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A CAREFUL AND STRICT EXAMINATION

OF THE

EXTERNAL COVENANT,

AND OF THE PRINCIPLES BY WHICH IT IS SUPPORTED :

A REPLY

TO THE REV. MR. MOSES MATHER'S PIECE, ENTITLED,

THE VISIBLE CHURCH IN COVENANT WITH GOD,

FURTHER ILLUSTRATED, &c.

À VINDICATION

OF THE PLAN ON WHICH THE CHURCHES IN NEW-ENGLAND

WERE ORIGINALLY FORMED.

INTERSPERSED WITH REMARKS UPON SOME THINGS ADVANCED BY

MR. SANDEM AN, ON SOME OF THE IMPORTANT

POINTS IN DEBATE.

“ I do not mention the administration of sacraments upon this occasion; because, “ though they have so noble and effectual a tendency to improve men's minds in “ piety, and to promote Christian edification ; yet I do not remember to have “ heard of any instance in which they have been the means of men's conversion ; “ which is the less to be wondered at, as they are appointed for a very different send."

Dr. DO DDRIDGE's Sermon on Regeneration.

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PREFACE.

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 hąs so much preyailed 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 re- spect 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 ignorant, unscriptural notions ! But much more unkind still must it be in clergymen who know the practice to be unscriptural, to lifi 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 princi. ple 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 seeurity, 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! T'he 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 corenant 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 good conscience, because it is a practical falsehood. Indeed,

a

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