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who exhibit fufficient evidence that they are qualified for it. And I take it for granted by all, that visible saints exhibit sufficient evidence of this, and so have a right of admission, except fomething scandalous should appear in them, for which they ought to be debarred. *
I shall not now enquire, what causes may be thought sufficient to bar a visible saint of his right of admission. But ihall confine my attention chiefly to this which seems to be the main question. Who are visible saints ? On which I would observe,
A visible saint is a subject of that holiness, or saintship, which may be seen or discerned by the church. He is not only a visible person who is a faint, but it may be seen that he is a faint. Thia is not only visible to God, and his own conscience, but also to his fellow christians.
We may here take notice, that that holiness which forms the character in question is a visible qualification. It may be discerned in another by a due use of human faculties. But here two enquiries occur, which will require a careful attention. What is that holiness which is thus visible? And what is the visibility here supposed ? or, in what sense may it be seen ?
It has already been observed, that there are two sorts of persons, whose real characters are often very different, who are in scripture termed saints; and that there are two kinds of holiness, which give them this denomination. There is an internal and an external covenant dedication to God. An inward purity of heart, and an outward sanctity exhibited in words and behaviour. The one fort are saints outwardly, the other are saints inwardly. This distinction is authorised by the Apostle. “He is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart." The Jews were faints, or a holy people outwardly and in the letter ; and as such were the subjects of the outward circumcision, with the other outward ordinances, and privileges of the church under the Old Testament. But they only were the spiritual seed of Abraham, a holy people, in that more important sense which the Apostle has in view, who were Jews inwardly, and circumcised in heart. Now since external and internal holiness are different qualifications, and an outward and an inward faint are different characters, the question is, what kind of holiness must be visible to the church in any one, to denominate him a visible saint? Is it external, or internal faintship, which must be visible, to give him a right of admission ?
* This limitation seems necessary. Visible saints may be fo ignorant, or erroneous, or disorderly in their conversation, as to be unfit to have active communion with a church in special ordinances, till they are cleansed from thele fains and defilements. It is not every blemish in a man's character which disqualifies for admislion into the church. Nor can it be concluded that a man is not a visible saint merely from his being scandalous, so as to be at present unfit to be admitted to communion. There may be manisest evidences of real saintship, notwithstanding, and rational and scriptural grounds for charity. We are not bound to admit all to communion for whom we may and ought to exercise charity. Though none should be admitted but such as are saints in the just account of the church, yet some who are to be reputed faints, may yet be juftly debarred. The door of the vigible church is indeed so wide that many have a right to be admitted, who will be excluded from the church in heaven. And I trust that the gate of heaven is also so wide, that some will be received into those blissful mansions who were unfit to be received to external communion with ara instituted church,
But before we proceed to the resolution of this point, it will be needful to explain and state what we mean by the visibility of holiness or saintship: Or in what sense, the qualifications which form and discriminate the character of a visible saint may be seen.
An object is faid to be visible in the strictest sense when it may be seen, or perceived by the eye. But as we commonly express the faculties, acts or operations of the mind in terms and phrases borrowed from bodily and sensible things, so things are faid to be visible to the mind, when they may in any way be disa cerned or known by us. And the several inlets of the mind thro which it receives its information are figuratively termed the eyes of the mind, by which it fees objects. Sensible objects are said to be visible to the eye of sense. Some truths are immediately vifible, or self-evident to the eye of the mind as soon as they are clearly understood. Some truths are visible to the eye of reason, as being demonstrable from the discernable connection they have with some known truth. Thus the being of the invisible God may be clearly seen from the works of creation. Some truths are visible to the eye of faith, being confirmed by the testimony of God. Thus Abraham by faith saw the day of Christ afar off, and was glad. But let it be observed, that nothing is visible, properly speaking, but what is true and real. That which is not, cannot be seen, either immediately, or by means of any sure connection, with any other truth. If the evidence we have of the existence of any thing leaves it doubtful whether the thing supposed has any existence, if we can only form a conjectural opinion from it, it would be, I think, a harsh catachresis to say that it was an object that could be seen by us. If we have not light enough to ascertain the reality of a supposed object, there is not enough, to make it visible.
Now, if nothing be visible, but what may be seen, and if nothing can be seen, unless there be light enough to ascertain its reality; it feems to be at least an improper way of speaking to oppofe
a visible faint to a real one, as was before observed. How that can be seen which is not, or whose reality cannot be discerned, I understand not.
But if a visible saint be one who may be seen to be a saint, if visible holiness be holiness which may be seen, and whose reality may be ascertained, it is evident that it is external, and not internal holiness which forms the character of a visible saint, as such.. It is the visibility of this, and not of inward sanctification, which gives a right of admission into the church.
For it is external holiness alone which is visible, according to the explanation which has been given. Holiness of heart is an invisible qualification, as is generally taught in the reformed shurches. It is the ornament of the hidden man of the heart : A new name, which no man knoweth but he who receiveth it : It can be seen by him only who can search the heart. It cannot be discerned in another by the eye of sense, by immediate intuition, by reason, or by faith. Its reality cannot be made visible, or afcertained by any evidence we can have access to:
It has not a known, and certain connection with any thing discernable by us.
Now, if inward holiness be not visible to the eye of man; then it cannot be the visibility of this which gives any one the title of a visible saint, and a right of admission. Nor is there any such character as a visible saint in heart. To speak of one as being vifibly, that is, outwardly gracious, circumcised in heart, seems to be as improper, as it would be to say that he was visibly pofleft of an invisible qualification. It must be the visibility of that holiness which is visible, that is, of external holiness, which denominates a visible faint, and qualifies for admission to external church communion.
Some have thought that there is but one fort of holiness, or faints spoken of in fcripture.* But if there be any such character as a visible faint, if that holiness which forms this character, be a visible qualification; on the contrary, if that which forms the character of a faint in heart is not a visible qualification, I fee not how it can be denied that there are two kinds of holiness, and saints. If the scripture gives the title of saints to some who are not saints in heart, and if the scriptures do not give titles to any which do not belong to them; then there are two sorts of persons to whom the title of faints truly belongs. Indeed we are apt enough to miscall things through ignorance or mistake ; but the holy Spirit, by whose inspiration the scriptures were given, is not subject to our weaknesses.
A visible saint is a real definite character, effentially different from that of a faint in heart. And such are entitled to fome
fpecial * It might as well have been said, that one sort of Jews only was spoken of, and one kind of cireumcision, even that of the heart,
special privileges, to which a faint in heart, as such, is not ada miffible. It is true, these different characters often meet in the same subject ; but they often are also separated. And an outward saint is as really a faint in his kind, as an inward one. The unregenerate child of a believer is as really a subject of external federal holiness, as the believer himself is of inward fanctifying grace; and the one is as rightful a member of the visible, as the other is of the invisible church.
In fhort, if the notion of visibility has been rightly stated, if nothing is visible but what can be teen, and nothing can be seen unless there be light or evidence enough to ascertain its real existence ; it seems plain that it is not inward, but outward holiness which can be seen in another, and which denominates him a visible saint.
Here it may probably be said, that a thing may be said to be visible, in some fense, if it appear probable, or credible, though there should be no certainty of its reality. And that grace may be said to be visible in this sense. There may be evidence sufficient to make it visible to the eye or judgment of rational charity, that a person is a faint in heart, though it be not sufficient to make it certain that he is really such a one. And it is the visibility of inward fanctitication to the eye of charity, by the light of proba. ble, though uncertain evidence, which gives one the denomination of a visible faint: So that the holiness supposed is hol ess of
But its being visible, does not mean that it can certainly be seen or known to be real, but only that it is probable or cred ible, which in the account of charity, is satisfactory evidence of its truth or reality.
As I would willingly wave needless disputes about words, I Thall only say, that if qualifications may be said to be visible, of whose reality we are uncertain, it must be in a less proper sense. Uncertaio evidence may discover the possibility, credibility, or probability that a ihing exists; but the thing itself, its real existence cannot actually be seen, so is not properly visible, without more light. I grant there may be visible and sufficient evidence of the probability, or credibility of a man's being a faint in heart; and that in the eye or judgment of charity, he is to be reputed, and received as if he were such. And we may say that he is visibly such a one to the eye of charity. But in reality, nothing more is or can be seen than external signs or evidences of grace, which are known to be uncertain. The rule and evidence by which charity is to judge, are designed to direct christians how they are to regard and behave towards men in this world ; but not to enable thein to search and know what is in the hearts of each other.
Whether then we say that outward holiness forms the character of a visible saint; or that it is the visibility of inward fanctification in the eye of charity which gives one this denomination, it comes to the same thing. For outward holiness is the evidence, the only evidence of grace which the eye of charity can discern. It gives inward fanctification all the visibility it has in the view of the church. Every outward saint is to be reputed a saint in heart, judging of him by the rule of charity, though we doubt not but many such will be found to have been really hypocrites. But the judginent of charity will be further considered hereafter.
There is yet a third notion of visibility which requires to be noticed. Visibility is supposed to be the same with the appearing of a thing to us, to our apprehension, judgment and esteem. A visible saint is one who seems, and is judged by the church to be a faint in heart. And such only ought to be admitted by them.
But I conceive that, to be a vilible saint, is a very different thing, from his seeming, appearing, or being judged, or esteemed by others to be a saint in any fense. It is one thing to say that a thing can be seen by us, and another to say that it is seen, or appears, or seems to us. Vilible faintship is a qualification of the subject, which may be discerned by another. But the appearance one makes in the eye or view of another, is nothing but the apprehension, judgment or opinion of hiin who thus judges. A man may be a visible saint, though he may not so appear, or seem, or be judged by the church. And he may seem, and appear, and be judged by them to be a faint wlien he is no sạint in any sense. If the eye or judgment be not faulty or irregular, a visible saint only will seem, appear and be judged to be an external faint, and reputed a faint in heart in the judgment of charity,
But it is the discernable qualifications of a person, and not the discernment of the church, not the appearance he has in their eye, not the idea, or notion they may have of him, whether right or wrong, which constitutes a visibie saint, and gives a right of admission. The reason why one appears, or seems to another to be such a person, may be prejudice, partiality, judging by a wrong rule. But can any think that our right to christian privileges depends on these things ? Whoever exhibits, or holds up to view external holiness, or, which is the fame thing, credible sufficient evidence according to the gospel that he ought to be charitably reputed and received for a true saint, such a one is a yisible saint, and has a right of admission, however he may seem or appear to any. It is not the apprehensions of others, but the qualifications of the proponant, or the sufficient evidences in his favour, duly exhibited which give him a right.