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The particular subject on which I design to address you is the DOCTRINE of SACRAMENTS, especially those of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as required to be observed by the church of Christ under the evangelical dispensation.
This is a subject at once deeply interesting to... me, and highly important to you. No act of worship in which the church on earth engages is more solemn in its nature, or connected with more high and sacred responsibilities, than the administration and reception of sealing ordinances. The dedication of our tender offspring to the living God in baptism, and the consecration of ourselves to Him at the Redeemer's table, are scenes which may well engage the attention, and interest the feelings of the angels of glory; and which nothing but the most consummate depravity can treat with irreverence, or even contemplate with indifference..
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are not human institutions-they are not customs of the church handed down by parents to their children,—they are holy ordinances of God's house, established by the authority of Jesus Christ, who will shortly be your Judge and my Judge: And as you have made it one of the stipulations of the call you have given me, that I shall "administer the holy sacraments · agreeably to the institution of Christ," nothing can be more proper than that we should enquire what the will of Christ, in relation to these institutions, is ? To me, moreover, there appears to be a peculiar necessity for this. The state of things among us.
loudly calls for such an investigation. For it is too evident to be denied, that not a few among us feel a strong desire to enjoy the external rites of sacraments, without manifesting a proper concern as to the manner in which they are dispensed. Such, it would certainly be desirable to convince that sacraments can be of no use to us, or our children; if administered contrary to the direction of their Divine Author, and in a way which profanes them, and dishonours and insults Him.-Instead of securing blessings, they must draw down curses. Jesus Christ cannot smile on an act, upon which his holiness requires him to frown. If we commune unworthily, "we eat and drink judgment to ourselves." And if we make an improper, unworthy, and hypocritical presentation of our children, we no less expose ourselves, and our children too, to the sore displeasure of that God, who has declared himself jealous of his honour, and who has loudly proclaimed that he will be sanctified in all those who approach him, and before all the people he will be glorified" Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord forever." "This is the law of the house; upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof, round about, shall BE MOST HOLY. Behold, this is the law of the house!"* "To the wicked God saith,. what hast thou to do that thou-shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?"
Further: Let it be remembered, that neither the number of baptisms, nor even the number of communicants, in any church, can of themselves furnish evidence of the true prosperity of that church; but may, on the contrary, furnish matter of awful boding and fearful apprehension to the pious and contemplative mind; for if it should happen that the sacraments are perverted and profaned, the guilty individuals will not only be punished, but the church, in which such profanations are tolerated, must speedily sink into decay and ruin. She may, indeed, for a while retain the form of godliness; but even that cannot long survive the wreck of holiness, and the desecration of sealing ordinances.
And, brethren, are we not in imminent danger of falling into this condemnation? Nay; are we not already ripe for vengeance? You have engaged me to administer the supper four times in the course of every year; while you need not be told, that applications for baptism are very numerous, as might be expected, in a congregation including more than three hundred families, and in which almost every parent judges himself entitled, and qualified to offer up his child in that holy ordinance. "Let us search and try our ways." "Wash you, make you clean: Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well.*
I, therefore, earnestly request and beseech you to examine what may be advanced in relation to these
*Isa. i. 16, 17,
matters, in the light of God's word, under a deep impression that eternal consequences are at stake, and with a prayerful heart for the teachings of that Spirit, whose office it is to lead into all truth.
Not only permit this little work to enter your dwellings; but give it an attentive, serious, and prayerful perusal. Compare the sentiments which are advanced, with the word of God, and the standards of our church, which, as you profess to believe, are founded on the word of God. Decide not upon the matters herein set forth under the influence of the prejudices of education, or the force of practices which the following investigation may prove to have been incorrect, unscriptural, and wicked; but go to the law and the testimony. Search the scriptures, and see whether these things be so. Weigh every thing you find here in the balance of the sanctuary. Let God be true, and every man a liar!
One word more, and I close this introductory paper. I hope that you will accept this attempt to serve you as a labour of love; and be assured that: the religious public, and the God of the religious public, will only consider it as evidence of your unkindness and ingratitude if you judge me to be your enemy, because I tell you the truth.
May the blessing of Abraham's God, who is also the God of Abraham's seed, rest upon you and upon
Montgomery, Sept. 1, 1823.
The term Sacrament-Nature of sacraments in general-Sacraments of the Old Testament-Circumcision, and the Passover.
HIGH importance is deservedly attached to scripture terms in discussions relating to the doctrines or institutions of religion. No reasonable objection, however, can be urged against the use of any term, as a matter of convenience, which is evidently and entirely scriptural in its signification. The term Trinity is no where found in the inspired volume; and yet it so completely expresses the meaning of that remarkable passage* "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one," that every friend of the Bible must be convinced that nothing is lost, while much is gained, by its adoption. A tedious circumlocution is avoided, without the least prejudice to the cause of truth.
A similar remark may be made concerning the term sacrament, which we now propose to consider. That it does not occur in the Bible, you are perfectly aware; and the fact that it conveys no other idea than what scripture justifies and sanctions, you are prepared to consider, a sufficient warrant for its early
* 1 Jo. v. 7..