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our faith, though to gain the whole world, or to escape the greatest evils; for, (1.) This is the very thing that Christ condemns in express terms, when be
says, “Whosoever shall deny me before men, that is, outwardly in appearance, in the eyes of the world, “ I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.”. (2.) Because he makes the losing our life for his sake, and for the sake of his Gospel, when called to the test, a condition of salvation. “Whosoever," says he, “shall lose his life for my sake, and for the Gospel, shall save it; for what shall it profit a man if be gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also sball be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father," Mark viii. 35.; where it is evident, that even the being asbamed of his Gospel, that is, of his words, even though in order to save our life, or gain the whole world, is a crime which will destroy the soul; how much more to deny it? Whereas if we lose our life for his holy faith, we save our souls, and gain eternal happiness. (3.) Because to deny our faith, even in appearance is, of its own nature, a mortal sin, and, therefore, can never, pever be allowable on any consideration.
Q. 5. Did the primitive Christians understand these texts in this manner ?
A. There cannot be a stronger proof of the belief of the primitive Church in this matter, than the noble behaviour of thousands and thousands of her members who laid down their lives in the midst of the most cruel torments, rather than do the smallest. thing that could have, though but an appearance, of denying their boly religion. It was not always
required of these blessed martyrs openly to renounce their faith, or to abandon it entirely; the saying some words, or doing some action which was only to be interpreted a disavowal of their religion, of an approbation of the then established religion of the country, was frequently all that was required to save them from the loss of goods, liberty, and life; for example, to be present at a heathen sacrifice, though their heart took no share in what was there done ; and bad they complied with this for once, they would seldom have been sought after again, but might follow what religion they pleased, and yet they persevered resolute and uniform, choosing rather to forfeit all that was near or dear to them in this world, and to undergo the most exquisite torments, than do the smallest action contrary to the allegiance they owed to Jesus Christ, or, though in appearance only, seem to be ashamed of him, and of his sacred words, Nothing, sure, but the most perfect conviction of the onlawfulness of the thing, could have prevailed with such numbers of both sexes, and often of the most tender age, to reject with horror such a com pliance. Their all was at stake, - life, liberty, goods, children, and every thing else; by a compliance they would have secured all these things, which men are taught to regard as the most valus able things in this world, and, moreover, were often promised riches and honours, and the favour of the Emperors; by a non-compliance, they forfeited all, and were condemned to die in the most excruciating manner; yet, convinced as they were, that such compliance was unlawful, an injury to God, a dishonour to his holy faith, and a scandal to their brethren, they cheerfully embraced death in all its horrors, rather than be guilty of such a -crime. Nay, what still more plainly shews the sense of the primitive Church in this point, when
some weak brethren, to avoid these tortures, procured, for money, an attestation from the magistrates that they had complied with what the persecuting laws required from them, though in reality they had not; they were looked upon by the Church as traitors to their God and to their religion, and as such they were dealt with, so as not to be admitted to the participation of the sacred mysteries, till, by a long and severe public penance, they had endeavoured to expiate their. crime, and satisfy for the scandal they had given,
Q. 6. Wherein does the malice of the sin consist, when one, either by words, or signs, or actions, denies bis faith, though only in appearance, whilst be still retains it in his heart ?
A. The malice of this sin is manifold; for, (1.) It is a most grievous lie, in a matter of the highest importance, when one professes outwardly that the truths of God are false, which he believes in his heart to be true; and if this profession be accompanied with an oath, it is a most damnable perjury, and one of the highest insults that can be offered to Almighty God, because it is calling himself to wita ness that the divine truths revealed by him are false. (2.) It is giving the lie to God before men; for; as he “ that believeth not the Son, maketh God a liar, because he believeth not the testimony which he hath testified of his Son," 1 John, v. 10.; so he that denieth any truth revealed by Jesus Christ, maketh him a liar, because he acknowleges before men that his divine faith is not true. Hence, (3.) All acts of this kind are most dishonourable to Almighty God, and contain a grievous contempt of his infinite Majesty, of which he says, “They that despise me shall be despised,” I King (Sam.) ii. 30, (4.) They are also grievously injurious to divine charity, and shew that we love the world, our posses
sions, or our life, much more than God, when, for fear of losing them, we deny him and his holy faith, (5.) They also contain the malice of a grievous scandal; for they give the enemies of our holy faith a handle to think slightly of it, and to be the more confirmed in their own errors; and the bad example of such actions naturally induces weak brethren to follow it, and to lose the esteem they ought to have for their holy religion, to the ruin and destruction of their poor souls.
CONSEQUENCES THAT NECESSARILY FOLLOW
FROM THESE SCRIPTURE PRINCIPLES.
Q. 7. What are the consequences which flow from these Scripture principles ?
A. Chiefly these following : (1.) That when a person is called upon, by public authority, to give an account of his religion, he is obliged in conscience, openly to declare his faith ; because the honour of God then requires him to do so, and obliges him not to be ashamed of Christ, nor of his words, even though his doing so should cost him all hé has in this world, yea even life itself. Hence all the holy martyrs, when examined before their persecuting judges, openly confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, and rejoiced, with the
apostles, to suffer for his name's sake.
(2.) When we hear wicked men speaking impious things against the Gospel, or ridiculing the sacred truths it teaches, and have grounds to hope
that our defending them would either check their impiety, or prevent others present from being hurt by them ; it is our duty to profess our esteem and veneration for the Gospel, because then both the good of our neighbour, and the honour of God, calls upon us to do so. And indeed, it is not surprising, that if we hear our friend, or father, or our prince, spoken evil of, we think ourselves obliged to take their part, and defend them, and yet should be cold and backward to defend the cause of the great God, when we hear his divine truths blasphemed? or be ashamed to shew ourselves Christians for fear of being laughed at by men ? Have we not reason to dread that Christ will be ashamed of us for this at the great day? This was not the case with the royal prophet, that man, according to God's own heart, who said to God, “I spoke of thy testimonies before kings; and I was not ashamed," Psal. cxviii. 46.; nor with St. Paul, who said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” Rom. i. 16.
(3.) That it is always criminal to seem to approve or profess any false religion, whether this be done by words, signs, or actions; because to approve a false religion, even in appearance, or bē, fore men, is a tacit condemnation of the true, is a dangerous lie, dishonourable to God, and a scandal to our neighbour. Hence, when the persecuting heathen king required the venerable old man Eleazar to eat swipe's flesh, contrary to the law, as a sign of bis denying his religion, “he," says the Scripture, “ choosing rather a most glorious death than a hateful life, went forward of his own accord to the torment;" and when some of his friends, moved with a false compassion, proposed to bring him other flesh which the law allowed, that he might appear to have eaten swine's flesh in obedience to the king, and so save his life," he an.