IMPORTANT QUESTION, Considered and Answered; OR, A Saving Faith, Scripturally explained, IN TWO SERMONS Preached at MERIDEN, ON THE LORD's-DAY, August 10th, 1760.

By Theophilus Hall, A. M. Pastor of CHRIST'S Church there.

Wisdom is the principal Thing.


To the Law and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this Word; it is because there is no Light in them.


Call no Man your Father upon Earth, for One is your Father which is in Heaven.


The Wisdom that is from Above, is first pure, then peaceable—full of Mercy and good Fruits—

Apostle JAMES.



[...] CHARGE; Especially them, at whose Desire and Cost the following Discourses are made public.

AS these Discourses were composed with a particular View, to some Questions among you, and differing Sentiments upon the great Subjects handled therein; so they now ap­pear just as they were delivered, with this Alteration only; that under several Heads, some Enlargements have been made for no other End but for illustrating, and making more manifest, the particular Points under Considetration.

AGREEABLE to your Desire, I here present them to your View, as a sincere Token of my hearty Love to you, and real Concern for your best Interest, and Welfare. Wherein I have honestly en­deavoured to represent the Truth, as it is in Christ Jesus; and so to make the Way of Life plain. And if the hearing of them has given you some Satisfaction in these things; I hope a Review, and Perusal of the same will give you more; and by the Blessing of GOD, become abundantly serviceable to establish your Minds in the present Truth.

AGAIN, As I have gratified you in this Thing; so in Return, let me ask this Favour of you, that you will gratify me in another [...] which is, that you'll make these Things, not a Matter of more Speculation, but put them into Execution, and Practice; that so you may adorn the Doctrines of the Gospel, shine as Lights in the World, and glorify your heavenly Father by bearing much Fruit.

IN doing this, you will lay the Foundation for Peace ef Con­science, and the sweetest Serenity of Mind, become a living Sac­rifice unto God, of a sweet smelling Savour, and be a Crown of rejoicing in the Day of the Lord, to him, who is,

Your Pastor, and faithful Servant in the Gospel, Theophilus Hall.

The most important QUESTION, CONSIDERED.

ACTS, xvi. 30, 31.

—And said, Sirs, What must I do to saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy House.

AS the great, and true, and I may say the only valu­able End of all Knowledge, is Practice; even so, right Knowledge is most necessary, in order to right, and regular Action: The Reason is, there being in the very Constitution of Things, certain Rules for all Humane Con­duct: Right Action depends upon its Conformity unto them. This is the Case in civil, or secular Life: We can't talk in a Foreign, nor in our own Langue, before we have learnt it. No Man can sail a Vessel into a strange and distant Port, without the Art of Navigation. No more can any One be a regular Practitioner in Physick, without some Ac­quaintance with the Mystery thereof.

So it is in the moral Life: There must be the Knowledge, before there can be the Practice of Religion. He that cometh to God, must believe that he is— If we don't know what will be acceptable to God, how can we please him? We must know the Way, that lends to eternal Life, before we can walk in it. Agreeably thereto, says Thomas to our LORD;

[Page 4]"We know not whether thou goest, and how can we know the Way?"

NOW as this is our main Business, and highest Concern to serve GOD in this Life; that so we may partake of his Favour in the next: So it is of equal Importance to us, to understand and know the Way, and the Manner how to do the one, that we may enjoy the other. For this Purpose therefore, have I chosen, for the subject of my present Discourse, these Words, What must I do to be saved, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved and thy House. For the understanding of which, and the person speaking therein; it may'nt be amiss to consider the Occasion, that led the Way, and gave Rise to them.

AT this Time, Paul the Apostle and Silas his fellow Labour­er in the Gospel, were preaching the Kingdom of GOD nigh Phi­lippi, a chief City in Macedonia. And many resorted unto them, among whom was a certain Damsel, who, as we are told was possessed with a Spirit of Divination, and brought her Master much Gain by Soothsaying. But this notwithstanding she openly confess'd, that these Men were the Servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the Way of Salvation. And this she did many Days. Where we may observe, that these holy Men, received more Honour, Respect, and better Treatment, even from one possessed of the Devil, than from that stupid, and sinful Peo­ple. And what an ample Reward did she soon recieve there­for! For Paul being grieved for her, turned and said to the Spi­rit, I command thee in the Name of Jesus Christ to come out of her and he came out the same Hour. This made no small Stir. For her Masters, when they saw that the Hope of their Gain was gone, were greatly moved.

HOW dear to some, and near their Hearts, their Money, and worldly Interest lies! Touch this, and you gall the [...] to the very Quick: Nothing moves them like it. See the Operation! They being thus moved; the Populace also being raised: What a mighty Uproar soon followed! They laid violent Hands on the Apostles; dragged them into the Marketplace, and hauling them before the Magistrates, brought in a grie­vous Complaint against them; not for Murder, or Sedition, or any enormous Crime; but being Jews, for teaching Customs un­lawful [Page 5] as they said, for Romans to receive; and this, (to say no worse of it) was a false Charge.

AND yet the Magistrates, not regarding their Persons, or Sacred Characters, or the Damsel's Testimony in their Favour, or the Trivialness and Falsity of the Complaint; (all which must needs aggravate their Proceedings, except we may sup­pose them totally ignorant of these Things:) but without any Examination, or giving them the least Opportunity to defend themselves against this unreasonable Charge, as we read of, in the most inhumane and barbarous Manner, ordered them to be stripped and beaten. And this not slighty; for having laid many Stripes upon them, they cast them into Prison, charging the Jaylor to keep them safely. Who having received such a Charge, thrust them into the inner Prison, and made their Feet fast in the Stocks. And now he it seems, concluding all Things were safe, commits himself to his Bed.

HERE see the pious Devotion, and heavenly Tempers of these Servants of GOD! notwithsanding their hard Treatment in the Day, and so uncomfortable a Lodging, in a filthy Dun­geon at Night; yet they were so far from meditating any Revenge, that at Midnight they prayed, and sang Praises to God; likely that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name of CHRIST. And Behold the Event! A Speedy Answer of their Prayers, and a Miraculous Deliverance by a great Earth­quake! By which the Foundations of the Prison were Shaken, all the Doors opened, and every ones Bands loosed.

THIS Shock, doubtless, waked the Jaylor out of his Sleep. Who starting from his Bed in the greatest Fright; it seems, his firsst Thoughts was about the Prisoners; and seeing the Prison Doors open; probably no Way apprehensive of the Cause; but thinking that some evil minded Person had made Insurrection, broke open the Prison, delivered the Prisoners, and they were gone, and withall, that he was no ways able to answer it to the Magistrates: This added to his Surprise, and put him almost beside himself. In this Confusion, He drew his Sword, and was about to kill himself, but was pre­vented by Paul's crying with a loud Voice, DO THYSELF NO HARM; for we are all here. This was as much unex­pected, and as great a Surprise as the former; though in a [Page 6] more agreeable Manner. For this brought him to his Senses again; altered his bloody Design and wrought upon all his Passions: Which by this Time were thrown into such a Fer­ment and violent Agitation, as caused the whole Humane Frame to tremble. And in this Manner and Form, he ran and threw himself at the Apostle's Feet.

NOW it is no ways apparent, that the Jaylor as yet had any Concern about his Soul, or future State; but all this was the natutal Effect of his Surprise and a Concern about the pre­sent Emergency; though it might greatly serve to prepare the Way for his Reception of the Messages of the Gospel.

AFTER this we read of the Jaylor's Question, and the Apos­tles Answer; his kind Offices to them and their preaching to him and his House, the Word of the LORD. But possibly these Things are not set down just in the same Order, in which they happened; a Thing common in the Scriptures. For to me it don't look likely, that this Question was asked, or answered in the Prison, or while the Jaylor was in his Fright, or in the Beginning of their Conversation, and before he had some Information of the Gospel Way of Salvation; for these were a Heathen People, and most likely wholly Stran­gers to these Things.

AND probably, the whole Affair might be conducted in some such Manner as this. When the Jaylor came to the Apostles; had a little recovered himself, and saw the Prison Doors open, the Persons Bands loosed; but no Tumult, nor any one gone: It wrought in him some good Opinion of these Men; that they were not such vile Fellows as before he had conceived them to be. This disposed him to treat them, in the most courteous and hospitable Manner; and accord­ingly invited them into his House, ordered their Stripes to be washed, and Meat to be set before them.

WHILE this was doing, some Conversation would natural­ly arise, and how could it begin more aptly? Than by the Jaylor's enquiring: ‘How came these Things to pass? What was this great Noise I heard? How came these Doors open and your Bands all loosed?’

IN Answer to th [...]se Queries▪ the Apostle gives him a par­ticular Detail of the whole Affair. [...] of the Gos­pel [Page 7] Salvation, thro' the Redemption of JESUS CHRIST: That they themselves were the Servants of the most high GOD, and were come to shew them this Way of Salvation: That for these Things only, they had been apprehended, beaten and imprisoned: That all this hard, and abusive Treatment of them was fighting against Heaven. ‘Therefore Almighty GOD has thus appeared in this Miraculous Manner, shook the Earth, opened the Prison Doors, loosed our Bands and set us at Liberty.’ This, by the Spirit of GOD, wrought such Conviction on the Mind of the Jaylor, as put him on some real Concern about his Soul and future State. And now he proposes this Question, in the Text. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And the Apostle answers, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be Saved, and thy House.

HAVING thus prepared the Way. These are the two Things that now lie before us for consideration, namely, the Jaylor's Question; and the Apostle's Answers.

I. The Jaylor's Question in these Words; What must I do to be Saved? The Salvation here spoken of▪ don't mean a De­liverance from temporal, but eternal Evil. He don't enquire, how he should escape the Magistrates Resentment for the Re­lease of the Prisoners, or Sickness, or Death or any other worldly Trouble; but how he should escape eternal Misery; which now he saw himself in Danger of. The Question therefore plainly refers to eternal Life, and is an Enquiry about the Way thither.

THESE Things being considered; the Meaning is natural and easy: It is not a captious Question, with a Design to entrap and entangle the Apostle in his Discourse; but a plain honest Question, respecting a Man's Duty, and Conduct. And the Occasion, Manner, and Circumstances of its Proposal, seem plainly to denote the Honesty, and Sincerity of the Enquirer; with a hearty Desire to know the Truth, and the same Reso­ [...]tion to obey it. I shall therefore say no more in Expla­nation of it, but make the following Remarks upon it.

1. THIS is a Question of universal Concern. There was Nothing in the Jaylor's Circumstances, that should make it [...]eculiar to him, but what is common to all Men. It as [...]uch concerns me, and you, and every one to enquire, what [Page 8] we must do to be saved, as it did him. The great Founda­tion of this Enquiry, is the Relation we all stand in to Eter­nity. If there is such a Thing as a future State, eternal Re­wards and Punishments, an Heaven for the Righteous, and an Hell for the Wicked; if we have all precious and im­mortal Souls to save or loose; if this Life is a Prelude to the Other; or our eternal Doom depends upon our Conduct here; and we shall spend an Eternity, either the Realms of Light above, or in informal Shades of Darkness beneath, just as we act a Part on this Stage of Action; (all which, I make no doubt, you will grant at first Thought.) Surely when, it is of equal Concern to us all, to know how we may enjoy the Former, and escape the Latter. It therefore Con­cerns All, both High and Low, Rich and Poor, Old and Young, Bond and Free; yea, it concerns the King upon the Throne as much as the Peasant upon the Dunghill.

YET, are there not some of great Descent, and high Birth, but of such a low, mean, and fordid Spirit, as to fancy Re­ligion don't belong to them? They'll allow that it becomes the Poor, and Wretched in the World, and such as are in low Life, but think it is too melancholy and dejected a State for Princes, the Nobility and Persons of Rank and Fortune in the World.

JUST as if these dignifyed Worms of the Earth were got above their Maker, or beyond the Reach of Omnipotence; or could bear Everlasting Burnings better than others; or that their Souls, like the Spirits of the Beasts, at Death, would go down­ward to the Earth. Indeed, there is too much Truth in what One observes, upon another Account, ‘That which prin­cipally distinguishes some Men from the Beasts of the Field is the different Formation of their Bodies: Their Bodies are Humane; but they are in a manner Brutal beside.’ But however such may amuse themselves, with these vain Thoughts for the present, they may be convinced of their Mistake, when it is too late.

2. It is a Question of the last Importance, not only of uni­versal Concern, but of the highest Consequence. Religion, to take care of the Soul, to prepare for another World, all which in general, means but one and the same Thing, is the greatest [Page 9] Concern in Life: 'Tis our main Business, for this End were we born, and came into the World; 'tis more than Meat or Drink, then Food or Raiment. Yea, all the Concerns of this, Life, tho' in many respects great and valuable, yet when compared with This, are but [...]oys and Trifles.

THIS will easily appear, only by considering, the infinite▪ Disproportion between this, and the coming World. What is the Chaff to the Wheat? Saith the Lord. What is a Man profited, if he gains the whole World, and loose his own Soul? Says our Saviour. What is Earth to Heaven? The Body to the Soul? or Time to Eternity? And in a Word: What a mean and contemptible Thing, is a short Pilgrimage in this stormy World, through a thousand Vicissitudes, full of Aux­iety, and Vexation of Spirit, compared with an eternal Duration in the Realms of Light, and Peace, with Rivers of Pleasure at God's Right Hand?

RELIGION therefore, and the Care of the Soul, is the one Thing needful, and I may add, the only Thing absolutely ne­cessary to our well being. We are ready to think, many Things here are necessary Enjoyments; such as Life, Health, Riches and Friends; but this is a Mistake▪ None of these are absolutely necessary. A Man may be happier, and bet­ter without, than with them. I make no Doubt, but Lazarus in Abraham's Bosom, notwithstanding his Want of all Things in this Life, is a Thousand Times better of it, than the rich Man in the Gospel, with all his Plenty and worldly Grandeur here. But if this one Thing be wanting, we are totally ruined, and may be sure, our Doom will be Misery, and Wretchedness.

THE great Reason is, the inevitable Consequences of these two different Courses. If we neglect so great Salva­tion; how can we escape the Damnation of Hell! Awful and dreadful the Perdition of ungodly Men! To go into Eternity, to reap the Wages of an ill-spent Life! Who can dwell with devouring Fire, or inhabit everlasting Burnings? But if we lay hold on eternal Life, by Faith; our End will be Peace; Glory and Blessedness our Portion forever.

THERFORE, on the one Hand, the Scripture always re­presents Religion, and the Care of our Souls, as the only [Page 10] true Wisdom, and calls it, the Wisdom, that is from above; by Way of Distinction from that which is said to be eartly, sensual devilish. And indeed, that Man only deserves the Character of a wise Man, that foreseeth these Evils, and [...]ideth himself. While, on the other Hand, it as often represents the Neglect of our Souls, as the greatest Folly imaginable; and true it is, that no Man in the World lives, and acts so void of Understanding, and so much beside himself, as he that doth this. Neither can there a greater Dilirium besal the Minds of Men, than this: If it would be looked upon, Distraction for a Man to run into the Fire; must it not be accounted infinitely greater Distraction, to throw himself headlong into everlasting Burnings?

BY this Time, methinks, you are convinced of the Im­portance of this Question; and that it can't be a Matter of Indifference with you, whether you spend an Eternity in Weal or Woe, with Angels of Light above, or with infer­nal Spirits beneath. And yet,

3. HOW few Persons comparatively, that make this En­quiry seriously for themselves! There are too many in the World, that, Gallio like, care for none of these Things: They are so eaten up with Pride and Ambition, or so immersed in Pleasure and secular Views, that the World is their GOD [...] their Cups, their Idols; and the Gratification of their sensual Appetites, is their highest, and chiefest Good: These Men, all their Concern is about the World, what they shall eat, and drink, and wherewithall they shall be cloath'd: They scarcely think, or say a Word about Religion.

THERE are others quit of another Turn of Mind, tho' perhaps of no better Principles, or Practice; who love to be talking about Religion: When at the same Time, they have no Regard to, or real Concern about it, especially as to the practical Part of it. And this may be easily dis­coverd, by the Air, and Run of their Discourse, and the Topicks which it turns upon: For it is not an Enquiry, how they shall live to GOD, or what they shall do to be saved: but such as tends more to pull down, than bu [...] up the Gospel Religion: And is indeed rather a Wrangling, [Page 11] Disputing, and Quarreling with the Doctrines of Grace, and the holy Religion of the Blessed JESUS, than any Thing else.

THERE are Enemies to the Cross of Christ: Of this Sort are they that are quarrelling with Divine Revelation, the Divinity, Sac­rifice, and Attonement of our Blessed LORD.

SUCH are they, that are making the Religion of JESUS CHRIST, to consist only in a heated Imgination, in Trances Visions, and enthusiastic Flights, and Raptures; that are affecting party Names, and Terms, valuing themselves therein, imposing their own Sentiments upon others, and stigmatizing those, that can't conform to them, or pronounce their darling [...]hibboleths.

SUCH are they, that are always disputing about Forms, and Modes of Worslhip; certain Words, Opinions, and sub­til unscriptural Distinctions in Religion: Concerning which, it may be said (of some at least) that they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. All which, like Jewish Fables, and endless Genealogies, serves to minister Questions, rather than Godly Edifying.

NO better are they, that are casting a Slight upon, or talking against Holiness and Sanctity, good Works, and Obedience to the Commands of CHRIST, as absolutely ne­cessary Terms, pre-requisite to our Acceptance with GOD, and eternal Life. Things alone, wherein an Harmony, and Union between GOD and Men can subsist. Things, which are the Employment, Glory, and Happiness of Saints, and Angels in Heaven, and Earth; and are the greatest Honour, that the SUPREME BEING can receive from his intelligent Creatures. Such Talk as this! is it not against the Crown and Dignity of Heaven? A stiring up Rebellion, against our most Rightful Sovereign? I mean Him, to whom all Power is given in Heaven, and Earth. And is it not like the Sin of Witchcraft; and an Iniquity to be punished by the Judge? §

AMONG these, there is scarce any one Thing more disputed (especially by Some) than a Person's doing, or Duty in Re­ligion. The Scripture tells us, Whatsoever thy Hand findeth to do; do it with thy Might. * And our Saviour, Whosoever [Page 12] heareth these Sayings of mine, and doth them, I will liken him unto a wise Man—And every One that heareth—and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish Man Yet Some who, it seems, would be wise above what is written, are always complaining, and faulting Ministers for urging, and pressing Persons to their Duty. Indeed they must condemn such Preaching, or themselves; for they will do none. And rather than take the Blame to themselves, as they ought, they will cast it where they ought not.

IT is well known, there is a Generation in the World, that hate to work for their Living; who will turn, twist, and make use of every mean Artifice, rather than get their Livelihood by honest Industry. Even so, there are some lazy, idle, slothful Servants in Religion, that can't bear to think of going to Heaven, in the plain Road, thro' the st [...]rait Gate, and in the narrow Path of Duty. Therefore they are seek­ing, and trying to climb up some other Way; and indeed it is no Heaven for them if this wont do.

YET These would seem to shew a Zeal for GOD, and Religi­on; but it lies all in Words, and not in Deeds. They count the Name, they affect the Shew, but can't bear the Thing. Therefore they are much for disputing, and asking Questions in Religion; but then these are generally about Trifles, and Things to no Profit: Like that Question put to our Saviour, in St. Luke, "Are there few that be Saved?" Which was so trifling a one, that he thought it not worthy of a di­rect Answer. Or that captious Query of the Herodian, ‘Is it Lawful to give Tribute to Caesar or not?’ And that impertinent one of the Saducees, about the Woman that had seven Husbands in this Life, "Whose Wife she should be in the Resurrection?"* Things as foreign from the great, and main Concern, as the Idle stories in the Apocripha. But seldom will you hear these Querists say a Word about the great Things of Religion, such as Judgment, Mercy, and Faith, or enquire, What must we do to be saved? But,

4. WHENEVER Persons come to themselves, and see their Danger of eternal Misery, they will seriously make this En­quiery; [Page 13] however lightly they might think, and talk of these Things before, however disposed to ridicule or quarrel with the Doctrines of divine Revelation; however forward they may have been to plead in Excuse for their Sins, Man's Inability; or able by sub [...] and artful sophistry to dispute and even exclude Duty and Works of Obedience out of the Gospel Scheme. Yet when the Vail is taken off, and the Scales [...]all from our Eyes; GOD and eternal Things appears no lon­ger mere Chimeras, but the greatest Realities: at once their former Coldness, and Indifference vanishes; their former Pleas and Qbjections are silenced, and they will Solicitously in­q [...]e; What must we do?

THIS is generally the first Step they take; such is our Frame and Make, that Nature itself recoils at the Approach of Danger, and whenever it is apprehended, the first Thought is of escaping, the next, of putting it into Execution; or at least trying to do the same. And eternal Evils, when apprehend­ed, have the same Influence upon Men, as temporal Ones. They will as soon flee from Everlasting Burnings, as from a Lion and a Bear.

THIS is most manifest from a few plain Instances. Thus the very Men, that had been active in the Crucifixion of JESUS CHRIST, so soon as they were convinced, by the Aposte's preaching, on the Day of Pentecost, of what they had done; their Folly, and Danger therein; at once cry out, Men and Brethren, What shall we do? In like Manner, the Apostle Paul, before his Conversion to the Christian Faith, while he was breathing out Threatnings and Slaughter against the Disciples of the Lord, and going to Damascus with a Commission to apprehend, and bind all he could find of that Profession, so [...]oon as he was convinced by a Light, and Voice from Hea­ven, that that was a dangerous Road; stopt at once, and with Tremor and Astonishment says, LORD, what wilt thou have me to do?

SO the Jaylor in my Text, no sooner was he made sen­sible of his Danger of eternal Ruin; but he also immedi­ately cries out, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And this will always be the Case, when Men see themselves in Dan­ger, whether it be of temporal, or eternal Misery. Hu­man [Page 14] Nature is the same, as it was ten or fifteen Hundred Years ago; and Mankind have just the same Movements, and Springs of Action now, as they had then. Again,

5. THIS Question supposes, that the Querist takes it for granted, that Something is to be done by us, in order to Salva­tion. And this indeed is, the Sense of Mankind, in general, upon this Affair, altho' some talk much against it. For one of these Things must follow; either Something is to be done by us, or Nothing; there can be no Middle Way. If the latter—then there are no Duties to be performed by us; neither Seeking, Praying, Believing, Repenting, nor obey­ing the Commandments. If this be so, these Consequences will follow, the Calls, Invitations, and Rules of the Gospel are all to no Purpose; the Gospel Ministry, Sabbaths, Sacra­ments, yea the Revelation itself in all in vain. And in a Word, there is an End of all Religion: He that embraces it, is not better than he that don't, and he that despiseth it, bids as fare for Heaven, as he that observes it. In this Case, the Preachers of the Gospel have nothing to do; but to dismiss their Assemblies in the Manner, in which that was, in Jereboem's Rebellion. To your Tents O Israel. § What Part or Portion have we in this Matter? And those ancient Times will be again revived, wherein every Man did that which was right in his own Eyes. But these are such gross Absur­dities, that, methinks no Man of Reason, and Consideration can possibly give into them. From hence then, it necessa­rily follows, that something is to be done by us, in order to eternal Life. This is a Deduction almost as manifest, as any first Principle in Nature, or the shining of the Sun at Noon-Day. And however Persons in their Vanity, may be di [...]posed to make Objections against it, yet a little Self-reflection will answer them all.

IF a Man will but look into himself, he can't help seeing: He is made, not a Stock or Stone, nor merely an Animal, but a rational Being, capable of moral Action; that he has [...] Powers, and the Faculties of Thinking, Know­ [...] [...] and Choosing. That he is capable of Happiness [Page 15] and Misery, is actually moved by Hope, Fear, and moral Arguments, and Motives. And if he is not altogether of an Atheistical Turn, he can't but be convinced, especially if he lives under the Gospel, that he is designed for another State. That these Powers and Faculties were given him for real Action, and Improvement—That he is Accoun­table to his Maker for them—That he is here upon his Pro­bation, must act a Part for Eternity, and his future State will depend upon his Conduct here.

THESE Things being considered, how natural, and reason­able are such like Queries as these? What must I do? How must I improve these Talent? What Course must I steer? Which is the Way to eternal Life, or what must I do to be saved? And all this arises, not from Enthusiasm, or vain Cu­riosity, or any Fright or Panic; but is the Result of the most rational Consideration. This brings me to the Apostles Answer; but before I consider that, suffer me to Observe,

ONCE more, that this same Question, if not verbatim, and in the same Words, yet in Substance, has been asked vari­ous Times in the Scriptures and particular Answers given thereto. My Text is not the only Place in the Bible, that makes mention of it, neither was the Jaylor the only Person, that ever proposed it; but this has been done by various others, at different Times, and various inspired Per­sons have given their Opinions upon, and Answers to it. Thus it was proposed by Peter's Converts on the Day of Pentecost, and his Answer thereto, was, Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ. § So it was by the Apostle Paul to CHRIST himself, in his Way to Damas­cus. And his Answer was, Arise, and go into the City, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. What it was, appears from what followed: He was baptised, and preached Christ in the Synagogues. In like Manner, the young Man in the Gospel says to our Saviour, Good Master, what good Thing shall I do, that I may have eternal Life? * He replies, If thou wilt enter into Life, keep the Commandments. Again, while [Page 16] John the Baptist was preaching the Baptism of Repentance; the People came, and asked him, What shall we do then? He answers, He that hath two Coats, let him impare to him that hath no [...]; and [...]e that hath Meat, let him do likewise. The Pub­licans also said to him, Master, what shall we do? He tells them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. * And the Sol­diers likewise demanded of him, saying, And What shall we do? To them he says, Do Violence to no Man, neither accuse any falsly, and be content with your Wages. Once more, Some that fol­lowed CHRIST, asked him, What shall we do, that we might work the Works of God? He tells them, This is the Work of God, that ye believe on him, whom he hath sent. §

IN all these Cases, I have no Reason to think, but that the Querists proposed them honestly, with a Desire to know, and be, taught their Duty. But let that be as it will; these were proper Questions to be put to a Teacher sent from God. And we have all Reason to believe, they were answered ho­nestly, and in a direct and proper Manner, and agreeably to the End and Design of the Gospel. For our Saviour, (altho' when Persons came to him with captious Questions, de­signed to entangle him in his Discourse; as he knew what was in Man; so he often answered these Fools according to their Folly; and in such a Manner, as most effectually to con­found, and take them in their own Craftiness. Yet) when any came to him with an honest Design to know the Truth; as became a divine Teacher, and One that taught the Way of Life truly, he always instructed them therein, with the greatest Plainness, and Simplicity.

HOW these particular Answers are to be understood, I purpose to consider in the Sequel of this Discourse; when I come to compare them together. But I must not proceed, for the Time fails; will therefore hasten to a Conclusion, with one or two Reflections relative to the present Sub­ject; if your Patience will hold out. The,

FIRST is, that the Scriptures are always urging and pressing Persons Duty. I am sensible, that to persuade Men to a Life of Duty, and sincere Obedience to GOD, is one of the [Page 17] hardest Things in the World. For I have not only Flesh and Blood, but also the Powers of Darkness to encounter herein. Besides all this, there are some, who say they are enlightened, that pretend, that this is a legal, and not a Gospel Religion; and are so much harping upon Man's Inability to do any Duty, especially before Conversion; that all [...] such can possibly do, is an Abomination to the Lord; and as the Con­sequence is narural, upon this Supposition, so they draw it, that no Man before Conversion, ought to pray, or attend up­on Gospel Ordinances. And all this being so agreeable to corrupt Nature, Many believe they have nothing to do, but to sit still, and wait, till they are specially moved, and wrought upon by the Spirit of GOD.

BUT nowithstanding what these Men say, if you will go to the ORACLES of GOD, you'll find, that they put us upon Duty from one End of the Bible to the other. And I Be­lieve, there is not one Sacred Penman, but what presses this Matter besure Moses, and the Prophets, CHRIST and his Apos­tles do it; and they not only urge, and press Duty and Obe­dience, but make it one main Point of our Religion; if they don't lay the very Stress of our Acceptance with GOD and eter­nal Salvation upon it.

THAT this was the Case under the first Covenant, no Man will dispute. No more will any dispute it under the Jewish Dispensation, if they will read but one or two Texts in Moses and the Prophets. And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the Voice of the LORD thy GOD, to observe and to do all his Commandments, which I command thee this Day; that the LORD thy GOD will set thee on high above all the Nations of the Earth. § But if thou wilt not hearken unto the Voice of the LORD thy GOD to observe to do all his Commandments, and Statutes—that all these Curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the City &c.—Wash ye, make you clean, put away the Evil of your Doings—cease to do Evil, learn to do well. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the Good of the Land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the Sword: For the Mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. *

[Page 18]AND if we come to the Gospel Dispensation, is not the Language just the same? Our Saviour says, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till Heaven and Earth pass, one Jot or one Tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. Who­soever therefore shall break one of these least Command­ments, and shall teach Men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do, and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.’

SO the Apostle Paul, who preached up Justification by Faith, and the Doctrines of Grace, as much as ever any inspired Person did, tell us, Circumcision is Nothing, and Uncircumccision is Nothing, but the keeping the Commandments of God. § The Mean­ing is, all other Religion without this, is of no Value in the sight of GOD. Now whether we shall obey GOD or Men, Judge ye. And the,

SECOND is, that the Scripture never faults us for Obedience, or doing Duty in Religion, but always for the Neglect of it. The World often condemns us for doing our Duty, but the Scripture never does: And it is so far from this, that it al­ways commends, and approves of that, altho' it be done, but partially, or externally, or even with wrong Ends, and Designs. I don't mean, that every Man that has ever done any Duty, will be finally approved of by his Maker. For many such will be condemned; but then, not for the Duties they have done, but for them they have left undone. The Fault don't lie in doing, but in the Deficiency of Duty. So long as a Man keeps in the Path of his Duty, he is right; but when­ever he turns out of it, then he begins to err.

THE great Reason is, the Law of GOD is the Standard of our Conduct, and of Right and Wrong. Whatsoever therefore, is a Conformity thereto, is right, and commendable; and what is not, is wrong, and Blame worthy. For instance, the Man that professes well and lives ill. The Fault don't lie in the Profession, but in the Practice. So he that doth a [Page 19] good Action, with an ill Design, the Action is right and com­mendable; but the End is sinful.

AND indeed Duty to GOD, Truth and Falshood, Right and Wrong, as they are founded in the Constitution of Things, so they are inflexible, and unchangeable in their very Natures. The One is excellent, and glorious, the other hateful, and abominable; and they'll remain evermore the same, let them be found where they will; neither can they be altered in their Nature by the Quality of the Doer, nor the End in doing them. The Sun is the same under the Earth, as it is above it. A Jewel of Gold is of the same value in a Swine's Snout, as it is in a Damsel's Ear. Truth is the same glorious Thing when spoken by a Devil, as by an Angel of Light. Wilful Murder is the same horrible Crime when committed by a Saint, as by a Sinner: And tho' a Man had never so good a Design in it, yet it wont make that a lawful Action. No more will the vilest End make the Praising of GOD, horrible Wickedness. For it is not the Quality of the Doer, that denominates the Action either good or bad; but the Quality or Nature of the Action denominates the Doer. Apostacy, and Rebellion would make an Angel a Devil; and Grace and Goodness would make a Devil, an Angel of Light.

FOR this Reason, (because Virtue and Vice take their Rise from their Conformity, and Non-conformity to their Standard, the Law of GOD) it is that the Scripture always commends Duty and Obedience, tho' it be found among much Wicked­ness; the abounding of which, tho' never so much, don't alter the Nature of that which is right.

HOW plain is this in Jebu's Case! Altho' he took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel, neither departed from the Sins of Jeroboam which made Israel to Sin; yet the LORD bears him this Testimony, ‘Thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine Eyes, and hast done unto the House of Ahab according to all that was in mine Heart.’ § And is it not as plain in Ahab's? Who, when GOD denounced his Judgments against him by the Prophet, rent his Cloaths, and humbled himself. Which, most likely was only in an external Manner; yet this was right so far as it [Page 20] went. Therefore GOD takes Notice of it, and says, ‘Be­cause he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the Evil in his Days.’ §

AGAIN, When GOD shew his antient People for their Sins, they returned and enquired early after God— and altho' they flatter­ed him with their Months—and their Hearts was not right with him—Yes he being full of Compassion, forgave their Iniquities; that is, so far that he did'nt destroy them. But after all, won't some say, ‘The Scripture does lay Blame for doing Duty, and for Proof quote the Prophet Isaiah, i. 13. Bring no more vain Oblations, Incense is an Abomination unto me.’ The true Meaning is not, that they were faulted for offering Sacrifices according to the Law of Moses; but because as the Context tells us, their Hands were full of Blood.

THIS will appear by considering one Case more, and that is the fault for which CHRIST denounced the W [...]e upon those Hypocrites in St. Matthew, Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites, for [...] [...]ay In [...] M [...]re, [...], and have omitted the [...] Matt [...] of the Law. Now their Fault was not in paying Tithes; [...]r CHRIST says, These ought ye to have done; but in neglecting, Judgment, Mercy and Faith. And this is the Thing that the Scripture always [...], and condemns; as is easy to shew from innumerable Instances. But I need mention but one, and that is, the awful Doom of the slothful Servant in the Gospel, for neglecting to improve his Talent, Cast ye the unprofitable Servant into outer Dark­ness; there shall be Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth. *

NOW let me appeal to your Consciences; Is not this your Condemnation, that you have too much neglected your Duty? Did ever a Man's Conscience condemn him for doing it? It may for his sluggish Manner of performing it—for the selfish and carnal Views, he has had in it—that he [...] only as a Cloake and Outside Garment to cover his [...]—and that while he has been cleaning the Outside, he has been within full of Extortion and Excess. But did it ever con­demn him for doing what his LORD and Master required of him? I don't remember that ever I have heard this Com­plaint [Page 21] from any One; but it is altogether on the contrary Hand. Of All that I have been acquainted with, under deep Concerns about their Souls, or lying on Death Beds, and ap­prehensive of their Departure's being at Hand, that were un­der any Conviction of their Consciences; this has been the Burden of their Song, ‘We have forgotten God, and too much neglected our Duty; neither have we lived and pre­pared for Death as we ought to have done.’ In a Word then, can we ever be pleasing and acceptable to GOD without this Obedience, and Conformity to his Will? Or, have any Communion with him? I am sure I must think, we can have none, so long as I believe that Righteousness hath no Fel­lowship with Unrighteousness, Light no Communion with Darkness, and Christ no Concord with B [...].

WELL then, my Brethren, does the Voice of Reason, Reve­lation, and an awakened Conscience too, like a three Fold Cord that can't be broken, obligate and call upon us, to be up and doing! Why do we stand here all the Day? Let us enquire out the good old Way, & [...] our Lamps, keep our Vessels filled with Oyl, and in the path of Duty be waiting for the Coming of our LORD. AMEN

[Page 22]


ACTS, xvi. 30, 31.

—And said , Sirs, What must I do to be saved? And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and th [...] House.

HAVING considered in the proceeding Discourse, this great Question, and shewn of what infinite Importance and universal Concern it is; and that altho' the most of Men are so indifferent, and unconcerned about it; yet when they come to be sober and seriously thoughtful about their future State, solicitously enquire, and as earnestly desire to know What they must do to be Saved. I now proceed to con­sider,

II. THE Apostle's Answer thereto: Which is, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy House. This Answer of the Apostle has Nothing in it peculiar to the Jaylor but what is applicable to any other Person, and is a direct and proper Answer to this Question, let it be propos­ed by whom it will. The Direction and Instruction herein con­tained, belongs to every One; and all may take Encouragement therefrom, yea reap the same Benefit upon the same Terms. The true Meaning is, that believing in JESUS CHRIST is the [Page 23] Way to, and the Means by which we, under the Gospel are to obtain, and inherit eternal Life; or in other Words, that eternal Life is promised by the Gospel, to them that believe in JESUS CHRIST; and if the Jaylor would comply here­with, he should inherit the same: And so may any other Person too, on these Terms.

THIS seems to be intimated in the last Clause of the Verse, And thy House, that is, thy Family also, shall be saved upon their Believing. It may also mean, that upon the Jaylor's Faith, his Family should enjoy the Gospel Priviledges, [...]. Be Baptised, brought into the visible Church, and be put under special Advantages for their eternal Salvation. But this is not what I intend to insist upon; but the Way that leads to eternal Life, which we must all walk in, or we shall never ar­rive thither. Here the Jaylor inquiries, ‘What must I do to be Saved? or which is the Way to eternal Life?’ The Apostle Paul Answers, "This is the Way, believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST." This is the Direction given us by an inspired Person, and a most skilful Pilot: And the En­quiry is; What is the Meaning of it? What is it to believe? or rather, What is the Apostle's sense of believing in this Text.

THIS is a Subject not new, but of equal Date with the Gospel Religion; of great Weight, and Moment, and a corner Stone in this spiritual Building. Altho' it has been greatly exhausted, much said, and wrote upon it; yea, Volums and Folios filled with it, yet now it needs to be handled by an able Hand, a skilful Pen, and in a much better Manner than I am able to do it: And that because of the many mistaken No­tions about, and wrong Constructions that are put upon it. And in as much as Truth never suffers by Examination; and every One ought to lend an Hand, yea exert their utmost Efforts in defence of, and against the Errors and Mistake [...]s about it; for these Reasons, and especially for your Instructi­on, my Brethren, I shall endeavour to give you my best Thoughts upon it, and according to my small Abilities, shew you the true Meaning of the Apostle in these Words, or ex­plain a saving Faith in CHRIST, according to the Gospel. In order hereunto, before I enter upon this; to prevent Mistakes, [Page 24] and prepare the Way for your understanding the same; let [...] observe one or two Things in general. As,

1. IT is common in the Scripture, that one christian Grace or Quallification stands for, and is used to signify all the Rest: tho' but One be expressed, yet every other Grace is included therein. There are several Things necessary to make up and complete the Idea and Character of a real good Man; such as Holiness, Righteousness, Mercy and the like. Now the Scrip­ture, speaking of such an One, seldom mentions him, but un­der one or other of these Characters, and by that, means all the rest. Thus the merciful Man in Scripture means, not only one that sheweth Mercy, but him that has all the Qua­lifications of a real religious Man: So also the upright, the just and the faithful Man, all mean the same. This is agree­able to our common Way of speaking in this Case: When we speak of a Christian at one Time, we call him a true Peni­tent, at another the Believer; by which we mean not only him that has these particular Graces, but One that has every christian Grace and Virtue.

IN like Manner, the Scripture speaks of several Things, as necessary Terms of our Acceptance with GOD; such as Faith in CHRIST, Repentance of Sin, the Love of GOD: And yet at the same Time promises the Favour of GOD to each of these Particulars. In which Case, it must always be supposed that the others are couched therein, and to be understood thereby; and that because the Way of Salvation is but One, and the Scriptures are all of a Piece, tho' Different in Expression. Here is the Reason, that the Promise is made to such different Things, viz. To Believing. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting Life. * To Obedience, If ye keep my Commandments, ye shall abide in my Love And even to external Duties, Whosoever shall confess me before Men, him will I confess before my Father which is in Heaven. And possibly in such a Manner, the Words under Consideration, are be understood. Therefore,

2. The Apostle's Answer here to the Jaylor, is the same in sense and Substance with the other Answers given in Scripture, to the same Question. I have shewn before, that this Questi­on [Page 25] has been asked various Times, and these following Answers given thereto, viz. That given to Paul was ‘Arise and go into the City.’ To the [...]ing Man in the Gospel, ‘Keep the Commandments.’ To Peter's Converts, ‘Repent and be baptised.’ And to the Jaylor, ‘Believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST.’ Now as those Questions were all really but One; so are not all these Answers really the same? tho' different in Words, yet dont they mean one and the same Thing? Nothing is more frequent in both Scripture, and common Language, than to express the same Thing, by various Words and in different Forms of Expression.

YOU may say with Nicodemus in another case, ‘How can these Things be? The Jaylor was put upon believing, but the others upon working and doing.’ It is true, they were; but then, was not the Jaylor as much? [...]s not Be­lieving, as much, doing and acting as any other Duty what­soever is? I know not why the Word (Works, or working as used in a religious Sense) is restrained to bodily Exercise, or external Action; or why it is not as applicable to the internal Acti­ons of the Soul [...] I am sure Action or Working is not so much the Property of Body, or Matter, as it is a Mind and Spirit. The Love of GOD, and Repentance of Sin are as much Works and Acts of Obedience, as any external Duty, whatsoever. And is not Faith or Believing the same?

YOU may answer and say, ‘No; for Faith is the Gift of GOD.’ I grant it; and so is Love, Repentance, Hu­mility, and every christian Grace the Gift of God. But then the Meaning is not, that believing, loving, and repenting are the Acts of the Divine Being; for they are the Actings of the Soul. It is not GOD that believes, loves, and repents; but it is the Soul that performs these Acts. The Truth is, by Strength received from CHRIST, the Soul is enabled to put them forth; and in this very Light, the Apostle Paul clearly sets this Matter. I can do all Things thro' Christ which Strengthen­eth me. *

I AM very confident the Scripture uses the Word (Works) in the same Manner and applies it to the internal Actions of [Page 26] the Mind, as well as the external Ones of the Body. Thus, not only Fornication, and Drunkenness, but Hatred, Envy, and Covetousness, are called the Works of the Flesh, and un­fruitful Works of Darkness. So we read of the Work of Grace in the Heart; He which hath begun a good Work in you. And Faith also is called a Work; This is the Work of God that ye believe on him, whom he hath sent. * If these Things are so, then are not these Answers similar?

I AM no Ways insensible, that the Scripture makes a Dis­tinction between Faith and Works; which is the same, that Divines generally do between the [...]redenda, and Facienda of Religion; that is, the Things to be believed, and the Things to be done. A Distinction very just! for there is a wide Difference between them: The one is the Assent of the Un­derstanding, the other the Consent of the Will. The former is the Principle of Action, and the latter the Practice upon it. But I don't see that this any Ways affects the pre­sent Argument, either in Whole or in Part. It don't follow from this, that Believing is not a Work or Act of Obedience, when it is a Compliance with a divine Precept: All that it proves is, that Believing is a distinct Thing from Repent­ing, Loving, and doing Justice.

BUT after all, you may say, as some have taught; ‘The Law puts us upon doing, but the Gospel upon Believing.’ Here I would ask, How you know this? You'll easily an­swer, ‘The Gospel says it in plain Words, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. But at the same Time, dont it put us as much upon doing, and us plainly say? If you will enter into Life, keep the Commandments. And our Saviour, Not every One, that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the King of Heaven, but he that doeth the Will of my Father which is in Heaven.

NOW are not these Texts of the same divine Authority, and as much to be regarded as the other? Especially if we consi­der that in the Gospel Revelation, we are oftener urged to Duty and Obeying, than we are to Faith and Believing; and if you'll search from one End thereof to the other, you'll [Page 27] find, at least, two Texts in Favour of the former, to one in Favour of the latter. In this great Question now under Consideration, which (as I have shewn before) has been asked in the Scripture eight Times; the Answers thereto have been given six Times for doing and obeying, and but twice for believing.

HOW then must we understand these Things? Are there two or three different Ways to Heaven? Is divine Revela­tion become fallible, that there is no depending on it, or so mysterious, that none can understand it? Is the infallible Spirit of GOD, got bewildered, and so gives different Directions in the important Affair of our Salvation? at one Time sends us to the Covenant of Works, at another to the Covenant of Grace? Tells One to believe in CHRIST, Another to take his Yoke upon him; and a Third, to keep the Commands of the moral Law? Or, are CHRIST, and his Apostles at Variance in their Doctrines, and Instructions, and not only militate against one another, but against themselves too?

IN this Case, what must we do? Are we left altogether at Uncertainties? Is every Man at Liberty to settle his Opi­nion in Religion, according to his own Humour and Fancy, and pick and choose such Scriptures only, as he can shape to his Mind? Or must we fix down upon some certain Texts, and conster them in the most rigid Manner, as some are wont to do, and then at all. Adventures buckle and bend the Rest to them; tho' it be never so contrary to all Rules of Gram­mar, and Interpretation. If this will do, then the Rule for understanding the Scriptures, given by a great Divine, which is a good One, for aught I know, may take Place here: That is, That those Duties that are most insisted on, and oftenest repeated in the Scriptures, are of the greatest Weight, and most to be regarded, & those that are less insisted on, and more seldome mentioned, are of less Importance, and not so much to be regarded. § By this Rule, for the Reason before given, Works and Obe­dience must have the Preheminence to Faith and Believing, But I see no Need of any of these Refuges in the present Difficulties.

[Page 28]AS Joseph said of Pharaoh's Dreams, so I may say of these Scriptures; they are but one, and the Interpretation is one. They all lead us unto CHRIST, as the only Saviour, and into the Way, he proposes to save us by; that is, to acknowledge him, such a divine Person as he is revealed in the Gospel; depend upon him for Salvation, and follow him; that is, comply with his Religion. Thus when Faith is spoken of as the Term of Acceptance with GOD; it means not only that we believe CHRIST to be the Saviour, but also that we receive the Doctrines of the Gospel, and com­ply with its Precepts. So when Obedience is made neces­sary to Salvation; is not the same Thing implied? that there must be the receiving of the Doctrines, as well as com­plying with the Precepts of the Gospel.

AGAIN. When our Saviour at various Times directs us, to believe in him; take his Yoke upon us; follow him, and keep his Commandments. Is not the Counsel and Advice uniform, and tho' different in Words, yet all aiming at the same Thing? And are not each one of these Duties expressive, and implicative of all the rest? Just so it is in the Cases before mentioned. The Apostle tells the Jaylor, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Now dont every One take his Meaning to be, that the Joylor must believe CHRIST to be the Saviour, become his Disciple, and follow him, in order to Salvation? And when CHRIST directs the young Man in the Gospel, the Way to Life, the Result is the same; the End of their Conversation was, Sell that thou hast, give to the Poor, come and follow me, and thou shalt have Trea­sure in Heaven. Where is there then any material Difference in these Answers? For my part, I can see none.

IF you should be disposed to reply once more ‘If the Case be so, why are these Things so differently expressed in the Scripture?’ The Answer may be, to let us know, that the gospel Religion, is a Religion of the whole Man; that the Understanding and Will, both Heart and Life must be engaged in it; there must be both Faith and Works; and that these are all of a Piece; GOD has joined them together, and no Man may put them assunder. Yea, they are so close­ [...] connected, that you can't separate them, without destroy­ing [Page 29] them both: There can be no Gospel Faith, without Obedience, nor a Gospel Obedience, without Faith.

AND I may add, as another Reason hereof; possibly these Answers were given in this different Manner, on purpose to adapt them to the particular Circumstances of these Querists, which were very different. Peter's Converts were some, that had a Hand in CHRIST'S Crucifixion; therefore he tells them, "Repent, of this your Wickedness, and be baptised," The young Man in the Gospel was disposed to do some Thing for eternal Life, and possibly tho't, he could merit it thereby: Therefore CHRIST wisely takes him in his own Way, and tells him, Keep the Conmandments; but finally leads him into the Gospel Scheme of following him. This Jay­lor it seems, was a Heathen, and likely, an utter Stranger to Revelation; therefore the Apostle tells him Believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

THIS brings me to the particular Consideration of these Words, as I proposed, which is to enquire, What is meant here, by Believing on the LORD JESUS CHRIST. And doubt­less this means something more than the Belief of Devils, or any wicked Men, something peculiar to GOD'S own Children, that is, the Faith of GOD'S Elect: To which the Gospel promises eternal Life. For the Apostle says here, Believe—and thou shalt be Saved. And is the same Thing, which Divines are wont to call a justifying or saving Faith. So called, not because there is any Thing meritorious in it, or that it justifies us in the Sight of GOD by virtue of its own Worth, and Excellence; but because it hath pleased GOD in his great Condescention to Men, to make it the Term of our Acceptance with him, thro' the Redemption of his Son▪ And so He will bestow eternal Life on all such, in whom it is found.

'TIS a little beside my present Subject to shew, how this divine Principle is wrought in the Soul; yet I would observe once for all, That it is done and effected by the divine Agency; or if you like the Phrase better, by the special O­perations of the Holy Spirit upon the Soul; enlightening the Understanding, renewing the Will, and aiding, and assisting our weak and feable Powers, in this Work of Grace. He that has true Faith, is one born of the Spirit. But then, this [Page 30] is generally, and ordinarily done by, or through the Instru­mentality of Means, such as the Ministry of the Word, the Gospel, and its Ordinances, as the Apostle observes. How shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a Preacher? And thus concludes, So then Faith cometh by Hearing, and Hearing by the Word of God. *

NOW in discribing this great Article of the Christian Re­ligion, I shall not go into the Method, (as some have done) of describing it in a logical Manner, by its Object, and Sub­ject, its Matter and Form, its Causes and Effects; nor take the Opinions of the Learned; but the holy Scriptures, which are the only Rule of Faith and Manners, for my Guide and Directory herein: Being of Opinion, that as it is Revela­tion alone, which has made Faith in the Redeemer, the Term of our Acceptance with GOD; so Revelation is the best Judge of this Matter; and the likliest. Way to get a true Understanding of it, is to search the Scriptures, and com­pare one Part with another. Accounting also, that the Description of this Faith, as it is given by CHRIST himself, and his holy Apostles, is more accommodated to the Ge­nius and simplicity of the Gospel Religion; and better adap­ted to Humane Capacities, especially those of the vulgar Sort, than all the nice and critical Distinctions in the World, that are made herein by the Learned. According to the Gospel then I take it, that a saving Faith contains these three Things following; all necessary and essential to it, I say essential, because if either be wanting, it ceases to be such a Faith. As,

1. A REAL Belief of the Truth of divine Revelation, or that the Scriptures are the Word of GOD: That is, a full Assent of the Mind, to the Truth of all the divine Doctrines, and Propositions therein contained. And this arising not merely from Custom or Education, but from solid Reason, and a full Conviction of the Truth of these Things, by proper Evidence, and such as the Nature of the Case re­quires. The Sum of which is, that there is one God, and me Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus. That [Page 31] He is the only Saviour of the World; and that the Gospel is the only Way of Salvation, besure to them that live under it. This is the Kind of Faith, the Apostle speaks of; without which, it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him. §

THIS is one Thing in a saving Faith, and the very Founda­tion of it. And it may be, some have thought this to be the Whole, but if so, 'tis a great Mistake. Tho' it be the Foundation, yet it is not the Building; tho' it be the Corner, yet it is not the Top-Stone. For if this be all, 'tis at best but a dead Faith, if the Apostle James be right; and no more, than what the Devils have; and for aught I know, Pilate and Judas had it; so may any other Person too, and yet be in the utmost Despair.

2. ANOTHER Thing contained in a saving Faith, is a Trusting and Depending on JESUS CHRIST for Life and Salva­tion; on his Sacrifice for Pardon of Sin, and on his Righte­ousness for Justification before GOD. This, I take to be the Meaning of these Scripture Phrases, Coming to Christ for Life, and looking to him for Salvation. JESUS CHRIST is re­presented in the Scripture, as a Redeemer and Saviour. Now Faith, as it corresponds, and answers to these noble Characters, is Trust and Reliance; 'tis applying to CHRIST, as the great Physician, to heal our spiritual Maladies; a flying to him, as the only Refuge, to shelter us from the Wrath of GOD.

FROM a Sight of CHRIST'S Abilities and Willingness to save, and a Sense of its own Wants, the Soul is moved to put its Trust under the Shadow of his Wings, to depend on him for all its Wants in this Life, to be conducted thro' Death; and finally presented faultless and blameless before the Throne of GOD. This is another necessary Part of saving Faith, but yet both these are not the Whole; altho' some, if I mistake not, have represented it in this Light, as only a believing JESUS CHRIST to be the Saviour, and resting [Page 32] in him for Salvation. Yet if I may be allowed to give my Opinion, I must think, that all this comes short of a saving Faith; that one principle Part is yet behind; yea all this may be without the least Participation of a divine Nature.

FOR where is the Inconsistency of wicked Men's trusting in GOD for the Salvation of their Souls? I can see none. They are as fearful of Misery, and as willing to be happy as any others; and when they see Danger approaching, and no Help any where else, they will fly to GOD, and trust in him therefor. This is the Way of the worst Men in Times of Danger. Thus the Scripture represents the Matter; When GOD slew them, then they sought him. * So the Pro­phet; The Heads thereof judge for Reward, and the Priests there­of teach for Hire, and the Prophets thereof divine for Money, yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, is not the Lord among us? None Evil can come upon us. Was not this the Barrier of the Jews in CHRIST'S Time, against their Rejection? When they said, ‘We have Abraham to our Father, that is, we are the Children of Abraham, the Promise of GOD is to us, it cannot sail, and this is our Dependance.’ And if we come to plain Matter of Fact; is not this the Case with Many, of corrupt Principles, and no better Lives? They have a Hope in GOD; and if you'll inquire into the Reason of it, they'll boldly tell you, ‘We know we are Sinners, but CHRIST has died to save such▪ there is Merit enough in him; he is a whole Saviour, and our sole Depen­dance is on the Righteousness and Merits of JESUS CHRIST.’ But you'll say, ‘All this is Nothing but Presumption, a false Hope, and Trust.’ I know it well enough; but all Hope and Trust in GOD will be no better, if there is No­thing else. Wherefore,

3. The last Thing contained in a saving Faith, is the Love of God, or a Principle of universal Obedience reigning in the Heart. I say Love, or a Principle of Obedience; be­cause I take it, that Love is the very Principle itself, that operates in Obedience. Love, Benevolence, or a Disposition [Page 33] to do good and right, (all which are the same in Principle*) in every Being whatsoever, is the great Spring of all right and rational Action, both of Munificence in the Supreme, or any superior Being, and of Obedience, and Subjection in an inferior, and dependant Being. Thus the great Source of all the Divine Beneficence toward the whole Cre­ation, is Love. This I shall illustrate in one Instance only that is, the Redemption of CHRIST, and this I'll do in the Words of Inspiration, God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting Life. § This is the Spring of all real Beneficence in the Rich and Wealthy, toward the Poor and Needy; and of true parental Care for Posterity. In like Manner, the Spring is the same, from whence all dutiful Behaviour in an Inferior does proceed, in Children towards their Parents, in Subjects towards the Magistrate, and in the Creature towards it's Maker. This noble, and divine Principle, I take to be implied in a saving Faith; and not only so, but the actual Operation of it too, at least, so far as to bow the Heart, bond the Will, and bring every Faculty of the Soul into Subjection to CHRIST. Therefore, I expressed it before, as a Principle reigning in the Heart.

[Page 34]IN a Word then, a saving Faith is the Submission of the whole Man to JESUS CHRIST, as our Saviour, Lord, and Master; a believing and depending on him for Salvation, and yielding up ourselves to him, as his Disciples, and Fol­lowers; or in other Words, a hearty Compliance, or falling in with, the Gospel Way of Salvation. This, I can't but think, is the main Point, the Spirit and Quintessence of a Sav­ing Faith. Nothing short of it is the Thing; but when once a Person comes to this, he has the Gospel Term of Ac­ceptance with GOD; the Faith that interests us in the Righte­ousness of CHRIST.

THE whole Affair, as Things appear to me, stands in this Light; Mankind by their Sin, and Rebellion had de­parted from the living GOD; by which, a great Breach was made between them. The Most High, by the Gospel, is bringing about their Return, and a Reconciliation between him and them. This is all done in a Covenant Way; 'tis a solemn Transaction between GOD and Men, and some Thing to be done by both Parties. The Language is the same now, as it was in antient Times; I will be your God, and ye shall be my People; tho' the Terms hereof, are some­thing different now, from what they were then. The Most High first makes the Motion for our Return; this he does by revealing his Mind and Will, concerning our Salvation; offering his own Son to be a Mediator herein; appointing the Terms of our Reconciliation, and inviting us to com­ply with the same.

NOW our Return to GOD must be, as one expresses it, "An Eccho to this Voice of the LORD." An Answer to these Calls, and such a Behaviour, as bears some Analogy to these divine Motions; that is, a cordial Entertainment of these Messages, accepting these Offers, and complying with these Terms. This the Scripture in general calls Faith. Thus we are said to be saved thro' Faith; and justified, not by the Works of the Law; but by the Faith of Christ. But then, this Return, as it respects the different Ways, wherein GOD is moving toward us, bears different Denominations, ac­cording to the various Actings of the Soul herein. For In­stance, as Faith is a Receiving the Doctrines of Revelation [Page 35] for Truth; it is called Belief, as it is an accepting of CHRIST as our Saviour; it is called Trust and Reliance; and as it is a Compliance with the Gospel Way of Salvation, it is called Obedience. In this Sense, I understand a saving Faith to mean all these Acts of the Soul, Believing, Trusting and Obeying. And this is the Return of the whole Man to GOD, every Ways correspondent to these divine Motives, wherein GOD applies himself to every Faculty of the Soul, and has so adapted them, as to draw the same into Exercise and Action. Thus the Revelation of divine Truth, is to employ our Understandings; the Offers of CHRIST, and Sal­vation, to move and allure our Affections; and the Pre­cepts of the Gospel, to put our Will, and active Powers upon Action, and compliance therewith. Now when all these Faculties are thus cordially set to work toward GOD, in com­pliance with these Designs of Grace; no Doubt our Recon­ciliation to him is accomplished. This is the Sinner's Re­turn to GOD, according to the Gospel, and whoever thus complies, and so answers these Calls, has the Faith of God's Elect, and is an Heir to eternal Life.

IN this View of Faith, when these several Actings of the Soul therein, are compared together, those of the Will must have the Preheminence; and a Submission to CHRIST, is the most noble Part of Faith; in as much as the practical Part of Religion, is preferable to the Knowledge, and Profession thereof, and that the Illumination of the Understanding, and the Alluring of the Affections, are but the Means, and for this End, to gain the Will, and bring the Man into an intire Subjection to the Obedience of CHRIST.

IN this same Manner, Dr. Watts, if I mistake not, des­cribes a saving Faith, or Coming to CHRIST; And Mr. Pool in his Annotations, having been speaking of Faith, as an As­sent to the Propositions of the Gospel, and Trusting in CHRIST for Salvation, says in these Words, ‘Which no Man can indeed do, without doing what in him lieth, to fulfil the Condition upon which CHRIST hath promised Life, and Salvation; that is, keeping the Commandments of GOD.’ But I have greater Witnesses than these; they are CHRIST, [Page 36] and his Apostles. And I persuade myself, you'll be of my Mind, if you will but consider the Scripture Account of [...] saving Faith.

THUS they represent it to be a receiving CHRIST, as the Assembly of Divines and all Men agree. But as many as received him, to them gave he Pow'r to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name. * What is meant by receiving CHRIST here? You will say perhaps, ‘Believing and trust­ing in him.’ This is true, but is this all? Dont it as re­ally mean receiving his Commandments, and keeping them? Can a Man receiving CHRIST, and not be his Disciple, and Follower, or without doing his Will? If you think this is stretching the Matter too far; yet you'll own, it is a re­ceiving CHRIST, as he is revealed in the Gospel. And this will bring it to the same Thing. For Nothing is plainer than this, that CHRIST is there set forth, as our Prophet to teach us; our Priest to make Atonement for us; and our King to reign in and over us. Now can there be a receiving him in all these Offices, without an intire Subjection to his Government? Believing in him may receive him in the first, and trusting in him, in the second of these Capacities, but 'tis Obedience that receives him as our King; and nothing short of this, can be a proper Acknowledgement of him as such. 'Tis not all the World can make me believe, a Per­son to be a loyal Subject of King George, that lives in open Rebellion against him.

AGAIN. When the Scripture describes true Faith, so as to distinguish it from all Counterfeits; it tells us, It purifies the Heart; it worketh by Love. § And also, that this Love don't lie in Word, neither in Tongue, but in Deed; that is, in obey­ing. By all which, it is plain, that these Qualities, and O­perations, the Purity of the Heart, loving and obeying GOD, are of the Esse, and the vital Acts of Faith; not of believ­ing strictly considered, but of a saving Faith; and that as much as Form, and Extension, or any other Quality, is of the Essence of Matter. Only remove these Qualities from it, and it ceases to be such a Faith.

[Page 37]TRUE Faith has Love and Obedience in its very Nature, as much as the Sun has Light, and Leaven its fermenting Quality. The very Ideas we have of these two Objects, as such, arise from these essential Qualities; the Idea of the one, is its Light or Shining; and of the other, its ferment­ing Quality. Remove these Qualities, and you lose the Ideas of these Objects; take away the Light from the one, and it is not a Sun, destroy the fermenting Quality of the other, and it ceases to be Leaven. Even so it is in Faith; take away these Qualities of Love and Obedience, and it is not saving.

HOW full to my Purpose is the Apostle James? But wilt thou know, O vain Man, that Faith without Works, that is, without Obedience is dead? * If this be so, then Faith can't have any Life before there is Works; and then it as plainly follows, that it is Works, that give Life to it. I dont mean, that Works are the Foundation of believing the Truth, or that they make this belief real; but that they render this Belief acceptable to GOD, and make it a saving Faith. That this is the true Meaning of the Apostle, appears from the following Comparison he brings to illustrate this Doctrine by. For as the Body without the Spirit is dead, [...]o Faith without Works is dead also. Now if there be any Force in the Apostle's Argument drawn from hence; it must be this, that all Believing without Obedience, is no more pleasing to GOD, than a dead, and lifeless Corps can [Page 38] be to us; and that, as it is the Spirit, that animates, and enlivens the Body; even so it is Obedience that enlivens Faith, and renders it acceptable in the Sight of GOD.

THIS great Truth, if there needs any Thing more to be said upon it, may yet be abundantly confirmed by these follow­ing Considerations.

1. THAT the Scriptures universally make Obedience, and Holiness of Heart and Life, absolutely necessary to the Favour of GOD, and eternal Life. If you will search the Scripture, you will find this to be the Language of the Old Testament. The Sacrifices of GOD are a broken Spirit. Who shall ascend unto the Hill of the LORD, and stand in his holy Place? He that hath clean Hands, and a pure Heart. Fear GOD, and keep his Com­mandments; for this is the whole Duty of Man. This Thing commanded I them, saying, obey my Voice, and I will be your GOD.* He hath shewed thee O Man, what is good, and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with your GOD?

THE Language also of the New Testament is the same. The Pure in Heart shall see GOD. To do good, and communicate are the Sacrifices with which GOD is well pleased. He that doth [Page 39] Righteousness, is righteous even as GOD is righteous. Without Holiness no Man shall see the LORD. The Unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of GOD. Neither shall any Thing enter there­into, that defileth, or worketh Abomination, or maketh a Lie. Now when I read these peremptory Declarations, and consider, that GOD is the same Yesterday, to-day, and forever; that his Glory, and Man's true Happiness is ever the same; that the Scriptures are all of a piece, and were indited by the same infalible Spirit of Truth; I say, when I consider these Things, I must conclude, that Religion is the same in Substance, as ever it was; that Holiness, and Righteousness are absolutely necessary to the Favour of GOD, and no Faith can be saving till it has something of these divine Qualities in it.

AND I am the more confirmed in this Opinion, when I con­sider these unchangeable Maxims, viz. That the Obligation of Obedience to GOD, results from our Relation to him, and can never cease so long as that subsists. That Man's true Happiness lies in the Enjoyment of his Maker; and a Conformity to him is absolutely necessary in order thereunto. Agreeable hereunto the grand Plan formed in the divine Mind for his own Glory, and Man's Happiness, was in the Way of our Obedience, Righ­teousness and Holiness. These Things were eternally de­sign'd to be the Foundation of our Enjoyment of GOD. The original Method proposed for putting the same into Execution, was Man's personal, and perfect Obedience to the Law: But this failing, thro' Man's Deficiency, opened the Way for the Gospel Dispensation. Because we are become weak by reason of Sin, and could not enter into Life by the Law; GOD in Mercy has interposed, and sent his Son to undertake for us in this great Affair.

AND now, is the divine Plan any ways altered? 'Tis true, the Manner of accomplishing it is, but the Plan is the same. Is not a Conformity to GOD now as necessary to the Enjoyment of him as ever it was? Did'nt CHRIST come to restore in us the Image of GOD, that we have lost? Don't the Gospel aim at the same Sanctity, and Holiness of Life as the Law did? I'm sure, it tells us, CHRIST came to Save his People from their Sins. Precious Promisses are given to [Page 40] us thereby these we might be Partakers of a divine Nature. § [...] of GOD that bringeth Salvation, teacheth us, that de­ [...] Ungodliness, and wordly Lusts, we should live soberly, [...], and Godly in this present World. *

IF these Things are so, then our Faith, altho' it must look to, and rest on CHRIST, as our Saviour, and for Strength to do all these Things▪ ye [...] it can't be considered as loving, till it contains this Sanctity, and Holiness in it. This will still further appear, if we view Faith in every Light 'tis wont to be considered in; either as the Image of GOD on the Soul, [...]n Union to CHRIST, Conversion to GOD; or that which brings Glory to him, and is useful to Men; in all which it will also appear, that this is the most noble Part, yea the Perfection of Faith. Therefore,

2. IF we consider Faith as the Image of GOD upon the Soul, it lies in this divine Conformity. True Faith may be justly called a divine Principle, and the Image of GOD. So the Scripture represents it. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of GOD. And surely such an One has the di­vine Image upon him. By which I can understand Nothing else, but some Resemblance of the divine Being; a Christ-like Temper, and Disposition, an Imitation of him, and acting for such-like Ends, and on such-like Principles as he does. Now wherein does our Faith resemble or imitate the divine Being? not in trusting, and believing the Truth: For these are Things incompatible with an Omniscient, and powerful Being; and peculiarly to weak, and dependent Creatures. Neither are they any Participation of a divine Nature.

BUT Love and Benevolence are divine Principles: do­ing right and shewing Mercy, are God-like Actions; an Imitation of him in his most noble Perfections, yea in those Things which he declares, are his Delight. And if there be any Thing, we may glory in, it is in this. Let not the wise Man glory in his Wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his Might, let not the rich Man glory in his Riches: But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and know­eth [Page 41] me that I am the LORD, which exercise loving Kindness, Judgement and Righteousness in the Earth; for in these Things I delight, saith the LORD.*

THE most noble Acting of Faith then [...]es in becoming holy as GOD is holy, merciful as he is merciful; and lead­ing a Christ-like Life, harmless, blameless and inoffensive in the World. This will be adorning the Doctrines of CHRIST; shining as Lights in the World; and more pleasing to GOD, than whole burnt Offerings, or Thousands of Rame and Ten Thousand of Rivers of Oyl. Therefore, says the Apos­tle, ‘Though I have the Gift of Prophesy, and understand all Mysteries, and all Knowledge; and tho' I have all Faith, so that I could remove Mountains, and have no Charity, I am Nothing.’ In like Manner,

3. IF we consider Faith as our Union to CHRIST, or what [...] wont to be called a Closing with him; it must lie in Ho­liness, and in divine Conformity. For there can be no Uni­on before there is some Concord and Agreement. What Fel­lowship hath Righteousness, with Unrighteousness? What Commu­nion hath Light with Darkness? And what Concord hath Christ with Belial? So also, if we consider, as I have observed be­fore, that GOD'S Dealings with us, are in a covenant Way; CHRIST offers himself us on Gospel Terms; that is, that he will become ours, if we will become his. Now believing and trusting in CHRIST, strictly considered, is not a closing with this Offer; tho' these may be necessary pre-requisites, and in Part thereof; yet do not come up to the Terms of the same. But it is yielding up ourselves in Obedience to CHRIST, and to be his, that is, the Fulfilment of these Con­ditions: And when this is done, the Bargain is closed. The Believer is CHRIST'S, and CHRIST is the Believer's, by an everlasting Covenant, that shall never be broken.

THIS will appear very plain, if we consider the Compa­rison, the Scripture makes much use of, to set forth this divine Union by. And that is the Marriage Covenant. In Allusion to which, it is said to GOD'S People, Thy Maker [Page 42] is thine Husband. And the Church is called the Spouse, and the Lamb's Wife. In this Covenant, we all know, the Of­fers of Marriage must be made, and complied with; both Parties must covenant, and contract; the Man offers the Woman to be hers, and she must give her Consent to be his, before the Covenant is made, or she can be intituled to his Estate. Again,

4. IF we consider Faith as our Conversion to GOD, it lies in Holiness and Obedience. Such is the Alienation of our Affections from GOD, and the Opposition of our Wills to him, by Reason of our Sins; that in order to a Reconciliation to him, the Scripture plainly intimates, that there must be a great Change wrought in us. Except ye be converted—ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This Change the Scripture calls a New-Birth, a Resurrection from the Dead, and a New-Creation. By all which is mean't nothing more or less, than a Change of our Affections from the World to GOD, or a being turned from the Ways of Sin to those of Godliness. Now true Faith is this saving Change, so called; 'tis that by which we pass from a State of Nature to a State of Grace: And so by the true Believer, and true Convert we mean One, and the same Person.

THE Question then is; what is it in Faith that is this Change? The Answer, is not believing and trusting in CHRIST for Salvation; for, as we have shewn before, a Man may do all this, and yet be attached to this Lusts. But it is his Conformity, and Obedience to GOD. And this will ap­pear by considering wherein all the Wickedness, and Re­bellion of the World, against GOD consists; and that in one Word is their Non-conformity, and Disobedience to his Law. For Sin is the Transgression of the Law. And where no Law is, there is no Transgression. GOD is never offended with any that have not broke his Laws. If so, that Man's Apostacy and Departure from GOD does lie in their Diso­bedience to him, and Nothing else; then it follows that so [Page 43] long as they remain in a State of Disobedience, there is not this Change in them; but they are in a State of Rebellion, as much as ever, and no more in a State of Reconciliation with GOD than the fallen Angels are.

AND it as plainly follows that this Change and our Return to GOD can lie in Nothing short of becoming obedient to him. If Disobedience makes the Breach between GOD and Men; Nothing but Obedience can heal it; if the former puts us into a State of Rebellion; Nothing short of the lat­ter can bring us into a State of Reconciliation again. You'll say, it may be, ‘By this Argument, a perfect Obe­dience is now required of us, in Order to Acceptance with GOD.’ I answer, No; but an upright and sincere One is: And that will be accepted. For such is the Grace of the Gospel, thro' the Redemption of CHRIST, who has performed a perfect Obedience for us; that if there be a willing Mind, it is accepted according to that a Man hath, and not according to that he hath not. Let me add,

ONCE more, it is this View of Faith alone, that makes it honourable to God, and useful in this World. What honour to GOD is all the Faith of Devils? No more will be all the Faith of Men, without Obedience to him. To call CHRIST, LORD, and Master, and not to do his Will, is but an Affront to him, and mere Mockery in Religion. A free and chear­ful Obedience to his Commandments, is the greatest Ho­nour, that either Men or Angels can give to their Maker: Yea it is the sincerest Token of our Love, and the highest Acknowledgment of his Supremacy and Perfections that we are capable of making.

SO also, of what Profit is all our Faith to our fellow Men, if it dont make us just and righteous, kind and merci­ful, and exemplary for Piety and Holiness in the World? Yea, Persons making a Shew in Religion, pretending to have a Zeal for GOD, and Communion with him, when these Things are wanting, do but bring a Scandal on Religion, and expose themselves to the Contempt and Railery of the World.

[Page 44]AGAIN, of what Advantage will all Faith be to our­selves, if it don't humble our proud Hearts, mortify our Lusts and Passions, and bring us into an intire Subjection to JESUS CHRIST? No Doubt these are eternal Truths, viz. Obedience is better than Sacrifice, Rebellion is as the Sin of Witch­craft; and true Faith, is that Holiness, without which no Man shall see the LORD. Tho' Heaven and Earth may pass away, yet these shall abide forever and ever.

THUS have I given you my Thoughts upon this great Article of our Religion. Therefore take your Bible, and look if they are not agreeable to the Scripture, reject them; but if they are, let no Bias, or Prejudice keep you from embracing them.

AND now I beg your Patience a few Minutes longer, while I add two or three Things more, as follows;

1. BY this Discourse I would not be understood, in the least to intimate, that there is any Merit in our Works of Righteousness; or that Obedience, as distinguished from be­lieving, is the whole of the Gospel Religion; or to cast the least Slight on the Redemption of CHRIST, or the Duties of believing, and trusting in him, as tho' they were not ne­cessary to Salvation. For I fully believe, these Things ab­solutely necessary to eternal Life; that it is, by Grace we are Saved; that our Acceptance of GOD is for the Sake of, and thro' the Redemption of CHRIST, and that believing, and trusting in him, is necessary in Order hereunto.

BUT what I would, is, that all this falls short of the Mark the Gospel aims at; 'tis not the closing with CHRIST the Gospel means; but one Thing needful is yet behind, that is, the Image of GOD as a divine Conformity. This is the grand Point and main Thing; without which no Man shall see the LORD. This is the Thing sinful Men want; for this End CHRIST came into the World; the Gospel was given; Be­lieving and Trusting in CHRIST were instituted as Means, even to restore this Image of GOD in the Soul. Now if this is not done, the End of the Gospel is no ways answered; CHRIST has died in vain, your Faith is vain, and ye are yet in yours Sins.

[Page 45]HERE you may ask, "Is not this a legal Way of Justifi­cation?" I answer, legal or illegal it matters not; if it be the Way the Gospel establishes, and CHRIST, and his Apostles preached up. Yet there is a wide Difference be­tween them; by the Law, a Man was to be justified by his own Righteousness; by the Gospel, 'tis by, or through the Righteousness of Another: By the former, a perfect Obedi­ence was required; by the latter a sincere one is accepted thro' the Righteousness of CHRIST. But a Principle of Obedience, a divine Conformity is absolutely necessary to Ac­ceptance with GOD under all Dispensations. Can it possibly be otherwise? Are there any Contraries in Nature greater than Sin and Holiness? Can a Swinish Nature, whose whole Delight is in the Filth of Sin, relish the pure Joys Heaven? Can an holy GOD delight in Sin, or approve of it? And a Devil or a Murderer be received to Glory, before he is re­newed and sanctified? If this could be, surely there was no Necessity of CHRIST'S Redemption, or the Gift of the Holy Spi­rit to sanctify and fit us for Glory.

NO more can any One be purified in the Sight of GOD; the Meaning of which is, approved and accepted as righ­teous by him, without some Thing of this divine Confor­mity. This is a Consequence so clear, from the foregoing Premises, that it is not easily denied; yet so contrary to the Antinomian Notion, that a little to evade the former and support the latter; a subtil Distinction, has been made by Some, between the Right of Heirship, or a Title to eternal Life, and the Right of Fitness, or a Qualification for the Enjoy­ment of it; and so they say, 'tis ‘Believing alone that justifies and gives the Title to the one, but 'tis Holiness, that is the Fitness and Qualification for the other. That it is in this Case, as with a Child in Infancy; tho' by Birth he is an Heir to an Estate, yet it is unfit for actual Possession, 'til he comes to Manhood. Even so One jus­tified by Faith, is an Heir to eternal Life, but must be fitted by Holiness, before he can enter thereinto.’ An artful Device to support an unscriptural Doctrine! But has this Misfortune in it, that it no Ways serves the Purpose [Page 46] for which it is designed. For the Reason why an Heir to an Estate, in his Minority can't inherit the same, is not, because he wants a legal Fitness therefor, but because of his natural Incapacity to improve it. So, not only the Per­son justified, but the greatest Saint while in the Body, is un­fit for the actual Enjoyment of eternal Life; not because he wants the moral, or the Gospel Qualification; but be­cause Flesh and Blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Every One therefore, so soon as he is justified in the Sight to GOD, has this moral Qualification; and should his earthly Taber­nacle, that Moment be dissolved, he would be fit to en­ter into his Master's Joy. How plain is this, if you will but consider, that a Man is justified either before any di­vine Conformity, or afterwards? If before, then it follows, that a wicked Man, that hates GOD, and whom GOD hates, is yet approved, and accepted as righteous by him. An Inconsis­tency too great to be believed! But if 'tis afterwards, then the justified Person has the divine Image upon him, and such an One is fitted for the Enjoyment of his Maker.

2. THIS View of Faith will help us to see the Harmony and Agreement that there is in the sacred Scriptures, and reconcile the seeming Contradictions between the Preaching of CHRIST, and his Apostles; I say, seeming Contradictions; for I look upon it, they are only in Appearance, and not in Reality. And a little Attention to the Ambiguity of Lan­guage in general, and in what a various Sense the Scrip­ture uses these Words, Faith, Law, Works, and such-like, will solve the whole Difficulty.

YET a wide Difference is made by Some, if not a real Contradiction between them; and it is generally done in this Manner. Thro' too much Inattention to these Things, for Fear of slumbering on the Jewish Error of seeking Salvation by the Works of the Law; and mistaking the true Meaning of the Apostle's Arguments to confute the same; they take saving Faith to be a distinct Thing from Obedience, complete and entire without it; and that this is not to be brought in­to its Consideration as such. And now these Difficulties arise; Paul preaches up Justification by Faith, without Works. CHRIST makes Obedience to the Commandments absolutely [Page 47] necessary thereto. And James says, a Man is justified by Works, and not by Faith only. And upon the foregoing Suppositions, they are inextricable Ones too. For they set the Scripture at Variance with itself, the Apostle Paul against his Lord and Master, and against himself too. For there is not one sacred Writer that expresses himself in stronger Terms for Obedience than he does, when he tells to this effect. ‘That in CHRIST JESUS Nothing avails, but a new Creature, or keeping the Commandments of GOD, and that all Faith without Charity is Nothing.’

NOW to extricate themselves from these Difficulties, they have such-like Refuges as these, viz. That Paul speaks of our Justification before GOD, but James of our Justification before Men: That the Former speaks of the Justification of a Sinner, but the Latter of the Justification of the Faith of a Believer. But to evince this, I believe, there needs a new Revelation, for I don't think the Bible gives the least Hint of it. But what is worse than all this, they repre­sent JESUS CHRIST as a legal Preacher only, that he did not preach up the true Gospel Way of Salvation, as his A­postles did afterwards; but preached up the Works of the Law, to prepare Men to receive it from them. A new Doctrine this! The Scripture tells us, CHRIST taught the Way of Life truly, Grace and Truth came by him, and that he preached the Gospel. But these Men tell us, that he preached the Law, and not the true Gospel. The Scripture tells us, John the Baptist came to prepare the Way for CHRIST. But these in Effect, that He came to prepare the Way for his Apostles. No Wonder Men r [...]n upon such Rocks and Shoals, when they leave the Light of divine Re­velation, to be guided by that of their own Understand­ings! For all these Difficulties arise not from the Scripture, but from a misconstruing the same. Only view Faith in this Light, as a Believing and Trusting in CHRIST, and an in­tire Subjection to his Will; than which, I think, nothing is plainer from the Scripture; and all these Difficulties vanish at once; there's no Discord any where, the Gospel and Epistles sweetly harmonize, and teach the same Doctrines; [Page 48] CHRIST as the wise Master Builder, has laid the Foundation, and his Apostles as Workers together with him, are build­ing thereon.

3. IN this Light, saving Faith, Regeneration, and true Conversion (which are all, if not in a grammatical, yet in a religious Sense, one and the same) appear plain and intel­ligible Things; natural and easy to be understood; and a­dapted to vulgar Capacities, as they were designed by the Gospel. There is no Mystery, nor any Thing unintel­ligible in them; but so plain, that he that runs may read them; and it seems no Person of competent Understanding, unprejudiced, and desirous to know the Truth, could easily mistake the true Meaning of them.

And yet what a Mystery do some make of these Things! When they tell us, ‘That saving Faith, or true Conversion is a Thing altogether unintelligible to a natural Man; that such an One can't understand it himself, and much less describe it to Others, before he is specially illuminated by the Spirit of GOD, and has true Grace wrought in his Soul; that such are ignorant of the true Sense of the Scriptures, and so unable to open the same to Others; and that in all spiritual Concerns, it is safer to apply to One that is converted, tho' of the meanest Capacity, for Direction; than to the wisest and most learned Man in the Scriptures, that is not a true Convert.’ A Notion, that is big with Inconsistencies, and embarrasses Religion with insuperable Difficulties.

[Page 49]AND when they come to explain Faith or Conversion, they don't do it in the natural, and plain Scripture Way, by shewing its essential Qualities, such as Repenting, Lov­ing, and Obeying; which are the very Things the Scrip­ture means, even by all the Metaphors it uses to express it by: But in such a Way as if they did'nt intend it should be understood. For it is all done in mystical Language; too much like the antient and Heathen Mythology, by high Flights of Expressions, And Scripture Metaphors, such as, the Turning from Darkness to Light. The Moving of the Spi­rit of God on dry Bones. A new Birth, a new Creation, and a Resurrection from the Dead. And from hence they infer, ‘That it is a miraculous Change in the Heart, wrought by the Almighty Power GOD; an Infusion of a new Nature, and a divine Principle of Life and Action into them, that is altogether beyond the Reach of carnal Reason; and then they confidently conclude, that those that are dead, or are yet unborn, can't understand these Things.’

THIS finishes the Description of Faith, except it be to tell of some of the Effects thereof; and thus they leave this [Page 50] noble Topick far worse, and more unintelligible than they found it.

NOW what Instruction is there in all this? Or what Profit any Ways to Mankind? Methinks, It only tends to puzzle and confuse Persons' Notions of Faith, and Con­version; leaves them wholly in the Dark, that they know nothing what they are, and totally at a Loss, where to go for Instruction. And these unhappy Consequences naturally follow herefrom, viz. That People too generally are at a Loss about their State and Condition God-ward, yet easy and quiet in their Ignorance.—To Some, these Things appear so shocking and contrary to Reason, that they are ready to give up all Revelation, to look upon its Religion as a Piece of Priestcraft only, and had rather turn Deists than embrace it.—There are Others of a warm Imagination, and a fond Conceit of themselves, that by some Means or other, fancy that they have passed through this Change, and are the Children of GOD; yet the World have no other Evidence of it, but their bare Word; and that not much to be depended upon in any other Affairs.—And there are Some, that are the most humble and conscientious Per­sons, that have the best Character among their Neigh­bours for holy Living; yet walk in Darkness, and live in Fear all their Days, that they are not born again. And all this, because they are so puzzled about Faith and Con­version, and know not what it is. By these Means, it comes to pass, that GOD'S own Children, are starved, and their Bread, and that which is holy is given unto Dogs.

BUT all this, notwithstanding, if Persons will only go to the Scripture, and take Faith to be, as 'tis there des­cribed, a believing the Doctrines of the Gospel, trusting in CHRIST, and embracing his Religion, there is No­thing mysterious, or hard to be understood in it; but 'tis so plain, that I may say in the Words of a great, and good Man. ‘I acknowledge, I have been some Times uneasy and ashamed, to hear a Divine of the protestant Church, tell his People, that Faith in Christ is a myste­rious Thing; As though there was any Thing in the [Page 51] Affair of human Life clearer than this Notion, viz. Upon a Sight of our Sins, and Weakness to help ourselves; to commit ourselves to CHRIST, by an humble Act of Trust in him; complying with the appointed Methods of Relief in the Gospel. 'Tis but as a Man sensible of Sickness, applies himself to a wise Physician, and trusts himself in his Hands to relieve him, complying, with the Remedies appointed, in Order to his Cure.’


LASTLY. There is no just Cause from Reason or Scripture, for the loud Complaints that are among Some, against good Works, or the preaching up the same. But this most certainly arises from some other Quarter. To talk a­gainst evil Deeds, is in Deed, just and right; but to speak against good Works, is sinful and vile; and to do this out a Zeal for GOD is strange and unaccountable; for this is to talk against Religion, and against the Author of it too.

YET are there not many, who call themselves Christi­ans, that can't bear to hear the Name of good Works? And is it not, because they don't like the Thing? There­fore they are frequently speaking most diminutively of them. Yea, have not Some been so severe in these Cen­sures, as boldly to call them cursed Things? But what Wild fire, and raving Zeal is this! And where will it fly? For what are good Works, but right Actions, doing as we ought; obeying GOD'S Law, and conforming to his Will? To call these Things cursed, is to call the Law so, that requires them; and to do this, how far short does it come of calling the Maker of it cursed also. To say the least, what daring Wickedness is this! and shocking, when 'tis under a Cloak of Religion too! But in Imitati­on of CHRIST, I can heartily pray, Father, forgive them, for I verily believe, they know not what they say, or do.

NO more Reason is their for the great Out-cry, that many People make against the Preaching up Works, and the Duties of Obedience. If I am not much mistaken, [Page 52] this is flung at the faithful Ministers of JESUS CHRIST, by many Persons, that they are legal Preachers only; that they neglect the Gospel, and preach up only Works, and Nothing but Works. This I believe, is altogether a Misrepresentation; for I never heard any such Preaching. But, that they preaching up the Necessity of a Gospel Obedience, by Faith in the Redeemer, in Order to eternal Life, no Doubt it is true. And what every Minister ought, and I believe every faithful One will do. For this is the Example, that CHRIST and his Apostles have set before us, who have preached up this Doctrine, in as strong Terms as ever I have heard any. Now is it a Crime to follow them? To build upon the Foundation they have laid? Or to try to imitate him, of whom it is said, never Man spake like him? If this is to be vile, I am willing to be more vile still.

THEREFORE, for Persons to cry out against these Things, is to talk against God, and CHRIST, and against his divine Institutions. And whatever Cloak, and Pre­tence Persons may have therefor; yet it is actually es­pousing the Devil's Cause, and openly opposing the Gos­pel of CHRIST, and his Ambassadors in the main and principal Errand they are sent into the World upon; which is to preach up Holiness, and Obedience to GOD. This indeed is not the whole, but 'tis the main Business to carry on their Master's Designs against the Kingdom of Sin, and to break Men off from their Wickedness, and bring them into an Obedience to the Gospel.

THIS will appear, if we consider, that this is the express Instruction in their divine Commission. Go teach all Nati­ons—teaching them to observe all Things whatsoever I have commanded you. * That is, to observe and do every Thing the Gospel injoins upon us. If we also consider, what In­fluence our Works will have on our eternal State. Not the Hearers, but the Doers of the Law shall be justified. GOD will render to every Man according to his Deeds. And our [Page 53] final Sentence at the Day of Judgment will be passed, and we doomed to Heaven or Hell, according as our Works have been Good or Evil, in this Life. Again, the Preach­ing up Holiness, and universal Obedience, as absolutely ne­cessary to Salvation; is the grand Engine of the Gospel, and the most powerful Weapon, for the pulling down the strong Holds of Sin. And there is Nothing in all the Gospel Artillery, that will so gall, and vex the Enemy as this will. Wicked Men will bear any Doctrine of divine Revelation better than this; Nothing will wound them like it. Tell the Drunkard in plain Words, if he don't leave off his Cups, he'll certainly be damn'd. And there's not an Arrow in the Gospel Quiver, that will stick in his Heart like it. When Paul reasoned of Righteousness, Tem­perance, and Judgment to come, Felix trembled. The Reason is, if this be the Case, they ha'nt a Spark of Hope left; besure while they remain such. Therefore, when Men are so attached to their Lusts, that 'tis like Death, to part with them, they can't bear such Preaching. No Wonder then, they keep a continual Fire, and muster up all their Strength against it.

ONCE more, if we consider, that this is the most need­ful Preaching in a christian Land, in general, and in ours in particular. Indeed the whole Counsel of GOD is to be preached up, and no part thereof to be kept back. But then, there are the greater, and lesser Things under the Gospel, as well as under the Law, and the former should be the prin­cipal Object of the Preacher's Attention. Next to this the State of Religion, or Growth of Wickedness is to be kept in view. For as one great End of all Preaching is to put down Sin; so it should be principally levelled against those Sins, that are most prevalent among a People. If it be open Infidelity; then that is to be encounter'd. This was the Case, when the Apostles were sent forth into the Hea­then World: Therefore they preached up Faith in CHRIST and embracing the Gospel. Where I may observe, that when any renounced Heathenism, and declared their Belief of the Gospel, and their embracing it, they were baptised. And [Page 54] from that Time they were called Saints, and of the House­hold of Faith.

IF it be Heresy that is prevailing, then that is to be op­posed. Such was the Jewish Error in Paul's Time, when they were for bringing Circumcision, and keeping the Law of Moses, into the Gospel Religion. Therefore the Apostle, to confute this Error, teaches, That a Man is not justified by the Works of the Law, but by the Faith of Christ. And if it be Disobedience to GOD, Immorality or Profaneness, that is prevailing; then these Crimes are to be openly testi­fied against, and principally born down upon. Thus the Artillerly of the Gospel should always be turned and aim'd at the strongest Force, and principal Batteries of the Enemy.

THIS was the universal Practice of CHRIST and all the inspired Teachers, to adapt their Discourses to the Times, Occasions and particular Circumstances of their Hearers. And why should it not be so now? What then must be the main Drift of our Preaching at the present Time? This will be determined by the Sins, that are prevalent in the Land. Well then, What are these? Not open In­fidelity. The Land is become Christian; and People gene­rally receive the gospel Revelation; neither is it call'd in Question. For my Part, I don't know of a Deist in the Land. Is there so much Need then of pressing that which every One believes?

AGAIN. Are there any Heresies prevailing in the Land; by which, I mean, a Denial, or not owning any of the fundamental Doctrines of the Gospel? I know of none.* [Page 55] Indeed I can't promise for every Individual, but believe that the People are generally orthodox and sound in the Faith. 'Tis true, there has been some Fears, and Jealou­sies; and the Watchmen upon our Walls do well to keep a good Look out; and warn the People of all approach­ing Danger. Accordingly some Alarms have been made; and this special Service has been done by it: That People are waked up; put upon their Guard, and strict En­quisition has been made; but they have found none. So that I'm not apprehensive of so much Danger from this Quarter.

WHAT is the Wickedness then, that is prevailing? Is it not as clear as the Sun? 'Tis now with us, as GOD told the Prophet; They hear thy Words, but they will not do them. * And as Paul says of some, They profess that they know God, but in Works they deny him, being abomina­ble, disobedient, and unto every good Work reprovate. § Go through the Land; search every where; and are not these the loud Complaints, of our pious Rulers, in their religious Proclamations? of our faithful Ministers from their Pulpits, and almost every Body else? The Injustice, Fraud and Oppression! the Intemperance and Un­cleanness! the Cursing, Swearing, and Lying! the Pride and Covetousness in the Land! and too general a Coldness and In­difference to the Things to GOD, and Religion!

THE Truth is, Men profess well, but live ill. They say, they are Christians; but are not. They say, they love GOD; but they hate their Brethren. And are there not some that think, that high Pretences to Religion, party Zeal, and contending for the Faith, as they call it, will make an Atonement for, or, at least palliate, and cloak over those Land-defiling Sins? Is not this then the Burden of the LORD of Hosts, upon all his faithful Servants in the Land, to set their Faces like Flint against these raging Tor­rents, and threatning Evils? should they not lift up their Voices like a Trumpet, cry aloud, and not spare to shew [Page 56] unto Jacob their Sin, and Israel their Transgressions? And if it be the Duty of Ministers thus to preach, then surely it is the Duty of People to hear, and hearken, consider and reform.

WHEREFORE, my beloved Brethern, my Counsel and Ad­vice is, lay up these Things in your Hearts. Take the Word of GOD for the Rule of your Faith, and Practice; as the only sure Word of Prophesy, whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a Light that shineth in a dark Place. Labour after that Faith, which worketh by Love to GOD. Put your Trust in JESUS CHRIST as your only Saviour. Lean not to your own Understandings; but incessantly im­plore the Aids of GOD'S Holy Spirit, to guide you into the Truth; and assist you in all your Duty. And en­deavour to walk in all the Commandments, and Ordinances of the Lord blameless. If these Things be in you, and abound,—ye shall never fall. And for Motive hereunto, I'll only leave with you, these awful Scriptures, which, I beseech you, keep continually before your Eyes. The Wicked shall be turned into Hell. The unrighteous shall not inherent the Kingdom of GOD. And without Holiness no Man shall see LORD.


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