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things of Positive Institution, though they be necessary in their Kind and Quality, yet they are not necessary in that degree, as those things are which are good in themselves, and which carry an eternal Reason and Obligation along with them. In some cases a Ritual Ordinance may be omitted ; and it is not the bare Omiston, but the wilful Neglect and Contempt of it, that is Criminal in God's account. This is evident from the case of Circumcision, which was of old a Seal of the Covenant between God and the Jews. We find in the fourth of Exödus, that when Moses wilfully forbore to Circumcise his Son, the anger of the Lord was so kindled against him, that he met 'him in his fourney, and fought to kill him; and as some Hebrew Doctors tell us, did actually. smite him with a sudden Disease ; and yet we find in the 5th of Joshua, that afterwards the Jews omitted Circumcision for many years together in the Wilderness : whether it was, because they were then upon
their Travel (as some think) or because they were not yet mingled with the Heathens, and so needed not as yet to be Circumcised (as others are of opinion, this is certain, that we do not read that God was displeased with them for not having been
Circumcised, though he was often displeased with them for their Infidelity.
THE same thing is observed of the Pafl- Vid. Selden over it self; that it was omitted in the de Synedr. Wilderness for about forty years together; because the Celebration of it depended upon the use of Circumcision. For in order to the due Celebration of the Passover, it was necessary not only for the Fathers of Families to be Circumcised themselves, but moreover for all the Males in their Housholds to be Circumcised too, Exod. 12. 48, 49. So that Circumcision being pretermitted for so many years, the Celebration of the Passover did also of course cease for that time.
HENCE we may easily collect, that things of Positive Institution are not equally necessary with those Duties which are naturally and eternally good. In like manner, when the Jews were in Captivi. ty, and could not Solemnly present themfelves before God in his Sanctuary, the Law was not executed upon them: As long as they were in those fad Circumstances, it was their Unhappiness and Punishment that they could not go with their Lambs to the Temple, but 'cwas not their sin that they did it not. • THUS it was with the Jews under the Law, as to things of this Nature; and thus B?
it is too with People under the Gospel, as to matters of the like Condition.
Baptism now is necessary; yet not so necessary as, Faith and Regeneration ; nor must we presume to say, that all Persons who die Unbaptized are everlastingly miferable : For though it be said St. Mark 16. 16. He that believeth and is baptized fall be saved ; yet in the next words, Damnation is the Punishment of Unbelief only; it is not said, He that is not Baptized shall be Damned. Baptism is indeed the standing and ordinary Means, which we are tied to use ; but it doth not follow that God so 'tieth up his own hands, that he cannot, by Virtue of his unlimited Prerogative, dispense with a Rite, and shew his Mercy at his Pleasure... 'Tis even thus in the cafe concerning the receiving of this blessed Sacrament. It is an Ordinance of Divine Institution, and so it is communiter ordinariè, in its Kind; and in a general construction necessary to Eternal Happiness. But yet some Persons are not capable, nor in a condition to prepare themselves for it, as Children, and Lunaticks, and the like: Now, in such a case, the Rule is, that no man is obliged to act nis pofitis omnibus ad agendum requistis, unless there be a sufficient pre
fence of all Qualifications that are necessary for the Action: Or some inevitable cross Accident may unexpectedly happen, so that a Man cannot eat that Bread with his Mouth which his Soul longeth after : And in this case the Rule is, that no man is bound to Impossibilities; nor shall any one be condemned for not performing that which is out of his reach and power : Ones case may be such, that it may not be in his power to receive ; and therefore to communicate of the outward Symbols is not so absolutely necessary, as it is to Believe and Repent.
HOWEVER, òut of these two Cases, it
very highly necessary to receive the sacramental Bread and Wine; that is, supposing a Man be capable of Receiving, so that he cannot plead want of Understanding, or want of due Information ; at least, cannot pretend that he wants Means of being instructed: And supposing that he hath Occasions and Opportunities of Receiving, so that he cannot plead want of Time or Power (and I am sure this cannot be our Plea, who have been bred up under the Instructions of a moft indulgent and provident Church in this case (I lay ) the Receiving of the Sacrament is fo necessary, that the neglect of it makes Men very guilB4
ty of Sin, especially if that Neglect be cųstomary and habitual, as indeed it is in very many Professors of Christ's Religi
THE Şinfulness and Danger of this Neg. ligence is fairly proveable from the bare Analogy that is between this, and those Şacrifical Banquets of old, especially the Paschal Feast. Such as might celebrate it, and refus'd to do it, were under God's Wrath and Curse ; so that if a Man was çlean, and not in a Fourny, and yet forbore to keep the Passover, that Soul was to be cut off from his People, Numb. 9. 13. Now if the Sin was so great in that case, where they saw nothing but a Figure and a Shadow, it cannot but be far greater in this case, where Men have the Body and Substance. To be sure, the Guilt cannot be less, in an instance that is of à more Noble and Excellent Nature: Nor can we suppose, that when Christ instituted a better Ordinance, he should abate of our Duty; or that Mens despising of such an important, fixt, and permanent Solemnity is not Criminal, when it was such a Sin to disregard a temporary and vanishing Rite, which our Redeemer did put an end to. But if this Argument be not e. nough, the wickedness of Men in this case is further demonstrable, from a threefold