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OBJECT. 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 attainments, 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 shows 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 personsí 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. ó 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.
Answer 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 14:26,27,33. and John 8:31. and 13:35. and 15:8. This shows, that in the argument I am answering, there is no connection 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 connection between the premises and the conclusion, it must lie in the truth of this proposition; The church whose members ore called by the name of disciples, as signifying their state and quality as members of that society, that church its properly and fitly constituted, not only of persons truly pious, but of others that have merely a common forth and virtue. But this proposition, we have seen, is not true; and so there is no connection 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 he pre-requisite, in order to a place in the school. The church of Christ is a school appointed for the training up Christís 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 Christís 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. 3 . 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, hut 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 Jesusí feet to hear his word, and hearkening more to his dictates, than those of their blind and deceitful lusts, and 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 Christís 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 an his teachings ;íto cry to him far knowledge: above all their gettings, to get understanding, etc. 4. Whatever ways of constituting the church may to us seem fit, proper, and reasonable, the question is, not what constitution of Christís church seems convenient to human wisdom, hut what constitution is actually established by Christís 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 Christís 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, etc. by which names the visible church of Christ is there frequently called.
I acknowledge, that means of Christís appointment, are to be used with those who are Christís, and do not profess themselves any other to change their hearts, and bring them to be Christís friends and disciple. 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 Christís 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 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. 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 Godís 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 Godís people, Hosea 4:6. 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 Godís people, in Ezekiel 36:20. and other places, at the time of their captivity in Babylon, a time when most of them wore 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 Godís people because of any visibility of true piety to the eve of reason or of a rational charity, because most of them were crossly wicked, and declared their sin as Sodom. And in the same manner wherein the Jews of old were Godís people, are the members of the visible christian Gentile church Godís people; for they are spoken of as graffed into the same olivetree, from whence the former were broken off by unbelief.
Answ. 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 Godís 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 true 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 of what I have laid down against those whom I oppose in this controversy, requires no further answer to this objection. Nevertheless, for greater satisfaction, I would here observe further: 2. That such appellations as Godís people, Godís Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention. Thus, we have a plain distinction between the house of Israel and the house of Israel, in Ezekiel 20:38-40. By the house of Israel in the 39th verse is meant literally the nation or family of Israel; but by the house of Israel in the 40th verse seems to be intended the spiritual house, the body of Godís visible saints, that should attend the ordinances of his public worship in gospel-times. So likewise there is a distinction made between the house of Israel, and Godís disciples who should profess and visibly adhere to his law and testimony, in Isaiah 8:14-17. And though the whole nation of the Jews are often called Godís people in those degenerate times wherein the prophets were sent to reprove them, yet at the same time they are charged as falsely calling themselves of the holy city, Isaiah 48:2. And God often tells them, they are rather to be reckoned among aliens, and as children of the Ethiopians, or posterity of the ancient Canaanites, on account of their grossly wicked and scandalous behavior.
It is evident that God sometimes, according to the methods of his marvellous mercy and long-suffering towards mankind, has a merciful respect to a degenerate church, become exceeding corrupt, and constituted of members who have not those qualifications which ought to be insisted on. God continues still to have respect to them so far as not utterly to forsake them, or wholly to deny his confirmation of and blessing on their administrations. And not being utterly renounced of God, their administrations are to be looked upon as in some respect valid, and the society as in some sort a people or church of God. This was the case with the church of Rome, at least till the Reformation and council of Trent; for till then we must own their baptisms and ordinations to be valid. ó The church that the pope sits in, is called, The temple of God, Thessalonians 2:4.
And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being Godís people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such.
That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that eternal and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people. This is not only evident by what has been already observed, but also indisputably manifest from Romans 9:3,4,5. ďI have great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart, for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen,ACCORDING TO THE FLESH who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth theADOPTION, and the glory and theCOVENANTS, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and thePROMISES; whose are the fathers; and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came.Ē It is to be noted, that the privileges here mentioned are spoken of as belonging to the Jews, not now as visible saints, not as professors of the true religion, not as members of the visible church of Christ, but only as people of such a nation such a blood, such an external and carnal relation to the patriarchs their ancestors, IsraelitesACCORDING TO THE FLESH. For the apostle is speaking here of the unbelieving Jews, professed unbelievers, that were out of the christian church, and open Risible enemies to it, and such as had no right to the external privileges of Christís people So, in Romans 11:28,29. this apostle speaks of the same unbelieving Jews, as in some respect an elect people, and interested in the calling, promises, and covenants God formerly gave to their forefathers, and as still beloved for their sakes. ďAs concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathersí sakes: for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.Ē These linings are not privileges belonging to the Jews now as a people of the right religion, or in the true church of visible worshippers of God; but as a people of such a pedigree or blood, and that even after the ceasing of the Mosaic administration. But there were privileges more especially belonging to them under the Old Testament: they were a family that God had chosen in distinction from all others, to show special favor to above all other nations. It was manifestly agreeable to Godís design to constitute things so under the Old Testament, that the means of grace and spiritual privileges and blessings should be ó though not wholly, yet in a great measure ó confined to a particular family, much more than those privileges and blessings are confined to any posterity or blood now under the gospel. God purposely by these favors distinguished that native not only from those who were not professed worshippers of the true God, but also in a greet measure from other nations, by a constituted wall of separation. This was not merely a wall between professors and nonprofessorsí but betweenNATION andNATIONS. God, if he pleases, may by his sovereignty annex his blessing, and in some measure fix it, for his own reasons, to a particular blood, as well as to a particular place or spot of ground, to a certain building, to a particular heap of stones, or altar of brass, to particular garments, and other external things. And it is evident, that he actually did affix his blessing to that particular external family of Jacob, very much as he did to the city Jerusalem, where he chose to place his name, and to mount Zion where he commanded the blessing. God did not so affix his blessing to Jerusalem or mount Zion, as to limit himself, either by confining the blessing wholly to that place, never to bestow it elsewhere. nor by obliging himself always to bestow it on those that sought him there; nor yet obliging himself never to withdraw his blessing from thence, by forsaking his dwelling-place there, and leaving it to be a common or profane place. But he was pleased to make it the seat of his blessing in a peculiar manner, in great distinction from other places. In like manner did he fix his blessing to the progeny of Jacob. It was a family which he delighted in and which he blessed in a peculiar manner, and to which in a great measure he confined the blessing, but not so as to limit himself, or so as to oblige himself to bestow it on all of that blood, or not to bestow it on others that were not of that blood. He affixed his blessing both to the place and nation, by sovereign election, <19D213> Psalm 132:13-15. He annexed and fixed his blessing to both by covenant.
Indeed the main thing, the substance and marrow of that covenant which God made with Abraham and the other patriarchs, was the covenant of grace, which is continued in these days of the gospel and extends to all his spiritual seed, of the Gentiles as well as Jews: but yet that covenant with the patriarchs contained other things that were appendages to that everlasting covenant of grace, promises of lesser matters, subservient to the grand promise of the future seed, and typical of things appertaining to him. Such were those that annexed the blessing to the land of Canaan, and the progeny of Isaac and Jacob. Just so it was also as to the covenant God made with David. 2 Samuel 7:and <19D201> Psalm 132. If we consider that covenant with regard to its marrow and soul, it was the covenant of grace: but there were other subservient promises which were typical of its benefits; such were promises of blessings to the nation of Israel, of continuing the temporal crown to Davidís posterity, and of fixing the blessing to Jerusalem or mount Zion, as the place which he chose to set his name there. And in this sense it was that the very family of Jacob were Godís people by covenant, and his chosen people; even when they were no visible saints, when they lived in idolatry, and made no profession of the true religion.
On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in.
Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel. Perhaps we may not be able to give all the reasons of such a constitution, but some of them seem to be pretty manifest; as, 1. The great and main end of separating particular nation from all others as God did the nation of Israel, was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Godís covenant with Abraham and the other patriarchs implied that the Messiah should be of their blood, or their seed according to the flesh. And therefore it was requisite that their progeny according, to theflesh should be fenced in by a wall of separation, and made Godís people.
If the Messiah had been born of some of the professors of Abrahamís religion, but of some other nation, that religion being propagated from nation to nation, as it is now under the gospel it would not have answered the covenant with Abraham for the Messiah to have been born of Abrahamís seed only in this sense. The Messiah being by covenant so related to Jacobís progeny according to the flesh, God was pleased, agreeable to the nature of such a covenant, to show great respect to that people on account of that external relation. Therefore the apostle mentions it as one great privilege, that of them according to the flesh Christ came, Romans 9:5. As the introducing of the Messiah and his salvation and kingdom was the special design of all Godís dealings and peculiar dispensations towards that people, the natural result of this was, that great account should be made of their being of that nation, in Godís covenant dealings with them. 2. That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an eternal temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant. God, agreeably to the nature of that dispensation, showed a great regard to external and carnal things in those days, as types of spiritual things. What a great regard God did show then to external qualifications for privileges and services, appears in this, that there is ten times so much said in the books of Moses about such qualifications in the institutions of the passover and tabernacle services, as about any moral qualifications whatsoeverse And so much were such typical qualifications insisted on, that even by the law of Moses the congregation of the Lord, or church of visible worshippers of God, and the number of public professors of the true religion who were visible saints, were not the same. Some were of the latter, that were not of the former, as the eunuchs, who were excluded the congregation, though never so externally relgious, yea truly pious; and so also bastards, etc. 3. It was the sovereign pleasure of God to choose the posterity of Jacob according to the flesh, to reserve them for special favors to the end of time.
And therefore they are still kept a distinct nation, being still reserved for distinguishing mercy in the latter day, when they shall he restored to the church of God. God is pleased in this way to testify his regard to their holy ancestors, and his regard to their external relation to Christ. Therefore the apostle still speaks of them as an elect nation, and beloved for the fathersí sakes, even after they were broken off from the good olive by unbelief.
Godís covenant with Abraham is in some sense in force with respect to that people and reaches them even to this day, and set surely they are not Godís covenant people in the sense that visible Christians are. See Leviticus 26:42.
If it be said, It was open foretold by the prophets, that in gospel-days other nation, should be the people of God, as well as the nation of the Jews: and when Christ sent forth his apostles, he bid them go and disciple all nations.
I answer; By a common figure of speech the prevailing part of a nation are called the nation, and what is done to them is said to be done to the nation, and what is done by them is said to be done by that nation. And it is to be hoped, that the time is coming when the prevailing part of many nations, yea of every nation under heaven, will be regularly brought into the visible church of Christ. If by nations in these prophecies we understand any other than the prevailing part, and it be insisted on that we must understand it of all the people belonging to those nations; there never yet has been any nation in this sense regularly brought into the visible church of Christ, even according to the scheme of those whom I oppose. For there never yet has been a whole nation outwardly moral. And besides what Mr. Blake says in his Treatise of the Covenant, page 238. may be applied here, and serve as an answer to this objection: ďThe prophecies of the Old Testament (says he) of the glory of the New-Testament times, are in Old-Testament phrases, by way of allusion to the worship of those times, set forth to us.Ē In Revelation 21:24. nations are spoken of, as having an interest in the New Jerusalem which yet is represented as perfectly pure, without the least degree of pollution and defilement, verse 27. And as for the command to the apostles, to disciple all nations, it was a direction to them as to what they should attempt, not a prediction of what they should bring to pass in their day. For they never brought one-half of any one nation into the visible christian church, nor any at all in one-half of the nations in the world, it is very probable.
If it should be further objected, that it is an evidence that Gentile Christians are visible saints, according to the New-Testament notion of visible saintship, in the very same manner as the whole Jewish nation were till they were broken off by their obstinate rejection of the Messiah, that the Gentile Christians are represented as being grafted into the same olive, from whence the Jews were broken of by unbelief, Romans 11:17, etc.
I would inquire What any one can intend by this objection? Whether it be this, viz. That we ought to insist on no higher or better qualifications, in admitting persons as members of the christian church, and to all its privileges than the whole Jewish nation in Christís time possessed till they had obstinately persisted in their rejection of him; If this is not intended, the objection is nothing to the purpose: or, if this he intended, neither then is it to the purpose of those with whom I have especially to do in this controversy, who hold orthodoxy, knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of religion, moral sincerity, and a good conversation, to be qualifications, which ought to be insisted on, in order to a visible church-state. For a very great part of those Jews were destitute of these qualifications; many of then were Sadducees, who denied a future state; others of them Herodians, who were occasional conformists with the Romans in their idolatries; the prevailing sect among them were Pharisees, who openly professed the false doctrine of justification by the works of the law and external privileges, that leaven of the Pharisees, which Christ warns his disciples to beware of.
Many of them were scandalously ignorant, for their teachers had taken away the key of knowledge. Multitudes were grossly vicious for it was a generation in which all manner of sin and wickedness prevailed.
I think that text in Romans 11 can he understood no otherwise in any consistence with plain fact, than that the Gentile Christians succeeded the Jews, who had been, either in themselves or ancestors, the children of Abraham, with respect to a visible interest in the covenant of grace, until they were broken off from the church, and ceased to be visible saints by their open and obstinate unbelief. Indeed their ancestors had all been thus broken off from the church of visible saints, for every branch or family of the stock of Jacob had been in the church of visible saints, and each branch withered and failed through unbelief. This was the highest and most important sense, in which any of the Jews were externally the children of Abraham, and implied the greatest privileges. But there was another sense, in which the whole nation, including even those of them who were no visible saints, were his children, which (as has been shown) implied great privileges, wherein christian Gentiles do not succeed them, though they have additional ecclesiastical privileges, vastly beyond the Jews.
Whether I have succeeded, in rightly explaining these matters, or no, yet my failing in it is of no great importance with regard to the strength of the objection, that occasioned my attempting it, which was, that scandalously wicked men among the Jews are called Godís people, etc. The objection, as I observed, is as much against the scheme of those whom I oppose, as against my scheme; and therefore it as much concerns them, to find out some explanation of the matter, that shall show something else is intended by it, than their having the qualifications of visible saints, as it does me; and a failing in such an attempt as much affects and hurts their cause, as it does mine.
OBJECT. Those in Israel, who made no profession of piety of heart, did according to divine institution partake of the passover; a Jewish sacrament, representing; the same things, and a seal of the very same covenant of grace, with the Lordís supper; and particularly, it would be unreasonable to suppose, that all made a profession of godliness whom God commanded to keep that first passover in Egypt, which the whole congregation were required to keep, and there is no shadow of any such thing as all first making a solemn public profession of those things wherein true piety consists: and so the people in general partook of the passover, from generation to generation; but it would be improbable to suppose, that they all professed a supreme regard to God in their hearts.
Answ. 1. The affair of the Israelitesí participation of the passover, and particularly that first passover in Egypt, is attended with altogether as much difficulty in regard to the qualifications which the objectors themselves suppose requisite in communicants at the Lordís table, as with regard to those which I insist upon; and if there be any argument in the case, it is fully as strong an argument against their scheme, as mine.
One thing they insist upon as a requisite qualification for the Lordís supper, is a public profession of religion as to the essential doctrines of it. But there is no more public profession of this kind, preceding that passover in Egypt, than of a profession of godliness. Here, not to insist on the great doctrines of the fall of man, of our undone state by nature, of the Trinity; of our dependence on the free grace of God for justification, etc. let us take only those two doctrines of a future state of rewards and punishment, and the doctrine of the Messiah to count, that Messiah who was represented in the passoverse Is there any more appearance, in sacred story, of the people making a public profession in Egypt of these doctrines, before they partook of the passover, than of their making profession of the love of God? And is there any more probability of the former, than of the latter? Another thing which they on the other side suppose necessary to a due attendance on the Lordís supper, is, that when any have openly been guilty of gross sins, they should before they come to this sacrament, openly confess and humid themselves for their faults. Now it is evident by many scriptures, that a great part of the children of Israel in Egypt had been guilty of joining with the Egyptians in worshipping their false gods, and had lived in idolatry. But the history in Exodus gives us no account of any public solemn confession of, or humiliation, for this great sin, before they came to the passover. Mr.
Stoddard observes, (Appeal, p. 58, 59.) that there was in the church of Israel a way appointed by God for the removal of scandals; men being required In that ease to offer up their sacrifices, attended with confession and visible signs of repentance. But where do we read of the people offering up sacrifices in Egypt, attended with confession, for removing the scandal of that most heinous sin of idolatry they had lived in? Or is there any more probability of their publicly professing their repentance and humiliation for their sin, before their celebrating the passover, than of their publicly professing to love God above all? Another thing which they suppose to be requisite in order to admission to the Lordís table, and about which they would have a particular care to be taken, is, that every person admitted give evidence of a competent knowledge in the doctrines of religion, and none be allowed to partake who are grossly ignorant. Now there is no more appearance of this with regard to the congregation in Egypt, than of a profession of godliness; and it is as difficult to suppose it.
There is abundant reason to suppose, that vast numbers in that nation, consisting of more than a million of adult persons, had been brought up in a great degree of ignorance, amidst their slavery in Egypt, where the people seem to have almost forgotten the true God and the true religion. And though pains had been taken by Moses, now for a short season, to instruct the people better, yet it must be considered, it is a very great work, to take a whole nation under such degrees of ignorance and prejudice, and bring every one of them to a competent degree of knowledge in religion; and a greater work still for Moses both thus to instruct them, and also by examination or otherwise, to come to a just satisfaction, that all had indeed attained to such knowledge Mr. Stoddard insists, that if grace be requisite in the Lordís supper, it would have been as much so in the passover, inasmuch as the chief thing which the passover (as well as the Lordís supper) representsí is Christís sufferings. But if, on this account, the same qualifications are requisite in both ordinances, then it would be as requisite that the partakers should have knowledge to discern the Lordís body, (in Mr. Stoddardís sense of Corinthians 11:29.) in the passover as in the Lordís supper. But this certainly is as difficult to suppose, as that they professed godliness For how does it appear, that the people in general who partook of the passover ó knew that it signified the death of the Messiah, and the way in which he should make atonement for sin by his blood? Does it look very likely that they should know this, when Christís own disciples had not knowledge thus to discern the Lordís body in the passover, of which they partook from year to Year with their Master? Can it be supposed, they actually knew Christís death and the design of it to be thereby signified, when they did not so much as realize the feet itself, that Christ was to die, at least not till the year before the last passover? Besides, how unreasonable would it be, to suppose, that the Jews understood what was signified, pertaining to Christ and salvation by him, in all those many kinds of sacrifices, which they attended and partook of, and all the vast variety of ceremonies belonging to them; all which sacrifices were sacramental representations of Christís death, as well as the sacrifice of the passover! The apostle tells us, that all these things had a shadow of good things to come, the things concerning Christ; and yet there are many of them, which the church of Christ to this day does not understand, though we are under a thousand times greater advantage to understand them, than they were. For we have the New Testament, wherein God uses great plainness of speech, to guide us, and live in days wherein the vail which Moses put over his face is taken away in Christ, and the vail of the temple rent and have the substance and antitype plainly exhibited, and so have opportunity to compare these with those shadows.
If it be objected, as a difficulty that lies against our supposing a profession of godliness requisite to a participation of the passover, that they who were uncircumcised were expressly forbidden to partake, and if conversion was as important and a more important qualification than circumcision, why were not the unregenerate as expressly forbidden? I answer, Why were not scandalous sinners as expressly forbidden? And why was not moral sincerity as expressly required as circumcision?
If it be objected, that they were all expressly and strictly required to keep the passover; but if grace was requisite, and God knew that many of the partakers would have no grace, why would he give such universal orders ?
I answer; When God gave those commands, he knew that the commands, in all their strictness, would reach many persons who in the time of the passover would be without so much as moral sincerity in religion. Even man in the nation, from the first institution till the death of Christ, were all (excepting such as were ceremonially unclean, or on a journey) strictly required to keep the feast of passover; and yet God knew that multitudes would be without the qualification of moral seriousness in religion. It would be very unreasonable to suppose, that every single person in the nation was morally serious, even in the very best time, or that ever there was such a happy day with any nation under heaven, wherein all were morally sincere in religion. How much then was it otherwise many times with that nation, which was so prone to corruption, and so often generally involved in gross wickedness! But the strict command of God to keep the payer reached the morally insincere, as well as others they are no where excepted, any more than the unconverted. And as to any general commands of Godís word, these no more required men to turn from a state of moral insincerity before they came to the passover, than they required them to turn from a graceless state.
But further, I reply, that God required them all to keep the passover, no more strictly than he required them all to here the Lord their God with their whole heart. And if God might strictly command this, he might also strictly command them to keen that ordinance wherein they were especially to profess It, and seal their profession of it. That evil generation were not expressly forbidden to keep the passover in succeeding years for the whole forty years during which they went on provoking God, very often by gross sin and open rebellion, but still the express and strict commands for the whole congregation to keep the passover reached them, nor were they released from their obligation.
If it be said, that we must suppose multitudes in Israel attended the passover, from age to age, without such a visibility of piety as I have insisted on, and yet we do not find their attending this ordinance charged on them as a sin in Scripture: I answer; We must also suppose that multitudes in Israel, from age to age, attended the passover, who lived in moral insincerity, Yea and scandalous wickedness. For the people in general very often notoriously corrupted themselves, and declined to ways of open and great transgression, and Yet there is reason to think that in these times of corruption, for the most part, they held circumcision and the passover; and we do not find their attending on these ordinances under such circumstances, any more expressly charged on them as a sin, than their coming without piety of heart. The ten tribes continued constantly in idolatry for about 250 years, and there is a ground to suppose, that in the mean time they ordinarily kept up circumcision and the passoverse For though they worshipped God by images, yet they maintained most of the ceremonial observances of the law of Moses, called the manner of the God of the land, which their priests taught the Samaritans who were settled in their stead, 2 Kings 17:26,27. Nevertheless we do not find Elijah, Elisha, or other prophets, reproving them for attending these ordinances without the required moral qualifications. Indeed there are some things in the writings of the prophets, which may be interpreted as a reproof of this; but no more as a reproof of this, than of attending Godís ordinances without a gracious sincerity and true piety of heart and life.
How many seasons were there, wherein the people in general fell into and lived in idolatry, that scandal of scandals, in the times of the judges, end of the kings both in Judah and Israel! But still amidst all this wickedness, they continued to attend the sacrament of circumcision. We have every whit as much evidence of it, as that they attended the passover without a profession of godliness. We have no account of their ever leaving it off at such seasons, nor any hint of its being renewed (as a thing which had ceased) when they came to reform. Though we have so full an account of the particulars of Josiahís reformation, after the long and scandalous reign of Manasseh, there is no hint of any reviving of circumcision, or resuming to it after a cessation. And where have we an account of the people being once reproved for attending this holy sacrament while thus involved in scandalous sin, in all the Old Testament? And where is this once charged on them as a sin, any more than in the case of unconverted persons attending the sacrament of the passover?
Answ. 2. Whatever was the case with respect to the qualifications for the sacrament of the Old Testament dispensation, I humbly conceive it is nothing to the purpose in the present argument, nor needful to determine us with respect to the qualifications for the sacrament of the christian dispensation, which is a matter of such plain fact in the New- Testament.
Far am I from thinking the Old Testament to be like an old almanack out of use; nay, I think it is evident from the New-Testament, that some things which had their first institution under the Old Testament, are continued under the New, for instance, the acceptance of the infant-seed of believers as children of the covenant with their parents and probably some things belonging to the order and discipline of christian churches, had their first beginning in the Jewish synagogue. But yet all allow that the Old- Testament dispensation is out of date, with its ordinances, and I think in a matter pertaining to the constitution and order of the New-Testament church ó a matter of fact, wherein the New-Testament itself is express, full, and abundant ó to have recourse to the Mosaic dispensation for rules or precedents to determine our judgment, is quite needless and out of reason.
There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and v wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ. And probably the reason why God has left it so intricate, is, because our understanding the ancient dispensation, and Godís design in it, is not of so great importance, nor does it so nearly concern us. Since God uses great plainness of speech in the New-Testament, which is as it were the charter and municipal law of the christian church, what need we run back to the ceremonial and typical institutions of an antiquated dispensation, wherein Godís declared design was, to deliver divine things in comparative obscurity, hid under a veil, and involved in clouds?
We have no more occasion for going to search among the types, dark revelations, and carnal ordinances of the Old Testament, to find out whether this matter of fact concerning the constitution and order of the New- Testament church be true, than we have occasion for going there to find out whether any other matter of fact, of which we have an account in the New- Testament, be true; as particularly, whether there were such officers in the primitive church as bishops and deacons, whether miraculous gifts of the Spirit were common in the apostlesí days, whether the believing Gentiles were received into the primitive christian church, and the like.
Answ. 3 . I think, nothing can be alleged from the Holy Scripture, sufficient to prove a profession of godliness to be not a qualification requisite in order to a due and regular participation of the passoverse Although none of the requisite moral qualifications for this Jewish sacrament, are near so clearly made known in the Old Testament, as the qualifications for the christian sacraments are in the New; and although a supposed visibility of either moral sincerity or sanctifying grace, is involved in some obscurity and difficulty; yet I would humbly offer what appears to me to be the truth concerning that matter, in the things that follow. (1.) Although the people in Egypt before the first passover, probably made no explicit public profession at all, either of their humiliation for their former idolatry or of present devotedness of heart to God; it being before any particular institution of an express public profession, either of godliness, or repentance in case of scandal: yet I think, there was some sort of public manifestation, or implicit profusion of both. ó Probably in Egypt they implicitly professed the same things, which they afterwards professed more expressly and solemnly in the wilderness. The Israelites in Egypt had very much to affect their hearts, before the last plague, in the great things that God had done for them; especially in some of the latter plagues, wherein they were so remarkably distinguished from the Egyptians. They seem now to be brought to a tender frame, and a disposition to show much respect to God; (see Exodus 12:27.) and were probably now very forward to profess themselves devoted to him, and true penitents. (2.) After the institution of an explicit public profession of devotedness to God, or (which is the same thing) of true piety of heart, this was wont to be required in order to a partaking of the passover and other sacrifices and sacraments that adult persons were admitted to.
Accordingly all the adult persons that were circumcised at Gilgal, had made this profession a little before on the plains of Moab. Not that all of them were truly gracious; but seeing they all had a profession and visibility, Christ in his dealings with his church as to external things, acted not as the Searcher of hearts, but as the Head of the visible church accommodating himself to the present state of mankind and therefore he represents himself in Scripture as trusting his peopleís profession; as I formerly observed. (3.) In degenerate times in Israel, both priests and people were very lax with respect to covenanting with God, and professing devotedness to him, and these professions were used, as public professions commonly are still in corrupt times, merely as matters of form and ceremony, at least by great multitudes. (4.) Such was the nature of the Levitical dispensation, that it had in no measure so great a tendency to preclude and prevent hypocritical professions, as the New-Testament dispensation; particularly, on account of the vastly greater darkness of it. For the covenant of grace was not then so fully revealed, and consequently the nature of the conditions of that covenant was not then so well known. There was then a far more obscure revelation of those great duties of repentance towards God and faith in the Mediator and of those things wherein true holiness consists, and wherein it is distinguished from other things.
Persons then had not equal advantage to know their own hearts, while viewing themselves in this comparatively dim light of Mosesís law, as now they have in the clear sun-shine of the gospel. In that state of the minority of the church the nature of true piety as consisting in the Spirit of adoption, or ingenuous filial; love to God, and as distinguished from a spirit of bondage, servile fear, and self-love, was not so clearly made known. The Israelites were therefore the more ready to mistake for true piety, that moral seriousness and those warm affections and resolutions that resulted from that spirit of bondage, which showed itself in Israel remarkably at mount Sinai, and to which through all the Old Testament times, they were especially incident. (5.) God was pleased in a great measure to suffer (though he did not properly allow) a laxness among the people, with regard to the visibility of holiness, and the moral qualifications requisite to an attendance on their sacraments. This he also did in many other cases of great irregularity, under that dark, imperfect, and comparatively carnal dispensation; such as polygamy, putting away their wives at pleasure, the revenging of blood, killing the man-slayer, etc. And he winked at their worshipping in high places in Solomonís time, ( 1 Kings 3:4,5.) the neglect of keeping the feast of tabernacles according to the law, from Joshuaís time till after the captivity, ( Nehemiah 8:17.) and the neglect of the synagogue worship, or the public service of God in particular congregations, till after the captivity, though the light of nature, together with the general rules of the law of Moses, did sufficiently teach and require it. (6.) It seems to be foretold in the prophecies of the old Testament, that there would be a great alteration in this respect, in the days of the gospel; that under the new dispensation there should be far greater purity in the church. Thus, in the forementioned place in Ezekiel it s foretold, that ďthose who are [visibly] uncircumcised in heart, should\parNO MORE enter into Godís sanctuary.Ē Again, Ezekiel 20:37,38. ďAnd I will cause you to pass under the rod, and will bring you into the bond of the covenant and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me.Ē It seems to be a prophecy of the greater purity of those who are visibly in covenant with God Isaiah 4:3. ďAnd it shall come to pass that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living [i. e. has a name to live, or is enrolled among the saints] in Jerusalem.Ē Isaiah 52:1. ďPut on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; from henceforth there shallNO MORE come to thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.Ē Zechariah 14:21. ďAnd in that day, there shall beNO MORE the Canaanite in the house of the Lord.Ē (7.) This is just such an alteration as might reasonably be expected from what we are taught of the whole nature of the two dispensations. As the one had carnal ordinances, (so they are called Hebrews 9:10.) the other a spiritual service; ( John 4:24.) the one an earthly Canaan, the other a heavenly; the one an external Jerusalem, the other a spiritual; the one an earthly high priest, the other a heavenly; the one a worldly sanctuary, the other a spiritual; the one a bodily and temporal redemption, (which is all that they generally discerned or understood in the passover,) the other a spiritual and eternal. And agreeably to these things, it was so ordered in providence, that Israel, the congregation that should enter this worldly sanctuary, and attend these carnal ordinances, should be much more a worldly, carnal congregation, than the New- Testament congregation. One reason of such a difference seems to be this, viz. That the Messiah might have the honor of introducing a state of greater purity and spiritual glory. Hence God is said to find fault with that ancient dispensation of the covenant, Hebrews 8:7,8. And the time of introducing the new dispensation is called the time of reformation, Hebrews 9:10. And one thing, wherein the amendment of what God found fault with in the former dispensation should consist, the apostle intimate, is the greater purity and spirituality of the church, Hebrews 8:7,8,11.
OBJECT. It is not reasonable to suppose, that the multitudes which John the Baptist baptized, made a profession of saving grace, or had any such visibility of true piety, as has been insisted on.
Answ. Those whom John baptized, came to him confessing their sins, making a profession of some kind of repentance; and it is not reasonable to suppose, the repentance they professed was specifically or in kind diverse from that which he had instructed them in, and called them to which is called repentance for the remission of sins; and that is saving repentance.
Johnís baptism is called the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins: I know not how such a phrase can be reasonably understood any otherwise, than so as to imply, that his baptism was some exhibition of that repentance, and a seal of the profession of it. Baptism is a seal of some sort of religious profession, in adult persons: but the very name of Johnís baptism shows, that it was a seal of a profession of repentance for the remission of sins. It is said, Luke 3:3 ďJohnPREACHED the baptism of repentance for the for he preached no other to them. The people that John baptized, professed both repentance for the remission of sins, and also faith in the Messiah; as is evident by Acts 19:4,5. ďJohn verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him that should come after him;Ē i. e. on Christ Jesus. ďWhen they heard this [Johnís preaching] they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Ē
If it be objected here, that we are told, Matthew 3:5,6. ďThere went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins;Ē and that it is not to be imagined, all these made any credible profession of saving repentance and faith: I answer; No more is to be understood by these expressions, according to the phraseology of the Scripture, than that there was a very great resort of people from these places to John. Nor is any more to be understood by the like term of universality in John 3:26. ďThey came to John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, andALL MEN come to him;Ē that is, there was a great resort to him from all quarters. It is in nowise unreasonable to suppose, there was indeed a very great number of people that came to John from the places mentioned, who being exceedingly moved by his preaching, in that time of extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit, made profession of the faith and repentance which John preached. Doubtless there were many morePROFESSORS than real converts: but still in the great resort to John, there were many of the latter character; as we may infer from the prophecy: as appears by ďAnd many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.Ē ( Luke 1:16,17) And from that account of fact in Mark 11:12. ďFrom the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.Ē And in Luke 16:16. ďThe law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.Ē Here the expression is no less universal, than that which is objected in Matthew 3:5,6. As to those wicked Pharisees, that so much opposed Christ, some of them I suppose had been baptized by John, and then had a great show of repentance and faith; but they afterwards apostatized, and were much worse than ever before: therefore Christ speaks of them as being like a house from which the unclean spirit is visibly turned out for a while, and is lead empty, swept, and garnished, but afterward is repossessed, and has many devils instead of one, Luke 11:24, etc. Yet as to the greater part of these Pharisees, they were not baptized by John; as appears by Luke 7:29,30.
If it be further objected, that John in baptizing such multitudes could not have time to be sufficiently informed of those he baptized, whether their profession of godliness was credible, or no: I answer, That we are not particularly informed of the circumstances of his teaching, and of the assistance he was favored with, and the means he had of information, concerning those whom he baptized: but we may be sure of one thing, viz.
He had as much opportunity to inquire into the credibility of their profession. as he had to inquire into their doctrinal knowledge and moral character; which my opponents suppose to be necessary, as well as I: and this is enough to silence the present objection.
OBJECT. Christ says, Matthew 20:16. and again, chapter 22:14. that many are called, but few are chosen. By which it is evident, that there are many who belong to the visible church and yet but few real and true saints; and that it is ordinarily thus, even under the New-Testament, and in days of gospellight: and therefore that visibility of saintship whereby persons are visible saints in a scripture sense cannot imply an apparent probability of their being real saints, or truly gracious persons.
Answ . In these texts, by those that are called, are not meant those who are visible saints, and have the requisite qualifications for christian sacraments, but all such as hare the external call of the word of God, and have its offers and invitations made to them. And it is undoubtedly true, and has been matter of fact, for the most part that of those called in this sense, many hare been but only called and never truly obedient to the call, few have been true saints. So it was in the Jewish nation, to which the parable in the twentieth of Matthew has a special respect; in general they had the external call of Godís word, and attended many religious duties, in hopes of Godís favor and reward, which is called laboring in Godís vineyard; and set but few of them eventually obtained salvation nay, great multitudes of those who were caused in this sense were scandalous persons, and cross hypocrites. The Pharisees and Sadducees were called, and they labored in the vineyard, in the sense of the parable, for which they expected great rewards, above the Gentile converts or proselytes wherefore their eye was evil towards them, and they could not bear that they should be made equal to them. But still these Pharisees and Sadducees had not generally the intellectual and moral qualifications, that my opponents suppose requisite for christian sacraments; being generally scandalous persons, denying some fundamental principles of religion, and explaining away some of Its most important precepts. Thus, many in christendom are called, by the outward call of Godís word, and yet pew of them are in a state of salvation: but not all who sit under the sound of the gospel, and hear its invitations, are fit to come to sacraments.
That by those who are called, in this saving of our Savior, is meant those that have the gospel-offer, and not those who belong to the society of visible saints, is evident beyond all dispute, in Matthew 22:14. By the many that are called are plainly intended the many that are invited to the wedding. In the foregoing parable, we have an account of those who from time to time were hidden, orCALLED, (for the word is the same in the original,) verse 3. ďAnd sent forth his servants toCALL them that were\parCALLED and they would not come.Ē This has respect to the Jews, who refused not only savingly to come to Christ, but refused so much as to come into the visible church of Christ. Verse 4. ďAgain he sent forth other servants, saving, Tell them which are bidden, [orCALLED,] Behold I have prepared my dinner,Ē etc. Verse 8. ďThey which were bidden [orCALLED; were not worthy,Ē Ver 9. ďGo ye therefore into the high-ways, and as many as ye shall find, bid [orCALL] to the marriage,Ē or nuptial banquet; representing the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, who upon it came into the kingís house, i. e. the visible church, and among them one that had not a wedding-garment, who was bound hand and foot, and cast out when the king came: and then, at the conclusion, Christ adds this remark, verse 14. ďFor many areCALLED or bidden [ ] but few are chosen;Ē which must have reference, not only to the man last mentioned, who came into the wedding-house, the christian visible church, without a wedding-garment, but to those also mentioned before, who were called, but would not so much as come into the kingís house, or join to the visible christian church. To suppose this saying to have reference only to that one man who came without a wedding-garment, (representing one that comes into the visible church, but is not a true saint,) would be to make the introduction of this aphorism, and its connection with what went before, very strange and unintelligible, thus, ďMultitudes came into the kingís house, who were called, and the house was full of guests; but among them was found one man who was not chosen; for many am called, but few are chosen.Ē
OBJECT. When the servants of the householder, in the parable of the wheat and tares ( Matthew 13) unexpectedly found tares among the wheat, they said to their master, ďWilt thou that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them, let both grow together unfit the harvest.Ē Which shows the mind of Christ, that we ought not to make A distinction between true saints and others in this world, or aim at admitting true saints only into the visible church, but ought to let both be together in the church till the day of judgment.
Answ. 1. These things have no reference to introduction into the field, or admission into the visible church, as though no care nor measures should be taken to prevent tams being sown; as though the servants who had the charge of the field, would have done well to have taken tams, appearing to be such, and planted them in the field amongst the wheat: no, instead of this, the parable plainly implies the contrary. But the words cited have wholly respect to aCASTING OUT and purging the field, after the tares had been introduced unawares, and contrary to design, through menís infirmity and Satanís procurement. Concerning purging the tares out of the field, or casting met out of the church, there is no difference between me and those whom I oppose in the present controversy: and therefore it is impossible there should be any objection from that which Christ says here concerning this matter against me, but what is as much of an objection against then; for we both hold the same thing. It is agreed on all hands, that adult persons, actually admitted to communion in the visible church, however they may behave themselves so as to bring their spiritual state into suspicion yet ought not to be cast out, unless they are obstinate in heresy or scandal; lest, while we go about to root out the tares, we should root out the wheat also.
And it is also agreed on all hands, that when those represented under the name of tares bring forth such evil fruit, such scandalous and obstinate wickedness, as is plainly and visibly inconsistent with the being of true grace, they ought to be cast out. And therefore it is impossible that this objection should be any thing to the purpose.
Answ. 2. I think this parable, instead of being a just objection against the doctrine I maintain, is on the contrary a clear evidence for it.
For (1.) the parable shows plainly, that if any are introduced into the field of the householder, or church of Christ, who prove to be not wheat, (i. e. not true saints,) they are brought in unawares, or contrary to design. If tares are as properly to be sown in the field, as is the wheat, which must be the case if the Lordís supper be a converting ordinance, then surely no care ought to be taken to introduce wheat only, and no respect ought to be had more to the qualities of wheat in sowing the field, than the qualities of tares; nor is there any more impropriety in the tares having a place there, than the wheat. But this surely is altogether inconsistent with the scope of the parable. (2.) This parable plainly shows, that those who are in the visible church, have at first a visibility, or appearance to human sight of true grace, or of the nature of true saints. For it is observed, tares have this property, that when they first appear, and till the products of the field arrive to some maturity, they have such a resemblance of wheat, that it is next to impossible to distinguish them.
OBJECT. Christ himself administered the Lordís supper to Judas, whom he knew at the same time to be graceless, which is a full evidence, that grace is not in itself a requisite qualification in order to coming to the Lordís supper, and if it be not requisite in itself, a profession of it cannot be requisite.
Answ. 1. It is to me apparent, that Judas was not present at the administration of the Lord s supper. It is true, he was present at the passover, and dipped with Christ in the paschal dish. The three former evangelists do differ in the order of the account they give of this dipping in the dish. ó Luke gives an account of it after his account of the Lordís supper, Luke 22:21. But Matthew and Mark both give an account of it before. ( Matthew 26:23. Mark 14:20.) And the like might be shown in other instances of these three evangelists differing one from another in the order of their narratives, one places those things in his history after others, which another places first. These sacred historians do not undertake to declare precisely the date of every incident, but regard more the truth of facts, than the order of time. However in the present case, the nature of the thing speaks for itself and shows, that Judasís dipping with Christ in the dish, or his hand being with Christ on the table, or receiving a sop dipped in the dish, must be in that order wherein Matthew and Mark place it in their history, viz. at the passover, antecedent to the Lordís supper. For there is no such thing in the Lordís supper as dipping of sops, and dipping together in the dish; but there was in the passover, where all had their hands together in the dish, and dipt their sops in the bitter sauce. None of these three evangelists give us any account of the time when Judas went out: but John ó who is vastly more particular as to what passed that night, and is every where more exact as to the order of time than the other evangelists ó is very precise as to the time, viz that Jesus when he gave him the sop, at the same time sent him away, bidding him do quickly what be intended to do; and accordingly when he had received the sop, he went immediately out, John 13:27-30. Now this sop being at the passover, it is evident he was not present at the Lordís supper which followed. Many of the best expositors are of this opinion, such as Van Mastricht, Dr. Doddridge, and others.
Answ. 2. If Judas was there, I deny the consequence. As I have observed once and again concerning the Lordís dealings with his people under the Old Testament, so under the New the same observation takes place. Christ did not come to judge the secrets of men, nor did ordinarily act in his external dealings with his disciples, and in the administration of ordinances, as the Searcher of hearts; but rather as the Head of the visible church, proceeding according to what was exhibited in profession and visibility; herein setting an example to his ministers, who should stand in his place when he was gone, and act in his name in the administration of ordinances.
Judas had made the same profession of regard to his Master, and of forsaking all for him, as the other disciples: and therefore Christ did not openly renounce him till he himself had destroyed his profession and visibility of saintship, by public scandalous apostacy. Supposing then the presence of Judas at the Lordís supper, this affords no consequence in favor of what I oppose.
Answ. 3. If they with whom I have to do in this controversy, are not contented with the answers already given, and think there is a remaining difficulty in this matter lying against my scheme, I will venture to tell them, that this difficulty lies full as hard against their own scheme; and if there be any strength at all in the argument, it is to all intents of the same strength against the need of those qualifications which they themselves suppose to be necessary in order to an approach to the Lordís table. For although they do not think renewing saving grace necessary, yet they suppose moral seriousness or (as they variously speak) moral sincerity in religion to be necessary. They suppose it to be requisite, that persons should have some kind of serious principle and view in coming to the Lordís table, some intention of subjecting themselves to Christ, and of seeking and serving him, in general; and in particular some religious end in coming to the sacramental supper, some religious respect to Christ in it. But now did not Christ at that time perfectly know, that Judas had none of these things? He knew he had nothing of sincerity in the christian religion, or of regard to Christ in that ordinance, of any sort whatsoever, he knew, that Satan had entered into him and filled his heart, and that he was then cherishing in himself a malignant spirit against his Master, excited by the reproof Christ had lately given him, (compare John 12:8. with Matthew 26:8-16. and Mark 14:4-11.) and that he had already formed a traitorous, murderous design against him, and was now in the prosecution of that bloody design, having actually just before been to the chief priests, and agreed with them to betray him for thirty pieces of silverse (See Matthew 26:14,15,16. Mark 14:10,11. Luke 22:3-6. and John 13:2.) Christ knew these things and knew that Judas was utterly unqualified for the holy sacrament of the Lordís supper though it had not yet been made known to the church or the disciples. ó Therefore it concerns those on the contrary part in this controversy, to find out some solution of this difficulty, as much as it does me, and they will find they have as much need to take refuge in the solution already given, in one or other of the two preceding answers to this objection.
By the way observe, that Christís not excluding Judas from the passover, under these circumstances, knowing him to be thus unqualified, without so much as moved sincerity, etc. is another thing that effectually enervates all the strength of the objection against me, from the passover. For Judas did not only in common with others fall under Godís strict command; in the law of Moses, to keep this feast, without any exception of his case there to be found but Christ himself, with his own hand, gave him the sop, a part of the paschal feast; even although at the same instant he had in view the manís secret wickedness and hypocrisy, the traitorous design which was then in his heart, and the horrid conspiracy with the chief priests which he had already entered into, and was now prosecuting. This was then in Christís mind, and he intimated it to him, at the same moment when he gave him the sop saving, ďWhat thou doest, do quickly.Ē This demonstrates, that the objection from the passover is no stronger argument against mv scheme, than the scheme of those whom I oppose, because it is no stronger against the necessity of sanctifying grace, the qualification for christian sacraments, which I insist upon, than it is against the necessity of moral seriousness or sincerity, the qualification which they insist upon.
OBJECT. If sanctifying grace be a requisite qualification in order to due access to christian sacraments. God would have given some certain rule, whereby those who are to admit them, might know whether they have such grace, or not.
Answ. This objection was obviated in my stating the question. However, I will say something further to it in this place; and would observe, that if there be any strength in this objection, it lies in the truth of this proposition, viz. That whatever qualifications are requisite in order to personsí due access to christian sacraments, God has given some certain rule, whereby those who admit them may know whether they have those qualifications, or not. If this proposition is not true, then there is no force at all in the argument. But I dare say, there is not a divine, nor Christian of common sense, on the face of the earth, that will assert and stand to it, that this proposition is true. For none will deny that some sort of belief of the being of a God, some soft of belief that the Scriptures are the word of God, that there is a future state of rewards and punishments, and that Jesus is the Messiah, are qualifications requisite in order to a due access to christian sacraments; and yet God has given those who are to admit persons no certain rule, whereby they may know whether they believe any one of these shines. Neither has he given his ministers or churches any certain rule, whereby they may know whether any person that offers himself for admission to the sacrament, has any degree of moral sincerity, moral serious of spirit, or any inward moral qualification whatsoeverse These things have all their existence in the soul, which is out of our neighbourís view. Not therefore a certainty, but a profession and visibility, of these things, must be the rule of the churchís proceeding and it is as good and as reasonable a rule of judgment concerning saving grace, as it is concerning any other internal invisible qualifications, which cannot be certainly known by any but the subject himself.
OBJECT. If sanctifying grace be requisite to a due approach to the Lordís table, then no man may come but he that knows he has such grace. A man must not only think he has a right to the Lordís supper, in order to his lawful partaking of it; but he must know he has a right. If nothing but sanctification gives him a real right to the Lordís supper, then nothing short of the known of sanctification gives him a known right to it: only an opinion and probable hopes of a right will not warrant his Answ. 1. I desire those who insist on this as an invincible argument, to consider calmly whether they themselves ever did, or ever will, stand to it.
For here these two things are to be observed: (1.) If no man may warrantably come to the Lordís supper, but such as know they have a right, then no unconverted persons may come unless they not only think, but know, It is the mind of God, that unconverted persons should come, and know that he does not require grace in order to their coming. For unless they know that men may come without grace, they cannot know that they themselves have a right to come, being without grace. And will any one assert and stand to it, that of necessity all adult persons, of every age, rank, and condition of life, must be so versed in this controversy, as to have a certainty in this matter, in order to their coming to the Lordís supper? It would he most absurd for any to assert it to be a point of easy proof, the evidence of which is so clear and obvious to every one of every capacity, as to supersede all occasion for their being studied in divinity, in order to a certainty of its truth, that persons may come to the sacred table of the Lord, notwithstanding they know themselves to be unconverted! Especially considering, that the contrary to this opinion has been in general the judgement of protestant divines and churches, from the Reformation to this day. and that the most of the greatest divines that have ever appeared in the world, who have spent their lives in the diligent prayerful study of divinity, have been fixed in the reverse of that opinion.
This is sufficient at least to show, that this opinion is not so plain as not to be a disputable point; and that the evidence of it is not so obvious to Persons of the lowest capacity and little inquiry, as that all may come to a certainty In the matter, without difficulty and without study. I would humbly ask here, What has been the case in fact in our churches, who have practiced for so many years on this principle? Can it be pretended, or was it ever supposed, that the communicants in general, even persons of mean intellects and low education, not excepting the very boys and girls of sixteen years old, that have been taken into the church, had so studied divinity, as not only to think, but know, that our pious forefathers, and almost all the protestant and christian divines in the world, have been in an error in this matter? And have people ever been taught the necessity of this previous knowledge? Has it ever been insisted upon, that before persons come to the Lordís supper, they must look so far into the case of a right to the Lordís supper, as to come not only to a full settled opinion, but even certainty, in this point? And has any one minister or church in their admissions ever proceeded on the supposition, that all whom they took into communion were so versed in this controversy, as this comes to? Has it ever been the manner to examine them as to their thorough acquaintance with this particular controversy? Has it beer. the manner to put by those who had only an opinion and not a certainty, even as the priests who could not find their register, were put by, till the matter could be determined by Urim and Thummim? And I dare appeal to every minister, and every member of a church that has been concerned in admitting communicants, whether they ever imagined, or it ever entered into their thought, concerning each one to whose admission they have consented, that they had looked so much into this matter, as not only to have settled their opinions, but to be arrived to a proper certainty? (2.) I desire It may he remembered, that the venerable author of the Appeal to the Learned, did in his ministry ever teach such doctrine from whence it will unavoidably follow, that no one unconverted man in the world can know he has a warrant to come to the Lordís supper. For if any unconverted man has a warrant to worship his Maker in this way, it must be because God has given him such warrant by the revelation of his mind in the Holy Scriptures. And therefore if any unconverted man not only thinks but knows, he has a warrant from God, he must of consequence, not only think, but know, that the Scriptures are the word of God. But I believe all that survive of the stated hearers of that eminent divine, and all who were acquainted with him, well remember it to be a doctrine which he often taught and much insisted on, that no natural man knows the Scripture to be the word of God; that although such may think so, yet they do not know it; and that at best they have but a doubtful opinion: and he open would express himself thus; No natural man is thoroughly convinced, that the Scriptures are the word of 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 Lordís 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 Lordís 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? ó 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 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.
Answ. 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 Rive 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 Lordís 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 Godís 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 Godís 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 8:37.) the doctrine of Three Persons and one God, in particular. But I think there can be no reasonable doubt, that natural men ó who have so weak and poor a kind of faith in these mysteries ó 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 ó or whether they are evangelically sincere in choosing God for their portion ó the former would be as frequently exercised with doubt, 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 Godís word, for an attendance on the Lordís supper; yet it will not follow, that a man must know he has this qualification, in order to his being capable of consciously 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, etc. he may be bound in conscience to attend. And the reason is this, Christians partaking of the Lordís supper is not a matter of mere claim, or right and privilege 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 endeavors 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 Gad 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 situation, 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 honor to himself, unless called of God. Now let us suppose a young man, of a liberal 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 honor 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 2) alleged in the Appeal to the Learned, p. 64. it appear, 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 Lordís supper. These being many of them internal invisible things, seated in the mind and heart, such as the belief of a Supreme Being, etc.
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 new of the church.
OBJECT. 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. 1. 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 masteries with all their heart, etc. as has been already observed. And being free from perplexity, only through stupidity and hardness of heart, is worse them being in the greatest perplexity through tenderness of conscience.
Answ. 2. Supposing the doctrine which I have maintained, be indeed the doctrine of Godís 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 Godís word. Perplexity and distress of mind, not only on occasion of the Lordís supper, but innumerable other occasions, is the natural and unavoidable 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 Godís 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 brink 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 Lordís table. If Christians would more thoroughly exercise themselves unto godliness, laboring always to keep a conscience void of offense both towards God and towards wan, it would be the way to have the comfort and taste the sweetness of religion. If they would so ran, not at 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. ó 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 Godís 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 Godís people ó however it might be an accidental occasion of perplexity in many instances, through their own infirmity and sin ó 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 Lordís supper, to put them on the strictest examination and trial of the state of their souls, agreeable to that rule of the apostle Corinthians 11:28. 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. ó Mr. Stoddard open taught his people, that assurance is attainable, and that those who are true saints might know it, if they would i. e. if they would use proper means and endeavors In order to it. ó And if so, hen certainly it is not just, to charge those perplexities on Godís institutions, which arise through menís negligence; nor would it be just on the supposition of Godís institutions being such as I suppose them to be.
OBJECT. You may as well say, that unsanctified persons may not attend any duty of divine worship whatsoever, as that they may not attend the Lordís supper, for all duties of worship are holy and require holiness, in order to an acceptable performance of them, as well as that.
Answ . 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, etc. may be admitted to hear the word preached; nevertheless they are not to be allowed to come to the Lordís supper. Even excommunicated persons remain still under the law of the Sabbath, and are not to be forbidden to observe the Lordís day. Ignorant persons, such as have not knowledge sufficient for an approach to the Lordís 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 Lordís 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, had 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 of these men was qualified for the christian sacrament. 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 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 Lordís 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 Godís 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. There 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 wand, and of a need of Godís help, some sense of our dependence, etc. 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 race, the 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 Lordís supper, the very matter of what he does, in respect of the profession he there makes, and his pretension to lay hold of Godís 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.
OBJECT. The Lordís supper has a proper tendency to promote menís conversion, being an affecting representation of the greatest and most important things of Godís 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, etc.
Answ . Unless it be an evident truth, that what the Lordís supper neat 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 Lordís supper. And if the consequence be good and strong on this foundation, as drawn from such premises, then wherever the premises hotel, 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 Godís 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 Godís word. They need especially to fly to Christ for refuge, and therefore need to have their hearts drawn. And seeing the Lordís supper has so great a tendency to promote these things, if the consequence from the tendency of the Lordís supper, as inferring the end of its appointment, be good, then it must be a consequence also well inferred, that the Lordís 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 Lordís supper to promote a design, yet it may be the Lordís supper was not appointed with a view to promote that end. ó 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. ó To say here, that the Lordís supper is a converting ordinance only to orderly members, and that there is another ordinance appointed for bringing scandalous persons to repentance, 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 Godís will and disposition with respect to the me of those shines. 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 unbelieving Jews, if they had been allowed to see and converse freely with Christ after his resurrection, and see him ascend into heaven? But yet it was the will of God, that none but disciple 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 Lordís supper?
But yet it is commonly thought, none were admitted beside the apostles.
Indeed the ever honored 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. ďThe efficacy of the Lordís supper does depend upon the blessing of God. WhateverTENDENCY ordinances have in theirOWN NATURE to be serviceable to men, yet they will not prevail any further than God doth bless them. ďThe weapons of our warfare are mighty through God,Ē 2 Corinthians 10:4.
It is God that teaches men to profit, and makes them profitable and serviceable to menís souls. There is reason to hope for a divine blessing on the Lordís supper, when it is administered to those that it ought to be administered to; Godís blessing is to be expected in Godís 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 Godís blessing, ďIn vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.Ē ( Matthew 15:9) But when they are admitted to the Lordís supper that God would have to be admitted, there is ground to hope that he will make it profitable.Ē
OBJECT. 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 Lordís supper, in those words of Christ, This do in remembrance of me.
Answ . This argument is of no force, without first taking fur 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 the 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? Because it is taken for granted, that these are not unqualified. And thus the grand point in question ii supposed, instead of being proved. Why are these limitations only singled out, neither ignorant nor scandalous; and not others as well? The answer must be, because these are all the limitations which the Scripture makes: but this now is the very thing in question. Whereas, the business of an argument is to prove, and not to suppose, or to take for granted, the very thing which is to be proved.
If it be here said, It is with good reason that those who are ignorant or scandalous alone are supposed to be excepted in Godís command, and obligations of the covenant; for the covenant spoken of in the objection, is the external covenant, and this requires only external duties; which done are what lie within the reach of manís natural power, and so in the reach of his legal power: God does not command or require what men have no natural power to perform, and which cannot be performed before something else, some antecedent duty,IS performed, which antecedent duty is not in their natural power.
I reply, Still things are but supposed, which should be proved, and which want confirmation. (1.) It is supposed, that those who have externally (i. e. by oral profession and promise) entered into Godís covenant, are thereby obliged to no more than the external duties of that covenant: which is not proved, and I humbly conceive, is certainly not the true state of the case. They who have externally entered into Godís covenant, are by external profession and engagements entered into that one only covenant of grace, which the Scripture informs us of; and therefore are obliged to fulfill the duties of that covenant, which are chiefly internal.
The children of Israel, when they externally entered into covenant with God at mount Sinai, promised to perform all the duties of the covenant, to obey all the ten commandments spoken by God in their hearing, and written in tables of stone, which were therefore called The Tables of the Covenant; the sum of which ten commands was, to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and to love their neighbor as themselves; which principally at least are internal duties. In particular, they promised not to coat which is an internal duty. ó They promised to have no other god before the Lord, which Implied, that they would in their hearts regard no other being or object whatever above God, or in equality with him, but would give him their supreme respect. (2.) It is supposed, that God does not require impossibilities of men, in this sense, that he does not require those things of them which are out of their natural power, and particularly that he does not require them to be converted. But this is not proved, nor can I reconcile it with the tenor of the scripture revelation. And the chief advocates for the doctrine I oppose, have themselves abundantly asserted the contrary. The venerable author fore-mentioned, as every body knows, that knew him, always taught, that God justly requires men to be converted, to repent of their sins, and turn to the Lord, to close with Christ, and savingly to believe in him, and that in refusing to accept of Christ and turn to God, they disobeyed the divine commands, and were guilty of the most heinous sin, and that their moral inability was no excuse. (3.) It is supposed, that God does not command men to do those things which are not to be done till something else is done, that is not within the reach of menís natural ability. This also is not proved nor do I see how it can be true, even according to the principles of those who insist on this objection. The fore-mentioned memorable divine ever taught, that God commandeth natural men without delay to believe in Christ: and yet he always held, that it was impossible for them to believe till they had by a preceding act submitted to the sovereignty of God, and yet he held, that men never could do this of themselves, till humbled and bowed by powerful convictions of Godís Spirit. Again, be taught, that God commandeth natural men to love him with all their heart: and yet he held, that this could not be till men had first believed in Christ, the exercise of love being a fruit of faith, and believing in Christ, he supposed not to be within the reach of manís natural ability. Further, he held, that God requireth of all men holy, spiritual, and acceptable obedience, and yet that such obedience is not within the teach of their natural ability, and not only so but that there must first be love to God, before there could be new obedience, and that this love to God is not within the teach of menís natural ability. Yet, before this love there must be faith, which faith is not within the reach of manís natural power; and still, before faith there must be the knowledge of God, which knowledge is not in natural menís reach: and, once more, even before the knowledge of God there must be a thorough humiliation, which humiliation men could not work in themselves by any natural power of their own. Now, must it needs be thought, notwithstanding all these unreasonable things, that God should command those whom he has nourished and brought up, to honor him by giving an open testimony of love to him; only because wicked men cannot testify love till they have love, and love is not in their natural power? And is it any good excuse in the sight of God, for one who is under the highest obligations to him, and yet refuses him suitable honor by openly testifying his love of him, to plead that he has no love to testify; but on the contrary, has an infinitely unreasonable hatred? God may most reasonably require a proper testimony and profession of love to him; and yet it may also be reasonable to suppose, at the same time, he forbids men to lie; or to declare that they have love, when they have none: because, though it be supposed, that God requires men to testify love to him, yet he requires them to do it in a right way, and in the true order, viz. first loving him, and then testifying their love. (4.) I do not see how it can be true, that a natural man has not a legal power to be converted, accept of Christ, love God, etc. By a legal power to do a thing, is plainly meant such power as brings a person properly within the reach of a legal obligation, or the obligation of a law or command to do that thing. But he that has such natural faculties, as Tender him a proper subject of moral government, may properly be commanded, and put under the obligation of a law to do things so reasonable; notwithstanding any native aversion and moral inability in him to do his duty, arising from the power of sin. This also, I must observe, vitas doctrine of Mr. Stoddardís, and what he ever taught.
Answ . It is the duty of unconverted men both to become saints, and to behave as saints. The scripture rule is, Make the tree good, that the fruit may be good. Mr. Stoddard himself never supposed, that the fruit of saints was to be expected from men, or could possibly be brought forth by them in truth, till they were saints.
And I see not how it is true, that unconverted men ought, in every respect, to do those external things, which it is the duty of a godly man to do. It is the duty of a godly man, conscious of his having given his heart unto the Lord, to profess his love to God and his esteem of him above all, his unfeigned faith in Christ, etc. and in his closet-devotions to thank God for these graces as the fruit of the Spirit in him. But it is not the duty of another that really has no faith, nor love to God, to do thus. Neither any more is it a natural manís duty to profess these things in the Lordís supper. ó Mr.
Stoddard taught it to be the duty of converts, on many occasions, to profess their faith and love and other graces before men, by relating their experiences in conversation: but it would be great wickedness, for such as know themselves to be not saints, thus to do; because they would speak falsely, and utter lies in so doing. Now. for the like reason, it would be very sinful, for men to profess and seal their content to the covenant of grace in the Lordís supper, when they know at the same time that they do not consent to it, nor have their hearts at all in the affair.
OBJECT. This scheme will keep out of the church some true saints, for there are some such who determine against themselves, and their prevailing judgment is, that they are not saints: and we had better let in several hypocrites, than exclude one true child of God.
Answ . I think, it is much better to insist on some visibility to reason, of true saintship, in admitting members, even although this, through menís infirmity and darkness, and Satanís temptations, be an occasion of some true saints abstaining; than by express liberty given, to open the door to as many as please, of those who have no visibility of real saintship, and make no profession of it, nor pretension to it, and that because this method tends to the ruin and great reproach of the christian church and also to the ruin of the persons admitted. 1. It tends to the reproach and ruin of the christian church. For by the truly which God hath given for admissions, if it be carefully attended, (it is said,)\parMORE unconverted than converted persons, will be admitted. It is then confessedly the way to have the greater part of the members of the christian church ungodly men; yea, so much greater, that the godly shall be but few in comparison of the ungodly, agreeable to their interpretation of that saving of Christ, many are called, but few are chosen. Now If this be an exact state of the case, it will demonstrably follow, on scripture principles, that opening the door so wide has a direct tendency to bring into christian churches such as are without even moral sincerity, and do not make religion at all their business, neglecting and casting off secret prayer and other duties, and living a life of carnality and vanity, so far as they can, consistently with avoiding church-censures; which possibly may be sometimes to a great degree. Ungodly men may be morally sober, serious, and conscientious, and may have what is called moral sincerity, for a while; and even may have these things in a considerable measure, when they first come into the church: but if their hearts are not changed, there is no probability at all of these things continuing long. The Scripture has told us, that this their goodness is apt to vanish lisle the morning cloud and early dew. How can it be expected but that their religion should in a little time wither away, when it has no root? How can it be expected, that the lamp should burn long, without oil in the vessel to feed it? If lust be unmortified, and left in reigning power in the heart, it will sooner or later prevail; and at length sweep away common grace and moral sincerity, however excited and maintained for a while by conviction and temporary affections. It will happen to them according to the tree proverb, The dog is returned to his vomit; and the swine that was washed, to wallowing in the mire. It is said of the hypocrite, Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God? ó And thus our churches will be likely to be such congregations as the psalmist said he hated, and would not sit with. Psalm 26:4,5. ďI have not sat with vain persons, nor will I go in with dissemblers; I have bated the congregation of evil-doers, nor will I sit with the wicked. ó This will be the way to have the Lordís table ordinarily furnished with such guests as allow themselves to live in known sin, meeting together only to crucify Christ afresh, instead of commemorating his crucifixion with the repentance, faith, gratitude, and love of friends. And this is the way to have the governing part of the church such as are not even conscientious men, and are careless about the honor and interest of religion.
And the direct tendency of that is, in process of time, to introduce a prevailing negligence in discipline, and carelessness in seeking ministers of a pious and worthy character. And the next step will be, the church being filled with persons openly vicious in manners, or else scandalously erroneous in opinions. It is well if this be not already the case in fact with some churches that have long professed and practiced on the principles I oppose. And if these principles should be professed and proceeded on by christian churches every where, the natural tendency of it would be, to have the greater part of what is called the church of Christ, through the world, made up of vicious and erroneous persons. And how greatly would this be to the reproach of the christian church, and of the holy name and religion of Jesus Christ in the sight of all nations!
And now is it not better, to have a few real living Christians kept back through darkness and scruples, than to open a door for letting in such universal ruin as this? To illustrate it by a familiar comparison, Is it not better, when England is at war with France, to keep out of the British realm a few loyal Englishmen, than to give leave for as many treacherous Frenchmen to come in as please? 2. This way tends to the eternal ruin of the parties admitted, for it lets in such, yea, it persuades such to come in, as know themselves to be impenitent and unbelieving, in a dreadful manner to take Godís name in vain, in vain to worship him, and abuse sacred things, by performing those external acts and rites in the name of God, which are instituted for declarative signs and professions of repentance toward God, faith in Christ, and love to him, at the same time that they know themselves destitute of those things which they profess to have. And is it not better, that some true saints, through their own weakness and misunderstanding, should be kept away from the Lordís table, which will not keep such out of heaven than voluntarily to bring in multitudes of false professors to partake unworthily, and in effect to seal their own condemnation.
OBJECT. You cannot keep out hypocrites, when all is said and done; but as many graceless persons will be likely to get into the church in the way of a profession of godliness, as if nothing were insisted on, but a freedom from public scandal.
Answ . It may possibly be so in some places through the misconduct of ministers and people, by remissness in their inquiries, carelessness as to the proper matter of a profession, or setting up some mistaken rules of judgment; neglecting those things which the Scripture insists upon as the most essential articles in the character of a real saint; and substituting others in the room of them, such as impressions on the imagination, instead of renewing influences on the heart, pangs of affection, instead of the habitual temper of the mind; a certain method and order of impressions and suggestions, instead of the nature of things experienced, etc. But to say, that in churches where the nature, the notes, and evidences of true Christianity, as described in the Scriptures, are well understood, taught, and observed, there as many hypocrites are likely to get in; or to suppose, that there as many persons of an honest character, who are well instructed in these rules, and well conducted by them ó and judging of themselves by these rules, do think themselves true saints, and accordingly make profession of godliness, and are admitted as saints in a Judgment of rational charity ó are likely to be carnal, unconverted men, as of those who make no such pretense and have no such hope, nor exhibit any such evidences to the eye of a judicious charity, is not so much an objection against the doctrine I am defending, as a reflection upon the Scripture itself, with regard to the rules it gives, either for persons to judge of their own state, or for others to form a charitable judgment, as if they were of little or no service. We are in miserable circumstances indeed, if the rules of Godís holy word in things of such infinite importance, are so ambiguous and uncertain, like the heathen oracles. And it would he very strange, if in these days of the gospel, when Godís mind is revealed with such great plainness of speech, and the canon of Scripture is completed, it should ordinarily be the case in fact. that those who, having a right doctrinal understanding of the Scripture, and judging themselves by its rules, do probably conclude or seriously hope of themselves, that they are real saints, are as many of them in a state of sin and condemnation, as others who have no such rational hope concerning their good estate, nor pretend to any special experiences in religion.
OBJECT. If a profession of godliness be a thing required in order to admission into the church, there being some true saints who doubt of their state, and from a tender conscience will not dare to make such a profession; and there being others, that have no grace, nor much tenderness of conscience, but great presumption and forwardness, who will boldly make the highest profession of religion, and so will get admittance: it will hence come to pass, that the very thing, which will in effect procure for the latter an admission, rather than the former, will be their presumption and wickedness.
Answ. 1. It is no sufficient objection against the wholesomeness of a rule established for regulating the civil state of mankind, that in some instances menís wickedness may take advantage by that rule, so that even their wickedness shall be. the very thing which, by an abuse of that rule procures them temporal honors and privileges. For such is the present state of man in this evil world, that good rules, in many instances, are liable to be thus abused and perverted. As for instance, there are many human laws, accounted wholesome and necessary by which an accused or suspected personís own solemn profession of innocency, upon oath, shall be the condition of acquittance and impunity; and the want of such a protestation or profession shell expose him to the punishment. And yet, by an abuse of these rules, in some instances, nothing but the horrid sin of perjury, or that most presumptuous wickedness of false swearing, shall be the very thing that acquits a man: while another of a more tender conscience, who fears an oath, must suffer the penalty of the law. 2. Those rules, by all wise lawgivers, are accounted wholesome, which prove of general good tendency, notwithstanding any bad consequences arising in some particular instances. And as to the ecclesiastical rule now in question, of admission to sacraments on a profession of godliness, when attended with requisite circumstances; although in particular instances it may be an occasion of some tender-hearted Christians abstaining, and some presumptuous sinners being admitted, yet that does not hinder but that a proper visibility of holiness to the eye of reason, or a probability of it in a judgment of rational christian charity, may this way be maintained, as the proper qualification of candidates for admission. Nor does it hinder but that it may be reasonable and wholesome for mankind in their outward conduct, to regulate themselves by such probability; and that this should be a reasonable and good rule for the church to regulate themselves by in their admissions; notwithstanding it may happen in particular instances, that things are really diverse from, yea the very reverse of, what they are visibly.
Such a profession as has been insisted on, when attended with requisite circumstances, carries in it a rational credibility in the Judgment of christian charity: for it ought to be attended with an honest and sober character, and with evidences of good doctrinal knowledge, and with all proper, careful, and diligent instructions of a prudent pastor. And though the pastor is not to act as a searcher of the heart, or a lord of conscience in this affair, yet that hinders not but that he may and ought to inquire particularly into the experiences of the souls committed to his care and charge, that he may be under the best advantages to instruct and advise them, to apply the teachings and rules of Godís word unto them, for their self-examination, to be helpers of their joy, and promoters of their salvation. However, finally, not any pretended extraordinary skill of his in discerning the heart, but the personís own serious profession concerning what he finds in his own soul, after he has been well instructed, must regulate the public conduct with respect to him, where there is no other external visible thing to contradict and overrule it. And a serious profession of godliness, under these circumstances, carries in it a visibility to the eye of the churchís rational and christian judgment. 3. If it be still insisted on, that a rule of admission into the church cannot be good, if liable to such abuse as that forementioned, I must observe, This will overthrow the rules that the objectors themselves go by in their admissions. For they insist upon it, that a man must not only have knowledge and be free of scandal, but must appear orthodox and profess the common faith. Now presumptuous lying, for the sake of the honor of being in the church, having children baptized, and voting in ecclesiastical affairs, may possibly be the very thing that brings some men into the church by this rule; while greater tenderness of conscience may be the very thing that keeps others out. For instance, a man who secretly in his mind gives no credit to the commonly received doctrine of the Trinity, yet may, by pretending an assent to it, and in hypocrisy making a public profession of it, get into the church; when at the same time another that equally disbelieves it, but has a more tender conscience than to allow himself in solemnly telling a lie, may by that very means be kept off from the communion.
OBJECT. It seems hardly reasonable to suppose, that the only wise God has made menís opinion of themselves, and a profession of it, the term of their admission to church-privileges; when we know, that very often the worst men have the highest opinion of themselves.
Answ. 1. It must be granted me, that in fact this is the case, if any proper profession at all is expected and required, whether it be of sanctifying ,grace, or of moral sincerity, or any thing else that is good: and to be sure, nothing is required to be professed, or is worthy to be professed, any further than it is good.
Answ. 2. If some things, by the confession of all, must be professed, because they are good, and of great importance, certainly it must be very unreasonable, to say, that those things wherein true holiness consists are not to be professed, or that a profession of them should not be required, because they are good, even in the highest degree, and infinitely the most important and most necessary things of any in the world. And it is unreasonable to say, that it is the less to be expected we should profess sincere friendship to Christ, because friendship to Christ is the most excellent qualification of any whatsoever, and the contrary the most odious.
How absurd is it to say this, merely under a notion that for a man to profess what is so good and so reasonable, is to profess a high opinion of himself!
Answ. 3. Though some of the worst men are apt to entertain the highest opinion of themselves, yet their self-conceit is no rule to the church, but the apparent credibility of menís profession is to be the ground of ecclesiastical proceedings.
OBJECT. IF it be necessary that adult persons should make a profession of godliness, in order to their own admission to baptism, then undoubtedly it is necessary in order to their children being baptized on their account. For parents cannot convey to their children a right to this sacrament by virtue of any qualifications lower than those requisite in order to their own right: children being admitted to baptism only as being, as it were, parts and members of their parents. And besides, the act of parents in offering up their children in a sacrament, which is a seal of the covenant of grace, is in them a solemn attending that sacrament as persons interested in the covenant, and a public manifestation of their approving and consenting to it, as truly as if they then offered up themselves to God in that ordinance. Indeed it implies a renewed offering up themselves with their children, and devoting both jointly to God in covenant, themselves, with their children, as parts of themselves. But now what fearful work will such doctrine make amongst us! We shall have multitudes unbaptized, who will be without the external badge of Christianity and so in that respect will be like heathens. And this is the way to have the land full of persons who are destitute of that which is spoken of in Scripture as ordinarily requisite to menís salvation, and it will brine a reproach on vast multitudes, with the families they belong to. And not only so, but it will tend to make them profane and heathenish; for by thus treating our children, as though they had no part in the Lord, we shall cause them to cease from fearing the Lord;Ē Joshua 22:24,25.
Answ. 1. As to children being destitute of that which is spoken of in Scripture as one thing ordinarily requisite to salvation; I would observe, that baptism can do their souls no good any otherwise than through Godís blessing attending it: but we have no reason to expect his blessing with baptism, if administered to those that it does not belong to by his institution.
Answ. 2. As to the reproach, which will be brought on parents and children, by children going without baptism through the parents neglecting a profession of godliness and so visibly remaining among the unconverted; if any insist on this objection, I think it will savor of much unreasonableness and even stupidity.
It will savor of an unreasonable spirit. Is it not enough if God freely offers men to own their children and to give them the honor of baptism, in case the parents will turn from sin arid relinquish their enmity against him, heartily give up themselves and their children to him, and take upon them the profession of godliness? ó If men are truly excusable, in not turning to God through Christ, in not believing with the heart, and in not confessing with the mouth, why do not we openly plead that they are so! And why do we not teach sinners, that they are not to blame for continuing among the enemies of Christ, and neglecting and despising his great salvation? If they are not at all excusable in this and it he wholly owing to their own indulged lusts, that they refuse sincerely to give up themselves and their children to God, then how unreasonable is it for them to complain that their children are denied the honor of having Godís mark set upon them as some of his!
If parents are angry at this, such a temper shows them to be very insensible of their own vile treatment of the blessed God. Suppose a prince send to a traitor in prison, and upon opening the prison doors make him the offer, that if he would come forth and submit himself to him, he should not only be pardoned himself, but both he and his children should have such and suds hedges of honor conferred upon them; and yet the rebelís enmity and stoutness of spirit against his prince is such, that he cannot find in his heart to comply with the gracious offer, will he have any cause to be angry, that his children have not those badges of honor given them? Besides, it is very much owing to parents, that there are so many young people who can make no profession of godliness. They have themselves therefore to blame, if proceeding on the principles which have been maintained, there is like to rise a generation of unbaptized persons. If ancestors had thoroughly done their duty to their posterity in instructing, praying for, and governing their children, and setting them good examples, there is reason to think, the case would have been far otherwise.
Insisting on this objection would savor of much stupidity. For the objection seems to suppose the country to be full of those that are unconverted, and so exposed every moment to eternal damnation, yet it seems we do not hear such great and general complaints and lamentable outcries concerning this.
Now why is it looked upon so dreadful, to have great numbers going without the name and honorable badge of Christianity, when at the same time it is no more resented and laid to heart, that such multitudes go without the thing, which is infinitely more dreadful? Why are we so silent about this? What is the name good for, without the thing? Can parents bear to have their children go about the world In the most odious and cancerous state of soul, in reality the children of the devil, and condemned to eternal burnings; when at the same time they cannot bear to have them disgraced by going without the honor of being baptized? A high honor and privilege this is, yet how can parents be contented with the sign, exclusive of the thing signified? Why should they covet the external honor for their children, while they are so careless about the spiritual blessing? Does not this argue a senselessness of their own misery, as well as of their childrenís, in being in a Christless state? If a man and his child were both together bitten by a viper, dreadfully swollen, and like to die, would it not argue stupidity in the parent, to be anxiously concerned only about his childís having on a dirty garment in such circumstances, and angry at others for not putting some outward ornament upon it? But the difference in this present case is infinitely greater, and more important. Let parents pity their poor children because they are without baptism; and pity themselves ``ho are in danger of everlasting misery, while they have no interest in the covenant of grace, and so have no right to covenant favors and honors, for themselves nor children. No religious honors, to be obtained in any other way than by real religion, are much worth contending for. And in truth, it is no honor at all to a man, to have merely the outward badges of a Christian, without being, a Christian indeed; any more than it would be an honor to a man that has no learning, but is a mere dunce, to have a degree at college; or than it is for a man who has no valor, but is a grand coward, to have an honorable commission in an army; which only serves, by lifting him up, to expose him to deeper reproach, and sets him forth as the more notable object of contempt.
Answ. 3. Concerning the tendency of this way of confining baptism to professors of godliness and their children, to promote irreligion and profaneness; I would observe, first, That Christ is best able to judge of the tendency of his own institutions. Secondly, I am bold to say, that supposing this principle and practice to have such a tendency, is a great mistake, contrary to Scripture and plain reason and experience. Indeed such a tendency it would have, to shut men out from having any part in the Lord, (in the sense of the two tribes and half; Joshua 22:25.) or to fence them out by such a partition-wall as formerly was between Jews and Gentiles; and so to shut them out as to tell them, if they were never so much disposed to serve God, he was not ready to accept them; according to the notion the Jews seem to have had of the uncircumcised Gentiles. ó But to forbear giving men honors to which they have no title, and not to compliment them with the name and hedge of Godís people and children, while they pretend to nothing but what is consistent with their being his enemies, this has no such tendency. But the contrary has very much this tendency. For is it not found by constant experience through all ages, that blind, corrupt mankind. in matters of religion, are strongly disposed to rest in a name instead of the thing; in the shadow, instead of the substance; and to make themselves easy with the former, in the neglect of the latter? This overvaluing of common grace, and moral sincerity, as it is called; this building so much upon them, making them the conditions of enjoying the seals of Godís covenant, and the appointed privileges, and honorable and sacred badges, of Godís children; this, I cannot but think, naturally tends to sooth and flatter the pride of vain man, while it tends to aggrandize those things in menís eyes, which they of themselves are strongly disposed to magnify and trust in, without such encouragements to prompt them to it, yea, against all discouragements and dissuasives that can possibly be used with them.
This way of proceeding greatly tends to establish the negligence of parents, and to confirm the stupidity and security of wicked children. ó lf baptism were denied to all children, whose parents did not profess godliness, and in a judgment of rational charity appear real saints, it would tend to excite pious heads of families to more thorough care and pains in the religious education of their children, and to more fervent prayer for them, that they might be converted in youth, before they enter into a married state; and so if they have children, the entail of the covenant be secured. ó And it would tend to awaken young people themselves, as yet unconverted, especially when about to settle in the world. Their having no right to christian privileges for their children, in case they should become parents, would tend to lead them at such a time seriously to reflect on their own awful state; which, if they do not get out of it, must lay a foundation for so much calamity and reproach to their families. And if after their becoming parents, they still remain unconverted, the melancholy thought of their children going without so much as the external mark of Christians, would have a continual tendency to affect them with their own sin and folly in neglecting to turn to God, by which they bring such visible calamity and disgrace on themselves and families. They would have this additional motive continually to stir them up to seek grace for themselves and their children.
Whereas, the contrary practice has a natural tendency to quiet the minds of persons, both in their own and their childrenís unregeneracy. Yea, may it not be suspected, that the way of baptizing the children of such as never make any proper profession of godliness, is an expedient originally invented for that very end, to give ease to ancestors with respect to their posterity, in times of general declension and degeneracy?
This way of proceeding greatly tends to establish the stupidity and irreligion of children, as well as the negligence of parents. It is certain, that unconverted parents do never truly give up their children to God, since they do not truly give up themselves to him. And if neither of the parents appear truly pious, in the judgment of rational charity, there is not in this case any ground to expect that the children will be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or that they will have any thing worthy the name of a Christian education, hod solemnly soever the parents may promise it. The faith fullness of Abraham was such as might be trusted in this matter. See Genesis 18:19. But men that are not so much as visibly godly, upon what grounds are they to be trusted? How can it be reasonably expected, that they should faithfully bring up their children forGOD, who were never sincerely willing that their children or themselves should be his? And it will be but presumption, to expect that those children who are never given up to God, nor brought up for him, should prove religious, and be Godís children. There is no manner of reason to expect any other than that such children ordinarily will grow up in irreligion, whether they are baptized or not. And for persons to go about with the name and visible seal of God, and the sacred badge of Christianity upon them, having had their bodies, by a holy ordinance, consecrated to God as his temples, yet living in irreligion and ways of wickedness this serves to tend exceedingly to harden them, and establish in them an habitual contempt of sacred things. Such persons above all men, are like to be the most hardened and abandoned, and reclaimed with most difficulty: as it was with the wicked Jews, who were much more confirmed in their wickedness, than those heathen cities of Tyre and Sidon. To give that which is holy to those who are profane, or whom we have no reason, from the circumstances of parentage and education, to expect will be otherwise, is not the way to make them better, but worse. It is the way to have them habitually trample holy things under their feet, and increase in contempt of them, yea, even to turn again and rend us, and be more mischievous and hurtful enemies of that which is good, than otherwise they would be.
OBJECT. Some ministers have been greatly blessed in the other way of proceeding, and some men have been converted at the Lordís supper.
Answ . Though we are to eye the providence of God and not disregard his works, yet to interpret them to a sense, or to apply them to an use, inconsistent with the scope of the word of God, is a misconstruction and misapplication of them. God has not given us his providence, but his word, to be our governing rule. God is sovereign in his dispensations of providence; he bestowed the blessing on Jacob, even when he had a lie in his mouth. He was pleased to meet with Solomon, and make known himself to him, and bless him in an extraordinary manner, while he was worshipping in a high place. He met with Saul, when in a course of violent opposition to him, and out of the way of his duty in the highest degree, going to Damascus to persecute Christ; and even then bestowed the greatest blessing upon him, that perhaps ever was bestowed on a mere man. The conduct of Divine Providence, with its reasons, is too little understood by us, to be improved as our rule. ďGod has his war in the sea, his path in the mighty waters, and his footsteps are not known: and he gives none account of any of his matters.Ē But God has given us his word, to this very end, that it might be our rule; and therefore has so ordered it that it may be understood by us. And strictly speaking, this is our only rule. If we join any thing else to it, as making it our rule, we do that which we have no warrant for, yea, that which God himself has forbidden. See Deuteronomy 4:2. Proverbs 30:6. And with regard to Godís blessing and succeeding ministers have not some had remarkable experience of it in the way which I plead for, as well as some who have been for the way I oppose? However, we cannot conclude, that God sees nothing at all amine in ministers, because he blesses them. In general, he may see those things in them which am very right and excellent, these he approves and regards, while he overlooks and pardons their mistakes in opinion or practice, and, notwithstanding these, is pleased to crown their labors with his blessing.
As to the two last arguments in the Appeal to the Learned, concerning the subjects of the christian sacraments, their being members of the visible church, and not the invisible; the force of those arguments depends entirely on the resolution of this guestion, Who are visible saints? or what adult persons are regularly admitted to the privileges of members of the visible church? Which question has already been largely considered, and, I think, it has been demonstrated that they are those who exhibit a credible profession and visibility of gospel holiness or vital piety, and not merely of moral sincerity. So that there is no need of further debating the point in this place.
I might here mention many things not yet noticed, which some object as inconveniences attending the scheme I have maintained. If men should set up their own wit and wisdom in opposition to Godís revealed will, there is no end of objections of this kind, which might be raised against any of Godís institutions. Some have found great fault even with the creation of the world, as being very inconveniently done, and have imagined that they could tell how it might be mended in a great many respects. But however Godís altar may appear homely to us, yet if we lift up our hand to mend it, we shall pollute it. Laws and institutions am given for the general good, and not to avoid every particular inconvenience. And however it may so happen, that sometimes inconveniences (real or imaginary) may attend the scheme I have maintained; yet, I think, they am in no measure equal to the manifest conveniences and happy tendencies of it, or to the palpable inconveniences and pernicious consequences of the other. ó I have already mentioned some things of this aspect, and would hem briefly observe some others.
Thus, the way of making such a difference between outward duties of morality and worship, and those great inward duties of our love of God and acceptance of Christ, that the former must be visible, but that mere need be no exhibition nor pretense of the latter, in order to persons being admitted into the visible family of God; and that under a notion of the latter being impossibilities, but the other being within menís power; this, I think, has a direct tendency to confirm in men an insensibility of the heinousness of unbelief and enmity against God our Savior which are the source and sum of all wickedness. It tends to prevent their coming under an humbling conviction of the greatness and utter inexcusableness of these sins, which men must be brought to if ever they obtain salvation. Indeed it is a way that not only has this tendency, but has actually and apparently this effect, and that to a great degree.
The effect of this method of proceeding in the churches in New England, which have fallen into it, is actually this. ó There are some that are received into these churches under the notion of their being in the judgment of rational charity visible saints or professing saints, who yet at the same time are actually open professors of heinous wickedness, I mean, the wickedness of living in known impenitence and unbelief, the wickedness of living in enmity against God, and in the rejection of Christ under the gospel.
Or, which is the same thing, they am such as freely and frequently acknowledge, that they do not profess to be as yet born again, but look on themselves as really unconverted, as having never unfeignedly accepted of Christ; and they do either explicitly or implicitly number themselves among those that love not the Lord Jaw Christ; of whom the apostle says, let such be Anathema Maranatha! And accordingly it is known, all over the town where they live, that they make no pretensions to any sanctifying grace already obtained; nor of consequence are they commonly looked upon as any other than unconverted persons. Now, can this be judged the comely order of the gospel? or shall God be supposed the author of such confusion?
In this way of church-proceeding, Godís own children and the true disciples of Christ are obliged to receive those as their brethren, admit them to the communion of saints, and embrace them in the highest acts of christian society, even in their great feast of lore, where they feed together on the body and blood of Christ, whom yet they have no reason to look upon otherwise than as enemies of the cross of Christ, and haters of their heavenly Father and dear Redeemer. For they make no pretension to any thing at all inconsistent with those characters, yea, in many places, as I said before, freely professing this to be actually the case with them.
Christ often forbids the members of his church to judge one another. But in this way of ecclesiastical proceeding, it is done continually, and looked upon as no hurt, a great part of those admitted into the church are by others of the same communion indeed unconverted, graceless persons, and it is impossible to avoid it, while we stretch not beyond the bounds of a rational charity.
This method of proceeding must inevitably have one of these two consequences: either there must be no public notice at all given of it, when so signal a work of grace is wrought, as a sinner being brought to repent and turn to God, and hopefully become the subject of saving conversion; or else this notice must be given in the way of conversation, by the persons themselves, frequently, freely, and m all companies, declaring sheer own experiences. But surely, either of these consequences must be very unhappy. ó The former is so, viz. forbidding and preventing any public notice being given on earth of the repentance of a sinner, an event so much to the honor of God, and so much taken notice of in heaven, causing joy in the presence of the angels of God, and tending so much to the advancement of religion in the world. For it is found by experience, that scarce any one thing has so great an influence to awaken sinners, and engage them to seek salvation, and to quicken and animate saints, as the tidings of a sinnerís repentance, or hopeful conversion. God evidently makes use of it as an eminent means of advancing religion in a time of remarkable revival. And to take a course effectually to prevent its being notified on earth, appears to me a counteracting of God, in that which he ever makes use of as a chief means of the propagation of true piety, and which we have reason to think he will make use of as one principal means of the conversion of the world in the glorious latter day. ó But now as to the other way ó the way of giving notice to the public of this event, by particular persons themselves publishing their own experiences, from time to time and from place to place, on all occasions and before all companies ó I must confess, it is a practice that appears to me attended with many inconveniences, yea big with mischief. The abundant trial of this method lately made, and the large experience we have had of the evil consequences of it, is enough to put all sober and judicious people for ever out of conceit with it. I shall not pretend to enumerate all the mischiefs attending it, which would be very tedious but shall now only mention two things. One is, the bad effect it has upon the persons themselves that practice it, in the great tendency it has to spiritual pride, insensibly begetting and establishing an evil habit of mind in that respect, by the frequent return of the temptation, and this many times when they are not guarded against it, and have no time, by consideration and prayer, to fortify their minds. And then it has a very bad effect on the minds of others that hear their communication, and so on the state of religion in general, in this way. It being thus the custom for persons of all sorts, young and old, wise and unwise, superiors and inferiors, freely to tell their own experiences before all companies, it is commonly done very injudiciously, often very rashly and foolishly, out of season, and in circumstances tending to defeat any good end. Even sincere Christians too frequently in their conversation insist mainly on those things that are no part of their true spiritual experience; such as impressions on their imagination, suggestions of facts by passages of Scripture, etc., in which case children and weak persons that hear, are apt to form their notions of religion and true piety by such experimental communications, and much more than they do by the most solid and judicious instructions they hear from the pulpit. This is found to be one of the devices whereby Satan has an inexpressible advantage to ruin the souls of men, and utterly to confound the interest of religion. ó This matter of making a public profession of godliness or piety of heart, is certainly a very important affair, and ought to be under some public reception, and under the direction of skillful guides, and not left to the management of every man, woman, and child, according to their humor or fancy. And when it is done, it should be done with great seriousness, preparation, and prayer, as a solemn act of public respect and honor to God, in his house and in the presence of his people. Not that I condemn, but greatly approve of, persons speaking sometimes of their religious experiences in private conversation, to proper persons and on proper occasions, with modesty and discretion, when the glory of God and the benefits or just satisfaction of others require it of them.
In a word, the practice of promiscuous admission ó or that way of taking all into the church indifferently, as visible saints, who are not either ignorant or scandalous ó and at the same time that custom taking place of persons publishing their own conversion in common conversation; where these two things meet together, they unavoidably make two distinct kinds of visible churches, or different bodies of professing saints, one within another, openly distinguished one from another, as it were by a visible dividing line.
One company consisting of those who are visibly gracious Christians, and open professors of godliness; another consisting of those who are risibly moral livers, and only profess common virtues, without pretending to any special and spiritual experiences In their hearts, and who therefore are not reputed to be converts. I may appeal to those acquainted with the state of the churches, whether this be not actually the case in some, where this method of proceeding has been long established. But I leave the Judicious reader to make his own remarks on this case, and to determine, whether there be a just foundation in Scripture or reason for any such state of thinks; which to me, I confess, carries the face of glaring absurdity.
And now I commit this whole discourse (under Godís blessing) to the readerís candid reflection and impartial judgment. I am sensible, it will be very difficult for many to be truly impartial in this affair their prejudices being very great against the doctrine which I have maintained. And, I believe, I myself am the person who above all other upon the face of the earth, have had most in my circumstances to prejudice me against this doctrine and to make me unwilling to receive conviction of its truth.
However, the clear evidence of Godís mind in his word, as things appear to me, has constrained me to think and act as I Have now done. I dare not go contrary to such texts as these, Leviticus 10:10. Jeremiah 15:19. Ezekiel 22:26. and 44:6-8. And having been fully persuaded in my own mind, as to what is the scripture rule in this matter after a most careful, painful, and long search, I am willing, in the faithful prosecution of what appears to me of such importance and so plainly the mind and will of God, to resign to his providence, and leave the event in his hand.
It may not be improper to add here, as I have open had suggested to me the probability of my being answered from the press: If any one shall see cause to undertake this, I have these reasonable requests to make to him, viz. That he would avoid the ungenerous and unmanly artifices used by too many polemic writers, while they turn aside to vain jangling, in carping at incidental passages, and displaying their wit upon some minute particulars, or less material things, m the author they oppose, with much exclamation, If possible to excite the ignorant and unwary readerís disrelish of the author, and to make him appear contemptible and so to get the victory that way; perhaps dwelling upon and glorying in, some pretended inconsistencies in some parts of the discourse, without ever entering thoroughly into the merits of the cause, or closely encountering any of the mam arguments. If any one opposes me from the press, I desire he would attend to the true state of the questioní and endeavor fairly to take off the force of each argument, by answering the same directly, and distinctly, with calm and close reasoning; avoiding (as much as may be) both dogmatical assertion and passionate reflection. Sure I am, I shall not envy him the applause of a victory over me, however signal and complete, if only gained by superior light and convincing evidence. ó I would also request him to set his name to his performance, that I may m that respect stand on even ground with him before the world, in a debate wherein the public is to judge between us. This will be the more reasonable, in case he should mingle any thing of accusation with his arguing. It was the manner even of the heathen Romans, and reputed by them but just and equal, to have accusers face to face.
Being aLETTER to theAUTHOR, in answer to his request of information concerning the opinion of, Protestant Divines and Churches in general, of the Presbyterians in Scottand and Dissenters in England in particular, respectingFIVE QUESTIONS that relate to this controversy. REV. AND DEAR SIR, IF you look into Mr. Baxterís controversial writings against Mr. Blake, you will meet with such accounts of principles and facts, as I think may reasonably give an inquirer much satisfaction as to the common judgment of protestant churches and divines in the points you mention. I particularly refer you to hisFIVE DISPUTATIONS of Right to Sacraments, and the true Nature of Visible Christianity; where all or the most of your queries are considered and answered, with a multitude of testimonies produced in devour of sentiments contrary to those of your excellent predecessor, the late Mr. Storldard. I have not said this from any disposition to excuse myself from the labor of making some further inquiry, if it be thought needful. And as it may show my willingness to gratify your desire, I will now say something on your questions distinctly, but with as much brevity as I can.
Quest. I. What is the general opinion respecting thatSELF-EXAMINATION required in 1 Corinthians 11:28. Whether communicants are not here directed to examine themselves concerning the truth of grace, or their real godliness?
Answ . This construction of the text, as far as I have had opportunity to inquire, appears to me very generally received; If I may judge by what many celebrated expositors have said on the place, and by what many famous divines have written in treatises of preparation for the Lordís supper, besides what is contained in public confessions, catechisms, directories, etc. I think Dr. Reynolds, in his Meditations on the Lordís Supper, has summarily expressed the common judgment of Calvinists in these strong lines of his: ďThe sacrament is but a seal of the covenant; and the covenant essentially includes conditions; and the condition on our part is faith. No faith, no covenant; no covenant, no seal; no seal, no sacrament. ó The matter then of this trial (says he) must be that vital qualification, which predisposeth a man for receiving of these holy mysteries, and that is faith.Ē
However, I may venture to be confident, that Mr. Stoddardís gloss on the text, who tells us in his controverted sermon, ďThe meaning is, that a man must come solemnly to that ordinance, examining whatNEED he has of it,Ē is quite foreign from the current sense of Calvinist writers. And, though he makes a different comment in his Appeal to the Learned, saying, ďThe examination called for is, whether they understood the nature of the ordinance, that so they may solemnly consider what they have to do when they wait upon God in it,Ē neither can I find any appearance of a general consent of the learned and orthodox to this new gloss, at least as exhibiting the full meaning of the text. I might easily confront it with numerous authorities: but the Palatine Catechism, and that of the Westminster Assembly, with the common explanations and catechizings upon them, may be appealed to as instar omnium. And I shall only add here, if it be allowed a just expectation that the candidate for the communion examine himself about the same things at least as the pastor, to whom he applies for admission, ought to make the subject of his examination, then it was worth while to hear the opinion of those unnamed ministers in New England, (among whom the late Dr. Colman, I have reason to think, was the principal,) that answered Dr. Matherís Order of the Gospel (anno 1700,) who, in the Postscript to their Review, thus express themselves: ďWe highly approve ó that the proponant of the Lordís table be examined of his baptismal vow; his sense of spiritual wants sinfulness, and wretchedness; his hope, faith, experiences, resolutions through the grace of God.Ē This, I think, is something beyond.
Quest II. Whether it be the general opinion of those aforesaid, that some who know themselves to be unregenerate, ant under the reigning power of sin, ought notwithstanding, in such a state, to come to the Lordís table?
Answ. I am aware, Sir, though you have seen fit to take no notice of it to me, that Mr. Stoddard (in his Doctrine of Instituted Churches) is peremptory in the affirmative; but I have met with no author among Calvinists, at home or abroad, consenting with him, unless it be Mr. Blake and some that were for a promiscuous admission, with little or no limitation. If divines in general, of the Calvinistic character, were for such a latitude as Mr. Stoddardís, what can we suppose to be the reason, that in treating on the Lordís supper, they so constantly consider it as one of the rights of the church, belonging to the truly faithful alone, exclusively of all others? Why do we hear them declaring It is certain that. the right of external fellowship resides in the faithful only: and as to the rest, they are in that communion only by accident, and it is also only by accident that they are suffered there, but being what they are, they have not any part in the rights of that society properly belonging to them? If they thought the sacrament instituted for conversion, why do we never find them recommending it as a converting ordinance, and urging persons to come to it with that view, who know themselves to be in an unconverted state? If they thought that any such have a right before God, and may come to it with a good conscience, why do we find them so solemnly warning all that are truly convinced of their remaining yet in a natural state, to refrain coming to the Lordís table in their unbelief and impenitence; as if they judged it a sinful and dangerous thing for them to come under such circumstances? I know Mr. Stoddard, in his Appeal, disputes the fact. But it has occurred to me in abundance of instances, while reviewing my authors on this occasion.
Among the foreign protestants in Germany, France, etc. I shall name but two out of many instances before me. The Heidelberg or Palatine Catechinn, which had the solemn approbation of the synod of Dort, and was especially praised by the divines of Great Britain, which has been in a manner universally received and taught, formerly in Scotland, and still all over Holland, and by reason of its excellency has been translated into no less than thirteen several languages, this is most express in claiming the Lordís supper for a special privilege of such as have true faith and repentence; and forbidding it to hypocrites, as well as scandalous persons, declaring that none such ought to come. See the eighty-first and other questions and answers, with Ursinís Latin Explications, and De Witteís English Crtechizings thereon. Here, Sir, indeed you have the judgment of a multitude in one. Another celebrated book is Claudeís Historical Defence nf the Reformation in which I meet with reseated declarations of the same sentiments, perfectly on the negative side of the question in hand, but, I think, too many and too long to be here transcribed. ó The language of some of them I have just now had occasion to make use of.
As for the church of Scotland, I find they have adopted the Westminster Confession, Catechisms, and Directory, which debar all ignorant and ungodly persons from the Lordís table, and require every one to eramine himself, not only as to his knowledge, but also his faith, repentance, love, new obediance, etc. ó In their books of discipline, I observe sundry passages that appropriate the sacrament to the truly penitent and faithful, as the only proper subjects. Their national covenant, renewed from time to time, has this clause, to the which [true reformed kirk] we join ourselves willingly, in doctrine, faith, religion, discipline and use of the holy sacraments, as lively members of the same in Christ our Head, etc. And among the divines of Scotland, I find many in their sermons, sacramental speeches, and other discourses, declaring themselves strongly on the negative part in the question before us, advising to strictness in admission to the Lordís supper, renouncing the opinion of its being a converting ordinance, inviting only the sincere friends of Christ to it, and frequently warning professors conscious of reigning sin and hypocrisy to forbear approaching the Lordís table. I might bring much to this purpose from Mr.
Andrew Grayís book of sermons, published anno 1716; and his sermons printed anno 1746; with a preface by Mr. Willison. ó So from Mr.
Ebenezer Erskineís synodical sermon, anno 1732. ó And from Mr. Ralph Erskineís sermon on Isaiah 13:6. and his discourse on fencing the tables, annexed to his sermon on John 16:15. ó So from Mr. Willisonís synodical sermon, anno 1733; where he sets down a variety of searching questions (no less than twenty-seven) which he advises to be put to proponents, and their answers to be waited for, before they are admitted. ó The anonymous author of a Defence of National Churches against the Independents, (who is, reputed to be Mr. Willison,) asserts it us a presbyterian principle, that none have right before God to the complete communion of the church, but such as have grace; and that none are to be admitted but thou who are saints, at least in profession, such as profess to accept of the offers of Christís grace, etc. and confess themselves to be sincere. Mr. Avtone, in his Rcview against Mr. Glas, owns that the Lordís supper is not a formal mean of conversion, but of further growth and nourishment to those already converted. In the same strain is Mr.
Nasmithís Treatise of the Entail of the Covenant. ó And Mr. Wardenís Essay an Baptism. In a word, I find Mr. Currie (in his synodical sermon, anno 1732) testifying of the ministers in Scotland, that they are tender (i. e. circumspect and cautious) in admitting people to the holy table of the Lord, knowing the design of the ordinanceIS not conversion, but confirmation, and he observes, that all who approve themselves to God here, will a thousand times rather choose to have, was it but one table or halt a table of honest communicants, true believers and real saints than have a hundred tables, by admitting any that are unworthy (or Christless souls as he anon characterizes them,) of whom there are not moral evidences of their fitness for this holy ordinance. And for the commendable practice of the church of Scotland, in being pointed and particular in debarring the unworthy from this ordinance, (says he,) God forbid ever it turn into desuetude. I think I may here not unfitly subjoin those remarkable passages in Mr. Andersonís excellent Defence of the Presbyterians, against Mr. Rhind; where he informs us, they look upon this holy ordinance as the common privilege of the faithful, and therefore they usually fence the Lordís table, in the words of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 6:9. or some suchlike. To exclude the impenitent from the privilege of gospel-mysteries, to debar those from the Lordís table, whom the Lord has, by the express sentence of his word, debarred out of the kingdom at heaven, is what every one, who is not quite lost in impiety, must own to be not only lawful, but a duty. Upon which I beg leave to observe, according to this principle I do not see but that a man who with apparent signs of credibility confesses himself habitually impenitent ought to be debarred from the Lordís table: and surely by parity of reason, he that knows himself to be unregenerate, ought to refrain coming, since there can be no true repentance without regeneration. I think we have no just grounds to suppose Mr. Stoddardís principle in this matter has hitherto any general prevalence in the church of Scotland.
And now to pass over to England, neither do I find reason to think the dissenters there in general are for Mr. Stoddardís latitude. The Assembly of Divines pronounce all the ungodly, as well as ignorant, unworthy of the Lordís table direct to preparation for it, by examining ourselves of our being in Christ, etc. And though they declare this sacrament appointed for the relief even of the weak and doubting Christian, who unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and having directed such a one to bewail his unbelief and labor to have his doubts resolved, they assert that so doing he may and ought to come to the Lordís supper, to be further strengthened: Yet I do not find any appearance of a hint, as if others who know themselves to be in a natural state, or are conscious of their being certainly graceless, may and ought to come to this ordinance, that they may be concerti. Nay, they expressly declare ofALL ungodly persons, that while they remain such, they cannot without great sin against Christ partake of those holy mysteries. ó As to particular divines, I find multitudes of them among the dissenters, in later as well as former times, expressing the same sentiments: distinguishing between natural and instituted duties, between initial and confirming means, between special ordinances and common: and declaring the Lordís supper a disciple-privilege, peculiar to such as have discipleproperties, and admonishing as well the close hypocrite, as the more gross, of the danger of coming to it in his unregenerate state, impenitent and unbelieving. Thus Mr. Bolton, in his discourse on the Wedding Supper and the Wedding Garment, warns the graceless not to come to the Lord s supper, affirming, that an unsanctified presence will be found as bad as a profane absence. ó Mr. Baxter, in his Five Disputations, has much that runs in the same strain so in his Reformed Liturgy, and in his Christian Concord, where we have his brethren joining their testimony with his.
Likewise Mr. Charnock, in his discourse of the Subjects of the Lordís Supper ó Mr. Palmer in his Scripture-Rail to the Lordís Table ó Mr.
Saunders, in his Anti-Diotribr ó Mr. Langley, in his Suspension Reviewed ó Mr. Doolittle, Mr. Henry, Dr. Earle, and others, in their books on the Lordís Supper ó Mr. Shower, in his Sacramental Discourses ó Mr.
Flavel, in his sermon on GospelUnity, and other pieces ó Mr. Philip Henry, and Mr. Trosse, in the accounts of their Lives ó Dr. Calamy, in his discourse on Vows, and his Defence of Nonconformity ó Mr. Simon Browne, in the Continuation of Henryís Exposition, on 1 Corinthians 11:28 ó Dr. Harris, in his discourse on Self-Dedication ó Dr. Jennings, in his sermons to Young Peapic. ó I could, from all them authors, cite passages much to the purpose: but it would be too tedious. Yet I will give you a few hints from some others. ó Dr. Williams, in his Gospel Truth Stated, says, Though a man had it revealed to him that he is one of the elect, yet so long as he remains unregenerate he has no right to partake of the Lordís supper. ó Dr. Guyse, in his late sermon at Mr. Gibbonsís ordination observes. that men being church-member supposes them already to have a good work begun in them, and to be Partakers of christian love, even such as proceeds from faith, in a prevailing degree; and persons (says he) that have nothing of this, ought not to be church-members. ó Mr. Hall, in his Exhortation on the same occasion, remarks, that the seals of the covenant are to he used as discriminating signs of the real separation of true believers from the world, and urges to have the fence kept up, which Christ has set about his church, that it may appear to be a body wholly distinct from the world: Godís house being erected for the entertainment, not of hypocrites and dead sinners but of the living in Jerusalem. ó But says Dr.
Watts, [n his Humble Attempt it is true, this cannot be practiced universally and perfectly here on earth, so as to prevent some secret sinners making their way into our separate congregations, and joining with us in the most solemn ordinances; yet he declares such not really worthy of any room or place in the house of God. ó And in his Holiness of Times, Places, and People, the Doctor observes, The visible christian church is founded on a supposition, that the members of it are, or should appear to be, members of the invisible: and none (says he) are to be admitted into the visible church, or esteemed complete members of it, but those who make such a declaration and profession of their faith in Christ and their avowed sulk subjection to him, as may be supposed in a judgment of charity to manifest them to be real believers. true subjects of his spiritual kingdom, and members of the invisible church. ó I find Dr. Doddridge in the same sentiments by what he says in his Family Expositor. Thus, on the case of Ananias and Sapphira, he has this note, The church is never happier, than when the sons falsehood are deterred from intruding into it: if its members are less numerous, it is a sufficient balance, that it is more pure. And on Simonís case, he pronounces it to be in vain for men to profess themselves Christians, in vain to submit to baptism etc. if their heart be not right with God. And such persons being admitted to admitted to distinguishing ordinances, he calls an evil, in the present state of things unavoidable; wishing for the happy medium, between prostituting divine ordinances by a foolish credulity, and defrauding the children of the household of their bread, by a rigorous severity and mistaken caution;. He every where represents the Lordís supper as the sacrament of nutrition reviving and nonrishing ordinance, but never that I can find, as a regenerating or converting one. Upon the case of Judas the Doctor observes, that if he had truly stated the order of the story, then Judas certainly went out before the Eucharist was instituted: and indeed one cannot reasonably suppose Christ would have commanded him to drink of the cup as the blood shed for him for the remissian of sins, when he had just before been declaring in effect, that his sins should never be forgiven. óBY which observation, I think, Dr.
Voddridge has quite demolished one of the most plausible pleas in favor of the secret and conscious hypocriteís claim to the Lordís supper.
In fine, even those who appear advocates for a latitude in admissions to the communion, I observe, generally in the course of the argument offer such distinction, or make such concessions, as seem by fair consequence a giving up of the point, at least as stated in the present question. For they usually distinguish between a right in Ďforo Deií and in Ďforo ecclesiaeí accordingly treat these as two different questions, Who ought to come? and, Who ought to be admitted? considering the latter as an ecclesiastical case, and here they assert a latitude but the former, as a case of conscience, of private reference only, and here they grant a limitation. How large soever their principles, while taking the case in its ecclesiastical view, yet I have met with very few divines, that taking it as a private case of conscience have gone Mr. Stoddard s length, in asserting, that some unsanctified men have right before God to the Lordís supper, and may come with a good conscience, yea, ought to come, notwithstanding they know themselves at the same time to be in a natural condition. This he declares in his Doctrine of Instituted Churches, and confirms in his Sermon and Approval. But then he has made some Ďconcessionsí which seem to be subversive of his opinion. For he expressly allows, that the sacrament by institution supposes communicants to be visible saintsí and this title of visible saints he assigns to ďsuch as have a visible union to Christ, such as are in the judgment of rational charity believers, such as carry themselves so that there is reason to look upon them to be saints.Ē Now, taking the case as a private case of conscience, (in which light only Mr. Stoddard professes to have designed to consider it in his sermon, and not at all as an ecclesiastical case) I think, this visibility of saintship immediately respects the proponent for the Lordís table, and must be referred to his own private judgment of himself. But then, how can there be a visibility of saintship in the eye of the manís own conscience, which at the same time he knows himself to he in a natural condition? Or how can a man come to the Lord s table with a good conscience, as having right before God, while he cannot form so much as a Judgment of rational charity for himself, seeing he carries so, in the view of his own conscience, that he has no reason to look on himself to be a saint, nay even I knows he is still in a natural state, and therefore in the eye of his own impartial judgment is not such a one as the sacrament by institution supposes the communicant to be? Moreover, Mr. Stoddard, in describing visible saints, inserts into their character a serious profession of the true religion, which he sometimes calls a profession of faith and repentance morally sincere: and in his Doctrine of Instituted Churches, (p. 19.) he lays down a remarkable position, in these words,SUCH APROFESSION AS BEING SINCERE MAKES AMAN AREAL SAINT,BEING MORALLY SINCERE MAKES AMAN AVISIBLE SAINT. Now according to this, it seems to me, the profession itself, whether evangelically or morally sincere, is always of a uniform tenor; having one and the same thing for the matter of it; and not respecting, in the different cases, a religion particularly different, or a faith and repentance of a higher and a lower kind. But then it is quite beyond me to comprehend, how a man who knows himself to he in a natural condition, can be so much as morally sincere in his profession, while it is in its matter and tenor such a profession as being (evangelically) sincere make a man a real saint. For if he knows himself to be in a natural condition, he then as certainly knows he hath not (in the principle or exercise) that faith and repentance, which is the just matter of such a profession: and how therefore can he be reasonably supposed, with any degree of moral sincerity, to make such a profession, when for the matter of it, it is the very same profession he would make, if he knew himself to be a real saint? Can a person in any sound gospel sense profess himself a saint, penitent, and herein speak the truth with a common moral honesty while yet he knows himself to be destitute of all such characters in the sight of God and conscience, being still in a natural condition, and under the dominion of unbelief and impenitence?
For my own part, I must confess this a difficulty in Mr. Stoddardís scheme, that I am not capable of solving. His favourite hypothesis, I think, must fall, if his position stands, and his concessions be abode by, which serve clearly to determine the present question in the negative agreeable to the general sense of protestant churches and divines.
Quest. III. Whether it be not the general opinion, that persons admitted to the Lordís table ought toPROFESS saving faith and repentance; meaning that faith and repentance, which are the terms of the covenent of grace?
Answ . I believe, after what has been already offered, we need be at no loss to know the mind of the generality respecting the subject of this inquiry.
Repeated searches have been made by diligent and impartial inquirers, who though of varying judgment and practice in church-discipline, yet agree in their reports: and from them I will give you the following attestations.
Mr. Lob (in his True Dissenter) tells us, It is the judgment of all the Nonconformists, that nothing less than the profession of saving faith, credibly significant of the thing professed, gives right to church communion. And this he declares to be the rule of all protestants in general.
He brings even Mr. Humphrev (though opposite in judgment) for his voucher: who acknowledges, that the visible church s defined by a profession of true regenerate faith, and of no less than that, according to the most general opinion of protestant divines. He speaks of it as the common opinion, that a profession of no less than true grace or justifying faith is the rule of admission to the church-sacraments. And though Mr. Humphrey went off from the received opinion, yet could he not come into Mr. Blakeís notions in this matter, who also had gone off from it nor hope for their vindication: hence he makes that challenge, What man is there, that dares revive Mr. Blakeís cause, and detend it against Mr. Baxterís right to sacraments?
Mr. Baxter in this his book very copiously argues a profession of saving faith, as the rule of admission to the sacraments, and much insists on its being so by the unanimous consent of judicious divines. He tells us, Mr.
Gataker in his books has largely proved His by a multitude of quotations from protestant writers. And he adds his own testimony, repeatedly saying, It is indeed their most common doctrine ó It is the common protestant doctrine. And again, Certain I am, this is the common doctrine of reformed divines. He subjoins, I must profess, that I do not know of only one protestant divine, reputed orthodox, of the contrary judgment, before Dr.
Ward and Mr. Blake, though some papists and Arminians I knew of that mind. And again (beside Sir Henry Vane,) he says, ĎAllí that I know of, since Dr. Ward, is Mr. Blake, Mr. Humphrey, and one John Timson; and John Timson, Mr. Humphrey, and Mr. Blake. He alleges Mr. Vines as thus witnessing in the case on his side. To this purpose ad our learned divines have given their suffrage: I need not authors or churches. It is so plain a case, that I wonder those [of the contrary opinion] have not taken notice of it, there is an army to a man against them.
Mr. Langley, in his Suspension Reviewed observes, The concurrent judgment of divines, English and foreign, episcopal and presbyterian, that a man of vast and digested reading, the learned Mr. Baxter, hath demonstrated at large inSIXTY testimonies; sundry of which have many in them, being the judgment of many churches and many learned men therein; and more might easily be brought. In short, he calls it the old protestant doctrine asserted against the papists; and wonders at the confidence of the men, who tell us, against our own eyes, that It is a novelism.
To these attestations I subjoin that of our Mr. Mitchel, (in his Introduction before the Defence of the Synod, 1662,) who while asserting a different latitude of the two sacraments, yet pleads for strictness in admissions to the Lord s table and testifies, It is most evident, that gladly reforming divines have in their doctrine unanimously taught, and in their practice (many of them) endeavored, a strict selection of those who should be admitted to the Lordís supper. I think it may be not improperly observed here that in a manuscript, drawn up by this eminent person for his own satisfaction, and inserted in the account of his life he has left his solemn testimony against a lax me le of profession, (exclusive of all examinations and confessions, of a practical and experimental nature,) as having been found by plentiful experience a nurse of formality and irreligion. At the same time declaring his judgment, with a particular eye to the churches of England, that the power of godliness will be lost, if only doctrinal knowledge and outward behavior come to be accounted sufficient for a title to all church-privileges; and the use of practical confessions of menís Spiritual estate be laid aside.
For (says he) that which people see to be publicly required and held in reputation, that will they look after, and usually no more. In another place he observes, this will not only lose the power of godliness, but in a little time bring in profaneness and ruin the churches, these two ways. (1.)
Election of ministers will soon be carried by a formal looser sort. (2.) The exercise of discipline will by this means be impossible. ó And discipline failing, profaneness riseth like a flood. Agreeably he says elsewhere; Certain it is, that we stand for the purity of the churches, when we stand for such qualifications as we do, in those whom we would admit to full communion, and do withstand those notions and reasonings that would infer a laxness therein, which hath apparent peril in it. In sum (says he,) we make account that we shall be near about the middle-way of church reformation, if we keep baptism within the compass of the nonexcommunicable and the Lordís supper within the compass of those that have (unto charity) somewhat of the power of godliness, or grace in exercise. For Mr. Mitchel, as he thought faith in the special and lively\parEXERCISE thereof necessary to a safe and comfortable participation of the Lordís supper, so he judged an appearance of this unto rational charity, judging by positive sensible signs and evidences, justly required in order to admission into full communion. Whereas, he thought baptism annexed to initial faith, or faith in the lying of it; the charitable judgment whereof (says he) runs upon a great latitude; and he conceived the same strictness as to outward signs, not necessary unto a charitable probable judgment, or hope of the being of faith, which entitles to baptism, as of that growth and special exercise of faith, which is requisite to the Lordís supper. These are the main distinctions, on which he grounded his opinion of a different latitude of the two sacraments. For I must observe, as strenuously as he pleads for a various extent, as to the subjects of them, he never supposes any adult regularly admittable to either sacrament, but such as in ecclesiastical reputation sustain the character of believers; such as in the account of a rational charity (judging by probable signs) have the being of regeneration; or as he variously expresses it, have true faith, in the judgment of charity; and do in same measure perform the duties of faith and obedience, as to church-visibility and charitable hope; and therefore are such as the church ought to receive and hold as heirs of the grace of life, according to the rules of Christian charity. Though it seems Mr. Shepard before him speaks of his church charity and experimental charity; so Mr. Mitchel had his positive charity and his negative, and conducted his judgment and administrations accordingly, in admitting persons to the one sacrament or the other. I should not have been so prolix and particular here, but that I thought it might seine to prepare the way for a more easy, short, and intelligible answer to your remaining queries.
Answ. I presume, Sir, the question does not respect a sameness in the degree of qualifications, experiences, and evidences; but only a sameness in kind, or for the substance and general nature of things. I suppose, you had no view here to any such critical distinction as that before mentioned, between an initial faith and a grown faith, or between the simple being of faith, which entitleth to baptism, and the special exercise of faith, which fits for the Lordís supper; nor aim at a nice adjustment of the several characters of visibility, or motives of credibility in the one case and the other, but only intend in general to inquire, whether persons admittable to one or other sacrament, ought to profess true justifying faith, and not be admitted on the profession of and faith of a kind inferior and specifically different. Now, taking this to be the scope of your question, I have good reason to apprehend, that the generality of protestant churches and divines, of the Calvinistic persuasion especially, have declared themselves for the affirmatire.
I think all that hold the visible christian church ought to consist of such as make a visible and credible profession of faith and holiness, and appear to rational charity real members of the church invisible, (which is the common language of protestants,) are to be understood as in principle exploding the conceit of a conscious unbelieverís right before God to special churchordinances, and as denying the apparent unbelieverís right before the church to admission, whether to one sacrament or the other. I observe, Eadem est ratio utriusque sacramenti, is a maxim (in its general notion) espoused by the several contending parties in this controversy about a right to sacraments.
That a credible profession of saving faith and repentance is necessary to baptism, in the case of the adult, I can show, by the authority of Claudeís approved Defence of the Reformation, to be the general opinion of French protestants; and by the Palatine Catechism, by the Leyden Professorsí Synopsis, etc. to be the prevailing judgment of the reformed in Germany, Holland, and foreign parts.
And for the Dissenters in England, that they are in general of the same judgment, I might prove from the Assembly of Divinesí Confession, Catechisms, and Directory; and from the Heads of Agreement assented to by the United Ministers, formerly distinguished by the names of Presbyterian and (Congregational; as also by a large induction of particular instances among divines of every denomination, would it not carry me to too great a length. I find Mr. Lob (in his True Dissenter) assuring us in general, ďIt is held by the dissenters, that nothing less than the profession of a saving faith gives a right to baptism.Ē Nor do I see, by their writings of a later date and most in vogue, any just grounds to suppose a general change of sentiments among them. I will mention two or three moderns of distinguished name. Dr. Harris (in his Self-Dedication) tells us, The nature of the Lordís supper plainly supposes faith, and that none but real Christians have right in the sight of God, though a credible profession entitles to it in the sight of the church, who cannot know the heart. And he declares it the same faith, which qualifies the adult, both for baptism and for the Lordís supper, there being the same common nature to both sacraments, and the latter only a recognising the former. The late Dr. Watts (in his Holiness of times, Places, and People) says, The christian church receives none but upon profession of true faith in Christ, and sincere repentance; none but these who profess to be members of the invisible church, and in a judgment of charity are to be so esteemed. Our entrance into it is appointed to be by a visible profession of our being born of God, of real faith in Christ, of true repentance, and inward holiness. In fine, to name no more, Dr. Doddridge (in his Family Expositor, on Acts 8:37.) supposes a credible profession of their faith in Christ required of the adult in apostolic times, in order to their being admitted to baptism; even such (says he) as implied their cordially subjecting their souls to the gospel, and their being come to a point, so as to give up themselves to Christ with all their heart.
And for the church of Scotland, Mr. Anderson, who well understood their principles and practice, assures us, (in his Defence of them,) that presbyterians will not baptize without a previous profession or sponsion.
To the adult (says he) it is not only necessary (as it is also in infants) that they be internally sanctified, but ado that they make an outward profession, of which baptism is the badge and token. To justify this, he observes concerning the catechumens in primitive times, that during all that state they were probationers, not only as to their knowledge, but piety; and were obliged, before they could be admitted to baptism, to give moral evidences of the grace of God in they hearts. And he advances it as a presbyterian principle, that faith and repentance are pre-required to baptism, in adult persons at least. By this he points out the true matter of baptismal profession: and then in opposition to such as pretend baptism to be a converting ordinance, he observes, If they can have faith and repentance without the Spirit and spiritual regeneration, which they say is not obtained but in and by baptism, I do not see why they may not go to heaven without the Spirit and spiritual regeneration: for I am sure, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, is the sum of the gospel. ó Mr.
Warden, another of their noted writers, (in his Essay on Baptism,) says in the name of presbyterians, We think that baptism supposeth men Christians, else they have no right to baptism, the seal of Christianity, all seals, in their natum, supposing the thing that is sealed. He that is of adult age, is to profess his faith in Christ, and his compliance with the whole device of salvation, before he can have the seal of the covenant administered to him. The author of the Defence of National Churches, (thought to be Mr.
Willison,) says, I know nothing more requisite to admission to the Lordís supper, in foro ecclesiastico, than unto baptism in an adult person; they being both seals of the same covenant. And he thinks the objects of churchfellowship are ďall who profess to accept the offers of Christís grace, with subjection to his ordinances, and a suitable walk, and who confess themselves sincere.Ē
I have reserved Mr. Baxter for my last witness, because his attestation is comprehensive and of a general aspect. In his Disputations of Right to Sacraments, and other writings, he repeatedly declares, ďIt hath been the constant principle and practice of the universal church of Christ, to require a profession of saving faith and repentance, as necessary before they would baptize; and not to baptize any upon the profession of any tower kind of faith. He must shut his eyes against the fullest evidence of history and church-practice, who will deny this. I desire those otherwise-minded to help me to an instance of any one approved baptism, since Christís time or his apostles, upon the account of a faith that was short of justifying, and not upon the profession of a justifying faith. Hitherto this is not done by them, but the contrary is fully done by others, and yet they confidently except against my opinion as a novelty. Mr. Gatakerís books have multitudes of sentences recited out of our protestant divines, that affirm this which they call new. It is indeed the common protestant doctrine, that the sacraments do presuppose remission of sins, and our faith; that they are instituted to signify these at in king, and do solemnize and publicly own and confirm the mutual covenant already entered in heart. The Jesuits themselves do witness this to be the ordinary protestant doctrine. ó It seems not necessary to mention the judgment of our reformed divines, as expressed in any of their particular sayings, when their public confessions and practices are so satisfactory herein.Ē Mr. Baxter, however, recites a multitude of their testimonies) producing the judgment of Luther, Calvin, Beza, Peter Martyr, Piscator, Melancthon, Altingius, Junius Polanus, Zanchius, Ursinus, Paraeus, Bucanus, Musculus, Professores Leyd. et Salm. Wollebius, Vossius, Wendeline, Keckerman, Bullinger, Alsted, Deodate, Dr. Ames, Dr. Moulin; The Catechism of the Church of England, and English Divines; Bp. Usher, Dr. Willet, Dr. Fulk, Dr. Prideaux, Dr. Whiteker, Mr.
Yates, Perkins, Cartwright, etc.; The Scottish Church in their Heads of Church-policy, and Divines of Scotland; Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Rutherford, and Mr. Wood; The Westminister Assembly of Divines, their Confession, Catechisms, and Directory; The Annot of some of those Divines, etc. And for the reformed churches in general (Mr. Baxter observes) it is past all question, by their constant practice that they require the profession of a saving christian faith, and take not up with any lower. And respecting the then practice in England, he says, This is manifest by our daily administration of baptism. I never heard (says he) any man baptize an infant but upon the parentís, or susceptorís, or offererís profession of a justifying faith.
This leads to your last inquiry.
Answ. Here, Sir, I suppose you intend only the same qualifications in kind, or a profession and visibility, in some degree, of the same sort of faith and repentance meaning that which is truly evangelical and saving. And understanding you in this sense, I am persuaded, by all I can observe, that the generality of protestants are in the affirmative; not assenting to a specific and essential difference, whatever circumstantial and gradual disparity they may allow, between the two cases you mention.
Mr. Baxter, speaking of the judgement and practice of the christian fathers, tells us that faith (justifying faith, and not another kind of faith; was supposed to be in the parent, for himself and his seed: because the condition or qualification of the infant is but this, that he be the seed of a believerse And he thinks the generality of the reformed are in these sentiments. He declares his own judgment in full concurrence herewith, and backs the same with a variety of arguments, in his Five Disputations, and other writings. He observes, it seems strange to him that any should imagine, a lower belief in the parent will help his child to a title to baptism, than that which is necessary to his own, if he were unbaptized; because mutual consent is necessary to mutual covenant, and the covenant must be mutual.
No man hath right to Godís part, that refuseth his own: they that have no right to remission of sins, have no right given them by God to baptism. If God be not at all actually obliged in covenant to any ungodly man, then he is not obliged to give him baptism: but God is not obliged so to him. Most of our divines make the contrary doctrine Pelagianism, that God should he obliged to man in a state of nature in such a covenant. If the parentís title be questionable, (says he,) the infantís is so too, because the ground is the same and it is from the parent that the child must derive it-nor can any man give that which he hath not. We ought not (says he) to baptize those persons, or their children, as theirs, who are visible members of the kingdom of the devil, or that do not so much as profess their forsaking the devilís kingdom: but such are all that profess not a saving faith. If such are not visibly in the kingdom of the devil at least they are not visibly out of it.
All that are duly baptized, are baptized into Christ: therefore they are supposed to possess that faith by which men are united or ingrafted into Christ: but that is only justifying faith. Tell me (says he) where any man was ever said in Scripture to be united to Christ, without saving faith, or profession of it. In a word, Mr. Baxter takes occasion to declare himself in this manner: If Mr. Blake exacts not a profession of saving faith and repentance, I say he makes f al work in the church. And when such foul work shall be voluntarily maintained, and the word of God abused for the defilement of the church and ordinances of God, it is a greater scandal to the weak, and to the schismatics, and a greater reproach to the church, and asadder case to considerate men, than the too common pollutions of others, which are merely through negligence, but not justified and defended.
We are told by other impartial inquirers, that all the reformed do in their directories and practices require professions, as well as promises, of parents bringing their children to baptism; even professions of present faith and repentance, as well as promises of future obedience; and these not merely of the moral, but the evangelical kind. The judgment of the church of Scotland may be known by their adopting the Confession, Catechisms, and Directory of the Assembly of Divines; who, when they require a parental profession, (as in their Catechisms, etc.) intend it not of any lower kind, than a true gospel faith and obedience. The mind of the dissenters may be very much judged of by the reformed liturgy, presented in their name upon King Charlesís restoration; where parents credible profession of their faith, repentance, and obedience, is required in order to the baptism of their children. I might bring further evidence from the writings of particular divines among them, ancient and modern; but I must for brevity omit this.
Only I will give you a specimen in two or three hints. Mr. Charnock, that great divine, observes, ďBaptism supposes faith in the adult, and the profession of faith in the parent for his child.Ē The late eminent Dr. Watts, in his Holiness of Times, Places and People thus declares himself, with respect to the infants of true believers: ďIn my opinion, so far as they are any way members of the visible christian church, it is upon supposition of their being (with their patents) members of the invisible church of God.Ē
On the whole, as to our fathers here in New England, it is true, they asserted a baptism-right in parents for themselves and children, whom yet they excluded from full communion, the ground of which difference was hinted before: and they denied a parity of reason between the two cases now in view, on some accounts. Their chief ground was, that adult baptism requires a measure of visible moral fitness or inherent holiness in the recipient; whereas, infant baptism requires nothing visible in its subject, but a relative fitness or federal holiness, the formalis ratio of infant membership, accruing from Godís charter of grace to his church, taking in the infant seed with the believing parent. Baptism they supposed to run parallel with regular membership; and the child of such a parent entitled to this covenant-seal in its own right, on the foot of a distinct personal membership, derivative in point of being, but independent for its duration, and for the privileges annexed to it by divine institution. However, they certainly owned parental profession, as belonging to the due order and just manner of administration, both meet and needful. Accordingly they provided, that parents claiming covenant-privileges for their children, should own their covenant-state, have a measure of covenant-qualifications, and do covenant-duties, in some degree, to the satisfaction of a rational charity. And it ought to be remembered, they have left it as their solemn judgment, that even taking baptism-right for a right of fitness in foro ecclesiastico, stilt the parents whose children they claimed baptism for, were such as must be allowed to have a title to it for themselves, in case they had remained unbaptized: looking upon them, although not duly fitted for the sacrament of communion and confirmation, yet sufficiently so for the sacrament of union and initiation; professors in their infancy parentally, and now personally, in an initial way, appearing Abrahamís children, in some measure of truth, to a judicious charity; justly therefore baptizable, in their persons and offspring, by all the rules of the gospel. I am not here to argue upon the justness of this scheme of thought on the case, but only to represent the fact in a genuine light.
I have no room, Sir, for any further remarks. But must conclude, with christian salutes, and the tender of every brotherly office, from Your very affectionate Friend and humble Servant, THOMAS FOXCROFT.
Boston June 26, 1749 MISREPRESENTATIONS CORRECTED, AND