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Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One
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SECT. III.

The inconsistence of the fore-mentioned concessions with the lawfulness of unsanctified persons coming to the Lord’s supper, and their right to sacraments in the sight of God.

Mr. W. in the book under consideration, which he entitles the true state of the question, insists upon it that the question to be debated is the question Mr. Stoddard debated in his dispute with Dr. Mather; in whose scheme Mr. W. declares himself to be. Mr. S. in his dispute with Dr. Mather asserted, that it was lawful for some unsanctified men to come to the Lord’s supper, and that they had a right so to do in the sight of God. And he declares that this was the point in dispute between him and Dr. Mather; as in Appeal, p. 20. “That which I am to show is, that some unsanctified men have a right before God to the Lord’s supper.” So Mr. Blake (who is so great an author with Mr. W.) says in his treatise on the covenant, p. 244. “That faith which is the condition of the promise, is not the condition in foro Dei [before God] of a title to the seal.” And there (in the next p.) he insists, that it is a common faith, that is believed by men not justified, which gives this title. Agreeable to these things Mr. W. says, (p. 132. d.) Some men have a lawful right to the sacrament without sanctification. Which is the same thing as to say, They have a right in the sight of God. For if they have no right in the sight of God to come to the Lord’s supper, then it is not lawful in the sight of God that they should come.

Here I would lay down this as a maxim;

There is some inward religion and virtue or other, some sincerity of heart, either moral or saving, that is necessary to a right to sacraments in the sight of God, and in order to a lawful coming to them. No man, I trust, will say, that a man has a right in God’s sight, who has no sort of seriousness of mind; and that merely outward sounds and motions give him this right in God’s sight, without regard to any property or quality of mind, and though this outward show is joined with the most horrid and resolved secret irreligion and wickedness. Mr. W. in particular utterly disclaims such doctrine as this, and always maintains that in order to men’s lawful coming, they must be morally sincere; as in his Preface, and also in p. 25. d. e. p. 27. c. p. 30. d. p. 35. e. p. 111.—In p. 115, he supposes, that if a man makes a doubt of his moral sincerity, no divine will advise him to come till he knows.

Having observed this, I now desire it may be considered, whether it be reasonable to suppose, as Mr. W. does, that God would give men that are without grace, a lawful right to sacraments, so that this qualification itself should be nothing necessary to a proper and rightful claim to these ordinances; and yet that he would wholly forbid them to come, and others to admit them, without their making some pretence to it, and exhibiting moral evidence that they have it: that moral sincerity is the qualification which by God’s own appointment invests persons with a lawful right to sacraments, and that by his institution nothing more is requisite to a lawful right; and yet that he has commanded them not to come, nor others to allow them to come, without making a profession of something more than moral sincerity, as Mr. W. says. Mr. W. supposes that God requires us, before we admit persons, to seek credible evidence of true piety, and to see to it that we have reasonable ground to believe they have it; otherwise, not to allow them to come; and yet that God does not look on such a qualification requisite in itself, when all is done, and that he has given them as true and lawful a right to come without it, as with it. If God insists upon it, as Mr. W. supposes, that members should be admitted under no other notion than of their being truly godly, and from respect to such a character appearing on them, is it not plain, that God looks on such a character in itself requisite, in order to a person’s being a rightful subject of such a privilege. If the want of this qualification do not in the least hinder a person’s lawful right to a thing, on what account can the want of an appearance of it and pretence to it, warrant and oblige others to hinder his taking possession of that thing?

That we should be obliged to require a credible pretence and evidence of the being of a thing, in order to a certain purpose, the being of which is not requisite to that purpose; or that some evidence of a thing should be necessary, and yet withal no necessity there should be any foundation of such evidence, in the being of the thing to be made evident; that it should be necessary for us to seek evidence that something is true, and yet there be no need in order to the intended purpose, that there be any such truth to be made evident;—if these things are the dictates of common sense, I am willing all that are possessed of any degree of common sense should be judges.

If God has plainly revealed, that gospel-holiness is not necessary in itself in order to men’s lawful right to sacraments, as Mr. W. greatly insists, then his churches need not believe it to be necessary; yea, it is their duty to believe that it is not necessary, as it is their duty to believe what God says to be true. But yet Mr. W. holds, that God forbids his churches to admit any to sacraments, unless they first have some rational evidence obliging them to believe that they have gospel-holiness. Now how palpable is the inconsistence, that we must be obliged to believe men have a qualification in order to our suffering them to come, which yet at the same time we need not believe to be necessary for them to have in order to their coming, but which God requires us to believe to be unnecessary! Or in other words, that God has made it necessary for us to believe or suppose men are truly pious, in order to our lawfully allowing them to take the sacraments, and yet at the same time requires us to believe no such thing as their being pious is necessary in order to their lawfully taking the sacraments!

Mr. Stoddard (whose principles Mr. W. in Preface, p. 3. a. declares himself to be fully established in) not only says, that some unsanctified men have a right before God to the Lord’s supper, but strongly asserts, over and over, that they are fit to be admitted to the Lord’s supper, that they are duly qualified, fit matter for church-membership—(Appeal, p. 15, 16.) And Mr. W. argues that such qualifications as some unsanctified men have, are suffient to bring them into the church. Now if it be so, what business have we to demand evidence or pretence of any thing further. What case in the world can be mentioned parallel to it, in any nation or age? Are there any such kind of laws or regulations to be found in any nation, city, or family; in any society, civil, military or academic, stated or occasional, that the society should be required to insist on some credible pretence and evidence of a certain qualification, in order to persons being admitted to the privileges of the society; prohibiting their being admitted under any other notion than as persons possessed of that qualification, or without a respect in their admission to such a character appearing on them: and yet at the same time, by the laws of that very society, that qualification is not necessary; but persons are declared, without any such qualification, to have a lawful right, to be fit matter, to be duly qualified, and to have sufficient qualifications to be admitted to these privileges, without that qualification?

If some men have a right in the sight of God to sacraments without true piety, and are fit and duly qualified without it, in his sight and by his institution, and yet the church must not admit them unless they are truly pious in their sight; then the eye of man must require higher terms, than the infinitely holy eye of God himself; they must look for something that the eye of God looks not for, and which he judges them duly qualified without.

Mr. W. when speaking of the evidence, on which he supposes the church ought to judge persons to be real saints, from time to time adds, that on such evidence “The church is obliged, in their external carriage, to treat them as saints, and admit them to the external privileges of the church.”—So, p. 9. d. p. 12. a. &c. p. 13. a. b. and p. 14. c. and in other places. But what does he mean by treating them as saints, in admitting them to the external privileges of the church? If sinners have as much of a lawful right to these privileges, as saints, then why is giving them these privileges, a treating them as saints, any more than as sinners? If it belongs to an ignorant child, to be admitted into school, as much as one that is learned, then how is it treating him as one that is learned, to admit him? Mr. W. (p. 11. d. e.) giving a reason why he that professes conviction of the truth of the gospel, &c. ought to be admitted to sacraments, says, “Though this conviction may be only by moral evidence and common illumination, yet—the church knows not but it is done on a divine and gracious discovery.” But how can this be a reason? What if the church did know that it was not on a gracious discovery, if the man has a right in the sight of God without, and God has made it his duty to come to sacraments without it? Surely the church have no right to forbid him to do that which God has given him a right to do, and made it his duty to do; as Mr. S. says, (Doct. of Inst. Churches, p. 20. b.) The church may not hinder any man from doing his duty.

Therefore if this be Mr. S—d’s question, Whether some unsanctified men may lawfully come to the Lord’s supper, and if this be the grand point in dispute, the thing which Mr. W. undertakes to maintain, as he often declares, then it is most plainly evident, that in conceding and asserting those things forementioned, he does in effect abundantly give up that which he himself insists on as the grand point in controversy; and so makes void and vain all his own labour, and for himself effectually confutes all that he has written.

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