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to believers of the actual blessings. 1 Pet. iii. 21. “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience.
Hence it follows, that sacraments are not absolutely indispensable: first, because many have been saved without partaking of them ; thus circumcision was dispensed with in the case of women, baptism in that of the thief on the cross, and doubtless of many infants and catechumens. Thus also many have obtained the gifts of the Spirit through the word and faith alone. Acts x. 44. “the Holy Ghost fell on all them whic., heard the word.” Nor was John himself, the first who administered the rite, baptized, although he testified tħat he also had need of baptism, Matt. iii. 14. The same was not improbably the case with Apollos, inasmuch as he does not appear to have left his native city of Alexandria for Ephesus till long after the death of John; nor can it be inferred with certainty, from its being said of him that he knew only the baptism of John, that he had actually undergone the ceremony. Yet, as far as appears, Aquila and Priscilla considered a more thorough initiation in the gospel all that was wanting to him, without requiring that he should be baptized, Acts xviii. 24–26. Secondly, the seal does not constitute the covenant, but is only an evidence of it; whence Abraham, after that he had already believed and was justified, received circumcision as the seal of his righteousness. When therefore it is said John iii. 5. “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” this must be understood in a conditional sense, assuming that a fit opportunity has been offered, and that it has not been lost through neglect. The same may be said of Eph. V. 26. “that he might cleanse it with the washing of vater by the word,” and Tit. iii. 5. “ by the washing of -egeneration ;" for the gospel is also called “the power of God unto salvation,” Rom. i. 16. and we are said “to be born again by the word,” i Pet. i. 23. although those who die in infancy must either be regenerated by the Spirit alone, without any outward reception of the gospel or word, or they must perish altogether. In the same manner, he who believes only, drinks of that living water which is the blood of Christ, and eats of that heavenly bread which is the flesh of Christ, and has eternal life : John iv. and vi. as above. When there
fore the necessity of the sacraments is under discussion, it may in like manner be urged, that it is the Spirit which quickens, and that it is faith which feeds upon the body of Christ; that on the other hand the outward feeding of the body, as it cannot always take place conveniently, so neither is it absolutely necessary. Assuredly, if a sacrament be nothing more than what it is defined to be, a seal, or rather a visible representation of God's benefits to us, he cannot be wrong, who reposes the same faith in God's promises without this confirmation as with it, in cases where it is not possible for him to receive it duly and conveniently; especially as so many opportunities are open to him through life of evincing his gratitude to God, and commemorating the death of Christ, though not in the precise mode and form which God has instituted.
We nowhere read in Scripture of the Lord's Supper being distributed to the first Christians by an appointed minister ; we are only told that they partook of it in common, and that frequently, and in private houses. Acts ii. 42. “they con. tinued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” v. 46. “they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” xx. 7. “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them—.” I know no reason therefore why ministers refuse to permit the celebration of the Lord's Supper, except where they themselves are allowed to administer it; for if it be alleged that Christ gave the bread and wine to his disciples, it may be replied first, that we nowhere read of his giving them to each individually, and secondly, that he was then acting in the character, not of a minister, but of the founder of a new institution. With regard to the expression in 1 Cor. iv. 1. “let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God,” it is evident that Paul is there speaking of himself and the other ministers of his own order, who were the exclusive stewards of the divine mysteries, that is, of the doctrine of the Gospel, before hidden, but then first revealed from God ; not of bread and wine, for they did not “serve tables,” Acts vi. 2. not even those at which we may suppose them to have met constantly for the celebration
of the sacrament; in like manner as Paul himself was not sent “to baptize, but to preach the Gospel," 1 Cor. i. 17. That the mysteries in question are to be understood of doctrine, is evident from the verse following, “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful ;" for it would be derogating from the dignity of such a steward as Paul to consider faithfulness in administering bread and wine (which are mere elements, and not mysteries) as of sufficient importance to be specified in his case among the requisite qualifications for the office. So also chap. x. 16, 17. the cup of blessing and the breaking of bread is spoken of as common to all, who are qualified to participate in the communion itself. For Christ is the sole priest of the new covenant, Heb. vii. 23, 24.
nor is there
order of men which can claim to itself either the right of distributing or the power
of withholding the sacred elements, seeing that in Christ we are all alike priests," 1 Pet. ii. 9. Rev. i. 6. Even were it otherwise, however, it is not conceivable that there should be any such essential distinction between the passover and the Lord's Supper, that whereas under the law, when it was forbidden to all but the priests and Levites even to touch the sacred things, there was no ordinance restricting the celebration of the passover to the members of that body, under the gospel, by which these ceremonial sanctities have been abolished, and a wider scope given to the rights and liberties of believers, the dispensing of the elements, which in Scripture is committed to no one in particular, should be considered as an unfit office for any but the ministers of the church; so that the master of a family, or any one appointed by him, is not at liberty to celebrate the Lord's Supper from house to house, as was done in the dispensation of the passover; if indeed we are to suppose that any distribution of the elements by an individual officiator was then, or is now, requisite.
The sacraments are not to be approached without selfexamination and renunciation of sin. 2 Chron. xxx. 13-15. “they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron : then they killed the passover.”
9.We now under Christ, a royal priesthood, 1 Pet. ii. 9. as we are all coheirs, kings and priests with him.' The likeliest Means to remove Hirelings, &c. Prose Works, III. 11.
Ezra vi. 21. "all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek Jehovah, God of Israel, did eat.” 1 Cor. xi. 28. “let a man examine himself.”
The neglect, cr the improper celebration of the sacraments, equally provokes the indignation of the Deity. Exod. iv. 21–26. “ Jehovah met him and sought to kill him : then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her
so he let him go.” 1 Cor. xi. 29, &c.“he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body: for this cause many are weak and sickly among you—; Hence it is not only allowable, but necessary to defer partaking in them, till such time as a proper place and season, purity of heart and life, and a regular communion of believers, concur to warrant their celebration. Exod. xiii. 5. “it shall be when Jehovah shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites .... that thou shalt keep this service in this month.” Numb. ix. 10, 11. "if any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto Jehovah ; the fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it.” Compare also 2 Chron. iii. 2, 3. Josh. v. 5. “all the people that were born in the wilderness, by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.”
The Mass of the Papists differs from the Lord's Supper in several respects. In the first place, the one is an ordinance of our Lord, the other an institution of the Pope. Secondly, the Lord's Supper is celebrated in remembrance of Christ once offered, which offering he himself made by virtue of his own peculiar priesthood, Heb. vii. 24, 25, 27. ix. 15, 25, 26. x. 10, 12, 14. whereas in the Mass the offering itself is supposed to be repeated daily, and that by innumerable petty priests at the same point of time. Thirdly, Christ offered himself, not at the holy Supper, but on the cross ; whereas it is in the Mass that the pretended daily sacrifice takes place. Fourthly, in the Lord's Supper, the real body of the living Lord, made of the Virgin Mary, was personally present; in the Mass, by the mere muttering of the four mystical words, this is my body, it is supposed to be created out of the substance of the bread at some given moment, for the sole purpose of being broken
in pieces as soon as created. Fifthly, in the Lord's Supper the bread and wine, after consecration, remain unchanged in substance as in name ; in the Mass, if we believe the Papists, although the outward appearance remains the same, they are converted by a sudden metamorphosis into the body of our Lord. Sixthly, in the Lord's Supper, according to the original institution, all the communicants drink of the cup; in the Mass, the cup is refused to the laity. Lastly, in the Mass the sacred body of Christ, after having completed its appointed course of hardship and suffering, is dragged back from its state of exaltation at the right hand of the Father to a condition even more wretched and degrading than before ; it is again exposed to be broken, and crushed, and bruised by the teeth not only of men, but of brutes ; till, having passed through the whole process of digestion, it is cast out at length into the draught; a profanation too horrible to be even alluded to without shuddering.
It is manifest from the very definition of the word, that the other sacraments so called by the Papists, namely CONFIRMATION, PENANCE, EXTREME UNCTION, ORDERS, and MARRIAGE, cannot be such in the proper sense of the term ; inasmuch as they are not of divine institution, neither do they possess any sign appointed by God for the sealing of the covenant of grace.
CONFIRMATION or IMPOSITION OF HANDS was, it is true, administered by Christ, not however as a sacrament, but as a form of blessing, according to a common Jewish custom, derived probably from patriarchal times, when fathers were accustomed to lay their hands on their children in blessing them, and magistrates on those whom they appointed their successors, as Moses on Joshua, Numb. xxvii. 18. Hence the apostles usually laid hands on such as were baptized, or chosen to any ecclesiastical office ; usually, I say, not always : for, although we read of imposition of hands on the seven deacons, Acts vi. 6. we do not find that this ceremony was practised towards Matthias, when he was numbered with the eleven apostles, Acts i. 26. In the case of the baptized, imposition of hands conferred, not indeed saving grace, but miraculous powers, and the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit : Acts viï. 17, &c. xix. 6. 1 Tim. iv. 14. 2 Tim. i. 6. Hence, although the church rejects this ceremony as a sacrament, she retains it with great propriety and advantage as a symbol of