« PrécédentContinuer »
heart to give up all for my sake, he cannot be my disciple; but will in time of trial desert me. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, with a heart to suffer every thing for my sake, cannot be my disciple; but will in time of trial desert me. Therefore, consider what you do. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, &c. &c. So likewise, whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. My disciples are the salt of the earth. Salt is good, if it is salt; but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned. It is good for nothing. It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill: but men cast it out, as good for nothing. And what are such disciples good for, who will desert me in time of trial. Attend to what I say. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Mr. M. speaking of our sentiments of religion, as contained in president Edwards' treatise concerning religious affections, which is beyond doubt one of the best books that has been published on experimental religion and vital piety since the days of inspiration, says, (p. 36.) These sentiments are surprisingly spread in the land, in the present day.' Yes, and always will spread among people, in proportion as true religion revives and spreads. Nor am I without hopes, that Mr. M. should he thoroughly look into the scheme, and get a right understanding of it, would yet himself become a proselyte to it; and if he should become a proselyte to it, he would soon give up his external covenant, as being wholly inconsistent with it.
-And it is quite certain, that when the divine promises, scattered through the sacred writings, relative to the glorious prevalence of true Christianity, come to be accomplished, that Mr. M.'s graceless covenant will become a useless and an impracticable thing. When nations shall be born in a day; when all the people shall be righteous, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea; people will not desire to make a graceless profession. Nay, they can never be persuaded to do it in that day. For then they
will love Christ more than father, or mother, or wife, or children, or houses, or lands; yea, more than their own lives. And men who really love their wives and children, are able, ordinarily, to say with truth and a good conscience, that they do love them. Yea, it would be thought a sign, that men, generally, if not universally, hated their wives, in any kingdom, city, or town, should it be known, that ninety-nine in an hundred of them had such doubts, that with a good conscience they could not say that they loved them. Mr. Stoddard, in his Treatise concerning the Nature of Conversion, says, (p. 79.) 'We do not know of one godly man in the Scripture, that was under darkness about his sincerity.' And our catechism says, 'The benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.' And when religion revives in its purity and glory, assurance will become as common a thing among professors, as it was among the apostolic converts, in the apostolic churches. And even now, should a man and woman present themselves before a clergyman, to enter into the marriage-covenant, and at the same time declare, that they doubted their love to each other to such a degree, that with a good conscience they could not give their consent to the form of words in common use, because that would imply a profession of mutual love, no judicious man would think them fit to be married. The application is easy.
Nothing renders a graceless covenant needful, but the prevalence of gracelessness among our people. For did our people all of them love Christ more than father and mother, wife and children, no man would desire to have the covenant of grace set aside, and a graceless covenant substituted in its room, in our churches. When, therefore, that day comes in which satan shall be bound, who at present deceives the na- · tions of the earth, that he may deceive them no more: when the great harvest comes, of which what happened in the apostolic age was but the first fruits; and the stone cut out of the mountain without hands becomes great, and fills the whole earth, and the God of heaven sets up a kingdom, and all peo
ple, nations, and languages, serve him, and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven is given to the people of the saints of the Most High, and all dominion shall serve him; then, even then, true godliness will be universally professed, and universally practised.
Since, therefore, this graceless covenant will ere long be universally exploded, and rooted up, as shall every plant which our heavenly Father hath not planted, why should not we all now unite to give it up, and to invite our people to become Christians indeed, to profess and practise according to the true import of their baptism? It is as much their duty, and as much their interest, to become Christians now, as it will be in any future period of their lives. They have from God no leave to delay. Thanks be to God, that these sentiments are surprisingly spreading in this land, in the present day.'. Nor ought it to pass unnoticed, that every attempt to prevent their spreading has hitherto had the contrary effect. For while those who oppose them, how ingenious and learned soever they be, are obliged to run into the grossest absurdities and inconsistencies, in their own defence; as one error leads on to another, it naturally tends to open the eyes of all candid men, who attend to the controversy. And may we not hope that so candid and ingenious a writer as Mr. Mather is represented to be, who is not fond of his own judgment, or tenacious of his own practice, but stands ready to give them both up, when any one shall do him the friendly office of setting light before him,' will, upon a calm review of all that has been said, become a friend to the good old way of our forefathers, the first settlers of New-England, and come into that plan on which the New-England churches were originally formed. Which may God of his infinite mercy grant, through Jesus Christ. AMEN.
FROM the first settling of New-England, it has been the constant practice of all our congregational churches, to require a public assent to the chief articles of the Christian faith, as. a term of communion in special ordinances. Nor is there to. this day, one such church, or, to be sure, not above one, that ever I heard of, but what insists upon such a public assent, as that, without which they will not admit any to sealing ordinances. Our churches have formulas, which they call the doctrines of faith, or the articles of the Christian faith. The minister publicly reads them to such as are to be taken into full communion; and they give their assent to them before all the congregation. For our churches believe, (and act upon it,) that none ought to be admitted to full communion, but such as are sound in the faith; and that the church has a right to judge of their soundness in the faith and they do judge those to be sound in the faith, who publicly profess, (acting, to a judgment of charity, understandingly and honestly,) their: assent to the articles of the Christian faith, which they have agreed to, and drawn up to be used in the admission of members: as they are persuaded said articles do express the true. sense of the holy Scriptures.
Were they convinced, that any of their articles were contrary to Scripture, I know not of one, or to be sure not above one, of all our churches, but would immediately alter their articles. For we all profess, that the bible is the only standard by which our religious sentiments are to be formed; and we mean, by our creeds and confessions, only to express our sense of Scripture: not to make a new bible; but only to express how we understand the bible that God has already
made. And this, to the end that others may know our principles, and we know theirs.
When therefore a number of ministers, and of private gentlemen, who belong to our churches, have in late years appeared so very zealous against creeds and confessions, as tests of orthodoxy, I was at a loss to know what they meant, and what they designed, and what alteration they would have in our customs and practices, if they could new model things just to their minds. Would they have men admitted into the church, and appointed public instructers, without any regard to their religious principles? Or, do they not like it, that our articles should be writ down? Or, would they have new creeds drawn up, contrary to our present, and imposed on our churches, and our churches not allowed to judge for themselves! Or, what do they mean? And what would they have?
Thus stood the case in my view, when two or three years ago, hearing that something new was about to be published against creeds and confessions, by a certain ingenious gentleman, I sent the following lines to the printer of the Connecticut Gazette, which he was so good as to give place in his paper, No. 149.
To the Printer,' & c.
As several pieces of late have been published against creeds and confessions of human composure being used as tests of orthodoxy, which are thought not fully to reach the merits of the cause: it is desired, that in the next piece of that nature the following questions may be answered.
Quest. I. Is it of any importance what men's principles be, if their lives are but good? For if it is not, then not their religious principles, but only their external conduct, need be inquired into; and they may be admitted to sealing ordinances in the church of Christ, or be licensed to preach, and ordained to the work of the ministry, or be employed as presidents, fellows, and tutors, to take care of the education of our youth, whether they are orthodox or not. And so there will be no need of any tests of orthodoxy, human or divine.
'But if it be of importance that they should be sound in the faith, and if their religious principles must be inquired into: then it is inquired,