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may either see and yield to the same convictions, and find cause to change their judgments also, or will at least continue their fraternal affection to the worthy author, and others in the same sentiments with him.
We heartily pray that the reverend author and his flock may for a long time be happy together; that their cordial love and tenderness to each other may continue and operate in mutual and all lawful con. descensions and forbearances under different sentiments in these particulars; that every one may be open to light, and guard against all prejudice, precipitance, and passion; that they may be very watchful against the devices of Satan to disunite or disaffect them; that they may study the things that make for peace and edification.-And the GOD of light, love and peace, will continue with them.
Boston, August 11, 1746.
A narrative of the transactions to which the following Treatise refers, may be read in the account of the author's Life, which was printed originally at Boston, New-England, in 1765, and lately reprinted at Glasgow. The works of the Author are now very well known in this country. The world, it is apprehended, owe no small obligation to Dr. John Erskine, one of the ministers of this city, who first introduced them to their acquaintance.
There are very few persons attentive to the subjects on which President Edwards has written who will not acknowledge, that he has cast much light upon them. And nothing will prevent Christians from considering the present Treatise as one of the most able and interesting parts of his works, but prejudice and indifference about the subject of it. His own opinion of it may be seen in his preface. It will there appear, if persons should even be inattentive to its internal evidence, that it called forth the complete extent of his abilities, and was the fruit of dependence on the Father of Lights for instruction and preservation from error.
The whole of his works are now reprinted in Britain, excepting only his Defence of this Treatise, against the Objections of Mr. Solomon Williams. If the present performance, which is exceedingly scarce, meets with encouragement, the publisher intends to print it also.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR FULL COMMUNION IN THE
VISIBLE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
THE QUESTION STATEd and exPLAINED.
THE main question I would consider, and for the negative of which I would offer some arguments in the following discourse, is this; Whether, according to the rules of CHRIST, any ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church of CHRIST in complete standing, but such as are in profession, and in the eye of the church's Christian judgment, godly or gracious persons?
When I speak of members of the visible church of Christ, in complete standing, I would be understood of those who are received as the proper immediate subjects of all the external privileges Christ has appointed for the ordinary members of his church. I say ordinary members, in distinction from any peculiar privileges and honours of church-officers and rulers. All allow, there are some that are in some respect in the church of God, who are not members in complete standing, in the sense that has been explained. All that acknowledge infant baptism, allow infants, who are the proper subjects of baptism, and are baptized, to be in some sort members of the Christian church; yet none suppose them to be members in such standing as to be the proper immediate subjects of all ecclesiasiastical ordinances and privileges: But that some further qualifications are requisite in order to this, to be obtained, either in a course of nature, or by education, or by divine grace. And some who are baptized in infancy, even after they come to be adult, may yet remain for a season short of such a standing as has been spoken
of; being destitute of sufficient knowledge, and perhaps some other qualifications, through the neglect of parents or their own negligence, or otherwise; or because they carelessly neglected to qualify themselves for ecclesiastical privileges by making a public profession of the Christian faith, or owning the Christian covenant, or forbear to offer themselves as candidates for these privileges; and yet not be cast out of the church, or cease to be in any respect its members: This, I suppose, will also be generally allowed.
One thing mainly intended in the foregoing question is, Whether any adult persons but such as are in the profession and in appearance endowed with the Christian grace or piety, ought to be admitted to the Christian sacraments. Particularly, whether they ought to be admitted to the Lord's supper; and, if they are such as were not baptized in infancy, ought to be admitted to baptism. Adult persons having those qualifications that oblige others to receive them as the proper immediate subjects of the Christian sacraments, is a main thing intended in the question, by being such as ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church, in complete standing. There are many adult persons that by the allowance of all are in some respects within the church of God, who are not members in good standing, in this respect. There are many, for instance, that have not at present the qualifications proper to recommend them to the Lord's supper: There are many scandalous persons, who are under suspension. The late venerable Mr. Stoddard, and many other great divines suppose, that even excommunicated persons are still members of the church of God; and some suppose, the worshippers of Baal in Israel, even those who were bred up such from their infancy, remained still members of the church of God. And very many protestant divines suppose, that the members of the church of Rome, though they are brought up and live continually in gross idolatry, and innumerable errors and superstitions that tend utterly to make void the gospel of Christ, still are in the visible church of Christ: Yet, I suppose, no orthodox divines would hold these to be properly and regularly qualified for the Lord's supper. It was therefore requisite, in the question before us, that a distinction should be made between the members of the visible church in general, and members in complete standing.
It was also requisite, that such a distinction should be made in the question, to avoid lengthening out this discourse exceedingly, with needless questions and debates concerning the state of baptized infants; that it is needless as to my present purpose. Though I have no doubts about the doctrine of infant baptism; yet God's manner of dealing with such infants as are regularly