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other reformers, it is expressly declared, that that church is not only “ idolatrous and unchristian ; not only an harlot, as the “ scripture calleth her, but also a foul, filthy, old withered harlot ; " the foulest and filthiest harlot, that ever was seen. I do not contend for the decency of these epithets. That is no concern of mine. I state the real language of the church of England, as deliberately expressed in her standards. And yet, while highchurchimen solemnly declare their belief in the doctrine of these Homilies, they acknowledge the church of Rome to be a church of Christ; trace their line of succession through her; and uniformly acknowledge her ministry and ordinances to be valid. In fact, it is on the principle that it is lawful to depart from the exact pattern of the primitive church, with respect to rites, ceremonies, and discipline, that the church of England vindicates many things in her own system, which she acknowledges were neither enjoined nor practised in the days of the apostles. Nay, many of her sons, and especially those who advocate the doctrine of my opponents, do not scruple to affirm, that the whole system of ecclesiastical government and discipline is mutablet and may be lawfully modified according to human wisdom, excepting the single part, so dearly beloved, which respects the three orders of clergy. Every thing else, in the external organization, they suppose may be altered, without affecting the essence of the church ; but to touch this part of the body, they consider as the invasion of its vital organ.
Thus it appears, that the highest-toned jure divino Presbyterians do not lay any thing like the stress on their form of church government, that Dr. Bowden, Mr. How, and other jure divino prelatists do on the point of Episcopacy; that the charge brought against them that they unchurch all who reject the Presbyterian government, is perfectly unfounded; not deducible from any of their principles, and totally disavowed by them; that their public standards, their judicial decisions, and their most esteemed writers, all with one voice, acknowledge that there are true churches, a regular ministry, and valid ordinances, where Presbyterianism is wanting ; and, of course, that the allegations of Dr. Bowden, and
• Homily against peril of idolatry. Part III. page 216. Edit. Oxford, 1802.
+ See Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, passim.
Mr. How, are not only unsupported by evidence, but brought forward directly in the face of all legitimate evidence. When these gentlemen, or either of them, shall produce a single volume or document, sanctioned by any Presbyterian church, or from the pen of any esteemed Presbyterian divine, which contradicts my statement, I shall then, and not till then, acquit them of calumninating our venerable church.
But these gentlemen will, perhaps, ask, “ Do we not find in the writings of many Presbyterian divines, severe epithets, expressive of strong disapprobation, applied to the episcopal hierarchy ? Have we not actually pointed out some instances of this kind?” Granted. And what then? May I not see an egregious fault in an acquaintance, and reprove him sharply for it, without deeming it so great as to expunge his name from the list of my friends, or to pronounce him a bad man ? May we not consider and oppose as an error, that which we do not believe, at the same time, will destroy the character of a church ? I am sure that no offensive language directed against Episcopalians, is to be found in the Confession of Faith of our church, and very seldom in our best writers. But ifit were otherwise, where shall we find language, to be compared on the score either of indelicacy or severity, with that which the church of England has formally directed against the church of Rome,* while at the same time she acknowledged, and does still acknowledge, her ministry and ordinances to be valid.
Dr. Bowden and Mr. How make much use of the society of Quakers in this controversy. They ask me, whether, amidst all my professions of liberality, I can consistently with our Confession of Faith, acknowledge the Quakers as a visible church of Christ? And if not, how I can find fault with Episcopalians for not acknowledging us? My only reply to all their declamation on this subject shall be short. It is not a practical question. The society of Quakers do not profess to have an ordained ministry, at all, in the sense of most other denominations of Protestants. The question, then, whether we can acknowledge their ordinations, ministry, and sacraments to be valid, can never come before us; for none of these things make any part of their ecclesiastical system; and, of course, can never be offered to us to receive our sanction. I consider, therefore, all that my opponents have said on this subject, as a
* See page 252.
vain effort to obscure the merits of the real question, and as inconclusive as it is irrelevant to the controversy.
Dr. Bowden and Mr. How speak much of " covenanted” and 6 uncovenanted” mercy. The latter candidly and repeatedly avows his belief, that all who are in communion with a church organized in the episcopal form, are in covenant with God; and that all others, without exception, are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, and have no hope but in the general uncovenanted mercy of God. We certainly can have no objection to his informing us what is his creed, and we thank him for being so unreservedly communicative on the subject. But be goes further. He undertakes to say that Presbyterians, on their part, hold a similar opinion; that they exclude from the christian covenant all but Presbyterians ; nay, that they pronounce all who do not embrace " the rigid peculiarities of Calvinism,” to be in an unregenerate state, and coolly consign them to “ uncovenanted mercy.” Had Mr. How asserted that all Presbyterians are zealous advocates of the divine mission of Mahomet, it would have been, rather more ridiculous indeed, but not a whit more remote from fact than this statement. His position is not only not true, but there is not a shadow of foundation for it ; nor can he produce a single Presbyterian writer, of respectable character, who says any thing that can be reasonably construed as bearing the least resemblance to this doctrine.*
Presbyterians, (I speak now of all that I have ever known or heard of, particularly the most rigid among them,) Presbyterians, I say, believe, that according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, salvation is promised, that is, secured by covenant engagement, to all who sincerely repent of sin, and unseignedly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course they consider all who bear this character, to whatever external church they may belong, or even if they bear no relation to any visible church, as in covenant with God, as
It is to be hoped that Presbyterians understand the gospel too well to speak of “ uncovenanted mercy" at all. The phrase itself is unscriptural; and if it convey any meaning, it is an erroneous one. Fallen creatures know of no mercy but that which is promised or secured by the covenant of grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord. If Dr. Bowden and Mr. How have discovered any other kind or channel of divine mercy, I can only say, they have not found it in the Bible.
inerested in his great and precious promises, and as in the sure and certain road to his heavenly kingdom. They know, indeed, and teach, that it is the duty of all who believe in Christ, to connect themselves with his visible church; they teach also, that receiving the seals of God's covenant, and attending on all the ordinances of his house, are solemnly enjoined, and productive of essential advantages. Nay, they go so far as to pronounce that he who neglects these ordinances, when he is favoured with an opportunity of attending on them, gives, in ordinary cases, too much reason to fear, whatever may be his declarations to the contrary, that he has no real love to Christ. But still they do not, and without contradicting the Scriptures, they cannot, teach that the means of religion constitute its essence, or that the seals of the covenant, form the covenant itself. The seal on a bond, is not itself the contract, but only the evidence of it. In like manner, the seals of the christian covenant, are not in themselves the promise or the engagement
of God or man; but are the constituted means of recognizing or ratifying a covenant transaction, supposed to have previously taken place in secret, when the person receiving the seal, embraced the gospel, and cordially devoted himself to Christ on the terms of the covenant.
I repeat it, then, the doctrine of all Calvinistic Presbyterians is, that every one who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and maintains a holy life, whatever may be the mistakes into which he may fall, or the prejudices against particular parts of evangelical truth and order which he may entertain ; whatever the disadvantages under which he may labour, with respect to his ecclesiastical connexions ; or even if he were placed in circumstances in which he never saw a place of public worship, a minister of the gospel, or a church officer of any kind, in his life; that every such person is in covenant with God, and has that title to salvation which is given by the promise of a faithful God to every sincere believer. How much error, bow much infirmity, how much deviation from the external order which God hath appointed in his house, is consistent with true faith, we know not, nor has any Presbyterian, with whose person or writings I am acquainted, ever attempted to decide. But that every one who has sincere faith in Christ, is in covenant with God, they, with one voice, proclaim and teach.
This simple statement also refutes another assertion, which Mr.
How permits himself, without the smallest foundation, to make and repeat. The assertion to which I allude, is conveyed in the following terms. “ All of you declare baptism and the supper to be “general conditions of salvation ; representing them as seals of “the covenant of grace, without which, it is impossible to have
any ordinary or regular claim to the blessings of that covenant. “ Such as habitually neglect these ordinances, saving a little allow
ance for error, you exclude from the kingdom of heaven.- Intole. “ rant and bigoted wretches ! To give so much importance to the “ ceremony of sprinkling water, or of receiving bread and wine! “ And to tell us too, that it is impossible to have these ordinances,
except at the hands of ministers presbyterially ordained. How 6 much better is all this than the tale of papal infallibility! How “ far are you removed from catholic absurdity and arrogance !” Letters, p. 117. Mr. How asserts that all Presbyterians believe and speak thus. But can he find one that does ? I know of none; and am confident there is none. Our Confession of Faith says no such thing. On the contrary, it expressly declares, that persons to whom these ordinances are never administered, may be saved ; and that those who do receive them may perish. But,” says Mr. How, “ your Confession of Faith represents baptism as the only 6 mode of admission into the visible church ; it declares that out of " the visible church, there is no ordinary possibility of salvation ; 6 and it maintains that baptism ought not to be administered by
any but a minister of the gospel lawfully ordained. Does it not “ follow then, that without baptism, there is no ordinary possi“bility of salvation ?" No, it does not follow. His premises are incorrect, and his conclusion is equally so. With all his confidence, he blunders at every step. Every one who has read our Confession of Faith, knows its doctrine on this subject to be, that all who profess the true religion, are members of the visible church; that the children of such persons, by virtue of their birth, and of course anterior to baptism, are also members of the church ; and that baptism is only the appointed seal, or solemn recognition, and ratification of their membership. This is perfectly plain; and it cuts up by the roots every pretence for the statement which Mr. How has made.
With respect to Mr. How's direct and repeated assertion, that Calvinistic Presbyterians make a belief in the doctrine of election,”