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DISCOURSE XIV.

MARK i. 15.

Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.

E are yet upon the Baptifmal Covenant; where having fhew'd the Privileges promis'd and confer'd on God's part, I come to the Duties or Conditions requir'd and promis'd on ours; which were these three, Repentance, Faith, and Obedience. The former teaches us what to forfake; which, as our Catechifm directs, are, The Devil and all his Works, the Pomps and Vanities of this wicked World, and all the finful Lufts of the Flefb. The fecond teaches us what to believe, namely, All the Articles of our Chriftian Faith. The third, what we are to do, viz. To keep God's Holy Will and Commandments, and walk in the fame all the days of our Life.

Of the first, to wit, the Doctrine of Repentance, I have difcours'd at large, fhewing it to be a forfaking of all manner of Sin, by renouncing our three Ghostly Enemies, the Devil, the World, and the Flesh, who are daily tempting and enticing us to it. I come now to the

Second Condition promis'd and requir'd on our part, to entitle us to the Privileges of Baptifm, and that is Faith; exprefs'd in our Catechifm, By believing all the Articles of our Chriftian Faith of which I fhall treat from these words of St. Mark Believe the Gospel.

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The words are the first great Meffage deliver'd to the World, upon our bleffed Saviour's coming into it: St. John prepar'd for his coming by preaching of Repentance; Repent (faith he) for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. And immediately upon his coming, this other Branch was added to it, Repent, and believe the Gospel. In fpeaking to which words, as they relate to the Catechifm, I must fhew,

First, What we are to understand by the Gofpel, or the Articles of our Chriftian Faith. Secondly,

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Secondly, What is meant by believing thefe Articles. And,

Thirdly, What by believing All the Articles of our Chriftian Faith.

First then, What are we to underftand here by the Gofpel, or the Articles of the Chriflian Faith? In answer to which, Gefpel is an old Saxon word, that fignifies the fame with God's Word; and denotes that Divine Revelation made to the World concerning the Salvation of Mankind by Jefus Chrift: 'twas but obfcurely reveal'd by Mofes and the Prophets under the Old Teftament, but more fully and plainly by Chrift and his Apoftles in the New.

The Law was given by Mofes, veil'd with dark Types and Shadows; but Grace and Truth came by Jefus Chrift, who unriddled thofe Types, and made the Shadows vanish, by exhibiting the Subftance: for which reafon Life and Immortality, which was before wrap'd in Darkness, is said to be brought to Light by the Gofpel.

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By the Articles of the Chriftian Faith are meant the prime fundamental Truths of that Divine Revelation, neceffary to be known in order to Salvation for tho all the Parts and Paffages of Holy Scripture be equally true, being dictated by the fame infallible Spirit, yet they are not equally neceffary; there are fome lefs momentous or cir cumftantial things, of which Men may be ignorant, without the hazard of their Salvation.

Now thofe more weighty and fubftantial Truths, the knowledge whereof is neceffary to the Happiness of our Souls, are what we here underftand by the Articles of the Chriftian Faith; which great Truths being difpers'd up and down in the Gofpel, are briefly fumm'd up to our hands, in that excellent Summary known by the name of the Apostles Creed. This St. Paul in his Epifle to the Romans calls, The Form of Doctrine, Rom. 6. 17. in his Epistle to the Ephefians, The one Faith, Ephef. 4. 5. in his Epistle to Timothy, The Form of found Words, 2 Tim. 1. 13. St. Jude ftyles it, The Faith once deliver'd to the Saints, ver. 3. The Author to the Hebrews, the Profeffion of Faith, Heb. 10. 23. In all which Places there is an Allufion or Reference to the Apoftles Creed; the great fundamental Points whereof, making up and holding together the whole Body of Chrif tian Divinity, are ftyl'd the Joints or Articles of the Chriftian Faith.

But,

But, Secondly, What is it to believe thefe Articles? In anfwer to which, To believe the Gospel or Articles of the Chriftian Faith, as 'tis here promis'd by every baptiz'd Chriftian, implies thefe two things:

1. The Affent of the Mind to the Truth of them. And, 2. The Confent of the Will and Affections in embracing and acting according to them.

1. I fay, To believe the Articles of the Chriftian Faith, is firmly to affent to the Truth of them; and that because they are deliver'd by him that is Truth itfelf, attefted by his Word that cannot lye, and confirm'd by fuch Miracles as cannot deceive. And where these things concur, that is, where there is infallible Teftimony and evident Proof, there it must be unreasonable to withhold Affent. And fince these things meet in the Articles of our Chriftian Faith, we are to have a firm Belief and Perfuafion of the Truth of them.

We have not follow'd cunningly-devis'd Fables, fays the Apoftle, in what we deliver'd to you: But we deliver to you that which we also receiv'd, being spoken first by the Lord, and confirm'd unto us by them that heard him; Heb. 2. 3. Prophecy came not (fays St. Peter) by the Will of Man, but holy Men of God spake as they were mov'd by the Holy Ghost; 2 Pet. 1. 21. So that as all Scripture in general, fo particularly the neceffary Doctrines of Faith collected out of it, are given by Infpiration of God, and are profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Inftruction in Righteoufnefs, that the Man of God may be perfect, throughly furnish'd unto all good Works; 2 Tim. 3. 16. meaning, that thefe weighty and ufeful Truths are dictated by an infallible Spirit, and therefore to be receiv'd and believ'd by us. This is that Confeffion of Faith in which we are requir'd to continue ftedfaft; that Form of found Words, which we are to hold faft without wavering, and not to be fhaken by any from the Belief of it. In token hereof, it is, that our Church requires us to be in the pofture of Standing in rehearfing of it, to fignify our Refolution of adhering and standing to it.

So that all the Deifts and Scepticks of our Age, who deride the Mysteries of the Gofpel, or deny the Articles of the Chriftian Faith, are guilty of a manifeft Breach of their Baptifmal Vow, in letting go that Profeflion of Faith which they promis'd to hold faft, and calling in queftion H 4

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thofe Truths which they engag'd folemnly and constantly to believe. Such as thefe are truly Deferters and Renegadoes from the Faith, who inftead of renouncing their Enemies, renounce their own Engagements, by flying to those they promis'd to fight againft, and forfaking him to whom they vow'd all Fidelity. And if the fhame and danger of flying from our Colours be fo great in our common Battles, what will be the Fate of thofe that defert their Saviour in this fpiritual Warfare, and prove thus perfidious to the Captain of our Salvation? To answer then this part of our Vow, we must not ftagger thro' Unbelief, but yield a firm and unfhaken Affent to the Truths of the Gofpel, and take heed of all doubting or disbelieving the Articles of our Chriftian Faith.

But this is not all: To believe thefe Articles, implies not barely an Affent to the Truth of them in our Mind, but,

2. The Confent of our Will and Affections to them, by receiving them into our Hearts, and fuffering them to have a due Influence upon our Lives and Conversations. The Chriftian Religion is not barely a fpeculative Science, to entertain our Minds with barren and empty Notions; but 'tis a practical Art that defigns to better our Lives, and teach us how to order our Converfation aright: and when by Baptifm we enter upon the Profeffion of it, we enter upon a new Life, and engage to fquare our Actions by the Rules of it. The Faith here promis'd, is not a dead ineffectual Faith, that refts in a mere Affent and Speculation of divine Truths; but an operative Faith that works by Love, and influences the Soul to all the Parts of a holy Life. Thefe myfterious Truths are reveal'd not to fatisfy our Curiofity, or to beget in us a vain Credulity, but to regulate our Practice and our Belief of them not fo much indeed to make us wifer, as better Chrif tians.

This St. James tells us at large, who asks, What does it profit, my Brethren, if a Man fay he hath Faith, and hath not Works? Can fuch a Faith fave him? Faith without Works is dead, being alone. And can that lead or bring any to eternal Life? This is no better than the Faith of Devils, who believe and tremble, and groan for ever under the Miseries of an idle Belief without Practice; James 2, 14, 15, 19,

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The Author to the Hebrews, Chap. 11. tells us of the many great and good Works that proceeded from the Faith of Abraham, Mofes, and the other Patriarchs; what mighty things were atchiev'd by it, and how great a Recompence of Reward they receiv'd by it.

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Indeed, as a Learned Divine has well obferv'd, We do not believe enough of any thing until it lead us to act according to that Belief. The things that worldly Men believe, put them upon Actions agreeable to fuch Perfuafions: The Merchant believes there are Jewels and rich • Wares in foreign Lands, and he puts to Sea and feeks to purchase them; the Country-man believes he fhall reap, and therefore he fows; the Soldier believes he fhall have Victory and Spoil, and therefore he fights: And fhall the • Chriftian alone believe and fit ftill, or do nothing towards it? Are not the Principles of Religion fure, the Hopes better, and the Gains infinitely greater than those of ⚫ worldly Men? And is it not a fhame, that their Faith. fhould be fo active and bufy in fmaller matters, and ours fo idle and fluggish in things which fo vastly exceed 'them?' So that the practical Atheift and debauch'd Perfons, who may perhaps believe aright as to the Truth of Religion, are justly chargeable with the Breach of this Vow, by not living or acting accordingly.

Thus we fee what we are to understand by the Articles of the Christian Faith, viz. The neceffary Points of Faith fumm'd up in the Apoftles Creed: and likewife, what by believing thefe Articles; namely, Not barely affenting to them with our Understanding, but receiving them into our Hearts, and exerting the Power of them in our Lives and Converfations.

From whence I proceed to confider,

Thirdly, The Extent of our Belief; which, we are told, is to reach to All the Articles of the Chriftian Faith. We are not to pick and chufe, believing fome, and rejecting others; but our Faith must extend to all, for fo we promis'd in our Baptifm, to believe all the Articles of our Chriftian Faith the Reason whereof is plain. For,

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(1.) They have all the fame Authority, being reveal'd by the fame holy unerring Spirit. And,

(2.) They all tend to the fame End, even the Salvation. of our Souls; and being all neceffary to that end, we are to take no more nor no lefs into our Creed, but to keep

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