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It is not unlikely, that some of the readers of the following Sermon may be inquisitive concerning the circumstanca es of the difference between me and the people of Northampton, that issued in that separation between me and them, which occasioned the preaching of this farewell sermon. There is, by no means, room here for a full account of that matter : But yet it seems to be proper, and even necessary, here to correct some gro88 misrepresentations, which have been abundantly, and (it is to be feared) by some affectedly and industriously made, of that difference : Such as, that I insisted on persons being assured of their being in a state of salvation, in order to my admitting them into the church; that I required a particular relation of the method and order of a person's inward experience, and of the time and manner of his conversion, as the test of his fitness for Christian communion ; yea, that I have undertaken to set up a pure church, and to make an exact and certain distinction between saints and hypocrites, by a pretended infallible discerning of the state of men's souls ; that in these things I had fallen in with those wild people, who have lately appeared in Newengland, called Separatists ; and that I myself was become a grand Separatist ; and that I arrogated all the power of judging of the qualifications of candidates for communion wholly to myself, and insisted on acting by my solea uthority, in the admission of members into the church, &c.
In opposition to these slanderous representations, I shall ai present only give my reader an account of some things which I haid before the council, that separated between me and my people, in order to their having a just and full view of my principles relating to the affair in controversy.
Long before the sitting of the council, my people had sent to the Reverend Mr. Clark of Salem village, desiring him to write in opposition to my principles. Which gave me occasion to write to Mr. Clark, that he might have true information what my principles were. And in the time of the sitting of the council, I did, for their information, make a public declaration of my principles before them and the church, in the meeting house, of the same imo port with that in my letter to Mr. Clark, and very much in the same words : And then, afterwards, sent in to the council in writing, an extract of that letter, containing the information I had given 10 Mr. Clark, in the very words of my letter to him, that the council might read and consider it at their leisure, and have a more certain and satisfactory knowledge what my principles were. The extract which I sent to them was in the following words.
“ I am often and I do not know but pretty generally, in the country, represented as of a new and odd opinion with respect to the terms of Christian communion, and as being for introducing a peculiar way of my own. Whereas, I do not perceive that I differ at all from the scheme of Dr. Watts, in his book entitled, The rational Foundation of a Christian Church, and the Terms of Christian Communion ; which, he says, is the common sentiment of all reformed churches. I had not seen this book of Dr. Watts' when I published what I have written on the subject. But yet, I think my ,sentiments, as I have expressed them, are as exactly agreeable to what he lays down, as if I had been his pupil. Nor do I at all go beyond what Dr. Doddridge plainly shews to be his sentiments, in his Rise and Progress of Religion, and his Sermons on Regeneration, and his Paraphrase and Notes on the New Testament. Nor indeed, Sir, when I consider the sentiments you have expressed in your letters to Major Pomroy and Mr. Billing, can I perceive but that they come exactly to the same thing that I maintain, pose the sacraments are not converting ordinances : But that, as seals of the covenant, they presuppose conversion, especially in the adult ; and that it is visible saintship, or, in other words, a credible profession of faith and repentance, a solemn consent to the gospel covenant, joined with a good conversa
tion, and competent measure of Christian knowledge, is what gives a gospel right to all sacred ordinances : But that it is necessary to those that come to these ordinances, and in those that profess a consent to the gospel covenant, that they be sincere in their profession, or at least should think themselves 80. The great thing which I have scrupled in the established method of this church's proceeding, and which I dare no longer go on in, is their publicly assenting to the form of words rehearsed on occasion of their admission to the communion, without pretending thereby to mean any such thing as any hearty consent to the terms of the gospel covenant, or to mean any such faith or re. pentance as belong to the covenant of grace, and are the grand conditions of that covenant : It being, at the same time that the words are used, their known and established principle, which they openly profes8 and proceed upon, that men may and ought to use these words, and mean no such thing, but something else of a nature far inferior ; which I think they have no distinct, determina ate notion of ; but something consistent with their knowing that they do not choose God as their chief good, but love the world more than him, and that they do not give themselves up entirely to God, but make reserves ; and in short, knowing that they do not heartily consent to the gospel covenant, but live still under the reigning power of the love of the world, and enmity to God and Christ. So that the words of their public profession, according to their openly established use, cease to be of the nature of any profession of gospel faith and repentance, or any proper compliance with the covenant : For it is their profession, that the words, as used, mean no such thing. The words used under these circumstances, do at least fail of being a credible profession of these things. I can conceive of no such virtue in a certain set of words, that it is proper, merely on the making these sounds, to admit persons to Christian sacraments, without any regard to any pretended meaning of these sounds : Nor can I think, that any institution of Christ has established any such terms of admission into the Christian church. It does not belong to the controversy between me and my people, how particular or large the profession should be, that is required. I should not choose to be confined to exact limits as to that matter : But rather than cona" VOL. I.
send, I should content myself with a few words, briefly expresse ing the cardinal virtues or acts implied in a hearty compliance with the covenant, made (as should appear by inquiry into the person's doctrinal knowledge) understandingly ; if there were an external conversation agreeable thereto : Yea, I should think, that such a person, solemnly making such a profession, had a right to be received as the object of a public charity, however he himself might scruple his own conversion, on account of his not remembering the time, not knowing the method of his conversion, or finding so much remaining sin, &c. And (if his own scruples did not hinder his coming to the Lord's table) I should think the minister or church had no right to debar such a professor, though he should say he did not think himself converted..... For I call that a profession of godline88, which is a profession of the great things wherein godliness consists, and not a profession of his own opinion of his good estate."
NORTHAMPTON, May 7, 1750.
Thus far my Letter to Mr. Clark.
The council having heard that I had made certain draughts of the covenant, or forms of a public profession of religion which I stood ready to accept of from the candidates for church communion, they, for their further information, sent for them. Accordingly I sent them four distinct draughts or forms, which I had drawn up about a twelvemonth before, as what I stood ready to accept of (any one of them) rather than contend, and break with my people.
The two shortest of these forms are here inserted for the satisfaction of the reader. They are as follows.
“ I hope I do truly find a heart to give up myself wholly to God, according to the tenor of that covenant of grace which was sealed in my baptism ; and to walk in a way of that obedience to all the commandments of God, which the covenant of grace requires, as long as I live." Another,