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By the promise to keep God's holy will and commandments, we are bound by vow to yield an univerfal obedience unto, and to keep as long as we live "God's comour good resolutions; not to break, but to keep mandments.. - the ten commandments of the moral law: for baptism, and faith, and resolutions of obedience are nothing, unless they produce the real fruits of a virtuous and good life. The just Thall live by faith: but, if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. The meaning of which is, not that men, in this frail and mortal state, can continue without sin; but that they must press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; constantly endeavouring to keep all God's commandments; under which are included all those particular precepts of the Old and New Testament, which are reducible to one or other of those heads : for, as Jesus himself observes, On these commando ments hang all the law and the prophets. No one sin must reign in us; the only true religion is to do whatever God commands; and that, because he, from whom we have res ceived all that we have, and to whom we owe all that we can do, commands it. All other schemes open a door to confufion and licentiousness. We must either follow God's will, and be determined by it; or we must set up our own head: strong self-will in opposition to his unerring wisdom. How much then do they derogate from the honour of God, who represent religion as an unprofitable and unpleasant talk! when it is plain to any man, that considers things rightly, and is not under the prejudice of his lusts and passions, that the great design of religion is to make us happy here, as well as hereafter; that all its rules and precepts are most admirably suited to this end. There is nothing in religion, but what tends to make our lives easy, chearful, and contented; no thing but what is suitable to our natures, and agreeable to the dictates of right reason; nothing but what will ennoble our minds, enlarge our understandings, and inspire us with a generous principle of universal love, and charity, and goodwill to mankind; in 1hort, the commands of God are not grievous, but his yoke is easy, and his burthen light.
Thus I have shewn you the nature of the vows in bap
tism : and now I must inform The obliga
you, except a tions of these christian, when arrived at years of understanding,
shall believe and do, as promised by his sureties in baptism, he will certainly forfeit all the benefits thereof; which are the gracious promises of pardon and forgiveness of fin upon our true repentance; the assistance of God's blessed spirit, and the influences of his grace to enable us to work out our salvation; the benefit of Christ's intercession in heaven, where he is an advocate for us with the Father ; a Share in all those promises of care and protection made to the church; and an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Because the benefits promised by God in baptism are that part of God's covenant with
man, which we have no reason to hope we shall obtain, till we comply with our promises made to him in that sacrament; which by God's help we are always able to do: for God can never be supposed to command or require more of us, than what he enables us to perform: and therefore, both in justice, and in regard of our own interest, we are bound to stand to his covenant, which was made in our name by our godfathers and godmothers; because they promised no more than what is implied in the very nature of baptism. All mankind are in the hands of God's unlimited goodness; yet his covenanted mercies are the peculiar lot and portion of christians, the members of Christ's holy church, who honoured God by a due discharge of those things promised in baptism; of which promises you have already been taught what that first vow obliges to renounce; namely, the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the finful lusts of the flesh. And therefore let us now proceed to inquire what that faith is, to which we give our assent, when we profess to believe all the articles of the christian faith ; of all which articles we shall treat, after that I have laid down some instructions concerning divine revelation, and given some convincing reasons for its certainty.
I. Of divine revelation, and its difficulties, evidences, and excel
lency. II. Of faith in one God. III. The Father almighty, maker of beaven and earth. IV. Of God's providence, and of chance, fortune, necessity, and fate. V. Of the Trinity or three Perfons in the Godhead, and why difficult to be believed. VI. Of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord; an objection against this faith answered. VII. The angei's message to the virgin Mary; and VIII. Of the incarnation and birth of
Christ. I. Oncerning a divine revelation, the proofs are three :
first, they may relate to the person infpi- of divine red; secondly, to those that received the matter re- revelation. vealed from the persons inspired; thirdly, to thofe that live remote from the age of the inspired persons; as is the case of all christians since the time of Christ, and the apostles his successors. For, if the Almighty vouchsafeth to make a revelation, or manifest and discover any truth or thing to a man, of which he was before ignorant; it is very reasonable to think, that he will satisfy the person concerning the reality of it; for it cannot signify any thing, or have any
effect upon the
man; unless he be satisfied it is such. And The assurance of a divine revelation, as to the person himself, is most probably wrought by the great evi- Its inward dence it carries of its divine original. In God's evidences. , manifesting himself to the prophets, there was such a powerful representation on the part of the inessenger of God's will, and that clearness of perception on the part of the person infpired, or to whom he was sent, as did abundantly make good those phrases of vision and voice, by which it is described in scripture: And sometimes there was added some sign or supernatural proof; as in the case of Gideon * and Moses t. By which examples you may perceive, why a good man has that certainty, which the deluded person wants; because a good man, when he is inspired, and reflects upon it, and di
ligently Judg. vi. 21, and vii. 13, to 15. + Exod iv. 3, 6, 7,
ligently considers the assurance, which he finds in his mind, can give a rational account of it to himself, which the deluded person cannot have; whose positivenefs often arifes from pride and self-conceit, which have no small influence; more especially from a disordered imagination or fancy, which interrupts the operations of the mind; whereas a real inspiration will bear the test of the prophet's reason, and the people's examination.
Again; the truth of such a revelation may be judged of, Its outward from the reasons why we ought to believe the per
sons pretending to inspiration, whose known probity and approved integrity clear them from all suspicion of imposture; and whose prudence and understanding set them above being deceived : also from the extraordinary evidence and testimony of miracles; the prediction of future events ; and, above all, from the matter of the revelation ; which, when it concerns mankind in general, must be worthy of God, as proceeding from him, and must tend to the advantage, the fatisfaction, and happiness of mankind, to whom the revelation is made: for justice, holiness, and goodness are as necessary and as essential to our thoughts of God, as power; and, consequently, a revelation, that contradicts these attributes, cannot come from the Father of truth.
And the necessity and reasonableness of this evidence Are fuffici
Thews it to be a proof of the highest nature: for it being such as every man, who is master of senfe
and reason, can judge of; fo it is what every man ought to be determined by. For, as in all other things, which have been done at a great distance of time; fo the evidence necessary to satisfy us of the truth, and to oblige us to believe that revelation to be sent from God by divers persons, and in divers manners, is the credible report of eye and ear witnesses concerning the miracles that have been wrought, and the predictions which have been foretold, to prove persons inspired, conveyed down to us in such a manner, and with such evidence, as that we have no reason to doubt of the truth of them į besides, the inward evidence of the christian revelation confirms the outward evidence that was given to it: for, as it excels all other forms of religion, that ever-appeared in
ent to convict.
the world; so it is every way worthy of God, entirely beneficial to his creatures, and agreeable to the best reason and fense of human nature. The scripture, though deep, is clear in every
doctrine that tends to the glory of God, the good of man
Of the difkind, and the benefit of our own souls. So far ficulties in God has gone; and farther than this he needed scripture. not go, to answer the end of a revelation. Whatever things there are in it hard to be understood, which a moderate application cannot clear up, they may exercise the abilities of the curious, but are not necessary to edify the bulk of mankind. Any man, who diligently and impartially searches the scriptures, comparing place with place, interpreting the darker passages by the clearer, and attending to the scope and design of the author, may furnish himself with an intelligible, consistent and determinateruleof faith and practice; may derive from thence hopes full of a blessed immortality; and find there that beautiful assemblage of moral truths, clear and unmixed, which lie scattered through the Its excellenwritings of all the philosophers, and are in them cy. blended with pernicious errors. Whereas other writers took things in too high a key, and were proud to soar above the level of common apprehensions: the inspired writers stoop to the lowest capacities, at the same time that they enlighten the highest. Whatever precept is briefly and in general terms delivered in one place, is more clearly and distinctly unfolded in another: And where there is the addition of any doctrine, which natural reason could not discover, it is so far from contradicting the plain and evident sense of mankind, that upon confideration it appears highly useful to us in the state in which we now are. For the great fears and doubts of mankind, concerning the way of appealing the offended justice of God, are removed, and the dishonour that was done to his justiceand holiness satisfied by the death of Christ. Aman may look into his bible, and see plainly there what will become of him, when the present scene is shifted, as to his most important, I had almost said, his only concern, a future state; who, if he were left to himself, the more he considered the point on every side, the more he would find himself bewil5