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Instances of the third thing observed in Mr. W.‘s manner of arguing, viz. His pretending to oppose and answer arguments, by saying things which have no reference to them, but relate to other matters, perfectly foreign to the subject of the argument.
Such is his answer (p. 37, &c.) to my argument from Isa. lvi. Particularly from those words, Isaiah lvi. 6, 7. “Also the sons, of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants,—even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer,” 512 &c. For I say nothing under that argument, (as Mr. W. in his answer presumes,) which supposes any antithesis or opposition here between the state of the Gentiles and eunuchs under the Old Testament, and under the gospel, as to terms of acceptance with God: nor any opposition, as to a greater necessity of sanctifying grace, to the lawful partaking of ordinances, under the gospel, than under the law; as Mr. W. also supposes in his arguings on this head. But the opposition I speak of, as plainly pointed forth in the chapter, is this: That whereas under the law, not only piety of heart and practice were required, but something else, even soundness of body and circumcision, it is foretold, that under the gospel, piety of heart and practice only should be required; that although they were eunuchs or uncircumcised, yet if it appeared that they loved the name of the Lord, &c. they should be admitted.
So when I argued, that Christ, in the latter part of the 7th chap. of Matt.. representing the final issue of things, with regard to the visible church in general, speaks of all as those who had looked on themselves to be interested in him as their Lord and Saviour, and had an opinion of their good estate; though the hope of some was built on the sand, and others on a rock:—Mr. W. in his reply, (p. 40, 41.) entirely overlooks the argument, and talks about other things. He says, Christ does not find fault with those that cried, Lord, Lord, for entering into covenant, but for not keeping covenant, (p. 41. b.) Here he runs back to another thing, relating to another argument, to which this has no reference, which he dwells wholly upon; and says nothing to the argument I use in that place.
So in his reply to what I say on the parable of the wheat and tares, (p. 98, &c.) he has entirely overlooked the argument. He says, to vindicate the objection, (p. 99.) “Which we think shows us the mind and will of Christ in this matter is, that his servants shall proceed only on certain established rules of his visible kingdom, and not upon any private rules of judging about them.”—Whereas, I never said, or supposed, that Christ’s servants must not proceed on certain established rules of his visible kingdom, or that they ought to go upon any private rules of judging; but particularly and largely expressed my mind to the contrary, in explaining the question; (Inq. p. 5.) “That it is properly a visibility to the eye of the public charity, and not of a private judgment, that gives a right to be received as visible saints by the public.” And repeat the same thing again, p. 125. c. d.
And as to what Mr. W. says in this place about infants being born in the church, it entirely diverts the reader to another point (which I shall hereafter particularly consider) wholly distinct from the subject of the argument; which is about rules of admission into the church, whenever they are admitted. If persons are born in the church in complete standing, as Mr. W. supposes, then they are not admitted at all, but in their ancestors. But, however, the question returns, whether ancestors that are unsanctified, can have a lawful right to come into the church? Mr. W. holds they may. The subject of the argument is about bringing in tares into the field, whenever they are brought in, whether sooner or later; and whether tares have a lawful right, by warrant from Christ, to be in the field; supposing this to intend the church of Christ. The argument I produced to the contrary was, that the tares were introduced contrary to the owner’s design, through men’s infirmity and Satan’s procurement. Which argument, being entirely overlooked by my opponent, I desire it may be now particularly considered.
When the devil brought in the tares, it is manifest, he brought in something that did not belong there; and therein counteracted the owner of the field, and did it under that very notion of crossing his design. An enemy (says the parable) hath done this. But how does this consist with the tares having a lawful right, by the owner’s warrant and appointment, to have a standing in his field? If Christ by his institution has, in mercy to unsanctified men, given them a lawful right to come into the church, that it may be a means of their conversion; then it is a work of his kindness, as the compassionate Redeemer of souls, to bring them in; and not the doing of the great enemy and destroyer of souls. If the great Physician of souls has built his church, as an infirmary, in compassion to those that are sick, for this end, that they may be brought in and healed there; shall it be said with surprise, when such are found there, How came those sick people here? And shall the compassionate Physician, who built the hospital, make answer, An enemy hath done this?
Besides, if Christ has appointed that unsanctified men should come into the church, in order to their conversion, it would be an instance of the faithfulness of his servants to bring in such. But the bringing in tares into the field, is not represented as owing to the faithfulness and watchfulness of the servants; but on the contrary, is ascribed to their sleepiness and remissness. They were brought in while they slept, who ought to have done the part of watchmen, in keeping them out, and preventing the designs of the subtle enemy that brought them in.—Perhaps some would be ready to make the reflection that those churches whose practice is agreeable to the loose principles Mr. W. espouses, do that at noon-day, in the presence of God, angels, and men, which the devil did in the dead of the night, while men slept!
Again, Mr. W. in his reply to my argument from that christian brotherly love, which is required towards all members of the visible church, goes entirely off from the argument, to things quite alien from it. His first answer (p. 69. c.) is, that the exercise of this christian love is not the term of communion or admission into the visible church: which is perfectly foreign to the business. For the argument respects the object of this love, viz. visible saints, that are to be thus beloved; and not at all the qualifications of the inherent subject of it, or the person that exercises this love. If they that are admitted, are to be loved as true saints, or for the image of Christ appearing in them, or supposed to be in them, (as Mr. W. allows (p. 68. c.) then it will follow, that none are to be admitted, but such as can reasonably be the objects of christian love, or be loved as true saints, and as those who have the image of Christ appearing in them. Whether the exercise of this love be the term of communion, or not; yet if we are commanded to exercise this love to all that are admitted to communion, then it will certainly follow, that some reasonable ground for being thus beloved, must be a term of communion in such as a are admitted. To suppose it appointed, that we should love all that are admitted as true saints, and yet that it is not appointed that such as are admitted should exhibit any reasonable grounds for such a love, is certainly to suppose very inconsistent appointments. 598598 “The apostles looked on all those, whom they gathered into churches or christian congregations to eat the Lord’s supper, as having the truth dwelling in them: and so they behoved, every one of them, to look upon one another: seeing they could not love one another as brethren in the truth, without acknowledging that truth as dwelling in them. And so we see the apostles, in their writings to the churches, supposing all their members objects of this brotherly love.—Christ’s visible church then is the congregation of those whom the apostle could call the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.”—Glass’s Notes on Scripture Texts, Numb. 5. p. 32.
Mr. W.‘s second answer (p. 70. b.) is no less impertinent; viz. That men’s right to communion in gospel-ordinances does not depend upon the corruptions of other men, in their forbearing to love them. As if my argument were, that unless men are actually loved, as true saints, they have no right to communion! Whereas, the argument was very diverse, viz. That unless men have a right to be so loved, they have no right to communion. If men have an appearance, to reason, of being true saints, they may have a right to be loved as true saints, and to be admitted as such; however corrupt and void of love other men are: but without such an appearance to reason, it is no corruption, not to love them as true saints; unless it be corrupt, not to act without reason. 599599 A good argument might also be drawn from the corruption of unsanctified men; for that they are all sounder the power of corruption, that they are not able to love saints, or any one else, with truly christian love. Agreeable to what Mr. Stoddard says in his three sermons, (p. 40 ) “Men are obliged to love their neighbours as themselves. But no natural men do in any measure live up to this rule; but men are great enemies one to another, hateful and hating one another. They do but little good one to another: they do a great deal of hurt one to another.” Now is it reasonable to suppose, that such men have the proper qualifications, by divine institution, for a lawful right to be members of the visible family of God? —As to Mr. W.’s third answer, 513 and the misrepresentation it is built upon, it has already been taken notice of.
In Mr. W.‘s reply to my answer to the first objection, (p. 81, &c.) he wholly leaves the argument, and writes in support and defence of other matters, quite different from those which I mentioned, or had any concern with. The objection which I mentioned, and which had been much insisted on by some against my opinion, was, That church-members are called disciples, or scholars; a name, that gives us a notion of the visible church as a school; and leads us to suppose, that all who profess that sort of faith and sincerity, which implies a disposition to seek christian learning and spiritual attainments, are qualified for admission. But Mr. W. says nothing at all in support of this objection. In answer to it, I endeavoured to show, that the name disciples given to church-members, does not argue that unsanctified persons are fit to be members. He says nothing to show that it does. He says, if it will not follow from Christ’s visible church being represented as Christ’s school, that it is in order to all good attainments; yet it is in order to all that they have not yet attained. Which is nothing to the purpose, but foreign to the thing in debate, viz. Whether sanctifying grace is one of those things which are not yet attained by those that are lawfully in the church. He there says nothing to prove that it is; and especially to prove it from the meaning of the word, disciples; which was the argument in hand. He insists, that men may be sufficiently subject to Christ as their master and teacher, in order to be in his school or church, without grace: but then the thing to be proved, was, that church-members being called disciples makes this evident, in order to support the argument or objection I was upon: which argument is entirely neglected throughout all his discourse under this head.
So in his reply to my answer to the eleventh objection, (p. 123, &c.) he wholly neglects the argument, and labours to support a different one. I endeavoured, without concerning myself about the words of any argument in Mr. Stoddard’s Appeal, to answer an argument abundantly used at Northampton against my doctrine, of unsanctified men not having a right to come to the Lord’s supper; which was this, “You may as well say, that unsanctified men may not attend any other duty of worship:” and particularly, “You may as well forbid them to pray.”—As for Mr. S.‘s objection, in these words, “If unsanctified men may attend all other ordinances or duties of worship, then they may lawfully attend the Lord’s supper;” it was an argument I was not obliged to attend to in the words in which he delivered it, because it was not an argument brought against my scheme of things, but one very diverse: since it is not my opinion, that unsanctified men may attend all other ordinances, or duties of worship, besides the Lord’s supper; for I do not suppose, such may offer themselves to baptism; which Mr. S. takes for granted, in his argument. And therefore what Mr. W. says in support of it, is quite beside the business. As to the argument I was concerned with, taken especially from the lawfulness of unsanctified men praying, to prove, that therefore it must be lawful for them to come to the Lord’s supper, certainly if there be any consequence in it, the consequence depends on the truth of this supposition, that the same thing which makes it lawful for a man to pray, also makes it lawful for him to come to the Lord’s supper. And seeing this position is proved to be not true, the argument falls to the ground. And Mr. W.‘s nice observations and distinctions, of a non obstante, and a simply and per se, are nothing to the purpose.
This good reason (with several others) may be given, why the same that makes it lawful for a man to pray and hear the word, will not make it lawful for him to partake of sacraments, viz. that the sacraments are not only duties, but covenant privileges, and are never lawfully given or received but under that notion. Whereas, it is not so with prayer and hearing the word: and therefore they who have no interest in the covenant of grace, and are in no respect God’s covenant people, may lawfully hear the word and pray. But it is agreed on all hands, that they who are not in some respect God’s covenant people, may not come to sacraments: and the reason is this, because sacraments are covenant privileges. And this same reason will prove, that none but true believers, or those that have saving faith, the only condition of the covenant of grace, have a right to sacraments. For, as was observed before, the condition of any covenant is the condition of all the benefits or privileges of that covenant. (See Part II. sect. 8.)
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