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and peace, and concord! and let your worship be as much composed to the imitation of them, as is agreeable to the likeness of our condition unto their's.
There is no hypocrisy, dulness, darkness, errors, selfconceitedness, pride, division, faction, or uncharitable contention: O how they burn in love to God! and how sweet that love is to themselves! and how those souls work up in heavenly joys to the face of God, in all his praises. Labour as it were to join yourselves by faith with them, and as far as standeth with your different case, to imitate them. They are more imitable and amiable, than the purest churches upon earth. Their love and blessed concord is more lovely, than our uncharitable animosities, and odious factions and divisions are.
And remember also the time when you must meet all those upright souls in heaven, whose manner of worship you vilified, and spake reproachfully of on earth, and from whose communion you turned away: and only consider how far they should be disowned, who must be dear to Christ and you for ever.
The open disowning and avoiding the ungodly and scandalous, is a great duty in due season, when it is regularly done, and is necessary to cast shame on sin and sinners, and to vindicate the honour of Christianity before the world. But otherwise it is but made an instrument of pernicious pride, and of divisions in the church, and of hindering the successes of the Gospel of Christ.
How to pray in Faith.
PASSING by all the other particular parts of worship as handled elsewhere (in my "Christian Directory"), I shall only briefly touch the duty of prayer; especially as in private.
Direct. 1. Let your heart lead your tongue, and be the fountain of your words; and suffer not your tongues in a customary volubility to overrun your hearts.' Desire first, and pray next; and remember that desire is the soul of
prayer; and that the heart-searching God doth hate hypocrisy, and will not be mocked;" Matt. vi. 1. 3, 4.
Direct. 2. Yet do not forbear prayer, because your desires are not so earnest as you would have them.' For, 1. Even good desires are to be begged of God: 2. And such desires as you have towards God, must be exercised and expressed. 3. And this is the way of their usual increase. 4. And a profane turning away from God, will kill those weak desires which you have, when drawing near him in prayer may revive and cherish them.
Direct. 3. Remember still that you pray to a heavenly Father, who is readier to give, than you are to receive or ask.' If you knew his fulness and goodness, how joyfully would you run to him, and cry, "Abba, Father!" John xx. 17. Luke xii. 30. 32. Mark xi. 25. Matt. vi. 8. 32.
Direct. 4. Go boldly to him in the name of Christ alone.' Remember that he is the only Way and Mediator. When guilt and conscience would drive you back, believe the sufficiency of his sacrifice and atonement. When your weakness and unworthiness would discourage you, remember that no one is so worthy, as to be accepted by God on any other terms, than Christ's mediation. Come boldly then to the throne of grace, by the new and living way, and put your prayers into his hand, and remember that he still liveth to make intercession for you, and that he appeareth before God in the highest, in your cause; Heb. x. 19. Ephes. iii. 12. Rom. v. 2. Heb. ix. 24. vii. 25, 26.
Direct. 5. Desire nothing in your hearts which you dare not pray for, or which is unmeet for prayer:' Let the rule of prayer be the rule of your desires. And undertake no business in the world, which you may not lawfully pray for a blessing on.
Direct. 6. Desire and pray to God, first, for God himself, and nothing lower; and next for all those spiritual blessings in Christ, which may fit you for communion with him. And lastly, for corporal mercies, as the means to these;' Matt. vi. 33. Psal. xlii. 1-3, &c. Psal. lxxiii. 25, 26.
Direct. 7. Pray only for what is promised you, or you are commanded to pray for:' and make not promises to yourselves, and then look that God should fulfil them, be
cause you confidently believe that he will do it; and do not so reproach God, as to call such self-conceits and expectations, by the name of a particular faith: for where there is no word, there is no faith.
Direct. 8. What God hath promised, confidently expect; though you feel no answer at the present.' For most of our prayers are to be granted (or the things desired to be given) at the harvest time, when we shall have all at once. Whether you find yourselves the better at present for prayer or not; believe that a word is not in vain, but you shall reap the fruit of all in season; Luke xviii. 1. 7. 8. James v. 7, 8.
Direct. 9. Let the Lord's Prayer be the rule, for the matter and method of your desires and prayers.' But with this difference: It must always be the rule which your desires must be formed to, both in matter and method. You must always first, and most desire the hallowing of God's name, the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will on earth as it is in heaven, before your own being, or wellbeing but this is only a rule for your general prayers (which take in all the parts): for when you either intend to pray only, or chiefly for some one particular thing, you may begin with that, or be most upon it.
Therefore all Christians should specially labour to understand the true sense and method of the Lord's Prayer (which, God willing, I hope elsewhere to open).
Direct. 10. Be more careful in secret of your affections, than of the order of your words (yet choosing such as are aptest to the matter, and fittest to excite your hearts); but in your families, or with other, be very careful to speak to God, in words which are apt, and orderly, and moving;' and to do all with such skill, and reverence, and seriousness, as tendeth (not to increase, but) to cure the dulness, hypocrisy and unreverence of others; Eccles. v. 1, 2. Matt. vi. 7-10, &c.
Direct. 11. Pray as earnestly as if God himself were to be moved with your prayers:' yet so as to remember, that the change is not to be made upon him, but upon you. As when the boatman layeth hold upon the bank, he draweth the boat to it, and not the bank unto the boat. Prayer fitteth you to receive the mercy; both naturally as it exciteth your desires after it, and morally as it is a condition
on which God hath promised to give it. When you pray you tell God nothing which before he knew not better than you: but you tell him that in confession and petition, which he will hear from your own mouths, before he will judge you meet for the mercies which you are to pray for.
In sum, pray, because you believe that praying believers shall have the promised blessing: and believe particularly and absolutely, that you shall have that promised blessing through Christ, because you are praying believers, and therefore the persons to whom it is promised.
How to live by Faith towards Children, and other Relations.
Direct. 1. BELIEVE God's promises made to believers and their seed' (of which I have written at large in my "Treatise of Infant Baptism.") And labour to understand how far those promises extend, both as to the persons and the blessings. There was never an age in the world, in which God did not distinguish the holy seed, even believers and their children, from the rest of the world, and take them as those that were specially in his covenant.
Direct. 2. Let not your conceits of the bare birth-privilege, make you omit your serious, solemn, and believing dedication of them unto God, and entering them into his covenant.'
For the reason why your seed is called holy, and in a better case than the seed of infidels, is not merely because they are the offspring of your bodies, and have their natures from you; much less as deriving any grace or virtue from you by generation: but because you are persons yourselves who have dedicated yourselves with all that you have, absolutely to God by Christ: and they being your own, and therefore at your disposal, your wills are taken for their wills, so far as you act in their names, and on their behalf: and therefore when you dedicate them to God, you do but that which you have both power and command to do and therefore God accepteth what you so dedicate to him. And baptism is the regular way in which this dedication should be solemnly made: but if through the want of a minister,
or water, or time, this be not done, your believing dedication of your child to God, without baptism shall be accepted. For it is the substance, and not the sign, the will, and not the water, which God requireth in this case.
Quest. But what then shall we think of the children of godly Anabaptists, whose judgment is against such dedication?'
Answ. Many whose judgment is against baptizing them, is not against an offering or dedicating them to God. And those who think that they are not allowed solemnly to enter them into covenant with God, yet really do that which is the same thing: for they cannot be imagined, to be unwilling, to dedicate them to God, to the utmost of that interest and power, which they understand that God hath given them and doubtless they most earnestly desire that according to their capacity, they may be the children of God, and God will be their God in Christ. And this virtual dedication seemeth to be the principal requisite condition.
But yet as the unbaptized are (ordinarily) without the visible church and its privileges; so if any be so blind, as neither explicitly nor virtually to dedicate their seed to God; I know no promise of their children's salvation, any more than of the seed of infidels.
Direct. 3. If the children of true Christians dedicated by the parents' will to God, through Christ, shall die before they come to the use of reason, the parents have no cause to doubt of their salvation.'
It is the conclusion of the Synod of Dort in Artic. 1. And the reason is this.
If the parent and child be in the same covenant, then if that covenant pardon and adopt the parent, it doth pardon and adopt the child: but the parent and child are in the same covenant: therefore, &c.
God hath but one covenant on his part, which is sealed by baptism (as I have proved at large to Mr. Blake). Indeed some are only externally in covenant with him on their part, that is, they did covenant only with the tongue, and not the heart and consequently God is no further in covenant with them, than to allow and command his ministers to receive them into the visible church, and give them its privileges; and is not as a promiser in covenant with them