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partakers of the fpirit by which it is accompanied, Without, therefore, prefuming to determine upon the condition of thofe who are out of the church, we are at least justified in faying, that their hope of fal vation must be built upon fome general idea of Divine mercy, to which the member of the church has a covenanted claim. In the one cafe we have an act of Grace indeed; but for the performance of which there is no fecurity, because it does not ftand on the fure ground of any revealed promife: whilft in the other we build on a positive act of Covenant, which affuredly will take place, according to the conditions on which it has been made; because "He is faithful who hath promifed."
In this one church, then, we have the facraments of CHRIST's appointment; as feals of that covenant, by which fallen man lays claim to eternal life. In this one church, we have the ambaffadors for CHRIST, whofe facred office it is to adminifter, in the name of Him whom they are commiffioned to represent, the facraments of that covenant, which GOD on his part is thereby engaged to fulfil. In this one church, we have moreover the fpirit of CHRIST accompa nying his own ordinances; according to the promise made at the original establishment of this church,
that He would" be with it always, even to the end
of the world
Such are the effential advantages attendant upon communion with the church.
Let us now confider for a moment the difadvan-' tages confequent upon a feparation from it.
When you leave the church, then, it fhould be remembered, you leave the minifters and facraments of CHRIST behind you. You may indeed appoint other ministers, and institute other facraments; but let it be obferved, these minifters are not the ambaffadors of CHRIST; nor are the facraments which they adminifter, the facraments of CHRIST: for the effence of an ambaffador's office is, that he should be commiffioned by the party whom he reprefents, and in whofe name he acts; and the effence of a covenant, of which the facraments are feals, is, that it fhould be binding upon the party in whofe name it is made. But ministers of the feparation are not ambaffadors of CHRIST, becanse they have never been sent by him; and with respect to the benefit to be derived from the facraments administered by them, their difciples muft not look to God, for this obvious reason, because God is not bound but by covenants of his own making.
Now the effect to be looked for from the Chriftian facraments depends not upon the mere performance of the ministry, in the adminiftration of the elements of water in baptifm, or of bread and wine in the LORD'S-Supper; (for in that case, any minister, however appointed, might answer the purpofe;) but upon the spirit of GoD accompanying ordinances of his own inftitution. And there is little reafon to fup: pofe, that the Divine bleffing will accompany irregular miniftrations, call them by what name you please; which are not only not fanctified by Divine appointment, but are moreover in direct oppofition to that order, which is effential to the peace and prefervation of the Chriftian church Whoever, therefore, hopes to receive benefit from religious fervices, muft perform them according to God's will, rather than his own; for let our religion be ever fo right and good in our own estimation, it cannot, on that account, have any covenanted title to those privileges and bleffings, which are by Divine authority annexed to the church of Christ.
In this fenfe, the primitive fathers are to be underftood, when they fay, that there is no falvation out of the holy Catholic Church. By which is meant, that no covenanted plan of falvation has been revealed
to man, fave that which is addreffed to him as a member of the church of CHRIST.
"The fecret things belong unto the LORD our GOD." Where, therefore, no knowledge has been vouchfafed, no judgment fhould be paffed. In all fuch cafes every confiderate man concludes, with faithful ABRAHAM, that "the Judge of all the earth will do right." But fo far as revelation holds out a light to direct, we are authorised and required to judge; because a revelation must be supposed to be given for that purpose.
In this revelation then we read, that "no man
cometh to the Father, but by CHRIST." And ac
cording to the fame authority, to have an interest in CHRIST, man must be admitted into his church. In conformity to the general tenour of this revelation, then, we hefitate not to fay, that there is abfolute fecurity in the church for every found member of it, and that we know of no fecurity out of it. The difference between the condition of a member of the church of CHRIST at the bar of trial, and of one that is not, appearing to us to be this: the former, in arrest of judgment, pleads a covenanted title to the benefit of an act of grace paffed by the Judge in his favour; the latter, having no fuch title to plead, is
obliged to throw himself unconditionally on the mercy of the court. Upon a matter, therefore, of the utmost importance; when there is abfolute certainty founded on the revealed word on one fide, and no fpecific declaration on the other; the wife man, who has confidered the fubject, will, it is prefumed, take no long time to fettle his judgment.
To the foregoing advantages and disadvantages of primary importance, confequent upon communion with, or feparation from, the church, may be added others; which, though of a fubordinate kind, will not fail to have their weight in the scale of every reafonable man. When Chriftians affemble in the houfe of GOD, it is understood to be for the purpose of joining in those acts of religious worship, fuitable to their condition as fallen, finful, and dependent creatures. Thefe acts are distinguished by the ap propriate titles of confeffion, prayer, and thanksgiv
ing. The first, the neceffary condition of forgiveness; "If we confefs our fins, GoD is faithful and just to forgive them." The fecond, the condition upon
which all Divine bleffings are to be obtained; “ Ask,” fays our bleffed Mafter, " and it shall be given unto you." The third, that demonftration of gratitude for mercies and bleflings beftowed, which will ever