« PreviousContinue »
the sacrament of the Lord's Supper,* where the strongest resolutions are required, the highest assistances of grace are conveyed, and where every worthy communicant has the unspeakable comfort of renewing and confirming his title to the covenant of mercy and salvation.
*the perpetual obligation of celebrating the Lord's supper is to be demonstrated in the following manner. It is the communion of the blood and body of Christ, i. Cor. x. i6. As long then as it is incumbent on christians to keep up their interest in his sacrifice, so long is this ordinance to be kept up in the church. It is also a perpetual memorial of his sufferings; for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, (fays St. Paul) ye do Jhcnv the Lord's death Till He Come. i. Cor. xi. 26. And lastly, if we saw no other reason, we have the command of Christ himself. Mat. xx. 26. The command of a superior wants no reasons to give it authority. When we disclaim obedience to the command, we disclaim our title to the name and rights of servants and disciples.
There is one thing urged against this and all other christian rites, which, though it makes a great figure in declamation, may be refuted in a few words. The sabbath, it is said, baptism, eucharist, and the orders of the ministry, are adopted with some alteration from the
Let Us now put all these "'things together; and, though they form too slight a view to do justice to the important subject, yet they give us better notions upon it, than many are acquainted with, in the giddiness of inattention and the peevishness of party contradiction.
Consider then mankind obliged by the command of God to assemble and associate together in amicable andfriendly societies, under certain modes of general utility, and nothing can be conceived better adapted to all the purposes of their being. Behold them assembling from their various occupations; from a dispersed, unconnected, and almost discordant
Jewish worship, and belong not therefore to the spiritual gospel. I answer, whatever Christ and his apostles taught and practised as a part of Christianity must be received as such, if we allow their Divine authority. Is we admit not this rule, we may disclaim one half of the gospel, 1 mean the moral precepts; for they were taught before, by Jews and Heathens.
cordant state, and recognizing themselves as fellow-creatures,—as fellow travellers to one common happiness, in subjection to a common master who knows no respect of persons—And what do you think is the genuine effect of such an act? Does it not wear off ihat reserve, and savageness and asperity of manners, which solitude is apt to produce? Does it not remove the distastes and jealousies, contracted in the competitions of life? Does it not soften the various passions of rank and condition, the pride of greatness, and the envy of poverty? And in their stead introduce mutual acquaintance, endearment, and all the generous effusions of benevolent affection ? — A public service, properly conducted, inculcates virtue in all its offices. Confession impresses a sense of the baseness of sin, of the weakness of nature, and the necessity of Divine grace. Prayer petitions for every virtue we want, and against every sin and temptation we Z ought ought to shun—by employing the wishes of the heart it tends to beget firm and lasting resolutions. Intercession considers mankind under the tenderest relations, and by this means strengthens and improves benevolence. Thanksgiving, reminding us of the Divine goodness, fixes duty upon the most generous foundation; that of gratitude. In short, a public service removes all the inconveniences of the present unequal state: the busy are called from their cares, and the gay from, their amusements: the great are humbled, and the poor raised to the laudable ambition of rational creatures: the weak are encouraged, the virtuous confirmed; the ignorant are taught, the careless admonished, and the wicked reproved. The word of God holds up an impartial mirror to all men alike: it speaks one common language, without flattery, without passion, without prejudice. It speaks to men under the happiest advantages—in the absence of temptations ons—in the ebb of passion—in the calm season of stillness and recollection. It speaks, recommended by outward circumstances adapted to the gravity of sentiment and disposition it means to excite.
IV. Since, then, outward institutions are of such use, what mail we say to those, who disclaim them, because they do not always produce their genuine effects?
Have rites and forms and all the machinery of bodily worship been multiplied in some ages to the exclusion of true and substantial virtue? It is true, the Romisti church, availing herself of that ignorance which the savage conquerors of the Roman empire introduced, did delude the world with infinite inventions of this kind. But what objection can this be, in an enquiring age, against a church, which fundamentally encourages enquiry, and pleads only for rites of Z 2 acknow