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damnation seems very harsh and uncharitable; nor do I know that any in the scripture are threatened with damnation, but such as reject the gospel after it is preached to them, or dishonour their profession, after they have embraced it, by a wicked unholy life; neither of which can be said of those we are now speaking of. We ought therefore to leave them to the uncovenanted mercies of God, it I
may so speak. For this we are certain of, that the Judge of all the earth will do right: nor will he demand the tale of bricks where he hath allowed no straw to make them. But as the Jews were obliged, under the severest penalty, to be circumcised, and keep the passover ; so our guilt and danger will be proportionably great by not receiving baptism, when it is in our power ; it being of the highest authority, and the distinguishing badge of, as well as admission into, our most excellent profession. And since we are the offspring of Adam, and consequently subject to death by his fall; how can we be made partakers of that redemption, which Christ hath purchased for the children of God, if we do not enjoy the advantage of that method which is alone appointed by Christ for us to become members of God's kingdom? For Jesus himself hath assured us, Except one be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And therefore it was the constant custom of the primitive church to administer baptism to infants for the remission of sins, by and under such conditions, vows, or obligations, to which they were to consent, and according to which they were to endeavour to regulate their conduct through this world in their way to heaven, And this practice was esteemed by the best tradition to be derived from the apostles themselves ; and is therefore still retained and enjoined by our church, which obliges all persons coming to be baptized, either by themselves or sureties, to promise and vow, that they will renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; to believe all the articles of the christian faith ; and to keep God's holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same all the days of their life.
Where, by the devil, we mean all the fallen angels of which one is chief, prince, or head ; that great enemy of Christ and his church, who, having seduced our first parents, hath ever since had, through God's permission, a great power in the world, and still seeketh our destruction, by tempting us to sin, and then accusing us to God for it. And the works of the devil are all wickednesses and vices, but in particular all idolatry, witchcraft, fortunetelling and dependence on the creatures; and especially the crimes of which the devil is principally guilty, and tempts men; such as pride, envy, murder in fact or in the heart, lying, deceiving, and misleading, especially in matters of religion. And when we renounce the devil and all his works, we reject and withstand that usurped power and dominion, which he exercises in the world, we resist his personal temptations, and engage in no kind to be partakers of his crimes, as we would not share in his punishment.
By renouncing the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, we are to understand, not that the world, which God hath created, or any of its natural enjoyments, are evil; but that the things to be renounced are the evil customs of the world, the vitious fashions, and the corrupt practices, that prevail in it; all methods of ambition and grandeur inconsistent with integrity and virtue ; and all such sorts of diversions and entertainments, as plainly tend to corrupt good manners. And by the vanities of the world we are to understand riches unjustly gotten or vainly and profusely squandered away in riotous living, or pursued with insatiable covetousness, which leads men into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. Thus christians absolutely renounce the yielding of themselves up to all excess either in diet, sports, or apparel ; and the setting of their hearts on the wealth or greatness of the world, or on those customs and practices of worldly men, which are in themselves sinful: and they so far renounce the honours and riches of the world, as not to be ambitious of the former, nor covetous of the latter : and, in general, do hereby look upon themselves debarred
from having more to do than what is
any thing in the world, which may be like to prove an occasion of sin to them, or that may probably tend to turn them from God, and draw off their mind from the other world.
As to the sinful lusts of the flesh, they are thus reckoned up; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such-like: and consequently to renounce all the sinful lusts of the flesh is to avoid adultery and fornication, rioting and drunkenness, and all that filthiness of the flesh and spirit, which is inconsistent with christian purity, and will render us unclean in God's sight. Finally, christians in their baptism absolutely renounce all desires whatsoever, which fasten upon any forbidden, and therefore unlawful object; so as never to give any indulgence, or consent to them, much less must they follow, or be led by them, to the commission of
any By the articles of the christian faith we are to understand all those doctrines of religion, for which we have the authority of Christ and his apostles; the fundamental points whereof are summed up in that form of sound words, which, because it contains the heads of the doctrine preached by the apostles, and was compiled, for the most part, in or near their times, is called the apostles creed: to which we are not only to assent; but we are also strictly obliged by our baptismal vow to learn them, both as to the words and meaning of them. For the nature of that faith, which we are to give to the articles of our creed, is such an assent as must be sincerely from the heart; according to that saying in the eighth chapter of Acts, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest be baptized: it must be active, and work by love, and stedfast without wavering ; not only believing the great benefits and promises of God to mankind, but gratefully accepting of the same, by a dutiful obedience and resignation to God through Christ: without this, it will little avail us to believe all the articles of the christian faith.
By the promise to keep God's holy will and commandments, we are bound by vow to yield a universal obedience unto, and to keep as long as we live, our good resolutions ; not to break, but to keep the ten commandments of the moral law : for baptism, and faith, and resolutions of obe dience are nothing, unless they produce the real fruits of a virtuous and good life. The just shall live by faith : but, if
any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. The meaning of which is, not that men, in this frail and mortal state, can continue without sin; but that they must press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; constantly endeavouring to keep all God's commandments; under which are included all those particular precepts of the Old and New Testament, which are reducible to one or other of those heads : for as Jesus himself observes, On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets. No one sin must reign in us ; the only true religion is to do whatever God commands; and that, because he, from whom we have received all that we have, and to whom we owe all that we can do, commands it. All other schemes open a door to confusion and licentiousness. We must either follow God's will, and be determined by it; or wę must set up our own headstrong self-will in opposition to his unerring wisdom. How much then do they derogate from the honour of God, who represent religion as an unprofitable and unpleasant task ; when it is plain to any man, who considers things rightly, and is not under the prejudice of his lusts and passions, that the great design of religion is to make us happy here, as well as hereafter; that all its rules and precepts are most admirably suited to this end. There is nothing in religion, but what tends to make our lives easy, cheerful, and contented ; nothing but what is suitable to our natures, and agreeable to the dictates of right reason; nothing but what will ennoble our minds, enlarge our understanding, and inspire us with a generous principle of universal love, and charity, and goodwill, to mankind : in short, the commands of God are not grievous, but his yoke is easy, and his burden light.
Thus I have shown you the nature of the vows in baptism: and now I must inform you, that except a christian, when arrived at years of understanding, shall believe and do, as promised by his sureties in baptism, he will certainly forfeit all the benefits thereof; which are the gracious promises of pardon and forgiveness of sin upon our true repentance; the assistance of God's blessed spirit, and the influences of his grace to enable us to work out our salvation; the benefit of Christ's intercession in heaven, where he is an advocate for us with the Father; a share in all those promises of care and protection made to the church; and an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Because the benefits promised by God in baptism are that part of God's covenant with man, which we have no reason to hope we shall obtain, till we comply with our promises made to him in that sacrament; which by God's help we are always able to do: for God can never be supposed to command or require more of us, than what he enables us to perform. Therefore, both in justice, and in regard of our own interests, we are bound to stand to his covenant, which was made in our name by our godfathers and godmothers; because they promised no more than what is implied in the very nature of baptism. All mankind are in the hands of God's unlimited goodness; yet his covenanted mercies are the peculiar lot and portion of christians, the members of Christ's holy church, who honoured God by a due discharge of those things promised in baptism; of which promises you have already been taught what that first vow obliges to renounce ; namely,
the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. And therefore let us now proceed to inquire what that faith is, to which we give our assent, when we profess to believe all the articles of the christian faith; of all which articles we shall treat, after that I have laid down some instructions concerning divine revelation, and given some convincing reasons for its certainty.