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the Catechism expresses it, “ in the vulgar or
common tongue : and all other things that a “ Christian should know and believe
for his souls “ health.” When the godfathers and godmothers have performed this incumbent and easy duty, the obligation is shifted to the parties themselves, for whom they are engaged, it being, in fact, their greatest interest to fulfil the promise made for them. I am now addressing you, my Christian brethren, who have long been of age to take this important engagement on yourselves; and it may profit you, by God's grace and blessing on these humble endeavours, to attend to a plain inquiry how far you have believed all the articles of the Christian faith.
The sentence or proposition which I mean to make the subject of this Discourse, consists of three terms or parts : 1. to believe; 2. to believe all the articles; and 3. of the Christian faith: and, unless we make this examination with that closeness and seriousness which the subject calls for, we may go through life with the name of Christians, and perhaps never know the meaning of the word itself, much less what a weight of important matter it contains; and, above all, the necessity and serious consequence of such knowledge, which is no less than the improvement of our lives, and the eternal salvation of our souls. Now, the method I have adopted in these familiar addresses to you, may happily assist in opening your understanding in many essential points of Christian information, and convince you how valuable a sound foundation is in religion, as well as in every thing else we wish to see brought to perfection, and lasting; and, however any may fall short from neglect to come, or through want of due attention when here, the more wişe and serious must be convinced the design is good, and I hope the manner will prove sufficiently plain for all to reap some benefit, if not their own fault. I am very sure we should readily subscribe to this truth, if we did but reflect upon the universal ignorance of mere nominal Christians. If
you inquire of the common people in general, or of many, from whom, judging by their appearance and understanding in other matters, one might expect a tolerable account of the reason of the hope that is in them, you will find them possessed of a very slender stock of pure Christian knowledge. Instead of convincing you, by their answer to the plainest question, that they believe all the articles of the Christian faith, you will experience the melancholy truth, that they do not understand where to place the chief stone of the foundation, the very first article-without a belief in which, neither strength nor hope can. ever be expected. All men who have any sense of a religious obligation, or any honesty of mind, will readily confess that they are sinners, that
they have grossly offended God, and deserve no favour from him—that, if he were to deal with them according to strict justice, and the evil of their hearts and lives, they must be severely punished when they go hence, and are called upon to give up their accounts. At the same time, they talk highly of the mercy of God, and hope that he will forgive them. If you proceed a step further, and ask the ground of this hope -if you represent to them, that, by their own confession, they have nothing to offer to engage the mercy of God; and if you come to the point, and inquire what possibly can incline the Almighty to extend his mercy to those who do nothing but provoke him daily, and are in no ways fitted for his presence, and the perfected society of his saints, and by what means they can ever apply that mercy to their own case, they are quite at a loss—they think nothing of the atonement by Christ's death, because they know nothing about it—they either have not heard it preached to them, or have been negligent in coming to hear it—they are ignorant that it is for Christ's sake alone (after whose name they are called Christians) that they can ever be received into God's favour, even though they had never offended him by acts of wilful impurity, disobedience, and ingratitude :--they know not that it was necessary that God's justice should be satisfied for original sin, as well as actual transgression, and that every creature that gains admission into his holy kingdom, must be washed and made pure by the blood of Christ ; that, being conceived in sin, we are therefore the children of wrath, and that Christ's merits are the cause of God's reconciliation to us—of any adoption of us as God's children, no less than the power obtained for us to repent, and of the remission of sin as the consequence of our reformation. The extreme ignorance, in the generality of people, concerning this first principle of the Christian faith, is the cause of their walking blindly all their life, and that they show so little of God's grace in all their ways.-For this reason, too, when duty calls upon us to examine and talk to people of the nature of the hope that is in them of eternal life, whether on a sick bed, or under any trouble that leads their minds to seek for help where only it can be found, the task is very difficult in making them see the beauty of this chief corner-stone, the absolute necessity and blessing of a Redeemer, one who can feel for our infirmities, hath bought us again with a price, and obtained power, both to present our penitent petitions, and to procure us help to work out our salvation. It is for want, I say, of a thorough understanding of the excellent treasure which our Church Catechism contains, and of a true belief in all the articles of the Christian faith, that people are so void of comfort, when
they most need it, and that they have to learn, like children, the very A B C of their faith, when either arrived to years that should have found them well established in these saving truths-or, perhaps, at the brink of the grave, when they should have afforded them a sure and blessed passport into eternity. Surely, my brethren, these are sound motives for striving to come at some deeper information concerning the history of our religion, than many among us possess; and it must argue great blindness or perverseness, if people will not endeavour to profit by the opportunity of knowing better.
As an humble instrument in God's hands for this portion of good to you, I will now proceed to prepare the way of the Lord to you, that, as rational creatures ought, you may be able, by his blessing on your own endeavours, to give a reason for the hope that is in you. To this end I shall request your patience and attention to a further explanation of the different parts of this proposition.
1. To believe, in the sense the word is here used, signifies to have a firm persuasion of a thing, or a positive conviction that it is true. In this sense we apply it to the religious principle of faith concerning divine things: thus, when we say, I believe in God, we do not make that profession, or admit the truth of it, on the authority of one that may be mistaken, like our.