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and not to be encountered by those forces which truth has on its side.
We have that honest confidence of the goodness of our cause and religion, that we do not fear what can be faid against it ; and therefore we do not forbid our people to examine the objections of our adversaries, and to read the best books they can write against it. But the church of Rome are so wise in their generation, that they will not permit those of their communion to hear or read what can be said against them : nay, they will not permit the people the use of the holy scriptures, which they with us acknowledge to be at least an essential part of the rule of faith. They tell their people, that after they are once of their church and religion, they ought not to hear any reasons against it: and though they be never so strong, they ought not to entertain any doubt concerning it; because all doubting is a temptation of the devil, and a mortal sin. But surely that church is not to be heard, which will not hear reason; nor that religion to be much admired, which will not allow those that have once embraced it, to hear it ever after debated and examined. This is a very suspicious business; and argues, that either they have not truth on their side, or that truth is a weak, and pitiful, and sneaking thing, and not able to make its party good against error.
I should now have proceeded, in the second place, to few positively what is implied in holding fast the profeffion of our faith without wavering ; and then to have confidered the argument and encouragement hereto, Because be is faithful that promised. But I fhall proceed no farther at this time.
Of constancy in the profession of the true re
H E B. X. 23. Let us hold fast the profesion of our faith without water
ing; for he is faithful that promised,
The second sermon on this text.
Have already made entrance into these words, which
1. An exhortation to hold fast the profesion of our faith without wavering.
2. An argument or encouragement thereto : Because be is faithful that promised. If we continue stedfast and faithful to God, we shall find him faithful to us, in making good all the promises which he hath made to us, whether of aid and support, or of recompence and reward of our fidelity to him.
I have begun to handle the first part of the text, viz. the Apostle's exhortation to Christians to be constant and Iteddy in their religion : Let us hold fast the profefion of our faith without wavering. The word a'raon, which we render without wavering, signifies inflexible and unmoveable ; not apt to waver, and to be shaken with every wind of contrary doctrine, nor by the blasts and storms of persecution. And that we might the better comprehend the full and true meaning of this exhortation, I propounded to do these two things.
1. To shew negatively, wherein this constancy and steddiness in the profession of the true religion doth not confift. And,
2. To sew positively, what is implied and intended here by the Apostle in holding fast the profesion of our faith without wavering.
First, To shew negatively, wherein this constancy and steddiness in the profession of the true religion doth not confift. This I spake to the last day; and shewed at large, that there are two things which are not contained and intended in this exhortation.
1. That men should not have the liberty to examine their religion, and to inquire into the grounds and reafons of it; such I mean as are capable of this examination and inquiry : which some, I shewed, are not; as children, who, while they are in that state, are only fit to learn and believe what is taught them by their parents and teachers : and likewise such grown persons, as either by the natural weakness of their faculties, or by some great disadvantage of education, are of a very low and mean capacity and improvement of understanding. These are to be considered as in the condition of children and learners; and therefore must of necessity trust and rely upon the judgment of others.
2. This holding fast the profession of our faith without wavering, does not imply, that when men upon examination and inquiry are fettled, as they think and verily believe, in the true religion, they should obstinately refuse to hear any reason that can be offered against them. Both these principles I shewed to be unreasonable, and arguments of a bad cause and religion.
I shall now proceed to explain the meaning of 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 steddy profession of the true faith and religion, namely, that when, upon due search and examination, we are fully fatisfied that it is the true religion which we have embraced, or, as St. Peter expresses it, 1 epift. 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 ourselves 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 inquired 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 80 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 thein 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 profession 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 A postles; as that we should be stedfast and unmoveable, established in the truth, rooted and grounded in the faith; and that we should hold fast that which is good, and not suffer ourselves to be carried to and fro with every wind of doctrine, through the Neight of men, and the cunring craftinefs of those that lie in wait to deceive ; that we should not be removed from him that hath called us unto the grace of Christ, unto another gospel; that we should stand faft in one spirit and one mind, friving together for the faith of the gospel, and be in nothing terrified by our adversaries; and that, if occasion be, we should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints; and here in the text, that we should hold fast the profes. fion of our faith without wavering. For the explaining of this, I shall do two things.
1. Consider what it is that we are to hold fast, namely, the profession of our faith. And,
2. How we are to hold it fast; or, what is implied in holding fast the profession of our faith without wavering.
1. What it is that we are to hold faft, namely, the profession of our faith; i. e. of the Christian faith or religion : for I told you before that this profession or confeffion of our faith, or hope, (as the word properly signifies), is an allusion to that profession 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 says, Let us draw near in full asurance of faith, having our hearts, Sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water : and then it follows, Let us hold fast the
profelica profession of our faith without wavering; the profession of faith which we 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 Apostles creed, and which is called by St. Paul, Rom. vi. 17. the form of doctrine which was delivered to them, i. e. to all Chrikians; and 2 Tim.i. 13. the form of sound words : Hold faft (faith he) the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jefus ; and by St. Jude, the faith which was once delivered unto the faints.
So that it is the first and ancient faith of the Christian 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 impofed upon the Christian world, though with never so confident a pretence of antiquity in the doctrines, and of infallibili. ty in the proposers of them: these are no part of that faith which we are either to profefs or to hold faft ; because we have no reason to admit the pretences, by virtue whereof those doctrines or practices are imposed; being able to make it good, and having effectually done it, that those doctrines are not of primitive antiquity ; and that the church which proposeth them, hath no more claim to infallibility, 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 suffici. ently revealed in scripture, 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,