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THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.---THE CHARACTER OF
MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
2 CORINTHIANS vi. 14.-Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
In the last discourse, I finished the observations, which I have thought it necessary to make concerning The Ordinary Means of Grace. In the several discourses on this subject I have endeavoured to show, that there are means of Grace; What they are ; and what is their Influence ; and to answer the Objections, usually made against this scheme of doctrine. I, then, severally considered each of these means, at some length ; and gare such directions concerning the use of them, such explanutions of their efficacy, and such an. swers to objections against them, severally, as this System of Discourses appeared to require.
The next subject in order is
Those Means of Grace, which are of limited application : viz. Baptism; the Lord's Supper; and the Communion of Christians.
But, before I enter upon the immediate discussion of these subjects, it will be necessary to consider the Character, and Circumstances, of those, by whom these Means of Grace are to be used; viz. that Collection of persons, which is denominated the Church of Christ. In examining this interesting subject, I shall,
Describe the Church of Christ, as exhibited in the Scriptures; and then,
Explain the Nature of its peculiar Ordinances and Employments.
The Church of Christ is composed of its Ordinary Members and its Officers. In the present discourse, I shall attempt to exhibit the Character of its Ordinary Members, as presented to us in the Scriptures.
To this subject we are naturally led by the text. Be ye not unequally yoked together with Unbelievers. The word, here translated unequally yoked, is in the Greek, "egego SUZXures, and denotes, literally, being yoked to those of a different kind; and here means being yoked unfitly, or improperly. Concerning the Communion, here forbidden, there have been various opinions.
First. It has been frequently supposed to be marriage.
That this is not a just interpretation, is evident, because there is not, before or afterward, a syllable said concerning this subject; and because the direction, given in the seventeenth 'verse of the context, concerning the communion, here specified, would, if marriage were intended, contradict the precept, given by the Apostle, 1 Cor. vii. 12, 13. Here, the direction is, Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and louch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. The precept, there is, If any Brother
hath a wife, that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him; let him not put her away. And the Woman, that hath an Husband that believeth not, if lu be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
Secondly. It has been supposed, also, to mean Common social intercourse with mankind, whether more or less intimate.
This, I think, cannot be the meaning; because the direction, above mentioned, would then contradict the declarations of the Apostle in 1 Cor. v. 9, 10, I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters : for then ye must needs go out of the world.
Thirdly. It has been supposed, also, to be Religious Communion with the worshippers of Idols.
This, indeed, is undoubtedly forbidden; as being fairly included in the phraseology of the text. The worshippers of Idols are one class of unbelievers: but no reason can be given, why a particular class should be intended in the text, and not all other classes. The prohibition is general, without an exception. We are obliged to receive it, as it is: and, since the Apostle has not thought proper to limit it, we cannot warrantably annex a limitation.
That the communion, here intended, is Religious Communion, I have not a doubt. This is forbidden with Unbelievers. To illustrate the impropriety of Religious Communion with persons of this character, the questions, following the text in the 19th and 15th verses, are asked by the Apostle. For this end, only, are they asked: as might easily be made evident by a particular comment, if the occasion would permit. I shall, therefore, consider the text as containing this Doctrine :
That Christians are bound not to enter into Religious Communion with unbelievers : or, what is equivalent, The Church of Christ ought to consist of Christians only.
The truth of this Doctrine is strongly exhibited in the words themselves ; particularly, as they have been illustrated. The proper meaning can, indeed, be nothing else.
The same interpretation is also unanswerably evident, because,
First. There are but three kinds of Communion, of which man is capable ; Marriage, Social Intercourse, and Religious Communion. I have shown, that the two first cannot be meant in this passage. The last, therefore, is meant.
Secondly. That all unbelievers are intended in the text is evident, because in the 17th and 18th verses, God says, Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate; and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father to you; and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
These things, it will be remembered, were written to the Corinthian Church of the members of this Church it is said, that if they will come out from among the persons, with whom their communion was forbidden, and he separated from them, God will receive them, and be a Father to them; and that they shall be his sons and daughters. But this promise could not be made to those, who were not Christians, however decent, moral, and unobjectionable, they might be in their external deportment. The persons, to whom the text is addressed, were addressed as Christians only, because the promise cannot have been made to any others. But if this Church had, in the Apostle's view, been intentionally, and scripturally, made up of others beside Christians, the Apostle could not have addressed them in language, applicable only to Christians. The text, therefore, in connexion with the context, furnishes clear evidence of the truth of the Doctrine. As, however, it is a Doctrine of great importance, and not a little debated even in the present age; I shall consider it more at length; and endeavour to illustrate it by the following considerations :
1. The Original Formation of the Church in the world :
II. The Establishment, and Character, of the Jewish Church, as exhibited in the Scriptures :
III. The Nature of the Covenant between God and the Members of the Church :
IV. The Nature of Christian Communion :
VI. The Manner, in which the Christian Church is spoken of in the New Testament.
These subjects, if I mistake not, involve every thing, of importance in the concerns of the Church. If, then, they all point the same way, and prove the same things; the consequence vill, is is hoped, be a fair, and Scriptural, determination of the point in debate. It will be expected, from a consideration of the limits, beyond which the discussion cannot here proceed, that niany things must be omitted, which might be fairly demanded in a regular treatise. It will also be supposed, that whatever is said must be said in a summary manner. Having premised these things, I observe,
1. This Doctrine is illustrated by the Original Foundation of the Church in the world.
On this event we have a summary account, Gen. iv. 26. And to Seth, to him also, there was born a son ; and he called his name Enos : then began men to call upon the name of the Lord; or, as in the margin, to call themselves by the name of the Lord. The meaning of this declaration is plainly, that they took upon themselves the tille of the Sons of God; considering themselves as his
children by Adoption, in distinction from wicked men, who were children of God by Creation only, and had forfeited this relation by their apostacy. By this title they professed themselves to be penitents, believers, obedient; to have the disposition of children; and to reverence, love, and serve God. As this title is adopted afterward by the Divine Writers throughout the Scriptures ; it is fairly presumed to have been directed, originally, by God himself: it is scarcely credible, that God would every where call his Laurch by a name, derived from mere human assumption.
I have observed, that this phraseology is ever afterwards used to denote the Church. The members of the Church are called Sons of God twelve times in the Scriptures; his children twice in the Old, and ten times in the New, Testament; and his people, in instances too numerous to be reckoned. In all these instances the Sons, and Children, of God denote those, who are such by adoption; and, in very many, the phrase, the People of God, has the same meaning. But the adopted Children of God are Christians. The original Church, therefore, consisted of Christians; or, in other words, those, who were subjects of faith, repentance, and holiness. This is evident, also, from the fact, that the holy Angels are called the Sons of God: an application of the phrase, which indicates that holy beings, only, are designated by ibis title.
The same Doctrine is also illustrated by the Ordinance of Baplism. In the administration of this ordinance, persons are baptised not in, but into, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : that is, by his appointment they are introduced into his family, and take his name upon them, as being his Children.
This title, also, was adopted at first, to distinguish those by whom it was adopted, from persons who were destitute of faith, repentance, and holiness; and therefore was a direct profession of piety on the part of those, by whom it was assumed.
II. The Doctrine is illustrated by the Establishment, and Character, of the Jewish Church, as exhibited in the Scriptures.
The Establishment of the Jewish Church was not the formation of a new Church, but a continuation of the original, or patriarchal, Church, under a form, in some respects new. Particularly, it was confined to a single family; that of Abraham ; was furnished with a series of written revelations, from the time of Moses , and had new Sacraments instituted ; viz. Circumcision in the time of Abraham, and the Passover in the days of Moses.
A new Ritual was also given, at this latter period, for the universal direction of its worship; typifying, in a decisive manner, the Mediation of Christ, and the worship of Christians. Agreeably to this scheme, the Church was established on the same foundations, as before. In the 17th of Genesis we have an account of this establishment, from the 4th verse to the end of the 14th. The amount of this Covenant was plainly, That God would be the God of Abraham and his seed: as God himself explains this subject, Vol. IV.
Ezek. xvi. 8; where, speaking of the Jewish Nation, as his Church, he says, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee ; and thou becamest mine. In accordance with this exhibition God directed Moses to say to Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my Son, even my firsi-born.
The same thing is also evident from the manner, in which the Israelites renewed, and took upon themselves individually, the cove nani made with Abraham. Of this transaction we have an account in Deut. xxvi. 16, &c. This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statules and judgments. Thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice ; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee; and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments, and to make thee high above all nations, which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour : and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.
Here it is manifest, that the Israelites avouched, that is, publicly and solemnly declared, JEHOVAH to be their God; whom they chose, as such; and whom, as such, they covenanted faithfully to obey in all his commandments, with all the heart, as an holy people. Equally evident is it, that God avouched them to be his people; whom he had chosen to be a peculiar people to himself. Accordingly, on the one hand, it was perpetually enjoined upon them, that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart; in which case he promised to keep his Covenant with them ; (see Deut. vii. 9) and on the other, he declared repeatedly, that he had chosen them to be a special and peculiar people unto himself. Deut. vii. 6, and xvi. 2.
The same thing is also evident from God's express prohibition, to the wicked, of taking his covenant into their mouths. Ps. I. 16. Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do, lo declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth? Unto the wicked; that is, to all, included under this title, or to all wicked persons, God saith, that is, universally, as an expression of his will at all times.
This declaration was made immediately to the Israelites; to the wicked members of the Jewish Church ; and contains an absolute prohibition of this conduct on the part of sinful men. No national connexion, therefore, with a church, no descent from Abraham, gave a right to any wicked Israelite to take the covenant into his mouth. Although he had been circumcised, he was still abhorred in this transaction; and exposed himself in a peculiar degree to the anger of God.
Finally; The same thing is evident from the manner in which God speaks of their sin in breaking his Covenant. In Lev. xxvi.