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Mr. W—‘s Concessions.
Mr. W. allows, that, in order to a man’s coming to sacraments, he ought solemnly to profess and declare, that he is really and heartily convinced of the divine truth of the gospel, (p. 30.e. p.36. a. p. 32. c. p. 84. a.) That he does sincerely, and with all his heart, believe the gospel, 568568 When I first proposed to a certain candidate for communion at Northampton, the publicly making this profession, viz. That he believed the truth of the gospel with all his heart, many of the people cried out, that I insisted on what no saint on earth could profess, and that this amounted to a profession of absolute perfection. Hence many reports spread about the country, that I insisted on perfection as a term of communion. (p. 49. e.) And that they which admit him, ought to be satisfied he really believes the gospel, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Saviour, (p. 54. c.) That he should profess 492 and declare he believes in Christ, and that the gospel is indeed the revelation of God. (p. 5. c.) He allows, that none ought to be admitted, but such as openly profess and declare a hearty consent to the covenant of grace, and compliance with the call of the gospel, and submission to the proposals of it, and satisfaction with that device for our salvation that is revealed in the gospel, and with the offer which God makes of himself to be our God in Christ Jesus, 569569 Mr. W. cites Mr. Guthrie (pref. p. 4. c. e.) as on his side, when he speaks of such a profession, as that which is to be made. and that they fall in with the terms of salvation proposed in the gospel, and renounce all other ways. (p. 5. c. p. 8. a. p. 9. b. c. p. 11. a. p. 18. e. p. 55. a. p. 32. c.) He plainly supposes it not to be lawful for them that are lukewarm in religion, or those that serve two masters, to come to sacraments. (p. 32. b. p. 35. d. e. p. 36. c.) He supposes, that there must be a real determination of a man’s judgment and affection for the word of God. (p. 55. c.) That there ought to be a profession of subjection to Christ with all the heart, (p. 10. d.) and of a devotedness to the service of God. (p. 49. d.) And a professed giving up themselves to Christ, to be taught, ruled, and led by him in the gospel-way to salvation; (p. 31. e. and 32. a.) And that communicants ought to declare, that they do, with all their hearts, cast themselves upon the mercy of God, to help them to keep covenant; (p. 125. b.) That they ought to profess a proper respect to Christ in their hearts, as well as a true notion of him in their heads; (p. 31. d.) That they must make a profession that imparts a pretence of real friendship to Christ, and love to God above the world. (p. 36. c.) That none ought to be admitted but visible saints, and that this visibility must be such as to a judgment of rational charity makes them appear as real saints, wise virgins, and endowed with gospel holiness: (p. 5. a. b. p. 41. e. p. 42. b. p. 139. a. d. p. 14. a.) That there should be a charitable presumption, that the Spirit of God has taken hold of them, and turned their hearts to God. (p. 52. c.) That they should be such persons as are in the eye of a christian judgment truly gracious persons, supposed and believed in charity to be those to whom God has given saving repentance, and a heart-purifying faith; (p. 65. e. and p. 47. b. c.) Such as have the moral image of Christ appearing in them, or supposed to be in them, and are to be loved on that account, (p. 68. c.) He allows, that there ought to be some apprehension, some judgment of the mind, that they are Christians and saints, and have the moral image of God in them. 570570 By this it appears, when Mr. W. speaks of the church’s rational judgment that persons have real holiness, and the like, he does not mean merely treating them as such, in public administrations, and external conduct: for here he speaks not of the external conduct, but of the apprehension of the understanding, and judgment of the mind; and this as the foundation of the affection of the heart. (p. 68. c. d. e. p. 69. a. and 71. d.) He allows, that they must be taken into the church under a notion of their being godly, and with respect to such a character appearing on them: and very often insists, that they themselves must make such a pretence. (p. 55. c. d. e. 571571 Mr. W—‘s words (p. 55. d. e) are pretty remarkable: “The reader (says he) will judge, whether the manner of Mr. Edwards’s treating the question, and representing the opinion of Mr. Stoddard and others, in the words I have quoted above, be not unaccountable; though this is neither the first nor the last time of his treating the matter in such a manner: as if Mr. Stoddard and his adherents supposed persons were to be admitted without any notion of their being godly, or any respect to such a character appearing on them, and that they themselves are without such a pretence.” — Whereas, Mr. Stoddard expressly maintains, that men may be duly qualified, and fit matter for church-membership, without saving grace. (Appeal, p. 15, 16.) And that they may and ought to come, though they know themselves to be in a natural condition. (Doct. of Instituted Churches. p. 21. See also his Sermon on the subject, p. 13.) And according to Mr. Stoddard, communicants are not so much as supposed godly persons. This (Appeal, p. 43.) he says expressly, that by the institution communicants at the Lord’s supper are not supposed to be real saints. And also asserts (Appeal, p. 76 ) that we are not obliged to believe visible saints to be real saints. And it seems by what he says in his Appeal, (p. 17.) the church may admit persons to communion, when at the same time they are aware that they are hypocrites. For there, in answer to Dr. Mather, who had cited certain texts to prove, that when hypocrites do come into the church, they come in unawares; he says, but neither of the places he cites proves that all hypocrites come in unawares. And in the next page he says, The discovery of men’s hypocrisy is not the reason of their being cast out. Still evidently on the same foundation, that some known hypocrites are fit to be admitted: for he says, (p. 15. d.) Such as being admitted may not be cast out, are fit to be admitted. And these things are agreeable to what I know Mr. Stoddard’s church and congregation have universally supposed to be his constant doctrine and practice among them. Thus it was, without one dissenting voice among them, during the twenty-four years that I lived with them. And now the reader is desired to judge, as Mr. W. would have him, whether my representing it to be the opinion of Mr. S and his adherents, that persons might be admitted into the church without any notion of their being godly, or any respect to such a character appearing on them, be unaccountable.—By these things it is evident. Mr. S—d’s scheme was far from being what Mr. W. represents it to be, and pretends to maintain as his. And if the question he had to controvert with me, were Mr. S—d’s question, as he asserts: yet he greatly mistakes the true state of the question, though that be given as the title of his book. p. 132. a. c. d. e. p. 136. d. p. 143. c.) So he allows, that they must not only be endowed with christian piety in appearance; but that they must be so in profession. (p. 3. a. p. 41. e. p. 44. d.) That they make a show of being wise virgins by the nature and purport of their profession. (p. 42. b.) And he insists with great strenuousness, over and over, upon its being their scheme, that they ought to make a profession of real saintship. (p. 132. a. c. d.) Yea, he holds, that there must be not only some visibility and profession of real piety, but moral evidence of it. (p. 139. d.) He often uses notes of distinction, distinguishing between moral sincerity and real piety; and insists much upon it as belonging to their scheme, that there must be a visibility of the latter, as thus distinguished from the former. So, he rejects with great contempt any suggestion of its being the scheme of my opposers, that moral sincerity is that saintship, which is to be professed and made visible; and in distinction from this, he asserts, that it is real holiness. (p. 4. d. e. and p. 5. a. b.) And again (p. 35. c.) he uses a note of distinction, and insists that the opposers of my opinion hold, that communicants must make a profession of something more than common grace and moral sincerity. And again (p. 139. a. d.) he uses notes of discrimination, and says, that they must exhibit a credible profession of gospel-holiness, and not merely of moral sincerity; and says, it is not the visibility of moral sincerity, but the moral evidence of gospel-sincerity, which God’s word makes the rule of judging.—And as he holds, that communicants must profess gospel-holiness, so he seems to suppose that these professors must judge this of themselves; several things he says, seem plainly to imply it. This appears evidently implied in that interrogation put by Mr. W. (p. 35. e.) “Mr. S. rightly supposes all visible saints who are not truly pious, to be hypocrites; and the Scripture supposes and calls them so too: but will it therefore follow, that all hypocrites know they are so?” And he in effect asserts, that men should look at such a qualification, as sanctifying grace, in themselves, and inquire whether they have it, or no, in order to determine whether they should present themselves to gospel-ordinances: for he greatly finds fault with me for suggesting, as if those of a different opinion from me supposed, that persons have no manner of need to look at any such qualification in themselves, or at all inquire, whether they have it, in order to present themselves to sacraments. He refers to that passage in my book, (p. 55. d.) “ I cannot conceive what should move Philip to utter those words, or what he should aim at in them, if he at the same time supposed that the eunuch had no manner of need to look at any such qualification in himself, or at all to inquire whether he had such a faith, or no, in order to determine whether he might present himself as the subject of baptism.” It is plain, the qualification I have respect to, is grace, or saving faith. And so Mr. W, himself understands me; as appears by his reflections, (p. 49. c. d. e.) where, after quoting this passage, he consigns me over to another judgment, for suggesting that my opposers hold what I had there expressed, and for “representing the matter, as if they looked on it as no matter whether a person coming to gospel ordinances had any GRACE or no, and that he had no manner of need to inquire any thing about his sincerity .” 572572 Now let all that have been acquainted with the controversy between me and my people at Northampton, consider these things, which Mr. W. earnestly insists do belong to his scheme: and judge whether they be agreeable to the scheme which my opposers there have so vehemently and long contended for; yea, whether they are not very opposite to it; or whether in these things Mr. W. has not entirely yielded up, yea, vehemently asserted, the chief things concerning which they contested with me; and so, whether he has at all helped their cause by writing his book, or rather, on the contrary, has fought against them.
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