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attainable, and that those who are true saints might know it, if they would ; i. e. if they would use proper means and endeavours in order to it.—And if so, then certainly it is not just, to charge those perplexities on God's institutions, which arise through men's negligence ; nor would it be just on the supposition of God's institutions being such as I suppose them to be.
You may as well say, that unsanctified persons may not attend any duty of divine worship whatsoever, as that they may not attend the Lord's supper; for all duties of worship are holy and require holiness, in order to an acceptable performance of them, as well as that.
ANSWER. If this argument has any foundation at all, it has its foundation in the supposed truth of the following propositions, viz. Whosoever is qualified for admission to one duty of divine worship, is qualified for admission to all ; and he that is unqualified for one, and may be forbidden one, is unqualified for all, and ought to be allowed to attend none. But certainly these propositions are not true. There are many qualified for some duties of worship, and may be allowed to attend them, who yet are not qualified for some others, nor by any means to be admitted to them. As every body grants, the unbaptized, the excommunicated, heretics, scandalous livers, &c. may be admitted to hear the word preached; nevertheless they are not to be allowed to come to the Lord's supper. Even excommunicated persons remain still under the law of the Sabbath, and are not to be forbidden to observe the Lord's day. Ignorant persons, such as have not knowledge sufficient for an approach to the Lord's table, yet are not excused from the duty of prayer: They may pray to God to instruct them, and assist them in obtaining knowledge. They who have been educated in Arianism and Socinianism, and are not yet brought off from these fundamental errors, and so are by no means to be admitted to the Lord's supper, yet may pray to God to assist them in their studies, and guide them into the truth, and for all other mercies which they need. Socrates, that great Gentile philosopher, who worshipped the true God, as he was led by the light of nature, might pray to God, and he attended his duty when he did so; although he knew not the revelation which God had made of himself in his word. That great philosopher, Seneca, who was contemporary with the apostle Paul, held one Supreme Being, and had in many respects right notions of the divine perfections and providence, though
he did not embrace the gospel, which at that day was preached in the world ; yet might pray to that Supreme Being whom he acknowledged. And if his brother Gallio at Corinth, when Paul preached there, bad prayed to this Supreme Being to guide him into the truth, that he might know whether the doctrine Paul preached was true, he therein would have acted very becoming a reasonable creature, and any one would have acted unreasonably in forbidding him ; but yet surely neither of these men was qualified for the Christian sacraments. So that it is apparent, there is and ought to be a distinction made between duties of worship, with respect to qualifications for them; and that which is a sufficient qualification for admission to one duty, is not so for all. And therefore the position is not true, which is the foundation whereon the whole weight of this argument rests. To say, that although it be true there ought to be a distinction made, in admission to duties of worship, with regard to some qualifications, yet sanctifying grace is not one of those qualifications that make the difference; would be but a giving up the argument, and a perfect begging the question.
It is said, there can be no reason assigned, why unsanctified persons may attend other duties of worship, and not the Lord's supper. But I humbly conceive this must be an inadvertence. For there is a reason very obvious from that necessary and very notable distinction among duties of worship, which follows:
1. There are some duties of worship, that imply a profession of God's covenant; whose very nature and design is an exhibition of those vital active principles and inward exercises, wherein consists the condition of the covenant of grace, or that union of soul to God, which is the union between Christ and his spouse, entered into by an inward hearty consenting to that covenant. Such are the Christian sacraments, whose very design is to make and confirm a profession of compliance with that covenant, and whose very nature is to exhibit or express the uniting acts of the soul: Those sacramental duties therefore cannot be attended by any whose hearts do not really consent to that covenant, and whose souls do not truly close with Christ, without either their being self-deceived, or else wilfully making a false profession, and lying in a very aggravated manner.
2. Ñ here are other duties, which are not in their own nature an exhibition of a covenant-union with God, or of any compliance with the condition of the covenant of grace; but are the expression of general virtues, or virtues in their largest extent, including both special and common. Thus prayer, or asking mercy of God, is in its own nature no profession of a compliance with the covenant of grace. It is an expression of some belief of the being of a God, some sense of our wants, and of a need of God's help, some sense of our dependence, &c. but not merely such a sense of these things as is spiritual and saving. Indeed there are some prayers proper to be made by saints, and many things proper to be expressed by them in prayer, which imply the profession of a spiritual union of heart to God through Christ; but such as no Heathen, no heretic, nor natural man whatever, can or ought to make. Prayer in general, and asking mercy and help from God, is no more a profession of consent to the covenant of grace, than reading the Scriptures, or meditation, or performing any duty of morality and natural religion. A Mahometan may as well ask mercy, as hear instruction : And any natural man may as well express his desires to God, as hear when God declares his will to him. It is true, when
, an unconverted man prays, the manner of his doing it is sinful: But when a natural man, knowing himself to be so, comes to the Lord's supper, the very matter of what he does in respect of the profession he there makes, and his pretension to lay hold of God's covenant, is a lie, and a lie told in the most solemn manner.
In a word, the venerable Mr. Stoddard himself, in his Doctrine of Instituted Churches, has taught us to distinguish between instituted and natural acts of religion: The word and prayer he places under the head of moral duty, and considers as common to all; but the sacraments, according to what he says there, being instituted, are of special administration, and must be limited agreeable to the institution.
The Lord's supper has a proper tendency to promote men's conversion, being an affecting representation of the greatest and most important things of God's word : It has a proper tendency to awaken and humble sinners; here being a discovery of the terrible anger of God for sin, by the infliction of the curse upon Christ, when sin was imputed to him; and the representation here made of the dying love of Christ has a tendency to draw the hearts of sinners from sin to God, &c.
ANSWER. Unless it be an evident truth, that what the Lord's supper may have tendency to promote, the same it was appointed to promote, nothing follows from this argument. If the argument affords any consequence, the consequence is built on the tendency of the Lord's supper. And if the consequence be good and strong on this foundation, as drawn from such premises, then wherever the premises hold, the consequence holds ;. otherwise it must appear, that the premises and consequence are not connected. And now let us see how it is in fact. Do not
scandalous persons need to have these very effects wrought in their hearts which have been mentioned ? Yes, surely; they need them in a special manner: they need to be awakened; they need to have an affecting discovery of that terrible wrath of God against sin, which was manifested in a peculiar manner by the terrible effects of God's wrath in the sufferings of his own incarnate Son. Gross sinners need this in some respect more than others. They need to have their hearts broken by an affecting view of the great and important things of God's word. They need especially to fly to Christ for refuge, and therefore need to have their hearts drawn. And seeing the Lord's supper has so great a tendency to promote these things, if the consequence from the tendency of the Lord's supper, as inferring the end of its appointment, be good, then it must be a consequence also well inferred, that the Lord's supper was appointed for the reclaiming and bringing to repentance scandalous persons.
To turn this off, by saying, Scandalous persons are expressly forbid, is but giving up the argument, and begging the question. It is giving up the argument; since it allows the consequence not to be good. For it allows, that notwithstanding the proper tendency of the Lord's supper to promote a design, yet it may be the Lord's supper was not appointed with a view to promote that end. And it is a begging the question ; since it supposes, that unconverted men are not evidently forbidden, as well as scandalous persons; which is the thing in controversy. If they be evidently forbid, that is as much to reasonable creatures (who need nothing but good evidence) as if they were expressly forbidden.—To say here, that the Lord's supper is a converting ordinance only to orderly members, and that there is another ordinance appointed for bringing scandalous persons to repent. ance, this is no solution of the difficulty; but is only another instance of yielding up the argument, and begging the question. For it plainly concedes, that the tendency of an ordinance does not prove it appointed to all the ends, which it seems to have a tendency to promote; and also supposes, that there is not any other ordinance, appointed for converting sinners that are moral and orderly in their lives, exclusive of this, which is the thing in question.
It is at best but very precarious arguing, from the seeming tendency of things, to the divine appointment, or God's will and disposition with respect to the use of those things. Would it not have had a great tendency to convince the Scribes and Pharisees, and to promote their conversion, if they had been admitted into the mount when Christ was transfigured ? But yet it was not the will of Christ, that they should be admitted there, or any other but Peter, James, and John. Would it not have had a very great tendency to convince and bring to repentance the unbe
lieving Jews, if they had been allowed to see and converse freely with Christ after his resurrection, and see him ascend into hea. ven? But yet it was the will of God, that none but disciples should be admitted to these privileges. Might it not have had a good tendency, if all that were sincere followers of Christ, women as well as men, had been allowed to be present at the institution of the Lord's supper ? But yet it is commonly thought none were admitted besides the apostles.
Indeed, the ever honoured author of the Appeal to the Learned has supplied me with the true and proper answer to this objection, in the following words, p. 27, 28. “ The efficacy of the Lord's supper does depend upon the blessing of God. Whatever TENDENCY ordinances have in their own NATURE to be serviceable to men, yet they will not prevail any further than God doth bless them. The weapons of our warfare are mighty through God, 2 Cor. x. 4. It is God that teaches men to profit, and makes them profitable and serviceable to men's souls. There is reason to hope for a divine blessing on the Lord's supper, when it is administered to those that it ought to be administered to; God's blessing is to be expected in God's way.
If men act according to their own humours and fancies, and do not keep in the way of obedience, it is presumption to expect God's blessing, Matt. xv. 9. In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. But when they are admitted to the Lord's supper that God would have to be admitted, there is ground to hope that he will make it profitable."
All that are members of the visible church and in the external covenant, and neither ignorant nor scandalous, are commanded to perform all external covenant duties; and particularly they are commanded to attend the Lord's supper, in those words of Christ, This do in remembrance of me.
ANSWER. This argument is of no force, without first taking for granted the very thing in question. For this is plainly supposed in it, that however these commands are given to such as are in the external covenant, yet they are given indefinitely, but
with exceptions and reserves, and do not immediately reach all such ; they do not reach those who are unqualified, though they be in the external covenant. Now the question is, Who
, are these that are unqualified? The objection supposes, that only ignorant and scandalous persons are so. But why are they only supposed unqualified; and not unconverted persons too?