I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:~ Psalm 78:2
My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.
~ Job 27:4, Job 36:3-4
The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so. There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
~ Psalm 37:30-31, Proverbs 15:2, Proverbs 15:7, Proverbs 20:15
An Humble Inquiry into the Rules of the Word of God, Concerning the Qualifications Requisite to a Complete Standing and Full Communion in the Visible Christian Church, by Jonathan Edwards. The following is an excerpt from his work.
Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth. My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.
— Job 33:2, 3.
Confitebatur (Lutherus) dolorem suum, quod ab ipsis reflorescentis Evangelii Primordiis, quosvis absque Discrimine ad Coenam Dominicam admisisset, quodque Disciplinam, Fratrum Disciplinae similem, apud suos non constituisset. — Quia objiciebatur, Fratres non habere Ecclesiam apertam;-Responsum fuit, Sancta dare non Sanctis prohibuisse Christum: — Errorem (in Papaiu) corrigi non posse aliter quam ut certa Probatione, nec illa subitanea, Cordium Arcana reveluntur, Novitiique diu et caute tum informentur, tum explorentur. — Ratio Discipl. Fratr. Bohem.
The Author’s Preface.
My appearing in this public manner on that side of the question, which is defended in the following sheets, will probably be surprising to many; as it is well known, that Mr. Stoddard, so great and eminent a divine, and my venerable predecessor in the pastoral office over the church in Northampton, as well as my own grandfather, publicly and strenuously appeared in opposition to the doctrine here maintained.
However, I hope it will be not taken amiss that I think as I do, merely because I herein differ from him, though so much my superior, and one whose name and memory I am under distinguishing obligations, on every account, to treat with great respect and honour. Especially may I justly expect, that it will not be charged on me as a crime, that I do not think in every thing just as he did, since none more than he himself asserted this scriptural and protestant maxim, that we ought to call no man on earth master, or make the authority of the greatest and holiest of mere men the ground of our belief of any doctrine in religion. Certainly we am not obliged to think any man infallible, who himself utterly disclaims infallibility. Very justly Mr. Stoddard observes in his Appeal to the Learned, p. 97. “All protestants agree, that there is no infallibility at Rome; and I know nobody else pretends to any, since the apostles’ days.” And he insists, in his preface to his sermon on the same subject, That it argues no want of a due respect in us to our forefathers, for us to examine their opinions. Some of his words in that preface contain a good apology for me, and are worthy to be repeated on this occasion. They are as follows:
“It may possibly be a fault (says Mr. Stoddard) to depart from the ways of our fathers: but it may also be a virtue, and an eminent act of obedience, to depart from them in some things. Men are wont to make a great noise, that we are bringing in innovations, and depart from the old way: but it is beyond me, to find out wherein the iniquity does lie. We may see cause to alter some practice of our fathers, without despising them, without priding ourselves in our wisdom, without apostasy, without abusing the advantages God has given us, without a spirit of compliance with corrupt men, without inclination to superstition, without making disturbance in the church of God: and them is no reason, that it should be turned as a reproach upon us. Surely it is commendable for us to examine the practices of our fathers; we have no sufficient reason to take practices upon trust from them. Let them have as high a character as belongs to them; yet we may not look upon their principles as oracles. Nathan himself missed it in his conjecture about building the house of God.
He that believes principles because they affirm them, makes idols of them. And it would be no humility, but because of spirit, for us to judge ourselves incapable to examine the principles that have been handed down to us. If we be by any means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel, we are capable to judge of these matters: and it would ill become us, so to indulge ourselves in case, as to neglect the examination of received principles. If the practices of our fathers in any particulars were mistaken, it is fit they should be rejected; if they be not, they will bear examination. if we be forbidden to examine their practice, that will cut off all hopes of reformation.”
Thus, in these very reasonable and apposite sayings, Mr. Steddard, though dead, yet speaketh: and here (to apply hem to my own case) he tells me, that I am not at all blamable, for not taking his principles on trust; that notwithstanding the high character justly belonging to him, I ought not to look on his principles as oracles, as though he could not miss it, as well as Nathan himself in his conjecture about building the house of God; nay, surely, that I am even to be commended, for examining his practice, and judging for myself; that it would ill become me to do otherwise; that this would be no manifestation of humility, but rather show a baseness of spirit; that if I be not capable to judge for myself in these matters, I am by no means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel; that if I should believe his principles, because he advanced them, I should be guilty of making him an idol. — “Also he tells his and my flock, with all others, that it ill becomes them, so indulge their ease, as to neglect examining received principles and practices; and that it is fit, mistakes in any particulars be rejected: that if in some things I differ in my judgment from him, it would be very unreasonable, on this account, to make a great noise, as though I were bringing in innovations, and departing from the old way; that I may see cause to alter some practices of my grandfather and predecessor, without despising him, without priding myself in my wisdom, without apostacy, without despising the advantages God has given me, without inclination to superstition, and without making disturbance in the church of God; in short, that it is beyond him to find out wherein the iniquity of my so doing lies; and that there is no reason why it should be turned as a reproach upon me. Thus I think, he sufficiently vindicates my conduct in the present case, and warns all with whom I am concerned, not to be at all displeased with me, or to find the least fault with me, merely because I examine for myself, have a judgment of my own, and am for practicing in some particulars different from him, how positive soever he was that his judgment and practice were right. It is reasonably hoped and expected, that they who have a great regard to his judgment, will impartially regard his judgment, and hearken to his admonition in these things.
I can seriously declare, that an affectation of making a show as if I were something wiser than that excellent person, is exceeding distant from me, and very far from having the least influence in my appearing to oppose, in this way of the press, an opinion which he so earnestly maintained and promoted. Sure I am, I have not affected to vary from his judgment, nor in the least been governed by a spirit of contradiction, neither indulged a cavilling humour, in remarking on any of his arguments or expressions. I have formerly been of his opinion, which I imbibed from his books, even from my childhood, and have in my proceedings conformed to his practice; though never without some difficulties in my view, which I could not solve. Yet, however, a distrust of my own understanding, and deference to the authority of so venerable a man, the seeming strength of some of his arguments, together with the success he had in his ministry and his great reputation and influence, prevailed for a long time to bear down my scruples. — But the difficulties and uneasiness on my mind increasing, as I became more studied in divinity, and as I improved in experience, this brought me to closer diligence and care to search the Scriptures, and more impartially to examine and weigh the arguments of my grandfather, and such other authors as I could get on his side of the question. BY which means after long searching, pondering, viewing, and reviewing, I gained satisfaction, became fully settled in the opinion I now maintain, as in the discourse here offered to public view, and dared to proceed no further in a practice and administration inconsistent therewith: which brought me into peculiar circumstances, laying me under an inevitable necessity publicly to declare and maintain the opinion I was thus established in; as also to do it from the press, and to do it at this time without delay.
It is far from a pleasing circumstance of this publication, that it is against what my honoured grandfather strenuously maintained, both from the pulpit and press. I can truly say, on account of this and some other considerations, it is what I engage in with the greatest reluctance that ever I undertook any public service in my life. But the state of things with me is so ordered, by the sovereign disposal of the great Governor of the world, that my doing this appeared to me very necessary and altogether unavoidable. I am conscious, not only is the interest of religion concerned in this affair, but my own reputation, future usefulness, and my very subsistence, all seem to depend on my freely opening and defending myself, as to my principles, and agreeable conduct in my pastoral charge; and on my doing it from the press: in which way alone am I able to state and justify my opinion, to any purpose, before the country, (which is full of noise, misrepresentations, and many censures concerning this affair,) or even before my own people, as all would be fully sensible, if they knew the exact state of the case. — I have been brought to this necessity in divine providence, by such a situation of affairs and coincidence of circumstances and events, as I choose at present to be silent about; and which it is not needful, nor perhaps expedient, for me to publish to the world.
One thing among others that caused me to go about this business with so much backwardness, was the fear of a bad improvement some ill-minded people might be ready, at this day, to make of the doctrine here defended; particularly that wild enthusiastical sort of people, who have of late gone into unjustifiable separations, even renouncing the ministers and churches of the land in general, under presence of setting up a pure church. It is well known, that I have heretofore publicly remonstrated, both from the pulpit and press, against very many of the notions and practices of this kind of people: and shall be very sorry if what I now offer to the public, should be any occasion of their encouraging or strengthening themselves in those notions and practices. To prevent which, I would now take occasion to declare, I am still of the same mind concerning them that I have formerly manifested. I have the same opinion concerning the religion and inward experiences chiefly in vogue among them, as I had when I wrote my Treatise on Religious Affection, and when I wrote my Observations and Reflections on Mr. Brainerd’s Life. I have no better opinion of their notion of a pure church by means of a spirit of discerning, their censorious outcries against the standing ministers and churches in general, their lay ordinations, their lay preachings, and public exhortings, and administering sacraments; their assuming, self-confident, contentious, uncharitable, separating spirit, their going about the country, as sent by the Lord, to make proselytes; with their many other extravagant and wicked ways. My holding the doctrine that is defended in this discourse, is no argument of any change of my opinion concerning them, for when I wrote those two books before mentioned, I was of the same mind concerning the qualifications of communicants at the Lord’s table that I am of now.
However, it is not unlikely, that some will still exclaim against my principles, as being of the same pernicious tendency with those of the Separatists. To such I can only by a solemn protestation aver the sincerity of my aims, and the great care I have exercised to avoid whatsoever is erroneous, or might be in any respect mischievous. But as to my success in these my upright aims and endeavours, I must leave it to every reader to judge for himself, after he has carefully perused and impartially considered the following discourse: which, considering the nature and importance of the subject, I hope all serious readers will accompany with their earnest prayers to the Father of lights, for his gracious direction and influence. And, to Him be glory in the churches by Christ Jesus.
A preface by his American friends.
Though the doctrine here maintained by our dear and reverend brother, was brought over hither by the pious and judicious fathers of this country from the Puritans in England, and held by them and their successors in our churches above threescore years without dissension, Yet some good and learned men have since gone into another way of thinking in this matter. And as the Word of God is our only rule of judging, and this only can bind the conscience in religion, it must needs concern every man to search the Scriptures, that he may come to as satisfying a knowledge as may be, whether he has a right to the Lord’s supper, and whether it be his immediate duty to partake of it, or admit of others. And for all that we had hitherto read on this subject, it seemed to us, there wanted further searchings and discoveries.
And though we have not all had opportunity to read the composure following; yet we apprehend the reverend Author singularly qualified to manage this important argument, from his great acquaitance with the Scriptures, and diligent application to the study of them, with a special aim to find the mind of Christ and settle his judgment in this particular; both to get more light himself, and communicate the same to others. And we have this peculiar motive to excite attention to what he writes, that he is so far from arguing from the prejudice or influence of education, that being brought up in the contrary way of thinking, and more inclined thereto from a special veneration of his reverend grandfather; yet on carefully searching the sacred volumes, he was obliged to yield to those convictions they produced m him, and change his judgment
The following Treatise contains the substance of those convictions, or the particular reasons of this alteration. And if those who are now in his former way of thinking, would with due seriousness, humility, calmness, diligence, and impartiality, search the Scriptures, and consider his arguments derived from them, looking up to God through Christ, and subjecting their minds entirely to him, they may either see and yield to the same convictions, and find cause to change their judgments also, or will at least continue their fraternal affection to the worthy Author, and others in the same sentiments with him.
We heartily pray that the reverend Author and his flock may for a long time he happy together; that their cordial love and tenderness to each other may continue and operate in mutual and all lawful condescensions and forbearances under different sentiments in these particulars, that every one may be open to light, and guard against all prejudice, precipitance, and passion; that they may be very watchful against the devices of Satan to disunite or disaffect them; that they may study the things that make for peace and edification. — And the God of light, love, and peace, will continue with them.
Boston, August 11, 1746.
— Thomas Prince.
— John Webb.
— Thomas Foxcroft.
— M. Byles.
Advertisement to the Edinburgh Edition.
A Narrative of the transactions to which the following Treatise refers, may be read in the account of the Author’s Life, which was printed originally at Boston, New England, in 1765, and lately reprinted at Glasgow. The works of the Author are now very well known in this country. The world, it is apprehended, owe no small obligation to Dr. John Erskine, one of the ministers of this city, who first introduced them to their acquaintance.
There are very few persons attentive to the subjects on which President Edwards has written who will not acknowledge, that he has cast much light upon them. And nothing will prevent Christians from considering the present Treatise as one of the most able and interesting parts of his works, but prejudice and indifference about the subject of it. His own opinion of it may be seen in his Preface. It will there appear, if persons should even be inattentive to its internal evidence, that it called forth the complete extent of his abilities, and was the fruit of dependence on the Father of lights for instruction and presentation from error.
The whole of his works are now reprinted in Britain, excepting only his Defence of this Treatise, against the Objections of Mr. Solomon Williams. If the present performance, which is exceedingly scarce, meets with encouragement, the publisher intends to print it also.
— Edinburgh, May 15,1790.
The Question Stated and Explained.
The main question I would consider, and for the negative of which I would offer some arguments in the following discourse, is this; Whether, according to the rules of Christ, any ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church of Christ in complete standing, but such as are in profession, and in the eye of the church’s Christian judgment, godly or gracious persons?
When I speak of members of the visible church of Christ, in complete standing, I would be understood of those who are received as the proper immediate subjects of all the external privileges Christ has appointed for the ordinary members of his church. I say ordinary members, in distinction from any peculiar privileges and honours of church-officers and rulers. All allow, there are some that are in some respect in the church of God, who are not members in complete standing, in the sense that has been explained. All that acknowledge infant baptism, allow infants, who are the proper subjects of baptism, and are baptised, to be in some sort members of the Christian church, yet none suppose them to be members in such standing as to be the proper immediate subjects of all ecclesiastical ordinances and privileges: but that some further qualifications are requisite in order to this, to be obtained, either in a course of nature, or by education, or by divine grace. And some who are baptised in infancy, even after they come to be adult, may yet remain for a season short of such a standing as has been spoken of; being destitute of sufficient knowledge, and perhaps some other qualifications, through the neglect of parents, or their own negligence, or otherwise, or because they carelessly neglected to qualify themselves for ecclesiastical privileges by making a public profession of the Christian faith, or owning the Christian covenant, or forbear to offer themselves as candidates for these privileges; and yet not be cast out of the church, or cease to be in any respect its members: this, I suppose, will also be generally allowed.
One thing mainly intended in the foregoing question is, whether any adult persons but such as are in the profession and appearance endowed with the Christian grace or piety, ought to he admitted to the Christian sacraments. Particularly, whether they ought to be admitted to the Lord’s supper; and, if they are such as were not baptised in infancy, ought to be admitted to baptism. Adult persons having those qualifications that oblige others to receive them as the proper immediate subjects of the Christian sacraments, is a main thing intended in the question, by being such as ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church, in complete standing. There are many adult persons that by the allowance of all are in some respects within the church of God, who are not members in good standing, in this respect. There are many, for instance, that have not at present the qualifications proper to recommend them to the Lord’s supper: there are many scandalous persons, who are under suspension. The late venerable Mr. Stoddard, and many other great divines, suppose, that even excommunicated persons are still members of the church of God and some suppose, the worshippers of Baal in Israel, even those who were bred up such from their infancy, remained still members of the church of God. And very many protestant divines suppose, that the members of the church of Rome, though they are brought up and live continually in gross idolatry, and innumerable errors and superstitions that tend utterly to make void the gospel of Christ, still are in the visible church of Christ: yet, I suppose, no orthodox divines would hold these to be properly and regularly qualified for the Lord’s supper. It was therefore requisite, in the question before us, that a distinction should be made between the members of the visible church in general, and members in complete standing.
It was also requisite, that such a distinction should be made in the question, to avoid lengthening out this discourse exceedingly, with needless questions and debates concerning the state of baptised infants; that is needless as to my present purpose. Though I have no doubts about the doctrine of infant baptism, yet God’s manner of dealing with such infants as are regularly dedicated to him in baptism, is a matter liable to great disputes and many controversies, and would require a large dissertation by itself to clear it up, which, as it would extend this discourse beyond all bounds, so it appears not necessary in order to a clear determination of the present question. The revelation of God’s word is much plainer and more express concerning adult persons, that act for themselves in religious matters, than concerning infants. The Scriptures were written for the sake of adult persons, or those that are capable of knowing what is written. It is to such the apostle speaks in the Epistles, and to such only does God speak throughout his word; and the Scriptures especially speak for the sake of these, and about those to whom they speak. And therefore if the word of God affords us light enough concerning those spoken of in the question, as I have stated it, clearly to determine the matter with respect to them, we need not wait till we see all doubts and controversies about baptised infants cleared and settled, before we pass a judgment with respect to the point in hand. The denominations, characters, and descriptions, which we find given in the Scripture to visible Christians, and to the visible church, are principally with an eve to the church of Christ in its adult state and proper standing. If any one was about to describe that kind of birds called doves, it would be most proper to describe grown doves, and not young ones in the egg or nest, without wings or feathers. So if any one should describe a palm-tree or olive-tree by their visible form and appearance, it would be presumed that they described those of these kinds of trees in their natural and proper state, and not as just peeping from the ground, or as thunder-struck or blown down. And therefore I would here give notice, once for all, that when in the ensuing discourse I use such like phrases as visible saints, members of the visible church, etc. I, for the most part, mean persons that are adult and in good standing.
The question is not, whether Christ has made converting grace or piety itself the condition or rule of his people’s admitting any to the privileges of members in full communion with them. There is no one qualification of the mind whatsoever, that Christ has properly made the term of this, not so much as a common belief that Jesus is the Messiah, or a belief of the being of a God. It is the credible profession and visibility of these things, that is the church’s rule in this case. Christian piety or godliness may be a qualification requisite to communion in the Christian sacraments, just in the same manner as a belief that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Scriptures the word of God, are requisite qualifications; and in the same manner as some kind of repentance is a qualification in one that has been suspended for being grossly scandalous in order to his coming again to the Lord’s supper, and yet godliness itself not be properly the rule of the church’s proceeding, in like manner as such a belief and repentance, as I have mentioned, are not their rule. It is a visibility to the eye of a Christian judgment, that is the rule of the church’s proceeding in each of these cases. — There are two distinctions must be here observed. As,
1. We must distinguish between such qualifications as are requisite to give a person a right to ecclesiastical privileges in foro ecclesia, or a right to be admitted by the church to those privileges; and those qualifications that are a proper and good foundation for a man’s own conduct in coming and offering himself as a candidate for immediate admission to these privileges. There is a difference between these. Thus, for instance, a profession of the belief of a future state and of revealed religion, and some other things that are internal and out of sight, and a visibility of these things to the eye of a Christian judgment, is all relating to these things, that is requisite to give a man a right in foro ecclesia, or before the church; but it is the real existence of these things, that is what lays a proper and good foundation for his making this profession, and so demanding these privileges. None will suppose, that he has good and proper ground for such a conduct, who does not believe another world, nor believe the Bible to be the word of God. And then
2. We must distinguish between that which nextly brings an obligation on a man’s conscience to seek admission to a Christian ordinance, and that which is a good foundation for the dictate of an enlightened well- informed conscience, and so is properly a solid foundation of a right in him to act thus. Certainly this distinction does really take place among mankind m innumerable cases. The dictates of men’s consciences are what bring them under a most immediate obligation to act; but it is that which is a good foundation for such a dictate of an enlightened conscience, that alone is a solid foundation of a right in him so to act. Believing the doctrine of the Trinity with all the heart, in some sense, (let us suppose a moral sense,) is one thing requisite in order to a person’s having a solid foundation of a right in him to go and demand baptism in the name of the Trinity; but his best judgement or dictate of his conscience, concerning his believing this doctrine with this sincerity, or with all his heart, may be sufficient to bring an obligation on his conscience. Again, when a delinquent has been convicted of scandal, it is repentance in some respect sincere, (some a moral sincerity,) that is a proper foundation of a right in him to offer himself for forgiveness and restoration; but it is the dictate of his conscience or his best judgement concerning his sincerity, that is the thing which immediately obliges him to offer himself. It is repentance itself, that is the proper qualification fundamental of his right, and without which he cannot have a proper right; for though he may be deceived, and think he has real repentance when he has not, yet he has not properly a right to be deceived; and perhaps deceit in such cases is always owing to something blamable, or the influence of some corrupt principle: but yet his best judgment brings him under obligation. In the same manner, and no otherwise, I suppose that Christian grace itself is a qualification requisite in order to a proper solid ground of a right in a person to come to the Christian sacraments. But of this I may say something more when I come to answer objections.
When I speak, in the question, of being godly or gracious in the eye of a Christian judgment, by Christian judgement I intend something further than a kind of mere negative charity, implying that we forbear to censure and condemn a man, because we do not know but that he may be godly, and therefore forbear to proceed on the foot of such a censure or judgment in our treatment of him: as we would kindly entertain a stranger, not knowing but in so doing we entertain an angel or precious saint of God. But I mean a positive judgement, founded on some positive appearance, or visibly, some outward manifestations that ordinarily render the thing probable. There is a difference between suspending our judgment, or forbearing to condemn, or having some hope that possibly the thing may be so, and so hoping the best; and a positive judgment in favor of a person. For having some hope, only implies that a man is not in utter despair of a thing, though his prevailing opinion may be otherwise, or he may suspend his opinion. Though we cannot know a man believes that Jesus is the Messiah, yet we expect some positive manifestation or visibility of it, to be a ground of our charitable judgment: so I suppose the case is here.
When I speak of Christian judgment, I mean a judgment wherein men do properly exercise reason, and have their reason under the due influence of love and other Christian principles, which do not blind reason, but regulate its exercises; being not contrary to reason, though they be very contrary to censoriousness, or unreasonable niceness and rigidness.
I say in the eye of the Church’s Christian judgment because it is properly a visibility to the eye of the public charity, and not of a private judgment, that gives a person a right to be received as a visible saint by the public. If any are known to be persons of an honest character, and appear to be of good understanding in the doctrines of Christianity, and particularly those doctrines that teach the grand condition of salvation, and the nature of true saving religion, and publicly and seriously profess the great and main things wherein the essence of true religion or godliness consists, and their conversation is agreeable; this justly recommends them to the good opinion of the public, whatever suspicions and fears any particular person, either the minister, or some other, may entertain, from what he in particular has observed, perhaps from the manner of his expressing himself in giving an account of his experiences, or an obscurity in the order and method of his experiences, etc. The minister in receiving him to the communion of the church, is to act as a public officer, and in behalf of the public society, and not merely for himself and therefore is to be governed, in acting, by a proper visibility of godliness in the eye of the public.
It is not my design, in holding the negative of the foregoing question, to affirm, that all who are regularly admitted as members of the visible church in complete standing, ought to be believed to he godly or gracious persons, when taken collectively, or considered in the gross, by the judgment of any person or society. This may not be, and yet each person taken singly may visibly be a gracious person to the eye of the judgment of Christians in general. These two are not the same thing, but vastly diverse, and the latter may be, and yet not the former. If we should know so much of a thousand persons one after another, and from what we observed in them should have a prevailing opinion concerning each one of them, singly taken, that they were indeed pious, and think the judgment we passed, when we consider each judgment apart, to be right; it will not follow, when we consider the whole company collectively, that we shall have so high an opinion of our own judgment, as to think it probable, there was not one erroneous judgment in the whole thousand. We all have innumerable judgments about one thing or other, concerning religious, moral, secular, and philosophical affairs, concerning past, present, and future matters, reports, facts, persons, things, etc. And concerning all the many thousand dictates of judgment that we have, we think them every one right, taken singly; for if there was any one that we thought wrong, it would not be our judgment; and yet there is no man unless he is stupidly foolish, who when he considers ail in the gross, will say he thinks that his every opinion he is of, concerning all persons and things whatsoever, important and trifling, is right, without the feast error. But the more clearly to illustrate this matter, as it relates to visibility, or probable appearances of holiness in professors: supposing it had been found by experience concerning precious stones, that such and such external marks were probable signs of a diamond; and supposing, by putting together a great number of experiments, the probability is as ten to one, that, take one time with another, one in ten of the stones which have these marks (and no visible signs to the contrary) proves to be not a true diamond. Then it will follow, that when I find a particular stone with these marks, and nothing to the contrary, there is a probability of ten to one, concerning that stone, that it is a diamond; and so concerning each stone that I find with these marks: but if we take ten of these together, it is as probable as not, that some one of the ten is spurious; because, if it were not as likely as not, that one to ten is false, or if taking one ten with another, there were not one in ten that was false, then the probability of those, that hare these marks. being true diamonds, would be more than ten to one, contrary to the supposition; because that is what we mean by a probability of ten to one, that they are not false, viz. that take one ten with another there will be one false stone among them, and no more. Hence if we take a hundred such stones together, the probability will be just ten to one that there is one false among them, and as likely as not that there are ten false ones in the whole hundred. And the probability of the individuals must be much greater than ten to one, even a probability of more than a hundred to one, in order to its making it probable that every one is true. It is an easy mathematical demonstration. Hence the negative of the foregoing question by no means implies a presence of any scheme, that shall be effectual to keep all hypocrites out of the church, and for the establishing in that sense a pure church.
When it is said, those who are admitted, etc. ought to be by profession godly or gracious persons; it is not meant, they should merely profess or say that they are converted or ire gracious persons, that they know so, or think so; hut that they profess the great shines wherein Christian piety consists, viz. a supreme respect to God, faith in Christ, etc. Indeed it is necessary, as men would keep a good conscience, that they should think that these things are in them which they profess to be in them, otherwise they are guilty of the horrid wickedness of wilfully making a lying profession. Hence it is supposed to be necessary, in order to men’s regularly and with a good conscience coming into communion with the church of Christ in the Christian sacrament, that they themselves should suppose the essential things, belonging to Christian piety, to be in them.
It does not belong to the present question, to consider and determine what the nature of Christian piety is, or wherein it consists: this question may be properly determined, and the determination demonstrated, without entering into any controversies about the nature of conversion, etc. Nor does an asserting the negative of the question determine any thing how particular the profession of godliness ought to be, but only that the more essential things, which belong to it, ought to be professed. Nor is it determined, but that the public professions made on occasion of persons’ admission to the Lord’s supper, in some of our churches, who yet go upon that principle, that persons need not esteem themselves truly gracious in order to a coming conscientiously and properly to the Lord’s supper; I say, it is not determined but that some of these professions are sufficient, if those that made them were taught to use the words, and others to understand them, in no other than their proper meaning, and principle and custom had not established a meaning very diverse from it, or perhaps an use of the words without any distinct and clear determinate meaning.