« PreviousContinue »
only as he derives his abilities from the stock upon which he is engrafted.
Nor are we to suppose, as some do, who allow the necessity of this communion, that a mere act of the mind is sufficient to advance us into a state of membership with the true vine. If this were the case, then might the church be reduced to a single individual, a church in one person : But, on the contrary, many things are necessary to be done, which no man can do for himself: and therefore Christ established a visible society upon earth, investing some of its members with different powers and offices, all serving to the same end; that is, all concurring to lead individuals through the means of grace to the possession of glory. As the vineyard doth not plant, and prune, and cultivate itself, but submits to him whom the owner hath appointed to dress it; so the Christian must submit to the institutions of Christ; and to those persons by whom they are administered. It might be one reason why the vine in particular is selected upon this occasion, because it yields so striking an example of the salutary effects of obedience and dependence. It is a weak and trailing plant, given to excessive irregularity and luxuriance, and therefore can
not prosper without some helping hand to direct, restrain, adjust, and support it in its
If the church then, as the Scripture speaks, is the body of Christ, and communion with Christ is communion with his church; every prudent person, who values the welfare of his own soul, will avoid that wild high-flying, self-governing spirit, which makes as light of all institutions, as if they were the inventions of a worldly policy, instead of being what they really are, the ordinances of Christ himself, for the life, growth, and final salvation of his own members. Happy are they, who are wise enough to escape all those errors concerning this great subject, which may now so easily be infused by the prejudices of education, or the fashionable doctrines of a careless and ignorant age, whose chief religion seems to consist in preaching peace to all sorts of people, under all sorts of circumstances.
XXVI. But it is possible for a man to avoid the presumptuous innovations of Socinians,
* The word high-flying hath been frequently applied to those who set authority high, either in the church or in the state; but they who' set themselves above both, have the better title to it.
and other infidels, and to be a branch duly and orderly inserted into the true vine; and yet, after all, to be so worthless and unprofitable in his conversation, as to be altogether dry and fruitless. The end of such a branch is to be cut off and cast into the fire. The negligence of men in authority may permit a dead branch to remain upon the tree: but there is a time coming, when God shall descend from heaven to behold and visit this vine. What is now amiss, will then be rectified, without respect of persons. For which great day of visitation and inquisition may God Almighty by his grace prepare all those who diligently seek it! AMEN.