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they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them, as travail on a woman with child, and they shall not escape:” then immediately he uses caution, that the members of the church at Thessalonica should not take this to themselves, and be terrified, as though they were in danger : and says, in the next words, “ But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief; ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day," Ver. 9–11. “ For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ; who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another; even as also ye do." And ver. 16, “ Rejoice evermore.” How diverse is this way of treating churches, from the method in which faithful ministers are wont to deal with their congregations, wherein are many that make no pretence to true piety, and from the way in which Mr. Stoddard was wont to deal with his congregationi. And how would he have undoubtedly judged such a way of treating them the most direct course in the world eternally to undo them? And shall we determine that the apostle Paul was one of those prophets, who daubed with untempered mortar, and sewed pillows under all arm-holes, and healed the hurt of immortal souls slightly, crying, Peace, peace, when there was no peace.-These things make it most evident, that the primitive churches were constituted as those modern churches, where persons knowing and owning themselves unregenerate, are admitted, on principle.
If it be here objected, that the apostle sometimes exhorts those to whom he writes, to put off the old man, and put on the new man, and to be renewed in the spirit of their minds, &c. as exhorting them to seek conversion : I answer, that the meaning is manifestly this, that they should mortify the remains of corruption, or the old man, and turn more and more from sin to God. Thus he exhorts the Ephesians to be renewed, &c. Eph. iv. 22, 23; whom yet he had before in the same epistle abundantly represented as savingly renewed already; as has been before observed. And the like might be shewn of other instances.
(7.) It is clear, not only that the greater part of the members of the primitive churches were to appearance true Christians; but that they were taken in under that notion, and because there appeared in them grounds of such an estimation of them. When any happened to be admitted that were otherwise, it was beside their aim ; in as much as when others were admitted, they are represented as brought or crept in unawares. Thus the matter is represented by the apostles. Jude, ver. 4. “ There are certain men crept in unawares—ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.” Gal. ii. 4. “False brethren, unawares brought in.” If it be said, these here spoken of were openly scandalous persons and heretics: I answer, they were not openly scandalous when they were brought in ; nor is there any reason to think they were heretics when admitted, though afterwards they turned apostates. Mr. Stoddard says, It does not follow that all hypocrites crept in unawares because some did. (Appeal, p. 17.) To which I would humbly say, It must be certainly true with respect to all hypocrites who were admitted, either that the church which admitted them was aware they were such, or else was not. If there were some of whom the church was aware that they were hypocrites, at the time when they were taken in, then the church, in admitting them, did not follow the rule that Mr. Stoddard often declares himself to suppose ought to be followed in admitting members, viz. to admit none but what in a judgment of rational charity are true Christians. (Appeal, p. 2,3, 10, 28, 33, 67, 73, 93, 94.) But that not only heretics and designing dissemblers crept in unawares, but that all false brethren, all church-members not truly gracious, did so, appears by such being represented as bastards in a family, who are false children and false heirs, brought into it unawares, and imposed upon the disposers of those privileges by stealth.—Heb. xii. 8. “ If ye are without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."
Thus it is abundantly manifest, from the apostolical writings, how the visible church of Christ, through the whole world, was at first constituted, under the direction of the apostles themselves, who regulated it according to the infallible guidance of the Spirit of their great Lord and master.—And doubtless, as the Christian church was constituted then, so it ought to be constituted now. What better rule have we for our ecclesiastical regulations in other respects, than what was done in the primitive churches, under the apostles' own direction : as particularly the standing officers of the church, presbyters and deacons, the method of introducing ministers in their ordination, &c. ? In this matter that I have insisted on, I think the Scripture is abundantly more full, than in those other things.
The scripture represents the visible Church of Christ, as a
society having its several members united by the bond of Christian brotherly love.
Besides that general benevolence or charity which the saints have to mankind, and which they exercise towards both the evil and the good in common, there is a peculiar and very distinguishing kind of affection, that every true Christian experiences towards those whom he looks upon as truly gracious persons. The soul, at least at times, is very sensibly and sweetly knit to such persons, and there is an ineffable oneness of heart with them; whereby, to use the scripture phrase (Acts iv. 32,) “ They are of one heart and one soul" which holy affection is exercised towards others on account of the spiritual image of God in them, their supposed relation to God as his children, and to Christ as his members, and to them as their spiritual brethren in Christ. This sacred affection is a very good and distinguishing note of true grace, much spoken of as such in scripture, under the name of pradshpia, ihe love of the brethren, or brotherly love; and is called by Christ, the receiving a righteous man in the name of a righteous man ; and receiving one of Christ's little ones in the name of a disciple, or because he belongs to Christ, (Matt. x. 41, 42, Mark ix. 41 ;) and a loving one another as Christ has loved them, (John xiii. 34, and xv. 13-15;) having a peculiar image of that oneness which is between Christ himself and his saints. Compare John xvii. 20, to the end.
This love the apostles are often directing Christians to exercise towards fellow-members of the visible church; as in Rom. xii. 10. “Be ye kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love.” The words are much more emphatical in the original, and represent in a more lively manner, that peculiar endearment there is between gracious persons, or those that look on one another as such και τη φιλαδελφια εις αλληλες Pinoso you. The expressions properly signify, cleaving one to another with brotherly, natural, strong endearment. With the like emphasis and energy does the apostle Peter express himself, 1 Épistle i, 22. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, (εις φιλαδελφιαν ανυποκριτον,) see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." Again, chap. iii. 8. " Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." The words in the Greek are much more significant, elegant, and forcible; πανσες ομοφρονες, συμπαθεις, φιλαδελφοι, ευσπλαγχνοι, φιλοΦρονες. The same peculiar endearment the apostle has doubtless respect to in chap. iv.“ Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves." And from time to time he considers it as a note of their piety. Col. i. 4. “ We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all saints." 1 Thess. iv. 9. “ As touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." So Philem. 5. "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus
Christ, and towards all saints." And this is what he exhorts to, Heb. xiii. 1. “Let brotherly love continue.” 1 Thess. v. 26.“ Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.” Compare I Cor. xvi. 20; 2 Cor. xiii, 12, and 1 Pet. v. 14.
This pinadencia, or love to the brethren, is that virtue which the apostle John so much insists on in his first epistle, as one of the most distinguishing characteristics of true grace, and a peculiar evidence that God dwelleth in us, and we in God. By which must needs be understood a love to saints as saints, or on account of the spiritual image of God supposed to be in them, and their spiritual relation to God; according as it has always been understood by orthodox divines. No reasonable doubt can be made, but that the apostle John, in this epistle, has respect to the same sort of love, which Christ prescribed to his disciples, in that which he called by way of eminency his COMMANDMENT, and HIS NEW COMMANDMENT, which he gave as a great mark of their being truly his disciples, as this same apostle gives an account in his gospel; and to which he plainly refers, when speaking of the love of the brethren in his epistle, chap. ii. 7, 8, and iii. 23. But that love, which Christ speaks of in his new commandment, is spoken of as between those that Christ loves or is supposed to love; and which has his love to them for its ground and pattern.
And if this pinadempia, this love of the brethren, so much spoken of by Christ, and by the apostles Paul and John, be not that peculiar affection which gracious persons or true saints have one to another, which is so great a part, and so remarkable an exercise of true grace, where is it spoken of, at all, in the New Testament?
We see how often the apostles exhort visible Christians to exercise this affection to all other members of the visible church of Christ, and how often they speak of the members of the visible church as actually thus united, in places already mentioned. In 2 Cor. ix. 14, the apostle speaks of the members of other churches loving the members of the church of Corinth, with this peculiar endearment and oneness of heart,
for the grace of God in them; "And by their prayer for you, which long after you, for the exceeding grace of God in you. The word translated long after, is ETITOƏXVTWV; which properly signifies to love with an exceeding and dear love. And this is represented as the bond that unites all the members of the visible church: Acts iv. 32. “And the multitude of them that be. lieved were of one heart and one soul.” This is the same thing which elsewhere is called being of one mind : 1 Pet. iii. 8. “Finally, be ye all of one mind.” And being of the same mind : : 1 Cor. i. 10. “That ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind.” And Philip. iv. 2. " I beseech Euodias, and beseech
. Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” And being like-minded (the word is the same in the Greek,) Rom. xv. 5, 6. "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another; that ye may with one mind, and one mouth, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." There is reason to think, that it is this oneness of mind, or being of one heart and soul, is meant by that charity which the apostle calls the bond of perfectness, Col. iii. 14; and represents as the bond of union between all the members of the body, in Eph. iv. 15, 16." But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ'; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying itself in love."
Herein seems much to consist the nature of scandal in the members of a church, viz. such an offence as is a wound and interruption to this kind of affection, being a stumbling-block to Christian judgment, in regard of its esteem of the offender as a real Christian, and what much lessens the visibility of his Christian character. And therefore when scandal is removed by visible repentance, the church is directed to confirm their love to the offender, 2 Cor. ii. 8.
Now this intimate affection towards others as brethren in Christ and fellow-members of him, must have some apprehension of the understanding, some judgment of the mind, for its foundation. To say, that we must thus love others as visible members of Christ, if any thing else be meant, than that we must love them because they are visibly, or as they appear to our judgment, real members of Christ, is in effect to say, that we must thus love them without any foundation at all. In order to a real and fervent affection to another, on account of some amiableness of qualification or relation, the mind must first judge there is that amiableness in the object. The affections of the mind are not so at command that we can make