Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

I

say then, that man consists of a soul and a body, which the Scripture distinguishes by the inner and the outward man.- I say farther, that this being the nature of man, his soul cannot be taught but through the senses of the body; whence all the institutions of God, who teaches after a perfect manner, will have something outward to teach, when there is something inward to be understood : or, in the plain words of our Catechism, that if there be any inward and spiritual grace, it will be attended with some outward and visible sign, for a pledge and assurance thereof. Hence it will follow, that if God has planted any Church upon earth, that Church will be outward and visible, as well as inward and spiritual; and that we must be of the Church outwardly, in order to be of the Church inwardly.

Thus we shall find the matter to be upon examination. The Apostle teaches us, that as the body is one, and hath many membersso also is Christ : for by one spirit we are all baptized into one body * This body being called Christ, we cannot be inembers of Christ without being members of this body. So far as Baptism is an invisible work of Grace, it makes us members of an invisible society; but Baptism being also a visible thing, there must be a visible body answering to it. From this similitude of a body, the Apostle argues--that as a body cannot be a body, unless it has members of different stations and uses, so God hath set to officers of different orders in the Church, who have all one common life, and are under one common law of the Spirit; with their several uses so distinguished, that there need be no more disorder or confusion in the Church than in the body natural.

* 1 Cor. xii. 13.

+ Ibid. v. 28.

It appears then, that although the Spirit of God be the life of this body; yet must the body itself be an outward and visible thing. It always hath been such from the beginning; when although it had some gifts in it, which were proper to that time, yet had it others which were proper to this. For while it had miracles, prophecies, and diversity of tongues, it had also teachers, governments, and helps, which are as necessary now as they were then; for without teaching, and governing, and helping when there is need, no society ever did or ever can subsist. These therefore must remain with us to the end of the world. And the Apostle having declared, that they are all set in the Church by God himself; it must follow that they are set neither by the people, nor by themselves; but set by God in such a way, that we may know the thing to be of his doing; and this we do know when we see it to be done by those whom he hath already appointed. All persons of the ministry are set in the Church in an outward and visible manner, by the laying on of hands; and have been so appointed from the time of Jesus Christ to this day; yea, from the time of Moses, who was two thousand years before. Give him a charge in their sight*, said God to Moses, that all the people might be sure he had the true commission. The Scripture knows of no such thing as a calling which is out of sight : the inward calling is ever attended with the outward, that is, by some infallible sign and testimony which all men may see and understand. And now we are upon the subject of Jewish Ordination, it is a matter worth your observing, that less is said about the governments of the Chrisian Church in the New Testament than we might ex

# Numb. xxvii. 19.

pect, because they were copied from the Jewish. The Aposties were twelve in number, after the twelve Patriarchs who were heads of the tribes of Israel *; and the Disciples were seventy, after the seventy Elders of Moses. History also does abundantly testify, that in Christian Churches, wherever they were planted, there was a Bishop, and Priests, and Deacons; answering to the High Priest, and Priests, and Levites of the Law. For the Christian and Jewish Churches were not two, but a continuation of the one Church of God. Things were thus regularly ordained, because it is of infinite consequence to man, that he should always be able to know, by certain outward marks and signs, where and with whom the gifts of God are to be found. Wherespiritual things are administered there is ever something open to the sight of all, as a rule to direct, that we may never be left in uncertainty.

The same rule will hold good, if we apply it to the spirit and character of individual men. We are never to judge of a man from any thing which he thinks, or has thought, or which he now says and tells, of what passes in his own mind. That may be evidence to him, but it is none to us; and is therefore never to be drawn into a rule. There must be some outward mark; therefore saith our Lord, “ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” We may call ourselves the Disciples of Christ in heart and affection, and think ourselves to be şuch: but how are other men to know that we are truly so ? Here again we have an outward sign to direct us: “By this shall all men know that ye are my Disciples, if ye have love one to another*. The reason is good, and the rule is general : we are to know men by their fruits, not by their thoughts; and to judge of them accordingły, not by what they say, but by what they do.

* I am not sure that a division into tribes does not take place, in a mystical sense, in the Christian Church. See and consider Acts xxvi. 7. Jam. i. 1.

After this, you will not wonder, that a contrary rule is followed by those who have any intention to deceive. They lead you off in the first place from outward means and visible evidences; that wlien you are unsettled in this respect, the way may be open, and you inay be carried into farther delusion.

Having now laid my foundation, by shewing you the invariable rule of divine wisdom, with the reasons of it; this alone, if you bear it in mind, may be sufficient to keep you in the right way, and preserve you from going into the by-paths of religion. But as there are specious objections, from which well-disposed minds may be in danger, I shall produce and answer some of the chief of them.

1. It is made a grand objection against the Church, that the people who follow it are forinal and lifeless in their profession. Too many of them are so: we see and lament it: but how many soever they may be, this is no reason for leaving them--far from it: for, hath it not always been thus? The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net cast into the sea, which gathered of every kind, both bad and good f. In the Church, the righteous and the wicked are mixt together; and if this be a reason for leaving the Church, it always was a reason; the best people should always have left it; and then, what would have become of it? Allowing such persons to be as good as they think themselves, would it not be better that they should stay, and try if they can amend, by their good advice and example,

John xiii. 35.

t Matt. xiii. 47.

[ocr errors]

those who are not so perfect as themselves? That would be a charitable measure. Besides, if the bad affright and drive them away from the Church, ought not the good to prevail with them to continue in it? Is it just to desert the righteous for the sake of the wicked ? Many devout godly people are to be found in the Church, more than are commonly observed. Much of the fear and love of God is with many Christians, who make no great shew of themselves. In the worst of times, the Church has many who know God, and are known of him. Could any thing be more corrupt than the generality of the Jewish people were in the time of our blessed Saviour? Yet you read of Anna the Prophetess, who departed not from the Temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. Many bad people frequented the place, but that was no reason with her for leaving it; she did not follow the people, she followed God; and there at the latter end of her days she found him : she saw the blessed Jesus there, which would not have happened, if she had objected to the bad members of the congregation, as not holy and good enough for her to assemble with. And did not Christ himself frequent this same Temple afterwards, and teach in it afterwards, though there were many great and scandalous abuses, which he endeavoured to reform; not by taking affront and leaving the congregation, but by staying with them, and bearing with their contradiction and ill humours.

But, as the heart of man, when judging of itself, is very deceitful, it may not be for reasons of piety, as they believe and would have it supposed, when persons forsake the congregation ; but for reasons of a very different kind; for pride; for distinction; to shew the world how much wiser they are; and if that

« AnteriorContinuar »