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be taught and use the means, it must be very gross ignorance indeed, and well proved, that must disprove his confession of faith. If he competently understand what it is to believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, he understandeth all that is absolutely necessary to salvation. And his yea or no may sometimes signify his understanding it. Quest. Iv. “Must I take the visible members of the church, because such, for truly godly ' ...Answ. Yes, except when you have particular sufficient proof of their hypocrisy. Certainly no man doth sincerely enter into the baptismal covenant, but he that is sincerely a penitent believer (if at age). For that covenant giveth actual pardon and adoption to those that sincerely enter into it: the very consenting to it (which is repentance and faith) being the very condition of the present reception of these benefits". And therefore it is that the ancient writers still affirmed that all the baptized were regenerated, justified and adopted: whether an adult person be truly fit for baptism, or not, the pastor that baptizeth is to judge; and he must see the credible signs of true faith and repentance before he baptize him; which are no other than his understanding, voluntary, sober profession of consent to the baptismal covenant; but when he is baptized and professeth to stand to that covenant once made, he is to be judged a godly person by all the church-members, who have not sufficient proof of the contrary; because if he be sincere in what he did and still professeth, he is certainly godly; and whether he be sincere or not, he himself is the best and regular judge or discerner, so far as to put in his claim to baptism, which the pastor is obliged not to deny him, without disproving him ; and the pastor is to judge as to his actual admittance; and therefore the people have nothing necessarily to do, but know whether he be baptized and stand to his baptism; for which they are to take him as sincere; unless by his notorious discovery of the contrary they can disprove him. These are not only the true terms of church-communion, but of love to the godly; and though this goeth hardly down with some good men, who observe
* Lego quam plurima veterum testinonia iu D. Gatakero contra Davenantium
de Baptismo, -
how few of the baptized seem to be seriously religious, and therefore they think that a visible church-member as such, is not at all to be counted sincere, that is, to be believed in his profession, and that we owe him not the special love which is due to the godly, but only a common love due only to professors without respect to their sincerity; yet this opinion will not hold true; nor is a profession required without respect to the truth or falsehood of it; the credibility of it being the very reason that it is requisite. Nor is it any other faith or consent to the covenant below that which is sincere and saving, which must be professed by all that will be taken for church-members. And though those that are of the contrary opinion are afraid lest this will occasion too much strictness in the pastors in judging whose profession is credible, and consequently will countenance separation in the people, yet God hath provided a sufficient remedy against that fear, by making every man the opener of his own heart, and tying us by the law of nature and of Scripture, to take every man's profession for credible, which is sober, understanding and voluntary, unless they can disprove it, or prove him a liar, and perfidious, and incredible. And whereas it is a latitude of charity which bringeth them to the contrary opinion, for fear lest the incredible professors of Christianity, should be all excluded from the visible church, yet indeed it is but the image of charity, to bring catechumens into the church, (as to set the boys of the lowest form among them that are in their Greek,) and to deny all special Christian love to all visible members of the church as such ; and to think that we are not bound to take any of them (as such) to be sincere or in the favour of God, or justified, for fear of excluding those that are not. But of this I have largely written in a Treatise on this subject". Quest. v. “Must we take all visible church-members alike to be godly, and love them equally?’ Answ. No : there are as many various degrees of credit due to their profession, as there are various degrees of credibility in it: some manifest their sincerity by such full and excellent evidences in a holy life, that we are next to certain that they are sincere: and some make a profession - * “Disputations of Right to Sacraments.”
so ignorantly, so coldly, and blot it by so many false opinions and vices, that our fear of them may be greater than our hope; of whom we can only say, that we are not altogether hopeless of their sincerity, and therefore must use them as godly men, because we cannot prove the contrary; but yet admonish them of their danger, as having much cause to fear the worst; and there may be many notorious wicked men in some churches, through the pastors' fault, for want of discipline ; and these for order sake we must assemble with,but not dissemble with them and our own consciences, so as to take them for godly men, when the contrary is notorious; nor yet to admit them to our familiarity. The pastor hath the keys of the church, but we have the keys of our own houses and hearts. Quest. vi. Must we love all equally that seem truly godly, the strong and the weak!’ Answ. No: he that loveth men for their holiness, will love them according to the degrees of their holiness, as far as he can discern it. Quest. vii. “Must we love him more who hath much grace (or holiness) and is little useful for want of gifts, or him that hath less grace and eminent useful gifts” Answ. They must both be loved according to the diversity of their goodness. He that hath most grace is best, and therefore most to be loved in himself; but as a means to the conversion of souls and the honour of God in the good of others, the man that hath the most eminent gifts, must be most loved. The first is more loved in and for his own goodness: the second is more lovely ‘propter aliud' as a means to that which is more loved than either of them. Quest. viii. “Must we love him as a godly man, who liveth in any great or mortal sin 7' Answ. Every man must be loved as he is: if by a mortal sin, be meant a sin inconsistent with the love of God, and a state of grace, then the question is no question; it being a contradiction which is in question. But if by a great and mortal sin, be meant only this or that act of sinning, and the question be, Whether that act be mortal, that is, inconsistent with true grace or not Then the particular act, with the circumstances must be considered, before that question can be answered. Murder is one of the most heinous sins; and one man may be guilty of it, out of deliberate, habitual malice; and another through a sudden passion; and another through mere inadvertency, carelessness and negligence. Stealing may be done by one man presumptuously, and by another merely to save the life of himself or his children: these will not equally prove a man in a state of death, and without true grace. And which is a mortal sin inconsistent with the life of grace, and which not, is before spoken to, and belongeth not to this place. Only I shall say, that the sin (be it great or small as to the outward act or matter) which certainly excludeth the habitual devotedness of the soul to God, by resignation, obedience and love, is mortal or a mark of spiritual death; and so is all sin, which consisteth not with habitual repentance, and a predominant hatred of sin as sin, and of a disobedient, unholy heart and life; and therefore all sin, which is not repented of, as soon as it is known, and the sinner hath time and opportunity of deliberation; because in such a case, the habit of repentance will produce the act. Quest. 1x. “Must an excommunicated person be loved as godly or not?’ Answ. You must distinguish, 1. Of excommunication, 2. Of the person that is to judge. 1. There is an excommunication which censureth not the state of the sinner, but only suspendeth him from church-communion as at the present actually unfit for it: and there is an excommunication which habituately or statedly excludeth the sinner from his church-relation, as an habituate, impenitent, obstinate person. 2. Some persons have no opportunity to try the cause themselves, being strangers, or not called to it; but must take it upon the pastor's judgment : and some have no opportunity to know the person and the cause, whether he be justly excommunicated or not. Now 1. Those that know by notoriety or proof that the person is justly excommunicated with the second sort of excommunication, must not, nor cannot love him as a godly man. 2. Those that know by notoriety or proof that the person is unjustly excommunicated, are not therefore to deny him the estimation and love which is due to a godly man: though for order sake they may sometimes be obliged to avoid external church-communion with him. 3. Those that know nothing of the cause themselves, must judge as the pastor judgeth who is the legal judge; yet so, as to take it to be but a human, fallible, and no final judgment. Quest. x. “Can an unsanctified hypocrite unfeignedly love a godly man o' Answ. There is no doubt but he may materially love him, on some other consideration; as because he is a kinsman, friend, benefactor, or is witty, learned, fair, &c. Quest. x 1. “But can he love a godly man because he is godly?’ Answ. He may love a godly man (at least) as he may love God: an unholy person cannot love God in all his perfections respectively to himself, as a God who is most holy and just in his government, forbidding all sin, and condemning the ungodly; for the love of his sins is inconsistent with this love. But he may love him as he is most great, and wise, and good in the general, and as he is the Maker and Benefactor of the world and of the sinner; yea, and in general as his Governor: and so he may verily think that he loveth God as God, because he loveth him for his essentialities; but indeed he doth not (speaking strictly), because he leaveth out some one or more of these essentialities; even as he that loveth man as rational, but not as a voluntary free agent, loveth not man as man: and as a heretic is no Christian, because he denieth some one essential part of Christianity, even so as to the love of godly men, an ungodly man may believe that they are better than others, and therefore love them; but not as godliness is the consent to that holiness and justice of God, which would restrain him from his beloved sins, and condemn him for them. So far as they are simply godly to themselves, without respect to him and his sins, he may love them. Quest. x11. ‘May he love a godly man as he would make him godly, and convert him 2' Answ. He may love him as a better man than others, and in general he may wish himself as good, and may love him because he wisheth him well; but as he cannot be (or rather is not) willing himself to leave his sins and live in holiness, so another is not grateful to him, who urgently persuadeth him to this.