« AnteriorContinuar »
hope of any thing further ? Some sort of belief, that Jesus is the Messiah, is a qualification properly requisite to a coming to the Lord's supper; and therefore it is necessary that we should have a charitable hope, that those have such a belief whom we admit; though it be not necessary that we should know it, it being what none can know of another. But as to grace or Christian piety, it clearly follows, on the principles which I oppose, that no kind of visibility or appearance, whether direct or indirect, whether to a greater or less degree, no charity or hope of it, have any thing at all to do in the affair of admission to the Lord's
supper ; for, according to them, it is properly a converting ordinance. What has any visibility or hope of a pern son being already in health to do in admitting him into an hospital for the use of those means that are appointed for the healing of the sick, and bringing them to health? And therefore it is needless here to dispute about the nature of visibility; and all arguing concerning a profession of Christian doctrines, and an orderly life, being a sufficient ground of public charity, and an obligation on the church to treat them as saints, are wholly impertinent and nothing to the purpose. For on the principles which I oppose, there is no need of any ground for treating them as saints, in order to admitting them to the Lord's supper, the very design of which is to make them saints, any more than there is need of some ground of treating a sick man as being a man in health, in order to admitting him into an hospital. Persons, by the doctrine that I oppose, are not taught to offer themselves as candidates for church communion under any such notion, or with any such pretence, as their being gracious persons ; and therefore surely when those that teach them, receive them to the ordinance, they do not receive them under any such notion, nor has any appearance, hope, or thought of it, any thing to do in the case.
The apostle speaks of the members of the Christian church, as those that made a profession of godliness. 2 Cor. ix. 13. “ They glorified Gud for your professed subjection to the gospel of Christ.” 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10. - In like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel--not with costly array ; but which becometh women professing godliness, with good works." The apostle is speaking of the women that were members of that great church of Ephesus, which Timothy for the present had the care of; and he speaks of them as supposing that they all professed godliness. By the allowance of all, profession is one thing belonging to the visibility of Christianity or holiness, in the members of the visible church. Visible holiness is an appearance or exhibition of holiness, by those things which are external, and so fall under our notice and observation. And these are two, viz. profession, and outward behaviour, agreeable
to that profession. That profession which belongs to visible saintship, must be a profession of godliness, or real saintship; for a profession makes nothing visible, beyond what is professed. What is it, to be a saint by profession, but to be by profession a true saint ? For to be by profession a false saint, is to be by profession no saint; and only to profess that, which if never so true, is nothing peculiar to a saint, is not to be a professing saint,
In order to man's being properly a professing Christian, he must profess the religion of Jesus Christ : And he surely does not profess the religion that was taught by Jesus Christ, if he leaves out of his profession the most essential things that belong to that religion. That which is most essential in that religion itself, the profession of that is essential in a profession of that religion; for (as I have observed elsewhere) that which is most essential in a thing, in order to its being truly denominated that thing, the same is essentially necessary to be expressed or signified in any exhibition or declaration of that thing, in order to its being truly denominated a declaration or exhibition of that thing. If we take a more inconsiderable part of Christ's religion, and leave out the main and most essential, surely what we bave, cannot be properly called the religion of Jesus Christ : So if we profess only a less important part, and are silent about the most important and essential part, it cannot be properly said that we profess the religion of Jesus Christ. And therefore we cannot in any propriety be said to profess Christ's religion, unless we profess those things wherein consist piety of heart, which is vastly the most important and essential part of that religion, and is in effect all; being that without which all the rest that belongs to it, is nothing, and wholly in vain. But they who are admitted to the Lord's supper, proceeding on the principles of those who hold it to be a converting ordinance, do in no respect profess Christian piety, neither in whole nor in part, neither explicitly nor implicitly, directly nor indirectly; and therefore are not professing Christians, or saints by profession. I mean, though they may be godly persons, yet as they come to the ordinance without professing godliness, they cannot properly be called professing saints.
Here it may be said, that although no explicit and formal profession of those things which belong to true piety, be required of them ; yet there are many things they do, that are a virtual and implicit profession of these things : Such as their owning the Christian covenant, their owning God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be their God; and by their visibly joining in the public prayers and singing God's praises, there is a shew and implicit profession of supreme respect to God and love to him; by joining in the public confessions, they make a shew of
repentance; by keeping sabbaths and hearing the word, they make a shew of a spirit of obedience; by offering to come to sacraments, they make a shew of love to Christ and a dependence on his sacrifice.
To this I answer; it is a great mistake, if any one imagines, that all these external performances are of the nature of a profession, of any thing that belongs to saving grace, as they are commonly used and understood. None of them are so, according to the doctrines that are taught and embraced, and the customs that are established in such churches as proceed on the footing of the principles forementioned. For what is professing, but exhibiting, uttering, or declaring, either by intelligible words, or by other established signs that are equivalent? But in such churches, neither their publicly saying, that they avouch God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be their God, and that they give themselves up to him,
and promise to obey all his commands, nor their coming to the Lord's supper, or to any other ordinances, are taken for expressions or signs, of any thing belonging to the essence of Christian piety. But on the contrary, the public doctrine, principle, and custom in such churches, establishes a diverse use of these words and signs. People are taught, that they may use them all, and not so much as make any pretence to the least degree of sanctifying grace; and this is the established custom. So they are used, and so they are understood. And therefore whatever some of these words and signs may in themselves most properly and naturally import, they entirely cease to be significations of any such thing among people accustomed to understand and use them otherwise; and so cease to be of the nature of a profession of Christian piety. There can be no such thing among such a people, as either an explicit or implicit profession of godliness by any thing which (by their established doctrine and custom) an unregenerate man may and ought to say and perform, knowing himself to be so. For let the words and actions otherwise signify what they will, yet people have in effect agreed among themselves, that persons who use them need not intend them so, and that others need not understand them so. And hence they cease to be of the nature of any pretension to grace. And surely it is an absurdity to say, that men openly and solemnly profess grace, and yet do not so much as pretend to it. If a certain people should agree, and it should be an established principle among them, that men might and ought to use such and such words to their neighbours, which according to their proper signification were a profession of entire love and devoted frendship towards the man they speak to, and yet not think that he has any love in his heart to him, yea, and know at the same time that he had a reigning enmity against him; and it was known that this was the established principle of the people, would not these words, whatever their proper signification was, entirely cease to be any profession or testimony of friendship to his neighbour? To be sure, there could be no visibility of it to the eye of reason.
Thus it is evident, that those who are admitted into the church on the principles that I oppose, are not professing saints, nor visible saints; because that thing which alone is truly saintship, is not what they profess, or pretend, or have any visibility of, to the eye of a Christian judgment. Or if they in fact be visible and professing saints, yet, they are not admitted as such; no profession of true saintship, nor any manner of visibility of it, has any thing to do in the affair.
There is one way to evade these things, which has been taken by some. They plead, although it be true, that the scripture represents the members of the visible church of Christ as professors of godliness; and they are abundantly called by the name of saints in scripture, undoubtedly because they were saints by profession, and in visibility, and the acceptance of others, yet this is not with any reference to saving holiness, but to quite another sort of saintship, viz. moral sincerity; and that this is real saintship, discipleship, and godliness, which is professed, and visible in them, and with regard to which, as having an appearance of it to the eye of reason, they have the name of saints, disciples, &c. in scripture.-It must be noted, that in this objection the visibility is supposed to be of real saintship, discipleship, and godliness, but only another sort of real godliness, than that which belongs to those who shall finally be owned by Christ as his people, at the day of judgment.
To which I answer, this is a mere evasion; the only one, that ever I saw or heard of; and I think the only one possible. For it is certain, they are not professors of sanctifying grace, or true saintship: The principle proceeded on being, that they need make no pretence to that; nor has any visibility of saving holiness any thing to do in the affair. If then they have any holiness at all, it must be of another sort. And if this evasion fails, all fails, and the whole matter in debate must be given up. Therefore I desire that this matter may be impartially considered and examined to the very bottom; and that it may be thoroughly inquired, whether this distinction of these two sorts of real Christianity, godliness, and holiness, is a distinction of which Christ in his word is the author; or whether it be an human invention of something which the New Testament knows nothing of, devised to serve and maintain an hypothesis. And here desire that the following things may be observed:
1. According to this hypothesis, the words saints, disciples,
and Christians, are used four ways in the New Testament, as
2. It is evident, that those who had the name of disciples in the times of the New Testament, bore that name with reference to a visibility of the same relation to Christ, which they had who should be finally owned as his. This is manifest, Joho