« VorigeDoorgaan »
notwithstanding all the hazards to which it may expose : them, and has declared, that unless we “confess him before
men,” he will not acknowledge us before his heavenly Father; it certainly behoves all Christians to take this, ás
well as every other method, of declaring, in a public manner, : their profession of Christianity. Moreover, as baptism is i generally administered in infancy, and is not the act of the
person baptized, it seems necessary that there should be some public act, by which those who are baptized in their infancy should openly, and in their own persons, declare
themselves Christians; and the most proper manner of doing 1. this is certainly the receiving of the Lord's supper.
According to the custom of the primitive church, a custom so ancient and uncontroverted, as, with me, to carry sufficient evidence of its having been an apostolical one, all persons who are baptized, children as well as others, should receive the Lord's supper. It is nothing less than the revival of this custom that will secure a general attendance upon this ordinance; and no objection can be made to it, except what may, with equal strength, be made to bringing children to public worship at all, since they are as incapable of understanding the one as the other. Nor would this ancient and useful custom have been ever laid aside, if it had not been for the introduction of a train of superstitious notions, which made this plain and simple ordinance appear continually more mysterious and awful; till, at length, the monstrous doctrine of transubstantiation was completely established.
Indeed, it is not a little remarkable, that the custom of giving the eucharist to children, was not finally abolished in any place till that doctrine had obtained the full sanction of the church of Rome ; and that it maintains its ground to this very day, in all those Christian churches which were never subject to that anti-christian power, whose spiritual usurpations and corruptions of the gospel have been immense, and have extended to almost every thing belonging to it.
Such, and so simple, is the Christian rite of the Lord's Supper. For surely, then, all who have any value for Christianity will attend upon it, as wearing the proper badge of their profession. Be the moral use of this rite more or less, or even nothing at all, yet that it was appointed to be observed by one who had a right to appoint it, viz. the Founder of our faith, cannot be questioned.
One reason why it is so much neglected, is evidently an indifference to Christianity, in consequence of which none of its ordinances will be attended upon, any farther than public decency requires. But with many this neglect is owing to a secret superstition, as if there was something peculiarly hazardous in attending upon it unworthily in consequence of the apostle Paul saying, in his account of it, that such would receive judgment to themselves; (for so it ought to be rendered, and not damnation, as in our version.) But from his account of the irregularities of the Corinthians in their celebration of this ordinance, it is evident that by unworthily he meant improperly, not distinguishing it from a common entertainment; and that by judgment he either simply meant censure, or some temporal judgment, with which he supposed that they were visited on that account. It has no reference whatever to the state of man after death. Our only danger arises from professing Christianity itself, without living as becomes Christians; and this obligation affects all who will call themselves Christians, whether they attend to this particular ordinance or not.
STUDY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
It will be inquired by what means the influence of the world can be counteracted, or by what means a due attention to Christian principles can be well secured. I answer, the principal means to effect this great purpose, and one that will naturally lead to every other, is a familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures. The zealous Christian will make these books his constant companions. With the pious Psalmist, “his delight will be in the law of the Lord, and in his law will he meditate day and night.”
Be assured that in reading the Scriptures ever so often, you will always find something new and interesting. Many difficulties you will, no doubt, meet with,
be pected in books of such great antiquity, written, many of them, in a language which is but imperfectly understood, and abounding with allusions to customs, with which we, in this part of the world, are unacquainted, and which, being in many respects the reverse of ours, will of course appear unnatural. But new light is thrown upon things of this nature every day. Many difficulties are already cleared up in the most satisfactory manner; and in the mean time every thing of this nature may be safely neglected, or referred to farther consideration, especially if you read for the purpose of moral improvement; the greatest part of the Bible being perfectly intelligible to every capacity, and in the highest degree useful and edifying.
A familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures will preserve upon the mind a lively sense of God and his moral govern
ment. It will continually bring into view, and give you a habit of contemplating the great plan of providence, respecting the designs of God in the creation of man, and his ultimate destination. You will by this means have a clearer view of the Divine wisdom and goodness in the government of the world, even in the most calamitous events, as in the corruption of true religion, as well as in the reformation of it. You will perceive signs of order in the present seemingly disordered state of things, and will rejoice in the prospect of the glorious completion of the scheme, in universal virtue and universal happiness. Such views of things as these, which will be perpetually suggested by the reading of the Scriptures, have the greatest tendency to ennoble and enlarge the mind, to raise our thoughts and affections above the low pursuits which wholly occupy and distract the minds of the bulk of mankind; they will inspire a most delightful serenity in the midst of the cares and troubles of life, and impart a joy which the world can neither give nor take away.
If, however, notwithstanding these recommendations, the Scriptures, and other works illustrative of their contents, have not engaged the attention, it behoves every person who really wishes to imbibe the spirit of Christianity, to make himself well acquainted with them, and to persist in the reading and study of them, till he finds himself interested in their contents, and imbibe the pious and benevolent temper which is so conspicuous in the writers. And how irksome soever, through disuse and other causes, the reading of the Scriptures, and of other books which have the same tendency, may for some time be, perseverance will overcome it; and then, if I may speak from experience, no reading will be so interesting or pleasing, and the satisfaction will increase with every fresh perusal.
This circumstance enables us to account for the peculiar pleasure that David and other pious Jews appear to have derived from reading the Scriptures. They had few other books; so that if they read at all, they must have read them
perpetually in their own houses, as well as have heard them constantly read in the synagogues, from the time that they had such places of public worship, which they certainly had from the time of the Babylonish Captivity. At this day, there are so many other books to engage the attention, that, in too many cases, they totally exclude the reading of that which is of infinitely more value than all the rest.
But whatever be the leisure that any person can command for reading, some portion of it should by all means be appropriated to that kind of reading, the object of which is to increase the knowledge which relates to our profession as Christians. And this will lead to a course of reading both
curious and interesting, especially such as makes us ac: quainted with the progress of Christianity in the world. No
kind of reading tends so much to counteract the influence of the world and its principles as the lives of eminent Christians; and most of all, the martyrs, whose piety, patience, and fortitude, in cheerfully abandoning life and every thing in it, for the sake of conscience, cannot fail to inspire something of the same excellent spirit ; and this once fully imbibed, will enable a man to behave as becomes a Christian in every situation, of prosperity as well as of adversity, in life or in death.
Compared to the strong feelings with which such works 3
as these are read by persons who have acquired a true relish
for them, all other reading is perfectly insipid ; and a truly : pious Christian, who has few books beside the Bible, has
little cause to envy the man of letters, in whose ample library the Bible is not to be found. What is there of pathetic address in all the writings of the admired ancients, compared to the Book of Deuteronomy by Moses? And what is all their poetry, compared to the Psalms of David, and some parts of Isaiah? And yet, such is the power of association and habit, that, by persons of a different education and turn of mind, those parts of Scripture which are by some read with emotions of the most exalted and pleas