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er with the success he had in his ministry, and his great reputation and influence, prevailed for a long time to bear down my scruples. But the difficulties and uneasiness on my mind increasing, as I became more studied in divinity, and as I improved in experience ; this brought me to closer diligence and care to search the scriptures, and more impartially to examine and weigh the arguments of my grandfather, and such other authors as I could get on his side of the question. By which means, after long searching, pondering, viewing and revicwing, I gained satisfaction, became fully settled in the opinion I now maintain, as in the discourse here offered to public view ; and dared to proceed no further in a practice and administration inconsistent therewith : Which brought me into peculiar circumstances, laying me under an inevitable necessity publicly to declare and maintain the opinion I quas thus established in ; as also to do it from the press, and to do it at this time without delay. It is far
from a pleasing circumstance of this publication, that it is against what my honorcd grandfather strenuously maintained, both from the pulpit and press. I can truly say, on account of this and some other considerations, it is what I engage in with the greatest reluctance, that ever I undertook any public service in my life. But the state of things with me is so ordered, by the sovereign disposal of the great governor of the world, that my doing this appeared to me very necessary and altogether unavoidable. I am conscious, not only is the interest of Religion concerned in this affair, but my own reputation, future usefulness, and my very subsistence, all seemed to depend on my freely opening and defending myself, as to my principles, and agreeable conduct in my pastoral charge ; and on my doing it from the press : In which way alone am I able to state and justify my opinion, to any purpose, before the country (which is full of noise, misrepresentations, and many censures concerning this affair) or even before my own people, as all would be fully sensible, if they knew the exact state of the case.
I have been brought to this necessity in divine providence, by such a situation of affairs and coincidence of circumstances and evenis, as I choose at present to be silent about ; and which it is not needful, nor perhars expedient for me to publish to the Il'orld.
One thing among others that caused me to go about this business with so much backwardness, was the fear of a bad improvement some ill minded people might be ready, at this day, to make of the doctrine here defended ; particularly that wild enthusiastical sort of people, who have of late gone into unju tifiable separations, even renouncing the ministers and churches of the land in general, under pretence of setting up a pure church. It is well known, that I have heretofore publicly remonstrated, both from the pulpit and press, against very many of the notions and practices of this kind of people ; and shall be very sorry if what I now offer to the public, should be any occasion of their encouraging or strengthening themselves in those notions and practices of theirs. To prevent which, I would now take occasion to declare, I am still of the same mind concerning them, that I have formerly manifested. I have the same opinion concerning the religion and inward experiences chiefly in vogue among them, as I had when I wrote my Treatise on Religious Affections, and when I wrote my Observations and Reflections on Mr. BRAINERD'S Life. I have no better opinion of their notion of a pure church by means of a spirit of discerning, their censorious outcries against the standing ministers and churches in general, their Lay ordinations, their Lay preachings, and public exhortings, and administering Sacraments ; their assuming, selfconfident, contentious, uncharitable, separating Spirit ; their going about the country, as sent by the Lord, to make proselytes ; with their many other extravagant and wicked ways. My holding the doctrine that is defended in this discourse, is no argument of any change of my opinion concerning them ; for when I wrote those two books before mentioned, I was of the same mind concerning the qualifications of communicants at the Lord's Table, that I am of now.
However, it is not unlikely, that some will still exclaim against my principles, as being of the same pernicious tendency with thosc of the Separatists : To such I can only by a solemn protestation aver the sincerity of my aims, and the great care I have exercise ed to avoid whatsoever is erroneous, or might be in any respect mischievous. But as to my success in these my upright aims and endeavors, I must leave it to every reader to judge for him. self, after he has carefully perused, and impartially considered the following discourse ; which, considering the nature and im. portance of the subject, I hope, all serious readers will accompa. ny with their earnest prayers to the father of lights, for his gracious direction and influence. And, to him be glory in the churches by Christ Jesus. AMEN.
The Question stated and explained.
The main question, I would consider, and for the negative of which, I would offer some arguments in the following discourse, is this : Whether, according to the rules of Christ, any 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 ?
When I speak of members of the visible church of Christ, in complete standing, I would be understood of those who are received as the proper immediate subjects of all the external privileges, Christ has appointed for the ordinary members of his church. I say ordinary members, in distinction from any peculiar privileges and honors of church officers and rulers. All allow, there are some that are in some respect in the church of God, who are not members in complete standing, in the sense that has been explained : All that acknowledge infant baptism, allow infants, who are the proper subjects of baptism, and are baptized, to be in some sort members of the Christian church ; yet none suppose them to be members in such standing as to be the proper immediate subjects of all ecclesiastical ordinances and privileges : But that some fur. ther qualifications are requisite in order to this, to be obtained, either in a course of nature, or by education, or by divine grace. And some who are baptized in infancy, even after they come to be adult, may yet remain for a season short of such a standing as has been spoken of; being destitute of sufficient knowledge, and perhaps some other qualifications, VOL. I.
through the neglect of parents, or their own negligence, or otherwise s or because they carelessly neglect to qualify themselves for ecclesiastical privileges by making a public profession of the Christian faith, or owning the Christian corenant, or forbear to offer themselves as candidates for these privileges ; and yet not be cast out of the church, or cease to be in any respect its members : This, I suppose, will also be generally allowed.
One thing mainly intended in the foregoing question is, Whether any adult persons but such as are in profession and appearance endued with Christian grace or piety, ought to be admitted to the Christian Sacraments : Particularty whether they ought to be admitted to the Lord's supper ; and, if they are such as were not baptized in infancy, ought to be admitted to baptism. Adult persons having those qualifications that oblige others to receive them as the proper immediate subjects of the Christian sacraments, is a main thing intended in the question, by being such as ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church, in complete standing. There are many adult persons that by the allowance of all are in some respect within the church of God, who are not members in good standing, in this respect. There are many, for instance, that have not at present the qualifications proper to recommend them to admission to the Lord's supper : There are many scandalous persons, who are under suspension. The late venerable Mr. Stoddard, and many other great divines suppose, that even excommunicated persons are still members of the church of God; and some suppose the worshippers of Baal in Israel, even those who were bred up such from their infancy, remained still members of the church of God : And very many Protestant divines suppose, that the members of the church of Rome, though they are brought up and live continually in gross idolatry, and innumerable errors and superstitions that tend utterly to make void tbe gospel of Christ, still are in the visible church of Christ : Yet, I suppose, no orthodox dirines would hold these to be properly and regularly qualified for the Lord's supper. It was therefore requisite, in the question before us, that a