« PreviousContinue »
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 go about such an examination, without first knowing, that the Lord's body and blood is signified by these elements. For merely a man's 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 previous information ; and therefore to exhort persons to go about such an examination, would be absurd. And then (2.) it is incredible, that there should be any such gross ignorance appearing in a number of the communicants in the Corinthian church, if we consider what the scripture informs us concerning that church : As particularly, if we consider what an able and thorough instructor and spiritual father they had had, even the Apostle Paul, who founded that church, brought them out of their Heathenish darkness, and initiated them in the Christian religion, and had instructed them in the nature and ends of gospel ordinances, and continued at Corinth, constantly laboring in word and doctrine for a long while together, no less than a year and six months" ; and, as we may well suppose, administering the Lord's supper among them every Lord's day; for the aposthe 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, at that day, when the apostle wrote this epistle, was a church noted for excelling in doctrinal knowledge ; as is evident by chap. i. 5, 6, 7, and several other passages in the epistle. Besides the communicants were ex. pressly told at every communion, every week, when the bread and wine were delivered to them in the administration, that that bread signified the body, and that wine signified the blood of Christ. And then besides (3.) the apostle by his argument chap. x. 16, supposes the Corinthians doctrinally acVOL. I.
quainted with this subject already. It therefore appears to me much more reasonable, to apprehend the case to be thus : The offensive behavior 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 signified ; having no habitual hunger or relish for the spiritual food there represented, no inward, vital and experimental taste for 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 a spiritual sense or taste which is that whereby 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 ;":pos doo splow, &c. A word of the same root with that rendered discerning, in 1 Cor. xi. 29. He that has no habitual appetite to and 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, as it were in the way of an ordinance, but without regarding in his heart the spiritual meaning and end of it, and without being suitably affected with 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 selfexamination 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 but common grace, or 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 sug. gests to 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 attainments, in the use of the means of teaching, discipline, and training up, es. tablished 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 a being members of this school, then 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 soving faith and true piety,
ANSWER. I own, the scripture calls the members of the visible church by the name of disciples. But I deny it therefore follows that the church which they are members of, 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 unfeigned faith and true piety. For the members of the mystical church, 48 such, and to denote the special character of such, are called disciples ; in Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33, and in 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, that church is properly and fitly constituted, not only of persons truly pious, but of others that have merely a common faith and virlue. 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 prerequisite, in or,
nents may be requestes der to a place in the school. The church of Christ is a school appointed for the training up Christ's little children, to greater degrees of knowledge, higher privileges, and greater serviceableness in this world, and more of a 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 attaining to be 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 acknowledgment of the Christian faith.
3. I grant, that no other qualifications are necessary in order to bring members of that school of Christ which is his visa jble church, than such as are requisite in order to theịr subjecte
ång themselves to Christ as their Master and Teacher, and sub jecting 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 delivered from the reigning power of sin : For we cannot subject ourselves to obey two contrary masters at the same time. None do 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, as little children, at Jesus' feet to hear his word ; and hearkening more to his dictates, than those of their blind and deceitful lusts, and 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 difposition 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 10 him for knowledge ; above all their gettings, to get understanding, &c.
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