THE following remarks on Confirmation and the Use of the Means of Grace, extracted from the last Annual Address to the Convention of the Diocese of New-York, are republished in the form of a tract, at the suggestion of brethren whose judgment seemed entitled to consideration--with the addition of only a few words to make it useful, if it may be so, to the laity as well as to the clergy. To every thoughtful person who remembers that he has a soul to save, a God to glorify, an eternity to provide for, who covets the grace, mercy and peace which God alone can bestow, these few hints on the way of duty and of life are affectionately commended. Lay them seriously to heart, and act at once on the conclusions to which they conduct you.
ON CONFIRMATION, AND The Use of the Means of Grace.
I MAY venture to presume that the reader, who looks at this tract, is considering, or is willing to consider, his duty to God and to his own soul. You know that you are not your own. You know that you are bound to present yourself, body and soul, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, in a life made conformable to His Will. You know that there is a way of being made more holy, more acceptable to God, more serene and peaceful as well as more useful in this life, and more meet for death, judgment and eternity. You know there are those who seem to walk continually in the sunshine of God's favor, cheerfully enjoying the good things He bestows, or bearing the trials He sends in this life, and looking forward with the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope to the blessedness of an eternal inheritance in the life to come.
Perhaps you are touched with a grateful sense of God's goodness to you, and are looking about for some way of devoting yourself to His service.
Perhaps heavy trials have opened your eyes to the vanity and misery of this life, considered as the only good; and immortal instincts, striving within you, make you feel that God alone, through Christ, can give you the unsearchable riches which you need.
Perhaps you are young, just beginning to reflect deeply on yourself and on the world now opening before you--and, moved by wisdom from above, you wish to give your young heart to the God of your life, and to walk from the first in those ways, which He has made ways of pleasantness and peace.
Or, perhaps, by far the happiest lot of all, you have long known, from the instruction of your parents and pastor, that, through the mercy of God, you were early made in holy baptism a child of His, and a member of His Church--washed from the original stain of sin, quickened by His Spirit, and received into His family, so that all His blessings and privileges are open to you, so soon as you are old enough to enjoy them, and have the heart to desire and seek them.
If you are in this last case, you will not need many words to convince you that it is your duty and your privilege to go on unto perfection, to stir up the spiritual gift that is within you by prayer, by the reading of God's Word, by efforts to make your way more perfect before Him; and so to prepare to avail yourself at once of those outward and visible means, (confirmation and the Lord's Supper,) which are appointed of God for increase of grace and nourishment of your spiritual life.
Now which ever of the foregoing cases may be yours, my dear reader, there are two or three truths, which you very much need to consider seriously;
1. Some persons imagine that they escape a certain portion of responsibility by making no vows, entering into no religious engagements. This is a grievous mistake. You are born in a Christian country, and all the responsibilities of Christians rest upon you, and you will be judged by them, whether you acknowledge them or not. The child finds himself, by the very fact of his birth, standing in a certain relation to his human parents, owing them certain duties, about the performance of which he has no choice. They are imperatively binding upon him. The same is true of your relation to your Heavenly Father. You are His by creation, by preservation, by redemption, by infinite kindnesses; and you must devote yourself to Him in a loving obedience, or you must take all the consequences of deliberate disobedience.
2. Some persons speak as if they could not move--as if they were not able, and were not worthy to take any decisive step in the way of religious duty.
This is a delusion. The way is open before you. Christ died that your sins might be forgiven, and that you might have spiritual life and grace to advance in the way of holiness, and to work out your own salvation. The Holy Spirit is now striving with you, ready to help your feeblest endeavor--and you may dedicate yourself wholly to God, and have every blessing from Him at once, if you will!--if you will! God in his mercy has set your will free, and you must use your freedom to will thoroughly, unreservedly, to live unto Him.
You may feel that you are cold, blind, unworthy to draw near to God, or to have Him draw near to you; but enter into your chamber; prostrate yourself before Him; confess your sins and short comings; implore his forgiveness; implore Him for Christ's sake to receive you, miserable and unworthy as you are; and then, with all humility and thoughtfulness, with full purpose of heart, with deep sincerity, resolve and give yourself up from that moment to the obedience of Christ, in the heart and in the life, determining to be guided by the advice of your spiritual pastor; and you will quickly perceive unwonted peace and satisfaction dawning within you, especially as you continue daily to pray in secret, to meditate a short time on some words of the Holy Gospel, and to strive to bring your heart and life more into conformity to the spirit of the Gospel. Do these things in earnest at once, looking continually to God for guidance, and seeking the counsel of your pastor in regard to details of duty, and you will not be long in seeing your way clear to every duty and every privilege in the Church of God.
3. Some persons seem to hesitate and stumble in the matter of religious duty because they do not see precisely what they have to do in the way of outward instrumentality. They do not see how much depends on a faithful use of the visible things of God's Church. The promise of salvation is not simply to him that believeth; but to him that believeth, and is baptized! There is something outward in the Church, to be done, as well as something inward, in the heart, before God's grace and mercy can fully descend upon us. And this twofold character of our holy religion, (the inward and outward,) runs through every part of it. If you are to be saved at all, it must be in the way of God's appointment. You must do the outward things He requires, as well as the inward.
However it may be with others, who are far removed from the privileges of God's Church, yet for you, who are near it, and perhaps already in it, the welfare of your spiritual life is tied down to certain conditions. As the natural life cannot be preserved without the use of certain outward appointed means, such as food and clothing, so cannot the spiritual life be confirmed and matured without the use of certain outward and visible means of grace: such as baptism, confirmation, the holy communion, participation in the public worship of God's Church, &c., where they can be had.
These means of grace are by nature common acts and elements, of no virtue or efficacy in themselves, and of use only as they are appointed of God, and have His blessing annexed to them, when faithfully received. The waters of Jordan would have been useless to Naaman, but that God was pleased to attach His especial blessing to them for a particular purpose. So with the clay with which our blessed Lord anointed the eyes of the blind. We see, then, that common things, such as water in baptism, laying on of hands in confirmation, and bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist, may be made the means of conveying spiritual blessings to the humble, if expressly appointed of God for that purpose.
These holy ordinances, then, are among the very first things you ought to think of, when you are proposing to enter more fully upon a religious life. Add to the secret resolutions already mentioned an immediate preparation for confirmation, or whatever other holy ordinance you yet lack, and to that end consult at once your pastor.
Here, then, are definite steps toward the working out of your salvation, which, (if you are sincere,) you can take at once. Enter into your chamber for a secret act of self-dedication to a holy, religious life, and then go forth to seek your pastor, that he may show you what else you must do.
Do not expect too much in the way of light and comfort before you have fully committed your way unto the Lord. If you bend all your will to serve and please Him in newness of life, and advance confidingly in the way of His commandments, He will keep nothing back from you. The unseen path will open before you; and as the lepers, who went, in obedience to the command of our Lord, to show themselves unto the priests, were healed as they went, so you, in the very act of obeying your Lord and Saviour in faith, will begin to perceive that you are being cleansed and strengthened, and renewed in the spirit of your mind.
You may feel that you are imperfect, unworthy; of course you are so, absolutely considered in yourself; but if you are in earnest in desiring to live as a child of God, your unworthiness is freely accepted for the infinite worthiness of your Saviour, Christ. He came into the world to save sinners. When they seek salvation angels rejoice; and the word remains for ever sure, that "a broken and a contrite heart God will not despise."
Earnestly hoping that you may find in the following address, and in the note appended to it, further hints that will make your duty plain before you, and animate you to the performance of it, I commend you to the guidance of that blessed Spirit which is given to every man to profit withal, and which is vouchsafed more abundantly to all them, that obey God.
EXTRACT FROM THE ADDRESS.
Some very excellent and faithful pastors make quite a point of saying that they "never ask any one to be confirmed." This seems to me to be taking an unfair and degrading view of what is in reality a very elevated and momentous affair. If by the phrase, "asking a person to be confirmed," they mean, as I presume they do mean, a mere, mechanical importuning of an individual to take, the outward step of coming to confirmation, in order that one more name may be added to the list of candidates to be presented to the Bishop--that it is done without reference to. his convictions, or his ulterior intentions, and without any serious endeavor to instruct him, or to move his conscience--then, certainly, all will agree, that such asking of people to be confirmed is a wretched abuse of the pastor's office. It degrades the sacred rite in the estimation of the community, where such things occur; and in the eyes of all considerate persons, whether truly religious or not, it degrades still more the character of the Minister of God, who so lowers his aims from Heaven to earth.
But the very proclamation of the clergyman, that he never asks any one to be confirmed, implies an opinion on his part that all such asking must necessarily be of the unworthy kind just referred to. This is a very grave error; and it is an error which does great injustice to the views and labors of other clergymen, while it implies most mistaken ideas respecting confirmation, and respecting the state of the baptized but non communing members of a Christian congregation.
Never ask a person to be confirmed! And why not? If a person belonging to our spiritual charge is living in neglect of a duty and a mean of grace, why not affectionately and solemnly put him in mind of it? If a child has been baptized in its infancy, with a promise on the part of its sureties, that they will take care that that child be brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him, so soon as he shall have come to years of discretion, and been sufficiently instructed as to what his godfather and godmother promised for him in baptism, and what his obligations and privileges are as "a member of Christ and child of God," why should he not be moved, both by his sureties and by his pastor, to take heed quickly to " make his calling and election sure," by ratifying what has been done in his name, and by "also promising that, by the grace of God, he will evermore endeavor himself faithfully to observe such things as, by his own confession, he has assented unto?" Why not explain to him his great need of a larger measure of divine grace to fit. him for the duties and trials of the Christian life, and exhort him to place himself in that position, inwardly in the heart, outwardly in the Church, in which he is required to place himself, in order that he may become a partaker of the heavenly gift? In one word, why not speak to a person about his soul's health, in connection with confirmation, as well as in connection with private prayer, or the reading of the Holy Scriptures, or public worship, or the observance of the Lord's Day, or repentance and amendment in any particular which can be mentioned?
We may safely affirm that that pastoral instruction is grievously defective, which does not lead the individual instructed earnestly to desire baptism or confirmation, or the Holy Eucharist, whatever appointed mean of grace he is yet destitute of. Whether we consider the commission and charge of our Lord to His Apostles, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing there in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you; and lo, 1 am with you alway, even unto the end of the world;" whether we listen to the first preaching of the Apostles, and hear them directing those who would know what they must do to be saved, saying, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;" or whether we observe the care they take to send two of their number from Jerusalem to Samaria, in order that the baptized may receive imposition of the Apostles' hands for increase of grace; we shall be convinced that negligence in instructing the people in regard to the Sacraments, or slowness in pointing to them as the great means of grace, is to be learned neither from the adorable Head of the Church, nor from its first chief pastors. On this subject the Acts of the Holy Apostles are full of instruction; and to point to only one very obvious instance, it is especially worthy of note, that while the Eunuch of Ethiopia listens to St. Philip preaching Christ to him for the first time, from that wonderful prophecy by Isaiah of the Passion and Death of our Lord, opening to him the way of salvation through faith in a crucified and risen Redeemer, the very first words, so far as we are informed, in which he breaks silence, to make manifest the faith which God has wrought in him through that preaching, are words pointing to an outward and visible means of grace: "See! here is water! what doth hinder me to be baptized?"--a conclusive proof that the instruction of St. Philip has included very emphatic teaching in regard to Holy Baptism, as the only way of gaining admission into the ark of Christ's Church, and becoming a partaker of its gifts and promises; and an equally conclusive proof that Christian faith and love, when rightly instructed, are no ways inclined to make light of what God hath provided and enjoined, in the way of visible instrumentality.
May we not ask, would the Ethiopian have gone on his way in so full assurance of faith, with such holy joy, had he not been allowed, in a palpable outward ordinance expressly appointed of God, to testify the earnestness of his devotion to the faith of Christ crucified to assume visibly, once and for ever, its duties and obligations to comply with its primary conditions, and so to feel, on good grounds, that he had indeed gained possession, actually for the present, conditionally for the future, of its gifts, privileges and hopes? Had St. Philip preached Christ to him in a different way, and, working merely on his convictions and emotions, neglected to point to the open door--to the appointed means of grace--how imperfectly would the work have been done--in what hopeless perplexity would the interested and convinced hearer have been left
It will be said, perhaps, that, in a Christian age and country, where the external things of religion are known to all, a desire for the outward sign will be sure to make itself manifested, whenever a deep interest has been awakened in the thing signified--that the great thing is to arouse the slumbering conscience--to engage the affections--to determine the will; and that the administration of the outward rite, whatever it be, may be safely left to the spontaneous call of the individual.
I should be the last person in the world to wish to obscure in any way the great truth, that the supreme business of the sacred ministry is to deal with the hearts and consciences of' men. But hearts and consciences are not rightly dealt with, unless they are moved to a due appreciation of the means of grace which have been appointed of God. Besides, it often happens that much earnest feeling is awakened in the mind of a hearer by the public services of the sanctuary, which comes to nothing, because no definite practicable way is pointed out in which the individual can act, with the comfortable assurance that he is doing a great duty, and gaining a great and essential gift. Many an individual stands still and does nothing, because he does not understand himself!--does not know how far he is prepared, and longing, in a blind way, to enter more effectually upon the way of life. Perhaps he doubts himself, and concludes that he is not fit for any decisive religious step, all the more certainly because the pastor does not approach him. He says to himself, in effect, if not consciously, "The man of God is a judge of spiritual things; he knows me better than I know myself; and if he does not come to call me, it is because he sees that I am not ready to enter into the inner circle of privilege and blessing!" It is sad to think of such a person being passed by, without any kindly notice, when confirmation is offering a precious opportunity, and when others are preparing to avail themselves of the blessed privilege. He is left standing without, confirmed in the feeling that his place is in the world, and not in the Church; exposed to the danger of losing even that which he hath, and of living and dying a stranger to the comforts of religion, when, perhaps, a single word, spoken at the critical moment, would have sufficed to determine him to be not only almost, but altogether a Christian; would have sufficed to bring him into the family of the faithful, a humble but grateful and devoted servant of the Lord.
And, then, it is wonderful how many persons go on through life in a kind of dream; doing many excellent things; hearing the truth with a certain degree of interest and respect; having many serious thoughts, but intensely occupied with the things of the world; and who, owing to the influence of groundless scruples, to mistaken views of the way of life, or to a strange spiritual listlessness, never arouse themselves to take an earnest survey of their position, to form a definite purpose, or to take a decisive step. There may be prayer; but it is the prayer of those who dream, and who have no life or power to reach forth the hand for the blessings they enumerate. Where persons are living in such a state, a single touch from the finger of love often works a marvellous change in the whole inner life of the individual. A gentle question, a word of admonition or of encouragement, startles him, arouses him from his apathy, puts him upon considering that the Master is calling for him as well as for others, and that there is something which he can do and is bound to do, towards laying hold of the hope set before him. And, then, the eyes being effectually opened, and the heart engaged, a little faithful instruction and prayer, with the divine blessing, suffices to bring him into the way of Christian obedience, and that, too, with a manifestation of fervent joy and devotion, which causes one to marvel why he should have remained sitting so long apart in a passive condition. For such backwardness in moving, other reasons may no doubt be given; but not unfrequently has it happened that it was for lack of some man of God to approach him with the true Apostolic call: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" It was for want of some Apostolic Pastor to "take him by the right hand and lift him up," and gently help him over the obstacles that seemed to lie in his way.
It was well remarked, many years since, in a Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops, written by the then presiding Bishop of our Church, (Bishop Griswold,) that, in all our congregations, there are persons possessed of many excellent qualities, who ought to be living in the full communion of the Church. [In this passage is given the substance (as recollected) of some observations in the Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops of 1841--the letter itself not having been seen for several years, when the Address was written. The entire section, which treats of the Means of Grace, is full of weighty truth, and the two extracts from it, which are appended to this tract, are commended, to the serious consideration of the reader.] They are, in fact, persons who only need to be persuaded that they are privileged to use the means of grace, who only need to be induced to come within the circle of blessing, and to devote themselves, in a decisive act, to a life of Christian obedience, in order to be transformed into such devout, warm-hearted worshippers as we love to see compass the altar of the Lord. They are kept at a distance by timidity, by mistaken views, and sometimes, no doubt, by pre-occupation of mind and aversion to change; and being conscious that their obedience is imperfect; that, standing where they do, they have no warrant for thinking that they "shall receive any thing of the Lord," they are incapable of attaining to any warmth of devotion, and their attention is easily diverted to other things. But let them only find themselves within the inner circle of blessing, with encouragement to hope that they are permitted to take the children's bread, and sincerely engaged in the worship and service of God, according to the order of His Church, and the "comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope," quickens them, with the blessing of God upon their use of means, into newness of spiritual life; and their change of position is no sooner accomplished, than we recognise a change in their feelings, from apparent apathy to earnest devotion, from hesitation and doubtfulness to entire fixedness of purpose, accompanied with a holy content and thankfulness, which goes far beyond our best anticipations.
Much of this remarkable transformation is to be attributed, under God, to the change which has been effected in the position and action of the individual. From standing, as it were, without the circle of blessing, where every thing he did was done with a certain cold respect, without the encouragement of any reasonable hope that he was in favor with God, or that his imperfect services could avail him much, he has been brought fully within the pale of God's Church, where a final act of self-consecration has put an end to all hesitancy and doubtfulness; and where the consciousness of rendering an unreserved obedience, and the comfort of using means of grace with a good hope of acceptance and blessing through Christ Jesus, concur with the spirit of all grace to strengthen him in his new course, and to fill his heart with love, joy and peace. And, therefore, to decide the wavering purposes of the individual, to engage him in the earnest use of all the means of grace, and so to procure for him the comfort of acting with good hope of the Divine favor and blessing, is to accomplish almost every thing. Of course, there must be faithful teaching and earnest endeavor, ever afterwards: there will be trials and conflicts; but amid them all, our hopes will be stronger than our fears, and the issue will, as a general thing, be such as to afford to the faithful pastor a rich reward for his anxious efforts.
Considering, then, the large number of persons every where to be found, belonging to the class just now referred to, it has always seemed to me, that a large part of the duty of the Christian pastor in such a country as this consists in endeavoring to move the timid and the apathetic to arouse themselves, and take their true position in the Church of God, and in patient, pains-taking efforts, to lift them over the obstacles which seem to them to lie in their way. Confirmation affords one of the best opportunities ever presented of engaging in this blessed ministry. To explain at such a time to all what their true position is, or may be, as baptized members of the Church of God; to endeavor to impress them with a lively sense of their duties and their privileges; to move, if possible, the timid and the slow of heart to enter the open door--to ratify the vows of the Christian covenant, and to seek the grace which a merciful God has provided for them in His Church--in one word, to move them to be confirmed, if it may be with humble devotion to the will of God; to do this seems so plain a duty, so momentous a part of the pastoral office, that no arguments can be needed to enforce it.
I should be very sorry to have it inferred from what has now been said, that there is any apprehension, on my part, of a want of zeal or correct views among the clergy generally, in dealing with the subject of confirmation. On the contrary, there are abundant indications, in every part of the Diocese, of more than ordinary activity, and that it is guided, for the most part, by just conceptions of ministerial duty, and of the principles of the Church. But the very great importance of the subject of confirmation to the interests of Religion and of the Church--the hope of correcting here and there some misconceptions, and the desire to bring prominently forward considerations which may be useful to the young and inexperienced among the clergy, have moved me to trouble you with these rather extended remarks.
It is a very high gratification to me to hear, as I sometimes do hear from the clergyman of a parish, that all the youthful members of a large class presented for confirmation have been receiving special instruction from him in Sunday School and in Bible classes, without intermission, from early childhood up to the day on which they came before me to ratify their baptismal vows. Such reports are equally honorable to the pastor and to the young persons who have shown such steadfast interest in the things of religion and in the instructions of the Church. The more such examples can be multiplied, the better it will be for the Church, and for the interests of true religion in our country. It is a hopeful as well as a pleasing sign, when the young are seen to be happy in gathering around their pastor, and when his countenance beams with benignant satisfaction, as he responds to their affectionate salutations, "or guides their feet into the way of peace!" As a general thing, the pastor's work is done effectually, just in proportion as he knows how to engage the hearts of the young, and to train them up wisely "in the way in which they should go." What the Church always needs, and what this country needs now, almost more than any thing else, is a generation of well-catechised and well-trained children and youth--minds so thoroughly instructed in the elements of Divine Truth, and so familiar with the accents of Christian wisdom--hearts so imbued with right sentiments, and formed to right dispositions, that the errors and follies and passions of the times shall pass by them as the idle wind. To form such a generation is the glorious prerogative of the enlightened Christian pastor, aided by the efforts of faithful Christian parents. "The child is father of the man;" and if any thing is to be done effectually, it must be done at the fireside, in the well-ordered school, and under the first hallowed influences of the Church.
THE MEANS OF GRACE.
THE following are the passages in the Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops, sent forth in 1841, written by Bishop Griswold, to which reference is made on page 16 of the preceding Tract.
"Because circumcision now avails nothing, you must not infer that the Christian ordinances are of but little importance--that, without peril to your soul, you may neglect Baptism, or Confirmation, or the Lord's Supper, or Prayer. By a right use of these means, as our Church teaches, and the Scriptures teach, your faith will be strengthened and grace increased. God has commanded the use of them, and they who neglect them must either think that they are wiser than God, or they must be in want of that faith which produces obedience to his commands.
"The ordinances appointed by our Saviour, Christ, and administered by his Apostles, should not be viewed merely as duties, but rather as blessed privileges, which claim our thankfulness to God. In mercy to mankind, and to help our infirmities, they are given us as sanctified means of bringing us to Himself, and by which we may obtain His heavenly benediction.
"Your Bishops ask your attention to this. subject, the rather, because in our visitation of the churches under our care, we are often and much pained in observing how large a part of the people of our congregations appear to be in doubt or undecided respecting the use of these means; how many of them live in the neglect of making an open and public profession of their faith in Christ and submission to his righteousness; and this we the more regret, from considering that not a few of them manifest a sincere regard for religion, and a serious sense of its importance. Their morals, too, and their lives in other respects are, in a happy degree, such as we desire to see in the disciples of Christ. They appear to have a reverence for God, and right views of the Saviour's character and office; and they show such benevolence and charity towards their fellow men, that we may say of thousands what Christ said to one: 'They are not far from the kingdom of God.' Our sorrow is, that they are not visibly in His kingdom. For reasons known perhaps to themselves and to God only, they do not confess Christ before men, and become members of His Church. While they so continue, they are not 'assured of God's favor and goodness towards them, and that they are members incorporate in the mystical body of His Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people.' Into a Church so apostolic as this, having a faith so primitive, doctrines so evangelical, a worship so scriptural, and other institutions so truly liberal, we might reasonably hope to see people crowding as doves to their windows.
"Our Saviour, Christ, sent his ministers to preach, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;' and, so far as we know of their acts and their history, they who did believe, immediately made that profession of their faith. It is also evident, in the Acts of the Apostles, that they confirmed baptized believers, by laying their hands upon them, and praying for the aid of God's Holy Spirit to strengthen them in the performance of their baptismal engagements, and enable them to 'lead the rest of their lives according to that beginning.' And it is the request and the command of your Saviour that you receive the other Sacrament in remembrance of Him, in a thankful and devout commemoration of His 'one sacrifice for sin.' In that Sacrament, you show forth His death you manifest your faith in the merits of His cross--and your thankfulness for such unspeakable mercy. By faithfully receiving these memorials of his love, you are also authorized to hope for the strengthening of your souls by the spiritual efficacy of His Body and Blood, broken and shed for your sins, as your bodies are by the bread and wine.
"Some seem to think that the rivers of Damascus are better than the waters of Israel, or that, if they live honest and good lives, they shall not be the worse for neglecting religious ceremonies. And who does truly live an honest and good life? Who loves God with all his heart, and soul and mind, and his neighbor as himself? Who has, in all things, done to others as he would have others do to him? In many things we all offend; there is none good but one. Christ died to save, and his Gospel is sent to call 'not the righteous, but sinners.' Are you so whole that you need not this Divine Physician? We might remind you of the inestimable benefits, visibly signed and sealed in Baptism, to those who rightly receive it. We might say much to you of the fitness and Divine authority of Confirmation, and the blessings which have evidently attended its right and faithful ministration. We might show that communing in the Lord's Supper is a great comfort to those who believe in Christ, and that it strengthens them much in their Christian zeal. But is it not enough to know that it is the will of your Saviour, Christ, that you should submit to His ordinance--that He, who so loved your soul as to die for its salvation, has appointed his sacraments for your benefit? Such a Saviour, you may well believe, has not ordained rites which are unnecessary, or which may safely be neglected; nor has he required you to do that which is useless. Our wisdom, when opposed to God's Word, is but foolishness. He has 'chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.' When some inquired of Christ: 'What shall we do that we might work the works of God? 'He answered and said unto them, 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he bath sent.' We are to believe in Him as the great Prophet--as the Word or wisdom of God, by whom the divine will is made known to men, and as the only true Priest who has made expiation for our sins, and ever lives to make intercession for us. 'Through Him we have access, by One Spirit, unto the Father.' And we are to believe in Him as our King, unto whom all power was given in heaven and in earth; Him we are bound in all things to obey, and He is 'made both Lord and Christ;' and well may he ask, as he does, 'Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?'
"While we disobey his commands by our actions, we deny that He is Lord--we rebel against Him."
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We "beseech you, then, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation." Consider well what you must do to be saved; how great is the peril of halting between two opinions, and of neglecting this great salvation. We would be ever cautious not to encourage an undue reliance on religious rites; but without the use of those which God has graciously appointed for our use, how can we hope to increase in grace and in godliness of living? "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." We know well that you cannot change your own heart--that God alone can renew a right spirit within you. But He has promised to bless your sincere efforts to know and do His will. "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find." While you are faithful to do what He commands, you may humbly hope that He will enlighten your minds and sanctify your affections. To him that bath shall be given. To those who "order their conversation right, shall be shown the salvation of God."
The kingdom of God, or His Church, is the spiritual ark, which Christ, the true Noah, has prepared for the saving of His house, and your safety requires that you be "not far from," but in it. The promise of salvation is to those who are within its pale. The sense in which, as St. Peter says, "Baptism now saves us," is its being ordained of Christ, as the entrance into this spiritual ark, where we are entitled to all the means of grace, and if we are faithful in the use of them, to all the promises to those who are "members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven." As our Church teaches, "they that receive baptism rightly, are grafted into the Church, and the promises of forgiveness--of sins, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed." We should use this and the other Christian ordinances as a manifestation of our faith in Christ, of our trust in His merits, of our hope in the promises of God, and of our submission to His righteousness. In the right use of them there is great comfort; for they are tokens of His love of our souls, and of what He has done to save them. They are sanctified means of God's appointment, whereby we may draw nigh to Him in full assurance of faith, and obtain His heavenly benediction. When these ordinances are devoutly and faithfully observed, we may well hope that true religion is increasing. It is encouraging to all who love the gates of Zion, to see multitudes thus openly confessing the name of Christ; coming to Baptism, and bringing their children; renewing in Confirmation their Christian covenant, and regularly communing in the Lord's Supper. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."