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acknowledge that the State, in which he is placed by Baptism, is a State of Salvation : and because Affittance from above is best obtained by Thankfulness for God's Mercy hitherto, and Prayer for it hereafter, he concludes, by thanking our heavenly Father, for calling him to this State; and praying for his Grace, that he may continue in the firme to his Life's End.
Now the Necessity and Nature of God's Grace and of Prayer and other Means to obtain it, will be explained in their proper Places. The two Points therefore, of which it remains to speak at present, are, the Need of good Resolution, and of Thankfulness for that happy State, in which Baptism hath placed us.
In every Thing that we attempt, much depends on a deliberate and fixed Purpose of Mind. But particularly in Religion, when once we are thoroughly convinced, that whatever it requires must be done ; and have decermined accordingly, that though we know there will be Labour and Difficulty in going on, and many Solicitations and Enticements to leave off, yet we will set about the Work, and persevere in it; Obstacles and Discouragements, that till then appeared very threatening, will, a great Part of them, vanish into nothing; and those, which remain, will serve only to exercise our Courage, and make our Triumph glorious ; provided we keep our Resolution alive, and in Vigour, by frequently repeating it in a proper Manner : that is, in a strong Sense of God's Presence, and an humble Dependence on his Blessing. For if we trust in ourselves, we shall fail. And if we pretend to trust in God, without exerting ourselves, we shall fail equally. In either Case, the good Impressions made on our Minds will be continually growing fainter of course: and Multitudes of Things will conspire to wear them quite out. Pleafures will soften us into Diffoluteness; or Amusements, into Neglect of every serious Attention. Love of Riches or Power or Applause will engage us in wrong Methods of attaining them : or the Cares of Life will banith the
Duties of it from our Thoughts. Vehement Paffions will overset our Virtue: or infinuating Temptations undermine it as effectually. Some of thete Things muft happen, unless we preserve a steady and watchful, a modeft and religious Resolution against them, ever fresh on our Minds.
And nothing will contribute more to our doing this, than reflecting often, with due Thankfulness, that the State, to which God hath called us, is a State of Salvation: a State of Deliverance from the present Slavery of Sin, and the future Punilhment of it; a State of the truelt Happiness, that this Life can afford, introducing us to perfect and everlasting Happiness in the next. Such is the Condition, in which, through the Mercy of God, we Christians are placed, and in which, by a christian Behaviour we may fecure ourfelves ; and not only preferve, but continually enlarge, our Share of i's Blefsings. But if we now neglect to do for ourselves what we ought; all, that hath been done for us by others, will be of no Avail. Neither our Baptism, nor our Instruction; nor our learning ever fo exactly, or understanding ever so diftinctly, or remembering ever so particularly, what we were instructed in, can possibly have any Effect, but to increase our Condemnation, unless we faithfully continue in the Practice of every Part of it to our Life's End. This therefore let us all determine to make our constant and most earnest Care, with humble Gratitude to God, our heavenly Father, for his undeserved Mercy to us; and with fure Confidence, that if we be not wanting to ourselves, he that hath begun a good Work in us, will perform it, until the Day of Jesus Chrift".
L E C T U RE
Grounds and Rule of Faith.
AVING already explained to you the several
their Baptism renounce; I come now to speak of what we are to believe : after which will follow properly what we are to do. For all reasonable Practice inuft be built on some Belief, or Perfuafion, which is the Ground of it : virtuous Practice, on a Persuasion, that what we do is fit and right; religious Practice, on a Persuasion, that it is the Will of God. Now God hath been pleased to make his Will known by two Ways : partly by the mere inward Light of our own Understandings i partly by the outward Means of additional Declarations from himself. The former of these we call natural Religion : the latter, revealed Religion.
The natural Reason of our own Minds, if we would seriously attend to it, and faithfully afilt each other in using it, is capable of discovering, as shall be proved to you, not only the Being and Attributes, and Authority of God; but, in general, what Sort of Behaviour he must expect from such Creatures, placed in such a World, as we are, in order to avoid his Displeasure, and procure some Degree of his Favour. And as we cannot doubt of what our own clear Apprehension, and the common Sense of Mankind, plainly tell us: here is one Foundation of religious Belief and Practice, evident to all Men. And if our Belief and Practice be not fuitable to it, our Consciences, whenever we consult them, nay often whether we consult them or not, will
condemn us, to our Faces, of Sin; and proclaim to us beforehand the Justice of that future Condemnation, which God will pass upon it. Every one of you, that hear me, have at Times felt this ; make, every one of you, a proper Use of it.
If then the Light of Nature were our only Guide, it would teach us more than, I fear, many of us observe. But happy are we, that this is not our only Guide. For it would leave'us uninformed in many Particulars of unspeakable Moment, even were our Faculties unimpaired, and employed to the best Advantage. But alas, the very first of Mankind fell into Sin, and derived a corrupted Nature down to their Puiterity : who yet further infamed their own Palions and Appetites, perverted their own Judgments, turned aside their Attention from the Truth; and the Light that was in then became, in a great Measure, Darkness, even in respect of what they were to do. But what they were to hope and fear after doing wickedly, this was a Matter of far greater Obscurity itill. And had we, liere present, been left to ourselves in all Likelihood we had been, at this Hour, (like Multitudes of other poor Wreiciies in every Part of the World that is unenlightened by Christianity,) worshiping Stocks and Stones : or however, we thould. certainly, in other Refpects, have been walking in the Vanity of our Minds, having the Underflanding darkened, alienated from the Life of Godb; Strangers from the Covenant of Promise, baving no Hope, and without God in the World ..
But he was gracioufly pleased not to leave fallen Men to themselves, but to furnish them with, needful knowledge. What human Abilities, when at the best, tight bave discovered, they would in all Likelihood have dif.. covered (if at all) fo slowly, that we have great Cause to believe, the Religion of our first Parents was derived from his immediate Instruction. But certainly after their Transgression, he made an immediate Revelation
2. Matth. vi. 23.
Eph. iv. 17, 18.
Eple, ii. 126
to them; and thenceforward vouchsafed from Time to Time various Manifestations, to such as would receive them, of his Truths, his Commands, and his purposes : not only republishing the original Doctrines of Reason, but adding new Articles of Belief, new Promises, and new Precepts, as the changing Circumstances of Things required; till at length, by his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, he confirmed all his paft Notifications, and took away al Neceflity of future ones ; acquainting us fully, in the ever blessed Gospel, with all that we Thall need to know, or be bound to do, till Heaven and Earth passa.
Thus then, besides those Things in Religion, which our own Reason can discern, we receive others on the Testimony of their being revealed by God: as unquestionably we ought. For if he, who cannot err, and cannot lie, communicates any Information to us ; though it require us to believe, what we had before not the least Apprehenfion of, or should else bave imagined to be exceedingly strange and unlikely; though it require us to do, what otherwise we should neither have thought of doing, nor have chosen to do; yet surely his Testimony and Command may well be fufficient Reason for both. We admit every Day, upon the Testimony one of another, Things utterly unknown to us, and in themselves extremely improbable: and we act upon such Testimony in Matters, on which our Fortunes, our Healths, our Lives, depend: as indeed without doing so, the Affairs of the World could not be carried on.. Now if we receive the Witness of Men, the Witness of God is greater. And since we are able to convey the Knowledge of our Thoughts and our Wills to each other, no Question but God is able to convey his to his Creatures.
But, allowing that he can, it may be asked, How do we prove, that he hath conveyed it to Men in the Jewish and Christian Revelations ? 'I answer, We believe the Jewith Revelation, for this plain Reason, amongst • Matth, y, 18,
! 1 John v. go"