« AnteriorContinuar »
goest.” To whom Christ replied, " The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” When he made his promise, he probably quite mistook the thing, and did not imagine, that to follow Christ wherever he went, would be to follow him in such poverty and hardship. I suppose the rich young man we read of, Mark x. 17, &c. might have what is called moral sincerity. But he had no sincerity in the covenant of grace. When he came to Christ to know what he should do to have eternal life, it is probable he ignorantly thought himself willing to yield himself to Christ's direction. Yet when it came to a trial, and Christ told him he must go and sell all that he had and give to the poor, it proved that he had no sincerity of willingness at all for any such thing. So that it is evident, however unsanctified men may be morally sincere in some things, yet they have no sincerity of any sort in that covenant, of which the sacraments are seals; and that moral sincerity, distinct from gracious, in this covenant, is mere imagination, there being indeed no such thing.
II. Another argument against this notion of moral sincerity's giving a right to church communion, is this: a quality that is transient and vanishing, can be no qualification or fitness for a standing privilege. Unsanctified men may be very serious, greatly affected, and much engaged in religion : but the Scripture compares their religion to a lamp not supplied with oil, which will go out, and to a plant that has no root nor deepness of earth, which will soon wither; and compares such unsanctified men to the dog that will return to his vomit, and to the sou, which, though washed ever so clean, yet, her nature not being changed, will return to her wallowing in the mire.
Mr. Williams allows, that persons in order to come to sacraments must have “ deep convictions, an earnest concern to obtain salvation," &c. Now every one who is in any degree acquainted with religious matters, knows that such convictions are not wont to last a great while, if they have no saving issue. Mr. Stoddard, in his sermon on the danger of speedy degeneracy, p. 11, says, st unconverted men will grow weary of religious duties.” And our author himself, p. 78, speaking of those professors in the primitive churches, that fell away to heresy and other wickedness, takes notice that the apostle observes, "IT WILL BE so—that they which are approved, might be made manifest :” and says Mr. Williams upon it, “ evil and unsanctified men, by such sins, will discover their hypocrisy."
Now seeing this is the case with moral sincerity and common religion, how can it be a qualification for a standing privilege ? Nothing can be a fitness for a durable privilege but a durable qualification. For no qualification has any fitness or adaptedness for more than it extends to: as a short scabbard cannot be fit for a long sword. If a man, going a journey in the night, needs a lamp to light him in his way, who will pretend that a flaming wick without oil, which will last but a few rods, is fit for his purpose? Or if a man were building a house for himself and family, should he put into the frame pieces of timber known to be of such a nature as that they would probably be rotten in a few months ; or should he take blocks of ice instead of hewn stone, because during a present cold season they appeared to be hard and firm; and withal should for a covering put only leaves that will soon fade away, instead of tiles or shingles, that are solid and lasting ; would not every spectator ridicule his folly?
If it should be said that unsanctified men, when they lose their moral sincerity, may be cast out again: this is far from helping the case, or showing that such men were ever fit to be admitted. To say, a piece of timber, though not of a durable nature, is fit to be put into the frame of a building, because when it begins to rot it may be pulled out again, is so far from proving that it was ever fit to be put in, that the speedy necessity of pulling it out rather proves the contrary. If we had the power of constituting a human body, or it were left to us to add members to our own bodies, as there might be occasion; we should not think such a member was fit to be added to the frame, that had already radically seated in it a cancer or gangrene, by which it could last but a little while itself, and would endanger the other members; though it were true, that when the disease should prevail, there were surgeons who might be procured to cut that member off.
But to consider a little further this point of moral sincerity's qualifying persons for the privileges of the church, I would lay down this proposition as a thing of clear evidence: Those persons have no fitness in themselves to come to the privileges of the church, who, if they were known, would not be fit to be admitted by others. For to say, they are fit to be members, and yet not fit to be allowed to be members, is apparently absurd. But they who have no better fitness than moral sincerity, if that were known, would not be fit to be admitted by others; as is allowed by Mr. Williams. For he holds, that in order to be fit to be admitted by others, they must credibly appear to them to have something more than moral sincerity, even gospel holiness. And it is evident in itself, as well as allowed by Mr. Williams, that if such were known, they would not be fit to be admitted, only on their moral sincerity, and the profession and promises they make from such a principle: and that for this reason, because such a principle alone would not be fit to be trusted. God himself has taught his church, that the religion of unsanctified men is not fit to be trusted ; as a lamp without oil, and a plant without root, are things not to be trusted. God has directly taught his church to expect, that such a religion will fail ; and that such men, having no higher principle, will return to their wickedness. Job xxvii. 8, 9, 10, « The hypocrite—will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God ?” Dan. xii. 10, “ The wicked will do wickedly.” And therefore God does not require his church to accept their profession and promises. If he has taught us not to credit their profession and promises, then certainly he has taught us not to accept them.
III. Another argument against this supposed rule of allowing and requiring unsanctified men with moral sincerity, to come to sacraments, is this. That rule, which if fully attended, would naturally bring it to pass, that the greater part of communicants would be unfit, even according to that very rule, cannot be a divine rule : but this supposed rule of inoral sincerity is such a rule. For if this rule be universally attended, then all unsanctified men, who have present convictions of conscience sufficient to make them morally sincere, must come into the communion of the church. But this conviction and common religion, if it does not issue in conversion (as bas been observed), commonly vanishes away in a short time: and yet still these persons, if not convicted of open scandal, are left in the communion of the church, and remain there, without even moral sincerity. Experience gives abundant reason to think, that of those who some time or other have considerable convictions of conscience, so as to make them for the present to be what is called morally sincere, but few are savingly converted.* And if all these must be admitted (as they must, if this rule be fully attended), then their convictions going away and their sincerity vanishing
* How small a proportion are there of the vast multitudes, that in the time of the late religious commotion through the land had their consciences awakened, who gave hopeful abiding evidences of a sar ing conversion to God!
at all has annexed argument that Thus this supp
with it, it will hereby be brought about, that the Lord's table is chiefly surrounded with the worst sort of morally insincere persons, viz., stupid backsliders, that are in themselves far worse than they were before, according to the Scripture account, Matt. xii. 45, and 2 Pet. ii. 20. And this as the natural consequence of the forementioned rule, appointing moral sincerity to be the qualifications for communion. Thus this supposed rule supplants its own design.
IV. Another argument that inoral sincerity is not the qualification to which God has annexed a lawful right to sacraments, is, that this qualification is not at all inconsistent with a man's living at the same time in the most heinous wickedness, in a superlative degree contrary to the Christian religion.
It was before observed to be a thing evident in itself, and allowed by Mr. Williams, that there are some sins, which while wilfully continued and lived in, though secretly, dọ wholly disqualify persons for Christian sacraments, and make it unlawful for men to partake of them.
Now if it be thus with some sins, doubtless it is because of the heinousness of those sins, the high degree of wickedness which is in them. And hence it will follow, that those sins which are in themselves most heinous, and most contrary to the Christian religion, do especially disqualify persons for Christian sacraments, when wilfully lived in.
Let it therefore now be considered, whether it will not follow from these premises, that for men to live in enmity against God and Christ, and in wilful unbelief and rejection of Christ (as the Scriptures teach, and as Mr. Stoddard and Mr. Williams too assert, is the case with all unsanctified men under the gospel), wholly disqualifies men for Christian sacraments. For it is very manifest by Scripture and reason, that to live in these things is to live in some of the most heinous kinds of wickedness; as is allowed by Calvinistic divines in general, and by Mr. Stoddard in particular, who says, Saf. of Ap. p. 224, “ You cannot anger God more by any thing, than by continuing in the neglect of Christ. This is the great controversy God has with sinners; not that they have been guilty of these and those particular transgressions, but that they abide in the rejection of the gospel." Again he says, Ibid. p. 249, “ The great sin, that God is angry with you for, is your unbelief. Despising the gospel is the great provoking sin.”
A man's continuing in hatred of his brother, especially a fellow communicant, is generally allowed to be a thing that disqualifies for communion. The apostle compares it to leaven in the passover, 1 Cor. v. 6, 7, 8. But now certainly it is as bad, and as contrary to the nature and design of Christian sacraments, for a man to live in hạtred of CHRIST, and to remain a hateful and accursed enemy (if I may use Mr. Williams's own language) to the glorious Redeemer and head of the Christian church.
None will deny that lying and perjury are very gross and heinous sins, and (if known) very scandalous; and therefore it follows from what was observed before, that such sins, if lived in, though secretly, do disqualify persons for Christian sacraments in God's sight. But by our author's own account, all unsanctified men that partake of the Lord's supper, live in lying and perjury, and go on to renew these crimes continually ; inasmuch as while they continue ungodly men, they live in a constant violation of their promise and oath. For Mr. Williams often lays it down, that all who enter into covenant with God, do promise spiritual duties, such as repentance, faith, love, &c. And that they promise to perform these henceforward, even from the present moment, unto the end of life; see p. 25, 26, 28, 76. And that they do not only promise, but swear to do this, p. 18, 100, 101, 129, 130, 140. But for a man to vio
late the promises he makes in covenanting with God, Mr. Williams once and again speaks of it as lying, p. 24, 130. And if so, doubtless their breaking the oath they swear to God, is perjury. Now lying to men is bad; but lying to God is worse, Acts v. 4. And without doubt perjury towards God is the worst sort of perjury. But if unsanctified men, when they entered into covenant with God, promised and swore, that they would immediately and henceforward accept of Christ as their Saviour, and love him, and live to him; then while they continue in a wilful rejection of him (which according to Mr. Williams all unregenerate men Jo) they live continually in the violation of their promise and oath.*
I would observe one thing further under this head, viz., that ungodly men who live under the gospel, notwithstanding any moral sincerity they may have, are worse, and more provoking enemies of God, than the very heathen, who never sinned against gospel light and mercy. This is very manifest by the Scriptures, particularly Matt. X. 13, 14, Amos iii. 2, Rom. i. 9, 2 Pet. ü. 21, Rev. iii. 15, 16.
I having suggested concerning Mr. Stoddard's doctrine of admitting more unconverted than converted, by attending Christ's rule, that this supposes it to be the case of the members of the visible church, that the greater part of them are more provoking enemies to God than most of the heathen ; Mr. Williams represents hirself as greatly alarmed at this. He calls it an extraordinary passage, and puts five questions about it to my serious consideration, p. 72, 73. The first and chief question is this : “ Did Mr. Stoddard ever say in the Appeal, or anywhere else, of most of our fellow-worshippers at the sacrament, that we have no reason to think concerning them, but that they are more provoking enemies to the Lord, whom Christians love and adore, than most of the very Heathen ?” His three next questions are to represent the heinousness of such supposed ill treatment of Mr. Stoddard, and I think will be sufficiently answered, by what I shall offer in reply to the first.
I will tell him what Mr. Stoddard said. Speaking to such as do not come to Christ, living under the gospel, he said, Safety of Ap. p. 234, 235, “ You may not think to escape as the heathen do. Your load will be heavier and your fire will be hotter, and your judgment sorer, than the judgment of other
Here I would observe, that not only in the general do unsanctified men, notwithstanding their moral sincerity, thus live in the most heinous wickedness; but particularly, according to Mr. Williams's own doctrine, their very attendance on the outward ordinances and duties of worship is the vilest, most flagrant, and abominable impiety. In his sermons on Christ a King and Witness, p. 77, 78, he says, “If a man could perform all the outward acts of worship and obedience, which the Bible requires, from the beginning to the end of it, and not do them from faith in Christ, and love to God, and noi express by them the thoughts, desires, and actings of his soul; they would be so far from being that obedience which Christ requires, that they would be a mocking of God, and hateful to him. These outward acts ought to be no other, and in religion are designed to stand for nothing else but to be representations of a man's soul, and the acts of that. And when they are not so they are in their own nature a LIE, and false pretence of something within, which is not there. Therefore the Lord abhors them, and reckons these false pretences the rilest wickedness. Now when a man performs all outward obedience and worship, but it does not come from his heart, he practically denies the ornniscience of Christ, while he puts before him a show and pretence of something for the reality; and so he belies his own profession. And all this, be it more or less, whatever it pretends to be stead of being that which Christ requires, is entirely different from it, yea, infinitely contrary to it. And those same actions, which when they are in the language of the heart, and flow from it, are pleasing and acceptable to God and Jesus Christ, are true obedience to him; when they do not, are rockoned the MOST FLAGRANT AND ABOMINABLE IMPIETY, and threatened with the SEVEREST DAMNATION OF HELL." Now, who can believe, that God has, by his own holy institution, made that sort of sincerity, which is nothing better than what is consistent with such a lying, vile, abominable, flagrantly wicked pretence and show of religion as this, the very thing that gives a right, even in his sight, to Christian sacraments!
"I might here also observe, that if moral sincerity or common grace gives a right to sacraments in the sight of God, then that which (according to Mr. Stoddard's doctrine before observed) is a spirit of lust, that which is contrary to, and at war with, and would destroy saving grace, is the thing which gives a right, in the sight of God, to Christian sacraments,
men. God will proportion every man's misery to his iniquity. And as you have enjoyed greater light and love, so you must expect more amazing and exquisite wrath, than other men. Conscience has more to accuse you of and condemn you for, and so has God. And you will sink down deeper into hell, than other men. You are treasuring up a greater measure of wrath, than others, against the day of wrath. You will wish you had lived in the darkest corners of the earth among Scythians and Barbarians.”
And Mr. Williams must allow me to remind him of what another divine has said, and that is himself. In his sermon on Isa. xlv. 11, p. 25, 26, he says, “It is to be feared, there are great numbers here present, that are in an unconverted, unrenewed, unpardoned state ; strangers from God, and enemies to him. Yet you now look with great pity and compassion on that poor captive, for whom we have now been offering up our earnest prayers,* who has been so long in so pitiable and sorrowful a condition, and who is now in the thickness of popish darkness and superstition. If you are out of Christ, and destitute of true faith in him, if your natures remain unrenewed and unsanctified, what is your state better than hers, which looks so sorrowful and distressing? Rather, is it not worse? When you consider, that in the fulness of the means of grace which you have enjoyed all your days, you are as far from any saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, as those who have lived in the dregs and abyss of popish ignorance, and know not what to believe, but what the church, that is, Antichrist, tells them. If you die thus, your misery will be aggravated INCONCEIVABLY beyond theirs. Which Christ has plainly enough shown us, when he upbraided the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, and tells them how much in the comparison they fall below Tyre and Sidon (heathen cities, notorious for luxury, debauchery, and the grossest idolatry)," and Sodom ; for whom it should be more tolerable, than for them.”
The same author says also, even in the book under consideration, p. 86, 6. That the unbelief and impieties of visible saints, is what they will be punished far above all men in the world."
And now I think it may be proper for Mr. Williams himself to answer his 5th question, which he puts to my serious consideration, “ What honor is it to our Lord Jesus Christ, to treat visible saints in such a manner, when at the same time it is his revealed will they should be outwardly treated as visible saints ?”
A View of what Mr. Williams says concerning the public Covenanting of Profes
I. Mr. Williams, often speaks with contempt, of my supposing it to be a duty required of such as come to sacraments, that they should explicitly own the covenant, and disputes largely against it, p. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and many other places. He says concerning me, p. 22, “It is very unhappy, that this good gentleman should use the Scripture in such a manner, to prove a divine institution which never had an existence; and after all that is said, is but a mere imagination and chimera ; it being evident, there never was any such divine institution for the church under the Old Testament, binding particular
* Mrs. Eunice Williams, brought up in Canada, among the Caghnawaga Indians, sister to the ther pastor of the church in Mansfield, where this sermon was preached, upon a day of prayer kept on bei account; she being then in that place on a visit. VOL. I.