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We must not then confound the visibility of an object with the sense of the beholder, or with the apprehension or judgment he forms of it. If this be considered, I think it is not true to fay that to be a visible faint is the same as to appear to be a real saint in the eye that beholds. That none ought to be admitted but those who appear, and are judged to be true saints, Ihat it is needful that a church have charity for one, or such a favorable notion of him, in order to their receiving him, or having a right or warrant to receive him. It is indeed the duty of the church to judge charitably of all who exhibit external holiness. These have a right to the charity of the church, as well as to be receiv, ed to communion. But surely, a church having charity for one is not what makes it their duty to receive him. They ought to receive all for whom they ought to have charity (except some accidental bar lie in the way.) And they ought to have charity for all who hold forth fufficient scriptural grounds for it. And external holiness, according to the gospel rule, is such evidence of inward fanctification as gives sufficient grounds for a judgment of charity;


The Visibility of inward Sanctification, and the Judgment of Charity

further opened and stated, AS it is by means of light that outward objects are visible to the eye, so it is by means of evidence that the mind can discern what is truth, with respect to those objects about which it is occupied. “Whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”

Though nothing is properly visible but what can be certainly seen, and so really exists; yet such are the relations and connexjons which things have among themselves, that we may, from the things which are immediately seen, be certain that other things exist; and also that it is probable, credible, or posible, that other things are, or will be, of whose existence yet we cannot be sure, And though we cannot be certain of the reality of these, yet the probability, credibility or possibility of them may be known and plainly perceived.

As we have no certain evidence of inward fan&tification in another, no more can be discerned than fallible signs, which give us reason to hope, and judge it probable or credible, that such a one is a faint in heart. This is all the visibility which grace has in the eye of charity.' And the judgment must keep pace with the evidence on which it is grounded. The one is as doubtful as the other,


Whoever exhibits external holiness, exhibits all the evidence of inward sanctification which one man can discera in another. And though this does not make it certain that the subject is a true faint, yet he is certainly a visible faint. And the rule of the gospel, according to which the judgment of charity is formed, requires that every visible faint be reputed, received and loved, as a true disciple of Christ. When a man is admitted into the church as a visible faint, he is admitted as one who gives credible evidence that he is a faint in heart, and is by the rule of charitable judgment to be reputed.

The judgment of charity in favour of any one is not an absolute judgment that he is certainly fincere ; but only that he exhibits marks or evidences of it. And therefore, according to the gospel rule, is to be so accounted, reputed and received. But it is still understood that the rule and evidence upon which the judgment of charity is formed, leave room for doubt, whether a great part of those who are to be thus reputed, may not be unlound. To repute one a good man, according to the common acceptation of the word, is not the same as absolutely to believe that he is fo; but it is to presume that he is, and carry ourselves towards him as if he were such. Every one is to be reputed honest, so long as he behaves visibly in consistency with such a character. And yet when we consider how many who have fufe tained such a character for a time have forfeited it and become infamous; it would be an irrational credulity absolutely to believe every man to be honest who is of a blameless conversation. So every visible faint is to be reputed a true saint in charitable account. And the judgment of charity is rational, while it proceeds according to the rule and evidence upon which it is to be formed, though we know that this rule and evidence give no certain discovery of the inward character, and spiritual state of men. Nor are we required absolutely to believe further than there is substantial evidence to support us. And there are many of whom we have no reason to doubt but that they are visible faints, and to be reputed and received as true saints, while yet we may have reason to doubt whether they are fincere, and to be jealous cver them with a godly jealousy.

It belongs not to the judgment of charity to determine, what degree of evidence external holiness affords of the reality of inward fanctification. We know that it caves us in uncertainty : It does not exceed probability. But whether it amounts to a preponderant probability, I think cannot be known, unless we could know whether the greater part of visible saints were ancere, If this were supposed, the probability would preponderate in favour of each particular person. There would be more reason to


For my

hope he is fincere, than to fear the contrary. But if it were supe posed that the greater part of visible saints are not fincere, the probability would preponderate against the several individuals. But though it may be known who are visible saints, yet we know not what proportion of these are fincere. For ought that we know, the greater part of those who give the lowest evidences of fanclification


be faints in heart; and we know not but that the greater part of those who give the best evidences of their fincerity may be hypocrites.

If we cannot know whether one is a visible saint, till we know whether there be a preponderant probability that he is fincere, I think we th all never be able to determine this till the day of judgment.

This, I imagine, will sound like a paradox to fome: But let it be examined. I ask then, what external evidences can be depended on as a proof that it is most probable a person is a saint in heart. Let a scriptural rule, with marks, be laid down, by which this may be determined, and it shall be attended to. part I know of none. And if the scriptures will not furnish us with rules and marks by which it can be known which way the probability preponderates in this case, much less can experience and observation help us to them. There are some professors indeed who commend themselves much to our charity. But who can say how many of these may be unfound? There are others who appear to us not to adorn their profession as they ought: They have scandalous blemishes in their character. But how many of these may, notwithstanding, be the fubjects of fanctifying grace, we shall never know till the day of revelation. have no rule by which we can possibly determine whether the evidence in favour of any one amounts to a preponderant probability, how vain must it be to pretend to make this the measure and standard of visible saintship? Or must this be determined by the mere conjectures of christians, undirected by any rule, or by such arbitrary ones as they may form to themselves? This no one will pretend. I conceive then, it is as impoflible for us to fay, upon any certain grounds, what visible signs of grace make it more probable that any one is a true saint, as it would be to fay what outward marks would make this certain. What per-' plexing doubt must we be in, if we make it a rule to admit none into the church till he exhibits such evidences of fincerity as for the most part fail not? When we know not whether any visible qualifications make it probable, in this sense, that any one is fincere; and can only guess at random, or according to our own fancy; and are never like to know, as long as we live, whether we have guessed right in any one instance,


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But though we know not whether the greater part of the visible faints are fincere, whether external holiness be a preponderant probable evidence of grace in general, or in any particular initances, yet if we attend to the rule of the gospel we may know who are visible saints, and that they are all to be reputed, received, and loved as the true disciples of Christ. This is the judge ment of charity ; which without intruding into secret things which belong to God, or indulging precarious conjectures with a rah curiosity, proceeds all along upon safe and sure grounds. We judge according to the rule and evidence though we know that this rule was not given, to enable us exactly to diftinguith between true saints and hypocrites, or to determine whether the visible church is chiefly made up of the former or the latter of these characters; or whether the evidence of inward fanctification which arises from external holiness amounts to a preponderating probability.

Some indeed give much greater evidence of fincerity than others ; and we may fay in a comparative view, that it is more probable that an exemplary profeffor is fincere than one who does not adorn his profeffion. But to say absolutely that it is, or is not most probable on the whole that either the one or the other is, or is not fincere is, I think what we have no rule, or sufficient evidence to warrant us to do.

I might add, that if it were known in general (which it is not) that the greatest part of visible saints are insincere, or if that were supposed, which some have too rashly asserted, that not more than one in ten were saints in heart, and consequently that outward holiness was not so much as a probable evidence, (in the common acceptation of the phrase) yet charity and equity too would oblige us to repute and treat each visible saint as a gocd

For surely it would be contrary to all equity as well as charity to judge and treat any individual, as a wicked man, while nothing appears in him which would prove him to be of such a character, though it were ever so certain that the greater part were wicked. We may have reason to think that the greater part of mankind is vicious ; yet each individual is to be presumed and reputed to be honest, till the contrary appears. If this be thought an unreasonable rule of judging, I would ask whether it would be a better 'rule not to have charity for a visible saint or admit him to the coinmunion of the church because there are fo many hypocrites that the preponderant probability is against each one in particular? Would this favour of charity, or of equity ?

In judging of any one by the law of charity we are to judge merely from what appears in him, and not from what has appeared



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in others, how many soever, who have destroyed the credit of all evidences in their favour which once appeared in them. Proba. bilities or presumptions, of an unfavourable aspect towards professions in general are not admitted as evidence against an individual. The visible defection of so many who once were visible faints has induced some to think that much the greater part are not sincere, as has been said ; and it may well awaken our fears for ourselves and others, leit after having had a place in the vigible church we should have our final portion with hypocrites and unbelievers. But the rule of charity allows us not to think evil of any, or judge unfavourably of them, for the faults of others.

Notwithstanding what has been said, I grant that the evidences of fincerity which some exhibit greatly overbalance whatever in them may have an unfavourable aspect. When in judging of the character of a professor, we have, as the rule of charity requires, laid aside all presumptions or probabilities arising from the falling away of so many in the day of temptation, (which might render the integrity of each individual suspected) and estimate his character merely from what is visible in him, it may be very plain, that he gives more evidence of fincerity than hypocrisy. And we might say from what is visible in him, it appears most probable. that he is fincere. And I think none ought to be accounted vifible faints in whom there are not visibly preponderant grounds of hope.. And

And yet if it could be proved from the scriptures, or from obfervation, that the greater part of credible profeffors endure not to the end, but are only temporary believers, this would turn the balance of probability the other way, when the whole evidence was collected and summed up from every quarter.

Indeed, as was said before, I know not but that the greatest part of visible saints may be fincere. What proportion of them is converted we are unable to determine. And I think we had better not pretend to form and give out our conjectures and opinions upon inatters of which we are so ignorant, or vainly pry into God's secrets. However, there is no inconsistency in supposing that there may be greater evidences of sincerity than of hypocrisy in cach visible faint, Though it were at the fame time supposed that the greater part are hypocrites. For the evidence we may have of the hypocrisy of others, how many soever, appears not in those of whom we judge charitably. It is collected from different quarters; and is not the evidence upon which the judgment of charity proceeds.

It may be asked, can there be a visibility without and against probability ? Or can that be probable which there is reason to think is more likely not to be true? I answer-There must be


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