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Why grace of God, which is promised to prayer, for instance, would Baptism and the Lo d's
want the external sign, and would not therefore be enjoyed. BapSupper are tism and the Eucharist are specifically sacraments, because the Sacraments. precise form in each is to a certain extent prescribed; and, therefore,
the communication of grace is attached to one unalterable cerea fatt. xvii. monial. But if
, according to our Saviour's promise, “Where two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst,” all the religious meetings of Christians are means of grace; the Church itself, in the celebration of its union as the temple of the Holy Ghost, is sacramental. No specific form, beyond the necessary parts of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, claim this character; but then, there is a grace generally necessary to salvation appointed to be conveyed through prayer and other observances, although the exact description of these observances be left to the discretion of the Church.
What is now to be considered, therefore, is the mode in which the primitive Church celebrated these rites and ceremonies.
Their The rites and observances of the Church may be classed under a distribution.
twofold division; the one part of which would contain those through which Divine grace is conveyed to individuals, as such, or as filling individual offices. Of which kind are the ceremonies of Ordination, Confirmation, &c. The other portion, under which the Sacraments would fall, comprises those which relate to Christians in their common Christian character. Besides the Sacraments, are the Public Prayers, the Marriage and Funeral ceremonies, and the like. Both classes have been stated to be modes of intercourse with Him who has promised to be in the midst of us, whenever two or three are assembled together as his people. So far the ceremonies of the Church are all of the same character, and, as means of promised grace, are so far sacramental But, in a further view, an important
distinction occurs. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are fixed instimay vary in tutions, and grace is attached to the observance of these specific
means: in the others, the means are of the Church's appointment, and the grace bestowed, although requiring some means, is yet not specifically attached to any.
But another difference obtains, which, although not quite so obvious, is scarcely less important and characteristic. One common object is sought in all these acts of Christian celebration—communion with Christ, participation of his Spirit. But we are not styled in Scripture individually, but collectively, the temple of the Holy Ghost, the abode of the Spirit; and as members of that well compacted body we receive it. Now it has been already more than once pointed out, that Christians are not one society; but many societies founded on the same principles. Each of these societies celebrates within itself the rites and ceremonies which are to unite
Sacraments must be
it with Christ, and to preserve his Spirit among all its members. Each Church, accordingly, may lawfully observe distinct forms of prayer, and distinct modes of appointment. It may do so, at least, to a very great extent. And as each Christian society thus holds communion with God in its own way, so does each member partake of that communion, as a member of his particular society or Church. With respect to the Sacraments, however, the case is not exactly why the
Our act of communion here is performed, not as members of any one particular Church, but as members of the great Christian uniformly body--as belonging to the elect, the sanctified, the redeemed. The duties imposed on us by our religious condition in this respect, may admit of illustration from the necessities imposed on us by our natural condition. It is necessary to the wellbeing, and to the very existence, of each separate people or association of men, that they should use some language ; although the variety of languages may be infinite, which will effect the end desired. This is analogous to the means of grace, not specifically, but generally required, and used by each Church in its own way. Again, it is necessary to the existence of every individual of the human race, that at certain intervals, he should recruit his body by sleep. Here is a necessity, to which he conforms, not after the fashion of any one nation, not as attached to any one society, but in obedience to an invariable and universal law. To this answers the Christian's duty of celebrating the Sacraments. They are specifically appointed as means of grace, and therefore are means of grace for all: all other ceremonies are means of grace for the members of the particular society which adopts them.
Of course these remarks, as far as they relate to the Sacraments, Limitation apply only to such portion of those rites as is recorded to be of our Lord's appointment. In Baptism it is the use of water, and of the prescribed form of words, which denotes the transfer to the baptized of all privileges claimed by the people of God. In the Lord's Supper, it is the symbolical use of the bread and wine, and the accompaniment of the words with which our Lord taught us to accompany it. Our inquiry, then, is into the practice of the primitive Church with respect to the Sacraments and other Rites.
of this rule.
Of the continual and invariable use of water in Baptism, by the Water immediate successors of the apostles, it may be proof enough to state, that the remains of the latter end of the second and third centuries are so unequivocal and full on the exclusive employment of the symbol, that no doubt can be entertained of the custom never having ceased. There is a passage in The Shepherd of Hermas, however, which, to those especially who rank him among the apostolical Fathers, may be cited as contemporary evidence. In his Similitudes, (XIX. 16,) he expressly speaks of the "water of bap
tism," and in his Visions he alludes to it under the image of the Church floating in a mystic water. 89 Whether immersion only was the mode of using this sacramental symbol, is a question which need not detain the inquirer, since he will doubtless, in conformity with certain principles already established, perceive at once, that to such a departure from apostolic custom as may be supposed to exist in sprinkling, rather than in immersing the candidate, the discretionary authority of any Church clearly extends.
Not so with respect to the form of words, so solemnly prescribed by Christ himself; in strict accordance with which are all the earliest notices of the baptismal service. Its literal adoption by the first uninspired Church is inferred on grounds similar to those on which we assert the invariable use of the symbol of water.
It is mentioned by Tertullian and a succession of writers who lived within too short a distance of this period to make its intermission at all probable ;90 and there is a testimony perhaps still earlier, that of the author of Clement's Recognitions, who undoubtedly alludes to it, when he speaks of persons " baptized in the name of the threefold Mystery; 91 and, again, of the ceremony being perfornied " by invoking the name of the blessed Trinity.”?92 In the Apostolical Canons an express prohibition against departure from it is found; which serves to mark the early attempts of heretics and innovators to corrupt and change the words prescribed. Menander is, perhaps, the earliest who is directly charged with this attempt, which has been also urged against the Montanists, Sabellians, and other
heretical sects. The object Let it be clearly understood, that the object of this and of similar inquiries is inquiries into the practice of the primitive Church, is not to maintain
the correctness of our Church, or of any Church, the practices of which coincide with these: the object is strictly historical; the mere statement of facts, without always inquiring what specific use those facts may serve. It is enough that they are truths; and truths seldom remain long unemployed and unprofitable. As to the practices themselves, we should be equally bound to observe them, whether the primitive Church observed them or not, if they are enjoined by Scripture; equally authorized to retain them on our own Church's authority, if not inconsistent with Scripture principles. The primitive Church, in the present view of it, is submitted to a trial on scriptural evidence, such as one generation of fallible beings is ever subject to from another, and such as every Christian
generation is required to institute on its predecessors ; according to the 1 Thess. v.21. command, *“ prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
It is gratifying, doubtless, to contemplate the genuine spirit of 89 Vis. III. C. 3. “ Quare ergo super prian, Ep. 73. August. de Baptismo, L. aquas ædificatur turris, audi. Quoniam VI. C. 25, et alios. vita vestra per aquam salva facta est et fiet."
91 Recognit. Lib. VI. C. 9. 90 Tertullian, de Baptismo, C. 13. Cy. 92 Lib. III. C. 67.
Christianity preserved in these early times; and it even adds a natural confidence to decisions founded on independent authority, to find those also the decisions of that generation which was nearest our inspired guides. Still, our inquiry may be free and fearless.
We have satisfactory evidence now, that in the mode of adminis- Baptism adtering the sacrament of baptism, the first uninspired churches fulfilled their trust. Did they equally so in dispensing this necessary all ages. medium of God's grace to those for whom it was designed, and by the hands of such as were intended to officiate? We are quite sure from the Scripture, of an authority and duty in the Church to limit baptism to no age; did the primitive societies of Christians act on this principle? Of this there can be no doubt in any candid mind. It is true that infant baptism is not mentioned expressly by an earlier writer than Justin Martyr and Irenæus ; 93 for, although the authority of Clement and Hermas are alleged by some learned men, (besides that the testimony of the latter may be disputed on other grounds,) in either, it only amounts to the avowal of opinions, which would seem to be inconsistent with the doctrine of the Anabaptists, and not to an express declaration. But Justin and Irenæus wrote too early 94 to leave it a question, whether during the period between them and the apostolic age, any different regulation existed in this respect. Certainly no allusion is made by him to the novelty of the practice which he records. The primitive Church, like ourselves, was bound to communicate the holy trust, and its first symbol, to every age and sex within reach; and this it doubtless did.
Did it also offer it, as we feel ourselves bound to do, to all degrees And all of persons, to all ranks and nations? No circumstance, except want of individual preparation, appears to have formed a bar to the admission of candidates into any of the primitive Christian societies; and, as far as that preparation consisted in the acquisition of religious knowledge, every facility for making it was afforded, in the establishment of schools for adults, and in the employment of catechists. There were, doubtless, moral qualifications beyond this, which were who were insisted on; and for want of these, many were forbidden the Chris- prepared tian privilege. Whole classes of persons were thus excluded, on the ground that their lives and occupations were inconsistent with this preparation; and with such pictures as the heathen historians and satirists give of the imperial city, we can hardly refuse to justify these interdictions, when we find the list proscribed to consist of players, gladiators, &c.95 At the same time, there is no certain
93 Lib. II. C. 39.
94 Justin Martyr is supposed to have written his second “ Apology,” in which infant baptism is alluded to, A.D. 148. Irenæus was born about A.D. 97, and wrote his book against heresies A.D. 176 or 177. Dodwelli Dissertat. in Irenæum, 3, 4. Justin's testimony is the more important, because he speaks of persons so
baptized, who at the time of his writing
evidence that even this rule was commenced so early as the age of
the apostolical Fathers. By Ministers The remarks already made on the institution of a ministerial
order, and the evidence that the primitive Church well understood its design, and maintained its appropriate character, render it unnecessary to enter specifically into the question of the persons charged with the performance of the baptismal rite. It was confined, doubtless, as it has been in after times, among all sober Christians, to the ordained ministry, (under the authority of the bishop,o) although cases may have occurred in which it was permitted, by the same authority, that it should be performed by a layman. But though David ate of the show-bread, yet the rule which forbade its use by any but the priests, was not thereby abolished; and, such necessary deviations from the fixed course can never rationally be mistaken for the course itself.
THE LORD'S SUPPER. The essential part of the Eucharist is the symbolical use of always used. bread and wine, according to the recorded institution. A corrup
tion in the celebration of this sacrament might take place in two ways; either by omitting any of that essential part, or by appending to it circumstances inconsistent with its true character. Of both species of corruption we are bound to acquit the primitive uninspired Church. The primitive Christians were guiltless, too, of
96 The list of the interdicted may be mention is made, might have been in found in the "Apostolical Constitutions,” conformity with the general custom of (Lib. VIII. C. 32,) which, although con- drinking wine diluted. Still, it seems fessedly written at a period very much strange, that the setting on the table later than that on which we are now separately, both water and wine should engaged, may be considered as convey- be so specifically noticed. Witness Jusing an account of established customs; tin Martyr, (Apol. II. p. 97:) προσφέρεται which, in the absence of contrary evi- το προεστώτι των αδελφών άρτος, και ποτήριον dence, have some claim to be assigned to ύδατος και κράματος: and again, άρτος προσthe earliest age. The notes in Cotelerius's φέρεται και οίνος και ύδωρ. Accordingly, edition of the apostolical Fathers deserve the expressions made use of in Irenæus, to be consulted.
to denote that the bread and wine were As the authority of the “Apostolical prepared for distribution, are quando Constitutions” will depend much on the mixtus calix et fractus ponis." (Lib. V. date which we assign to their composi- C. 4.) The Greek Church retains the tion, it may be proper to add, that the custom to this day, and adds warm water. earliest author who mentions the work is Possibly the custom may have been thus Eusebius, in his “ History,” Lib. III. scrupulously observed by many, from a C. 25, (unless, indeed, we suppose the desire to express more exactly the pre* Apostolical 'Canons” to have been cious blood-shedding which took place written before;) but, as Eusebius men- on the cross, and which was not, it may tions them among spurious works in cir- be observed, an effusion of blood alone, culation, the fact seems to imply that but of water and blood. That this cirthey must have been long in existence. cumstance should have been so dwelt on, For, had they been a forgery of Euse- will hardly be wondered at, when we bius's day, the author of them would consider the solemn manner in which St. probably have been known to him, and John delivers his testimony to the fact: therefore have been exposed. Their con- “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced tinued interpolation, even to a subsequent his side, and forth with came thereout period, is possible and likely.
blood and water. And he that saw it 97 Ignat. Ep. ad Smyrn. C. 8.
bare record, and his record is true; and 98 The addition of water to the sacra- he knoweth that he saith true, that ye mental elements, of which occasional