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they were writ, to which many expressions allude: they must not make either side of the question in disputė the reason of their interpretation ; for this is tò make it a rule of interpreting scripture, not a question to be decided by it: and again, they must apply general rules to particular cases, it being impossible scripture should comprehend all special cases, which are infinite. And, where there is any difficulty, nothing adds greater light than consulting those primitive and faithful witnesses, who learnt the true sense of scripture from the authors themselves. Without some such means no author can be well understood; and it is for this reason that I would exhort a diligent and constant attendance to hear this word explained and enforced in catechising and preaching. For,
First, CATECHISING is a peculiar method of teaching the ignorant by question and answer; adapted to the meanest capacities for their more ready instruction in the first and necessary rules or principles of our holy religion ; and is of very ancient date in the practice of the christian church. And as to the great usefulness of it, catechising hàth a particular advantage as to children; because they are subject to forgetfulness and want of attention. Now catechising is a good remedy against both these; because, by questions pút to them, children are forced to take notice of what is taught, and must give some answer to the question that is asked ; and a catechism being short, and containing in a little compass the necessary principles of religion, it is the more easily remembered. Again, the great usefulness, and indeed the necessity of it, plainly appears by experience; for as Solomon observes, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it; so it very seldom happens, that children, who have not been càtechised, have any clear and competent knowledge of the principles of religion ever after; and, for want of this, are incapable of receiving any great benefit by preaching, which supposes persons to be in some measure instructed beforehand in the main principles of religion. Besides, if they have no principles of religion, fixed in them, they become an easy prey to seducers. And therefore
I would recommend this way of instruction to parents and masters of families, with respect to their children and servants. For I do not think that this work should lie wholly upon ministers.
ministers. You must do your part at home, who, always living with your families, have better and more easy opportunities of fixing the principles of religion upon your children and servants. Neither must such as have been so unfortunate as to grow in years without this instruction, imagine they are exempt from it; for, as soon as they are able to see their own danger and discover their own ignorance, they must apply in good earnest to this means of obtaining the first things to be known in the christian religion. Therefore, whoever he be, of what age and condition soever, that finds his own ignorance in the mysteries of his religion and service of God, or in any such degree thereof, as he feels a want of any part
of necessary saving knowledge; let him, as he loves his soul, and would rescue it from eternal death, seek out for instruction, first, by the means of catechising, and then he shall profit, through God's grace, by the word preached. For,
Secondly, PREACHING is not only a publication of God's mercy, favour, blessings, grace, and promises to those who love him and keep his commandments, but it is also a declaration of those threats and punishments recorded in the word of God against the obstinate and evil doer. Its use is to put us in mind of our duty, and to exhort and assist us to withstand those lusts and temptations which set us at enmity with God. Consequently, we honour God by attending to his holy word read and preached to us, with a resolution of mind to perform what we shall be convinced is our duty ; with such submission of our understanding as is due to the oracles of God; and with a particular application of general instructions to the state of our own minds, that we may grow
grace, and in the knowledge of God the Father, and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore, at hearing the word preached, we should give our attention with great reverence, and take heed how we hear, lest our negligence be interpreted as a contempt of that authotity which speaks to us; and not, as the manner of some is, who at church place their public worship, not in their hearts and knees; but in lolling, gazing, and unseemly gestures ; and employ their ears, the channel by which faith is conveyed into our souls, not to hear their duty, but to find some unreasonable fault with their teacher: for instead of improving the word of God preached for their instruction, when they return home, their whole discourse turns upon the man, and not his sermon. And such hearers never want subject of complaint against the preacher, that they may in some measure screen their own neglect of duty to God, their neighbour, and themselves. Thus at one time they find fault with his memory, because too short; or with his sentences, because too long: if he be young, they despise his youth, and
say that he does but prate: if he is aged, they seldom scruple to term his zeal for their souls and good instructions, the dictates of one in his dotage, that knows not what he says Again, if he preaches in a plain style suitable to weak capacities, they call him a sloven, a bad master of languages; if he is solid, then he preaches flat: but, if he be not plain, then he is too witty ; and, if not solid, he is certainly accused of levity, and ridiculing the word of God : if he be unlearned, they justly say he is not worthy of so great a calling'; and if he be endued with the qualifications of a good pastor and teacher, he is immediately proclaimed unfit for so plain and ignorant a people. In fine, when the sermon must be confessed to be very excellent, then they say he preaches for gain; and, if it be but ordinary, they cry, they can read as good at home. But now
What can be thought to be the end of such men? God may justly give them up to a reprobate mind, and withdraw that grace, which they have abused ; and then it is no wonder they turn the most serious things into ridicule, and hear the terrors of the Lord without the least sense of their own guilt. Pray God that this may not be the case of many, who stay from church under a pretence that they cannot benefit under such and a such a minister! And let not those, who constantly attend on stated days, to hear God's word preached, and still continue in their habitual sins, think they have honoured God: No. The way to reverence God by honouring his word is not to imagine, when we have been affected with a sermon, that the great end of hearing is fulfilled ; for we must apply those good instructions and exhortations in such a manner as to enable us to conquer our most secret sins. Sins are the distempers of the soul, and God has prescribed this as a means of its cure: therefore, as no patient can hope for the cure of his bodily infirmities, by talking with, or only looking upon the physician and his prescriptions and medicines ; so neither can any one hope to be released of his sins, that never applies God's word to enable him to eschew evil, and to do good. The main matter then of hearing a sermon, is putting useful instructions into practice: for, when God enlightens our minds, it is our business to walk as children of light. We must never despair of conquering our evil habits, nor be discouraged in prosecuting the convictions of our own consciences; for a mighty resolution, with the assistance of God's grace, will overcome great difficulties. Let us therefore never measure our godliness by the number of sermons, which we are present at, as
if that outward mark of reverence to God was any sure mark of a good christian; but let us estimate our obedience to God, and reformation of our manners, by the quantity of the good fruit, which the dew of God's grace has, through the ministration of the word, enabled us to bring forth : without this disposition of the heart, all our hearing will only draw the heavier judgment of God upon us; because we hear and know our master's will, and do it not.
But, VII. Fifthly, The great mark of a christian duty to God is the honouring of him in his SACRAMENTS of baptism and the Lord's supper; which are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof. In which description we are taught that to constitute a sacrament, there must be, first, some visible sign of it, apparent to our senses : secondly, this sign must represent some spiritual grace
and favour vouchsafed us by Göd: thirdly, that outward sign
must be of Christ's own institution : and, fourthly, it must be appointed by him as the means of conveying to us this inward
grace, and as a token of assurance that he will best w the one upon those who do worthily receive the other*. And we are not to doubt, but that in the right use of the outward signs of water, and bread and wine, he will by the power of his spirit, though in a manner unknown, because not necessary to be revealed to us, convey, and confirm, in baptism, and in the Lord's supper, to the worthy receivers thereof, the divine grace signified, according to his own most true promise and engagement. And therefore we must consider both these sacraments under those particular properties. And, first, concerning haptism.
By the sacrament of BAPTISM we are initiated into the profession of christianity, and admitted to the terms of the christian covenant. I say, baptism delivers us from the vengeance of God, by cleansing us from the guilt and power of sin; by taking us into a covenant of grace
and favour with God; and by infusing a principle of new life into our souls, to enable us to live according to God's laws, and to attain that everlasting happiness, which is the free gift of God in Christ t. Or, as our church office explains it,
Baptism doth represent unto us our profession, which is to follow the example of our saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died, and rose again for so should we who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness ; continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living. Nevertheless, we must not dare to take upon us to exclude any from all hope of God's mercy in extraordinary cases, as the want of opportunity or capacity of receiving it. To pronounce positively of their salvation we have no warrant: because the promises of salvation, as the gospel declares them to us (and we have no promises of salvation but in the gospel) are only made to those that believe in Jesus Christ, and enter into his covenant by baptism. On the other side, to pronounce of their • See the 25th Article of Religion,
See the 27th Article of Religion.