« PreviousContinue »
are to venture our souls upon, and such as we may have a peculiar use for, truths suitable to the day we live in. Hence it is that the apostle would have believers established in the present truth, 2 Pet. i. 12, that is, say some, “ The doctrine of the gospel which was at this time newly revealed ;" or else, as others interpret it, “ Such truths as are most opposed and contradicted ;” for we find that every church and age hath its present errors, whereby false teachers seek to undermine the truth, and seduce the professors of it; therefore, should every soul be well stored with such truths as may antidote him against present prevailing corruptions in principle or practice.
There are four sorts of divine truths that I would counsel all Christians to get their heads and hearts well stocked with, which are these, namely,
Doctrinal, disciplinary, practical, and experimental truths.
1. Doctrinal truths. « Hold fast the form of sound words.”—2 Tim. i. 13. The word, ÚTOTÚTWOIS, used here, signifies a model or platform, a mould or frame of words, or things, methodically disposed, as printers set and compose their characters in a table. Thus gospel doctrine is the mould, and hearers are as the metal which takes the form and impression of that into which it is cast. * A Christian is to get the body of divinity incorporated within him. It is not below the most able, knowing, and judicious person to read, yea, and commit to memory catechisms, and systems of divinity. I beseech you lay this good doctrinal foundation, and you will find infinite advantage by it through the whole course of your life. This will teach you to discourse distinctly, hear profitably, and read the Scriptures and good books with judgment, being able to try all things, and
* Rom. vi. 17.
reduce everything to its proper place.
Take a taste and sample of this sort of truths in these particulars :
(1.) That the holy Scriptures are of divine authority.
(2.) That God's word is the sole, complete, supreme judge of all controversies.
(3.) That God is an infinite, simple, and immutable Spirit.
(4.) That there are three glorious persons in the unity of the Godhead.
(5.) That all things depend upon God's eternal de
(6.) That man was created in perfect holiness and happiness.
(7.) That all mankind are polluted and ruined by Adam's apostacy.
(8.) That Christ, God-man, is the only mediator betwixt God and man.
(9.) That Christ, by doing, enduring, and dying, hath satisfied justice, and justified sinners.
(10.) That such as sincerely repent and believe, are justified and accepted.
(11.) That baptism and the Lord's supper, are seals of the covenant of grace.
(12.) That there shall be a general resurrection and day of judgment.
2. Disciplinary Truths. These, in their kind and sphere, are to be stored up and contended for. It is true, these are not so fully laid down in Scripture, nor is there so much stress laid thereupon, as on doctrinal truths, at least as to every punctilio relating to circumstantials, which hath occasioned many hot disputes among the strictest Christians; yet, withal, the essentials of discipline are of great use, and in a sort, necessary, if not to the being, yet to the well-being of the church. * Our Lord Jesus “ is faithful in his house,” and hath not left every thing to human prudence, though possibly something may be said for a prudential application of general rules to particular cases. It is lost labour to enter into controversies here; much precious time and pains have been wasted herein, yet, Mr. Hooker | acknowledgeth, “That although there be no necessity it should prescribe any one particular form of church government, yet touching the manner of governing in general, the precepts which the Scripture setteth down are not few, and the examples many which it proposeth, for all church governors, even in particularities, to follow ; yea, that those things, finally, which are of principal weight in the very particular form of church polity, are in the self-same Scriptures contained.” So says he. Neither are these truths to be slighted, but we are to be attentive to them, and observant and retentive of them. Hence, when the gospel church is described, God saith, Ezek. xl. 4. “ Behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shew thee.” Under correction, I conceive such disciplinary truths as these are not obscurely delivered by God, as,
(1.) That upon Christ's shoulders lies the government of his Church.
(2.) That Scripture precepts and precedents, are the rule of church administrations.
(3.) That church officers are to be duly qualified and called to their work.
Quamvis enim non sit nota simpliciter essentialis et reciproca, scil. ecclesiæ (sicut neque reliquæ duæ, i. e. verbum et sacramenta) ad completum tamen ecclesiæ statum necessariò debet adesse. Ames. Medul. lib. 1. cap. 37. + Hooker's Eccl. Polit. book 3d. part 4, fol. 69.
(4.) That Christ's own officers have power to dispense the word and censures.
(5.) That holy things are for holy men, and ordinances must be kept from pollution.
(6.) That visible, credible profession is the ground of church communion.
(7.) That admonition must precede rejection and excommunication.
(8.) That heretical persons, and disorderly walkers are to be censured.
(9.) That evidence of repentance pleads for re-admittance.
(10.) That the duty of magistrates is to cherish, defend, and propagate the church, of ministers to oversee, and of members to watch over, and admonish one another.
(11.) That at least there may be associations of churches by their officers, for mutual communion and consultation.
(12.) That synods and councils consulting about church affairs, are but companies of men subject to error, are not to have dominion over men's faith, or lord it over consciences, &c.
3. Another sort of truths to be laid up are practical truths. Fundamental truths of practical concernment, are in a sort the life of religion. Our religion is not a mere notion; christianity lies much in the heart and life. The young candidate's question, in the gospel, had mainly reference to practice, “ Good master,” saith he, “ what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Socrates is accounted the wisest man, because he applied his studies and knowledge to the moral part—the squaring and ordering of men's lives. Saith Dr. Hammond, † (and quotes an ancient saying) “ The end of * Mark x. 17.
+ Practical Catech. p. 2.
Christian Philosophy is to make them better, not more learned ; to edify, not to instruct.” The truth is, conscientious practice is both the end of knowledge, and the means of further knowledge. If we live up to God's will known, we shall know more of his will that is to be done; * if we give up ourselves to truth, we shall be made free by truth. Truths of a practical import tend to deliver the soul from the bondage of sin, to bring us into the liberty of the sons of God, and to make us account God's service, perfect freedom. Some truths are to be believed, others to be lived upon, others to be lived up to, and so are more practical ; such as these :
(1.) That all creatures are made for the glory of God.
(2.) That the covenant of works cannot be kept by any mere man since the fall.
(3.) That true faith closeth wholly with a whole Christ.
(4.) That none can expect pardon without a sincere gospel repentance.
(5.) That good works are the fruits and evidences of a lively faith.
(6.) That those only are good works that have a right source, rule and end.
(7.) That man's best duties are imperfect, and merit no good at God's hands.
(8.) That the moral law is a Christian's rule of obedience.
(9.) That God alone is to be worshipped, and that according to his will.
(10.) That the observation of a Sabbath is a moral and perpetual duty.
(11.) That magistrates are to be honoured, and their lawful commands obeyed.
* John vii. 17.