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The Hebrew commonwealth was a kingdom of God, formed by a special covenant which he made with that people when he brought them out of Egypt. Jehovah was their Law-giver, Judge and King. But this was an earthly theocracy, a kingdom of this world, constituted and governed in this peculiar manner, that it might, as a type, 'represent the kingdom of heaven, the gospel church.
As all who were interested in the Sinai covenant, which was ratified and sealed by the blood of sacrificed beasts, belonged to the commonwealth of Israel, and were entitled to come at least of its peculiar privileges ;' so all who are interefted in the newcovenant, ratified and sealed by the blood of Christ, belong to the kingdom of heaven, and are inembers of the church of God.
The covenant then, being the great charter and law of the kingdom of heaven, contains a grant or promise of all those special privileges to which the people of God are entitled, and prescribes all that workip, service and obedience, which they are to render to him. And all who are in the covenant, and so members of the church, are under special bonds and engagements to comply with the duties prescribed to them; and are by a covenant grant entitled to peculiar privileges. But some have a greater interest in the blessings of the covenant than others, and belong to the church in a special and more important sense.
For it is to be observed, that the church is a word, which in fcripture, and by the common usage of christians, bears several different senses, which should be carefully noticed, explained and distinguished ; otherwise we shall be in danger of great confusion and mistake in our conceptions and discourses. These various acceptations, I shall now endeavour to state and define, so far as may be needful to our present design.
1. The Catholick or Universal Church, taken in its largest acceptation, includes or comprehends all who are in any respect interested in the covenant, so as to be under its bonds, and entitled to any gospel privilege either external or internal, to which others, who are not in covenant, have no right. All who belong to the church in any of those more special acceptations which are to be mentioned and explained, however different in their character and quali
fications, and in the privileges to which they are intitled, are
II. Sometimes we are to understand by the church, the whole
III. Third acceptation of the term, the import of which is next to be considered. For it is to be observed that the kingdom of heaven makes an appearance on earth, in persons and societies professing the christian religion, observing its outward ordinances, and exhibiting in their lives its proper effects. And the whole collective body of professed and visible chriftians, together with their children, are considered as constituting one universal visible church. Indeed I do not conceive that the whole number of visible faints are, by a divine ordinance, formed into one consociated body. I find no gospel rule or warrant for organizing, and administering a general government over the whole, to which all particular focieties and persons profefling the christian religion are bound to be subject ; or that any general officers are authorized by Christ for any such purpose. In this sense we adınit not the notion of a universal visible church, formed by divine in
ftitution; but as a general denomination, by which profelles christians, colle&tively considered, may be diftinguished from the rest of mankind, we readily admit it. All who credibly profess christianity are to be considered as belonging to the houshold of faith ; as holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling. And some special acts of brotherly fellowship seem to be due to them ; though for want of a convenient opportunity, or for other weighty reafons, they may not have joined or confederated with any particular christian society. There feems to be some brotherly relation between all who profess the common faith. And so all fuel may be considered as composing one visible church ;, which, though not properly an organized body, yet the several members are to maintain some external christian communion with each other. But there is also
IV. The instituted church, which is plainly distinguishable from the visible universal church, of which we have spoken. An instituted church is a visible society of professed christians (includ. ing their children) formed according to the rules of the gospel, by the mutual confederation of the several inembers, either express or at least implicit, for the purpose of observing the ordinances of worship and discipline which Christ has instituted for the edification of the whole body and the several members, and that the light of the gospel might be held up to the world by a public profession of faith and obedience, by the reading and preaching of the word ; and that its proper influence and effects might be manifested and exemplified in the christian and orderly conversation of the members in their feveral places. Whether there be any rule or warrant in the gospel for forming classical, provincial, or national churches, by a coalescence of several particular congregations, I shall not now enquire. But such societies of profeffed christians as thofe above described, are confeffedly of divine institution ; and in the New Testament are commonly termed churches. And their form, order, officers, ordinances and administrations are prescribed in the gospel. An instituted church is a part of the visible church universal. It is the kingdom of heaven on earth, representing the heavenly theocracy in the place where it is formed. And though chriftians as members of civil focieties are to be subject to the lawful authority therein eftablished, yet as members of a church they are to call no man master on earth, but acknowledge Christ alone as their Lord and Lawgiver.
V. But as the members of instituted churches are not all fit to be admitted to, or use the privileges of full communion, this has occasioned a yet more limited and special meaning of the word : and those members who are in full communion are termed the church, in distinction from those who are not communicants. And this fifth acceptation of the word is not only common with us, but is thought to be authorised by the Apostles; who in their epistles to churches address them as those whom they suppored to have been communicants at the Lord's supper, and give them directions for a due attendance on that ordinance. But many who are members of a church in a larger sense, are not members of the communicating church ; nor are to be admitted to the Lord's table without further qualifications. Again,
VI. By the church is sometimes meant those who have a part in the exercise of church authority, a power of voting in the election, dismiffion, or deposition of officers, in admitting, censuring, or restoring members, and in other church acts. Those who hold the keys of government in the kingdom of heaven may be called, for distinction, the representative church ; there are great disputes in whose hands this authority is lodged, and to whom it properly belongs to exercise it. But all agree that not every member is to be admitted to the privilege of voting. When Christ directs his disciples, in case an offending brother will not hearken to more private admonition, to tell it to the church, he seems to mean the representative church, who only have a right publickly and authoritatively to judge and censure offenders. For to what purpose would it be lo carry a complaint to any but those who had authority to take cognizance of, and redress the griev.
From the account which has been given of the church, and the several acceptations in which the word is used, it appears that persons of very different characters and descriptions are members. Some are departed spirits. Some are inhabitants of this world ; and of these some are infants ; some are adult persons, and of both sexes ; some are professors of christianity, others have not yet made a profession of their faith : And of professing christians, some are true saints, and belong both to the invisible and visible church ; others are only credible professors ; who though regular members of the visible church, are not living members of Christ's mystical body. And of those who belong to the visible church in its largest acceptation, fome are not, and some are formed into instituted churches. Some are, and some are not confirmed members, and in full communion. Other differences might be mentioned. But however, they are all subjects of the kingdom of heaven, members of the church, interested in the new
covenant, entitled to peculiar privileges. They are all (in fome sense) holy persons, the children and people of God; and have some union or relation to Christ the head of the church, which those who are out of the church and covenant have not.
HE new covenant is a divine and gracious constitution ref.
peeting fallen man, founded in the mediation of Christ, and adininistered by him, according to which the church is formed, and governed. It contains a law, or rule of duty and obedience, inforced by penalties; and also a grant of special privileges; and establishes a mutual relation and connection between the duties prescribed and the privileges granted to those who are therein interested or concerned.
Of the preceptive part of the Covenant. THE preceptive part of the Covenant contains all the laws of Christ, requiring all exercises or acts of piety towards God, of righteousness and benevolence towards men ; which are enjoined in the moral law. In addition to these it prescribes what are called evangelical duties, repentance towards God on gospel principles, faith in Christ, doing all in bis name, with a due regard to him in all his mediatorial offices, and for those special ends and purposes for which he requires our obedience; with dependance on his grace to assist our endeavours, and his merit and intercession to recommend us and our performances to the divine acceptance. It requires also an observance of all outward ordinances of gospel worship, and ari attendance on the instituted means or instrumental duties of religion.
These laws of Christ, are enforced with penalties : which are of two kinds, corrective or vindictive. The former are fatherly chiaftisements, with which the children of God are visited by him for their reformation and profit, when they transgress, and