網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

institutions in the Gospel : rightly therefore to divide the word of God, is to apply the doctrines of the Gospel each separately to its peculiar end, as the means, under grace, by which the soul receives a spiritual blessing of Christ, and to point out the peculiar blessings which the institutions of the Gospel, as means of grace, are designed to convey to the faithful and submissive.

CONSISTS IN RECEPTION

TO THE INSTITU

3.- PERFECTION OF CHRISTIANS OF THE TRUTHS, AND

OBEDIENCE TIONS, OP THE GOSPEL. The perfection of the Christian character is to be attained only in this manner-by reception of the spiritual blessings attached to a belief in the doctrines of Christ, and to submissive obedience to the institutions of the Gospel. The character of the Author of our religion forbids us to believe that the doctrines of his Gospel are “insufficient for full instruction in righteousness," or that its institutions are not sufficient “for the perfecting of the saints,” to “keep us in the unity of the faith unto a perfect man.” We are therefore bound to believe, that the evils which befal us, the wants which we experience, whether as individuals or as members of the Church, proceed from neglect to receive or make use

means of grace, some doctrine or institution of Christ. The Divine power hath given unto us“ all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” (2 Peter i. 3); every doctrine to form the mind and heart to godliness, and every precept and institution for the guidance of life and practice of devotion. The origin, therefore, of any defectiveness in faith or worship is not attributable to the absence of Divine instruction, but to the neglect to profit by it.

of some

ATTACHED TO THE DOCTRINES
THE GOSPEL.-1st. TO

THE

AND

4.–PECULIAR BLESSINGS

INSTITUTIONS OF DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT, &c. As this is a conviction very salutary to the mind, we shall examine it more particularly. The Gospel doctrine of the Atonement by the “just for the unjust” is the means of conveying a perfect hope which casteth out fear.” It alone provides against the dread of the law of God by us unfulfilled, its penalty merited but not exacted, and enables us to have hope even under the sense of sin which trembles at the thought of judgment by one of purer eyes than to behold iniquity: it alone gives a hope which satisfies reason and

one

conscience; for by it “God is just, yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. ii. 26.) Pardon through the Atonement gives the whole glory of salvation to Christ, and its full unmerited blessings to man.

It is the means through grace of impressing upon the soul such hope as is no otherwise conceivable by man, and is grounded solely and wholely upon Christ. The joint natures of God and man in the subject of the Atonement render it natural and appropriate, more particularly when considered in connection with the origin of sin, and give it such infinity of merit as to render its acceptance by the Divine justice certain. The hope is therefore most exalted and assured, as resting upon God the Saviour, and at the same time full of confidence, being in

“touched with a feeling of our infirmities, having been in all points tempted like as we are.” (Heb. iv. 14.)

In the same manner the doctrine of Repentance impressed by Divine grace upon the heart will produce humility and dread of sin. Faith will keep before us the sense of the Divine

presence, and a deep conviction of God's goodness in all the dispensations of the Gospel. The doctrine of the gifts and influence of the Holy Spirit upon the heart will produce a sense of Divine Communion, give a spiritual tone and object to prayer, and exalt the conception of internal holiness as the work of the Spirit of God.

The Scripture declarations that we shall be judged by our works," (Matt. xvi, 27), and " by our words," (Matt. xii. 37), while they afford no room for self-righteousness, every good thing in us being the fruits of faith and effects of Divine grace, yet impress the conviction of the necessity of righteousness or good works, of devotion, and of extreme heed to do no evil, and speak no guile.

The belief of the Scripture statement of the power of Satan, and the spiritual and even bodily temptations with which he is empowered to assail us, must produce a high degree of watchfulness that we fall not into his power, and great care to remain under the spiritual government and protection of Christ. Thus a faithful reception of each of the doctrines of the Gospel is separately a means of impressing a Christian grace upon the soul, and united of forming the Christian character perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James i. 4.)

5.-2ND. TO THE SACRAMENTS.

But there are two conditions of spiritual grace too high to be the result of the conviction of any truths, being changes effected in the soul itself, as well as the reception of spiritual grace. These changes are effected by the means of the sacraments. “ In one, Baptism*, the soul is translated from the curse of Adam to the grace of Christ; the original guilt which it brought into the world is mystically washed away, and it receives forgiveness of its actual sins,

*“Baptism is a sacrament which God hath instituted in his Church, to the end that they which receive the same might thereby be incorporated into Christ, and so, through his most preciou s merit, obtain as well that saving grace of imputation which taketh away all former guiltiness, as also that infused divine virtue of the Holy Ghost, which giveth to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life.”- Hooker, Ecc. Pol. book 5, ch. 60.

Many persons confound regeneration with sanctification, supposing that it implies the reception of all the spiritual graces imparted through faith in the Saviour, and by use of the means of grace. They give to the word regeneration à peculiar signification contrary to the sense of the Church, and then condemn the Church for applying the term to baptism, to which, in their erroneous meaning of the word, it is inapplicable. It is to be considered that the term regeneration is used but twice in the New Testament, in Mat. xix. 28, where it applies to a then future condition of the Church, and has no reference to the spiritual condition of indivi•duals; and in Titus iii. 5, where it is plainly joined with baptism. He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” which corresponds with the declaration of Mark xvi. 16, He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved;" and with St. Peter (1 Pet. iii. 21), “ Baptism doth also now save us.” There is therefore the authority of Scripture for calling baptism the washing of regeneration. Had not our Lord died to restore mankind to the favour of God, removing the curse of Adam, there could have been no communication between man and God, the imputed guilt of Adam's transgression would have shut him out from access to the throne of grace: thus his nature would have been complete alienation from God, in irremediable condemnation; the change from which condition into one of Divine acceptance and favour, with the advantages so admirably expressed above by Hooker, may well be called a new birth of the soul, placing it in a new condition, changed from the inheritance of Adam to membership of Christ, “baptised by one spirit into his body," (1 Cor. xii. 13), “born again of water and of the Holy Ghost,” (John iii.), “baptised into Christ,” (Gal. iii. 27); “ buried with him by baptism into death,” (Rom. vi. 3); “ buried with Christ in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him.” (Col. ii. 12.) The change then of admission into Christ's body, and of being brought near to God, implies a new birth, and explains the idea of regeneration more accurately than the improvement or exaltation of an existing nature by the influence of spiritual graces. For the connexion between baptisın and remission of sins, see Acts xxii, 16; ii. 38.

becomes reconciled to God, partaker of the Holy Ghost, and heir of eternal happiness."* In the Eucharist is effected the mystical union with Christ, by which the saving effects of the offering of his body on the cross are imparted, and the high spiritual graces attending the reception by faith of his body and blood are conveyed to the faithful and devout.

The spiritual graces which our Lord imparts in the sacra-. ment of the Lord's Supper are conferred on the condition of faith in those who receive it; the same condition by which the doctrines of the Gospel are made means of particular graces. Thus, in baptism, the soul is renewed.

[ocr errors]

Bp. Mant. Refut. of Calv., p. 83. + " The benefits consequent upon our Saviour's passion, rightly apprehended, heartily believed, seriously considered by us, are hereby lively represented, and effectually conveyed' to the sustenance and nourishment of our spiritual life, to the refreshment and comfort of our souls. It is a holy feast, a spiritual repast, a divine entertainment, to which God in kindness invites us. This sacrament declares that union which good Christians partaking thereof have with Christ; their mystical insertion into him, by a close dependence upon him for spiritual life, mercy, grace, and salvation ; a constant adherence to him by faith and obedience; a near conformity to him in mind and affection; an insepırable conjunction with him by the strictest bands of fidelity, and by the most endearing relations. We, in the outward action, partake of the symbols representing our Saviour's body and blood; we, in the spiritual intention, communicate of his very person, being (according to the manner insinuated) intimately united to him."-- Barrow's Doctrine of the Sacraments.

To give the reader a conception of the belief of the primitive Church on the subject of baptism, the following quotation is taken from Justin Martyr, who presented an Apology for the Christians to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, during a persecution of the Church, about the year 150. He himself suffered martyrdom about the year 166. His Apologies, containing declarations of the faith and worship of the Christians in that early age, have ever been esteemed the surest evidence of the faith of the primitive Church; for in a general explanation of the Christian religion never disavowed, but alway highly esteemed by the doctors of the Church, it cannot be supposed that the faith of the Church upon its chief doctrines could be misrepresented. In the section 61 of the 1st Apol. he writes thus of baptism. “ I will now declare to you also after what manner we, being made new by Christ (or baptised), have dedicated ourselves to God: lest, if I should leave out that, I'might seem to deal unfairly in some part of my Apology. They who are persuaded, and do believe that those things which are taught by us are true, and do promise to live according to them, are directed 'first to pray, and ask of God, with fasting, the forgiveness of their former sins: and we also pray and fast together with them. Then we bring them to some place where

By faith in the doctrines of the Gospel it is filled with various graces; and is united to Christ in the spiritual reception of his body and blood in the sacrament of the eucharist.

6.-3RD. TO THE MINISTRY. But this is not the whole of the Divine provisions for the spiritual wants of the people of Christ; still more is necessary. The sacraments must not only have been instituted, but effectual means provided for their due and perpetual administration ; such means as may bear the impress of their Divine founder's authority, with satisfactory evidence for expecting the continuation of the great graces attached to them. The doctrines of the Gospel may be the means of spiritual grace to those who receive them in sincerity and truth ; but errors may abound, heresies may creep in, and the body of Christ may be rent asunder by conflicting doctrines. It was therefore needful for the head of his Church to provide sufficient means “for the work of his ministry, for the edifying of his body, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ : that we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Eph. iv. 11.) This language shows us the strong impression on St. Paul's mind of the disastrous effects to which the Church must be subjected without a

there is water; and they are regenerated by the same way of regeneration by which we were regenerated; for they are washed with water, in the name of God the Father and Lord of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ says, Unless ye be regenerated, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven ; and every body knows it is impossible for those that are once generated to enter again their mother's womb. It was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, as I said, by what means they who would repent of their sins might escape them, and was written in these words : Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil,' &c. And we have been taught by the Apostles this word (or this reason) for this thing, because we, being ignorant of our first birth, were generated by necessity (or course of nature) by the union of our parents, and have been brought up in ill customs and conversation, that we should not continue children of that necessity and ignorance, but of will and knowledge, and should obtain forgiveness of the sins in which we have lived, by water (or in the water). There is invoked over him that has a mind to be regenerated the name of God the Father, &c.; and this washing is caìled the enlightening,” &c.

« 上一頁繼續 »