Изображения страниц



[ocr errors]

their spirits, are sanctified by the Holy Ghost." And this was the certain and perpetual doctrine and custom of the church; insomuch, that, in the primitive churches, they would not suffer unbaptized persons so much as to see the consecration of the holy mysteries, as is to be seen in many ecclesiastical records. The reason of this is nothing, but the nature and analogy of the thing itself. For we first come to Christ by faith, and we first come to Christ by baptism; they are the two doors of the tabernacle, which our Lord hath pitched, and not man. By faith we desire to go in; and by baptism we are admitted. Faith knocks at the door; and baptism sets it open: but until we are in the house, we cannot be entertained at the master's table: they that are in the highways and hedges, must be called in, and come in at the doors, and they shall be feasted. The one is the moral entrance, and the other is the ritual. Faith is the door of Faith is the

the soul, and baptism is the door of the man. spiritual address to God, and baptism is the sacramental. Baptism is, like the pool of Siloam, appointed for healing; it is salutary and medicinal: but the Spirit of God is that great angel, that descends thither, and makes them virtual; and faith is the hand, that puts us in. So that faith alone does not do it; and, therefore, as the unbaptized must not communicate, so neither will baptism alone admit us; and, therefore, infants and innocents are yet uncapable. But that is the next inquiry.


Of communicating Infants.

. Question. Whether infants are to be admitted to the holy communion?

WHETHER the holy communion may be given to infants, hath been a great question in the church of God; which, in

f Dionys. Eccles. hierarch. Microlog. observ. Eccles. c. 51. in biblioth. Patr. Cabas. exposit. liturg. c. 15, 16. Germanus Patr, Const. in Rerum Eccles. Theoria. Durandus ration. Divin. offic. 14. & 1. 6. Albertus Magnus de officio Missæ, tract. 3. c. 23. Alcuinus de Divin, offic. Aquinas Summ. S. 4. 80, art. 4.

this instance, hath not been, as in others, divided by parties and single persons, but by whole ages; for from some of the earliest ages of the church, down to the time of Charles the Great, that is, for above six hundred years, the church of God did give the holy communion to newly baptized infants. St. Cyprian recounts a miracle of an infant, into whose mouth, when the parents had ignorantly and carelessly left -the babe, the Gentile priests had forced some of their idol sacrifice but when the minister of the church came to pour into the mouth the chalice of our Lord, it resisted, and, being overpowered, grew sick, and fell into convulsions. By which narrative the practice of the church of that age, is sufficiently declared. Of the matter of fact there is no question: but they went further.

The primitive church did believe it necessary to the salvation of infants. St. Austin believed that this doctrine and practice descended from the apostles; that without both the sacraments no person could come to life, or partake of the kingdom of heaven; which when he had endeavoured to prove largely, he infers this conclusion: It is in vain to promise salvation and life eternal to little children, unless they be baptized, and receive the body and blood of Christ; since the necessity of them both is attested by so many, so great, and so divine testimonies." And that this practice continued to the time of Charlemagne, appears by a constitution in his capitular, saying, "That the priest should always have the eucharist ready; that, when any one is sick, or when a child is weak, he may presently give him the communion, lest he die without it." And Alcuinus recites a canon, expressly charging, that "as soon as ever the infants are baptized, they should receive the holy communion before they

a Lib. de lapsis.

b Si ergo, ut tot et tanta Divina testimonia concinunt, nec salus nec vita æterna baptismo et corpore et sanguine Domini cuiquam expectanda sunt, frustra sine his promittitur parvulis. Lib. i. de peccat. merit. et remiss. c. 20. & c. 24. Vide eundem de verbis Apostoli, ad Bonif. Epist. 23. ad Vitalem Epist. 106. cont. duas epistol. Pelagian. lib. i. c. 22. & lib. iv. c. 4. lib. contra Julian. c. 2. & S. Cyprian. lib. iii. Test, ad Quirin, c. 25. Autor Hypognost. in operibus S. August. Idem ait expresse S. Paulinus Epist. Nolanns epist. 12, ad Severum. S. Cyril. Hieros. Catech, 3. c. 1. Idem dixit P. Innocentius. Capit. Caroli Mag. lib. 1. c. 161. Alcuin. lib. de divinis offic. Idem videre est in Ordine Romano, quem edidit Michael Hittorpius.

suck, or receive any other nourishment." The same also is used by the Greeks, by the Ethiopians, by the Bohemians and Moravians: and it is confessed by Maldonate, that the opinion of St. Austin and Innocentius, that the eucharist is necessary even to infants, prevailed in the church for six hundred years together.


But since the time of Charles the Great, that is, for above eight hundred years, this practice hath been omitted in the western churches generally; and in the council of Trent it was condemned as unfit, and all men commanded to believe, that though the ancient churches did do it upon some probable reasons, yet they did not believe it necessary. Concerning which, I shall not interrupt the usefulness which I intend in this discourse, by confuting the canon; though it be intolerable to command men to believe in a matter of fact contrary to their evidence, and to say that the fathers did not believe it to be necessary, when they say it is, and used it accordingly: yet because it relates to the use of this divine sacrament, I shall give this short account of it.

The church of Rome, and some few others, are the only refusers and condemners of this ancient and catholic practice; but, upon their grounds, they cannot reasonably deny it. 1. Because infants are, by them, affirmed to be capable of the grace and benefits of the eucharists; for to them who put no bar (as infants put none), the sacraments, by their inherent virtue, confer grace; and, therefore, particularly, it is affirmed, that if infants did now receive the eucharist, they should also receive grace with it: and, therefore, it is not unreasonable to give it to them, who, therefore, are capable of it, because it will do them benefit; and it is, consequently, upon these grounds, uncharitable to deny it:-for,

2. They allow the ground, upon the supposition of which the fathers did most reasonably proceed; and they only deny

c Maldonatus in Johan. 6. Num. 116.

a Vide Hierem. Petr. C. P. doctor. exhor. ad Germanos. Alvarez in itin. Ethiop. Joachimum Vadianum in notat. lib. i. fol. 14. de Sacram. Eucharistiæ, Concil. Trid. Sess. 21. Can. 4.

• Μόνον γὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ Θεὸς στηρίσκεται

̓Αγένητα ποιεῖν ὅσ ̓ ἂν ᾖ πεπραγμένα.

Agatho apud Aristot. ethic. vi. e. iii,—Wilkinson, p. 234.

Franc. à Victor. de Euchar. u. 75.

[ocr errors]

the conclusion. For, by the words of Christ, it is absolutely necessary to eat his flesh and drink his blood:" and if those words be understood of sacramental manducation (in which interpretation both the ancients and the church of Rome do consent), then it is absolutely necessary to communicate. For although there are other ways of eating his flesh, and drinking of his blood,' besides the sacramental manducation, yet Christ, in this place, meant no other; and if of this he spake when he said, 'Without doing this, we have no life in us,'-then it will not be sufficient to baptize them, though, in baptism, they should receive the same grace, as in the eucharist: because, abstracting from the benefit and grace of it, it is made necessary by the commandment,—and, by the will of God, it is become a means indispensably necessary to salvation. It is necessary by a necessity of the means, and a necessity of precept. True it is, that, in each of the sacraments, there is a proportion of the same effect, as I have already discoursed"; yet this cannot lessen the necessity, that is upon them both; for so Pharaoh's dream was doubled, not to signify divers events, but a double certainty. And, therefore, although children, even in baptism, are partakers of the death of Christ, and are incorporated into, and máde partakers, of his body,-yet because Christ hath made one as necessary as the other, and both for several proportions of the same reason,-the church of Rome must either quit the principle, or retain the consequent; for they have digged a ditch on both sides, and, on either hand, they are fallen into inconvenience. But it will be more material to consider the question, as it is in itself, and without relation to any schools of learning.-Therefore,

3. It is certain that, in Scripture, there is nothing, which directly forbids the giving the holy communion to infants. For though we are commanded to examine, and so to eat,yet this precept is not of itself necessary, but by reason of an introduced cause; just as they are commanded to believe and repent, who are to be baptized,—that is, persons that need it, and that can do it, they must: and infants, without examination, can as well receive the effect of the eucharist, as, without repentance, they can have the effect of baptism.

John, vi. 53. John, iii. 5.

Ch. i. sect. 5.

For if they be communicated, they and the whole assembly do declare the Lord's death;' for that is done by virtue of the whole solemnity, and it is done by the conjunct devotion of the whole community: it is done by the prayers and offices of the priest, and it is done by the action of every one that communicates: it is done in baptism, and yet they are baptized, who cannot, with their voices, publish the confession. Infants, indeed, cannot discern' the Lord's body; so neither can they discern truth from falsehood; an article of faith from an heretical doctrine: and yet to discern the one, is as much required, as to discern the other; but, in both, the case is equal; for they must discern when they can confound, or dishonour; but till they can do evil, they cannot be tied to do good. And it were hard to suppose the whole church of God, in her best and earliest times, to have continued, for above six hundred years, in a practical error; it will not well become our modesty to judge them without further inquiry, and greater evidence.

4. But as there is no prohibition of it, so no command for it. For as for the words of our blessed Lord recited by St. John', upon which the holy fathers did principally rely; they were spoken before the institution of both the sacraments, and indifferently relate to either; that is, indeed, to them both, as they are the ministries of faith; but to neither in themselves directly, or in any other proportion, or for any other cause. For faith is the principal that is there intended; for the whole analogy of the discourse, drawn forth of its clouds and allegory, infers only the necessity of being Christ's disciples, of living the life of grace,—of feeding in our hearts on Christ,-of living in him, and by him, and for him, and to him; which is the work of faith, and believing in Christ, as faith signifies the being of Christ's disciple*.


5. The thing itself, then, being left in the midst, and undetermined, it is in the power of the church to give it, or to deny it. For, in all things where Christ hath made no law, the church hath liberty to do that, which is most for the glory of God, and the edification of all Christian people. And, therefore, although the primitive church did confirm newly baptized persons, and communicate them; yet as with

[blocks in formation]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »