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thinks to drink thereat. Grace flows through the sacraments, but the sacraments are not grace. Salvation is by grace, but grace is not our Saviour. From Him, that eternal source, the precious waters flow, only so long as He will pour them out, and only whither He will please to send them. The sacraments are the channels by which His blessed influences are wont to run, and thither He bids the thirsty come and drink, but they are nothing more. They are not means of salvation; and if they were, the believer has no need of them; he wants no salvation but the sufficient blood of Christ; and no means to an end that was accomplished when Jesus “made an end of transgression, nailing it to his cross," -- when He said, “ It is finished," and gave up the ghost. But they are means of that which we want always-of which the more we have, the more we desire the increase, and fear the diminution; of which the supply of yesterday is no sufficiency for to-day, nor provison for to-morrow: they are the means of grace. Not only, as I conceive, are the sacraments outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace; for the sign or symbol of a thing does not imply the presence of the reality; but they are very frequently the means and instruments in the hand of the Spirit, by which the inward and spiritual grace is conveyed from God into the soul of man; whether the first gift of the Spirit
for the conversion of the sinner, the new birth unto righteousness exhibited in Baptism; or the fruit of the Spirit to the perfecting of the saint, sanctification unto life eternal, more properly pertaining to the Lord's Supper. This value, it is true, the Sacraments have in common with all other means of grace ordained of God; such as preaching, prayer, and reading of the word. And yet there seems to be something special in them, as appointed and blessed to a distinct and special purpose: the one, to set the seal of adoption upon those whom God has chosen to eternal life, separating them from an ungodly, unbelieving world; as circumcision was heretofore the partition wall which separated Israel from the nations of the Gentiles; the other to be the food and nurture of his adopted ones within their Father's house; as heretofore the manna fell within the sacred precincts of the camp, or more exactly as the paschal-lamb was distributed to all who by circumcision had been brought within the line of separation. The one sacrament exhibits Christ, and when made efficacious by the Spirit, conveys Christ, as the principle of life, or rather life itself, to the soul that was aforetime dead; the other exhibits Christ, and if duly and worthily received, communicates him, as the aliment and sustenance of the life he has imparted; not figuratively, but verily and indeed taken and received in the
due administration of it. Still, I think whatever is special in the sacraments, as distinguished from other means of grace, must be looked for in the special blessing likely to accompany ordinances so appointed, and not in any power vested in them to convey the blessing, different from what pertains to other means of grace: since not only are the sacraments continually performed without their effects; but these effects are as frequently, without the sacraments, produced by other
In the apostolic age, I imagine the regeneration of the soul, and its conversion to the faith, took place before the rite of baptism was performed: whereas now, I suppose it much more frequently takes place in after life. And with reference to the Lord's Supper, we know that the spiritual feeding of the believer upon Christ, is not peculiar to it: but may be realized as well in the most secret communion of the soul with the Beloved. The word of God, and prayer, and preaching, are equally appointed to these ends, and as frequently blessed to the effecting of them. In short, they are altogether nothing-absolutely nothing, but the two-edged sword, which the Captain of our salvation has wrought and burnished for himself, by the right hand of his power, his all-conquering Spirit, to separate his people from the world and force a way for them to glory. He takes it up when He will, and lays
it down when He has done with it; and it lies cold, and motionless, and useless, till He works with it again; for it cannot be weilded by any mortal hand.
And if mortal hands have no power to give efficacy to the holy sacraments, it is manifest they can have none to take the efficacy away; therefore I think our church has most wisely determined, that while the unfit communicant, being duly warned and instructed, takes upon himself the whole condemnation of his false profession, so also the ungodly minister must bear the iniquity of his profanation, but cannot convey pollution to the sacred rite that he adıninisters. “Forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the word of God, and in receiving of the sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.” It is a feeling very natural, to like to have these solemn rites performed to us by a righteous man; and inasmuch as they are accompanied with prayer, and “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much," it may not be an unreasonable satisfac
tion; but we should be cautious of attaching an undue importance to this, as if the most hallowed hand could add any thing to the value of baptismal grace, or of the sacramental emblems of the body and blood of Christ. Neither should we suffer our conscience to be distressed, and our faith disturbed, or as has been sometimes done, forego the ordinances altogether, because they are administered by unrighteous hands. If these divine rites themselves are nothing, but by the present blessing of the Lord, how much less than nothing is the earthly hand by which they are presented, and impotent to bring that blessing or prevent it. “Who shall bless what God has not blessed? and who shall curse what God has not cursed?" Our insufficient value for the precious blood of Christ, and all the power of his death, is in no way more disclosed than by the undue importance we attach to incidental circumstances, connected with the outward administrations of religion or the inward reception of it in our hearts: to form and discipline on the one hand—and to mere frames and feelings on the other; as if the power of His infinite and all-sufficient merit could suffer diminution or augmentation by the machinery made use of in its application to the soul: an unconscious pharisaism very hardly surmounted even in the bosom of the believer, who thinks that he is trusting Christ alone; but very, very seldom realizes the sufficiency and security of what he trusts.