« AnteriorContinuar »
worshipper of Baal be more bold and confident in professing of an idol god, than Jehovah's worshippers ? We will walk in the name of the Lord our God; we will go up
and down, professing and declaring, in all prudent and fit ways, our respects to him. We have an observable word of Jephthah; and truly he was such an odd sort of man, that unless it were for He. brews xi. and one or two good words in Judges xi. we should hardly own him a believer. One of the words is in verse 11. He uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh; that looks something like. He was called extraordinarily to be the head of Israel for their recovery out of a distressed state, and before he attempts the work, he acquaints God. The words that I speak of, and bring to this purpose, are these, verse 24. it is in his message to the Ammonites, Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess ? So whomscever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess. Now, here was a great profession of the man's faith : “ You “ poor blinded idolaters, that call upon your idols, and if you « have success in your way, will praise your idols, and keep " that which they give you to possess: Shall not we keep that o which the Lord our God giveth us to possess?" And, says he, « Be it known to you we will." Try all the world over, I say, wherever there is a form of religion, true or false, a profession of it is always required. As far sunk as the Antichristian state is, yet when they admit infidels, and, according to their wickedness, when they drive Protestants to their communion, they crave something of profession of faith. But all these professions are rather professions of opinion. A great many, ask them what religion they are of, they can telt you; ask them the principles of religion, they can tell you them; there is one question still that a great many of our professors are puzzled with ; « Pray, what is your faith?” these truths are the truths of God, but what truth is there in your faith of them ? The apostle requires to be ready always to give an answer to them that shall ask a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. How many of our professors, (and we have a great multitude more than the gospel is honoured by), how many of them are not able to give an account of the hope that is in chem? Unless this religion be,
well founded in thy heart, it is none of thy religion ; it is the religion only of those that believe. But unless the divine truths revealed in the word, be ingrafted in thy heart by a true and lively faith in them and on them, they are not thy religion, they are only thy opinion. Take heed; this matter of profession, and profession of faith, is not so slight and easy a matter as people imagine. There is a very great danger in folks professing to have faith, when they have it not. We think there was great severity in dealing withi those two poor people, Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts v. There was a custom then, and special reason for it, that several rich folks, in the prospect of the expected difficulties that were coming upon the church, sold their land ; two people, man and wife, agreed to sell their land, and keep part of the price in case of necessity for their own relief. Here was but bare lying in this case. It is true, the apostle aggravates its as it was lying to the Holy Ghost; and it may be, there was something of a design to try the apostles. But this was an innocent thing to what it is for a poor creature to make a profession of faith, when he knows he has it not. To make a profession of that he has not, is to boast of a vain gift. The Lord is strict in observing mens profession; a little thing will go in God's sight for a profession: and accordingly he will deal with men that are not sincere therein; but there is no true profession but that which is sound. A profession that is of truth, is not only, that a man professes to believe truth, but that he does truly believe that which he professes: therefore in the creed, commonly called the apostles creed, the hrst word in it, and which is the greatest mystery in it, is, “ I believe in God," I believe that there is a God; " and I believe in," Go Ay, but the main thing in thy creed is the first word, “I believe this." What conviction hath the Spirit of God made upon thy conscience of divine truth to enforce this belief? For saving faith is nothing else but the mark which a divine impression of divine truth hath made upon a man's heart.
SER MON 11.
HEBREWS X. 23.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, &c. I SHALL now proceed to make some practical improvement of what has been delivered in the former discourse.
APPLICATION. First, then, we see what a Christian :profession is; it is a profession of faith. This is the name given to it in my text. In Heb. iv. 14. it is only called our profession; sometimes without profession, it is called our faith, our confidence, ver. 35. Cust not away, therefore, your confidence, &c. To a Cliristian profession of faith, there are two things required: 1. That it be true. 2. That it be visible. 1. That it be true; that is, that not only it be a profession of divine truth, but that it be a profession of a true faith that men have in the truth. If people profess error instead of truth, they take God's name in vain; if they profess they have faith when they have not, they lie against God and themselves too. Profession must be sound and true; a man must profess what he hath, and no more. 2. Christian profession must be visible. Profession is mainly for others, as faith in the reality of it is mainly for ourselves : the apostle therefore, when he is speaking of the great profession of the faith of the patriarchs, saith, Heb. xi. 13, 14. They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. And they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek o country, &c. All who had known Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who saw their way of living, who beheld their way of not mixing with the rest of the nations, who beheld their faith and hope; these might have seen plainly, these were men for another world than this. There can be no profession unless it be visible. This is so general and well known a thing, that a visible credible profession of Christianity is that only that deserves this name.
Secondly, We see hence, what reason and ground ministers and churches have to call for and require a confession of mens
faith and hope. The apostle speaks of it here, as a thing that had passed all these believing Hebrews. He reckons that all of them who had faith, had one way or other made a profesa sion of it. Ministers themselves are or should be eminent professors. Indeed their profession is very public; every time they preach, they profess. The apostle takes notice of this, 1 Tim. vi. 12. Thou hast professed a good profession before many witnesses; and every time 'Timothy preached faith, and called others to the hope of eternal life, he did thereby witness to his own faith in so doing. Churches are societies appointed by Jesus Christ, wherein his name is to be held forth in the world; and there is high reason, that all who de. sire to join with them in partaking of gospel-privileges, should make to them a profession of their faith. Notwithstanding all the corruption that is this day in the world, (for I chuse rather to call it the world than the church), yet there is somea thing of this remaining in all that pretend to the name of a church; only, that they account their profession is most wofully mistaken. There are a great many who reckon it profession enough, if people be born in a land where Christianity is the common and established profession. Thus it is in the Antichristian kingdom generally. Some reckon, that their outward attendance on ordinances, and outward attendance upon the established religion, is enough to get men the name of professors; it may do so, but this is still short of a profession of faith. Sometimes there is assent required to be expressed unto points of truth or doctrine that a particular church espouses; and if men pass that test, this is thought to be a profession by a great many. In the mean time, the thing in my text is still omitted, and that is, the profession of a man's faith. It is not only the profession of the truth of the point of doctrine he assents to, but of his assent in it, that is necessary.
1. It is greatly for the honour of Jesus Christ, that men should knit themselves visibly under his standard and banner. Our Lord Jesus Christ is no such master, that people should be ashamed to wear his livery, and give themselves to him. Again, it is greatly for the advantage of peopie too. You know there are two great plagues the church of Christ has becn distressed by, and it will never be quite
free from them; a multitude of hypocrites in a fair day, and a multitode of apostates in a foul day. When summer-weather is, hypocrites increase to a multitude; when a storm comes, they are blown away as chaff by the wind. What is likely to be the only way that can prevent the abounding of these dreadful scandals? If there were strictness in calling for the truth of peoples faith, for the making of them give a true profession of it, if they had it, truly they would be found to adhere to the Lord, far more closely in a day of trial. It is thought to be an outward glory to the gospel and Jesus Christ, to have a great multitude of professors of his name; but the scandal that their conversation gives, and the grievous offences that their apostacy makes, countervail it wofully. Pray, what sort of advantage is it to a poor sinner, to be admitted and entertained in the fellowship of saints, who himself hath no faith at all? People are apt to think that the minister or church are very strict, or severe, that will not admit them to the Lord's table. Sirs, there is a great deal of love in this. What have you to do there, if you have not faith? It is but as it were tendering you poison; for so the special ordinances of the gospel are unto them that have not faith. Therefore,
Thirdly, You see hence what your duty is; to make a profession of faith. Do not look upon it as a matter indifferent, whether you profess it or no. Say you, If I have faith, that will save me; what matter is it, whether the world know it or no? Commonly they that have most of it, make the least noise of it, but it is a duty lying upon believers, to make profession of their faith. I will give you a few things for this. 1. Let us see the Old Testament precepts, that were typical of New Testament practices. There is a notable one in Deut. xxvi. 3, 5, 6, 7. I will read it to you, because it hath something worth special regard : ver. 3. And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this doy unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us. They would have all the country know that they are there, and that all the kingdoms round about them might know that they are there; nay, but says the Lord, I will enjoin this upon you,