« ForrigeFortsæt »
IT is a peculiar excellency of our religion, that it Cypr. Ep. doth not much employ men's care, pains, and time about matters of ceremonial observance; but doth chiefly (and in a manner wholly) exercise them in works of substantial duty, agreeable to reason, perfective of man's nature, productive of true glory to God, and solid benefit to men. Its design is not to amuse our fancies with empty shows, nor to take up our endeavours in fruitless performances; but to render us truly good, and like unto God; first in interior disposition of mind, then in exterior practice; full of hearty love and reverence to God, of tender charity and good-will toward men; of moderation and purity in the enjoyment of these things; of all true piety and virtue; whereby we may become qualified for that life of bliss which it tendereth and promiseth; for conversation in that holy society above, to which it designeth and calleth us. Yet because fancy is naturally a medium, and an effec- It hath, tual instrument of action; and because sensible objects are apt strongly to affect our minds; it hath gar and pleased the divine Wisdom to apply them, in fit mea- minds, a sure, and to sanctify them to those good purposes, cacy.
by appointing some few solemn and significant rites to be observed by us, being in their own nature proper and useful, and by God designed to declare his mind and gracious intents to us; to consign and convey his grace into our souls, to confirm our faith in him, to raise our devotion toward him, to quicken our resolutions of obeying his will; to enable and excite us to the practice of those great duties which he requireth of us; Our Lord Jesus Christ, saith St. Austin, hath subjected us to his gentle yoke and light burden; whence, with sacraments most few in number, most easy for observance, most excellent in signification, he bound together the society of new people: and, The mercy of God, saith he again, would have religion free, by the celebration of a most few and most clear sacraments.
Of these there appear two (and St. Austin in the place cited could instance in no more) of general and principal use, instituted by our Lord himself; which, because they represent to us somewhat not subject to sense, and have a secret influence upon us; because what is intended by them is not immediately discernible by what is done, without some explication, (their significancy being not wholly grounded in nature, but depending upon arbitrary institution, as that of words, which is of kin to them; whence
a Dominus noster leni jugo suo nos subdidit, et sarcinæ levi; unde sacramentis numero paucissimis, observatione facillimis, significatione præstantissimis societatem novi populi colligavit ; sicut est baptismus Trinitatis nomine consecratus, communicatio corporis et sanguinis ipsius; et si quid aliud in scripturis canonicis commendatur, &c. Ep. 118. Religionem paucissimis et manifestissimis celebrationum sacramentis misericordia Dei liberam esse voluit. Id. Ep. 119.
St. Austin calls a sacrament, Verbum visibile,) have usually been called mysteries, (that is, actions of a close and occult importance, of deeper meaning and design than is obvious to ordinary perception ;) and thence are also called sacraments, for no other reason, I conceive, than because the ancientest translators of the Bible into Latin did usually render the word μvorpio by the word sacramentum; whence every thing containing under it somewhat of abstruse meaning is by ancient writers termed a sacrament. (So Tertullian calls all Christianity the Exod. xii. sacrament of Christian religion; and Elisha's axe he Sacramenti calls the sacrament of wood; and St. Austin speaks serte et of the sacrament of bread, of fish, of numbers, of the plane exprimitur. rock, &c. In short, he says of all signs, that when they belong to divine things, they are called sacraments; which shews to how small purpose the disputes are, yea, on what small grounds the decrees are, concerning the number, general nature, and efficacy of sacraments: for where a name or form of a sacrament is of so large, ambiguous, and indeterminate signification, there can be nothing but confusion in the disputes about it.) But those which chiefly at least, and in way of eminency, have obtained this name, are those two instituted by our Lord, Baptism and the Lord's Supper; of which I shall in order discourse; and so of each, as very briefly to consider the occasion of their institution;
Nimis autem longum est convenienter disputare de varietate signorum, quæ, cum ad rès divinas pertinent, Sacramenta appellantur. Aug. Ep. 5.
In cunctis Christi actionibus sacramentorum mysteria corruscarunt. Leo i. Ep. 4.
the actions enjoined in them; the nature of them, or wherein their mystery doth consist; the ends for which they were intended; and the effects they produce; together with the dispositions and duties (antecedent, concomitant, and consequent) required of us in the use and practice of them. And first,