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tent ourselves with our own private, retired, devotion, but know, that God requires this public testimony of our zeal; and the mote solemn our prayers are, He will reward them with the more plenteous mercies, and the more abundant Grace.
The third, and most immediate conveyance of Grace, which God has afforded us in the Christian Church, is in the holy Sacrament; whereby He pours down upon all worthy communicants, a more plentiful effusion of his Holy Spirit, in such a manner as is, indeed, unspeakable; but it is very visible in the effect.
Here God endows His servants with divine wisdom, to know their duty; and, with more than human strength to perform it: and gives them such increase of Grace, as shews, that it is, indeed, as the Apostle calls it, "the increase of God.”
Here our sins are, actually, forgiven, and our par. don sealed, and that Redemption, which our Saviour purchased for us by His precious Blood, is really, made over to our use.
Here “ the Word is again made flesh, and dwells
among us;" nay, dwells within us, and Grace is, as it were, incorporated into our very nature. Prayer is, indeed, a drawing up of the conveyance, but the Sac crament is an actual signing of the deed, and delivering it up into our hands.
And yet, I know not how it happens, that many men who do allow praying and preaching to be useful Ordinances, look upon the Sacrament as a ceremony only, which may be performed at pleasure, and omitted without offence. And therefore, they omit it, because, in their great wisdom, they do not
apprehend the reason of the command, nor see what benefit they shall receive thereby. When God appointed the Passover to the house of Israel, which was but a type of this blessed Sacrament, He commanded them to sprinkle their doorposts with the blood of the Paschal Lamb, that upon the sight of this blood, the destroying Angel might pass by. But, had any man refused this token, and said, that God knows how to distinguish His people well enough without it, he had certainly, and deservedly, perished among the unbelieving, obstinate, Egyptians. And, if any person now despises the use of the blessed Sacrament for the same cause, it is to be feared he will fall under the same condemnation. It is true, that God can save a man without it; but how do we know He will, especially, since He has appointed this very thing as a means of our Salvation ? And should we neglect to use them, and the destroying Angel should come upon us, our destruction is only from ourselves, our blood will be upon our own head. And therefore, to forbear the Sacrament upon this account, as too many among us do, is a dangerous, high presumption. But there are others, who err on the other hand, more out of dread, than disrespect; and forbear, because they think themselves unworthy. To whom, the properest answer is, that this forbearance is the way to keep them unworthy still. If we want Grace, where should we hope to get it, but at this holy Table, where God, liberally, dispenses His mercy to us, and gives us “every good and per“fect gift " If we know ourselves to be unworthy, and resolve to continue so; that is, if we are got into a Vol. III, G habit habit of any sin, and have no desires, or intentions, to break it off; then, receiving the Holy Communion is not only a needless, but an impious thing. It is profaning the Blood of Christ, and bringing the guilt of it upon ourselves. And therefore, such persons are admonished to forbear, till they come to “a “ better mind.” But as for casual, involuntary sins, sins of ignorance, or sins of infirmity, such as we are sorry for, and resolve against, and desire to be reclaimed from, they are so far from being a reasonable cause of keeping us from the Altar, that they are one principal cause why God erected His Altar among us, and commanded us to frequent it; namely, that we might have a place to fly unto for help, when our spirit is in danger to be overpowered by the flesh, and circumvented by the devil: that we might have frequent occasions to reflect on our lives past, and to censure all our actions, and to clear up our accounts with God, before we are so addicted to vicious courses, as to have but little power to repent, and less hopes to be forgiven. Thus I have shewed how the saints are perfected, and the body of Christ is edified, by the Ministry of Preaching, and Prayer, and Sacraments. And he that is serious in his attention, and constant in his attendance upon these sacred offices, will, no doubt, in time, “grow up to a persect man in Christ.” The last thing to be spoken of is, what regard we owe to the Church, where these sacred offices are performed; which Church, the Apostle, in the text, calls “ the body of Christ;” whence we may learn, that no member has life communicated to it from the head, but as it is in conjunction with the body: and, there5 fore,
fore, whosoever divides himself from a Church, where the pure Word of God is, orthodoxly, taught, and devout Prayers to God are, duly, made, and God's Holy Sacraments are, regularly, administered, that man, effectually, cuts himself off from the body, and so deprives himself of that spiritual nourishment which, by these offices, should be conveyed unto him: and then, “ Can these dry bones live ?”
Indeed, by the extraordinary power of God, they may. All God's promises of Grace and Salvation are made in general, only to the Body of Christ; and in particular, to those that are in communion with it. And, therefore, he that forsakes the communion, does, in effect, renounce the promise. All the ordinary current of God's mercy runs in the channel of his Chureh; there we may drink of living waters, and be satisfied; but, it is ill trusting to extraordinary showers, and by-streams, and “ broken cisterns, that 6 can hold no water.”
By the Church, we mean the body, or society of men, that are, regularly, united under Christ their Head, and their Pastor lawfully 'constituted under Christ; professing the true Christian faith, and performing the true Christian worship; holding all things that are necesary to Salvation, and holding nothing as necessary to Salvation, but what, really, is so.
And such a one, blessed be God, is the Church, whereof we are members; a Church, where the truth, and nothing but the truth, is made the object of our faith; where God, the true God, and only the true God, is made the object of our worship; and is, reverently, worshipped, with excellent unexceptionable Prayers, and regular uncorrupted Sacraments. Our
worship is primitive and pure; and our doctrines, by our enemies' own confession, are all apostolical : and, therefore, there is no reason for any man to leave the communion of this Church, upon account of her primciples, and constitution. And, as for those who separate from us, upon a pretence that they cannot edify, cannot profit by us; all the world will bear us witness, that this is a pretence indeed, but nothing else. If we do not profit under all these advantages, the fault is not in our Religion, but in ourselves. From such a Church, as we can go no where for purer worship, so we need go no where for better edification. If we do not * profit by all these means of Grace, nor find the spiritual nourishment ministered unto us, it is nothing but prejudice, and fancy, that debauches our appetite, and depraves our judgment; and such a prepossession of mind may make the most delicious, most nourishing, food in the world, insipid. At this rate, a man may except against our Saviour's most admirable Sermon on the Mount, and say, that it does not edify; or, against His most excellent Form of Prayer, and say, that it does not move us : nothing like those repeated cries, and af
* To the Church of England, no man, however great his obligations to her, is more attached, than myself: but I am here, from conviction, and a sense of duty, compelled to declare my dissent from the reasoning of this zealous, and eloquent writer : edification, when the Clergyman is not reverent in the discharge of his ministerial functions—independent of the service being tedious and redundant, from the circumstance of three services being united —was never, I believe, yet actually felt, and is not, reasonably, to be expected.