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to the end, he speaks of them as having an interest, with him and other Christians, in the happiness and glory of the resurrection of the just. And in his second epistle, chap. i. 7, he says to them, “ Our hope of you is steadfast; knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” This steadfast hope implies a positive judgment. We must here understand the apostle to speak of such members of the church of Corinth, as had not visibly backslidden. Again, in the 14th and 15th verses, he speaks of a confidence which he had, that they should be his rejoicing in the day of the Lord Je
In all reason we must conclude, there was a visibility of grace, carrying with it an apparent probability in the eyes of the apostle, which was the ground of this his confidence. Such an apparent probability, and his confidence as built upon it, are both expressed in chap. iii. 3, 4. “ Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by us; written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart; and such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.” And in ver. 18, the apostle speaks of them, with himself and other Christians, as all with open face, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and being changed into the same image, from glory to glory.
And in the epistle to the churches of Galatia, chap. iv. 26, the apostle speaks of visible Christians, as visibly belonging to heaven, the Jerusalem which is above. And ver. 28, 29, represents them to be the children of the promise, as Isaac was; and born after the Spirit. In the 6th verse of the same chapter, he says to the Christian Galatians, Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. And in chap. vi. 1, he speaks of those of them that had not fallen into scandal, as spiritual persons.
In his epistle to that great church at Ephesus, he blesses God on behalf of its members, as being, together with himself and all the faithful in Christ Jesus, “ chosen in him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blame before him in love, being predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein God had made them accepted in the beloved : in whom they had redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” In chap.i. 13, 14, he thus writes to them, “In whom ye also trusted-in whom after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.” And in chap. ii. at the beginning ; " You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” With much more, showing that they were, in a charitable esteem, regenerated persons, and heirs of salvation,
So in the epistle to the church at Philippi, the apostle tells them, that he "thanks God upon every remembrance of them, for their fellowship in the gospel ; being confident of this very thing, that he which had begun a good work in them, would perform it until the day of Christ : Even (says he) as it is meet for me to think this of you all.” Ifit was meet for him to think this of them, and to be confident of it, he had at least some appearing rational probability to found his judgment and confidence upon ; for surely it is not meet for reasonable creatures to think at random, and be confident without reason. In ver. 25, 26, he speaks of his “confidence that he should come to them for their furtherance and joy of faith, that their rejoicing might be more abundant in Christ Jesus." Which words certainly suppose that they were persons who had already received Christ, and comfort in him ; had already obtained faith and joy in Christ, and only needed to have it increased.
In the epistle to the members of the church at Colosse, the apostle saluting them in the beginning of the epistle, “gives thanks for their faith in Christ Jesus, and love to all saints, and the hope laid up for them in heaven;" and speaks of the gospel bringing forth fruit in them, since the day they knew the grace of God in truth," i.e. since the day of their saving conversion. In chap. i. 8, he speaks of " their love in the Spirit;" and ver. 12–14, as made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; as being delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son; as having redemption through Christ's blood, and the forgiveness of sins." In chap. iij. at the beginning, he speaks of them as “risen with Christ; as being dead [i. e. to the law, to sin, and the world ;] as having their life hid with Christ in God;" and being such as “when Christ their life should appear, should appear with him in glory." In ver. 7, he speaks of them as “having once walked and lived in lusts, but as having now put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him."
In the first epistle to the members of the church at Thessalonica, in words annexed to his salutation, chap. i. he declares what kind of visibility there was of their election of God, in the appearance there had been of true and saving conversion, and their consequent holy life, ver. 3—7. And in the beginning of the second epistle, he speaks of their faith and love greatly increasing ; and in ver. 7, expresses his confidence of meeting them in eternal rest, when the Lord Jesus Christ should be revealed from heaven with his mighty Angels. And in chap. ii. 13, he gives thanks to God, that from the beginning he had chosen them to salvation.
In the epistle to the Christian Hebrews, though the apostle speaks of some one that once belonged to their churches, but had apostatized and proved themselves hypocrites; yet concerning the rest that remained in good standing, he says, chap. vi. 9, I am persuaded better things of you," and things that accompany salvation. Where we may again note, his being thus persuaded evidently implies a positive judgment. And in chap. xii. 22, &c. he speaks of them as visibly belonging to the glorious society of heaven. And in chap. xiii: 5, 6, he speaks of them as those who may boldly say, The Lord is my helper.
The apostle James, writing to the Christians of the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad, speaks of them as regenerated persons, meaning, as I observed before, those which were in good standing. Chap. i. 18. “Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." The apostle Peter, writing to the Jewish Christians scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (large countries, and therefore they must in the whole be supposed to be a great multitude of people,) to all these, gives the title of elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. And in the verses next following, speaks of them as regenerated, “ or begotten again to a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible,” &c. And as," kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And says to them in ver. 8, 9, “Whom (namely Christ) having not seen, ye love: in whom though now ye see him not, yet beJieving, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." And in ver. 18, to the end, the apostle speaks of them as "redeemed from their vain conversation, by the precious blood of Christ.And as having purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.-Being born again of incorruptible seed," &c. And in the former part of the chap. ii. he speaks of them as “ living stones, coming to Christ, and on him built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And as those that believe, to whom Christ is precious.—As a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, called out of darkness into marvellous light.” The church of Babylon, occasionally mentioned in chap. v. 13, is said to be elected together with them. And in his second epistle (which appears by chap. iii. 1, to be written to the same persons) the inscription is, To them which have obtained like precious faith with us, i. e. with the apostles and servants of Christ. And in the third chapter, he tells them, both his epistles were designed to stir up their PURE minds.
In the first epistle of John, written (for ought appears) to professing Christians in general, chap. ii. 12, &c. the apostle tells them “He writes to them because their sins were forgiven, because they had known him that was from the beginning.-Because they had overcome the wicked one,” &c. In ver. 20, 21, he tells them, they have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things; and that he did not write to them because they had not known the truth, but because they had known it, &c. And in ver. 27, he says, “ The anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man should teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is true, and is no lie; and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” And in the beginning of chap. iii. he addresses them as those who were the sons of God, who when he should appear should be like him, because they should see him as he is.” In chap. iv. 4, he says, “ Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome,” &c.
The apostle Jude, in his general epistle, speaks much of apostates and their wickedness; but to other professing Christians, that had not fallen away, he says, ver. 20, 21, “ But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life :" Plainly supposing, that they had professed faith with love to God our Saviour, and were by the apostles considered as his friends and lovers.—Many other passages to the like purpose might be observed in the epistles, but these may suffice.
Now how unaccountable would these things be, if the members of the primitive Christian churches were not admitted into them under any such notion as their being really godly persons and heirs of eternal life, nor with any respect to such a character appearing on them; and that they themselves joined to these churches without any such pretence, as having no such opinion of themselves !
But it is particularly evident that they had such an opinion of themselves, as well as the apostles of them, by many things the apostles say in their epistles. Thus, in Rom. viii. 15, 16, the apostle speaks of them as “having received the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of God bearing witness with their spirits, that they were the children of God." And chap. v. 2, of " their rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.”—In 1 Cor. i. 7, he speaks of them as "waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus." In chap. xv. 17, the apostle says to the members of the church at Corinth,“ If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins:" Plainly supposing, that they hoped their sins were forgiven.-In Philip. i. 25, 26, the apostle speaks of his coming to Philippi, to increase their joy of faith, and that their rejoicing in Christ might be more abundant:" Implying (as was observed before,) that they had received comfort already in some degree, as supposing themselves to have a saving interest in Christ.--In 1 Thess. i. 10, he speaks of the members of the church at Thessalonica as “ waiting for Christ from heaven, as one who had delivered them from the wrath to come.”—In Heb. vi. 9, 10, he speaks of the Christian Hebrews as having that “ hope which was an anchor of their souls.”—The apostle Peter, 1 Epist. i. 3—9, speaks of the visible Christians he wrote to, as being “ begotten to a lively hope, of an inheritance incorruptible, &c.—Wherein they greatly rejoiced,” &c.—And even the members of the church of Laodicea, the very worst of all the seven churches of Asia, yet looked upon themselves as truly gracious persons, and made that profession; they " said, they were rich, and increased in goods, and knew not that they were wretched and miserable," &c. Rev. iii. 17.
It is also evident, that the members of these primitive churches had this judgment one of another, and of the members of the visible church of Christ in general. In 1 Thess. iv. 13, &c. the apostle exhorts the Christian Thessalonians, in mourning for their deceased friends who were visible Christians, not to sorrow as the hopeless Heathen were wont to do for their departed friends ; upon this consideration, that they had reason to expect to meet them again in glorious circumstances at the day of judgment, never to part more. The ground of comfort concerning their dead friends, is evidently something more than such a hope as we ought to have of all that profess Christian doctrines, and are not scandalous in life, whom we must forbear to censure, because we do not know but they are true saints.- The members of the church of Sardis, next to Laodicea, the worst of the seven churches of Asia, yet had a name that they lived ; though Christ, who speaks to these seven churches from heaven, in the character of the Searcher of Hearts, (see Rev. ii. 23,) explicitly tells them, that they were dead; perhaps all in a dead frame, and the most in a dead state.
These things evidently shew, how all the Christian churches through the world were constituted in those days; and what sort of holiness or saintship it was, that all visible Christians in good standing had a visibility and profession of, in that apostolic age; and also what sort of visibility of this they had, viz. not only that which gave them right to a kind of negative charity, or free dom from censure,
which might justly induce a positive judgment in their favour. The churches to whom these epistles were written, were all the principal churches in the world; some of them very large, as the churches at Corinth and Ephesus. Some of the epistles were directed to all the churches through large countries where the gospel had great success, as the epistle to the Galatians. The epistle to the Hebrews was written to