« السابقةمتابعة »
then with disbelieving, what God has revealed; and being advanced thus far in his progress towards rebellion, his next step actually commences it by forming plans and schemes of his own, which he thinks better calculated to answer the purpose in view than those which come recommended by an authority, which he feels a natural indisposition to admit. is a portion of this strong propensity, which man has to judge and act for himself, that prevails with the generality to separate from the church; upon the plausible, though mistaken idea, of serving God more acccep;ably in a way of their own: without considering, that it is not the worshipping God in the way they please, but in the way He has appointed, that will secure to them his blessing. To judge in some measure of the consequences resulting from fuch self-willed conduct, so far as they belong to our present subject, it may be proper to consider, what'we we have in the church, and what out of it; that the reasonable man, balancing the advantages of communion with, against those of a separation from it, may judge for himself.
From the authority of the sacred writings we conclude, that where the Christian facraments are duly administered, by persons regularly appointed to that sacred office, according to the plan originally laid down by the Apostles, there we find the church of CHRIST. From the same authority we learn, that this church is to continue to the end of the world. The unity consequently of the Christian church must mean the same now that it ever did; and a separation from it must be attended with consequnces as dangerous in the present day as at any former period. For the church of Christ is but one; and all the promises of the Gospel are exclusively made to that one church. None consequently but members of that church, can lay claim to an interest in those promises; upon the same principle, that none but those who have been admitted members of any human society, can lay claim to the privileges belonging to it. Thus the direction given to those who were struck with St. Peter's sermon was this, Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus CHRIST, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts ii. 38. By which we understand, that admission into the church was considered by the Apostle as a necessary qualification for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Indeed, from the general tenour of scripture, it is to be concluded, that none but those who are members of the church, can be partakers of the spirit by which it is accompanied, Without, therefore, presuming to determine upon the condition of those who are out of the church, we are at least justified in saying, that their hope of sale vation must be built upon some general idea of Divine mercy, to which the member of the church has a covenanted clain. 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 surę ground of any revealed promife: 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, whole faci d 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 onę church, we have moreover the spirit of CHRIST accompanying his own ordinances; according to the promise made at the original el ablishment 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 consider for a moment the disadvantages consequent upon a separation from it. When
leave the church, then, it should be remembered, you leave the ministers and facraments of CHRIST behind
may indeed appoint other ministers, and institute other facraments; but let it be observed, these ministers are not the ambaffadors of CHRIST; nor are the facraments which they administer, the facraments of Christ: for the effence of an ambassador's office is, that he should be commiffioned 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, because they have never been sent by him; and with respect to the benefit to be derived from the facraments administered by them, their dif. ciples must not look to God, for this obvious reason, because Gop is not bound but by covenants of his Qwn, making
S. 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, however 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 fanctified 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 perform them according to God's will, rather than bis 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 blessings, which are by Divine authority annexed to the church of CHRIST.
In this sense, the primitive fathers are to be understood, when they fay, that there is no falvation out of the holy Catholic Church. - By which is meant, that no covenanted plan of salvation has been revealed