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relative to the outward Privileges of ChurchCommunion: or, still more particularly, as it is previously requisite in those Persons who come to be baptized; since the Rite of Baptism is introduStory to the rest, and is the out' ward Sign, appointed by Christ himself, both of our Entrance into his Church, and our Participation of all it's Benefits. — To avoid needless Perplexity, I meddle not with the Dispute about /w/a/tf-Baptism. I would only enquire into the necessary Qualifications, in Persons of matarer Age, for Admijjion to the Gospel- Covenant.
I Have hitherto spoken of Faith indeterminately the Nature of my Subject not demanding any Thing fixed and particular. As Faith in general is morally excellent, and highly conducive to our Everlasting Welfare; so different Degrees of Faith will be proportionably excellent, and proportionably conducive to the same End. When all other Things are supposed equal, greater Faitb will always be an Argument of greater Virtue: and, on the other hand, both our Virtue here, and our Happiness hereafter, will not fail to receive fresh Improvement from every Addition of true Faitb.—But when Faith is considered" as a necessary Condition, some determinate Quantity of Faith must needs be understood. For whatever Degree is sufficient, more than that cannot be neceffary j and whatever Degree gree is necej'ary, less than that will not be sufficient. We are therefore to inquire what is the lowest Degree of Faith, which is sufficient to intitle a Man to Admission into the Christian Church; since that, and that only, is necestary for this Purpose.
Now the Necessity of Faith must either arise from the Declarations and Practise of Christ and his Apostles, or from the Nature of the Thing itself. What is neither requisite in itself nor made requisite by them, may certainly be pronounced unnecestary.—I mould begin with the Necessity deducible from Scripture. But in this Part of my Inquiry I am, in a great Measure, prevented by Mr. Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity. Whatever may be thought of the Inferences he would deduce from it, yet his general DoSlrine is undeniably plain : I mean, that nothing was required of the first Proselytes of the Gospel, but to believe that Jesus was a true Prophet. Not one Command, not one Precedent has yet been produced on the contrary Side. Whatever Reasons therefore may have been invented, in later Ages, for requiring a more explicit Faith, the Scripture teaches no such Thing ; and therefore ought not to be charged with the Iniquity or Absurdity of Human Impositions: I mean, on Supposition that the Arguments of our Adversaries have all that Weight which they themselves pretend.
That no Man ought to be admitted into Covenant with Christ, who denies the Truth and Authority of his Mission, is surely a most reasonable Demand. But as this has never been contested, it would be lost Labour to enter upon the Proof of it.—I shall only observe that the same Unbelief, which disqualifies a Man for Admission into the Church, equally disqualifies him for Continuance in it. The Church therefore is fully justified in openly rejecting such Members, as have cast off their first Faith.
But though I am forced to agree with the Author above-mentioned that nothing further than this can be directly inferred from Scripture; yet I shall by no means agree with him that we are to stop here. Whether we judge from Reason or Analogy, I presume wo shall readily discover, that they whose Faith extends no farther than this can neither become nor continue true Members of the Church of Christ. — It is possible to believe the Mission of our Saviour, and at the fame Time to dipelicve all his "Doctrines: not only so, but to be utterly destitute of all the Means of better Information. That Jesus was a Prophet sent from God is a Doctrine acknowleged by the Mahometans themselves. And (hall we then unite into one Church the Followers of Mahomet, and the Followers of Christ? Nothing
thing can be imagined more absurd.—Let it then be considered, wherein this Absurdity consists? what it is that renders such an Union so apparently ridiculous and impracticable f The Answer to this Question will probably furnish us with the true Key for discovering the preci/e Quantity of Faith, which is necejjary to constitute us Christians.. ,
Now it seems to me that an Union in Re-, ligion presupposes a perfect Agreement with regard to the Rule of Faith and Manners. I do not mean that Persons of the fame Religion, may not follow Rules of different Extent: for in this respect there would be a manifest Disagreement between Catholics and Protestants. But I call that Agreement perfect, which is perfect as far as it goes: I mean, when the intire Rule of either Party is owned and profesied by the other-, only with the Addition of a Rule peculiar to itself. Thus the Romanists acknowlege the Truth of the Scriptures tho' they add to it the Authority of Tradition, and the Infallibility of the Church. And had Mahomet also acknowleged the Truth and Integrity of the Scriptures, I will not affirm that his Pretence to a new Revelation would have disqualified him for the Church of Christ.—The Absurdity therefore above-mentioned results solely from hence, that th«j Followers of Mahomet are Enemies to the Gojpel: and whoever agrees with them in that one Point
may may with equal Reason be excluded theChurch. So that besides a general Belief in Christt a particular Acknowlegement of the Truth of the New Testament is an indispensable Condition of Christian Communion. Without this, our Faith in Christ would be utterly vain and insignificant.—Whether this Degree of Faith is to be esteemed sufficient, will be briefly considered afterwards: that less than this cannot be sufficient, appears, in some measure, from what has been already said. Let me only add, that to believe in Christ, and at the same time to deny the Truth of the Scriptures, is, properly speaking, to believe only this; That in Times past a Prophet was sent into the World, who taught certain Doctrines now unknown. For unknown they are and must be, if the Go/pel does not contain a faithful Account of them. Whether this Prophet was calkd Socrates or Christ; whether he was put to Death at Athens or 'Jerusalem; whether his Followers be long since extinct, or whether Numbers still remain, who affect to be called by his Name j these Things are of no Consequence at all.—In short, to borrow an Expression of a Celebrated Author, such a Faith amounts only to this; That Somebody taught Something. And whether this should be made the Principle of Church Communion, I leave our Adversaries to judge.