« AnteriorContinuar »
at every communion, every week, when the bread and wine were delivered to them in the administration, that the bread signified the body, and that the wine signified the blood of Christ. And 3) the apostle by his argument in chap. x. 16, supposes the Corinthians doctrinally acquainted with the subject already. It therefore appears to me much more reasonable, to apprehend the case to be thus: The offensive behaviour of the communicants at Corinth gave the apostle reason to suspect, that some of them came to the Lord's table without a proper impression and true sense of the great and glorious things there signified; har. ing no habitual hunger or relish for the spiritual food there represented, no inward vital and experimental taste of that flesh of the Son of man, which is meat indeed. The word translated discerning, signifies to discriminate or distinguish. The taste is the proper sense whereby to discern or distinguish food, Job xxxiv. 3. And it is by a spiritual sense or taste we discern or distinguish spiritual food. Heb. v. 14.-" Those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil :” agos draxgrow, &c. a word of the same root with that rendered discerning, in 1 Cor. xi. 29. He that has no habitual relish of that spiritual food, which is represented and offered at the Lord's table ; he that has no spiritual taste, wherewith to perceive any thing more at the Lord's supper, than in common food; or that has no bigher view, than with a little seeming devotion to eat bread, in the way of an ordinance, but without regarding in his heart the spiritual meaning and end of it, and without being at all suitably affected by the dying love of Christ therein commemorated ; such a one may most truly and properly be said not to discern the Lord's body.—When therefore the apostle exhorts to self-examination as a preparative for the sacramental supper, he may well be understooi... fessors upon inquiring whether they have such a penciple faith, by means whereof they are babitually in a capacity and disposition of mind to discern the Lord's body practically and spiritually (as well as speculatively and notionally) in their communicating at the Lord's table : which is what none can do who have a faith short of that which is justifying and saving. It is only a living faith that capacitates men to discern the Lord's body in the sacrament with that spiritual sensation or spiritual gust, which is suitable to the nature and design of the ordinance, and which the apostle seems principally to intend.
The scripture calls the members of the visible church by the name of disciples, scholars, or learners ; and that suggests to us this notion of the visible church, that it is the school of Christ, into which persons are admitted in order to their learning of Christ, and coming to spiritual attaintments, in the use of the means of teaching, discipline, and training up, established in the school. Now if this be a right notion of the visible church, then reason shews that no other qualifications are necessary in order to being members of this school, than such a faith and disposition of mind as are requisite to persons putting themselves under Christ as their master and teacher, and subjecting themselves to the orders of the school. But a common faith and moral sincerity are sufficient for this.-- Therefore the scripture leads us to suppose the visible church to be properly constituted of those who have these qualifications, though they have not saving faith and true piety.
TEKWOR 1.-I own, the scripture calls the members of the visible church by the name of disciples; but deny, that it therefore follows that the church of which they are members, is duly and properly constituted of those who have not true piety. Because, if this consequence was good, then it would equally follow, that not only the visible, but also the invisible or mystical church is properly constituted of those who have not unfeigned faith and true piety. For the members of the mystical church, as such, and to denote the special character of such, are called disciples ; Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33, and John viii. 31, and xiii. 35, and xv. 8. This shews, that in the argument I am answering, there is no connexion between the premises and the conclusion. For the force of the objection consists in this, that the members of the visible church are called disciples in scripture: This is the sum total of the premises : And if there be any connexion between the premises and the conclusion, it must lie in the truth
of this proposition ; The church whose members are called by the name of disciples, as signifying their state and quality as members of that society, thut church is properly and fitly constituted, not only of persons truly pious, but of others that have merely a common faith and virtue. But this proposition, we have seen, is not true; and so there is no connexion between the former and latter part of it, which are the same with the premises and conclusion of this argument.
2. Though I do not deny, that the visible church of Christ may fitly be represented as a school of Christ, where persons are trained up in the use of means, in order to some spiritual attainments : Yet it will not hence necessarily follow, that this is in order to all good attainments; for it will not follow but that certain good attainments may be pre-requisite, in order to a place in the school. The church of Christ is a school appointed for the training up of Christ's little children, to greater degrees of knowledge, higher privileges, and greater serviceableness in this world, and more meetness for the possession of their eternal inheritance. But there is no necessity of supposing, that it is in order to fit them to become Christ's children, or to be introduced into his family; any more than there is a necessity of supposing, because a prince puts his children under tutors, that therefore it must be in order to their being of the royal family. If it be necessary that there should be a church of Christ appointed as a school of instruction and discipline, to bring persons to all good attainments whatsoever, then it will follow, that there must be a visible church constituted of scandalous and profane persons and heretics, and all in common that assume the Christian name, that so means may be used with them in order to bring them to moral sincerity, and an acknowledgment of the Christian faith.
2. I grant, that no other qualifications are necessary in order to being members of that school of Christ which is his visible church, than such as are requisite in order to their subjecting themselves to Christ as their master and teacher, and subjecting themselves to the laws and orders of his school : Nevertheless I deny, that a common faith and moral sincerity are sufficient for this; because none do truly subject themselves to Christ as their master, but such as having their hearts purified by faith, are delivered from the reigning power of sin : For we cannot subject ourselves to obey two contrary masters at the same time. None submit to Christ as their teacher, but those who truly receive him as their prophet, to teach them by his word and Spirit; giving up themselves to his teachings, sitting with Mary at Jesus' feet to hear his word ; and hearkening more to his dictates, than those of their blind and deceitful lusts, aud relying on his wisdom more than their own. The scripture knows nothing of
an ecclesiastical school constituted of enemies of the cross of Christ, and appointed to bring such to be reconciled to him and submit to him as their Master. Neither have they who are not truly pious persons, any true disposition of heart to submit to the laws and orders of Christ's school, the rules which his word prescribes to all his scholars; such as, to love their Master supremely; to love one another as brethren ; and to love their book, i. e. their Bible, more than vain trifles and amusements, yea, above gold and silver ; to be faithful to the interest of the Master and of the school; to depend on his teachings; to cry to him for knowledge; above all their gettings, to get understand
4. Whatever ways of constituting the church may to us seem fit, proper, and reasonable, the question is, not what constitution of Christ's church seems convenient to human wisdom, but what constitution is actually established by Christ's infinite wisdom. Doubtless, if men should set their wits to work, and proceed according to what seems good in their sight, they would greatly alter Christ's constitution of his church, to make it more convenient and beautiful, and would adorn it with a vast variety of ingenious inventions; as the church of Rome has done. The question is, whether this school of Christ which they talk of, made up very much of those who pretend to no experiences or attainments but what consist with their being enemies of Christ in their hearts, and who in reality love the vilest lust better than him, be that church of Christ which in the New Testament is denominated his city, his temple, his family, his body, g-c. by which names the visible church of Christ is there frequently called.
I acknowledge, that means of Christ's appointment, are to be used with those who are Christ's, and do not profess themselves any other, to change their hearts, and bring them to be Christ's friends and disciples. Such means are to be used with all sorts of persons, with Jews, Mahometans, Heathens, with nominal Christians that are heretical or vicious, the profane, the intemperate, the unclean, and all other enemies of Christ; and these means to be used constantly, and laboriously. Scandalous persons need to go to school, to learn to be Christians, as much as other men. And there are many persons that are not morally sincere, who from selfish and sinister views consent ordinarily to go to church, and so be in the way of means. And none ought to forbid them thus going to Christ's school, that they may be taught by him, in the ministry of the gospel. But yet it will not follow, that such a school is the church of Christ. Human laws can put persons, even those who are very vicious, into the school of Christ, in that sense ; they can oblige them constantly to be present at public teaching, and attend on the means of grace VOL. IV.
appointed by Christ, and dispensed in his name: But human laws cannot join men to the church of Christ, and make them members of his body.
OBJECT. II. Visible saintship in the scripture-sense cannot be the same with that which has been supposed and insisted on, because Israel of old were called God's people, when it is certain the greater part of them were far from having any such visible holiness as this.
Thus the ten tribes were called God's people, Hos. iv. 6; after they had revolted from the true worship of God, and had obstinately continued in their idolatrous worship at Bethel and Dan for about two hundred and fifty years, and were at that time, a little before their captivity especially, in the height of their wickedness. So the Jews are called God's people, in Ezek. xxxvi. 20, and other places, at the time of their captivity in Babylon, a time when most of them were abandoned to all kinds of the most horrid and open impieties, as the prophets frequently represent. Now it is certain, that the people at that time were not called God's people because of any visibility of true piety to the eye of reason or of a rational charity, because most of them were grossly wicked, and declared their sin as Sodom. And in the same manner wherein the Jews of old were God's people, are the members of the visible Christian Gentile church God's people ; for they are spoken of as grafted into the same olive tree, from whence the former were broken off by unbelief
Answer 1. The argument proves too much, and therefore nothing at all. Those whom I oppose in this controversy, will in effect as much oppose themselves in it, as me. The objection if it has any force, equally militates against their and my notion of visible saintship. For those Jews, which it is alleged were called God's people, and yet were so notoriously, openly, and obstinately wicked, had neither any, visibility of true piety, nor yet of that moral sincerity in the profession and duties of the irue religion, which the opponents themselves suppose to be requisite in order to a proper visible holiness, and a due admission to the privileges and ordinances of the church of God, None will pretend, that these obstinate idolaters and impious wretches had those qualifications which are now requisite in order to an admission to the Christian sacraments. And therefore, to what purpose can they bring this objection ? which, if it proves any thing, overthrows my scheme and their own both together, and both in an equally effectual manner. And not only so, but will thoroughly destroy the schemes of all Protestants through the world, concerning the qualifications of the subjects of Christian ordinances. And therefore the support