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I shall now proceed to explain the meaning of SÉRM. this exhortation, “ to hold fast the profession of our " faith without wavering,” by shewing in the
Second place, what it is that is implied in the constant and steady profession of the true faith and religion : namely, that when upon due search and examination, we are fully satisfied, that it is the true religion which we have embraced, or as St. Peter expresses it. Ist epistle v. 12.
" that this is the true grace of God, wherein we stand ;” that then we should adhere stedfastly to it, and hold it fast, and not suffer it to be wrested from us, nor our felves to be moved from it, by any pretences or insinuations, or temptations whatsoever. For there is a great deal of difference between the confidence and stedfastness of an ignorant man, who hath never considered things, and enquired into the grounds of them and the assurance and settlement of one, who hath been well instructed in his religion, and hath taken pains to search and examine to the bottom, the grounds and reasons of what he holds and professeth to believe. The first is mere wilfulness and obstinacy. A man hath entertained, and drank in such principles of religion by education, or hath taken them up by chance ; but he hath no reason for them : and yet however he came by them, he is resolved to hold them fast, and not to part with them. The other is the resolution and constancy of a wise man. He hath embraced his religion upon good grounds, and he fees no reason to alter it ; and therefore is resolved to stick to it, and to hold fast the profesion of it stedfastly to the end. And to this purpose there are many exhortations and cautions scattered up and down the writings of the holy apostles; as that we should be “ stedfast and
SERM.“ unmoveable, established in the truth, rooted and
“ grounded in the faith,” and that we should
doctrine, through the night of men, and the cun-
ceive; that we should not be removed from him
one spirit and one mind, striving together for the “ faith of the gospel, and be in nothing terrified by
our adversaries ;” and that, if occasion be, we shuuld“ contend earnestly for the faith which was ss
once delivered unto the faints;" and here in the text, that we should, “ hold fast the profession of “ our faith without wavering." For the explaining of this, I shall do two things :
I. Consider what it is that we are to hold fast; namely, “the profession of our faith ;” and
II. How we are to hold it fast, or what is implied “ in holding fast the profession of our faith, á without wavering.”
1. What it is that we are to hold fast; namely, « the profession of our faith;" i. e. of the christian faith or religion : for, I told you before, that this profession or confession of our faith, or hope (as the word properly signifies) is an allusion to that profeffion of faith which was made by all those who were admitted members of the christian church by baptism; of which the apostle makes mention immediately before the text, when he fays, “ let us draw “ near in full assurance of faith, having our hearts
sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies - washed with pure water :" and then it follows, 5 let us hold fast the profession of our faith with
" out wavering.” The profession of faith which we SERM:
LIX. made in our baptism, and which by the ancient fathers is called the rule of faith, and which is now contained in that which we call the apostle's creed, and which is called by St. Paul, Rom. vi. 17. the “ form of doctrine which was delivered to them;". i. e. to all Christians; and 2 Tim. i. 13. the form " of found words; hold fast, faith he, the form of " found words which thou hast heard of me, in « faith and love which is in Christ Jesus," and by St. Jude, “ the faith which was once delivered " unto the saints."
So that it is the first and ancient faith of the chrif tian church, delivered to them by Christ and his apostles, which we are here exhorted to hold fast; the necessary and fundamental articles of the christian faith ; and by consequence all those truths which have a necessary connexion with those articles, and are implied in them, and by plain consequence are to be deduced from them. It is not the doubtful and uncertain traditions of men; nor the partial dictates and doctrines of any church, since the primitive times, which are not contained in the holy fcriptures and the ancient creeds of the christian church, but have been since declared and imposed upon the christian world ; though with never fo confident a prétence of antiquity in the doctrines, and of infallibility in the proposers of them': these are no part of that faith which we are either to profess, or to hold fast; because we have no reason to admir the pretences, by virtue whereof those doctrines of practices are imposed; being able to make it good, and having effectually done ic, that those doctrines are not of primitive antiquity, and that the church, which proposeth them, hath no more claim to infald
SERM. libility, than all other parts of the christian church ;
which since the apostles time is none at all.
In a word; no other doctrines which are not, sufs fiçiently revealed in fcripture, either in express terms or by plain and necessary consequence ; nor any rites of worship, nor matters of practice, which are not commanded in Scripture, are to be esteemed any part of that faith in religion, the profession whereof the apostle here commands all Christians “ to hold fast " without wavering ;” much less any doctrines or practices, which are repugnant to the word of God, and to the faith and practice of the first ages of Christianity; of which kind I fhall have occasion in my following discourse to instance in several particulars. In the mean time I shall only observe, that that faith and religion which we profess, and which by God's grace we have ever held fast, is that which hath been acknowledged by all christian churches in all ages, to have been the ancient catholick and apostolick fạith, and cannot (as to any part or tittle of it) be denied to be so, even by the church of Rome herself.
'w · I proceed to the
IId thing which I proposed to consider ; namely,
1. That we fhould hold fast the profession of our
3. Against all the temptations and terrors of the SERM.
4. Against all vain promises of being put into a fafer condition, and groundless hopes of getting to heaven upon easier terms in another religion.
5. Against all the cunning arts and insinuations of busy and difputing men, whose design it is to unhinge men from their religion, and to gain prose- lytes to their own party and faction. I shall go over these with as much clearness and brevity as I can.
i. We should hold fast the profession of our faith, against the confidence of men, without scripture or reason to fupport thát confidence. All religion is either natural or instituted. The rule of natural religion is the common reason of mankind : the rule of instituted religion is divine revelation, or the word of God; which all Christians before the council of Trent did agree to be contained in the holy scriptures. So that nothing can pretend to be religion, but what: can be proved to be fo, one or both of those ways ; either by scripture or by reason, or by both. And how confident foever men may be of opinions destitute of this proof; any man that understands the grounds of religion, will without any more ado reject them, for' want of this proof; and notwithstanding any pretended authority or infallibility of the church that imposeth them, will have no more consideration and regard of them, than of the confident dictates and assertions of any Enthusiast whatfoever; because there is no reason to have regard to any man's confidence, if the arguments and reasons which he brings bear no proportion to it. We see in experience that confidence is generally ill grounded, and is a kind of passion in the understanding, and is commonly made use of, like fury and force, co lup