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God; if they were convinced, they would be gained. Now if so, it is impossible any natural man in the world should ever know, it is his right, in his present condition, to come to the Lord's supper. True, he may think it is his right, he may have that opinion: But he cannot know it; and so must not come, according to this argument. For it is only the word of God in the holy Scriptures, that gives a man a right to worship the Supreme Being in this sacramental manner, and to come to him in this way, or any other, as one in covenant with him. The Lord's supper being no branch of natural worship, reason without institution is no ground of duty or right in this affair. And hence it is plainly impossible for those that do not so much as know the Scriptures are the word of God, to know they have any good ground of duty or right in this matter. Therefore, supposing unconverted men have a real right, yet since they have no known right, they have no warrant (according to the argument before us) to take and use their right; and what good then can their right do them? Or how can they excuse themselves from presumption, in claiming a right, which they do not know belongs to them? It is said, a probable hope that persons are regenerate, will not warrant them to come; if they come, they take a liberty to do that which they do not know God gives them leave to do, which is horrible presumption in them. But if this be good arguing, I may as well say, a probable opinion that unregenerate
I men may communicate, will not warrant such to do it. They must have certain knowledge of this; else, their right being uncertain, they run a dreadful venture in coming.
ANSWER 2. Men are liable to doubt concerning their moral sincerity, as well as saving grace. Suppose an unconverted man, sensible of his being under the reigning power of sin, was about to appear solemnly to own the covenant (as it is commonly called) and to profess to give up himself to the service of God in an universal and persevering obedience; and suppose at the same time he knew, that if he sealed this profession at the Lord's supper, without moral sincerity, (supposing him to understand the meaning of that phrase,) he should eat and drink judgment to himself; and if accordingly, his conscience being awakened, he was afraid of God's judgment; in this case, I believe, the man would be every whit as liable to doubts about his moral sincerity, as godly men are about their gracious sincerity. And if it be not matter of fact, that natural men are so often exercised and troubled with doubts about their moral sincerity, as godly men are about their regeneration, I suppose it to be owing only to this cause, viz. that godly men being of more tender consciences than those under the dominion of sin, are more afraid of God's judgments, and more ready to tremble at his
word. The divines on the other side of the question, suppose it to be requisite, that communicants should believe the fundamental doctrines of religion with all their heart, (in the sense of Acts viii. 37 ;) the doctrine of Three Persons and One God, in particular. But I think there can be no reasonable doubt, that natural men—who have so weak and pour a kind of faith in these mysteries—if they were indeed as much afraid of the terrible consequences of their being deceived in being not morally sincere in their profession of the truth, as truly gracious men are wont to be of delusion concerning their experience of a work of grace-or whether they are evangelically sincere in choosing God for their portion--the former would be as frequently exercised with doubts in the one case, as the latter in the other. And I very much question, whether any divine on the other side of the controversy would think it necessary, that natural men in professing those things should mean that they know they are morally sincere, or intend any more than that they trust they have that sincerity, so far as they know their own hearts. If a man should come to them, proposing to join with the church, and tell them, though indeed he was something afraid whether he believed the doctrine of the Trinity with all his heart, (meaning in a moral sense,) yet that he had often examined himself as to that matter with the utmost impartiality and strictness he was capable of, and on the whole he found reasons of probable hope, and his preponderating thought of himself was, that he was sincere in it; would they think such an one ought to be rejected, or would they advise him not to come to the sacrament, because he did not certainly know he had this sincerity, but only thought he had it ?
Answ. 3. If we suppose sanctifying grace requisite in order to be properly qualified, according to God's word, for an attendance on the Lord's supper; yet it will not follow, that a man must know he has this qualification, in order to his being capable of conscientiously attending it. If he judges that he has it, according to the best light he can obtain, on the most careful examination, with the improvement of such helps as he can get, the advice of his pastor, &c. he may be bound in conscience to attend. And the reason is this; Christians partaking of the Lord's supper is not a matter of mere claim, or right and pri. vilege, but a matter of duty and obligation ; being an affair wherein God has a claim and demand on us. And as we ought to be careful, on the one hand, that we proceed on good grounds in taking to ourselves a privilege, lest we take what we have no good claim to; so we should be equally careful, on the other hand, to proceed on good grounds in what we withhold from another, lest we do not withhold that from him which is his due,
and which he justly challenges from us. Therefore in a case of this complex nature, where a thing is both a matter of right or privilege to us, and also a matter of obligation to another, or a right of his from us, the danger of proceeding without right and truth is equal both ways; and consequently, if we cannot be absolutely sure either way, here the best judgment we can form, after all proper endeavours to know the truth, must govern and determine us; otherwise we shall designedly do that whereby, according to our own judgment, we run the greatest risk ; which is certainly contrary to reason. If the question were only what a man has a right to, he might forbear till he were sure : But the question is, not only whether he has right to attend the supper, but whether God also has not a right to his attendance there? Supposing it were merely a privilege which I am allowed but not commanded, in a certain specified case ; then, supposing I am uncertain whether that be the case with me or no, it will be safest to abstain. But supposing I am not only forbidden to take it, unless that be the case with me, but positively commanded and required to take it, if that be the case in fact, then it is equally dangerous to neglect on uncertainties, as to take on uncertainties. In such a critical situa. tion, a man must act according to the best of his judgment on his case ; otherwise he wilfully runs into that which he thinks the greatest danger of the two.
Thus it is in innumerable cases in human life. I shall give one plain instance: A man ought not to take upon him the work of the ministry, unless called to it in the providence of God; for a man has no right to take this honour to himself, unless called of God. Now let us suppose a young man, of a lie beral education, and well accomplished, to be at a loss whether it is the will of God that he should follow the work of the ministry; and he examines himself, and examines his circumstances, with great seriousness and solemn prayer, and well considers and weighs the appearances in divine providence : And yet when he has done all, he is not come to a proper certainty, that God calls him to this work; but however, it looks so to him, according to the best light he can obtain, and the most careful judgment he can form: Now such an one appears obliged in conscience to give himself to this work. He must by no means neglect it, under a notion that he must not take this honour to himself, till he knows he has a right to it; because, though it be indeed a privilege, yet it is not a matter of mere privilege, but a matter of duty too; and if he neglects it under these circumstances, he neglects what, according to his own best judgment, he thinks God requires of him, and calls him to ; which is to sin against his conscience.
As to the case of the priests, that could not find their register, (Ezra ii.) alleged in the Appeal to the Learned, p. 64, it appears to me of no force in this argument; for if those priests had never so great assurance in themselves of their pedigree being good, or of their being descended from priests, and should have professed such assurance, yet it would not have availed. Nor did they abstain from the priesthood, because they wanted satisfaction themselves, but they were subject to the judgment of the Sanhedrim God had never made any profession of the parties themselves, but the visibility of the thing, and evidence of the fact to their own eyes, as the rule to judge of the qualification : this matter of pedigree being an external object, ordinarily within the view of man; and not any qualification of heart. But this is not the case with regard to requisite qualifications for the Lord's supper. These being many of them internal visible things, seated in the mind and heart, such as the belief of a Supreme Being, &c. God has made a credible profession of these things the rule to direct in admission of persons to the ordinance. In making this profession they are determined and governed by their own judgment of themselves, and not by any thing within the view of the church.
The natural consequence of the doctrine which has been maintained, is the bringing multitudes of persons of a tender conscience and true piety into great perplexities ; who being at a loss about the state of their souls, must needs be as much in suspense about their duty : And it is not reasonable to suppose, that God would order things so in the revelations of his will, as to bring his own people into such perplexities.
Answ. l. It is for want of the like tenderness of conscience which the godly have, that the other doctrine which insists on moral sincerity, does not naturally bring those who are received to communion on those principles, into the same perplexities, through their doubting of their moral sincerity, of their believing mysteries with all
their heart, &c. as has been already observed. And being free from perplexity, only through stupidity and hardness of heart, is worse than being in the greatest perplexity through tenderness of conscience.
Answ. 2. Supposing the doctrine which I have maintained, be indeed the doctrine of God's word, yet it will not follow, that the perplexities true saints are in through doubting of their state, are effects owing to the revelations of God's word. Perplexity and distress of mind, not only on occasion of the Lord's supper, but innumerable other occasions, is the natural and un. avoidable consequence of true Christians doubting of their state. But shall we therefore say, that all these perplexities are owing, to the word of God ? No, it is not owing to God, nor to any of his revelations, that true saints ever doubt of their state ; his revelations are plain and clear, and his rules sufficient for men to determine their own condition by. But, for the most part, it is owing to their own sloth, and giving way to their sinful dispositions. Must God's institutions and revelations be answerable for all the perplexities men bring on themselves, through their own negligence and unwatchfulness? It is wisely ordered that the saints should escape perplexity in no other way than that of great strictness, diligence, and maintaining the lively, laborious, and self-denying exercises of religion.
It might as well be said, it is unreasonable to suppose that God should order things so as to bring his own people into such perplexities, as doubting saints are wont to be exercised with, in the sensible approaches of death ; when their doubts tend to vastly greater perplexity, than in their approaches to the Lord's table. If Christians would more thoroughly exercise themselves unto godliness, labouring always to keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards man, it would be the way to have the comfort and taste the sweetness of religion. If they would so run, not as uncertainly; so fight, not as they that beat the air ; it would be the way for them to escape perplexity, both in ordinances and providences, and to rejoice and enjoy God in both.-Not but that doubting of their state sometimes arises from other causes, besides want of watchfulness; it may arise from melancholy, and some other peculiar disadvantages. But however, it is not owing to God's revelations nor institutions ; which, whatsoever we may suppose them to be, will not prevent the perplexities of such persons.
Answ. 3. It appears to me reasonable to suppose, that the doctrine I maintain, if universally embraced by God's peoplehowever it might be an accidental occasion of perplexity in many instances, through their own infirmity and sin-would, on the whole, be a happy occasion of much more comfort to the saints than trouble, as it would have a tendency, on every return of the Lord's supper, to put them on the strictest examination and trial of the state of their souls, agreeable to that rule of the apostle, 1 Cor. xi. 28. The neglect of which great duty of frequent and thorough self-examination, seems to be one main cause of the darkness and perplexity of the saints, and the reason why they have so little comfort in ordinances, and so little comfort in general.-Mr. Stoddard often taught his people, that assurance is