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unalterable, (during this world) and some that are local, particular or temporary only.
Direct. x111. “Remember that whatever duty you seem obliged to perform, the obligation still supposeth that it is not naturally impossible to you, and therefore you are bound to do it as well as you can : and when other men's force, or your natural disability hindereth you from doing it as you would, you are not therefore disobliged from doing it at all : but the total omission is worse than the defective performance of it, as the defective performance is worse than doing it more perfectly”. And in such a case the defects which are utterly involuntary are none of yours imputatively at all, but his that hindereth you (unless as some other sin might cause that). As if I were in a country where I could have liberty to read and pray, but not to preach, or to preach only once a month and no more; it is my duty to do so much as I can do, as being much better than nothing, and not to forbear all, because I cannot do all.
Object. “But you must forbear no part of your duty ?' Answ. True : but nothing is my duty which is naturally impossible for me to do. Either I can do it, or I cannot: if I can, I must (supposing it a duty in all other respects), but if I cannot, I am not bound to it.
Object. But it is not suffering that must deter you, for that is a carnal reason: and your suffering may do more good than your preaching. Answ. Suffering is considerable either as a pain to the flesh, or as an irresistible hindrance of the work of the Gospel : as it is merely a pain to the flesh, I ought not to be deterred by it from the work of God; but as it forcibly hindereth me from that work, (as by imprisonment, death, cutting out the tongue, &c.) I may lawfully foresee it, and by lawful means avoid it, when it is sincerely for the work of Christ, and not for the saving of the flesh. If Paul foresaw that the preaching of one more sermon at Damascus was like to hinder his preaching any more, because the Jews watched the gates day and night to kill him, it was Paul's duty to be let down by the wall in a basket, and to escape, and preach elsewheret. And when the Christians could not safely meet publicly, they met in
* See Mr. Truman's book of Natural and Moral Impotency. 1 Acts ix. 25.
secret". Whether Paul's suffering at Damascus for preaching one more sermon, or his preaching more elsewhere, was to be chosen, the interest of Christ and the Gospel must direct him to resolve: that which is best for the church, is to be chosen.
Direct. xiv. · Remember that no material duty is formally a duty at all times : that which is a duty in its season, is no duty out of season. Affirmative precepts bind not to all times, (except only to habits, or the secret intention of our ultimate end, so far as is sufficient to animate and actuate the means, while we are waking and have the use of reason). Praying and preaching, that are very great duties, may be so unseasonably performed, as to be sins : if forbearing a prayer, or sermon, or sacrament one day or month, be rationally like to procure your help or liberty to do it afterward, when that once or few times doing it were like to hinder you from doing it any more, it would be your duty then to forbear it for that time (unless in some extraordinary case): for even for the life of an ox or an ass, and for mercy to men's bodies, the rest and holy work of a sabbath might be interrupted; much more for the souls of many. Again I warn you, as you must not pretend the interest of the end against a peremptory, absolute command of God, so must you not easily conclude a command to be absolute and peremptory to that which certainly contradicts the end; nor easily take that for a duty, which certainly is no means to that good which is the end of duty, or which is against it. Though yet no seeming aptitude as a means, must make that seem a duty, which the prohibition of God hath made a sin.
Direct. xv. ' It is ever unseasonable to perform a lesser duty of worship, when a greater should be done; therefore it much concerneth you to be able to discern, when two duties are inconsistent, which is then the greater and to be preferred :' in which the interest of the end must much direct you; that being usually the greatest which hath the greatest tendency to the greatest good.
Direct. xvi. • Pretend not one part of God's worship against another, when all, in their place and order, may be done.' Set not preaching and praying against each other ;
u John xix. 38. Acts xii. 12. &c.
nor public and private worship against each other; nor internal worship against external; but do all. - Direct. xvii. 'Let not an inordinate respect to man, or common custom be too strong a bias to pervert your judgments from the rule of worship; nor yet any groundless prejudice make you distaste that which is not to be disliked.' The error on these two extremes doth fill the world with corruption and contentions about the worship of God. Among the Papists, and Russians, and other ignorant sorts of Christians, abundance of corruptions are continued in God's worship by the mere power of custom, tradition, and education: and all seemeth right to which they have been ļong used : and hence the churches in South, East, and West continue so long overspread with ignorance, and refuse reformation. And on the other side mere prejudice makes some so much distaste a prescribed form of prayer, or the way of worship which they have not been used to, and which they have heard some good men speak against, whose judgments they most highly esteemed, that they have not room for sober, impartial reason to deliberate, try, and judge. Factions have engaged most Christians in the world into several parties, whereby satan hath got this great advantage, that instead of worshipping God in love and concord, they lay out their zeal in an envious, bitter, censorious, uncharitable reproaching the manner of each other's worship. And because the interest of their parties requireth this, they think the interest of the church and cause of God requireth it; and that they do God service when they make the religion of other men seem odious: when as among most Christians in the world, the errors of their modes of worship are not so great as the adverse parties represent them (except only the two great crimes of the popish worship: 1. That it is not understood, and so is soulless. 2. They worship bread as God himself, which I am not so able as willing to excuse from being idolatry). Judge not in such cases by passion, partiality, and prejudice y.
* Majus fidei impedimentum ex inveterata consuetudine proficiscitur : ubique consuetudo magnas vires habet; sed in barbaris longè maxinas: quippe ubi rationis est minimum, ibi consuetudo radices profundissimas agit. In omni natura motio eo diuturnior ac vehementior, quo magis est ad žinum determinata. Jos. Acosta de Ind. lib. ii. p. 249.
y See Bishop Jer. Taylor's late book against Popery.
Direct. xvIII. · Yet judge in all such controversies with that reverence and charity which is due to the universal and the primitive church. If you find any thing in God's worship which the primitive or universal church agreed in, you may be sure that it is nothing but what is consistent with acceptable worship; for God never rejected the worship of the primitive or universal church. And it is not so much as to be judged erroneous without great deliberation and very good proof. We must be much more suspicious of our own understandings.
Direct. xix. “In circumstances and modes of worship not forbidden in the word of God, affect not singularity, and do not easily differ from the practice of the church in which you hold communion, nor from the commands or directions of your lawful governors.' It is true, if we are forbidden with Daniel to pray, or with the apostles to speak any more in the name of Christ, or are commanded as the three witnesses, Dan. iii., to worship images, we must rather obey God than man; and so in case of any sin that is commanded us : but in case of mere different modes, and circumstances, and order of worship, see that you give authority and the consent of the church where you are their due.
Direct. xx. · Look more to your own hearts than to the abilities of the ministers, or the ceremonies or manner of the churches' worship in such lesser things.' It is heart-work and heaven-work that the sincere believer comes about; and it is the corruption of his heart that is his heaviest burden, which he groaneth under with the most passionate complaints: a hungry soul, inflamed with love to God and man, and tenderly sensible of the excellency of common truths and duties, would make up many defects in the manner of public administration, and would get nearer God in a defective, imperfect mode of worship, than others can do with the greatest helps: when hypocrites find so little work with their hearts and heaven, that they are taken up about words, and forms, and ceremonies, and external things, applauding their own way, and condemning other men's, and serving satan under pretence of worshipping Goda
Directions about the Christian Covenant with God, and
Though the first part of this book is little more than an explication of the Christian covenant with God, yet being here to speak of baptism as a part of God's worship, it is needful that I briefly speak also of the covenant itself.
Direct. 1. . It is a matter of great importance that you well understand the nature of the Christian covenant, what it is. I shall therefore here briefly open the nature of it, and then speak of the reasons of it: and then of the solemnizing it by baptism, and next of our renewing it, and lastly of our keeping it.
The Christian covenant is a contract between God and man, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, for the return and reconciliation of sinners unto God, and their justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification by him, to his glory.
Here we must first consider, who are the parties in the covenant. 2. What is the matter of the covenant on God's part. 3. What is the matter on man's part. 4. What are the terms of it propounded on God's part. 5. Where and how he doth express it. 6. What are the necessary qualifications on man's part. 7. And what are the ends and benefits of it.
I. The parties are God and man: God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost on the one part, and repenting, believing sinners on the other part. Man is the party that needeth it; but God is the party that first offereth it: here note, 1. That God's part of the covenant is made universally and conditionally with all mankind, (as, to the tenor enacted,) and so is in being before we were born. 2. That it is not the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost considered simply as persons in the Godhead; but as related to man for the ends of the covenant. 3. That it is only sinners that this covenant is made with, because the use of it is for the restoration of those that broke a former covenant in Adam. It is a covenant of reconciliation, and therefore supposeth an enmity