Page images
PDF
EPUB

giveness of sins, and are not shut out from baptism and grace, how much less may we reject an infant, which, being newly born, cannot have sinned, except in as far as from its natural descent from Adam it has contracted the contagion of death from its very birth, and which therefore can the more easily obtain forgiveness of sins, as the sins that are remitted to it are not its own, but those of another.” What would the pious father say in these days, if he could see how Christian parents, through indifference and frivolity, delay months and years long, before they consecrate their children to the Redeemer by holy baptism? How impressively would he upbraid this wickedness, which can only proceed from a perfectly mistaken notion of the meaning and holiness of the sacrament !

Many grown persons, on the other hand, deferred their baptism, in the early Christian church, as long as possible, and it was not always mere procrastination that caused them so to do. They attributed to this sacrament a magic power of expiating sins, and, proceeding on this delusion, deferred their baptism, in order to give themselves up in the meanwhile more freely to their sins, in the hope, that, even in the hour of death, they could obtain forgiveness and remission, and thus enter fully purified into eternal life. And among us, unhappily, there are not wanting light-minded Christians, who put off their repentance and turning to God from one time to another, in order to continue to serve the world, and, as they express it, to enjoy life properly. In the mean time, they comfort themselves with the thought, that, at a later period, perhaps even on their dying beds, when they are no longer in a condition to sin, they can sufficiently prepare for eternity, and care for the salvation of their souls. Alas, how unsafe and dangerous is so late a repentance and conversion! No! To-day thou art alive, to-day be converted! Before the morning comes, all things may be changed! Woe to him who lives thus frivolously! How hardly will such an one enter into the kingdom of God! For, to sin cale culating on grace, is to sin wilfully, and “ to those who sin wilfully there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment.”

It was probably also infant baptism which afforded the first reason for the appointment of sponsors or godfathers, for as the children could not themselves declare their confession of faith and their baptismal vow, others were obliged to do it in their name, and these persons bound themselves to provide that the children should afterwards be rightly instructed in Christianity, and brought up to a godly life, and hence they were called sponsors. How weighty, therefore, is the office of a sponsor, and how careful should all parents be to select for this holy purpose only really faithful, pious, and righteous Christians, from whose assistance they may claim, if there be need, a true blessing for their children in the work of instruction! But alas, the office of sponsor is now no longer esteemed according to its signification and importance, and there are neither wanting unthinking godfathers, who look at it only as a temporary testimony of respect, nor unthinking parents who only think of gain, and therefore invite a multitude of sponsors to the baptism of their children. O ye parents and sponsors, beware of such a lowering and degradation of this sacrament, and when in holy baptism you dedicate your children to the Lord, reflect, above all things, on the grace accorded them therein, and on the duties laid thereby upon you, and which the Lord lays impressively before you, when he says in relation to these children, “ Teach them to observe all things which I have commanded you," and pray to Him for his aid, that you may, both by precept and example, bring them

up

in “ the fear and nurture of the Lord !" But let us all, my brethren, who have once been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and thereby been bound to know and honour the Triune God, let us all this day praise God anew for this his mercy, that he has called us to be partakers in his kingdom, and inheritors of eternal life, and let us renew in silence our baptismal covenant with Him, and call upon him from the ground of the heart, to give us strength to walk before him, as baptized and consecrated to Him, in righteousness and pureness of life, and to be true to Him in faith and obedience even to the end, that he may one day again acknowledge us as His, and receive us to his eternal happiness and glory. And this

may He do of His great mercy! Amen.

SERMON XVI.

OF THE DIVINE SERVICES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

O LORD JESUS, make us indeed worthy of this thy salvation, and work mightily in our souls by thy holy spirit, that we may entirely yield ourselves up to thee in the right faith, and take no rest, till we can say with truth, “ we live, yet not we, but Christ liveth in us.”. Amen.

The ecclesiastical life of Christians in the first centuries reached its climax in the sacrament of the altar, my brethren, and the celebration of this holy supper formed an essential portion of their divine service. You are aware that it continues so still among us, and how could it be otherwise ? Surely this precious meal is the seal of the covenant of grace, which the Lord has concluded with

every

soul that believes. In this meal he imparts himself to us, and while he penetrates our whole being with His spirit, he glorifies us into his own holy, divine form, and graciously gives to us that fulness of happiness, which streams forth unintermittingly from Him upon those that are His, to bathe and refresh their hearts with the peace of God, to strengthen and advance their inward life, and to keep them in his communion unto eternal life, so that a faithful Christian may rightly and properly acknowledge at this meal 66

My beloved is mine, and I am his.” He is in us and we are in Him: he gives himself to us, and we give ourselves up to Him, and by the power of this inward union with him, we become partakers of all the blessings of his divine love, both for time and eternity. It is therefore incomprehensible how so many, who call themselves Christians, so little regard this holy sacrament, and can persuade themselves entirely to renounce participation in it, and we cannot be judging too severely in supposing that “they know not what they do,” they neither know themselves and their true spiritual wants, nor do they know the Lord, nor have any conception of the salvation to which, by communion with him, they may attain ; for, were this the case, they must love the Lord, and a heart full of love must urge them to celebrate the feast of love, and in it to seal the covenant of love with their Redeemer.

But far more grievous, my brethren, is the circumstance, that this very mysterious and awfully sacred solemnity, which the Lord established only with

the view to secure the most blessed union of believers with himself and one another, should have led to the most unhappy schisms and divisions in the church. For, instead of celebrating the sacrament in childlike simplicity and faith as He has enjoined, Christians have resorted to all sorts of useless and refined quibbles, and, having no love, have striven about the meaning of the words which he used in ordaining it, and about the manner and fashion of the presence of Jesus Christ in the holy supper, as though the blessing of the sacrament depended on ideas and notions, and not rather on the right and faithful disposition of the soul and direction of the heart. From this cause have all kinds of divisions arisen, and one says, “I am Zuinglian;" another, “I am Calvinistic;" a third, “ I am Lutheran.” Luther, in particular, is made by many to serve as a pretext for cherishing the love of contention, and perpetuating divisions which ought never to be among Christians, and, least of all, in the celebration of the feast of love, when all men should rather take to heart Luthers’s glorious declaration in the Catechism : “ He is worthy and ready for the celebration of the sacrament, who has faith in the words, “ given for you,

shed for you, for the remission of sins.' But he who believes not, or doubts these words, is unworthy and unfit, for the word which is addressed to you demands en

« PreviousContinue »