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CHAPTER LVIIOf the Difference between the Sacraments of the Old and of the New Law

THESE Sacraments, having their efficacy from the Passion of Christ, which they represent, must fall in and correspond with the salvation wrought by Christ. Before the Incarnation and Passion of Christ this salvation was promised, but not accomplished: it was wrought by the Incarnation and Passion of the Word. Therefore the Sacraments that preceded the Incarnation of Christ must have been such as to signify and promise salvation:968968But what was the use of this promise to men who were never to live to see the salvation of Christ? Were they to die in their sins? It is commonly replied that circumcision, the chief of the Sacraments of the Old Law, took away original sin, not of itself, but by virtue of the faith of them that performed it; whereas baptism is effectual of itself, even when conferred by a minister who does not believe in it, providing he confers it seriously and without maiming the rite. 384while the Sacraments that follow the Passion of Christ must be such as to render salvation to men, and not merely show it forth by signs.

This avoids the error of the Jews, who believe that the sacred rites of the Law must be observed for ever, because they were instituted by God, who repents not and changes not. There is no change or repentance about an arrangement, which arranges for different things to be done according to the fitness of different times; as the father of a family gives different commands to his son in his nonage and when he is come of age.969969A remark to remember, as bearing on the evolution of the moral law simultaneously with the evolution of society. Still more irrational was the error of those who said that the rites of the Law were to be observed along with the Gospel; an error indeed which is self-contradictory: for the observance of the Gospel rites is a profession that the Incarnation and the other mysteries of Christ are now accomplished; while the observance of the rites of the Law is a profession that they are still to be fulfilled.


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