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not only so, but that before faith there must be the knowledge of God, which knowledge is not in natural men's reach : And once more, not only so, but that even before the knowledge of God there must be a thorough humiliation, which humiliation men could not work in themselves by any natural power of their own. Now must it needs be thought, notwithstanding all these things, unreasonable to suppose, that God should command those whom he has nourished and brought up, lo honor him by giving an open testimony of love to him ; only because wicked men cannot testify love till they have love, and love is not in their natural power! And is it any good excuse in the sight of God, for one who is under the highest obligations to him, and yet refuses him suitable honor by openly testifying his love of him, to plead that he has no love to testify; but on the contrary, has an infinitely unreasonable hatred ? God may most reasonably require a proper testimony and profession of love to him ; and yet it may also be reasonable to suppose at the same time, he forbids men to lie ; or to declare that they have love, when they have none : Because, though it be supposed, that God requires men to testify love to him, yet he requires them to do it in a right way, and in the true order, viz. first loving him, and then testifying their love.
(4.) I do not see how it can be true, that a man, as he is naturally, has not a legal power to be converted, accept of Christ, love God, &c. By a legal power to do a thing, is plainly meant such power as brings a person properly within the reach of a legal obligation, or the obligation of a law or command to do that thing : But he that has such natural faculties, as render him a proper subject of moral government, and as speak it a fit and proper thing for him to love God, &c. and as give him a natural capacity herefor ; such a one may properly be commanded, and put under the obligation of a lar to do things so reasonable ; notwithstanding any native aversion and moral inability in him to do his duty, arising from the power of sin. This also, I must observe, was a known doctrine of Mr. Stoddard's and what he cver taught.
EITHER unsanctified persons may lawfully come to the Lord's supper, or it is unlawful for them to carry themselves aus saints ; but it is not unlawful for them to carry themselves as saints.
Answ. It is the duty of unconverted men, both to become saints, and to behave as saints. The scripture rule is, Make the tree good, that the fruit may be good. Mr. Stoddard himself never supposed, that the fruit of saints was to be expected from men, or could possibly be brought forth by them in truth, till they were saints.
And I see not how it is true, that unconverted men ought, in every respect, to do those external things which it is the duty of a godly man to do. It is the duty of a godly man, conscious of his having given his heart unto the Lord, to profess his love to God and his esteem of him above all, his unfeigned faith in Christ, &c. and in his closet devotions to thank God for these graces as the fruit of the Spirit in him : But it is not the duty of another that really has no faith, nor love to God, to do thus. Neither any more is it a natural man's duty to profess these things in the Lord's supper. Mr. Stoddard taught it to be the duty of converts on many occasions, to profess their faith and love and other graces before men by relating their experiences in conversation : But it would be great wickedness for such as know themselves to be not saints, thus to do : Because they would speak falsely, and utter lies in so doing. Now, for the like reason, it would be very sinful, for men to profess and seal their consent to the covenant of grace in the Lord's supper, when they know at the same time that they do not consent to it, nor have their hearts at all in the affair.
THIS scheme will keep out of the church some true saints ; for there are some such who determine against themselves, and their prevailing judgment is, that they are not saints : And we had better let in several hypocrites, than exclude one true child of God.
Answ. I think, it is much better to insist on some visibility to reason, of true saintship, in admitting members, even although this, through men's infirmity and darkness, and Satan'stemptations, be an occasion of some true saints' abstaining ; than by express liberty given, to open the door to as many as please, of those who have no visibility of real saintship, and make no profession of it, nor pretension to it ; and that because this method tends to the ruin and great reproach of the Christian church, and also to the ruin of the persons admitted.
1. It tends to the reproach and ruin of the Christian church. For by the rule which God hath given for admissions, if it be carefully attended (it is said) MORE unconverted, than converted per80ns will be admitted. It is then confessedly the way to have the greater part of the members of the Christian church ungodly men ; yea, so much greater, that the godly shall be but few in comparison of the ungodly ; agreeable to their interpretation of that saying of Christ, many are called but few are chosen. Now if this be an exact state of the case, it will demonstrably follow, on scripture principles, that the opening the door so wide has a direct tendency to bring things to that pass, that the far greater part of the members of Christian churches shall not be persons of so much as a serious conscientious character, but such as are without even moral sincerity, and do not make religion at all their business, neglecting and casting off secret prayer and other duties, and living a life of carnality and vanity, so far as they can, consistently with avoiding church censures ; which possibly may be sometimes to a great degree. Ungodly men may be morally
sober, Serious and conscientious, and may have what is called moral sincerity, for a while ; may have these things in a con: siderable measure, when they first come into the church : But if their hearts are not changed, there is no probability at all of these things continuing long. The scripture has told us, that this their goodness is apt to vanish like the morning cloud and early dew. How can it be expected but that the religion should in a little time wither away, which has no root 2 How can it be expected, that the lamp should burn long, without oil in the vessel to feed it ? If lust be unmortified, and left in reigning power in the heart, it will sooner or later prevail ; and at length sweep away common grace and moral sincerity, however excited and maintained for a while by conviction and temporary affections. It will happen to them according to the true proverb, The dog is returned to his vomit ; and the swine that was washed to his wallowing in the mire. It is said of the hypocrite, Will he delight himself in the Almighty ? Will he always call upon God? And thus our churches will be likely to be such congregations as the Psalmist said he hated, and would not sit with. Psal. xxvi. 4, 5. “ I have not sat with vain persons, nor will I go in with dissemblers ; I have hated the congregation of evil doers, nor will I sit with the wicked.” This will be the way to have the Lord's table ordinarily furnished with such gucsts as allow themseves to live in known sin, and so such as meet together from time to time only to crucify Christ afresh, instead of commemorating his crucifixion with the repentance, faith, gratitude, and love of friends. And this is the way to have the governing part of the church such as are not even conscientious men, and are careless about the honor and interest of religion. And the direct tendency of that is, in process of time, to introduce a prevailing negligence in discipline and carelessness in seeking ministers of a pious and worthy character. And the next step will be the churches being filled with persons openly vicious in manners, or else scandalously erroneous in opinions : It is well if this be not already the case in fact with some churches that have long professed and practiced on the principles I oppose. And if these principles should be professed and proceeded on by Christian churches every where, the natural tendency of it would be, to have the greater part of what is called the church of Christ, through the world, made up of vicious and errone, ous persons. And how greatly would this be to the reproach of the Christian church, and of the holy name and religion of Jesus Christ in the sight of all nations ?*
And now is it not better to have a few real Christians kept back through darkness and scruples, than to open a door for letting in such universal ruin as this ? To illustrate it by a familiar comparison ; Is it not better, when England is at war with France, to keep out of the British realm a few loyal Englishmen, than to give leave for as many treacherous Frenchmen to come in as please ?
2. This way tends to the eternal ruin of the parties admitted : For it lets in such, yea, it persuades such to come in, as know themselves to be impenitent and unbelieving, in a dreadful manner to take God's name in vain ; in vain to worship him, and abuse sacred things, by solemnly performing those external acts and rites in the name of God, which are instituted for de clarative signs and professions of repentance toward God, faith in Christ, and love to him, at the same time that they know themselves destitute of those things which they profess to have. And is it not better, that some true saints, through their own weakness and misunderstanding, should be kept away from the Lord's table, which will not keep such out of heaven, than voluntarily to bring in multitudes of false professors to partake unworthily, and in effect to seal their own condemnation ?
* And this, by the way answers another objection which some have made, viz. That the way I plead for, tends to keep the church of Christ smail, and hinder the growth of it. Whereas, I think the contrary tends to keep it small, as it is the wickedness of its members, that above all things in the world prejudices mankind against it; and is the chief stumbling block, that hinders the propagation of Christianity, and so the growth of the Christian church. But holiness would cause the light of the church to chine so as to induce others to resort to it,