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under a vain excuse, complaining of an obstacle which we take no pains to remove. If we are unfit for the Lord's supper here, we are not less unfit for the supper of the Lamb in glory.
Consider, those of you who have been brought to love Christ, how very wrong it is to neglect the last command he gave to his disciples,—“Do this in remembrance of
And if that soul was to be cut off from the people of God who neglected to celebrate the passover (which was a type of the Lord's supper,) Exod. xii. 19; of how much sorer puishment, suppose ye, shall we be thought worthy, if we trample under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant wherewith we are sanctified, an unholy thing ? Heb. x. 29. Slight the condescending grace of your Redeemer no longer-accept the invitation to his table which has so often been held out to you. Ask him to prepare you to draw nigh, for the preparation of the heart is of God : and though you may be now weak in faith, yet by waiting upon him in this ordinance, your strength shall be renewed as the eagle's: you shall run and not be weary; you shall walk and not faint.
Now THE GOD OF PEACE, THAT BROUGHT AGAIN FROM
THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS, THAT GREAT SHEPHERD
ELEMENTARY instruction is of course of primary and essential importance to the acquisition of all knowledge. “ With religion," Hooker remarks, “it fareth as with other sciences, the first delivery of the elements thereof must for like consideration be framed according to the weak and slender capacity of young beginners; unto which manner of teaching principles in Christianity, the apostle in the sixth to the Hebrews is himself understood to allude."
This allusion occurs in the second verse of this chapter, where the apostle enumerates among
“ the principles of the doctrine Christ,” or the elementary principles of the gospel, “ the doctrine of baptisms.” By this we are probably to understand, as Hooker seems to have done, the doctrine or system of instruction which is connected with baptisms, of which the principles enumerated formed a part. Thus the “ baptism of John" (Acts xix. 3) was his doctrine, or the principles of religion which he taught. Thus the Israelites are said to have been “baptized unto Moses,” that is into “the doctrine taught by Moses."* Dr. Owen represents the most general interpretation of this passage, (to which he himself adheres,) “ as if the apostle had said, these principles of the doctrine of Christ, namely, repentance, faith, the resurrection and judgment, are those doctrines wherein they are to be instructed, who are to be baptized, and to have hands laid on them ..... These, being the catechetical rudiments of Christian religion, are called here διδαχη βαπτισμων κ. τ. λ. or the doctrines that were to be taught in order to the administration of those rites. . . . All persons, who began to attend to the gospel,
† Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
were diligently instructed in the forementioned principles, with others of a like nature, (for they are mentioned only as instances,) before they were admitted to a participation of this ordinance, with imposition of hands that ensued thereon ; these, therefore, are called, the doctrine of baptism,' or the catechetical, fundamental truths, wherein those to be baptized were instructed, as being the things whereof they were to make a solemn profession.”
Dr. Owen expresses the belief that, at an early period of the Church, adults on their first hearing of the gospel received such instruction as this previously to baptism, while the children of believers were admitted to baptism in infancy, and instructed as soon as they grew up to years of understanding. After expressing this view, he proceeds with the following remarks, in which, if Bishop be substituted for Elder, we shall have a just account of the practice of the primitive Church.
“ Afterwards, when they were established in the knowledge of these necessary truths, and had resolved on personal obedience to the gospel, they were offered to the fellowship of the faithful; and hereon, giving the same account of their faith and repentance which others had done before they were baptized, they were admitted into the communion of the Church, the elders thereof laying their hands on them in token of their acceptation, and praying for their confirmation in the faith. Hence the same doctrines became previously necessary to both these rites; before baptism to them that were adult, and towards them who were baptized in infancy before the imposition of hands. And I acknowledge that this was the state of things in the apostolical churches, and that it ought to be so in all others. Persons baptized in their infancy ought to be instructed in the fundamental principles of religion, and make profession of their own faith and repentance, before they are admitted into the society of any particular Church.”
Dr. Owen, as has been remarked, admits this to have been the state of things at an early period of the Church, but not, as must in justice to him be remarked, so early as the time of writing the epistle to the Hebrews. He thinks that “the whole business of confirmation is of a much later date, so that it cannot be here intended.”
Upon this conjecture, (in opposition to recorded apostolical practice,) it is not within the scope of the present remarks to speak. Our concern is only with the representation of facts as existing in the “apostolical churches," and which, it may be observed in passing, constitute in every particular, except the grade of the administrator, precisely what is now called confirmation. In the opinion of Dr. Owen, the " laying on of hands” most probably has reference to the practice of the apostles, subsequent to baptism; but this, he thinks, was for the purpose of bestowing supernatural gifts.
As we proceed further on in the history of the Church, the materials for catechetical notices become very abundant. Heathen converts were invariably required to go through a course of catechetical instruction, before they were admitted to baptism. The children of believing parents, being baptized in infancy, were admitted catechumens as soon as they were capable of learning.
The former class of catechumens was generally subjected to a long probation, partly for the trial of their sincerity and stability, and partly that they might be instructed by degrees in the principles of true religion. Bingham, on whose authority these facts are stated, thus describes the usual system of catechetical instruction.*
“ They usually began their discourses with the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins, and the necessity of good works, and the nature and use of baptism, by which the catechumens were taught, how they were to renounce the devil and his works, and enter into a new covenant with God. Then followed the explication of the several articles of the creed, to which some added the nature and immortality of the soul, and an account of the canonical books of Scripture, which is the substance and method of St. Cyril's eighteen famous discourses to the catechumens.”
A part of the instruction of catechumens in the primitive Church consisted in the reading of the Scriptures, a fact which presents a striking contrast to the more modern system of a Church calling itself catholic, but catholic only in name. Bingham says,
• It is observable that no Church anciently denied any
* Antiquities of the Christian Church, Book x.