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observe in every instance the golden mean: but still there may be greater sin and danger on one side than on the other; and I have thought it of some moment to determine thus briefly, to which of the extremes we may, in our circumstances, most securely and wisely lean.
IV. There is another consideration very proper to be hinted here in the entrance, relating to the prejudice often done to our venerable Sacraments, by representing them under the detracting or diminishing name of positive duties: as if they were to be considered as duties only, rather than religious rites in which God bears a part; or as if that part which belongs to us, and is really duty, were a single duty, and not rather a band and cement of all duties, or a kind of sponsion and security for the present and future performance of the whole duty of man. How this matter stands will be seen distinctly in the sequel. But it is proper to hint something of it here beforehand, lest the reader, by attending to a false light, should set out under a mistake of the main question. Let it be previously understood, what it is that we assert and maintain, for the removing of prejudices, and for the preventing any wrong suspicion, either of our exalting a bare external duty above faith, hope, and charity, or of our recommending any single duty in derogation to the
1. In the first place therefore, let it be carefully noted, that it is not merely a duty of ours, but a sacred rite, (in which God himself bears a part,) that we are labouring to exalt, or rather to do justice to. The doctrine of our Church, and of all Christian churches, early and late, is much the same with what our Homilies teach us: namely, that “ in the Sacraments God embraces us, and offereth 6 himself to be embraced by us;" and that they “ set “out to the eyes, and other outward senses, the inward “ workings of God's free mercy, and seal in our hearts “ the promises of God."
k Homily on the Common-Prayer and Sacraments.
A learned writer observes and proves, that a sacrament relates to that which “ flows from God to us :" and he adds, that “it is a thing neither denied nor forgotten by “any, but is evident from what the Scriptures teach con“cerning Baptism and the Lord's Supper !.” Indeed the Socinian way is to exclude God, as it were, out of the Sacraments, and to allow him no part in them, but to reduce all to a bare human performance, or positive duty :but we have not so learned Christ. We are so far from thinking the sacramental transaction to be a bare duty of ours, that we conceive there is great use and efficacy in a sacrament, even where the recipient performs no duty at all, nor is capable of any, as in the case of infants receiving baptism. It is farther observable, that Baptism is frequently mentioned together with repentance, in the New Testament, as distinct from it; though repentance alone, as it signifies or implies entire obedience, fully expresses all that is properly and merely duty on our part. A plain sign that Baptism, as a sacrament, carries more in the idea of it than the consideration of bare duty, and that it comes not, in its whole notion, under the head of duties, but of rites, or contracts, or covenants, solemn transactions between God and man. God bears his part in it, as well as we ours: and therefore it is looked upon as distinct from bare duties, and spoken of accordingly. I
suppose it might be on these and the like considerations, that some Divines have conceived, that a sacrament, properly, is rather an application of God to men, than of men to God. Mr. Scandret, distinguishing a sacrament, according to its precise formality, from a sacrifice, observes, that it is “ an outward visible sign of an invisible
grace or favour from God to manm.” And Dr. Rymer
1 Towerson on the Sacraments, p. 12. Vossius, to the same purpose, says : Quemadmodum fides est quasi manus nostra, qua nos quærimus et accipimus: sic verbum et sacramenta esse quasi manus Dei quibus is nobis offert et confert quod a fide nobis petitur et accipitur. Voss. de Sacram. Vi et Effic. p. 252. vol. vi. Opp.
Scandret, Sacrifice of the Divine Service, p. 54.
takes notice, that, according to our Church Catechism, “ a sacrament is not supposed, in its most essential part,
an application made by men to God, but one made by “ God to man.-A gracious condescension of God's, by “ which he converses with men, and exhibits to them “ spiritual blessings, &c.--God's part is indeed the whole “ that is strictly and properly sacramental: the outward “ and visible signs exhibited are in effect the voice of God,
repeating his promise of that inward and spiritual fa
vourn,” Dr. Towerson long before had observed, that there is a difficulty as to “ showing that a sacrament re“ lates equally to that which passeth froin us to God, " and that it imports our duty and serviceo.” He conceived no difficulty at all, as to God's part in a sacrament; that was a clear point : but he thought it not so easy to prove, that the strict and proper sense of the word sacrament includes man's part at all. However, it is very certain that the whole transaction, in the case of adults, is between two parties, and that the application is mutual between God and man. And this must be acknowledged particularly in the Eucharist, by as many as do allow of a Consecration-prayer, and do admit that service to be part of our religious worship, as also to be a federal rite. But from hence may appear how widely they mistake who consider a sacrament as a bare human performance, a discharge of a positive duty on man's part, and nothing more, throwing out what belongs to God, and what is most strictly sacramental. It is sinking or dropping the noblest and most essential part of the idea, and presenting us with a
lame and insufficient account of the thing. But a more minute explication of this matter, together with the proofs of what we maintain, will come in hereafter : all I intended here was only to give the reader some previous conception of the state of the main question, that he may understand the more clearly what we are about.
n Rymer, General Representation of Revealed Religion, p. 286, 287. • Towerson on the Sacraments, p. 12.
2. Next, I must observe, that that part in a sacrament which is really ours, and which, so far as concerns adults, is properly duty, is yet such a duty as is supposed to comprehend, one way or other, all duty : for receiving worthily (as shall be shown in its place) implies present repentance, a heart turned to God and to universal obedi. ence, and a serious resolution so to abide to our life's end. It has been thought somewhat strange, by those who have imbibed wrong notions of the case, that all Christian privileges should be supposed to follow a single duty, when they really belong to the whole system of duties. But when it is considered, that these privileges are never conceived to be annexed to this single duty, in any other view, or upon any other supposition, but as it virtually carries in it (or in the idea of worthy reception) all duty, the main difficulty will vanish; for it may still be true, that those Christian privileges go along with the whole system of duties, and with nothing short of it. We never do annex all Christian privileges to this single duty, but as this duty is conceived, for the time being, to contain all the rest; for that we take to be implied in receiving worthily. Whether we are right in interpreting worthy reception in so comprehensive a sense, is not now the question, but may be considered in its place : all I am concerned with here is to ward off a charge of inconsist
respect to our doctrine on this head. But to show the weakness of the charge yet more plainly, let the same objection be urged in a very common case of oaths to a government, or of subscription to articles, to which many State-privileges and Church-privileges are ordinarily annexed. What, may some say, shall all those privileges be given, merely for the labour of repeating an outh, or of writing a name ? No, certainly : the outward work is the least and the lowest part of what the privileges are intended for, if it be any part at all, in a
The privileges are intended for persons so swearing, or so subscribing, upon a presumption that such
oath carries in it all dutiful allegiance to the sovereign, and that such subscription carries in it all conformity in faith and doctrine, to the Church established. Of the like nature and use are our sacramental ties and covenants. They are supposed, when worthily performed, to carry in them all dutiful allegiance to God, and a firm attachment to Christ; a stipulation of a good conscience, and, in a word, universal righteousness, both as to faith and manners P: all which is solemnly entered into for the present, and stipulated for the future, by every sincere and devout communicant. To be short, repentance, rightly understood, and a due attendance on the Sacraments, taken together, do in our account make up the whole system of Christian practice for the time being: therefore in annexing all Gospel-privileges to worthy receiving, we do not annex them to one duty only, but to all, contained, as it were, or summed up (by the supposition) in that one. All the mistake and misconception which some run into on this head, appears to be owing to their abstracting the outward work from the inward worthiness supposed to go along with it, and then calling that a single duty, which at best is but the shell of duty in itself, and which, in some circumstances, (as when separate from a good heart,) is no duty at all, but a grievous sin, a contempt offered to the body and blood of Christ, and highly provoking to Almighty God.
Thus far I have taken the liberty of premising a few things in the entrance; not for the anticipating what I am hereafter to prove, but for the removing those pre
p What Tertullian observes of the sacrament of Baptism is justly appli. cable to both Sacraments.
Lavacrum illud obsignatio est fidei, quæ fides a poenitentiæ fide incipitur et commendatur. Non ideo abluimur ut delinquere desinamus, sed quia de. siimus, quoniam jam corde loti sumus. Hæc enim prima audientis intinctio est, metus integer, deinde quoad Dominum senseris, fides sana, conscientia semel poenitentiam amplexata. Ceterum, si ab aquis peccare desistimus, necessitate, non sponte innocentiam induimus. Tertull. de Ponit. cap. vi. p. 125. Rigalt.