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Of the Nature and Obligation of Divine Pofitive Inftitutions
Divine Pofitive Inftitution of Religion is, that which God himself requires and commands to be done, and which (having no intrinsick or moral Excellency in it felf) without his Command and Appointment, we could never have been bound to the Obfervance of; nor ever have convey'd to us by the Obferva tion thereof, any SUPERNATURAL Be refit or Advantage whatsoever.
II. The Effential Parts of a Divine Pofitive Inftitution, are those which we are oblig'd constantly to observe, as long as the utmost du
ration, of the Force and Obligation of the Inftitution it felf.
III. I call an Act Invalid for the purposes of fuch an Institution, when we have no juft Reafon or Motive from Divine Revelation to expect, that God fhould fo far concur with that Act, as to convey by MEANS THERE OF, thofe Supernatural Advantages he has annex'd to the Inftitution.
IV. By the Supernatural Advantages Annex'd to an Inftitution, I mean all thofe Spiritual Privileges and Benefits which by Nature we cannot have, and which God has promis'd to bestow, upon Condition of our duly Performing that Inftitution, which he has made to be the Ordinary means of Conveying thofe Benefits to us.
V. By the Divine Authority of the Administrator, I mean that Commiffion which God, at firft gave to Men, and which they have ever fince handed down to others, by his Order and Appointment, to Adminifter in his Holy Ordinances.
VI. By a Lay Administration I mean, That which is perform'd by One who never was commiffion'd or Impower'd for that Act, by those whom God has appointed to be the Convey-1 ers of his Authority and Commiffion to Men, for that purpofe. AXIOMS
I. The Effential Parts of any thing, are of the fame Nature as the whole.
II. God himself may difpenfe with any of his own Positive Inftitutions, either in whole or in Part; and beftow the Benefits annex'd to them, when, to whom, and how he pleases.
III. No Ecclefiaftcal or Civil Authority can Difpenfe with any Divine Pofitive Institution, either in whole, or in any Effential Part, fo long as it is binding and obliging to us.
IV. The only way to determine whether an Act is Valid or Invalid, for the Purposes of a Divine Pofitive Inftitution, is, to know whether that Act be Lawful or Unlawful, Agreeable, or Contrary to the Will of God; which is to be found no where, but either in the Inftitution it self, or in fome other Part or Parts of his Written Word,relating to the fame Inftitution.
V. No Power or Authority on Earth, can by any after-Act (not appointed by God for that
purpose) make that which before was Invalid, to become as Valid as Conforming to the Divine Institution it felf would have made it.
VI. He that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is Șin; and a Continuance in Sin, can bring no Supernatural Benefit or Advantage.
Every Effential Part of a Divine Pofitive Inftitution of Religion, is of Equal Obligation and Neceffity to us.
DEMONSTRATION. This is evident,
Firft, from the very Nature of fuch an Inftitution, which (by Definition 1.) has no intrinfick excellency, or moral Virtue to oblige us to obferve it, till the Divine Command lays that neceffity upon us; fo that now we are oblig'd only by virtue of the Authority Commanding; which being but One, (i. e. That of God) must neceffarily reach to every Effential Part of the Inftitution, and thereby make them all of equal Authority and equally neceffary and obliging to us; because they are every one of the fame Nature as the Inftitution it felf (by Axiom 1.) And
Secondly, This is further evident (from Definition 2.) fince we are conftantly bound to obferve every fuch Effential Part as long as the Inftitution it felf fhall have any Force or Virtue. Therefore, fince every one of these Parts have but one Authority, without any Inberent Virtue feparate there from; and are also binding as long as the Inftitution fhall laft; it must needs be certain, that they are all of equal Obligation and Neceffity to us. But this is fo very plain at the firft Proposal, to all Intelli. gent Perfons, that it hardly deferves the Name of a Propofition to be Demonftrated; and therefore I fhall not lose more time about it,
HENCE it follows, that as no Human Authority can difpenfe with any Divine Positive Institution (Axiom 3.) fo neither can they give any Superiority of Excellency, or Neceffity to one Effential Part thereof more than to another, because, they are all equally neceffary and obliging; and have their whole Force and Energy merely from the Divine Command.
Whofoever juftly esteems an Act (Said to be done in purfuance of a Divine Pofitive Inftitution) to be wholly Null and Invalid for