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IV. Another, and a main part of the priest's office, is the administration of the holy sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
First, for Baptism; the church strictly requires that it be performed publicly, in the house of God, not in private houses, except in case of real necessity; as when a child is weak, and cannot without endangering itself be brought to church. But notwithstanding this strict order of our church, in most places in this country, baptism is altogether administered in private houses, and scarce any (if any) baptized in the church. If this may be allowed, away with the fonts in your churches; what do they signify? to what purpose are they there? If all the authority I am invested with can do it, I will see this lamentable abuse of the sacrament of Baptism reformed.
But farther observe, that as our church strictly requires that baptism be administered in public, so it advises that it be performed (if conveniently it may be) on the Lord's day, in a full congregation of Christian people. Hear the words of the rubric.
The people are to be admonished that it is most “ convenient that baptism should not be adminis“ tered but upon Sundays and other holydays, when “ the most number of people come together; as well “ for that the congregation there present may testify “ the receiving of them that be newly baptized into “ the number of Christ's church, as also because in “ the baptism of infants every man present may be
put in remembrance of his own profession made to “God in baptism.”
I take leave to add, that it is most for the interest of the infant to be so baptized, that it may have the benefit of the united prayers of a full Christian congregation, which is much to be valued. Methinks there should be no need of urging this to parents, that have any real love or affection to their children: this would incline them to desire that themselves, which the church desires of them. Remember, I beseech you, that your children are to be but once baptized; and what is but once done, ought to be well done, in the best and most perfect manner.
To come to the other sacrament, the Eucharist, or holy Supper; this is the most sacred and mysterious rite, the apex, the top and perfection of Christian worship, as the ancients term it, and therefore it ought to be performed with the greatest reverence and solemnity in every punctilio of it, according to the direction of our church in her rubric to the Communion Office. But this you are especially to take care of, that you administer not the holy sacrament to persons known to be vicious and scandalous. Hear the rubric of the church to this purpose, viz.
“ So many as intend to be partakers of the holy “ communion, shall signify their names to the curate “ at least some time the day before. And if any of
those be an open and notorious evil liver, or have “ done any wrong to his neighbours, by word or deed, “ so that the congregation be thereby offended; the “curate having knowledge thereof sball call him, “ and advertise him, that in any wise he presume not “ to come to the Lord's table, until he hath openly de“clared himself to have truly repented and amended “ bis former naughty life, that the congregation may
thereby be satisfied which before were offended, “ and that he hath recompensed the parties to whom “ he hath done wrong, or at least to declare himself “ to be in full purpose so to do, as soon as he conve“ niently may."
I am not ignorant, that there are some who plead for a free admission to the Lord's table of all that are members of the visible church, and not yet excommunicated; and exclaim against the exclusion of men from the holy communion, as a device and usurpation of the presbyterians and other sectaries : but these men are grossly mistaken, for you see it is the express order of our church. I add, that the same order was observed in the primitive and apostolical cliurches. For Justin Martyr, who flourished within forty years after the apostolic age, (i. e. after the death of St. John the apostle,) in his second Apologyb tells us, that in his time none were admitted to the holy Eucharist, but those who lived according to the law of Christ. It is a received distinction among divines, that there is a twofold excommunication, excommunicatio major et minor, “the greater and “ the lesser excommunication.” The greater excommunication is an exclusion of a man from the communion of the church, and the public ordinances universally. The lesser excommunication is indeed in order to prevent the greater, and to bring men under the discipline and correction of the church for the amendment of their lives, that so at length they may be fit to be admitted to the holy communion.
So our church informs us in her rubric to the Communion Office, where the minister, repelling any from the communion, is required “ to give an account thereof to the ordinary within fourteen days
[i. e. the first Apology, ($.66.) according to the later editions.]
“ after at the farthest ; and the ordinary shall pro“ ceed against the offending person according to the canon.”
So much for the administration of the holy sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
V. I come to the fifth and last part of the pastoral office, viz., visiting the sick. For this we have an express command in the holy Scriptures, James v. 14. Is any sick among you ? let him call for the elders of the church; i. e. the presbyters of the church; as supposing they may not otherwise have notice of his sickness. Sick men too commonly neglect this duty; oftentimes out of fear, proceeding from an evil conscience. They look upon the minister's coming to their sick-bed, as a kind of a messenger of death, for which they are not so well prepared. But if the sick man does not send for his minister, the minister (having other notice of his sickness) ought to go to him without being sent for.
How to perform this duty towards sick men aright, our church fully directs him in her excellent Office of the Visitation of the Sick, which is so full and fect, that there needs nothing to be added to it.
But observe farther, that it is the pastor's duty to visit his parishioners, not only when they are sick, but also when they are well and in good health ; not only with common neighbourly visits, but visiting them to the purposes of salvation. He should sometimes go home to their houses, and minister to their souls in private; mildly reproving them for what faults he observes in them, admonishing them of such duties as he knows them to be ignorant of; as not coming constantly to church, not frequenting the communion, and the like. He is there seriously to call upon them, to mind them of the great concern
of their immortal souls in time to prepare for sickness and death, and the tremendous judgment that follows. Such particular private applications of the minister to his parishioners are highly useful, and will render the public ordinances more beneficial to them.
To you, my brethren of the clergy, I shall conclude all I have to say, in a short but serious and affectionate exhortation.
1. In the first place, and above all things, follow after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Holiness is a qualification indispensably required in every Christian, and that sub periculo animæ, “ as he hopes to be saved,” and to see the face of God in heaven. And can it be imagined that a minister of God should be saved without it? Nay, he is obliged to holiness in a double capacity, both as a Christian and as a minister. As a minister, his calling obliges him to be almost perpetually conversant about holy things; which he profanes, if he be not himself an holy person. He profanes God's holy worship, his holy word, and his holy sacraments; and God will most certainly and severely punish such profaners of his sacred things.
Nay, a minister of God is obliged to an exemplary holiness. Epiphanius tells us, that the duty of the laity is, Tò oúmnet pov kai tò ouyywotòv, a more moderate measure of piety, suited to their capacity, and tempered with a greater indulgence and mercy. But from the clergy is expected ή περί πάντων ακριβοXoyía, a more exact and accurate course of life in all things. And St. Paul speaks to the same purpose, when he charges Titus to shew himself in all things an example or pattern of good works, Titus ii. 7.