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God, who hath made no new covenant with dying persons distinct from the covenant of the living, hath also appointed no distinct sacraments for them, no other manner of usages but such as are common to all the spiritual necessities of living and healthful persons. In all the days of our religion, from our baptism to the resignation and delivery of our soul, God hath appointed his servants to minister to the necessities, and eternally to bless, and prudently to guide, and wisely to judge, concerning souls; and the Holy Ghost, that anointing from above, descends upon us in several effluxes, but ever by the ministries of the church. Our heads are anointed with that sacred unction, baptism, (not in ceremony, but in real and proper effect,) our foreheads in confirmation, our hands in ordinations, all our senses in the visitation of the sick; and all by the ministry of especially deputed and instructed persons: and we, who all our life-time derive blessings from the fountains of grace by the channels of ecclesiastical ministries, must do it then especially, when our needs are most pungent and actual. 1. We cannot give up our names to Christ, but the holy man that ministers in religion must enrol them, and present the persons and consign the grace: when we beg for God's Spirit the minister can best present our prayers, and by his advocation hallow our private desires and turn them into public and potent offices. 2. If we desire to be established and confirmed in the grace and religion of our baptism, the holy man whose hands are anointed by a special ordination to that and its symbolical purposes, lays his hands upon the catechumen, and the anointing from above descends by that ministry. 3. If we would eat the body and drink the blood of our Lord, we must address ourselves to the Lord's table, and he that stands there to bless and to minister can reach it forth and feed thy soul; and without his ministry thou canst not be nourished with that heavenly feast, nor thy body consigned to immortality, nor thy soul refreshed with the sacramental bread from heaven, except by spiritual suppletories in cases of necessity and an impossible communion. 4. If we have committed sins, the spiritual man is appointed to restore us, and to pray for us, and to receive our confessions, and to inquire into our wounds, and to infuse oil and remedy, and to pronounce pardon. 5. If we be cut off from the communion of the faithful by our own demerits, their holy hands must reconcile us and give us peace; they are our appointed comforters, our instructors, our ordinary judges; and, in the whole, what the children of Israel begged of Moses,148148Exod. xx. 19. - that God would no more speak to them alone, but by his servant Moses, lest they should be consumed - God, in compliance with our infirmities, hath of his own goodness established as a perpetual law in all ages of Christianity, that God will speak to us by his ministers, and our solemn prayers shall be made to him by their advocation, and his blessings descend from heaven by their hands, and our offices return thither by their presidencies, and our repentance shall be managed by them, and our pardon in many degrees ministered by them: God comforts us by their sermons, and reproves us by their discipline, and cuts off some by their severity, and reconciles others by their gentleness, and relieves us by their prayers, and instructs us by their discourses, and heals our sicknesses by their intercession presented to God, and united to Christ's advocation: and in all this they are no causes but servants of the will of God, instruments of the divine grace and order, stewards and dispensers of the mysteries, and appointed to our souls to serve and lead, and to help in all accidents, dangers, and necessities.
And they who received us in our baptism are also to carry us to our grave, and to take care that our end be as our life was or should have been; and therefore it is established as an apostolical rule, ‘Is any man sick among you? let him send for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him,149149James, v. 14. etc.
The sum of the duties and offices respectively implied in these words is in the following rules.
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