« AnteriorContinuar »
good and commendable in themselves, so we need not doubt bụt God will accept and approve them. For tho' we may, thro' ignorance, petition for such things as God may not think fit to give us, yet if those petitions are qualified, as aforesaid, God will accept them, tho' he does not answer them; but tho' reason assures us, that God will accept of such prayers, as are thus qualified, and tho' fuch performances (commonly called prayers) which are wholly destitute of these qualifications, God will not accept; yet how far, or what degree of defect in these, or either of these, will hinder that acceptance, is a question which I will not presume to answer. Thus, supposing a man should put up a petition to God, duly qualified in all respects, save this, viz, that the earnestness of the desire did not bear a proportion to the worth and value of the benefit pray'd for ; tho we can be assured that this prayer would be accepted, if it had this qualification ; yet we can have no assurance that a defect, in this particular, will hinder that acceptance. God perfectly knows all the temptations, weaknesses, and disadvantages which his creatures lie under for the performance of any duty; and as he will take all these into the account, so where he sees men, in the main, sincere and honeft in their performances, his goodness may dispose him to overlook many imperfections which may be in their duty, and so he may approve of the duty in general, tho? he does not approve of the defeats of it.
Secondly, What prayers will be answered ? And here we must observe, that God answers men's petitions either in difpleafure; or in kindnefs. In displeasure, when their fins provoke him to give them their petitions to their burt ;
or in kindness, when their conduct disposes him to answer their petitions for their good. I shall consider it only, with respect to the latter, and accordingly, I say, that as God appointed the duty of prayer, not for his own fake, but for the good and benefit of the petitioner; and as God sees through and to the end of all things, and consequently must know what is most for the good and benefit of his creatures at all times ; so when our petitions are so qualified, as to render them acceptable in God's sight, and when God sees that the giving them to us will be more for our good, than the withholding them from us, I say, such petitions God will answer at the most proper time, and in the most proper measure, except our afterconduct shall render us unworthy of them.
TRACT ... .AN . ENQUIRY Concerning the Unity, or Oneness of
the Church, or body of Christ.
EFORE I enter upon this enquiry, I think it proper to observe, that the question here is not, whether the christian church
has any solid foundation, that is, whether Christ was really authorized by God, to constitute such a society, and to give laws for the regulation and government of it; but only upon a supposition that this is the truth of the case, then wherein the unity of this society does consists : this enquiry being offered to the consideration, not of unbe lievers, but only to christians, or those who acknowledge Christ's authority, as aforesaid.
By the term church, I understand any number of men, great or small, that are callected into a fociety upon a religious account, that is, upon the account of a particular way and method of approving and recommending themselves to the love and favour of God, which we commonly call religion. By the christian church, or the church of Christ, I mean all those men that are collected into a body or fociety, upon the account of their chusing and embracing that way and method of serving and pleasing God, which Christ, or the christian revelation, hath proposed and recommended to the world, which we call the christian religion. As to the term unity, or one, when it is used fim ply; without being applied to any lubject, then
the Unity of the Chürch. its sense and meaning is most plain and easy to be understood ; one being the original and beginning of all numbers, all numbers being no other than an addition of several unities. But when unity is applied to any subject, it must first be reduced to a standard, before we can know what one of that subject is, which unity is applied to. Thus for example, when we speak of one pound weight, a pound must be reduced to a standard, just such a degree of weight (neither more nor less) must be made the standard of it, before we can know what one pound weight is. The case is the same with every other subject that unity is applied to. This being so, I say, that by the unity of the christian church, I do not mean the oneness of the parts in every respect, but only their oneness in those respeits which Chrift, or the christian revelation, hath made the standard of christian unity. This unity may be consider'd in two respects, firft, effential, that is, such an union as is necessary to the church's being; and all schism or seperation in this respect, is a separation from the body; so that whoever departs from this essential unity of the body of Christ, such an one ceases to be a part of that body. Secondly, Integral, that is, such an unity as is necessary to the church's well-being, and all schism or separation, in this respect, is a separati : on, in the body; so that whoever depart from this integral unity of the body of Christ, that is, whoever are properly the cause of such division, such persons are guilty of a crime, viz. the breaking of that unity which it is their duty to maintain. And,
Firji, Of cijential unity. This may likewise be consider'd in two respects, viz. unity of faith, and unity of subjection. First, Unity of faith, that is, an unity of affent to the truth of the christian reli
gion, or an assenting to those truths which Ch: ist, or the christian revelation, hath made the standard of christian faith; or, to express it more fully and particularly, it is a believing or being persuaded, that the divine person, which the four Evangelists have given us the history of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and affension, that this heavenly person is the Messiah, or Christ, whom God hath appointed to be a Mediator between himself and his sinful creatures, mankind; for the discovery and manifestation of the truth, to make known his will, and to propose terms of peace and reconciliation with sinners; to assure them of pardon and acceptance, upon their complying with those terms, and of their certain condemnation, upon their non-compliance with them to assure them likewise of their resurrection from the dead, and a future judgment;: of an everlasting state of happiness to those that comply with and an everlasting itate of misery to those who reject or neglect the salyation offer'd. That this divine person, after he had proclaim'd and publish'd these good tidings of peace and salvation to the Jewish nation, and had confirm'd the truth of his million by a multitude of uncontroulable miracles he, out of tender love to, and for the sake of finners, humbly and meekly submitted to the painful and shameful death of the cross, as an act of obedience to his Father's will, to seal the truth of his doctrine, and to be a peace-offering or Sacrifice of atonement and experiation for fin : that God was so well pleas'd with his Son's performance in this matter, that he rais’d him from the dead, and exalted him at his right hand, to be the Lord and head of his people, to rule them by his laws to guide, support, and comfort them by his fpirit, to be a prevailing intercessor with God for them; that God pardons the believing penitent for his