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fufficient testimony to their being such means, and proper means, Acts viii. 39. & ii. 42. &c.
II. Quest. Wherein lies the efficacy of the facraments, or when may it be faid, that the sacraments are effectual means of salvation ?
The efficacy of a means is its reaching the end for which it is appointed. If it fall short of that, it is in. effectual. The efficacy of a reproof lies in its reforming the party, and of meat in its nourishing the body. Now, the end of the facraments being to represent, seal, and apply Christ and his benefits to the soul, the efficacy of the facraments lies in their reaching these ends; and then are they effectual, when they not only represent, but seal and apply Christ and his benefits to the receiver, Rom. iv. Įi. i Cor. xii. 13. i Pet. ii. 21. In a word, it lies in effectual obsignation and application of Christ and his benefits. And when they reach not these ends, they are not effectual.
Now, sometimes these effects of the sacraments are so lively and evident, that the soul perceives them, as the eunuch did, Acts viii. 38. when he went on hịs way rejoicing. Sometimes they are not discerned by the believer, though really they are wrought in him, as it was with the two disciples going to Emmaus, in another case, Luke xxiv. The following are signs of this efficacy.
Sign 1. The foul's cleaving more closely to the hope of the covenant than before, going out of itself more to Jesus Christ and his righteousness. This being the consequent of the sacraments, is an evidence of the obsignation, Phil. iii. 3.
Sign 2. More solid tenderness with respect to'fin and duty, and longing to be rid of the body of fin and death. This is a lign of the application, Rom. vi. 4. & viii. 2 3. For nearnefs to Christ is the cause of di. Itance from fin.
III. Quest. To whom are the facraments effectual? or in whom have they their efficacy?
1. Not to all who partake of them. Simon was baptized, but continued in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity, Acts viii. 13. 23. Men may partake of the Lord's supper unworthily. The apostle tells us how highly fome were advanced in respect of facramental privileges, with whom God was not well pleased, 1 Cor. x. 1. – 5. And fad experience bears witness to this truth.
2. It is effectual to believing receivers, as to the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts viïi. 37. 39. Mark xvi. 16. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. It is with the facraments as with the word, Heb. iv. 2. The word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. But this is not to exclude infants from the efficacy of baptism, since they are not capable of actual believing ; but they having the Spi. rit of Faith abiding in them, baptism has its effect on them.
IV. Quest. Whence is the efficacy of the facraments? Negatively, 1. It is not from any virtue in themfelves, that these bleffed effects are produced. God has
put a power of nourishment in our meat, and of warming in our cloaths; but no power of working grace either in the water of baptism, or the bread and wine in the Lord's fupper. So the work wrought will never confer grace. The scripture denies this power to the facraments themselves, i Pet. iii. 21. Baptism doth now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And many thousands are partakers of the facraments, who yet never partake of the grace of God, as Simon. These pools will never prove healing, if there be not a moving of the waters, from a superior cause.
2. It is not from the piety nor intention of the administrator neither. The holiness and best qualifications that ever were in a minister cannot make them effectual ; let them burn and shine with light and life in the administration, they cannot make them effectual to one foul, 1 Cor. iii. 6.7. I have planted, fays Paul, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither be that watereth; but God that gir;eth the increase. The efficacy of God's ordinances depends not on men, the administrators, either as to the making or marring their efficacy, Phil. i. 16. 17. 18. The one preach Chris of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds : But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel." What then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and therein do I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. They may be employed in saving others, who are castaways themselves.
Positively, 1; The efficacy of the facraments de pends on the blessing of Christ, as the cause without which they could have no efficacy, forasmuch as the Spirit of Christ will not work by means unblessed, Matth. xv. 9. In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. But Christ has blessed these ordinances first, and then the Spirit of Christ will not work by means unblessed, Matth. xv. 9. In vain do they worship mie, teaching for doctrines i be commandments of men. But Christ has blessed these ordinances first, and then the Spirit works in them and by them. Now, this blessing of Christ is contained in the inftitution of the facraments; which comprehends two things, here called Christ's blefling:
(1.) A command authorising the use of these ordinances. (2.) A promise of benefit by them to the worthy receivers, Matth, xxviii. 19. 20, & xxvi. 26. c.
2. It depends on the working of the Spirit in them and by them, on the souls of the receivers, as the efficient cause, 1 Cor. xii. 13. The Spirit comes along with them, and renders them effectual to bis own.
1 fhall shut up all with a few inferences.
Inf. 1. Hence learn to prize the facraments, and behold the dreadful nature of the fin of flighting them. They are means of salvation, and therefore ought to be dear to all who would partake of falvation. Those who flight the means, undervalue the end, the great falvation. Did many amongst us consider this, they durft not so easily live without the word or facraments, as they do, Luke vii. 30.
2. Rest not on the facraments. They are but means, which are not effectual to every one that receives them. Many receive them both who never receive Christ; but for all that they wear Christ's badge, they work the devil's work. And it is not your receiving of them, but receiving benefit by them, that will be a good plea in the end, Luke xiii. 26. 27.
3. Look more to Christ's inititution and promise accompanying it, with refpect to the facraments, and less to men who have a commision to adininifter them, if ye would not mar your benefit by the ordi
It is lamentable to think, that where the mi. nifter's commission cannot be quarrelied, and Christ's inftitution is observed, many nevertheless are so weak, as to be frighted from God's ordinance with scruples about the administrators, as if the Spirit of God could not be expected to work with Christ's institutions, unless they be in the hands of such and such ministers. This absurd and finful practice prevails too much at this day, as if the efficacy of the facraments depended on the administrators.
4. Lastly, Be concerned for the working of the Spirit in all ordinances, and particularly in the facraments; for without that they can have no effect. When ye bring your children to baptism, and when ye come to the Lord's table, be concerned, and earneitly trestle and pray for it. Let it be at these seasons the matter of your exercise, that the Lord may accompany these folemn ordinances with divine life and power unto you, and may excite your graces unto a vigo. rous and lively exercise, without which they will be utterly ineffectual to you.
ROMANS iv. 11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righ.
teousness of the faith, which he had yet being uncircumcised. HIS te$t discovers the nature of a facrament,
in the description the apostle gives us of circumcision, which Abraham received. In which consider,
1. The sacrament itself which the apostle treats of, circumcision, which was the initiating feal of the covenant under the Old Testament, and has been suc. ceeded by baptism under the New.
2. The author of it. ' Abraham invented it not, but received it from the Lord, whose inftitution it was, Gen. xvii. 10. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy feed after thee'; every man-child among you shall be circumcised * ; even as the
* On this passage the author, in his Critical essay on Genesis, from which some extracts have been given above, p. 232. 268. thus comments. “ This [is the design of] my covenant, which ye shall observe; between and you; and thy feed, after thee : That is, This is the sign between me and you, and thy seed, even the sign of the covenant. Between you ; q. d. Between
you . between you, i. e. you and every one of you, viz. Abraham and his whole family, male and female without exception, then in being ; opposed to his feed after him. Thus all his are taken with him into the covenant, so far as to have a right to the seal of it.- -That every male, be circumcised for you. construction and sense of these words is, To be circumcised is the covenant (i. e, the sign thereof) which ye fall observe. Thus the great duty of the covenant is made to be, believing and depending, promise of the covenant; wholly trusting on, and cleaving to the righteoufness of faith, whereof circumcision was the real, Rom. iv. 11.: the which is productive of all other duties. Further, these words bear this meaning, viz. That every male of you, be circumcised for you: that is, in tlie name of the whole family, consisting of womex
, as well as of men : that so you may be all together ore people in the bond of the covenant; compare Gen. xxxiv. 15. 22, ihere appears a twofold reason, why our Lord Jesus Christ was cirninciled: (1.). That it might be to him a feal of the promises men