« VorigeDoorgaan »
rents, as we read in Scripture the Name of Jewish children was, but by our Godfathers and Godmothers. And this custom also may have a double advantage. It may admonish them, that having conferred the title of Christians upon us, they are bound to endeavour, that we may behave worthy of it. And it may admonish us, that our Name having been given us by persons who were our sureties, we are bound to make good their engagement.
But the office and use of Godfathers will be considered under one of the following questions:-The subject to be considered at present, though not fully, is Baptism. For this being our first entrance into the Christian Church, by which we become entitled to certain privileges, and obliged to certain duties; religious instruction begins very properly by teaching young persons, what both of them are; and in order to recommend the duties to us, the privileges are mentioned first.
Not but that God hath an absolute right to our observance of his laws, without informing us beforehand, what benefit we shall reapfrom it. Surely it would be enough to know, that he is Lord and King of the whole earth; and that all his dealings with the works of his hands are just and reasonable. Our business is to obey, and trust Him with the consequences. But in great mercy, to encourage and attract his poor creatures, he hath been pleased to enter into a covenant, a gracious agreement with man: subjecting himself, as it were, to bestow certain blessings on us, provided we perform certain conditions. But though in this covenant the promises, made on his part, flow from his own free goodness, yet the terms required on ours, are matters of necessary obligation and what was altogether voluntary in him, firmly binds us.'
(1) See Waterlands's Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, e. xi. p. 425.
Now the privileges, thus conditionally secured to us in Baptism, we find in our Catechism very fitly reduced to these three heads: that the person who receives it, is "therein made a member of Christ, "a child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom "of Heaven."
1. The first, and foundation of the others, is, that he is "made a member of Christ." This figure of speech all of you may not immediately understand; but when it is understood, you will perceive in it great strength and beauty. It pre-supposes, what we must be sensible of more or less, that we are every one originally prone to sin, and actually sinners, liable thence to punishment: and without hope of preserving ourselves, by our own strength, either from guilt or from misery. It further implies, what the Scripture clearly teaches, that Jesus Christ hath delivered us from both, in such manner as shall hereafter be explained to you, on the most equitable terms of our becoming his, by accepting him from the hand of God for our Saviour, our Teacher, and our Lord. This union to him, in order to receive these benefits from him, our Catechism, in conformity with the language of Holy Writ, compares with that of the members of the body to the head. And how proper the comparison is, will easily appear, by carrying it through the several particulars, in which the similitude holds.
As, in every living creature, perception and motion proceed from the head; so, to every Christian, knowledge of God's will, and power to obey it, flow from Christ. As the head governs and directs each limb, so Christ is the Sovereign and Lawgiver of each believer. As being joined to the head makes the whole body one animal frame; so being joined to Christ makes the whole number of Christians one spiritual society. As communication with the head preserves our natural life; so com
munication with Christ supports our religious life. He therefore is to the Church, what the head is to the body and each person, who belongs to the Church, is a member of that body, or, in the language of the Catechism, "a member of Christ." For he, as St. Paul expresses it, is "the head; "from which all the body, having nourishment "ministered, and knit together by joints and "bands, increaseth with the increase of God."2
And this manner of speaking is frequently repeated in Scripture, as it well deserves; being not only, as you as you have seen, admirably fitted to represent the happy relations in which we stand to our Redeemer, but also to remind us of our duties, which are derived from them: of the honour and obedience due to him, who is "head over all things to his body the Church;"3 of our continual dependance on him, "since he is our life;"4 and of the tenderness and kindness which we owe to our fellow Christians, and they to us, being all united through him, so intimately to each other. For since, as the Apostle argues, "by one Spirit we are "all baptized into one Body:" as in the natural body, the eye eye cannot say unto the hand, "I have "no need of thee," nor any one member to the rest, "I have no need of you;" but even the "feeble and less honourable members are neces"sary;" so in the spiritual body, they, who in any respect may seem to excel others, ought by no means despise them, since every good Christian is, in his proper degree and place, both a valuable and an useful member of Christ. And again: As in the natural body, there is a connexion and sympathy of the several parts, by which the good state of one preserves the others in health and ease, or its bad state gives them pain and disorder; so should there be in the spiritual body, and there is, in all true (4) Col. iii. 4.
(2) Col. ii. 19.
(3) Ephes. i. 22, 23.
members of it, a mutual caution not to do harm to each other, and amutual desire of each other's benefit. "If one member suffer, all the other members "should by a compassionate temper suffer with it; "and if one member be honoured, all the rest "should sincerely rejoice with it." Think, then, do you feel in your heart this good disposition, as a mark of being members of Christ? If not, study to form yourselves to it without delay.
2. The second privilege of Baptism is, that by it, we are made the children of God, in a sense and manner in which, by nature, we are not so.
Our blessed Saviour indeed is called in Scripture "the only begotten Son of God." Nor can the highest of creatures claim God for his Father by the same right that he doth. But in a lower sense, God is the Father of angels and men; whom he hath created in their several degrees of likeness to his own image. Adam, our first parent, was the Son of God by a strong resemblance to his heavenly Father in original uprightness. But as this similitude was greatly obscured both in him and in his descendants by the fall, though preserved by the covenant of the promised seed from being utterly effaced; so in time it was almost entirely lost amongst men, by the prevalence of sin; and they became in general "enemies of God, and chil"dren of the Devil."8
But our gracious Maker, pitying us notwithstanding, and treating us like children, even when thus degenerated, hath mercifully appointed a method for adopting us into his family again, after we have cast ourselves out of it; and for restoring and raising us gradually to the same and greater likeness to him, and favour with him, than even our first parents ever enjoyed. Now this inestimable blessing was procured for mankind through the
(6) 1 Cor. xii. 26. (7) Rom. v. 10. Col. i. 21. (8) 1 John ii. 10.
means of Jesus Christ, and we become entitled to it by taking him for our head, and becoming his members, in such manner as you have heard briefly explained. For "to as many as receive him, "to them he gives power to become the sons of "God, even to them that believe in his Name." Being therefore thus united to him, who is in the highest sense the Son of God; and claiming not in our own name, but under him; we are admitted again into such a degree of sonship as we are capa ble of, and made ❝ the children of God by faith in "Jesus Christ." 1
Indeed not only Christians, but the Jews, are called in Scripture "the children of God;" and such they really were; being first, as Christians were afterwards, the "children of the Covenant."3 But still, as theirs was a state of less knowledge, more burdensome precepts and stricter government; the Apostle speaks of them, compared with us, only as servants in his family. "Now I say that the heir,
as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a "servant, though he be lord of all. Even so we, (speaking of the Jewish Nation,) when we were children, (unqualified for any great degree of liberty,) were in bondage under the elements of "the world. But when the fulness of time was
come, God sent forth his Son to redeem them, "that were under the Law. Wherefore we are no 66 more servants but sons."4 "Behold then, (as "St. John expresses it,) what manner of love the "Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be "called, (in this distinguished sense,) the Sons of "God;" especially considering the consequences drawn by St. Paul," if children, then heirs; heirs "of God, and joint-heirs with Christ :" which is the
(2) Deut. xiv. 1.