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XI. When the apostle says, 1 Cor. xi. 28, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat," it seems to be much the most reasonable to understand it of trying himself with regard to the truth of his Christianity, or reality of his grace; the same which the same apostle directs the same Corinthians to in his other epistle, 2 Cor. xii. 5, where the same word is used in the original The Greek word (doxquacetoo) will not allow of what some have supposed to be the apostle's meaning, viz., that a man should consider and inquire into his circumstances, and the necessities of his case, that he may know what are the wants he should go to the Lord's table for a supply of. The word properly signifies proving or trying a thing with respect to its quality and goodness, or in order to determine whether it be true and of the right sort. And so the word is always used in the New Testament; unless that sometimes it is used as it were metonymically, and in such places is variously translated, either discerning, or allowing, approving, liking, &c., these being the effects of trial. Nor is the word used more frequently in the New Testament for any of trial whatever, than for the trial of professors with regard to their grace or piety. The word (as Dr. Ames in his Catecheseos Sciagraphia, and Mr. Willard in his Body of Divinity, observe) is borrowed from goldsmiths, properly signifying the trial they make of their silver and gold, whether it be genuine or counterfeit : and with a manifest allusion to this original application of the word, is often used in the New Testament for a trying the piety of professors. It is used with this view in all the following texts : 1 Pet. i. 7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise," &c. 1 Cor. iii. 13,“ The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." James i. 3, “ The TRYING of your faith worketh patience.” 1 Thess. Ü. 4,“ God who Trieth our hearts." The same word is used in 2 Cor. viii. 8, “ TO PROVE the sincerity of your love.” So Gal. vi. 3, 4, “If any man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself : but let every man prove his own work.” In all these places there is the same word in the Greek with that in the text now under consideration.
When the apostle directs professing Christians to try themselves, using this word indefinitely, as properly signifying the examining or proving a thing whether it be genuine or counterfeit, the most natural construction of his advice is, that they should try themselves with respect to their spiritual state and religious profession, whether they are disciples indeed, real and genuine Christians, or whether they are not false and hypocritical professors. As if a man should bring a piece of metal that had the color of gold, with the impress of the king's coin, to a goldsmith, and desire him to try that money, without adding any words to limit his meaning, would not the goldsmith naturally understand, that he was to try whether it was true gold, or true money, yea or no ?
But here it is said by some, that the context of the passage under debate (1 Cor. xi. 28) does plainly limit the meaning of the word in that place; the apostle there speaking of those things that had appeared among the communicants at Corinth, which were of a scandalous nature, so doubtless unfitting them for the Lord's supper; and therefore when the apostle directs them to examine or prove themselves, it is but just, to suppose his meaning to be, that they should try whether they be not disqualified by scandal. To this I answer, though the apostle's putting the Corinthians upon trying themselves, was on occasion of the mentioning some scandalous practices found among them, yet this is by no means any argument of its being only his meaning, that they should try themselves whether they were scandalous persons; and not that they
should try whether they were true, genuine Christians. The very nature of scandal (as was observed before) is that which tends to obscure the visibility of the piety of professors, and wound others' charity towards them, by bringing the reality of their grace into doubt; and therefore what could be more natural, than for the Apostle, when mentioning such scandals among the Corinthians, to put them upon trying the state of their souls, and proving their sincerity ? This is certainly the case in this apostle's directing the same persons to prove themselves, 2 Cor. xiii. 5, using the same word there, which he uses here, and giving his direction on the like occasion. For in the second epistle (as well as in the first) his putting them on examining and proving themselves, was on occasion of his mentioning some scandals found among them; as is plain from the foregoing context. And yet there it is expressly said, that the thing concerning which he directs them to prove themselves is, whether they be in the faith, and whether Christ is in them. Nor is there any thing more in the preceding context of one place, than in that of the other, obliging or leading us to understand the apostle to intend only a trying whether they were scandalous, and not whether they were sincere Christians.
And as to the words following in the next verse, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body;" these words by no means make it evident (as some hold) that what the apostle would have them examine themselves about, is whether they have doctrinal knowledge, sufficient to understand, that the bread and wine in the sacrament signify the body and blood of Christ. But on the contrary, to interpret the apostle in this sense only, is unreasonable upon several accounts. (1.) None can so much as go about such an examination, without first knowing, that the Lord's body and blood is signified by these elements. For merely a man's putting this question to himself, Do I understand that this bread and this wine signify the body and blood of Christ ? supposes him already to know it from previous information ; and therefore to exhort persons to go about such an examination, would be absurd. And then (2), it is incredible, that there should be any such gross ignorance appearing in a number of the communicants in the Corinthian church, if we consider what the Scripture inforrns us concerning that church. As particularly, if we consider what an able and thorough instructor and spiritual father they had had, even the Apostle Paul, who founded that church, brought them out of their Heathenish darkness, and initiated them in the Christian religion, and had instructed them in the nature and ends of gospel ordinances, and continued at Corinth, constantly laboring in word and doctrine for a long while together, no less than a year and six months ; and, as we may well suppose, administering the Lord's supper among them every Lord's day; for the apostle speaks of it as the manner of that church, to communicate at the Lord's table with such frequency, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. And the Corinthian church, at that day, when the apostle wrote this epistle, was a church noted for excelling in doctrinal knowledge ; as is evident by chap. i. 5, 6, 7, and several other passages in the epistle. Besides, the communicants were expressly told at every communion, every week, when the bread and wine were delivered to them in the administration, that that bread signified the body, and that wine signified the blood of Christ. And then besides (3), the apostle by his argument, chap. x. 16, supposes the Corinthians doctrinally acquainted with this subject already. It therefore appears to me much more reasonable, to apprehend the case to be thus. The offensive behavior of the communi. cants at Corinth gave the apostle reason to suspect, that some of them came to the Lord's table without a proper impression and true sense of the great and
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glorious things there signified; having no habitual hunger or relish for the spiritual food there represented, no inward, vital and experimental taste for that flesh of the Son of Man, which is meat indeed. The word translated discerning, signifies to discriminate or distinguish. The taste is the proper sense whereby to discern or distinguish food, Job. xxxiv. 3. And it is a spiritual sense or taste which is that whereby we discern or distinguish spiritual food. Heb. v. 14,“ Those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil;” nos diardioiv, &c. A word of the same root with that rendered discerning, in 1 Cor. xi. 29. He that has no habitual appetite to and relish of that spiritual food, which is represented and offered at the Lord's table ; he that has no spiritual taste, wherewith to perceive any thing more at the Lord's supper, than in common food; or that has no higher view, than with a little seeming devotion to eat bread, as it were in the way of an ordinance, but without regarding in his heart the spiritual meaning and end of it, and without being suitably affected with the dying love of Christ therein commemorated; such a one may most truly and properly be said not to discern the Lord's body. When therefore the apostle exhorts to self-examination as a preparative for the sacramental supper, he may well be understood to put professors upon inquiring whether they have such a principle of faith, by means whereof they are habitually in a capacity and disposition of mind to discern the Lord's body practically and spiritually (as well as speculatively and notionally) in their communicating at the Lord's table. Which is what none can do who have but common grace, or a faith short of that which is justifying and saving. It is only a living faith that capacitates men to discern the Lord's body in the sacrament with that spiritual sensation or spiritual gust, which is suitable to the nature and design of the ordinance, and which the apostle seems principally to intend.
Objection I. 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 a being members of this school, than such a faith and disposition of mind as are requisite to persons putting themselves under Christ as their Master and Teacher, and subjecting themselves to the orders of the school. But a common faith and moral sincerity are sufficient for this. Therefore the Scripture leads us to suppose the visible church to be properly constituted of those who have these qualifications, though they have not saving faith and true piety.
ANSWER. I own, the Scripture calls the members of the visible church by the name of disciples. But I deny it therefore follows that the church which
they are members of, 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, in Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33, and in John viii. 31, and xiii. 35, and xv. 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 are called by the name of disciples, as signifying their state and quality as members of that society, that church is properly and fitly constituted, not only of persons truly pious, but of others that have merely a common faith and virtue. But this proposition, we have seen, is not true; and so there is no 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 be prerequisite, in order to a place in the school. The church of Christ is a school appointed for the training up Christ's little children, to greater degrees of knowledge, higher privileges, and greater serviceableness in this world, and more of a meetness for the possession of their eternal inheritance. But there is no necessity of supposing that it is in order to fit them to become Christ's children, or to be introduced into his family; any more than there is a necessity of supposing, because a prince puts his children under tutors, that therefore it must be in order to their attaining to be of the royal family. If it be necessary, that there should be a church of Christ ap pointed as a school of instruction and discipline, to bring persons to all good at. tainments 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 bring members of that school of Christ which is his visible church, than such as are requisite in order to their subjecting themselves to Christ as their Master and Teacher, and subjecting themselves to the laws and orders of his school : nevertheless I deny that a common faith, and moral sincerity are sufficient for this; because none do truly subject themselves to Christ as their Master, but such as, having their hearts purified by faith, are delivered from the reigning power of sin: for we cannot subject ourselves to obey two contrary masters at the same time. None do 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, as little children, at Jesus' 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 Christ's school, the rules which his word prescribes to all his scholars; such as, to love their Master supremely; to love one another as brethren ; and to love their book, i. e., their Bible, more than vain trifles and amusements, yea, above gold and silver; to be faithful to the interest of the Master, and of the school ; to depend on his teachings ; to cry to him for knowledge ; above all their gettings, to get understanding, &c.
4. Whatever ways of constituting the church may to us seem fit, proper, and reasonable, the question is, not what constitution of Christ's church seems convenient to human wisdom, but what constitution is actually established by Christ's infinite wisdom. Doubtless, if men should set their wits to work, and proceed according to what seems good in their sight, they would greatly alter Christ's constitution of his church, to make it more convenient and beautiful, and would adorn it with a vast variety of ingenious inventions; as the church of Rome has done. The question is, whether this school of Christ, which they talk of, made up very much of those who pretend to no experience 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, &c., by which names the visible church of Christ is there frequently called ?
I acknowledge, that means, of Christ's appointment, are to be used with chose who are Christ's enemies, and do not profess themselves any other, to change their hearts, and bring them to be Christ's friends and disciples. Such means are to be used with all sorts of persons, with Jews, Mahometans, Heathens, with nominal Christians that are heretical or vicious, the profane, the intemperate, the unclean, and all other enemies of Christ; and these means to be used constantly, and laboriously. Scandalous persons need to go to school, to learn to be Christians, as much as other men. And there are many persons that are not morally sincere, who, from selfish and sinister views, do consent ordinarily to go to church, and so be in the way of the use of means. And none ought to forbid them thus going to Christ's school, that they may be taught by him in the ministry of the gospel. But yet it will not follow, that such a school is the church of Christ. Human laws can put persons, even those who are very vicious, into the school of Christ, in that sense; they can oblige them constantly to be present at public teaching, and attend on the means of grace 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.
Visible saintship in the Scripture sense cannot be the same with that which has been supposed and insisted on, viz., a being in the eye of a rational charity truly pious; because Israel of old were from time to time called God's people, when it is certain the greater part of them were far from having any such visible holiness as this. Thus the ten tribes were called God's people, Hosea iv. 6, after they had revolted froin the true worship of God, and had obstinately continued in their idolatrous worship at Bethel and Dan for about two hundred and fifty years, and were at that time, a little before their captivity especially, in the height of their wickedness. So the Jews are called God's people, in Ezek. xxxvi. 20, and other places, at the time of their captivity in Babylon ; a time when most of them were abandoned to all kinds of the most horrid and open mpieties, as the prophets frequently represent. Now it is certain that the peo