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kind of mere negative charity, implying that we forbear to censure and condemn a man, because we do not know but that he may be godly, and therefore forbear to proceed on the foot of such a censure or judgment in our treatment of him: as we would kindly entertain a stranger, not knowing but in so doing we entertain an angel or precious saint of God. But I mean a positive judgment, founded on some positive appearance, or visibility, some outward manifestations that ordinarily render the thing probable. There is a difference between suspending our judgment, or forbearing to condemn, or having some hope that possibly the thing may be so, and so hoping the best ; and a positive judgment in favor of a person. For a having some hope, oniy implies that a man is not in utter despair of a thing, though his prevailing opinion may be otherwise, or he may suspend his opinion. Though we cannot know a man believes that Jesus is the Messiah, yet we expect some positive manifestation or visibility of it, to be a ground of our charitable judgment: so I suppose the case is here.
When I speak of Christian judgment, I mean a judgment wherein men do properly exercise reason, and have their reason under the influence of love and other Christian principles ; which do not blind reason, but regulate its exercises; being not contrary to reason, though they be very contrary to censoriousness or unreasonable niceness and rigidness.
I say in the eye of the church's Christian judgment, because it is properly a visibility to the eye of the public charity, and not of a private judgment, that gives a person a right to be received as a visible saint by the public. If any are known to be persons of an honest character, and appear to be of good understanding in the doctrines of Christianity, and particularly those doctrines that teach the grand condition of salvation, and the nature of true saving religion, and publicly and seriously profess the great and main things wherein the essence of true religion or godliness consists, and their conversation is agreeable; this justly recommends them to the good opinion of the public, whatever suspicions and Tears any particular person, either the minister or some other, may entertain, from what he in particular has observed, perhaps from the manner of his expressing himself in giving an account of his experiences or an obscurity in the order and method of his experiences, &c. The minister, in receiving him to the communion of the church, is to act as a public officer, and in behalf of the public society, and not merely for himself, and therefore is to be governed in acting, by a proper visibility of godliness in the eye of the public.
It is not my design, in holding the negative of the foregoing question, to affirm, that all who are regularly admitted as members of the visible church in complete standing, ought to be believed to be godly or gracious persons, when taken collectively, or considered in the gross, by the judgment of any person or society. This may not be, and yet each person taken singly may visibly be a gracious person to the eye of the judgment of Christians in general. These two are not the same thing, but vastly diverse; and the latter may be, and yet not the former. If we should know so much of a thousand persons one after another, and from what we observed in them should have a prevailing opinion concerning each one of them, singly taken, that they were indeed pious, and think the judge inent we passed, when we consider each judgment apart, to be right; it will not follow, when we consider the whole company collectively, that we shall have so high an opinion of our own judgment, as to think it probable, there was not one erroneous judgment in the whole thousand. We all have innumerable judgments about one thing or other, concerning religious, moral, secular, and philosophical affairs, concerning past, present, and future matters, reports, facts, persons, things, &c.,&c. And concerning all the many thousand dictates of
judgment that we have, we think them every one right, taken singly; for if there was any one that we thought wrong, it would not be our judgment; and yet there is no man, unless he is stupidly foolish, who when he considers all in the gross, will say he thinks that every opinion he is of, concerning all persons and things whatsoever, important and trifling, is right, without the least error. But the more clearly to illustrate this matter, as it relates to visibility, or probable appearances of holiness in professsors : supposing it had been found by experience concerning precious stones, that such and such external' marks were probable signs of a diamond, and it is made evident, by putting together a great number of experiments, that the probability is as ten to one, and no more nor less; i. e. that, take one time with another, there is one in ten of the stones that have these marks (and no visible signs to the contrary) proves not a true diamond, and no more; then it will follow, that when I find a particular stone with these marks, and nothing to the contrary, there is a probability of ten to one, concerning that stone, that it is a diamond ; and so concerning each stone that I find with these marks : but if we take ten of these together, it is as probable as not, that some one of the ten is spurious; because, if it were not as likely as not, that one in ten is false, or if taking one ten with another, there were not one in ten that was false, then the probability of those that have these marks, being true diamonds, would be more than ten to one, contrary to the supposition; because that is what we mean by a probability of ten to one, that they are not false, viz., that take one ten with another there will be one false one among them, and no more. Hence if we take a hundred such stones together, the probability will be just ten to one, that there is one false among them; and as likely as not that there are ten false ones in the whole hundred : and the probability of the individuals must be inuch greater than ten to one, even a probability of more than a hundred to one, in order to its making it probable that every one is true. It is an easy mathematical demonstration. Hence the negative of the foregoing question by no means implies a pretence of any scheme, that shall be effectual to keep all hypocrites out of the church, and for the establishing in that sense a pure church.
When it is said, those who are admitted, &c., ought to be by profession godly or gracious persons, it is not meant, they should merely profess or say that they are converted, or are gracious persons, that they know so, or think so ; but that they profess the great things wherein Christian piety consists, viz., a supreme respect to God, faith in Christ, &c. Indeed it is necessary, as men would keep a good conscience, that they should think that these things are in them, which they profess to be in them; otherwise they are guilty of the horrid wickedness of wilfully making a lying profession. Hence it is supposed to be necessary, in order to men's regularly and with a good conscience coming into communion with the church of Christ in the Christian sacraments, that they themselves should suppose the essential things, belonging to Christian piety, to be in them.
It does not belong to the present question, to consider and determine what the nature of Christian piety is, or wherein it consists. This question may be properly determined, and the determination demonstrated, without entering into any controversies about the nature of conversion, &c. Nor does an asserting the negative of the question determine any thing how particular the profession of godliness ought to be, but only, that the more essential things, which belong to it, ought to be professed. Nor is it determined, but that the public professions made on occasion of persons' admission to the Lord's supper, in some of our churches, who yet go upon that principle, that persons need not e teem them.
selves truly gracious in order to a coming conscientiously and properly to the Lord's supper; I say, it is not determined but that some of these professions are sufficient, if those that made them were taught to use the words, and others to understand them, in no other than their proper meaning; and principle and custom had not established a meaning very diverse from it, or perhaps a use of the words without any distinct and clear determinate meaning.
REASONS FOR THE NEGATIVE OF THE FOREGOING QUESTION.
Having thus explained what I mean when I say, that none ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church of Christ in complete standing, but such as are in profession and in the eye of the church's Christian judgment, godly or gracious persons : I now proceed to observe some things which may tend to evince the truth of this position. And here,
I. I begin with observing, I think it is both evident by the word of God, and also granted on all hands, that none ought to be admitted as members of the visible church of Christ but visible saints and professing saints, or visible and professing Christians. We find the word saint, when applied to men, used two ways in the New Testament. The word in some places is so used as to mean those that are real saints, who are converted, and are truly gracious persons ; as 1 Cor. vi. 2, “ Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world ?” Eph. i. 18, " The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." * Chap. iii. 17, 18, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth," &c. 2 Thes. i. 10,“ When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.” So Rev. v. 8, chap. viii. 4, and xi. 18, and xij. 10, and xiv. 12, and xix. 8. In other places the word is used so as to have respect not only to real saints, but to such as were saints in visibility, appearance, and profession; and so were outwardly, as to what concerns their acceptance among men and their outward treatment and privileges, of the company of saints. So the word is used in very many places, which it is needless to mention, as every one acknowledges it.
In like manner we find the word Christian used two ways. The word is used to express the same thing as a righteous man that shall be saved, 1 Pet. iv. 16, 17, 18. Elsewhere it is so used as to take in all that were Christians by profession and outward appearance, Acts xi. 26. So there is a twofold use of the word disciples in the New Testament. There were disciples in name, profession, and appearance; and there were those whom Christ calls dis-. ciples indeed, John viii. 30, 31. The word is sandūs, truly. The expression plainly supposes this distinction of true or real disciples, and those who were ihe same in pretence and appearance. See also Luke xiv. 25, 26, 27, and John xv. 8. The same distinction is signified in the New Testament, by those that live, being alive from the dead, and risen with Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 11, Rom vi. 11, and elsewhere; and those who have a name to live, having only a pretence and appearance of life. And the distinction of the visible church of Christ into these two, is plainly signified of the growth of the good ground, and that in the stony and thorny ground, which had the same appearance and show with
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the other, until it came to wither away; and also by the two sorts of virgins, Matt. xxv., who both had a show, profession, and visibility of the same thing. By these things, and many others which might be observed, it appears that the distinction of real saints and visible and professing saints is scriptural, and that the visible church was made up of these two, and that none are according to Scripture admitted into the visible church of Christ, but those who are visible and professing saints or Christians. And it is the more needless to insist longer upon it, because it is not a thing in controversy. So far as my small reading will inform me, it is owned by all Protestants. To be sure, the most eminent divine in New England, who has appeared to maintain the Lord's supper to be properly a converting ordinance, was very full in it. In his Appeal to the Learned, in the title page, and through the treatise, he supposes that all who come to the Lord's supper, must be visible saints, and sometimes speaks of them as professing saints, pages 85, 86: and supposes that it is requisite in order to their being admitted to the communion of the Lord's table, that they make a personal, public profession of their faith and repentance to the just satisfaction of the church, pages 93, 94. In these things the whole of the position that I would prove is in effect granted. If it be allowed (as it is allowed on all sides) that none ought to be admitted to the communion of the Christian visible church, but visible and professing saints or Christians; if these words are used in any propriety of speech, or in any agreement with Scripture representations, th whole of that which I have laid down is either implied or will certainly fol, low.
As real saints are the same with real converts, or really gracious persons, so visible saints are the same with visible converts, or those that are visibly converted and gracious persons. Visibility is the same with manifestation or appearance to our view and apprehension. And, therefore, to be visibly a gracious person, is the same thing as to be a truly gracious person to our view, apprehension, or esteem. The distinction of real and visible does not only take place with regard to saintship or holiness, but with regard to innumerable other things. There is visible and real truth, visible and real honesty, visible and real money, visible and real gold, visible and real diamonds, &c., &c. Visible and real are words that stand related one to another, as the words real and seeming, or true and apparent. Some seem to speak of visibility with regard to saintship or holiness, as though it had no reference to the reality, or as though it were a distinct reality by itself, as though by visible saints were not meant those who to appearance are real saints or disciples indeed, but properly a distinct sort of saints, which is an absurdity. There is a distinction between real money and visible money, because all that is esteemed money and passes for money, is not real money, but some is false and counterfeit. But yet by visible money, is not meant that which is taken and passes for a different sort of money from true money, but thereby is meant that which is esteemed and taken as real money, or which has that appearance that recommends it to men's judgment and acceptance as true money; though men may be deceived, and some of it may finally prove not to be so.
There are not properly two sorts of saints spoken of in Scripture: though the word saints may be said indeed to be used two ways in Scripture, or used so as to reach two sorts of persons ; yet the word has not properly two significations in the New Testament, any more than the word gold has two significations among us. The word gold among us is so used as to extend to several sorts of substances; it is true, it extends to true gold, and also to that which only appears to be gold, and is reputer gold, and by that appearance or visi
bility some things that are not real gold obtain the name of gold ; but this is not properly through a diversity in the signification of the word, but by a diversity of the application of it, through the imperfection of our discerning. It does not follow that there are properly two sorts of saints, because there are some who are not real saints, that yet being visible or seeming saints do by the show and appearance they make obtain the name of saints, and are reputed saints, and whom by the rules of Scripture (which are accommodated to our imperfect state) we are directed to receive and treat as saints; any more than it follows that there are two sorts of honest men, because some who are not truly honest men, yet being so seemingly or visibly, do obtain the name of honest men, and ought to be treated by us as such. So there are not properly two distinct churches of Christ, one the real, and another the visible; though they that are visibly or seemingly of the one only church of Christ, are many more than they who are really of his church; and so the visible or seeming church is of larger extent than the real.
Visibility is a relative thing, and has relation to an eye that views or beholds. Visibility is the same as appearance or exhibition to the eye; and to be a visible saint is the same as to appear to be a real saint in the eye that beholds; not the eye of God, but the eye of man. Real saints or converts are those that are so in the eye of God; visible saints or converts are those who are so in the eye of man; not his bodily eye, for thus no man is a saint any more in the eye of a man than he is in the eye of a beast; but the eye of his mind, which is his judgment or esteem. There is no more visibility of holiness in the brightest professor to the eye of our bodies, without the exercise of the reason and judgment of our minds, than may be in a machine. But nothing short of an apparent probability, or a probable exhibition, can amount to a visibility to the eye of man's reason or judgment. The eye which God has given to man is the eye of reason; and the eye of a Christian is reason sanctified, regulated, and enlightened, by a principle of Christian love. But it implies a contradiction to say, that that is visible to the eye of reason, which does not appear probable to reason. And if there be a man that is in this sense a visible saint, he is in the eye of a rational judgment a real saint. To say a man is visibly a saint, but not visibly a real saint, but only visibly a visible saint, is a very absurd way of speaking; it is as much as to say, he is to appearance an appearing saint; which is in effect to say nothing, and to use words without signification. The thing which must be visible and probable, in order to visible saintship, must be saintship itself, or real grace and true holiness; not visibility of saintship, not unregenerate morality, not mere moral sincerity. To pretend to, or in any respect to exhibit moral sincerity, makes nothing visible beyond what is pretended to, or exhibited: for a man to have that visibly, which if he had it really, and have nothing more, would not make him a real saint, is not to be visibly a saint.
Mr. Stoddard, in his Appeal to the Learned, seems to express the very same notion of visibility, and that visibility of saintship which is requisite to a person's coming to the Lord's supper, that I have here expressed. In page 10, he makes a distinction between being visibly circumcised in heart, and being really so; evidently meaning by the latter saving conversion; and he allows the former, viz., a visibility of heart circumcision, to be necessary to a coming to the Lord's supper. So that according to him, it is not a visibility of moral sincerity only, but a visibility of circumcision of heart, or saving conversion, that is a necessary requisite to a person's coming to the Lord's table. And in what manner this must be visible, he signifies elsewhere, when he allows that it