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same time, a testimony of God's grace to us, and of our trust in him, and so are represented as the keys of the kingdom of God, by which the riches of grace, mercy, and love, are unlocked and opened to his faithful people. Like the word, the sacraments form an authentic pledge of God's covenant with men; they are a sure promise of his mercy and grace, for though his word may be despised, and his sacraments neglected, “nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his ;” and “wisdom is justified of all her children.”
The sacraments of Christ, when duly ministered, are not only outward and visible signs, of an inward and spiritual grace conveyed to the soul, but by this very grace they tend to strengthen, stablish, and settle our faith in Christ, so that his people may have more grace, or grace upon grace, and in the rightful use and observance of them—" grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” This is their healing virtue-- this is their saving power, as it leads to a communion with him who had all power to save.
Not that we are to suppose that there is some secret and
magical benefit from a mere form of the sacraments of Christ. There cannot be a more fatal error than this; for the mere form of baptism, however observed, is of no avail unless we put on Christ; and the eating of the bread, and drinking of the wine, can be of no avail in the Lord's supper, unless we have a spiritual union and communion with Christ. For Jesus said unto them,"
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you; whosoever eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”
Taken in a large and comprehensive sense, every sacred institution of our holy faith which has the sanction of the gospel, may be considered as a Christian sacrament, but there are two which being generally necessary to salvation are specially so called,--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. St. Augustine assures us • that our Lord hath put us under his own light yoke, and his own easy burden; for by sacraments in number most few, in observance most easy, and in sig
nification most excellent; he hath gathered together the society of a new people,—that is, baptism consecrated in the name of the trinity, and the communion of his own body and blood.' – Aug. Ep. 118.
Baptism is that holy ordinance which the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has appointed to admit his people into the rights and privileges of the new covenant of grace. Go," said he,“ teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Baptism is therefore administered but once, at the time of admission into the new covenant; for, as the Apostle says,
" there is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism." On the principles of the doctrines of Christ, there is one baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins, and it is only once to be ministered; but it ought to be ministered to all, as being generally necessary to salvation. The Lord's supper was appointed as a memorial of bis dying love, and is to be solemnized as often as opportunity offers—“Do this,” said he, “ in remembrance of me, for as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew forth the Lord's death till he come.” These sacred institutions, as our church declares, are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive. the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.'
• Sacraments are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good-will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him.' They are symbolical rites, and there is connected under them a meaning expressed in symbols, as well as in the words which are appointed to be spoken over them. The doctrines which are so embodied, are the most important doctrines of our holy faith ; i. e. the atonement by the blood and righteousness of Christ, and sanctification by the grace and Spirit of God; and it is their very importance which gives them a title to be recorded in a more expressive and enduring form. •For that which is set forth in a sensible sign, not only speaks more plainly, but also has a greater security of life than that which is declared only by oral or written tradition. Thus we see the relics of heathen customs survive among the people even to this day, long after all trace of writing and oral tradition have departed. Of such symbols, two have been left by the Lord Jesus Christ, expressive not only of what he has already done, but what he is still doing for his people; and these are the sacraments of Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
It is in the rightful exercise of these means of grace, that ministers employ the keys of the kingdom of God, so as to open or to shut, to loose or to bind, to remit or to retain sin. For our Lord says, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven; whosesoever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain they are retained. The sacraments of Christ are not only outward signs of the thing signified, that is, of the grace of God, but they are seals by which the covenant is personally ratified and confirmed, as a man's own act and deed in baptism ; or as a continual memorial of his dying love in the Lord's supper, according to the promise of God, his saving grace is also conveyed