Page images
PDF
EPUB

gether in one Communion, and with one Mind, and one Mouth, glorify God, (as the Apostle expresses it) God only knows. But fure I am, it is the Duty of every one of us, heartily to Pray for it; and not only fo, but in our Place and Station to contribute all we can towards it. It was this Confideration that put me upon the Choice of these Words of St. Paul, for my Argument at this Time: Let us therefore foloro after the Things that make for Peace.

In treating of which, I shall endeavour Two Things. First, To explain the Duty here recommended, by reducing it to its Particular Rules and Instances. Secondly, To set before you the great Obligations that lie upon us to the Practice of it.

As to the First of these Things, viz. What is contained or implied in this Duty of Following after the Things that make for Peace; you may be pleased to take Notice, That this Duty hathi a Twofold Object, according to the Two different Relations and Capacities in which we are to be considered; namely, the Church our Common Mother, and Particular Christians our Brethren. In the First Relation, we are considered as Sabjects; in the other, as FellowChristians. Now with respect to the former, the Peace we are to pursue, implies Obedience, and the Preservation of Communion, in Oppoli tion to Schism and Separation. With respect to the latter, it implies 'mutual Love and Charity, in Opposition to Quarrels and Contentions. So that, you see, my Business upon

this First Head must be, to shew, what are the Par

Ba

ticulars

[ocr errors]

ticulars of our Duty, or what are the Things
that make for Peace, in both these Respects.

I begin with what is due from us to the
Church in order to Peace, as Peace stands in
Contra-distinction to Schism. And this Point
I shall beg leave to discuss very plainly and
particularly: because I fear many of us have
wrong Notions about it: And yet it is a mat-,
ter of such Consequence, that the right under-
standing of it would go a great way to the Cure
of the lad Divisions that are among us.

What I have to say upon this point, I shalt comprize in the Four following Propositions ; taking my Rise from the First Principle of Church-Society.

The First Proposition I lay down, is this, That every Christian is, by virtue of his Christianity, a Member of the Church of Christ, and is bound to join in External Communion with it, where it can be had.

For the clearing of this, let it be taken No. tice of, Thảt the Method which our Saviour set on foot for our Salvation, doch not so much consider us as single Persons, as joined together in one common Society. It was his Design, to gather to himself a Church out of Mankind, to erect and form a Body Politick, of which himself should be the Head, and particular Christians the Members; and in this Method, through Obedience to his Laws and Government,

to bring Men to Salvation. John 18.1.

This is variously set forth to us in the New Teltainent. Sometimes Christ and Christians are represented under the Notion of a Vine;

of

28.

of which He is the Root, and They are the Branches. Sometimes under the Notion of a 1 Cor. 1z: Natural Body, of wbich Christ is the Head, and all Believers the Members. And accordingly, whatever Christ is said to have done, or suffered for Mankind, he is said to have done or suffered for them, not as Scattered India viduals, but as Incorporated into a Church. Eph.5.25. Thus Christ loved the Church, and gave himself Acts 20. for it. Christ redeemed the Church with his own Blood. Christ is the Saviour of his Body, that is Eph.5. 23. to say, the Church; with many Paffages of the like Importance. The plain Consequence from hence is, That every Person, so far as he is a Christian, so far he is a Member of the Church. And agreeably hereto, it is very plain, that Baptism, which is by all acknowledged, to be the Rite of Initiating us into Chriftianity, is in Scripture declared to be the Rite whereby we are entred and admitted into the Church. Thus St. Paul expresly tells us, 1 Cor. 12. That by one Spirit we are all Baptized into one 13. Body.

Now then it being thus evident, that'every Christian, as a Chaistian, is a Member of that Body of Christ which we call the Church; there will be little need of taking Pains to prove, that every such Person is obliged to join in External Communion with the Church, where he can do fo; for the very nature of this Church-membership doth imply it. Without this, neither the Ends of Church Society, nor the Benefits accruing to us therefrom, can be attained.

B 3

First,

First, not the Ends of it: The Ends of Church-Society are the more Solemn Worship of God, and the publick Profeshon of our Religion, and the mutual Edification one of another : Now, how these can be in any measureattained, without associating together in publick Alsemblies and mutual Offices, and other Acts of External Communion with one another, cannot any ways be imagined.

And as little, in the Second Place, can it be conceived, how without this we can be made Partakers of the Benefits and Privileges that Chrift hath made over to the Members of his Church. For we are to consider, that God hath so ordered the matter, and without doubt for this very Reason, to unite us the more firmly in Society) that the Privileges of the Gospel, such as Pardan of Sin, and the Grace of the Holy Spirit, are not ordinarily conveyed to us so immediately by God, but that there must intervene the Ministry of Men. God's Holy Word and Sacraments are the Chanels in which they are derived to us; and those to whom he hath committed the Ministry of Reconciliation, and the Power of the Keys, are the Hands that must dispense them. We have no Promise of Spiritual Graces, but by these Means: So that in order to the partaking of them, there is an absolute Neceflity laid upon us of joining and communicating with the Church.

• It is true indeed, God doth not so tie himfelf up to these Means, but that he can, and will, in some Cafes, confer the Benefits of

them

them without them: As in Case of a General Apostacy of the Church; or of Persecution for Religion ; or of an unjust Excommunication, or any other Case where Communion with a true visible Church is denied to us. But though God doth act extraordinarily in extraordinary Cases, where these Means cannot be had; yet this doth not at all diminish, much less take away, the necessity of making use of them when they can be had.

From what hath been discoursed on this First Propofition, we may, by the way, gather these Two Things; I only name them;

1. How untrue their Position is, that maintain, That all our Obligation to Church-Communion doth arise from a voluntary Admission of ourselves into some particular Congregation, and an explicit Promise or Engagement to join with it in Church-Ordinances.

2. How wildly and extravagantly they discourse, that talk of a Christianity at large, without relation to a Church, or Communion with any Society of Christians.

The Second Proposition is, That every one is bound to join in Communion with the establissed National Church to which he belongs, fupposing there be nothing in the Terms of its Communion that renders it unlawful for him fo to do.

For if we are bound to maintain Communion with the Catholick Church, as I have before proved, it is plain, that we are bound to maintain Communion with that part of it, within whose Verge the Divine Providence has cast us. For we cannot communicate

with

B. 4

« PreviousContinue »