« AnteriorContinuar »
NOTE 2. On the XVIIth Article.
By the adversaries of the Church of England, who take Calvin for their guide, it has been boasted that the 17th article is calvirj* istical: but this our best divines never allowed; they say the times required that the article should be neutral. So the fact appears to be: and the article may be retained, as far as it goes; for it teaches us to receive the promises of God, and to act according to his will, as it is expressly declared. His will we do know; and his promises we know; his decreet relating to particular persons, we do not know; and therefore we cannot set up his de. crees against his promises. The article tells us, the elect are taken out of mankind; this we allow; but the spurious' predestinarian holds, that Christians are elected out of Christians: which doctrine is to be found neither in the Scripturejior in the article; though we apprehend, less than this will not come up to the wishes of the Calvinists. They preach to us, that the unknown decrees of God, and the use they make of them, are necessary to be admitted by all true Christians; warning us, that we areunder strong temptation not to admit them, because they humble our pride; and is there not enough to do it without them? and wish, log that all may perish who do not admit them. But how then does it happen, that neither St. Peter nor any of the Apostles ever published this doctrine as a foundation for Christians to build upon? When the new converts on the day of Pentecost asked Peter and the rest of the Apostles what they should do, he does not bid them believe the all-sufficient doctrine of predestination for the remission of sins: but commands them to "repent and be baptized, every one ef them, for the remission of sins, and they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
St. Paul, IiaviDg a knowledge of the secret decrees of God by revelation, argues from them to reconcile the Jews to the election -of heathens; but never makes them articles of faith, or principles of action: and from the great stress laid upon them in these latter days, a snake in the grass is to be feared; and he that knows the history of predestination must have discovered, that this doctrine hath been and is the strong hold of schism: therefore I take St. Peter's old doctrine ratber than this new; and I would advise all Christians to do the same. If it should be said, that baptism is not now what it was in St. Peter's time, what is it but to tell us, that we have lost the promsies of God, and have now no Church t This will be a pleasant hearing to the Roman Catholics, who have teen telling us the same thing ever since the Reformation.
MEN OUGHT ALWAYS TO PRAY. LUKE XVlii. 1.
x HE man who does not pray, does not live; he may .walk about, and seem to be alive, but he does not live, in the christian sense of the word; for as the natural breath is a proof that the body is alive, so the breath of prayer is a proof that religion is alive in the heart. When the body ceases to breathe perceptibly, in that case its life becomes doubtful, and it may be actually dead: even so that faith, which does not breathe in prayer to God, may be dead past recovery; at least, there may be great danger that it will never come to a state of life and godliness. Many considerations naturally- arise from this likeness between breath and prayer•: for, is it easy to breathe? it must also be easy to pray. If the body be alive and well, it breathes of itself, without pain or difficulty; and prayer will in like manner be a thing of course, if faith be alive in the heart. Is it necessary to breathe? so necessary, that life cannot long continue without it? It is equally necessary to pray; for the spiritual life of the soul cannot possibly be preserved without it. There is something always at hand, which will never fail to destroy it; of this our Saviour gave notice on a certain occasion to his disciples: pray, said he, that ye enter not into temptation.. Temptation would destroy us all: and, if we enter into it, we shall, without Gods grace, fall under it. It was this, that first brought death into the world; and is now the great danger of man. The first evil did not arise from man's own nature, but from the suggestion of the devil; who first taught man to disobey his Maker, and which it is ever at hand to. teach the same lesson at this hour: and his manner of.teaching is different from what it was at first; he taught evil to our first parents by a speech from without; he now teaches from within us: he gets into our hearts and affections, and worketh in the children of disobedience; it is therefore a petition fn the Lord's Prayer, that our heavenly Father would not lead us into .temptation. This is one of the reasons why we ought to pray: if we would know them all, we must find them in the Lord's Prayer: because the petitions of it shew us what are the duties, the wants, and the dangers of man. They.shew us, why we ought to pray; why we must pray; and what will certainly happen to us if we do not pray. They direct us to the first object of our thoughts; even to the great God that made us; the Father of our being, the Author of our faculties. He is the great object of our worship -tand the man who is made by him, and does not worship him, differs in nothing from a beast, but in his ingratitude; the basest of all sins, and such as beasts are seldom guilty of: for the ox knoxveth his owner, and the ass his mastci^s crib. Even the dog is mindful of him that feedeth him. What roust the man be then, who makes no return of worship to God, who
feedeth the creation? Can any man consider the greatness of his kingdom, without raising his voice, and lifting up his heart, to promote the glory and honour of it? Every christian soul is a subject of that kingdom, which is over all; and when he knows what it k, the Lord's Prayer teaches him to pray, that it may prevail in himself and in all the world: that the will of God may be the rule of man; and may be done by men on earth, as we are sure it is done with readiness and delight by the angels of heaven. What a divine privilege is it, that the subjects of this great King are permitted to speak to him! how much more, that they are invited and encouraged to it? and what shame and infamy to them if they do not speak to him ! they that will not pray must have their portion with those beings, whose curse it is, that they cannot pray. With those that pray God is present: and if God be not with them, we know who will be so; and that they who live without God must die without him; and there is no more certain sign that they live without him, than that of their keeping up no intercourse with him by prayer. Hear the testimony of an illiterate savage on this subject, who had only the feeble rays of tradition for his guide.
Some English soldiers, (as I heard once from an officer who had been amongst them), were quartered on a settlement in Africa, where the climate was hot ami unwholesome: they had no clergyman, and they attended no place of worship. While they were in this situation, a fatal distemper broke out among them, and carried them off daily. A poor negro of the country, wjio was witness to the case, made this observation upon it, "the English never speak to God "Almighty; God Almighty never speaks to them : so "the devil comes to fetch them away." Such was the language of this poor ignorant person; but simple and illiterate1 as the language may be, the observation is very alarming, and the doctrine is true: they who live without God must die without him. If a sheep be strayed in the night, and is met by a lion, we know what will become of it.
Man is therefore to pray: not only because he owes worship to the God who made him; but also, because he is a poor dependent creature; in daily want and danger, and must perish without the divine protection.
One of his first petitions to God, is for his daily bread: he must live by him; and therefore he prays to him. If a man can live of his own substance, he need not beg; but if he have nothing to support him, he must seek assistance from the charity of others. And he is not only ready to speak in his own behalf, but is ingenious in asking and provoking compassion: insomuch that the language of beggary is a science. And all this is for the wants of the body, which must soon be at an end. The soul lias its wants, which none, but'God, can supply; and cannot live a single day, unless they are supplied: I say live; for the life that is without God is not life: his grace is as necessary to the soul, as bread is to the body: for man liveth not by bread alone, but by the word of God: and as the manna came down from heaven every day, we are thereby taught, that man must do as the Israelites did ; he must go out every day to seek it by prayer, and gather it. If we seek it, we shall find it; nothing is promised to him, that seeketh not; he who knows this, and acts accordingly, is a true believer: he feels himself to be, when he comes to God, what the beggar feels himelf, when he comes to the door of plenty: hungry, and thirsty, and full of complaints; he! feels,