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dispense with a part of that religion, and be as surely saved, by the remainder. Some have supposed, they might be saved, by only believing with their hearts, without confessing with their mouths; that by a silent, inward, unprofessed faith and piety, they could please God, and be accepted of him, without the observance of those outward institutions, by which according to his appointment, we declare ourselves to be members of his kingdom upon earth. Different motives and considerations; have led to this experiment, at successive periods of the Church. In the first ages, such was the offence of the Cross, and such the jeopardy into which life, and all which made life valuable on earth, was brought by a confession of Christ, that many were strongly tempted to seek the saving virtue of his religion, without exposing themselves and families to the loss of all things, by an open declaration of the faith. I need not tell you, my dear hearers, what condemnation such a cowardly spirit met with from him, of whom they hoped thus to obtain the salvation of their immortal souls, and how he solemnly forewarned them of an awful day, when all their expectations should perish, their fond hopes be disappointed, and when, before the assembled universe, he would be ashamed to own them, who had thus been ashamed to own him. In succeeding ages, there have been those, who, through false shame and the fear of ridicule, have fallen into the same error; and some there have
been, who, through humility, mingled with timidity, have shrunk from a profession of faith, lest they should afterwards bring reproach upon it. For these last, it becomes us to feel a greater degree of tenderness, and we should encourage them to make a good confession, at the same time warning them, how much loss of present peace they may suffer by delay, and how, perhaps, such neglect may lead to the loss of all.
We must warn all men, of the extreme temerity of attempting, in the great strife for eternity, to secure the crown of glory, with only a part of that whole “armor of God” which he has provided for his soldiers.
There is, doubtless, included in our text, a general confession of our faith, -on all suitable occasions, whether private or public. But since Christ, the great Head of the Church, has appointed certain public ordinances, as seals of the covenant, as means of grace, and modes of declaring our ailegiance to him, we may surely apply this passage to such, and call on those who desire to be saved through him, thus to worship and confess him-before men.
There are two ordinances of our holy religion, usually called sacraments, by the various denominations of Christians, which all agree to have been appointed by Christ himself, and by which we become fully connected with his Church and Kingdom-thus confessing him before men-I mean Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The for
ner, by the common consent of almost all denominations in every age, is applied to children, who are believed to be, according to the tenor of God's word, proper subjects for admission into Christ's Church. Parents, or other suitable persons, are permitted to present them to the Lord, according to solemn forms, and on the condition of doing all that in them lies to prepare them for an open profession of their faith, when they shall reach the years of discretion. The participation of the Lord's Supper, is one of those modes of confessing our Saviour, plainly enjoined in his word. In receiving candidates to this complete union with the Church of Christ, some suitable preparatory exercises, examination, and forms of admission, must, of course, be adopted by those to whom the government of Christ's Church and the administration of his ordinances are committed. These methods vary in different denominations of Christians. In some, the candidate is required to give an account of his conversion, his faith, and his hope, before the members of the Church, and is received or rejected by a vote of the same.
In others, such examination is conducted before a more select number, who decide on the admission or exclusion of the candidate. In others, this duty is confided more entirely to the Ministers, who, in private conference with the persons desiring to come to the communion, advise as may seem best. It is not our intention to express any opinion as to the real or compara
tive merit of these different modes which have been adopted to secure the important end of guarding the purity of the Churches, by excluding unworthy persons from the communion. God hath doubtless blessed them all, and made them more or less effectual to the end in view. Let me embrace this opportunity of stating the course which has seemed best to the Church, with which it is our privilege to be connected. At that interesting moment, when the children born within our communion are brought before the congregation to be presented unto God, and to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Church most solemnly enjoins it on those who have brought them and entered them into covenant with God, that they do henceforth direct their best efforts to the attainment of that great object to which baptism looks forward;—that they instruct these children in the true principles of religion,—that they teach them all things which are necessary to their soul's health: especially that they cause them to commit to memory, and to understand the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, and such other things as are contained in a certain Catechism, which is a brief summary of all that is required to be believed, felt, and done by us, in the Word of God. The Ministers of the Church also, are, by the canons and their ordination vows, under obligation to unite with the parents and sponsors in these instructions;
and all this is required, in order that nothing may be omitted which, by the blessing of God, may incline and assist the young, at the earliest period, to the attainment of true piety. Their parents and sponsors pledge them, at baptism, to a public declaration of the faith as soon as they shall reach the years of discretion. So soon as those years come it is looked for, and the Church has appointed a particular officer to call for it, and a solemn form by which it is to be made.The Bishop of every diocess is appointed to visit, as often as possible, the different congregations under his care, and to attend to this among other duties. Previous and timely notice of his visits, is to be given to the Ministers, in order that they may add to that general attention to the young, which is never to be relaxed, a special instruction and examination of them, with a view to the recognition and renewal of the baptismal vows. The Bishop, according to a prescribed and solemn form, demands of them, whether they do, in the sight of God and the congregation, renew the vow, promise, and profession, made for them in their infancy, and are resolved, by God's grace, to fulfil the same, during the remainder of their lives; to which each one is audibly to answer, "I do:" whereupon he lays his hands, according to an ancient and venerable ceremony, on the head of each one, and offers up a prayer for the same. But this must not be done for any, except those whose names have been presented by the