« PreviousContinue »
called, the mode of application. Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual birth, in which the recipient is entirely passive, as is clear from the words of institution Go teach all nations, baptizing them, &c. and from every account which we have of the administration of it. It is therefore competent for infants to be baptized; since, notwithstanding their incapacity to help themselves, they are certainly capable of being helped by others. In the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of spiritual nourishment, there is a formal act required of the recipient -Take, eat, and drink: This act infants, for some time at least, are not capable of performing. Nor is this all, the words this is my bodythis is my blood,' seem to indicate, that there ought to be in the communicant judgement sufficient for discerning,' as St Paul terms it, the • Lord's body". Now whatever may be the proper meaning of this expression, and however defective even the wisest of men may be in the apprehension and application of it, one thing is most certain, that the discernment' required by the apostle is not to be expected of any child under what the church terms the years of discretion', and until proper instruction, in proportion to his or her growing faculties, has given some faint conception of spiritual things. Upon this difference therefore between the two sacraments of our religion, and which
II Cor. xi. 29.
* See title to the Order of Confirmation in the book of Common Prayer.
is plainly set forth in holy scripture, it is neither deemed necessary nor expedient to admit children to the holy communion, though it is deemed both necessary and expedient to admit them to the privileges of christian baptism. Nevertheless the church limits no precise time of admission. This must be discretionary in the steward of the mysteries of God,' whose duty it is to judge of the degrees of knowledge, and of the desire shewn by the youthful candidate, and to admit or postpone admission accordingly; leaving those who have had but small opportunities of acquiring knowledge, as well as those on whom Almighty God may not have bestowed grace earnestly to desire admission, the former to diligent study, the latter to God's especial mercy and goodness, and, both to the influence and support of that portion of the spirit of holiness which we believe was imparted to them at baptism, and increased by the rite of confirmation. It may no doubt sometimes happen, that this rite has not been received before admission to the Lord's table; yet the act of communicating is by no means to be held as superseding the necessity of confirmation. Even after admission to the communion, confirmation ought duly to be received, if circumstances, which can never be wholly provided against, prevented its being received before,
THE efficacy of the two invaluable sacraments of our religion has been not a little controverted by professing christians. From one party, the popular cry of superstition is loud against ascribing too much, or, it may be, any thing at all to positive institutions. By another party, the meek spirit of purity is assumed for the purpose of converting the whole efficacy of such institutions into the mental disposition, and prior preparation of the receiver: While, by a third party, the error of the Cerinthians is avowedly maintained, and the efficacy of the sacraments is ascribed to the merits of the administrator. I am of Paul,' says one, 'I of Apollos,' says another, and I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ', exclaim the rest-in due succession. Now, by the church to which we have the honour to belong, the efficacy of the christian sacraments is not believed to depend on any thing personal in the authorized administrator; for the reason assigned by St Paul, that he does not administer in his own name Ss2
II Cor. i. 12.
2 See the xxvi. Article. ·
3 1 Cor. i. 15.
In this case, neither his virtues nor his goodness should be thought to add to the value of the sacrament, or his wickedness and bad qualities to take away from that value. All the effects and blessings to be expected from sacramental institutions flow entirely from the will and promise of the great Institutor, who has been graciously pleased to annex such blessings to them, as public acts of his church, to be indeed performed by regularly commissioned administrators, but not to be affected in their operation, by any natural talents or abilities in the individual officers who are entrusted with the administration of them. At the same time, it is firmly to be believed, and has always been the invariable doctrine of every orthodox churchman, that when the sacraments have been duly administered to, and regularly received by the people, the salutary effects of them will always be according to the dispositions of the receivers, especially in the case of the holy eucharist, which, being both the food and medicine of the soul, does unquestionably require the same care and attention in a spiritual sense, which are required, and which we employ in a natural sense, when we would promote the salutary effects of food and medicine on our bodily frame.
To all therefore who are ready and willing to come to this holy sacrament, the church recommends it as absolutely necessary, that they 'mine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a
new life; have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance (that is commemoration) of his death, and be in charity with all men'. And all this, lest the people, either through habitual carelessness, or wilful neglect, should fall, if not into that woeful state described by St Paul, as the consequence of eating and drinking unworthily, yet into that dangerous, because unprofiting condition, against which the same apostle warns us- of having received • the grace of God in vain "
When these matters are duly and seriously weighed, the charge of superstition amounts to nothing; and the outcry raised by the silly fanatic, that episcopalians regard the sacraments as so many charms—that with them nothing is thought of but the mere ' opus operatum,' can have effect only on such as care for, none of these things.' Were I indeed inclined to dispute the matter with such reasoners, I would by no means deny the efficacy, in one respect, of what they are pleased to call the opus operatum. For although, in my belief, this cramp scholastic term has tarnished the beauty of these holy mysteries, yet unless an ‘ opus operatum' that is a work wrought,' of some sort or another, be permitted in them, I do not see how there can be a sacrament at all, in the strictly proper sense of the
See Church Catechism-On the Sacraments. . I Cor. xi. 27.
3 2 Cor. vi. I.