« PoprzedniaDalej »
out the least degree of pollution and defilement, ver. 27. And as for the command to the apostles, to disciple all nations, it was a direction to them as to what they should attempt, not a prediction of what they should bring to pass in their day. For they never brought one-half of any one nation into the visible Christian church, nor any at all in one-half of the nations in the world, it is very probable.
If it should be further objected, that it is an evidence that Gentile Christians are visible saints, according to the New Testament notion of visible saintship, in the very same manner as the whole Jewish nation were till they were broken off by their obstinate rejection of the Messiah; that the Gentile Christians are represented as being grafted into the same olive, from whence the Jews were broken off by unbelief, Rom. xi. 17, &c.
I would inquire, What any one can intend by this objection? Whether it be this, viz. that we ought to insist on no higher or better qualifications, in admitting persons as members of the Christian church, and to all its privileges, than the whole Jewish nation in Christ's time possessed, till they had obstinately persisted in their rejection of him? If this is not intended, the objection is nothing to the purpose: Or, if this be intended, neither then is it to the purpose of those with whom I have especially to do in this controversy, who hold orthodoxy, knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of religion, moral sincerity, and a good conversation, to be qualifications, which ought to be insisted on, in order to a visible church-state. For a very great part of those Jews were destitute of these qualifications; many of them were Sadducees, who denied a future state; others of them Herodians, who were occasionally conformists with the Romans in their idolatries; the prevailing sect among them were Pharisees, who openly professed the false doctrine of justification by the works of the law and external privileges, that leaven of the Pharisees, which Christ warns his disciples to beware of. Many of them were scandalously ignorant, for their teachers had taken away the key of knowledge. Multitudes were grossly vicious, for it was a generation in which all manner of sin and wickedness prevailed.
I think that text in Rom. xi. can be understood no otherwise, in any consistence with plain fact, than that the Gentile Christians succeeded the Jews, who had been, either in themselves or ancestors, the children of Abraham, with respect to a visible interest in the covenant of grace, until they were broken off from the church, and ceased to be visible saints by their open and obstinate unbelief. Indeed their ancestors had all been thus broken off from the church of visible saints; for every branch or family of the stock of Jacob had been in the church of visible saints, and each branch withered and failed through
unbelief. This was the highest and most important sense, in which any of the Jews were externally the children of Abraham, and implied the greatest privileges. But there was another sense, in which the whole nation, including even those of them who were no visible saints, were his children, which (as has been shewn) implied great privileges, wherein Christian Gentiles do not succeed them, though they have additional ecclesiastical privileges, vastly beyond the Jews.
Whether I have succeeded, in rightly explaining these matters, or no, yet my failing in it is of no great importance with regard to the strength of the objection, that occasioned my attempting it; which was, that scandalously wicked men among the Jews are called God's people, &c. The objection, as I observed, is as much against the scheme of those whom I oppose, as against my scheme; and therefore it as much concerns them, to find out some explanation of the matter, that shall shew something else is intended by it, than their having the qualifications of visible saints, as it does me; and a failing in such an attempt as much affects and hurts their cause, as it does mine,
Those in Israel, who made no profession of piety of heart, did according to divine institution partake of the passover; a Jewish sacrament, representing the same things, and a seal of the very same covenant of grace with the Lord's supper; and particularly, it would be unreasonable to suppose, that all made a profession of godliness whom God commanded to keep that first passover in Egypt, which the whole congregation were required to keep, and there is no shadow of any such thing as all first making a solemn public profession of those things wherein true piety consists: And so the people in general partook of the passover, from generation to generation; but it would be improbable to suppose, that they all professed a supreme regard to God in their hearts.
ANSWER 1. The affair of the Israelites' participation of the passover, and particularly that first passover in Egypt, is attended with altogether as much difficulty in regard to the qualifications which the objectors themselves suppose requisite in communicants at the Lord's table, as with regard to those which I insist upon; and if there be any argument in the case, it is fully as strong an argument against their scheme, as mine.
One thing they insist upon as a requisite qualification for the Lord's supper, is a public profession of religion as to the 49
essential doctrines of it. But there is no more public profession of this kind, preceding that passover in Egypt, than of a profession of godliness. Here, not to insist on the great doctrines of the fall of man, of our undone state by nature, of the Trinity, of our dependence on the free grace of God for justification, &c. let us take only those two doctrines of a future state of rewards and punishments, and the doctrine of the Messiah to come, that Messiah who was represented in the passover. Is there any more appearance, in sacred story, of the people making a public profession in Egypt of these doctrines, before they partook of the passover, than of their making profession of the love of God? And is there any more probability of the former, than of the latter? Another thing which they on the other side suppose necessary to a due attendance on the Lord's supper, is, that when any have openly been guilty of gross sins, they should before they come to this sacrament, openly confess and humble themselves for their faults. Now it is evident by many scriptures, that a great part of the children of Israel in Egypt had been guilty of joining with the Egyptians in worshipping their false gods, and had lived in idolatry. But the history in Exodus gives us no account of any public solemn confession of, or humiliation for this great sin, before they came to the passover. Mr. Stoddard observes, (Appeal, p. 58, 59.) that there was in the church of Israel a way appointed by God for the removal of scandals; men being required in that case to offer up their sacrifices, attended with confession and visible signs of repentance. But where do we read of the people offering up sacrifices in Egypt, attended with confession, for removing the scandal of that most heinous sin of idolatry they had lived in? Or is there any more probability of their publicly professing their repentance and humiliation for their sin, before their celebrating the passover, than of their publicly professing to love God above all? Another thing which they suppose to be requisite in order to admission to the Lord's table, and about which they would have a particular care be taken, is, that every person admitted give evidence of a competent knowledge in the doctrines of religion, and none be allowed to partake who are grossly ignorant. Now there is no more appearance of this with regard to the congregation in Egypt, than of a profession of godliness; and it is as difficult to suppose it. There is abundant reason to suppose, that vast numbers in that nation, consisting of more than a million of adult persons, had been brought up in a great degree of ignorance, amidst their slavery in Egypt, where the people seem to have almost forgotten the true God and the true religion. And though pains had been taken by Moses, now for a short season, to instruct the people better; yet it must be considered, it is a very great work, to take a whole nation under such degrees of
ignorance and prejudice, and bring every one of them to a competent degree of knowledge in religion; and a greater work still for Moses both thus to instruct them, and also by examination or otherwise, to come to a just satisfaction, that all had indeed attained to such knowledge.
Mr. Stoddard insists, that if grace be requisite in the Lord's supper, it would have been as much so in the passover, in as much as the chief thing which the passover (as well as the Lord's supper) represents, is Christ's sufferings. But if on this account the same qualifications are requisite in both ordinances, then it would be as requisite that the partakers should have knowledge to discern the Lord's body (in Mr. Stoddard's sense of 1. Cor. xi. 29,) in the passover, as in the Lord's supper. But this certainly is as difficult to suppose, as that they professed godliness. For how does it appear, that the people in general who partook of the passover-knew that it signified the death of the Messiah, and the way in which he should make atonement for sin by his blood? Does it look very likely that they should know this, when Christ's own disciples had not knowledge thus to discern the Lord's body in the passover, of which they partook from year to year with their Master? Can it be supposed, they actually knew Christ's death and the design of it to be thereby signified, when they did not so much as realize the fact itself, that Christ was to die, at least not till the year before the last passover? Besides, how unreasonable would it be, to suppose, that the Jews understood what was signified, pertaining to Christ and salvation by him, in all those many kinds of sacrifices, which they attended and partook of, and all the vast variety of ceremonies belonging to them; all which sacrifices were sacramental representations of Christ's death, as well as the sacrifice of the passover? The apostle tells us, that all these things had a shadow of good things to come, the things concerning Christ; and yet there are many of them, which the church of Christ to this day does not understand; though we are under a thousand times greater advantage to understand them, than they were. For we have the New Testament, wherein God uses great plainness of speech, to guide us, and live in days wherein the vail which Moses put over his face is taken away in Christ, and the vail of the temple rent, and have the substance and the antetype plainly exhibited, and so have opportunity to compare these with those shadows.
If it be objected, as a difficulty that lies against our sup posing a profession of godliness requisite to a participation of the passover, that they who were uncircumcised, were expressly forbidden to partake; and if conversion was as important and a more important qualification than circumcision, why were not the unregenerate as expressly forbidden? I answer; Why were
not scandalous sinners as expressly forbidden? And why was not moral sincerity as expressly required as circumcision?
If it be objected, that they were all expressly and strictly required to keep the passover; but if grace was requisite, and God knew that many of the partakers would have no grace, why would he give such universal orders?
I answer: When God gave those commands, he knew that the commands, in all their strictness, would reach many persons who in the time of the passover would be without so much as moral sincerity in religion. Every man in the nation, from the first institution till the death of Christ, were all (excepting such as were ceremonially unclean, or on a journey) strictly required to keep the feast of passover; and yet God knew that multitudes would be without the qualification of moral seriousness in religion. It would be very unreasonable to suppose, that every single person in the nation was morally serious, even in the very best time, or that ever there was such a happy day with any nation under heaven, wherein all were morally sincere in religion, How much then was it otherwise many times with that nation, which was so prone to corruption, and so often generally involved in gross wickedness? But the strict command of God to keep the passover reached the morally insincere, as well as others; they are no where excepted, any more than the unconverted. And as to any general commands of God's word, these no more required men to turn from a state of moral insincerity before they came to the passover, than they required them to turn from a graceless state.
But further, I reply, that God required them all to keep the passover, no more strictly than he required them all to love the Lord their God with their whole heart. And if God might strictly command this, he might also strictly command them to keep that ordinance wherein they were especially to profess it, and seal their profession of it. That evil generation were not expressly forbidden to keep the passover, in succeeding years, for the whole forty years during which they went on provoking God, very often by gross sin and open rebellion; but still the express and strict commands for the whole congregation to keep the passover reached them, nor were they released from their obligation.
If it be said, that we must suppose multitudes in Israel attended the passover, from age to age, without such a visibility of piety as I have insisted on; and yet we do not find their attending this ordinance charged on them as a sin, in Scripture: I answer; We must also suppose that multitudes in Israel, from age to age, attended the passover, who lived in moral insincerity, yea and scandalous wickedness. For the people in general very often notoriously corrupted themselves, and declined to ways of