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Of the Nature and Obligation
of Divine Positive Institutions of Religion.
Divine Positive Institution of Religion
is, that which God himself requires and commands to be done, and which (having no intrinsick or mor al Excellency in it self) without his Command and Appointment we could never have been bound to the Obfervance of; nor ever have convey'd to us by the Obfervation thereof, any SUPERNATURAL Bea riefit or Advantage whatsoever.
II. The Essential Parts of a Divine Positive Institution, are those which we are oblig'd constantly to observe, as long as the utmost du
ration, of the Force and Obligation of the Inftitution it felf.
III. I call an A&t Invalid for the purposes of such an Institution, when we have no juft Reason or Motive from Divine Revelation to expect, that God should so far concur with that Act, as to convey by MEANS THERE OF, those Supernatural Advantages he has annex'd to the Institution.
IV. By the Sapernatural Advantages And nex'd to an Institution, I mean all those Spie ritual Privileges and Benefits which by Nature we cannot have, and which God has promis'd to bestow, upon Condition of our duly Performing that Institution, which he ha's made to be the Ordinary means of Conveying those Benefits to us.
V. By the Divine Authority of the Administrator, I mean that Commision which God at first gave to Men, and which they have ever since handed down to others, by his Order and Appointment, to Administer in his Holy Ordinances. 1:6,!
VI. By a Lay Administration I mean,
That which is perform’d by One who never was commiffiond or Impower'd for that Act, by those whom God has appointed to be the Conveyers of his Authority and Commission to Men, for that purpofe.
A X IO M S
OR, Undeniable Maxims.
I. The Essential Parts of any thing, are of the same Nature as the whole.
II. God himself may dispense with any of his own Positive Institutions, either in whole or in Part ; and bestow the Benefits annex'd to them, when, to whom, and how he pleases.
III. No Ecclefiaftcal or Civil Authority can Difpenfe with any Divine Positive Institution, either in whole, or in any Essential Part, só long as it is vinding and obliging to us.
IV. The only way to determine wliether an Act is Valid or Invalid, for the Purposes of a Divine Positive Institution, is, to know whether that Act be Lawful or Unlawful, Agreeable, or Contrary to the Will of God; which is to be found' no where, but either in the Inftitution itself, or in some other Part or Parts of his Written Word,relating tothe same Inftitution.
V. No Power or Authority on Earth, can by any after-Act (not appointed by God for that
purpose) make that which before was Invalid, to become as Valid as Conforming to the Dis vine Institution it self would have made it.
VI. He that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is Şin; and a Continuance in Sin, can bring no Supernatural Benefit or Advantage.
Every Essential Part of a Divine Positive Institution of Religion, is of Equal Obligation and Necessity to us.
DEMONSTRATION. This is evident,
First, from the very Nature of such an Institution, which (by Definition 1.) has no intrinsick excellency, or moral Virtue to oblige us to obferve it, till the Divine Command lays that necessity upon us ; fo that now we are oblig'd only by virtue of the Authority Commanding ; which being but One, (i, e. That of God) must necessarily reach to every Essential Part of the Institution, and thereby make them all of equal Authority and equally necessary and obliging to us; because they are every one of the fame Nature as the Institution it self (by Axiom 1.) And
Secondly, This is further evident (from Definition 2.) since we are constantly bound to observe every such Essential Part as long as the Institution it self shall have any Force or Virtue. Therefore, since every one of these Parts have but one Authority, without any Inherent Virtue separate there from; and are also binding as long as the Institution shall last; it must needs be certain, that they are all of equal Obligation and Necessity to us. But this is so very plain at the first Proposal, to all Intelli. gent Persons, that it hardly deserves the Name of a Proposition to be Demonstrated; and therefore I shall not lose more time about it.
COROLLAR Y. HENCE it follows, that as no Human Authority can dispense with any Divine Posi . tive Institution (Axiom 3.) so neither can they give any Superiority of Excellency, or Neceflity to one Essential Part thereof morę than to another, because, they are all equally necessary and obliging; and have their whole Force and Energy merely from the Divine Command.
Whosoever justly esteems an Act (Said to be done in pursuance of a Divine Positive Inftitution) to be wholly Null and Invalid for