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them ; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit, in them that by faith receive them.”
The sacraments are important means of salvation. The Apostle taught that circumcision profited much every way; and the same may doubtless be said of baptism, which has come in its room. And many a believer has borne, and can bear testimony to the inestimable spiritual benefits, which they have derived from the Lord's Supper.
But the sacraments do not become effectual means of salvation from any virtue in themselves. We have however reason to fear, there are many persons who suppose there is some intrinsic virtue in the elements themselves; and that they operate as spells or charms to communicate salvation. Hence, looking no further than the simple elements themselves, and destitute of faith, they suppose that if they can get their children baptized, they will be safe, or if they can get baptized themselves, and be admitted to the Lord's Supper, all will be well. This is a most dangerous, though we have reason to believe, not an uncommon error.
There is no intrinsic virtue in the sacraments themselves; for many receive them who still continue strangers to spiritual blessings. An instance directly in point we have in Simon Magus ; for after he had been baptized, “ Peter said unto him, Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity;" Acts viii. 20, 21, 23. And Paul has taught us that a man may partake of the Lord's Supper, and instead of being saved by it, “ be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” and “ eat and drink damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body;" 1 Cor. xi. 27, 29. And we frequently see many who have been baptized, and some who have been at the Lord's Supper, whose whole lives prove that they are not in a state of salvation, and that they have received no benefit from these ordinances. Hence it is evident, there is no saving benefit in the ordinances themselves.
Neither do the sacraments become effectual from any virtue in him that doth administer them. Or, as it is expressed in our Larger Catechisın, “ by any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him, by whom they are administered." It does not depend upon the piety of a person who administers an ordinance, whether it shall
be efficacious or not. Although it be very desirable that none but truly pious men, should be in the gospel ministry, yet doubtless many have been in this office who were destitute of piety ; and some such have without doubt been the instruments, in the hands of God, of saving good to others. For we have known ministers, who had
many unequivocal seals to their ministry, and whose administrations of the sacraments were blessed, who, before the close of their lives, abundantly proved by their conduet, that they had never experimentally known that religion, which they preached to others. Besides, il piety in the person administering was necessary to the efficacy of a sacrament, the receiver must always be in suspense whether he had received, or could receive any benefit from an ordinance. For who can search the heart, and certainly know, whether the person from whom he receives the sacraments, be pious or not? These remarks must sufficiently show, that the piety of a minister is not necessary to the validity or efficacy of the ordinances which he administers. Besides, Paul has expressly informed us that the efficacy of ordinances does not depend on ministers; “ Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase;" 1 Cor. iii. 7. And as the efficacy of the sacraments, does not depend upon the piety, so neither does it upon the intention of him who administers them, as the Papists erroneously hold. For if it did, the minister would be something, and almost every thing in the efficacy of an ordinance, contrary to the text just quoted. The same reasons which have just been given to show, that the efficacy of a sacrament does not depend upon the piety of him who administers it, also prove that it cannot depend upon his intention.
The efficacy of the sacraments depend on the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit
, in them that by faith receive them.” Christ has put his blessing upon these ordinances of his own institution, and the Holy Spirit uses them as means of grace, and applies them as he does the word, rendering them effectual to the spiritual good of those who receive them aright. These are they who receive them in faith. Unless we exercise faith in sacraments they will be unavailing. This remark, by no means operates against infant baptism; for in the administration
of this ordinance to infants, we hold to the necessity of faith in the offerer or representative of the child, to render the act acceptable in the sight of God, and have ground for hope of a divine blessing upon the ordinance.
Thus brethren, I have taken a general view of the sacraments. In succeeding discourses, I shall endeavour to treat of each of the sacraments of the New Testament particularly.
We have seen that there are but two sacraments in the christian church. Those therefore who would make and observe more, are guilty of will-worship, wbich the Lord condemns and abhors. We have seen also that these two sacraments were instituted by Christ, who is King in Zion, and that they are still in force; it is therefore our duty in a right manner to observe them. This duty is enforced by the authority, and by the love of Christ; and they are criminal in the sight of God, who neglect these sacraments, or either of them. We have seen the nature of the sacraments, that their object is to signify and seal spiritual things by external signs. Let us be careful and not confound the signs, and the things signified. Let us not lay a stress upon receiving the outward elements to the neglect of the things signified. Those only who use them in faith use them aright and profitably. Let us then approach them in the exercise of faith, and look by faith through the external signs to the things signified. Let us realize the condescension and goodness of God in sealing blessings to us in these ordinances; let us realize also the obligations which, by coming to these ordinances, we seal and irrevocably bind ourselves to perform. And let us ever receive the sacraments, depending on the blessing of Christ and the working of his Spirit to render them effectval.-AMEN.
MATTHEW XXVIII. 19.
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
This is the commission which our Lord gave to his apostles, and through them to the ministers of the gospel in every age, after he had risen from the dead, and just before he ascended to his glory. He had now finished the work, for which he came into the world, and had fully brought to an end the Old Testament dispensation of the covenant of grace, which looked forward to him as to
A new dispensation was now to be introduced, in which Christ was to be considered, and received, as already come. To introduce this new dispensation, the apostles were now commissioned and sent forth. Those who received this new dispensation were now to constitute the true church; and the ordinance of admission to a visible standing in the church, was now to be baptism, which took the place of circumcision.
The apostles were commissioned to go to all nations. Heretofore the church had been confined to the Jews; but now the Gentiles were to be brought in. The apostles were first to teach or disciple those to whom they went ; or to instruct them in the nature of the gospel dispensation of the grace of God, and induce them to embrace it ; and on their embracing it, they were to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and thus introduce them to a visible standing in the church of Christ.
Our text will lead us to treat of the subject of baptism. On the last Sabbath morning we attended to an illustration of the sacraments generally. The way is now pro pared to treat of each of the sacraments in particula
Baptism comes first in order. In our Catechism, the doctrine is stated as follows in the answer to the 94th question.
“ What is baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's.”
On the subject of baptism, some controverted points will necessarily claim our attention, which I shall endeavour to handle with meekness, and candour, and in the spirit of christian charity towards those, who may differ froin me in sentiment.
The object in this discourse is,
JI. To consider the proper mode of applying water in the ordinance.
I. Let us attend to a few remarks on the nature of baptism.
waptism is a sacrament. As such, its general nature bas already been illustrated under the head of the sacraments. It is a sacrament of the New Testament. It was instituted when the New Testament dispensation was introduced ; and it was instituted by Christ himself. The sign in this ordinance is the application of water, and of water only, without the addition of any thing else, to the subject. The mode in which water is to be applied we shall consider hereafter.
Baptism is to be alministered in the name of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. By this are acknowledged, that there is a Trinity of persons in the God-head; that the person baptized is devoted to this triune God; that all the saving blessings signified in this ordinance are given by the Father, for the sake of the Son, and through the application of the Iloly Ghost: and that all the persons of the Trivity are engaged in the work of salvation, and profl'r blessings to the subject of the ordinance. Baptism in the name of the Trinity is essential to the valility of the ordinance; and it is also essential to its validity that it be performed by a minister of the gospel ; for in our taxt the comission was given to such, and we have no account in Scripture, that the ordinance was ad