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master, teaching no other doctrine than that form of sound doctrine, which is to be gathered from the writings of his apostles. They must maintain that spiritual worship which he hath substituted in place of the idolatry of the heathen, and the ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation; and they must observe, according to his institution, the ordinances which he hath established in his church. We apply the word ordinances or sacraments to baptism and the Lord's Supper; the first, a rite borrowed from the Jewish custom of plunging into water the proselytes from heathenism to the law of Moses, but consecrated by the words of Jesus, and the universal practice of his disciples, as the mode of admitting members into the Christian society; the second, a rite which originated in the affectionate leave which our Lord took of his disciples at the domestic feast that followed the celebration of the Jewish passover. The words of the institution, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come," imply that the Lord's Supper is, by the appointment of Christ, a perpetual ordinance in the Christian church, in which there is a thankful commemoration of the benefits purchased by his death; and the Scriptures lead us to entertain a very high conception of the spiritual effects of this ordinance with regard to those who partake of it worthily, by calling it "the communion of the body and the blood of Christ."* Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the external badges of the Christian profession, the rites by which the author of the Gospel meant that the society which he was to found should be distinguished from every other. They are most apposite to the peculiar doctrines of his religion; there are a simplicity and a significancy in them which accord with the whole character of the Gospel: and, as they were appointed by Jesus himself, no human authority is entitled to add to their number, or to make any material alteration upon the manner of their being observed.
Upon this account, we rank the right administration of Baptism and of the Lord's Supper, the preaching the "faith once delivered to the saints," and the maintenance
* 1 Cor. x. 16.
of spiritual worship, as the marks of a Christian church. We gather all the three marks from the nature of such a society, and from several places of Scripture; and we find the three brought into one view in the description, given in the book of Acts, of the 3000 who were added to the number of the disciples by the sermon which Peter preached ten days after the ascension of Jesus. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."*
The Church of Christ, separated from the rest of the world by these marks of distinction, is not set in opposition to human government. But the Gospel, without entering into any discussion of the claims made by subjects and their rulers, enforces obedience by the example of Jesus and of his apostles, and by various precepts such as these, "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's." "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers." "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." The ministers of this religion, although invested with a sacred character, and constituted by their master the spiritual rulers of that society, for whose good they labour, are not entitled to assume, in virtue of their office, any measure of civil power. They are not the arbiters between the parties who contend for dominion. But they co-operate with the authority of government, by their prayers, by their exhortations, and by the natural tendency of discourses composed upon the true principles of Christianity, to diffuse a general spirit of industry, sobriety, and order. Upon this account they have received, in every Christian country, the protection of the state; and in these happy lands where we live, the establishment of that form of Church government, which was supposed to be most agreeable to the inclinations of the people, is incorporated with the civil constitution. The ministers of the establishment have legal security for their livings. They have, in critical times, by their influence over public opinion, rendered very important services to their country; and, although that unwillingness to part with any portion of their
*Acts ii. 41, 42. + Matt. xxii. 21. Rom. xiii. 1. 1 Pet. ii. 13.
property, which is felt by all the orders of the state, and which grows with the progress of luxury, may prevent any great augmentation of the moderate provision which is made for the ministers of our church, they cannot fail, while they discharge their duty, to continue to receive the countenance, the support, and the indulgence of the legis lature,
CHRISTIANITY OF INFINITE IMPORTANCE.
OUT of the preceding view of the Scripture system, there arise some general observations upon which I wish to fix your attention, because I think they may be of use in preparing your minds for the more particular discussions upon which we are to enter.
The first observation respects the importance of Christianity.
This is a subject upon which, for the reason which I mentioned in the outset, I have hitherto hardly said any thing. The common method is, to place what is called the necessity of revelation before the evidences of it, and to argue from the necessity to the probability of its having been given. But I have always thought this an unfair and a presumptuous mode of arguing. It appears to me, that we are so little qualified to judge of what is necessary, and so little entitled to build our expectation of heavenly gifts upon our own reasonings, that the only method becoming our distance, and our ignorance of the divine counsels, is first to establish the fact that a revelation has been given, and then to learn its importance by examining its contents. Agreeably to this method, I have led you through the principal evidences of the divine mission of Jesus; I have given a general account of the system contained in those books, which his servants wrote by inspiration; and I now mean to deduce from that account the importance of what the inspired books contain.
There are two views under which the importance of Christianity may be stated. We may consider the Gospel as a republication of the religion of nature, or we may consider it as a method of saving sinners.
WE may consider the religion of Jesus as a republication of the religion of nature. I have adopted this phrase, because, from the very respectable authority by which it has been used, as well as from its own significancy, it has become a fashionable phrase; and yet there are two capital mistakes which the unguarded use of it may occasion. The first is an opinion, that Christianity is merely a repub lication of the religion of nature, containing nothing more than the doctrines and duties which may be investigated by the light of reason. But it follows clearly from the general view of the Scripture system, that this is an imperfect and false account of Christianity; because in that system there are doctrines concerning the Son and the Spirit, and their offices in the salvation of men, of which reason did not give any intimation; and there are duties, resulting from the interposition recorded in the Gospel, which could not possibly exist till the knowledge of that interposition was communicated to man. The Gospel then, pro
fessing to be more than a republication of the religion of nature, a view of its importance, proceeding upon the supposition that it is merely a republication, must be so lame as to do injustice to the system thus misrepresented.
The second mistake, which the unguarded use of this phrase may occasion, is an opinion that the religion of nature is essentially defective either in its constitution, or in the mode of its being promulgated, and that the imperfection originally adhering to it called for amendment. But this is an opinion which appears at first sight unreasonable. If the Creator intended man to be a religious creature, it is to be presumed that he endowed him in the beginning with the faculty of attaining such a knowledge of the divine nature as might be the foundation of religion. If he intended him to be a moral accountable creature, it is to be presumed that he furnished him with a rule of life. These presumptions are confirmed, when we proceed to examine the subject closely; for we cannot analyze the human mind, without discovering that an impression of the Supreme Being is congenial to many of its natural senti