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But, Secondly, What is it to believe these Articles? In answer to which, To believe the Gospel or Articles of the Christian Faith, as 'tis here promis'd by every baptiz'd Christian, implies these two things:
1. The Assent of the Mind to the Truth of them. And,
2. The Consent of the Will and Affections in embracing and acting according to them.
1. I fay, To believe the Articles of the Christian Faith, is sirmly to assent to the Truth of them; and that because they are deliver'd by him that is Truth itself, attested by his Word that cannot lye, and consirm'd by such Miracles as cannot deceive. And where these things concur, that is where there is infallible Testimony and evident Proof, there' it must be unreasonable to withhold Assent. And since these things meet in the Articles of our Christian Faith we are to have a sirm Belief and Persuasion of the Truth ofthem.
We have not follow'd cunningly-devis'd Fables, fays the Apostle, in what we deliver'd to you: But we deliver to you that which we also receiv'd, being spoken first by the Lord, and confirm'd unto us by them that heard him Heb. 2. 3. "Prophecy came not (fays St. Vet er) by the Will of Man, but holy Men of God stake as they were mov'd bv the Holy Ghost; 2 Pet. 1. 21. So that as all Scripture in general, so particularly the necessary Doctrines of Faith collected out of it, are given by Inspiration of God, and are prositable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Instruction in Righteousness, that the Man of God may be perse fi, thronghlv furniJJfd unto all good Works; 2 Tim. 3. l6. meaning, That these weighty and useful Truths are dictated by an infallible Spirit, and therefore to be receiv'd and believ'd bv us This is that Confession of Faith in which we are requir'd to continue stedfast; that Form of sound Words, which we are to hold fast without wavering, and not to be shaken by any from the Belief of it. In token hereof, it is, that our Church requires us to be in the posture of Standing in rehearsing of it, to signify our Resolution of adherfn* and standing to it. °
So that all the Deists and Scepticks of our Atc who deride the Mysteries of the Gospel, or deny the Articles of the Christian Faith, are guilty of a manifest Breach of their Baptismal Vow, in letting go that Profession of Faith which they promis d to hold fast, and calling in question
H 4 , thofe
thofe Truths which they engag'd solemnly and constantly to believe. Such as these are truly Deserters and Renegadoes from the Faith, who instead of renouncing their Enemies, renounce their own Engagements, by flying to thofe they promis'd to sight against, and forsaking him to whom they vow'd all Fidelity. And if the shame and danger of flying from our Colours be so great in our common Battles, what will be the Fate of thole that desert their Saviour in this spiritual Warfare, and prove thus persidious to the Captain of our Salvation? To answer then this part of our Vow, we must not stagger thro' Unbelief, but yield a sirtft and unshaken Assent to the Truths of the Gospel, and take heed of all doubting or disbelieving the Articles of our Christian Faith.
But this is not all: To believe these Articles, implies pot barely an Assent to the Truth of them in our Mind, but,
2. The Consent of our Will and Affections to them, by receiving them into our Hearts, and suffering them to have a due Influence upon our Lives and Conversations. The Christian Religion is not barely a speculative Science, to entertain our Minds with barren and empty Notions; but 'tis a practical Art that designs to better our Lives, and teach us how to order our Conversation aright: and when by Baptism we enter upon the Profession of it, we enter tipon a new Life, and engage to square our Actions by the Rules pf it. The Faith here promis'd, is not a dead ineffectual Faith, that rests in a mere Assent and Speculation of divine Truths; but an operative Faith that works by Love, and influences the Soul to all the Parts of a holy Life. These mysterious Truths are reveal'd not to satisfy pur Curiosity, or to beget in us a vain Credulity, but to regulate our Practice and our Belief of them; pot so much indeed to make us wiser, as better Christians.
This St. I/ames tells us at large, who asks, What does it profit, my Brethren, if a Man fay he hath Faith, and hath not Works ? Can such a Faith save him? Faith without fVorks is dead, heivg alone. And can that lead or bring «ny to eternal Life? This is no better than the Faith of Devils, who believe and tremble, and groan for ever under the Miseries of an idle Belief without Practice 3 James
The Author to the Hebrews, Chap, i r. tells us of the many great and good Works that proceeded from the Faith of Abraham, Moses, and the other Patriarchs; what mighty things were atchievVT by it, and how great a Recompence of Reward they receiv'd by it.
Indeed, as a Learned Divine has well observ'd, ' We do
* not believe enough of any thing until it lead us to act ac
* cording to that Belief. The things that worldly Men be
* lieve, put them upon Actions agreeable to such Persua
* sions: The Merchant believes there are Jewels and rich
* Wares in foreign Lands, and he puts to Sea and seeks to 'purchase them; the Country-man believes he shall reap,
* and therefore he sows; the Soldier believes he shall have
* Victory and Spoil, and therefore he sights: And shall the 'Christian alone believe and sit still, or do nothing towards 'it * Are not the Principles of Religion sure, the Hopes 'better, and the Gains insinitely greater than thofe of
* worldly Men? And is it not a shame, that their Faith
* should be so active and busy in smaller matters, and ours
* so idle and sluggish in things which so vastly exceed 'them?' So that the practical Atheist and debauch'd Persons, who may perhaps believe aright as to the Truth of Religion, are justly chargeable with the Breach of this Vow, by not living or acting accordingly.
Thus we fee what we are to understand by the Articles of the Christian Faith, viz. The necessary Points of Faith summ'd up in the Apostles Creed: and likewise, what by believing these Articles; namely, Not barely assenting to them with pur Understanding, but receiving them into our Hearts, and exerting the Power of them in our Lives and Conversations.
From whence I proceed to consider,
'Thirdly, The Extent of our Belief; which, we are told, is to reach to All the Articles of the Christian Faith. We are not to pick and chuse, believing some, and rejecting others; but our Faith must extend to all, for so we promis'd in our Baptism, to believe all the Arriclesof our Christian Faith : the Reason whereof is plain. For,
(r.) They have all the fame Authority, being reveal'd by the fame holy unerring Spirit. And,
(2.) They all tend to the fame End, even the Salvation f>f our Souls; and being all necessary to that end, we are to take no more nor no less into our Creed, but to keep
to that Standard or Rule of Faith which the Apostles have left us.
But for the fuller Explication hereof, we must note that this Branch of our Vow obliges to all the Articles of our Faith.
1. Extensive; that is, we must believe them All.
1. I fay, our Faith must extend to all these Articles: and that as was before observ'd, because they are all grounded upon the same Authority, being all equally the Dictates of a Divine Infallible Spirit. Insomuch that what St. James affirms concerning the Law, is true likewise of the Christian Faith; He that offendeth in one 'Point, is guilty of all. In like manner, he that rejects one Article, is guilty of the whole; because in disbelieving one, he contemns that Authority that reveal'd and requires all the rest. The Apostles had the Holy Spirit sent to them, to lead them into all, and nothing but Truth; and therefore what they deliver'd must beembrac'd as true, and counted worthy of all acceptation. By rejecting any part of our Creed, our Faith becomes maim'd and imperfect, and may make us sall short of Salvation.
In a word, we engage here not to shrink from the Confession or Belies of any one Article handed down from the Apostles, or any one Truth contain'd in them.
2. Our believing all the Articles of the Christian Faith, here implies the Belief of thofe and no other: we may not coin new Articles of Faith of our own, nor yet receive any for current that are new-coin'd by others. Christ is the sole Lord and Master of our Faith and Conscience, and therefore we must not become the Servants of Men, and enslave our Minds to their new-invented Doctrines. The Pharisees were rebuk'd by our Saviour for their teaching for Doctrines, or necessary Points of Faith, the Commandments of Men; and laying heavy Burdens on other Mens Consciences, which themselves would not touch with the least of their Fingers ; Mat. 15. 9. & 25. 4. St. 'Paul declares, that if an Angel from Heaven should preach any other Gofpel, or add any new Articles of Faith to thofe we have recciv'd, we are to account him accursed, Gal. 1. 8, 0. where we sind this weighty Caution twice repeated and inculcated upon us.
We may indeed, and ought, to obey some external and alterable Rules of Order and Decency, (or the greater Reverence and Solemnity of publick Worship; but we may not receive any new Points of Doctrine as necessary to Salvation, nor suffer doubtful Problems to advance into Articles of Faith. And therefore the new-coin'd Articles of Purgagatory, Transubstanriation, and the like, invented by the Church of Rome, are grofs Impositions on the Faith of Christians, and ought neither to be obtruded upon, or admitted by any.
Moreover, to believe it necessary to Salvation, to abstain from Lme forts of Meats, or some indifferent Rites and Ceremonies in the Worship of God; to prohibit them as simply unlawful, and not to be us'd upon peril of Damnation; are Additions to Religion, and making new Points of Faith. Such was theirs in the Apostles days, who said, in indifferent matters, 'Touch not, taste not, bandle not; and of the fame kind is theirs in ours, who fay, Kneel not, use not a Form of'Prayer, wear not a such a Garment, and the like; which being no where forbidden, may not be believ'd or abstain'd from as unlawful- Such Doctrines or Prohibitions as these, where they are urg'd upon our Belief or Practice, are grofs Infringements of Christian Liberty, and unwarrantable Additions to the Christian Faith; and consequently this Eranch of our Vow wills us not to listen to, or be led away by them. Thus we fee the Sense of what is requir'd and engag'd by us, when we promise to believe all the Articles of our Christian Faith; which is carefully to be observ'd by all that are baptiz'd, upon pain of forfeiting all the Benesits and Privileges of Baptism. To this we have farther Encouragement,
3. From the exceeding great Reward annex'd to our keeping to the Christian Faith. Our Blessed Saviour, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, assures us, That he that believeth shall he saved, Mark 16.16. meaning, that he shall partake of that great Salvation which he has purchas'd and promis'd to all his faithful Followers. Hence we sind St. 'Paul declaring of himself, That he had fought the good Fight; which was his fulsilling of the sirst part of his Vow, by warring against those ghostly Enemies: He had kept the Faith, which was his performing the second part of it, by believing all the Articles of the Christian Faith ; and therefore, Henceforth (faith he) is laid up for me a Crown of Righteousness, which God theRighteous Judge JJjall give me