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acknowledge that the State, in which he is placed by Baptifm, is a State of Salvation: and becaufe Affiftance from above is beft obtained by Thankfulness for God's Mercy hitherto, and Prayer for it hereafter, he concludes, by thanking our heavenly Father, for calling him to this State; and praying for his Grace, that he may continue in the fame to his Life's End.
Now the Neceffity and Nature of God's Grace and of Prayer and other Means to obtain it, will be explained in their proper Places. The two Points therefore, of which it remains to speak at prefent, are, the Need of good Refolution, and of Thankfulness for that happy State, in which Baptifm hath placed us.
In every Thing that we attempt, much depends on a deliberate and fixed Purpose of Mind. But particularly in Religion, when once we are thoroughly convinced, that whatever it requires must be done; and have determined accordingly, that though we know there will be Labour and Difficulty in going on, and many Solicitations and Enticements to leave off, yet we will fet about the Work, and perfevere in it; Obftacles and Difcouragements, that till then appeared very threatening, will, a great Part of them, vanish into nothing; and thofe, which remain, will ferve only to exercise our Courage, and make our Triumph glorious; provided we keep our Resolution alive, and in Vigour, by frequently repeating it in a proper Manner: that is, in a ftrong Senfe of God's Prefence, and an humble Dependence on his Bleffing. For if we truft in ourselves, we fhall fail. And if we pretend to truft in God, without exerting ourselves, we fhall fail equally. In either Cafe, the good Impreffions made on our Minds will be continually growing fainter of courfe: and Multitudes of Things will confpire to wear them quite out. Pleafures will foften us into Diffolutenefs; or Amusements, into Neglect of every ferious Attention. Love of Riches or Power or Applaufe will engage us in wrong Methods of attaining them: or the Cares of Life will banish the
Duties of it from our Thoughts. Vehement Paffions will overfet our Virtue: or infinuating Temptations undermine it as effectually. Some of thete Things muft happen, unless we preserve a steady and watchful, a modeft and religious Resolution against them, ever fresh on our Minds.
And nothing will contribute more to our doing this, than reflecting often, with due Thankfulness, that the State, to which God hath called us, is a State of Salvation: a State of Deliverance from the prefent Slavery of Sin, and the future Punishment of it; a State of the truest Happiness, that this Life can afford, introducing us to perfect and everlafting Happiness in the next. Such is the Condition, in which, through the Mercy of God, we Christians are placed; and in which, by a christian Behaviour we may fecure ourfelves; and not only preferve, but continually enlarge, our Share of i's Bleffings. But if we now neglect to do for ourselves what we ought; all, that hath been done for us by others, will be of no Avail. Neither our Baptifm, nor our Inftruction; nor our learning ever fo exactly, or understanding ever fo diftinctly, or remembering ever fo particularly, what we were inftructed in, can poffibly have any Effect, but to increase our Condemnation, unless we faithfully continue in the Practice of every Part of it to our Life's End. This therefore let us all determine to make our conftant and moft earnest Care, with humble Gratitude to God, our heavenly Father, for his undeferved Mercy to us; and with fure Confidence, that if we be not wanting to ourselves, he that hath begun a good Work in us, will perform it, until the Day of Jefus Chrifta.
Grounds and Rule of Faith.
AVING already explained to you the feveral Things, which Chriftians by the Covenant of their Baptifm renounce; I come now to speak of what we are to believe: after which will follow properly what we are to do. For all reasonable Practice must be built on fome Belief, or Perfuafion, which is the Ground of it virtuous Practice, on a Perfuafion, that what we do is fit and right; religious Practice, on a Perfuafion, that it is the Will of God. Now God hath been pleased to make his Will known by two Ways: partly by the mere inward Light of our own Underftandings; partly by the outward Means of additional Declarations from himself. The former of these we call natural Religion : the latter, revealed Religion.
The natural Reason of our own Minds, if we would feriously attend to it, and faithfully affift each other in ufing it, is capable of difcovering, as fhall be proved to you, not only the Being and Attributes, and Authority of God; but, in general, what Sort of Behaviour he muft expect from fuch Creatures, placed in fuch a World, as we are, in order to avoid his Difpleasure, and procure fome Degree of his Favour. And as we cannot doubt of what our own clear Apprehenfion, and the common Sense of Mankind, plainly tell us: here is one Foundation of religious Belief and Practice, evident to all Men. And if our Belief and Practice be not fuitable to it, our Confciences, whenever we confult them, nay often whether we confult them or not, will condemn
condemn us, to our Faces, of Sin; and proclaim to us beforehand the Juftice of that future Condemnation, which God will pafs upon it. Every one of you, that hear me, have at Times felt this; make, every one of you, a proper Use of it.
If then the Light of Nature were our only Guide, it would teach us more than, I fear, many of us obferve. But happy are we, that this is not our only Guide. For it would leave us uninformed in many Particulars of unfpeakable Moment, even were our Faculties unimpaired, and employed to the beft Advantage.. But alas, the very first of Mankind fell into Sin, and derived a corrupted Nature down to their Pofterity: who yet further inflamed their own Paffions and Appetites, perverted their own Judgments, turned afide their Attention from the Truth; and the Light that was in then became, in a great Measure, Darkness, even in respect of what they were to do. But what they were to hope and fear after doing wickedly, this was a Matter of far greater Obfcurity ftill. And had we, here prefent, been left to ourselves, in all Likelihood we had been, at this Hour, (like Multitudes of other poor Wretches in every Part of the World that is unenlightened by Christianity,) worshiping Stocks and Stones: or however, we should. certainly, in other Refpects, have been walking in the Vanity of our Minds, having the Underflanding darkened,, alienated from the Life of God; Strangers from the Covenant of Promife, having no Hope, and without God in tho World.
But he was gracioufly pleafed not to leave fallen Men. to themselves, but to furnifh them with needful Knowledge. What human Abilities, when at the beft, might. have discovered, they would in all Likelihood have dif covered (if at all) fo flowly, that we have great Caufe: to believe, the Religion of our firft Parents was derived. from his immediate Inftruction. But certainly after their Tranfgreffion, he made an immediate Revelation
a. Matth. vi. 23.0
Eph, ii. 12.
Eph. iv. 17, 18,
to them; and thenceforward vouchfafed from Time to Time various Manifeftations, to fuch as would receive them, of his Truths, his Commands, and his Purposes: not only republishing the original Doctrines of Reason, but adding new Articles of Belief, new Promises, and new Precepts, as the changing Circumftances of Things required; till at length, by his Son, our Saviour Jefus Chrift, he confirmed all his paft Notifications, and took away all Neceffity of future ones; acquainting us fully, in the ever bleffed Gofpel, with all that we shall need to know, or be bound to do, till Heaven and Earth pass.
Thus then, befides thofe Things in Religion, which our own Reason can discern, we receive others on the Teftimony of their being revealed by God: as unqueftionably we ought. For if he, who cannot err, and cannot lie, communicates any Information to us; though it require us to believe, what we had before not the leaft Apprehenfion of, or fhould elfe have imagined to be exceedingly ftrange and unlikely; though it require us to do, what otherwife we should neither have thought of doing, nor have chosen to do; yet furely his Teftimony and Command may well be fufficient Reason for both. We admit every Day, upon the Teftimony one of another, Things utterly unknown to us, and in themselves extremely improbable: and we act upon fuch Teftimony in Matters, on which our Fortunes, our Healths, our Lives, depend: as indeed without doing fo, the Affairs of the World could not be carried on.. Now if we receive the Witness of Men, the Witness of God is greater. And fince we are able to convey the Knowledge of our Thoughts and our Wills to each other, no Queftion but God is able to convey his to his Creatures.
But, allowing that he can, it may be asked, How do we prove, that he hath conveyed it to Men in the Jewish and Chriftian Revelations? I answer, We believe the Jewish Revelation, for this plain Reafon, amongst ⚫ 1 John v. 9.
Matth. v. 18,