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to them, for it is addressed to all, and it ought to give you pleasure to find them still disposed to hear it. Could you exclude them, your doing it would contribute nothing towards their instruction and conviction; on the contrary, it would be depriving them of the means of instruction and conviction, and surely this cannot be desirable. Their presence in your assemblies neither veils the light of truth, nor weakens its evidences, nor hinders the edification of those who believe. Can you help wishing and praying that they may be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and become real Christians ? But if you exclude them from among you, and so far shut them out from the means of being converted to pure and genuine Christianity, are you not counteracting the very thing for which you wish and pray? Our Lord and his apostles excluded none from the assemblies in which they taught publicly, nor from the means of grace and salvation : and what right can you have to do it? Does not the wish to exclude Unbelievers from our public assemblies savour of the leaven of the Pha. risees, who said, “ Stand by, I am more holy than thou"? Is it not likely to arise from pride, and a dread of the illi, beral reflections of the reputed orthodox? I trust, my brethren, there is only one way in which you will endea, vour to exclude Unbelievers, that is, by using all possible means, to remove their unbelief, and bring them to be Christians.
As you cannot prevent Unbelievers mixing with you in your public assemblies, unless it be by offensive treatment, let me remind you that such treatment would be both dishonourable and injurious. It is an apostolic exhortation, to be gentle towards all men and in meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves. You ought to treat all upright and virtuous persons with respect and kindness, whatever may be their opinions. You have no authority to judge, censure and condemn others for believing either less or more than you do. Their doubts or disbelief cap. not justify your withholding from them any of the chari: ties of life, or any part of the respect and friendly treatment to which their integrity and virtue entitle thens. Your acting with Pharisaical austerity and self-righteous contumely towards Unbelievers, or treating thein with any sort of contenipt, disrespect or unkindness, can only tend to shut their miuds against conviction, and disaffect them the more against Christianity. If you wish to bring the
to the knowledge of the truth, you must do all you can to excite their attention, conciliate them, and shew them not only the evidence, but also the benignant influence of the gospel in your own spirit and conduct.
Whether Unbelievers can consistently unite in prayers addressed to God in the name of Christ or not, is their inquiry, not ours ; their presence neither interrupts nor alters the nature and acceptableness of our devotions : it is for them to judge how far they can unite with us, we have no right to judge for them; and to God alone they are accountable. More than a little depends on what is meant by praying in the name of Christ ; I suppose it to mean by his authority, or according to his teaching and example, according to the gospel. It is evident we cannot, while our houses of worship are public, prevent Unbelievers uniting with us in the devotional parts of our services, if they choose to do it ; uor can I perceive any right we should have to do it, if we had the power, nor any good purpose our doing it could possibly answer. It is hardly to be thought they would join in such parts of our services if they found nothing interesting in them. Thus it appears, that we neither can vor ought to prevent, Unbelievers attending in our public assemblies, to hear the Scriptures read and the word preached, and to join with us in our devotions which are public, if they think it proper to do so, and their doing it should not trouble, as it cannot harm us ; it is a matter between themselves and God, to whom alone they are accountable.
But ought we to admit Unbelievers to be members of our churches? This question cannot well be answered without soine explanation of the words church and member, (which will be understood differently by different persons) and also asking some other questions. The word church, in the New Testament, literally means an assembly, or a congregation, and I am not aware that it has any other meaning. All who regularly attend the public services in any given place, must be included in the congregation or assembly meeting in that place ; consequently, by regularly attending, they become members of that congregation or church, whatever any of them inay believe or disbelieve. : By a church, many persons in the present day mean a select part of the congregation, who are separated and distinguished from the congregation at large, by being baptized, or by partaking of the Lord's Supper, or by some
mark of distinction which separates thein from the assem. bly at large, with whom they ordinarily unite in public worship. Of this distinction between the church and the congregation which regularly meet for religious worship and instruction, I can find no trace in the New Testament: Ethose, however, who admit and act upon it, regard as iembers of the church done but those who have the peculiar mark or badge, whatever it may be, though perhaps hundreds more may be members of the congregation, by regularly filling their places in it, and contributing towards the support of the joinister and the other expenses incurred by regularly meeting together and supporting the cause. Hence, to give a definite answer to the above question, it will be proper to inquire, .'
1. Ought Unbelievers to be admitted to the Lord's Sup. per? I do not suppose that any Unbeliever would wish to be admitted either to baptism or the Lord's Supper, un. less in an established church, where the latter is made a qualification for some place of worldly honour, power or emolument; I know not that such a case either has occurred or is likely to occur among us. The coining to the Lord's Supper is in fact an expression of faith in Christ, and it is uncharitable and unjust to suppose that a virtuous inan who thus expresses his faith is an Unbeliever, when he has no worldly object to gain by it. You have no right as churches to forın yourselves into courts of inquisition, and, usurping dominion over the Lord's table, to sit in judginent upon others, and decide whether they be believers or not, before you admit them to his supper. The rule Paul gave is, “ Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread and drink of this cup"-not examine one another, or let every one be examined by the church. The apostle lest each person to decide for himself as to bis own faith and fitness, and so to partake of the Lord's Sup. per. Instead of requiring a confession of faith of each person before he comes to the Lord's table, you should regard his coming to that table as declaratory of his faith in Christ. Say an Unbeliever should, inconsistently, partake of the Lord's Supper with you—it is he that is accountable to God for his conduct, not you ; nor ought you to play. the pope, and usurp dominion, which neither God nor Christ hath given, to prevent it.
2. Ought Unbelievers to be acknowledged as members of our churches ? If you use the word church in the sense in which it is used in the New Testament, and they unite with you regularly in your public services, they are, in fact, members, whether you acknowledge them or not; and it has been shewn that you have no right to exclude them, no, not from the Lord's Supper, if so unlikely a thing should occur as for any of them to wish to receive it. I see not what you have to do with the matter, more than giving them wholesome advice and instruction, and leaving them to judge and act for themselves ; unless, which I hope will never be the case,"you forget that you are only servants, and, contrary to the express injunction of Christ, become masters; and, if you do that, think of the awful account you will have to give to him, your great Master, and the only master that God hath appointed, in the great day when he will come to reckon with his servants !
3. Is it right to allow Unbelievers, who regularly join in our public services, to have a vote in the choice of the minister, or oïher officers appointed in our churches ? As your churches are free assemblies, who come together on the principles of equal rights and liberties in all religious matters, 1 see not how you can, consistently with such principles, deprive any individual, in such free assemblies, of the right of voting in the choice of the minister and other officers. Say there is an Unbeliever in one of yonr churches ; he attends regularly with you ; from time to time you receive his subscription towards the support of the cause--can you, consistently with the liberty for, which you contend, and on which you generally act, or even with common justice, deprive him of a vote in the choice of the minister on whom he and his family mean to attend, and to whose support he will contribute or in the choice of those officers who are to manage the funds to which he contributes. After all, persons thus regularly joining with you, are more likely to be merely reputed than real Unbelievers ; they may believe less than you, or talk sometimes sceptically, and yet not be mere Deists. At any rate, the best way is to leave them to God and their own consciences; remembering that the rights of conscience are sacred, and that if religious domination once enter, it will soon make deep wounds in your liberty and peace.
4. Ought an Unbeliever to be admitted to officiate as a minister among us, or to be chosen to take the lead in the management of our affairs as churches ? It certainly would
not only be essentially wrong, it would be a most glaring absurdity, for a Christian congregation to choose a known Unbeliever to be their minister ; I have never known of such a thing being done, and I think it morally impossible:
and an honest Deist could not possibly assuine the characEletter of a minister of Christ; the Unbeliever who should do 1 it would prove himself a base impostor, and, when detected, - his conduct must excite indignation and abhorrence ; even
virtuous Unbelievers would despise such a man. Should an upright man, after being actually in the ministry, un. happily become an Unbeliever, every principle of honour and honesty would require him to resign an office for which he must feel himself disqualified : and if he had not virtue enough to do it, the congregation, so soon as they knew him to be an Unbeliever, ought to request him to discontinue his services. It would be inexpedient and inconsistent to choose persons to manage even the pecuniary affairs of a Christian congregation, who were known to be
Unbelievers, though they might have all the judgment and i integrity requisite, because, as their appointment would be it the act of the congregation, and for Christian purposes,
those appointed should be known to be Christians : though in the management of pecuniary affairs is very different froin
the 'holding of the office and character of a Christian y teacher, still every thing done by a Christian congregation ; should have legible marks of Christian character.
5. If Unbelievers remain in some of our congregations, what is to be done to prevent the inroads of scepticism and unbelief among us? This is a question far too weighty
to be properly answered just at the close of a letter which ☆ is already longer than I had intended to make it; there
fore, with the Editor's permission, I intend making the an.
swer to the above question the subject of another letter; ole in which I shall attempt to shew, that this may be done and most effectually by fully admitting and acting upon the in principles which I have already stated; by allowing re
puted Unbelievers, to whatever degree their scepticisin or s unbelief may extend, to enjoy any Christian means or pri
vileges among us which they think they can consisteutly embrace.
. In the mean time, I remain, my dear Brethren, most i truly and affectionately, Yours, &c.,