« Prev SECTION VIII. Of sincerity. Next »
SECT. VIII.

The notion of moral sincerity’s being the qualification, which gives a lawful right to christian sacraments, examined.

Though our author disdains the imputation of any such notion, as that of men’s being called visible and professed saints from respect to a visibility and profession of moral sincerity: yet it is manifest, that in his scheme (whether consistently or no, others must judge) moral sincerity is the qualification which entitles, and gives a lawful right, to sacraments. For he holds, that it is lawful for unsanctified men, who have this qualification, to come to sacraments; and that it is not lawful for them to come without it. Therefore I desire this notion may be thoroughly examined.

And for the greater clearness, let it be observed what sincerity in general is. Now sincerity, in the general notion of it, is an honest conformity of some profession or outward show of some inward property or act of mind, to the truth and reality of it. If there be a show or pretence of what is not, and has no real existence, then the pretence is altogether vain; it is only a pretence, and nothing else: and therefore is a pretence or show without any sincerity, of any kind, either moral or gracious.

I now proceed to offer the following arguments against 503 the notion of moral sincerity being the qualification, which gives a lawful right to sacraments.

I. There is no such thing as moral sincerity, in the covenant of grace, distinct from gracious sincerity. If any sincerity at all be requisite in order to a title to the seals of the covenant of grace, doubtless it is the sincerity which belongs to that covenant. But there is only one sort of sincerity which belongs to that covenant; and that is a gracious sincerity. There is but one sort of faith belonging to that covenant; and that is saving faith in Jesus Christ, called in Scripture unfeigned faith. As for the faith of devils, it is not the faith of the covenant of grace.

Here the distinction of an internal and external covenant, will not help at all; as long as the covenant, of which the sacraments are seals, is a covenant of salvation, or a covenant proposing terms of eternal salvation. The sacraments are seals of such a covenant. They are seals of the New Testament in Christ’s blood, (Matt. xxvi. 28. Luke xxii. 28.) a Testament which has better promises than the Old, (Heb. viii. 6.) and which the apostle tells us, makes us heirs of the eternal inheritance. (Heb. ix. 15.)—Mr. W. himself speaks of the covenant sealed in baptism, as the covenant proposing terms of salvation. (p. 23. b. c.) So he speaks of the covenant entered into by a visible people, as the covenant in which God offers everlasting happiness. (p 24, 25.) But there is no other religion, no other sincerity, belonging to this covenant of salvation, but that which accompanies salvation, or is saving religion and sincerity. As it is written, () “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts.”

There is what may be called a moral sincerity, in distinction from saving, in many moral things; as in loving our friends and neighbours, in loving our country, in choosing the protestant religion before the popish, in a conscientious care to do many duties, in being willing to take a great deal of pains in religion, in being sorry for the commission of such and such acts of wickedness, &c. But there are some duties, which, unless they are done with a gracious sincerity, they cannot be done at all. As Mr. Stoddard observes, (Safety of Ap. p. 216.) “There are some duties which cannot be done but from a gracious respect to God.“ Thus, there is but one sort of sincerity in loving God as God, and setting our hearts on him as our highest happiness, loving him above the world, and loving holiness above all the objects of our lusts. He that does not these things with a gracious sincerity, never really doth them at all. He that truly does them, is certainly a godly man; as we are abundantly assured by the word of God. So, there is but one sort of sincere and cordial consent to the covenant of grace, but one sort of giving all our hearts to Jesus Christ; which things Mr. W. allows to be necessary, to come to sacraments. That to which a man’s heart is full of reigning enmity, he cannot with any reality at all cordially consent to and comply with: but the hearts of unsanctified men are full of reigning enmity to the covenant of grace, according to the doctrine of Scripture, and according to the doctrine of Mr. S. and Mr. W. too, as we have seen before.

However, if there were any such thing, as being heartily willing to accept of Christ, and a giving all our hearts to Christ, without a saving sincerity, this would not be a complying with the terms of a covenant of salvation. For it is self-evident, that only something which is saving, is a compliance with the terms of salvation. Now Mr. W. himself often allows (as has been observed) that persons must comply with the terms of the covenant of grace, in order to come to sacraments.—Yet because he also in effect denies it, I shall say something further in confirmation of it.

1. The sacraments are covenant privileges. Mr. W. himself calls them so. (p. 5. a. b.) Covenant privileges are covenant benefits, or benefits to which persons have a right by the covenant. “But persons can have no right to any of the benefits of a covenant, without compliance with its terms. For that is the very notion of the terms of a covenant, viz. Terms of an interest in the benefits of that covenant. It is so in all covenants whatsoever; if a man refuses to comply with its conditions, he can claim nothing by that covenant.

2. If we consider the sacraments as seals of the covenant, the same thing is evident, viz. That a man can have no right to them without a compliance with the terms. The sacraments are not only seals of the offer on God’s part, or ordinances God has appointed as confirmations of the truth of his covenant, as Mr. W. seems to insist. (p. 74, 75.) For considered merely as seals and confirmations of the truth of the gospel, they are (as miracles and other evidences of the christian religion) seals equally given to Christians, Jews, Deists, moral and vicious, and the whole world that knows of them. Whereas, it is manifest, in the nature of the thing, sacraments are seals of the covenant to be applied to the communicant, and of which he is the immediate subject, in a peculiar manner, as a party in covenant. Otherwise, what need would there be of his being one of God’s covenant people, in any sense whatsoever?

But now it is not reasonable to suppose, that the seal of the covenant belongs to any man, as a party in the covenant, who will not accept of and comply with the covenant. He that rejects the covenant, and will not comply with it, has no interest in it. And he that has no interest in the covenant, has no right to the seals; for the covenant and seals go together. It is so in all covenants among mankind; after a man has come into a bargain proposed and offered by another, yielding to the terms of it, he has a right to have the bargain sealed, and confirmed to him, as a party in the covenant; but not before.

And if what the communicant does be a seal on his part also, as the nature of the thing demonstrates, seeing he is active in the matter, and as Mr. W. seems willing to allow, (p. 75.) it will follow, with equal evidence, that a man cannot lawfully partake, unless he yields to and complies with the covenant. To what purpose is a man’s sealing an instrument or contract, but to confirm it as his own act and deed, and to declare his compliance with his part of the contract. As when a servant seals his indenture, it is a testimony and ratification of his compliance as to the proposed contract with his master. And if a covenant of friendship be proposed between two parties, and they both put their seal to it, hereby they both testify and declare their mutual friendship.

It has been already observed, that unsanctified men, while such, cannot with any sincerity at all testify a present cordial compliance with the covenant of grace: and as they cannot do this, so neither can they with any sincerity promise a future compliance with that covenant. Mr. W. often allows, that in order to christian communion men must promise a compliance with the covenant, in its spiritual and saving duties; that they will believe and repent in the sense of the covenant, willingly accept of Christ and his salvation, love him and live to him, and will do it immediately, henceforward, from this moment, (p. 25. c. e. p. 26. a. p. 28. a. c. and p. 76. a. b.) But how absurd is this! when at the same instant, while they are making and uttering these promises, they are entirely averse to any such thing; being then enemies to Christ, willingly rejecting him, opposing his salvation, striving against it, labouring to find out all manner of difficulties and hinderances in the way of it, not desiring it should come yet, &c. which our author, in a place forecited, says is the case with all unsanctified men.

And when unsanctified men promise, that they will spend the rest of their lives in universal obedience to Christ, there is no sincerity in such promises; because there is not such a heart in them. There is no man but a true disciple of Christ, that is willing thoroughly to deny himself for him, and follow him in a way of obedience to all his commands, unto the end, through all difficulties which Christ has given his followers reason to expect, or commanded them to prepare for; as is evident by Christ’s frequent declarations. (Luke xiv. 25-33. Matt. x. 37, 38, 39. chap. xiii. 44, 45, 46. and many parallel places.) If an unsanctified man thinks he is willing, he does not know his own heart. If he professes to be willing, he does not know what he says. The difficulty and cost of it is not in his view: and therefore he has no proper willingness to comply with the cost and difficulty. That which he is willing for, with a moral sincerity, is something else, which is a great deal easier, and less cross to flesh and blood. Suppose a king should propose to a subject his building him such a tower, promising him a certain reward. If 504 the subject should undertake it, not counting the cost, thinking with himself that the king meant another sort of tower, much cheaper; and should be willing only to build that cheap one, which he imagined in his own mind; when he would by no means have consented to build so costly a tower as the king proposed, if he had understood him right: such a man could not be said properly to be willing to comply with his prince’s proposal, with any sincerity at all. For what he consents to with a moral sincerity, is not the thing which the king proposed.

The promises of unsanctified men are like the promises of the man we read of, (Luke ix. 57, 58.) who said, “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” To whom Christ replied, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” When he made his promise, he probably quite mistook the thing, and did not imagine, that to follow Christ wherever he went, would be to follow him in such poverty and hardship. I suppose, the rich young man we read of (Mark x. 17, &c.) might have what is called moral sincerity. But he had no sincerity in the covenant of grace. When he came to Christ to know what he should do to have eternal life, it is probable he ignorantly thought himself willing to yield himself to Christ’s direction. Yet when it came to a trial, and Christ told him he must go and sell all that he had and give to the poor, it proved that he had no sincerity of willingness at all for any such thing.—So that it is evident, however unsanctified men may be morally sincere in some things, yet they have no sincerity of any sort in that covenant, of which the sacraments are seals; and that moral sincerity, distinct from gracious, in this covenant, is a mere imagination, there being indeed no such thing.

II. Another argument against this notion of moral sincerity, giving a right to church communion, is this: a quality that is transient and vanishing, can be no qualification of fitness for a standing privilege. Unsanctified men may be very serious, greatly affected, and much engaged in religion; but the Scripture compares their religion to a lamp not supplied with oil, which will go out, and to a plant that has no root nor deepness of earth, which will soon wither ; and compares such unsanctified men to the dog that will return to his vomit, and to the sow which, though washed ever so clean, yet her nature not being changed, will return to her wallowing in the mire.

Mr. W. allows, that persons in order to come to sacraments, must have deep convictions, an earnest concern to obtain salvation, &c. Now every one who is in any degree acquainted with religious matters, knows that such convictions are not wont to last a great while, if they have no saving issue. Mr. S. in his sermon on the danger of speedy degeneracy, (p. 11.) says, “Unconverted men will grow weary of religious duties.” And our author himself, (p. 78. c.) speaking of those professors in the primitive churches that fell away to heresy and other wickedness, takes notice that the apostle observes, it will be so, that they which are approved, might be made manifest: and says Mr. W. upon it, evil and unsanctified men, by such sins, will discover their hypocrisy.

Now seeing this is the case with moral sincerity and common religion, how can it be a qualification for a standing privilege ? Nothing can be a fitness for a durable privilege, but a durable qualification. For no qualification has any fitness or adaptedness for more than it extends to; as a short scabbard cannot be fit for a long sword. If a man going a journey in the night, needs a lamp to light him in his way, who will pretend that a flaming wick without oil, which will last but a few rods, is fit for his purpose ? Or if a man were building a house for himself and family, should he put into the frame pieces of timber known to be of such a nature as that they would probably be rotten in a few months; or should he take blocks of ice, instead of hewn stone, because during a present cold season they seemed to be hard and firm; and withal should for a covering put only leaves that will soon fade away, instead of tiles or shingles, that are solid and lasting; would not every spectator ridicule his folly?

If it should be said, that unsanctified men, when they lose their moral sincerity, may be cast out again: this is far from helping the case, or showing that such men were ever fit to be admitted. To say, a piece of timber, though not of a durable nature, is fit to be put into the frame of a building, because when it begins to rot, it may be pulled out again, is so far from proving that it was ever fit to be put in, that the speedy necessity of pulling it out rather proves the contrary. If we had the power of constituting a human body, or it were left to us to add members to our own bodies, as there might be occasion; we should not think such a member was fit to be added to the frame, that had already radically seated in it a cancer or gangrene, by which it could last but a little while itself, and would endanger the other members; though it were true, that when the disease should prevail, there were surgeons which might be procured to cut that member off.

But to consider a little further this point of moral sincerity qualifying persons for the privileges of the church. I would lay down this proposition as a thing of clear evidence: those persons have no fitness in themselves to come to the privileges of the church, who, if they were known, would not be fit to be admitted by others. For to say, they are fit to be members, and yet not fit to be allowed to be members, is apparently absurd. But they who have no better fitness than moral sincerity, if that were known, would not be fit to be admitted by others; as is allowed by Mr. W. For he holds, that in order to be fit to be admitted by others, they must credibly appear to them to have something more than moral sincerity, even gospel-holiness. And it is evident in itself, as well as allowed by Mr. W. that if such were known, they would not be fit to be admitted, only on their moral sincerity, and the profession and promises they make from such a principle; and that for this reason, because such a principle alone would not be fit to be trusted. God himself has taught his church, that the religion of unsanctified men is not fit to be trusted; as a lamp without oil, and a plant without root, are things not to be trusted.—God has directly taught his church to expect, that such religion will fail; and that such men, having no higher principle, will return to their wickedness. Job xxvii. 8, 9, 10. “The hypocrite—will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?”—Dan. xii. 10. “The wicked will do wickedly.” And therefore God does not require his church to accept their profession and promises. If he has taught us not to credit their profession and promises, then certainly he has taught us not to accept them.

III. Another argument against this supposed rule of allowing and requiring unsanctified men with moral sincerity, to come to sacraments, is this. That rule, which if fully attended, would naturally bring it to pass, that the greater part of communicants would be unfit, even according to that very rule, cannot be a divine rule. But this supposed rule of moral sincerity is such a rule. For if this rule be universally attended, then all unsanctified men, who have present convictions of conscience sufficient to make them morally sincere, must come into the communion of the church. But this conviction and common religion, if it do not issue in conversion, (as has been observed,) commonly vanishes away in a short time. And yet still these persons, if not convicted of open scandal, are left in the communion of the church, and remain there, without even moral sincerity.—Experience gives us abundant reason to think, that of those who some time or other have considerable convictions of conscience, so as to make them for the present to be what is called morally sincere, but few are savingly converted. 591591    How small a proportion are there of the vast multitudes, that in the time of the late religious commotion through the land had their consciences awakened who give hopeful abiding evidences of a saving conversion to God! And if all these must be admitted, (as they must, if this rule be fully attended,) then their convictions going away, and their sincerity vanishing with it, it will hereby be brought about, that the Lord’s table is chiefly surrounded with the worst sort of morally insincere persons, viz. stupid backsliders, that are in themselves far worse than they were before, according to the scripture account, Matt. xii. 45. and 2 Pet. ii. 20.—And this as the natural consequence of the forementioned rule, appointing moral sincerity to be the qualification for communion. Thus this supposed rule supplants its own design.

505 IV. Another argument, that moral sincerity is not the qualification to which God has annexed a lawful right to sacraments, is, that this qualification is not at all inconsistent with a man’s living at the same time in the most heinous wickedness, in a superlative degree contrary to the christian religion.

It was before observed to be a thing evident in itself, and allowed by Mr. W. that there are some sins, which, while wilfully continued and lived in, though secretly, do wholly disqualify persons for christian sacraments, and make it unlawful for men to partake of them. Now if it be thus with some sins, doubtless it is because of the heinousness of those sins, the high degree of wickedness which is in them. And hence it will follow, that those sins which are in themselves most heinous, and most contrary to the christian religion, do especially disqualify persons for christian sacraments, when wilfully lived in.

Let it therefore now be considered, whether it will not follow from these premises, that for men to live in enmity against God and Christ, and in wilful unbelief and rejection of Christ, (as the Scriptures teach, and as Mr. S. and Mr. W. too assert, is the case with all unsanctified men under the gospel,) wholly disqualifies them for christian sacraments. For it is very manifest, by Scripture and reason, that to live in these things, is to live in some of the most heinous kinds of wickedness; as is allowed by Calvinistic divines in general, and by Mr. S. in particular, who says, (Safety of Ap. p. 224. d.) “You cannot anger God more by any thing, than by continuing in the neglect of Christ. This is the great controversy God has with sinners; not that they have been guilty of these and those particular transgressions, but that they abide in the rejection of the gospel.” Again, he says, (ibid. p. 249. e.) “The great sin, that God is angry with you for, is your unbelief. Despising the gospel is the great provoking sin.

A man’s continuing in hatred of his brother, especially a fellow-communicant, is generally allowed to disqualify for communion. The apostle compares it to leaven in the passover, 1 Cor. v. 6, 7, 8. But now certainly it is as bad, and as contrary to the nature and design of christian sacraments, for a man to live in hatred of christ, and to remain a hateful and accursed enemy (if I may use Mr. W.‘s own language) to the glorious Redeemer and Head of the christian church.

None will deny, that lying and perjury are very gross and heinous sins, and (if known) very scandalous: and therefore it follows from what was observed before, that such sins, if lived in, though secretly, do disqualify persons for christian sacraments in God’s sight. But by our author’s own account, all unsanctified men that partake of the Lord’s supper, live in lying and perjury, and go on to renew these crimes continually; since while they continue ungodly men, they live in a constant violation of their promise and oath.” For Mr. W. often lays it down, that all who enter into covenant with God, promise spiritual duties, such as repentance, faith, love, &c. And that they promise to perform these henceforward, even from the present moment, unto the end of life; (see p. 25. c. e. 26. a. 28. a. c. 76. a. b.) and that they not only promise, but swear to do this. (p. 18. d. 100. c. 101. a. 129. a. 130. c. 140. b.) But for a man to violate the promises he makes in covenanting with God, Mr. W. once and again speaks of it as lying, (p. 24. d. e. p. 130. r.) And if so, doubtless their breaking the oath they swear to God is perjury.—Now lying to men is bad; but lying to God is worse. (Acts v. 4.) And without doubt, perjury towards God is the worst sort of perjury. But if unsanctified men, when they entered into covenant with God, promised and swore, that they would immediately and thenceforward accept of Christ as their Saviour, and love him, and live to him; then while they continue in a wilful rejection of him (which according to Mr. W. all unregenerate men do) they live continually in the violation of their promise and oath. 592592    Here I would observe, that not only in the general do unsanctified men, notwithstanding their moral sincerity, thus live in the most heinous wickedness; but particularly, according to Mr. W.‘s own doctrine, their very attendance on the outward ordinances and duties of worship, is the vilest, most flagrant, and abominable impiety. In his sermons on Christ a King and Witness, (p. 77, 78.) he says, “If a man could perform all the outward acts of worship and obedience, which the Bible requires, from the beginning to the end of it. and not do them from faith in Christ, and love to God, and not express by them the thoughts, desires, and actings of his soul; they would be so far from being that obedience which Christ requires, that they would be a mocking of God, and hateful to him. These outward acts ought to be no other, and in religion are designed to stand for nothing else, but to be representations of a man’s soul, and the acts of that. And when they are not so. they are in their own nature a lie, and false pretence of something within, which is not there: Therefore the Lord abhors them, and reckons these false pretences the vilest wickedness.—Now when a man performs all outward obedience and worship, but it does not come from his heart, he practically denies the omniscience of Christ, while he puts before him a show and pretence of something for the reality; and so he belies his own profession. And all this, be it more or less, whatever it pretends to be of religion, instead of being that which Christ requires, is entirely different from it, yea. infinitely contrary to it. And those same actions, which when they are the language of the heart, and flow from it, are pleasing and acceptable to God and Jesus Christ, are true obedience to him; when they do not, are reckoned the most flagrant and abominable impiety, and threatened with the severest damnation of hell.”—Now, who can believe, that God has, by his own holy institution, made that sort of sincerity, which is nothing better than what is consistent with such a lying, vile, abominable, flagrantly wicked pretence and show of religion as this, the very thing that gives a right, even in his sight, to christian sacraments. I might here also observe, that if moral sincerity or common grace gives a right to sacraments in the sight of God, then that which (according to Mr. S - d’s doctrine before observed) is a spirit of lust, that which is contrary to, and at war with, and would destroy saving grace, is the thing which gives a right in the sight of God to christian sacraments.

I would observe one thing further under this head, viz. That ungodly men which live under the gospel, notwithstanding any moral sincerity they may have, are worse, and more provoking enemies to God, than the very heathen, who never sinned against gospel-light and mercy. This is very manifest by the Scriptures, particularly Matt. x. 13, 14. Amos iii. 2. Rom. ii. 9. 2 Pet. ii. 21. Rev. iii. 15, 16.

I had suggested, concerning Mr. Stoddard’s doctrine of admitting more unconverted than converted by attending Christ’s rule, that this supposes it to be the case of the members of the visible church, that the greater part of them are more provoking enemies to God than most of the heathen. Mr. W. represents himself as greatly alarmed at this: he calls it an extraordinary passage, and puts five questions about it to my serious consideration. (p. 72, 73.) The first and chief question is this; “Did Mr. S. ever say in the Appeal, or any where else, of most of our fellow-worshippers at the sacrament, that we have no reason to think concerning them, but that they are more provoking enemies to the Lord, whom Christians love and adore, than most of the very heathen?” His three next questions are to represent the heinousness of such supposed ill treatment of Mr. S.—And I think will be sufficiently answered, by what I shall offer in reply to the first.

I will tell him what Mr. S. said. Speaking to such as do not come to Christ, living under the gospel, he said, (Safety of Ap. p. 234, 235.) “You may not think to escape as the heathen do: your load will be heavier, and your fire will be hotter, and your judgment sorer, than the judgment of other men. God will proportion every man’s misery to his iniquity. And as you have enjoyed greater light and love, so you must expect more amazing and exquisite wrath, than other men. Conscience has more to accuse you of and condemn you for; and so has God: and you will sink down deeper into hell than other men. You are treasuring up a greater measure of wrath, than others, against the day of wrath. You will wish you had lived in the darkest corners of the earth among Scythians and barbarians.”

And Mr. W. must allow me to remind him of what another divine has said, and that is himself. In his sermon on Isa. xlv. 11. (p. 25, 26), he says, “It is to be feared, there are great numbers here present, that are in an unconverted, unrenewed, unpardoned state; strangers from God, and enemies to him. Yet you now look with great pity and compassion on that poor captive, for whom we have now been offering up our earnest prayers, 593593    Mrs. Eunice Williams, brought up in Canada, among the Caghnawaga Indians, sister to the then pastor of the church in Mansfield, where this sermon was preached, upon a day of prayer kept on her account; she being, then in that place on a visit. who has been so long in a pitiable and sorrowful condition, and who is now in the thickness of popish darkness and superstition.—If you are out of Christ, and destitute of true faith in him, if your natures remain unrenewed and unsanctified, what is your state better than hers, which looks so sorrowful and distressing? Rather, is it not worse? When you consider, that in the fulness of the means of grace which you have enjoyed all your days, you are as 506 far from any saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, as those who have lived in the dregs and abyss of popish ignorance, and know not what to believe, but what the church, that is, antichrist, tells them. If you die thus, your misery will be aggravated inconceivably beyond theirs: which Christ has plainly enough shown us, when he upbraided the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, and tells them how much in the comparison they fall below Tyre and Sidon,” (heathen cities, notorious for luxury, debauchery, and the grossest idolatry,) “and Sodom; for whom it should be more tolerable than for them.”

The same author says also, even in the book under consideration, (p. 86.) “That the unbelief and impieties of visible saints, is what they will be punished for above all men in the world.

And now, I think it may be proper for Mr. W. himself to answer his 5th question, which he puts to my serious consideration, viz. “What honour is it to our Lord Jesus Christ, to treat visible saints in such a manner, when at the same time it is his revealed will they should be outwardly treated as visible saints?”


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