« PreviousContinue »
PART SECOND Reasons for the Negative of the foregoing Question.
HAVING thus explained what I mean, when I say, That none ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church of Christ in complete standing, but such as are in profession and in the eye of the church's Christian judgment, godly or gracious persons : I now proceed to observe some things which may tend to e. vince the truth of this position. And here,
I. I begin with observing, I think it is both evident by the word of God, and also granted on all hands, that none ought to be admitted as members of the visible church of Christ but visible saints and professing saints, or visible and professing Christians. We find the word saint, when applied to men, used two ways in the New Testament. The word in some places is so used as to mean those that are real saints, who are converted, and are truly gracious persons ; as 1 Cor. vi. 2.“ Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world ?” Eph. i. 18. “ The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Chap. iii. 17, 18. “ That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth," &c. % Thess. i. 10. “ When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe." So Rev. v. 8. Chap. viii. 4, and xi. 18, and xvi. 10, and xiv. 12, and xix. 8. In other places the word is used so as to have respect not only to real saints, but to such as were saints in visibility, appearance, and profession ; and so were outwardly, as to what concerns their acceptance among men and their outward treatment and privileges, of the company of saints. So the word is used in very many places, which it is needless to mention, as every one acknowledges it.
In like manner we find the word Christian used two ways. The word is used to express the same thing as a righteous man that shall be saved," i Pet. iv. 16, 17, 18. Elsewhere
it is so used as to take in all that were Christians by profession and outward appearance ; Acts xi. 26. So there is a twofold use of the word disciples in the New Testament. There were disciples in name, profession, and appearance ; and there were those whom Christ calls disciples indeed, John viii. 30, 31. The word is aangūs, truly. The expression plainly supposes this distinction of true or real disciples, and those who were the same in pretence and appearance. See also Luke xiv. 25, 26, 27, and John xv. 8. The same distinction is signified, in the New Testa. ment, by those that live, being alive from the dead, and risen with Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 11, Rom. vi. 1], and elsewhere) and those who have a name to live, having only a pretence and appearance of life. And the distinction of the visible church of Christ into these two, is plainly signified of the growth of the good ground, and that in the stony and thorny ground, which had the same appearance and show with the other, until it came to wither away ; and also by the two sorts of virgins, Matth. XXV. who both had a shew, profession, and visibility of the same thing. By these things and many others which might be observed, it appears that the distinction of real saints and visible and professing saints is scriptural, and that the visible church was made up of these two, and that none are according to Scripture admitted into the visible church of Christ, but those who are visible and professing saints or Christians. And it is the more needless to insist longer upon it, because it is not a thing in controversy. So far as my small reading will inform me, it is owned by all Protestants. To be sure, the most eminent divine in New. england, who has appeared to maintain the Lord's supper to be properly a converting ordinance, was very full in it. In his Appeal to the Learned, in the title page, and through the Treatise, he supposes that all who come to the Lord's supper, must be visible saints, and sometimes speaks of them as professing saints, page 85, 86 : And supposes that it is requisite in order to their being admitted to the communion of the Lord's table, that they make a personal, public profession of their faith and repentance to the just satisfaction of the church,
pagę 93, 94. In these things the whole of the position that I would prove is in effect granted. If it be allowed (as it is allowed on all sides) that none ought to be admitted to the communion of the Christian visible church, but visible and professing saints or Christians ; if these words are used in any propriety of speech, or in any agreement with Scripture representations, the whole of that which I have laid down is either implied or will certainly follow.
As real saints are the same with real converts, or really gra. cious persons, so visible saints are the same with visible converts, or those that are visibly converted and gracious persons. Visibility is the same with manifestation or appearance to our view and apprehension. And, therefore, to be visibly a gracious person, is the same thing as to be a truly gracious person to our view, apprehension, or esteem. The distinction of real and visible does not only take place with regard 10 sainte ship or holiness, but with regard to innumerable other things. There is visible and real truth, visible and real honesty, visible and real money, visible and real gold, visible and real diamonds, &c. &c. Visible and real are words that stand related one to another, as the words real and secming, or true and a po parent. Some seem to speak of visibility with regard to saintship or holiness, as though it had no reference to the reality, or as though it were a distinct reality by itself, as though by visible saints were not meant those who to appearance are real sainis or disciples indeed, but properly a distinct sort of saints, which is an absurdity. There is a distinction between real money and visible money, because all that is esteemed money and passes for money, is not real money, but some is false and counterfeit. But yet by visible money, is not meant that which is taken and passes for a different sort of money from true money, but thereby is meant that which is esteem. ed and taken as real money, or which has that appearance that recommends it to men's judgment and acceptance as true money ; though men may be deceived, and some of it may finally prove not to be so.
There are not properly two sorts of saints spoken of in scripture: Though thc word saints may be said incloud to be
used two ways in scripture, or used so as to reach two sorts of persons ; yet the word has not properly two significations in the New Testament, any more than the word gold has two significations among us. The word gold among us is so used as to extend to several sorts of substances ; it is true, it extends to true gold, and also to that which only appears to be gold, and is reputed gold, and by that appearance or visibility some things that are not real gold obtain the name of gold ; but this is not properly through a diversity in the signification of the word, but by a diversity of the application of it, through the imperfection of our discerning. It does not follow that there are properly two sorts of saints, because there are some who are not real saints, that yet being visible or seeming saints do by the shew and appearance they make ob. tain the name of saints, and are reputed saints, and whom by the rules of scripture (which are accommodated to our imperfect state) we are directed to receive and treat as saints; any more than it follows that there are two sorts of honest men, because some who are not truly honest men, yet being so seemingly or visibly, do obtain the name of honest men, and ought to be treated by us as such. So there are not properly two distinct churches of Christ, one the real, and another the visible ; though they that are visibly or seemingly of the one only church of Christ, are many more than they who are really of his church ; and so the visible or seening church is of larger extent than the real.
Visibility is a relative thing, and has relation to an eye that views or beholds. Visibility is the same as appearance or exhibition to the eye; and to be a visible saint is the same as to appear to be a real saint in the eye that beholds ; not the eye of God, but the eye of man. Real saints or converts are those that are so in the eye of God ; visible saints or converts are those who are so in the eye of man ; not his bodily eye, for thus no man is a saint any more in the eye of a man than he is in the eye of a beast ; but the eye of his mind, which is his judgment or esteem. There is no more visibility of holiness in the brightest professor to the eye of our bodies, without the exercise of the reason and judgment of our minds, than may be in a machine. But nothing short of an appar. ent probability, or a probable exhibition, can amount to a visibility to the eye of man's reason or judgment. The eye which God has given to man is the eye of reason ; and the eye of a Christian is reason sanctified, regulated, and enlightened, by a principle of Christian love. But it implies a contradiction to say, that that is visible to the eye of reason, which does not appear probable to reason. And if there be a man that is in this sense a visible saint, he is in the eye of a rational judgment a real saint. To say a man is visibly a saint, but not visibly a real saint, but only visibly a visible saint, is a very absurd way of speaking ; it is as much as to say, he is to appearance an appearing saint ; which is in effect to say nothing, and to use words without signification. The thing which must be visible and probable, in order to vis. ible saintship, must be saintship itself, or real grace and true holiness ; not visibility of saintship, not unregenerate morality, not mere moral sincerity. To pretend to, or in any respect to exhibit moral sincerity, makes nothing visible beyond what is pretended to, or exhibited : For a man to have that visibly, which if he had it really, and have nothing more, would not make him a real saint, is not to be visibly a saint.
Mr. Stoddard, in his Appeal to the Learned, seems to exe press the very same notion of visibility, and that visibility of saintship which is requisite to a person's coming to the Lord's Supper, that I have here expressed. In page 10, he makes a distinction between being visibly circumcised in heart, and being really so; evidently mcaning by the latter saving conversion ; and he allows the former, viz. a visibility of heart circumcision, to be necessary to a coming to the Lord's Supper. So that according to him, it is not a visibility of moral sincerity only, but a visibility of circumcision of heart, or sav. ing conversion, that is a necessary requisite to a persons' coming to the Lord's table. And in what manner this must be visible, he signifies elsewhere, when he allows that it must be so to a judgment of charity ; a judgment of rational charity. This he expressly allows over and over ; as in page 2, 3, 28, 33, 72, and 95: And an having reason to look upon them as