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ticulars of our Duty, or what are the Things that make for Peace, in both these Respects..
I begin with what is due from us to the Church in order to Peace, as Peace stands in Contra-distinction to Schifm. And this Point I shall beg leave to discuss very plainly and particularly ; because I fear many of us have wrong Notions about it: And yet it is a matter of such Consequence, that the right understanding of it would go a great way to the Cure of the fad Divisions that are among us.
What I have to say upon this point, I shall comprize in the Four following propositions ; taking my Rise from the First Principle of Church-Society.
The First Proposition I lay down, is this, That every Christian is, by virtue of his Christia anity, a Member of the Church of Chrift, and is bound to join in External Communion with it, where it can be had.
For the clearing of this, let it be taken Notice of, That the Method which our Saviour set on foot for our Salvation, doth not so much consider us as single Perfons, as joined together in one common Society. It was his Design, to gather to himself a Church out of Mankind, to erect and form a Body Politick, of which himself should be the Head, and particular Christians the Members; and in this Method, through Obedience to his Laws and Government,
to bring Men to Salvation. John is. This is variously set forth to us in the New
Testament. Sometimes Christ and Christians are represented under the Notion of a Vine ;
of which He is the Root, and They are the
Chrift loved the Church, and gave himself for A&ts 20. F1 it. Cbrif redeemed the Church with his own 28.
Blood. Christ is the Saviour of his Body, that is Eph.5.25.
Now then it being thus evident, that eve-
out this, neither the Ends of Church-Society, į nor the Benefits accruing to us therefrom, can be attained.
First, not the Ends of it : The Ends of Hi Church-Society are the more Solemn Worship of
God, and the publick Profeffion of our Religion, and the mutual Edification one of another : Now, how these can be in any mieasuré attained, without affociating together in publick Aljemblies and mutilal Offices, and other Acts of External Coninuiri 012 with one another, cannot - any ways be imagined. '...!! !
And as little, in the Second Place, can it be conceived; how without this we can be made Partakers of the Benefits and Privileges that Christ hath made over to the Members of his Chirch. For we are to consider, that God hath fo ordered the matter, (and without doubt for this very Reason, to unite us the more firmly in Society) that the Privileges of the Goffel, such as Pardon 'of Sin, 'and the Grace of the Holy Spirit, are not ordinarily
conveyed to us so immediately by God, but :: that there must intervene the Ministry of
Mer. God's Holy Word and Sacraments are
them without them : As in Case of a General Apostacy of the Church; or of Perfecution for Religion; or of any unjust Excommunication, or any other : Case where Communion with a true visible Church is denied to us. But though God doth act; extraordinarily in extraordinary Cases, where these Meanis - cannot be had; yet this doth not, at all diminish, much less take away the Necessity of making use of them when they can be had.....
From what hath been discoursed on this First Proposition, we may, by the way, gather these Two Things; I only, name thein ::.. : 1. How untrue their Position is, that maintain, That all our Obligation to Church-Communion doth arise from a voluntary Admission of ourselves into some particular Congregation, and an explicit Promise or Engagement to join with it-in Church-Ordinances... , 1
2. How wildly and extravagantly they discourse, that talk of a Christianity at large, without relation to a Church, or Communion with any Society of Christians. · The Second Proposition is, That every one is bound to join in Communion with the established National Church to which he belongs, supposing there be nothing in the Terms of its Communion that renders it unlawful for him fo to do.
For if we are bound to maintain Commu. nion with the Catholick Church, as I have before proved, it is plain, that we are bound to maintain Communion with that . Part of it, within whose Verge the Divine Providence has cast us. For we cannot communicate
with the Catholick Church, but by communia cating with some Part of it : And there is no communicating with any Part of it, but that under which we live, or where we have our Residence.
Well, but it may be said, that there may be several distinct Churches in the Place where we live. There may be the fixed Regular Assemblies of the National Church; and there may be separate Congregations ; both which are, or pretend to be Parts of the Catholick Church; so that it may be all one as to our communicating with that, wich of these we join with, supposing we join but with one of them; and consequently, there is 110 Necessi. ty from that Principle that we should hold Communion with the Publick Asemblies of the National Church
But as to this, I desire it may be considered, that That which lays an Obligation upon us to join in Communion with the Church, (to wit, our being Members of that one Body of Christ) doth also lay an Obligation upon us, as much as in us lies, to preserve the Unity of that Body, (for this both the Fundamental Laws of Society, and the express Precepts of Christianity, do require of every Member :) But now to make a Rent in, or separate from any Part of the Body of Christ, with which we may lawfully communicate (and such we now suppose the Epablished Asemblies of the Nation to be) is dire&tly contrary to the preserving the Unity of that Body: And therefore, certainly, such a Rent or Separation, must