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beautiful pledge of the sincerity and truth of God's promises of grace in Christ? But in this line we must also guard against error and ultraism. We must not suppose that the word and promise of God are not in themselves true and certain, as proceeding from the God of truth, for whom it is impossible to lie; and we must not suppose that true faith does not confide in it, for the simple reason that it is the word of the Lord. But this no way hinders, that by a visible sign and seal, he should encourage, enliven and confirm our confidence and reliance upon it. And since men have evil hearts of unbelief, and their faith is constantly prone to faint and waver, who does not need to have it constantly upheld and braced by these gracious props ? These aids are not by way of supplement to the truth of God, to eke out and perfect that, as if it were in itself incomplete, but helps to our infirmity. A seal on a written contract does not argue that its covenants are not true and obligatory in themselves, but it adds solemnity and impressiveness to them. We are now prepared to solve the great question between Protestants and Romanists, which, although it has been virtually answered already, it is well to settle decisively, by a eumulative summary of the arguments relating to it. The Romanists contend that the sacraments work grace by their inherent energy, without regard to the faith of the
recipient, provided only that he pre-,
sents no obstacle to their efficacy by flagrant, or as they call it, mortal sin. They call this effect of the sacraments an “opus operatum,” by which they mean a work wrought by the power of the rite itself, without the concurrent agency of the subject of it. They hold that the sacraments impart faith, instead of strengthening it, and being inefficacious without a believing reception. Protestants on
the other hand, hold that they confer no faith or grace upon us, except as they are received in faith, with a spirit of true piety. Their reasons are1. Because without faith it is impossible to please God. But in taking a principle of grace and holiness into the soul, we assuredly do, we can not but please God. And on the
‘high-church theory we do this in
taking the sacraments without faith. 2. According to all the New Testament directions and narratives, faith and repentance precede baptism in the case of adults, and the Lord's supper in the case of all, and are the requisite qualification for these sealing ordinances, instead of following and being produced by them. The primitive Christians first believed and then were baptized. They first gave themselves to God, and then to the Apostles by the will of God. 3. The Bible positively asserts the inefficacy of the sacraments without faith. In regard to the Lord's supper, Paul declares, “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” Therefore he adds, “Let a man examine himself whether he be in the faith,” as the only due preparation for receiving them. In respect to baptism, Peter says it is not the mere outward ablution, the washing away of the filth of the flesh that saves, but the answer of a good conscience towards God, a thing impossible without faith in Christ, which alone purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 4. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. Circumcision is that of the heart, not of the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God. The Romanists see the conclusiveness of all this—and therefore to escape it have invented the fiction that the old sacraments differ from the new, as those only typify what these actually conser. But this pretence has been disproved at the threshold of this investigation. 5. It is possible to have the form of godliness without the power thereof. But the sacraments are a material part of this form. 6. All experience contradicts this papal pretension. Multitudes in every age have received the sacraments who were strangers to all religion, being disobedient, and to every good work reprobate. To these decisive considerations, it is sometimes objected that the Protestant view subverts all utility and necessity of sacraments whatever; that while faith is demanded as a prerequisite to their efficacy, it of itself has the promise of salvation, and the sacraments can not do more than save us, or any way add to our good estate. But we answer, that while it is true that faith has the sure promise of salvation, it is not only requisite that it should be begun, but continued and increased till we arrive at the stature of perfect men in Christ. Wherever faith is genuine, it will instinctively strive thus to advance and perfect itself; it will eagerly seize and improve all the divinely instituted means of progress. There is such a thing as a weak faith and a strong faith mounting upward and upward to full assurance. Hence the incessant prayer of all but deluded Perfectionists is, Lord increase our faith ; and this cry they will lift up to God without ceasing, till faith is perfected, or rather lost in vision. They can not but delight to feed it with the spiritual meat and drink which God provides to refresh them in their pilgrimage. Again it is objected that the language of Scripture is full and clear to the effect, that by baptism merely we are regenerated and united to Christ. But since truth can not contradict truth, and one part of the Bible can not contradict another,
these passages, therefore, must be interpreted consistently with the great truth which we have already deduced from the Bible—that no external ordinance is of power to save without faith. They must be interpreted in the light of that use of language by which the sign is often used for the thing signified. In the passages in question, baptism is put for that inward purification of which it is the symbol. Further it is alleged that infants are incapable of faith, because they can not have a knowledge of the Gospel. How, then, it is asked, can baptism benefit them, if it only benefits those who receive it in faith ? We answer, that the application of baptism in infancy, instead of adult years, has at the time of its administration a chief respect to the faith of the parents. It is to them a solemn rite of dedicating the child to God, and of covenanting to bring him up in His fear, and of so training him that, under God, at a proper age he may exercise that faith by which he will apply to himself the grace signed and sealed in baptism, and take upon himself its covenants and duties. If he still abides in unbelief, his baptism avails him nothing. His circumcision becomes uncircumcision. But we need not reply more at length, since it is obvious that the same objection lies in its utmost strength against the circumcision of infants, an acknowledged institute of God, and confessedly what we contend baptism is, a seal of the righteousness of faith. It is remarkable that Papists for one reason, and Baptists for another, deny the analogy between the Christian and Jewish sacraments, in opposition to the whole church of God. Dr. Pusey, in his great treatise on baptismal regeneration, devotes a whole chapter to this purpose, and contends that the authority for infant baptism is to be derived from the Fathers and not from the Bible. Extremes meet. When we find such forces united on any point against all Protestant Christendom, it is a strong presumption that they all diverge at about equal angles from the golden mean of evangelical truth. We will not omit to mention another, though perhaps subordinate use of the Christian sacraments. They serve as badges of the Christian profession. They are tokens of membership in the visible church; baptism, of initiation, and the eucharist, of the completion and continuance of membership. This use must be obvious to all. Like the ancient military sacramentum, they are the visible pledges of our enlistment and soldiership in the armies of the Lord. Before leaving this subject, we invite attention to one general observation. On the subject of the sacraments, their importance and efficacy, the human mind is prone to err in two opposite extremes, both by excess and defect. This excess and defect answer to a corresponding excess and defect in regard to all the doctrines of Christianity. The nominally Christian world has ever been distributed into three great parties, one of which only is mainly right. These have been called the sacramental, the evangelical and the rationalistic. The first of these chains salvation to outward rites and ceremonies. The second takes the Bible as it finds it, and makes regeneration by the Spirit, a vital union to Christ, with their necessary fruits of faith, love, and all moral excellence, the principal and decisive requisite to salvation, to which all other things are subordinate. The rationalists explain away all the mysteries of the Bible, and reduce them to the standard of human reason, and substitute for the supernatural work of the Spirit a mere moral reformation. To the evangelical system of doctrine generally, corresponds the evangelical doc
trine of the sacraments, which we have endeavored to explain and defend. The papal view of the sacraments, according to which they impart grace by their inherent efficacy, corresponds, belongs to, and ever accompanies that system which puts the whole stress of religion in outward forms. All tendencies of this description, every propensity to make them saving ordinances, to magnify their importance and disparage the religion of the heart, or the supreme importance of the word preached, err from the true doctrine by excess. On the other hand, in proportion as men lose sight of the doctrines of grace and verge towards rationalistic errors, they will lose sight of those features of the sacra. ments which correspond to the doctrines of grace, and especially by which they seal that grace to the soul. Thus the Unitarian sees no use in the sacraments, except that which is lowest and purely inci. dental, viz. that they are badges of the Christian profession. The Pe. lagian may see that they are signs and memorials of Christ's death, but as he sneers at the doctrines of grace, and especially the notion of a covenant of grace, so he repudiates or loses sight of their sealing properties, which is their most important and characteristic use. It is worthy of inquiry, whether our ministers and churches have given sufficient prominence to this,the highest quality and use of the sacraments; whether they are accustomed to speak of them not only as signs and memo: rials of Christ's death, but also as seals of his grace : If we are not happily mistaken in the fear which these questions suggest, we ask: can we neglect this high quality of the sacraments, without suffering loss 2 Let us beware, lest in shunning high-church errors, we swing over to the contrary extreme. It is important not to lose this por: tion of spiritual sustenance, with which God would cheer and sustain us in our pilgrimage. To degrade the sacraments below the place which God has given them, must be injurious to ourselves and the church. If they are practically treated as barren and useless ceremonies, the instincts of the pious heart will re
coil from such inanity; they will seek some view of them, which invests them with real and serious importance ; and they will be liable to bound, as many have done, at a single leap, to the opposite extreme of fanatical formality.
THE EPISCO PAL CHURCH."
It is not an improper interference when we inquire into the developments of doctrine in any particular denomination of Christians, especially if such a denomination puts forth extraordinary claims to being modeled after the Apostolical pattern. Such developments are among the methods by which its claims are to be judged, and it is probable that this will be the way by which they will in fact be judged by the great mass of mankind, while the abstract arguments for its conformity to the divine original will be disregarded. The Episcopal church asserts claims for itself which are set up by no other Protestant denomination, and assumes an attitude towards all others which is maintained by no other one. It claims to be the only primitive Apostolic church; recognizes the ministry and ordinances of no other as valid ; holds communion with no other as such ; associates with no other as such in the efforts to diffuse our common Christianity;
*Journal of the Proceedings of the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, assembled in a general convention held in St. Andrew's church, in the city of Philadelphia, from October 2d to October 22d inclusive, in the year of our Lord, 1844. pp. 320.
Proceedings and Debates of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: held in the city of Philadelphia, October, 1844. To which is added the Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops. Philadelphia: Stavely & McCalla. pp. 100.
and asserts that it has within its own bosom the best system of arrangements, under the divine appointment, for P.": the work of conversion and sanctification on earth, and for preparing the soul for heaven. To these extraordinary claims Episcopalians invite attention. They make no secret of them. They are put forward in their preaching, their periodicals, their standard works, their private intercourse with the members of other denominations. They are urged without hesitancy or ambiguity, and with a unanimity of view among the ministers and members of that communion, such as can be found in no other denomination. It is the duty and the privilege of those who feel an interest in the common Christianity, to examine these claims. If they are well founded, we who are unconnected with the Episcopal church are all in grievous error, and are seeking heaven under very decided disadvantage. If they are well founded, there is also a vast amount of wasted talent and learning employed in other denominations in endeavoring to spread what is supposed to be truth, which could be much more economically and profitably employed under the Episcopal banners. It is the duty and the privilege of all such to watch every development of the system which asserts such claims, and to judge by those developments what is its legitimate tenency. An occasion so important as that of the last meeting of the General Convention, under the circumstances in which it was convened, is one that invites to such an examination. There is always some advantage in knowing what others say and think of us; how our doings strike them; what impression our words and acts make on those who are “without.” He is a wise man who is willing to be made acquainted with his errors and defects from any quarter, and to profit by any suggestions which may be made, whatever may be their origin, and whatever the motive which prompted them. A “more looker-on in Wenice” has some opportunity of judging about the propriety and bearing of certain things which they who are immediately interested in the transaction have not. He who watches a game, if he has any skill himself, sees many a false move which is not perceived by those engaged in the game ; many an opportunity lost of securing an advantage; and many of the things which might easily have been otherwise, which contributed to the ultimate issue of the game. In many things where bodies of men move together, as in an ecclesiastical convention, those who are mere spectators see things more accurately than those who are engaged; things which, if candidly propounded, are worth their serious attention. They may be supposed not to be influenced by any party zeal which will bias their judgment, such as exists when contending parties are at issue; they are not deceived by the false appearance of things, as they magnify themselves to a glowing agitation in the heat of debate ; they can judge, if they are in any degree careful observers, of what will be likely to be the effect of certain measures on the world. It is well for Christians to remember that the eye of an unbelieving world is upon them, and to mark atten
We think there are some special reasons why these thoughts should be kindly received by the Episcopal church, and that it would be well for the ministers and members of that denomination to regard the suggestions of those who are observing the tendency of things in that communion. Those suggestions are not made by enemies of the Episcopal church, and they should not be so regarded. As we know our own hearts, there is no enmity to that church existing there; and as we have had opportunity of learning the feelings of those in the various evangelical denominations who are conscientiously opposed to prelacy, we have the firmest convic. tion that there is no such hostility extensively existing there. The Episcopal church is regarded with: out hesitancy or doubt, as a true church of Christ. It is believed to be entitled to an honorable place among the churches which the Re: deemer loves. It is not doubted that it has in its articles the pure truths of the Gospel; that among its ministers and members there are not a few examples of as eminent piety as can be found any where, and that at its altars as pure and acceptable worship is breathed forth as