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word is taken from one of the learned languages, and signifies answerers, or those who engage to answer for another: so that godfathers and godmothers, sponsors or sureties, are terms or titles signifying one and the same office.
It is not allowed by the Church (except on very particular occasions indeed) that the paTents should supply the place of sponsors. Among the Dissenters the case is different: they allege that none can be so proper as the parents themselves, which certainly cannot be denied, if they were all willing and able to do their duty in this essential article: but we act on still surer ground; for, though we charitably hope all parents will do this, to the best of their power, and therefore there is less occasion publicly to call upon them and bind them to it; yet we know they are but mortal, as well as their children; and therefore to provide, as much as the nature of things and propriety will allow, against any loss to the infant, in case of that misfortune, the wisdom of the Church hath tenderly appointed the benefit of other sponsors, who are bound solemnly to see that the child be taught the first principles of its faith, in case the parents should die-or to remind and assist them, if they are careless in the task and duty laid upon them, or unequal to it. An objection may here be started, that perhaps some sponsors are as ignorant and thoughtless as some parents : to
which we reply, we can only make the best pro-
“ Wherein I was made a member of Christ,” &c. This includes much serious observation.
To be a member of any thing, is an expression that denotes our near relationship. It cannot be more forcibly represented to you than by considering the benefit each member receives from our natural body, of which it is a part. To be a member of any particular society entitles the person to the privileges belonging in common to that society: to be a member of a church, or community of Christians, gives us a share in the blessings and benefits derived from such a religious institution : and to be a member of Christ holds forth to us the most glorious hope human creatures are capable of conceiving or enjoying. In this sense every Christianthat is, every true believer in Christ's Gospel every one belonging to the Christian church (which is Christ's mystical, or figurative body), is a member of that body; as the Apostle testifies, 1 Cor. xii. 27 : Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And to the same purpose, Eph. v. 30: We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones :that is, we are so intimately related to him, as to have a vital union with him, if so be our faith is pure. If, therefore, we are true members of Christ's body, as the virtue of the root is communicated to the branch, so we shall partake of all those graces and benefits which he
hath promised to those who abide in him. Take his own words in proof of it: As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine ; ye are the branches. As though he had said (to come nearer to the exposition of my subject), “I am the body, ye are the members ; the virtue that is in me, as the head, is communicated to you, who belong to it.” And, to convince us further of the great necessity and value of this membership or relationship, he proceeds in these words : He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch that is separated from its root, and withers : the only use of which is, for the fire. Now, there cannot be plainer or stronger words than these to declare the nature of our being “ MEMBERS OF CHRIST." And, to illustrate the sense in which we may take this title to ourselves in a state of infancy, we may borrow another scriptural figure; for, in like manner as a tender bud or scion is grafted into a stock, whence, in time, it is expected to bear fruit; so we are grafted into Christ's mystical body (the church) in baptism. We thereby become, as the Apostle observes, not only members of Christ's body, but members one of another-members in common of the whole true Christian community: so that, to be made members of Christ, when infants, is to receive the outward pledge or seal of God's entering into a second covenant with his creature; and to be a real member of Christ, after we are come of age to take one part of the covenant on ourselves, is, in two words, to be a REAL CHRISTIAN. For, as it is indisputable that no other effectual proof can be given of a branch belonging to any particular tree, but that it bears the fruit peculiar to the name, nature, and quality of the tree out of which it springs ; so, unless we show true signs of such virtues being in us, which mark the real character of the body to which we belong, and of which we were made members by the sacrament of baptism, we deceive our. selves, and the truth is not in us.
It may give us a further insight into the nature of this part of the second answer, if we pay due attention to the main word in the sentence, viz. if we consider that we are MADE members of Christ. Now, this clearly declares the free grace or favour of God in the act—which is a very important part of Christian doctrine. However we may discover signs of God's assisting grace when we come to years of maturity, it cannot be denied but that in this early stage we are totally incapable of improving by grace, or of resisting it ; so that the gift of God, at this particular period, seems to be confined to his adoption of the infant's spirit, which, through