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Quest, Xiii. Whether there be such a thing as a visible Catholic church? And, what it is?The ancients differently used the terms 'A Catholic church' and 'The Catholic church.' By the first they mean any particular church which was part of the universal; by the second they meant the universal church itselfp. And this is it that we now mean. And I answer affirmatively, 'There is a visible universal church, not only as a community, or as a kingdom distinct from the king, but as a political society. 2. This church is the universality of baptized visible Christians headed by Jesus Christ himselfq.
There is this, and there is no other upon earth. The Papists say, that this is no visible church because the head is not visible. I answer, 1. It is not necessary that he be seen, but visible: and is not Christ a visible person?2. This church consisteth of two parts, the triumphant part in glory, and the militant part; and Christ is not only visible but seen by the triumphant part. As the king is not seen by the ten thousandth part of his kingdoms, but by his courtiers and those about him, and yet he is king of all. 3. Christ was seen on earth for above thirty years; and the kingdom may be called visible, in that the king was once visible on earth, and is now visible in heaven. As if the king would shew himself to his people but one year together in all his life. 4. It ill becometh the Papists of any men, to say that Christ is not visible, who make him, see him, taste him, handle him, eat him, drink him, digest him in every church, in every mass throughout the year, and throughout the world: and this is not as divided, but as whole Christ. Object. But this is not' quatenus' regent.
Answ. If you see him that is regent, and see his laws and Gospel which are his governing instruments, together with his ministers who are his officers, it is enough to denominate his kingdom visible. 5. The church might be fitly denominated visible 'se
P 1 Cor. xii. 12. and throughout. 1 Eplits. iv. 1. 5—7. 16.
cundimi quid, ' if Christ himself were invisible; because the politic body is visible, the dispersed officers, assemblies, and laws are visible. But sure all these together may well serve for the denomination.
Quest, xiv. What is it that maketh a visible member of the universal church? And who are to be accounted such?
1. Baptism maketh a visible member of the universal church; and the baptized, (as to entrance, unless they go out again) are to be accounted suchr. 2. By baptism we mean, open devotion or dedication to God by the baptismal covenant, in which the adult for themselves, and parents for their infants, do profess consent to the covenant of grace; which includeth a belief of all the essential articles of the faith, and a resolution for sincere obedience; and a consent to the relations between God and us, viz. that he be our reconciled Father, our Saviour, and our Sanctifier. 3. The continuance of this consent is necessary to the continuance of our visible membership. 4. He that through ignorance, or incapacity for want of water, or a minister, is not baptized, and yet is solemnly or notoriously dedicated and devoted to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the same covenant, though without the outward sign, and professeth openly the same religion, is a visible Christian, though not by a complete and regular visibility; as a soldier not listed nor taking his colours, or a marriage not regularly solemnized, &c. 5. He that forsaketh his covenant by apostacy, or is totally and duly excommunicated, ceaseth to be a visible member of the church.
Quest, xv. Whether besides the profession of Christianity, either testimony or evidence of conversion or practical godliness be necessary to prove a man a member of the universal visible church?
1. As the Mediator is the way to the Father, sent to recover us to God, so Christianity includeth godliness;
'Matt, xxviii. 19. Mark xvi. 16.
and he professeth not Christianity, who professeth not godliness '. f
2. He that professeth the baptismal covenant, professeth Christianity, and godliness, and true conversion. And therefore cannot be rejected for want of a profession of conversion or godliness. 3. But he that is justly suspected not to understand his own profession, but to speak general words, without the sense, may and ought to be examined by him that is to baptize him; and therefore though the apostles among the Jews who had been bred up among the oracles of God, did justly presume of so much understanding, as that they baptized men the same day that they professed to believe in Christ; but when they baptized converted Gentiles, we have reason to think, that they first received a particular account of their converts, that they understood the three essential articles of the covenant'. 1. Because the creed is fitted to that use, and hath been ever used thereunto by the churches, as by tradition from the apostles' practice. 2. Because the church in all ages, as far as church history leadeth us upward, hath used catechising before baptizing; yea, and to keep men as catechumens some time for preparation. 3. Because common experience telleth us, that multitudes can say the creed that understand it not. If any yet urge the apostles' example, I will grant that it obligeth us when the case is the like: (and I will not fly to any conceit of their heart-searching, or discerning men's sincerity). When you bring us to a people that before were the visible church of God, and were all their lifetime trained up in the knowledge of God, of sin, of duty, of the promised Messiah, according to all the law and prophets, and want nothing, but to know the Son and the Holy Ghost, that this Jesus is the Christ, who will reconcile us to God, and give us the sanctifying Spirit, then we will also baptize men the same day that they profess to believe in Jesus Christ, and in the Father as reconciled by him, and the Holy Ghost as given by him. But if we have those to deal with who know not God, or sin, or misery, or Scripture prophecies, no nor natural verities, we know no proof that the apostles so hastily baptized such.
'John xiv. 6. 1 Tim. iii. 16. vi. 3. 11. 2 Pel. i. 3. 'Acts ii. 38, 39.
Of this I have largely spoken in my "Treatise of Confirmation." 4. It is not necessary to a man's baptism and first church-membership, that he give any testimony of an antecedent godly life; because it is repentance and future obedience professed that is his title; and we must not keep men from covenanting, till we first see whether they will keep the covenant which they are to make. For covenanting goeth before covenant-keeping; and it is any, the most impious sinner, who repenteth, that is to be washed and justified as soon as he becometh a believer. 5. Yet if any that professeth faith and repentance, should commit whoredom, drunkenness, murder, blasphemy, or any mortal sin, before he is baptized, we have reason to make a stop of that man's baptism, because he-contradicteth his own profession, and giveth us cause to take it for hypocritical, till he give us better evidence that he is penitent indeedu.
6. Heart-covenanting maketh an invisible church-member, and verbal-covenanting and baptism make a visible church-member. And he that maketh a profession of Christianity, so far as to declare that he believeth all the articles of the creed particularly and understandingly (with some tolerable understanding, though not distinct enough and full) and that he openly devoteth himself to God the Father, Son, and Spirit, in the vow and covenant of baptism, doth produce a sufficient title to the relation of a Christian and church-member; and no minister may reject him, for want of telling when, and by what arguments, means, order, or degrees he was converted. 7. They that forsake these terms of church-entrance, left us by Christ and his apostles, and used by all the churches in the world, and reject those that shew the title of such a profession, for want of something more, and set up other, stricter terms of their own, as necessary to discover men's conversion and sincerity, are guilty of churchtyranny against men, and usurpation against Christ; and of making engines to divide the churches, seeing there will never be agreement on any human devised terms, but some
» 1 Cor. vi. 9,10. Tit. iii. 3—5. Ephes. ii. 1—3. Acts ii. 37, 38. will be of one side, and some of another, when they forsake the terms of Christ. 8. Yet if the pastor shall see cause upon suspicion of hypocrisy, 'ad melius esse,' to put divers questions to one man more than to another, and to desire further satisfaction, the catechumens ought in conscience to answer him, and endeavour his satisfaction. For a minister is not tied up to speak only such or such words to the penitent; and he that should say, 'I will answer you no further than to repeat the Creed,' doth give a man reason to suppose him either ignorant or proud, and to suspend the reception of him, though not to deny it. But still 'ad esse ' no terms must be imposed as necessary on the church, but what the Holy Ghost by the apostles hath established. Quest, xvi. What is necessary to a man's reception into membership in a particular church, over and above his aforesaid title 1 Whether any other trials, or covenant, or what?1. A particular church is a regular part of the universal, as a city of a kingdom, or a troop of an army. 2. Every man that is a member of the particular church, is a member of the universal; but every one that is a member of the universal church, is not a member of a particular. 3. Every particular church hath its own particular pastor (one or more), and its own particular place or bounds of habitation or residence; therefore he that will be a member of a particular church, 1. Must co-habit, or live in a proximity capable of communion. 2. And must consent to be a member of that particular church, and to be under the guidance of its particular pastor, in their office work. For he cannot be made a member without his own consent and will; nor can he be a member, that subjecteth not himself to the governor or guide. 4. He therefore that will intrude into their communion and privileges without expressing his consent beforehand to be a member, and to submit to the pastoral oversight, is to be taken for an invader. 5. But no other personal qualification is to be exacted from him as necessary, but that he be a member of the church universal. As he is not to be baptized again, so