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piety; that he should have made a public profession of Religion; and that he should have been baptized. All these things, if we substitute Circumcision for Baptism, were required of every Israelile, in order to his acceptable participation of the passover, and to his being, and continuing, an acceptable member of the Abrahamic Church. God formed the Church, under the Dispensation tu Abraham, by natural descent from this Patriarch; or rather, He formed the visible Church by the ordinance of Circumcision, set, as a seal, according to his own appointment, on all its members, constituted originally of all his Descendants, limited afterwards to those of Isaac, and then, to those of Jacob. Such of these, as did not receive this seal, or in other words, were not thus introduced into the visible Church, He directed to be cut off from his people. Those who were thus introduced into the visible Church, and did not partake of the Passover, He commanded, also, lo be punished with the same excision. All the Israelites He further required to make a public profession of Religion, by entering publicly into that solemn covenant with Him, which has been so often recited in these discourses concerning the Church and its ordinances, and by avouching JEHOVAH to be their God, and themselves to be his people. This Covenant they were however required to enter into with religious sincerity. In the 50th Psalm, it is written, Unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do, to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth? In other words, “ Thou hast no right, no permission from me, to take my covenant into thy mouth." They were required to enter into cov. enant with God; and were entitled, in this manner, to all the external privileges, connected with this transaction. But they were required, also, to do this with a spirit of universal obedience. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, says Moses to Israel, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and commandments, and judgments, and to hearken unto his voice; and the Lord hath arouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments. “ And thou shalt swear,” The Lord liveth,“ in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness," said God to Israel, Jer. iv. 2. I have elsewhere shown, that to swear, considered as a duty of the people of Israel, is the same thing as to enter into covenant with God. These words, therefore, contain a command to the Israelites, to exercise truth and righteousness in this solemn transaction.
Accordingly, this people arc, in a great multitude of passages, severely reproved, threatened, and declared to be punished, because they violated this covenant. See Hosea viii. 1, and vi. 4–7. Jer. xxxiv. 18—20, and xi. 2, 3, and xxii. 8, 9. Ezek. xvii. 15—19. Mal. ii. 8, 9, &c. &c.
That Christians, in making this profession, which I have heretofore shown to be their duty also, are bound to act with sincerity, and to exhibit before the eye of God truth in the inward parls, is so
plain a case of duty, as hardly to admit of argument or evidence. When, let me ask, ought men to exhibit this truth, if they are not bound to exhibit it here? If the Israelites were severely censured, and dreadfully punished, for covenanting falsely; this conduct must le still more guilty on the part of those who enjoy the light of the Gospel.
Independently of the superior privileges, enjoyed by the Christian, the only material difference between him and the Israelite, lies chieily in these two things : That the Christian is not, of course, a member of the Church by natural descent; and that he is not punished with excision for not becoming the subject of the initiatory, and for not attending upon the confirmatory sacrament. As the circumcised person was required to make a public profession of religion, so is ile baptized; and both are equally required to make this profession with sincerity and picty. The baptized person is also required, not only as a rational being under the Dispensation of the Gospel, but also as a person, who by his baptism is brought under new and additional obligations, to celebrate the Sacramental Supper, as soon as he becomes possessed of sufficient understanding; to discern its nature and use, and to celebrate it with decency; and, so soon as he shall have sufficient understanding, to make a rational profession of religion, previously indispensable to his participation of this ordinance. This profession, as I have already observed, must spring from piety, and be made with evangelical faith and repentance.
It will, probably, be here said by baptized persons generally, that they cannot make such a profession, because they are destitute of Faith, Repentance, and Piety. To this, I answer, that they are inexcusable for not possessing this character. God requires it indispensably of all men; and has laid them under peculiar obligations to assume it, by bringing them into his visible Church, through the administration of Baptism. I know, that they will allege, here, their inability to become possessed of this character, as their excuse for being destitute of it; for not making a profession of religion; and, consequently, for not communing at the sacramental table. Let me exhort them to remember, that this inability is no other than the common, natural disinclination of the human heart to do its duty; the very sin, with which they are charged in the Scriptures. Let me exhort them to believe, and to feel, that God will not accept this sinful character, as an excuse for the omission of this, or any other duty.
At the same time, they are bound to remember also, that this situation will, in no degree, justify them in making an insincere profession. This would be only substituting one sin for another : a sin, which in my view is of a still grosser nature. That, which they are required to do, is not to cease from sin, in one form, by perpetrating it in another; but faithfully to perform their duty. They are bound to make a profession of religion ; to make it with the
piety ni the Gospel; and thus to become Evangelical communicants at the table of Christ.
It has been supposed, that, because the Jewish circumcised children universally partook of the Passover, therefore baptized children cught now universally to partake of the Lord's Supper. To this position, lanswer, that St. Paul, as was observed in a former discourse, has directly forbidden believers to hold religious communion with unbelievers; and by unavoidable consequence, has forbidden unbelievers to commune at the Table of Christ." Unbelieving parents also, he has declared, cannot offer their children in baptism ; and that, notwithstanding themselves have been baptized. Plainly, then, they cannot, for the same reason, offer themselves to God in the cooenart of grace; nor appear as qualified Communicants at the table of Christ. Unto the wicked, now as well as anciently, that is, to all unbelievers, God saith, What hast thou to do, that thou shouldest trke my covenant into thy mouth?
As the moral character of man is, at the best, imperfectly known buy liimself; and as evangelical assurance is no part of the characler of a new convert; il is an indispensable qualification for comwiwnion in the Church of Christ, particularly ai the sacramental iable, that the candidate possess a rational, and preponderating persuasion of his own sincere piety.
In all cases, where certainty is unallainable, no rule exists for our direction, but the communding probability.* The commanding probability ought, therefore, to control in this case; because cerDainty is evidently beyond our reach. The soundness of this rule of our duty may be also illustrated in the following manner: We are absolutely required to offer ourselves up to God in the covenant of grace. We therefore know certainly, that this is our duty. In the case supposed, we do not know, that we shall make an insincere profession; but are furnished by this rational persuasion of our piety, with a commanding probability, that our profession will be sincere, and acceptable to God. We know, that we shall commit sin, if we neglect to make this profession; but we do not know, that we shall sin in making it. On the contrary, we are furnished with a commanding probability, that, if we make a profession of religion in this case, we shall not sin, but perform a service acceptable to God. To do this, in the case supposed, becomes then, if I mistake not, our unquestionable duty.
The Apostles, I think, certainly acted in accordance with this doctrine. They address the members of the Churches, founded by them, as saints. But when they come to exhibit their character with reference to this subject, they plainly exhibit, that this saintship was imperfectly known, either io themselves, or to those in whom it was supposed to reside. A few passages will make this position sufficiently clear. Examine yourselves, says St. Paul
* See on this subject the Sermon on the Truth of God.
to the Corinthians, whether ye be in the faith. This direction could not, I think, have been given to persons, who were supposed, by him who gave it, to know themselves to be Christians. Of course, when they were admitted into the Church of Christ, they were not admitted, because they knew themselves to be Christians, but because they had a fair hope, or a preponderating, rational persuasion, that this was their character. But St. Paul received these Christians into the Church upon a plan, which was accordant with their duty. Of course, it is accordant with our duty to become members of the Church, whenever such a persuasion becomes the standing view of our own minds. Of the same nature, is the direction immediately following this ; Prove your ownselves.
The same is also implied in the succeeding question, Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is formed in you, except ye be reprobates : adoxspot, unapproved.
Of the same nature is the direction given to this Church, 1 Cor. xi. 28. But let a man examine himself; and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. This direction is plainly given to professing Christians, to enable them to determine whether they are worthy communicants at the table of Christ. But no such examination would be necessary for those, to whom the Apostle wrote, if, at their admission into the Church, they knew themselves to be saints; for every saint is, essentially, a worthy communicant.
By a rational, preponderating, persuasion, I intend such an one, as is the result of repeated, thorough, solemn, self-examination, aided by a faithful resort to books, which exhibit the genuine evidences of piety, and by the advice of wise and good men, particularly ministers of the Gospel. He who does not, in a case of this magnitude, seek for all these, is regardless of his own well-being.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-THE LORD'S SUPPER.
DISPOSITION WITH WHICH IT IS TO BE ATTENDED ; AND NO
TIVES TO THE ATTENDANCE.
Mark xiv. 22–25.—And as they did eat, Jesus look bread and blessed, and brake it ;
and gave lo them, and said, take, eat : this is my body. And he look the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank of it. And he said unlo them, this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many. And when they had sung an hymu, they went oul into the Mount of Olives,
In the preceding discourse, I proposed to consider,
The three first of these heads were considered in that discourse. I shall now proceed,
IV. To consider the Disposition with which this ordinance is to be altended.
By this, I mean that state of mind, with which a person, generally qualified in the manner, described under the preceding head, should celebrate this ordinance.
This Disposition is directly indicated by the injunction,•This do in remembrance of me. It will not be supposed, that Christ directed us merely to remember him on this occasion; or to remeinber him with indifference; or distrust; or opposition; or disrespect. The very idea, both of enjoining, and of voluntarily engaging in, a ccmmemoration, supposes, that there is something great, or good, in that which is commemorated. Whenever a person is formally and solemnly made an object of commemoration, it is of course implied, that the commemoration is an intentional honour to his character; and that those, who thus honour him, regard him with sincere affection and respect.
Such being plainly, and pre-eminently, the nature of this religious rite, we become deeply interested to inquire, What are especially the constituents of that Disposition, which we night to esperience, while celebrating this ordinance in remembrance of our Saviour?
To this inquiry, I answer, 1. We are to remember Christ in this ordinance with Admiration.