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The Lord Jesus Christ witnessed a good confession, at the time when he said, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth; and he taketh notice of it, to the praise and high commendation of the church in Pergamos, that they held fast his name, and had not denied his faith. Nor are they worthy of the name of Christians, who, though the Lord by his providence call them publicly to own the truth they have professed, shall nevertheless refuse to declare what they believe, as to those great and fundamental principles in the doctrine of Christ, the knowledge whereof is necessary unto salvation. We find how ready the Apostle was to make a confession of his faith ; though for that hope's sake he was accused, and put in chains. And the Martyrs of Jesus, who have laid down their lives in bearing witness to the truth, against the infidelity, idolatry, heresy, apostacy of the world, when Pagan, Arian, or overspread with Popish darkness Having their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, were free and forward in their testimony, confessing the truth, yea, sealing it with their blood." With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Rom. x. 10. Nor is there a greater evidence of being in a state of salvation, than such a confession, if made in times or places where men are exposed to utmost suffering upon that account. 1 John, iv. 15. And if confession of faith be, in some cases, of such importance and necessity, as hath been expressed; it must needs be in itself, a work pleasing in the sight of God, for his servants to declare unto the world, what those principles of truth are, which they have received, and are (by the help of Christ) purposed to live and die in the steadfast profession of. Some of the Lord's worthies have been of renown among his people in this respect; especially Iræneus and Athanasius of old, and of latter times Beza, all whose (not to mention others) confessions, with the advantage which the church of God hath received thereby, are famously known.
And it must needs tend much to the honor of the dear and blessed name of the Lord Jesus, in case many churches do join together in their testimony. How signally the Lord hath owned the confession of the four general synods or councils for the suppression of the heresies of those times, needs not to be said, since no man can be ignorant thereof, that hath made it his concern to to be acquainted with things of this nature. The confession of the Bohemians, of the Waldenses, and of the reformed Protestant churches abroad, (which also, to show what harmony in respect of doctrine there is among all sincere professors of the truth, have been published in one volume,) all these have been of singular use, not only to those that lived in the ages when these declarations were emitted, but unto posterity, yea, unto this day.
There have been some who have reflected upon these New English churches for our defect in this matter, as if our principles were unknown; whereas it is well known, that as to matters of doctrine we agree with other reformed churches : nor was it that, but what concerns worship and discipline, that caused our fathers to come into this wilderness, while it was a land not sown, that so they might have liberty to practice accordingly. And it is a. ground of holy rejoicing before the Lord, that now there is no advantage left for those that may be disaffected towards us, to object any thing of that nature against us. For it hath pleased the only wise God so to dispose in his providence, as that the elders and messengers of the churches in the colony of the Massachusetts in New England, did, by the call and encouragement of the honored General Court, meet together Sept. 10, 1679. This synod at their second session, which was May 12, 1680, consulted and considered of a Confession of Faith. That which was consented unto by the elders and messengers of the congregational churches in England, who met at
the Savoy (being for the most part, some small variations excepted, the same with that which was agreed upon first by the Assembly at Westminster, and was approved of by the synod at Cambridge in New England, anno 1648, as also by a general assembly in Scotland) was twice publicly read, examined and approved of: that little variation which we have made from the one, in compliance with the other may be seen by those who please to compare them. But we have (for the main) chosen to express ourselves in the words of those reverend asse
ssemblies, that so we might not only with one heart, but with one mouth glorify God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
As to what concerns church government, we refer to the Platform of Discipline agreed upon by the messengers of these churches anno 1648, and solemnly owned and confirmed by the late synod.
What hours of temptation may overtake these churches, is not for us to say. Only the Lord doth many times so order things, that when his people have made a good confession, they shall be put upon the trial one way or other, to see whether they have (or who among them hath not) been sincere in what they have done. The Lord grant that the loins of our minds may be so girt about with truth, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.