« הקודםהמשך »
We believe, therefore, in Jesus Christ, who took our nature upon him, and has made our peace with God by suffering, in our stead, what we for our sins had deserved. He has also prevailed with God to accept of our repentance, if sincere; to give us all necessary assistance to do our duty, and to accept of our best endeavours, (instead of a perfect obedience,) in order to our being made eternally happy.
Let us now examine our faith upon this article of our Creed; let us consider how our hearts and lives are affected with this exceeding great love of Christ for his poor creatures. Does this love of Christ (as the apostle speaks*) does this love of Christ constrain us? Does it constrain us to consecrate our lives to him, who, by his death, has redeemed us from eternal death? Does our love for Christ constrain us to take him for our pattern, for our Lord, our master, and teacher? If it does, we shall receive his gospel as the word of our salvation; we shall observe the laws, the rules, the ordinances, which he has given us, as the only means to secure us from perdition. Does our faith, as the same apostle speaks,† work by love? Does it appear by works of love and charity?
Does the love of Christ constrain us to imitate his sufferings, to take up the cross daily, and follow him as he requires us to do; that is, to deny our corrupt inclinations, to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, to resist all inclinations to sin, and to subject our will to
* 2 Cor. v 14.
+ Gal. v. 6.
1 Luke ix. 23.
the will of God, by stedfastly purposing to do whatever we believe will please him?
Does the love of Christ, and what he has done and suffered for us, constrain us not to be ashamed of him, his word, his humility, and sufferings, in this untoward, unbelieving generation; nor to set a greater value upon the opinion and friendship of men, than upon the friendship of God and Christ?
Will our faith and love constrain us, to confess Jesus Christ, to follow his precepts and example, to suffer for his sake, and to bear witness to the truth of the gospel, even before those that despise it?
Let us ask ourselves again, Will our love of Christ, and our faith, constrain us with Moses* to look upon the riches, pleasures, and idols of this world, as nothing, in regard of the recompense of reward which Christ hath purchased for us; or, with St. Paul, to count them but lost, that we may win Christ?
Do we, by faith, set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth? Is our conversation such as becomes the gospel of Christ ?+
If we find, upon examination, that we do indeed love the Lord Jesus Christ, and the laws which he has given us, then we may depend upon it that we are within the covenant of grace, [mentioned Heb. viii. 10,] by which God has engaged to put his law in our minds, and write it in our hearts, to give us a new heart, and a new spirit.
If the knowledge and belief of these things do not affect our hearts and our lives, it is a sign our faith is not such as it should be, and that our salvation is not much regarded by us. A too sure sign of this is, when we see Christians turning their backs upon that very ordinance, whenever it is administered, which Jesus Christ himself appointed on purpose to keep up the remembrance of what he has done and suffered for us; that our own death, whenever it shall happen, may be a comfort to us, and when nothing in this world, nothing but a firm faith inJesus Christ, can support or comfort our dying spirit.
What we believe concerning the HOLY GHOST, to whom with the Father and the Son we are dedicated in baptism, is this: that he is the cause of all that holiness in Christians, which must fit them for heaven and happiness. And that, as we hope for these, we are every day of our lives to pray for his gracious assistance, his guidance, and blessing. And this we are to do in a more especial manner, that we may continue true members of the church of Christ, as becomes members of so holy a society; that believing the forgiveness of sins, we may never despair of mercy, having so powerful an advocate as Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost to assist us to perfect our repentance. That being by the same Holy Spirit assured of a resurrection, we may never forget, that we shall come forth of the grave just as we go into it, either objects of God's wrath or of his mercy.
How shall we know that we believe these truths as we ought to do; that our faith is such
as will save us? its fruits.
Why, as we know a tree by
We profess to believe that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost. No man of common sense will abuse, or profane, or defile a church, because he considers it to be a place dedicated to the honour of God. Now, our bodies are more the temples of God than our churches; they are consecrated to God, to his glory and service, in baptism. And if after this we defile them, by uncleanness, by intemperance, or by any other base or filthy use, the Holy Ghost will forsake them, and we shall become the temples of Satan.
A Christian, who lives by faith, will make a better use of this temple of the Holy Ghost; he will in his heart apply to him upon all occasions, and beg of him to increase his graces, to shew him the way in which he should go, to defend him against his spiritual enemies, to make him every day more holy, that he may be capable of being more happy when he dies. He will beg this Holy Spirit to give him a love for, and an understanding of, those holy scriptures, which he himself caused to be written for our comfort and salvation. He will beg of him to preserve hima true and living member of that holy church, out of which, in the ordinary way of providence, there is no salvation. He will give him hearty thanks that he has made him a member of that holy society, where there is a communication of all good things, where we have a share of all the prayers and blessings which God vouchsafes to his church throughout the whole world. And
because he is sensible of his daily sins and failings, he will pray for the forgiveness of his sins, every time he is sensible that he has done amiss. And, knowing assuredly that the same Spirit, which raised up Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead, will raise up our mortal bodies; he will most earnestly and often beg that good Spirit, that he may lead such an holy life, as that he may die in peace, and rest in hope, and rise in glory.
These are the truths which we profess to believe. That we may not deceive ourselves, let us examine our faith by the fruits it produceth in the ordinary duties of life.
Now, Christians are represented in scripture as a people who by faith know God, and the duty they owe to him, as well as the duty they owe to themselves and others, which are all very plainly set down in Sacred Scripture. It is impossible to consider this, without some melancholy reflections, when one sees too many as ignorant of these things, and as little concerned to know them, as if nothing depended upon them.
When one sees people praying for the pardon of their sins, for grace to amend their lives, for deliverance from eternal misery, and for the joys of heaven, with the indifference of people who are not much concerned whether their prayers are heard or not; when one sees them as fond of the world, as if they were sure never to leave it; or that God had no better inheritance to give them hereafter. Such Christians, to be sure, do not live by faith, nor think that they are in the way of ruin.