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partakers of the spirit by which it is accompanied. Without, therefore, presuming to determine
the condition of those who are out of the church, we are at least justified in saying, that their hope of fal. vation must be built upon some general idea of Divine mercy, to which the member of the church has a covenanted claim. In the one case we have an act of Grace indeed; but for the performance of which there is no security, because it does not stand on the fure ground of
any revealed promise: whilst in the other we build on a positive act of Covenant, which assuredly will take place, according to the conditions on which it has been made ; because “ He is faithful who hath promised."
In this one church, then, we have the facraments of CHRIST's appointment; as seals of that covenant, by which fallen man lays claim to eternal life. In this one church, we have the ambassadors for CHRIST, whofe facred office it is to administer, in the name of Him whom they are commissioned 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 spirit of CHRIST accompanying 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 essential advantages attendant upon communion with the church.
Let us now consider for a moment the disadvantages consequent upon a separation from it.
When you leave the church, then, it should be remembered, you leave the ministers and facraments of Christ behind you. You may indeed appoint other ministers, and institute other facraments; but let it be observed, these ministers are not the ambassadors of Christ; nor are the facraments which they administer, the facraments of Christ: for the essence of an ambassador's office is, that he should be commifioned by the party whom he represents, and in whose name he acts; and the essence of a covenant, of which the facraments are seals, is, that it should be binding upon the party in whose name it is made. But ministers of the separation are not ambassadors 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 disciples must not look to God, for this obvious reason,
because God is not bound but by covenants of his : Pwa making.
Now the effect to be looked for from the Christian facraments depends not upon the mere performance of the ministry, in the administration of the elements of water in baptism, or of bread and wine in the Lord's-Supper; (for in that case, any minister, how. ever appointed, might answer the purpose;) but upon the spirit of God accompanying ordinances of his own institution. And there is little reason to fup: pose, that the Divine blessing will accompany irregular ministrations, call them by what name you please; which are not only not fantified by Divine appointment, but are moreover in direct opposition to that order, which is essential to the peace and preservation of the Christian church Whoever, therefore, hopes to receive benefit from religious services, must per. form them according to God's will, rather than his own; for let our religion be ever so 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 sense, the primitive fathers are to be underfood, when they say, that there is no falvation out of the holy Catholic Church. By which is meant, that no covenanted plan of salvation has been revealed
to man, save that which is addressed to him as a member of the church of CHRIST.
6 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God.” Where, therefore, no knowledge has been vouchsafed, no judgment should be passed. In all such cases every considerate man concludes, with faithful ABRAHAM, that “ the Judge of all the earth will do right.” But so far as revelation liolds 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 according 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 hesitate not to say, that there is absolute security in the church for every found member of it, and that we know of no security 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 passed by the Judge in his favour; the latter, having no such 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 absolute certainty founded on the revealed word on one side, and no specific declaration on the other; the wise man, who has considered the subject, will, it is presumed, take no long time to settle his judgment.
To the foregoing advantages and disadvantages of primary importance, confequent upon communion with, or separation from, the church, may be added others; which, though of a subordinate kind, will not fail to have their weight in the scale of every reafonable man. When Christians affemble in the house of God, it is understood to be for the purpose of joining in those acts of religious worship, suitable to their condition as fallen, sinful, and dependent creatures. These acts are distinguished by the ар" propriate titles of confession, prayer, and thanksgiving. The first, the neceffary condition of forgiveness; “ If we confess our fins, God is faithful and just to forgive them.” The second, the condition upon which all Divine blessings are to be obtained; “ Alk,” says our blessed Master, “ and it shall be given unto you.” The third, that demonstration of gratitude for mercies and blessings bestowed, which will ever