Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

THE

RATIONAL FOUNDATION,

FORM AND ORDER

A CHRISTIAN CHURCH,

VOL. IV.

CONFIRMED AND IMPROVED:

BY THE DIRECTIONS AND EXAMPLES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

[ocr errors]

THE PREFACE

TO "THE RATIONAL FOUNDATION OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH."

TH

HE principles on which christian churches are built, are so plain, so natural and easy, and so much the same with those which give rise to all the wellformed societies in the world, that one would think there should not be such matter of debate and controversy among christians, upon these subjects, as we have unhappily found.

For besides the reasonableness of the things that are required for this purpose, our blessed Saviour himself has given us so many promises in his word to favour this practice of holy fellowship, and to encourage our hope, as give abundant reason to our expectations of divine success. Has he not told us, that where two or three are met together in his name, there he is, or will be in the midst of them? Mat. xviii. 20. And when St. Peter made a glorious confession of his faith in Jesus the Son of God, the promised Saviour; upon this rock, said he, will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

So that if there is found but such faithfulness, such christian virtues of meekness, patience and forbearance, as may be justly expected among christians, I would hope such settlements as these might continue without interruption. And I trust I have here represented these things so faithfully, so plainly and clearly, that no single person, in any part of his practice, will find his conscience imposed upon by any article or canon here mentioned; nor will any society find itself obliged to do any thing in receiving, containing or excluding any persons from their church, but what lies natural and easy before the minds of persons, who do but exercise the common reason by which they conduct themselves in the affairs of human life.

Nor is there any thing here asserted, which confines christians to so exact an uniformity in their principles and practices, but by the exercise of their reason, with a small degree of charity, they may make and allow such alterations, as will assist and promote the general peace and edification of the churches, under the care and patronage of Jesus the great Shepherd.

And upon these foundations, if the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Spirit, which is promised to assist the christian church, does but continue ́among his ordinances, from time to time, we may hope to find a comfortable succession and increase of members added to the church, and built up in faith, love and holiness, till our Lord Jesus Christ himself shall return to this world, and finish the great and important work of judgment.

I would only add further, with regard more especially to the questions relating to christian communion, that if any thing contained in them may be effectual through the divine blessing, to set the terms of christian-fellowship in a juster light, to secure the great and necessary principles of christianity. to remove any causes of offence from among the churches, and to lead the several parties of christians, to more moderate and charitable sentiments concerning each other, I shall have abundant reason to rejoice in my attempt, and give glory to the God of truth and peace.

*:

Stoke
March 25, 1747.

THE RATIONAL FOUNDATION,

FORM AND ORDER OF

A CHRISTIAN CHURCH,

Confirmed and improved: by the Directions and Examples of the New Testament.

SECTION I. Reason and Revelation agree to require Social Religion.

I. MAN is an intellectual and sociable being, and he owes honour and worship to God his Creator, in his social as well as his single capacity: He owes also assistance to his fellow-creatures, in the affairs of religion, as well as in those of the natural and civil life. Social religion is therefore the duty of every man, where he can meet with such fellow-worshippers, as to lay a foundation for amicable union in the same acts of worship, and for mutual help in religious concerns: And these three following reasons, among others, oblige him to it;

1. As he is bound to express to God in secret, and alone, what sense he has of the divine being, attributes, and government, so he is obliged to join with others, and publicly to declare to the world, what an awful and honourable apprehension he has of the same things: And this, that he may do honour to God amongst men, or glorify his name amongst his fellow-creatures; which secret religion cannot do. This is the chief end with regard to God, for which man's very nature is made sociable, and for which he is constituted by providence in human society. This is the first spring, and the perpetual foundation, of all social and public religion: For this end, social honours paid to God shall be everlasting. This is practised in the society of holy angels, those "sons of God, who sang together, and shouted for joy, when the foundations of the earth were laid; and who met together at certain seasons, to present themselves before God;" Job xxxviii. 7, and i. 6. and ii. 1. This is required in our world of sinful men; so it will be, doubtless, in the world of separate spirits, who are described as a church or religious assembly; Heb. xii. 13. And so in the world of the resurrection, when the high praises of God and the Lamb shall be for ever on their tongues.

2. Man, in his single capacity, is obliged to perform acts of secret religion to God, because, in that capacity, he wants many favours from God; such as health, safety, food, raiment, &c. He is always receiving some of these favours, and always

« ForrigeFortsæt »