions have ever been accommodated to local and national feelings, or particular climates; even the preparatory divine dispensation, the national covenant between God and the Israelites, was intentionally limited to that chosen race, and its conditions could not be fully performed except in the Holy Land. But Christianity, which reveals the corrupted nature, and consequently lost condition of the whole human race, and the remedy provided for it by the love of God the Father in the sacrifice of his coequal Son, views us abstractedly from all other considerations as his rational and responsible creatures, ruined through the offence of our progenitor, but capable of restoration to holiness and happiness through the merits of Christ. A religion, which the Apostles were commissioned to proclaim to every creature, must be adapted to man in every climate, under all the modifications of society, under every form of government, in every stage of civilization. It has therefore no sacred spot, like Jerusalem or Mecca, to which its most
solemn worship is limited; it enacts no ritual; but, laying down a few general principles, the truth of which no reasonable person can deny, leaves the details of divine service to the discretion of the Church. Still its blessed Author, the only Priest as well as the only King of his Church, has deemed it expedient to unite his people“ into a society a by two Sacraments, most easy to be observed, most important in their meaning;” which, according to our Catechism, are generally necessary to salvation; the one of which, Baptism, admits them into his religion; the other, a devout and grateful commemoration of his death, marks their continuance in it. Each branch of his Church is at liberty to adopt or compose whatever Liturgy it deems most favourable to edification; or, if it prefer, to leave the minister to direct the devotion of the congregation; the rites and ceremonies approved at one period may be modified or abolished at another, because they are of human invention ; but these two Sacraments, ordained by Christ himself, Christ alone has authority to abrogate. No particular form having been enjoined by him, the man
Augustin. Ep. 54.
ner of administering and receiving, and all that is circumstantial, may vary in different times and places; but the essential parts, the water in the one, and the bread and wine in the other, no Church has a right to omit. Sacraments differ also from rites in their efficacy; rites may have a natural tendency to improve us, but sacraments, as the appointed means of grace, have a promise of the divine blessing. The establishment then by Christ himself of two positive institutions, and of two only, and that in a spiritual religion, which declines all aid from the imagination, marks their supreme importance. It may be shewn, from the practice of the primitive Church and from Scripture, that they were not, as the Quakers argue, designed for that generation alone, but are of perpetual obligation. This we acknowledge, and we act upon our conviction as far as Baptism is concerned; but how large a proportion of every congregation continually absent themselves from the Lord's Supper, though the command be no less plain, and the reasons our Lord assigns should seem to be irresistible by any believer! We all know, that this command was the last act of our Lord's