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nicating with her. It is an act that makes her public profession my This I cannot do without making some distinction; and there " is no public distinction between my act of communicating and that "of the firmest members of this heretical church. But since my af"fairs require me to join in this act, I resolve, in order to satisfy con"science, to make a distinction secretly in my own mind: I will puri"fy my act of communicating with this heretical church by a right di"rection of my intention. In the first place, I intend to acknowledge "nothing of the heretical part of the public profession of this church "by my public and social act of communicating with her: thus my "tention is rightly directed; no matter how contrary it may appear to "the natural import of that act. In the second place, I intend, by "my act, of communicating with this heretical church, to acknowledge "what is right in her profession, such as, that it is a duty to celebrate "the eucharist and my privilege to look for experience of its benefits. "Such right things belonging to their profession, I intend to acknowl"edge; but no more. It is true, no human understanding can discov"er this limitation from my act of communicating; and these heretics "will be led to mistake me for one of their own party. But this is "only a small matter of dissimulation, which will be abundantly jus"tified by being directed to a good end. In the third place, I intend "to make a better profession of religion in time and place convenient." Thus men often feed on ashes; a deceived heart turns them aside, and they refuse to enquire after the lie that is in their right hand. Is not this the case, when men set themselves strenuously to maintain the lawfulness of a public and social act, which, in its own nature, necessarily implies an approbation of a profession including particulars, in which there is not a following of the Lord Jesus, but a departure from his cause? The scripture shews us, in many examples, the danger of doing evil, or of countenancing it, under the pretext of some important duty; as, in Saul's not waiting for Samuel, from a pretended zeal for the divine ordinance of offering sacrifice; and his sparing Agag and the spoil of the Amalekites, on a similar pretence; and in the case of Uzzah (who appears to have been a good man) putting his hand to the ark, in order to prevent its falling. The Lord forbids Judah to go up to Gilgal, or to swear The Lord liveth; though their doing so was, in itself, a commanded duty, Jerem. iv. 2. Yet their doing it in communion with the ten tribes is forbidden, Hosea, iv. 15. They who have justly withdrawn from the communion of any particular church on account of its corruptions; and yet allow themselves in the practice of occasional communion with that church in her public ordinances, are far more involved in the guilt of its corruptions, than Naaman the Syrian was, in the guilt of worshipping Rimmon, when he bowed in the temple of that idol: for they cannot pretend, that communion with such a church is no end of. their attendance on her public ordinances; as Naaman pleaded, that his intention, in going to the temple of Rimmon and being present there, was not to worship the idol, but to serve his master. Grotius, indeed, and some other commentators, justify or excuse the conduct of Naaman. But more candid interpreters hold that the indulgence, which Naaman desired, was unlawful; that there was such an appearance of evil, such a countenancing of idolatry in it, as he ought to have avoided, that his

presence in the temple of Rimmon in the time of the worship of that idol, was a dangerous example to others; that, on such an occasion, he ought either to have obtained leave of absence from his master, or to have quitted his service; and that even his desire of pardon intimated his consciousness of something sinful in this matter.

Alex. If communicating, as a guest with another church, involves in an approbation of her sins, by the same rule communicating with my own church involves in an approbation of hers; and renders me so much the more inexcusable, by how much a transient act of intercourse with a church in her corruptions, whether great or small, is less culpable, than that regular and habitual intimacy with her which is unavoidable by her members. Whence it will follow, that there can be no lawful communion upon earth, and that the most exceptionable and criminal form in which it can possibly exist, is communion with one's own church; while a corruption or abuse is to be found in her skirts.*

Ruf In considering this matter, it is necessary to distinguish between the corruptions that are in a particular church; that is, such corruptions as are found in many of her members, and such as are adopted and maintained by the church considered in its ecclesiastical capacity. Thus, when Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians, there were many errors and disorders in their church; yet they were not adopted as a part of their public profession. That epistle, in treating of the error concerning the resurrection, represents it as a saying of some among them, not as the saying of the church in its judicial or representative capacity; and therefore a person might then have communicated with that church, without being chargeable with consenting to that error. But the case of one's communicating with a church, which had adopted that erroneous opinion as a part of its profession, would have been quite different: especially, if that church were holding it, in opposition to a testimony for the truth exhibited by another ecclesiastical body. Communicating in such a case would be evidently a falling away from an open profession of the truth concerning the resurrection, and from a faithful testimony against the contrary error.

Thus, the reason why communicating with the episcopal church, would render us chargeable with a public consenting to Episcopacy, is not, because some, or many members in that church, hold such an opinion; but, because it is an article of its profession; an article on which its existence as a distinct ecclesiastical body depends. For the same reason, our communicating with the Methodist church, which is distinguished by its denial of the doctrines of absolute predestination, particular redemption, and the final perseverance of the saints, would involve us in the guilt of declining from the profession of these truths, and in that of publickly admitting the contrary errors.

I am as far as any from allowing, with the Brownists in the seventeenth century, that communicants, acting conscientiously, are defiled; or that the ordinance of the Lord's supper is rendered unprofitable to them, by the personal sins of fellow communicants, or by any accidental abuse that may take place in a particular church, which the most faithful endeavours may not be able always to prevent. This opinion is well confuted by judicious divines, such as Durham and

*Plea, &c. p. 326, 327.

Rutherford, who wrote against these separatists. But it is on a very different account, that I disapprove a person's occasional communion with a particular church, whose profession, as it denies some of the truths, and changes some of the ordinances of the Lord Jesus, is directly opposite to the profession of the particular church, of which that person considers himself a member. I disapprove of such occasional communicating, because thereby the person declares the profession, he had condemned, to be now his own profession: in this case, he either renounces his former profession of the truth, or he is guilty of duplicity and falsehood.

It seems to be a principle of common sense, that no person should partake of the peculiar privileges of any society, unless he falls in with all the declared ends, for which that society has been erected, and subsists and, therefore, a person should not communicate with a particular church, if he disapproves of any of the ends, for which it subsists as a distinct professing body of christians. This principle is no bar to the communion of christians: it only requires, that all the ends for which a particular church subsists, as a distinct professing body, should be such as are warranted by the word of God. The errors and corruptions of persons or parties in a church; while they are not justified and maintained by her in her ecclesiastical capacity, nor have become any part of her public profession, do not necessarily belong to the profession which is made in the act of communicating with her. But the profession of the faith, which is made in that act, if it is not the profession of the particular church which administers the sacramental ordinance, will be no joint profession at all. If there be no joint profession of the faith in the act of communicating, we cannot know, that we have any communion with others in receiving the same Saviour: for we can have no such communion with others, but so far as we know, that they voluntarily join with us in receiving him. But, we cannot know this otherwise than by their public profession, which profession can be no other in the act of receiving the Lord's supper, than the profession of the particular church, in which it is administered.

Alex. If the communion of the church is to be interpreted as an approbation of her sins, then by the same rule, communion with an individual is to be interpreted, as an approbation of his sins. It avails nothing to say, that, as the sacrament of the supper is an act of the church in her social character, we do, by the very fact of communion with her, acknowledge her as a whole; and thus by implication at least, put the seal of our approbation to whatever belongs to her as a church. For the difficulty is precisely where it was. I must also take an individual as a whole. His communicating is an act of the whole man. If I cannot, for the purpose of communion, separate the Divine ordinances in a church from her corruptions, how can I thus separate the graces of a christian from his sins? If by communion with her in God's ordinances, I must participate in her corruptions also, how can I commune with a believer in his faith and love, and not participate in the sin that dwelleth in him? Your objection cuts up all communion of saints by the very roots.

Ruf. I have already shewn, in what sense communicating with any church makes a person partaker in her corruptions. It is not meant. that communicating with a particular church implies an approbation of

all the sins she is chargeable with; communion with her does not imply an approbation, as has been already observed, of the sins or corruptions, which, though they may be found in individuals, and in parties, among those belonging to her, are not yet maintained in her public profession; and far less does it imply approbation of such sins or corruptions as are not justified, but acknowledged and lamented. It is only meant, that the act of communicating with a particular church involves a person in the same approbation of her sins and corruptions, that is included in her public profession, and in the declared ends for which she subsists as a distinct professing body of christians.

With regard to an individual believer, the case is still the same we can have no religious communion with him but by means of his profession. Now, if his profession contains not only a declaration of his faith and love, but also a justification of in-dwelling sin; we could not lawfully have communion with him in such a profession.

But if you say, that persons in partaking of the Lord's supper, or of any other public ordinance, have no communion with the other partakers in their profession; you do indeed cut up the communion of saints in the visible church by the very roots.

§ 7. Alex. It is not denied, that sacramental communion implies agreement in visible christianity; that is, in a profession and practice becoming the gospel, without regard to sectarian differences, which consist with the substance of evangelical truth.

Ruf. What is meant by visible christianity? Is it the profession made by the particular church with which we communicate? Or is it the profession of some other particular church?

Alex. It does not comprehend all the articles belonging to the profession of any particular church. For the whole profession of any particular church must have some articles which distinguish it from the profession of other true churches.

Ruf. It seems then that the profession of your own church is a sectarian profession. But, passing this, I wish to know, whether this visibly christianity includes all the doctrines and duties of the christian religion.

Alex. I wonder, that you put such a question. If it comprehended them all; then the profession of these true churches, which have this visible christianity would be perfect, and they would be one; whereas you know their lamentable errors and divisions. It is also granted, that, besides the essentials, there are other articles held by the churches as belonging to the christian religion, which are justly accounted "important and worthy to be contended for with zeal and constancy."

Ruf. You call this scheme of religion, which is professed in your catholic communion, visible christianity; yet it seems not very visible to a common discernment. It seems, it is neither the whole religion of the bible, nor the religion professed by any particular church. Alex. Visible christianity means the essentials of the christian religion.

Ruf. The darkness is nothing abated by this representation of the matter, unless it were shewn what articles of the christian religion are, and what are not, to be accounted essential. For my own part, I have no distinct conception of any other visible adherence, by any

person or society, to the christian religion, than that which is according to some particular profession of it; that is, a visible or professed adherence, not only to some parts, but to the whole of that religion.

Alex. Are there not various passages of scripture, in which certain articles of truth are represented as fundamental and necessary to salvation ? As, for example, 1 Cor. iii. 11. Other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 John, iv. 2, Every spirit, that confesseth, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God. John, xvii. 3. This is eternal life, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. Rom. x. 9. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Heb. vi. 2. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 1 Tim. iii. 16. And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world.

Ruf. It may be observed, that these texts you have quoted cannot be rightly understood, without admitting other truths which are not expressed, but necessarily supposed or implied in them. Thus the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent, implies many truths not expressed; such as, that he is both God and man in one person; that he bears the office of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king. Now an assent to the words, (that is, an assent to all that many allow to be fundamental,) by those, who openly deny the true and necessary import of them, can be no proper ground of sacramental communion. Farther, if, by fundamentals here, we understand what is most necessary to salvation in every period; some of the particulars mentioned in these texts seem not to be so fundamental as others: Thus, baptisms and the laying on of hands, are not so much so as repentance from dead works and faith towards God. Besides, it may be observed, that, when the truths contained in the passages you have recited are said to be connected with salvation, and to belong to the foundation and mystery of godliness; it is not meant, that these predicates or commendations belong so exclusively to the truths mentioned in such texts, as not to belong to other truths proposed without any such predicates such as, That the Father and the Son are one; that when we were without strength, Christ died for the ungodly; that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law; that we are saved by grace through faith. But the expressions in the texts you have quoted, declaring the importance of the truths contained in them, appear to have been occasioned by the opposition made to them, or by the temptations christians were under to forget or neglect them. In short, it cannot be inferred from such commendations added to some revealed truths, that the profession of other revealed truths, by those with whom we ought to have sacramental communion, is not indispensably necessary. Alex. Some have attempted to enumerate the fundamental articles of religion.

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