Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

“ Christian; and therefore if the person who makes “ it be a bad man, he will be more inexcusable than “ if he had not been a Christian, and could not have « made that declaration." That is not the matter in debate, Sir ; The question to be decided is, whether a bad man, who by attending the Lord's Supper solemnly declares he is a Christian, and not only obliged but resolved to live like a Christian, be not more inexcufable chąn one (in other respects equally bad) who had not made such a declaration; or whether fuch an one does not involve himself in greater guilt than he. would otherwise have been chargeable with. You proceed thus: “but if a man be in fact a Christian, Os the obligation to a christian-like behaviour is much “ the same whether, he declare his belief of chri* ftianity before the world or not:"* That is to say, His declaring himself a Christian in the most folemn manner possible, so as to profess: his resolution to live and die as becomes a Christian, brings him under no stronger obligation to a christian-like behaviour than a mere private opinion that christianity is a divine religion, and such a profession in a bad man is no'ago gravation of his guilt. If this be true, it will follow, that it is impoffible for a person by any profession of religion to bring himself under a stronger obligation to an holy life, than the mere belief of christianity brings him under, or to expose himself to greater guilt, or more aggravated punishment than he would incur by disobedience to the gospel alone, without any profession at all : which appears to me as con-' trary to found reason, as I hope hereafter to fhew it is to the common language of scripture. In order to illustrate and vindicate the passage quoted above, you

add

ring hi for a Deus be tri man i

an holi

* This is not quite consistent with p. 56, where you call upon us to a strengthen this obligation by a public profession." Upon which (by the way) so much stress is laid throughout the New Testament, chat those who do not make it are excluded from the Chriftian character. So that “ being in fact a Christian, and not “ declaring it to the world,” is a case not to be supposed. See Mat. X. 32. Rom. x. 9, &c.

add, « The one is only a more folemn thing than the “ other, but precisely of the same nature. They 6. differ only as a common assertion and an oath, “ which are both, in a manner, of equal obligation sc upon an honest man.” I was greatly at a loss for some time to see the force of your reasoning here, for want of knowing what are the two things between which you are making the comparison. Those immediately preceding are “ a man's declaring his be*6 lief of christianity to the world, and his not declarBring it.” For you next add, “ the one is only more

folemn than the other.” The mere absurdity of such a comparison induced me (after several times reading the passage) to look back thro' the last sentence of full ten lines, to the preceding ; where I found what I suppose must be the things compared, viz. “ The receiving the Lord's Supper-and standing “ up in the face of the world and saying, I am a Chri“ stian.” These you say are the same thing. To these I imagine you must refer when you say, “ The one " is only a more solemn thing than the other.” But pray, Sir, does not the greater folemnity of any profession proportionably increase the obligation to act ac, cording to it, and inhance the sin of violating it? The Lord's Supper you say differs only from saying I am a Christian as an oath differs from a common assertion. But is there no difference between these two? You allow the one is more folemn than the other ? It is universally esteemed fo, and therefore preferred for the greater security. Is not the obligation to truth therefore, and the guilt of falsehood, greater in the former than in the latter ? Supposing then that receiving the Lord's Supper were the same thing as standing up in the face of the world and saying, I am a Chriftian, since, as yourself allow, this is a more Solemn way of making such a declaration, there is " a greater hazard” in a person's making it this way, who is “ of a dubious or indifferent character," than in his merely faying he is a Christian. I must own I

allow there no difth differs fronly from fag it? The

would

would not advise a person of a dubious or indifferent character (especially one whom I knew to be irreligi. Ous) to stand up in the face of the world and say, I am a Christian ; much less to attend the Lord's Supper, tho' I looked upon it as only saying the same thing in a more solemn manner. Would it not be adviseable in such an one to defer declaring his christianity to the world, till his conduct should speak the same language ?

But I must diffent from you when you say “ the “ one is the same as the other," and must here again beg leave to remind you, that you yourself have, in another part of your book, pointed out an essencial difference, where you tell us that attending the Lord's Supper is not merely deciaring that a person is a Christian, but that she is resolved to live and die as becomes a Christian.” Now this declaration no one can with propriety make but a person who is so resolv. ed. If therefore any one makes it who is not so refolved, he is (as I have before shewed) guilty of a solemn falsehood, he eats and drinks unworthily. Will you say then that a man of an indifferent character runs no greater hazard in attending this institution, than he would in making a mere simple declaration that he believed the gospel ? These two things differ from each other, not as an oath differs from a common assertion, but as a person's declaring his belief of any truth, and his taking an oath that he will act suitably to such a conviction. In confirmation of your opinion you further say, “Besides, com“ ing in a constant way to a place of Christian “ worship is, in fact, a publick declaration of a man's “ christianity, and therefore lays him under the faine “ obligation.” This I must beg leave to deny, since attending publick worship is no where in scripture spoken of as a proof of a man's christianity; nor does it in its own nature imply a declaration of it, (much Jess of his resolution to live like a christian) since it is easy to conceive how an unbeliever may commend.

ably

ably attend a place of Christian worship in order tojudge concerning the Christian faith, or even to unite in those parts of the service which are agreeable to the religion of nature. And it is well known that many congregations among the Dissenters are become so rational and complaisant, and their publick worship conducted upon such very catholic principles, that å sober Deist might with propriety attend upon it, and would meet with much less disgust than one of your old-fashioned Christians. But would not such a person make a distinction between the ordinary parts of publick worship and the Lord's Supper, which he would consider as the distinguishing badge of Christianity, which, if he had any conscience at all, he would refuse to wear; and would not he think himself injured by having his attendance on publick worship construed as proof of his being a Christian? Since this is a duty dictated by the light of nature, and therefore widely differs from receiving the Lord's Supper, which is peculiar to christianity. And we believe that the attendance upon it not only necessarily implies a person's being a Christian, but is divinely appointed as a publick testimony of it, which publick worship is not. Your conclusion, therefore, that they are equally hazardous, is false, and a man of a dubious or indifferent character has (contrary to your inference) more reason to be afraid of coming to the Lord's Supper, than of attending publick worthip.

if it should here be said, as it often has been, " that " tho'a man of such a character cannot so well an* swer the end of this ordinance as a truly good man, " yet he ought not for that reason to absent himself « from this part of publick worship any more than “ from publick prayeror praise, or hearing the word of « God, neither of which a man of a bador dubious cha« racter can so properly attend upon as a good man;"I answer, the Lord's Supper seems to me to differ from all

other other institutions, and indeed one would naturally suppose in theory that the divine wisdom in appointing it would require it should have some end peculiar to itfelf. If the above representation of it be just, its difference from other religious services is very obvious. And particularly if that be true which I have 'been endeavouring to prove, that an unholy person by attending it professes a falsehood, and thereby aggravates his guilt, the inference is very natural that luch an one ought to refrain from attending this rite till his character corresponds with the nature of it.

If it should be urged, “ That those who are not as 6 yet truly pious may lawfully come to the Lord's « Supper as a means to make them fo, and ought to " be encouraged to do it with this view ; since it has < this tendency, and has had this effect;" I answer, this would be acting contrary to an established and well-known scripture-maxim, which forbids us to

do evil that good may come. This were to invent an use of this ordinance for which we have no warrant, in the room of that which divine wisdom has appointed, and which ir.deed results from its very nature. It is, as you have allowed, a profession of something that we are already, and therefore not a means of something else. The institution is not designed to beget holy dispositions which had no being before, it requires the exercise of them, and therefore supposes 'the being of them already. Those who attend it without them (according to the foregoing reasoning) attend it unworthily, and therefore in the degree in which they do so, eat and drink judgment to them*selves by declaring what is not true. It is not there. fore to be expected that their receiving should be the means of their conversion. Indeed wicked men cannot be supposed to attend upon it with this view, nor can the Almighty be expected to render an ordinance instrumental in promoting an end to which he has not appointed it as a means. That the actual receiving

****

* the

« ПредишнаНапред »