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dals among the Corinthians, to put them upon trying the state of their souls, and proving their sincerity ? This is certainly the case
? in this apostle's directing the same persons to prove themselves, 2 Cor. xiii. 5, using the same word there, which he uses here, and giving his direction on the like occasion. For in the second epistle (as well as in the first) his putting them on examining and proving themselves, was on occasion of his mentioning some scandals found among them ; as is plain from the foregoing context. And yet there it is expressly said, That the thing con. cerning which he directs them to prove themselves, is, whether they be in the faith, and whether Christ is in them. Nor is there any thing more in the preceding context of one place, than in that of the other, obliging or leading us to understand the apostle to intend only a trying whether they were scandalous, and not whether they were sincere Christians.
And as to the words following in the next verse ; “ For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judg. ment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body :"_These words by no means make it evident (as some hold) that what the apostle would have them examine themselves about, is, whether they have doctrinal knowledge, sufficient to understand, that the bread and wine in the sacrament signify the body and blood of Christ : But on the contrary, to interpret the apostle in this sense only, is unreasonable, upon several accounts. (1.) None can so much as attempt such an examination, without first knowing, that the Lord's body and blood is signified by these elements. For merely a man putting this question to himself, Do I understand that this bread and this wine signify the body and blood of Christ ? supposes him already to know it from a previous information ; and therefore to exhort persons to such an examination would be absurd. And then (2.) it is incredible,
) that there should be any such gross ignorance in a number of the communicants in the Corinthian church, if we consider what the Scripture informs us concerning that church. St. Paul was an able and thorough instructor and spiritual father, who founded that church, brought them out of their Heathenish darkness, and initiated them in the Christian religion. He had instructed them in the nature and ends of gospel-ordinances, and continued at Corinth, constantly labouring in the word and doctrine for a long while, no less than a year and six months ; and, we may well suppose, administered the Lord's supper among them every Lord's day; for the apostle speaks of it as the manner of that church to communicate at the Lord's table with such frequency, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. And the Corinthian church when the apostle
. wrote this epistle, was noted for excelling in doctrinal knowledge ; as is evident by chap. i. 5-7, and several other passages in the epistle. Besides, the communicants were expressly told at every communion, every week, when the bread and wine were delivered to them in the administration, that the bread signified the body, and that the wine signified the blood of Christ. And 3) the apostle by his argument in chap. x. 16, supposes the Corinthians doctrinally acquainted with the subject already. It therefore appears to me much more reasonable, to apprehend the case to be thus: The offensive behaviour of the communicants at Corinth gave the apostle reason to suspect, that some of them came to the Lord's table without a proper impression and true sense of the great and glorious things there significd; hav. ing no habitual hunger or relish for the spiritual food there represented, no inward vital and experimental taste of that flesh of the Son of man, which is meat indeed. The word translated discerning, signifies to discriminate or distinguish. The taste is the proper sense whereby to discern or distinguish food, Job xxxiv. 3. And it is by a spiritual sense or taste we discern or distinguish spiritual food. Heb. v. 14.-" Those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil :" nos diaxgion, &c. a word of the same root with that rendered discerning, in 1 Cor. xi. 29. He that has no habitual relish of that spiritual food, which is represented and offered at the Lord's table ; he that has no spiritual taste, wherewith to perceive any thing more at the Lord's supper, than in common food; or that has no higher view, than with a little seeming devotion to eat bread, in the way of an ordinance, but without regarding in his heart the spiritual meaning and end of it, and without being at all suitably affected by the dying love of Christ therein commemorated ; such a one may most truly and properly be said not to discern the Lord's body. When therefore the apostle exhorts to self-examination as a preparative for the sacramental supper, he may well be understood to put professors upon inquiring whether they have such a principle of faith, by means whereof they are habitually in a capacity and disposition of mind to discern the Lord's body practically and spiritually (as well as speculatively and notionally) in their communicating at the Lord's table : which is what none can do who have a faith short of that which is justifying and saving. It is only a living faith that capacitates men to discern the Lord's body in the sacrament with that spiritual sensation or spiritual gust, which is suitable to the nature and design of the ordinance, and which the apostle seems principally to intend.
The scripture calls the members of the visible church by the name of disciples, scholars, or learners ; and that suggests te us this notion of the visible church, that it is the school of Christ, into which persons are admitted in order to their learning of Christ, and coming to spiritual attaintments, in the use of the means of teaching, discipline, and training up, established in the school. Now if this be a right notion of the visible church, then reason shews that no other qualifications are necessary in order to being members of this school, than such a faith and disposition of mind as are requisite to persons putting themselves under Christ as their master and teacher, and subjecting themselves to the orders of the school. But a common faith and moral sincerity are sufficient for this. Therefore the scripture leads us to suppose the visible church to be properly constituted of those who have these qualifications, though they have not saving faith and true piety.
ANSWER 1.-I own, the scripture calls the members of the visible church by the name of disciples; but deny, that it therefore follows that the church of which they are members, is duly and properly constituted of those who have not true piety. Because, if this consequence was good, then it would equally follow, that not only the visible, but also the invisible or mystical church is properly constituted of those who have not unféigned faith and true piety. For the members of the mystical church, as such, and to denote the special character of such, are called disciples; Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33, and John viii. 31, and xiii. 35, and xv. 8. This shews, that in the argument I am answering, there is no connexion between the premises and the conclusion. For the force of the objection consists in this, that the members of the visible church are called disciples in scripture: This is the sum total of the premises: And if there be any connexion between the premises and the conclusion, it must lie in the truth
of this proposition ; The church whose members are called by the name of disciples, as signifying their state and quality as members of that society, thut church is properly and fitly constituted, not only of persons truly pious, but of others that have merely a common faith and virtue. But this proposition, we have seen, is not true; and so there is no connexion between the former and latter part of it, which are the same with the premises and conclusion of this argument.
2. Though I do not deny, that the visible church of Christ may fitly be represented as a school of Christ, where persons are trained up in the use of means, in order to some spiritual attainments : Yet it will not hence necessarily follow, that this is in order to all good attainments; for it will not follow but that certain good attainments may be pre-requisite, in order to a place in the school. The church of Christ is a school appointed for the training up of Christ's little children, to greater degrees of knowledge, higher privileges, and greater serviceableness in this world, and more meetness for the possession of their eternal inheritance. But there is no necessity of supposing, that it is in order to fit them to become Christ's children, or to be introduced into his family; any more than there is a necessity of supposing, because a prince puts his children under tutors, that therefore it must be in order to their being of the royal family. If it be necessary that there should be a church of Christ appointed as a school of instruction and discipline, to bring persons to all good attainments whatsoever, then it will follow, that there must be a visible church constituted of scandalous and profane persons and heretics, and all in common that assume the Christian name, that so means may be used with them in order to bring them to moral sincerity, and an acknow. ledgment of the Christian faith.
2. I grant, that no other qualifications are necessary in order to being members of that school of Christ which is his visible church, than such as are requisite in order to their subjecting themselves to Christ as their master and teacher, and subjecting themselves to the laws and orders of his school : Nevertheless, I deny, that a common faith and moral sincerity are sufficient for this; because none do truly subject themselves to Christ as their master, but such as having their hearts purified by faith, are de. livered from the reigning power of sin: For we cannot subject ourselves to obey two contrary masters at the same time. None submit to Christ as their teacher, but those who truly receive him as their prophet, to teach them by his word and Spirit; giving up themselves to his teachings, sitting with Mary at Jesus' feet to hear his word ; and hearkening more to his dictates, than those of their blind and deceitful lusts, aud relying on his wisdom more than their own. The scripture knows nothing of
an ecclesiastical school constituted of enemies of the cross of Christ, and appointed to bring such to be reconciled to him and submit to him as their Master. Neither have they who are not truly pious persons, any true disposition of heart to submit to the laws and orders of Christ's school, the rules which his word prescribes to all his scholars ; such as, to love their Master supremely; to love one another as brethren ; and to love their book, i. e. their Bible, more than vain trifles and amusements, yea, above gold and silver; to be faithful to the interest of the Master and of the school; to depend on his teachings; to cry to him for knowledge ; above all their gettings, to get understand
4. Whatever ways of constituting the church may to us seem fit, proper, and reasonable, the question is, not what constitution of Christ's church seems convenient to human wisdom, but what constitution is actually established by Christ's infinite wisdom. Doubtless, if men should set their wits to work, and proceed according to what seems good in their sight, they would greatly alter Christ's constitution of his church, to make it more convenient and beautiful, and would adorn it with a vast variety of ingenious inventions; as the church of Rome has done. The question is, whether this school of Christ which they talk of, made up very much of those who pretend to no experiences or attainments but what consist with their being enemies of Christ in their hearts, and who in reality love the vilest lust better than him, be that church of Christ which in the New Testament is denominated his city, his temple, his family, his body, f-c. by which names the visible church of Christ is there frequently called.
I acknowledge, that means of Christ's appointment, are to be used with those who are Christ's, and do not profess themselves any other, to change their hearts, and bring them to be Christ's friends and disciples. Such means are to be used with all sorts of persons, with Jews, Mahometans, Heathens, with nominal Christians that are heretical or vicious, the profane, the intemperate, the unclean, and all other enemies of Christ; and these means to be used constantly, and laboriously. Scandalous persons need to go to school, to learn to be Christians, as much as other men. And there are many persons that are not morally sincere, who from selfish and sinister views consent ordinarily to go to church, and so be in the way of means. . And none ought to forbid them thus going to Christ's school, that they may be taught by him, in the ministry of the gospel. But yet it will not follow, that such a school is the church of Christ. Human laws can put persons, even those who are very vicious, into the school of Christ, in that sense ; they can oblige them constantly to be present at public teaching, and attend on the means of grace VOL. IV.