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Catholic Church; but it is, undoubtedly, a sound and excellent member of it. So that we have much better ground to call ourselves Catholics, than they; were such names worth disputing about, which they are not only one would not flatter and harden them, by giving them a title which they both claim unjustly, and turn into an argument against us.
In this holy Catholic Church our Creed professes belief. But the meaning is not, that we engage to believe all things without exception, of which the majority of the Church, at any time, shall be persuaded; and much less what the rulers of it, or, it may be, a small part of them, who may please to call themselves the Church, shall, at any time, require: for then we must believe many plain falsehoods, uncertainties without number, and contrary doctrines, as contrary parties prevail. Our Church doth, indeed, believe whatever the first and best ages of Christianity thought necessary: whatever all the other Churches of the present age agree in. But this is more than we declare in the Creed. For there, as believing in God, means only believing that there is a God; and believing in the resurrection, means only believing that there shall be a resurrection: so believing that by our Saviour's appointment there was founded, and, through his mercy, shall ever continue, a society of persons, of what nation, or nations, is indifferent, who have faith in his name, and obey his laws: not, indeed, without being deformed and disfigured by mixtures both of sin and error; but still, without being destroyed by either. For, as he hath promised, "the gates of hell," or of the invisible world, that is, persecution and death, “shall not "prevail against the Church," so neither shall any other power. Nothing shall abolish it: though
(1) Matt. xvi. 18.
several things may obscure and corrupt it. That sin doth, we see; why, then, may not error too? It is, certainly, not a worse thing; nor is our Saviour's promise a greater security against the one than the other. He requires us, indeed, to "hear "the Church." But in what case? "If thy bro"ther trespass against thee," admonish him privately. This relates, then, not to disputed speculative opinions, but to known practical transgressions against our neighbour. "If he neglect (pri"vate admonition) tell it unto the Church." Not, surely, to the whole Catholic Church, all over the world; that is impossible: but the particular Church, to which both belong. Now, all sides allow, that every particular Church is fallible; and, therefore, to be heard no farther than it appears to be in the right. It follows next: "And if he neglect to hear the Church"-if he will not reform his injurious behaviour on a public warning, "let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a "publican:" treat him no longer with the tenderness and regard that is due to a good Christian; but consider him in the same light with an infidel sinner, till he makes reparation. This rule, therefore, by no means proves the infallibility, even of the universal Church, and much less of the Romish, which is far from universal, but relates to a matter entirely different. And it still remains true, that professing to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, is only acknowledging, that Christ hath formed the whole number of his followers, under him their head, into one regular and sacred body, or society, to last for ever: the unity and holiness of which, are to be carefully preserved by what the latter part of this Article specifics.
The Communion of Saints. The word saints is of the same meaning with the word holy; and,
(2) Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17.
therefore, comprehends all Christians, in the manner which I have just explained. Having communion, is being entitled to partake of benefits and kindnesses, and bound to make suitable returns for them. And thus Christians, or saints, have communion, or fellowship, with "the Father, from "whom cometh down every good and perfect gift; "with his Son, Jesus Christ;"3 through whom forgiveness and mercy are conveyed to us; with the Holy Ghost, whose sanctifying graces are conferred on such as daily qualify their hearts for the reception of them. And for these blessings we owe all thankfulness, and all duty in thought, word, and deed. Christians have also communion with the holy angels; as these "are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them, who shall "be heirs of salvation." And, undoubtedly, we ought to think of what they do for us, with an inward sense of gratitude and love. But as we are unacquainted with particulars, we can make no particular acknowledgments; nor ought we to inake any general ones, by outward expressions of respect, since "worshipping God alone is com"manded," and "worshipping angels condemned," in Scripture.
With respect to those of our own nature, we are bound so far to hold communion, even with the worst of believers, as not only to do them every kind of justice, but sincerely to wish, and, if occa sion offer, heartily endeavour their good, both in body and soul. But to all " who have obtained "the like precious faith with ourselves,”7 we bear a still nearer relation; as being, in a peculiar sense, children of the same Father, disciples of the same Master, animated by the same Spirit, members of the same Body. And those things oblige us to
(3) 1 John i. 3. (5) Matt. iv. 10.
James i. 17.
(4) Heb. i. 14.
the utmost care of preserving, by prudent order, and mutual forbearance, as much unity in the Church, as we possibly can. Such, indeed, as obstinately deny the fundamental doctrines, or transgress the fundamental precepts of Christianity, ought to be rejected from Christian communion. But to renounce communicating with any others, who are willing to admit us to it on lawful terms, is the way to cut off ourselves, not them, from the body of Christ; who yet, we doubt not, will allow those on both sides to belong to his Church, who, through pardonable passions, or mistakes, will not allow one another to do so.
And as we should maintain communion will all proper persons, we should show our disposition to it in all proper ways; attend on the public instruction-join in the public worship, sacraments, and discipline, which our Lord hath appointed; and keep the whole of them pure from all forbidden, or suspicious alterations or mixtures; avoid, with great care, both giving and taking needless offence, in respect to these, or any matters; and, by all fit means, "edify one another in love :"8 obeying those who are set over us-condescending to those who are beneath us-esteeming and honouring the wise and virtuous-teaching and admonishing the ignorant and faulty-bearing with the weak, relieving the poor, and comforting the afflicted.
Nor have we communion only with the saints on earth; but are of one city, and one family, with such as have already got safe to heaven. Doubtless they exercise that communion towards us, by loving and praying for their brethren, whom they have left behind them. And we are to exercise it towards them, not by addressing petitions to them, which we are neither authorized to offer, nor have
(8) Rom. xiv. 19. Eph. iv. 16.
any ground to think they can hear; but by rejoicing in their happiness, thanking God for the grace which he hath bestowed on them, and the examples which they have left us; holding their memories in honour, imitating their virtues, and beseeching the disposer of all things, that, having followed them in holiness here, we may meet them in hap. piness hereafter; and become, in the fullest sense,
fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the house"hold of God;" "having, with all those that "have departed in the true faith of his holy name, "our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body "and soul, in his eternal and everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.
Article X. The Forgiveness of Sins.
WE are now come to that Article of the Creed, for which all the preceding ones have been preparing the way; a doctrine of the greatest comfort to believe, and the utmost danger to misapprehend. I shall, therefore, endeavour clearly to explain,
I. The nature of sin, its different kinds, and its guilt.
II. The nature and conditions of the forgiveness promised to it.
I. The nature of sin. Both men and all other beings, endued with sufficient reason, must perceive a difference between different inclinations and actions of their own and others; in consequence of
(9) Eph. ii. 19.
(1) Burial Office.