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mise, that if we ask, we shall receive." 2 But these, not being such actions as figure out and represent the benefits which they derive to us, though they are means of grace, are not signs of it; and therefore do not come under the notion of sacra. ments. But,
5. A sacrament is not only a sign or representation of some heavenly favour, and a means whereby we receive it; but also “ a pledge to assure • us thereof."
Not that any thing can give us a greater assurance, in point of reason, blessing from God, than his bare promise can do ; but such observances, appointed in token of his promises, affect our imaginations with a stronger sense of them; and make a deeper and more lasting, and therefore more useful impression on our minds. For this cause, in all nations of the world, representations by actions have ever been used, as well as words, upon solemn occasions; especially upon entering into and renewing treaties and covenants with each other. And therefore in condescension to a practice, which, being su universal among men, appears to be founded in the nature of man, God hath graciously added to his covenant also, the solemnity of certain outward instructive performances ; by which he declares to us, that as surely as our bodies are washed by water, and nourished by bread broken, and wine poured forth and received; so surely are our souls purified from sin by the baptism of repentance; and strengthened in all goodness, by partaking of that mercy, which the wounding of ihe body of Christ, and the shedding of his blood, hath obtained for us. And thus these religious actions, so far as they are performed by God's minister, in pursuance of his appointment, are an earnest pledge on his part, which (as I observed
(2) John xvi. 24.
to you) was one ancient signification of the word sacrament; and so far as we join in them, they are an obligation, binding like an oath, on our part, as shall hereafter be shown
which was the other primitive meaning of the word.
Having thus explained to you the description of a sacrament given in the Catechism ; let us now consider, what things we have in our religion that answer to it. For the Papists reckon no less than seven sacraments. And though this number was not named for above a thousand
after Christ, nor fixed by the authority of even their own church, till two hundred years ago, that is, since the Reformation; yet now they accuse us for not agreeing with them in it, but acknowledging only two.
The first of their five is Confirmation. And if this be a sacrament, we administer it as well as they ; indeed, much more agreeably to the original practice; and are therefore entitled, at least, to the same benefit from it. But though Christ did indeed - put his hands on children, and blessed “ them;" 3 yet we do not read that he appointed this particular ceremony for a means of conveying grace. And though the Apostle did use it after him, as others had done before him; yet there is no foundation to ascribe any separate efficacy to the laying on of hands, as distinct from the prayers that accompany it; or to look upon the whole of confirmation as any thing else, than a solemn manner of persons taking upon themselves their baptismal vow, followed by the solemn addresses of the bishop and the congregation, that they may ever keep it; in which addresses, laying on of hands is used, partly as a mark of good-will to the person for whom the prayers are offered up; and partly also as a sign, that the fatherly hand of
(3) Mark X. 16.
God is over all who undertake to serve him; yet without any claim of conveying his grace particularly by it; but only with intention of praying for his grace along with it; which prayers, however, we have so just ground to hope he will hear, that they who neglect this ordinance, though not a sacrament, are greatly wanting both to their interest and their duty.
Another sacrament of the Church of Rome is Penance; which they make to consist of particular confession to the priest, of every deadly sin, particular absolution from him, and such acts of devotion, mortification, or charity, as he shall think fit to enjoin. But no one part of this being required in Scripture, much less any outward sign of it appointed, or any inward grace annexed to it; there is nothing in the whole that hath
any appearance of a sacrament; but too much suspicion of a contrivance to gain undue influence and power.
A third sacrament of theirs is Extreme Unction. But their plea for it is no more than this. St. James, at a time when miraculous gifts were common, directed “the elders of the church,” who usually had those gifts, “ to anoint the sick with "oil;" 4 as we read the disciples did, whilst our Saviour was on earth ; 5 in order to obtain by the
prayer of faith, that faith which could remove “mountains," the recovery, if God saw fit, of their bodily health; and the forgiveness of those sins for which their disease was inflicted, if they had committed any such. And upon this, the Church of Rome, now all such miraculous gifts are ceased, continues notwithstanding to anoint the sick, for a quite different purpose : not at all for the recovery of their health; for they do not use it till they think them very nearly, if not quite,
(4) James v. 14, 15.
(5) Mark vi. 13. (6) Matth. xvii. 20. xxi. 21. Mark xi. 23.
past recovery: nor indeed for the pardon of their sins, for these, they say, are pardoned upon confession, which commonly is made before it ; but chiefly, as themselves own, to procure composedness and courage in the hour of death: a pur. pose not only unmentioned by St. James, but in-. consistent with the purpose of recovery, which he doth mention, and very often impossible to be attained; for they frequently anoint persons after they are became entirely senseless. And yet, in spite of all these things, they will needs have this practice owned for a sacrament; which indeed is now, as they manage it, a mere piece of superstition.
Another thing which they esteem a Christian sacrament, is Matrimony: though it was ordained, not by Christ, but long before his appearance on earth, in the time of man's innocency; and hath no outward sign appointed in it, as a means and pledge of inward grace. But the whole matter is, that they have happened most ridiculously to mistake their own Latin translation of the New Tes. tament: where St. Paul, having compared the union between the first married pair, Adam and Eve, to that between Christ, the second Adam, and his spouse the church ; and having said that “this is a great mystery;" 7 a figure, or comparison, rot fully and commonly understood ; the old interpreter, whose version they use, for mystery hath put sacrament: which in his days, as I said before, signified any thing in religion that carried a hidden meaning; and they have understood him of what we now call a sacrament. Whereas if every thing that once had that name in the larger sense of the word, were at present to have it in the stricter sense ; there would be a hundred sacraments, instead of the seven, which they pretend there are.
7) Eph. v. 32.
The fifth and last thing, which they wrongly insist on our honouring with this title, is Holy Orders. But, as there are three orders in the church, bishops, priests, and deacons ; here would be three sacraments, if there were any : but indeed there is none. For the laying on of hands in ordination is neither appointed, nor used, to convey or signify any spiritual grace; but only to confer a right of executing such an office in the church of Christ. And though prayers, for God's grace and blessing on the persons ordained, are indeed very justly and usefully added ; and will certainly be heard, unless the person be unworthy: yet these prayers, on this occasion, no more make what is done a sacrament, than any other prayers for God's grace, on any other occasion.
However, as I have already said of Confirmation, so I say now of Orders and Marriage, if they were sacraments, they would be as much so to us, as to the Romanists, whether we call them sacraments, or not. And if we used the name ever so erroneously, indeed if we never used it all; as the Scripture hath never used it; that could do us no harm, provided, under any name, we believe but the things which Christ hath taught; and do but the things which he hath commanded; for on this, and this alone, depends our acceptance, and eternal salvation.
'Of Baptism. HAVING already explained to you the nature of a sacrament; and shown you, that five of the seven things, which the Church of Rome calls by that name, are not entitled to it; there remain