Imágenes de páginas

not of the visible church, till he be an orderly professor of that belief. And this profession is not left to every man's will how it shall be made, but Chrift hath prescribed and instituted a certain way and manner of profession, which shall be the only ordinary symbol or badge, by which the church shall know visible members; and that is baptism. Indeed when baptism cannot be had, an open profession without it may serve; for sacraments are made for man, and not man for sacraments. But when it may be had, it is Christ's appointed symbol, 'Tessera,' and church door. And till a person be baptized, he is but irregularly and initially a professor; as an embryo in the womb is a man; or as a covenant before the writing, sealing, and delivering is initially a covenant; or as persons privately contracted without solemn matrimony are married; or as a man is a minister upon election and trial before ordination: he hath only in all these cases, the beginning of a title, which is not complete; nor at all sufficient ' in foro ecclesiae,' to make a man visibly and legally, a married man, a minister, and so here a Christian. For Christ hath chosen his own visible badge, by which his church-members must be kuown.

2. And the same is to be said of the infant-title of the children of believers: they have but an initial right before baptism, and not the badge of visible Christians. For there are three distinct gradations to make up their visible Christianity. 1. Because they are their own, (and as it were parts of themselves) therefore believers have power and obligation to dedicate their children in covenant with God. 2. Because every believer is himself dedicated to God, with all that is his own, (according to his capacity,) therefore a believer's child is supposed to be virtually (not actually) dedicated to God in his own dedication or covenant, as soon as his child hath a being. 3. Being thus virtually and implicitly first dedicated, he is after actually and regularly dedicated in baptism, and sacramentally receiveth the badge of the church; and this maketh him a visible member or Christian, to which the two first were but introductory, as conception is to human nativity.

Object. ' But the seed of believers as such are in the covenant; and therefore church-members.'

Answ. The word ' Covenant' here is ambiguous: either

it signifieth God's law of grace, or prescribed terms for salvation, with his immediate offer of the benefits to accepters, called the single covenant of God; or it signifieth this with man's consent, called the mutual covenant, where both parties covenant. In the former sense, the covenant only offereth church-membership, but maketh no man a church-member, till consent. It is but God's conditional promise, "If thou believe thou shalt be saved," &c. 'If thou give up thyself and children to me, I will be your God, and you shall be my people.' But it is only the mutual covenant that maketh a Christian or church-member. Object. 'The promise is to us and our children as ours.' Answ. That is, that you and your children dedicated to God, shall be received into covenant; but not otherwise. Believing is not only bare assenting, but consenting to the covenant, and delivering up yourselves to Christ; and if you do not consent that your child shall be in the covenant, and deliver him to God also, you cannot expect acceptance of him, against your wills; nor indeed are you to be taken for true believers yourselves, if you dedicate not yourselves to him, and all that are in your power. Object. 'This offer or conditional covenant belongeth also to infidels.' Answ. The offer is to them, but they accept it not. But every believer accepteth it for himself, and his, or devoteth to God himself and his children when he shall have them; and by that virtual dedication or consent, his children are virtually in the mutual covenant; and actually upon actual consent and dedication. Object. 'But it is profession and not baptism, that makes a visible member.' Answ. That is answered before; it is profession by baptism: for baptism is that peculiar act of profession, which God hath chosen to this use, when a person is absolutely devoted, resigned, and engaged to God in a solemn sacrament, this is our regular initiating profession; and it is but an irregular embryo of a profession, which goeth before baptism ordinarily. Prop. 3. The time of infant-membership, in which we stand in covenant by our parents' consent, cannot be determined by duration, but by the insufficiency of reason, through immaturity of age, (or continuing idiots) to choose for one's self. Prop. 4. It is not necessary that the doctrine of the Lord's supper be taught catechumens before baptism; nor was it usual with the ancients so to do (though it may very well be done). Prop. 5. It is needful that the nature of the Lord's supper be taught all the baptized before they receive it, (as was opened before,) else they must do they know not what. Prop. 6. Though the sacrament of the Lord's supper seal not another, but the same covenant that baptism sealeth; yet are there some further truths therein expressed, and some more particular exercises of faith in Christ's sacrifice, and coming, &c.; and of hope, and love, and gratitude, &c. requisite. Therefore the same qualifications which will serve for baptism, justification, and adoption, and salvation, are not enough for the right use of church-communion in the Lord's supper, the one being the sacrament of initiation and our new birth; the other of our confirmation, exercise, and growth in grace. 7. Whether persons be baptized in infancy or at age, if they do not before understand these higher mysteries, they must stay from the exercise of them till they understand them; and so with most there must be a space of time between their baptism and fuller communion. 8. But the same that we say of the Lord's supper must be said of other parts of worship; singing psalms, praise, thanksgivings, &c., men must learn them, before they can practise them; and usually these as eucharistical acts concur with the Lord's supper. 9. Whether you will call men in this state, church-members of a middle rank and order, between the baptized, and the communicants, is but a ' lisde nomine,' a verbal controversy. It is granted that such a middle sort of men there are in the church. 10. It is to be maintained that these are in a state of salvation, even before they thus communicate. And that they are not kept away for want of a stated relation-title, but of an immediate capacity, as is aforesaid. 11. There is no necessity, but upon such unfitness, (hat

there should be one day's time between baptism and the sacrament of the Lord's supper: nor is it desirable; for if the baptized understand those mysteries the first day they may communicate in them. 12. Therefore as men are prepared, some may suddenly communicate, and some stay longer. 13. When persons are at age, if pastors, parents and themselves be not grossly negligent, they may and ought to learn these things in a very little time; so that they need not be settled in a lower learning state, for any considerable time, unless their own negligence be the cause. 14. And in order to their learning, they have right to be spectators and auditors at the eucharist, and not to be driven away with the catechumens, as if they had no right to be there. For it is a thing best taught by the practice to beholders. 15. But if any shall by scandal or gross neglect of piety, and not only by ignorance give cause of questioning their title, and suspending their possession of those sacred privileges, these are to be reckoned in another rank, even among those whose title to church-membership itself becometh controverted, and must undergo a trial in the church. And this much 1 think may serve to resolve this considerable question.

Quest. i.xxi. Whether a form of prayer be lawful. Answ. I have said so much of this and some following questions in many books already, that to avoid repetition, I shall say very little here. The question must be out of question with all Christians:1. Because the Scripture itself hath many forms of prayer; which therefore cannot be unlawful. Obj. 'They were lawful then, but not now.' Answ. He that saith so, must prove where God hath since forbidden them. Which can never be. Obj. 'They may lawfully be read in Scripture for instruction, but not used as prayers.' Answ. They were used as prayers then, and are never since forbidden: yea, John and Christ did teach their disciples to pray, and Christ thus prefaceth his form, "When ye pray, say" 2. All things must be done to edification: but to use a form of prayer is for the edification of many persons, at least those that cannot otherwise do so well; therefore those persons must use a form. Full experience doth prove the minor, and nothing but strangeness to men can contradict it.

Quest, Lxxii. Are forms of prayer or preaching in the church lawful?Answ. Yes: most ministers study the methodical form of their sermons before they preach them: and many write the very words, or study them: and so most sermons are a form. And sure it is as lawful to think beforehand what to say in praying as in preaching'

1. That which God hath not forbidden is lawful; but God hath not forbidden ministers to study their sermons or prayers, either for matter, method or words, and so to make them many ways a form. 2. That which God prescribed is lawful (if he reverse it not): but God prescribed public forms of prayer: as the titles and matter of many of the Psalms prove, which were daily used in the Jewish synagogues. Object. 'Psalms being to be sung, are more than prayers.' Answ. They were prayers, though more. They are called prayers, and for the matter many of them were no more than prayers, but only for the measures of words: nor was their singing like ours now, but more like to our saying. And there are many other prayers recorded in the Scripture. 3. And all the churches of Christ at least these thirteen or fourteen hundred years have taken public forms for lawful; which is not to be gainsayed without proof.

* God gave forms of preaching to Moses and the prophets: see a large form of prayer for all the people, Dent. xxvi. 13—15. And so elsewhere there are many.

« AnteriorContinuar »