Page images

makes such a profession thereby comes under the bonds, and is invested with a right to the privileges of the covenant so far as to become rightful member of the visible church. He is a visible saint, regularly qualified to come and be admitted to the special outward privileges of the church.

Whenever any one has the condition or qualification which the gospel rule requires in order to an entrance or admission into the covenant, he has then an interest therein, and is absolutely entitled to some of its blessings. There are promises or grants belonging to him, which are no longer suspended on future conditions. But there are also other blessings which are annexed to a compliance with further conditions. Even his continuance in covenant, and the prolongation of his right to those privileges to which he is now entitled, depend on his future behaviour. For many have forfeited and lost their interest in the covenant, with all those special privileges which once rightfully belonged to them.

If now it be enquired what is the condition of abiding in the covenant, and holding an interest in it, I would observe, that this question is chiefly to be understood as relating to an interest in the covenant in respect of its external administration. For to those who have access to its invisible grace and saving blessings, a permanent continuance in a covenant relation to God is, I conceive, secured by the covenant itself: So that faith by which we become at first entitled to this grace, seems most properly the condition of a permanent title to, and interest in it. But there are also means prescribed in the gospel, a diligent use of which is neceffary to our partaking of the grace and blessings of the gospel : And só walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, may be termed the instrumental or secondary conditions, by which we obtain, if not a title to, yet a continued podelion and participation of those blessings of grace of which we became heirs when we first became the children of God by faith in Christ.

But an interest in the covenant in respet to its external privileges, or a right of access and admisficn to the ordinances, may be loft. And if it be asked upon what condition a visible saint holds his standing in the church and covenant, I conceive it is upon the condition of abiding in a credible profession of christianity, not falling away from, or overthrowing the credibility of it, either by open defection from the faith, or a scandalous life, obstinately and impenitently persisted in, after admonition with other gospel means have been saithfully and patiently used with him, to recover him from the error of his way. Though a profeffor is guilty of a heinous breach of covenant, if he neglects the duties to which he stands bound, if he falls into gross errors,


[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

fchisms, and scandalous practices; yet these do not, I think, im mediately cut him off from the covenant and church: For then the church would have no right to deal with him in a way discipline : For what have we to do to judge those who are with out. The discipline of the church is an ordinance to be administred to none but its members, for the healing of their backslidings. Those who are lo spiritually unclean, as to be unfit to communicate in holy ordinances, are yet to be admonished as brethren. The Apostles acknowledged the Jews to be in covenant, notwithstanding the great errors and corruptions into which they had fallen, till they added contumacy to unbelief, refifted and refused the means of repentance, which had been long and patiently used with them, and stoned away, or flew those who would have meekly instructed them, and so rejected the counsel of God against themselves. But not to digress

There is yet another condition, if it may be so called, which, though no covenant duty, is yet necessary to our continuing in and under the external administration of the covenant, and having a right of external communion; and that is the continuance of our natural life. Death will soon cut us all off from whatever right we have to use gospel ordinances, and diffolve our relation to the visible church. This will indeed be much to the advantage of all true saints, who, upon their dismission from churches in their militant state, will inmediately commence members of the church triumphant. But all others will at death be utterly cut off from their interest in the covenant, excommunicated, anathematized, and delivered over to Satan, for the destruction of soul and body in hell.

But after we are in covenant, and so absolutely entitled to some of its blessings, there may yet be further privileges proposed, and promised, our right to which is suspended on further conditions. The question, therefore, concerning the condition of the covenant may be understood of the condition to which particular grants or promises are annexed.

Every true believer has an interest in the invisible grace and blessings of the covenant ; yet he has no right to use the ordinances and privileges appropriated to instituted churches, but upon the condition of his exhibiting such a profession and evidence of his faith as the gospel requires in order to his being admitted to them.

Again, every regular member of an instituted church, with his children, has a covenant right to some special outward church privileges; yet if any fuch member be not a fubject of inward sanctification, le can no otherwise obtain those blessings which accompany falvation, but upon the condition of a faving faith. D


And after persons have an interest in the external and internal blessings of the covenant, there still may be some special privileges annexed to such conditions as perhaps they have not yet complied with. Every rightful member may not come, or be admitted to full communion, till he has obtained further and special qualifications for it: And there are special promises to eminent exercifes of particular graces ; for instance, distributing to the neceslities of the saints, which belong not to every true believer. And in general, eminent attainments in holiness are the condition of distinguthed blessings both in this world and that to come.

But if the condition of the covenant be understood of that qualification which has a covenant grant of all the bleffings and privileges contained in all the promises, I must freely own that I know of no one qualification whatever, that has all covenant blessings annexed to it. It is only a diligent, steady and persevering exercise and practise of christian graces and virtues, which will give us access to all the blessings contained in all the promises.


That there is a visible and invisible Holiness, which is either Relative

or Inherent.

IT may be objected, though it be granted that credible professors of christianity are visibly faints, and so are visibly members of the church, being visibly in the covenant of grace, and have visibly a right to covenant privileges, and are accordingly to be admitted to external communion, and regarded and treated as faints by the church, who can only judge by the outward appearance : yet none but those who are the subjects of inward fanctifying grace are really faints, or rightful members of the church, or have an interest in the covenant, or a right in the fight of God to any of its privileges. And though the covenant contains a grant of outward privileges, as well as invisible and saving blessings to those who are really interested in it, yet neither the one nor the other rightfully belong to any but true faints.

It is here supposed, that none but those who are inwardly fanetified are saints or holy, in any sense, and that a credible profeffion of christianity, though made without known hypocrisy, conftitutes a person a faint only, visibly, seemingly, and in the account of But this, for what I can find, is said without proof; and



is an hypothesis, unsupported by scripture, or any good reason. On the contrary, the scripture terms those holy or faints, who cannot witir rational probability be judged, to be all the subjects of internal sanctification. Thus the whole congregation of Israel are called an holy people.

Visible churches are holy, and all the members of them, not excepting the infant children. Can it be thought probable that all these are regenerated from the birth ? yet they are expressly affirmed to be holy or faints. And is it not accordingly taught and received in the church, that there is a relative and federal holiness which belongs to all church members, entirely diverse and separable from inward fanctification ? There are therefore two forts of perfons, who in scripture have the title of saints, and are really such in their kind, though in different senses. The one are the subjects of inward and invisible, the other of outward and vifible holiness. A vifible faint does not mean one who is only a saint feemingly, or in appearance, though perhaps he may really be no kind of saint. He is really a faint, as being a subject of outward and visible holiness, and as having those qualifications which, according to the gospel rule, infer his having really an interest in the covenant, so far as to have a right to external covenant privileges; though perhaps he may not be a subject of that inward and invisible holiness, which is connected with an interest in the inward, invisible and saving blessings of the covenant. Many seem to have been milled by imagining that a visible aint, is to be considered as opposed to a real one, and so means no more than a seeming one. A visible faint properly stands opposed to an invifible or inward one, even as the visible church stands opposed to the invisible. An instituted church is a real church, a visible society', formed and constituted according to the rules of the gospel, and is commonly termed a church, in the New Testament: Not indeed in the same sense in which the whole collective body of those who are inwardly sanctified, are called the church. So a visible faint is really as well as visibly one in some fene. He is really the subject of some kind of holiness, even that which is visible, external and relative : Though as real holiness is often used in contradistinction to the outward appearance and marks of inward sancti. fication, every visible saint, may not be really holy. In a word, since the scripture gives the title of saints to credible profeffors of christianity and their children, though none will say that they are all the subjects of inward fanctification, I conceive that they are really faints in some fenfe. And to say that they were fo termed through a mistaken presumption, that they all were such, even as counterfeit money is called money by those who presume it is good, is only introducing an arbitrary hypothesis, to evade the plain letter of the scripture, without any necessity, or good reason that yet appears. Men may easily suppose, if they please, that none are in any sense holy, but those who are inwardly sanctified ; that there is but one sort of saints spoken of in the scripture; that there is but one church, even the mystical ; that a visi. ble instituted church, as such, is really no church, but only the external shew and appearance of a church. But luppositions are no proofs,



As this notion of the church, the covenant, and saintship, which in effect excludes all but inward saints from a right of membership in the church, and an interest in the covenant in any respect, and which I take to be the capital mistake of the Ana baptists, feems to have been unwarily imbibed by some others. I will endeavour to state and explain my thoughts on this point a little farther.

The word baly, especially as used in the Old Testament, and applied to persons and things, expresses their separation from common to sacred and divine uses; their special relation to God, as being set apart, devoted and dedicated to him, and so belonging to him in a special manner. And as it was required that what was thus dedicated be clean or pure from defilement; hence the word is also used to express cleanness or purity. What is holy then stands opposed to what is common or profane; and also to what is unclean or polluted,

Hence naturally arose the distinction of relative and inherent holiness. Persons separated and dedicated to God are termed holy on account of their special relation to him, and his special propriety in them. And as this peculiar relation to God ordinarily took place by means of a covenant which such persons had come under, in which they were devoted to God as his peculiar people; hence this relative holiness is also commonly termed federal or covenant holiness, which expresses their being thus separated and related to God by their being in and under a covenant dedication to him,

All therefore, who are comprehended in that covenant by which the church is formed, are relatively or federally holy, They are separated from the rest of the world ; dedicated to God as his peculiar people ; are under special engagements to him, and endowed with special privileges and rights.

But as this covenant has a visible and invisible administration, so there is both a visible and invisible separation, dedication and relation to God according to, and by means of the covenant. Relative federal holiness therefore is either invisible or visible. They who cordially consent to the covenant, have an invisible interest in it; are entitled to its invisible grace and blessings ; are under


« PreviousContinue »