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distant is incapable statedly of communion, and therefore incapable of the relation and name.
2. He that is but for a time accidentally so distant, is but for that time incapable of communion with them: and therefore retaineth capacity, right, and obligation statedly for the future, but not for the present exercise. Therefore he retaineth the relation and name, in respect to his future intended exercise; but not in so plenary a sense, as he that is capable of present communion.
3. It is not the length or shortness of the time of absence that wholly cutteth oft' or continueth the relation and name, but the probability or improbability of a seasonable accession. For if a man be removed but a day, with a purpose to return no more, his relation ceaseth. And if a man be long purposing and probably like to return, and by sickness or otherwise be hindered, it doth not wholly end his relation.
4. If the delay be so long as either maketh the return improbable, or as necessitateth the church to have another statedly in the pastor's place, where they can have but one, and so the people, by taking another, consent (though with grief) to quit their relation and title to the former, there the relation is at an end.
5. It is a delusory formality of some, that call themselves members of a separated (or other) church, from which they most ordinarily and statedly live at an utter distance, and yet take themselves to be no members of the church where they live, and usually join with: and all because they covenanted with one and not with the other.
Quest, Lxvi. If a man be injuriously suspended or excommunicated by the pastor or people, which way shall he have remedy?
Answ. As is aforesaid in the case of mal-administration; 1. By admonishing the pastor or those that wTong him. 2. By consulting neighbour pastors, that they may admonish him. 3. By the help of rulers, where such are, and the church's good forbids it not. 4. In case of extremity, by removing to a church that will not so injure you. And what needs there any more save patience .'
Quest; Lxvii. Doth presence always make us guilty of the errors or faults of the pastor in God's worship, or of the church? Or in what cases are we guilty?
Answ. 1. If it always made us guilty, no man could join with any pastor or church in the world, without being a wilful sinner. Because no man worshippeth God without sin, in matter or manner, omission or commission.
2. If it never made us guilty, it would be lawful to join with Mahometans and bread-worshippers, &c.
3. Therefore the following decision of the question,' In what cases it is a duty or a sin to separate/ doth decide this case also. For when separation is no duty, but a sin, there our presence in the worship is no sin: but when separation is a duty, there our presence is a sin.
4. Especially in these two cases our presence is a sin;
1. When the very assembly and worship is so bad as God will not accept, butjudgeth the substance of it for a sin.
2. In case we ourselves be put upon any sin in communion, or as a previous condition of our communion; (as to make some false profession, or to declare our consent to other men's sin, or to commit corporal, visible, reputative idolatry, or the like). But the pastor and church shall answer for their own faults, and not we, when we have cause to be present, and make them not ours by any sinful action of our own.
Quest, Lxviii. Is it lawful to communicate in the sacrament with wicked men?
Answ. The answer may be gathered from what is said before.
1, If they be so wicked for number, and flagitiousness, and notoriety, as that it is our duty to forsake the church, then to communicate with them is a sin. Therefore the after resolution of the just causes of separation must be perused. As if a church were so far defiled with heresy, or open impiety, that it were justified by the major vote, and bore down faith and godliness, and the society were become incapable of the ends of church-association and communion: in this and other cases it must be deserted.
2. If we do not perform our own duty to remove unlawful communions, (whether it be by admonition of the offender or pastor, or whatever is proved really our duty,) the omission of that duty is our sin.
3. But if we sin not by omitting our own duty, it will be no sin of ours to communicate with the church, where scandalous sinners or heretics are permitted. The pastor's and delinquent's sins are not ours.
4. Yea, if we do not omit our own duty in order to the remedy, that will not justify us in denying communion with the church while wicked men are there. But it will rather aggravate our sin, to omit one duty first, and thence fetch occasion to omit another.
Quest, Lxix. Have all the members of the church right to the Lord's table? And is suspension lawful?
Of this see the defence of the synod's propositions in New England. I answer,
1. You must distinguish between a fundamental right of state, and an immediate right of present possession; or if you will, between a right duly to receive the sacrament, and a right to immediate reception simply considered.
2. You must distinguish between a questioned, controverted right, and an unquestioned right; and so you must conclude as followeth.
(1.) Every church-member, (at least adult,) as such, hath the fundamental right of stated relation, or a right duly to receive the sacrament; that is, to receive it understanding^ and seriously at those seasons when by the pastors it is administered.
(2.) But if upon faults or accusations, this right be duly questioned in the church, it is become a controverted right; and the possession or admission may by the bishops or pastors of the church, be suspended, if they see cause, while it is under trial, till a just decision.
3. Though infants are true members, yet the want of natural capacity duly to receive maketh it unlawful to give them the sacrament, because it is to be given only to receivers, and receiving is more than eating and drinking; it is consenting to the covenant, which is the real receiving in a
moral sense, or at least consent professed. So that they want not a state of right, as to their relation, but a natural capacity to receive. 4. Persons at age who want not the right of a stated relation, may have such actual natural and moral indispositions, as may also make them for that time unmeet to receive. As sickness, infection, a journey, persecution, scattering the church, a prison. And (morally) 1. Want of necessary knowledge of the nature of the sacrament, (which by the negligence of pastors or parents may be the case of some that are but newly past their childhood). 2. Some heinous sin, of which the sinner hath not so far repented, as to be yet ready to receive a sealed pardon, or which is so scandalous in the church, as that in public respects the person is yet unfit for its privileges. 3. Such sins or accusations of sin, as make the person's church-title justly controverted, and his communion suspended, till the case be decided. 4. Such fears of unworthy receiving, as were like to hurt and distract the person, if he should receive till he were better satisfied. These make a man incapable of present reception, and so are a bar to his plenary right: they have still right to receive in a due manner: but being yet incapable of that due receiving, they have not a plenary right to the thing.
6. The same may be said of other parts of our duty and privileges. A man may have a relative, habitual, or stated right to praise God, and give him thanks for his justification, sanctification, and adoption, and to godly conference, to exercises of humiliation, &c. who yet for want of present actual preparation, may be incapable, and so want a plenary right. 6. The understanding of the double preparation necessary, doth most clearly help us to understand this case. A man that is in an unregenerate state, must be visibly cured of that state, (of utter ignorance, unbelief, ungodliness,) before he can be a member of the church, and lay a claim to its privileges. But when that is done, besides this general preparation, a particular preparation also to each duty is necessary to the right doing it. A man must understand what he goeth about, and must consider of it, and come with some suitable affections. A man may have right to go a
journey, that wants a horse; or may have a horse that is not saddled: he that hath clothes must put them on, before he is fit to come into company: he that hath right to write, may want a pen, or have a bad one: having of gracious habits, may need the addition of bringing them into such acts as are suitable to the work in hand.
Quest, Lxx. Is there any such thing in the church, as a rank or
classis, or species of church-members at age, who are not to
be admitted to the Lord's table, but only to hearing the
Word and prayer, between infant members, and adult con
Answ. Some have excogitated such a classis, or species, or order, for convenience, as a prudent, necessary thing; because to admit all to the Lord's table they think dangerous on one side; and to cast all that are unfit for it out of the church, they think dangerous on the other side, and that which the people would not bear. Therefore to preserve the reverence of the sacrament, and to preserve their own and the church's peace, they have contrived this middle way or rank. And indeed the controversy seemeth to be more about the title (whether it may be called a middle order of mere learners and worshippers) than about the matter. I have occasionally written more of it than I can here stay to recite ; and the accurate handling of it requireth more words than I will here use. This breviate therefore shall be all.
1. It is certain that such catechumens as are in mere preparation to faith, repentance, and baptism, are no churchmembers or Christians at all; and so in none of these ranks.
2. Baptism is the only ordinary regular door of entrance into the visible church; and no man (unless in extraordinary cases) is to be taken for a church-member or visible Christian till baptized.
Two objections are brought against this. 1. The infants of Christians are church-members as such, before baptism, and so are believers. They are baptized because members, and not members by baptism.
Answ. This case hath no difficulty. 1. A believer as such, is a member of Christ and the church invisible, but