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Now it is plain from the words of Mr. Belshain, which have been recited, that he believed none of these Scriptural declarations in their obvious meaning: a meaning as obvious, let it be observed, as that of any words in any language whatever; a meaning so obvious, that it cannot be rejected without a violence, done by no sober commentator to any other book. To believe, as Mr. Belsham believes, is not to believe the Scriptures, but himself. The Scriptures actually tell us where Jesus is, and what are his. occupations; that he ascended into heaven; that he resides in heaven; that he sits at the right hand of God on the throne of the Universe ; that he will continue there till the times of the restitu. tion of all things; that he upholds all things; that he rules all things, and performs whatever else I have recited from the Sacred canon.
I have elsewhere shown, that a profession of religion is an important duty of Christians. In such a profession these essential doctrines of the Scriptures are included. The whole amount of any profession is no other than a solemn declaration of our faith in the Scriptural doctrines, and our design to obey them. Without a profession of the doctrines, therefore, our design to obey them cannot be disclosed, or professed; because it cannot be known what are the doctrines, which we intend to obey. In this case our profession will of course be radically defective. St. John accordingly speaks of professing our belief in the character of Christ as being the whole amount of our duty in this respect.
Every spirit, that confesseth, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God.” And again, “Whosoever shall confess, that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." On the contrary,“ He that confesseth not, that Jesus is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, where
have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
To confess, or profess, our belief, that Christ came in the flesh is to confess, that he voluntarily assumed the flesh, or the nature of man; and that, therefore, he existed before he took upon him this nature. The declaration is exactly equivalent to that of St. Paul, “ Verily he took not on him the nature of Angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” This is perfectly evident
from the absurdity of applying this phraseology to a man. To say that Adam, Abraham, or Moses, came in the flesh would be to utter unintelligible nonsense. But to say this of Christ is the same as to say, that, being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, he emptied himself; taking upon him . self the form of a servant, and being born in the likeness of men.
To profess our belief, that Christ is the Son of God is to confess, that he is all, which this phraseology is customarily employed in the Scriptures to denote. That he is the brightness of his glory, the Xapaxong ubodradews, the exact counterpart of his substance ; That he upholds all things by the word of his power; That by himself he purged our sins; and that he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Of him, that makes such a profession, St. John says, “God dwelleth in him, and he in God."
It will be remembered, that the English words, profess, and confess, are translations of the same word, ochoysw.
2dly. A good profession of the Christian Religion is, also, a profession of the Christian character.
The christian character consists of those affections, and that conduct, which constitute what is called vital Religion : in other words, obedience of the heart, and conformity of the life, to the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel.
It is plainly to no purpose, which will finally be useful to ourselves, that we believe, in the most undoubting speculative manner, the doctrines of Revelation ; or that we profess this belief before mankind, even with absolute sincerity, if we stop here; if these doctrines have no practical influence on our hearts, and lives. The religion of the heart and life, is that, and that only, which answers the demands of the Gospel. Christ, “ are ye my disciples indeed, if ye continue in my word," John viii. 31. And again. “ Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit: so shall ye be my disciples," John xv. 8. And again. “ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is, that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him," John xiv. 21. And again. “ Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you," John xv. 14. Passages
to the same purpose are found every where throughout the Scriptures. The whole tenour of them all is to prove, that he who heareth the sayings of Christ, and doeth them, builds upon a rock, and shall never be moved; and that he, who heareth these sayings, and doeth them not, builds upon the sand, and shall be finally overthrown with an irremediable destruction.
In a good profession of Christianity it is indispensable, that the character, which we profess, should be Evangelical: that is, the things prosessed should all be such, as are unfolded, and required, in the Gospel, as the true and proper character of Christians. In addition to the system of truths, which we declare ourselves to believe, it is indispensable, that we profess also their influence on our hearts, and lives. No other character is in the Gospel unfolded, and required, as that of the Christian. “ If any be a hearer of the word,” says St. James, “ and not a doer, he is like unto a man, beholding his natural face in a glass : for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he, being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” No other religion but this is vital. “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments :" and there is no love of God, where his commandments are not kept.
It has heretofore been supposed, that Visible Christianity was all, which it was necessary to profess in this solemn transaction. By visible christianity is intended an external conformity to the precepts and ordinances of the Gospel ; the mere outside, the mere garb, of real christianity. This opinion was probably derived from another ; viz. that the Sacraments are ordinances of conversion, and not merely of edification. It seems difficult to conceive how either should have been adopted by an intelligent reader of the Scriptures; since, evidently, they do not support it even in a distant manner. As this opinion is very generally excluded from the present system of doctrines, held in this country, it will be unnecessary to discuss it here. I shall only observe therefore, that, as the members of the churches, addressed by the Apostles in their several Epistles, are uniformly styled saints, called, chosen, faithful. sanctified, justified, beloved of God, brethrejr of Christ.
members of his body, and by many other equivalent expressions ; there can be no rational doubt, that the members of all other churches ought to possess the character, denoted by this phraseology, and that the religion which they prosess ought to be the vital religion of the Gospel.
The christian character, or the vital religion of the Gospel, is in substance made up of Repentance, Faith, and Holiness. These must be all evangelical. The repentance must be a real hatred of sin; a real loathing of our own sinful character; an ingenuous and godly sorrow, that we have offended God, violated his law, and abused his grace; a sincere intention to live a life of new obedience; a real conversion of soul to God; and an earnest desire to walk blamelessly in all his ordinances and commandments; accompanied by a voluntary confession of our guilt, and a humble supplication for forgiveness.
The faith, professed here, is widely different from that speculative belief of the doctrines, contained in the Scriptures, on which I have so largely insisted under the first head of this discourse. The faith, of which I now speak, is an affectionate confidence in God; and peculiarly in the Redeemer; as the only Saviour, the only propitiation for sin, the only intercessor for sinners. To the belief of the understanding it adds the affection of the heart; and with exact precision is styled trust or confidence; by the former of which names it is extensively designated in the Scriptures. This is what is appropriately called Evangelical, or Justifying faith ; and by every good man is exercised towards all the doctrines, precepts, promises, and invitations, of the sacred canon, as well as toward the offices of Christ, and the character of God.
Holiness is the love of God, and of mankind, disinterested, not selfish, love; the obedience of the two great commands of the moral law, together with that self-denial which it involves, styled by St. Paul the denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts; and a life conformed to the dictates of these principles, styled by the same Apostle, living soberly, and righteously, and godly in the world. These are the attributes, and these the actions, which form the christian character; the attributes of which we declare ourselves to be the subjects, the actions which we declare our sincere
and fixed intention to perform, when we make the good profession.
3dly. A good profession involves Sincerity.
By this it is intended, that, when we profess that we believe the doctrines of the Gospel, and sustain the character of Christians; we should mean exactly what we say. The reasonableness of this position will, I presume, not be questioned. No sober man will doubt, that God desireth truth in the inward parts; or that he seeth, not as man seeth, but looketh on the heart. On this subject I have conversed with a multitude of persons, offering themselves as candidates for admission into the Christian church ; and, so far as I remember, not one of the number ever doubted at all the absolute obligation of making this profession with entire sincerity.
It has been the practice of some ministers, and churches, in this country to admit persons to a profession of Religion, for the purpose of obtaining Baptism for their children.
In this case the professor entered into the same covenant, which was entered into by all others ; engaging to walk faithfully in all the commandments, and ordinances of the Lord. Among these ordinances one of high import is the Lord's supper. Yet it was the professed intention of the candidate, at this very time, not to attend upon that ordinance. In addition to this, it was his declared apprehension that at the very time of making his profession he was not a Christian, and therefore was not at all disposed to walk in any of the commandments, or ordinances, of Christ. Glaring as this contradiction was, both ministers and people not only countenanced it, but contended for it with eagerness. Here, it is evident, the professor did not mean what he said. His sincerity was not that, which God requires. The service began, and ended, at the lips; and had no place in the heart.
It is not enough to constitute the sincerity in question, that in this transaction the candidate should be what in the technical divini. ty, in this country, has been styled morally sincere : that is, that he should really desire to become a Christian. If, indeed, he desires to be a Christian in one sense, a sense not very unfrequently intended, he is already a Christian: that is, if Christianity appears to his eye so lovely and excellent, that he desires it for its own