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more than probability, even certainty of the reality of whatever is properly visible. And since we have no certain evidence of the reality of inward sanctification in another, it is commonly held to be an invisible qualification.

But if we take the visibility of sanctifying grace in that improper sense in which only the notion can be adınitted, it means no more than such uncertain evidence as the judgment of charity is grounded upon ; which makes it not only probable, but certain that the person who exhibits it is to be reputed, received and treated as a disciple of Christ. But whether the greater part of those who hold forth this evidence are disciples indeed, and so whether this visibility amounts to a preponderant probability, we are not able to determine. And if it be thought improper to term that evidence probable, which may yet be supposed to fail in most instances; I am not concerned to defend the propriety of using the phrase in this manner; a phrase not found in the scriptures in any sense, but coined in the schools. But this sense, however improper it may seem, is, I conceive, the only sense in which it can be truly said that inward fanctification is visible to the eye of charity by probable signs or evidences ; since we know not how often these fignis may fail.

But would it not be foolish and contrary to common sense for a prince to admit those into his houshold and armies who he has reason to think may be enemies and traitors ? Can it then be rationally supposed that the rule of admillion into the church is fuch, as that more unconverted persons, enemies in heart, may be

, regularly admitted, than true converts ?

I answer. It is certain that the rule of admission is such, that some, yea many unfanctified persons may be, and are regularly admitted. All the congregation of Israel were admitted, or (which is to the same effect) recognized as members of the visible church by God himself at mount Sinai : Yet who can say that one in ten of them were saints in heart? The children of believers are all reputed faints, and as such have a right of admillion; yet we are not sure that the greater part of them are inwardly fanctified from the womb, or even afterwards. Nay, it is not doubted but that many, no one knows how many, credible profeffors, who must be admitted according to the rule, are unconverted. And if this feems to us a foolish rule, which will be likely to operate to the great danger and detriment of the church, by filling it with members iniinical to its true interests, let it be remembered however tiiat it is thic foolishness of God, which is wiser than men, whose ways and thoughts are high above ours, as the heavens are above the earth


It is weak indeed to argue against the wisdom and fitnefs of a tule of admission into the church, because it would be improper to be observed by a prince in forming his army, or family. A prince would not willingly have any who are not really as well as seemingly loyal. But it is the will of God that many be admitted into the church who are not in heart friends to him. And if the greater part be of this character, can we imagine that the true interests of Christ's kingdom are in any danger, while Christ has his enemies as much in his power as any, and can use them as his instruments, or restrain them, or make them his willing people, or cut them off, whenever he pleases?

We may imagine it would be best to have a rule, by which we might be able to distinguish characters so far at least, as to secure a good majority of true saints in every church. And I know not but we have such a rule : Nay I believe we have, if such a rule be best. Some think it would be very desirable if they could keep all hypocrites out, and admit all true christians; that so church members might have little to do with one another but to enjoy themselves, and keep one another warm and comfortable, undir turbed by perils among false brethren. I doubt not but that Christ could, if he had thought fit, have furnished his churches with such rules, and gifts of discernment, and have so guided and influenced them in their determinations and conduct, that not one hypocrite should be able to creep in. But since he has not done it, we may be certain that the ends he had in view in the institution of visible churches would not be served by stricter and more distinguifhing rules than those we have. If we should imagine that we could, from our experiences, observations, and philosophy, spin and weave finer seives than that coarse riddle which the gospel lias provided ; it would not be lawful for us to regu. late our conduct by any rule but that of the gofpel. It is not the will of Chrift, nor for the interest of his kingdom, that churches be more pure than a due observance of his ordinances will keep them. The house of God needs vessels of wood and earth, as well as of gold and silver. Who knows but that the door of the chuch is made fo wide, that many unconverted persons entering might have access to gospel ordinances, and by them be savingly turned to God? Who knows but that it is the design of Christ, that there should be such in the church as shall furnish frequent occasions for using the ordinances of discipline, that so they may not fink into desuetude ? That churches be kept watchful, and shew their zeal in reproving scandalous offences, and their charity in restoring

with the spirit of meekness such as are overtaken with a fault. Or if any should remain incorrigible, that others may be


awakened and warned by such examples to take heed left they
fall? If we wilh to screw up the gospel rule a whit straiter than it
stands, if we refuse one unconverted person who is regularly ad-
admissible, we counterwork Christ's ends; and have reason to
expect that we shall be frowned upon, as those seem to have
been remarkably who have pretended to form pure churches.

may also be thought that brotherly love could not rationally be required of, and exercised by Christians towards any but such as give at least preponderant evidence that they are inwardly fanétified. But I ask, How can we possibly divine whether any one has such signs of grace as seldom fail, when we know not what they are, or whether any such figns are visible to us? But the rule of charity is plain and certain. Whoever exhibits external holiness (what that consists in will be afterwards considered) is to be rea puted, received and loved as a disciple of Christ for his fake. He has that mark of a disciple, which Christ has appointed as a criterion of those whom he would have us love, and treat as belonging to him. Many of these are not disciples indeed : How many we know not. But in receiving and loving them all we obey his command, and testify our love to his name ; which he accepts, as if we had received him. And shall we dcem it impossible or unreasonable to have brotherly love for one who has those marks of a disciple of Christ, for which he requires us to have a fervent

a charity towards such for his fake? Who professes and behaves like a true christian so far as we can discern? Shall we say that such a one is an unfit object of our charity, unless we had higher evidence of his inward state than Christ has thought fit to give us; and knew that the greater part of such are sincere ? If any can prove that visible saints are, for the most part, inwardly fanctified. we shall rejoice at the information, it being better than the fears

Upon the whole, since we have a rule by which it may be known who are visible faints, and that all these are the objects of our christian charity ; and since we know not whether the greater part of visible saints are inwardly so, and find no rule, by which we can determine certainly who have, or who have not, on the whole, a preponderant probability in their favour ; we shall but perplex ourselves in vain, and make the gospel rule useless, if it must first be determined most probable that a person is a faint in heart, before it can be determined that he is a faint outwardly. We may know that the children of believers are visible faints, and are proper subjects of baptism, and are to be received as be longing to Christ. But we should have an insuperable talk, if we


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must first prove it most probable that each one is inwardly fane; tified, before we could determine he was a visible saint: We may know that professed christians who are not scandalous are visible faints, and objects of our charity ; but how we can know that the greater part of these are sincere, and so that the greater probability is in favour of each professor appears not. If we would take the rule in its fimplicity, and acquiesce in the evidence we are to proceed upon, our way would be plain and safe. But when we fancy that the judgment of charity ought to proceed upon higher evidence, and let about refining upon the terms of communion, and straining up the rule so as to comport with our preconceived notions of probability, and satisfactory evidence, and think a majority of true faints in each church is neceflary that the interesis of Christ's kingdom may be safe, no wonder if we get embarrassed, and our way is so dark that we know not whether we go right or wrong, but can only grope, and guess, and presume.

I have insisted the more on these observations because, if they are just, they are, I think, of importance to be attended to in pursuing the enquiry in which we are engaged, and may help us with more facility and satisfaction to resolve

the points which still remain to be discuffed.

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hat a credible Profession of Christianity constitutes a visille Saint.

What Profesion is credible.

THE refuit of our enquiries, so far as we have proceeded is, That visible saints have a right of admission into the church. That visible faints may be seen or known to be such, being the subjects of that holiness which may be seen, and which is therefore an external and real qualification. That though it is not a certain evidence of inward sanctification, or that the greater part of visible saints are sincere, yet it is the sole, credible and sufficient evidence, upon which, according to the rule of the gospel, the judgment of charity proceeds, in reputing and regarding any as Christians, and gives sanctifying grace all the visibility which it has in the just view of others.

Hence it is obvious to see, that it is not the reality, but the signs or evidences of grace which give one a right of admission. Not the ceftain evidences thereof, or such as are known to amount to ą preponderant probability in favour of the whole collective body


of visible saints, or of each particular person ; but such evidence as the rules and examples in the New Testament point out or require. We need not trouble ourselves about the proper fignification of the fcholastic terms visible, probable, credible. All we have to do is to find by what rule and evidence the Apostles conducted themselves in admitting members into the church; and may leave it to others to call it by what name they please.

The point now to be enquired into is, what is visible or external holiness, and wherein does it confit? Or what are those credible evidences of fanctifying grace which give a right of admission ?

It has been observed, that outward holiness, or (if any chuse rather to call it) the credible evidence of inward fanctification, is a real character or qualification, and not a mere appearance of something whose reality is doubtful. That it gives those the denomination of saints in whom it is found. And that it comprehends all those signs of grace, which can be exhibited to, or difcerned by the church.

But this is not so to be understood, as if one were not a visible saint, unless he should exhibit all the figns of inward fanctification, which the church is capable of discerning. For some visible faints give much more evidence of this than others. Out. ward holiness appears in very different degrees.

Nothing more is required to constitute an infant a visible faint, and rightful member of the church, than the relative qualification of having a believer for its parent, and so having an interest in the covenant, in which God has promised to be a God to his people and to their feed. For if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if those promises of sanctifying grace, which are made indefinitely to the children of the covenant, that the Lord will circumcise their hearts; that if we believe on Christ we shall be saved and our house, of which their baptism is an outward token; these promises, together with the special external privileges granted to those who are under the outward administration of the covenant, are a foundation for a charitable hope, that infant members are the subjects of sanctifying grace ; or however, that in God's own time he will visit them in mercy, and pour out his spirit upon them. They are the subjects of relative federal holiness, being separated and dedicated to God by his cove

And charity is to presume and hope the best, upon the grounds held forth in the promise which is to us, and to our children. Such an infant is as really a visible saint, and as rightfully a member of the visible church, as the most exemplary adult christian ; though much greater degrees of visible saintship may appear in the latter, and charity may have grounds of more con



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