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that when you bring the first-fruits of the earth, you make this profession before God. And there is more of their profession, in ver. 5. And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went dorun into Egypt, and sojourned with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. Poor Jacob went down to Egypt for want of bread to eat, where God made him a great kingdom. Now, how easy is the spiritual application of this? A Christian is to profess before the Lord his God, that a Syrian ready to perish was his father, nay, not only ready to perish, but that had perished already, and was condemned by the righteous law of God, and yet the Lord had mercy, and gave his grace to him. 2. We find the Old Testament promises of the New Testament practices. Several of them speak forth this profession very peremptorily: Isa. xliv. 3, 5. I will pour (says the Lord) water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. And what shall come on it? One shall say, I am the Lord's : and another shall call himself by ike name of Jacob: and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel. How explicit are these words, One shall say, I am the Lord's! It is not, that they shall only be the Lord's, but they shall say so. There is subscribing with the hand, there is changing of the name: He shall subscribe with the hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel. What can this be? Why, he will account himself of, he will enter by his own act and deed into the family of Israel. It is not, that he will compare himself with so great a man as Jacob, so mighty a prince and
wrestler with God; nevertheless, to all the privileges he desires to lay claim, and to have the same God to be his God. There is only one word now that is commonly repeated, and as commonly ill understood, as any words we know in the mouths of people; it is the word in the creed as we call it. "I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of "saints.” “I believe in the holy catholic church," is, I believe that Jesus Christ hath a holy church scattered up and down the earth.
This « communion of saints” is of another consideration, as it were one of th: privileges of this great
church. If there were no saints upon earth to have communion one with another, there would be no church on earth; the church would expire. Blessed be God, that can never be till the Judge come, when the communion of saints ceaseth, and endeth only. Now, here is a grievous fault amongst many people that make some kind of profession. First, some enter into a profession; they slip into it they do not know how; a great many years they have borne the name of professors. What said you? what did you? Do you think the bare crowding to assemblies, where the word of God and prayer is used, will make any think with themselves, This is a man that makes profession of faith? He should do so, and the very outward appearance should never be but with this design: but it is not enough to convey the conviction : for it is certain, that is done many times by them that are quite void of faith. Some again make a profession of their faith once, and they think that is enough for as long as they live; whereas, all our life long, we should be declaring the faith that is lodged in our heart. The whole course of our conversation is but going on in profession; yet many make a profession, and contradict it daily by their conversation. Now, it is a principle that the world will never beat out of wise mens minds, that always deeds will be regarded before words; we will prove mens minds rather by what they do, than by what they say. If a man have a profession of faith in his mouth, and have his conversation quite contrary, no man regards what he says, Why call ye me Lord, Lori, and do not the things which I say? says our Lord, Luke vi. 46. They profess, says the apostle, that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto eviry good work reprobate, Titus i. 16. But so much now shall serve for this, the subject matter of the apostle's exhortation, the profession of our faith.
The second thing in the exhortation, is, the duty itself about this profession that he enjoins; that is, Holding it fast without wavering: I take them both together. The thing that I am to speak to is this,
That Christians should be stedfast in their profession. Whatever faith or hope they make by word or deed, they
should be stedfast in it, they should hold it fast: Let us held fast our profession, says the apostle, Heb. iv. 14.
In speaking to this, I would shew, what is to be held fast; why it is ; and how : what is the matter of the duty; what the enforcements to it; and what the manner of it.
I. What it is that is to be held sast, when we are commanded to hold fást the profession of our faith.
1. Hold fast the truths professed. Whatever truths of God we have known and made profession of, we must be careful to hold them fast. This the apostle Paul enjoins to Timothy, 2 Epist. i. 13. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Departing from the faith professed is a grievous transgression; and the apostle here, in this chapter, in these dreadful words that have been so frightful unto many a poor weak conscience, has his eye upon this crime that I am warning you against : If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sin. A word, I say, that has been grievously mistaken by many a poor exercised creature ; a scripture the devil has made use of to disquiet many an honest heart. It is not, if we sin wilfully, if we sin against light and knowledge, that there remains no more sacrifice for sin ; that were one of the most dreadful things that can be thought of. The apostle's meaning certainly is this, If we sin wilfully by abandoning the faith of Jesus Christ, who is the only propitiation for our sins, we shall find that there is no other sacrifice for sin : if we resist the only true One, the blood of the covenant, and the Spirit of grace working therewith, as he explaineth in the 29th verse, there is then no more sacrifice for sin, for the sinner then throws away the only sacrifice, there is none else to be had. Apostasy from the Lord, and letting our profession slip, hath begun many a time at some points of truth, which a great many Christians, it may be, thought of no great importance. With what severity does the apostle thunder against the Galatians for their error in point of justification ; and that was this, that they would mix the works of the law with the righteousness of Christ in the gospel, chap. i. 6, 7. I marvel, (says
he) that ye are so soon removed from him that called you
into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
2. In the holding fast our profession, we should hold fast the communion of saints. Whoever they be that leave the communion of saints for the conversation of the wicked, that person does certainly forego his profession. It is impossible, unless through a strong temptation, that a true Christian can savour that delight to his heart in the conversation of the wicked, as in communion with the godly. Thereupon we find, that the apostle, in the 25th verse, does in a manner explain what he means by holding fast our profession : Not fora saking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of sorve is, &c. As if the apostle had said, “ If you forsake your « Christian assemblies, your meetings together, your edify« ing and helping one another, if you forsake these, so far you “ forsake your profession.”
3. In holding fast the profession of our faith, this is required, that we hold fast the exercise of the grace of faith and hope. If this be not minded, you will quickly find that all things else in a profession do wither and waste away. When you are called to hold fast your profession, you are called to hold on in believing, in the exercise of it.
II. The second thing is, Wherefore is it that Christians should be so careful to be stedfast in the profession of their faith?
1. Because there are a great many devices of Satan and the world to drive people from it. Holding fast does imply that there are endeavours to take things from us. That which none will pluck away, none needs to hold. There is resiştance that is made from without, and great are those that are made by Satan and the world. 1st, From Satan. The devil is a cruel, malicious, and envious enemy. We all have some sort of notion of these worul wickednesses in the spiritual adversaries. But there is one thing concerning the devil we da not dui, consider; the devil is the most desperate sinner of all God's creatures. I mean not only desp rate in wickedness,
but destitute of all relief under it; and therefore the profes. sion of faith and hope in a sinncr, is the most grievous thing that the devil can behold. He once had all believers his captives, and would fain bring them back again into his bondage. There is nothing grates the devil more, than a sinner profess. ing his hope in that glory he is fallen from. The devil is a desperate sinner, and he would fain drive all sinners into the same state with himself, and if it were not his cunning, that he knows the danger of awaking men.
If the devil had his will, he would rather be glad that all sinners were despairing than flattering themselves with vain hopes ; but because their • security renders their state more desperate in the issue, therefore the devil befriends them, and keeps all in peace. 2dly, From the world. You know what enmity the world has tesrified against the people of God; and all this enmity arises from profession. Let a man have never so much faith, if this faith never discovers itself, neither by word nor deed, the world would never have any sort of disturbance thereby, and woull not be angry at men. It is the testimony of the witnesses chat torments men that are upon the earth. What, think you, is the reason of all the persecution that you read of in the word, and the bloody persecution that hath been in this land, and several other places ? The true reason is the profession of faith of the people of God. If believers would part with their profession, the world would part with their quarrels.
2. Christians should be very careful of their profession, to hold it fast; for the honour of God and his Son Jesus Christ is greatly concerned in it. It is all we can do for his glory. The highest glory that is given to Christ in this world, is by the stedfast maintaining of the profession of our faith. The greatest affront that can be done, is by people's abandoning the profession of that faith they.once made. It is a horrible thing; a thing the Lord calls the heavens to be astonished at: My people have forsaken me, and have forsaken me upon some al. ledged fault also : What iniquity love your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me? &c. Jer. ii. 5, 12.
3. Lastly, Christians should be careful to maintain their profession, to hold it fast; for their peace and their salvasion stands mightily on it. It is remarkable how the apos