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11 tion to God and Christ Jesus as faith brings us to, and shall we not own it? It is remarkable the apostle takes notice of this, 2 Cor. ix. 13. They glorify God, says he, for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ. The word in the Greek is more emphatical; it is for the subjection or stooping of your profession to the gospel of Christ, and your acknowledgment of it. Pray what great subjection is there here? Is it so low a stooping for a man to make profession of his faith, that it must be called a stooping? Is it any wonder that the apostle called it stooping to be subject to the gospel, when he says, Rom. x. 3. that the proud self-justiciary will not submit to the righteousness of God? And it is the same word with subjection in the other place.
4. People make a profession of their faith by an holy conversation. A walk as it becometh the gospel, is a profession of our faith, an outward confession of it. All manner of godly conversation, and the adorning of the gospel of God our Saviour in all things, is what is required even of servants, Titus ii. 10. But, say you, what will the gospel be adorned, is there an ornament added as it were to the gospel, by the faithfulness and obedience of a poor mean servant? Yes, says the Spirit of God, you are to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. We find it instructed in several very like things. There is the giving of charity to the relief of the saints: That is, says the apostle, by the experiment of this ministration, they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ: and you prove your subjection by your liberal distribution to your poor brethren. Nay, to bring the matter yet lower, and I cannot bring it much lower, and that is even in womens apparel: says the apostle, 1 Tim. ii. 9. Likervise let women adorn themselves, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the ornament of a Christian that seeks to adorn the gospel be good works, rather than the vanities of this world, that are utterly unbecoming the gospel; that the gospel never taught, and that it frequently rebukes; for these vanities always bring reproach upon it, and upon mens profession too.
5. The last profession of our faith is the last thing we can
do; that is, dying in faith. After profession, and adorning our profession all manner of ways, as long as we live; in due time, when God calls us, we are to make profession of our faith in dying. There is a dying faith, as the apostle says of the Old Testament saints, Heb. xi. 13. These all died in faith. They confessed themselves, all their life long, to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth; and in the same faith that they professed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, in the same faith they died, and went to heaven. This is the noblest of all; and if it be not only dying in faith, but dying for the faith, it is so much the more amiable. The time of my departure is at hand, says the apostle, 2 Tim. iv. 6, 7. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Well, had he no more to do with faith? No, but one bit. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, &c. I will die in the expectation of the crown, I will have no more to do with faith. So Stephen, the first confessor, the first professor of faith by his blood, Acts vii. 59. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. "I have confessed thy name before "these enemies, and they are driving this soul of mine out "of my body; now, Lord, receive it; I have believed on thee, I suffer for thy sake, I commit this expelled soul unto "thy care and conduct; Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
So much now for the explaining the matter of faith and profession. The truth that I would speak a little to, is this:
DOCT. That whoever they be that have Christian faith and hope in them, should make a Christian confession or profession of it.
It is implied in my text, that a profession of their faith, or a confession of their hope, was made, and the apostle exhorts them about the keeping of it. It is not, Let us therefore make profession, we have done that already; but, Let us hold it fast. When we first gave our name to the Lord, when we first left the Jewish religion, or Paganish idolatry, and turned to the true and living God and his Son Christ Jesus, we ther made profession; now let us held it fast.
He lies to God and to the world, that makes profession of faith, when he hath it not; he dissembles with God and the world, that has it, and does not profess it. We find much spoken of this profession in the word: Heb. iv. 14. Let us hold fast our profession; a word much to the same purpose with this. This I thought to have confirmed in a few things, and so have made some application. I shall only give a few at this time of the grounds upon which this truth stands, That all that have Christian faith should make a Christian profession of it.
First, The honour of Christ calls for it, Christ's glory and honour. The truth of grace does most immediately tend unto the salvation of a sinner; but the profession of grace tends most immediately to the praise of Christ Jesus. Now remem ber what severe words I named already: Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, says our Lord, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels, Mark viii. 38. The glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is promoted by our professing of him. Do you think that Jesus Christ, and his saving truth, and his gracious work upon the heart, are matters to be ashamed of? Is it not a great sin whenever this is committed?
Secondly, The good of others calls for this. The truth of faith is profitable to us; the profession of faith is profitable to others. Were it possible that all the godly could keep in all their grace, that none in the world could see it but God and themselves, none in all the world would be a whit the better for it. It is the displaying of grace and of the faith that God has given, that is the great means of promoting the reputation of the gospel, and convincing of the world: Therefore, says our Lord, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven, Mat. v. 16. In the very next chapter our Lord severely inveighs against the Pharisees, that managed their religious worship with a design only to be seen of men that was all they craved, and their hypocrisy was discovered thereby. But our Lord himself craves this of his people, that their light should not only so shine as to direct their own ways, but sa
shine that others might see it, and be provoked thereby to glorify their Father which is in heaven. The apostle Peter speaks of case, I am afraid the mean is seldom tried, and therefore it is no wonder that the effect is seldom found. The mean is a Christian conversation, the effect is conversion. It is the conversation of the wife for the gaining of the husband. Now, the apostle craves this, and hints a promise for it. You would think it strange, that the Christian and sober deportment of a poor woman at home may accomplish that work, that by the ordinary means of grace had been in vain attempted: That if, says the apostle, any obey not the word, &c. that is, it is possible sometimes that the Spirit and power of God may attend a gospel-like conversation, and make it do that which the gospel and ministerial dispensations have not done; they may without the word be won; not that there is any conversion without the word, but that there may be such measures of light and conviction, given by other means that God may bring in otherwise.
Thirdly, We find by this, that our Lord Jesus Christ has a great concern about our profession, Christ Jesus himself was the great professor: He was so great a professor of faith, that his wicked enemies reproached him for it when he was upon the cross, Matth. xxvii. 42. He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him, Psal; xxii. 8. The apostle calls him the high-priest of our profession. He made a profession of his own, 1 Tim. vi. 13. I give thee charge in the sight of God, and before Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession. He told them he was a King, and that he came into the world to set up his kingdom; but they greatly mistook it. Christ might reign in this world, and all the kings of the world might sit where they are. Christ is troublesome to none, but them that trouble him, and he will be too hard for them. We find our Lord frequently upon this in exacting profession, and none needed it less than he. When people came to him for healing, What would you, says he, that I should do unto you? They tell him; and then he adds, Believe ye that I am able? Now, any man might say, If thou be able, thou mayst cure whether I believe or no; but our Lord will have it out of their own mouths. He comes to one man after he had wrought a cure;
our Lord finds him out; but the man had confessed Christ honestly, he was a sound believer, and he was cast out of the wicked church of the Jews, John ix. Christ found him when they had cast him out, and says to him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? says he. And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. Lord, I believe, says he, And he worshipped him. When Peter is to be restored, our Lord will have it by a confession: he had given one great confession to Christ, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, which our Lord praises him greatly for, but he had fallen foully when called to confess Christ in the high-priest's hall. There was no excuse for a man to deny that ever he had seen Christ Jesus, or been in his company. Poor wretched creature! if Christ had left him, if Christ had said, I do not know Peter, as Peter said he is not my master; if Christ had said, he is none of my disciples, what had become of him? Now our Lord is restoring him again, John xxi. our Lord asks him one question, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me; and Lovest thou What wonder is it, that the man is grieved that he should come thrice upon him? Ay, but, says our Lord, I will have thee say, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. This is nothing but a profession of his faith and love.
Lastly, Faith itself will work a profession in a manner, whether men will or no. It is impossible to keep the fire of faith without the smoke of profession, and it is impossible to smother this lamp. If God hath kindled this heavenly fire of faith, and of the hope of the gospel, in any of your hearts, it will break forth one way or other. They with whom you live will know it; your faith will break out sometimes in your tongue; and it will appear, for as modest, and secret, and bashful as the person is, that there is something of heavenly fire working in him. This now is the constant practice of all nations and all people; and the Christian is not to be exempted from this common necessity; every sort of people in the world make a profession of what their faith and hope is: All people, says the prophet, will walk every one in the name of his god, though they be false gods, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever, Micah iv. 5. Shall a