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THE design of my writing on the sacramental controversy, has been to vindicate the plan on which the churches in New England were originally formed, when this country was first settled by our forefathers. And in order to this, I have had it in my view to prove these three propositions, viz.
I. That those who are qualified to offer their children in baptism, are equally qualified to come to the Lord's table; and that therefore the half-way practice which has so much prevailed of late in the country, is unscriptural.
II. That baptism and the Lord's supper, are seals of the covenant of grace and that therefore those who know they have no grace, cannot be active in sealing of it, consistently with honesty and a good conscience.
III. That there is no graceless covenant between God and man existing, suited to the state and temper of graceless men, a compliance with which they might, as such, consistently profess and seal: and that therefore there is no door open for graceless men, as such, to enter into covenant with God. I say, I have had it in my view to prove,
1. That those who are qualified to offer their children in baptism, are equally qualified to come to the Lord's table: and that therefore the half-way practice which of late has so much prevailed in the country, is unscriptural. And this point theoretically considered, seems to be settled. With respect to this, Mr. Mather in his book, entitled, the Visible Church in covenant with God further illustrated, &c. says, p. 78.' As to the half-way practice, I am in it, but not for it. I have no disposition to oppose the doctor in his endeavouring to break up that unscriptural practice.' And since those ministers who are in this practice, do grant it to be unscripral; which, so far as I know, all of them do; nothing now remains but to put them in mind, that the second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.' And the commission of
our Lord and Master obligeth us to teach his disciples to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded them. And how unkind must it be in the people, to necessitate their ministers, to counteract their own consciences, by continuing in an unscriptural practice in condescension to their ig norant, unscriptural notions! But much more unkind still must it be in clergymen who know the practice to be unscriptural, to lift up their voices on high, and raise a popular clamour against those ministers who, at no small risk, venture to lay aside the practice, that they may approve themselves to God, and to their own consciences. But it may be said to Mr. Mather's honour, that he is not of the number of those who act so unkind a part to honest men P,
2. Another point I undertook to prove, was this, viz. That baptism and the Lord's supper are seals of the covenant of grace. This was one chief point I had in view in my answer to Mr. M.'s former book on this controversy. And this point also Mr. M. expressly grants me in his second book. P. 58.
p Our forefathers began to settle in New-England in 1620,—without the half-way practice. It was brought in 1662, forty years after; when the first generation were generally dead, by a synod at Boston. This synod professed to believe that none had a right to the seals for themselves, or their children, but true believers, and real saints: however, they thought a less degree of grace would qualify for one ordinance, than for the other. And on this principle the half-way practice was introduced. The principle they acted upon is now given up. We are all agreed, that he who is qualified to offer his children in baptism, is equally qualified to come to the Lord's table. And so we are all agreed, that the half-way practice is unscriptural. Some feel themselves bound in conscience to make the Scripture their only rule of faith and practice others do not think themselves bound. On this point let the following texts be consulted, Deut. iv. 2. Mat. v. 19. Luke vi. 46. and Chap. xxii. 19. Jam. ii. 10. Mat. xxviii. 20. and ch. xv. 6. Besides, we who are ministers, may do well to consider, that although our congregations, while secure in sin, may be well pleased with an unscriptural practice, and with us for continuing in it, against the light of our own consciences; yet, if they should ever be awakened out of their carnal security, if they should ever be converted, our conduct might stand in a shocking point of light, in the view of their consciences.-And yet, from sabbath to sabbath, we pray that the Spirit of God may be poured out, and that sinners may be convinced and converted.—This affair doubtless gives pain to many a heart. What a pity it is, that the clergy have not a heart to unite in what they know to be the true scriptural practice! The honour of Christ and of Christianity are interested in this matter. It ought to be attended to with the utmost seriousness and honesty.
speaking of the covenant with Abraham, he says, the covenant of grace was evidently and confessedly contained, set forth, and confirmed, by the particular appointment of circumcision.' But if baptism and the Lord's supper are seals of the covenant of grace, how can those who knowingly reject the covenant of grace in their hearts, seal it with their hands, consistently with honesty and a good conscience? Here it may not be amiss to repeat some of the articles of the creed published in my fourth dialogue, that the reader may judge for himself whether they are true or not. 'I believe that any man who seals any covenant, doth, in and by the act of sealing, declare his compliance with that covenant which he seals because this is the import of the act of sealing. I believe that it is of the nature of lying, to seal a covenant, with which I do not now, and never did comply in my heart; but rather habitually and constantly reject. Therefore, I believe that a man who knows he has no grace, cannot seal the covenant of grace, honestly and with a good conscience.' It belongs to Mr. Mather, if he means to maintain, that those who know they have no grace, can seal the covenant of grace honestly and with a good conscience, to say how. For as yet he has said nothing on this point. And indeed, we must either give up the import of sealing; or give up the covenant of grace, as the covenant to be sealed; or say that graceless men have some grace, and do in a measure truly and really comply with the covenant of grace, and so have really a title to pardon and eternal life, or we cannot be consistent: nor then neither. For to say, that graceless men have some grace, is a contradiction. And to say they have no grace, and yet may honestly seal the covenant of grace, is to deny the import of sealing; for sealing a covenant always denotes a present consent of heart to the covenant sealed. And therefore, to seal a covenant which I reject with my whole heart, is a practical falsehood. But if I do not reject it with my whole heart, I have a degree of true love to it; that is, I have a degree of true grace: and so am in a pardoned and justified state. But still it remains true, that those who know they have no grace, cannot seal the covenant of grace with a good conscience, because it is a practical falsehood. Indeed,
men may be so far gone in wickedness, as to allow themselves in lying to God and man; but their conduct cannot be justified, when, with the assembled universe, they appear before the bar of God. For as has been said, seating a covenant always denotes a present consent of heart to the covenant sealed. In this sense it has always been understood by mankind in their covenants between one another in deeds, in bonds, &c. Sealing denotes a present consent of heart to the contents of the written instrument: and therefore no honest man will seal the written instrument until in heart he consents to the contents of it. And should any man seal a written instrument, and at the same time declare before evidences that at present he did not consent to it, it was not his free act and deed, the act of sealing would in its own nature be of no significance. The whole transaction would be perfect trifling. Mr. M. says, p. 65. I am very sensible, that the Christian church. has always esteemed sealing ordinances as seals of the covenant of grace. On God's part, they are seals to the truth of the whole revealed will of God. On our part, they are seals binding us to pay a due regard to the whole revelation. And accordingly, any breach of moral rule or gospel-precept, has been esteemed by the church as a breach of covenant in its members.' He, therefore, who is habitually, totally destitute of that holiness which the law of God requires, and of that repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, to which in the Gospel we are invited, and lives in a total neglect of that religion which flows from the love, repentance, and faith required in the law and Gospel: even he does not consent to the covenant of grace in his heart, in the least degree, but lives habitually, totally, and universally in the breach of it, without ever complying with it in one single act.—And can a man, conscious to himself that this is his character, with a good conscience seal this covenant! Or can a Christian church allow of such hypocrisy !
3. The other point which I designed to prove was this, that there is no graceless covenant between God and man existing; that is, no covenant in which God promises religious privileges and spiritual blessings to graceless men, upon
graceless conditions; i. e. to graceless qualifications, which graceless men, while such, may have: and that, therefore, baptism and the Lord's supper cannot be seals to such a covenant. And Mr. M. in his preface seems as if he intended to give up this point also: for he calls this graceless covenanta graceless phantom:' which is really to grant the whole which I contend for. For this is the very point I meant to prove, viz. the non-existence of such a covenant. For God's covenant requires holiness, and nothing else. And it promises eternal life to those who comply with it. But its blessings are not promised to graceless men, as such, nor to graceless qualifications.
However, if we will read Mr. M.'s book through, we shall see that he is so far from giving up this covenant, as ‘a graceless phantom,' that he has exerted himself to the utmost to save this graceless phantom' from non-existence. Because, without it, he knows no way in which graceless men, as such, can be admitted into the visible church of Christ. For he does not pretend, that they can make a profession of godliness: yea, he is confident, that none may warrantably make a profession of godliness, unless they have the highest degree of assurance. (p. 79.) There must therefore be a graceless covenant for graceless men, as such; to profess which, requires nothing more, nothing higher, than graceless qualifications as necessary conditions of its blessings; or graceless men, as such, cannot profess a present consent to any covenant at all; and so cannot be admitted as members of the visible church, which he says is in covenant with God;' or have a covenant right to covenant blessings. For they who are destitute of the qualifications necessary to a covenant right to covenant blessings, can have no covenant right to them. To say otherwise, is an express contradiction.
The method which in my former piece I took to prove the non-existence of such a graceless covenant as has been described, was, 1. To turn the reader to the covenant with Abraham, the covenant at Sinai and in the plains of Moab, and to the Gospel covenant, that he might see with his own eyes, that these were, each of them, holy covenants, which required a holy faith, a holy love, a holy repentance, a holy obe