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heretic, consequently, can be'a"true" member of it; because heretics are those who deny or disbelieve that faith which Christ and his Apostles delivered to this church, 'not only in some lesser points, but in the most essential and fundamental articles of it. And, for the very same reason, separatists cannot justly be accounted true members of Christ's church, because they openly forsake, separate, or cut themselves off from the communion of the catholic church, if they desert any one sound part of it; for, it is a manifest contradiction to say, they actually continue members of the same, who, by their own wilful separation from it, have renounced its communion. And it follows from these premises, that this must be the case of all who refuse communion with the church of England, unless she can be proved no true part of the catholic church. But that is impossible, because she holds the true catholic faith, as delivered in the Holy Scriptures, as drawn up in the creeds of the church, and likewise acknowledged by the purest and most ancient councils to be sufficient to entitle all who profess thus much, to be truly catholic orthodox Christians : she also holds communion with all such Christians as profess the same faith.
How far the church of Rome, or the popish church (so called froin the chief bishop or governor of it residing at that place, and being styled Pope or father thereof), may be judged schismatical and heretical; I do not think immediately concerned with the present subject, which principally relates to our faith in the TRUE catholic church, or a just notion of what is meant thereby.
Lastly, that this church has every claim to be called holy, cannot be disputed, especially when we more particularly consider the end of Christ in forming it; the rules he has appointed for its conduct; the promises he has made for the observance of them ; the sacraments, mis nistry, and all its ordinances, which clearly are. calculated to make it holy; and, above all, as every one, who is indeed a faithful member of it, is in a measure actually sanctified and purified by the influence of the Holy Spirit, so far are they truly, though imperfectly holy now, and shall hereafter be altogether spotless.
In the introduction to this Discourse, and the statement of the members of this article, I treated but briefly on the concluding expression, the communion of saints. It is certain, from the language in which the Creed or Belief is composed, the terms may signify holy persons or holy things. Of the former I delivered a full description, showing you, that by saints we are properly to understand such as answer the end of their calling by a lively faith and holy
conversation ; or, as the Apostle expresses it (1 Thess. iii. 13), to the end he тау
establish your hearts unblameable, in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
But under these words of the article we are doubtless further bound to believe, that all true members of Christ's church have a right of fellowship or communion with God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, because they are received in covenant by the first, through the death and sufferings of the other. Our faith is likewise concerned in holding that all true saints have communion or fellowship with the Holy Ghost, by his dwelling in them, sanctifying or making them holy; for, what says the Apostle? (1 Cor. xii. 7.) The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man, to profit withal. The words imply further, that we are to believe that they have fellowship with the holy angels, who both minister unto tbem, in time of hard trial, through the appointment of God, and have a most tender concern for them. This we may conclude from the declaration of our blessed Lord himself (Luke, xv, 10), Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
We are led to believe also, that they have all fellowship with one another, as members of the same mystical body of Christ, as already mentioned, and proved from Scripture. And the Apostle (Rom. xii. 16) commands the saints to be of one mind towards each other ; that is, to promote the fellowship of love and charity towards one another.
And as to the things in which all pure saints, or truly pious Christians, have a fellowship or communion ; this part of the article equally engages us to believe, they have weight in communicating in all the ordinances of the Gopsel ; i. e. in the prayers of the church, in the ministry of the word and sacraments, and whatever else hath been appointed by Christ, or established in the church for the common good of all its members.
Nor do these more express marks of a communion or fellowship between the saints on earth, by any means exclude or shut out those more commonly called saints, namely, those who have departed this life in the fear of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. How they maintain communion with all who are striving after that peace they have happily obtained, we cannot positively tell. The nature of their fellowship may be much the same as it is with members of the same civil society upon earth, · when they are in a foreign country far distant from one another. Probably they do in general pray for us, as it is certain they wish well to
But for ourselves, who are yet here on earth, we must bless God for the grace he was pleased to bestow on them, and by which they were delivered from the sin and temptation of this evil world, and enabled faithfully to serve him to the end. We must place their examples before us, and imitate their virtues ; we must account them as living members of Christ's body; we must faithfully discharge any trust they may have left us, but on no account make any petition or prayer to them, however eminently holy they were here; for this being unwarranted by God's word, nay, positively forbidden by an express command, it is not only vain and unprofitable, but superstitious and IDOLATROUS, it being evidently to give that honour to the creature, which is due only to the Creator; and creatures they must ever be considered, however largely God's mercy hath been dealt out to them in their exalted state.
To conclude: from what has been said at this time, my brethren, I humbly trust you have been fully and clearly instructed in what sense you profess to believe the HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS ; viz. that it is a most certain truth, that Christ, by the preaching of his Apostles, did gather unto himself a church, or body of people, consisting of thousands of believing persons, and numerous congregations, to which he daily VOL. I.