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Concerning the Lord’s supper being a converting ordinance.
Though Mr. W. holds, that none are to be admitted to the Lord’s supper, but such as make a credible profession of real godliness, and are to be admitted under that notion, and with respect to such a character appearing on them; yet he holds at the same time, that the Lord’s supper is a converting ordinance, an ordinance designed for the bringing of some men that have no such a character, to be of such a character, (p. 14. c. d. p. 15. p. 35. a. b. p. 83. b. p. 100. e. 101. a. 126, 127.) It is evident, that the meaning of those divines who speak of the Lord’s supper as a converting ordinance, is not merely that God in his sovereign providence will use it as an occasion of the conversion of some; but that it is a converting means by his institution given to men, appointing them to use it for this purpose. Thus Mr. Stoddard expressly declares, That the Lord’s supper is instituted to be a means of regeneration, (Doct. of Inst. Churches, p. 22. a.) instituted for the conversion of sinners, as well as the confirmation of saints; (Appeal, p. 70. c. p. 71. a.) that the direct end of it is conversion, when the subject that it is administered unto 502 stands in need of conversion. (Ibid. p. 73, 74.) And thus Mr. W. after Mr. S. speaks of the Lord’s supper as by Christ’s appointment a proper means of conversion of some that are unconverted. (p. 100. e. 101. a.) so he speaks of it as instituted for the conversion of sinners. (p. 126, and 127.)
Now if so, what need of men being, to rational charity, converted already, in order to their coming to the Lord’s supper? Is it reasonable to suppose God would institute this ordinance directly for that end, that sinners might be converted by it; and then charge his ministers and churches not to admit any that they had not reasonable ground to think were converted already?—Mr. W. (in p. 83. b.) supposes two ends of Christ’s appointing the communion of the christian church; that such as have grace already should be under proper advantages to gain more, and that those who have none, should be under proper advantages to attain grace. But this ill consists with other parts of his scheme.—If a king should erect an hospital for the help of the poor, and therein has two ends; one, the nourishing of such as are in health, and the other, the healing of the sick; and furnishes the hospital accordingly, with proper food for the healthy, and proper remedies for the sick: but at the same time charges the officers, to whom he commits the care of the hospital, by no means to admit any, unless it be under a notion of their being in health, and from respect to such a qualification in them, and unless they have reasonable ground and moral evidence to induce them to believe that they are well: and if this pretence should be made to justify such a conduct, that the hospital was indeed designed for the healing of the sick, yet it was designed to confer this benefit only on such diseased people as were hypocrites, and made a profession and pretence of being in health; will any man presume to say, that such a conduct is agreeable to the dictates of the understanding of rational beings? And to suppose, that such should be the conduct of the infinitely wise God, is as unscriptural, as it is unreasonable. We often read in God’s word, of men’s being convinced of their wickedness, and confessing their sins, as a way to be healed and cleansed from sin: but where do we read of men’s pretending to more goodness than they have, and making a hypocritical profession and show of goodness, in order to their becoming good men? 590590 Mr. Williams (p. 42.) owns that persons must make a profession wherein they make a show of being wise virgins, in order to come into the visible church. And (p. 35. e.) he owns, that all visible saints who are not truly pious, are hypocrites. Again, it may be observed, he abundantly insists, that men who have no more than common grace and moral sincerity, may lawfully come to sacraments; and yet by what he says, (p. 35. e.) they must profess more. So that men who have no more must profess more; and this, it seems, according to divine institution!—Again he says, (p. 35. a. b. c.) That one end God designed by appointing men to be brought into the church, is, that through divine grace they might effectually be brought to Christ, to give him the whole possession of their hearts; and yet in the very next paragraph (p. 35. e. and 36. a.) he speaks of it as unlawful for men to come to sacraments till they give up all their hearts to Christ. Where have we a divine institution, that any who are wolves should put on sheep’s clothing, and so come to his people, that they may believe them to be sheep, and under this notion receive them into the flock, to the end that they may truly become of his sheep?
But to examine this matter, of the Lord’s supper being a converting ordinance to ungodly men professing godliness, a little more exactly. If Christ has appointed the Lord’s supper to be a converting ordinance to some such as these, then he has appointed it either only for such of them as are mistaken, and think themselves godly when they are not; or he has appointed it not only for such, but also for such as are sensible they are ungodly.
If it be appointed as a converting ordinance only for such as are mistaken, and think themselves converted; then here is an institution of Christ, which never can, in any one instance, be made use of to the end for which he has appointed men to use it. It cannot be used for this end by those who admit members, and administer the ordinance: for they, as Mr. W. says, must admit none but such as they are bound by the rule of Christ to look upon as godly men already, and to administer the sacrament to them under that notion, and with respect to such a character. Neither can it be used to such a purpose by any of the communicants: for by the supposition, they must be all such as think they are converted already, and also come under that notion. So that by this scheme of things, here is an institution appointed to be upheld and used in the church, which the institution itself makes void and impossible. For, as was observed before, the notion of a converting ordinance has not reference to any secret decree of God, how he in his sovereign pleasure will sometimes use it; but to his institution given to men, appointing the end for which they should use it. Therefore, on the present supposition, the institution appoints the Lord’s supper to be used in some cases for the conversion of sinners, but at the same time forbids its being either given or received under any other notion than that of the communicant’s being converted already: which is in effect to forbid its being either given or received for the conversion of the communicant, in any one instance. So that the institution effectually destroys and disannuls itself.—But God forbid, that we should ascribe any such inconsistent institutions to the Divine Head of the church!
Or if the other part of the disjunction be taken, and it be said, the Lord’s supper is appointed for the conversion of some that are sensible they are ungodly or unconverted, the consequence is no less absurd, on Mr. W.‘s principles. For then the scheme is this. The institution requires some men to make a pretence of real piety, and to make a public solemn profession of gospel-holiness, which at the same time they are sensible they have not; and this, to the end that others may look upon them to be real saints, and receive them to the Lord’s supper under that notion: not putting on a disguise, and making a show of what they have not, through mistake, but doing it consciously and wilfully, to the honour and glory of God: and all this strictly required of them, as the instituted means of their becoming real saints, and the children of God!
Mr. W. says, (p. 14. d.) “Since it is God’s will, that his church should admit all such visible saints, [viz. such as he had been speaking of,] it follows, that the Lord’s supper is a converting ordinance to such of them as are unconverted.“ But Mr. W. is mistaken as to his consequence. The Lord’s supper is not instituted to be a converting ordinance to all unconverted men, whom it is God’s will the church should admit. For it may be the church’s duty, and so God’s will, to admit those that live secretly in the grossest wickedness, as adultery, uncleanness, deism, &c. Such men as these may make a fair profession, and the church may be ignorant of their secret wickedness, and therefore may have no warrant to reject them: but yet it will not follow, that God by his institution has given such a lawful right to the Lord’s supper, having appointed it to be a converting ordinance to them.
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