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Title: A Body of Divinity, Vol. 4 of 4
Author: Ridgley, Thomas
Language: English
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                           A Body of Divinity

                          A BODY OF DIVINITY:



                        BY THOMAS RIDGLEY, D. D.

                       BY JAMES P. WILSON, D. D.

                            IN FOUR VOLUMES.

                               _VOL. IV._



                            SECOND STREETS.



QUEST. CXXXVII, CXXXVIII, CXXXIX. An Explication of the Seventh
Commandment. _Page_ 9

_THE government of the affections_ 10

_All uncleanness forbidden_ ibid

_Polygamy was ever unlawful_ 11

_The aggravations of uncleanness_ 13

    _The occasions of it_ 14

_Of Theatres—a note_ 15

QUEST. CXL, CXLI. An Explication of the Eighth Commandment 16

_Of frugality and diligence_ 17

_Of justice in our dealings_ 19

_Of charity to the poor_ 20

    _To whom to be extended_ ibid

    _And in what proportion_ 21

QUEST. CXLII. The Sins forbidden in the Eighth Commandment 22

_Of theft and breach of trust_ 23

_Of borrowing and not paying_ ibid

    _Whether_ Israel _was guilty of it_ 24

_Of plunder in war and oppression_ 25

_Of unjust law-suits_ 26

_Of sinful usury_ 27

_Restitution a duty. Objections answered_ ibid

QUEST. CXLIII, CXLIV, CXLV. An Explication of the Ninth Commandment 28

_The duties required_ 29

    _Sins forbidden_ 31

_Of bearing false witness_ 32

_Of lying. The definition of a lie_ 33

    _Its various kinds_ ibid

_The midwives report, in_ Exod. i. 19. _no lie_ 34

_Of_ Rahab’s _lie_, Josh. ii. 4, 5. ibid

_Of_ Jacob’s _deceit, in_ Gen. xxvii. 19. 35

Elijah’s _treatment of the_ Syrian _host_ 36

Paul’s _answer relating to the high priest_ 37

David’s _lie to_ Ahimelech, _in_ 1 Sam. xxi. 2. 38

    _His feigned madness at_ Gath, _ver._ 13-15. ibid

_Of hypocrisy_ 39

Paul _and_ Daniel _vindicated_ 40

_Of reproach. It differs from reproof_ 42

_Things unjustly made the matter of it_ 43

    _Aggravations thereof_ 44

    Elisha _reproached at_ Bethel Ibid

_Of backbiting. Instances of it_ 48

QUEST. CXLVI, CXLVII, CXLVIII. An Explication of the Tenth Commandment

_Contentment required in every state_ 50

_Motives to it under various troubles_ 51

_The corruption of Nature forbidden_ 56

_Of covetousness and its aggravations_ 58

    _Excuses for it answered_ 59

_Remedies against discontent_ 61

QUEST. CXLIX. Of man’s inability to keep the Commandments of God 62

_How man sins daily_ 63

_Of sinful thoughts_ 64

_The kinds, causes and cure of them_ ibid

_Of sinful words and actions_ 66

QUEST. CL. All sins not equally heinous 67

QUEST. CLI. The aggravations of sin, and whence they arise 67

_From the parties offending or offended_ 68

_From the nature and quality of the offence_ 70

_From the circumstances of it_ 72

QUEST. CLII, CLIII. Of the Desert of Sin, and of the means of escaping
God’s wrath 74

_Wrath of God not passion_ 75

_How faith and repentance are the means of salvation_ 76

_Note on procrastination_ 78

QUEST. CLIV. Of the Ordinances, or outward means of grace 79

_Ordinances described_ ibid

_By what ordinances Christ communicates his benefits_ 81

_Singing God’s praises of divine institution_ 82

    _A gospel ordinance_ 83

    _To be public and united_ 84

_Of musical instruments, a note_ 85

_It is necessary to sing with understanding_ ibid

David’s _Psalms still proper to be sung_ 89

    _Imprecations therein how used_ 91

_Of hymns of human composure_ 95

_Scripture Psalms and hymns preferable_ 96

QUEST. CLV. How the Word is made effectual to salvation 99

_It enlightens and convinces of sin_ 101

_It humbles and drives out of self_ 102

_It draws to Christ_ 103

_Other instances of its efficacy_ 104

QUEST. CLVL, CLVII. The Word of God to be read by all 106

_The Word is to be read publicly_ 107

    _In families also, and in private_ 108

    _How the Papists oppose this_ 109

    _Their objections answered_ 110

_Translation of scripture vindicated_ 112

_How the scripture should be read_ 113

    _Expositions to be consulted_ 117

        _And various translations_ ibid

    _Of marginal references_ 118

    _Of supplemental additions_ 119

_Texts to be compared with their contexts_ 121

_One part of scripture illustrates another_ 122

_Parallel scriptures to be compared_ 124

_Rhetorical figures used in scripture_ 130

_References there to different governments_ 135

    _To the civil affairs of_ Jews _and others_ 136

    _To civil and religious officers_ 139

_Of_ Publicans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans 140

_General rules for explaining scripture_ 144

QUEST. CLVIII, CLIX, CLX. Of preaching and hearing the Word 146

_The qualifications of ministers_ 147

    _How the word is to be preached_ 151

    _Diligently, plainly, faithfully_ 152

    _Wisely. Wherein this consists_ 154

    _Zealously and sincerely_ 155

_Duties to be performed_ 157

    _Before hearing_ 158

    _In hearing, and after it_ 159

QUEST. CLXI, CLXII, CLXIII, CLXIV. Of the Sacraments 160

Sacrament. _Its meaning_ 161

    _Its nature and matter_ ibid

    _How a sign or seal_ 163

    _To whom to be administered_ 166

    _Benefits conveyed therein_ 167

    _How effectual to salvation_ ibid

    _By whom to be administered, in note_ 168

_Various sacraments of old_ 171

    _Now but two_ 172

QUEST. CLXV. Of Baptism. 174

_Baptism a gospel ordinance_ ibid

    _Instituted by Christ_ 177

    _Note_, Βαπτιζω _a generic term_ 175

    _In whose name to be performed_ 178

    _What signified in it_ 179

        _An expectation of privileges_ 181

        _An acknowledgment of obligations_ ibid

        _The right of children to it—in a note_ 182

QUEST. CLXVI. Of the subjects and mode of Baptism 183

_To whom Baptism is not to be administered_ ibid

_Infants of believers, their right to baptism_ 186

    _By covenant—a note_ 187-193

    _May be dedicated in faith_ 187

    _Are included in the covenant_ 194

    _Are termed holy_ 196

    _Were circumcised_ 198

    _And ought to be baptized_ 199

    _Objections answered, taken_

        _From infants’ want of grace_ 200

        _From the want of precept or example_ 201

        _From Christ’s own Baptism_ 206

_Infant baptism no novelty_ 207

    _Practised by the ancient church_ ibid

_Baptism an ordinance of dedication_ 186

    _An objection answered_ ibid

_How believers may dedicate their infants in faith_ 187

    _An objection answered_ 194

_Of the mode of Baptism_ 216

Baptism, _the meaning of the word_ ibid

    _To be performed by pouring or sprinkling_ 218

    _Objections answered_ 219

        _Persons going down into the water_ 220

        John’s _baptizing at_ Ænon 222

        _Our being buried with Christ_ 225

_Of the sign of the cross_ 228

_Of sureties in Baptism_ ibid

QUEST. CLXVII. How Baptism should be improved 229

QUEST. CLXVIII, CLXIX, CLXX. Of the Lord’s supper 234

_The Lord’s supper is a gospel ordinance_ 236

        _It was instituted by Christ_ ibid

        _By whom to be administered_ 237

        _Of the elements, how consecrated_ ibid

    _The actions to be performed_ 238

    _The gesture to be used_ 239

        _Of some Popish irregularities_ 240

_Things signified in the Lord’s supper_ 242

_What faith should then fix on_ 244

_Qualifications of communicants_ 245, 263

QUEST. CLXXI. Of preparation for the Lord’s supper 246

_Of self examination_ ibid

    _Things to be enquired into. Our state_ 247

        _How this may be known_ ibid

    _Our sense of sin_ 248

    _Our wants_ 249

    _Our knowledge of divine things_ 251

    _The truth and degree of our graces_ 253

    _Our love to the brethren_ 255

        _How this may be discerned_ 256

QUEST. CLXXII, CLXXIII. Who fit to be Communicants 258

_Doubting Christians, their case_ 259

    _Encouragement for them_ ibid

    _Promises made to them_ 260

    _Advice offered them_ 262

_The wicked to be kept from the Lord’s table_ 263

    _Objections answered_ 264

QUEST. CLXXIV, CLXXV. Of the duties required _in_ and _after_ receiving
the Lord’s supper 268

_What meditations proper at this ordinance_ 269

    _Graces to be then exercised_ 270

_We are to rejoice in Christ’s love_ 273

        _Properties of his love_ ibid

    _To renew our covenant, and how_ 275

    _To express a love to all saints_ 276

_What behaviour unsuitable_ ibid

_Vows, how to be made there_ 278

    _How to be fulfilled_ ibid

_A frequent attendance, how encouraged_ 280

QUEST. CLXXVI, CLXXVII. Wherein Baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, and
wherein they differ 281-284

QUEST. CLXXVIII. Of Prayer 285

_Of the kinds and parts of prayer_ 287

    _Confession of sin the duty of all_ 288

        _An objection answered_ ibid

    _How to be performed_ 290

    _What sins to be confessed_ ibid

        _The sin of our nature_ ibid

        _And all actual transgressions_ 291

_Thankfulness for mercies, a duty_ 293

    _In every age and condition of life_ ibid

        _For relative and personal mercies_ 294

QUEST. CLXXIX, CLXXX, CLXXXI. To whom, and in whose name we must pray

_We are to pray to God only_ 299

    _What it is to pray in Christ’s name_ 300

    _Why we are to pray in his name_ 301

QUEST. CLXXXII, CLXXXIII, CLXXXIV. Of the Spirit’s help in prayer; for
whom and for what we are to pray 302

_The Spirits assistance in prayer_ 303

        _What this supposes_ ibid

    _It respects the matter of prayer_ ibid

        _The inward frame of heart_ 304

        _And the success of the duty_ 306

_Of raised affections in prayer_ 308

_Persons to be prayed for, are_

    _The whole church militant_ 309

    _The ministers of Christ_ 311

    _Our enemies, and all men living_ 312

_Purgatory a fiction_ 315

_The dead are not to be prayed for_ 314

        _The opinion of the ancients about it_ 315

    _Nor they who have sinned the sin unto death_ 318

        _What that sin is_ ibid

        _Whether now committed_ 319

        _Doubts about it resolved_ 320

_What things we are to pray for_ 322

QUEST. CLXXXV. How we are to pray 323

_With a suitable frame_ ibid

    _In the exercise of grace_ 324

    _What necessary thereunto_ 334

_Of faith in prayer_ 329

    _Promises of help in prayer_ 330

    _Promises of God’s hearing prayer_ 331

_Objections against praying answered_ 332

_Love to God to be exercised in prayer_ 333

_Discouragements from praying removed_ 336

QUEST. CLXXXVI, CLXXXVII. Of the Rule for our direction in prayer 338

_How the word of God directs herein_ 339

_What expressions equivalent to promises_ 342

_Promises of outward blessings_ 344

    _Of spiritual and temporal_ 345

_Promises to the afflicted_ 346

    _To the depressed in prayer_ 347

    _Respecting ordinances_ 349

    _Of grace and peace_ 350

_How these are of use in prayer_ 351

_Reproofs are of use in prayer_ 353

_So are prayers recorded in Scripture_ 354

_Inferences from these directions_ 355

_The Lord’s prayer a special direction_ 356

QUEST. CLXXXVIII, CLXXXIX. The Preface of the Lord’s Prayer explained

_God, how a Father to men_ 360

        _First known, then addressed as such_ 362

    _How to be prayed to as being in heaven_ 365

_Child-like dispositions required in us_ 364

QUEST. CXC. The first Petition explained 368

_God’s name, what meant by it_ 369

    _How he sanctifies it himself_ ibid

    _How sanctified in redemption_ 370

    _How under the legal dispensation_ 371

    _How under the gospel_ 373

_What intended by_, Hallowed be thy Name 375

_What to be prayed for, that we may do it_ 376

    _What to be deprecated to that end_ 379

_When God’s name is hallowed_ 381

_How, when things are disposed to his glory_ 382

QUEST. CXCI. The second Petition explained 384

_Of God’s providential kingdom_ 385

    _Of his kingdom of grace_ 386

_Satan’s kingdom, how to be destroyed_ 387

    _How we are to pray for its destruction_ 388

_Christ’s kingdom, how to be advanced_ 389

    _How we are to pray for its advancement_ 390

    _And that his kingdom of glory may come_ 394

QUEST. CXCII, The third Petition explained 396

_Of prayer to an unchangeable God—in note_ 397-402

_Our averseness to the will of God_ 402

_Of praying that his will may be done_ 403

QUEST. CXCIII. The fourth Petition explained 407

_What supposed in praying for daily bread_ 407

    _What intended in praying for bread_ 409

        _Why we call it ours_ 410

_What we are to understand by_ this day 411

_This petition respects ourselves and others_ 412

QUEST. CXCIV. The fifth Petition explained 414

_The case of man when charged with guilt_ 415

    _Pardon, none but God can give it_ 417

    _All are to pray for it_ 418

    _How God is to be considered when we pray thus_ 420

_Of our forgiving others_ 425

    _What meant thereby_ 424

    _Arguments to induce thereunto_ 426

    _Of doing it without satisfaction_ ibid

        _An objection answered_ 428

    _When a sign of God’s forgiving us_ 429

QUEST. CXCV. The sixth Petition explained 431

_What this Petition supposes_ 432

_How God tempts, and why_ 433

_God not the cause of sin—in note_ 433-435

Deliver us from evil, _how understood_ 438

_Temptations arise from prosperity_ 439

    _From adversity_ 441

    _From the flesh_ 442

    _From Satan_ 443

        _When from him, and when from ourselves_ 445

_Remarks upon Satan’s temptations_ 446

    _They increase sin_ 448

    _Are suited to every age_ 449

    _And to the tempers of men_ 451

    _He endeavours to prevent conviction_ 452

    _To hinder preaching the gospel_ 453

    _To prevent closing with Christ_ 454

    _He injects blasphemous thoughts_ 457

    _He tempts to despair_ 458

_How we are to pray against temptation_ 461

QUEST. CXCVI. What the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer teacheth 465

_The Doxology explained_ 466

    _The pleas contained in it_ 467

_The meaning of the word_ Amen 468

_Whether all should say aloud_, Amen 471


                  Quest. CXXXVII., CXXXVIII., CXXXIX.

    QUEST. CXXXVII. _Which is the seventh Commandment?_

    ANSW. The seventh Commandment is, [_Thou shalt not commit

    QUEST. CXXXVIII. _What are the duties required in the seventh

    ANSW. The duties required in the seventh Commandment, are, chastity
    in body, mind, affections, words, and behaviour; and the
    preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the
    eyes, and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company,
    modesty in apparel, marriage by those that have not the gift of
    continency; conjugal love, and cohabitation, diligent labour in our
    callings, shunning all occasions of uncleanness, resisting
    temptations thereunto.

    QUEST. CXXXIX. _What are the sins forbidden in the seventh

    ANSW. The sins forbidden in the seventh Commandment, besides the
    neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape,
    incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts, all unclean imaginations,
    thoughts, purposes, and affections, all corrupt or filthy
    communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent, or
    light behaviour; immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and
    dispensing with unlawful marriages, allowing, tolerating, keeping of
    stews, and resorting to them; intangling vows of single life; undue
    delay of marriage, having more wives or husbands than one, at the
    same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony,
    drunkenness, unchaste company, lascivious songs, books, pictures,
    dancings, stage plays, and all other provocations to, or acts of
    uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

This Commandment respects, more especially, the government of the
affections, and the keeping our minds and bodies in such an holy frame,
that nothing impure, immodest, or contrary to the strictest chastity,
may defile, or be a reproach to us, or insinuate itself into our
conversation with one another. And, in order thereunto, we are to set a
strict watch over our thoughts and actions, and avoid every thing that
may be an occasion of this sin, and use those proper methods that may
prevent all temptations to it. Therefore we ought to associate ourselves
with none but those whose conversation is chaste, and such as becomes
Christians, to abhor all words and actions that are not so much as to be
named among persons professing godliness. As for those who cannot,
without inconveniency, govern their affections, but are sometimes
tempted to any thing that is inconsistent with that purity of heart and
life, which all ought religiously to maintain, it is their duty to enter
into a married state; which is an ordinance that God has appointed, to
prevent the breach of this Commandment. And this leads us to consider
the sins forbidden therein, together with the occasions thereof.

I. Concerning the sins forbidden in this Commandment. And,

1. Some are not only contrary to nature, but inconsistent with the least
pretences to religion; which were abhorred by the very Heathen
themselves, and, by the law of God, punished with death; which
punishment, when it has not been inflicted, God has, by his immediate
hand, testified his vengeance against sinners, by raining down fire and
brimstone from heaven, as he did upon the inhabitants of Sodom and
Gomorrha, Lev. xviii. 22,—25. chap. xx. 13, 15, 16. Rom. i. 24, 26, 27,
28. Gen. xix. 24. These sins are called in this answer, incest, sodomy,
and unnatural lusts. To which we may add, offering violence to others,
and thereby forcing them to do what they could not even think of, but
with abhorrence; this is called rape; and, by the law of God, the guilty
person was punished with death, Deut. xxii. 25.

2. There are other sins, whereby this Commandment is violated; which,
though more common, are, nevertheless, such as are attended with a very
great degree of guilt and impurity. These are either, such as are
committed by those who are unmarried, _viz._ fornication, or by those
who are married, as adultery; the latter of which, by the law of God,
was punished with death, Lev. xx. 10. as contained in it several
aggravating circumstances; inasmuch as hereby the marriage contract is
violated; that mutual affection, which is the end of that relation
broken; and thereby the greatest injury is done to the innocent as well
as ruin brought on the guilty. However, both these sins agree in this,
that they proceed from a corrupt heart; as our Saviour says, Mat. xv.
19. and argue the person that is guilty of them, alienated from the life
of God. And to this we may add,

3. That, another sin forbidden in this Commandment is, polygamy, or a
having more husbands, or wives, than one, at the same time; together
with that which often accompanies it, _viz._ concubinage. It is beyond
dispute, that many good men have been guilty of this sin, as appears by
what is recorded, in scripture, concerning Abraham, Jacob, David, _&c._
and we do not find that they are expressly reproved for it, which has
given occasion to some modern writers, to think that it was not unlawful
in those ages, but was afterwards rendered so by being prohibited under
the gospel-dispensation[1]. This, indeed, cuts the knot of a very
considerable difficulty; but it contains another that is equally great;
inasmuch as hereby it does not appear to be contrary to the law of
nature; and therefore I would rather chuse to take another method to
solve it, viz. that many bad actions of good men are recorded in
scripture, but not approved of, nor proposed for our imitation. Of this
kind I must conclude the polygamy and concubinage of several holy men,
mentioned in scripture, to have been. And that it may appear that this
practice was not justifiable, let it be observed,

(1.) That, some sin or other is often expressly mentioned, as the
occasion hereof. Thus Abraham’s taking Hagar, was occasioned by Sarah’s
unbelief; because the promise of her having a son was not immediately
fulfilled, Gen. xvi. 1, 2. And Jacob’s taking Rachel to wife after Leah,
and his own discontent arising from it, was occasioned by Laban’s unjust
dealing with him, and his going in unto Bilhah, was occasioned by
Rachel’s unreasonable desire of children; and his taking Zilpah, by
Leah’s ambitious desire of having pre-eminence over Rachel, by the
number of her children, chap. xxix, and xxx.

(2.) This was generally attended with the breach of that peace, which is
so desirable a blessing in families, and many disorders that ensued
hereupon. Accordingly, we read of an irreconcilable quarrel that there
was between Sarah and Hagar; and Ishmael’s hatred of Isaac, which the
apostle calls _persecution_, Gal. iv. 39. And to this we may add, the
contentions that were in Jacob’s family, and the envy expressed by the
children of one of his wives, against those of another; and the
opposition which one wife often expressed to another as that of
Peninnah, one of the wives of Elkanah, to Hannah, the other. Therefore
we must conclude, that Isaac’s example is rather to be followed in this
matter, who had but one wife, and he loved her better than many of the
patriarch’s did theirs; whose love was divided among several.

_Object._ 1. If polygamy was a sin against the light of nature, it is
strange, that it should be committed by good men; and, that they should
live and die without repenting of it, nor be, in the least, reproved for
it; as we do not find that they were, in scripture.

_Answ._ It was indeed, a sin, which they might have known to be so, had
they duly considered it, in all its circumstances and consequences; but
this they did not; and therefore it was not so great a sin in them, as
it would be in us, who have clearer discoveries of the heinous nature of
it. Therefore, if we suppose they repented of all sin agreeably to the
light they had, they might be saved; and this, though unrepented of, was
no bar to their salvation, supposing they knew it not to be a sin; and
God’s not having explicitly reproved them for it, argues only his
forbearance, but not his approbation of it.

_Object._ 2. It is farther objected, that God says, by Nathan, to David,
_I gave thee thy master’s wives into thy bosom_, 2 Sam. xii. 8.
therefore, that which God gives, it is not unlawful for man to receive.

_Answ._ The meaning of that scripture in general, is, that God made him
king; and then, according to the custom of the eastern kings, he took
possession of what belonged to his predecessor, and consequently of his
wives. Therefore God might be said to give David Saul’s wives
providentially, in giving him the kingdom; so that they were his
property, that he might take them for his own, according to custom, if
he was inclined so to do. And this the kings of Judah generally did;
though it does not follow from hence that God approved of it; in like
manner as tyrants may be said to be raised up by God’s providence and
permission; nevertheless, he does not approve of their tyranny.

All that we shall add, under this head, to what has been suggested,
concerning the disorders that polygamy has occasioned in families, is,
that it is contrary to the first institution of marriage. God created
but one woman as an help-meet for Adam; though, if ever there were any
pretence for the necessity of one man’s having more wives, it must have
been in that instance, in which it seemed necessary for the increase of
the world; but he rather chose that mankind should be propagated by
slower advances, than to give the least dispensation, or indulgence to
polygamy, as being contrary to the law of nature, Gen. ii. 22,-24. And
the prophet, in Mal. ii. 15. takes notice of God’s _making but one_;
though he had _the residue of the Spirit_; and therefore could have
given Adam more wives than one. And the reason assigned for this was,
that _he might seek a godly seed_, i. e. that the children that should
be born of many wives, might not be the result of the ungodly practice
of their father, as it would be, were this contrary to the law of
nature; which we suppose it to be. This I rather understand by _a godly
seed_, and not that the character of _godly_ refers to the children; for
these could not be said to be godly, or ungodly, as the consequence of
their parents having one or more wives.

There is one scripture more that I cannot wholly pass over, which, to
me, seems a plain prohibition of polygamy, in Levit. xviii. 18. _Thou
shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her
nakedness, besides the other in her life-time._ This respects either
incest or polygamy; one of which must be meant by _taking a wife to her
sister_. Now it cannot be a prohibition of incest; because it is said,
_Thou shalt not_ do it _in her life-time_; which plainly intimates, that
it might be done after her death. Whereas it is certainly contrary to
the law of God and nature, for a person to take his wife’s sister after
her decease, as well as in her life-time. Therefore the meaning is, Thou
shalt not take another wife to her whom thou hast married; by which
means they will become sisters. And here is another reason assigned
hereof, _viz._ the envy, jealousy, and vexation that would attend such a
practice, as the taking another wife would be a means of vexing, or
making her uneasy. And therefore the sense is, as is observed in the
marginal reading; _Thou shalt not take one wife to another_; or, Thou
shalt not have more wives than one. This is a plain prohibition of this
sin; but whether some holy men, in following ages, understood the
meaning of this law, may be questioned; and therefore they were not
sensible of the guilt they hereby contracted. Thus we have considered
some of the sins forbidden in this Commandment. Every particular
instance of the breach hereof, would exceed our intended brevity, on the
subject we are treating of. Therefore,

We shall proceed to consider the aggravations, more especially, of the
sins of fornication and adultery; which may also with just reason, be
applied to all other unnatural lusts; which have been before considered
as a breach of this Commandment. And,

[1.] They are opposite to sanctification, even as darkness is to light,
hell to heaven; thus the apostle opposes fornication and uncleanness, to
it, 1 Thes. iv. 3, 7.

[2.] These sins are inconsistent with that relation, we pretend to stand
in, to Christ, as members of his body; inasmuch as we join ourselves in
a confederacy with his profligate enemies, 1 Cor. vi. 15, 16. And to
this we may add, that they are a dishonour to, and a defilement of our
own bodies, which ought to be the temples of the Holy Ghost, and
therefore should be consecrated to him.

[3.] They bring guilt and ruin on two persons at once, as well as a blot
and stain on each of their families, and a wound to religion by those
who make any profession of it, as it _gives occasion to the enemies of
the Lord to blaspheme_, Prov. vi. 33. 2 Sam. xii. 14.

[4.] They bring with them many other sins; as they tend to vitiate the
affections, deprave the mind, defile the conscience, and provoke God to
give persons up to spiritual judgments, which will end in their running
into all excess of riot.

And to this we may add, that many sad consequences will ensue on the
commission of these sins; as they tend to blast and ruin their substance
in the world, Job xxxi. 9, 11, 12. debase and stupify the soul, and
deprive it of wisdom, Hos. iv. 11. Prov. vi. 32. chap. vii. 22. wound
the conscience, and expose the person who is guilty hereof, to the
utmost hazard of perishing for ever, chap. vi. 33. chap. vii. 13, 19,
26, 27. And if God is pleased to give him repentance, it will be
attended with great bitterness, Eccl. vii. 26.

II. We are now to consider the occasion of these sins to be avoided by
those who would not break this Commandment, and these are,

1. Intemperance, or excess in eating or drinking; the former of which is
a making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; the
latter confounds and buries the little reason a person was master of,
and makes him an easy prey to temptation. This was Lot’s case, who kept
his integrity in Sodom; yet being made drunk by his daughters in Zoar,
he committed the abominable sin of incest with them, Gen. xix. 31.

2. Idleness, consisting either in the neglect of business, or indulging
too much sleep, which occasions many temptations. Thus David first gave
way to sloth, and then was tempted to uncleanness; and it is observed,
that _at the time when kings go forth to battle_, 2 Sam. xi. 1, 2. and
he ought to have been with his army in the field, he tarried at
Jerusalem, and slept in the middle of the day; for _in the evening tide
he arose from off his bed_; And the heinous sin he was guilty of, which
was the greatest blemish in his life, ensued hereupon.

3. Pride in apparel, or other ornaments, beyond the bounds of modesty,
or for other ends than what God, when he clothed man at first, intended;
when our attire is inconsistent with our circumstances in the world, or
the character of persons professing godliness: This God reproves the
Jews for, when grown very degenerate, and near to ruin, Isa. iii. 16,
_&c._ _seq._ And Jezebel, when Jehu came in quest of her, _painted her
face, and tired her head_; but this did not prevent his executing God’s
righteous judgments upon her. All these things are mentioned as the sins
for which Sodom was infamous; and gave occasion to those other
abominations, which provoked God to destroy them, Ezek. xvi. 49. And to
this we may add,

4. Keeping evil company: Thus it is said of the lewd woman, _she hath
cast down many wounded_, Prov. vii. 26. This will hasten our own ruin;
especially if we associate ourselves with such persons out of choice:
for it is a sign that our hearts are exceedingly depraved and alienated
from God: Nevertheless, if Providence cast our lot amongst bad company,
we may escape that guilt and defilement, which would otherwise ensue, if
we bear our testimony against their sin, and are _grieved_ for it, as
Lot was for the filthy conversation of the Sodomites, among whom he
dwelt, 2 Pet. ii. 7, 8. Moreover, the frequenting those places where
there are mixed dancing, masquerades, stage-plays, _&c._ which tend to
corrupt the principles and practices, and seldom fail of defiling the
consciences, and manners of those who attend on them: These are
nurseries of vice, and give occasion to this sin, and many others, Prov.
vi. 27, compared with 32.

As for the remedies against it, these are, an exercising a constant
watchfulness against all temptations thereunto, chap. viii. 9. avoiding
all conversation with men or books which tend to corrupt the mind, and
fill it with levity, under a pretence of improving it: But more
especially a retaining a constant sense of God’s all-seeing eye, his
infinite purity and vindictive justice, which will induce us to say as
Joseph did, in the like case, _How can I do this great wickedness and
sin against God_, Gen. xxxix. 9.[2]

Footnote 1:

  _Vid. Grot. de jur. bell. & pacis, Lib. ii. cap. v. § 9._

Footnote 2:

  The Theatre is said to have commenced at Athens, but to have been so
  much disapproved of, both in Greece and at Rome, that it was allowed
  no permanency till the days of Pompey. Minutius Felix derided the
  Christians for abstaining from this amusement. It is not probable
  therefore that the first Christians required any reproof in any of the
  Epistles for this vice. But every abuse of it may find its correction
  in scripture. Morals and piety may be thrown into Dialogue without
  reasonable objection. But to turn these things into play, and the
  amusement of the reprobate, cannot be justified.—There is no fairness
  in arguing from what they might be, to prove the lawfulness of plays
  in the state in which they are, always have been, and will probably
  always be. That they are, and tend to evil is proved by the avidity
  with which they are frequented by even the worst members of society.
  They are calculated to excite the affections and passions in the
  highest manner, and so to render private happiness, domestic
  enjoyments, and religious observances insipid or disgusting. The
  reiteration of scenes of impurity, illicit amours, extravagant
  passions, jealousy, and revenge, will make a silent and secret
  impression upon the mind, and if they do not promote the same
  wickedness, they will at least render the mind less abhorrent of such
  crimes. True religion requires the exclusion of such imaginations, the
  immediate banishment of such thoughts, that we should mortify and deny
  ourselves; “_Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God._”
  The cruelty and bloodshed frequently threatened, or resorted to in
  defence of false honour; the pomp, pride, and ambition not
  unfrequently exhibited upon the stage, must necessarily prompt to like
  feats in vindication of character, or at least lead to self-importance
  and fastidiousness; but the gospel teaches humility, self-denial,
  lowliness of mind; “_Blessed are the poor in spirit._” When such
  representations please, they prove the mind corrupt, and become an
  index of the morals of those who are entertained with such spectacles.
  The Christian duties of meekness, silence, forbearance, humility,
  bearing the cross, faith, and repentance, are either incapable of
  being transferred to the stage, or if seen there are exposed to
  contempt, and ridicule. The addresses to Deity, and prayers there
  offered, are surely Heaven-provoking blasphemies. The Theatre
  interrupts religious, domestic, and public duties; it dissipates and
  fascinates the mind; weakens conscience, grieves the Holy Spirit,
  wastes property, and time; and unqualifies both for this, and the
  world to come.

  Every one who attends is chargeable with the evil which obtains before
  him, for he goes voluntarily, he submits himself as to the matter of
  his amusement to others, and thus with the blessings of Providence,
  bribes the enemies of God to blaspheme him.

  Some men of character for morals have countenanced, and some have
  written for the stage, perhaps they calculated upon what it might be,
  and aimed to correct the evil by drawing to it the more respectable of
  society. But the great majority of men are enemies to God, these will
  only be pleased with evil, and their pleasure will always be sought,
  because interest will compel to this. This is therefore doing evil
  that good may come; if indeed it can under any circumstances be good,
  to turn even correct performances, if such there were, into publick

  After all there can be no hope of a total removal of this evil, yet we
  are on this account no more excused from bearing testimony against it,
  than from opposing other crimes which cannot be wholly prevented.

                           Quest. CXL., CXLI.

    QUEST. CXL. _Which is the eighth Commandment?_

    ANSW. The eighth Commandment is, [_Thou shalt not steal._]

    QUEST. CXLI. _What are the duties required in the eighth

    ANSW. The duties required in the eighth Commandment are, truth,
    faithfulness, and justice in contracts, and commerce between man and
    man; rendering to every one his due; restitution of goods unlawfully
    detained from the right owners thereof; giving, and lending freely,
    according to our abilities, and the necessities of others;
    moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections, concerning
    worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and
    dispose those things which are necessary and convenient for the
    sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful
    calling, and diligence in it; frugality, avoiding unnecessary
    law-suits, and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an
    endeavour, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and
    further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

This Commandment supposes, that God has given to every one a certain
portion of the good things of this world, that he may lay claim to as
his own; which no other has a right to. The general scope and design
thereof, is to put us upon using endeavours to promote our own and our
neighbour’s wealth and outward estate. As to what concerns ourselves, it
respects the government of our affections, and setting due bounds to our
desires of worldly things, that they may not exceed what the good
providence of God has allotted for us, in order to our comfortable
passage through this world. Thus Agar prays, _Give me neither poverty
nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me_, Prov. xxx. 8.

As to what respects our endeavours to gain the world; it requires a due
care and diligence, to get, and keep a competency thereof; that we may
not, through our own default, expose ourselves to those straits and
necessities which are the consequence of sloth and negligence, chap.
xxiii. 21. chap. xxiv. 30, 31. God may, indeed, give estates to some
without any pains, or care to get them, Deut. vi. 10, 11. yet, even in
this case, sloth is a sin which brings with it many hurtful lusts, that
render riches a snare, and hindrance to their spiritual welfare:
Therefore they, who are in prosperous circumstances in the world, ought
not to lay aside all care and industry to improve, what they have to the
glory of God. But, on the other hand, they who are in a low condition,
ought to use a provident care and diligence, in order to their having a
comfortable subsistence therein. Accordingly this Commandment obliges us
to use all lawful endeavours to promote our own and our neighbour’s
wealth, and outward estate.

I. To promote our own wealth and estate. This we are to do,

1. By frugality in our expences, avoiding profuseness; and that, either
in giving away our substance to unfit objects, to wit, those who are in
better circumstances than ourselves, who ought to be givers rather than
receivers, Prov. xxii. 16. or else in making large contributions to
support a bad cause, and in consuming our substance on our lusts.
Likewise when we are unwarily profuse in those expences, which would be
otherwise lawful, did they not exceed our circumstances or income in the
world, which contains a disregard of the future estate of our families,
and taking a method to reduce ourselves and them to poverty, 1 Tim. v.
8. Or, if our circumstances will admit of large expenses; yet, to abound
therein, merely out of ostentation, and at the same time, to withhold
our liberality from the poor is inconsistent with frugality.

2. We ought also to be diligent, and industrious in our calling; and, in
order thereunto,

(1.) We are wisely to make choice of such a calling, in which we may
glorify God, and expect his blessing, in order to the promoting our
wealth and outward estate; therefore that business is to be chosen which
we are most capable of managing, and has in itself the fewest
temptations attending it; especially such wherein the conscience is not
burdened by unlawful oaths, or prostituting solemn ordinances, not
designed by Christ as a qualification for them. Moreover, we are not to
choose those callings wherein the gain is obtained by oppression or
extortion, and which cannot be managed without danger of sinning; which
will bring the blast of providence on all our undertakings. Therefore we
are earnestly to desire God’s direction in this weighty concern, as well
as depend on him for success therein, Eccl. ix. 11. Deut. viii. 18.

(2.) When we have made choice of a lawful calling, we are to manage it
in such a way, that we may expect the blessing of God, in order to the
promoting our wealth and outward estate. Accordingly,

[1.] Let us pursue and manage it with right and warrantable ends, to
wit, the glory of God; and, in subordination thereunto, our providing
for ourselves and families, that we may be in a capacity of doing good
to others, and serving the interest of Christ in our day and generation.

[2.] Let us take heed that our secular employments do not rob God of
that time, which ought to be devoted to his worship; and that our hearts
be not alienated from him, so that while we are labouring for the world,
we should live without God therein.

[3.] Let us take heed that we do not launch out too far, or run too
great hazards in trade, resolving that we will be suddenly rich or poor,
which may tend to the ruin of our own families, as well as others, 1
Tim. vi. 9.

[4.] Let us bear disappointments in our callings, with patience and
submission to the will of God, without murmuring or repining at his wise
and sovereign dispensations of providence herein.

II. This Commandment obliges us to promote the wealth and outward estate
of our neighbour. This we are to do, by exercising strict justice in our
contracts and dealings with all men; and by relieving the wants and
necessities of those who stand in need of our charity.

1. As to what respects the exercise of justice in our dealings.

(1.) We must take heed, that we do not exact upon, or take unreasonable
profit of those whom we deal with, arising from the ignorance of some,
and the necessities of others, Jer. iii. 15. Neither, must we use any
methods to supplant and ruin others, against the laws of trade, by
selling goods at a cheaper rate than any one can afford them, thereby
doing damage to ourselves with a design to ruin them, who are less able
to bear such a loss.

(2.) Those goods, which we know to be faulty, are not, by false arts, or
deceitful words, to be sold, as though they were not so, Amos viii. 6.
And, on the other hand, the buyer is not to take advantage of the
ignorance of the seller, as it sometimes happens; neither is he to
pretend that it is worth less than he really thinks it to be, Prov. xx.

(3.) Nothing is to be diminished in weight or measure, from what was
bought, worse goods to be delivered than what were purchased, Amos vii.
5. nor the _balances to be falsified by deceit_, Deut. xxv. 13, 14, 15.

2. We are to promote the good of our poor distressed neighbour, in works
of charity; and that not only by inward sympathy, or bowels of
compassion towards him; but according to our ability, by relieving him.
To induce us hereunto, let us consider, that outward good things are
talents given us, with this view, that hereby we may be in a capacity of
helping others, as well as be needing help ourselves. And when we do
this, we may be said to improve what we have received from God, as those
who are accountable to him for it, and testify our gratitude to him for
outward blessings. It may also be considered, that Christ takes such
acts of kindness, when proceeding from an unfeigned love to him, as done
to himself, Matt. xxv. 40. Prov. xix. 17. And, to this we may add, that
there are many special motives, taken from the objects of our charity,
namely, the pressing necessities of some, the excelling holiness of
others; and, in some instances, we may consider, that, by an act of
charity, whereby we relieve one, we do good to many; or the tendency
that this may have to promote the interest of Christ in general, when we
relieve those that suffer for the sake of the gospel. This leads us to

(1.) Of whom works of charity are required. If this be duly weighed, we
shall find, that scarce any are exempted from this duty, except it be
those of whom it may be said, there are none poorer than themselves, or
who have no more than what is absolutely necessary to support their
families, or such as are labouring hard, to spare out of their necessary
expenses, what will but just serve to pay their debts; or they who are
reduced to such straits as to depend upon others, so that they can call
nothing they have their own.

Nevertheless, this duty is incumbent;

[1.] On the rich, out of their abundance.

[2.] On those who are in middle circumstances in the world, who have a
sufficiency to lay out in superfluous expenses: And,

[3.] Even the poor ought to give a small testimony of their gratitude to
God, by sparing a little, if they can, out of what they get in the
world, for those who are poorer than themselves; which, if it be but a
few mites, it may be an acceptable sacrifice to God, Luke xxi. 2, 4.
and, if persons have nothing before hand in the world, they ought to
work for this end, as well as to maintain themselves and families, Eph.
iv. 28.

(2.) We are now to consider, who are to be reckoned objects of our
charity. To which it may be answered; Not the rich, who stand in no need
of it, from whom we may expect a sufficient requital, Luke xiv. 12, 13,
14. nor those who are strong and healthy, but yet make a trade of
begging, because it is an idle and sometimes a profitable way of living,
2 Thess. iii. 10-12. But such are to be relieved, who are not able to
work; especially if they were not reduced to poverty by their own sloth
and negligence, but by the providence of God not succeeding their
endeavours; and if, while they were able, they were ready to all works
of charity themselves, 1 Tim. v. 10. and to these we may add, such who
are related to us, either in the bonds of nature, or in a spiritual
sense, Gal. vi. 10. This leads us to enquire,

(3.) What part, or proportion of our substance, we are to apply to
charitable uses? In answer to this, let it be considered, that the
circumstances of persons in the world being so various, as well as their
necessary occasions for extraordinary expenses, it is impossible to give
a general rule, to be observed by all. However, it must be premised,

[1.] That our present contributions, ought not to preclude all thoughts,
about laying up for ourselves or families, for time to come.

[2.] Whatever proportion we give of our gain in the world, some
abatements may reasonably be made for losses in trade; especially if
what we give was not determined, or laid aside, for that use before the
loss happened. As to what may farther be observed concerning this
matter, it ought to be left to the impartial determination of every one,
who is to act, as being sensible that he is accountable to God herein.
The apostle lays down one general rule; _Every man, according as he
purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of
necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver_, 2 Cor. ix. 7. But though we
pretend not to determine the exact proportion which ought to be given,
_viz._ whether it be a tenth part of their profits, or more, or less;
yet it is highly reasonable, that every one should contribute as much in
works of charity, as he lays out in mere superfluities; or, at least,
spare a part out of his superfluous expenses, for charitable uses. And
there are some occasions which may call for large contributions. Thus
_the churches in Macedonia_ are commended, not only for their _giving
according to_, but _beyond their power_, chap. viii. 1, 2, 3. _Three_
things may be here considered,

_1st_, The extreme necessities of those whom we are bound to take care
of; and, sometimes, the distressed circumstances of the church of God,
in general, require larger contributions than ordinary; which was the
occasion of the Command mentioned by our Saviour, of selling all, and
giving to the poor, which was put in practice in the infancy of the
church, or the first planting of the gospel, at Jerusalem.

_2dly_, Extraordinary instances of the kindness of God, in prospering
us, either in worldly or spiritual concerns, beyond our expectation,
call for extraordinary expressions of gratitude to God, in laying by for
the poor, 1 Cor. xvi. 2.

_3dly_, When we have committed great sins, or are under very humbling
providences, whether personal or national, as being exposed to, or
fearing the judgments of God, which seem to be approaching; this calls
for deep humiliation, and, together therewith, proportionable acts of

(4.) We are now to consider, with what frame of spirit works of charity
are to be performed? To which, it may be answered, that they are to be
performed prudently, as our own circumstances will permit, and the
necessity of the object requires; also seasonably, not putting this duty
off till another time, when the necessities of those, whom we are bound
to relieve, call for present assistance, Prov. ii. 28. It is also to be
done secretly, as not desiring to be seen of men, or commended by them
for it, Matt. vi. 3, 4, and cheerfully, 2 Cor. ix. 7. also with
tenderness and compassion to those whose necessities call for relief, as
considering how soon God can reduce us to the same extremity which they
are exposed to, who are the objects of our charity. It ought to be done
likewise with thankfulness to God, that has made us givers, rather than
receivers, Acts x. 35. and, as a testimony of our love to Christ,
especially when we contribute to the necessities of his members, Matt.
x. 42.

                             Quest. CXLII.

    QUEST. CXLII. _What are the sins forbidden in the eighth

    ANSW. The sins forbidden in the eighth Commandment, besides the
    neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing,
    and receiving any thing that is stolen, fraudulent dealing, false
    weights and measures, removing landmarks, injustice and
    unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of
    trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious law-suits,
    unjust inclosures, and depopulations; ingrossing commodities to
    enhance the price, unlawful callings, and all other unjust, or
    sinful ways of taking, or withholding from our neighbour what
    belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves. Covetousness, inordinate
    prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting
    cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them, envying at
    the prosperity of others. As likewise idleness, prodigality,
    wasteful gaming, and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice
    our own outward estate; and defrauding ourselves of the due use and
    comfort of that estate which God hath given us.

This Commandment forbids, in general all kind of theft; and may include
in it that which is very seldom called by this name, to wit, the robbing
of ourselves and families; which we may be said to do, by neglecting our
worldly calling, or by the imprudent management thereof. Also, by
lending larger sums of money than our circumstances will well bear, to
those who are never like to pay it again; or, which is in effect the
same, by being surety for such. Moreover we rob ourselves and families,
by being profuse and excessive in our expenses; and by consuming what we
have, while pursuing our pleasures more than business; or by gaming,
whereby we run the risque of losing part of our substance, and thereby
reducing ourselves, or others, to poverty. On the other hand, we rob
ourselves and families, when, out of a design to lay up a great deal for
the time to come, we deprive ourselves and them, of the common
necessaries of life, which is, in effect, to starve for the present, to
prevent our starving for the future. But, passing this by, we shall
consider this Commandment more especially, as it respects our defrauding
others; and this is done,

I. By taking away any part of their wealth, or worldly substance. This
is generally known by the name of theft, and that, with the greatest
severity, in proportion to its aggravations; and they who are guilty of
it, are, without repentance, excluded from the kingdom of God, 1 Cor.
vi. 9, 10. However, let it be considered, that every kind of theft does
not deserve an equal degree of punishment from men; for sometimes hereby
the owner of what was stolen, receives but little damage; though in this
case, some punishment, short of death, ought to be inflicted, to reform
the wicked person, and deter him from going on in the breach of this
Commandment, from less to greater sins.

By the law of God, a simple theft was punished with restitution of
double, and sometimes, four times as much as the damage amounted to,
which was sustained thereby, Exod. xxii. 1, 4, 7. Yet, in other cases,
the theft was punished with death, when it had in it some circumstances
that aggravated it in an uncommon degree; as if an house, which ought to
be reckoned a man’s castle, be broke open, and that, in the night-time,
when he is in no condition of defending himself, or his worldly
substance. In this case the law is not unjust, that punishes the thief
with death; and this is supposed in that law which says, that he that
kills such an one who _breaks up_ his neighbour’s house by night, shall
have _no blood shed for him_, ver. 2. But, in other instances,
confinement, and hard labour, may be as effectual a way to put a stop to
this sin; and is rather to be chosen than punishment with death. Thus
concerning this Commandment, as broken by theft.

II. It is farther broken, by unfaithfulness, or breach of trust; whether
the trust he devolved on us by nature, as that of parents towards their
children; or by contract, as that of servants, who are entrusted with
the goods and secrets of their masters; or, that which is founded in the
desire and request of those who constitute persons executors to their
wills, or guardians to orphans, under age, provided they accept of this
trust; I say, if these violate their trust, by embezzling or squandering
away the substance of others, defrauding them, to enrich themselves.
This is not only theft, but perfidiousness, and highly provoking to God;
and deserves a more severe punishment from men, than is usually

III. This Commandment may be said to be broken, by borrowing, and not
paying just debts; as the Psalmist says, _The wicked borroweth and
payeth not again_, Psal. xxxvii. 21. Nevertheless, there are some cases
in which a man is not guilty hereof, though he borrows and does not pay,
_viz._ If, when he borrowed, there was a probability of his being able
to repay it; or otherwise, if he discovered his circumstances fully to
him, of whom he borrowed, to whom it would hereby appear, whether there
was any likelihood of paying him or not; or if he gave full conviction,
when he borrowed, that he was able to pay, but the providence of God,
without his own default, has rendered him unable; in this case mercy is
to be shewn him, and he is not to be reckoned a breaker of this
Commandment. However, a person is guilty of the breach hereof, in
borrowing, and not paying debts.

1. If the borrower pretends his circumstances to be better than they
are, and so makes the lender believe, that, in a limited time, he shall
be able to repay him; when, in his own conscience, he apprehends that
there is no probability hereof.

2. When a person was in such circumstances at the time of his borrowing,
that by industry in his calling, he might be able to pay the creditor;
but, by neglect of business, or embezzling his substance, he renders
himself unable to pay, such an one is chargeable with the breach of this

3. If pity be shewn, by compounding for a part, instead of the whole
debt, in case of present insolvency; though the debtor, in form of law,
be discharged, with the creditor’s consent; yet the law of God and
nature, obliges him to pay the whole debt, if providence makes him able
hereafter; or else he can hardly be excused from the breach of this

This leads us to enquire, what judgment we may pass on the Israelites
_borrowing of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold_; which
we read of in Exod. xii. 35. whether they were herein guilty of the
breach of this Commandment.

_Answ._ The word[3] which we render _borrowed_, might as well be
rendered _asked_, or _demanded_. And so we must suppose, that the
Egyptians were so desirous that the Israelites should be gone,
apprehending, that if they continued, they were all dead men, that they
might have of them whatever they demanded, as necessary for this
expedition; and, if they came back again, as they supposed they should,
they would be obliged to return them. If this be the sense of the Hebrew
word, there is no difficulty in the text, nor any appearance of the
breach of this Commandment.

But since the sense of the word is indeterminate, signifying to
_demand_, as well as to _borrow_, as was before observed, God’s order
imports the former; though they might understand it in the latter, as
denoting a borrowing with a design to restore. Therefore, let it be

(1.) That they did this by God’s command, who has a right to take away
the goods that one possesses, if he pleases, and give them to another;
for he takes away nothing but his own. Now, that they had his warrant
for borrowing or demanding these things of the Egyptians, appears from
the second verse.

(2.) The reason why God ordered them to do this, if we look beyond his
absolute sovereignty, was, because the Israelites deserved them as
wages, for their hard service; and this might be reckoned a reward of
the good offices that Joseph had done to that kingdom; which had been
long since forgotten.

(3.) As to what concerns the Israelites, it is probable, they expected
nothing else but to return again, and restore to the owners what they
had borrowed of them, after they had sacrificed to God in the
wilderness; at least, they were wholly passive, and disposed to follow
the divine conduct, by the hand of Moses. And when they were in the
wilderness, they could not restore what they had borrowed, since the
owners thereof, as is more than probable, were drowned in the Red Sea,
whose revenge and covetousness, as well as Pharaoh’s orders, prompted
them to follow them. Or if some of the owners might have been heard of,
as yet surviving, their right to what was borrowed of them, was
forfeited, by reason of the hostile pursuit of Pharaoh and his hosts,
which put them into a state of war.

This may lead us farther to enquire, what judgment we may pass on the
many ravages and plunders that are generally made by armies engaged in
war; whether they may be reckoned a breach of this Commandment? And,

[1.] It is beyond dispute, that, if the war be unjust, as all the blood
that is shed, is murder, or a breach of the sixth Commandment; so all
the damage that is done by burning of houses, or taking away the goods
of those against whom it is carried on, is a breach of this Commandment.

[2.] If we suppose the war to be just, and the damage done only to those
who are immediately concerned in it, and that it is an expedient to
procure peace; it is unquestionably lawful, and no breach of this
Commandment. Thus when the Israelites were commanded to destroy the
inhabitants of the land of Canaan, as criminals, they were admitted to
seize on the spoil of other nations, who were remote from them, Deut.
xx. 14, 15. when conquered by them.

[3.] As for those plunders and robberies which are committed on private
persons, who are not concerned in the war any otherwise than as subjects
of the government, against which it is undertaken; and especially, if
their loss has no direct tendency to procure peace; this can hardly be
justified from being a breach of this Commandment.

IV. This Commandment is also broken by oppression; whereby the rich may
be said to rob, and even swallow up the poor, Psal. xiv. 4. Psal. x. 9.
Micah iii. 2, 3. Now there are various ways by which persons may be said
to oppress others.

1. By engrossing those goods which are necessary for food or clothing,
thereby to enhance the price thereof, whereby the poor are brought into
great extremities.

2. When persons enrich themselves out of the unmerciful labour exacted
of their servants, whom they will hardly suffer to live, to eat the just
reward of their service. Such a master was Laban to Jacob, Gen. xxxi.
41, 42.

3. When landlords turn their tenants out of their houses or farms, when
they find that they get a comfortable subsistence by their industry,
taking occasion from thence, to raise their rent, in proportion to the
success God gives them therein.

4. When the rich make the poor suffer by long delays, to pay their
debts, that they may gain advantage by the improvement of that money
which they ought to have paid them.

V. A person may be said to break this Commandment, by engaging in unjust
and vexatious law-suits. However, it is to be owned, that going to law
is not, at all times, unjust; for it is sometimes a relief against
oppression; and it is agreeable to the law of nature for every one to
defend his just rights; and for this reason God appointed judges, (to
determine such-like causes) to whom the people were to have recourse,
that they might _shew them the sentence of judgment_, Deut. xvii. 8, 9.
Nevertheless, we must sometimes conclude law-suits to be oppressive; as,

1. When the rich make use of the law, to prevent, or prolong the payment
of their debts, or to take away the rights of the poor, who, as they
suppose, will rather suffer injuries than attempt to defend themselves.

2. When bribes are either given or taken, with a design to pervert
justice, 1 Sam. viii. 2. And to this we may add, that the person who
pleads an unrighteous cause, concealing the known truth, perverting the
sense of the law, or alleging that for law or fact, which he knows not
to be so; and the judge who passes sentence against his conscience,
respecting the person of the rich, and brow-beating the poor; these are
all confederates in oppression; and such methods of proceeding, are
beyond dispute, a breach of this Commandment.

_Obj._ Our Saviour forbids going to law, though it were to recover our
just rights; when he says, _If any man will sue thee at the law, and
take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also_, Matt. v. 40.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied; that some things may be omitted for
prudential reasons, which would not otherwise be unlawful to be done.
Our Saviour does not forbid using our endeavours, in a legal way, to
recover our right in all cases; but more especially at that time, when
his followers could hardly expect to meet with justice. And, it may be,
they were oppressed by fines, or distress, laid on them, for their
embracing Christianity; in this case he advises them, patiently to bear
injuries, when they could hardly expect relief from their unjust judges.

VI. This Commandment is broken by extortion, or oppressive usury. Thus
it is said of the righteous man, _He putteth not out his money to
usury_, Psal. xv. 5. The word[4] signifies _biting_ usury; which is,
beyond dispute, unlawful. We have elsewhere considered in what cases the
Israelites might take usury, and when not[5]. And, upon the whole, it is
certainly unlawful, to exact more than the legal rate or worth of the
loan of money; or to exact any usury of the poor; especially for that
which was borrowed to supply them with the necessaries of life.

Having considered in what instances this Commandment is broken, we
proceed to shew, what a person ought to do, who has been guilty of the
breach thereof, in any of the forementioned instances, in order to his
making restitution for the injuries he has done to his neighbour. This
ought always to attend the exercise of sincere repentance in those who
have been guilty of this sin, of which we have an instance in Zaccheus,
Luke xix. 8. and the neglect hereof will be like a worm at the root of
ill gotten estates, and will be little better than a continual theft.

_Obj._ 1. To this it is objected, that this may be a prejudice to our
reputation, by making our crime public, which before was only known to

_Answ._ To this it may be replied;

1. That, what we do in this matter, is not really a reproach, but an
honour; and it is hardly to be supposed, that he, to whom we perform so
just and unexpected a duty, will be so barbarous as to divulge or
improve this against us, to our disadvantage.

2. There are private ways of retaliation, whereby the injured party may
receive what is sent to him, in a way of restitution, and not know from
whom it comes; or, good turns may be done to him, in a way of
compensation for the damages he has received, and he not know, that they
are done with this design; and, by this means, we disburden our
consciences, perform a necessary duty, and, at the same time, prevent
the supposed ill-consequences that might attend it.

_Obj._ 2. It is farther objected, that sometimes the making restitution
is impracticable; as when the person injured is dead, and we know of
none that has a right to receive it. And sometimes we may have been
guilty of so many instances of fraud and oppression, and, that to such a
great number of persons, that it is next to impossible, to make

_Answ._ To this it may be replied; that when it is impossible for us to
make restitution to those whom we have injured; or, when we know of none
that survive them, who have a right to receive it, the best expedient, I
apprehend, we can make use of, is, to give it to the poor; for, since it
is not, in justice, our own, we do, as it were, hereby give it to the
Lord, who is the original proprietor of all things.

Footnote 3:

  _The Hebrew word_ שאל _which is here used, does not only signify_
  commodavit, _or_ usui dedit, _or_ accepit, _but_ petiit, _or_
  postulavit; _in the last of which senses it is to be understood, in_
  Deut. x. 12. What doth the Lord require or demand of thee, &c. _And
  in_ Judges v. 25. _where the same word is used, it is said, that_
  Sisera asked water of Jael; _not as one that was borrowing it of her,
  but as a gratuity for former kindness which he had shewn to her_.

Footnote 4:

  _From נשך, momordit._

Footnote 5:

  _See 3 vol. p. 422._

                     Quest. CXLIII., CXLIV., CXLV.

    QUEST. CXLIII. _What is the ninth Commandment?_

    ANSW. The ninth Commandment is, [_Thou shalt not bear false witness
    against thy neighbour_.]

    QUEST. CXLIV. _What are the duties required in the ninth

    ANSW. The duties required in the ninth Commandment are, the
    preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good
    name of our neighbour as well as our own. Appearing, and standing
    for, and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully,
    speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and
    justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of
    our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name,
    sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely
    acknowledging their gifts and graces; defending their innocency; a
    ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit an evil
    report concerning them, discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and
    slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it
    when need requireth, keeping of lawful promises, studying and
    practising of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of
    good report.

    QUEST. CXLV. _What are the sins forbidden in the ninth Commandment?_

    ANSW. The sins forbidden in the ninth Commandment, are, all
    prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours as well
    as our own, especially in public judicature, giving false evidence,
    suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an
    evil cause, out-facing and over-bearing the truth, passing unjust
    sentence, calling evil good, and good evil, rewarding the wicked
    according to the work of the righteous; and the righteous according
    to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue
    silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth
    for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others;
    speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or
    perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal
    expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice, speaking untruth,
    lying, slandering, back-biting, detracting, tale-bearing,
    whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial, censuring,
    misconstruing intentions, words, and actions, flattering,
    vain-glorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too
    meanly of ourselves or others, denying the gifts and graces of God,
    aggravating smaller faults, hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins
    when called to a free confession, unnecessary discovering of
    infirmities, raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil
    reports, and stopping our ears against just defence, evil suspicion,
    envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or
    desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy,
    scornful contempt, fond admiration, breach of lawful promises,
    neglecting such things as are of good report, and practising or not
    avoiding ourselves or not hindering, what we can in others, such
    things as procure an ill name.

In this Commandment we are to consider,

I. What are the duties required? These are,

1. Our endeavouring to promote truth in all we say or do; and that, as
to what either concerns ourselves, or others. As to what concerns
ourselves, we are to fence against every thing that savours of deceit or
hypocrisy; and, in our whole conversation, endeavour to be what we
pretend to be; or to speak nothing but what we know, or believe to be
true, upon good evidence, the contrary whereunto is lying. As to what
concerns others, we must not neglect to reprove sin in them, how much
soever our worldly interest may lie at stake. Thus Azariah reproved
Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 18. and Elijah, Ahab; though this could not but
be an hazardous attempt in each of them. Moreover, we must endeavour to
undeceive others, who are mistaken; especially if the error, they are
liable to, be of such a nature, that it endangers the loss of their
salvation. We are also to vindicate those who are reproached by others,
to the utmost of our power, according as the cause will admit of it.

2. This Commandment obliges us, to endeavour to promote our own, and our
neighbour’s good name.

(1.) Our own good name; which consists, not in our having the applause
of the world, but in our deserving the just esteem thereof, and in our
being loved and valued for our usefulness to mankind in general. And
this esteem is not to be gained by commending ourselves, or doing any
thing, but what we engage in with a good conscience, and the fear of
God. And in order hereto, we must, take heed that we do not contract an
intimacy with those, whose conversation is a reproach to the gospel,
Prov. xxviii. 7. Also we must render good for evil, and not give
occasion to those, who watch for our halting, to insult us as to any
thing, besides unavoidable infirmities, 1 Pet. ii. 12. Phil. iv. 8.

This degree of honour in the world, we ought first to endeavour to gain,
especially so far as it is necessary to our honouring God, and being
useful to others. And then we must be careful to maintain our good name;
forasmuch as the loss thereof, especially, in those who have made a
public profession of religion, will reflect dishonour on the ways of
God, from whence his enemies will take occasion to blaspheme, 2 Sam.
xii. 14. But if all our endeavours to maintain our character and
reputation are to no purpose; being, nevertheless, followed with
reproach as well as hatred and malice, from an unjust and censorious
world; let us look to it, that if we _suffer reproach_, it be
_wrongfully; not as evil doers, but for keeping a good conscience in the
sight of God_; which may be a means to make those that reproach us,
_ashamed_, 1 Pet. iii. 16. Moreover, let us count the reproach of
Christ, that is, for his sake, a glory, chap. iv. 14. Acts v. 41. Again,
let us always value their good opinion most, who are Christ’s best
friends; and expect little else but ill treatment from his enemies; and
then we shall be less disappointed, when we are exposed to it. And let
us not decline any thing that is our duty, in which the honour of God,
and the welfare of his people, is concerned, for fear of reproach; but
in this case, leave our good name in Christ’s hand; whose providence is
concerned, for, and takes care of, the honour, as well as the wealth and
outward estate of his people.

(2.) We are to endeavour to maintain the good name of others; and in
order thereto, we must render to them those marks of respect and honour,
which their character, and advancement in gifts, or grace, calls for;
yet without being guilty of servile flattery or dissimulation. And if
they are in danger of doing any thing that may forfeit their good name,
we are carefully to reprove them, while we have a due regard to any good
thing that is in them, towards the Lord their God; and, in maintaining
their good name, we are to conceal their faults, when we may do it
without betraying the interest of Christ; and especially when the honour
of God, and their good, is, by this means, better promoted, than by
divulging them, 1 Pet. iv. 8. Prov. xvii. 9.

However, this is not without some exceptions; and therefore it may be
observed, that we are not to conceal the crimes committed by others.

[1.] If private admonition for scandalous sins committed, prove
ineffectual, and the discovering them to others may make the offender
ashamed, and promote his reformation; then we are not to conceal his
crimes, though the divulging them may lessen the esteem which others
have of him, since it is better for him to be ashamed before men, than
perish in his hypocrisy, Matt. xviii. 16, 17.

[2.] If the crime committed be such, that shame, and the loss of his
good name, be a just punishment due to it, we are not to conceal it,
thereby to stop the course of justice.

[3.] When the honour and good name of an innocent person cannot be
maintained, unless by divulging the crimes of the guilty, he that, in
this case, has forfeited his good name, ought to lose it, rather than he
that has not.

We shall close this head by considering what reason we have to endeavour
to maintain the good name of others. To take away our neighbour’s good
name, is to take away one of the most valuable privileges he is
possessed of, the loss whereof may be inexpressibly detrimental to him.
And sometimes it may affect his secular interest; so that hereby we may
be said to take away his wealth and outward estate, and prevent his
usefulness in that station of life in which providence has fixed him.
Accordingly we are to express a due concern for the honour and
reputation of others as well as ourselves. Thus concerning the duties
required in this Commandment.

II. We proceed to consider the sins forbidden therein; which are
contained in that general expression bearing false witness: This may
either respect ourselves or others. A person may be said to bear false
witness against himself; and that either in thinking too highly or
meanly of himself; in the former respect we value ourselves, or our
supposed attainments, either in gifts or graces, too much, in which we
are, for the most part, mistaken, and pass a wrong judgment on them, and
are ready to say, with the church at Laodicea, _I am rich and increased
with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that we are wretched,
and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked_, Rev. iii. 17. These, on
the one hand, mistake the common gifts of the Spirit, for grace, and
conclude themselves to be something, when they are nothing: And, on the
other hand, many conclude, that they have no grace, and rank themselves
among hypocrites and unbelievers, when their hearts are right with God,
and they have had large experience of the powerful influences of his
Spirit, but are not sensible thereof. Thus Christ says to the church in
Smyrna, _I know thy poverty; but thou art rich_, chap. ii. 9. In these
respects persons may be said to bear false witness against themselves.

But that which is principally forbidden in this Commandment, is, a
person’s bearing false witness against his neighbour; and that when he
either endeavours to deceive, or do him prejudice, as to his reputation
in the world; the one is called lying, the other back-biting or
slandering. As to the former of these, when we speak that which is
contrary to what we know to be truth, with a design to deceive, this is
what we call telling a lye; and when we act that which is contrary to
truth, it may be deemed a practical lye; both of which are very great

1. A person is guilty of lying, when he speaks that which is contrary to
truth, with a design to deceive: This the old prophet at Bethel did, to
the prophet of the Lord; upon which occasion it is said, that he _lyed
unto him_, 1 Kings xiii. 18. That this may be farther considered, let it
be observed, that it is not barely a speaking what is contrary to truth;
for that a person may do, and be guiltless; as,

[1.] When there is some circumstance that discovers him to speak
_ironically_; and therefore he does not appear to have a design to
deceive those, to whom he addresses his discourse. Thus when the prophet
Micaiah said to Ahab, _Go and prosper, for the Lord shall deliver it_,
viz. _Ramoth-Gilead, into the hands of the kings_, chap. xxii. 15. it is
plain that he spake the language of the false prophets, and that Ahab
understood him in this sense, or suspected that he spake _ironically_;
and therefore says, _How many times shall I adjure thee, that thou tell
me nothing but that which is true?_ ver. 16. Upon which, the prophet
tells him, without an _irony_, though in a metaphorical way, which Ahab
easily understood; _I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep
that have not a shepherd: And the Lord said, These have no master, let
them return every man to his house in peace_, ver. 17. which was an
intimation, that, if he went up to Ramoth-Gilead, he should fall in
battle: Upon which occasion Ahab says to Jehoshaphat, _Did I not tell
thee, that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil_, ver. 18.
by which it appears, that the prophet did not deceive him,
notwithstanding the mode of speaking, which he at first made use of,
without considering it as an irony, seemed to intimate as much.

[2.] A person may speak that which is contrary to truth, being imposed
on himself, without any design to deceive another. This cannot, indeed,
according to the description before given, be properly called a lie:
However, he may sin by asserting too positively, that which he thinks to
be true from probable circumstances, or uncertain information;
especially if what he reports, carries in it that which is matter of
scandal, or censure. This was the case of Job’s friends, who did not
tell a lie against their own consciences: Nevertheless, they were too
peremptory in charging him with hypocrisy, without sufficient ground;
therefore God imputes _folly_ to them, in that _they had not spoken of
him the thing which was right_, Job xlii. 8.

Here it may be enquired, whether a person, who designs not to deceive,
nor speaks contrary to the dictates of his own conscience; yet if he
promises to do a thing, and does it not, is guilty of lying? To which it
may be replied,

_1st_, That if a person promises to do a thing, which, at the same time
he really designs, and afterwards uses all the endeavours he could, to
fulfil his promise, and something unforeseen happens, in the course of
providence, which prevents the execution thereof, he cannot, properly
speaking, be said to be guilty of a lie; though we ought not to promise
any thing but upon this supposition, that God enables us to perform it.

_2dly_, If a person intends to do a thing, and, accordingly, promises to
do it, but afterwards sees some justifiable reason to alter his mind, he
is not guilty of a lie; since all creatures are supposed to be mutable.
Thus the angels told Lot, that they would _abide in the street all
night_; but afterwards, upon his intreaty, they _went into the house
with him_, Gen. xix. 2,

3. And our Saviour, when he walked with his disciples to Emmaus, _made
as though he would have gone farther: But they constrained him, saying,
abide with us; and he went in to tarry with them_, Luke xxiv. 28, 29.
But, notwithstanding this if a person promises to do any thing that is
of advantage to another, as the paying a just debt, _&c._ it is not a
sufficient excuse, to clear him from the guilt of sin, if he pretends
that he has altered his mind, supposing that it is in his power to
fulfil it: For this is, indeed, a breach of the eighth Commandment, and
in some respects, it will appear to him, to be a violation of this.

That we may more particularly speak concerning the sin of lying which
multitudes are chargeable with, let it be observed, that there are three
sorts of lies,

_1st_, When a person speaks that which is contrary to truth, and the
dictates of his own conscience, with a design to cover a fault or excuse
himself or others: This we generally call an officious lie[6].

_2dly_, When a person speaks that which is contrary to the known truth,
in a jesting way; and embellishes his discourse with his own fictions,
designing hereby to impose on others: This they are guilty of, who
invent false news, or tell stories for truth, which they know to be
false. This is to lie in a jesting, ludicrous manner[7].

_3dly_, There is a pernicious lie, _viz._ when a person raises and
spreads a false report with a design to do injury to another; which is a
complicated crime, and the worst sort of lying[8].

Here there are two or three enquiries which it may not be improper to
take notice of;

(1.) Whether the midwives were guilty of an officious lie, when they
told Pharaoh, in Exod. i. 19. that _the Hebrew women were delivered of
their children ere they came in unto them_; concerning whom it is said,
in the following verse, _that God dealt well with the midwives_ for this
report, which carries in it the appearance of a lie.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied,

[1.] That they seem not to have been guilty of a lie; for it is not
improbable, that God in mercy to the Hebrew women, and their children,
might give them uncommon strength; so that they might be delivered
without the midwives assistance: Or,

[2.] If this was not the case of all the Hebrew women, but only of some,
or many of them, the midwives report contains only a concealing part of
the truth, while they related in other respects, that which was matter
of fact. Now a person is not guilty of telling a lie, who does not
discover all that he knows. There is a vast difference between
concealing a part of the truth, and telling that which is directly
false. No one is obliged to tell all he knows, to one, who, he is sure,
will make a bad use of it. This seems to be the case of the midwives;
and therefore their action was justifiable, and commended by God, they
being not guilty, properly speaking, of an officious lye.

(2.) Another enquiry is, what judgment we must pass concerning the
actions of Rahab, the harlot, who invented an officious lye, to save the
spies from those who pursued them, in Josh. ii. 4, 5. it is said, _she
took the two men and hid them_; and, at the same time, pretended, so
those who were sent to enquire of her concerning them, that _she wist
not whence they were_; but that they _went out of the city about the
time of the shutting of the gate; though whither they went she knew
not_. The main difficulty we have to account for, is what the apostle
says, in which he seems to commend this action, in Heb. xi. 31. _By
faith Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had
received the spies with peace._

_Answ._ To which it may be replied, that the apostle says, indeed, that
she _received the spies with peace_, that is, she protected, and did not
betray them into the hand of their enemies: But this act of faith does
not relate directly to the lie that she invented to conceal them; for,
doubtless, she would have been more clear from the guilt of sin, had she
refused to give the messengers any answer relating to them, and so had
given them leave to search for them, and left the event hereof to
providence. This, indeed, was a very difficult duty; for it might have
endangered her life; and her choosing to secure them and herself, by
inventing this lie, brought with it a degree of guilt, and was an
instance of the weakness of her faith in this respect.

But, on the other hand, that faith which the apostle commends in her,
respects some other circumstances attending this action; and,
accordingly, it is not said, that _by faith_ she made the report to the
messengers concerning the spies; but _she received them with peace_: And
there are several things in which her faith was very remarkable, as,

[1.] That she was confident that _the Lord would give them the land_,
which they were contending for, Josh. ii. 9.

[2.] In that she makes a just inference relating to this matter, from
the wonders that God had wrought for them in the red sea, ver. 10. And,

[3.] In that noble confession which she makes, that _the Lord their God,
is God in heaven above, and the earth beneath_, ver. 11.

[4.] Her faith appears, in that she put herself under their protection,
and desired to take her lot with them; which was done at the hazard of
her own life; which she might have saved, and probably, have received a
reward, had she betrayed them. This, I conceive to be a better
vindication of Rahab’s conduct, than that which is alleged, by some who
suppose, that by entering into confederacy with the spies, she put
herself into a state of war with her own country-men, and so was not
obliged to speak truth to the men of Jericho; since this would have many
ill consequences attending it, and give too much countenance to persons
deceiving others, under pretence of being in a state of war with them.
And, as to what the Papists say in her vindication, that a good design
will justify a bad action; that it is not true in fact; and therefore
not to be applied to her case.

(3.) It might be farther enquired, what judgment ought we to pass on the
method that Jacob took to obtain the blessing, when he told his father,
_I am Esau, thy first-born; I have done according as thou badest me_,
Gen. xxvii. 19. whether he was guilty of a lie herein?

_Answ._ There is not the least doubt but that he was. Some, indeed,
endeavour to excuse him, by alleging, that he had, before this, bought
the birth-right of Esau; and, upon this account he calls himself Isaac’s
first-born. But this will not clear him from the guilt of a lye; since
it was an equivocation, and spoken with a design to deceive. Others own
it to have been a lye; but extenuate it, from the consideration of God’s
having designed the blessing for him before he was born, chap. xxv. 31.
But these do not at all mend the matter: For, though God may permit, or
over-rule the sinful actions of men to bring about his own purpose; yet
this does not, in the least, extenuate their sin.

That which may therefore be observed, with reference to this action of
his, and the consequence thereof, is, that good men are sometimes liable
to sinful infirmities, as Jacob was; who, was followed with many sore
rebukes of providence, which made the remaining part of his life very

_1st_, In his living in exile twenty years, with Laban, an hard master,
and an unjust and unnatural father-in-law.

_2dly_, In the great distress that befel him in his return; occasioned
first by Laban’s pursuit of him, and then by the tidings that he
received of his brother Esau’s _coming out to meet him_; (being prompted
hereto by revenge which he had long harboured in his breast) _with four
hundred men_, from whom he expected nothing less than the destruction of
himself, and his whole family.

_3dly_, He did not obtain deliverance from the hand of God without
_great wrestling_, chap. xxxii. 24-25. and this attended with _weeping_,
as well as _making supplication_, Hos. xii. 4. and, though he prevailed,
and so obtained the blessing, and therewith forgiveness of his sin; yet
God so ordered it, that he should carry the mark thereof upon him, as
long as he lived, by touching the hollow of his thigh, which occasioned
an incurable lameness.

(4.) Another enquiry is, whether the prophet Elijah did not tell a lie
to the Syrian host, who were before Dothan, in quest of him, when he
said, in 2 Kings vi. 19. _This is not the way, neither is this the city:
Follow me, and I will bring you to the man you seek. But he led them to

_Answ._ If what he says to them be duly considered, it will appear not
to be a lie; for he told them nothing but what proved true, according to
the import of his words; for,

_1st_, He does not say, I am not the man ye seek, which would have been
a lie; neither does he say, the man is not here: but he tells them, _I
will lead you to the place where ye shall find him_, or have him
discovered and presented before you.

_2dly_, When he says, _This is not the way; neither is this the city_;
he does not say, this is not the way to Dothan; neither is this the city
so called; for then they would have been able to have convicted him of a
lie; for they knew that they were at Dothan before they were struck with
blindness: But the plain meaning of his words is, that this is not your
way to find him; since the men of this city will not deliver him to you;
but _I will lead you to the place where you shall see him_; and _so he
led them to Samaria_, upon which their eyes were opened, and they saw
him: So that this was not a lie. And the reason of his management was,
that the king of Israel, and the Syrian host, might be convinced, that
they were poor creatures in God’s hand, and that he could easily turn
their counsels into foolishness, and cause their attempts to miscarry
with shame, as well as disappointment.

(5.) It may be farther enquired, whether the apostle Paul was guilty of
a lie; when, being charged, in Acts xxiii. 4, 5. with _reviling God’s
high priest_, he says, _I wist not that he was the high priest_? How was
it possible that he should entertain any doubt concerning his being the
high priest; which none, who were present, could, in the least,

_Answ._ We may suppose, that the apostle, when he says, _I wist not that
he was the high priest_, intends nothing else, but I do not own him to
be the high priest, as you call him; for he is not an high priest of
God’s appointing or approving; which, had he been, he would have acted
more becoming that character; and then I should have had no occasion to
have told him, _God shall smite thee, thou whited wall_; for that would
have been a _reviling him_; since I know that scripture very well, that
says, _Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people_; therefore
he intimates, that, though he was an high priest of man’s making, he was
not one of God’s approving; and accordingly he was to be treated with
contempt, instead of that regard which was formerly paid to the high
priests, when they were better men, and acted more agreeable to their
character. No one, that deserves to be called God’s high priest, would
have ordered a prisoner, who came to be tried for his life, instead of
making his defence, to be smitten on the mouth.

But, suppose we render the words agreeably to our translation, I did not
understand that he was the high priest, he may be vindicated from the
charge of telling a lie, if we consider,

_1st_, That this was a confused assembly, and not a regular court of
judicature, in which the judge, or chief magistrate, is known to all, by
the place in which he sits, or the part he acts in trying causes.

_2dly_, The high priest, in courts of judicature, was not known by any
robe or distinct habit that he wore, as judges now are; for he never
wore any other but his common garments, which were the same that other
people wore, except when he ministered in offering gifts and sacrifices
in the temple. Therefore the apostle could not know him by any distinct
garment that he wore.

_3dly_, Through the corruption of the times, the high priest was changed
almost every year, according to the will of the chief governor, who
advanced his own friends to that dignity, and oftentimes sold it for
money; it is therefore probable, that Ananias had not been long
high-priest; and Paul was now a stranger at Jerusalem, and so might not
know that he was high priest. Thus, if we take the words in this sense,
in which they are commonly understood, the apostle may be sufficiently
vindicated from the charge of telling a lie.

(6.) It may be farther enquired, what judgment we may pass concerning
David’s pretence, when he came to Abimelech, in 1 Sam. xxi. 2. that _the
king commanded him a business_, _which no one was to know any thing of_;
and that he had _appointed his servants to such and such a place_; and
also of his _feigning himself mad_, before the king of Gath, ver. 13.
which dissimulation can be reckoned no other than a practical lie.

_Answ._ In both these instances he must be allowed to have sinned, and
therefore not proposed as a pattern to us; and all that can be inferred
from it is, that there is a great deal of the corruption of nature
remaining in the best of God’s people. What he told Abimelech was
certainly a lye; and all that he expected to gain by it, was only a
supply of his present necessities; the consequence whereof was, the poor
man’s losing his life, together with all the priests’, except Abiathar,
by Saul’s inhumanity. And David seems to be truly sensible of this sin,
as appears from Psal. xxxiv. which, as is intimated in the title
thereof, was penned on this occasion; in which he arms others against
it, in ver. 13. _Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking
guile_: And in ver. 18. he seems to relate his own experience, when he
says, _The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth
such as be of a contrite spirit._

As to his behaviour before the king of Gath, which was a visible lie,
discovered in his actions; it can, by no means, be excused from being a
breach of this Commandment. It is, indeed, alleged by some, to extenuate
his fault; that he was afraid that his having killed Goliah, would have
induced Achish to take away his life; as appears from what is said in
ver. 11, 12. Nevertheless, it may be considered as an aggravation of his

[1.] That his fear seems to have been altogether groundless; for, why
should he suppose that the king of Gath would break through all the laws
of arms and honour, since Goliah had been killed in a fair duel, the
challenge having first been given by himself? why then should David fear
that he would kill him for that, more than any other hostilities
committed in war? Besides, it is plain from what Achish says, in ver.
15. _Have I need of mad-men, that ye have brought this fellow to play
the mad-man in my presence? should this fellow come into mine house?_
that the king of Gath was so far from designing to revenge Goliah’s
death on him, that he intended to employ him in his service, and take
him into his house; but this mean action of his made him despised by
all; for it seems probable, by Achish’s saying, _Have ye brought this
fellow to play the mad-man?_ that he perceived it to be a feigned, and
not a real distraction. And this was overruled by the providence of God,
to let the Philistines know, that the greatest hero is but a
low-spirited man, if his God be not with him.

[2.] If we suppose that there had been just ground for his fear, the
method taken to secure himself, contained a distrust of providence;
which would, doubtless, have delivered him without his dissembling, or
thus demeaning himself, or using such an indirect method in order
thereunto. Thus concerning the violation of this Commandment, by
speaking that which is contrary to truth.

2. This Commandment is farther broken, by acting that which is contrary
to truth; which is what we call hypocrisy: And this may be considered,

(1.) As that which is a reigning sin, inconsistent with a state of
grace; in which respect an hypocrite is opposed to a true believer. Such
make a fair shew of religion; but it is with a design to be seen of men,
Matt. vi. 5. They are sometimes, indeed, represented as _seeking_ God,
and _enquiring early_, or with a kind of earnestness after him, when
under his afflicting hand; but this is deemed no other than a
_flattering him with their mouth, and a lying unto him with their
tongues_; inasmuch as _their heart is not right with him_, Psal.
lxxviii. 34,-37. And elsewhere, they are said to _love the praise of men
more than the praise of God_, John xii. 43.

(2.) It may be farther considered, as that which believers are sometimes
chargeable with, which is an argument that they are sanctified but in
part; but this rather respects some particular actions, and not the
tenor of their conversation: Thus the apostle Paul charges Peter with
dissimulation, Gal. ii. 11,-13. though he was far from deserving the
character of an hypocrite, as to his general conversation. And our
Saviour cautions his disciples against hypocrisy, as that which they
were in danger of being overtaken with, Luke xii. 1. though he does not
charge them with it as a reigning sin, as he did the Scribes and
Pharisees, whom he compares to _painted sepulchres_, Matt. xxiii. 27,
28. nor were they such as the apostle speaks of, whom he calls
_double-minded men, who are unstable in all their ways_, James i. 8.

As to that hypocrisy which we may call a reigning sin, this may be

[1.] By a person’s accommodating himself to all those whom he converses
with, how much soever this may tend to the dishonour of Christ and the
gospel: And this may give us occasion to enquire,

_First_, Whether the apostle Paul was in any respects, chargeable with
this sin, when he says, in 1 Cor. ix. 20-22. _Unto the Jews, I became as
a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as
under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them
that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but
under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law. To
the weak, became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all
things to all men, that I might by all means save some._ For the
understanding of this scripture, and vindicating the apostle from the
charge of hypocrisy, let it be considered,

_1st_, That this compliance he here speaks of, was not with a design to
gain the applause of the world, but to serve the interest of Christ;
neither did he connive at, or give countenance to, that false worship,
or those sinful practices of any, that were contrary to the faith, or
purity of the gospel. Therefore when he says, _Unto the Jews, I became
as a Jew_; he does not intend that he gave them the least ground to
conclude, that it was an indifferent matter, whether they adhered to, or
laid aside the observation of the ceremonial law: For, he expressly
tells some of the church at Galatia, who were supposed to Judaize, that
this was contrary to the _liberty wherewith Christ_ had _made them free,
a being again entangled with the yoke of bondage_; and that _if they
circumcised, Christ should profit them nothing; and_, that they were
_fallen from grace_; that is, turned aside from the faith of the gospel,
Gal. v. 1,-4. Therefore, in this sense he did not become as a Jew, to
the Jews. Neither did he so far comply with the Gentiles, as to give
them ground to conclude, that the superstition and idolatry, which they
were guilty of, was an harmless thing, and might still be practised by
them. Therefore,

_2dly_, The meaning of his compliance with the Jews or Gentiles, is
nothing else but this; that whatever he found praise-worthy in them, he
commended; and if, in any instances, they were addicted to their former
rites, or modes of worship, he endeavoured to draw them off from them,
not by a severe, and rigid behaviour as censuring, refusing to converse
with, or reproaching them, for their weakness; but using kind and gentle
methods, designing rather to inform than discourage them; while at the
same time, he was far from approving of, or giving countenance to any
thing that was sinful in them, or unbecoming the gospel.

_Secondly_, From what has been before said concerning an hypocrite’s
being one who performs religious duties with a design to be seen of men,
as our Saviour says of the Pharisees, that _they love to stand praying
in the synagogues, or in the corners of the streets, that they may be
seen of men_, Matth. vi. 6. We may enquire, what may be said in
vindication of the prophet Daniel, from the charge of hypocrisy?
concerning whom it is said, in Dan. vi. 10. that when Darius had _signed
a decree_ prohibiting any one from asking _a petition of any god or man,
save of the king, he_ should _be cast into the den of lions: He went
into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber, towards
Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and
gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime_. In answer to this we
may observe,

_1st_, That this was not done to gain the esteem or applause of men,
which they are charged with, who are guilty of hypocrisy; but he did it
in contempt of that vile decree of the Persian monarch.

_2dly_, He did it at the peril of his life; and hereby discovered, that
he had rather be cast into the den of lions, than give occasion to any
to think that he complied with the king in his idolatrous decree.

_3dly_, Though it is said, that _he prayed, and gave thanks before his
God, as he did_ aforetime; yet this is not to be understood as though he
set open his windows aforetime; so that his praying publicly at this
time, was to shew that he was neither ashamed, nor afraid to own his
God, whatever it cost him; therefore he was so far from being guilty of
hypocrisy, that this is one of the most noble instances of zeal for the
worship of the true God, that we find recorded in scripture.

[2.] Hypocrisy is a reigning sin when we boast of the high attainments
in gifts or grace, or set too great a value on ourselves, because of the
performance of some religious duties, while we neglect others, wherein
the principal part of true godliness consists. Thus the Pharisee _paid
tithe of mint, annise, and cummin_, while he _omitted the weightier
matters of the law; judgment, mercy and faith_, chap. xxiii. 23, 24.

[3.] It farther consists, in exclaiming against, and censuring others,
for lesser faults, while we allow of greater in ourselves; like those
whom our Saviour speaks of, who _behold the mote that is in their
brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in their own_, Matt.
vii. 3, 5. or, according to that proverbial way of speaking, _strain at
a gnat, and swallow a camel_. These are very fond of exposing the
ignorance of others; though they have no experimental, saving knowledge
of divine truth in themselves; or they are very forward, to blame the
coldness and lukewarmness which they see in some, while at the same
time, that zeal which they express in their whole conduct, is rather to
advance themselves, than the glory of God.

[4.] When persons make a gain of godliness, 1 Tim. vi. 5. or of their
pretensions to it. Thus Balaam prophesied for a reward; and accordingly
it is said, that he _loved the wages of unrighteousness_, 2 Pet. i. 15.

5. When persons make a profession of religion, because it is uppermost,
and are ready to despise and cast it off, when it is reproached, or they
are like to suffer for it. Thus the Pharisees, how much soever they
seemed to embrace Christ, when attending on John’s ministry; yet
afterwards, when they saw that this was contrary to their secular
interest, they were _offended in him_, and prejudiced against him; and
therefore they say, _Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees,
believed on him_, John vii. 48.

This sin of hypocrisy, which is a practical lie, has a tendency to
corrupt and vitiate all our pretensions to religion. It is like the
_dead flie_, mentioned by Solomon, _that causeth the ointment of the
apothecary to send forth a stinking savour_, Eccl. x. 1. and it will, in
the end, bring on those who are guilty of it, many sore judgments; some
of which are spiritual. Thus it is said of the Heathen, that _because,
when they knew God, they glorified him not as God_, and _did not like to
retain him in their knowledge; he gave them up to a reprobate mind, to
do those things that are not convenient_, &c. Rom. i. 21, 22, 28. And as
for the false hope, and vain confidence, which the hypocrite entertains,
this shall leave him in despair and confusion, Job viii. 13,-15. and be
attended with unspeakable horror of conscience, chap. xxvii. 18. Isa.
xxxiii. 14. Upon which account such are said to _heap up wrath_, and
bring on themselves a greater degree of condemnation than others, Job
xxxvi. 13. Matt. xxiii. 14. Thus we have considered this Commandment as
broken by speaking or acting that which is contrary, or prejudicial, to
truth; which leads us,

II. To consider it as forbidding our doing that which is injurious to
our neighbour’s good name, either by words or actions; and this is done
two ways, either before his face, or behind his back.

1. Doing injury to another, by speaking against him, before his face. It
is true, we give him hereby the liberty of vindicating himself.
Nevertheless, if the thing be false, which is alleged against him,
proceeding from malice and envy, it is a crime of a very heinous nature;
and this is done,

(1.) By those, who, in courts of judicature, commence; and carry on
malicious prosecutions, in which the plaintiff, the witness, the
advocate that manages the cause, the jury that bring in a false verdict,
and the judge that passes sentence contrary to law, or evidence, as well
as the dictates of his own conscience, with a design to crush and ruin
him, who is maliciously prosecuted; these are all notoriously guilty of
the breach of this Commandment.

(2.) They may be said to do that which is injurious to our neighbour’s
good name, who reproach them in common conversation; which is a sin too
much committed in this licentious age, as though men were not
accountable to God for what they speak, as well as other parts of the
conduct of life. There are several things which persons make the subject
of their reproach, _viz._

[1.] The defect and blemishes of nature; such as lameness, blindness,
deafness, impediment of speech, meanness of capacity, or actions, which
proceed from a degree of distraction. Thus many suppose that the apostle
Paul was reproached for some natural deformity in his body, or
impediment in his speech, which is inferred from what he says, when he
represents some as speaking to this purpose; _His letters, say they, are
weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech
contemptible_, 2 Cor. x. 10. And elsewhere, he commends the Galatians
for not despising him on this account; _My temptation which was in my
flesh, ye despised nor rejected; but ye received me as an angel of God,
even as Christ Jesus_, Gal. iv. 14.

Here we may take occasion to speak something of the childrens sin, who
reproached Elisha for his baldness, and the punishment that ensued upon
it; namely, his _cursing them in the name of the Lord_; and _two and
forty_ of them being _torn in pieces by two she-bears out of the wood_,
in 2 Kings ii. 23, 24. It may be enquired, by some, whether this was not
too great an instance of passion in that holy man, and too severe a
punishment inflicted; inasmuch as they who reproached him, are called
_little children_. To this it may be answered,

_1st_, That the children were not so little, as not to be able to know
their right hand from their left, or to discern between good and evil;
for such are not usually trusted out of their parents sight; nor would
they have gathered themselves together in a body, or went some distance
from the city, on purpose to insult the prophet, as it is plain they
did, understand that he was to come there at that time. This argues that
they were boys of sufficient age, to commit the most presumptuous sin;
and therefore not too young to suffer such a punishment as ensued

_2dly_, Their sin was great, in that they mocked a grave old man, who
ought to have been honoured for his age, and a prophet, whom they should
have esteemed for his character; and in despising him, they despised
God, that called and sent him.

_3dly_, Bethel, where they lived, was the chief seat of idolatry, in
which these children had been trained up; and it was a prevailing
inclination to it, together with an hatred of the true religion, that
occasioned their reproaching and casting contempt on the prophet.

_4thly_, The manner of expression argues a great deal of profaneness,
_Go up thou bald head_; that is, either go up to Bethel, speaking in an
insulting way, as though they should say, You may go there, but you will
not be regarded by them; for they value no such men as you are; or
rather, it is as though they should say, you pretend that your
predecessor Elijah is gone up to heaven, do you go up after him, that
you may trouble us no longer with your prophecies; so that those
children, though young in years, were hardened in sin; and this was not
so much an occasional mocking of the prophet for his baldness, as a
public contrivance, and tumultuous opposition to his ministry; which is
a very great crime, and accordingly, was attended with a just resentment
in the prophet, and that punishment which was inflicted as the
consequence thereof.

The aggravations of this sin of reproaching persons for their natural
infirmities, are very great. For, it is a finding fault with the
workmanship of the God of nature, the thinking meanly of a person for
that which is not chargeable on him as a crime, and which he can, by no
means redress. It is a censuring those who are, in some respects,
objects of compassion; especially if the reproach be levelled against
the defects of the mind, or any degree of distraction; and it argues a
great deal of pride and unthankfulness to God, for those natural
endowments which we have received from him, though we do not improve
them to his glory.

[2.] Some reproach persons for their sinful infirmities, and that in
such a way, as that they are styled _fools_, who _make a mock of sin_,
Prov. xiv. 9. This is done,

_1st_, When we reflect on persons for sins committed before their
conversion, which they have repented of, and God has forgiven; and
accordingly they should not be now charged against them, as a matter of
reproach. Thus the Pharisee reproached the poor penitent woman, who
stood weeping at our Saviour’s feet, and said within himself; _If this
man were a prophet, he would have known what manner of woman this is
that toucheth him, for she is a sinner_, Luke vii. 37-39. which
respected not her present, but her former condition.

_2dly_, When they reproach them with levity of spirit, for the sins they
are guilty of at present; as when the shameful actions of a drunken man
are made the subject of laughter; which ought not to be thought of
without regret or pity.

_Object._ To this it may be objected, that sin renders a person vile,
and is really a reproach to him; and therefore it may be charged upon
him as such; especially since it is said, concerning the righteous man;
_in his eyes a vile person is contemned_, Psal. xv. 4.

_Answ._ We are far from asserting, that it is a sin to reprove sin, and
shew the person who commits it his vileness, and the reason he has to
reproach and charge himself with it, and loath himself for it;

_1st_, The contempt that is to be cast on a vile person, does not
consist in making him the subject of laughter, as though it was a light
matter for him thus to dishonour God as he does; for this should
occasion grief in all true believers, as the Psalmist says, _I beheld
the transgressors and was grieved; because they kept not thy word_,
Psal. cxix. 158. But,

_2dly_, When the Psalmist advises to _contemn_ such an one, the meaning
is, that we should not make him our intimate, or bosom-friend; or if he
be in advanced circumstances, in the world, we are not to flatter him in
his sin; whereby, especially when it is public, he forfeits that respect
which would otherwise be due to him. In this sense we are to understand
Mordecai’s contempt of Haman, Esther iii. 2.

Here we may take occasion to distinguish, between reproving sin, and
reproaching persons for it; the former of these is to be done with
sorrow of heart, and compassion expressed to the sinner; as our Saviour
reproved Jerusalem, and, at the same time, _wept over it_, Luke xix. 41,
42. But, on the other hand, reproach is attended with hatred of, and a
secret pleasure taken in his sin and ruin. Again, reproof for sin ought
to be with a design to reclaim the offender; whereas reproach tends only
to expose, exasperate, and harden him in his sin. Moreover, reproof for
sin ought to be given with the greatest seriousness and conviction of
the evil and danger ensuing hereupon; whereas they who reproach persons,
charge sin on them, as being induced hereunto by their own passions,
without any concern for the dishonour which they bring to God and
religion hereby, or desire of their repentance and reformation.

[3.] Sometimes that which is the highest ornament, and greatest
excellency of a Christian, is turned to his reproach; more particularly,

_1st_, Some have been reproached for extraordinary gifts, which God has
been pleased to confer on them. Thus the spirit of prophecy was
sometimes reckoned, by profane persons, the effect of distraction, 2
Kings ix. 11. And Joseph was reproached by his brethren, in a taunting
way, with the character of a dreamer; because of the prophetic
intimation which he had from God, in a dream, concerning the future
estate of his family, Gen. xxxvii. 13. And when the apostles were
favoured with the extraordinary gift of tongues, and preached to men of
different nations, in their own language; _Some were amazed, and others
mocked them, and said, These men are full of new wine_, Acts ii. 13.

_2dly_, Raised affections, and extraordinary instances of zeal for the
glory of God, have been derided as though they were matter of reproach.
Thus Michael reproached David, when he _danced before the ark_, 2 Sam.
vi. 20. being induced hereunto by an holy zeal, and transport of joy on
this occasion; though he was so far from reckoning it a reproach, that
he counted that which she called vile, glorious.

_3dly_, Spiritual experiences of the grace of God, have, sometimes, been
turned by those who are strangers to them to their reproach and termed
no other than madness. Thus when the apostle Paul related the gracious
dealings of God with him in his first conversion, Festus charged him
with being _beside himself_, Acts xxvi. 24.

_4thly_, A person’s being made use of by God, to overthrow the kingdom
of Satan, has been charged against him, as though it were rebellion.
Thus the Jews tell Pilate, when he sought to release Jesus, _If thou let
this man go, thou art not Cesar’s friend_, John xix. 12. and that
reformation which the apostles were instrumental in making in the world,
by preaching the gospel, is styled, _turning the world upside down_,
Acts xvii. 6.

_5thly_, Humility of mind in owning our weakness, as not being able to
comprehend some divine mysteries contained in the gospel, is reckoned
matter of reproach by many, who call it implicit faith, and admitting of
the greatest absurdities in matters of religion.

_6thly_, Giving glory to the Spirit, as the author of all grace and
peace, and desiring to draw nigh to God in prayer, or engage in other
holy duties, by his assistance, is reproached by some, as though it were
enthusiasm, and they who desire or are favoured with this privilege,
were pretenders to extraordinary revelation.

_7thly_, A being conscientious in abstaining from those sins which
abound in a licentious age, or reproving and bearing our testimony
against those who are guilty of them, is reproached with the character
of hypocrisy, preciseness, and being righteous overmuch.

_8thly_, Separating from communion with a false church, and renouncing
those doctrines which tend to pervert the gospel of Christ, is called,
by some, heresy. Thus the Papists brand the Protestants with the
reproachful name of heretics; to whom we may answer, that this is rather
our glory, and confess, that _after the way which they call heresy, so
worship we the God of our fathers_, Acts xxiv. 14.

This sin is attended with many aggravations; for God reckons it as a
contempt cast on himself, Luke x. 16. and it is a plain intimation, that
they who are guilty of it, pretend not to be what they reproach and
deride in others, who, if they be in the right way to heaven, these
discover that they desire not to come hither. And, in their whole
conduct, they act as though they were endeavouring to banish all
religion out of the world, by methods of scorn and ridicule; which, if
it should take effect, this earth would be but a small degree better
than hell.

However, when we are thus reproached for the sake of God and religion,
let us not render railing for railing; but look on those who revile us,
as objects of pity, 1 Cor. iv. 12, 13. 1 Pet. ii. 23, who do more hurt
to themselves than they can do to us, thereby. Moreover, let us reflect
on our own sins, which provoke God to suffer this; and beg of him that
he would turn this reproach to his own glory, and our good. Thus David
did, when he was unjustly and barbarously cursed and railed at by
Shimei, 2 Sam. xvi. 10-12. We ought also to esteem religion the more,
because of the opposition and contempt that it meets with from the
enemies of God; which may, indeed, afford us some evidence of the truth
and excellency thereof; as our Saviour says concerning his disciples,
_If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because you
are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore
the world hateth you_, John xv. 19.

Again, when we are reviled for the sake of Christ and religion, let us
take encouragement from hence, that herein we have the same treatment
that he, and all his saints, have met with, Heb. xii. 2, 3. chap. xi.
36. And let us also consider that there are many promises annexed
hereunto, Matt. v. 11, 12. 1 Pet. iv. 14. It is also an advantage to our
character as Christians; for hereby it appears, that we are not on their
side, who are Christ’s avowed enemies; and therefore we should reckon
their reproach our glory, Heb. xi. 26, or, as the apostle says, _Take
pleasure in reproaches for Christ’s sake_, 2 Cor. xii. 10. or, as it is
said elsewhere, _Rejoice, that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for
his name_, Acts v. 41. Thus concerning our doing injury to our
neighbour, by speaking against him before his face. We shall now

2. The injury that is done to others by speaking against them behind
their backs. This they are guilty of, who raise or invent false reports
of their neighbours, or spread those which ought to be kept secret, with
a design to take away their good name; these are called tale-bearers,
back-biters, slanderers, who offer injuries to others, that are not in a
capacity of defending themselves, Lev. xix. 16. These malicious reports
are oftentimes, indeed, prefaced, with a pretence of great respect to
the person whom they speak against. They seem very much surprised at,
and sorry for what they are going to relate; and sometimes signify their
hope, that it may not be true; and desire, that what they report may be
concealed, while they make it their business themselves to divulge it.
But this method will not secure their own reputation, while they are
endeavouring to ruin that of another. This is done various ways;

(1.) By pretending that a person is guilty of a fault which he is
innocent of. Thus our Saviour, and John the Baptist were charged with
immoral practices, which there was not the least shadow or pretence for,
Matt. xi. 18, 19.

(2.) By divulging a real fault which has been acknowleged and repented
of, and therefore ought to be concealed, chap. xvii. 15. or when there
is no pretence for making it public; but what arises from malice and
hatred of the person.

(3.) By aggravating, or presenting faults worse than they are. Thus
Absalom’s sin in murdering Amnon, was very great; but he that brought
tidings thereof to David, represented it worse than it was, when he
said, that Absalom had _slain all the king’s sons_, 2 Sam. xiii. 30.

(4.) By reporting the bad actions of men, and, at the same time,
over-looking and extenuating their good ones, and so not doing them the
justice of setting one in the balance against the other.

(5.) By putting the worst and most injurious construction on actions
that are really excellent. Thus, because our Saviour admitted Publicans
and sinners into his presence, and did them good by his doctrine, the
Jews reproached him as though he were a _friend of publicans and
sinners_, Matt. xi. 19. taking the word _friend_ in the worst sense, as
signifying an approver of them.

(6.) By reporting things, to the prejudice of others, which are grounded
on such slender evidence, that they themselves hardly believe them, or,
at least, would not, had they not a design to make use thereof, to
defame them. Thus Sanballat, in his letter to Nehemiah, tells him, that
‘he and the Jews thought to rebel; and built the wall of Jerusalem, that
he might be their king,’ Neh. vi. 6. which, it can hardly be supposed,
that the enemy himself gave any credit to. Thus concerning the instances
in which persons back-bite, or raise false reports on others.

And, to this we may add, that as they are guilty who raise them; so are
they who listen to, and endeavour to propagate them. It is not, indeed,
the bare hearing of a report, which, we cannot but think to be attended
with malice and slander, that will render us guilty; for that we may not
be able to avoid; but it is our encouraging him that raises or spreads
it, which renders us guilty; and, particularly, we sin when we hear
malicious reports.

[1.] If we conceal them from the party concerned therein, and so deny
him the justice of answering what is said against him, in his own

[2.] When we do not reprove those who make a practice of slandering and
back-biting others, in order to our bringing them to shame and
repentance; and, most of all, when we contract an intimacy with those
who are guilty of this sin, and are too easy in giving credit to what
they say, though not supported by sufficient evidence; but, on the other
hand, carrying in it the appearance of envy and resentment. Thus
concerning the sins forbidden in this Commandment. We shall close this
head by proposing some remedies against it. As,

_1st_, If the thing, reported to another’s prejudice, be true, we ought
to consider, that we are not without many faults ourselves; which we
would be unwilling, if others knew them, should be divulged. And if it
be doubtful, we, by reporting it, may give occasion to some, to believe
it to be true, without sufficient evidence, whereby our neighbour will
receive real prejudice from that, which, to us, is only matter of
surmize and conjecture. But if, on the other hand, what is reported be
apparently false, the sin is still the greater; and the highest
injustice is hereby offered to the innocent, while we, at the same time,
are guilty of a known and presumptuous sin, by inventing and propagating

_2dly_, Such a way of exposing men answers no good end; nor is it a
means of reclaiming them.

_3dly_, Hereby we lay ourselves open to the censure of others, and by
endeavouring to take away our neighbour’s good name, endanger the loss
of our own.

Footnote 6:

  _Mendacium officiosum._

Footnote 7:

  This is called _mendacium jocosum_.

Footnote 8:

  This is called _mendacium pernitiosum_.

                    Quest. CXLVI., CXLVII., CXLVIII.

    QUEST. CXLVI. _Which is the tenth Commandment?_

    ANSW. The tenth Commandment is, [_Thou shalt not covet thy
    neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor
    his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor
    any thing that is thy neighbour’s._]

    QUEST. CXLVII. _What are the duties required in the tenth

    ANSW. The duties required in the tenth Commandment are, such a full
    contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of
    the whole soul toward our neighbour, as that all our inward motions
    and affections touching him tend unto and further all that good
    which is his.

    QUEST. CXLVIII. _What are the sins forbidden in the tenth

    ANSW. The sins forbidden in the tenth Commandment, are, discontent
    with our own estate; envying, and grieving at the good of our
    neighbours, together with all inordinate motions and affections to
    any thing that is his.

The general design of this commandment, is, to regulate and set bounds
to our desires; and it contains a prohibition of coveting those things,
that belong not to us. It is not to be split into two Commandments, as
the Papists pretend; supposing that, _Thou shalt not covet thy
neighbour’s house_, is the ninth, and, _Thou shalt not covet thy
neighbour’s wife_, &c. is the tenth Commandment; since these are only
particular instances of the breach of the same Commandment, and the
argument taken from the repetition of the words, _Thou shalt not covet_,
is so very weak and inconclusive, that it would hardly have been made
use of by them, had they not thought it necessary, some way or other, to
make up the number ten; having as was observed, under a foregoing head,
determined the second Commandment, not to be distinct from, but an
appendix to the first[9]. But passing this by, we proceed to consider,

I. The duties required therein, which may be reduced to two heads;

1. Contentment with our own condition; by which we are not to understand
that we are to give way to indolence or stupidity, but to exercise a
composure of mind, acquiescing in the divine dispensations in every
condition of life. Thus the apostle says, _I have learned in whatsoever
state I am, therewith to be content_, Phil. iv. 11. And this being
applicable to all sorts of men, we may consider it,

(1.) As a grace that is to be exercised by those who are in prosperous
circumstances in the world. Thus the apostle says, _I know how to
abound_, ver. 12. and to be _full_, as well as to _suffer need_. We
often find, that they who have the greatest share of the good things of
this world, are so far from being satisfied with it, that their
covetousness increaseth in proportion to their substance. But such ought
to consider, that this is most unreasonable and ungrateful; and may
justly provoke God to take away the blessing which he has given them, or
add some circumstances thereunto, that will tend to embitter them; and
it is a giving way to such a temper of mind as renders them really
miserable in the midst of their abundance. But that which we shall
principally consider, is,

(2.) How this grace of contentment is to be exercised by those who are
in an afflicted state, together with the motives and inducements leading
thereunto. And,

[1.] We will suppose persons under bodily weakness or pain, which tends
much to embitter the comforts of life, by which means they are made
uneasy; and, indeed, it is impossible, from the nature of the thing, for
them not to complain, or groan under the burdens that are laid on them,
as the Psalmist did, who speaks of himself as _weary of his groaning_,
Psal. vi. 6. nor is it unlawful, provided they do not repine at, or find
fault with, the methods of God’s providence, in his dealing with them.
Nevertheless there are some things that may induce them to be contented.

_1st_, When they consider, that the body gave occasion to the first
entrance of sin into the world, and bears a part with the soul in all
the sins committed, and guilt contracted thereby. It is therefore no
wonder, when we find that it has its share in those miseries that attend

_2dly_, Bodily diseases are our monitors, to put us in mind of the
frailty of our present state; and therefore, since they are the
harbingers of death, we are hereby forwarned, to prepare for it, as
making sensible advances towards it.

_3dly_, The greatest pains that we are liable to, are far short of what
Christ endured for us; in which respect our afflictions are
comparatively light, and a convincing proof, that they are not certain
indications of our being rejected by God, Eccl. ix. 1.

_4thly_, As God will not lay more on us than he will enable us to bear;
so none of these afflictive dispensations shall have a tendency to
separate the soul from Christ. Though we sometimes complain that this is
a great interruption to the exercise of grace; yet this shall not be
charged upon us as our fault, any otherwise than as it is the effect of
that sin, which is the procuring cause of all affliction.

_5thly_, The heavier our afflictions are at present, the more sweet and
comfortable the heavenly rest will be, to those who have a well-grounded
hope that they shall be brought to it, Job iii. 17. 2 Thess. i. 7. 2
Cor. iv. 17.

[2.] If our condition be low and poor in the world, we are not without
some inducements to be content. For,

_1st_, Poverty is not, in itself, a curse, or inconsistent with the love
of God, since Christ himself submitted to it, 2 Cor. viii. 9. Matt.
viii. 20. and his best saints have been exposed to it, and glorified
God, more than others, under it, 2 Cor. vi. 10.

_2dly_, How poor soever we are, we have more than we brought into the
world with us, or than the richest person can carry out of it, Job i.

_3dly_, They who have least of the world, have more than they deserve,
or than God was under any obligation to give them.

[3.] Suppose we are afflicted in our good name, and do not meet with
that love and esteem from the world, which might be expected; but, on
the other hand, are censured, reproached, and hated by those with whom
we converse. This should not make us, beyond measure, uneasy. For,

_1st_, We have reason to conclude, that the esteem of the world is
precarious and uncertain; and they who most deserve it, have oftentimes
the least of it. Thus our Saviour was one day followed with the caresses
of the multitude, shouting forth their hosannah’s to him; and the next
day the common cry was, crucify him, crucify him. And when the apostle
Paul and Barnabas, had healed the cripple at Lystra, they could, at
first, hardly restrain the people from offering sacrifice to them; but
afterwards they joined with the malicious Jews in stoning them, Acts
xiv. 18, 19. And Paul tells the Galatians, that ‘if it had been
possible, they would have plucked out their eyes, and have given them to
him;’ but a little after this, he complains that he was ‘become their
enemy, because he told them the truth,’ Gal. iv. 15, 16.

_2dly_, The esteem of men is no farther to be desired, than as it may
render us useful to them; and if God is pleased to deny this to us, we
are not to prescribe to him, what measure of respect he shall allot to
us from the world, or usefulness in it.

_3dly_, Let us consider, that we know more evil abounding in our own
hearts than others can charge us with. Therefore, how much soever they
are guilty of injustice to us; yet this affords us a motive to
contentment. Besides we have not brought that honour to God that we
ought; therefore, how just is it for him to deny us that esteem from men
which we desire?

[4.] Suppose we are afflicted in our relations; there are some motives
to contentment. Thus if servants have masters who make their lives
uncomfortable, by their unreasonable demands, or unjust severity, such
ought to consider, that their faithfulness and industry will be approved
of, by God, how much soever it may be disregarded, by men; and a
conscientious discharge of the duties incumbent on them, in the relation
in which they stand, will give them ground to expect a blessing from
God, to whom they are herein said to do service, which shall not go
unrewarded, Eph. vi. 7, 8.

On the other hand, if masters are afflicted, by reason of the stubborn
and unfaithful behaviour, or sloth and negligence, of their servants;
let them enquire, whether this be not the consequence of their not being
so much concerned for their spiritual welfare as they ought, or keeping
up strict religion in their families? or, whether they have not been
more concerned that their servants should obey them, than their great
master, which is in heaven?

Again, if parents have undutiful children, which are a grief of heart to
them; let them consider, as a motive to contentment, whether they have
not formerly neglected their duty to their parents, slighted their
counsels, or disregarded their reproofs? so whether they have not reason
to charge themselves with the iniquity of their youth? and enquire,
whether God be not, herein, writing bitter things against them for it?
or, whether they have not neglected to bring up their children in the
nurture and admonition of the Lord? These considerations will fence
against all repining thoughts at the providence of God, that has brought
these troubles upon them. And, as a farther inducement to make them
easy, let such consider, that if this does not altogether lie at their
door, but, they have been faithful to their children, in praying for,
and instructing them, God may hear their prayers, and set home their
instructions on their hearts, when they themselves are removed out of
the world.

On the other hand, if children have wicked parents, whose conversation
fills them with great uneasiness; let such consider, that this has been
the case of many of God’s faithful servants; such as Hezekiah, Josiah,
and others; and they may be assured, that they shall have no occasion to
use that proverb, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the
children’s teeth are set on edge,’ Ezek. xviii. 2.

[5.] If we are afflicted, by reason of the treachery and unfaithfulness
of pretended friends, which wound us in the most tender part, Psal. lv.
12, 13. we may be induced to be content. For,

_1st_, We have no ground to expect perfection in the best of men, nor
that their love and favour is immutable; neither is our conduct always
such, that we do not often forfeit the respect, which we once had from

_2dly_, If our friends deal deceitfully with us, or are unfaithful to
us, without just ground; this is not without the permission of the wise
and over-ruling providence of God, who, sometimes, orders it to take us
off from a dependence upon men, or expecting too much happiness from
them; which is to be sought for only in himself, Isa. ii. 22.

_3dly_, This is our encouragement, when we find a change in the
behaviour of friends towards us, that our chief happiness consists in
the unchangeable love of God, Mal. iii. 6.

[6.] When we are afflicted in the loss of friends, or near relations;
let us consider, as a motive to contentment,

_1st_, That there is no reversing or altering the decree of God, which
fixes the bounds of men’s continuance in this world, Job xiv. 9.

_2dly_, All the comfort we have in friends and relations is a peculiar
blessing from God; and he sometimes afflicts us in the loss of them,
that he may draw off our affections from the best creature-enjoyments,
and we may take up our rest intirely in himself. Moreover, we had never
any reason to look on our friends as immortal, any more than ourselves;
and therefore ought to say as David did when he lost his child, _I shall
go to him, but he shall not return to me_, 2 Sam. xii. 23. and so far as
self-love is concerned herein, we have reason to give a check to the
excess thereof, by the exercise of self-denial, and say with David, _I
was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it_, Psal. xxxix.
8. or follow the example of Aaron, concerning whom it is said, that,
when he lost two of his sons at once, by a public and awful stroke of
divine justice, _he held his peace_, Lev. x. 3.

[7.] If we are afflicted by the want of success, or the many
disappointments that attend us, in our lawful callings, in the world, we
have reason, notwithstanding, to be content, if we consider,

_1st_, That it is the sovereign hand of God that orders our condition
therein, as to what respects the success or disappointments that attend
it; therefore we are not to strive against our Maker, or find fault with
his will, who may do what he pleases with his own.

_2dly_, A man’s happiness does not really consist in the abundance of
what he possesses, Luke xii. 15. but rather in his having a heart to use
it aright; therefore we ought to say to ourselves, as God did to Baruch,
_Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not_, Jer. xlv. 5.

_3dly_, The world is a scene of vanity; we have no reason to expect too
much from it; and therefore ought not to be dejected at the loss of it;
especially considering that such disappointments are the common lot of
all sorts of men.

_4thly_, The providence of God sometimes denies us the good things of
this world, that we may think it our duty and interest to lay up
treasures in heaven.

[8.] Suppose we meet with afflictions, as to what relates to our
spiritual concerns, as being under divine desertion, or decays of grace,
or want of a sense of the love of God, or those spiritual comforts,
which we once enjoyed from him; in this condition no believer can or
ought to be easy, at least, stupid and unconcerned about it; but, on the
other hand, he ought to be humbled for those sins which may give
occasion to it, and press after the enjoyment of what he is, at present,
deprived of: Nevertheless, contentment, as it is opposed to repining or
quarrelling with God, is his present duty; and there are some
inducements tending thereunto; as,

_1st_, A person may have the truth of grace, when he is destitute of the
comfortable sense thereof.

_2dly_, There are some great and precious promises made to believers, in
this condition, Isa. liv. 7, 8. Psal. cxii. 4.

_3dly_, God has wise ends in this dispensation; for hereby he brings sin
to remembrance, humbles us for it, fences against presumption and
confidence in our own strength, Psal. xxx. 6, 7. He also puts us upon
the exercise of suitable graces, Psal. xlii. 6. and lxxvii. 6. and when
he is pleased to comfort us after such afflictions, we are better
furnished to comfort others in the like case.

2. The next thing required in this Commandment, is, a charitable frame
of spirit towards our neighbour; so that all our inward motions and
affections should lead us to promote and rejoice in his good, 1 Cor.
xiii. 4-7. This charitable frame of spirit ought to be exercised,

(1.) Towards those who excel us in gifts or graces: These they receive
from the hand of providence, as talents to be improved; and therefore,
if they have a greater share thereof than ourselves, more is required of
them in proportion thereunto, Luke xii. 48. If they excel us in grace,
we ought rather to rejoice, that though we bring but little glory to
God, others bring more; and it will afford us an evidence of the truth
of grace, if, while we are humbled under a sense of our own defects, we
are thankful for the honour that is brought to God by others, Gal. i.
23, 24. John iii. 26, 27, 28, 30.

(2.) We ought to exercise a charitable frame of spirit towards those who
are in more prosperous circumstances in the world; not envying,
grieving, or repining at the providence of God, because their condition
therein is better than ours. We are therefore to consider, that the most
flourishing and prosperous condition in the world, is not always the
best, Psal. xxxvii. 16. nor is it without many temptations that often
attend it, 1 Tim. vi. 9. and if it be not improved to the glory of God,
this will bring a greater weight of guilt on their consciences: Whereas,
on the other hand, if we enjoy communion with him, and the blessings of
the upper springs, this is much more desirable than the most prosperous
condition in the world, without it, Psal. xvi. 5, 6. This leads us to

II. The sins forbidden in this Commandment. And these include in them,
that corrupt fountain from whence the irregularity of our desires
proceeds; or the streams that flow from it, which discover themselves in
the lusts of concupiscence in various instances, as well as in our being
discontented with our own estate.

1. As to the former of these, to wit, the corruption of nature; this
must be considered as contrary to the law of God, and consequently
forbidden in this Commandment. The Pelagians and Papists, indeed,
pretend that the law of God only respects the corruption of our actions
which is to be checked and restrained thereby; and not the internal
habits or principle from whence they proceed; accordingly they take an
estimate hereof from human laws, which only respect the overt acts of
sin, and not those internal inclinations and dispositions which persons
have to commit it: But when we speak of the divine laws, we must not
take our plan from thence; for though man can only judge of outward
actions, God judgeth the heart; and therefore that sin which reigns
there, cannot but be, in the highest degree, offensive to him; and
though the corruption of our nature cannot be altogether prevented or
extirpated, by any prescription in the divine law; yet, this is the
means which God takes, to reprove and humble us for it, Rom. vii. 9.

_Object._ It is objected that the apostle James, in chap. i. 15.
distinguishes between lust and sin; _when lust hath conceived it
bringeth forth sin_; therefore the corruption of nature is not properly
sin; and, consequently not forbidden by the law.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied; that lust may be distinguished from
sin, as the habit or corrupt principle is from the act which it
produces; and therefore, the apostle’s meaning in this scripture is,
that lust, or irregular desires, are first conceived in the heart; and
then actual sins proceed from them in the life; and both of them are
abhorred by God, and contrary to his law: And they seem to be forbidden,
in particular, in this tenth Commandment.

Here we may observe the various methods that corrupt nature takes, in
order to its producing and bringing forth sinful actions. First, the
temptation is offered, either by Satan, or the world, with a specious
pretence of some advantage which may arise from our compliance with it;
and, at the same time we consider not whether it be lawful or unlawful;
and regard not the threatnings that should deter us from it. And, we
sometimes take occasion, from the pernicious examples of the falls and
miscarriages of others, to venture on the commission of the same sins;
pretending that they are, many of them, more acquainted with scripture,
than we are; and there seems to be no ill consequence attending their
commission of those sins: therefore, why may we not give way to them?
And also, that many, who have had more fortitude and resolution than we
can pretend to, have been overcome by the same temptations; therefore it
is in vain for us to strive against them.

Again, corrupt nature sometimes fills the soul with a secret dislike of
the strictness and purity of the law of God; and, at other times, it
suggests that there are some dispensations allowed, in compliance with
the frailty of nature; and therefore, we may venture on the commission
of some sins; At length we take up a resolution that we will try the
experiment, whatever be the consequence thereof. Thus lust brings forth
sin; which, after it has been, for some time indulged, is committed with
greediness, and persisted in with resolution; and, in the end, brings
forth death. And this leads us to consider,

2. The irregularity of those actions, which proceed from the corruption
of our nature, which are sometimes, called the lusts of concupiscence;
whereby, without the least shew of justice, we endeavour to possess
ourselves of those things which belong to our neighbour. Thus Ahab was
restless in his own spirit, till he had got Naboth’s vineyard into his
hand; and, in order thereto, joined in a conspiracy, to take away his
life, 1 Kings xxi. 4. And David coveted his neighbour’s wife; which was
one of the greatest blemishes in his life, and brought with it a long
train of miseries, that attended him in the following part of his reign,
2 Sam. xii. 9-12. And Achan coveted those goods which belonged not to
him, the _wedge of gold_, and the _Babylonish garment_, Josh. vii. 21.
which sin proved his ruin.

This sin of covetousness arises from a being discontented with our
present condition, so that whatever measure of the blessings of
providence we enjoy, we are notwithstanding, filled with disquietude of
mind, because we are destitute of what we are lusting after. This must
be considered as a sin that is attended with very great aggravations.

(1.) It unfits us for the performance of holy duties; prevents the
exercise of those graces, which are necessary in order thereunto; and,
on the other hand, exposes us to manifold temptations, whereby we are
rendered an easy prey to our spiritual enemies.

(2.) It is altogether unlike the temper of the blessed Jesus, who
expressed an entire resignation to the divine will, under the greatest
sufferings, John xviii. 11. Luke xxi. 42. And, indeed, it is a very
great reproach to religion, in general, and a discouragement to those
who are setting their faces towards it, who will be ready to conclude,
from our example, that the consolations of God are small, or that there
is not enough in the promises of the covenant of grace, to quiet our
spirits under their present uneasiness.

(3.) It is to act as though we expected, or desired our portion in this
world, or looked no farther than these present things; which is contrary
to the practice of the best of God’s saints, 2 Cor. iv. 18.

(4.) It tends to cast the utmost contempt on the many mercies we have
received or enjoy, at present, which are, as it were, forgotten in
unthankfulness; and it is a setting aside those blessings which the
gospel gives us to expect.

(5.) It argues an unwillingness to be at God’s disposal, and a leaning
to our own understandings, as though we knew better than him, what was
most conducive to our present and future happiness; and therefore, it is
a tempting God, and grieving his Holy Spirit, which has a tendency to
provoke him to _turn to be our enemy_, and _fight against us_, Isa.
lxiii. 10.

(6.) It deprives us of the present sweetness of other mercies; renders
every providence, in our apprehension, afflictive; and those burdens
which would otherwise be light, almost insupportable.

(7.) If God is pleased to give us what we were discontented and uneasy
for the want of, he often sends some great affliction with it: Thus
Rachel, in a discontented frame, says, _Give me children, or else I
die_, Gen. xxx. 1. she had, indeed, in some respects, her desire of
children; but died in travail with one of them, chap. xxxv. 19.

(8.) It is a sin, which they, who are guilty of, will find it very
difficult to be brought to a thorough conviction of the guilt which they
contract hereby, or a true repentance for it: Thus Jonah, when under a
discontented and uneasy frame of spirit, justified himself, and, as it
were, defied God to do his worst against him; so that when this matter
was charged upon his conscience; _Dost thou well to be angry?_ he
replied, in a very insolent manner, _I do well to be angry, even unto
death_, Jonah iv. 9. The justifying ourselves under such a frame of
spirit, cannot but be highly provoking to God; and whatever we may be
prone to allege in our own behalf, will rather aggravate, than extenuate
the crime.

There are several things which a discontented person is apt to allege in
his own vindication, which have a tendency only to enhance his guilt.

[1.] When he pretends that his natural temper leads him to be uneasy, so
that he cannot, by any means, subdue his passions, or submit to the
disposing providence of God.

To which it may be replied; that the corruption of our nature, and its
proneness to sin, is no just excuse for, but rather an aggravation of
it; whereby it appears to be more deeply rooted in our hearts; and,
indeed, our natural inclinations to any sin are increased, by indulging
it. Therefore, in this case, we ought rather to be importunate with God,
for that grace which may have a tendency to restrain the inordinacy of
our affections, and render us willing to acquiesce in the divine
dispensations, than to paliate and excuse our sin; which only aggravates
the guilt thereof.

[2.] Some, in excuse for their discontented and uneasy frame of spirit,
allege; that the injuries which have been offered to them, ought to be
resented, that they are such as they are not able to bear; and not to
show themselves uneasy under them, would be to encourage persons to
insult and trample on them.

But to this it may be replied; that while we complain of injuries done
us by men, and are prone to meditate revenge against them, we do not
consider the great dishonour that we bring to God, and how much we
deserve to be made the monuments of his fury, so that we should not
obtain forgiveness from him, who are so prone to resent lesser injuries
done to us by our fellow-creatures, Matt. xviii. 23. _& seq._

[3.] Others excuse their discontent, by alleging the greatness of their
afflictions; that their burden is almost insupportable, so that they are
pressed out of measure, above strength, and are ready to say with Job,
_Even to day is my complaint bitter; my stroke is heavier than my
groaning_, Job xxiii. 2.

But to this it may be replied; that our afflictions are not so great as
our sins, which are the procuring cause thereof; nor are they greater
than some that befal others, who are better than ourselves; and, indeed,
by indulging a discontented frame of spirit, we render them heavier than
they would otherwise be.

[4.] Some pretend, that they are discontented and uneasy because the
affliction they are under, was altogether unexpected; and therefore they
were unprovided for, and so less able to bear it. To this it may be

_1st_, That a Christian ought daily to expect afflictions in this
miserable and sinful world, at least, so far as not to be unprovided
for, or think it strange that he should be exercised with them, 1 Pet.
iv. 12.

_2dly_, We have received many unlooked for mercies; and therefore, why
should we be uneasy because we meet with unexpected afflictions, and not
rather set the one against the other.

_4thly_, Some of God’s best children have oftentimes been surprized with
afflictive providences, and yet have been enabled to exercise
contentment under them. Thus the messengers who brought Job heavy and
unexpected tidings of one affliction immediately following another, Job
i. 13, & _seq._ did not overthrow his faith, or make him discontented
under the hand of God; for, notwithstanding all this, he _worshipped_
and _blessed the name of the Lord_, ver. 20, 21.

[5.] Others allege, that the change which is made in their circumstances
in the world, from a prosperous to an afflicted condition of life, is so
great, and lies with such weight upon their spirits, that it is
impossible for them to be easy under it. But to this it may be answered,

_1st_, That when God gave us the good things we are deprived of, he
reserved to himself the liberty of taking them away when he pleased, as
designing hereby, to shew his absolute sovereignty over us; and
therefore, before this affliction befel us, it was our duty, according
to the apostle’s advice, to _rejoice as though we rejoiced not_, and to
_use the world as not abusing it_, 1 Cor. vii. 30. and not to think it
strange, that we should be deprived of it, inasmuch as _the fashion_
thereof _passeth away_.

_2dly_, The greater variety of conditions in which we have been, or are,
in the world, afford more abundant experience of those dealings of God
with us, which are designed as an ordinance for our faith; and
therefore, instead of being discontented under them, we ought rather to
be put hereupon, on the exercise of those graces that are suitable to
the change of our condition, as the apostle says, _I know both how to be
abased, and I know how to abound_, Phil. iv. 12.

[6.] Some allege, that they have the greatest reason to be discontented,
because of the influence which their afflictions have on their spiritual
concerns, as they tend to interrupt their communion with God; and they
are often ready to fear, that these are indications of his wrath, and,
as it were, the beginning of sorrows; which leads them to the very brink
of despair.

To this it may be replied; that it is certain nothing more sharpens the
edge of afflictions, or has a greater tendency to make us uneasy under
them, than such thoughts as these; and not to be sensible hereof, would
be an instance of the greatest stupidity; yet let us consider,

_1st_, That if our fears are ill-grounded, as they sometimes are, the
uneasiness that arises from them is unwarrantable.

_2dly_, If we have too much ground for them, we are to make use of the
remedy that God has provided; accordingly we are to have recourse by
faith, to the blood of Jesus, for forgiveness; and this ought to be
accompanied with the exercise of true repentance, and godly sorrow for
sin, without giving way to those despairing apprehensions, that
sometimes arise from a sense of the greatness of the guilt thereof, as
though it set us out of the reach of mercy; which will add an
insupportable weight to our burden; and,

_3dly_, If under the afflicting hand of God, we are rendered unfit for
holy duties, and have no communion with him therein; this may be owing,
not to the affliction, but that discontented, uneasy frame of spirit
which we too much indulge under it. Therefore we are not to allege this
as an excuse for that murmuring, repining frame of spirit which we are
too apt to discover while exercised therewith.

The last thing to be considered is, the remedies against this sin of
being discontented with our present condition; and these are,

_1st_, A due sense of that undoubted right which God has to dispose of
us, and our condition in this world, as he pleases; inasmuch as we are
his own, Matt. xx. 15.

_2dly_, Uneasiness under the hand of God, or repining at his dealings,
when he thinks fit to deprive us of the blessings we once enjoyed, is
not the way to recover the possession of them; but the best expedient
for us to regain them, or some other blessings that are more than an
equivalent for them, is our exercising an entire resignation to the will
of God, and concluding that all his dispensations are holy, just, and

_3dly_, Let us consider, that God oftentimes designs to make us better
by the sharpest trials, which are an ordinance to bring us nearer to
himself. Thus David says, _Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but
now have I kept thy word_, Psal. cxix. 67.

_4thly_, We ought to consider that God’s design in these dispensations
is, to _try our faith_, and that it _may found afterwards unto praise,
honour, and glory_, as it will be, with respect to every true believer,
_at the appearing of Jesus Christ_, 1 Pet. i. 7. And to this we may add,

_5thly_, That there are many promises of the presence of God, which have
not only a tendency to afford relief against uneasiness or dejection of
spirit; but to give us the greatest encouragement under the sorest
afflictions; particularly, that comprehensive promise, _I will never
leave thee, nor forsake thee_, Heb. xiii. 5.

Footnote 9:

  _See Page 509._

                             Quest. CXLIX.

    QUEST. CXLIX. _Is any man able perfectly to keep the Commandments of

    ANSW. No man is able, either in himself, or by any grace received in
    this life, perfectly to keep the Commandments of God, but doth daily
    break them in thought, word, and deed.

Having considered man’s duty and obligation to keep the Commandments of
God; we are now led to speak of him as unable to keep them; and, on the
other hand, chargeable with the daily breach thereof, which is an
argument of the imperfection of this present state. We have, under a
foregoing answer[10], endeavoured to prove that the work of
sanctification is imperfect in this life; so that all the boasts of the
Pelagians, and others, who defend the possibility of attaining
perfection therein, are vain and unwarrantable. We have also considered
the reasons why God orders that it should be so. And therefore we shall,
without enlarging so much on this subject, as otherwise we might have
done, principally take notice of what is to be observed in this answer,
under two general heads.

I. In what respects, and with what limitations, man is said to be unable
to keep the Commandments of God; and, accordingly it is said, that no
man is able, perfectly, to keep them. By which we are to understand, as
it is observed in the Shorter Catechism[11], no mere man, whereby our
Saviour is excepted, who yielded perfect obedience in our nature. This
is farther explained, with another limitation, namely, that no man is
able to do this since the fall; to denote that man, in his state of
innocency, was able, perfectly to keep the Commandments of God. For he
was made upright, and had the image of God instamped on his soul; which
consisted in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, Eccl. vii. 29. Gen.
i. 27. having the law of God written in his heart, and power to fulfil
it[12]. And, indeed, to suppose the contrary, would be a reflection upon
the divine government, and would argue man to have been created under a
natural necessity of sinning, and perishing; which is contrary to the
goodness, holiness, and justice of God. It is farther observed, that no
man is able, in this life, thus to keep God’s Commandments, which
contains an intimation that the glorified saints, in heaven, will be
enabled to yield perfect obedience; notwithstanding the many
imperfections they are now liable to. Moreover, as man is not able, of
himself, or without the aids of divine grace, to obey God; so he is not
to expect such assistance from him as shall enable him to obey him
perfectly. There is no doubt but the grace of God could free us from all
the remainders of sin in this world, as well as in our passing from it
to heaven; but we have no ground to conclude that it will. For,

1. _The whole creation_ is liable to the curse,[13] (which was
consequent upon man’s first apostasy from God,) under which it
_groaneth_, unto this day, Rom. viii. 22, 23. and shall not be delivered
from it, till the scene of time, and things shall be changed, and the
saints shall be fully possessed of what they are now waiting for, to
wit, the _adoption_, or _the redemption of their bodies_.

2. God is pleased to deny his people that perfection of holiness here,
which they shall attain to hereafter, that he may give them daily
occasion to exercise the duties of self-denial, mortification of sin,
faith, and repentance, which redound to his own glory, and their
spiritual advantage. This leads us,

II. To consider that we daily break the Commandments of God, in thought,
word, and deed.

1. In thought; to wit, when the mind is conversant about sinful objects,
in such away, as that it contracts defilement. It is a sign that the
wickedness of man is very great, when, _every imagination of the
thoughts of his heart is only evil_, and that _continually_, Gen. vi. 5.
Now the sinfulness of the thoughts of men, consists in four things;

(1.) When they chuse, delight in, and are daily conversant about things
that are vain, empty of what is good, and have no tendency to the glory
of God, or the spiritual advantage either of ourselves or others. The
least vain thought which contains an excursion from our duty to God,
brings some degree of guilt with it; but when the mind is wholly taken
up with vanity, so that it is turned aside from, or takes no delight in
those things that are of the highest importance, this will have a
tendency to vitiate the mind, and alienate it from the life of God.

(2.) The thoughts of men may be said to be sinful, when they are not
fixed, or intensely set, on God and divine things, when engaged in holy
duties; and that either, when worldly cares or business, how lawful
soever they may be at other times, have a tendency to divert our
thoughts from them, being altogether inconsistent therewith. Or when our
minds are conversant about spiritual things unseasonably, so as to be
diverted from our present design; as, when we are joining with others in
prayer, instead of bearing a part with them, in having the same exercise
of faith, and other graces, which supposes that our thoughts are
employed about the same object with theirs, we are meditating on some
other divine subject, foreign to the present occasion.

(3.) Our thoughts may be said to be sinful, when they are conversant
about spiritual things, without suitable affections, and, consequently,
meditating on them as common things, in which we are not much concerned;
as when we are destitute of those holy desires after, or delight in God,
when drawing nigh to him in holy duties, which his law requires. And
this will more evidently appear, when, by comparing the frame of our
spirit therein, with what we observe it to be in other instances, we
find, that our affections are easily raised, when engaged in matters of
less importance, but stupid, and unconcerned about our eternal welfare,
in holy duties; which is accompanied with hardness of heart and
impenitency, and sometimes with uneasiness and weariness, as though they
were a burden to us.

On the other hand, our affections may be raised in these duties, and yet
we be chargeable with a sinfulness of thought therein; as,

[1.] When the affections are raised by things of less importance, while
other things that are more affecting, are not regarded. As, supposing a
person is meditating on Christ’s sufferings, and he is very much
affected with, and enraged at the treachery of Judas, that betrayed him,
or the barbarity of the Jews, that crucified him; but not in the least
with the sin of the world, that was the occasion of it, or the greatness
of his love, that moved him to submit to it.

[2.] When our affections are raised in holy duties, and this is all that
we depend upon, for justification and acceptance in the sight of God,
vainly supposing that our tears will wash away our sins, being destitute
of faith in the blood of Christ.

[3.] When we are concerned about the misery consequent on our sins, but
are not in the least inclined to hate them, nor grieved at the dishonour
brought to the name of God thereby.

This leads us to consider the causes hereof, and remedies against it. If
we do not find that our affections are raised in these religious
exercises, as they have been in times past, we ought to enquire into the
reason thereof; whether this be not attended with some great
backslidings from God, which might first occasion it. Sometimes it
proceeds from a neglect of holy duties, either public or private; at
other times, from presumptuous sins, committed, or continued in, with
impenitency. And we often find, that our being too much embarrassed
with, or immoderately engaged in our pursuit of the profits or pleasures
of this world, stupifies and damps our affections, as to religious
matters, so that they are seldom or never raised therein.

As to the remedies against this stupid and unaffected frame of spirit;
we must not only repent of, but abstain from those sins, that have been
the occasion thereof; meditate on those subjects, that are most suitable
to our case, which have a tendency to enflame our love to Christ, and
desire after him, and our zeal for his glory; and often confess and
bewail our stupidity and unbecoming behaviour in holy duties; earnestly
imploring the powerful influence of the Spirit of God, to bring us into,
and keep us in a right frame of spirit for them.

(4.) We have reason to charge ourselves with sin, when guilty of
blasphemous thoughts; as,

_1st_, When we have, by degrees, brought on ourselves a disregard of
God, either by living in the neglect of holy duties, or allowing
ourselves in the practice of known sins.

_2dly_, When, before we were followed with these thoughts, we have found
that we gave way to some doubts about the divine perfections; or,
through the ignorance, pride and vanity of our minds, have contracted an
habitual disregard to, or neglect of that holy reverence with which we
ought to meditate on them.

_3dly_, When we can hear those execrable oaths or curses, by which some
profanely blaspheme the name of God, without expressing our resentment
with the utmost abhorrence and detestation.

_4thly_, When we find, that being followed with blasphemous thoughts,
our hearts are too prone to give in to them, as though they were the
sentiments of our mind; whereby we do, as it were, consent to them,
instead of rejecting them with the utmost aversion.

But, on the other hand, blasphemous thoughts are not always to be
charged on us as a sin. Sometimes they are chargeable on Satan, who
herein acts according to his character, as God’s open enemy; and
endeavours to instil into us the same ideas that he himself has. These
thoughts may be charged on him; when they are hastily injected into our
minds, not being the result of choice or deliberation; but are a kind of
violence offered to our imagination, and, we cannot but discover the
greatest detestation of them, as well as of that enemy of souls, from
whom they take their rise; and when, at the same time, we are enabled to
exercise the contrary graces, and betake ourselves to God with faith and
prayer, that he would rebuke the Devil, and preserve our consciences
undefiled, under this sore temptation, which we cannot but reckon one of
the greatest afflictions that befal us in the world. Thus concerning the
sinfulness of our thoughts.

2. We are farther said, daily to break the Commandments of God in word.
Thus the apostle James speaks of the _tongue_ as _an unruly evil full of
deadly poison_, James iii. 8. Evil-speaking, as was before observed
concerning the sinfulness of our thoughts, is attended with a greater or
less degree of guilt, as the vanity of the mind, and the wickedness of
the heart, more or less discovers itself therein. Our Saviour speaks of
the accountableness of man in the day of judgment, for every _idle
word_, Matt. xii. 36. to denote, that there is no sin so small, but what
is displeasing to an holy God, a violation of his law, and brings with
it a degree of guilt, in proportion to the nature thereof. These indeed,
are the lowest instances of the sinfulness of words. There are others
that are of so heinous a nature, that they can hardly be reckoned
consistent with true godliness. _viz._ defaming, and malicious words;
which are sometimes compared to a _sword_, or _arrows_, Psal. lvii. 4.
or to a _serpent’s tongue_, that leaves a sting and poison behind it,
Psal. cxl. 3. Again, the sinfulness of our words extends itself yet
farther, as they are directed against the blessed God; when persons _set
their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the
earth_, Psal. lxxiii. 9. when they give themselves the liberty to talk
profanely about sacred things, and openly blaspheme the name and
perfections of God. This degree of impiety, indeed, all are not
chargeable with. Nevertheless, we may say, should God mark the iniquity
of our words, as well as of our thoughts, who could stand?

3. We are said to break the Commandments of God, by deeds, _i. e._ by
committing those sins which are contrived in the heart, and uttered with
our tongues. These have been considered under their respective heads, as
a violation of each of the ten Commandments, or doing those things that
are forbidden therein; and therefore we pass them over in this place,
and proceed to speak concerning the aggravations of sin.

Footnote 10:

  _See Quest. LXXVIII. Vol. III. 170._

Footnote 11:

  _See Quest. LXXXII._

Footnote 12:

  _See Vol. II. 44._

Footnote 13:

  Κτίσις these mean the animal part of man.

                               Quest. CL.

    QUEST. CL. _Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous
    in themselves, and in the sight of God?_

    ANSW. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous.
    But some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations,
    are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Though all sins be objectively infinite, and equally opposite to the
holiness of God; yet there are some circumstances attending them, which
are of that pernicious tendency, that they render one sin more heinous
than another; so that it is not to be thought of, without the greatest
horror and resentment; as well as expose the sinner to a sorer
condemnation, if it be not forgiven. These are such as strike at the
very essentials of religion, and tend, as much as in us lies, to sap the
foundation thereof; as when men deny the being and perfections of God,
and practically disown their obligation, to yield obedience to him. And
some sins against the second table, which more immediately respect our
neighbour, are more heinous than others, in proportion to the degree of
injury done him thereby. Thus the taking away the life of another, is
more injurious, and consequently more aggravated than barely the hating
of him; which is, nevertheless, a very great crime. Moreover, the same
sin, whether against the Commandments of the first or second table, may
be said to be more or less heinous, in proportion to the degree of
obstinacy, deliberation, malice, or enmity against God, with which it is
committed; but these things will more evidently appear under the
following answer; which we proceed to consider,

                              Quest. CLI.

    QUEST. CLI. _What are those aggravations which make some sins more
    heinous than others?_

    ANSW. Sins receive their aggravations,

    I. From the persons offending, if they be of riper age, greater
    experience, or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office;
    guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by

Sins are greater than otherwise they would be when committed by those
whose age and experience ought to have taught them better. Thus Elihu
says, _A multitude of years should teach wisdom_, Job xxxii. 7. Many
things would be a reproach to such persons, which are more agreeable to
the character of children, than those who are advanced in age. Again, if
they have had large experience of the grace of God, and been eminent for
their profession, or gifts conferred on them. These circumstances will
render the same sin more aggravated; for where much is given, an
improvement is expected in proportion thereunto; and where great
pretensions are made to religion, the acting disagreeable thereunto,
enhances the guilt, and renders the sin more heinous. Again, if the
person offending be in an eminent station, or office in the world, or
the church; so that he is either a guide to others, or the eyes of many
are upon him, who will be apt to follow and receive prejudice by his
example. When such an one commits a public and open sin, it is more
aggravated than if it had been committed by another. Thus God bids the
prophet Ezekiel _see what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the
dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery_, Ezek. viii. 12. And the
prophet Jeremiah speaks of those who ought to have been guides to the
people, _viz._ the priests and the prophets, Jer. xxiii. 11. 14. who
transgressed against the Lord; and charges this on them as an
extraordinary instance of wickedness; which their character in the
world, and the church rendered more heinous, though it was exceeding
heinous in itself.

    II. Sins receive their aggravations, from the parties offended; if
    immediately against God, his attributes, and worship, against
    Christ, and his grace; the holy Spirit, his witness, and workings,
    against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially
    related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly
    weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good
    of all or many.

There is no sin but what may be said to be committed against God; yet,

1. Some are more immediately against him, as they carry in them a
contempt of his attributes and worship; whereby his name and ordinances
are profaned, and the glory that is instamped thereon, little set by,
Mal. i. 3, 4. Other sins reflect dishonour on our Lord Jesus Christ; and
that either on his person, when we conclude him to be, or, at least, act
as if he were no other than a mere creature; or, on his offices; when we
refuse to receive instruction from him as a prophet, or depend on his
righteousness as a priest, in order to our justification and acceptance,
in the sight of God; or to submit to him as a King, who is able to
subdue us to himself, and defend us from the assaults of our spiritual
enemies; or when we despise his grace, and neglect that salvation which
he has purchased, and offers in the gospel, Heb. ii. 3.

Again, our sins are aggravated when they are committed against the
person of the Holy Ghost; when we deny him to be a divine Person, or the
author of the work of regeneration, as supposing that grace takes its
rise from ourselves, rather than him; or when we do not desire to be led
by the Spirit, or seek his divine influence in order thereunto. But, on
the other hand, resist his holy motions and impressions, and act
contrary to those convictions which he is pleased to grant us; by which
means we are said to _grieve_ and _quench the spirit_, Eph. iv. 7. 1
Thess. v. 19. Also, when we reject and set ourselves against the witness
of the Spirit, and that, either by concluding, that assurance of our
interest in the love of God, may be attained without it, and reckon all
pretences to it no better than enthusiasm; or, when on the other hand,
we suppose that the Spirit witnesses with our spirits, that we are the
children of God, without regard had to the work of sanctification, that
always accompanies, and is an evidence thereof; whereby we take that
comfort to ourselves which does not proceed from the Spirit of holiness.

2. Sins are aggravated as committed more immediately or directly against
men, and particularly those, to whom we stand related in the bonds of
nature, or, who have laid us under the strongest obligations, by acts of
friendship to us. This is applicable to inferiors, who ought to pay a
deference to their superiors; those sins that are committed by such,
contain the highest instance of ingratitude, and are contrary to the
laws or dictates of nature, and therefore aggravated in proportion

Moreover, if they are committed against the saints; this is reckoned, by
God, an instance of contempt cast on himself, (whose image they are said
to bear;) much more, if we oppose them as saints, Luke xvi. 16. Matt.
xii. 6. And though we do not proceed to this degree of wickedness, our
crime is said to be greatly aggravated, when we lay a stumbling-block
before those who are weak in the faith, which may tend to discourage
them in the ways of God; and, by this means, we do what in us lies, to
_destroy those for whom Christ died_, Rom. xiv. 15. 1 Cor. viii. 11.
This is an injury done, not so much to their bodies, as their souls;
which are wounded, and brought into great perplexity thereby.

However, we must distinguish between an offence given, and unjustly
taken; or, it is one thing for persons to be offended at that which is
our indispensible duty, in which case we are not to regard the
sentiments of those who attempt to discourage us from, or censure us for
the performance of it; and our giving offence in things that are in
themselves indifferent, and might, without any prejudice, be avoided; in
which case a compliance with the party offended, seems to be our duty;
especially if the offence takes its rise from conscience, rather, than
humour and corruption; and our not complying with him herein, would tend
very much to discourage and weaken his hands in the ways of God; and
therefore may be reckoned an aggravation of this sin.

Moreover, it is a farther aggravation of sin committed, when it appears
to be contrary to the common good of all men. This guilt may be said to
be contracted by them who endeavour to hinder the success of preaching
of the gospel, 1 Thess. ii. 15. or otherwise, when the sin of one man
brings down the judgments of God on a whole church or body of people; of
this kind was Achan’s sin, Josh. vii. 20, 21, 25.

    III. Sins are aggravated from the nature and quality of the offence;
    if it be against the express letter of the law, break many
    commandments, contain in it many sins; if not only conceived in the
    heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and
    admit of no reparation; if against means, mercies, judgments, light
    of nature, conviction of conscience; public or private admonition,
    censures of the church, civil punishments, and our prayers,
    purposes, promises; vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men;
    if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently,
    boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight,
    continuance, or relapsing after repentance.

1. Sin is aggravated when it is committed against the express letter of
the law, so that there remains no manner of doubt, whether it be a sin
or duty. To venture on the commission of what plainly appears to be
unlawful, is to sin with great boldness and presumption, whereby the
crime is very much aggravated, Rom. i. 32.

2. When it contains a breach of several of the Commandments; and
therefore it may be reckoned a complicated crime. Of this kind was the
sin of David, in the matter of Uriah; in which he was guilty of murder,
adultery, dissimulation, injustice, _&c._ Also Ahab’s sin against
Naboth; which included in it not only covetousness, but perjury, murder,
oppression, and injustice.

3. Sins are more aggravated, when they break forth in words, or outward
actions, than if they were only conceived in the heart. It is true, sin
in the heart has some peculiar aggravations, as it takes deeper root,
becomes habitual, and is entertained with a secret delight and pleasure,
and as it is the source and fountain, from whence actual sins proceed.
Nevertheless, when that, which was before conceived in the heart, is
discovered by words or actions, this adds a farther aggravation to it,
as it brings a more public dishonour to God, and often-times a greater
injury to men.

4. Sins are farther aggravated, when they are of such a nature, that it
is impossible for us to repair the injuries done thereby, or make
restitution for them. Thus nothing can compensate for our taking away
the life of another, or for our casting a reproach on the holy ways of
God; and thereby endeavouring to bring his gospel into contempt; or,
when we entice others to sin, by which means we turn them aside from
God, and endeavour to ruin their souls; which is an injury that we
cannot, by any means, repair; and therefore the crime is exceedingly

5. If the sin committed be contrary to the very light of nature, such as
would be offensive, even to the Heathen, 1 Cor. v. 1.

6. Sins receive their aggravations, when committed against means,
mercies, and judgments; as when we break through all the fences which
are set to prevent them; and the grace of God, revealed in the gospel,
is not only ineffectual, to preserve from sin, though designed for that
end, Tit. ii. 11, 12. but turned into lasciviousness, Jude, ver. 4. When
mercies are misimproved, undervalued, and, as it were, trampled on, Rom.
ii. 4. Isa. i. 3, Deut. xxii. 6. and judgments, whether threatened or
inflicted are not regarded, nor were claimed thereby.

7. Sins are farther aggravated, when they are committed against the
checks and convictions of conscience; which is a judge and a reprover
within our own breasts. This is an offering violence to ourselves, and
making many bold advances towards judicial blindness, hardness of heart,
and a total apostacy.

8. When the sins committed are against public or private admonitions,
censures of the church or civil punishments, which are God’s ordinance
to bring men to repentance; and if they prove ineffectual, to answer
that end, they will be left more stupid than they were before.

9. Sins are farther aggravated, when they are contrary to our own
prayers, vows, covenants, and promises made either to God or men. When
we confess sin, or pretend to humble ourselves before God in prayer, and
yet, at other times, indulge the same sins, and are proud,
self-conceited, and exalt ourselves against him; or when we pray for
strength against corruption, or grace to perform holy duties, when, in
reality, we have no love to, nor desire after them; or when we praise
him for mercies received, while we are habitually unthankful, and
forgetful of his benefits. Moreover, when we are very forward to make
vows, covenants, or engagements, to be the Lord’s; whereby we often lay
a snare for ourselves, from some circumstances that attend this action;
and more especially from our disregarding it afterwards.

10. Sins are aggravated from the manner of our committing them, _viz._
If they are done deliberately, with fore-thought or contrivance: As when
persons are said to devise mischief upon their beds; and then as to
their conversation, to set themselves against that which is good, Psal.
xxxiv. 5. Again, if it be done wilfully, that is, with the full bent of
the will, making it the matter of our choice, and resolving to commit
it, whatever it cost us. When we do it presumptuously, either when we
take encouragement hereunto from the grace of God, Rom. vi. 1. or when
his hand is lifted up against us, or when we see his judgments falling
very heavy upon others, and are not disposed to take warning thereby;
but grow more hardened and stupid than before.

Again, when sin is committed maliciously impudently, and obstinately;
this argues a rooted hatred against God. Or, when it is committed with
delight arising either from the thoughts we entertain thereof, before we
commit it; or the pleasure we take in what we have done, afterwards.
Again, when we boast of what we have done, which is to glory in our
shame, Psal. x. 3. and lii. 1. when we do, as it were, value ourselves
for having got rid of the prejudices of education, and all former
convictions of sin, that so we may go on therein with less disturbance.
And when persons boast of their over-reaching others in their way of
dealing in the world, Prov. xx. 14. which they very often do in their
secret thoughts, when they are ashamed to let the world know how remote
they are from the practice of that justice, that ought to be between man
and man. Again sins are aggravated when they are frequently committed,
or when we relapse into the same sin, after having pretended to repent
of it, 2 Pet. ii. 20,-22. Matt. xii. 43,-45.

    IV. Sins are aggravated from circumstances of time, and place; if on
    the Lord’s-day, or other times of divine worship, or immediately
    before, or after these, or other helps, to prevent or remedy such
    miscarriages, if in public, or in the presence of others who are
    thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

When sins are committed by us on the Lord’s-day, it is a profaning that
time which he has sanctified for his service, and so renders us guilty
of a double crime; or, when they are committed at any other time, which
we occasionally set apart for divine worship; or, in those seasons, when
God calls for fasting and mourning for our own sins, or those that are
publicly committed in the world, Isa. xxii. 12,-14. or, at other times,
when we have lately received signal deliverances, either personal or
national, Psal. cvi. 7. or, when they are committed immediately before
or after we have engaged in holy duties; the former renders us very
unfit for them; the latter will effectually take away all those
impressions, which have been made on our spirits therein.

Again, sins receive aggravation from the place in which they are
committed: As for instance, if they are committed in those places, in
which the name of God is more immediately called on, which if visible,
will afford great matter of scandal to some, and an ill example to
others; and if secretly committed, will tend to defile our souls, and
argue us guilty of great hypocrisy. Moreover, when we commit those sins,
which are generally abhorred in the place where providence has cast our
lot: This is to render ourselves a stain and dishonour to those with
whom we converse. Thus the prophet speaks of some, who, _in the land of
uprightness_, will _deal unjustly_, Isa. xxvi. 10. and especially when
they are committed in the presence of others, who are likely to be
provoked or defiled thereby; by which means we contract the guilt of
other men’s sins, as well as our own; and are doubly guilty, in that we
are, in many respects, the cause of their transgressing.

There are several instances in which we may be said to contract the
guilt of other men’s sins, which I shall only mention briefly, _viz._
when superiors lay their commands on inferiors, or oblige them to do
that which is in itself sinful; or, when we advise those who stand upon
a level with us, to commit sin, or give our consent to the commission of
it, Acts vii. 58. chap. vii. 1. Again, when inferiors flatter superiors,
or commend them for their sin: Thus when Herod had courted the applause
of the people, by the oration which he made to them; they, on the other
hand, flattered him, when they _gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of
a god, and not of a man_, chap. xii. 22. Again, when we have recourse to
those places, where sin is usually committed, and desire to associate
ourselves with them, whose conversation is a reproach to religion, Prov.
xiii. 20. or, when we are sharers, or partakers, with others, in their
unlawful gains; first encouraging, abetting, and helping them therein;
and then dividing the spoil with them, chap. i. 23,-25. Again, when we
connive at sin committed; or, if it be in our power, do not restrain or
hinder the commission of it; or, when we conceal it, when the farther
progress thereof might be prevented by our divulging it. Again, when we
provoke persons to sin. And hereby draw forth their corruptions; and
when we extenuate sin, whether committed by ourselves or others; which
is a degree of vindicating, or pleading for it. And lastly, when we do
not mourn for, or pray against those sins which are publicly committed
in the world, that are like to bring down national judgments[14].

Footnote 14:

  These several heads, concerning the aggravations of sin, are contained
  in three or four lines, which are helpful to our memories. Most of the
  heads of this answer, are contained in that verse, _Quis?_ _Quid?_
  _Ubi?_ _Quibus auxiliis?_ _Cur?_ _Quomodo?_ _Quando?_ And those that
  relate to our contracting the guilt of other men’s sins, in the
  following lines; _Jussu._ _Consilio._ _Consensu._ _Palpo._ _Recursu._
  _Participans._ _Nutans._ _Non obstans._ _Non manifestans._
  _Incessans._ _Minuens._ _Non mærens._ _Solicitansve._

                          Quest. CLII., CLIII.

    QUEST. CLII. _What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?_

    ANSW. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty,
    goodness, and holiness of God, and, against his righteous law,
    deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is
    to come, and cannot be expiated, but by the blood of Christ.

    QUEST. CLIII. _What doth God require of us, that may escape his
    wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the

    ANSW. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by
    reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us
    repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and
    the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to
    us the benefits of his mediation.

In the former of these answers, we have an account of then demerit of
sin; in the latter, we have the character and disposition of those who
have ground to conclude that they shall be delivered from the wrath and
curse of God due to it. We have already considered one sin as greater
than another, by reason of several circumstances that tend to enhance
the guilt of those who commit them: Nevertheless, there is no sin so
small but it has this aggravation in it, that it is a violation of the
law of God, and is opposite to his holiness; and therefore it cannot but
render the sinner guilty in his sight; and guilt is that whereby a
person is liable to suffer punishment in proportion to the offence
committed: Therefore it follows, that there is no ground for that
distinction which the Papists make between _mortal_ and _venial_ sins;
whereof the former, they suppose, deserves the wrath and curse of God
both in this and another world; but as for the latter, namely, _venial_
sins, they conclude that they may be atoned for by human satisfactions,
or penances; and that they are, in their own nature, so small, that they
do not deserve eternal punishment. This is an opinion highly derogatory
to the glory of God, and opens a door to licentiousness, in a variety of
instances; the contrary to which, is contained in the answer we are now

For the understanding whereof, let it be considered; that it is one
thing for a sin to deserve the wrath and curse of God, and another thing
for the sinner to be liable and exposed to it. The former of these
arises from the heinous nature of sin, and is inseparable from it; the
latter is inconsistent with a justified state. Nothing can take away the
guilt of sin, but the atonement made by Christ; and that forgiveness or
freedom from condemnation, which God is pleased to bestow as the
consequence thereof, Rom. viii. 1, 33. It is this that discharges a
believer from a liableness to the wrath and curse of God. Though one sin
be greater than another, by reason of various circumstances that attend,
or are contained in it, as was observed under the last answer: yet the
least sin must be concluded to be objectively infinite, as it is
committed against a God of infinite perfection, since all offences are
great in proportion to the dignity of the person against whom they are
committed. Thus the same sin that is committed against an inferior, or
an equal, which deserves a less degree of punishment, if it be committed
against a king, may be so circumstanced, as that it will be deemed a
capital offence, and render the criminal guilty of high treason; though,
at the same time, no real injury is done to, but only attempted against
him. In like manner we must conclude, that though it be out of our own
power to injure or detract from the essential glory of the great God;
yet every offence committed against him is great, in proportion to his
infinite excellency; and is therefore said to deserve his wrath and
curse. Wrath or anger, when applied to God, is not to be considered as a
passion in him, as it is in men; but denotes his will to punish sin
committed, which takes its first rise from the holiness of his nature,
which is infinitely opposite to it. And the degree of punishment that he
designs to inflict, is contained in his law; which, as it denounces
threatnings against those who violate it, the sinner is hereby said to
be exposed to the curse or condemning sentence thereof, agreeably to the
rules of justice, and the nature of the offence. This is what we are to
understand, in this answer, by sin’s deserving the wrath and curse of

And this is farther considered, as what extends itself to this life, and
that which is to come. Punishments inflicted in this life, are but the
beginning of miseries; but they are sometimes inexpressibly great, as
the Psalmist says, _Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according
to thy fear, so is thy wrath_, Psal. xc. 11. Sometimes there is but a
very short interval between sin and the punishment; as in the case of
Nadab and Abihu, Korah, and his company, Achan, and many others;
whereas, at other times, it is long deferred; nevertheless, it will fall
with great weight, at last, on the offender. Thus God sometimes punishes
the sin of youth in old age; and when a greater degree of guilt has been
contracted, writes bitter things against them, Job xiii. 26. But the
greatest degree of punishment is reserved for sinners in another world;
which is styled _the wrath to come_, 1 Thess. i. 10. But these things
having been insisted on in some foregoing answers[15], we shall add no
more on that head; but proceed to what is farther observed, viz. that
this punishment cannot be expiated any otherwise than by the blood of
Christ. This is fitly inserted after the account we have had of man’s
liableness to the wrath of God, by reason of sin: for when we have an
afflicting sense of the guilt we have exposed ourselves to, nothing else
will afford us relief.

The next thing to be considered is, how it may be removed, or by what
means the justice of God may be satisfied, and an atonement made for
sin. This is said to be done no other way but by the blood of Christ, as
has been considered elsewhere, under a foregoing answer; in which we
endeavoured to prove the necessity of Christ’s making satisfaction, and
the price that he paid in order thereto[16]. We have also considered the
fruits and effects thereof, as it has a tendency to remove the guilt of
sin, and procure for us a right to eternal life:[17] Therefore, we shall
pass over the consideration thereof in this place; only we may observe,
that, since this can be brought about by no other means but Christ’s
satisfaction; it is not inconsistent with what is contained in the
following words, if rightly understood by us, to assert that God
requires of us, repentance, faith, and a diligent attendance on the
outward means of grace; though we must not conclude them to be the
procuring cause of our justification, or a means to expiate sin. They
are certainly very much unacquainted with the way of salvation by
Christ, as well as the great defects of their repentance and faith, who
suppose, that God is hereby induced to pardon our sins, or deliver us
from the wrath we have deserved thereby; nevertheless, we are not to
think, that impenitent unbelieving sinners have a right to determine
that they are in a justified state, or have ground to claim an interest
in the benefits of Christ’s redemption. Therefore, these graces are
necessary to evince our interest in what he has done and suffered for
us, and they are inseparably connected with salvation; though they do
not give us a right and title to eternal life, as Christ’s righteousness
doth. We have, in two foregoing answers, given a particular account of
repentance and faith. Concerning repentance, we have observed, that it
is a special saving grace, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, and have
shewn in what way he works it; and also the difference between legal and
evangelical repentance, as the former is often found in those who are
destitute of the latter. We have considered the various acts of
repentance unto life[18]; what the objects and acts of saving faith are;
and how it differs from that which is not so; and the use of this grace,
in the whole conduct of our lives, and how it gives life and vigour to
all other graces, and enables us to perform duties in a right
manner[19]. Therefore we shall not insist on this subject at present,
but only speak of repentance and faith as means appointed by God, in
order to our attaining compleat salvation.

The means conducive hereunto, are either internal or external; the
former of these are inseparably connected with salvation; so that
_none_, who repent and _believe, shall perish_, John iii. 16. These
graces, together with all others, that accompany or flow from them, are
the fruits and effects of Christ’s mediation; and therefore they are
sometimes called saving graces. As they are wrought in the hearts of
believers, and have a reference to salvation; they may be truly styled
internal means of salvation; and, as such, they are distinguished from
those outward and ordinary means of grace, by which God is pleased to
work them. And these are the ordinances which we are diligently to
attend on, in hopes of attaining those graces under them, till God is
pleased to give success to our endeavours, and work grace under these
means; the efficacy whereof, is wholly owing to his power, and is to be
resolved into his sovereign will.

This may be fitly illustrated by what is said concerning the poor,
_impotent_, _blind_, _halt_, and _withered_ persons, _waiting_ at the
_pool of Bethesda_, for the _angels troubling the water_; after which,
he that _first stepped in, was made whole_, John v. 2-4. Nevertheless,
we do not find that every one who waited there embraced the first
opportunity, and received a cure; for some were obliged to wait many
years; and if they were made whole at last, they had no reason to think
their labour lost. This may be applied to those who have the means of
grace. Many sit under them who receive no saving advantage thereby, till
God is pleased, in his accepted time, to work those graces which render
these ordinances effectual to salvation. This blessed success attending
them, is from God; he could, indeed, save his people without them, as he
converted Paul, when going to Damascus, with a design to persecute the
church there; being not only unacquainted with, but prejudiced against
the means of grace. But this is not God’s ordinary method. He has put an
honour on his own institutions, so as to render it necessary for us to
pray, wait and hope for saving blessings, in attending on them. Thus
when he promises to _put his Spirit_ within his people, and _cause them
walk in his statutes_, he adds; yet _for this will I be enquired of by
the house of Israel, to do it for them_, Ezek. xxxvi. 27, 37.
accordingly we are commanded to _seek the Lord while he may be found,
and to call upon him while he is near_, Isa. lv. 6. Hereby we testify
our approbation of that method which he has ordained for the application
of redemption; and by our perseverance therein, as determining not to
leave off waiting till we have obtained the blessing expected, we
proclaim the valuableness thereof, and subscribe to the sovereignty of
God, in dispensing those blessings to his people, which they stand in
need of, as well as pray and hope for them in his own time and way. Thus
we are to wait on the means of grace.

And it is farther observed, that this is to be done with diligence; not
in a careless and indifferent manner, as though we neither expected nor
desired much advantage from them. This implies in it an embracing every
opportunity, and observing those special seasons, in which God is
pleased, in his gospel, to hold forth the golden sceptre of grace; as
also our having earnest desires and raised expectations of obtaining
that grace from him which he encourages us to wait and hope for[20].
Which leads us to speak particularly concerning those outward means, as
contained in the following answer.

Footnote 15:

  _See Vol. II. Quest. XXVIII, XXIX, and Vol. III. Quest. LXXXIX._

Footnote 16:

  _See Vol. II. Quest. XLIV. Page 273-290._

Footnote 17:

  _See Quest. LXX, LXXI. Vol. III. p. 66-96. and what was said under
  those answers, to explain the doctrine of justification._

Footnote 18:

  _See Quest. LXXVI. Vol. III. p. 166._

Footnote 19:

  _See Quest. LXXII., LXXIII. Vol. III. p. 98._

Footnote 20:

  To affect to honour the mercy of God, by supposing this is sufficient
  for all our sins, however persevered in, is to disparage his truth
  which has proposed terms of mercy, connected our salvation with them,
  and pronounced them exclusive. It is to imagine that Deity shall
  change his purposes; it is an affront to his wisdom to suppose that
  after he has placed us in a state of probation and made us
  accountable, no retribution should be made. It indicates insincerity,
  and not a real regard for the divine glory, to set up such a
  substitute for the gospel scheme of salvation.

  To excuse sin by alleging our impotency to good, is disingenuous;
  because the party can be conscious of no obstacle, unless his own
  inclinations to evil can be so denominated. This excuse casts the
  blame on God. To persist in sin under such pretences, is _to do evil
  that good may come_, which, the Apostle of the Gentiles declares
  renders condemnation just; it is to sin _that grace may abound_.

  To defer the acceptation of offered mercy, and put off the work of
  repentance, is unwise, as it is heaping sorrows against the day of
  bitterness; it is imprudent, because it is to remain at enmity with
  Him upon whom we depend, and to be liable at every moment of this
  uncertain life to be involved in everlasting despair. It is evidence
  of a very sordid mind to prefer the base gratifications of the senses,
  to the refined pleasures of virtue, and the beauty, peace, and
  comforts of holiness.

  If the procrastination proceed from a dread of the labour of acquiring
  the knowledge of the truth, this will be increased by every hour’s
  delay, as the mind becomes thereby the less susceptible of religious
  impressions. The time in which the work should be accomplished also
  becomes the shorter; like a traveler, who has mistaken his course, the
  impenitent has every step to tread back again, and his time is
  proportionally curtailed. The truths of natural science flatter our
  pride and ambition, but those of religion humble and crucify them; the
  latter, being opposed to the carnal mind, disgust; if such disgust
  produce a delay of conversion, the truths which have once excited such
  aversion will be more likely afterwards to do it, because the mind by
  once having rejected them has become more sensual, and opposed to
  moral good.

  The cares and business of life not merely pre-occupy the mind, and
  exclude the thoughts of religion, but augment our addictedness to
  earthly objects, and render progressively the mind more insensible to
  lessons of piety. In old age avarice or sensuality are often at the
  highest pitch; the man has become more impatient and irritable,
  tenacious even of his errours, and averse to changes, no change can be
  looked for but the great one, when the messenger arrives, who brings a
  scythe in his hand.

  To defer conversion till death, that its terrors may dissolve the
  charms of the world, besides the hazard of surprise, is unreasonable,
  as it supposes mercy when we have persisted in rebellion as long as we
  can; it is to expect that God’s Spirit shrill always strive with man;
  it is highly presumptuous; and it exposes also to self-deception, as
  religion in that late hour must be the effect of necessity, and
  destitute of the fruits and proofs of holiness.

                              Quest. CLIV.

    QUEST. CLIV. _What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates
    to us the benefits of his mediation?_

    ANSW. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to
    his church the benefits of his mediation, are, all his ordinances;
    especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made
    effectual to the elect for salvation.

In explaining this answer, we shall consider,

I. What we are to understand by the ordinances, which are here styled
outward and ordinary means of grace. The first idea contained in them
is, that they are religious duties, prescribed by God, as an instituted
method, in which he will be worshipped by his creatures; but that which
more especially denominates them to be ordinances, is, the promise which
he has annexed to them of his special presence, and the encouragement
that he has given to his people in attending on them, to hope for those
blessings that accompany salvation. As God works grace by, and under
them, they are called means of grace; and because he seldom works grace
without first inclining persons to attend on him therein, and wait for
his salvation; therefore they are called the ordinary means of grace;
and because they have not in themselves a tendency to work grace,
without the inward and powerful influences of the Holy Spirit,
accompanying them, they are distinguished from it, and accordingly
styled the outward means of grace.

That which may be observed concerning the ordinances as thus described,

1. That they may be engaged in, pursuant to a divine appointment;
therefore no creature hath a warrant to enjoin any modes of worship,
pretending that this will be acceptable, or well-pleasing to God; since
he alone, who is the object of worship, has a right to prescribe the way
in which he will be worshipped. To do this would be an instance of
profaneness and bold presumption; and the worship performed pursuant
thereunto would be _in vain_; as our Saviour says concerning that which
has no higher a sanction than _the commandments of men_, Matt. xv. 9.
and whatever pretence of religion there may be therein, God looks upon
such worshippers as well as those whose prescriptions they follow
herein, with the utmost contempt, and will punish them for, rather than
encourage them in it. Thus the prophet reproves Israel, as being guilty
of defection from God, who engaged in that worship which he had not
ordained, when he says, _The statutes of Omri are kept, and all the
works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels, that I should
make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing.
Therefore shall ye bear the reproach of my people_, Mic. vi. 16. And
Jeroboam is often branded with this character, that _he made Israel to
sin_, for instituting ordinances of divine worship, and _setting up
calves in Dan and Bethel, making an house of high places, and priests of
the lowest of the people_, and appointing sacred times, in which they
should perform this worship; all which were of his own devising, and
became a snare to the people, Exod. xx. 24. It is certain, that such
appointments cannot be reckoned means of grace, or pledges of God’s
presence; and it would redound to his dishonour, should he be obliged to
communicate the benefits of Christ’s redemption hereby, to any who,
(under a pretence of worshipping him in a way of their own devising,)
offer the highest affront to him.

2. If God is pleased to reveal his will concerning the way in which we
are to worship him, and hope for his presence, it is our indispensable
duty to comply with it, and implore his acceptance of us herein; and be
importunate with him, that he would put a glory on his own institutions,
and grant us his special presence and grace, that we may be enabled to
perform whatever duty he enjoins, in such a manner, that the most
valuable ends may be answered, and our spiritual edification and
salvation promoted thereby.

3. Though we consider the ordinances as instituted means of grace; yet,
a bare attendance on them will not, of itself, confer grace, as is very
evident from the declining state of religion, in those who engage in the
external part of it, and attend upon all the ordinances of God’s
appointment, and yet remain destitute of saving grace; who are stupid
under the awakening calls of the gospel, and regard not the invitations
given therein, to adhere stedfastly to Jesus Christ, whom in words they
profess to own, though in works they deny him. This is a convincing
evidence, that it is God alone, who appointed those ordinances, that can
make them effectual to salvation. Thus concerning the nature of an
ordinance, and in what respect it may be called an outward and ordinary
means of grace. We are now,

II. To consider what are those ordinances by which Christ communicates
to us the benefits of his mediation. These may be considered,

1. As engaged in by particular persons, as subservient to their
spiritual welfare, in order to the beginning or carrying on the work of
grace in their souls; such as meditation about divine subjects,
self-examination, and all other duties, which are performed by them in
their private retirement, in hope of having communion with God therein.

2. There are other ordinances which God has given to worshipping
assemblies, which are founded in that general promise, _In all places
where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee_,
Exod. xx. 24. Those mentioned in this answer, are the words, sacraments
and prayer; of which the sacraments are particularly given to the
churches; the word and prayer, to all who are favoured with the
gospel-dispensation. And to these we may add, singing the praises of
God; which, though it be not particularly mentioned in this answer, is,
nevertheless, a duty wherein we may expect to meet with his presence and
blessing; and accordingly is an ordinance which God makes effectual to
promote our salvation. Therefore, before we enter on the subject-matter
of the following answers, we shall speak something concerning this duty,
as an ordinance which he has instituted; together with the way and
manner in which it is to be performed. And,

(1.) We may enquire what ground we have to reckon it among the
ordinances of God. This must not be taken for granted, but proved;
because there are many who deny it to be so. That it was an ordinance
enjoined to, and practised by the church, under the Old
Testament-dispensation, appears from the many songs and psalms given, by
divine inspiration, to be used by the church, in their solemn acts of
worship; some of which were not only sung by particular persons; but the
whole church is represented as joining therein with united voices. Thus
when Pharaoh’s host was drowned in the red sea, it is said, _Moses and
the children of Israel sang_ the song that was given by divine
inspiration for that purpose, contained in Exod. xv. And when he was
inspired with that song, in Deut. xxxii. he was commanded, in chap.
xxxi. _to write it for them, and teach it to them, and put it in their
mouths_; that they might sing it in their public worship; which he did
accordingly, ver. 22. And from the days of David, when public worship
was more settled than it had been before; and many things relating to
the order, beauty and harmony thereof, brought into the church by divine
direction, then there was an order of men called _Singers_, who were to
preside over, and set forward the work. And there was also a book of
psalms, given by divine inspiration, for the use of the church therein,
that they might not be at a loss as to the subject-matter of praise in
this ordinance; as may be inferred from the style thereof, the words
being often put in the plural number; which argues, that they were to be
sung, not by one person in the church, but by the whole congregation, in
their solemn and public acts of worship; and accordingly we often find
the whole multitude of them exhorted to sing the praises of God. Thus it
is said in Psal. xxx. 4. _Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and
give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness._ And elsewhere, _Sing
aloud unto God our strength. Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.
Take a psalm_, &c. _For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the
God of Jacob_, Psal. lxxxi. 1, 2, 3, 4. And sometimes the church are
represented as exciting one another to this duty. Thus it is said, _O
come let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock
of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and
make a joyful noise unto him with psalms_, Psal. xcv. 1, 2.

And it may be observed, that how much soever the use of musical
instruments, which were in this worship may be concluded to be
particularly adapted to that dispensation, as they were typical of that
spiritual joy, which the gospel church should obtain by Christ; yet the
ordinance of singing remains a duty, as founded on the moral law; and
accordingly we find, that the practice hereof was recommended, not only
to the Jews, but to all nations. Thus it is said, _Make a joyful noise
unto the Lord all the earth_, Psal. xcviii. 4. And he speaks to this
purpose, when he presses this duty upon _all lands_, whom he exhorts to
_serve him with gladness; and to come before the Lord with singing_,
Psal. c. 1, 2. And besides, it seems to be preferred before some other
parts of worship, which were merely ceremonial. Thus the Psalmist says,
_I will praise the name of God with a song. This also shall please the
Lord better than an ox or bullock_, Psal. lxix. 30, 31. that is, God is
more glorified hereby than he is by the external rites of ceremonial
worship; especially when abstracted from those acts of faith, which add
an excellency and glory to them.

And this leads us to consider it as an ordinance practised by the New
Testament-church. Some had songs given in to them by inspiration; as the
virgin Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, Luke i. 46, 47, & _seq._ chap. ii.
28, & _seq._ and sometimes the members of particular churches had a
psalm given in by extraordinary revelation, 1 Cor. xiv. 26. and we can
hardly suppose this to have been without a design that it should be sung
in the church for their edification; especially considering it as an
extraordinary dispensation of the Spirit: And, as the singing of a psalm
in the church, is an act of public worship, it is reasonable to suppose,
that the whole assembly joined together therein; and therefore this
ordinance was not only practised by them, but had also a divine
sanction, in that the Spirit was the author of the psalm that was sung:
And we sometimes read of the church’s singing an hymn, which was no
other than a psalm or spiritual song, at the Lord’s-supper: Thus our
Saviour, in the close of that ordinance, sung an hymn with his
disciples, that small church with whom he then communicated, Mark xiv.
26. And at another time, when he was _come nigh to the descent of the
mount of olives_, it is said, that _the multitude of the disciples began
to rejoice, and to praise God with a loud voice_, Luke xxix. 37. where,
by _the multitude of the disciples_, we must understand all that
followed him, who had, at that time, a conviction in their consciences,
that he was the Messiah, from the miracles which they had seen him work;
and we have an account of the short hymn which they sang; _Blessed be
the king that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory
in the highest_, Luke xix. 38. This was not, indeed, sung in a
church-assembly; however, it was with a _loud voice_, and herein they
gave glory to God: And though some of the Pharisees were offended at it,
ver. 39. yet our Saviour, in the following words, vindicates their
practice herein; which argues, that it was a branch of religious
worship, performed by them at that time; and a duty approved of by him.
All that I would infer from hence, is, that our Saviour gave countenance
to the singing the praises of God, with united voices. Therefore it
follows, that we ought, on all occasions, to do the same thing; and
consequently, singing is an ordinance, whereby the church ought to
glorify God, and shew forth his praise. Thus we have considered singing
to be an ordinance, or a branch of instituted worship.

(2.) There are several things in which this ordinance agrees with some
others; particularly with prayer in all the parts thereof; and with
reading and preaching of the word. That it has something in common with
prayer, appears from the subject-matter of several of the psalms of
David; some of which are called prayers, and accordingly they contain in
them several petitions, for blessings that the church stood in need of,
together with various instances of confession of sin, as well as
thanksgiving for mercies received. As to the agreement of this
ordinance, with preaching or reading the word; that, I think, may be
inferred in general, from one of the ends thereof, mentioned by the
apostle, namely, in that we are herein to _teach and admonish one
another_, Col. iii. 16. This is what the Psalmist styles _talking of all
his wondrous works_, Psal. cv. 1, 2. And elsewhere, the church are said
to _speak to_ themselves, or to _one another_ in this duty, Eph. v. 19.
This may be observed in the subject-matter of some of the psalms, in
which the Psalmist is represented as speaking to the church, and they as
making their reply to him: Thus he advises them to _lift up their hands
in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord_, Psal. cxxxiv. 2. and answer him,
_The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion_, ver. 3.
The name may be observed in many other psalms, in which there is a
frequent change of the person speaking; and the subject-matter of the
whole book contains many admonitions or cautions necessary to be
observed by others, which they who sing, direct and apply to each other.
Again, this ordinance agrees with preaching and reading the word, in
that we are, in singing the praises of God, to take notice of, or
celebrate the dispensations of his providence, either in a way of
judgment or mercy; of this we have many instances in the book of Psalms,
as is very evident in all those that are properly historical.

(3.) We must, notwithstanding, suppose singing to be a distinct
ordinance from preaching, prayer, or reading the word; for it is
mentioned in scripture, as such; and that wherein it principally
differs, is, that it is designed to raise the affections: and it is
certain, that the modulation, or tone of the voice, has oftentimes a
tendency so to do. And because the performing religious worship, with
raised affections, is a great duty and privilege; therefore God has
appointed this as an ordinance, in some degree conducive to answer that

_Obj._ 1. If the tone of the voice be to be reckoned an ordinance, to
raise the affections; then vocal or instrumental music may be deemed
sufficient to answer this end, without making use of those words in
singing, which God has ordained, whereby it may be denominated a
religious duty.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied; that to have the affections raised,
is no branch of religion, unless they are excited by those ideas of
divine things, in which it principally consists: Therefore, that which
is a means of raising the affections, may not have a tendency to excite
religious affections; and, consequently, it is not barely singing, but
celebrating the praises of God therein, with raised affections, that is
the duty and ordinance which we ought to engage in: These two,
therefore, must be connected together; and if God is pleased, not only
to instruct us as to the matter about which our faith is to be
conversant, but to give us an ordinance conducive to the exciting our
affections therein, it must be reckoned an additional advantage, and an
help to our praising him in a becoming manner.

_Obj._ 2. Those arguments that have been taken from the practice of the
Old Testament-church, to prove singing an ordinance, may, with equal
justice, be alleged to prove the use of instrumental music therein;
since we very often read of their _praising_ God with the _sound of the
trumpet, psaltery, harp, organ_, and other musical instruments, Psal.
cl. 3, 4, 5. which is the principal argument brought for the use of them
by those who defend this practice, and conclude it an help for

_Answ._ To this it may be replied; that though we often read of music
being used in singing the praises of God under the Old Testament; yet if
what has been said concerning its being a type of that spiritual joy
which attends our praising God for the privilege of that redemption
which Christ has purchased be true; then this objection will appear to
have no weight, since this type is abolished, together with the
ceremonial law. And it may be farther observed, that though we read of
the use of music, in the temple-service, yet it does not sufficiently
appear, that it was ever used, in the Jewish synagogues; wherein the
mode of worship more resembled that which is, at present, performed by
us in our public assemblies. But that which may sufficiently determine
this matter, is, that, we have no precept or precedent for it in the New
Testament, either from the practice of Christ, or his apostles. And
inasmuch as this is alleged, by some, to overthrow the ordinance of
singing, who pretend, that it ought to be no more used by us than the
harp, organ, or other musical instruments: It might as well be objected,
that, because incense, which was used under the ceremonial law, together
with prayer in the temple, Luke i. 9, 10. is not now offered by us;
therefore prayer ought to be laid aside; which is, as all own, a duty
founded on the moral law.

(4.) In singing those psalms or songs, which are given by divine
inspiration, we are not to consider the subject-matter thereof, as
always expressive of the frame of our own spirits, or denoting the
dispensations of providence, which we, or the church of God are, at
present exercised with. This is necessary in order to our singing with
understanding; and it may be inferred from what is observed under the
second of those heads, before laid down, relating to the agreement which
there is between singing and reading any of David’s psalms.

It must be allowed by all, that we ought to have the same acts of faith
in one, as we have in the other. This is evident from all composures in
prose or verse, whether divine or human. If the subject-matter be
historical, whatever the form be in which it is laid down, the principal
things to be considered are, those matters of fact which are therein
related. If an history be written in prose, and the same should be
turned into verse; its being laid down in the form of a poem, though it
adds something of beauty to the mode of expression, yet the ideas, that
are conveyed thereby, or the historical representation of things, are
the same as though they had not been written in verse. It may be, the
reading the same history in verse, may add something of pleasure and
delight to those ideas which we have of it, in like manner as singing,
according to the third head before mentioned, is a distinct ordinance
from reading (though the matter be the same, as it respects the exciting
the affections;) yet this does not give us different ideas of it; much
less are we to take occasion from thence, to apply those things to
ourselves that are spoken of others; unless parallel circumstances
require it. If this rule be not observed, I do not see how we can sing
many of the psalms of David. Sometimes the subject-matter thereof is not
agreeable to every age of life, or the universal experience of
particular persons. It would be very preposterous for a child, in
singing those words, _I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not
seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread_, Psal. xxxvii.
25. or what is elsewhere said; _Now also, when I am old and gray-headed,
O God, forsake me not_, Psal. lxxi. 18. to apply them, in particular to
himself. And when some other psalms are sung in a public assembly, in
which God’s people are represented as dejected, disconsolate, and, as it
were, sinking in the depths of despair; as when the Psalmist says, _My
soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I
complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed_, Psal. lxxvii. 2, 3. and
elsewhere, _I am counted with them that go down into the pit. Thy wrath
lieth hard upon me. While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted_, Psal.
lxxxviii. 4, 7, 15. This cannot be applied to every particular person in
a worshipping assembly; as denoting that frame of spirit in which he is,
at present, any more than those expressions which we meet with
elsewhere, which speak of a believer, as having full assurance of God’s
love to him, and his right and title to eternal life; as when it is
said, _Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to
glory_, Psal. lxxiii. 24. can be applied to those who are in a dejected,
despairing, or unbelieving frame of spirit.

And those psalms which contain an historical account of some particular
dispensations of providence towards the church of old, cannot be applied
to it in every age, or to the circumstances of every believer; as when
it is said, _By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept
when we remembered Zion_, Psal. cxxxvii. 1. This is not to be considered
as what is expressive of our own case, when we are, in the present day,
singing that psalm, Or, when, on the other hand, the church is
represented as praising God for particular deliverances, as in Psal.
cvii. or expressing its triumphs in the victories obtained over its
enemies, as in Psal. cxlix. these are not to be applied, by particular
persons, to themselves; especially at all times. And when the Psalmist
makes use of those phrases which are adapted to the ceremonial law, as
when he speaks of _binding the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns
of the altar_, Psal. cxviii. 27. or elsewhere, of their _offering
bullocks upon it_, Psal. li. 19. this cannot be taken in a literal
sense, when applied to the gospel-state. And when we are exhorted to
_praise God with the psaltery_, &c. Psal. cl. we are to express those
acts of faith which are agreeable to the present gospel-dispensation,
which we are under; and the general rule, which is applicable to all
psalms of the like nature, is, that with the same frame of spirit with
which we read them, we ought to sing them. Sometimes we are to consider
the subject-matter of them, as containing an account of those
providences which we are liable to, rather than those which we are, at
present, under; or what we desire, or fear, rather than experience; and
improve them so as to excite those graces which ought to be exercised in
like circumstances, when it shall please God to bring us under them.
With this frame of spirit the psalms of David are to be sung, as well as
read; otherwise we shall be obliged to exclude several of them as not
fit to be used in gospel-worship, which I would assert nothing that
should give the least countenance to,[22] any more than I would affirm
that such-like psalms are not to be read in public assemblies.

_Obj._ 1. To what has been said concerning our using David’s psalms in
singing the praises of God, it is objected, that some of them contain
such imprecation, or desires, that God would destroy his enemies, Psal.
lv. 15. and lix. 13-15. and lxix. 22-25, 27, 28. as are inconsistent
with the spirit of the gospel, or that love which we are, therein,
obliged to express towards our enemies, agreeably to the command and
practice of the holy Jesus, Matt. v. 44, 46. Luke xxiii. 34.

Before I proceed to a direct answer to this objection, it may be
observed, that this is generally alleged, by the Deists, with a design
to cast a reproach on divine revelation; and from hence they take
occasion, outrageously to inveigh against David, as though he was of a
malicious and implacable spirit; upon which account they will hardly
allow him to have been a good man, since these, and such-like
imprecations of the wrath of God on the church’s enemies, are reckoned
by them no other than the effects of his passion and hatred of them; and
therefore it is a preposterous thing to suppose, that his psalms were
given by divine inspiration.

And there are others, to wit, some among the Socinians, who give a
different turn to such-like expressions; and pretend, that under the Old
Testament dispensation, it was not unlawful for persons to hate their
enemies, or curse, or imprecate the wrath of God upon them, whereas, our
Saviour thought fit, under the New Testament-dispensation, to command
what was directly contrary thereunto. That it was formerly lawful, they
argue from what is said in Matt. v. 43. _Ye have heard that it hath been
said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy._ And the new
Commandment which he substituted in the room thereof, is contained in
the following words, in which he obliges them, to _love their enemies_,
&c. But this is a gross mistake of the sense of that scripture, which
speaks of _hating_ their _enemies_; since our Saviour does not, in
mentioning it, design to refer to any thing said in the Old Testament,
but only to expose the corrupt gloss of the Scribes and Pharisees, given
on some passages contained therein. Therefore, we must conclude, that it
was equally unlawful to hate our enemies before, as it is now, under the
gospel-dispensation. These things I could not but premise, before we
come to a direct answer to this objection; and, if what is contained
therein were true, it would certainly be unlawful to sing David’s
psalms; yet, at the same time, it would be a very difficult matter, to
substitute any hymns and songs in their room, which would be altogether
unexceptionable; and then the ordinance of singing would be effectually

_Answ._ But to this it may be replied; that the words being spoken by
David, under divine inspiration, some of those scriptures referred to,
may, agreeably to the rules of grammar, be understood as a prediction of
those judgments which God would execute on his implacable enemies;
especially when the word, that is supposed in the objection, to contain
the form of an imprecation, is put in the _future tense_, as it often
is. And if it be put in the _imperative mood_, as in other places, in
which it is said, _Let death seize on them; let them go down quick into
hell; let them be blotted out of the book of the living_; this mode of
speaking, especially when applied to God, contains an intimation of what
he would do, or the wrath which he would pour forth, as a punishment of
sin, committed, persisted in, and not repented of. And, indeed, in one
of these psalms, _viz._ Psal. lxix. in which the righteous judgments of
God are denounced against sinners, the Psalmist plainly speaks in the
person of our Saviour, to whom the 9th and 21st verses are expressly
applied in the New Testament, John ii. 17. Matt. xxvii. 34. Therefore,
when he says, ver. 22. _Let their table become a snare_, the meaning is,
that God would deny some of his furious and implacable enemies, that
grace, which alone could prevent their waxing worse and worse under
outward prosperity. And when he says, ver. 23. _Let their eyes be
darkened_; the meaning is, they shall be given up to judicial blindness,
as the Jews were; the providence of God permitting, though not effecting
it. And when it is said, ver. 23. _Pour out thine indignation upon
them_, it is an intimation that this should come to pass. And, in ver.
25. _Let their habitation be desolate_; the meaning is, that the land,
in which they dwelt, should be destitute of its former inhabitants, and
so contains a prediction of the desolate state of the Jewish nation,
after they were destroyed, and driven out of their country by the
Romans. And when he farther says, _Add iniquity to their iniquity_; this
may be accounted for consistently with the divine perfections, and the
sense thereof is not liable to any just exception; as has been observed
elsewhere. This I only mention, to shew that it is not necessary to
suppose that these imprecations are always to be understood as what will
warrant, or give countenance to private persons to wish, or pray for the
destruction of their enemies.

Moreover, if the evil denounced be of a temporal nature; as when the
Psalmist is represented as desiring that his enemies may be _consumed as
the stubble before the wind_, or as _the wood that fire burneth_, Psal.
lxxxiii. 13, 14. these are not the desires of one who meditates private
revenge, or wishes to see the ruin of those whom he hates. But they
contain the language of the church of God in general, as acquiescing in
his righteous judgments, which should be poured forth on those that hate
him, and persecute his people; and, if either the church must be ruined,
or those that set themselves against it, removed out of the way, they
cannot but desire the latter, rather than the former. If such
expressions be thus understood, there would be no sufficient reason for
that exception that is taken against the book of the psalms; nor will
any one have just occasion to lay aside a part of them, as what cannot
be sung by a Christian congregation.

_Object._ 2. It is farther objected, that if singing could be proved to
be an ordinance, to be used by particular persons; it will not follow
from thence, that the whole congregation ought to join with their voices
together. It is sufficient if one person sings, and others make melody
in their hearts; whereas, united voices in singing, will occasion
confusion in the worship of God; and, when a mixed multitude join in
this ordinance, it can hardly be supposed that they, all of them, sing
with the spirit, and with the understanding also. Therefore, if one
should sing, it is sufficient for them who are qualified to join in this
ordinance, to say, Amen; or, to have their hearts engaged therein; as
they have who join in public prayer, in which, one is the mouth of the
whole assembly.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied;

[1.] That to insinuate that singing with united voices, is confusion, is
to cast a great reproach on that worship which we often read of in
scripture, which was performed in this manner. Thus Moses and the
children of Israel sang the praises of God upon the occasion of their
deliverance from the Egyptians, in Exod. xvi. 1. which was certainly an
act of public worship, not performed by Moses alone, but by the whole

And, in the New Testament, there is a very remarkable example of singing
with united voices, our Saviour himself being present, Mark xiv. 26.
thus it is said, that he and his disciples _sang an hymn_. The word is
in the plural number[23]; therefore they all joined with their voices in
singing; and some observe, that it is not without design that it is
said, _He_, that is, Christ, _blessed the bread_, and _He gave thanks_,
Mat. xxvi. 26, 27. they only joining with him in their hearts, as the
congregation joins with the minister, who is their mouth in public
prayer. But when he speaks of the ordinance of singing, they all join
with their voices therein; and therefore, the word, as was but now
observed, is in the plural number, ver. 30.

[2.] As to that part of the objection, which respects the congregation’s
joining in the heart, with one that sings with the voice, in like manner
as we do in prayer; let it be considered, that though he that joins with
the heart, with another that prays, may be said to perform the duty of
prayer, though he does not express his desires with his own voice; yet
joining with the heart, while one only sings, cannot properly speaking,
be called singing; much less singing with the voice, or singing with a
loud voice, as it is often expressed in scripture. The apostle, indeed,
speaks of _singing and making melody in our hearts, to the Lord_, Eph.
v. 19. which, in some measure, seems to favour the objection. And it is
inferred from hence, that, if one sings with the voice, others may make
melody in the heart. But I take the meaning of that scripture to be
this; the apostle is pressing the church to sing, that is, to make
melody to the Lord; and, that this ordinance may be performed in a right
manner, the heart ought to go along with the voice; hereby intimating,
that there ought not only to be a melodious sound, by which the praises
of God are sung, but, together with this, suitable acts of faith ought
to be put forth, whereby we worship him with our hearts, as well as our
voices. This does not therefore prove, that the melody here spoken of,
only respects the frame of spirit, as excluding the use of the voice in

[3.] As to what is objected against the inexpediency of joining in
singing, with a mixed multitude, in which, some must be supposed to want
two necessary qualifications for singing, namely, the Spirit and
understanding; this is to join in the external ordinance, where there is
no harmony, as to the internal frame of spirit, or the exercise of
faith, which alone makes it pleasing to God.

To this it may be replied; that, if a mixed multitude may join together
in prayer, and particularly the Psalms of David, may be read in the
public congregation; though, perhaps, there are many present who do not
understand the meaning of every particular phrase used therein: yet it
does not follow, that because we do not fully understand the Psalms of
David, therefore they ought not to be sung by us. We have before
observed, that there is no essential difference, especially as to what
concerns the frame of our spirit, between singing and reading[24].
Therefore it follows, that whatever psalm may be read, may be sung. He
that is not qualified for the latter is not qualified for the former.
The apostle, indeed, speaks of his _praying_ and _singing with the
Spirit_, as well as _with the understanding_; but the meaning of that
is, that we ought to desire the efficacious influences of the Spirit,
and press after the knowledge of the meaning of the words we use, either
in prayer or singing; yet the defect of our understanding, or having a
less degree thereof than others, or, than we ought to have, does not
exempt us from a right to engage in this ordinance. Therefore, we are
not to refuse to join with those in singing the praises of God, whom we
would not exclude from our society, if we were reading any of the Psalms
of David in public.

(5.) We are now to consider the matter to be sung. There are very few
who allow singing to be an ordinance, that will deny it to be our duty
to sing the Psalms of David, and other spiritual songs, which we
frequently meet with in scripture. Some, indeed, have contested the
expediency of a Christian assembly’s making use of several Old
Testament-phrases, that are contained therein. And others have alleged,
that the phrase ought to be altered in many instances, (especially in
those which have a peculiar reference to the Psalmist’s personal
circumstances,) and others substituted in their room, which are matter
of universal experience. But, if what has been said under the last head,
be true, this argument will appear to have less weight in it; inasmuch
as all the arguments that are brought in defence of making these
alterations in the Psalms, as they are to be sung by us, will equally
hold good, as applicable to the ordinance of reading them, and, it may
be, will as much evince the necessity of altering the phrase of
scripture, in several other parts thereof, as well as in these, if what
has been said under the second head be allowed of. For it will follow
from thence, that if some psalms are not to be sung by a Christian
assembly, in the words in which they were at first delivered, and
consequently are not to be read by them; because the phrase thereof is
not agreeable to the state of the Christian church; and therefore it is
to be altered, when applied to our present use; the same may be said
concerning other parts of scripture; and then the word of God, as it was
at first given to us, is no more to be read, than to be sung by us[25].

As to what is objected concerning the inexpediency of our making use of
those words, and applying them to our case, in our devotions, that David
used in his, with a peculiar view to his own condition. What has been
said under the fourth head, relating to the frame of spirit with which
the psalms are to be sung, will very much weaken the force of it; and
this is what, in a great measure, determines my sentiments as to the
ordinance of conjoint singing, as well as the matter of it; for, I am
well persuaded, that if the words were to be considered as our own, (as
they ought to be, when joining with another, who is our mouth, to God in
prayer,) there are very few psalms, or hymns of human composure, that
can be sung by a mixed assembly. But as a divine veneration ought to be
paid to the psalms, and they are to be read with those acts of faith
which are the main ingredients in our devotions; we are to sing them
with the same view, only with this difference; as making use of the tone
of the voice, as a farther help to the raising our affections therein,
as has been before observed.

The next thing to be considered is, what version of the Psalms is to
have the preference in our esteem, as it is subservient to the design of
this ordinance. It is not my business, under this head, to criticise on
the various versions of the Psalms; nor can it be supposed, that I have
a regard to those poetical beauties in which one version exceeds
another; for then I should be inclined to think some of them, which I do
not make use of in the ordinance of singing, much preferable to others,
for the exactness of their style and composure. But when I am singing
the praises of God, in, or as near as I can to, the words of David, or
any other inspired writer; that which I principally regard is, the
agreeableness of the version to the original; and then they may be sung
with the same frame of spirit with which they are to be read; and I am
not obliged in singing, to consider the words as expressive of my own
frame of spirit, any more than I am in reading them. But if the
composure cannot properly be called a version, but an imitation of
David’s Psalms, then I make use of it in the ordinance of singing, with
the same view as I would an hymn; of which, more hereafter[26].

The versions which, I think, come nearest to the original, are the
New-England and the Scots; the latter of which, I think, much preferable
to the former; inasmuch as the sentences are not so transposed in this,
as in the other, and the lines are much more smooth and pleasant to be
read. I should be very glad to see a version more perfect, that comes as
near the sense of the original, and excels it in the beauty or elegancy
of style. And it would be a very great advantage if some marginal notes
were added, as a comment upon it; which would be a help to our right
understanding thereof.

I shall now give my thoughts concerning the singing of hymns. These,
according to the common acceptation of the word, are distinguished from
psalms, and they generally denote a human composure, fitted for singing;
the matter whereof, contains some divine subjects, in words agreeable
to, or deduced from scripture. The arguments that are generally brought
in defence thereof, are, that though scripture be a rule of faith, from
whence all the knowledge of divine things is primarily deduced; and
therefore it has the preference, as to the excellency and authority
thereof, to any other composure; yet it is not only lawful, but
necessary to express our faith in the doctrines contained therein, in
other words, as we do in prayer or preaching. Therefore, if it be a duty
to praise God with the voice, it is not unlawful to praise him in words
agreeable to scripture, as well as in the express words thereof;
accordingly it is argued, that both may be proved to be a duty, _viz._
praising God in the words of David, and by other songs contained in
scripture, and praising him in words agreeable thereunto, though of
human composure. This is the best method of reasoning that I have met
with in defence of the lawfulness of singing hymns, not as opposed to,
or excluding David’s Psalms, but as used occasionally, as providence
directs us; that so our acknowledgments of benefits received, may be
insisted on with greater enlargement than they are in the book of
Psalms; wherein, though it may be, there is something adapted to every
case, yet the particular occasion of our praise is not so largely
contained in the same section or paragraph; and therefore an hymn may be
composed on that occasion, in order to our praising God thereby. But,
when on the other hand, persons seem to prefer hymns to David’s Psalms,
and substitute them in the room thereof, I cannot but disapprove of
their practice.

A late writer[27] speaks on this subject with a great deal of
moderation; when, though he proves that scripture psalms should be
preferred before all others, and more ordinarily sung; yet he thinks
that hymns of human composure, ought not wholly to be excluded, provided
they be exactly agreeable to, and as much as may be, the words of holy
scripture. There are other writers whom I pay equal deference to, who
have concisely, though with a considerable degree of judgment, proved
singing to be a gospel-ordinance[28], who argue against singing of
_hymns_: and, indeed, what they say in opposition to those who defend
the practice thereof from Eph. v. 19. and Col. iii. 16. wherein _hymns_
are supposed to be distinct from _psalms and spiritual songs_; and,
consequently, that we are to understand thereby human composures,
agreeable to scripture, as by psalms and spiritual songs, we are to
understand those which are contained in the very words of scripture,
seems very just. And herein they speak agreeably to the mind of several
judicious and learned men, who assert that these three words signify
nothing else but those psalms or songs that are contained in
scripture[29]. The question in debate with me, is not whether the
psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, that are contained in scripture, are
designed to be a directory for gospel-worship; for that, I think, all
ought to allow; but, whether it be lawful to sing a human composure that
is agreeable to scripture, either as to the words or sense thereof;
especially when the subject-matter of our praise is not laid down so
largely in one particular section of scripture, as we desire to express
it. In this case, if we were to connect several parts of scripture
together, so that the design of enlarging on a particular subject might
be answered thereby; it would render it less necessary to compose an
hymn in other words. But, inasmuch as the occasions of praise are very
large and extensive, and therefore it may be thought expedient, to adore
the divine perfections, in our own words in singing, in like manner as
we do in prayer, considering the one to be a moral duty as well as the
other; I will not pretend to maintain the unlawfulness of singing hymns
of human composure, though some of much superior learning and judgment
have done it.

I would, however, always pay the greatest deference to those divine
composures, which are given as the principal rule for our procedure
herein. Nevertheless, I cannot but express my dislike of several hymns
that I have often heard sung; in some of which the heads of the sermon
have been comprised; and others, which are printed, are so very mean and
injudicious, and, it may be, in some respects, not very agreeable to the
analogy of faith, that I cannot, in the least, approve of them. But if
we have ground to conclude the composure, as to the matter thereof, and
mode of expression, unexceptionable, and adapted to raise the
affections, as well as excite suitable acts of faith in extolling the
praises of God, it gives me no more disgust, though it be not in
scripture-words, than praying or preaching do when the matter is
agreeable thereunto. Yet, inasmuch as when we confess sin, acknowledge
mercies received, or desire those blessings that are suited to our case,
we always suppose, that the words, which he, who is the mouth of the
congregation, uses, ought to be such, in which all can join with him
(and in this, the reading one of David’s prayers, and putting up a
prayer in the congregation, differ as to a very considerable
circumstance in each of them) the same ought to be observed in hymns.
But, if an _hymn_ be so composed, as that all that sing it are
represented as signifying their having experienced those things which
belong not to them, or as blessing God for what they never received:
this, I conceive, would be an unwarrantable method of singing hymns of
human composure, as much as if the expressions were used in public
prayer. There are, indeed, many hymns which have in them a great vein of
piety and devotion, but are not adapted to the experience of the whole
assembly that sings them; therefore, though they may join in signing
some hymns, I do not think they can well join in singing all;
notwithstanding the subject-matter of them may be agreeable to the
analogy of faith; and this principally depends upon what we have before
laid down, concerning the difference between making use of a divine and
human composure, in the former of which, the words are not always to be
considered as our own, or expressive of the frame of our own spirits;
whereas this is universally true, with respect to the latter.

Thus concerning the ordinance of singing; which we cannot but think
included among those whereby Christ communicates to his church, the
benefits of his mediation. And this leads us to consider the other
ordinances, which are particularly insisted on in the remaining part of
this work. And that which next comes under our consideration, is the
word read and preached.

Footnote 21:

  I come now to say somewhat of the antiquity of Musical Instruments.
  But that these were not used in the Christian Church in the primitive
  times, is attested by all the ancient writers with one consent. Hence
  they figuratively explain all the places of the Old Testament, which
  speak of Musical Instruments; as I might easily shew by a thousand
  testimonies, out of _Clement_ of _Alexandria_, _Basil_, _Ambrose_,
  _Jerom_, _Augustine_, _Chrysostom_, and many others. I can hardly
  forbear laughing, when I meet with some of their allegorical
  interpretations. Thus an Instrument with ten strings, according to
  them, signifies the Ten Commandments, as the unknown author of the
  Commentary upon the _Psalms_, among _Jerom’s_ works, often explains
  it, _In_ Ps. xxxii. 2. xliii. 4, &c. But the pleasantest fancy is the
  explication of those words: _Praise him with stringed Instruments and
  Organs_. Ps. cl. 4. “That the guts being twisted by reason of
  abstinence from food, and so all carnal desires being subdued, men are
  found fit for the kingdom of God, to sing his praises.” But
  _Chrysostom_ talks more handsomly; “As the _Jews_ praised God with all
  kind of Instruments; so we are commanded to praise him with all the
  members of our bodies, our eyes, _&c._” _In_ Ps. cl. And _Clement_ of
  _Alexandria_ talks much to the same purpose. Pædag. _lib. ii. c. 4_.

  Besides, the ancients thought it unlawful to use those Instruments in
  God’s worship. Thus the unknown author of a Treatise, among _Justin
  Martyr’s_ works: “_Q._ If songs were invented by unbelievers with a
  design of deceiving, and were appointed for those under the Law,
  because of the childishness of their minds; why do they, who have
  received the perfect instructions of grace, which are most contrary to
  the foresaid customs, nevertheless sing in the Churches, just as they
  did, who were children under the Law? _Answ._ Plain Singing is not
  childish, but only the Singing with lifeless Organs, with Dancing and
  Cym-bals, _&c._ Whence the use of such Instruments, and other things
  fit for children, is laid aside, and Plain Singing only retained.”
  Resp. ad Orthodox. _Q._ 107.

  _Chrysostom_ seems to have been of the same mind, and to have thought,
  the use of such Instruments was rather allowed the _Jews_ in
  consideration of their weakness, than prescribed and commanded. _In_
  Ps. cl. But that he was mistaken, and that Musical Instruments were
  not only allowed the _Jews_, as he thought, and _Isidorus_ of
  _Pelusium_, (whose testimony I shall mention presently) but were
  prescribed by God, may appear from the Texts of Scripture I have
  before referred to.

  _Clement_, as I have mentioned already, thought these things fitter
  for beasts, than for men. And though _Basil_ highly commends, and
  stifly defends the way of Singing by turns; yet he thought musical
  Instruments unprofitable and hurtful. He calls them, _the inventions
  of_ Jubal _of the race of_ Cain. And a little after, he thus expresses
  himself: “_Laban_ was a lover of the harp, and of music, with which he
  would have sent away _Jacob_: _If thou hadst told me_, said he, _I
  would have sent thee away with mirth, and musical instruments, and an
  Harp_. But the Patriarch avoided that music, as being a thing that
  would hinder his regarding the works of the Lord, and his considering
  the works of his hands.” Comment. in Is. _c._ v. _p._ 956, 957. And a
  little before, he says thus “In such vain arts, as the playing upon
  the Harp, or Pipe, or dancing, as soon as the action ceases, the work
  itself vanishes. So that really, according to the Apostle’s
  expression, _The end of these things is destruction_.” _page_ 955.

  _Isidore_ of _Pelusium_, who lived since _Basil_, held, music was
  allowed the _Jews_ by God, in a way of condescension to their
  childishness: “If God” _says he_, “bore with bloody sacrifices,
  because of men’s childishness at that time; why should you wonder, he
  bore with the music of an harp and a psaltery?” Epist. lib. 2. _ep._

  Nay, there are some ecclesiastical officers in the Church of
  _England_, who, for their very profession and employment, would have
  been kept from the communion of the Church, except they desisted from
  it. So we are informed by the _Apostolical Constitutions_: “If any
  come to the mystery of godliness, being a player upon a pipe, a lute,
  or an harp; let him leave it off, or be rejected.” _Lib._ viii. _c._

  From what has been said, it appears, no musical instruments were used
  in the pure times of the Church. It became Antichristian, before they
  were received. _Bellarmine_ himself does not deny, they were late
  brought into the Church. “The second ceremony,” _says he_, “are the
  Musical Instruments, which began to be used in the service of the
  Church, in the time of Pope _Vitalian_, about the year 660, as
  _Platina_ relates out of the _Pontifical_; or, as _Aimonius_ rather
  thinks, _lib._ iv. _De gestis Francorum_, _c._ 114. after the year
  820, in the time or _Lewis_ the Pious.” De Missa, _lib._ ii. _c._ 15.
  Item, De bon. Oper. _lib._ i. c. 17.

  Dr. _N._ would hardly have denied, the Church of _Rome_ was become
  Antichristian, when they were first brought in; even though we should
  allow _Bellarmine’s_ first date of them to be the true one. But a
  Reformed Divine may well be ashamed of that antiquity, that does not
  exceed the rise of Antichrist. But I am fully satisfied both
  _Bellarmine’s_ dates are false, and that instrumental music, in the
  worship of God, is much later than either of those accounts allow. For
  as to _Platina_, he seems to suspect the truth of what he wrote:
  “_Vitalian_,” _says he_, “being careful about the worship of God, made
  an ecclesiastical rule, and ordered the singing, with the addition (as
  some think) of organs.” In Vital. Again, _Bellarmine’s Aimonius_ is
  not the true _Aimonius_. For (as Dr. _Cave_ says) _Aimonius of
  Fleury_, who wrote, _De gestis Francorum_, flourished about the year
  1000; and his History, which begins at the destruction of _Troy_, is
  brought down as far as the coronation of King _Pipin_, or to the year
  752. For what comes after that, and makes up the fifth book, and the
  latter part of the fourth, is the continuation of another hand. Hist.
  Liter. _p._ 597.

  Farther, that these instruments were not used in God’s worship, in
  _Thomas Aquinas’s_ time, that is, about the year 1250, he himself is
  witness. “In the old Law,” _says he_, “God was praised both with
  musical instruments and human voices, and according to that _Psalm_
  xxxiii. _Praise the Lord with harp, sing unto him with the psaltery,
  and an instrument of ten strings._ But the Church does not use musical
  instruments to praise God, lest she should seem to judaize. Therefore,
  by parity of reason, she should not use singing.” Secunda secundæ
  Questio 91, _art._ 4. & _conclus._ 4. The like objection is made by
  our author. But _Thomas_ answers: “As to this objection, we must say,
  as the philosopher, _Lib._ viii. _Polit._ that Pipes are not to be
  used for teaching, nor any artificial instruments, as the harp, or the
  like: but whatever will make the hearers good men. For these musical
  instruments rather delight the mind, than form it to any good
  disposition. But under the Old Testament such instruments were used,
  partly because the people were harder and more carnal; upon which
  account they were to be stirred up by these instruments, as likewise
  by earthly promises; and partly because these bodily instruments were
  typical of something.” Upon which place Cardinal _Cajetan_ gives us
  this Comment: “’Tis to be observed, the Church did not use organs in
  _Thomas’s_ time. Whence, even to this day, the Church of _Rome_ does
  not use them in the Pope’s presence. And truly it will appear, that
  musical instruments are not to be suffered in the ecclesiastical
  offices we meet together to perform, for the sake of receiving
  internal instruction from God; and so much the rather are they to be
  excluded, because God’s internal discipline exceeds all human
  disciplines, which rejected these kind of instruments.” _Cit._ Hoffm.
  Lex. voce _Musica_.

  If any one objects the practice of some foreign churches, I answer
  with Mr. _Hickman_: “They are laid aside by most of the reformed
  churches; nor would they be retained among the _Lutherans_, unless
  they had forsaken their own _Luther_; who, by the confession of
  Eckard, reckoned _organs among the ensigns of Baal_. That they still
  continue in some of the _Dutch_ churches, is against the minds of the
  Pastors. For in the National Synod at _Middleburg_, in the year 1581,
  and in the Synod of _Holland_ and _Zealand_, in the year 1594, it was
  resolved, _That they would endeavour to obtain of the magistrate the
  laying aside of organs, and the singing with them in the churches,
  even out of the time of worship, either before or after sermons_: so
  far are those Synods from bearing with them in the worship itself.”
  _Apol. p._ 139.

  The Church of _England_ herself had formerly no very good opinion of
  these musical instruments; as may appear by her Homilies: “Lastly,
  God’s vengeance hath been, and is daily provoked, because much wicked
  people pass nothing to resort unto the church; either for that they
  are so sore blinded, that they understand nothing of God or godliness,
  and care not with devilish malice to offend their neighbours; or else
  for that they see the church altogether scoured of such gay gazing
  sights, as their gross phantasie was greatly delighted with; because
  they see the false religion abandoned, and the true restored, which
  seemeth an unsavory thing to their unsavory taste, as may appear by
  this that a woman said to her neighbour: Alas! gossip, what shall we
  now do at church, since all the Saints are taken away; since all the
  goodly sights we were wont to have are gone; since we cannot hear the
  like piping, singing, Chaunting, and playing upon the organs that we
  could before? But, dearly beloved, we ought greatly to rejoice and
  give God thanks, that our churches are delivered out of all those
  things, which displeased God so sore, and filthily defiled his holy
  house, and his place of prayer.” Hom. of the place and time of prayer,
  _part._ 2. p. 131.

  A great number also of the Clergy in the first convocation of Queen
  _Elizabeth_ in 1562, earnestly laboured to have organs, and that
  pompous theatrical way of singing laid aside, and missed the carrying
  it but by one vote, as I observe elsewhere. And in this Archbishop
  _Parker_ concurred with them, or at least did not oppose them.

  I will add one or two testimonies of Papists against this cathedral
  way of worship. The first shall be _Polydorus Virgilius_.

  Having taken notice of _Austine’s_ dislike of that way of singing in
  his time, he thus proceeds: “But in our time, it seems much less
  useful to the commonwealth, now our singers make such a noise in our
  churches, that nothing can be heard, beside the sound of the voice;
  and they who come there (that is all that are in the city) are
  satisfied with the concert of music, which their ears itch for, and
  never mind the sense of the words. So that we are come to that pass,
  that in the opinion of the common people, the whole affair of
  religious worship is lodged in these singers; although, generally
  speaking, there is no sort of men more loose or wicked: and yet a good
  part of the people run to church, as to a theatre, to hear them bawl:
  they hire and encourage them; and look upon them alone as ornaments to
  the house of God. Wherefore, without doubt, it would be for the
  interest of religion, either to cast these jackdaws out of the
  churches; or else to teach them when they sing, they should do it
  rather in the manner of reading, than bawling; as _Austine_ says
  _Athanasius_ ordered, _&c._” De Invent. Rer. _lib._ vi. _c._ 2. _p._

  Next hear the judgment of _Erasmus_: “Let a man be more covetous than
  _Crassus_, more foul-mouthed than _Zoilus_, he shall be reckoned a
  pious man, if he sings those prayers well, though he understands
  nothing of them. But what, I beseech you, must they think of Christ,
  who can believe he is delighted with such a noise of men’s voices? Not
  content with this, we have brought into our churches a certain operose
  and theatrical music; such a confused disorderly chattering of some
  words, as I hardly think was ever heard in any of the _Grecian_ or
  _Roman_ theatres. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes
  and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with
  them.—Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled.
  And for this end organ-makers are hired with great salaries, and a
  company of boys, who waste all their time in learning these whining
  tones. Pray now compute how many poor people in great extremity might
  be maintained by the salaries of those singers.” In 1 Cor. xiv. 19.

  Lastly, _Lindanus_ says: “Who will compare the Music of this present
  age, with that which was formerly used? Whatever is sung now,
  signifies little for informing the people; which ’tis certain the
  ancients always designed.” Panopl. _lib._ iv. _c._ 73.


Footnote 22:

  The first hymns of Gospel churches, were neither rythm, nor metre; and
  there was no version of David’s psalms, that could be sung before
  Calvin’s time.

Footnote 23:


Footnote 24:

  There is a difference between praising God, and instructing men.

Footnote 25:

  The first christians composed and set to music their hymns.

Footnote 26:

  Grotius thought the first Gospel hymns were extemporary. Basnage from
  Tertullian says; “neither the prayers they made to God, nor the hymns
  which they sung to his honour were reduced to rule; every one drew
  them from the Holy Scriptures, or from his own treasure, according to
  his genius.” A council of 70 bishops, A. D. 272. charged among other
  things against Paulus bishop of Antioch, that he abolished the Psalms,
  which were sung _in gloriam Christi_.—When the Ariam sang the doxology
  _Glory be to the Father_, the orthodox added, _and to the Son and
  Spirit_. Vide Dr. Latta, and Mr. Tod, on Psalmody.

Footnote 27:

  _See Mr. Richard Allein’s essay on singing, chap. iv. who seems, in my
  opinion, in the whole of his short performance, to argue with a
  considerable degree of candor and judgment._

Footnote 28:

  _See Sidenham’s gospel ordinance concerning singing, &c. and Hitchen’s
  scripture proof for singing, &c._

Footnote 29:

  _It cannot be denied that the Psalms of David are called indifferently
  by these three names, psalms, hymns, and songs שיר, מזמר, תהלה,
  ψαλμὸς, ὑμνὴ, ὀδη, and sometimes the same psalm is called a song or
  psalm, as in the title of Psalm. lxv. or a song of a psalm [as the
  LXX. render it, ὀδη ψαλμοῦ.] And in Psalm cv. 2. when it is said, Sing
  unto him, sing psalms unto him; שירו לו זמרו לו the former word
  signifies to sing a spiritual song; the latter to sing a psalm; or, as
  the Septuagint render the same word, in 1 Chron. xvi. 9. an hymn
  [Ἀσατε αυτω και υμνησατε.] See Sidenham’s gospel-ordinance, &c. chap.
  ii. and Ainsworth on the title of Psalm liii. whom he therein refers

                              Quest. CLX.

    QUEST. CLV. _How is the word made effectual to salvation?_

    ANSW. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the
    preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening,
    convincing, and humbling sinners, of driving them out of themselves,
    and drawing them unto Christ, of conforming them to his image, and
    subduing them to his will, of strengthening them against temptations
    and corruptions, of building them up in grace, and establishing
    their heart in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

Having had an account, in the foregoing answer, of the ordinances by
which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption to his church, and
what they are; as also, that singing the praises of God is one of those
ordinances. We are now to consider another ordinance that is made
effectual to salvation, _viz._ the word read, or preached. We have,
under some foregoing answers, had occasion to speak of the word of God
as contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and
considered it as the only rule of faith and obedience, and as having all
the properties that are necessary thereunto, so that we may depend upon
it as a perfect and infallible revelation of all things necessary to be
believed and done, in order to our enjoying God here, and attaining
eternal life hereafter[30]. And now we are to consider the word as made
the subject of our study and enquiry; without which it would be of no
use to us. Accordingly we may observe in this answer,

I. Something supposed; namely, that the word of God is to be read by us,
and explained by those who are qualified and called hereunto, by whom it
is to be preached. We are not, indeed, to conclude, that the
explications of fallible men, how much soever they are fitted to preach
the gospel, are of equal authority with the sacred oracles, as
transmitted to us by those who received them, by infallible inspiration
from the Spirit of God; and therefore, the text is much more to be
depended on than the comment upon it; the truth whereof is to be tried
thereby, Isa. viii. 20. 1 Thess. v. 21. Acts xvii. 11. Nevertheless,
this is to be reckoned a great blessing, which God is pleased to bestow
upon his church, in order to our understanding and making a right use of
the written word. Accordingly, preaching, as well as the reading of the
word, is an ordinance which the Spirit of God makes subservient to the
salvation of them that believe; and in order thereunto, it is farther
supposed, that the word is to be read by us, and we are to attend to the
preaching thereof; to neglect either of which, is to despise our own
souls, and deprive ourselves of the advantage of God’s instituted means
of grace. Therefore, we are not to content ourselves, barely, with the
reading of the word of God, in our closets or families; but we must
embrace all opportunities, in which we may hear it preached in a public
manner, one being no less an ordinance of God than the other.

_Obj._ It is objected, by some, that they know as much as ministers can
teach them; at least, they know enough, if they could but practise it.

_Answ._ This objection, sometimes, savours of pride and self-conceit, in
those who suppose themselves to understand more, of the doctrines of the
gospel, than they really do; and it can hardly be said, concerning the
greatest number of professors, that they either know as much as they
ought, or that it is not possible for them to make advances in
knowledge, by a diligent attendance on an able and faithful ministry.
However, that we may give the utmost scope to the objection, we will
allow, that some Christians know more than many ministers, who are less
skilful than others in the word of truth. Nevertheless, it must be
observed that there are other ends of hearing the word, besides barely
the gaining of knowledge, viz. the bringing the doctrines of the gospel
to our remembrance, John xvi. 26. and their being impressed on our
affections; and for this reason the wisest and best of men have not
thought it below them, to attend upon the ministry of those who knew
less than themselves. Our Saviour was an hearer of the word before he
entered on his public ministry, Luke ii. 46. and though it might, I
think, truly be said of him, that though he was but twelve years old, he
knew more than the doctors, in the midst of whom he sat, in the temple,
yet he _heard and asked them questions_. And David, though he professes
himself to have _more understanding than all his teachers_, Psal. cxix.
99. yet he was glad to embrace all opportunities, to go up into the
house of the Lord; this being God’s appointed means for a believer’s
making advances in grace.

II. There are several things particularly mentioned in this answer, in
which the Spirit of God makes the word, read or preached, effectual to

1. Hereby the mind is enlightened and furnished with the knowledge of
divine truths, which is a very great privilege, for as faith is
inseparably connected with salvation; the knowledge of the doctrines of
the gospel is necessary to faith; and this is said to _come by hearing_,
Rom. x. 17. Acts viii. 30, 31. However, we must not content ourselves
with a bare assent to what is revealed in the word of God; but must duly
weigh the tendency thereof, to our sanctification and consolation, and
admire the beauty, excellency, and glory that there is in the great
doctrines of the gospel, as the divine perfections shine forth therein,
to the utmost. We must also duly consider the importance of those
doctrines that are contained therein, and how they are to be improved by
us, to our spiritual advantage; and when we find our hearts filled with
love to Jesus Christ, in proportion to those greater measures of light,
that he is pleased to impart to us, so that we grow in grace as well as
in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. iii. 18.
then the word may be said to be made effectual to our salvation, as our
minds are very much enlightened and improved in the knowledge of those
things that lead thereunto.

2. The word is made effectual to bring us under conviction, by which
means we see ourselves sinful and miserable creatures; particularly we
are hereby led to see those depths of wickedness that are in our hearts,
by nature, which otherwise could not be sufficiently discerned by us,
much less improved to our spiritual advantage, Jer. xvii. 9. Rom. vii.
9. Would we take a view of the manifold sins committed in our lives,
with all their respective aggravations, so as to lay to heart the guilt
that we have contracted hereby, or, if we would be effected with the
consideration of the misery that will ensue hereupon; as that, hereby,
we not only deserve the wrath and curse of God, but without an interest
in forgiving grace, are bound to conclude ourselves liable to it: These
things we are led into by the word of God. And if we would know whether
these convictions of sin are such as have a more immediate reference to
salvation; let us enquire, whether they are attended with that grief and
sorrow of heart for the intrinsic evil that there is in sin, as well as
the sad consequences thereof? Psal. xxxviii. 18. compared with ver. 4.
or, whether, when we have taken this view thereof, we are farther led to
enquire after the remedy, and seek forgiveness through the blood of
Christ, and strength against those corruptions that we have ground to
charge ourselves with, which have so much prevailed over us? Acts xvi.
30. Psal. xix. 13. xxv. 11. Jer. viii. 22.

3. The word is made effectual to salvation, when what is contained
therein tends to humble and lay us low at the foot of God; when we
acknowledge, that all his judgments are right, or whatever punishments
have been inflicted, pursuant to the threatenings which he has
denounced, have been less than our iniquities deserve, Ezra ix. 13. And
when we receive reproofs for sins committed, with a particular
application thereof to ourselves, and are sensible of the guilt we have
contracted thereby.

But that we may make a right use of the word, to answer this great end,
let us consider, what humbling considerations are contained therein,
that may have a tendency to answer this end.

(1.) The word of God represents to us that infinite distance that there
is between him and us; so that the best of creatures are, in his sight,
as nothing, Isa. xl. 17. _less than nothing, and vanity_. Herein we
behold God as infinitely perfect, and men as very imperfect, and unlike
to him; and in particular, we behold him as a God of infinite holiness,
spotless purity, and ourselves as impure, polluted creatures; which is a
very humbling consideration, Prov. xxx. 2. Isa. lxiv. 6.

(2.) The word of God discovers to us the deceitfulness and desperate
wickedness that there is in our hearts, whereby we are naturally
inclined to rebel against him; and should, had it not been for his
preventing and renewing grace, have run with the vilest of men, in all
excess of riot. It also leads us into the knowledge of the various kinds
of sin, which we have ground to charge ourselves with, in the course of
our lives; the frequent omission of those duties which are required of
us; our great neglect of relative duties, in the station in which God
has fixed us; and the injury we have done to others hereby, whom we have
caused to stumble, or fall by our example, or, at least, by our
unconcernedness about their spiritual welfare. It also discovers to us
the various aggravations of sins committed, as they are against light,
love, mercies, and manifold engagements, which we are laid under; and
the great contempt which we have cast on the blessed Jesus, in
disregarding, or not improving, the benefits of his mediation. All these
things duly considered, have a tendency to humble us, and we are led
into the discovery hereof by the word of God.

4. The word of God is made effectual to salvation, as it has a tendency
to drive sinners out of themselves, and to draw them to Jesus Christ. On
the one hand, it shews them the utter impossibility of their saving
themselves, by doing any thing that may bring them into a justified
state, and so render them accepted in the sight of God; and, on the
other hand, it draws or leads them to Christ, whom they are enabled to
behold by faith, as discovered in the gospel, to be a merciful and
all-sufficient Saviour. The former of these is not only antecedent, but
necessary to the latter: For, so long as we fancy that we have a
sufficiency in ourselves, to recommend us to God, and procure for us a
right and title to eternal life, we shall never think of committing our
souls into Christ’s hand, in order to our obtaining salvation from him
in his own way. Thus the prophet brings in a self-conceited people as
saying, _We are lords, we will come no more to thee_, Jer. ii. 31. No
one will seek help or safety from Christ, who is not sensible of his own
weakness, and being in the utmost danger without him. The first thing
then that the Spirit of God does in the souls of men, when he makes the
word effectual to salvation, is, his leading them into a humble sense of
their utter inability to do what is spiritually good, or acceptable to
God, or to make atonement for the sins that they have committed against
him; that so they might be brought into a justified state. It is,
indeed, an hard matter to convince the sinner of this; for he is very
prone to be full of himself, sometimes to glory with the Pharisee, Luke
xviii. 11. in some religious duties he performs; at other times in his
abstaining from those gross enormities that others are chargeable with:
Or, if he will own himself to have exceeded many in sin; yet he is ready
to think, that, by some expedient or other, he shall be able to make
atonement for it. This sets him at a great distance from Christ; as it
is said, _They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are
sick_, Matt. ix. 12. So these do not see their need of a Saviour, till
they are convinced that they have nothing in themselves that can afford
any relief to them, so as to deliver them from the guilt of sin, and the
misery that will ensue thereupon. On this account our Saviour observes,
that _publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God_, chap. xxi. 31.
_i. e._ are more easily made sensible of their need of Christ, being
convinced of sin, when the _chief priests and elders_, who thought they
had a righteousness of their own to justify them, and therefore refused
to comply with the method of the gospel, in having recourse to Christ
alone for this privilege.

Now the word of God is made use of by the Spirit, to drive the sinner
out of these strong holds, and to shew him that he cannot, by any means
recover himself out of that state of sin and misery, into which he is
plunged. It is a very hard thing for a person to be convinced of the
truth of what our Saviour says, viz. _That which is highly esteemed
amongst men, is an abomination in the sight of God_, Luke xvi. 15. when
it is put in the room of Christ and his righteousness. This is one of
the great ends to which the word is made subservient when rendered
effectual to salvation.

Moreover, the word of God draws the soul to Christ, so that it is
persuaded and induced, from gospel-motives, to come to him; and, at the
same time, enabled so to do by the almighty power of God, without which
he cannot come to him, John vi. 44. the former draws objectively, the
latter subjectively and internally.

As to what the gospel does in order hereunto, let it be considered, that
it sets before us the excellency and glory of Christ, as our great
Mediator; represents him as a divine person, and, consequently, the
object of faith, and as such, _able to save, to the uttermost, them that
come unto God by him_, Heb. vi. 25. It considers him as having purchased
salvation for his people; so that they may obtain forgiveness through
his blood. It also discovers him as not only able, but willing to save
all that come to him by faith; so that he will in no wise cast them out,
John vi. 37. It also represents him as having a right to us; we are his
by purchase; and therefore it is our indispensible duty to give up
ourselves unto him. It also makes known to us the greatness of his love,
as the highest inducement hereunto; the freeness, riches and
extensiveness of his grace, as ready to embrace the chief of sinners,
and pass by all the injuries that they have done against him, and as
giving them the utmost assurance, that, having loved them in the world,
he will love them to the end. Thus Christ is set forth in the gospel;
and when it is made effectual to salvation, the soul is induced, or, as
it were, constrained hereby, to love him, and yield the obedience of
faith unto him in all things.

5. The word is made of use by the Spirit, as a means to conform the soul
to the image of God, and subdue it to his will. The image of God in man,
is defaced by sin; so that he is not only rendered unlike, but averse to
him, stripped of all his beauty, and become abominable and filthy in his
sight; and, as long as he remains so, is unmeet for communion with, or
obtaining salvation from him. Now, when the Spirit of God communicates
special grace to sinners, he instamps this image afresh upon the soul,
which he renews in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, sanctifies
all the powers and faculties thereof, and subdues the will, so that it
yields a cheerful obedience to the will of God, and delights in his law
after the inward man; and its language is, _Speak, Lord, for thy servant
heareth_. This change the Spirit of God works in the heart, by his
internal efficacious influence; as has been formerly observed, when we
considered the work of conversion and sanctification, as brought about
by him[31]. And this effect is also ascribed to the word as a moral
instrument thereof; so that it is not attained without it, it being,
indeed, the principal end of the preaching the gospel; as the apostle
says, _The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through
God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God_, 2
Cor. x. 4, 5. and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience
of Christ.

6. The word is farther said to be made effectual to salvation, as hereby
we are strengthened against temptation, and corruption. By the former,
those objects are presented to us that have a tendency to alienate our
affections from God; by the latter, these temptations are complied with,
and the affections entangled in the snare that is laid for them, Satan,
or the world, present the bait, and corrupt nature is easily allured and
taken by it. The tempter uses many wiles and stratagems to ensnare us,
and our own hearts are deceitful above all things, and without much
difficulty, turned aside thereby; and so led captive by Satan at his
will. But when the Spirit of God makes the word effectual to salvation,
he takes occasion hereby to detect the fallacy; lays open the design of
our spiritual enemies, and the pernicious tendency thereof; and
internally fortifies the soul against them, whereby it is _kept from the
paths of the destroyer_, Psal. xvii. 4. and this he does by presenting
other and better objects to engage our affections, and leading us into
the knowledge of those glorious truths, that may prevent a sinful
compliance with the solicitations of the devil. And, according to the
nature of the temptation that may occur, we are directed to the precepts
or promises contained in the word of God; which, being duly improved by
us, have a tendency to keep the heart steady, and fixed in the ways of

7. The word of God is made effectual by the Spirit, as he thereby builds
the soul up in grace, and establishes it in holiness and comfort,
through faith unto salvation. The work of grace is not immediately
brought to perfection, but is, in a progressive way, making advances
towards it; and therefore we are first made holy by the renovation of
our hearts and lives, and made partakers of those spiritual consolations
that accompany or flow from the work of sanctification; and then we are
built up in holiness and comfort, whereby we go from strength to
strength, and are more and more established in the ways of God; and this
is done by the preaching of the word, whereby we are said to _grow in
grace, and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ_, 2 Pet.
iii. 18. so that every step we take in our way to heaven, from the time
that our faces are first turned towards it, we are enabled hereby to go
on safely and comfortably, till the work of grace is perfected in glory.

Footnote 30:

  _See Vol. I. 48. 69. Quest. III. and IV._

Footnote 31:

  _See Quest. LXVII, LXVIII. Vol. III. p. 16._

                          Quest. CLVI., CLVII.

    QUEST. CLVI. _Is the word of God to be read by all?_

    ANSW. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly
    to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it
    apart by themselves, and with their families, to which end the holy
    scriptures are to be translated out of the original, into vulgar

    QUEST. CLVII. _How is the word of God to be read?_

    ANSW. The holy scriptures are to be read, with an high and reverend
    esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word
    of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them, with
    desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them,
    with diligence and attention to the matter and scope of them; with
    meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.

The word’s being made effectual to salvation, which was the subject last
insisted on, not only supposes that we read it as translated into vulgar
languages, but that we understand what we read, in order to our applying
it to our particular case, and improving it for our spiritual advantage.
These things are next to be considered as contained in the answers we
are now to explain. Accordingly,

I. We have an account, in the former of them, of the obligation that all
persons are under to read, or at least, attend to the reading of the
word of God; more particularly,

1. It is to be read publicly in the congregation, by those who are
appointed for that purpose. This is evident, inasmuch as the church, and
all the public worship that is performed therein, is founded on the
doctrines contained in scripture; and every one who would be made wise
to salvation, ought to be well acquainted with it; and the reading it
publicly, as a part of that worship that is performed in the church, is
not only a testimony of the high esteem that we have for it; but it will
be of great use to those, who, through a sinful neglect to read it in
families, and their not being disposed to do this in their private
retirement; or, through the stupidity of their hearts, and the many
incumbrances of worldly business, will not allow themselves time for
this necessary duty, by reason whereof they remain strangers to those
great and important truths contained therein.

That this is a duty appears from the charge that the apostle gives, that
the epistle which he wrote to the church at Thessalonica, should _be
read unto all the holy brethren_, 1 Thess. v. 27. And he gives the like
charge to the church at Colosse, Col. iv. 16. And to this we may add,
that the scripture is not only to be read, but explained; which is the
principal design of the preaching thereof. This is no new practice; for
the Old Testament was not only read, but explained in the synagogues
_every Sabbath-day_; which is called, by a metonymy, a _reading Moses_,
Acts xv. 21. _viz._ explaining the law that was given by him. Thus Ezra
_stood upon a pulpit of wood, opened the book in the sight of all the
people_; and he, with some other of his brethren that assisted him
herein, _read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the
sense, and caused them to understand the reading_, that is, the meaning
thereof, Neh. viii. 4,-8. In like manner our Saviour _went into the
synagogue the Sabbath-day_, and _stood up_ and _read_, that part of the
holy scriptures, taken from the prophecy of Isaiah; which, when he had
done, he applied it to himself, and shewed them how _it was fulfilled in
their ears_, Luke iv. 16,-24. So that it is supposed that the word is to
be publicly read.

The only thing in this answer, that needs explaining is, what is meant
by those words, all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to
the congregation. We are not to suppose that there is an order of men
that Christ has appointed to be readers in the church, distinct from
ministers; therefore the meaning of this expression may be, that all are
not to read the word of God together, in a public assembly, with a loud
voice; for that would tend rather to confusion than edification. Nor
ought any to be appointed to do it, but such as are grave, pious, and
able to read it distinctly, for the edification of others. And who is so
fit for this work, as the minister whose office is not only to read, but
explain it in the ordinary course of his ministry?

2. The word of God is to be read in our families; which is absolutely
necessary for the propagating religion therein. This, indeed, is
shamefully neglected; which is one great reason of the ignorance and
decay of piety in the rising generation; and the neglect hereof is
contrary to God’s command, Deut. vi. 6, 7. as well as the example of
those who are highly commended for this practice; as Abraham was for
_commanding his children, and his household after him, that they should
keep the way of the Lord_, Gen. xviii. 19. Psal. lxxviii. 3, 4.

3. The word of God ought to be read by every one, in private; and that
not only occasionally, but frequently as one of the great businesses of
life. Thus God says to Joshua, Josh. i. 8. _This book of the law shall
not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and
night_, Psal. i. 2. And our Saviour commands the Jews to _search the
scriptures_, John v. 39. and, in some of his discourses with them,
though he was sensible that they were a degenerate people; yet he takes
it for granted, that they had not altogether laid aside this duty, Matt.
xii. 5. chap. xxi. 42. Luke vi. 3. This practice, especially where the
word of God has not only been read, but the meaning thereof sought
after, and attended to with great diligence, is commended as a peculiar
excellency in Christians, who are, in this respect, styled more _noble_
than others, who are defective in this duty, Acts xvii. 11.

Now it appears, that it is the duty of every one to read the word of
God, inasmuch as it is given us with this design. If God is pleased, as
it were, to send us an epistle from heaven, it is a very great instance
of contempt cast on it, as well as on the divine condescension expressed
therein, for us to neglect to read it. Does he impart his mind to us
herein, and is it not our indispensable duty, to pay the utmost regard
thereto? Rev. i. 11. compared with chap. ii. 29. Moreover, our own
advantage should be a farther inducement to us, to read the word of God;
since his design in giving it, was, that we might believe, and that
believing, we may attain life, through the name of Christ, John xx. 31.
Rom. x. 17. chap. xv. 4. It is sometimes compared to a _sword_, for our
defence, against our spiritual enemies, Eph. vi. 17. and is therefore
designed for use; otherwise it is no advantage for us. It is elsewhere
compared to a _lamp to our feet_, Psal. cxix. 105. which is not designed
for an ornament, but to guide us in the right way; therefore we must
attend to its direction. It is also compared to _food_, whereby we are
said to be _nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine_, and
_as new-born babes_ we are exhorted, to _desire the sincere milk of the
word, that we may grow thereby_, 1 Pet. ii. 2. but this end cannot be
attained, unless it be read and applied by us to our own necessities.

This leads us to take notice of the opposition that the Papists make
hereunto, inasmuch as they deny the common people the liberty of reading
the scriptures in their own language, without leave given them from the
bishop, or some other spiritual guides, who are authorized to allow or
deny this privilege, as they think fit; but without this, the reading of
it is strictly prohibited. And, as an instance of their opposition to
it, they have sometimes burnt whole impressions of the Bible, in the
open market-place; as well as expressed their contempt hereof, by
burning particular copies of scripture, or dragging them through the
streets, throwing them in the kennels, and stamping them under feet, or
tearing them in pieces, as though it was the vilest book in the world;
and some have been burned for reading it. And, that it may be brought
into the utmost contempt, they have cast the most injurious reproaches
upon it, by calling it a bending rule, a nose of wax, a dumb judge. And
some have blasphemed it, by saying, that it has no more authority than
Esop’s fables; and have compared the psalms of David to profane ballads.
And, they pretend, by all this, to consult the good of the people, that
they may not be misled thereby.

That which they generally allege in vindication of this practice, is,
that they do not so much oppose the reading the scripture, as the
reading those translations of it, which have been made by Protestants;
and that it is our Bible, not that which they allow to be the word of
God, that they treat with such injurious contempt.

But to this it may be replied; that the objections they bring against
scripture, are not taken so much from such passages thereof, which they
pretend to be falsely translated; but their design is, plainly, to keep
the people in ignorance, that they may not, as the consequence of their
reading it, imbibe those doctrines, that will, as they pretend, turn
them aside from the faith of the church; and therefore, they usually
maintain, that the common people ought to be kept in ignorance, as an
expedient to excite devotion; and that, by this means, they will be the
more humble, and pay a greater deference to those unwritten traditions
that are propagated by them, and pretended to be of equal authority with
scripture, which the common people must take up with instead of it. And,
indeed, the consequence hereof, is agreeable to their desire; for they
appear to be grossly ignorant, and think themselves bound to believe
whatever their leaders pretend to be true, without exercising a judgment
of discretion, or endeavouring to know the mind of God relating

That which they generally allege in opposing the common people’s reading
the Bible, is, that it contains _some things_ in it that are _hard to be
understood_; as the apostle Peter expresses it, in 2 Pet. iii. 16.
_which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the
other scriptures, unto their destruction_.

But to this it may be replied; that it must be allowed that some things
contained in scripture, are hard to be understood; inasmuch as the
gospel contains some mysteries which finite wisdom cannot comprehend;
and the great doctrines of the gospel, are sometimes unintelligible by
us, by reason of the ignorance and alienation of our minds from the life
of God, as well as from the imperfections of this present state, in
which we know but in part. Notwithstanding, they, who with diligence and
humility, desire, and earnestly seek after the knowledge of those truths
that are more immediately subservient to their salvation, shall find
that their labour is not lost; but in following on to know the Lord,
shall know as much of him as is necessary to their glorifying and
enjoying him, as the prophet says, _Then shall ye know if ye follow on
to know the Lord_, Hos. vi. 3. It is to be owned, that there are some
depths in scripture, that cannot be fathomed by a finite understanding;
which should tend to raise our admiration, and put us upon adoring the
unsearchable wisdom of God, as well as an humble confession that _we are
but of yesterday, and know_, comparatively, _nothing_, Job viii. 9. Yet
there are many doctrines that we may attain to a clear knowledge of, and
improve, to the glory of God, in the conduct of our lives. Thus the
prophet speaks of an _high way_, that is called _the way of holiness_;
concerning which it is said, that _way-faring men_, who walk therein,
_though fools_, that is, such as have the meanest capacity, as to other
things, _shall not err therein_, Isa. xxxv. 8. that is, they who humbly
desire the teaching of the Spirit, whereby they may be made acquainted
with the mind and will of God, shall not be led out of the way by any
thing that he has revealed to his people in his word. It is very
injurious to the sacred oracles to infer, that because some things are
hard to be understood, therefore all that read them, must necessarily
wrest them to their own destruction. And besides, the apostle does not
say, that all do so, but only those who are _unlearned and unstable_;
_unlearned_, that is, altogether unacquainted with the doctrines of the
gospel, as not making them the matter of their study and enquiry; and
_unstable_, that is, such as give way to scepticism, or they whose faith
is not built on the right foundation, but are inclined to turn aside
from the truth, with every wind of doctrine. This God’s people may hope
to be kept from, while they study the holy scriptures, and earnestly
desire to be made wise thereby unto salvation.

As to what the Papists farther allege against the common people’s being
permitted to read the scriptures, because, as they pretend, this will
make them proud, and induce them to enquire into those things that do
not belong to them, whereby they will soon think themselves wiser than
their teachers; and that it has been the occasion of all the heresies
that are in the world.

To this it may be answered, that whatever ill consequences attend a
person’s reading of scripture, these are not to be ascribed to the use,
but the abuse of it. Will any one say, that we ought to abstain from
eating and drinking, because some are guilty of excess therein, by
gluttony and drunkenness? No more ought we to abstain from reading the
scriptures, because some make a wrong use of them. But, inasmuch as it
is supposed that hereby some, through pride, will think themselves wiser
than their teachers; this, we will allow, they may do, without passing a
wrong judgment on themselves; and it is injurious treatment of mankind,
to keep the world in ignorance, that they may not detect the fallacies,
or expose the errors of those who pretend to be their guides in matters
of faith.

As to what is farther alleged, that the reading of scripture has been
the occasion of many heresies in the world, I am rather inclined to
think, that this ought to be charged on the neglect thereof, or, at
least, on their not studying them with diligence, and an humble
dependence on God for his blessing to attend it.

It may be observed, that whatever reasons are assigned for their denying
the people the liberty of reading the scriptures, these seem to carry in
them a pretence of great kindness to them, that they may not, hereby, be
led out of the way, and do themselves hurt by this means; as it is a
dangerous thing to put a knife, or a sword, into a child’s, or madman’s
hand; by which they suppose the common people to be ignorant, and would
keep them so. But, whatever reasons they assign, the true reason why
they so much oppose the reading of scripture is this, because it detects
and exposes the absurdity of many doctrines that are imbibed by them,
which will not bear to be tried by it. If they can but persuade their
votaries, that whatever is handed down by tradition, as a rule of faith,
is to be received, without the least hesitation, though contrary to the
mind of God in scripture, they are not like to meet with any opposition
from them, let them advance doctrines never so absurd, or contrary to

If it be enquired, whether they universally prohibit the reading of
scripture? It must be allowed, that the Vulgar Latin version thereof may
be read by any one that understands it, without falling under their
censure. But this they are sensible of, that the greatest part of the
common people cannot understand it; and if they do, it is so corrupt a
translation, that it seems plainly calculated to give countenance to the
errors that they advance[32]. So that it appears from their whole
management herein, that their design is to deprive mankind of the
greatest blessings which God has granted to them; and to discourage
persons from the performance of a duty, which is so absolutely necessary
to promote the interest of God and religion in the world. Therefore we
must conclude, that it is an invaluable privilege that we are not only
permitted, but commanded to read the scriptures, as translated into that
language that is generally understood by us.

And this leads us to consider the inference that is deduced from hence,
contained in the latter part of the answer which we are explaining,
_viz._ that the scriptures are to be translated out of the original into
vulgar languages. This is evident, inasmuch as reading signifies
nothing, where the words are not understood; and every private Christian
is not obliged to addict himself to the study of the languages in which
the scriptures were written; and it is, indeed, a work of so much pains
and difficulty, that few have opportunity, or inclination, to apply
themselves, to any considerable purpose, to the study thereof.
Therefore, the words of scripture must be rendered intelligible to all,
and consequently, translated into a language they understand.

This may be argued from the care of providence, that the scriptures
should be delivered, at first, to the Jews, in their own language; as
the greatest part of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and those
few sections or chapters in Ezra and Daniel, that were written in the
Chaldee language, were not inserted till they understood that
language[33]. And, when the world generally understood the Greek tongue,
so that there was no necessity for the common people to learn it in
schools, and the Hebrew was not understood by those nations, for whom
the gospel was designed; it pleased God to deliver the New Testament in
the Greek language. So that it is beyond dispute that he intended, that
the scriptures should not only be read, but understood by the common
people. And when the gospel was sent to various nations of different
languages, the Spirit of God, by an extraordinary and miraculous
dispensation, furnished the apostles to speak to every one in their own
language, by bestowing on them the gift of tongues; which would have
been needless, if it were not necessary for persons to read or hear the
holy scriptures with understanding.

II. We are now to consider, how the word of God is to be read, that we
may understand, and improve what is contained therein to our spiritual
advantage; and in order thereunto, there are several directions given in
the latter of the answers we are explaining.

1. We must read the scriptures with an high and reverent esteem of them,
arising from a firm persuasion, that they are the word of God. That they
are so, has been proved by several arguments[34]; therefore we will
suppose them that read them, to be persuaded of the truth thereof; and
this will beget an high and reverent esteem of them. The perfections of
God, and particularly his wisdom, sovereignty, and goodness, shine forth
with equal glory in his word, as they do in any of his works; and
therefore it has a preference to all human composures; in that whatever
is revealed therein, is to be admired and depended on for its unerring
wisdom and infallible verity; so that it is impossible for them, who
understand and improve it, to be turned aside thereby, from the way of
truth. We are also to consider the use that God makes of it, to
propagate his kingdom and interest in the world. It is by this means
that he convinces men of sin, and discovers to them the way of obtaining
forgiveness of it, and victory over it, and thoroughly furnishes them
unto every good work, 2 Tim. iii. 16. For this reason the wisest and
best of men have expressed the highest esteem and value for it. The
Psalmist mentions the love he had to it, as a person that was in a
rapture; _O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day_, Psal.
cxix. 97. And elsewhere he speaks of it as _more to be desired than
gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey
comb_, Psal. xix. 16. which argues the high veneration he had for it.
This we all ought to have; otherwise we may sometimes be tempted to read
it with prejudice, and thereby, through the corruption of our nature, be
prone to cavil at it, as we sometimes do at those writings that are
merely human, which savour of the weakness and imperfection of their
authors, and consequently, it will be impossible for us to receive any
saving advantage thereby.

2. We must, in reading the word of God, be sensible that he alone can
enable us to understand it. To read the scriptures and not understand
them, will be of no advantage to us; therefore it is supposed, that we
are endeavouring to have our minds rightly informed and furnished with
the knowledge of divine truths: But by reason of the corruption,
ignorance, and depravity of our natures, this cannot be attained without
a peculiar blessing from God attending our endeavours; therefore we
ought to glorify him, by dependence on him, for this privilege, (as
being sensible that all spiritual wisdom is from him,) if we would see a
beauty and glory in those things that are revealed therein, and be
thoroughly established in the doctrines of the gospel, so as not to be
in danger of being turned aside from them; or, especially, if we would
improve them to our being made wise unto salvation, we must consider
this as the gift of God. It is he alone who can enable us to understand
his word aright; this is evident, inasmuch as it is necessary that there
be an internal illumination, as well as an external revelation, which is
the subject-matter of our studies and enquiries. Thus our Saviour not
only repeated the words of those scriptures that concerned himself, to
the two disciples going to Emmaus; but he _opened their understandings,
that they might understand them_, Luke xxiv. 45. Without this, a person
may have the brightest parts, and most penetrating judgment in other
respects, and yet be unacquainted with the mind of God in his word, and
inclined to embrace those doctrines that are contrary to it; and
especially if God is not pleased to succeed our endeavours, we shall
remain destitute of the experimental knowledge of divine truths, which
is absolutely necessary to salvation.

3. We must read the word of God with a desire to know, believe, and obey
his will, contained therein. If we do not desire to know, or understand
the meaning of scripture, it will remain no better than a sealed book to
us; and, instead of receiving thereby, we shall be ready to entertain
prejudices against it, till we lay it aside, with the utmost dislike;
and, as the consequence thereof, we shall be utterly estranged from the
life of God, through the ignorance and vanity of our minds. We must also
read the word of God with a desire to have our faith established
thereby, that our feet may be set upon a rock, and we may be delivered
from all manner of doubts and hesitations, with respect to those
important truths which are revealed therein; and we ought to desire, not
only to believe, but yield a constant and cheerful obedience to every
thing that God requires of us therein.

4. Our reading the word of God ought to be accompanied with meditation,
and the exercise of self-denial. Our thoughts should be wholly taken up
with the subject-matter thereof, and that with the greatest intenseness,
as those who are studiously, and with the greatest earnestness, pressing
after the knowledge of those doctrines that are of the highest
importance, that our profiting herein may appear to ourselves and
others, 1 Tim. iv. 15.

As to the exercise of self-denial, all those perverse reasonings which
our carnal minds are prone to suggest against the subject-matter of
divine revelation, are to be laid aside. If we are resolved to believe
nothing but what we can comprehend, we ought to consider that the gospel
contains unsearchable mysteries, that surpass finite wisdom; therefore
we must be content to acknowledge, that we know but in part. There is a
deference to be paid to the wisdom of God, that eminently appears in
every thing which he has discovered to us in his word; so that we must
adore the divine perfections that are displayed therein, whilst we
retain an humble sense of the imperfection of our own knowledge. Our
reason is not to be considered as useless; but we must desire that it
may be sanctified, and inclined to receive whatever God is pleased to
impart. We are also to exercise the grace of self-denial, with respect
to the obstinacy of our wills; whereby they are naturally disinclined to
acquiesce in, approve of, and yield obedience to the law of God, so that
we may be entirely satisfied, that every thing that he commands in his
word, is holy, just, and good.

5. The word of God is to be read with fervent prayer; as the apostle
says, _If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him_, James i.
5. The advantage we expect hereby, is as was before observed, his gift;
and therefore we are humbly to supplicate him for it. There are many
things in his word that are hard to be understood; therefore we ought to
say, whenever we take the scriptures into, our hands, as the Psalmist
does, _Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy
law_, Psal. cxix. 18. We may, in this case, humbly acknowledge the
weakness of our capacities and the blindness of our minds, which renders
it necessary for us to desire to be instructed by him, in the way of
truth. We may also plead, that his design in giving us this word, was,
that it may be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our paths; therefore
we dread the thoughts of walking in darkness, when there is such a clear
discovery of those things which are so glorious and necessary to be
known. We may also plead, that our Lord Jesus is revealed to his people
as the prophet of his church; and that whatever office he is invested
with, he delights to execute it, as his glory is concerned therein;
therefore we trust, and hope that he will lead us, by his Spirit into
his truth. We may also plead the impossibility of our attaining the
knowlege of divine things, without his assistance; and how much it would
redound to his glory, as well as our own comfort and advantage, if he
will be pleased to lead us into the saving knowlege of the truth, as it
is in him: This we cannot but importunately desire, as being sensible of
the sad consequences of our being destitute of it; inasmuch as we should
remain in darkness, though favoured with the light of the gospel.

6. The word of God is to be read with diligence and attention to the
matter and scope thereof. We have hitherto been directed in this answer,
to apply ourselves to the reading of scripture, with that frame of
spirit which becometh Christians, who desire to know the mind and will
of God therein, viz. that we ought to have our minds disengaged from
those prejudices which would hinder our receiving any advantage from it,
and to exercise those graces that the nature and importance of the duty
requires; that we ought to depend upon God, and address ourselves to him
by faith and prayer for the knowlege of those divine truths contained
therein. But, in this last head, we are led to speak of some other
methods conducive to our understanding the scriptures; which are the
effects of diligence and attendance to the sense of the words thereof,
and the scope and design of them.

This being an useful head, I shall take occasion to enlarge on it more
than I have done on the former, and to add some other things, which may
serve as a farther means to direct us, how we may read the scriptures
with understanding. I might here observe, that they who are well
acquainted with the languages in which they were written, and are able
to make just remarks on the words, phrases, and particles used therein,
some of which cannot be expressed in another language without losing
much of their native beauty and significancy, these have certainly the
advantage of all others: But since this cannot be done by the greatest
part of mankind, who are strangers to the Greek and Hebrew languages;
they must have recourse to some other helps for the attaining this
valuable end. And in order thereunto,

(1.) It will be of great use for them to consult those expositions,
which we have of the whole, or some particular parts of scripture; of
which some are more large, others concise; some critical, others
practical. I shall forbear making any remarks tending to depreciate the
performance of some, or extol the judgment of others; only this must be
observed, that many have passed over some difficulties of scripture,
which omission has given a degree of disgust to the more inquisitive
part of Christians: But this may be attributed in some instances, to a
commendable modesty, which we find not only in those that have written
in our own, but in other languages; whereby they tacitly confess, either
that they could not solve the difficulty; or, that it was better to
leave it undetermined, than to attempt a solution, which, at best, would
amount to little more than a probable conjecture. It may also be
observed, that others, who have commented on scripture, seem to be
prepossessed with a particular scheme of doctrine, which, if duly
considered, is not very defensible; and they are obliged, sometimes, to
strain the sense thereof, that it may appear to speak agreeably to their
own sentiments; however, their expositions, in other respects, may be
used with great advantage.

To this we may add, that the word preached, being designed to lead us
into the knowledge of scripture-doctrines, we ought to attend upon, and
improve it, as a means conducive thereto, and to bless God for the great
helps and advantages we have to attain it; but more of this will be
considered under some following answers relating to the preaching and
hearing the word:[35] therefore we proceed to consider,

(2.) That we ought to make the best use we can of those translations of
scripture, that we have in our own language; which, if we compare
together, we shall find, not only that the style in which one is
written, differs from that of another, agreeably to the respective times
in which they were written; but they differ very much in the sense they
give of many places of scripture; which may easily be accounted for from
the various acceptations of the same Hebrew or Greek word, as may be
observed in all other languages; and there are other difficulties
relating to the propriety of translating some particular phrases, or the
various senses in which several particles made use of, are to be
understood. However, by comparing these translations together, they who
are unacquainted with the original, will be sometimes led into a sense
more agreeable to the context and the analogy of faith, by one of them,
than by another. But we will suppose the English reader to confine
himself to the translation that is generally used by us; which, as it
cannot be supposed to be of equal authority with the original, nor yet
so perfect, as that it is impossible to be corrected, as to every word
or phrase contained therein; yet I would be far from taking occasion
from hence to depreciate it, or say any thing that may stagger the faith
of any, as though we were in danger of being led aside thereby, from the
way of truth, as some have pretended, who plead for the necessity of a
new translation of the Bible; whereas it is much to be feared, that if
any such thing should be attempted, it would deviate more from the sense
of the Holy Ghost, than that which we now have, and have reason to bless
God for, which, I cannot but think, comes as near the original as most
that are extant. We shall therefore consider how this may be used to the
best advantage, for our understanding the mind of God therein. And here
we shall observe,

[1.] That there is another translation of words referred to in the
margin of our Bibles; which will sometimes give very great light to the
sense of the text, and appear more emphatical, and rather to be
acquiesced in. I shall give a short specimen of some texts of scripture,
that may be illustrated this way; in which the marginal reading differs
from the words it refers to: Thus it is said, in Job iv. 18. _He put no
trust in his servants, and his angels he charged folly_: In the margin,
it is observed, that the words may be read, _He put no trust in his
servants, nor in his angels in whom he put light_; which denotes the
excellency of their nature, and the wisdom with which they are endowed:
Nevertheless, God put no trust in them, not having thought fit to make
use of them in creating the world, nor committing the government thereof
to them.

Again, in Isaiah liii. 3. it is said, _We hid, as it were, our faces
from him_, speaking of our Saviour; but in the margin, it is, _He hid,
as it were, his face from us_; which implies, that, as he bore our
grief, so he was charged with our guilt; and accordingly is represented,
as having his face covered, as an emblem hereof; or else it denotes his
concealing or veiling his glory, as he, who was really in the form of
God, appeared in the form of a servant.

Again, in Jer. xlii. 20. the prophet reproving the people, says, _Ye
dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the Lord your God,
saying, Pray for us_; but, in the margin, it is, _You have used deceit
against your souls_; which contains a farther illustration of the sense
of the words; as it not only denotes their hypocrisy, but the
consequence thereof, to wit, their destruction; which agrees very well
with the threatning denounced in verse 22. that they should _die by the
sword, the famine, and by the pestilence_. And the same prophet in chap.
x. 14. speaking of idolaters, says, _Every man is brutish in his
knowlege_; but in the margin it is, _Every man is more brutish than to
know_; in which their stupidity is rather assigned to their ignorance
than their knowlege.

Again, in Zechariah xii. 5. it is said in the text, _The governors of
Judah shall say in their hearts, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be
my strength in the Lord of hosts their God_; but in the margin it is,
_The governors of Judah shall say, There is strength to me, and to the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, in the Lord of hosts_; and this reading seems
more agreeable to what follows; which contains several promises of
deliverance and salvation, which God would work for the inhabitants of
Jerusalem; So that we are not to suppose them saying, _Jerusalem shall
be our strength_; but, the _Lord of hosts_, who is a safe-guard to it,
as well as to the governors of Judah.

Again, in Acts xvii. 23. it is said in the text, _As I passed by, and
beheld your devotions_; but, in the margin it is, _The gods whom you
worship_, or, the things ye pay divine honour to; which is very
agreeable to the context, and the design of the apostle therein. Again,
in chap. xxii. 29. it is said in the text, _that they departed from him,
which should have examined him_, meaning Paul, in the margin it is,
_tortured him_; which is agreeable to the Roman custom of scourging, and
thereby tormenting one that was under examination for supposed crimes.

Again, in Gal. i. 14. the apostle says, _I profited in the Jews
religion, above many my equals_; in the margin it is, _My equals in
years_; which seems much more agreeable to the apostle’s design.

Again, in Heb. ii. 7. it is said in the text, _Thou madest him_, viz.
our Saviour, _a little lower than the angels_; in the margin it is, _A
little while inferior to them_; as referring to his state of
humiliation; which continued comparatively, but a little while.

[2.] In order to our making a right use of our English translation, that
we may understand the mind of God contained therein, let it be farther
observed, that by reason of the conciseness of the Hebrew and Greek
texts, there are several words left out, which must be supplied, to
complete the sense thereof; which are inserted in an _Italic_ character.
And it will not be difficult for us to determine whether the insertion
be just or no; when we consider that the translators often take their
direction herein from some words, either expressed or understood in the
context; as in Heb. viii. 7. it is said, _If the first_ covenant _had
been faultless_, &c. where the word _covenant_ is inserted; as it is
also in verse 13. because it is expressly mentioned, in verses 8, 9, 10.

Again, in chap. x. 6. it is said, in _sacrifices for sin thou hadst no
pleasure_. The word _sacrifices_ is supplied from the foregoing verse;
and, for the same reason, _offerings_ might as well have been supplied,
as in ver. 8. And, in ver. 25. we are commanded to _exhort one another_;
where _one another_ is supplied from the foregoing verse.

Again, in 1 Pet. iv. 16. it is said, _If any man suffer as a Christian,
let him not be ashamed_; where the words, _any man suffer_, are inserted
as agreeable to what is mentioned, ver. 15.

And, in Eph. ii. 1. _You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses
and sins_; the words, _hath he quickened_, are supplied from ver. 5. and
our translators might as well have added, _you hath he quickened
together with him_, viz. Christ. These things I only mention as a
specimen of the insertions, to complete the sense in our translation;
and we shall find, that the words supplied in other scriptures, are for
the most part, sufficiently just; but if they be not so, they are
subject to correction, without the least imputation of altering the
words of scripture, while we are endeavouring to give the true sense
thereof; and we may be allowed, without perverting of the sacred
writings, sometimes, to supply other words instead of them, which may
seem more agreeable to the mind of the Holy Ghost therein. Thus, in Eph.
vi. 12. it is said, _We wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high
places_. The word _places_, is supplied by our translators; and, in the
margin, it is observed, that it might as well be rendered _heavenly
places_. Now because there is no spiritual wickedness in heavenly
places, therefore they choose, without regard to the proper sense of the
Greek word, to render it _high places_. Whereas, in chap. iii. 10. where
there is no appearance of such an objection, they render the same word,
_heavenly places_; though, I think, the words in both those scriptures,
might better be rendered _in what concerns heavenly things_.

Again, in 2 Cor. vi. 1. it is said, _We, as workers together with him,
beseech you_, &c. where, _with him_, is supplied to complete the sense;
but, I think, it might better have been left out, and then the sense
would have been, ministers, are _workers together with one another_, and
not _together with God_; they are honoured to be employed by God, as
moral instruments, which he makes use of; but they have no other
casuality in bringing about the work of grace. The principal reason why
the words _with him_, are supplied, is because it seems agreeable to the
apostle’s mode of speaking, in 1 Cor. iii. 9. _We are workers together
with God_; but, I think, those words might better be rendered,
_labourers together of God_[36]; or we are jointly engaged in his work;
therefore there is no reason from hence to supply the words _with him_,
in the text but now referred to.

(3.) If we would understand the sense of a particular text of scripture,
we must consider its connexion with the context. Accordingly we must

_1st_, The scope, design, or argument insisted on, in the paragraph, in
which it is contained. Thus in Rom. viii. the apostle’s design in
general, is to prove that there is _no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus_, and to shew who they are, that may conclude themselves to
be interested in this privilege; together with the many blessings that
are connected with, or flow from it, which the subject matter of that
chapter principally relates to.

And, in Heb. i. the apostle’s principal design is, to prove the
excellency and glory of Christ, as Mediator, above the angels, as he
intimates ver. 4. which argument is principally insisted on, and
illustrated, in the following part of the chapter.

And, in chap. xi. his design is, to give an account of the great things
the Old Testament church were enabled to do, and suffer, by faith, of
which, there is an induction of particulars in several parts of it.

And, in Rom. v. the apostle insists on the doctrine of original sin, and
shews how sin and death first entered into the world, and by what means
we may expect to be delivered from it; and so takes occasion to compare
Adam and Christ together, as two distinct heads and representatives of
those who were included in the respective covenants which mankind were
under; by the former of which, sin reigned unto death, and, by the
latter, grace and righteousness, unto eternal life.

Again, in chap. vii. especially from ver. 5. the general argument
insisted on, is, the conflict and opposition there is between sin and
grace, and the manner in which corrupt nature discovers itself in the
souls of the regenerate, together with the disturbance and uneasiness
that it constantly gives them. And, in Psal. lxxxviii. we have an
account of the distress that a soul is in, when under divine desertion,
and brought to the very brink of despair. And, in Psal. lxxii. under the
type of the glory of Solomon’s kingdom, and the advantages his subjects
should receive thereby, the glory and excellency of Christ’s kingdom is
illustrated, together with the gospel-state, and blessings thereof. And,
in Psal. li. David represents a true penitent as addressing himself to
God for forgiveness; though particularly applied to his own case, after
he had sinned in the matter of Uriah. Again, the general argument in
Isa. liii. is to set forth the sufferings of Christ, whereby he made
satisfaction for sin, together with the glory redounding to himself, and
the advantages that believers derive from it.

_2dly_, We must consider the method made use of in managing the
argument; whether by a close way of reasoning and consequences deduced
from premises, or, by an explication of what was designed to inform the
judgment, and laid down before in a general proposition. Or, whether the
principal design of the paragraph be, to regulate the conduct of our
lives, awaken our consciences out of a stupid frame, or excite in us
becoming affections, agreeable to the subject-matter thereof. And, we
are to observe how every part of it is adapted to answer these ends.

_3dly_, We are to consider who is the person speaking, or spoken to;
whether they are the words of God, the church, or the inspired writer;
and, whether they are directed to particular persons, or to all men in
general? Here we may often observe, that in the same paragraph there is
an _apostrophe_, or turning the discourse from one person to another.
Nothing is more common than this in the poetical writings of scripture.
Thus, in the Psalms of David, sometimes God is represented as speaking
to man, and then man as speaking to, or concerning God, as we may
observe, in Psal. cxxxvii. 1-4. there is a relation of the church’s
troubles in Babylon; and, in verses 5 and 6. the Psalmist addresses his
discourse to the church; _If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right
hand forget her cunning_. And, in ver. 7. he speaks to God, praying that
he would _remember the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem; who
said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof_. And, in ver. 8,
9. he turns his discourse to Babylon, as a nation destined to

Again, in Psal. ii. he speaks concerning the _rage_ of the _Heathen_,
against Christ and his church, and that disappointment and ruin that
they should meet with for it. And, in ver. 6. he represents God the
Father as speaking concerning Christ; _yet have I set my King upon my
holy hill of Zion_. And, in ver. 7, 8. Christ is brought in as speaking
or making mention of the _decree_ of God relating to his character and
office, as Mediator, and the success of his kingdom, as extended to the
_uttermost parts of the earth_, pursuant to his intercession, which was
founded on his satisfaction. And, in ver. 10-12, the Psalmist turns his
discourse to those persecuting powers, or the kings of the earth, whom
he had spoken of in the former part of the Psalm, and instructs them
what methods they should take to escape God’s righteous vengeance.
Such-like change of persons speaking, or spoken to, may be observed in
many of the Psalms, Psal. xvi. 1, _&c._ and cxxxiv.

And throughout the whole book of Canticles, there is an inter-changeable
discourse between Christ and his church, which is sometimes called his
_spouse_, at other times his _sister_; sometimes he speaks to the
church, and at other times of it. And, in other places, the church is
represented as speaking to him, or to the _daughters of Jerusalem_,
namely, those professors of religion, that had little more than a form
of godliness.[37]

Again, we often find, that there is a change with respect to the persons
speaking, spoken to, or of, in the writings of the prophets, as well as
in the poetical writings; as may be observed in Isa. lxiii. throughout
the whole chapter. And, in Micah vii. 18, 19, 20. there is a change of
persons in almost every sentence; _Who is a God like unto thee that
pardoneth iniquity_, &c. _He retaineth not his anger for ever; he will
subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths
of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to
Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old._

_4thly_, We are farther to consider the occasion of what is laid down in
any chapter, paragraph, or book of scripture, which we desire to
understand. Thus the particular occasion of the book of Lamentations,
was the approaching ruin of Judah, and the miseries that they should be
exposed to when Jerusalem was besieged by the Chaldeans; as appears by
the subject-matter thereof; though, it may be, that which was the more
immediate occasion of its being delivered at that time, was, that the
prophet might lament the death of good Josiah, 2 Chron. xxxv. 25. which,
probably, he had a peculiar eye to, when he says, _The crown is fallen
from our head_, Lam. v. 16. as well as the destruction of the whole
nation, which would ensue soon after it, in which their civil and
religious liberties would be invaded by their enemies, who would oppress
and lead them captive.

And the principal occasion of the apostle’s writing the epistle to the
Galatians, was, that he might establish some among them, in the faith of
the gospel, who were so much disposed to turn aside from him that called
them, and embrace another scheme of religion that was subversive of it;
as he observes, in chap. i. 6. where, by this _other gospel_, which he
dissuades them from turning aside unto, we are to understand those
doctrines that they had imbibed from those false teachers who endeavour
either to re-establish the observation of the ceremonial law, or to put
them upon seeking righteousness and life, from their observing the
precepts of the moral law, which tended to overthrow the doctrine of
justification by Christ’s righteousness; which is a subject often
insisted on by the apostle, both in this and his other epistles.

This method of enquiring into the occasion of what is mentioned in
particular paragraphs of scripture, will often give light to some things
contained therein. Thus we read, in Matt. xxi. 23-27. that the _chief
priests and elders_ ask our Saviour this question, _By what authority
dost thou these things?_ which, had it proceeded from an humble mind,
desirous to be convinced by his reply to it; or, had he not often, in
their hearing, asserted the authority by which he did those things, he
would, doubtless, have told them, that he received a commission to do
them from the Father; and, that every miracle which he wrought, was, as
it were, a confirming seal annexed to it. But our Saviour, knowing the
design of the question, and the character of the persons that asked it,
he does not think fit to make any reply to it, rather chusing to put
them to silence, by proposing another question to them, which he knew
they would not be forward to answer, relating to the baptism of John,
_viz._ whether it was _from heaven_, or _of men_. And this was certainly
the best method he could have taken; for he dealt with them as
cavillers, who were to be put to silence, and made ashamed at the same

(4.) In order to our understanding the sense of scripture, we must, so
far as it is possible, compare the phrases, or modes of expression, as
well as the subject insisted on, with what occurs in other parallel
places. Thus, in several of the historical parts of scripture, we have
the same history, or, at least, many things tending to illustrate it; as
the history of the reign of the kings of Judah and Israel, is the
principal subject of the book of Kings and Chronicles; one of which
often refers to, as well as explains the other, and, by comparing them
together, we shall find, that one gives light to the other. Thus it is
said, in 2 Kings xii. 2. that _Jehoash did that which was right, in the
sight of the Lord all his days, wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed
him_; by which it is intimated, that, after the death of Jehoiada, he
did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord; but this is not
particularly mentioned in this chapter, which principally insists on
that part of his reign which was commendable. But if we compare it with
2 Chron. xxiv. we have an account of his reign after the death of
Jehoiada, how he _set up idolatry_, ver. 17, 18. being instigated
hereunto by his princes that flattered, or, as it is expressed, _made
obeisance unto him_, and disregarded the prophets sent to testify
against these practices; and how he _stoned Zachariah in the court of
the house of the Lord_, for his faithful reproof and prophetic
intimation of the consequence of the idolatry, in which he shewed the
greatest ingratitude, and forgetfulness of the good things that had been
done for him by his father, who set him on his throne. We have an
account of the time when the Syrians came up against him, and how they
overcame him with a small company of men; and, that _the Lord delivered
a very great host into their hand, because they had forsaken the Lord
God of their fathers_, ver. 23, 24.

Again, in the book of Kings, we have but a short history of the reign of
Azariah, otherwise called Uzziah, and of his being _smitten by the Lord,
so that he was a leper until the day of his death, and dwelt in a
several house_, 2 Kings xv. 1-5. but in 2 Chron. xxvi. there is a larger
account of him, as successful in war, and of the honour and riches that
he gained thereby; and also we have a particular account of the reason
of the Lord’s smiting him with leprosy, namely, for his invading a
branch of the priest’s office.

Again, in the history of the reign of Manasseh, in 2 Kings xxi. we have
only an account of the vile and abominable part thereof; whereas, in 2
Chron. xxxiii. we have not only an account of his wickedness, but of his
repentance, together with the affliction that occasioned it, ver. 12-19.

Moreover, when we read the prophetic writings, we must, for our better
understanding them, compare them with the particular history of the
reign of those kings, in whose time they prophesied, and the state of
the church at that time, their alliances or wars with neighbouring
princes, and the sins that they were guilty of, which gave occasion to
their being sometimes insulted, and overcome by them, till their ruin
was completed in being carried captive into Babylon. Thus when we read
Isa. vii. which gives an account of Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, the
son of Remaliah, against Ahaz, and contains a prediction of their
miscarriage in this attempt; and also, that the king of Asyria should be
hired to assist Ahaz, but should, instead thereof, deal deceitfully with
him, so that he should deprive Judah of their ornaments, and impoverish,
instead of being helpful to them. This we have a farther explication of
in the history of Ahaz’s reign, in 2 Kings xvi. and 2 Chron. xxviii.[38]

Again, we ought to compare the account of Sennacherib’s invading Judah,
and the blasphemous insult of Rabshakeh sent for that purpose, together
with his defeat, and the remarkable hand of God that brought this about,
as an encouragement of Hezekiah’s piety, in the xxxvith and xxxviith
chapters of Isaiah, with the historal account of the same thing, in 2
Kings xviii. and xix. and 2 Chron. xxxii.

Again, we must compare the Psalms of David with his life, or the state
of the church, which is particularly referred to in some of them; which
may be very much illustrated from other scriptures, that have relation
to the same dispensations of providence, or contain an historical
account thereof. As for those psalms that were penned on particular
occasions, mentioned in the respective titles prefixed to them, these
will be better understood if we compare the subject-matter thereof with
the history they refer to. Moreover, we shall often find, that when the
same thing is mentioned in different places of scripture, there is
something added in one, which farther illustrates what is contained in
the other. Thus, in the account we have of the life of Joseph, in Gen.
xxxix. 20. it is said, that he was _put into the prison, the place where
the king’s prisoners were bound_; and, in chap. xli. 14. that he was
kept in the _dungeon_, which is the worst part of the prison. But the
Psalmist speaking of the same matter, in Psal. cv. 18. adds, that his
_feet were hurt with fetters_, and he was _laid in iron_; which contains
a farther illustration of the history of his troubles.

Again, when we read in Numb. xi. 31, 32. of God’s _feeding Israel_, upon
their murmuring in the desert, for want of flesh, _with quails in great
abundance_; this is mentioned elsewhere, in Psal. lxxviii. 27. in which
we have an account, that these quails were a sort of _feathered fowl_,
which could not have been so well understood by the sense of the Hebrew
word, which we render _quails_[39]. We have also an account, in Exod.
xvii. 6. of God’s supplying them with _water out of the rock in Horeb_;
and if we compare this with Psal. cv. 41. we shall find that this water
issued from thence in so large a stream, that it was like a _river_. And
the apostle Paul gives farther light to it, when he says, speaking in a
figurative way, that _the rock followed them_, 1 Cor. x. 4. that is, the
water that ran from it like a river, did not flow in a right line; but,
by a continued miracle, changed its course, as they altered their
stations, in their various removes from place to place in the
wilderness. And he also adds, that God designed this to be a type of

I might also observe, that there were many things in the life of David,
after his expulsion from Saul’s court, that would argue him an usurper;
inasmuch as he did not barely fly to secure his life, which he might
lawfully do, as a private person; but he raised a small army; and
accordingly it is said, in 2 Sam. xxii. 2. that every one that was ‘in
distress, or in debt, or discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and
he became a captain over him; and there were with him about four hundred
men.’ And Jonathan, who was heir apparent to the crown, is forced to
capitulate with, and take an oath of him, that he would grant him his
life, as concluding, that he would be king after his father’s death, 1
Sam. xx. 14, 15. compared with the 42. and Saul’s jealousy hereof, which
was attended with rage, amounting to a kind of destraction, was not
altogether without ground; as he intimates to him, when he tells him,
‘Behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king,’ chap. xxiv. 20.
and accordingly, in the following verses, he makes him ‘swear to him,
that he would not cut off his seed after him, or destroy his name out of
his father’s house.’ Now this could hardly be justified, if we did not
consider what we read in another part of scripture, that, before that
time, God had taken away the kingdom from Saul, and anointed David to be
king in his stead, in 1 Sam. xvi. 13. though he had not the actual
possession of it till after Saul’s death.

I might farther observe, that when we read the account contained in the
books of Moses, of the ceremonial law, and the various rites and
ordinances of divine service contained therein, or meet with any
expressions in the Old Testament that refer to it; these ought to be
compared with several things that are recorded in the writings of the
apostle Paul, and, particularly, a very considerable part of his epistle
to the Hebrews[40], in which we have an account of the signification
thereof, as ordained to be types of the gospel-dispensation. And,
indeed, there are many scriptures of the Old Testament, which will be
better understood by comparing them with others that refer to them in
the New. Thus it is said, in Isa. xvi. 23. _Unto me every knee shall
bow_; which appears to be very agreeable to what is said concerning our
Saviour, in Phil. ii. 10. and it is not only spoken of the divine honour
that should be paid to him; but it relates, in a peculiar manner, to
that glory which all shall ascribe to him, when they stand before his
tribunal, as appears by comparing it with Rom. xiv. 10, 11.

Again, when we read, in Isa. vi. 10. of God’s sending the prophet to
_make the heart of the people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their
eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and
understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed_. It is not to
be supposed that God is represented hereby as the author of their sin;
which will plainly appear, if we compare it with Matt. xiii. 15. in
which this text is cited, and farther explained, as it is said, _This
people’s heart is waxed fat, and their eyes have they closed, lest they
should see with their eyes_, &c. And it is also referred to, and
explained in the same sense as charging their sin, and the consequence
thereof upon themselves, in Acts xxviii. 26, 27. By this method of
comparing the Old and New Testament together, we shall be led to see the
beautiful harmony of the scriptures, and how the predictions thereof
have been accomplished; which will tend very much to establish our faith
in the truth of the Christian religion, that is founded on them. But
this having been insisted on elsewhere[41], we pass it over at present,
and proceed to consider,

That there are several places, in the New Testament, which being
compared together, will give light to one another. Thus, in the four
Evangelists, which contain the history of the life and death of Christ,
we may observe, that some things are left out, or but briefly hinted at
in one of them, which are more largely insisted on in another. Thus we
read, in Matt. xii. 14, 15. that ‘the Pharisees went out and held a
counsel against our Saviour, how they might destroy him;’ upon which
occasion ‘he withdrew himself from thence. And great multitudes followed
him, and he healed them all.’ But Mark, chap. iii. 17, _& seq._ speaking
concerning the same thing, intimates that the Herodians were joined with
the Pharisees in this conspiracy; and that he ‘withdrew himself to the
sea,’ _viz._ of Tiberias; where he ordered that ‘a small ship should
wait on him, lest the multitude should throng him.’ And we have also an
account of several places from whence they came, namely, Galilee,
Jerusalem, Idumea, and from beyond Jordan, and they about Tyre and
Sidon, so that a great part of them were Gentiles; and this gives light
to what follows in Matt. xii. 18, 21. in which it is intimated, that
this was an accomplishment of what was _foretold by the prophet Isaias_,
that he should _shew judgment to the Gentiles_; and that, _in his name
should the Gentiles trust_; therefore he wrought miracles for their
conviction that he was the Messias.

Again, it is said, in Matt. xiii. 12. ‘Whosoever hath, to him shall be
given, and he shall have more abundance. But whosoever hath not from him
shall be taken away, even that he hath.’ Some will be ready to enquire,
how can that which he hath be said to be taken away, when he is supposed
to have nothing? or, how can a person be said to lose that which he
never had? But if compare this with a parallel scripture, in Luke viii.
18. there it is said, _Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even
that which he seemeth to have_; or, as it is in the margin, _that which
he thinketh he hath_. Now, though a man cannot lose grace, that had it
not; yet an hypocrite, who seems to have it, may lose that which he
supposeth himself to have.

This method of comparing the four Evangelists together, is attempted by
several divines; and, among them, a late writer, who is deservedly
esteemed by all the reformed churches[42], thinks, that the inscription,
on the cross of Christ, can hardly be determined, without what is said
of it, by all the four Evangelists. Mark says these words were written,
_The king of the Jews_, Mark xv. 26. and Luke says, _This is the king of
the Jews_, Luke xxiii. 38. and Matthew adds another word, _This is
Jesus, the king of the Jews_, Matt. xxvii. 37. and John expresses it
thus, _Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews_, John xix. 19. So that,
by comparing them all together, and supplying those words from one,
which are left out by others of them, we must conclude, that the
inscription was, _This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews_.

Again, as the Acts of the Apostles contains a brief history of the first
planting the gospel-church, and of the travels and ministry of the
apostle Paul, in particular; this ought to be compared with some things,
occasionally mentioned in his epistles, which will give farther light to
them. Thus the apostle says, in 1 Cor. xv. 8. _Last of all, he was seen
of me also, as one born out of due time_; and speaks of himself in ver.
9. as the _least of the apostles, not meet to be called an apostle;
because he persecuted the church of God_. This ought to be compared with
Acts ix. 1-6. which gives an account of him as a persecutor before his
conversion, and shews how our Saviour was seen of him; which is not to
be taken in the same sense as he was seen by the rest of the apostles,
before his ascension into heaven; but of his being seen of him, after
his ascension, when, on this occasion, he appeared to him. And, if this
be compared with 1 Cor. ix. 1. he considers this sight of Jesus as a
necessary qualification for the apostleship; therefore, when he speaks
of himself as _born out of due time_, he means, called to, and qualified
for the apostleship, out of due time; that is, not at the same time in
which the other apostles were, but by this extraordinary dispensation of

Again, when the apostle, in 1 Thes. ii. 2. speaks of his having been
_shamefully entreated at Philippi_. This will be better understood if we
compare it with Acts xvi. 16, 21, 22, _& seq._ And when he tells the
Thessalonians, in the following words, _that we were bold in our God, to
speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention_; this should be
compared with Acts xvii. 1, _& seq._ Many instances of the like nature
might be given, by which, the usefulness of comparing one scripture with
another, would farther appear. But, I design this only as a specimen, to
assist us in the application of this direction; which a diligent
enquirer into the sense of scripture, will be able, in reading it, to
make farther improvements upon.

(5.) In order to our understanding the scriptures, we must take notice
of the several figurative modes of speaking that are used therein. As,

_1st_, The part is often put for the whole[43]. Thus the soul, which is
one constituent part of man, is sometimes put for the whole man; as in
Gen. xlvi. 26. we read of the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt;
and, in Rom. xii. 1. the body is put for the whole man; _I beseech you,
brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies_, that is,
yourselves, _a living sacrifice to God_. So the blood of Christ, which
is often spoken of, in scripture, as that by which we are redeemed,
justified, and saved, is to be taken for the whole of his obedience and
sufferings, both in life and death, to which our salvation is to be
ascribed, as well as to the effusion of his blood.

_2dly_, The thing containing, is put for that which is contained
therein[44]; so the cup in the Lord’s supper, is put for the wine, 1
Cor. xi. 25. And the thing signified is put for the sign thereof. Thus
when it is said, _This is my body_, ver. 24. the meaning is, this bread
is a sign of my body, to wit, of the sufferings endured therein.

_3dly_, Places are, by way of anticipation, called by those names, which
in reality, were not given them, or, which they were not commonly known
by, till some time after. Thus it is said, that, as soon as Israel had
passed over Jordan, they _encamped in Gilgal_, Josh. iv. 19. that is, in
the place which was afterwards so called; for it is said, that it was
called Gilgal because there they were circumcised; and so the _reproach
of Egypt_, occasioned by the neglect of that ordinance, _was rolled
away_, chap. v. 9. Again, it is said, _The kings that came up against
Sodom_, when Lot was taken prisoner, _had smitten all the country of the
Amalekites_, Gen. xiv. 7. whereas, the country that was afterwards known
by that name, could not be so called at that time; since Amalek, from
whom it took its name, was not born till some ages after, he being of
the posterity of Esau, chap. xxxvi. 11.

_4thly_, The time past, or present, is often, especially in the
prophetic writings, put for the time to come; which denotes the certain
performance of the prediction, as much as though it were actually
accomplished. Thus it is said, _He_, that is, our Saviour, _is despised
and rejected of men; he hath born our griefs, he was wounded for our
transgressions_, Isa. liii. 4, 5. And elsewhere, _The people that walked
in darkness have seen a great light_, chap. ix. 2. and _unto us a child
is born_, chap. v. 9. _&c._

_5thly_, One of the senses is sometimes put for another. Thus it is
said, _I turned to see the voice that spake to me_, Rev. i. 12. where
seeing is put for hearing, or, understanding the meaning of the voice
that spake.

_6thly_, Positive assertions are sometimes taken in a comparitive sense.
Thus God says to Samuel, the people in asking a king, _have not rejected
thee, but me_, 1 Sam. viii. 7. that is, they have cast more contempt on
me than they have on thee, _q. d._ they have offered a greater affront
to my government, who condescended to be their king; though they have
been uneasy under thine administration, as appointed to be their judge.
And, in Psal. li. 4. David says, _Against thee, thee only, have I
sinned_. Whereas he had sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba, as having
murdered the one, and tempted the other to commit adultery with him; he
had sinned against the army, whom he occasioned to fall in battle,
pursuant to the orders he gave Joab, with a design to destroy Uriah; yet
says he, _against thee, thee only, have I sinned_; that is, the greatest
aggravation of my sin is, that it contains rebellion against thee. And
elsewhere, God says, _I desired mercy, and not sacrifice_, Hos. vi. 6.
that is, more than sacrifice.

_7thly_, There are several hyperbolical ways of speaking in scripture,
whereby more is expressed than what is generally understood. Thus the
vessel in the temple, in which things were washed, which was ten cubits
from one brim to the other, is called _a molten Sea_, 1 Kings vii. 23.
because it contained a great quantity of water; though, indeed, it was
very small, if compared with the dimensions of the sea: And in 1 Kings
x. 27, it is said, that Solomon _made silver to be in Jerusalem, as
stones; and cedars as the sycamore-trees, which are in the vale for
abundance_. Silver was not, strictly speaking, as plentiful as stones;
but it implies, that there were vast treasures thereof, heaped up by the
king, and many of his subjects, and no lack of it in any one. And, in
Judges xx. 16. it is said, there were _some of the Benjamites
left-handed, every one_ of whom _could sling stones at an hair-breadth,
and not miss_; which only signifies that they had an uncommon expertness
in this matter; and when we read of some of the cities in the land of
Canaan, that were _great, and walled up to heaven_, Deut. i. 28. it only
denotes that their walls were very high: And, in Kings i. 43. it is said
upon the occasion of Solomon’s being anointed king, that _the people
rejoiced with great joy; so that the earth rent with the sound of them_;
the meaning of which is only this, that the shouts of the people were so
great, that if the concussion of the air, that was made thereby, could
have rent the earth, this would have done it.

_8thly_, We sometimes find ironical expressions, and sarcasms used in
scripture, with a design to expose the wickedness and folly of men.
Thus, when our first parents sinned by adhering to the suggestions of
Satan, who told them, that they _should be as gods, knowing good and
evil_, Gen. iii. 5. God says in an ironical way, _Behold the man is
become as one of us, to know good and evil, &c._ ver. 22. And the
prophet Elijah exposes Baal’s worshippers; and Micaiah, Ahab’s false
prophets, by using a sarcastic way of speaking, 1 Kings xviii. 27. and
chap. xxii. 15. And Job uses the same figurative way of speaking, when
he reproves the bitter invectives, and false reasonings of his friends;
_No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you_, Job
xii. 2. And Solomon uses the same way of address, when he says,
_Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the
days of youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of
thine eyes: But know thou, that for all these things God bring thee into
Judgment_, Eccl. xi. 9. And, the man that trusts in his own
righteousness for justification, is also exposed in the same way,
‘Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with
sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have
kindled: This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow,’
Isa. l. 11. And when our Saviour says to his disciples, having found
them asleep, in Matt. xxvi. 45, 46. ‘Sleep on now, and take your rest;
behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the
hands of sinners,’ it is plain from the following words, that he uses
this figurative way of speaking; for he immediately adds, without an
irony, _Rise, let us be going_.

This, some think to be the method of speaking which our Saviour makes
use of, when he reproves his disciples for that fond conceit that they
had, that his kingdom was of this world; and contending sometimes among
themselves, who should be greatest therein: Upon which occasion he bids
them make provision for war; and take care to secure those two things
that are necessary thereunto, money and arms: Thus he says, in Luke
xxii. 36. ‘He that hath a purse, let him take it; and he that hath no
sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one;’ they did not, indeed,
immediately perceive that he spake in an ironical way; and therefore
replied, in ver. 38. _Lord, behold here are two swords_: Upon which he
says, still carrying on the irony, _It is enough_. So that, whether they
understood his meaning or no, it seems to be this; if you are disposed
to contend who shall be greatest, as though my kingdom were of a
temporal nature, and to be erected and maintained by force of arms, do
you think you have sufficient treasure to hire forces to join with you,
or buy arms for that purpose? or, do you imagine that you have courage
enough to attack the Roman empire, and gain it by force? You say, you
have two swords, can you suppose that these are enough? what a
ludicrious and indifferent figure would you make, if you expected to
come off conquerors by this means? No, they that take the sword shall
perish with the sword; for my kingdom is not of this world: So that all
the advantages and honours that you are to expect therein, are of a
spiritual nature. This seems rather to be the meaning of this scripture,
than that which the Papists generally acquiesce in, namely, that by the
_two_ swords, are meant the civil and ecclesiastical; both which, as
they pretend, are put into the Pope’s hands.

9thly, The scripture often makes use of a figurative way of speaking,
generally called an _hendyadis_, whereby one complex idea, is expressed
by two words, which is very common in the Hebrew language. Thus in Jer.
xxix. 11. when God promises his people, that he would _give_ them _an
expected end_, intending hereby their deliverance from the Babylonish
captivity; the words, if literally translated, ought to be rendered, as
it is observed in the margin, _an end and expectation_; whereas, our
translators were apprized that there is such a figurative way of
speaking contained in them, and therefore they render them, _an expected
end_: And this figure is sometimes used in the New Testament; as when
our Saviour tells his disciples, in Luke xxi. 15. _I will give you a
mouth and wisdom_; that is, I will give you ability to express
yourselves with so much wisdom, _that all your adversaries shall not be
able to gain-say_ it. And some think, that there is the same way of
speaking used in John iii. 5. ‘Except a man be born of water, and of the
Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;’ that is, except a man
be born of the Holy Spirit, or regenerated, which is signified by being
born of water, he cannot, &c.

_10thly_, Nothing is more common than for the Holy Ghost, in scripture
to make use of metaphors, which are a very elegant way of representing
things, by comparing them with, and illustrating them by others, and
borrowing such modes of speaking from them, as may add a very
considerable beauty to them. Thus repentance and godly sorrow, together
with the blessed privileges which shall hereafter attend them, are
compared to sowing and reaping, in Psal. cxxvi. 5, 6. ‘They that sow in
tears, shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing
precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his
sheaves with him.’ And the prophet sets forth the labour and pains which
Israel had taken in sin; and exhorts them, by a metaphor taken from
husbandry, to be as industrious in pursuing what would turn to a better
account, in Hos. x. 12, 13. where he speaks of their having _plowed
wickedness, and reaped iniquity_; and advises them to _sow to themselves
in righteousness, and reap in mercy_; which, as he farther adds, they
should do by _seeking the Lord_; and _it is time_, says he, _to seek_
him, _till he come and rain righteousness upon you_; which is necessary
to a plenteous harvest of blessings, which you may hope for in so doing.
And, in chap. vii. 4. he reproves their adulteries by a metaphor, taken
from _an oven heated by the baker_; and their hypocrisy by another,
taken from _a cake not turned_, ver. 8. and their being weakened, and
almost ruined hereby, he compares to the _gray hairs_ of those who are
bowed down under the infirmities of age, ver. 9. and for their cowardice
and seeking help from other nations, and not from God, he calls them _a
silly dove without an heart_, ver. 11.

And we may observe, that there is oftentimes a chain of metaphors in the
same paragraph. Of this kind is that elegant description of old age,
sickness, and death, which Solomon gives, in exhorting persons to
_remember their Creator in the days of their youth_, Eccl. xii. 1-6.
_while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars be not
darkened_; by which, it is probable, he intends the impairing the
intellect, the loss of those sprightly parts which once they had, or, of
the memory and judgment; upon which account men are sometimes said to,
out-live themselves. And he speaks of _the keepers of the house
trembling_; that is, the hands and arms, designed for the defence of the
body, being seized with paralytic disorders; _the strong men bowing
themselves_; that is, those parts which are designed to support the body
being weakened, and needing a staff to bear up themselves; _the grinders
ceasing because they are few_, signifies the loss of teeth; _and they
that look out of the windows being darkened_, a decay of sight; their
_rising up at the voice of the bird_, implies their loss of one of the
main props of nature, to wit, sleep; so that they may rise early in the
morning, when the birds begin to sing, because their beds will not
afford them rest: _And the daughters of music being brought low_,
denotes a decay of the voice and hearing, and being not affected with
those sounds which were once most delightful to them. _The almond-tree
flourishing_, plainly signifies the hoary head; _the grashopper_ being
_a burden_, is either a proverbial speech, importing a want of courage,
strength, and resolution to bear the smallest pressures; or, as others
understand it, their stooping, when bowed down with old age. _The silver
cord loosed_, or, _the golden bowl broken at the fountain, or the wheel
broken at the cistern_, signifies a decay of the animal spirits, a
laxation of the nerves, the irregular circulation of the blood, or the
universal stoppage thereof; and then the frame of nature is broken, and
man _returns to the dust_[45].

In the New Testament there are several metaphors used; some of which are
taken from the Isthmian and Olympic games, practised by the Greeks and
Romans. Thus the apostle Paul compares the Christian life to _a race_ in
which _many run_; but they do not all _receive the prize_, 1 Cor. ix.
24. And, in ver. 25. he alludes to another exercise, to wit, wrestling;
and recommends temperance as what was practised by them, as a means for
their obtaining the crown. And, ver. 26. he uses a metaphor, taken from
another of the games, to wit, fighting, in hope of victory; by which he
illustrates his zeal in the discharge of his ministry. And in Heb. xii.
1. he speaks of the Christian _race_, and the necessity of _laying aside
every weight_, to wit, allowed sins, which would retard our course, or
hinder us in the way to heaven. And in Phil. iii. 13, 14. he speaks of
himself both as a minister and a Christian, as ‘forgetting those things
which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are
before,’ and, ‘pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus;’ where he plainly alludes to the
purpose, industry, and earnestness of those who run in a race. And, in
Eph. vi. 11-16. he speaks of the difficulties, temptations, and
opposition that believers are exposed to, in the Christian life; and
advises them, to _put on the whole armour of God_; and so carries on the
metaphor or allegory, by alluding to the various pieces of armour, which
soldiers make use of when engaged in battle, to illustrate the methods
we ought to take, that we may come off conquerors at last.

(6.) It will be very useful, in order to our understanding scripture,
for us to know some things, relating to the different forms of civil
government, and the various changes made therein, among the Jews, and
other nations, with whom they were conversant. At first we find, that
distinct families had the administration of civil affairs committed unto
them, and the heads thereof were, as it were, the chief magistrates, who
had the exercise of civil power, in some instances; especially if it did
not interfere with that of the country wherein they lived. Some think,
indeed, that it extended to the punishing capital crimes with death; and
that Judah, who was the head of a branch of Jacob’s family, when he
passes this sentence concerning Tamar, in Gen. xxxviii. 24. _Bring her
forth, and let her be burnt_, does it as a civil magistrate: But, if it
be not deemed a rash and unjustifiable expression in him, when he says,
_Let her be brought forth, and burnt_, we must suppose the meaning to
be, let her first be confined till she is delivered of her child, and
then tried by the civil magistrate, the consequence whereof will be, her
being burnt, when found guilty of the adultery that was charged upon
her. So that it does not appear that the heads of families, when
sojourning in other countries, had a power distinct from that of the
government under which they lived, to punish offenders with death;
though, I think, it is beyond dispute, that they had a government in
their own families, that extended, in many respects, to civil affairs,
as well as obliged them to observe those religious duties which God
required of them.

It may be farther observed, that this government extended so far, as
that the Patriarchs, or heads of families, had, sometimes, a power of
making war, or entering into confederacies with neighbouring princes,
for their own safety, or recovering their rights when invaded. Thus when
Lot and the Sodomites, were taken prisoners by the four kings that came
up against them, we read, in Gen. xiv. 13, 14. that Abraham called in
the assistance of some of his neighbours, with whom he was in
confederacy, and _armed his trained servants, three hundred and
eighteen, born in his house_, and rescued him, and the men of Sodom from
the hands of those that had taken them prisoners.

We have little more light as to this matter, so long as the government
continued domestic, and the church in the condition of sojourners: But,
when they were increased to a great nation, their civil, as well as
religious government, was settled, by divine direction, under the hand
of Moses, in the wilderness. The first form thereof, was a theocracy, in
which God gave them laws in an immediate way; condescended to satisfy
them, as to some things, which they enquired of him about; gave them
particular intimations how they should manage their affairs of war and
peace; and appeared for them in giving them victory over their enemies,
in a very extraordinary, and sometimes, miraculous way. But, besides
this great honour that God put on them, he established a form of
government among them, in which they were divided into _thousands_,
_hundreds_, _fifties_, and _tens_, Exod. xviii. 31. Deut. i. 15. each of
which divisions had their respective captain or governor; who are,
sometimes, styled the _nobles of the children of Israel_, Exod. xxiv.
11. And these governors were generally heads of considerable families
among them; which were also divided in the same way, into thousands,
fifties, and tens, in proportion to the largeness thereof; thus Gideon,
speaking of his family, in Judges vi. 25. calls it, as the Hebrew word
signifies, his _thousand_. And, in the same manner, their armies were
divided, when engaged in war; thus when Jesse sent David with a present,
into the army, to his brethren, he bade him deliver it to the _captain
over their thousand_, 1 Sam. xvii. 18. and chap. xviii. 13. And we read,
that Saul made David his _captain over a thousand_; which is the same
with what we, in our modern way of speaking, call a commanding officer
over a regiment of soldiers. Again, when David’s soldiers went out to
war against Absalom, it is said, _They came out by hundreds and by
thousands_, 2 Sam. xviii. 4. each distinct company, or regiment, having
their commanding officer.

Thus the government was settled as to civil and military affairs, in
such a way, that the head of the respective division, had a power of
judging in lesser matters. But since there were some affairs of the
greatest importance to be transacted in the form of their government, by
divine direction, God appointed seventy men of the children of Israel,
to assist Moses in those matters, in which they had more immediately to
do with him; and accordingly he _gave them the Spirit_, Numb. xi. 16,
17. that is, the extraordinary inspiration of the Spirit; whereby he
communicated his mind and will to them. This was the first rise of the
Sanhedrim; and these had a power of judging in civil matters, throughout
all the ages of the church till the Jews were made tributary to the
Romans; and after that, this body of men were as vile and contemptible
as they had before been honourable in the eyes of just and good men, as
appears by their tumultuous and unprecedented behaviour in the trial of
our Saviour, and the malicious prosecutions, set on foot by them,
against the apostles, without any pretence or form of law.

After the death of Joshua, and the elders that survived him, there was
an alteration in the form of government, occasioned by the oppression
which they were liable to from their enemies, who insulted, vexed, and
sometimes plundered them of their substance. Then God raised up judges,
who first procured peace for them, by success in war; and afterwards
governed them; though without the character or ensigns of royal dignity.
And, this government not being successive, they were, on the death of
their respective judges, brought into great confusion, every one doing
that which was right in his own eyes, till another judge was raised up,
as some future emergency required it. Thus the posture of their affairs
continued, as the apostle observes, _about the space of four hundred and
fifty years_, Acts xiii. 20. and then it was altered, when, through
their unsettled temper, they desired a king, in conformity to the custom
of the nations round about them; which thing was displeasing to God:
nevertheless, he granted them their request, 1 Sam. viii. 5-7. and so
the government became regal. And then followed a succession of kings,
set over the whole nation, till the division between Judah and Israel;
when they became two distinct kingdoms, and so continued, till their
respective captivity. These things being duly considered, will give
great light to several things contained in scripture; especially as to
what relates to the civil affairs of the church of God.

And, for our farther understanding thereof, it will be necessary that we
take a view of the government of other nations, with whom they were
often conversant. We read almost of as many kings in scripture, as there
were cities in several of those countries which lay round about them;
thus, in Gen. xxxvi. we read of many dukes and kings, (whose power was
much the same) who descended from Esau. These had very small dominions,
each of them being, as it is probable, the chief governor of one city,
or, at most, of a little tract of land round about it; and, indeed,
besides the Assyrian, and other monarchies, that were of a very large
extent, and had none who stood in competition with them, under that
character, while they subsisted; all other kingdoms were very small;
therefore four kings were obliged to enter into a confederacy, to make
war with Sodom, and the four neighbouring cities, which a very
inconsiderable army might, without much difficulty, have subdued, Gen.
xiv. 1, _&c._ One of them, indeed, is called king of nations; not as
though he had large dominions, but because he was the chief governor of
a mixed people, from divers nations, who were settled together in one
distinct colony; and the king of Shinar, there spoken of, is not the
king of Babylon, who was too potent a prince to have stood in need of
others to join with him in this expedition; but it was a petty king, who
reigned in some city near Babylon, and was tributary to the Assyrian
empire. These four kings, with all their forces, were so few in number,
that Abraham was not afraid to attack them; which he did with success.

Again, we read, that in Joshua’s time, the kings in the land of Canaan,
whom he subdued, had, each of them, very small dominions, consisting of
but one capital city, with a few villages round about it. Thus we read
of thirty one kings that reigned in that country, which was not so big
as a fourth part of the kingdom of England, Josh. xii. And afterwards
most of these kingdoms were swallowed up by the Assyrian empire. Thus
the king of Assyria, as Rabshakeh boasts, had entirely conquered the
kings of Hamath, Arphad, Gozan, and Haran, with several others, 2 Kings
xix. 12, 13. these had very small dominions, and therefore were easily
subdued by forces so much superior to any that they could raise. Egypt,
indeed, was more formidable; and therefore we often read in scripture of
Israel’s having recourse to them for help, and are blamed for trusting
in them more than God: And, in Arabia, there were some kings who had
large dominions, as appears by the vast armies that they raised: Thus
_Zerah the Ethiopian came forth against Asa, with a thousand thousand
men_, 2 Chron. xvi. 19. Nevertheless, the church of God was able to
stand its ground; for, whether the neighbouring kings were many of them,
confederate against them, or the armies they raised, exceeding numerous,
like the sand on the sea shore; they had safety and protection, as well
as success in war, from the care and blessing of providence; of which we
have an account in the history of scripture relating thereunto.

(7.) It will be of some advantage, in order to our understanding the
sense of scripture, for us to enquire into the meaning of those civil
and religious offices and characters, by which several persons are
described, both in the Old and New Testament. Concerning the Priests and
Levites, we have had occasion frequently to insist on their call and
office: Among the former of these, one is styled _high-priest_; who was
not only the chief minister in holy things under the Jewish
dispensation; but presided over the other priests in all those things
that respected the temple-service. There was also another priest, who
had pre-eminence over his brethren, that was next to the high-priest in
office, who seems to be referred to, in 2 Kings xxv. 18. where we read
of _Seriah, the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest_. This
office is not often mentioned in scripture, but is frequently spoken of
by Jewish writers: They call him, who was employed therein, as the
author of the Chaldee paraphrase does on that text, the Sagan: And, some
think, that this office was first instituted in Numb. iii. 32. in which
Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest was to be _chief over the chief of
the Levites, and to have the oversight of them, that kept the charge of
the sanctuary_: And elsewhere, we read of Zadok and Abiathar, being, by
way of eminency, _priests at the same time_, 2 Sam. xv. 35. by which, it
is probable, we are to understand, as many expositors do, that one was
the _high priest_, the other the _Sagan_; who was to perform the office
that belonged to the high priest in all the branches thereof, if he
should happen to be incapacitated for it.

Besides these, there were others who were styled _chief-priests_, as
being the heads of their respective classes, and presided over them when
they came to Jerusalem, to minister in their courses. There was also the
president of the Sanhedrim, who is generally reckoned one of the chief
priests. Moreover, when any one was by the arbitrary will of the
governors, in the degenerate and declining state of the Jewish church,
deposed from the high-priesthood, barely to make way for another
favourite to enjoy that honour, he was, though divested of his office,
nevertheless called chief priest. This will give light to several
scriptures in the New Testament, in which we often read of many chief
priests at the same time, See Luke iii. 2. Mark xiv. 53.

Again, as to the Levites, these were not only appointed to be the high
priest’s ministers in offering gifts and sacrifices in the temple; but
many of them were engaged in other offices; some in instructing the
people, in the respective cities where they dwelt, who were to resort to
them for that purpose, or in synagogues, erected for this branch of
public worship. Others were employed as judges in determining civil or
ecclesiastical, matters.

Again, we often read, in scripture, of Scribes: These were of two sorts;
some were employed only in civil matters; and we sometimes read of one
person, in particular, who was appointed to be the king’s scribe. Thus
in David’s reign, we read of Shemaiah the scribe, and in Hezekiah’s of
Shebna, 1 Chron. xxiv. 6. 2 Kings xviii. 18. This seems to have been a
civil officer, not much unlike a secretary of state among us; and we
seldom find mention made of more than one scribe at a time, except in
Solomon’s reign in which there were two, 1 Kings iv. 4.

But besides this, we often read of scribes who were engaged in other
works; thus it is generally supposed, that many of them were employed in
transcribing the whole, or some parts of scripture, for the use of those
who employed them therein, and gratified them for it; which was
necessary for the propagating religion in those ages, in which printing
was not known.

There were others who explained the law to the people. Thus Ezra is
styled, _a ready scribe in the law of Moses_, Ezra, vii. 6. This was an
honourable and useful employment, faithfully managed by him and many
others, in the best ages of the church. But, in our Saviour’s time,
there were scribes who pretended to expound the law, and instruct the
people; but the doctrines they propagated, were very contrary to the
mind of the Holy Ghost in Moses’s writings; and their way of preaching
was very empty and unprofitable: Upon which occasion it is said, that
our Lord _taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes_, Matt.
vii. 29.

Moreover, we sometimes read in the New-Testament, of Lawyers, against
whom our Saviour denounces woes, for opposing him and his gospel. This
is supposed by some, to be only a different name given to the scribes;
inasmuch as they practised the law in public courts of judicature, and
pleaded causes in the Sanhedrin, or taught in their schools or religious
assemblies; both which the scribes did. And the evangelist Matthew,
speaking concerning a lawyer, who asked our Saviour a question, _Which
is the great commandment_, chap. xxii. 35, 36. Mark mentioning the same
thing, calls him _one of the scribes_, Mark xii. 28. So that the same
thing, for substance, seems to be intended by both of them; or if there
was any difference between them, as others suppose there was, from what
is said in Luke xi. 44, 45. that when our Saviour had been reproving the
scribes and Pharisees, _One of the lawyers said unto him, thus saying
thou reproachest us also_, where they speak as though they were distinct
from them: yet it is evident from hence, that however they might be
distinguished from them, in other respects, they agreed with them as
engaged in expounding the law, and herein are said to lade _men with
heavy burdens and grievous to be born_; which they themselves would _not
touch with one of their fingers_.

As for those civil officers which we read of in the Old Testament before
the captivity, especially in David and Solomon’s reign, they were either
such as were set over the tribute, the principal of which was at the
head of the treasury, 1 Kings iv. 6. and others were employed under
them, to see that the taxes were duly levied and paid: These are called
receivers, Isa. xxxiii. 18. Others were employed in keeping and
adjusting the public records, of which, one was the chief; who, by way
of eminence, is called the recorder: And others were appointed to manage
the king’s domestic affairs, of which, the chief was _set over the
household_, 2 Kings xviii. 18. Another is said to be _set over the
host_, 1 Kings iv. 4. who either had the chief command of the army, or
else was appointed to muster and determine who should go to war, or be
excused from it. And there is another officer we read of once in
scripture, _viz._ he that _counted the towers_, Isa. xxxiii. 18. whose
business seems to have been to survey and keep the fortifications in
repair; but these not being so frequently mentioned in scripture as
others, we pass them over, and proceed more especially to consider some
characters of persons we meet with in the New Testament.

There was one sort of officers who were concerned in exacting the public
revenues, after the Jews were made tributary to the Roman empire: These
are called publicans; the chief of which were generally persons of great
honour and substance, who sometimes farmed a branch of the revenue, and
they were, for the most part, Romans of noble extract, of whom we have
an account in Cicero[46], and other heathen writers; but there is no
mention of them in scripture. This honourable post was never conferred
on the Jews; nevertheless, we read of Zaccheus, who is said to have been
one _of the chief among the publicans_, though a Jew, Luke xix. 2. the
meaning of which is, that he was the chief officer in a particular port,
who had other publicans under him; whose business was, constantly to
attend at the ports, and take an account of the taxes that were to be
paid there, by those of whom they were exacted. Of this latter sort was
Matthew, who is called the publican, _i. e._ one of the lowest officers
concerned in the revenue, Matt. x. 3. compared with chap. ix. 9. These
were usually very profligate in their morals, and inclined to oppress
those of whom they received taxes, probably to gain advantage to
themselves; and were universally hated by the Jews.

There was another sort of men often mentioned in the New Testament, that
made the greatest pretensions to religion, but were most remote from it,
and justly branded with the character of hypocrites, to wit, the
Pharisees, who made themselves popular by their external shew of piety.
There is not, indeed, the least hint of there being such a sect amongst
the Jews before the captivity; though, it is true, the prophet Isaiah,
Isa. lxv. 5. speaks of a sort of people that much resembled them, which
said, _Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than
thou_; from whence, it seems, that there were some of like principles in
his day; unless we suppose that this scripture had its accomplishment
when the sect of the Pharisees appeared in the world in a following age;
which was not long after the reign of Alexander the great[47], between
two and three hundred years before our Saviour’s time. They are
generally described in scripture, as pretending to be more expert than
all others in the knowledge of the law; but, in reality, making it void,
by establishing those oral traditions, which were contrary to the true
intent and meaning thereof, and, as setting up their own righteousness,
and depending on the performance of some lesser duties of the law, as
that from whence they expected a right to eternal life. These were the
greatest enemies, in their conduct, as well as their doctrines, to
Christ, and his gospel.

There was another sect that joined with the Pharisees, in persecuting
and opposing our Saviour; though otherwise they did not, in the least,
accord with one another; and these were the Sadducees, who appeared in
the world about the same time with the Pharisees: These were men
generally reputed as profligate in their morals, and for that reason, as
much hated by the common people, as the Pharisees were caressed by them.
They adhered to the Philosophy of Epicurus; and took occasion, from
thence to deny the resurrection, angels, and spirits, as they are said
to do in scripture, Acts xxiii. 8. It is true they did not desire to be
thought irreligious, though they were really so; yet our Saviour
describes them, as well as the Pharisees, as _hypocrites_, and
inveterate enemies of the gospel.

There was another sort of people sometimes mentioned in the New
Testament, _viz._ the Samaritans, who separated from the Jews, out of a
private pique, and built a distinct temple on mount Gerizzim[48]; and
for this they were excommunicated by the Jews, and universally hated, so
that there was no intercourse between them, John iv. 9, especially in
those things in which one might be said to be obliged to the other:
These did very much corrupt the worship of God, so that Christ charges
them with _worshipping they knew not what_, ver. 12. and it is observed
concerning them, after the ten tribes were carried captive into Assyria,
and they who were left in the land _feared not the Lord_, that he _sent
lions amongst them_, 2 Kings xvii. 25. upon which occasion a priest was
dismissed by the king of Assyria, under pretence of _instructing them in
the manner of the God of the land_; and he erected a strange medly of
religion, consisting partly of those corruptions therein, which had been
practised by the Israelites for some ages past, and partly of the
Heathen idolatry, which they brought from Assyria; upon which account it
is said, _They feared the Lord, and served their own gods after the
manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence_, 2 Kings xvii.

There is another sort of men, mentioned in the New Testament, who are
called Herodians: These seem to have been a political rather than a
religious sect. Some of the Fathers, indeed, think that they were so
called because they complimented Herod with the character of the
Messiah[49], who, as they supposed, would be a very flourishing prince,
who was to reign over them, according to the ancient prediction of the
patriarch Jacob, after _the sceptre was departed from Judah_: But this
seems to be a very improbable conjecture; for _Herod the Great_ was
dead, before we read any thing of the Herodians in scripture: And the
Jews had an opinion, about this time, that the Messiah should never die,
John xii. 34. Therefore, the most probable opinion is, that these
Herodians were, in their first rise, the favourites and courtiers of
Herod, and disposed to give into any alterations that he was inclined to
make in the religious or civil affairs of the Jews[50]. By what is said
concerning them in scripture, it is supposed, that they were, for thy
most part, Sadducees; for if we compare Matt. xvi. 6. with Mark viii.
15. our Saviour warns his disciples upon the same occasion, to wit,
their having _forgot to take bread_, to _beware of the leaven of the
Pharisees and of the Sadducees_; as the former evangelist expresses it,
and _of the leaven of Herod_, viz. the Herodians, as it is in the
latter: Now, though these Herodians, or court-parasites, might take
their first rise in the reign of Herod the Great; yet there was a party
of men succeeded them, who held the same principles, and were disposed
to compliment their governors with their civil and religious rights; but
they more especially distinguished themselves, by their propagating
principles of loyalty among the people: And, whereas the Jews, under a
pretence that they were a free nation, were very unwilling to give
tribute to Cesar, (though they would not venture their lives as Judas of
Galilee, and some others had done, by refusing it;) these Herodians laid
it down as an article of their faith, that they ought to pay tribute to
Cesar; and therefore, when they came with this question to our Saviour,
_Is it lawful to give tribute to Cesar, or not?_ Matt. xxii. 17. he soon
discovered their hypocrisy, and knew the design of that question as he
might easily do from their being Herodians. Thus concerning the various
characters of persons mentioned in scripture, as subservient to our
understanding thereof.

(8.) After all these helps for the understanding the sense of scripture,
there is one more which is universally to be observed; namely, that no
sense is to be given of any text, but what is agreeable to the analogy
of faith, has a tendency to advance the divine perfections, stain the
pride of all flesh, in the sight of God, and, promote practical
godliness in all its branches.

_1st_, Scripture must be explained agreeably to the analogy of faith. It
is supposed that there is something we depend on, which we can prove to
be the faith of scripture, or demonstrably founded upon it: This we are
bound to adhere to; otherwise we must be charged with scepticism, and
concluded not to know where to set our feet in matters of religion. Now,
so far as our faith herein is founded on scripture, every sense we give
of it must be agreeable thereunto; otherwise we do as it were suppose
that the word of God in one place destroys what, in another, it
establishes, which would be a great reflection on that which is the
standard and rule of our faith. I do not hereby intend, that our
sentiments are to be a rule of faith to others, any farther than as they
are evidently contained in, or deduced from scripture: Yet that which we
believe, as thinking it to be the sense of scripture, is so far a rule
to us, that, whatever sense we give of any other scripture, must be
agreeable to it; or else, we must be content to acknowledge, that we are
mistaken in some of those things which we called articles of faith, as
founded thereon.

_2dly_, No sense given of scripture, must be contrary to the divine
perfections: Thus, when human passions are ascribed to God, such as
grief, fear, desire, wrath, fury, indignation, _&c._ these are not to be
explained, as when the same passions are ascribed to men, in which sense
they argue weakness and imperfection. And when any phrase of scripture
seems to represent him defective in power; as in Jer. xiv. 9. ‘Why
shouldst thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save?’
we are to understand it as a charge that would be unjustly brought
against God, if he did not appear in the behalf of his people, by those
who are disposed to reproach and find fault with the dispensations of
his providence: But, since we have taken occasion, in explaining many
scriptures and doctrines founded upon them, to apply this rule; I shall
content myself, at present, with the bare mentioning of it.

_3dly_, We are to explain scripture in such a way, as that it may have a
tendency to promote practical godliness in all its branches; which is
the main end and design thereof. Many instances might be given, in which
this rule is to be applied; as when we are said, in Rom. vii. 14. _not_
to be _under the law, but under grace_; we are not to understand this as
though we were discharged from an obligation to yield obedience to
whatever God commands; but either, as denoting our being delivered from
the condemning sentence of the law; or, from the ceremonial law, to
which the gospel-dispensation, which is a display of the grace of God,
is always opposed. And when it is said in Eccl. vii. 16. ‘Be not
righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise: Why shouldst thou
destroy thyself?’ We are not to understand thereby, that there is any
danger of being too holy, or strict in the performance of religious
duties; but as forbidding an hypocritical appearing to be more righteous
than we are, or entertaining a proud and vain-glorious conceit of our
own righteousness, because we perform some duties of religion.

Again, there are other scriptures which are sometimes perverted, as
though they intimated, that prayer, or other religious duties, were not
incumbent on wicked men; as when it is said, in Prov. xxi. 27. _The
sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord_: And, chap.
xxviii. 9. that his prayer is so, or that he has nothing to do with
those duties; because it is said to such, in Psal. l. 16. _What hast
thou to do to declare my statutes, or, that thou shouldst take my
covenant in thy mouth._ But these scriptures do not imply, that they are
not obliged to perform religious duties; but, that it is contrary to the
holiness of God, and a great provocation to him when they regard not the
frame of spirit with which they perform them, who draw nigh to him with
their lips, when their heart is far from him, or lay claim to the
blessings of the covenant of grace, while continuing in open hostility
against him. To apply this rule fully, would be to go through the whole
scripture, and to shew how all the great doctrines of religion which are
founded upon it, are conformed thereunto; But this we have endeavoured
to do in all those instances in which we have had occasion to give the
sense thereof; and therefore shall content ourselves with this brief
specimen, and leave it to every one to improve upon it in his daily
meditations, in enquiring into the sense of scripture, in order to his
being farther established in that religion which is founded thereon.

Footnote 32:

  _Many instances of this might be produced, viz. Gen. iii. 15. instead
  of, it shall bruise thy head, they render it she; by which they
  understand the Virgin Mary, shall bruise thy head, that is, the
  serpent’s. And, Gen. xlviii. 16. instead of, my name shall be named on
  them, which are the words of Jacob, concerning Joseph’s sons; it is
  rendered, my name shall be invoked, or called upon by them; which
  favours the doctrine of invocation of saints. And, in Psal. xcix. 5.
  instead of exalt the Lord thy God, and worship at his holy hill, they
  read, worship his footstool; which gives countenance to their error of
  paying divine adoration to places or things. And, in Heb. xi. 21.
  instead of, Jacob worshipped leaning on the top of his staff, they
  render it, he worshipped the top of his staff. And, in Heb. xiii. 16.
  instead of, with such sacrifices God is well pleased, they render it,
  with such sacrifices God is merited; which they make use of to
  establish the merit of good works._

Footnote 33:

  _There is indeed, one verse in Jeremiah, chap. x. 11. that is written
  in Chaldee; which, it is probable, they did not, at that time, well
  understand; but the prophet, by this, intimates to them, that they
  should be carried into a country where that language should be used;
  and therefore the Holy Ghost furnishes them with a message, that they
  were to deliver to the Chaldeans, from the Lord, in their own
  language. The gods, that have not made the heavens and the earth, even
  they shall perish from the earth, and from these heavens._

Footnote 34:

  _See Vol. I. Quest. IV. p. 69, & seq._

Footnote 35:

  _See Quest. CLIX, CLX._

Footnote 36:

  Θεοῦ και ἐσμεν συνεργο.

Footnote 37:

  Vide T. Williams on the Song of Solomon.

Footnote 38:

  Vide Table of the Order of the Prophecies. Vol. I. p. 55.

Footnote 39:

  _The word is שלו, which being neither a root to any other word, nor
  derived from any other root, by which the sense of Hebrew words is
  generally known, nor found any where in scripture, excepting in those
  two or three places which refer to this particular dispensation of
  providence; it is an hard matter to determine the sense of it, without
  comparing these two scriptures together.—It occurs Numb. xi. 31, 32.
  Exod. xvi. 13. Psa. cv. 40._

Footnote 40:

  _See the epistle to the Hebrews, chap. v. to the x. inclusive, and 2
  Cor. x. 1-6._

Footnote 41:

  _See Vol. I. p. 78._

Footnote 42:

  _See Lightfoot’s Harmony of the Four Evangelists. And his Harmony of
  the New Testament, Vol. I. p. 268._

Footnote 43:

  _This is called Synecdoche._

Footnote 44:

  _This is called a Metonymy._

Footnote 45:

  _See more of this in an ingenious discourse on this subject by Smith
  in Solomon’s portraiture of old age._

Footnote 46:

  _Vid. Cic. in Orat. pro Planc. florem equitum Romanorum ornamentum
  civitatis, firmamentum reipublicæ publicanorum ordine contineri. And
  in his oration, ad Quintum Fratrem, he has many things concerning the
  dignity of the publicans, and their advantage to the commonwealth:
  accordingly he says, Si publicanis adversemur ordinem do nobis optime
  meritum, & per nos cum republica conjunctum, & a nobis, & a republica
  disjungimus. And, in his familiar epistles, Lib. xix. Epist. x. he
  calls them, Ordinem sibi semper commendatissimum; & ad Atticum, Lib.
  vii. Epist. vii. he says, Cæsari amicissimos fuisse publicanos._

Footnote 47:

  _See Joseph. Antiquit. Lib. xiii. Cap. ix. And we have an account of
  their pride and insolence in the same author, chap. xviii. and of the
  great disturbance that they made in civil governments, if chief
  magistrates did not please them._

Footnote 48:

  _See Joseph. Antiquit. Lib. xi. Cap. viii._

Footnote 49:

  _See Tertull. in præscrip. adv. Hær. Cap. xlv. and Epiphanius, in Hær.
  Cap. xx._

Footnote 50:

  _That Herod was disposed to make alterations in the Jews religion, by
  adding to it a mixture of several rites and ceremonies, taken from the
  Heathen, is affirmed by some. See Cunæus de Rep. Hœb. Lib. i Cap. xvi.
  who quotes Josephus as saying, that he altered the ancient laws of
  their country._

                      Quest. CLVIII., CLIX., CLX.

    QUEST. CLVIII. _By whom is the word of God to be preached?_

    ANSW. The word of God is to be preached only by such as are
    sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that

    QUEST. CLIX. _How is the word of God to be preached by those that
    are called thereto?_

    ANSW. They that are called to labour in the ministry of the word,
    are to preach sound doctrine, diligently; in season, and out of
    season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in
    demonstration of the spirit, and power, faithfully, making known the
    whole council of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities
    and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God,
    and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and
    their conversion, edification, and salvation.

    QUEST. CLX. _What is required of those that hear the word preached?_

    ANSW. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they
    attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer, examine what
    they hear, by the scripture, receive the truth with faith, love,
    meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and
    confer of it; hide it in their heart, and bring forth the fruit of
    it in their lives.

Having considered, what method we are to take, in our private station,
or capacity, to understand the word of God; we have great reason to be
thankful, that he has ordained that it should be publicly preached, or
explained, as a farther means conducive to this end. And accordingly we
are led, in these answers, to shew, who they are that God has called to
this work; and how such ought to perform it; and with what frame of
spirit we ought to attend on it.

I. The persons by whom the word of God is to be preached; and these are
only such, whom he has qualified with gifts sufficient for it; and they
ought also to be duly approved of, when called hereunto, by those among
whom the providence of God directs them to exercise their ministry.

1. Concerning the qualifications which are necessary, in those that are
employed in preaching the gospel. Here it is to be observed in general,
that they must be sufficiently gifted for it; which is so evident, that
it would be unreasonable for any one to deny it, since no one is to
attempt any thing that he is not able to perform; especially if it be a
work of the highest importance, and the unskilful managing thereof may
have a tendency to do prejudice to, rather than advance the interest of
Christ. It would be a reflection on the wisdom of a master, to employ
his servant in a work that he has no capacity for, or entrust him with
an affair that is like to miscarry in his hands. In like manner, we are
not to suppose that God calls any to preach the gospel, but those whom
he has, in some measure, furnished for it; though, it is true, the best
may say, as the apostle does, _We are not sufficient of ourselves, to
think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God_: Yet he
adds, that they who are employed by him in this work, are made _able
ministers of the New-Testament_, 2 Cor. iii. 5, 6. It is, indeed, a
difficult matter to determine who are sufficiently gifted for it; the
work being so great and our natural and acquired endowments very small,
if compared with it. But that we may briefly consider this matter, it
may be observed,

(1.) That some qualifications are moral, without which, they who preach
the gospel, would be a reproach to it. These respect, more especially,
the conversation of those who are engaged in this work, which ought to
be blameless and exemplary; not only inoffensive, but such as they, whom
they are called to instruct, may safely copy after. Thus the apostle
makes a solemn appeal, when he says, _Ye are witnesses, and God also,
how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you
that believe_, 1 Thess. ii. 10. And he advises the Corinthians to be
_followers of him_, 1 Cor. iv. 16. and commends the church elsewhere,
for conforming themselves to his example, so far as it was agreeable to
that of our Saviour, 1 Thess. i. 6. in which respect alone the best of
men are to be followed, 1 Cor. xi. 1. Now this supposes that they have
that which we call the moral qualifications, necessary to the work of
the ministry, without which, a person will do more hurt, by his example,
than he can do good by his doctrine; inasmuch as he will lay a
stumbling-block in the way of Christians, who would be ready to say, as
the apostle does to some of those who were teachers among the Jews;
_Thou which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?_ Rom. ii. 21.
or, dost thou live in the practice of those crimes, which thou
condemnest in others, and exhortest them to avoid? This qualification
therefore, must be supposed to be necessary; and, indeed, an
experimental knowledge of divine truths, will greatly furnish them to
communicate the same to others, and spirit them, with zeal, in using
their utmost endeavours, that they may be made partakers of the same
experiences which they themselves, have been favoured with.
Nevertheless, we are not to suppose that this alone will warrant a
person’s engaging in the work of the ministry; for then every one who
has experienced the grace of God, might attempt it, how unable soever he
be to manage it to the glory of God, and the edification of the church.

(2.) There are other qualifications more directly subservient hereunto.
These the apostle speaks of, when he describes a gospel-minister as one
who is _apt to teach_, 1 Tim. iii. 2. and able _rightly to divide the
word of truth_, 2 Tim. ii. 15. and, by _sound doctrine_, to exhort and
_convince gainsayers_, Tit. i. 9. They who take upon them to explain
scripture, and apply it to the consciences of men, ought, certainly,
with great diligence and hard study, to use their utmost endeavours to
understand it. And to this we may add, that they ought to be able to
reason, or infer just consequences from it; whereby they may appear to
be well versed in those great doctrines, on which our faith and religion
is founded. This, indeed, must be confessed to be a work of difficulty;
and, they who think themselves best furnished in this respect, will have
reason to conclude, as the apostle says, that they _know but in part,
and prophesy in part_, 1 Cor. xiii. 9.

To this we may add, that there are various parts of learning, that may
be reckoned, in some respects, ornamental, which would tend to secure
him that preaches the gospel from contempt; and others, that are more
immediately subservient to our understanding scripture, namely, a being
well acquainted with those languages, in which the Old and New Testament
were written, and able to make critical remarks on the style and mode of
expression used in each of them, and a being conversant in the writings
of those, whether in our own or other languages, who have clearly and
judiciously explained the doctrines of the gospel, or led us into the
knowledge of those things that have a tendency to illustrate them. And,
inasmuch as preaching contains in it an address to the judgments and
consciences of men, I cannot but reckon it a qualification necessary in
order hereunto, that all those parts of learning that have a tendency to
enlarge the reasoning faculties, or help us to see the connexion or
dependence of one thing upon another, should be attended to, that we may
hereby be fitted to convey our ideas with judgment and method. These
qualifications are to be acquired. We pass by those that are natural, to
wit, a sufficient degree of parts, and such an elocution as is necessary
for those who are to speak to the edification of an audience, without
which all other endeavours to furnish themselves for this work, will be
to very little purpose.

2. They, by whom the word of God is to be preached, are to be duly
approved and called to that office. A person may think himself qualified
for it without sufficient ground; therefore this matter ought to be
submitted to the judgment of others, by whose approbation he is to
engage in this work. The first thing that is to be enquired into, is;
whether he is called to it by God, not only by his providence, which
opens a door for his preaching the gospel, but by the success which he
is pleased to grant to his endeavours, in order to his being duly
qualified for it? Notwithstanding, since persons may be mistaken, and
think they have a divine call hereunto, when they have not; it is
necessary that they should be approved by those who are sufficient
judges of this matter, that they may not be exposed to temptation, so as
to engage in a work which they are not deemed sufficient for. Not that
it is in the power of ministers, or churches, especially according to
the present situation of things, to hinder an unqualified person who has
too high thoughts of his own abilities, from preaching to a number of
people that is disposed to hear him; yet no one is bound or ought, in
prudence, or faithfulness to God or man, to own any to be a minister,
whose gifts do not render him fit to be approved; nor, on the other
hand, can any judgment be passed on this matter, without sufficient
acquaintance or conversation with him, that thereby it may be known
whether he be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, and able rightly
to divide the word of truth.

Here, I think, there is some difference between the approbation that
ought to be passed on those who first engage in the work of preaching,
and the call to the pastoral office; the latter supposes the former; and
therefore a person ought first to be approved of, as fit to preach the
gospel, in the opinion of those who are allowed to be competent judges
hereof, which is necessary to his entrance on that work with reputation
and acceptance; without which, he is to stand and fall to his own
master, and acquiesce in the approbation of those who are willing to sit
under his ministry; while others are not bound (as being destitute of
sufficient evidence) to conclude him furnished for, or called to it.

As to the call to the pastoral office; though no one has a right to
impose pastors on churches; yet it is the indispensible duty of every
church not barely to enquire; whether the person, whom they have a
desire to call to that office, be such an one as is approved by the
greater number of them; but, whether the step they are taking herein, is
such as has a tendency to secure their reputation as a church of Christ,
without exposing them to the just blame and censure of others, who are
in the same faith and order with themselves? that they may do nothing
that is in the least offensive, or that has a tendency to weaken the
interest of Christ in his churches. It is true, no one can put a stop to
their proceeding, if they are resolved to set over them one that is not
only scandalous in his conversation, but inclined to preach what is
subversive of the fundamental articles of our faith; yet they cannot
hereby act as a church that has obtained mercy from God to be faithful,
or engage in this important work with judgment. It is therefore
expedient, that churches should set over them ministers approved by
others as sound in the faith, as well as reckoned, by themselves, able
to preach to their edification; and, in order hereunto, it is expedient
that some ministers, and members of other churches, should be present at
their investiture in that office, to which they have called them, not
barely as being witnesses of their faith and order, in common with the
whole assembly, but as testifying hereby their approbation of their
proceedings, and giving ground to the world to conclude, that that
person, whom they have called, is owned by others, as well as

And, in order thereunto, it is necessary that ministers, who are to join
in begging the blessing of God on their proceedings, and giving a word
of exhortation to them, should be satisfied concerning the fitness of
him whom the church has called to that office; which is supposed by
their being present, and bearing their respective parts therein. This, I
think, is intended by that expression of the apostle, in which he
advises Timothy, _to lay hands suddenly on no man; nor to be partaker of
other men’s sins; but to keep himself pure_, 1 Tim. v. 22. that is,
without guilt, as being active in approving those that he ought not to
approve of. I do not, by this, take the power out of the hands of the
church, of setting a pastor over themselves; but only hereby argue the
expediency of their consulting the honour of the gospel herein, and
acting so, as that they may have the approbation of other churches in
that solemnity.

II. We are now to consider how the word of God is to be preached by
those who are qualified, approved, and called thereunto; and that, both
as to doctrines to be insisted on, and the manner in which they are to
be delivered.

1. What they are to preach, ought to be sound doctrine, and that not
barely what is deemed to be so by him that preaches it; since there is
scarce any one but thinks himself sound in the faith, how remote soever
his sentiments may be from the true intent and meaning of the word of
God. But hereby we understand those doctrines which are so called by the
apostle, Tit. i. 9. such as are agreeable to that _form of sound words_
which is transmitted to us by divine inspiration, 2 Tim. i. 13. _the
doctrine which is according to godliness_, 1 Tim. vi. 3. as having a
tendency to recommend and promote it. This is styled elsewhere, _The
faith once delivered to the saints_; which is not only to be preached,
but _earnestly contended for_, Jude, ver. 3. These are such doctrines as
have a tendency to advance the glory of God, and do good to the souls of
men, that are relished and savoured by sincere Christians, who know the
truth, as it is in Jesus; and are _nourished up_, as the apostle says,
_in the words of faith and of good doctrine_, 1 Tim. iv. 6. This, as it
has a peculiar reference to the gospel, and the way of salvation
contained therein, is called _preaching Christ_, Col. i. 18. or a
_determining to know nothing_; that is, to appear to know, or to
discover nothing, _save Jesus Christ and him crucified_, 1 Cor. ii. 2.
or deliver nothing but what tends to set forth the person and offices of
Christ, either directly, or in its remote tendency thereunto. Our
Saviour advises the church, to _take heed what they hear_, Mark iv. 24.
as signifying, that we are to receive no doctrines but what are
agreeable to the gospel. And this is a sufficient intimation that such
only are to be preached, the contrary to which method of preaching, the
apostle calls _perverting the gospel of Christ_; and adds, that _though
we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that which we
have preached, let him be accursed_, Gal. i. 7, 8. These are the only
doctrines that God will own, because they tend to set forth his
perfections, as they were at first communicated by him for that end.

2. We are now to consider the manner in which these doctrines are to be
preached. This is laid down in several heads,

(1.) Diligently and constantly, in season and out of season, considering
this work as the main business of life, that which a minister is to
_give himself wholly to_, 1 Tim. iv. 15. and all his studies are to be
subservient to this end. He is to rejoice in all opportunities, in which
he may lead those whom he is called to minister to, in the way to
heaven, and be willing to lay out his strength, and those abilities
which God has given him, to his glory. Thus the apostle says, _I would
very gladly spend, and be spent for you_, 2 Cor. xii. 14. This argues,
that the word is not barely to be preached occasionally, as though it
were to be hid from the world, or only imparted, when the leisure or
inclination of those who are called thereto, will admit of it. The
character which the apostle gives of gospel-ministers, is, that they
_watch for the souls of those to whom they minister_; that is, they wait
for the best and fittest seasons to inculcate divine truths to them.
This is particularly expressed _by preaching the word_, and _being
instant in season, and out of season, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting
with all long-suffering and doctrine_, 2 Tim. iv. 2. which implies, that
it ought to be preached, not only on that day, which God has sanctified
for public worship, of which preaching is a part; but on all occasions,
when they are apprehensive that the people are desirous to receive and
hear it.

(2.) It is to be preached plainly. Thus the apostle says, _We use great
plainness of speech_, 2 Cor. iii. 12. This method of preaching is
inconsistent with the using unintelligible expressions: which neither
they nor their hearers well understand. The style ought to be familiar,
and adapted to the meanest capacities; which may be done without
exposing it to contempt. And it is particularly observed, that it ought
not to be, _in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration
of the Spirit and of power_; as the apostle says concerning his method
of preaching, 1 Cor. ii. 14. The great design hereof, is, not to please
the ear with well turned periods, or rhetorical expressions, or an
affectation of shewing skill in human learning, in those instances in
which it is not directly adapted to edification, or rendered subservient
to the explaining of scripture. A demonstrative way of preaching, is
not, indeed, opposed to this plainness that is here intended but it is
the _demonstration of the Spirit_; which, though it differs from that
which the apostles were favoured with (who were led into the doctrines
they preached, by immediate inspiration;) yet we are to endeavour to
prove, by strength of argument, that what we deliver is agreeable to the
mind and will of God therein; and yet to do this with that plainness of
address, as those who desire to awaken the consciences of men, and give
them the fullest conviction, proving from the scripture, that what we
say is true. This account the apostle gives of his ministry, 2 Cor. iv.
2. as what was most adapted to answer the valuable ends thereof.

(3.) The word of God is to be preached faithfully; which supposes that
they who are called to this work, have the souls of those whom they
preach to, committed to their care; so that, if they perish for want of
due instruction, they are, for this neglect, found guilty before God.
Thus God says to the prophet, _Son of man, I have made thee a watchman
to the house Israel_, Ezek. iii. 17, &c. and therefore he was to _give
them warning_, which, if he did, he _delivered his_ own _soul_; but if
not, God intimates to him that _their blood should be required at his
hand_. This supposes that they are accountable to God for the doctrines
they deliver; for which reason the apostle speaks of them, as _stewards
of the mysteries of God_, of whom it was _required that_ they should _be
found faithful_, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2. and, as a particular instance thereof,
he makes a solemn appeal to the elders of the church of Ephesus, that he
had _kept back nothing that was profitable unto them_, nor _shunned to
declare all the counsel of God_, Acts xx. 27. This faithfulness in the
exercise of the ministry, is opposed to their having respect of persons
from some obligation which they are laid under to them, or the prospect
of some advantage that they expect from them, which makes them sparing
in reproving those who are blame-worthy, for fear of giving offence, or
losing their friendship. It is also opposed to preaching those doctrines
which are suited to the humours and corruptions of men, and neglecting
to insist on the most necessary and important truths; because they
apprehend that they will be entertained with disgust. This is to act as
though their main design were to please men rather than God. And it is
very remote from the conduct of the prophet Isaiah; who, when he was
informed that the people desired that the _prophets_ would _prophesy
smooth things_ to them, and _cause the holy one of Israel to cease from
before them_, Isa. xxx. 10, 11. he takes occasion to represent God as
the holy one of Israel, in the following words, and to denounce the
judgments which he would bring upon them, how unwilling soever they were
to receive this doctrine from him.

And, to this we may add, that they are to be reckoned no other than
unfaithful in their method of preaching, who, under a pretence of
pressing the observance of moral duties, set aside the great doctrines
of faith in Christ, and justification by his righteousness, which is the
only foundation of our acceptance in his sight. Concerning which we may
say, without being supposed to have light thoughts of moral virtue; that
the one ought, in no wise to exclude the other. Neither can they be
reckoned faithful, who shun to declare those important truths, on which
the glory of God, and the comfort of his people depend; and therefore,
if morality be rightly preached, it ought to be inculcated from
evangelical motives, and connected with other truths that have a
tendency more directly to set forth the Mediator’s glory; which ought
not to be laid aside as controverted doctrines, which all cannot
acquiesce in, as supposing that the tempers, or rather the ignorance and
corruption of men, will not bear them.

(4.) The word of God is to be preached wisely. This wisdom consists,

[1.] In the choice of those subjects, that have the greatest tendency to
promote the interest of Christ, and the good of mankind in general.
There are many doctrines which must be allowed to be true, that are not
of equal importance with others; nor so much adapted to promote the work
of salvation, and the glory of God therein. There are some doctrines
which the apostle calls _the present truth_, 2 Pet. i. 12. in which he
instructs those to whom he writes. Accordingly, those truths are to be
frequently inculcated, which are most opposite to the dictates of
corrupt nature and carnal reason; because of their holiness,
spirituality, beauty, and glory. Again, those doctrines are to be
explained and supported by the most solid and judicious methods of
reasoning, which are very much perverted and undermined by the subtle
enemies of our salvation. And whatever truth is necessary to be known,
as subservient to godliness, which multitudes are ignorant of, this is
to be frequently insisted on, that they may not be destroyed for lack of
knowledge; and those duties, which we are most prone to neglect, in
which the life and power of religion discovers itself, these are to be
inculcated as a means to promote practical godliness.

[2.] The wisdom of those that preach the gospel farther appears, in
suiting their discourses to the capacities of their hearers; of whom, it
must be supposed,

_1st_, That some are ignorant and weak in the faith who cannot easily
take in those truths that are, with much more ease, apprehended and
received by others; for their sake the word of God is to be preached
with the greatest plainness and familiarity of style. Thus the apostle
speaks of some who needed to be _fed with milk_, being _unskilful in the
word of righteousness_, and, as it were, _babes_ in knowledge, Heb. v.
12-14. whereas others, that he compares to _strong men_, were fed with
_meat_, that was agreeable to them. By which he doth not intend, as I
apprehend, a difference of doctrines, as though some were to have
nothing preached to them but moral duties: while others were to have the
doctrines of justification, and faith in Christ, &c. preached to them;
but rather a different way of managing them, respecting the closeness
and connexion of those methods of reasoning by which they are
established which some are better able to improve and receive advantage
by, than others.

_2dly_, Some must be supposed to be wavering, and in danger of being
perverted from the faith of the gospel; for their sakes the most strong
and cogent arguments are to be made use of, and well managed, in order
to their establishment therein, and those objections that are generally
brought against it, answered.

_3dly_, Others are lukewarm and indifferent in matters of religion;
these need to have awakening truths, insisted on with great seriousness
and affection, suited to the occasion thereof.

_4thly_, Others are assaulted with temptations, and subject to many
doubts and fears, about the state of their souls, and the truth of
grace; or, it may be, their consciences are burdened with some scruples,
about the lawfulness or expediency of things, and some hesitation of
mind, whether what they engage in is a sin or duty. Now, that the word
may be adapted to their condition, the wiles of Satan are to be
discovered, cases of conscience resolved, evidences of the truth of
grace, or the marks of sincerity and hypocrisy are to be plainly laid
down, and the fulness, freeness, and riches of divine grace, through a
Mediator, to be set forth as the only expedient to fence them against
their doubts and fears, and keep them from, giving way to despair.

_5thly_, The word of God is to be preached zealously, with fervent love
to God, and the souls of his people. Thus it is said, in Acts xviii. 25.
concerning Apollos, that _being fervent in the Spirit, he spake and
taught diligently in the things of the Lord_. This zeal doth not consist
in a passionate, furious address, arising from personal pique and
prejudice; or, in exposing men for their weakness; or expressing an
undue resentment of some injuries received from them; but it is such a
zeal, that is consistent with fervent love to God, and the souls of men.
The love which is to be expressed to God, discovers itself, in the
concern they have for the advancing his truth, name, and glory, and the
promoting his interest in the world, which is infinitely preferable to
all other interests; and their love to the souls of men induceth them to
preach to them, as considering that they have not only the same nature
in common with themselves, in which they must either be happy or
miserable, for ever: But they are liable to the same infirmities,
difficulties, dangers, and spiritual enemies, which should incline those
that preach the gospel, to express the greatest sympathy with them in
their troubles, while they are using their utmost endeavours to help
them in their way to heaven. They are to be considered as being, by
nature, in a lost, undone condition; and the success of the gospel, as
being the only means to prevent their perishing for ever. And, with
respect to those, in whom the word of God is made effectual for their
conversion, ministers are to endeavour to build them up in their holy
faith, as those who, they hope, will be their _crown of rejoicing in the
presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming_, 1 Thess. ii. 19.

_6thly_, The word is to be preached sincerely, aiming at the glory of
God, and the conversion, edification, and salvation of his people.

_1st_, Ministers must firmly believe the doctrines they deliver, and not
preach them because they are the generally-received opinion of the
churches; for that is hardly consistent with sincerity; at least, it
argues a great deal of weakness, or want of judgment, as though they
were wavering about those important truths, which they think in
compliance with custom, they are obliged to communicate.

_2dly_, They must have no by and unwarrantable ends in preaching,
namely, the gaining the esteem of men, or promoting their own secular
interest. Though what the apostle says be true, that the _labourer is
worthy of his hire_, and, _they that preach the gospel, must live of the
gospel_, 1 Cor. ix. 14. Yet this ought not to be the principal end
inducing them hereunto; for that is like what is threatened against the
remains of the house of Eli, who were exposed to such a servile and
mercenary temper, as to _crouch for a piece of silver; and to say, put
me, I pray thee, into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a
piece of bread_, 1 Sam. ii. 36. The glory of God is to be the principal
end of the ministry; and, accordingly, they are to endeavour to approve
themselves to him in the whole of their conduct therein. Thus the
apostle speaks of himself, as _not seeking to please men; which, if I
do_, says he, _I should not be the servant of Christ_, Gal. i. 10. This
method of preaching will be a means to beget, in the minds of men, the
highest esteem of him. And, more especially, the glory of God is to be
set forth as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, or discovers itself
in the work of salvation, brought about by him. This is the only
expedient to render the preaching of the gospel conducive to answer the
most valuable ends.

And, inasmuch as next to the glory of God, the conversion, edification,
and salvation of men, is to be aimed at; such a method of preaching is
to be used, as is best adapted hereunto. Therefore,

(_1st_,) In order to the promoting the conversion of sinners, they are
to be led into a sense of their guilt and misery, while in an
unconverted state; together with the necessity of their believing on
Christ, to the salvation of the soul; as also the methods prescribed in
the gospel for their recovery, and escaping the wrath they are liable
to. They are to be made acquainted with the gospel-call, in which
sinners are invited to come to Christ, and his willingness to receive
all that repent and believe in him. And, since this is the peculiar work
of the Spirit, they are to pray and hope for his grace, to give success
to his ordinances, in which they wait for his salvation. And if God is
pleased to set home these truths on the consciences of men, and enable
them to comply with this call, then the word is preached in a right
manner, and their labour is not in vain in the Lord.

(_2dly_,) As for those who are converted, their farther establishment,
and edification in Christ is designed, together with the increase of the
work of grace that is begun in them. Accordingly they are to be told of
the imperfection of their present state, and what is still lacking to
fill up the measure of their faith and obedience; and they are to be
warned of the assaults that they are like to meet with from their
spiritual enemies, of the wiles and devices of Satan, to interrupt the
actings of grace, overthrow their confidence, or disturb their peace.
They are also to be directed how they may improve the redemption
purchased by Christ, for the mortifying of sin, obtaining the victory
over temptation, and increasing their faith in him. And, in addressing
themselves to them, they are to explain difficult scriptures, that they
may grow in knowledge, and discover to them the evidences of the
strength and weakness of grace, tending to promote the one, and prevent
the other. Also, the promises of the gospel are to be applied to them
for their encouragement, and they excited to go on in the ways of God,
depending on, and deriving strength from Christ, for the carrying on the
work that is begun in them. This leads us to consider what is contained
in the last of the answers we are explaining, _viz._

III. What is the hearer’s duty, who desires to receive spiritual
advantage by the word preached; and this respects his behaviour before,
in, and after his hearing the word.

1. Before we hear the word, we are to endeavour to prepare ourselves for
the solemn work which we are to engage in, duly considering how we need
instruction, or, at least, to have truths brought to our remembrance,
and impressed on our hearts; as also, that this is an ordinance which
God has instituted for that purpose; and, as it is instamped with his
authority, so we may depend on it, that his eye will be upon us, to
observe our frame of spirit under the word. And we ought to have an
awful sense of his perfections, to excite in us an holy reverence, and
the exercise of other graces, necessary to our engaging in this duty, in
a right manner; and inasmuch as these are God’s gift, we are to be very
importunate with him in prayer for them. And, among other things, we are
to desire that he would assist his ministers in preaching the word; so
that what shall be delivered by them, may be agreeable to his mind and
will; and, that this may be done in such a way, that it may recommend
itself to the consciences of those that hear it; that their
understandings may be enlightened, and they enabled to receive it with
faith and love; and that all those corruptions, or temptations, that
hinder the success thereof, may be prevented. These, and such-like
things are to be desired of God in prayer; not only for ourselves in
particular, but for all those who shall be engaged with us in this

We might here consider the arguments or pleas that we may make use of,
with relation hereunto, viz. such as are taken from those promises which
God has made of his presence with his people, when engaged in public
worship, Exod. xx. 24. Matt. xviii. 20. We may also plead the
insufficiency of man’s instructions, without the Spirit’s teaching, or
leading us into all truth; and that Christ has promised that his Spirit
shall be given to his people for this end, John xvi. 13, 14. We may also
plead our own inability to hear the word of God in a right manner, and
the violent efforts that are made by our corrupt nature, to hinder our
receiving advantage by it, and what endeavours Satan often uses in
conjunction with it, by which means, as our Saviour expresses it in the
parable, Matt. xiii. 19. he _catches away_ that seed which was sown in
the heart; whereby it will become unfruitful. And to this we may add,
the afflictive sense we have of the ill consequences which will attend
our hearing the word, and not profiting by it, whereby the soul is left
worse than it was before; as the apostle says, that he was, in the
course of his ministry, to some, the _saviour of death unto death_, 2
Cor. ii. 16. We may also plead the glory that will redound to God, by
the displays of his grace, in making the word effectual to salvation,
and the great honour he hereby puts on his own institution, inasmuch as,
herein, he sets his seal thereunto. We may also plead that this is God’s
usual way in which he dispenses his grace, and accordingly he has
encouraged us, to hope and wait for it therein; and, that multitudes of
his saints, both in earth and heaven, have experienced his presence with
them under the word; whereby they were first enabled to believe in
Christ, and afterwards established more and more in that grace, which
they were made partakers of at first from him. Therefore we hope and
trust that we may be admitted to participate of the same privilege.

2. There are several duties required of us in hearing the word;
particularly we are to try the doctrines that are delivered, whether
they are agreeable unto, and founded on scripture, that we may not be
imposed upon by the errors of men, instead of the truths of God.
Moreover, we are to endeavour to exercise those graces that are suitable
to the work we are engaged in; and, as the apostle says, _mix the word
with faith_, 2 Cor. ii. 16. and express the highest love and esteem for
the glorious truths which are contained therein, discovering the
greatest readiness to yield obedience to every thing God commands, and
thankfulness for whatever he has promised to us. Moreover we are to hear
the word with a particular application of it to our own condition,
whether it be in a way of admonition, reproof, exhortation or
encouragement, and to see how much we are concerned to improve it, to
our spiritual advantage.

3. We are now to consider those duties which are to be performed by us,
after we have heard the word preached. Some of these require privacy or
retirement from the world; by which means we may meditate on, digest,
and apply what we have heard; and, together with this, examine
ourselves, and thereby take a view of our behaviour, whilst we have been
engaged in public worship, in order to our being humbled for sins
committed, or thankful for grace received. But this having been
particularly considered under another answer, relating to our
sanctifying the Sabbath in the evening thereof[51], I shall pass it over
at present.

There is another duty incumbent on us, after we have heard the word,
which may conduce to the spiritual advantage of others, as it is to be
the subject of our conversation; upon which account we are to take
occasion to observe the excellency, beauty, and glory of divine truths,
that are communicated in scripture: We are to hear the word, not merely
as critics, making our remarks on the elegancy of style, the fluency of
expression, or other gifts, which we are ready to applaud in the
preacher, on the one hand, nor exposing and censuring the defects which
we have observed in his method of address, on the other. We are rather
to take notice of the suitableness of the truths delivered to the
condition of mankind in general, or our own in particular, and observe
how consonant the word preached has been to the holy scriptures, the
standard of truth, and the agreement thereof, with the experiences of
God’s people. We are also to take occasion from hence, to enquire into
the meaning of scripture, especially some particular texts that have
been insisted on, or, in some measure, explained, in the preaching of
the word, in order to our farther information and improvement in the
knowledge of divine things.

The last thing that is observed in this answer, is, that after having
heard the word of God, we are to endeavour to bring forth the fruit of
it in our lives: This consists in a conversation becoming the gospel;
and being induced hereby to _deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to
live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world_, Tit. ii.
13. And we ought to express a becoming zeal for divine truths, defending
them when opposed, and endeavouring to establish others therein; that so
we may recommend religion to them, as that which is the most solid
foundation for peace, and leads to universal holiness, that hereby we
may adorn the doctrine of God, our Saviour, in all things.

Footnote 51:

  _See Vol. III. p. 495._

                 Quest. CLXI., CLXII., CLXIII., CLXIV.

    QUEST. CLXI. _How doth the sacraments become effectual means of

    ANSW. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation; not by any
    power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety and
    intention of him by whom they are administered; but only by the
    working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they
    are instituted.

    QUEST. CLXII. _What is a sacrament?_

    ANSW. A sacrament is an holy ordinance, instituted by Christ in his
    church, to signify, seal, and exhibit, unto those that are within
    the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen
    and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to
    obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with
    another, and to distinguish them from those that are without.

    QUEST. CLXIII. _What are the parts of a sacrament?_

    ANSW. The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and
    sensible sign, used according to Christ’s own appointment; the
    other, an inward and spiritual grace, thereby signified.

    QUEST. CLXIV. _How many sacraments hath Christ instituted in his
    church, under the New Testament?_

    ANSW. Under the New Testament Christ hath instituted in his church
    only two sacraments; Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

It has pleased God, in setting forth the glory of his wisdom and
sovereignty to impart his mind and will to man, various ways, besides
the discovery which he makes of himself in the dispensations of his
providence. These are, more especially, reducible to two general heads,
viz. his making it known by words, which is the more plain and common
way by which we are led into the knowledge of divine truths; or else, by
visible signs, which are sometimes called types, figures, or sacraments.
The former of these we have already insisted on; the latter we now
proceed to consider. And, in order hereunto, we are first to explain the
nature, and shew what are the parts of a sacrament, as we have an
account thereof in the two last of these answers; and then consider, how
the sacraments become effectual means of salvation, as contained in the
first, of them.

I. Concerning the nature and parts of a sacrament: In order to our
understanding whereof, we shall consider,

1. The meaning of the word. It is certain, that the word _sacrament_ is
not to be found in scripture, though the thing intended thereby, is
expressed in other words; and, for this reason, some have scrupled the
use of it, and choose rather to make use of other phrases more agreeable
to the scripture mode of speaking: But, though we are not to hold any
doctrine that is not founded on scripture; yet those which are contained
therein, may be explained in our own words, provided they are consonant
thereunto. The Greek church knew nothing of the word _sacrament_, it
being of a Latin original; but, instead thereof, used the word
_mystery_; thereby signifying, that there is in the sacraments, besides
the outward and visible signs, some secret or hidden mystery signified
thereby. The Latin church used the word _sacrament_, not only as
signifying something that is sacred; but as denoting, that thereby they
were bound as with an oath, to be the Lord’s; as the Psalmist says, _I
have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous
judgments_, Psal. cxix. 106. and God, by the prophet, says, _Unto me
every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear_, Isa. xlv. 23.

The word Sacrament was used, indeed, by the Romans, to signify that oath
which the soldiers took, to be true and faithful to their general, and
to fight courageously under his banner; but the primitive Christians
signified hereby, that, when they were called to suffer for Christ,
which was, as it were, a fighting under his banner, they did in this
ordinance, as it were, take an oath to him, expressing their obligation
not to desert his cause. Now, since this is agreeable to the end and
design of a sacrament, whatever be the first original of the use of the
word, I think we have no reason to scruple the using of it, though it be
not found in scripture: Nevertheless, Christians ought not to contend,
or be angry with one another about this matter, it being of no great
importance, if we adhere stedfastly to the explication given thereof in

2. We shall now consider the nature of a sacrament, as described in one
of the answers we are explaining. And here,

(1.) It is observed, concerning it, that it is an holy ordinance,
instituted by Christ. What we are to understand by an ordinance, and its
being founded on a divine institution, which is our only warrant to
engage therein, has been before considered; and, indeed, every duty that
is to be performed by God’s express command, which he has designed to be
a pledge of his presence, and a means of grace, is a branch of religious
worship, and may be truly styled an holy ordinance. Now, that the
sacraments are founded on Christ’s institution, is very evident from
scripture. Thus he commanded his apostles, to _baptize all nations_,
Matt. xxviii. 19. and, as to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, he
commanded them to _do_ what is contained therein, _in remembrance of
him_, Matt. xxvi. 26, 27. compared with 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25.

(2.) The persons, for whom the sacraments were instituted, are the
church, who stand in an external covenant-relation to God, and, as the
apostle says, are _called to be saints_, Rom. i. 7. It is to them, more
especially, that Christ, when he ascended up on high, gave ministers, as
a token of his regard to them, that hereby they may be edified, who are
styled _his body_, Eph. iv. 16. And, though these ministers are
authorized to preach the gospel to all nations, which is necessary for
the gathering churches out of the world; yet they are never ordered to
administer the sacraments to all nations, nor, indeed, to any,
especially the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, till they profess
subjection to Christ, and thereby join together in the fellowship of the
gospel. As the sacraments under the Old Testament dispensation, were to
be administered to none but the church of the Jews, the only people in
the world that professed the true religion; so, under the gospel
dispensation, none have a right to sacraments but those who are therein
professedly devoted to him.

3. We are now to consider the matter of the sacraments, which is set
forth in general terms; and it is also called in one of the answers we
are explaining, the parts of a sacrament; these are an outward and
visible sign, and an inward and spiritual grace, signified thereby; or,
as it is otherwise expressed, it signifies, seals, and exhibits to those
who are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of Christ’s
mediation. These words are often used, but not so well explained as
might be desired.

(1.) It is called a sign, in which, by a visible action, some spiritual
benefits are signified: This is undoubtedly true; and it is a reproach
cast on God’s holy institutions, in some who deny sacraments to be
divine ordinances, when they style them all carnal ordinances, beggarly
elements, or a re-establishing the ceremonial law, without
distinguishing between significant signs, that were formerly ordinances
to the Jewish church, but are now abolished; and those that Christ hath
given to the gospel church. In this idea of the sacraments, we must
consider, that they agree, in some things, with the preaching of the
word; namely, that hereby Christ and his benefits, are set forth as
objects of our faith; and the same ends are desired and attained by
both, _viz._ our being affected with, and making a right improvement of
the blessings purchased by him, together with our enjoying communion
with him; and they are, both of them, sacred ordinances, instituted by
Christ, and therefore to be attended on in an holy manner: But, on the
other hand, they differ, with respect to the way or means by which
Christ and his benefits are set forth; inasmuch, as in the preaching of
the word, there is a narration of what he hath done and suffered; and,
upon this account the apostle says, _Faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the word of God_, Rom. x. 17. whereas, in the sacraments,
there is a representation thereof by signs; in which case we may apply
the words of the prophet, _Mine eye afflicteth mine heart_, Lam. iii.
51. as there is the external symbol of Christ’s dying love, which is an
inducement to us to love him again. They also differ, in that the
sacraments are not only designed to instruct; but, by our act and deed,
we signify our engagement to be the Lord’s.

(2.) The sacraments are also said to seal the blessings that they
signify; and accordingly they are called, not only signs, but seals. It
is a difficult matter to explain, and clearly to state the difference
between these two words, or to shew what is contained in a seal, that is
not in a sign: Some think that it is a distinction without a difference.
The principal ground which most divines proceed upon, when they
distinguish between them is, what we read in Rom. iv. 11. in which the
apostle, speaking concerning Abraham, says, _he received the sign of
circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith_[53]. But the same
thing might have been affirmed concerning it, or any other significant
ordinance, if the words sign and seal were supposed to be of the like
import; for it is not said he received the ordinance of circumcision,
which is not only a sign, but a seal; but he received that which was a
sign, or a seal of the blessing about which his faith was conversant.
However, that we may explain this matter, without laying aside those
words that are commonly used and distinguished in treating on this
subject, it may be observed, that a sign is generally understood as
importing any thing that hath a tendency to signify or confirm something
that is transacted, or designed to be published, and made visible:
Accordingly some signs have a natural tendency to signify the things
intended by them; as the regular beating of the pulse is a sign of
health, smoke the sign of fire. And other things not only signify, but
represent that which they give us an idea of, by some similitude that
there is therein, as the picture doth its original. Other things only
signify as they are ordained or designed for that use, by custom or
appointment; thus, in civil matters, a staff is a sign of power to
exercise an office; the seal of a bond, or conveyance, is the sign of a
right that is therein conveyed, or made over to another to possess: It
is in this respect that the sacraments are signs of the covenant of
grace: They do not naturally represent Christ and his benefits; but they
signify them, by divine appointment.

But, on the other hand, a seal, according to the most common acceptation
of the word, imports a confirming sign[54]: Yet we must take heed that
we do not, in compliance with custom, contain more in our ideas of this
word, than is agreeable to the analogy of faith: Therefore, let it be
considered, that the principal method God hath taken for the confirming
our faith in the benefits of Christ’s redemption, is, his own truth and
faithfulness, whereby the heirs of salvation _have strong consolation_,
Heb. iv. 17, 18. or else the internal testimony of the Spirit of God in
our hearts. The former is an objective means of confirmation, and the
latter a subjective; and this the apostle calls our _being established
in Christ, and sealed, having the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts_,
2 Cor. i. 21, 23.

This is not the sense in which we are to understand the word as applied
to the sacraments; since if we call them confirming seals, we intend
nothing else hereby, but that God has, to the promises that are given to
us in his word, added these ordinances; not only to bring to mind this
great doctrine, that Christ has redeemed his people by his blood; but to
assure them, that they who believe in him, shall be made partakers of
this blessing; so that these ordinances are a pledge thereof to them, in
which respect God has set his seal, whereby, in an objective way, he
gives believers to understand, that Christ, and his benefits, are
theirs; and they are obliged, at the same time, by faith, as well as in
an external and visible manner, to signify their compliance with his
covenant, which we may call their setting to their seal that God is
true; as we may allude to that expression of our Saviour, _He that hath
received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true_, John
iii. 33. The sacraments are God’s seals, as they are ordinances given by
him for the confirmation of our faith, that he would be our
covenant-God; and they are our seals, or we set our seal thereunto, when
we visibly profess, which ought to be done also by faith, that we give
up ourselves to him, to be his people, and desire to be made partakers
of the benefits which Christ hath purchased, in his own way. Thus
concerning the sacraments, as being signs and seals of the covenant of

There is another expression, used in this answer, that needs a little
explication; namely, when the sacraments are said, not only to signify
and seal, but to exhibit the benefits of Christ’s mediation. _To
exhibit_, sometimes signifies to shew, or present to our view; which
word, if it be so understood in this place, imports the same as when it
is said, that the sacraments are signs or seals thereof, or significant
ordinances for the directing and exciting our faith, as conversant about
what we are to understand thereby. Again, _to exhibit_, sometimes
signifies to give, communicate, or convey; and because it is not only
distinguished from signifying and sealing in the definition which we
have of a sacrament in the Shorter Catechism; but is described as that
by which Christ and his benefits are applied unto believers; therefore,
I am inclined to think, that it is in this latter sense that the word is
to be taken in the answer which we are explaining; and if so, we must
distinguish between Christ’s benefits being conveyed, made over,
exhibited, or applied, by the gift of divine grace, through the
effectual working of the Spirit; and this being done by an ordinance, as
an external means of grace; accordingly I am bound to conclude, that as
the Spirit of God gives these blessings to believers, who engage in a
right manner therein; so this grace is represented, and God’s people
have ground to expect, as far as an ordinance can be the means thereof,
that they shall be made partakers of these benefits.

We may also observe, that, though the sacraments are appointed to
signify to all that partake of them, that Christ has purchased salvation
for his people; or, that the work of redemption is brought to
perfection: Yet it is they alone that engage herein by faith, who can
look upon them as signs or seals to confirm their faith, that they have
a right to the benefits of Christ’s redemption, as not only signified,
but exhibited or applied to them: In this sense the sacraments are signs
to them that believe, in such a way as they are to no others.

4. We are now to consider the persons to whom the sacraments are given;
and these are described as those who are within the covenant of grace.
To be within the covenant of grace, implies in it, either a being
externally in covenant with God, or a being internally and spiritually
so, as interested in the saving blessings thereof.

(1.) They who are externally in covenant, are such as are visibly so;
who are called by his name, professedly devote themselves to him, and
lay claim to him as their God: These, if they are no otherwise in
covenant, are said to be in Christ, as the branch which beareth no
fruit, is said to be in the vine, John xv. 2. like those whom the
prophet speaks of, when he says, _Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which
are called by the name of Israel, which swear by the name of the Lord,
and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth nor in
righteousness_, Isa. xlviii. 1. they have, indeed, the ordinances which
must be reckoned a very great privilege; they have the external
overtures of divine grace, the convictions and strivings of the Spirit;
and accordingly they are, in God’s way, in which he is sometimes pleased
to work special grace, which, when he does, they may conclude themselves
to have more than the external blessings of the covenant, which is what
we are next to consider: Therefore,

(2.) Others are internally or spiritually in covenant, children of God
by faith: These are such as are true and real members of Jesus Christ,
by a federal or conjugal union with him: They have the same mind as was
in him, and receive vital influences from him, being made partakers of
the Spirit. They have, not only professedly, but by faith, embraced him
in all his offices, surrendered up themselves unto him, to be entirely
his; their understandings to be guided and directed, their wills and
affections to be governed by him, and are desirous to be disposed of by
him, in the whole conduct of their lives. And, as to the privileges
which they partake of, they have not merely a supposed, but a real
interest in all the benefits which Christ hath purchased, have a right
to his special care and love, which will render them safe and happy,
both here and hereafter.

Now, with respect to both these; they are, each of them, supposed to
attend on the sacraments: The former, indeed, have not a right to the
saving blessings signified thereby, and therefore, if they know
themselves to be strangers to the covenant of promise, they profess, by
engaging in this ordinance, to lay claim to that which they have no
right to: However, if this be not discernible in their conversation,
which is blameless in the eye of the world, men, who are not judges of
their hearts, have no warrant to exclude them from the sacraments. But,
on the other hand, they who are savingly, or internally in covenant,
have not only a right to those ordinances in common with others; but
Christ and his benefits, as was before observed, are exhibited and
applied to them, as they have ground to conclude, by faith, that they
have an interest in all the blessings which he has purchased.

5. We are now to consider, what those benefits are that Christ
communicates to his people in the sacraments, which are signified
thereby: These are either,

(1.) Such as are common to the whole church, which are relative and
external, rather than internal, as hereby they are distinguished from
those that are without. These are advantages, though not of a saving
nature: Thus the apostle says, _What advantage hath the Jew, or, what
profit is there in circumcision_, Rom. iii. 1, 2. To which he replies,
_much every way_, or in many respects, _q. d._ it is an honour which God
has put on the church, as taking them into a visible relation to
himself, and giving them the means of grace, in which they are more
favoured than the rest of the world: Or,

(2.) There are those benefits of Christ’s mediation, which are more
especially applicable to believers; and, in this respect, God makes
every ordinance, and the sacraments in particular, subservient to the
increase of their faith, and all other graces. As faith is wrought under
the word, it is farther established and increased by the Lord’s supper,
as will be considered under a following answer; and as they have herein
an occasion to exercise their mutual love to one another, so they have
communion with Christ, which has a tendency to carry on the work of
grace begun in the soul, and farther to enhance their love to Christ,
who is eminently set forth and signified herein; and, from the view they
have of their interest in him, arises a stronger motive and inducement
to hate all sin, that tends to dishonour him, in the whole course of
their lives. We are now to consider,

II. How the sacraments become effectual means of salvation; or from
whence their efficacy is derived, to answer that great end.

1. Negatively. They do not become effectual means of salvation by any
power in themselves to answer this end; for we are not to suppose, that
they are more than ordinances, by which God works those graces which we
receive under them; which it is his prerogative alone to confer. Again,
it is farther observed, that this privilege is not derived from the
piety or intention of them by whom the sacraments are administered; who,
though they are styled _stewards of the mysteries of God_, 1 Cor. iv. 1.
as persons to whom the administration thereof is committed; yet they
have not the least power to confer that grace which is Christ’s gift and
work: Thus the apostle says, _Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, but
ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave unto every man_,
chap. iii. 5.[55]

This is contrary to what the Papists maintain, who suppose that the
efficacy of the sacraments arises, partly from an internal virtue which
there is in them, to confer grace, (which they illustrate by a
far-fetched similitude, taken from the virtue which there is in food, to
nourish the body, which is nothing to the purpose, since no external act
of religion can have a tendency to nourish the soul, without the
internal efficacious grace of the Spirit accompanying it;) and partly
from the design or intention of the priest that administers them, as
they are consecrated and designed, by him, for that end.

There is also an absurd notion which is maintained by some Protestants,
as well as the Papists, _viz._ that the sacrament of baptism,
administered to infants, washes away the guilt of original sin, and
gives them a right and title to heaven, so that by virtue thereof they
are saved, if they happen to die before they commit actual sin: But this
account of the manner in which the sacraments become effectual to
salvation, is absurd to the last degree; for it puts a sanctifying and
saving virtue into that which is no more than an outward and ordinary
means of grace. And as to what respects the efficacy of the sacraments,
arising from the intention of him that administers them; that is, to lay
the whole stress of our salvation on the secret design of men, in whose
power it is supposed to be, to render or prevent these ordinances from
being means of grace; which is in the highest degree derogatory to the
glory of God.

2. Positively. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation only
by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom
they were instituted. As, _without Christ we can do nothing_, John xv.
5. so without his blessing we can receive nothing. Ordinances are only
the channel through which grace is conveyed; but Christ is the author
and finisher of faith; and this he does by his Spirit, when he brings
the heart into a good frame, and excites suitable acts of faith and love
in those who are engaged in those ordinances, and maintains the lively
impressions thereof, which have a tendency to promote the work of grace
in the whole conduct of their lives.

III. We proceed to consider, what sacraments Christ has instituted under
the New Testament-dispensation. It hath pleased God, in every age of the
world, to instruct his people by sacramental signs, as an addition to
those other ways, in which he communicates his mind and will to them.
Even our first parents, in their state of innocency, had the tree of
life; which was a sacrament or ordinance for their faith, that if they
retained their integrity, and performed the conditions of the covenant
which they were under, they might hereby be led into a farther
conviction that they should certainly attain the blessings promised
therein: And, some think, that the tree of knowledge, of good and evil,
was another sacramental sign, whereby they were given to understand,
that if they sinned, they should die. And paradise, in which they were
placed, was a sacrament, or a kind of type of the heavenly state;
inasmuch as there is an allusion to it in that promise, _to him that
overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life, that is in the midst
of the paradise of God_, Rev. ii. 7. and heaven is, in another place
called paradise, Luke xxiii. 43. Others think the Sabbath was a
sacramental sign to our first parents, of that eternal sabbatism which
they should celebrate in a better world, in case they yielded perfect
obedience as being the condition of the covenant they were under.
However, I desire not to be too peremptory as to this matter; it is
enough to my present purpose, to consider the tree of life as a
sacrament; whereby it appears, that God instituted such signs from the
beginning of the world: But this having been insisted on elsewhere[56],
we pass it over, and proceed to consider,

That, after the fall of man, there were sacramental signs, instituted as
ordinances for the faith of the church in the promised Messiah;
especially sacrifices, which signified their expectation that he would
make atonement for sin, by the shedding of his blood. Under the
ceremonial law there was a large body of sacramental ordinances, or
institutions, otherwise called, types of Christ, and the way of
salvation by him; some of which were occasional; as manna, the water of
the rock, and the brazen serpent in the wilderness, _&c._ others were
standing ordinances in the church, as long as the ceremonial law
continued; as circumcision, the passover, and many things contained in
the temple-service. These were the sacraments under the Old Testament:
But, having taken occasion to speak something concerning them
elsewhere[57], I shall confine myself to those sacraments which Christ
has instituted under the New Testament; which are only two, baptism, and
the Lord’s supper.

The Papists, indeed, have added five more to them, though without a
divine warrant; to give countenance to which, they pervert the sense of
some scriptures, occasionally brought for that purpose. One of the
sacraments which they have added, is, what they call _holy orders_;
whereby they authorize persons to perform the office of priests, or
deacons: This they do by the imposition of hands, and at the same time
pretend to confer the Holy Ghost: The former, they suppose to be the
sign, the latter the thing signified; but this was not designed to be a
sacrament given to the church; for the sacraments are ordinances that
belong to all believers, and not only ministers. And, as for the
imposition of hands, whether it be considered as an ancient form of
praying for a blessing on persons, or as used in setting others apart to
an office; it seems principally to have respect to these extraordinary
gifts, which they expected to qualify them for the discharge thereof;
which gifts being now ceased, the imposition of hands cannot be reckoned
a sacramental sign; and the blessing conferred, to wit, the Holy Ghost,
from whom they received those extraordinary gifts, is no longer to be
signified thereby.

Another sacrament which the Papists add, is that of _confirmation_; by
which they pretend, that children, who, in baptism, were made members of
Christ, are strengthened and confirmed in the faith; and receive the
Holy Ghost, in order to their performing their baptismal vow: But,
whatever engagement they are laid under, by this ordinance, it is God
alone that can confirm or strengthen, and enable them to walk answerable
thereunto; which is a grace not in the power of man to bestow, nor can
it be by any ordinance.

Another sacrament they speak of, is _pennance_; in which, after
auricular confession made to the priest, and some external marks of
sorrow expressed by the penitent, he is to perform some difficult
service enjoined, which they call pennance; whereby he makes
satisfaction for his sins, upon which, he is absolved from them. But
this is an abominable practice, by which persons are rather hardened in
sin, than delivered from it. It is derogatory to Christ’s satisfaction,
and has not the least appearance of a sacrament, or ordinance of God’s

Another sacrament that they have added, is _extreme unction_; taken from
James v. 14, 15. where the apostle speaks of sick persons being
_anointed with oil in the name of the Lord_; and it is said, _the prayer
of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up_; and, if
he has committed _sins_, they shall be _forgiven him_. But to this it
may be replied, that though this practice of anointing the sick with
oil, was observed in the first age of the church, while the miraculous
gift of healing was continued; yet it is now ceased; therefore no such
significant sign is to be used. And, as for forgiveness of sins,
mentioned by the apostle that seems not to have been conferred by the
use of that sign; but it was humbly expected and hoped for, as an answer
of prayer: It is therefore a very preposterous thing to reckon this
among the sacraments, under the gospel dispensation.

Another Sacrament that the Papists add, is that of _matrimony_; for
which, they have very little shadow of reason; but, because, they
suppose, the apostle calls it _a great mystery_, Eph. v. 32. which word,
the Greek church used to signify a sacrament: But he does not intend
hereby, that marriage is a mystery; but the union between Christ and his
church, which is illustrated by the conjugal union, is so called[58];
and, indeed, it is not an ordinance given to the church, but to mankind
in general, heathens as well as Christians. Therefore nothing can be
more absurd than to suppose, that it is one of the sacraments Christ
hath instituted in the gospel-church; and, according to their opinion,
the priests are excluded from this sacrament, inasmuch as they are
forbidden to marry, as the laity are excluded from the sacrament of holy
orders; so that when they pretend to add to those institutions, which
Christ hath given to the church, or invent sacraments, which he hath not
ordained, they betray not only their own folly, but bold presumption;
therefore we must conclude, that there are only two sacraments that
Christ hath given to his church, to wit, baptism, and the Lord’s supper;
which are particularly considered in some following answers.

Footnote 52:

  Sacrament is the word used by the Vulgate for mystery, and this is a
  much more probable meaning of the term as used by the early

Footnote 53:

  Και σημειον ελαβε περιτομης, σφραγιδα της δικαιοσυνης της πίστεως.

Footnote 54:

  _When these two are distinguished by divines, the one is generally
  called, signum significans; the other signum confirmans; or, the
  former is said, significare; the latter, obsignare._

Footnote 55:

  It were to be wished, the inspired books had been more generally
  honoured, as the only sufficient rule of judgment, by those who have
  wrote in favor of episcopacy, upon the plan of a DIVINE RIGHT; and the
  rather, as they speak of it, not merely as an institution of the
  gospel, but an essentially necessary one: insomuch, that gospel
  ordinances will be invalid, unless administered by those, who have
  been episcopally vested with holy orders.

  In a matter of such momentous concern, they would not have acted an
  unworthy part, if they had confined their pleas to the sacred
  writings; producing such passages from them as speak to the point, not
  implicitly and darkly; but in peremptory and express terms, so as to
  leave no reasonable room for hesitation or doubt. It would be
  dishonourary to the BIBLE, and a gross reflection on the penman of it,
  to call that an “appointment of Christ,” and an “essentially
  necessary” one, which is not contained in this sacred volume, and with
  such clearness and precision, that sober and impartial inquirers may
  readily perceive it to be there, without foreign help to assist their
  sight. And yet, such help is made necessary by episcopal writers. They
  scarce ever fail of turning us to the FATHERS in vindication of their
  cause; hereby virtually reflecting disgrace on the scriptures, as
  though they were insufficient, simply of themselves, to bring this
  controversy to an issue.

  In order to reconcile the appeal that is so often made to the FATHERS
  with that honour which is due to the scriptures, the episcopalian plea
  is, that they consider these fathers, not as _judges_, but _witnesses_
  only in their cause. But what are they brought to witness? Is it, that
  episcopacy is an institution of Jesus Christ? If this is witnessed to
  in the sacred books, of which we, having these in our hands, are as
  good judges as they, it is sufficient. There is no need of any foreign
  testimony. If it is not, no other testimony can supply this defect.
  Are these fathers cited as witnesses to what was the practice in their
  day? This is now generally the pretence. They may, say the
  episcopalians, be properly appealed to, in order to know the truth of
  FACT in the ages in which they lived. And if, from their unanimous
  testimony, even from the first days of Christianity, it appears, that
  GOVERNING and ordaining AUTHORITY was exercised by Bishops ONLY, in
  distinction from Presbyters, and as an order in the church above them,
  it would argue great arrogance, if not obstinate perverseness, to
  dispute the divine original of episcopacy. But we must be excused,
  however perverse we may be accounted, if we cannot bring ourselves to
  think, that the practice of the church, since the apostles’ days,
  however universal, will justify our receiving that as an institution
  of Christ, and an essentially important one, which he himself hath not
  clearly and evidently made so, either in his own person, or by those
  inspired writers, whom he commissioned and instructed to declare his
  will: nor can we believe the great Author of christianity would have
  put the professors of it to the difficult, I may say, as to most of
  them, the impossible task of collecting any thing essential to their
  salvation from the voluminous records of antiquity. We are rather
  persuaded, he has ordered every article that is necessary, either in
  point of faith or practice, to be so fairly and legibly wrote by the
  sacred penman, as that there should be no need of having recourse to
  the ancient Fathers as WITNESSES, any more than judges, to ascertain
  his mind. To suppose the contrary, would, in reality of construction,
  substitute TRADITION the rule of essential truth, in the room of the
  SCRIPTURES, which were “given by inspiration of God;” or, at least
  make the former so much a part of this rule, as that the latter,
  without it, would not be sufficiently complete. Such dishonour ought
  not to be cast on the one only standard of the real mind of Christ.

  The Bishop, in whose defence an appeal is made to antiquity, is not
  related, by his office, to a single congregation of christians only,
  with one or more Presbyters belonging to it; but his charge is a
  diocess, consisting of a number of congregations, greater or less,
  with their respective Presbyters. The inquiry therefore is, whether it
  be an UNIVERSALLY ATTESTED FACT, that episcopacy, in this sense, took
  place in, and through, the two first ages? A Bishop, at the head of a
  number of congregations, greater or less, is an officer in the church
  of Christ quite different from the pastor of a single congregation;
  though he should be called Bishop, as being the HEAD-PRESBYTER, or
  vested with the character of PRIMUS INTER PARES. It should be
  particularly noted, which of these kinds of episcopacy has the voice
  of the specified antiquity in its favour. It is willingly left with
  every man of common understanding, after he has gone over the
  following testimonies, to say, whether he thinks, that Bishops, after
  the DIOCESAN-MODE, were known in the first ages of the church?

  The Bishop, for whom the fathers are called in as WITNESSES, is an
  officer in the church of an ORDER SUPERIOR to that of Presbyters, and
  as distinct from it as the order of Presbyters is from that of
  Deacons; the pretence being this, that Presbyters were thought to
  have, in primitive times, no more right to meddle with the peculiar
  work of Bishops, than Deacons have to concern themselves with the
  peculiar work of Presbyters. The question therefore is, Whether it
  will appear from the following evidence, to be at all a FACT, much
  less an UNIVERSALLY known, and certainly attested one, that there were
  Bishops, in this sense, in any church, in any part of the christian
  world, within the two first centuries?

  The Bishop, in whose favour the ancient Fathers are said universally
  to speak, is one to whom the EXCLUSIVE RIGHT OF GOVERNMENT has been
  committed by the appointment of Jesus Christ, or his apostles as
  commissioned by him. Says the famous Bishop Hoadly, treating of the
  government of the church, as belonging to Bishops only, in the above
  appropriated sense, “And here—I think I may say, that we have as
  universal and as unanimous a testimony of all writers, and historians
  from the apostles’ days, as could reasonably be expected or desired:
  every one, who speaks of the government of the church, in any place,
  witnessing, that episcopacy was the settled form; and every one, who
  hath occasion to speak of the original of it, tracing it up to the
  apostles’ days, and fixing it upon their decree.—Were there only
  testimonies to be produced, that this was the government of the church
  in all ages, it would be but reasonable to conclude it of apostolical
  institution;—but when we find the same persons witnessing, not only
  that it was episcopal, but that it was of apostolical institution, and
  delivered down from the beginning as such, this adds weight to the
  matter, and makes it more undoubted. So that here are two points to
  which they bear witness, that this was the government of the church in
  their days, and that it was of apostolical institution. And in these
  there is such a constancy and unanimity, that even St. Jerom himself
  traces up episcopacy to the very apostles, and makes it of their
  institution.”—He adds, “All churches and christians, as far as we
  know, seem to have been agreed, in this point, amidst all their other
  differences, as universally as can well be imagined.” One would
  suppose, from the peremptory manner in which this citation is
  expressed, that the FACT it affirms was so evidently clear, as to
  leave no room for the least doubt. Those, who may think it worth while
  to look over the _testimonies_ brought to view, in the following
  pages, will perhaps, by critically observing their real and just
  import, be surprized, that any man of learning, who professes a regard
  to truth, should speak of it, and with such a degree of assurance, as
  the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF ALL AGES from the apostles, that
  episcopacy, in the impleaded sense, was the “form of government in the
  church in their day,” and that it was by “apostolical institution;”
  especially, if they should not be able to find, as it is certain they
  will not, so much as a single witness, for two hundred years, whose
  evidence is clear, direct, express, and full, in affirming, either
  that this was the form of government in the church, or that it was
  ever instituted by Christ, or his apostles: so far is it from the
  even from the beginning, and through all ages.

  The Bishop, for the support of whose claims antiquity is repaired to,
  is one with whom the SOLE POWER of ORDINATION is lodged; insomuch,
  that he only can convey holy orders conformably to the appointment of
  Jesus Christ; and should Presbyters presume to do this, they would
  take that upon them which they have no more a right to, than Deacons
  have to baptise, or administer the Lord’s supper. This part of the
  UNANIMOUS report of ALL AGES concerning the EXCLUSIVE RIGHT of Bishops
  deserves most of all the special notice of the reader; and he is
  particularly desired, as he goes along, to point out to himself, for
  his own satisfaction; or to others, for their information, any one
  among all the testimonies he will have placed before his view, that
  plainly and directly affirms the RIGHT OF ORDINATION to be peculiar to
  Bishops as a distinct order from Presbyters, and superior to them; or
  that this right was ever thus exercised by them. If he should not be
  able to do this, as unquestionably he will not, how strange must that
  affirmation appear, which says in the most positive terms, not only
  that this is FACT, but a fact CONSTANTLY and UNANIMOUSLY witnessed to
  by the fathers, in ALL AGES from the days of the apostles.

  The Bishop, in whose defence antiquity is pleaded, is vested with the
  power of CONFIRMATION, according to the mode of the church of England;
  and it is appropriated to him as his right in distinction from all
  others. But I need not assure the reader, he will in vain look to find
  it a FACT, within the two first ages, that Bishops were either vested
  with, or ever exercised this power. For he must come down below these
  ages, before a word is said, by any one of the fathers, relative to
  this superstitious practice. Tertullian is the first that mentions it;
  and he mentions likewise some other corruptions, which had got mingled
  with christianity in that day.

  In short, the question in debate, so far as it relates to FACT, is,
  not whether there were officers in the christian church, known by the
  name of Bishops in the apostolic age, and down along through the two
  first centuries? We join with the episcopalians in affirming this to
  be a truth universally testified to in those times: but the proper
  question is, what is FACT with reference to the ORDER of these
  them in it? The name of Bishop is one thing, and the POWER claimed
  for, or exercised by him, is another. The dispute is, not about the
  name, but the power appropriated to it. This therefore should be
  heedfully attended to by all, in their examination of the evidences
  that will be produced; and they may, in this way, clearly and
  satisfactorily determine, each one for himself, whether it be at all
  an attested FACT, much less a CONSTANT and UNANIMOUSLY ATTESTED ONE,
  from the apostles days, and down along through the two first ages, as
  well as after ones, that Bishops were vested with, and did actually
  exercise, the above specified powers, which are at this day claimed
  for them, as the appropriate work of their office by divine


Footnote 56:

  _See vol. II. page 86._

Footnote 57:

  _See vol. III. page 424-426. and vol. II. page 205._

Footnote 58:

  _See Vol. III. p. 12._

                              Quest. CLXV.

    QUEST. CLXV. _What is baptism?_

    ANSW. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ
    hath ordained the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and
    of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of
    ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and
    regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption and resurrection unto
    everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly
    admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and
    professed engagement, to be wholly and only the Lord’s.

The method in which we shall endeavour to explain this answer shall be,

I. To prove that baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, instituted
by Christ, in which there is to be, some way or other, the application
of water.

II. That this is to be performed in the name of the Father, of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost. And,

III. What is signified therein, and what engagements are laid upon the
person baptized.

I. To prove that baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, instituted
by Christ, in which there is to be, some way or other, the application
of water. Here let it be considered,

1. That there must be the application of water; and that either by
dipping the person that is to be baptized into the water, or by pouring
or sprinkling water upon him; otherwise it doth not answer the proper
and literal sense of the word _baptize_.[59] It is true, we sometimes
find the word used in a metaphorical sense; as when our Saviour speaks
of the _baptism_ that he _was to be baptized with_, Matt. xx. 22. Luke
xii. 50. whereby he intends the sufferings he was to endure in shedding
his blood upon the cross: And it is elsewhere taken, by a metonymy, for
the conferring the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, which they
were given to expect after Christ’s ascension into heaven, and the
apostles were first made partakers of at the day of Pentecost, which
immediately followed it; wherein there appeared unto them cloven
tongues, like as of fire, that sat upon each of them, as a sign that
they should be filled with the Holy Ghost, and speak with other tongues,
and be enflamed with a holy zeal for Christ’s glory and interest; which
was accordingly fulfilled, and seems to be the sense of the word
baptism, as taken in this figurative sense; but we understand the word
in the most proper sense thereof; and therefore suppose that it must be
performed with water.

As to what respects the mode of baptism, or the application of water,
whether the water is to be applied to the person baptized, or he put
into it, that, I purposely wave the consideration of, till we are led to
speak concerning the subjects of baptism, that we may insist on the
several matters in controversy, between those that maintain, and others
that deny infant baptism, together, which we shall have occasion to do
under the next answer: Whereas, I am ready to persuade myself, that what
I shall advance under this, together with that which respects the
improvement of baptism, will not be much contested by those who are in a
different way of thinking, with respect to the subjects of baptism, and
the mode of administering it.

2. We are now to consider, that baptism is a sacrament of the New
Testament; and therefore it differs from those baptisms, or washings,
that were frequently practised under the Old Testament dispensation;
concerning which, the apostle says, that it _stood in meats and drinks,
and divers washings_, Heb. ix. 10. or _baptisms_[60]. Thus we read of
many instances in which persons were washed under the ceremonial law:
This was an ordinance used in the consecration of persons to holy
offices; as it is said, that _Aaron and his sons_ were to be _brought to
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and washed with water_,
Exod. xxix. 4. and Lev. viii. 6. when they were consecrated to be
priests. Again, when they ministered in holy things, or came near unto
the altar, it is said, they _washed, as the Lord commanded Moses_, Exod.
xl. 32. for this reason the laver was set between the tent of the
congregation and the altar, and water put therein to wash in; and they
washed their hands and their feet therein, ver. 30, 31. And this
ceremony was used by them, when they were subject to divers
uncleannesses; thus, in the method of cleansing the leper, he was to
_wash himself_, and, _after that_ might _come into the camp_, Lev. xvi.
8, 9. The same thing was to be done by those who were liable to
uncleannesses of another nature, Deut. xxii. 10, 11.

These ceremonial washings, when applied to persons, seem to be ordained
to signify their consecration, or dedication, to God, in some of the
instances before mentioned; and in others, they signified the means
which God had ordained to cleanse the soul from moral impurity; which
was denoted by the ceremonial uncleannesses which they desired to be
purified from. These ordinances, indeed, expired together with the rest
of the ceremonial law: Nevertheless, it is very evident, from the
institution of gospel-baptism, that the sign is retained; though there
are some circumstances in the thing signified thereby, in which it
differs from those baptisms which were formerly used by the Jewish
church. They were hereby devoted to God, to observe that peculiar mode
of worship which he prescribed by the hand of his servant Moses; we are
devoted to God, as those who hereby signify our obligation to walk
according to the rules prescribed by Christ in the gospel. They also
used this ordinance, to signify the cleansing virtue of the blood of
Jesus, who was to come, and the Spirit that was to be poured forth, as
consequent thereupon; we use it to signify or express our faith in what
Christ has accomplished, and in the grace which the Spirit works
pursuant thereunto; therefore we call it an ordinance of the New

3. Baptism was instituted by Christ. This is evident from the commission
he gave to his apostles, not only to preach the gospel to all nations,
but to _baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost_, Matt. xxviii. 19.[61] and this he appointed to be a
standing ordinance in the church, throughout all the ages thereof; on
which account he promises, in the following words, that he will _be
with_ his ministers, in fulfilling the commission that he gave them to
execute, _unto the end of the world_: Therefore, we must conclude, that
it is a standing ordinance in the church, and not designed to be
observed only during the first age thereof, till Christianity
universally obtained. This we assert in opposition to the Socinians, who
suppose, that baptism was, indeed, instituted by Christ; but the design
hereof, was only to be an external badge, or sign, of the heathens
embracing the Christian religion, as they were formerly initiated into
the Jewish church by that ceremonial washing that was then in use: But
the contrary to this will appear from what we shall have occasion to
speak to, under a following head, when we consider what baptism was a
sign and seal of; which is equally applicable to the church in our day,
as it was to those who lived in the first planting thereof.

II. It is farther observed, that baptism is to be performed in the name
of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This contains in it a
professed acknowledgment, in this solemn act of dedication of the divine
Trinity; and accordingly it is an act of religious worship, in which
God’s right to the persons baptized, is publicly owned, and an
intimation given, that all saving blessings, which are desired or
expected in this ordinance, are given by the Father, through a Mediator,
purchased by the Son, and applied by the Holy Spirit. This includes in
it much more than a being baptized by the authority of these divine
persons; which is all that some of the Antitrinitarians will allow to be
meant by, in their name: For though no ordinance can be rightly
performed but by a divine warrant, yet this warrant is equally extended
to the administering, or engaging in any other ordinance; and therefore,
a being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
signifies more than this; namely, a person’s being dedicated to them; in
which dedication, a solemn profession is made, that they have a right to
all religious worship, which we are obliged to perform as well as that
all our hope of salvation is from them: Therefore, some think, that this
idea, which is principally intended in the form of baptism, would be
better expressed, if the words of institution[62] were rendered _into
the name_ of the Father, &c. as it is rendered elsewhere, Gal. iii. 27.
where the apostle is speaking of a person’s being _baptized into
Christ_[63], and explains it as denoting a _putting on Christ_; or a
professing, as it is said, ver. 29. that _we are Christ’s_. Thus they
who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are
denoted hereby, to be professedly their servants and subjects; under an
indispensible obligation to put their trust in, and hope for, all saving
blessings from them, according to the tenor of the gospel.

It is enquired, by some, whether it be absolutely necessary, in the
administration of this ordinance, explicitly to make mention of the name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? and some assert, that it is not;
because we read of persons being _baptized in the name of Jesus_, in
Acts xix. 5. without any mention of the name of the Father, or Holy
Ghost; and in chap. viii. 16. the same thing is mentioned, as it is
said, _They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus_. But to this it
may be replied, that it does not appear, that this was the express form
of words used in baptizing those that are here mentioned; but it only
argues, that the ordinance was administered, and that Christ’s name and
glory was proclaimed therein: So that, though the other divine persons
are not particularly mentioned, it does not follow from thence, that
they did not adhere to the express words of institution, which were
given to the apostles; it might as well be argued, that John did not
baptize in the name of any of the Divine persons; since when we read of
his baptism, it is said, _I baptize you with water_; but it does not
thence follow, that he did not baptize them in the name of God; inasmuch
as he plainly confesses that _God sent him to baptize with water_, John
i. 33.

But, that this matter may be set in a just light, we must distinguish
between a person’s omitting to mention the Son or Holy Ghost, in the
form of baptism, as denying them to be divine persons, (in which case
the ordinance is invalid;) and his doing this for no other reason, but
because he thinks that we are not to be tied up to a particular form of
words, but may sometimes baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost; and, at other times, in the name of Jesus: In this case, I
will not say that the ordinance is invalid; but yet, his manner of
administering it, will be highly offensive to many serious Christians,
and can hardly be reckoned an instance of faithfulness to Christ; who
has, by an express command, intimated what words are to be used therein.

III. We are now to consider, what is signified in baptism, and what
engagements are laid on the person baptized. There are some, especially
among the Socinians, who maintain, that it is only an external, or
visible badge of Christianity in general, signifying a person’s right to
be called a Christian, or a professor of that religion, which was
instituted by our Saviour; and their design herein seems to be, that
they might evade the force of the argument which we bring to prove the
divinity of the Son and Spirit, from their being the object of that
religious worship, which according to our explication thereof, is
contained in it. Did they intend, by being a Christian, the same thing
as we do, namely, a subjection to Christ, as a divine person, or a
professed obligation which we are laid under, to worship God the Father,
through the Son, by the Spirit, we should have no contention with them
about this matter: But since we are not agreed as to the meaning of
being a Christian, especially, since they intend no more hereby than our
being obliged to adhere to a certain scheme of religious worship
prescribed by Christ, of what kind soever it be, in like manner as a
person is called a Mahometan, because he embraces Mahomet’s Alcoran as a
rule of faith, we cannot think this general account of baptism, as an
external badge of Christianity, to be a sufficient explication of what
is intended by it as a sign, or significant ordinance.

There are several things mentioned in this answer, of which, it is said,
to be a sign and seal, _viz._ of our engrafting into Christ, and
obtaining remission of sins by his blood, of our regeneration by his
Spirit, our adoption, and resurrection unto eternal life, which include
in them all the benefits of Christ’s mediation; which have been
particularly explained under some foregoing answers: But there is one
that contains in it all the rest; and accordingly it is generally
expressed, by divines, as that which is a sign and seal of the covenant
of grace, and all the duties, obligations, and privileges that are
either enjoined or bestowed therein. What this covenant is, together
with the blessings thereof, and how the grace of God is manifested
therein, has been likewise considered under some foregoing answers[65].
Therefore all that I shall now add concerning it, is, that it contains
all the promises in which our salvation is included, of which there is
one that comprehends all the rest, whereby it is often expressed,
namely, that God will be a God unto his people, Gen. xiv. 1. _their
shield, and exceeding great reward_, chap. xvii. And elsewhere that he
will _put his laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, and
will be to them a God; and they shall be to him a people_, Heb. viii.
10. There are very great privileges contained in this relation, namely,
our being under the special care and protection of Christ, having a
right to what he has purchased, and that inheritance which he has laid
up in heaven for his children, their enjoying communion with him here,
and being made happy with him hereafter.

Now the main thing to be considered, is, how baptism is a sign and seal
thereof? To this it may be answered, that we are not to suppose that
this, or any other ordinance, confers the grace of the covenant, as the
Papists pretend[66]; for it is, at most, but a significant sign or seal
thereof; whereas, the grace of the covenant is the thing signified
thereby. There are, as has been before observed two ways, by which
persons may be said to be in covenant with God, namely, professedly, or
visibly, which is the immediate intent and design of this ordinance; and
there is a being in covenant, as laying hold on the grace of the
covenant, when we give up ourselves to Christ, by faith; and, as the
consequence thereof, lay claim to the blessings of his redemption. Now
baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace in both these
senses, though in different respects. The ordinance itself is a
professed dedication to God, or an acknowledgment that the person
baptized is obliged to be the Lord’s; and signifies his right to the
external blessings of the covenant of grace, which are contained in the
gospel-dispensation. There is also more than this contained in a
person’s being given to God in baptism, whether it be by himself as in
those who are baptized when adult; or by his parents, as in the case of
infants, in that the person who dedicates, expresses his faith in
Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, and hopes for the saving blessings
which he has purchased for his people. It is one thing, for this
ordinance to confer these blessings, and another, for it to be an
instituted means, in which we express our faith and hope, that these
blessings shall be bestowed, the person being devoted to God with that

There are other two things that are more especially signified in
baptism, namely, privileges expected, and obligations acknowledged.

1. The privileges expected are such as accompany salvation, which are
the special gift of the Holy Ghost, _viz._ the taking away the guilt and
pollution of sin, and our being made partakers of all the blessings that
Christ hath purchased, and God the Father, in him, has promised to the
heirs of salvation. I do not say, that all who are baptized are made
partakers of these privileges; but they are given up to God, or give up
themselves to him in this ordinance, in hope of obtaining them.

2. Here is a public profession, or acknowledgment of our obligation to
be the Lord’s. This is, from the nature of the thing, implied in its
being a dedication to God. When we make a surrender of ourselves to him,
we do hereby declare, that we are willing to be his servants and
subjects, and entirely at his disposal: This is contained in a fiducial
act of self-dedication to God, and cannot be done by one in the behalf
of another: And, it is to be feared, that many, who give up themselves
to God in this ordinance, when adult, though they make a profession of
their faith, yet do not give up themselves by faith; but that is only
known to the heart-searching God: Nevertheless, as we express our faith
and hope, in this ordinance, concerning the privileges but now
mentioned; so we, in this act of dedication, confess, that God has a
right to us, and that it is our indispensible duty to be his, so that
hereby we are, either by our own consent, as in self-dedication,
professedly the Lord’s; or this is acknowledged by those who have a
right to dedicate, and thereby to signify this obligation; which,
because it is highly just and reasonable, the persons devoted are
obliged to stand to, or else are brought under a great degree of guilt,
in not being stedfast in God’s covenant.

There is one thing more mentioned in this answer, namely, that the
person baptized, is solemnly admitted into the visible church, which I
rather choose to pass over; since it is hard to understand what some
mean by the visible church, and a person’s becoming a member thereof by
baptism. We have elsewhere considered the difficulties that are
contained in the description of the visible church; together with the
qualifications for, and admission of persons into church-communion.[67]
If, by being admitted into the visible church, we are to understand that
a person has a right to all the ordinances of the church by baptism,
without being admitted afterwards into it by mutual consent; this is
contrary to the faith and practice of most of the reformed churches. And
if, on the other hand, they mean hereby, that here is a public
declaration of our hope, that the person baptized shall be made partaker
of those privileges which Christ has purchased for, and given to his
church: This is no more than what has been already explained in our
considering the baptismal expectations and obligations; but, whether
this can be properly called an admission into the church, I rather leave
to be determined by those who better understand what they mean, when
they say that this is done in baptism, than I do.[68]

Footnote 59:

  Βαπτιζω, has been said to signify immergo and _exclusively_ when
  applied to sacred baptism. And this is necessary to establish
  immersion as the only mode. The question is not, therefore, whether
  Βαπτιζω, sometimes signifies to immerse, but _whether it never
  signifies any thing else_. This can be proved, it is presumed, by no
  Lexicographer, and no version of the New Testament. In the New
  Testament it is taken in different senses, for example we read of a
  Baptism with _the Holy Ghost and with fire_. It is therefore a
  _generic_ term and not _specific_, as _immerse_ cannot be substituted
  for it in all places. If a specific Greek term signifying to _plunge_
  had occasionally been used for it, in the New Testament, yet baptism
  being in our Saviour’s commission to his disciples, should not have
  been confined to one mode, but this is never the case. The numerous
  admissions of our divines, that Βαπτιζω, primarily signifies to
  _immerse_, and which are disingenuously collected to impose on the
  ignorant; do not weaken our cause, as they did neither influence the
  practice nor sentiments of those who used them.

  If Βαπτιζω, signifies to _immerse totally_, or _partially_; to dip, to
  cleanse, or purify, &c. it leaves the mode to our convenience or
  choice; and reason also accords, that the mode is unimportant with
  respect to moral defilement.—Porphery has “Βαπτιζεται μεχρι κεφαλης.”
  The oracle said “Βαπτιζη _him as a bottle_” (of leather, which could
  swim) “_but it is not lawful to plunge him wholly under water_.”
  Strabo says, “Βαπτιζομενων _up to the waist_.” Aristotle says
  “Βαπτεικαι ανθιζει τηνχειρα,” _it stains and renders florid the hand_.
  Aristophanes says, “Βαπτομενος Βραχειοις,” _stained with tawny
  colours_. Homer says, “¨Εβαπτετο δ᾽᾽ αιματι λιμνω,” _And the fountain
  was tinged with blood_. Rev. xix. 13. “Ιματων Βεβαμενον αιματι.”
  Isaiah xxi. 4. “_Fearfulness_ Βαπτιζει _me_.”

Footnote 60:

  Διαφοροις βαπτισμοις.

Footnote 61:

  The promulgation of this command marks a new and important era in the
  history of the church and of the world. These words may be considered
  as the public and formal abrogation of the Mosaic economy; and the
  authoritative annunciation of the new order of things under the

  The first communications of divine truth, through Adam and Noah, were
  made indiscriminately to the human family; but, in both instances, the
  precious deposit was generally adulterated, and nearly lost. The
  wisdom of God, therefore, saw it to be necessary to select and
  separate from the idolatrous world, a particular family which might
  serve as a repository of the divine oracles and institutions; until
  that ‘_Seed of the woman_’ should come, of whom it was predicted, that
  he should ‘_bruise the serpent’s head_:’ and that _‘seed of Abraham’
  in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed_.

  But when JESUS CHRIST, _our great high-priest of good things to come,
  had, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God,
  to bear the sins of many_; and had _by this one offering of his own
  body, perfected them that are sanctified_, the service of the first
  tabernacle was set aside, and as to any utility, or divine authority,
  ceased forever; as an emblem of which, the veil of the temple was rent
  in twain from the top to the bottom, at the very moment of expiation;
  when Christ our high-priest, by sheding his vital blood and pouring
  out his soul unto death, _offered his one great sacrifice for sins_.

  So great, however, was the power of early and national prejudice, that
  the apostles did not, for some time, understand the extent of their
  commission. They had, before, been sent on a short mission, on which
  occasion it was ordered, that they should not go _into the way of the
  Gentiles_, nor even _enter into any city of the Samaritans_; and they
  seem to have thought, that by going _into all the world_, and
  _preaching to every creature_, no more was intended, than that they
  should go to the seed of Abraham now widely dispersed among the
  nations. But this veil was soon removed, by a particular revelation
  made to Peter in a vision; and by the calling of Paul to the
  apostleship, who, from the beginning, received commission to go to the
  Gentiles, and was, in a peculiar manner, designated and directed, _to
  preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ_.


Footnote 62:

  Εις τὸ ὁνομα.

Footnote 63:

  Εις Χριστόν.

Footnote 65:

  _See vol. II. Quest. XXXI, XXXII. Page 167, & 185._

Footnote 66:

  _There is a common aphorism among them, that the sacraments, and
  baptism in particular, confer grace, ex opere operato._

Footnote 67:

  _See vol. II. page 166-216._

Footnote 68:

  The Gospel is glad tidings of great joy, not a system of new and
  terrifying restrictions and exclusions; so far from retracting
  formerly conceded privileges, and confining the church within narrower
  limits, it publishes peace and salvation, and invites the whole human
  family to participate in these blessings. It must either be referred
  to the impressions it has made, or to uninterrupted usage that females
  have, by a general consent, been deemed to possess an unquestionable
  right to approach the holy communion, though neither precept for it is
  found, nor an example of it recorded in the Scriptures. This baptism
  of infants was still less necessary to be enjoined by, and less likely
  to have been noticed in the short history given us of apostolical

  He who gave parental affection, and is the Lord of his church under
  every dispensation, conferred on children at an early age of the world
  the privilege of sharing with their parents in the seals of grace, and
  bearing the tokens of his covenant. Jewish christians having
  themselves experienced such benignity, and been given to the same God,
  whom they now served under brighter displays of his eternal and
  unchangeable love, could not have expected, that, an entrance into the
  milder gospel-church would have been denied to the seed whom God had
  given them, and whom they had devoted to him not only in prayer, but
  in that ordinance which he had appointed for the purpose. An ordinance
  which being now obsolete was supplied by another, apparently as proper
  for their children as themselves. Because infants are incapable of
  repenting and believing, these duties were not required nor expected
  of them, either under the old, or new dispensation; but though
  incapable of actual sin, and therefore free from obligations of
  obedience unto the law, yet their nature is not pure, and consequently
  needs the sanctifying influence of divine grace, which can correct the
  latent enmity, and renew the soul. They are capable, therefore, of
  spiritual blessings, and may consequently be members of the invisible
  church, and received into the church triumphant. The obvious
  reasonableness of the privilege of being received with their parents
  into the society of the worshippers of God, a privilege publicly known
  to have been conferred by the great Head of the church, equally
  prevented the supposition of an implied repeal, and the necessity of a
  renewal of the right.

  If indeed there had been a different religion introduced; if
  christians were not engrafted into the old stock; if they worshipped
  some other than the God of Israel; if there was another moral law,
  another Christ than he whose day the fathers anticipated, and another
  faith; this privilege of receiving infants into the church might have
  been interrupted; and in that case unless expressly again enjoined, it
  ought not to have been regarded in practice. But if the christian
  religion is founded upon the prophets; if the peculiarities of the
  Jewish worship were but shadows of gospel things; if both were
  directed to the same glory of God and salvation of men; if they both
  enjoined the same holiness and presented the same object of faith; if
  those who were saved under the Old Testament shall be associated with
  those who are saved under the New; the privileges formerly granted to
  children will remain the same; and it is not wonderful that the first
  christian should obey the dictates of parental tenderness; and that
  desiring the salvation of their children as well as their own, should
  cause their households to be baptized as well as themselves. To have
  affirmed in the gospel history expressly, that children were a part of
  the household, could have answered no purpose in the first days of
  christianity, but would have been thought repetitions and unmeaning
  until modern times. In the fifth, in the third and even so early as in
  the second century, the baptism of infants was the established usage
  of the church, and it was then thought, and not disputed, to have been
  the practice of the apostles themselves.

                             Quest. CLXVI.

    QUEST. CLXVI. _Unto whom is baptism to be administered?_

    _Answ._ Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the
    visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till
    they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but
    infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them,
    professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that
    respect within the covenant, and to be baptised.

In this answer, which principally respects the subjects of baptism, we

I. An account of those who are excluded from this privilege, _viz._ such
as are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of
promise. The visible church is here considered in the most large and
less proper acceptation of the word, as denoting all who profess the
true religion; and in this respect is opposed to the Jews and heathen,
and those who, though they live in a Christian nation, are grossly
ignorant of the gospel, and act as though they thought that it did not
belong to them, not seeing themselves obliged to make any profession
thereof: These may be ranked among infidels, as much as the heathen
themselves; and, according to this sense of the word, are not members of
the visible church; and, consequently, while they remain so, are not to
be admitted to baptism. This is agreeable to the sentiments and practice
of most of the reformed churches; and it cannot but be reckoned highly
reasonable, by all who consider baptism as an ordinance in which a
public profession is made of the person’s being devoted to God the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and, if he be considered as adult (and of
such we are now speaking) there is a signification, and thereby a
profession made, that he gives up himself to God; and, if the ordinance
be rightly applied, there must be an harmony between the inward design
of the person dedicating, and the true intent and meaning of the
external sign thereof; which, by divine appointment, is a visible
declaration of his adhering by faith, to the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, and embracing that salvation which takes its rise from them. This
therefore must be done by faith; or else the ordinance is engaged in
after an hypocritical manner; which will tend to God’s dishonour, and
the prejudice rather than the advantage of him, to whom it is

II. We are now to consider the necessity of their making a profession of
their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, who being adult, are
admitted to baptism. It was supposed, under the last head, that if there
be not an harmony between the internal frame of spirit, in the person
baptized, and the intent of the external sign thereof, the ordinance is
not rightly applied to him, inasmuch as he pretends to dedicate himself
to God; but, in reality does not do this by faith: And now it may be
farther considered, that it is necessary that he should make it appear,
that he is a believer, by a profession of his faith; otherwise, he that
administers the ordinance, together with the assembly, who are present
at the same time, cannot conclude that they are performing a service
that is acceptable to God; therefore, for their sakes, as well as his
own, the person to be baptized, ought to make a profession of his
subjection to Christ, as what is signified in this ordinance.

This is agreeable to the words of institution, in Matt. xxviii. 19. _Go
ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them_, &c. and in Mark
xvi. 15. _Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature; he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved_, &c. I am
sensible that some, who have defended infant-baptism, or rather
attempted to answer objection taken from this, and such like scriptures
against it, have endeavoured to prove the Greek word[69] signifies,
_make_ persons _disciples_; and accordingly it is a metaphor taken from
the practice of a person’s being put under the care of one who is
qualified to instruct him, whose disciple he is said to be, in order to
his being taught by him; and therefore they suppose, that we are made
disciples by baptism, and afterwards to be _taught to observe all things
whatsoever Christ hath commanded_; and this is taken notice of in the
marginal reading of our Bibles; which supposes that the word may be
rendered, _make disciples of all nations_: But, I cannot think this
sense of the word so defensible, or agreeable to the design of our
Saviour, as that of our translation, _viz._ _Go teach all nations_;
which agrees with the words of the other evangelist, _Go preach the
gospel to every creature_: And besides, while we have recourse to this
sense to defend infant-baptism, we do not rightly consider that this
cannot be well applied to adult-baptism, which the apostles were first
to practise; for it cannot be said concerning the heathen, that they are
first to be taken under Christ’s care by baptism, and then instructed in
the doctrines of the gospel, by his ministers[70].[71]

Moreover, a profession of faith in those who are baptized when adult, is
agreeable to the practice of the Christian church in the first planting
thereof: Thus it is said, in Acts ii. 41. _They that gladly received the
word were baptized_: And this might also be observed in the account we
have of the jailor and the Eunuch’s being first converted, and then
baptized, in Acts xvi. 31-33. chap. viii. 37, 38. But, if it be retorted
upon us, as though we were giving up the cause of infant-baptism, it
must be observed, that this does not, in the least, affect it; for when
our Saviour gave forth his commission to the apostles, to teach or
preach the gospel to all nations, and baptize them, it is to be
supposed, that their ministry was to be exercised among the adult, and
that these then were utter strangers to Christ and his gospel; therefore
it would have been a preposterous thing to put them upon devoting
themselves to him, before they were persuaded to believe in him: neither
could they devote their children till they had first dedicated
themselves to him, and this leads us to consider,

III. The right of infants to baptism, provided they, who are required to
dedicate them to God therein, are believers; and particularly, that such
may be baptized who descend from parents of whom only one is a believer.
This will appear,

1. If we consider baptism as an ordinance of dedication: Accordingly,
let it be observed,

(1.) That it is the indispensible duty of believers, to devote
themselves and all they have, to God, which is founded in the law of
nature, and is the result of God’s right to us and ours. Whatever we
have received from him, is to be surrendered or given up to him; whereby
we own him to be the proprietor of all things, and our dependence upon
him for them, and that they are to be improved to his glory. This is, in
a particular manner, to be applied to our infant-seed, whom it is our
duty to devote to the Lord, as we receive them from him: However, there
is this difference between the dedication of persons, from that of
things, to God, that we are to devote them to him, in hope of their
obtaining the blessings which they are capable of, at present, or shall
stand in need of from him, hereafter. This, I think, is allowed, by all
Christians. Nothing is more common, than for some who cannot see that it
is their duty to baptize their children, to dedicate or devote them to
God, by faith and prayer; which they do in a very solemn manner; and
that with expectation of spiritual blessings, as an encouragement of
their faith, so far as they apprehend them capable of receiving them.

(2.) We shall now consider, that baptism, in the general idea thereof,
is an ordinance of dedication or consecration of persons to God. If this
be not allowed of, I cannot see how it can be performed by faith, in the
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; or how this can be a visible
putting on of Christ, as the apostle styles it, Gal. iii. 27.

_Object._ This proposition would not be denied, if baptism were to be
considered as an ordinance of self-dedication, but then it would
effectually overthrow the doctrine of infant-baptism; for since infants
cannot devote themselves to God in this ordinance, therefore it is not
to be applied to them.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that as there is no other medium,
which, I apprehend, can be made use of to prove that the solemn acts of
consecration or dedication to God in baptism, is to be made only by
ourselves, but what is taken from a supposition of the matter in
controversy, by those who assert that infants are not to be baptized: So
if this method of reasoning be allowed of, we might as well say, on the
other hand; infants are to be baptized; therefore baptism is not an
ordinance of self-dedication, since they cannot devote themselves to
God; and that would militate against what, I think, is allowed of by
all, that baptism, when applied to the adult, is an ordinance of
self-dedication. That which I would therefore more directly assert, in
answer to this objection is, that baptism is an ordinance of dedication,
either of ourselves, or others; provided the person who dedicates, has a
right to that which he devotes to God, and can do it by faith. When I
do, as it were, pass over my right to another, there is nothing required
in order hereunto, but that I can lawfully do it, considering it as my
property; and this is no less to be doubted concerning the infant-seed
of believers than I can question, whether an adult person has a right to
himself, when he gives up himself to God in this ordinance.[72]

(3.) It follows, from the last head, that parents, who have a right to
their infant-seed, may devote them to God in baptism, provided they can
do it by faith; and therefore a profession of faith, is only necessary
in those who are active, in this ordinance, not in them that are merely
passive. This we are obliged to maintain against those who often
intimate that children are not to be baptized, because they are not
capable of believing: Or when it is replied hereunto, that they are
capable of having the seeds of faith, though not the acts thereof; this
is generally reckoned insufficient to support our argument, by those who
are on the other side of the question; inasmuch as it cannot well be
determined, what infants have the seeds of faith, and what not; and, I
think those arguments which are generally brought to prove that the
infants of believing parents, as such, have the seeds of faith, on the
account whereof they are to be baptized can hardly be defended; because
many good men have wicked children.

Therefore what we insist on in this argument, is, that believing parents
may give up their children to God in baptism, in hope of their obtaining
the blessings of the covenant,[73] whether they are able to conclude
that they have the seeds of grace or no; they may devote them to God in
hope of regeneration; though they cannot know them to be regenerate, as
all ordinances are to be performed with this view, that they may be
rendered effectual means of grace. And from hence it may be inferred, as
is observed in this answer, that infants descending from parents, either
both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, are to be
baptized; since one parent has as much a right to the child as the
other: Therefore, the unbelief of one does not exclude the other from
giving it up to God by faith, in hope of its obtaining the saving
blessings of the covenant of grace. 1 Cor. vii. 14.

2. The right of the infant-seed of believers to baptism, may be farther
proved, from their being capable of the privileges signified therein;
and under an indispensable obligation to perform the duties which they,
who dedicate them to God, make a public profession of, as agreeable to
the design of this ordinance. None are to be excluded from any of those
ordinances, which Christ has given to the church, but they who are
either in a natural or a moral sense, to be deemed incapable subjects
thereof. Some, indeed, are incapable of engaging in ordinances, by
reason of a natural unmeetness for them, as infants are not to be
admitted to the Lord’s supper, as being under a natural incapacity; and,
ignorant and profane persons are not to be admitted to it, as being
under a moral incapacity; and, for the same reason, a wicked man, when
adult, is not a proper subject of baptism: But if there be neither of
these bars to exclude persons, they are not to be denied the advantage
of any ordinance. This, I think will be allowed by all; and therefore,
the only thing I need prove is, that infants are not incapable of the
principal things signified in baptism. That they are not incapable of
being dedicated to God, has been proved under the last head; and now we
shall consider several privileges that are signified therein, which they
are equally capable of; as,

(1.) Baptism is an external sign of that faith and hope which he has,
that dedicates a person to God, that the person dedicated, shall obtain
the saving blessings of the covenant of grace; Now, that infants are
capable of these blessings, none will deny, who suppose them capable of
salvation. If we suppose infants not to have regenerating grace, which
is neither to be affirmed or denied, it being a matter, at present,
unknown to us; yet they are capable of having it, for the reason but now
assigned; and though they cannot at present, put forth any acts of
grace, they will be capable thereof, as soon as they are able to discern
between good and evil.

They are not excluded by their infant-state, from being under Christ’s
special care; which is, doubtless, to be extended to elect infants as
well as others; and they are capable of being discharged from the guilt
of original sin, though not of laying claim to this privilege, which
they may be enabled to do afterwards. Now, if infants are capable of
these privileges, certainly the person who dedicates them to God, (who
has a right to do it, inasmuch as they are his property, and he is able
to do it by faith) may devote them to him, with the exercise of this
grace, and a fiducial expectation that they shall obtain these
privileges: And, indeed, when we engage in this ordinance, we ought to
expect some saving blessings, as the consequence hereof, as much as when
we engage in any other ordinance of divine appointment.

_Object._ It is objected to this, that though a person may devote his
child to God in hope of his obtaining saving blessings; yet he cannot
exercise any act of faith, that he shall obtain them: Therefore though
he may perform this duty with a degree of hope, or, at least, with a
desire hereof; yet he cannot do it by faith: Therefore, if children are
to be devoted to God by faith, they are not the subjects of this

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that some things may be said to be
done by faith, when we have not a certain ground to expect the saving
fruits and effects thereof. Suppose an infant was expiring and the
tender parent concerned about its salvation, whether he has a certain
expectation that it shall be saved or no; yet he may, and ought to be
earnest with God by faith and prayer, that the child may be happy when
taken out of the world; and, if he finds that he has the lively exercise
of faith, with respect to this matter, this will afford him some degree
of hope, that God, who excited this grace in him, will own it by giving
the blessings which he desires; which is the only comfort that a parent
can take in the loss of his infant-seed: And, may there not be this act
of faith, when he dedicates him to God in baptism? Did we assert that
giving up our children to God by faith, necessarily infers their
obtaining saving blessings, the objection would have some force in it;
or if there could be no faith exercised, without our being certainly
persuaded that this should have a saving effect; then it might be
argued, that because we are not certain that infants shall be saved,
therefore we cannot give them up to God by faith: But if there may be
faith, where there is not this certain persuasion, or any ground by
which this matter may be determined, then, I think, it will follow, that
infants may be devoted to God by faith, as well as with a desire of
their obtaining saving blessings, and, consequently, this objection does
not take away the force of our argument. We are far from supposing that
baptismal dedication necessarily infers these saving blessings, or is
inseparably connected with them, so that the one cannot be without the
other. Therefore, it is sufficient to our purpose, to suppose that they
are capable of those blessings which faith desires, and, it may be,
hopes for; and, consequently, of those things which are principally
signified in baptism.

(2.) Infants are under an indispensable obligation to perform the duties
which are incumbent on those who are given up to God in baptism, and
signified thereby. This respects some things future, (they being, at
present, incapable of performing any duty) and, indeed, obligations to
perform duties may respect the time to come, as well as the time
present; as when a person is bound to pay a just debt, this obligation
is valid though it is not expected that it should be immediately paid.
Thus infants are professedly bound, when given up to God, to be the
Lord’s: Whether ever they will give up themselves to him by faith, or
no, is unknown to us, nevertheless, the obligation will take place as
soon as they are capable of doing good or evil. Therefore it follows,
that the parent may bind his child to be the Lord’s, inasmuch as the
obligation is just, as being founded in God’s right to obedience, and
when he has laid his child under it in this ordinance, he ought
afterwards strictly to charge him to stand to it, as he would not
contract double guilt; not only in neglecting to perform an
indispensable duty, but to pay that debt of obedience which has been so
solemnly acknowledged in this ordinance. These arguments taken from the
nature and design of the ordinance of baptism, give me the fullest
conviction concerning our warrant to apply it to infants: But there is
one more which is not wholly to be passed over, _viz._

(3). It appears, that the infant-seed of believers, are to be
consecrated or devoted to God in baptism, because they are included in
the covenant wherein God has promised that he will be a God to his
people, and to their seed; who are, upon this account, styled _holy_
Ezra. ix. 2. And it is said concerning Israel, that _they are the seed
of the blessed of the Lord, and their off-spring with them_, Isa. lxv.
23. the _branch_ is said to be _holy_, together with _the root_, Rom.
xi. 16. and _the children of the promise are counted for the seed_,
chap. ix. 8. that is included in that covenant in which God promised
that he would be a God to children, together with their parents, as he
says to Abraham; _I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and
to thy seed after thee, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after
thee_, Gen. xvii. 7. And, in this sense, I think, we are to understand
the apostle’s words, in 1 Cor. vii. 14.[74] _The unbelieving husband is
sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the
believing husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they
holy._ By these, and other expressions of the like-nature, we are not to
understand the special saving grace of regeneration and sanctification;
for that is not a privilege that descends from parents to children by
birth, as our Saviour says, _We are born not of blood, nor of the will
of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God_, John i. 13.
Therefore, when some, who are on the other side of the question, think
that we intend hereby the saving blessings of the covenant, or that
holiness which is an internal qualification or meetness for heaven, they
do not rightly understand our meaning. Some, indeed, may have given
occasion to conclude that they intend this, who speak of the grace of
regeneration as conferred in baptism; and assert, that it intitles
persons to salvation, if they happen to die before they are adult:
Whereas, if afterward they appear to be in an unconverted state, by the
wickedness of their conversation, they are said to fall from that grace.
This is what I do not well understand; nor do I intend, when I speak of
the infants of believers as an holy seed, that they are all internally
regenerate or sanctified from the womb; but they are included in the
external dispensation of the covenant of grace; which must be reckoned a
greater advantage than if they had descended from Indians, who are
strangers to it.

I am sensible, indeed, that they who deny infant-baptism, suppose that
the holiness of the children spoken of by the apostle in the scripture
but now referred to, who descended from parents, of whom one only was a
believer, implies nothing else but their being legitimate: But that does
not seem to be his meaning; inasmuch as marriage is an ordinance of the
law of nature, which all, without distinction, have a right to, heathens
as much as Christians; and the children of the one, are as legitimate as
those of the other. Therefore, there is something else intended by their
being holy, namely, the same thing that is meant in those other
scriptures that we but now referred to, as taken for an external
relative holiness, whereby God must be supposed to have a greater regard
to them than to others who are styled unclean; and, if this does not
infer, as was before observed, their being internally regenerate or
sanctified: yet it is not a word without an idea affixed to it:
Therefore we must understand thereby, an holiness in the lowest sense of
the word; as children, are said to be _an heritage of the Lord, and the
fruit of the womb his reward_, Psal. cxxxvii. 7. or, it denotes the
obligation they are laid under, by the privilege of their descending
from believing parents, to adhere to their fathers’ God; which
obligation is professed or acknowledged, when they are dedicated to him
in baptism, as has been before observed; and this is the use which I
would make of this account which we have of them in scripture, to prove
their right to be devoted to God in this ordinance.

And, I think, we do not assert this without some warrant from scripture;
for when God told Abraham, in the promise but now mentioned, that he
would be _a God unto him, and to his seed_, which is the foundation of
their federal holiness; this is assigned as a reason why they should be
devoted to God in circumcision, Gen. xvii. 10. for we cannot but
conclude circumcision, as we do baptism, to have been an ordinance of
dedication or separation to God: And, in Acts ii. 39. when the apostle
had been pressing those Jews, amongst the mixed multitude, to whom he
had preached, to _repent and be baptized_; and encouraged them to hope
for the _gift of the Holy Ghost_; he assigns this as a reason, namely,
that _the promise was to them and to their children_, which refers to
the promise of the covenant made with Abraham, and his seed; and it
immediately follows, _and to them that are afar off_, that is, the
Gentiles, who might claim this promise, when they believed, whom the
apostle calls elsewhere, _children of the promise, as Isaac was_, Gal.
iv. 28. These who are styled, before conversion, a people _afar off_,
were after it reckoned the spiritual seed of Abraham, and so had a right
to the blessings of the covenant, that God would be a God to them; and,
by a parity of reason, in the same sense in which the seed of Abraham
were children of the promise, the seed of all other believers are to be
reckoned so, till by their own act and deed, they renounce this external
covenant relation: Now, from hence it may be inferred, that if they
stand in this relation, to God, this is publicly to be owned; and
accordingly they are to be given up to him in baptism, as there is
therein a professed declaration thereof.

As to what was but now inferred from the infant-seed of believers under
the Old Testament having a right to circumcision, because they were
included in the covenant which God made with their fathers, that
therefore they have a right to baptism; this is not to be wholly passed
over; though, I am sensible, they who deny infant-baptism, will not
allow of the consequence. Some have argued, in opposition to it, that
circumcision was ordained to be a sign and seal of that covenant of
peculiarity, which God made with the Jewish church, or of those
blessings which they were made partakers of, as a nation excelling
others, in name, honour, and glory: But this, I think, comes far short
of what the apostle says on that subject, _viz_. that it was _a seal of
the righteousness of faith_, Rom. iv. 11. And, indeed, when we call that
dispensation a covenant of peculiarity, we intend nothing else thereby,
but some external privileges annexed to the saving blessings of the
covenant of grace; and therefore, Abraham’s faith was conversant on both
of them; the righteousness of faith, which respected his own salvation,
and that of his spiritual seed; and those privileges of a lower nature,
which they who were, in other respects, his seed, were made partakers
of, by virtue of the covenant, in which God promised that he would be a
God to him, and to his seed. Moreover, it is generally denied, by those
who are on the other side of the question, that baptism comes in the
room of circumcision. This therefore remains to be proved, in order to
our establishing the consequence, that since children were to be devoted
unto God by circumcision under the law, they are to be devoted unto him
by baptism, under the gospel-dispensation.

Now, that this may appear, let it be considered, that God has
substituted some ordinances, under the gospel-dispensation, in the room
of others, which were formerly observed under the ceremonial law. Thus
the Lord’s supper is instituted in the room of the passover; otherwise
the apostle would never have alluded to one when he speaks of the other,
and says, _Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us; therefore let us
keep the feast_, &c. 1 Cor. v. 7, 8. And we have as much ground to
conclude, that baptism comes in the room of circumcision, as we have
that any gospel-ordinance comes in the room of another, that belonged to
the ceremonial law, from what the apostle says, _in whom ye are
circumcised by the circumcision made without hands, buried with him in
baptism_, Col. ii. 11, 12. where he speaks of the thing signified by
circumcision and baptism, as being the same, namely, our communion with
Christ in his death; so that the thing signified by baptism, is styled,
as it were, a spiritual circumcision: Therefore, since these two
ordinances, signify the same thing for substance, and are set one
against the other in this scripture, we may, I think, infer from thence,
that baptism comes in the room of circumcision.

And, it is farther argued, that baptism being the only initiating
ordinance, at present, as circumcision was of old; so that the first
visible profession that was made, especially by any significant
ordinance, that they were the Lord’s, was made therein, which is what we
understand by an initiating ordinance under the gospel, as circumcision
was under the law, then it follows, that it comes in the room thereof;
or else no other ordinance does: But if it be said, that no ordinance
comes in the room of circumcision, then the privileges of the church
under this present dispensation, would be, in a very disadvantageous
circumstance, less than they were under the former; and if infants
received any advantage by being devoted to God by circumcision of old,
but are not to be devoted to him by baptism now, their condition is much
worse than that of those who were the children of such as lived under
the legal dispensation; whereas, on the other hand, God has not, under
this present dispensation, abridged the church of its privileges, but
rather increased them.

_Obj._ 1. It is objected, that infants have no right to baptism, because
they cannot believe and repent, since these graces are often mentioned
in scripture, as a necessary qualification of those who have a right to
this ordinance, as might be sufficiently proved from those scriptures in
which persons are said first to believe and repent, and then to be
baptized; and, in order thereunto, _the gospel_ was first to be
_preached_, according to our Saviour’s direction, Mark xvi. 15, 16. And
we read of persons _gladly receiving_ it, and _then_ being _baptized_,
Acts. ii. 41. therefore Philip would not baptize the Eunuch till he
professed his faith in Christ, chap. viii. 37, 38. Moreover, this is
called an ordinance of repentance, as none have a right to it, but those
who repent: Thus it is said, _John preached the baptism of repentance
for the remission of sins_, Mark i. 4. and elsewhere, that he _baptized
with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people, that they should
believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus_,
Acts. xix. 4.

_Answ._ We do not deny the necessity of faith and repentance to baptism,
in them who are adult, as appears by those concessions which have been
made under a foregoing head; in which we considered, that none are to be
baptized if adult, till they profess faith in Christ and obedience to
him; and this ought to be accompanied with repentance, otherwise it is
not true and genuine; therefore we freely owned also, that the gospel
was to be preached by the apostles, to those who were immediately
concerned in their ministry, before they were either to be baptized
themselves, or their infant-seed. Nevertheless this does not overthrow
the doctrine of infant-baptism, since that, as has been before proved,
depends upon different qualifications. Faith is, no doubt, necessary in
the person that dedicates, or devotes to God: But, if what has been said
concerning the obligation which every one that is able to dedicate his
child to God by faith, is under, to do it, (as much as he that is able
to dedicate himself to him by faith, when adult, is bound to do it,) be
true; then we are to have regard only to the faith of him that
dedicates, and to hope for the saving privileges of faith and
repentance, and all other graces, as divine blessings to be bestowed on
the person devoted to God, as the great end which we have in view in
this solemn action.[75]

_Obj._ 2. There is another objection which is concluded, by some, to be
unanswerable, _viz._ that there is neither precept, nor example in the
New Testament, that gives the least countenance to our baptizing
infants; therefore it cannot be reckoned a scripture doctrine, and
consequently is not from heaven, but of men.[76]

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that consequences justly deduced from
scripture, are equally binding with the words or examples contained
therein. If this be not allowed of, we shall hardly be able to prove
many doctrines which we reckon not only to be true, but of great
importance. It would be endless to enter into a detail of particulars,
to illustrate and confirm this matter; and I cannot but think it
unnecessary, since they who deny infant-baptism, do not deny the
validity of just scripture-consequences.[77]

Therefore, all that I need say to this is, that if the method we have
taken to prove infant-baptism, appears to be just; and if the premises
be true, the conclusion deduced from them, must be allowed of; namely,
that the infants of believing parents are to be baptized, though this be
not contained in so many express words in scripture: And, I cannot but
think that the objection would equally hold good against Christ’s dying
for infants, as well as others, or of their being capable of
justification, regeneration, and the saving blessings of the covenant of
grace; and it might as well be inferred from hence, that they are not to
be devoted to God in other instances, besides that of baptism; or that
we have not the least ground to expect their salvation; for it would be
as hard a matter to find this contained in express words of scripture,
as that which is the matter in controversy, to wit, that they are to be

Here I cannot but take notice of the method which the learned Dr.
Lightfoot takes to account for the silence of scripture, as to this
matter[78], which is, for substance, as follows, _viz._ that baptism was
well enough known to the Jews, as practised by them under the ceremonial
law; by which he means the ordinance in general, as including in it a
consecration to God, to worship him in that way which he then
instituted; and accordingly they are said to have been _baptized into
Moses_. He also adds, that the apostle speaking concerning this matter,
as referring to what was done _in the cloud, and the sea_, 1 Cor. x. 2.
supposes that the whole congregation, of which the infants which they
had in their arms, were a part, were solemnly devoted to God at that
time; which, I cannot but conclude to be more agreeable to the sense of
the word _baptize_, than that which some critics give, who suppose that
nothing is intended by it, but their being wet, or sprinkled with the
water of the sea, as they passed through it; for that was only an
occasional baptism, which could not be well avoided. But, if I may be
allowed a little to alter or improve on his method of reasoning, I
rather think, that the apostle’s meaning is, that the whole congregation
was _baptized into Moses_, soon after they were delivered from the
Egyptians, while they were encamped at the sea-shore; at which time,
God, for their security, spread a cloud for a covering to them; and
then, as the kind hand of Providence had led the way, and brought them
under a renewed engagement, they hereupon expressed their gratitude and
obligation to be God’s people, by this universal dedication to him in
baptism. But to return to the author but now mentioned; he adds, that
when Jacob was delivered from Laban, and set about the work of reforming
his household, he ordered them, not only to _put away the strange gods
that were among them_, but _to be clean_, Gen. xxxv. 2. by which, as he
observes, the Jews confess, that baptism, or a dedication to God by
washing, is intended. He also observes, that the ordinance of baptism in
general, before Christ instituted gospel-baptism, was so well known by
the Jewish church, that they no sooner heard that John baptized, but
they came to his baptism; and they did not ask him, why dost thou make
use of this rite of baptizing? but, what is thy warrant, or, _who sent
thee to baptize_? He further adds, that both John and Christ took up
baptism as they found it in the Jewish church; by which he means the
ordinance in general, without regard to some circumstances, in which
Christ’s baptism differed from that which was practised under the
ceremonial law; and this was, as he observes, applied by the Jewish
church to infants as well as grown persons; therefore, our Saviour had
no occasion, (when he instituted this ordinance with those
circumstances, agreeable to the gospel-state, in which it differs from
the baptism which was before practised,) to command them to baptize all
nations, that is, all who were the subjects of baptism, and infants in

_Obj._ 3. It is further objected, that our Saviour was not baptized in
his infancy; therefore his example is to be followed, and, consequently,
no one is to be baptized till he be adult.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that every circumstance or action in
the life of Christ, is not designed to be an example to us; and, indeed,
there were some things signified in his baptism, that are not in ours,
inasmuch as in its application to him, it did not signify his being
cleansed from the guilt and power of sin. The only thing wherein that
which was signified in his baptism, agrees with ours, is in that he
devoted himself unto God, not as expecting salvation through a Mediator
as we do, but as denoting his consent to engage in the work that he came
into the world about; which he now began to perform in a public manner,
which he fulfilled in the course of his ministry, while he went about
doing good. Now it was not convenient that this should be done in his
infancy; for though the work of redemption began from that time; yet his
proving himself to be the Messiah, especially his doing this in a public
manner, did not take place till he was thirty years of age, and then he
was baptized, that this might be an ordinance for the faith of his
church, that he was engaged in the work of our redemption. Moreover, it
must be considered, that John’s baptism, which circumstantially differed
from that which was practised in the Jewish church, as well as our
Saviour’s, was not instituted till the year before Christ was baptized;
therefore he could not be baptized agreeably to the alteration that was
made in baptism at this time, had he been baptized in his infancy.

_Obj._ 4. It is further objected, that infant baptism is a novelty, and
not practised by the church in the earliest ages thereof from the
apostles’ time.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that if this could be proved to be
true, I should regard arguments deduced from scripture-consequences,
much more than the sense of antiquity to determine this matter. The
principal use of the writings of the Fathers, in my opinion, is to lead
us into the knowledge of what relates to the historical account of the
affairs of the church in their respective ages. The main thing supposed
in this objection is, that infant-baptism was not practised in the early
ages of the church; the contrary to which will appear, if we consider
some things mentioned by the Fathers concerning this matter: Thus Justin
Martyr says, we have not received the carnal but circumcision by
spiritual baptism; and all persons are, in like manner, enjoined to
receive it, as they were to receive circumcision of old, wherein he
refers to that of the apostle, in Coloss. ii. 11, 12. _We are
circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, buried with him in
baptism_; and, consequently, he supposes that baptism comes in the room
of circumcision, as has been observed elsewhere; and he likewise speaks
of their being brought to the water, and there regenerated; by which he
means, baptized, in the same manner as we are, in the name of the
Father, our Lord and Saviour, and the Holy Ghost[79]. And Cyprian, in a
council, wherein there were sixty-six bishops convened, delivered it not
only as his opinion, but supposes it to have been received by them all,
that infants ought to be baptized before the eighth day, in answer to a
question under debate, whether the time in which this ordinance was to
be performed ought to be the same with that in which children were
circumcised under the law[80]. And, Irenæus[81], speaks of Christ’s
sanctifying and saving persons of every age, infants not excepted; and
therefore they are to be regenerated; by which he means, baptized; as
the Fathers often put the thing signified for the sign: And Gregory
Nazianzen speaks to the same purpose[82], that baptism may be performed
as circumcision was, on the eighth day; but that it ought not to be
omitted any longer, than till the children are two, or three years old.
And to this I might add, the testimony of Augustin; who asserts, that it
had been practised by the church, in foregoing ages, from our Saviour’s
time; which, had it not been matter of fact, he would, doubtless, have
been disproved by Pelagius, and his other antagonists[83].

It is further objected, by those who deny infant-baptism, that the
practice of many in the ancient church, who deferred baptism till they
were adult, argues, that they did not think it lawful for any to be
baptized in infancy. Thus Constantine the great, as Eusebius observes,
was not baptized till a little before his death: And, it is well known,
that Gregory Nazianzen, and Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustin, and others of
the Fathers, were not baptized till they came to a state of manhood; and
Tertullian, who lived in the second century, exhorts persons to defer
baptism, and adds, that it is the safest way to delay the baptism of
infants, till they are capable of engaging for themselves, being arrived
to years of discretion[84].[85] But to this it may be answered, that
particular instances, or the sentiments of some of the Fathers are not
sufficient to prove that infant-baptism was not practised by the ancient
church. As to what is alleged concerning Constantine’s not being
baptized till a little before his death, and Gregory Nazianzen,
Chrysostom, _&c._ not till they were adult: This may be accounted for,
by supposing that their parents did not embrace the Christian religion
while they were infants: and, if that were true, they ought not to be
baptized till they could give up themselves to God by faith: This a late
learned writer attempts to prove[86]. Moreover, some who have been
converted, have neglected baptism, out of a scruple they have had of
their unfitness for it, as many, in our day, do the Lord’s supper; and
others, it may he, might have neglected to baptize their infants, or to
be baptized themselves, till they apprehended themselves near to death,
as being misled by a false supposition, which was imbibed by several,
that baptism washed away sin; therefore, the nearer they were to their
end, the more prepared they would be, by this ordinance, for a better
world. However, whether it was neglected for this, or any other reason,
it does not much affect the argument we are maintaining, our design
being principally to prove, that it was practised in the early ages of
the church; and, in what instances soever it was omitted, it was not
because they denied that the infants of believing parents had a right to
it. As to several things mentioned by the authors before cited, and
others that treat on that subject, whereby they seem to maintain the
absolute necessity thereof, to wash away the pollution of sin; or, when
they assert, that it is as necessary to salvation as regenerating grace,
we have nothing to say as to this method of reasoning: However, whatever
they speak in defence of it, is a sufficient evidence that it is not a
practice of late invention.

As to what respects Tertullian’s advice to defer baptism till persons
were capable to engage for themselves; this caution argues, that it was
practised by some, which is the principal thing designed to be proved.
And the reason assigned by him for the neglect of baptism, being this,
because the sureties, who undertook to instruct them in the doctrines of
religion, often promised more than they made conscience of performing,
and so brought themselves into a snare thereby; therefore, for their
sakes, infant-baptism, which could not be administered without sureties,
had better be delayed; this only proves that he was against
infant-baptism for some prudential reasons, as it was attended with this
inconvenience, not that he thought it was in itself unlawful to be
practised by them. From hence we may conclude, that the objection taken
from infant-baptism, being supposed to be a novelty, does not weaken the
cause we are maintaining[87]. Thus concerning the subjects of baptism.

We are now to consider the mode thereof, or what we are to understand by
the word baptism. It is said, in the foregoing answer, to be the washing
with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost. There has been a great dispute in the world, concerning the
meaning of the word βαπτιζω, by which this ordinance is expressed; from
whence arises the different mode of the administration thereof. Some
think, that it only signifies the putting a person, or thing, into the
water, whereby it is covered, or, as it were, buried in it; which is
otherwise expressed by the word dipping. Others (whose opinion I cannot
but acquiesce in) conclude that it may as well be performed by the
application of water, though it be in a different manner, either by
pouring or sprinkling; and accordingly, that it signifies the using the
means of cleansing by the application of water, whatever be the form or
mode thereof. This argument depends very much upon the sense in which
the word is applied to the action intended thereby, either in scripture
or other writers. And, inasmuch as the sense thereof, as used in
scripture, and other writings, is well explained by the learned and
judicious Dr. Owen, agreeably to the sense we have given of the word; I
have no occasion to make any other critical remarks upon it, by
referring to those writings in which the word is found[88].

But, since the greatest number of christians are not so well versed in
the Greek language, as to be able to judge whether those methods of
reasoning that are taken from the use of the word which we render
_baptize_, are sufficiently conclusive: And, when it is asserted, that
many who are undoubtedly very good masters of the Greek tongue, have
determined that it signifies all manner of washing with water, as well
as dipping into it, this will be reckoned, by them, a very fruitless and
unprofitable subject; however, we are obliged to mention it, because
great stress is usually laid on the sense of this word, to establish
that mode of baptism which is always used by those who are on the other
side of the question.

I shall take leave to add, to what that learned author, but now quoted,
refers to, has observed on this subject; that it does not appear to me
that the word Βαπτιζω always signifies to wash, by dipping into water,
but by the application of water some other way; because it is sometimes
applied to those things which were too large and cumbersome, and
therefore could not well be cleansed that way. Thus it is said, in Mark
vii. 4. that _the Pharisees_ not only _held the washing_, or, as it is
in the Greek, _the baptism of cups and pots, and brazen vessels_, which
might, indeed, be washed by immersion, but of _tables_, or, as it may be
rendered, of _beds_, or those seats on which the Jews, according to the
custom of the eastern nations, lay at their ease, when they eat their
meals. These, I conceive were washed some other way, different from that
of dipping or plunging in water; And if it was possible that they might
be washed that way, yet the word may be applied to innumerable things,
that cannot be baptized by immersion: Therefore, the general sense that
we have given of it, that it signifies to wash, whether by dipping into
the water, or by the application of water to the thing washed, may
justify our practice, with respect to the mode of baptism, commonly used
by us.

_Object._ 1. It is objected hereunto, that the mode used by us, is not
properly baptism, but rantism; or, that to sprinkle, or pour, is not to

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that this method of begging the
question in controversy, is never reckoned a fair way of arguing. If
baptism be a using the means of cleansing, by the application of water,
which is the thing we contend for, then the word _baptize_ may as well
be applied to it as to any other mode of washing. That which may be
further replied to this objection is, that if the thing signified by the
action of baptizing, namely, the blood of Jesus, together with those
gifts and graces of the Spirit, which are applied to those to whom God
makes this a saving ordinance, be sometimes set forth by sprinkling or
pouring clean water upon a person, then it cannot be well concluded,
that sprinkling, or pouring, is not baptizing, though it differ very
much from that which they who contend with us about this matter
generally call baptizing. That sprinkling or pouring, is sometimes used
in scripture, to signify the conferring of those spiritual gifts and
graces which are signified in baptism, is very evident; inasmuch as it
is said in John i. 17. _The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us
from all sin_; and this is called _the blood of sprinkling_, in Heb.
xii. 24. 1 Pet. i. 2. Therefore, in a spiritual sense, sprinkling is
called cleansing from sin; and the graces of the Spirit conferred in
regeneration, are represented in Ezek. xxxvi. 25-27. by _sprinkling
clean water_; which mode of speaking would never be used, were not
sprinkling a means of cleansing. And, some think, that the apostle when
he speaks of our _drawing near to God, having our bodies washed with
pure water_, Heb. x. 22, intends the ordinance of baptism; yet it
alludes to the ceremonial cleansings that were under the law, which were
often done by sprinkling: Therefore we cannot but assert, that
sprinkling water in baptism, is as much cleansing as any other mode used

Moreover, sometimes the thing signified in baptism, is represented by a
metaphor taken from pouring; which, if our mode of baptizing be just,
will not seem disagreeable to it; and, it may be, the explication is
taken from it, as the conferring the Holy Ghost, which they who were
baptized were given to expect, is often called _pouring out the Spirit_,
Acts ii. 17, 18. chap. viii. 38.

_Obj._ There is another objection which is concluded by many, to be
unanswerable, viz. that when we read of baptism in the New Testament,
the person baptized is said to _go down into the water_. Thus the Eunich
did, chap. viii. 38. and immediately after this, he is said to _come up
out of the water_; which can be applied, as is supposed, to no other
mode of baptism but that of immersion.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that the whole strength of this
objection depends upon the sense that is given of the Greek particles,
which we often render _into_, and _out of_[90]. But this will have no
weight with any but those who are unacquainted with the Greek language,
since it is so well known to all that understand it, that the former of
these particles often signifies _to_, as well as _into_; and the latter
_from_, as well as _out of_; as innumerable instances might easily be
given, was it needful, from scripture, and other Greek authors, in which
the words are applied to those things, that according to the natural
signification thereof, cannot be understood as denoting _into_, or _out
of_. There is one scripture which no one can suppose is to be taken in
any other sense but what is agreeable to our present purpose, _viz._
Mat. xvii. 27. wherein our Saviour bids Peter _Go to the sea[91], and
cast an hook, and take the fish that first cometh thence_, &c. where, by
_go to the sea_, we can understand nothing else, but go to the
sea-shore; and yet the word is the same with that which is, in some
other places, rendered _into_. There are other scriptures in which
persons are said to _go to the mountain_, or some other places, wherein
it would be very improper to say, that they went into the place; though
the word be the same with that which in other instances we render
_into_. And the word[92] which is sometimes rendered _out of_, is
frequently rendered _from_, and can be understood in no other sense: As
when it is said, in Luke xi. 31. _The queen of the south came from the
utmost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of Solomon_; which cannot
be understood of her coming _out of_, but _from_ thence. But, this
matter being so well known to all that read the New Testament in the
original, it is needless for me to give any other instances.[93]

As to what concerns the Eunuch’s _going into the water_, I cannot think
any thing else is intended by it, but that he descended or lighted down
from his chariot, to the water, that is, by a metonymy, to the
water-side, in order to his being baptized by Philip. It is no uncommon
mode of speaking, to say, that a person goes down to the river-side, to
take water, or to the well, to draw it; therefore, this is no strain on
the sense of the word; and I am the rather inclined to give into this
opinion, because some modern travellers, taking notice of the place
where this was done, intimate, that it was only a spring of water; and
therefore without sufficient depth to plunge the body in: And some
ancient writers, who lived between three and four hundred years after
our Saviour’s time, as Jerom and Eusebius, intimate the same thing. If
it be said, that these may be mistaken as to the place, inasmuch as the
particular spot of ground in which this water was, is not mentioned in
scripture: I will not lay much stress upon it; however, I cannot but
observe, that it is represented by a diminutive expression, as it is
said, they _came to a certain water_, that is, probably, a brook, which
was by the way-side; not a river, or a great collection of water. And it
is further observed, that Philip, as well as the Eunuch, _went down into
the water_; though none suppose that he was plunged in the water;
therefore it does not certainly appear, from the sense of the word, that
the Eunuch was, unless the matter in controversy be taken for granted,
that baptism can be performed in no other way, but by plunging.

Moreover, _to go down to the water_, does not always signify in other
scriptures, going down to the bottom of the water; as when the Psalmist,
in Psal. cvii. 23. speaks of them that _go down to the sea in ships_, he
does not mean them that go down to the bottom of it; therefore, going
down to the water does not always signify being plunged in it. As for
what is said concerning Philip and the eunuch’s _coming up out of the
water_, it may very fairly be understood of their returning from the
water-side, and the eunuch’s going up again into his chariot. Moreover,
I cannot but think, that in this, and all other places, where persons
are said to _come up out of the water_, it denotes an action performed
with design, and the perfect exercise of the understanding in him that
does it; which seems not agreeable to one who is at the bottom of the
water, and cannot well come up from thence, unless by the help of him
that baptized him. The sense of the words, _coming out of the water_, is
agreeable to what is said concerning our Saviour at his baptism, in
Matt. iii. 16. _Jesus went up straightway out of the water_; which seems
to be a mistake in our translation; where the words απὸ τοῦ ὑδαλος, have
been rendered, _from the water_; which is of the same import with the
sense of the Greek particle ἐκ when a person is said to _come up out of
the water_.

_Obj._ 3. It seems very evident, that John the Baptist used no other
mode but that of immersion; because he chose those places to exercise
this part of his ministry in, that were well supplied with water,
sufficient for this purpose. Accordingly, we first read of his removing
from the _wilderness of Judea_, in which he _preached the doctrine of
repentance_; and told the people, that _the kingdom of heaven_, that is,
the gospel-state, which was to begin with the appearing of the Messiah,
_was at hand_; and then we read of his removing to the banks of the
river Jordan, for the conveniency of baptizing those who came to him for
that purpose: And, after that, we read of another station in which he
resided, _viz._ _Enon, near to Salim_; and this reason is assigned;
_because there was much water there_, John iii. 23. Now, if he had
baptized by sprinkling, or pouring a little water on the face, he had no
need to remove out of the _wilderness of Judea_: For, whatever scarcity
of water there might be there, it was no difficult matter for him to be
supplied with enough to serve his occasion, had this been his mode of

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that though John removed to Jordan
and Ænon, that he might be well supplied with water, as he daily wanted
large quantities thereof; yet it doth not necessarily follow from hence,
that this was done for the sake of immersion therein: And it doth not
sufficiently appear to me, that Ænon afforded water deep enough for a
person to be baptized in it after this manner; for it seems to be but a
small tract of land, in which it is hardly probable, that there were
many lakes, or rivers of water contained; which is as much as can be
said concerning a well watered country. Therefore, I think, the
words[94] ought to have been rendered _many waters_; by which we are to
understand, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, that it was a place of
springs[95], or small brooks of water. This place John chose, that he
might be supplied with water for his use; but it doth not, I think,
necessarily, follow from hence, that he baptized by immersion; Besides,
if there had been a great collection of waters there, there would have
been some indications thereof at this day; which, I believe, it would be
hard to prove that there are.

As to the other part of the objection, that it was a very easy matter
for him to have been supplied with water in the wilderness of Judea, to
baptize by sprinkling or pouring, by his having it brought to him in
vessels for that purpose: It may be replied, that if he had only poured
water on the head or face, there is no need to suppose that he was so
sparing of it, as not to use above a spoonful, especially when it was so
easy a matter for him, by his removing to another station, to be better
supplied. If there was but a little water poured on every one that came
to be baptized by him, it would require a very great quantity of water
to baptize the vast multitudes that came to him; inasmuch as it is said,
that _Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan,
were baptized of him_: It is one thing for a little water to be brought
in a bason to baptize a person or two, and another thing for this to be
done in the case under our present consideration. Moreover, it is
certain, that in hot countries, and particularly in Judea; and more
especially in the wilderness thereof, there was a very great scarcity of
water; accordingly we read, sometimes, that water was so valuable a
thing, that it was reckoned a very considerable part of a man’s estate:
Thus Isaac was envied by the Philistines, for all the wells his father’s
servants had digged; and then we read of their stopping them up, and his
digging other wells; and also of the strife between the herdsmen of
Gerar, and his herdsmen, for the possession thereof, Gen. xxvi. 14,-20.
And we read, in Gen. xxi. 14,-16. that when Abraham sent Hagar away from
him with Ishmael, he gave her _bread_, and a _bottle of water_; and
_when the water was spent in the bottle, she cast the child under one of
the shrubs_, despairing of his life; which she need not have done, if
water was so easy to come by as it is supposed in this objection. It is
certain, that a person may travel many miles without finding water to
quench his thirst, in those desert places. This farther appears from
Samson’s being _ready to die for thirst_, after the great victory he had
obtained over the Philistines, on which occasion God wrought a miracle
to supply him, Judges xv. 18, 19, which can hardly be accounted for, if
there had been so great plenty of water in that country, as there is in
ours; this then, I apprehend to be the reason of John’s removal to
Jordan and Ænon; therefore it doth not necessarily prove that his design
was to baptize in that way that is pleaded for by those on the other
side of the question.

Moreover, as it doth not sufficiently appear to me, from any thing
contained in the objection, that John used immersion in baptism, so it
seems most agreeable, to some circumstances that attended it, to
conclude that he did not; inasmuch as there was no conveniency for the
change of their garments, nor servants appointed to help them therein;
which seems necessary to answer this occasion. And some have supposed,
that it might endanger the health of those who were infirm among them,
and John’s much more, who was obliged to stand many days together in the
water, or, at least, the greatest part thereof, while he was
administering this ordinance. And they who were baptized must
immediately retire when the ordinance was over, or it would endanger
their health; unless we have recourse to a dispensation of providence,
that is next to miraculous: Though I am sensible, some say, that none
ever suffered hereby in our day; which, if the observation be true, is a
kind providence that they ought to be thankful for.

But if, after all that has been said on this matter, it will not be
allowed that baptism signifies any thing else but dipping in water: Then
I might farther allege, that this might be done by dipping the face,
which is the principal part of the body, without plunging the whole
body; and this might answer the design of the ordinance as well as the
other; since it is not the quantity used in a sacramental sign that is
so much to be regarded, as the action performed, together with the
matter of it; if the smallest piece of bread, and a spoonful of wine are
used in the Lord’s supper, this is generally reckoned as well adapted to
answer the design of the ordinance, as if a great quantity of each were
received by every one that partakes of it. Now, as to what concerns our
present argument, the washing a part of the body is deemed sufficient to
signify the thing intended, as much as though the whole body had been
washed. Thus when our Saviour washed his disciples’ feet, and told
Peter, _If_ he _washed him not, he had no part in him_, John xiii. 5.
wherein (by the way) we may observe, that he calls washing his feet,
washing him, by a synecdoche, for a part of the whole; upon which
occasion Peter replies, _not my feet only, but also my hands and my
head_; and Jesus answered, _He that is washed needeth not, save to wash
his feet, but is clean every whit_, ver. 10. by which, I think, he
intends, that this signifies that cleansing, which is the spiritual
meaning thereof, as much as though the whole body had been washed with
water; for though one design hereof might be to teach them humility, and
brotherly kindness; yet it also signifies their being washed or cleansed
by his blood and Spirit.

_Obj._ 4. There is another objection on which very much stress is
generally laid, which I should not do justice to the cause I am
maintaining, if I should wholly pass it over, taken from what the
apostle says, in Rom. vi. 3, 4, 5. _so many of us as were baptized into
Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death: Therefore we were buried
with him by baptism[96] into death; that, like as Christ was raised up
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of
his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection._ From
whence it is argued, that there ought to be a similitude between the
sign and the thing signified; and, consequently, that baptism should be
performed in such a way, that, by being covered with water, there might
be a resemblance of Christ’s burial; and by being lifted up out of the
water, a resemblance of his resurrection: Therefore this ordinance doth
not only signify the using the means of cleansing with water, but the
mode, namely, being plunged, or, as it were, buried in water.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied, that it is not agreeable to the
nature of a sacramental sign, in any other instance; that there should
be an analogy between the thing done, and what is signified thereby, any
otherwise than by divine appointment. Accordingly we observed, in the
foregoing answer, that a sacrament has not a natural tendency to signify
Christ, and his benefits; as the eating bread and drinking wine doth not
signify the body and blood of Christ, any otherwise than as this
signification is annexed by our Saviour, to the action performed; the
same, I think, may be applied to baptism; especially our consecration,
and dedication to God therein; and if any other external sign had been
instituted, to signify the blessings of the covenant of grace, we should
have been as much obliged to make use of it as we were of water.
Therefore, I conceive, the apostle, in this scripture, mentioned in the
objection, doth not refer to our being buried in water, or taken out of
it, as a natural sign of Christ’s burial and resurrection; but our
having communion with him in his burial and resurrection. This, I think,
would hardly be denied by many, on the other side of the question, did
not the objection, but now mentioned, and the cause they maintain,
render it expedient for them to understand the words in another sense.
This is all that I shall say with respect to this matter in controversy,
as to the subjects and mode of baptism; in which, as I should have been
unfaithful, had I said less to it; so I have not the least inclination
to treat those that differ from me in an unfriendly way, as having a
just sense of their harmony with us, especially a great part of them, in
those doctrines that have a more immediate reference to our salvation.

We shall now proceed to consider, that as there are some who appear to
be grossly ignorant of the thing signified in baptism, who seem to
engage in it, as though it were not a divine institution, concluding it
to be little more than an external rite or form to be used in giving the
child a name, being induced hereto rather by custom, than a sense of the
obligation they are under, to give up their children to God by faith
therein; so there are others who attribute too much to it, when they
assert, that infants are hereby regenerated; and that if they die before
they commit actual sin, they are undoubtedly saved, inasmuch as they are
hereby made members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom
of heaven: This seems to be an ascribing that to the ordinance, which is
rather expected or desired, than conferred thereby.

As for the child’s being signed with the sign of the cross, signifying
hereby that he should not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ
crucified, but manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the
world, and the devil; how much soever this may be a branch of that
baptismal obligation, which he is professedly under; yet I cannot see
what warrant persons have to make use of this external sign and symbol,
which can be reckoned no other than an ordinance for their faith, though
destitute of a divine institution.

There is also another thing practised by some in baptism, that is
greatly abused, namely, the requiring that some should be appointed as
sureties for the child, by whom it is personated; and they engage, in a
solemn manner, in its behalf, that it shall fulfil the obligation that
it is laid under, which is not only more than what is in their power to
perform; but it is to be feared, that the greatest part of these
sureties hardly think themselves obliged to shew any concern about them
afterward. And that which is farther exceptionable in this matter, is
that the parents, who are more immediately obliged to give up their
children to God, seem to be, as it were, excluded from having any hand
in this matter.

I have nothing to except against the first rise of this practice; which
was in the second century, when the church was under persecution; and
the design thereof was laudable and good, namely, that if the parents
should die before the child came of age; whereby it would be in danger
of being seized on by the Heathen, and trained up in their superstitious
and idolatrous mode of worship, the sureties promised, that, in this
case, they would deal with it as though it were their own child, and,
bring it up in the Christian religion; which kind and pious concern for
its welfare, might have been better expressed at some other time than in
baptism, lest this should be thought an appendix to that ordinance:
However, through the goodness of God, the children of believing parents
are not reduced to those hazardous circumstances; and therefore the
obligation to do this, is less needful; but to vow, and not perform, is
not only useless to the child, but renders that only a matter of form,
which they promise to do in this sacred ordinance.

The only thing that I shall add under this answer, is, that if we have
been baptized, either in our infancy, or when adult, we are obliged, in
faithfulness, as we value our own souls, to improve it to the glory of
God, and our spiritual welfare in the whole conduct of our lives. And
this leads us to what is contained in the following answer.

Footnote 69:


Footnote 70:

  _Vid Whitby in Loc._

Footnote 71:

  This then is a repetition; go, _teach_, baptize, _teach_. This
  commission was to _disciple_ the world, baptizing and teaching are the
  specification, and are participles agreeing with the nomination.

  It is no inference from the position of baptizing before teaching are
  that adults might be first baptized. This was the institution of the
  ordinance of baptism as well as the apostolic commission; yet it
  neither contains any direction either as to the mode or subjects;
  because Christ spoke to Jews, who knew that adult proselytes were
  carefully examined, whilst infants were circumcised with their parents
  without such examination. They also knew the various modes of
  religious purifications among the Jews; both John the Baptist, and
  they having under that dispensation baptized. Neither is faith
  essential to the validity of baptism, nor is the profession of it
  required of such as are incapable of making it.

Footnote 72:

  To be brought into the visible church, is a high privilege, of which
  infants are as capable now, as under the former dispensation. Consent
  is not necessary; for infants receive inheritances. _This is by force
  of municipal laws._ But are not the laws of God of equal
  force?—_Baptism implies obligations, which can be founded only on
  consent._ Then it will follow that infants are not bound by human
  laws, for they have not assented to the social compact; they are under
  no obligation to obey parents, guardians, or masters, because they
  either did not choose them, or were incompetent to make such choice;
  they are not bound by the laws of God himself, which is this very
  case, because they have not consented to his authority; and if they
  never consent, they will be always free equally from all obligations,
  and all sin. Such are the consequences of the above objection.

Footnote 73:

  The dictates of nature, uncontrouled by revelation, are the will of
  Christ, and our rule of duty. The _will of Christ_, expressed in these
  dictates, requires us to benefit our children as they are capable.
  _Baptism_, as the initiatory seal of God’s covenant, is a _benefit_ of
  which infants are _capable_.—This evidence is not _eclipsed_, but
  _brightened_, by scripture authority, as we shall see in the sequel of
  this chapter.

  Let the reader carefully notice, that we do not suppose, by insisting
  on this argument, the insufficiency of _direct scripture_ evidence:
  for _this_ has been frequently urged with advantage, to satisfy
  persons of the best dispositions and abilities. That is, reader, “some
  of the most eminent Pœdobaptists that ever filled the Professor’s
  chair, or that ever yet adorned the Protestant pulpit.” But since our
  opponents insist, that what has been so often urged, is not
  conclusive; and _modestly_ affirm, it is only calculated to catch “the
  eye of a _superficial_ observer;” they are desired once more
  impartially to weigh this reasoning, and then, if they are able, to
  refute it. Let them know, however, that hackneyed phrases without
  meaning—principles taken upon trust—and empty declamation—must not be
  palmed on us instead of solid arguments.

  Were it necessary, it would be easy to shew, that the principles above
  urged are no _novelty_; but are perfectly agreeable to experience,—and
  to the practical judgment of the most serious Pœdobaptists, both
  illiterate and learned. But waving this, we proceed next to another
  corroborating proof of the main proposition.

  What we contend for is. That it is the _will of Christ_ we should
  _baptize_ our infant children. In proof of this we have shewn, first,
  that the _dictates of right reason_ require us to _benefit_ them, and
  consequently to _baptize_ them; as baptism is always a benefit when
  administered to _capable_ subjects. We come, secondly, to shew—That
  God has constantly approved of _this principle_, in all _preceding_
  dispensations. In other words—That the _principle_ of the last
  argument is so far from being _weakened_ by scripture evidence, that
  the Lord’s _approbation_ of _it_, in his conduct towards the offspring
  of his professing people, in all the dispensations of true religion,
  is abundantly _illustrated_ and _confirmed_.

  Mr. B’s misapplied but favourite maxim—“Positive laws imply their
  negative,” has no force in the baptismal controversy, until he
  demonstrates, in opposition to what is advanced, that the dictates of
  right reason must be _smothered_, or else, that revelation
  countermands their influence. But to _demonstrate_ the former, in
  matters about which, on the supposition, scripture is silent, is no
  easy task. And the difficulty will be _increased_ in proportion as the
  sacred oracles corroborate reason’s verdict. Let us now appeal to
  these oracles.

  We appeal to that period of the church, and dispensation of grace,
  which extended from Adam to Noah. The inspired narrative of this long
  space of time is very short: on which we make the following remarks.
  We then assert,

  Whatever exhibition of grace was made to antediluvian _parents_, was
  constantly made to their _offspring_; and consequently whatever seals
  of grace were granted to the former, must equally appertain to the
  latter if not voluntary _rejectors_ of them. Therefore, all such
  parents had a _revealed_ warrant to regard their offspring as entitled
  to the _seals_ of the covenant, in _like manner_ as themselves,
  according to their capacity. For,

  All allow that Gen. iii. 15. contains the promulgation of gospel
  grace; nor are we authorised to question the interest of _children_
  therein with their parents, without an express contravention. For, it
  were _unnatural_ for a parent to _confine_ such a _benefit_ to his own
  person to the exclusion of his children, who are not only parts of his
  family but of _himself_. To which we may add, that the phrase _thy
  seed_, though principally referring to the Messiah, respected Eve’s
  _natural seed_ as sharers in common with herself in the exhibition of
  mercy; and we suppose not less so than her _husband_. For this
  application of the phrase _thy seed_, compare Gen. xvii. 7. and Gal.
  iii. 16. Again,

  It is generally agreed, that not only the institution of _sacrifices_,
  but also the _coats_ of skin, (Gen. iii. 21.) were _emblematic_ of
  covenant blessings; and not only so, in common with mere types, but
  _seals_ of the covenant, as earnests and pledges of exhibited favour.
  “Who will deny,” says Witsius, “that God’s cloathing our first parents
  was a _symbolical_ act? Do not Christ’s own words (Rev. iii. 18.) very
  clearly allude to this?” As for _sacrifices_, they were slain at God’s
  command after the promulgation of the covenant. For, if Abel _offered
  by faith_, (Heb xi. 4.) it presupposes the divine _institution_ of
  them. And this institution, most probably, took place when God—taking
  occasion from the insufficiency of the aprons of fig-leaves, which the
  fallen pair sewed together, to cover the shame of their
  nakedness—himself cloathed them with coats of skins. And most divines
  agree, that it is very probable, these were the skins of those beasts
  which were slain for _sacrifices_. However, God gave testimony to
  these oblations of the ancient patriarchs, that they were _acceptable_
  to him; but this cannot be supposed without admitting them to be
  _divinely instituted_. Besides, a distinction of _clean_ and _unclean_
  animals was observed before the deluge; which was not from _nature_,
  but the mere divine pleasure; and may we not add, with a particular
  respect to _sacrifices_? Now,

  If, according to Witsius and others, these _skins of beasts_, and
  _sacrifices_, were appointed _seals of the righteousness of faith_; I
  would ask—Was the _covenant_ directed for the use of their _seed in
  common_ with the parents, and not the _seal_ in like manner? For, if
  the seals be affixed to the covenant for _confirmation_ of its
  contents, as well as, in another view, for signification; I would fain
  know, by what rule of construction we can infer, that the covenant
  _itself_ belongs to the parents and their seed _in common_, while the
  _confirmation_ of it belongs _exclusively_ to the former? Is it not
  contrary to _custom_ and _unreasonable_ to conclude, that a charter of
  privileges, or a testamentary instrument, (which by the way express
  the nature of the covenant) belongs to a man and his heirs _alike_,
  but the confirming seal respects the former _only_; while on the
  supposition, the sovereign, or the testator, has given _no ground_ for
  such partiality? Besides,

  If the covenant itself be a benefit to the persons to whom it is
  directed, as it certainly is in _every_ dispensation of it, it follows
  that the _confirmation_ of it is so; for parents, therefore, to _deny_
  their offspring all the share in such common benefits they are capable
  of, without a divine warrant, is _unnatural_, and an act of
  _injustice_. We may therefore conclude—that from Adam to Noah, the
  _covenant_ and its _seals_ appertained to _infants_ in common with
  their parents.

  We appeal next to that period of the church which extended from Noah
  to Abraham: On which we observe,

  Whatever benefits and privileges belonged to the former dispensation,
  continue to flow on to the present, if not _expressly_ repealed; for
  the change of a dispensation _of itself_, is no adequate cause of
  their abrogation. That would be as unreasonable as to suppose that the
  bare change from night to day was, _of itself_, an adequate cause of a
  man’s being disinherited. Or we may as well say, that the abstract
  notion of an epoch in chronology has a real influence on the sequence
  of events. Whatever covenant privileges, therefore, belonged to Noah
  and his family _before_ the deluge, if not expressly repealed, must
  belong to them _after_ the deluge. But,

  So far were these privileges from being abridged at this period, that
  they were greatly enlarged and confirmed, by additional discoveries.
  For thus we read, Gen. vi. 18. _But with thee will I establish my
  covenant; and thou shall come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and
  thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee._ Again, chap. vii. 1. _And
  the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou, and all thy house into the ark;
  for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation._ And
  again, chap. viii. 20. _And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and
  took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered
  burnt-offerings on the altar._ Once more, chap. ix. 8, 9, 12, 13. _And
  God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold,
  I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you. And
  God said, This is the token of the covenant I do set my bow in the
  cloud._ Hence we further learn,

  That the covenant or divine charter, first given to Noah, _included_
  the preceding; it was the _same covenant_ with _additional grants_:
  for the Lord says, “I will _establish_ my covenant.” Lest Noah should
  infer that the drowning of the world in wrath disannulled the well
  known covenant, God dissipates his fears, by saying, “I will
  _establish_ my covenant.”

  On Noah’s _account_, or _as belonging_ to him, _all his house_ or
  family was privileged. The privilege is,—“Come thou, and _all thy
  house_ into the ark.” The ground and reason of that privilege—“_for
  thee have I seen righteous_.” It is true, the natural dictates of
  reason and affection, whereby a _father pitieth his children_, and
  whereby an infidel _careth for his own, especially those of his own
  house_, would have prompted this righteous person to bring _all his
  family_, (except any adults _refused_ compliance) into the ark, (_the
  like figure whereunto is baptism_, as an inspired teacher assures us,
  1 Pet. iii. 21.) yet the Lord was pleased to brighten his evidence and
  strengthen his obligations of duty by express revelation.

  After the flood the institution of _sacrifices_ continued as the seal
  of the _first_ part of the covenant; and the _rainbow_ was instituted
  as the seal of the _additional_ part, or, as Pareus calls it,
  “_appendix_ of the covenant of grace.” And here it is worthy of
  notice, that as the first exhibition of the covenant and its seals
  respected the offspring of _fœderati_, and the _renewal_ or
  _establishment_ of it to Noah retained that privilege in full force:
  so also the _appendix_ of the covenant comprehended his _seed_.

  Respecting this appendix of the covenant of which the rainbow was the
  seal, though we suppose, with Witsius, it was not formally and
  precisely the covenant of grace; yet we observe, with the same
  excellent author, “it does not seem consistent with the divine
  perfections, to make such a covenant with every living creature, but
  on _supposition_ of a covenant of grace, and having a _respect_ to
  it.” And as this covenant, in its universality, implied the covenant
  of grace, we are not to deny, but the promises of it were also
  _sealed_ to Noah and his seed by the rainbow. See Rev. iv. 3. x. 8.

  It is observable, finally, that Noah his _sons_, and _their seed_ were
  _fœderati_, in this ratification of the covenant; consequently
  whatever _seals_ of the covenant belonged to Noah, belonged to _his
  sons_, and _their seed_, while non-dissentients.

  Appeal we next to a very important period of sacred history, viz. From
  Abraham to Moses. On this also we make the following remarks.

  The Abrahamic covenant _included_ the preceding dispensations, on the
  general principle—that grants and privileges continue in force until
  _repealed_. Which repealing, if it be not either _express_, or arise
  from the nature of the case, in itself _plain_, can have no binding
  influence, that is to say, no existence at all: except we maintain,
  that we are _bound_ to resign an important good without an assignable
  cause; which is in fact to maintain that we ought to _deny_ that to
  be, which is.

  I suppose it will be granted, that the _principal blessing_ exhibited
  in the foregoing dispensations was _the righteousness of faith_; the
  great importance of which to the human race, in every age of the
  world, no one will deny who considers things _as they are_. This
  covenant, therefore, was in force to Abraham _prior_ to what is called
  the Abrahamic dispensation; and in this connexion we might mention Lot
  and his family. But, behold,

  A most explicit ratification of it, with _superadded_ favours, Gen.
  xii. 3.—_In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. And I
  will_ establish my covenant _between me and thee, and thy_ seed _after
  thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant_; To be a God
  unto thee and to thy seed after thee. _ver._ 10. _This is my covenant
  which ye shall keep between me and you_, and thy seed _after thee_:
  every man-_child among you shall be_ circumcised, _ver._ 12. _He that
  is_ eight days old _shall be circumcised among you, every_ man-_child
  in your generations; he that is born in the house_, or bought with
  money of any stranger, _which is not of thy seed_. _ver._ 24-27. _And
  Abraham was_ ninety years old and nine, _when he was circumcised in
  the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was_ thirteen years
  old, _when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the_
  self-same day _was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And_ all
  the men of his house, _born in the house, and_ bought with money of
  the stranger, _were circumcised with him_. Hence we learn,

  The _nature_ and _extent_ of the _Abrahamic covenant or promise_.
  Whatever _blessings_ are _promised_ to ruined man, must be _in virtue_
  of the covenant of grace. All promised blessings, therefore, must
  _imply_ an _exhibition_ of _gospel grace_. And the glad tidings of
  salvation through Christ preached to the _gentile world_, is expressly
  called—_The blessing of Abraham_ (Gal. iii. 14.) Not that this _link_
  is the _first_ in the chain of exhibited mercy to the fallen race _in
  general_, or with an universal and unlimited aspect, if the reasoning
  in the last sections be just: but for its _explicitness_, and
  _precious_ (because expressly diffusive) intendment, it may be justly
  termed a _golden link_. In this respect Abraham may well be
  styled—_The Father of us all_; not to the disavowal of Noah, with whom
  the covenant was before ratified, or Eve, who received the _first_
  intimation of it, and who in _this_ respect eminently may be
  called—_The mother of all living_. The _covenant_ of grace, in its
  external manifestation, containing _an exhibition of exceeding great
  and precious promises_ to every human being on the face of the globe,
  to whom providence directs the joyful news, may be compared to a
  flowing stream: it proceeds ultimately from the immense ocean of
  sovereign grace in Christ; its _first_ visible source we trace to
  paradise, where it rises in a small spring, and glides on to Noah.
  During this part of its progress, there were but few comparatively who
  participated of its cleansing and healing virtues, though none were
  debarred from it. This continuing to glide along, without
  interruption, (notwithstanding God’s awful visitation of a corrupt
  world by the deluge) we discern through the person of Noah _another_
  source, whence is poured forth a second stream which empties itself
  into the former channel. The streams thus _united_ become a river,
  which flows on to Abraham—a river to which _all_ are invited, but
  _few_ come, and these made willing by the omnipotent energy of _divine
  influence_ which observes the laws of another—a _hidden_ dispensation,
  running parallel as it were with the former; which was also the case
  in the preceding period. Then, through the highly honoured person of
  Abraham we behold another mighty spring copiously pouring forth the
  waters of salvation, and again uniting itself to the former river; and
  from him to Christ, with a wide majestic flow, it proceeds along the
  consecrated channel of the Jewish nation; gradually increasing by the
  accession of other streams, till it arrives at the Saviour’s finished
  work; where, impatient of confinement, it breaks over its banks on
  every side, and the healing waters flow to the most distant
  regions—_That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles_.
  (Gal. iii. 14, 8. compared with Gen. xii. 3. xviii. 18. xxii. 18.)
  Paul expressly says, that “the _Gospel_” (even the very same as the
  New Testament contains—_salvation by Grace_) “was preached to
  Abraham:” And (Heb. iv. 2.) it was preached to his unbelieving
  descendants in the wilderness.

  As it is _natural_ to expect, that whatever exhibition of privileges
  the parents enjoyed should be extended to their children, in common
  with themselves; so we find that _in fact_ they are _expressly
  included_ in _this_ dispensation as well as the preceding. The
  covenant is established between God and Abraham’s _seed, in the very
  same sense_ as with Abraham _himself_; the essence of which is—_to be
  a God to him and his seed_. And lest it should be objected that the
  term _seed_ refers to his _adult posterity_ who should tread in his
  steps, to the exclusion of infants, all doubt is dissipated by the
  appointment of applying the _seal_ of the covenant in early infancy.

  _Sacrifices_ continuing in full force to _seal_ the covenant, till the
  divine oblation should be made; and the _bow_ of the covenant
  continuing as a token and _seal_ of it, until the Messiah’s _second_
  coming; at the commencement of this period is given an _additional_
  seal—_circumcision_. The very _nature_ of the rite shews that all
  _females_ are excluded from being the subjects of it; as well as the
  discriminating specification—_every man-child_. Here observe in
  general, that children, in this rite, have the same privileges as
  their parents. The males are treated as Abraham, and the females as
  Sarah: _These_ therefore, had the covenant sealed in the same manner
  as their honoured mother. Again: though Sarah and her sex were not the
  _subjects_ of this rite, they were constant _witnesses_ to the
  institution; and therefore there was an important sense in which
  circumcision was a seal to Sarah and her daughters; a sense analagous
  to that in which sacrifices were.

  Every domestic head being, in truth, a prophet, priest, and king, in
  his own family; a question must arise, Whether the covenant and its
  seals are restricted to the parent head of the family, and his
  children, or else extended to the _other domestics_? Nor would the
  question be unimportant; for his _instructions_, his _prayers_, and
  _commands_, answerable to his three-fold office, must be directed
  accordingly. To this question right reason replies: If the covenant
  and its seals are _beneficial_ to all capable subjects, benevolence
  requires that they should be extended to the other _non-dissenting_
  members—except forbidden by indisputable authority. This is the voice
  of reason; and we find that this is the voice of God. The privilege is
  common to the seed, and _to him that is born in the house, or bought
  with money of any stranger_, which is not of the seed, Gen. xvii. 12.

  It has been objected, “that the covenant with Abraham was a covenant
  of _peculiarity_ only, and that circumcision was no more than a token
  of _that_ covenant;” but if so, as Mr. Henry observes, “how came it
  that all _proselytes_, of what nation soever, even _the strangers_,
  were to be circumcised; though not being of any of the tribes, they
  had no part or lot in the land of Canaan? The extending the seal of
  circumcision to _proselyted strangers_, and to _their seed_, was a
  plain indication, that the New Testament administration of the
  covenant of grace would reach, not to the covenanters only, but their
  _seed_.” But it has been proved that circumcision _sealed_ to Abraham
  and his seed _the righteousness of faith_; and therefore it does not
  affect the point in debate to contend that temporal promises were
  sealed _also_.

  We next appeal to the long and interesting period from Moses to
  Christ, On which let the following observations be considered.

  Whatever appertained to the Abrahamic covenant was not disannulled by
  the Mosaic dispensation. This St. Paul asserts in plain terms, Gal.
  iii. 17.

  It may not be amiss to take notice, before we proceed, of Job’s
  family; who, being as is generally supposed, cotemporary with Moses,
  and unconnected with his history, deserves a previous regard. Of him
  it is said, that “he _sanctified_ his children, and rose up early in
  the morning, and _offered burnt-offerings_, according to the _number
  of them all_—Thus did Job _continually_,” or, all the days. (Job i.
  5.) On this I would only observe, let the _sanctifying_ be what it
  may, the _sacrifices_ must have been of divine institution; and used
  by Job, being an eminently righteous man, as the _seals_ of the
  covenant of grace; with respect to his children _separately_.

  Superadded to the foregoing seals of the covenant, is the _passover_;
  a divine rite of the nature of a sacrifice, instituted in memory of
  Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt, representing and sealing spiritual
  blessings. “As to the _guests_, says Witsius, they were, first, all
  native _Israelites_, who were not excluded by legal uncleanness. For
  _all the congregation of Israel_ is commanded to solemnize the
  passover. And, next, the _Proselytes_ circumcised and become Jews;
  whether bondmen born in the house or bought with money, &c. Exod. xii.
  48. _When a_ stranger _will sojourn with thee, and keep the passover
  to the Lord, let_ all his males _be circumcised, and then let him come
  near and keep it, and he shall be as one that is born in the land_.”
  On this passage in Exodus, Dr. Jennings observes these two things;
  “_First_, That when a man thus became a Proselyte, _all his males_
  were to be circumcised _as well as himself_, whereby his _children_
  were admitted into the visible church of God, _in his right_, as their
  father. _Secondly_, That upon this, he should be _entitled to all the
  privileges_ and immunities of the Jewish church and nation as well as
  be subject to the whole law: He should be as one born in the land.” In
  short; not only men and women, but also young children partook of this
  ordinance, _as soon as they were capable_ of answering the revealed
  design of it, for—no _positive_ rule was given them on this head, like
  that of circumcision. It is manifest that since the injunction
  respected not only individuals of such a description, but also
  families _as such_, every member without exception had a _legal right_
  to the ordinance; and nothing prevented _infants_ from a
  participation, but what lay in the _natural_ incapacity to answer the
  design of it.

  “Besides the _ordinary_ and _universal_ sacraments of _circumcision_
  and the _passover_, some _extraordinary_ symbols of divine grace were
  granted to the Israelites in the wilderness, which in the New
  Testament are applied to Christ and his benefits, and said to have the
  same signification with our sacraments. And they are in order
  these—The _passage_ in the cloud _through the Red Sea_—the _manna_
  which was rained from heaven—The _water_ issuing out of the _rock_—and
  the _brazen serpent_ erected by Moses for the cure of the Israelites.”
  To this we may add, among other things, with the author now referred
  to—the clear and familiar display of the _divine majesty_—and the
  adumbration of divine mysteries daily _sealed_ by religious
  _ceremonies_. Our subject does not call for an investigation of these
  particulars, but I would remark in general, that the principle for
  which we contend, is so far from being weakened, that it is abundantly
  corroborated by the inspired testimony of every dispensation, and the
  Mosaic in particular—That it is a common dictate of right reason,
  children should from their earliest infancy share in their parents’
  privileges, as far as they are capable, when no positive authority
  contravenes it.

  From the preceding induction of sacred evidence in favour of children
  being sharers of the seals of grace in common with their parents, we
  conclude, that for the space of four thousand years, that is to say,
  _from the creation to Christ_, it was a rule _universally_ incumbent
  on parents to treat their children as entitled to religious privileges
  _equally_ with themselves, according to their capacity.—And as a
  counterpart of what was observed of privileges, we may remark that, in
  virtue of the same uniform principle, often when the parents were
  punished with excommunication or death, their infant children were
  included with them. As might be instanced in—the deluge—the
  destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—the case of Achan the Son of Zerah
  (Josh. vii. 24.)—the matter of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—the case of
  the conquered nations (Deut. xx. 16, 17.)—and many more instances,
  down to the destruction of Jerusalem. Far be it from us to suppose,
  that the parents’ crimes and impenitence made their suffering children
  incapable of _mercy_—that mercy which proceeds on an invisible plan,
  and belongs to a purely spiritual dispensation. Yet, that children,
  during their _dependence_ on their parents, should share equally with
  them in judgment and mercies externally, is the effect of an all-wise
  constitution coeval with mankind.


Footnote 74:

  Tertullian observes on this passage, that if either parent were
  christians,, the children were enrolled in Jesus Christ by early
  baptism. And it fairly implies infant baptism in the days of Paul.
  For, having declared that the unbelieving partner was not to be
  divorced according to the law of Moses, which held the heathen to be
  unclean; he pronounces the unbelievers set apart by such marriage to
  God, as far as regarded that marriage; and in proof of this he refers
  to a fact as known to the Corinthians, namely that the children of
  such marriages were received into the church, and treated as holy,
  that is devoted to God. Now if the children of such marriages were not
  treated as heathens, but owned by the church, and this could be in no
  other way than by receiving them by baptism, there can be no doubt,
  that this was the case when both parents were believers.—Ακαθαρτος &
  αλιος never mean _illegitimate_ and _legitimate_; and if they did,
  this would be no proof that the unbelieving party was consecrated to
  God, so as that the children should be clean and devoted to him.

Footnote 75:

  All these scriptures which require faith, that is, the credible
  profession of it, to precede baptism, are certainly directed only to
  those who are at years capable of it, and not to infants. These
  scriptures do not exclude infants whose claim is through the
  church-membership of their parents, by which they are not “_unclean_,”
  1 Cor. vii. 14. but _holy_, entitled to the promises made to the seed
  of Abraham; and also by virtue of the commission to disciple _all
  nations_, of which they are a part as much as their believing parents;
  and by the practical exposition of that commission in the universal
  baptism of infants in the christian churches for the first four
  hundred years.

Footnote 76:

  It may be objected, “If the preceding account be true, that baptism is
  not an institution _merely positive_, as much so as any enacted under
  the Mosaic dispensation; then the present economy hath no institutions
  at all of that kind.” This objection supposes,

  1. That precepts of a positive nature under the Mosaic dispensation,
  were absolutely so in all their circumstances; so as not to leave any
  thing to be inferred by the person or persons concerned, in the
  discharge of the duty enjoined.—But if these things were so, if the
  Jewish ritual was so express as to leave nothing to be determined by
  inference, one might well wonder whence could spring so many _Targums_
  and _Talmuds_, so many voluminous works intended to explain and
  illustrate the various circumstances attending the performance of
  these _positive duties_ among others. Are not these _unprescribed
  circumstances_ of ritual worship, and other positive injunctions, what
  in a great degree swell the interpretations of the _Rabbins_?—The
  truth is, that there were many precepts under the Jewish economy
  positive in a _considerable degree_, relative to the _subject_ as well
  as the mode of an institute, and respecting the former, it was
  sometimes particularly scrupulous, for reasons already assigned; but
  it does not follow that ANY ONE of these were so strictly positive, as
  not to take some things for _granted_ respecting the circumstances of
  the duty, such as national custom, the common dictates of sense and
  reason, traditionary knowledge, the general principles of the law of
  nature, &c. And it should not be forgotten, that the administrator of
  the Jewish rites had the subjects distinguished and characterized in a
  _sensible manner_, which qualification was to be determined by the
  same sort of evidence as any _facts_ in common life; but the
  administrator of the Christian rites has no such grounds to proceed
  on; his commission is of a _discretionary_ nature, arising from the
  nature and design of the institutions themselves, as before shewn.

  2. The objection again supposes, that there is some _excellency_ in an
  institution being merely and absolutely positive, more than in one of
  a mixed nature. But this supposition is vain and erroneous. For what
  conceivable superior excellency can there be in any precept or duty on
  account of its _positiveness_? Were there any force in the objection,
  it would imply that the Christian dispensation is _less excellent_
  than the Mosaic; as having fewer positive rites, and their proportion
  of positiveness being also smaller. And it would also imply, that the
  reasonable duties of prayer and praise, as founded on the law of
  nature, as well as more fully enjoined by revelation, were _less
  excellent_ than baptism and the Lord’s supper; and it would follow,
  that the services of the church triumphant are in their own nature
  _less excellent_ than those of the church militant; which are
  consequences from the force of the objection equally genuine and
  absurd. Our Lord’s answer respecting the first and great commandment,
  shews at once that what is the most _important_ duty, is also the most
  _natural_, and therefore the most remote from what is merely positive;
  and that is the _love of God_. This matter has been fully shewn
  before. In one word, the spirit of the objection is truly pharisaic.

  Some may perhaps object, “that this has been always admitted as true,
  that baptism and the Lord’s supper are positive institutions of the
  New Testament; and that many pædobaptists have availed themselves of
  this fort, in ascertaining the nature and enforcing the obligation of
  the latter, and particularly bishop Hoadly. And as his lordship’s
  principle, in his _Plain Account of the Sacrament of the Lord’s
  Supper_, has been deemed unanswerable, Mr. Foot, Dr. Stennett, and
  others, have taken but the same method in treating about baptism.” To
  this I reply,

  That, as principles taken upon trust, dignified titles, and lawn
  sleeves, are light as a feather in the scale of argument; so, on the
  other hand, I am satisfied the bishop of Winchester’s positions, taken
  in a sound sense, nay, the _only_ consistent sense in which they can
  be taken, are evidently true and important. The sum is this; that all
  positive duties, or duties made such by institution alone, depend
  entirely upon the will and declaration of the person who institutes or
  ordains them, with respect to the real design and end of them, and
  consequently, to the due manner of performing them. This is strictly
  true, _in the degree that any duties are positive_, but no further.
  And to denominate a precept or duty _positive_, though but _partially_
  so, I have no objection, for the sake of distinguishing them from such
  as are merely moral, and evidently founded on the reason and nature of
  things. “Except we observe this caution,” as bishop Butler observes,
  “we shall be in danger of running into endless confusion.”

  It may be said, “If we resign this maxim, that a positive precept or
  duty excludes all moral reasoning, analogy and inference, we open a
  door to numberless innovations, and deprive ourselves of a necessary
  barrier against the encroachments of popery, &c.” In reply to this
  specious objection let it be observed,

  1. That this maxim, whatever confidence our opponents place in it, is
  a very _insufficient_ barrier for the defence of truth, if the
  objection implies, that it is calculated to defend truth against
  error, and not error against truth as well. For it is notorious, that
  there is hardly any extravagance, in the whole compass of the
  distinguishing peculiarities of religious practice, that is not
  barricadoed by this very maxim. If _Protestants_ use it against
  Papists, _Papists_ in their turn use it against Protestants. If the
  Quakers are pursued and foiled when they occasionally quit this fort,
  they soon rally their controversial forces, and, entrenching
  themselves behind the strength of this maxim, become again victorious.
  Whence passive obedience and non-resistance? Whence an opposition to
  all _forensic_ swearing, in common with profane? Whence the Quakers’
  nonconformity to what other serious Christians consider as lawful?
  Their peculiar mode of salutation and address? Their method of
  conducting religious worship? The little stress they lay on the
  observance of the christian Sabbath? &c. Whence the popish absurd
  figment of transubstantiation, apostolical succession, extreme
  unction? &c.—On the contrary,

  2. Not to distinguish between the _positiveness_ and _morality_ of a
  precept, ordinance or duty, and not to ascertain their respective
  _degrees_; and to deny that the _latter_ distinction admits of moral
  reasoning, inference and analogy, open a wide door to _bigotry_, and
  numberless glaring abuses of the sacred oracles. By rejecting the
  analogy of faith and the _design_ of scripture herein, we give the
  most effectual encouragement to every senseless intrusion. And what is
  still more remarkable is, that the _more firmly_ any one adheres to
  the undistinguishing positive scheme, in reference to any christian
  ordinance whatever, the more closely will he be allied to the interest
  of genuine bigotry. For it has a direct tendency to make the
  unprescribed circumstances of a positive rite, _essential_ to the rite
  itself, and consequently to make that necessary and essential which
  the institutor has not made so. How far this is applicable to the
  antipædobaptist’s cause, will be further considered.—The doctrine that
  teaches the propriety of yielding our reason to positive institutions
  _as such_, or in the _degree_ they are so, is just and proper, as
  founded on the sovereign, absolute and manifest authority of the
  Supreme Legislator; and in this view it has been of singular service
  in refuting the cavils of deistical impiety. But to carry the
  principle any further, tends to betray the cause of christianity into
  the hands of infidels, and to breed unhallowed party zeal and
  uncharitable animosities among its sincerest professors. “For who are
  most likely to put weapons into the hands of _infidels_; they, who
  seem to discard _reason_ in the investigation of truth, or they, whose
  researches are founded on her most vigorous exertions, and most
  rational decisions?—They, who make scripture bow to their preconceived
  notions, in direct opposition to the dictates of reason and common
  sense, or they, whose arguments are founded on a _coalition_ of
  scripture and right reason?” Once more,

  3. The objection, as it includes Mr. B.’s favourite maxim, and tends
  to oppose the distinction above stated, involves a great inconsistence
  with itself. For on what principle, except what they affect to
  discard, do our opponents retain _some_ of the positive rites of the
  New Testament and reject _others_? Why regard _baptism_ and the
  _eucharist_ as of standing obligation; while the _pedilavium_ and
  _feasts of charity_ (the _former_ enjoined expressly by our Lord, and
  _both_ practised by the disciples of the apostolic age, see John xiii.
  14, 15. 1 Tim. v. 10. Jude 12.) are judged unworthy of continuance?
  Why receive _females_ to communion, or adopt the _first_ day of the
  week for the christian sabbath? How can they justify their conduct in
  these matters, these circumstances of _positive_ institutions, without
  undermining their own avowed hypothesis? With regard to the sabbath,
  indeed, the antipædobaptists are divided among themselves; while some
  are content with the _first_ day of the week, others observe the
  _seventh_. On this point Dr. S. is very open and ingenious; Mr.
  Addington appeals to an objecting antipædobaptist, “whether he does
  not think himself sufficiently authorized to keep the christian
  sabbath, though Christ has no where said in so many words, _Remember
  the first day of the week to keep it holy_?” To this the Dr. replies,
  “There is, I acknowledge, some weight in this objection: and all I can
  say to it is, that not having yet met with any passage in the New
  Testament that appears to me to have repealed the fourth commandment,
  and to have required the observation of the first day, I cannot think
  myself sufficiently authorized to renounce that, and to keep this.” If
  the doctor is professedly an observer of the Jewish sabbath, he is
  consistent with himself, however different from so great a part of the
  christian world; if _not_, he and his tenet are at variance: analogy
  and inferential reasoning have got the better of the positive system,
  which nevertheless must not be resigned, for fear of worse

  Another objection much insisted on is, “If our Lord has left any thing
  to be _inferred_ relative to the _subject_ and _mode_ of baptism,
  being a positive institute; or if he has not delivered himself
  _expressly_ and _clearly_ in every thing, respecting the question
  _who_ are to be baptized, and the manner _how_; it implies a reflexion
  on his wisdom and goodness.” But this objection is impertinent on
  different accounts. For,

  1. Its force is derived from the supposition that the Institutor was
  somehow _obliged_ to make his will known to men by _one_ method only.
  But is the Great Supreme under any such obligations to his absolutely
  dependent creatures? What should we say of a philosopher, who, having
  to judge of any important phenomenon in physics, should quarrel with
  the author of nature, because he had not confined his method of
  information to _one_ source only, to the exclusion of all others? That
  his evidence, for instance, was not confined to the information of
  _sense_, to the exclusion of _reason_ and _analogy_? Or what should we
  say of a person, who having to decide on the truth and reality of a
  miracle, should impeach the wisdom and goodness of his Maker, because
  he did not appeal to _one_ sense only of his dependent and unworthy
  creatures, that of _seeing_, for instance, to the exclusion of that of
  _hearing_? The answer is plain, and the application easy.

  2. The objection is guilty of another impertinence, nearly allied to
  the former: it unreasonably requires _positive_ evidence for what is
  discoverable by _other_ means. It is demonstrable, and I think has
  been demonstrated, that the qualifications of the subjects of baptism
  (the _mode_ also will be examined in its place) is what cannot
  possibly be determined by any positive rule whatever as such, but must
  be resolved to the _discretionary_ nature of the commission, or the
  supposed _wisdom_ and _prudence_ of the administrators, in common with
  other parts of the same commission, such as the choice of an
  _audience_, the choice of a concionatory _subject_, &c. Preach the
  _gospel_ to _every creature_, is a part of the commission, but the
  execution has no _positive_ rule. Nor does this commission of
  preaching the _gospel_ prohibit preaching the _law_, for a lawful use,
  or any branch of natural religion, notwithstanding Mr. B.’s excluding
  standard, that “positive laws imply their negatives.” In like manner,
  the commission to baptize _believers_, and the _taught_, we contend
  and prove, does not mean to include _all sorts_ of believers and
  taught persons, but such of them as the administrators judge fit,
  according to the rules of christian prudence and discretion. And we
  further insist, as shall be more fully shewn hereafter, that the terms
  of the commission, _believers_ and _taught_, stand _opposed_, not to
  _non-believers_ and _untaught_, but to _unbelievers_ and persons
  _perversely ignorant_. What, therefore, falls _necessarily_ to the
  province of inferential reasoning, is impertinently referred to a
  positive standard.

  3. The objection implies an _ungrateful_ reflexion on the Institutor’s
  wisdom and goodness, contrary to what it pretends to avoid. And this
  it does, by counteracting and vilifying those natural dictates of
  reason, prudence and common sense, that our all-wise and beneficent
  Creator has given us—his _goodness_, in not suspending their
  operations, but leaving them in full force, as to these circumstances
  of positive duties—his _wisdom_, in grafting what is positive of his
  laws on these common principles—and finally, the favourable
  circumstance of his diminishing the degree of positiveness in New
  Testament institutions, as well as their number.

  Let us now recapitulate what has been said in this chapter—From an
  investigation of the _nature_ of positive precepts and duties, as
  distinguished from _moral_ ones, together with their _comparative_
  obligations and importance, we have seen, that, in any case of
  supposed competition, the _latter_ claims an undoubted _preference_.
  We have also seen, that nothing but absolute, decisive, _discernible
  authority_ can turn the scale in favor of the _former_, or, indeed,
  place any law or duty in the rank of POSITIVE. Moreover, it has been
  shewn, that every duty resulting from any discernible _moral
  relation_, must needs be classed among _moral duties_; that some
  things appertaining to the very _essence_ of baptism, on our
  opponents’ own principles, are of moral consideration; particularly
  the qualifications of proper subjects; consequently, that baptism is
  an ordinance of a _mixed nature_, partly positive and partly moral. Of
  all which an unavoidable consequence is, that our opponents’ outcry
  against all _moral_ and _analogical reasons_ in our enquiries
  respecting the subjects and mode of baptism, is impertinent and
  absurd, and to a demonstration contradictory to their own avowed


Footnote 77:

   The commission to disciples _baptizing all nations_ is both a
  positive and express authority for the baptism of the infants of such
  as are themselves discipled.

Footnote 78:

  _See his works: vol. II. pag. 1129, 1132, 1133._

Footnote 79:

  _Vid. Just. Martyr, Quest. & Resp. Quest. CII. & ejusd. Apol. II._

Footnote 80:

  _Vid. Cyp. in Epist. ad Fid. Lib. iii. Epi. viii._

Footnote 81:

  _Vid. Iren. Lib. ii. xxxix._

Footnote 82:

  _Vid. Ejusd. Orat. xl._

Footnote 83:

  _Vid. Augustin. de peccat. merit. & remiss. Lib. i. Cap. xxviii.
  parvulos baptizandos esse concedunt qui contra autoritatem universæ
  ecclesiæ proculdubio per dominum, & Apostolos traditam venire non
  possunt; and in Sermon. x. de verbis Apostol, speaking concerning
  infant-baptism, he says, Nemo vobis susurret doctrinas alienas. Hoc
  ecclesia semper habuit. semper tenuit; hoc a majorum fide percepit:
  hoc usque in finem perseveranter custodit._

Footnote 84:

  _Vid. Tertul. Lib. de Baptism, Cap. xviii._

Footnote 85:

  It is very remarkable, that in those ages and countries, _where_ the
  _mode_ of dipping has been, or still is, the most prevalent, _there
  infant-baptism_ has been the most generally practised, and _there_ the
  _mode_ of baptizing has not been deemed essential. Instead, therefore,
  of finding _all_ these people Baptists, but _very few, if any_, of
  that denomination, are to be found among them. Dr. Wall, who was
  himself an advocate for dipping, tells us, “that all christians in the
  world, _who never owned the pope’s authority_, do now, and ever did,
  dip their infants, in the ordinary use.” They always baptized their
  infants; and, ordinarily, by dipping, but not universally, for they,
  occasionally, sprinkled them. The mode of dipping was of ordinary use;
  but the practice of infant-baptism, in those churches who _were never
  under the influence of popery_, appears to have been _universal_, both
  in ancient and modern times.

  We do not pretend to rest the proof of infants’ right to baptism upon
  historical evidence, relative to the ancient practice of the church in
  this respect. However, if it should appear, that the churches, soon
  after the apostles, did admit the infant children of believing parents
  to baptism—if no account can be produced, of any church that rejected
  them—if no individual can be named, who pretended that the practice
  was unlawful, or an innovation—these facts will certainly furnish a
  very weighty argument in favour of the aforesaid doctrine.

  Baptism is an important transaction of a public nature. Those
  christians, who lived and wrote in the earliest times after the
  apostles, must have known what _their_ practice was, with reference to
  the infant children of believers. The testimony of these ancient
  writers, as historians or witnesses, respecting this plain matter of
  fact, justly claims our most impartial and attentive consideration. It
  is not, however, my intention to write a complete history of
  infant-baptism. A history of this kind has been written a century ago,
  by Dr. Wall, a very correct and judicious historian. This history is
  highly approved and recommended by the best judges, being a work of
  great merit, candour and impartiality.

  On February 9th, 1705, the clergy of England, assembled in general
  convention, “_ordered_, that the thanks of this house be given to Mr.
  Wall, vicar of Shoreham in Kent, for the learned and excellent book he
  hath lately written concerning infant-baptism; and that a committee be
  appointed to acquaint him with the same.” Dr. Atterbury, a leading
  member in said convention, says, “that the history of infant-baptism
  was a book, for which the author deserved the thanks, not of the
  English clergy alone, but of all the Christian churches.” Mr. Whiston
  also, a very learned man, well acquainted with the writings of the
  Fathers of the four first centuries, and a professed Baptist, in his
  address to the people of that denomination, declares to them, “that
  Dr. Wall’s history of _infant-baptism_, as to facts, appeared to him
  most accurately done, and might be depended on by the Baptists
  themselves.” _Mem. of his life_, part 2, page 461.

  The aforesaid history is still extant in two volumes. The same author
  has since published another volume, which is a defence of the two
  former volumes, against the reflections of Dr. Gale and others. In
  these publications, he has favoured us with the testimony and sayings
  of the ancient Fathers, with respect to infant-baptism, a few of which
  I shall produce, as authorities on the present occasion.

  Justin Martyr, who wrote about forty years after the apostolic age,
  says, “We have not received the carnal but spiritual circumcision, by
  baptism. And it is enjoined on all persons to receive it in the same
  way.” He here evidently considers baptism as being in the place of
  circumcision, and, consequently, like that ancient rite, designed for
  infants as well as for adults. In one of his apologies for the
  christians, he observes, “Several persons among us, of sixty or
  seventy years old, who were made disciples to Christ from their
  childhood, do continue uncorrupt.”—_Who were made disciples._—Take
  notice; for he makes use of the very same word that was used in the
  commission given to the apostles. _Disciple all nations, baptizing
  them_, &c. Now, if infant children were made disciples, they were
  undoubtedly baptized. Justin wrote about 105 years after the ascension
  of Christ. Those persons whom he mentions were then 70 years old; and
  consequently born and made disciples, in the times of the apostles.

  Irenæus, who wrote about sixty-seven years after the apostles, and was
  then an aged man, says, concerning Christ, “he came to save all
  persons who by him are regenerated (or baptized) unto God, _infants_,
  little ones, youths and elderly persons.” He speaks of _infants_ and
  _little ones_ as being regenerated. It is evident from his own words
  that he had reference to their baptism; for he tells us, “When Christ
  gave his apostles the command of _regenerating_ unto God, he said, go
  and teach all nations _baptizing_ them.” The ancient Fathers as
  customarily used the word regeneration for baptism, as the church of
  England now use the word christening. Justin Martyr, whose name and
  testimony we have already mentioned, speaking of some particular
  persons who had been baptized, says, “they are regenerated in the same
  way of regeneration, in which we have been regenerated, for they are
  _washed with water in the_ name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
  _the Holy Ghost_.” In this short sentence, the word regeneration, or
  regenerated, is put for baptism no less than three times.

  It is a matter of _no_ importance in the present dispute, whether the
  primitive Fathers used the aforesaid word properly or improperly. We
  certainly know in what sense they did use it, and this is all the
  information needed. I would however repeat a former observation, viz.
  that by a common figure, the thing signified is often substituted for
  the sign, and the sign for the thing signified. Thus, the Abrahamic
  covenant is sometimes put, by God himself, for circumcision; and
  circumcision, the sign and token thereof, is sometimes put for the
  covenant. Accordingly, baptism has been put for regeneration; and
  regeneration, for baptism.

  We have already shown, that the Jews were in the habit of baptizing
  the Gentile proselytes, even before the time of John and of Christ.
  They considered these proselytes as being, by baptism, born the
  children of Abraham; and therefore expressed their baptism, by
  regeneration. Accordingly, Christ and his apostles, on some particular
  occasions, adopted a similar language. Our Saviour said to Nicodemus,
  _except one be born again—except he be born of water and of the
  Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God_. By this new birth, Christ
  evidently had reference to water baptism, as truly as to the renewing
  of the Holy Ghost. The apostle Paul styles baptism, _the washing of
  regeneration_. The ancients commonly expressed baptism with water, by
  regeneration; for they considered this external sacrament as a sign of
  internal, spiritual renovation and purification, Irenæus expressly
  calls baptism regeneration, and says that _infants_ were
  _regenerated_, that, is baptized. His testimony is plain and full; and
  cannot be doubted by any person acquainted with the phraseology and
  writings of the Fathers. He mentions not only old persons and youths,
  but also little ones, and even infants. This Irenæus was bishop of
  Lyons in France. According to Mr. Dodwell, he was born before the
  death of St. John—was brought up in Asia, where that apostle had lived
  and died. He was acquainted with Polycarp; and in his younger years,
  had often heard him preach. Polycarp was John’s disciple, had been
  chosen by him to be bishop of Smyrna—and probably that angel of the
  church, so highly commended in the 2d chapter of Rev. Irenæus, and
  those Christians who lived in an age so near the apostles, and in a
  place where one of them had so lately resided, could not be
  ignorant—they must have known what the apostolic practice was, with
  respect to infant-baptism—a matter of the most notorious and public

  Dr. Lathrop observes, “that Tertullian, who flourished about one
  hundred years after the apostles, gives a plain testimony, that the
  church admitted infants to baptism in his time. It is true, he advises
  to _delay_ their baptism; not because it was _unlawful_, for he allows
  of it in cases of necessity; but because the _sponsors_ were often
  brought into a snare; and because he imagined that sins, committed
  _after baptism_, were next to unpardonable. He accordingly advises
  that unmarried persons be kept from this ordinance, until they either
  marry or are confirmed in continence. His advising to a delay,
  supposes that infant-baptism was practised, for otherwise there would
  have been no room for the advice. He does not speak of it as an
  _innovation_, which he would certainly have done, had it _begun_ to
  have been practised in his time. His words rather imply the contrary.
  His speaking of _sponsors_, who engaged for the education of the
  infants that were baptized, shows that there had been such a custom.
  And his asking, ‘why that innocent age _made such haste_ to baptism,’
  supposes that infants had usually been baptized, soon after their
  birth. So that he fully enough witnesses to the _fact_, that it had
  been the practice of the church to baptize infants. And his advice to
  delay their baptism, till they were grown up and married, was one of
  those odd and singular notions for which this father was very

  This quotation agrees well with the account given of Tertullian, by
  Dr. Wall and other approved writers. Tertullian was evidently a man of
  abilities and learning, and in some respects an useful writer. His
  integrity and veracity were never questioned. But as has been hinted,
  he held to some strange and peculiar notions. He was not deemed
  perfectly orthodox by the ancient Christians. Being a person of warm
  imagination, he expressed himself, very strongly, on different
  subjects, at different times; and some have thought, in a manner that
  was not consistent. Some of the later Baptists have even pretended
  that he denied infant-baptism. But these considerations do not
  disqualify him as a witness in the present case. Instead of
  invalidating, they serve to confirm his testimony.

  Dr. Gill says, that Tertullian is the first man who _mentions_
  infant-baptism, and speaks against it; and infers that it had not come
  into use before his time. To this, Mr. Clark, in his answer, replies,
  “So he is the first man, I suppose, that mentions the baptism of
  unmarried people, virgins, and widows, and speaks against it, and as
  earnestly pleads for its delay till the danger of temptation is past;
  till marriage, or the abatement of lust. But will it thence follow,
  that the baptism of such unmarried persons did not obtain in the
  church till Tertullian’s time? Or that it then first began to be in
  use? Our author might as reasonably have inferred the latter opinion,
  as the former. But the very words, in which he expresses his advice
  against baptizing infants, plainly imply that it was a common
  practice. After all, what is it that Tertullian has said against
  infant-baptism? He has given it as his judgment, that it would be more
  profitable to defer their baptism, until they come to riper years, and
  were able to understand something of its nature and design; but he
  does not like the anti-pædobaptists, condemn it as unlawful; which he
  would have done, if it had been a novel practice—an innovation,
  contrary to the rule of scripture, or without the approbation or
  direction of the apostles. On the contrary, he allows it in case of
  necessity, of sickness, and danger of death. Dr. Gill, instead of
  saying, that Tertullian was the first man who mentioned
  infant-baptism, and spoke against it, ought to have said, that he was
  the _only man_, in all antiquity, whose writings have come down to us,
  who has said any thing at all against the practice of baptizing
  infants.” The very advice, however, which he gave, plainly shows, that
  infant-baptism was then commonly practised. He does not intimate, that
  the practice was of human invention, or not authorized by the
  apostles. His private opinion, with respect to the expediency of
  delaying baptism in several cases, and the reasons which he offered,
  are nothing to us. We have only cited him as a voucher to an ancient
  fact; and the testimony which he has given affords clear and
  incontestable proof of said fact, viz. that infants were baptized in
  his times.

  Origen, who flourished in the beginning of the third century, and was
  for some time contemporary with Tertullian, in his 8th homily on
  Levit. 12, observes, “David, speaking concerning the pollution of
  infants, says, _I was conceived in iniquity, and in sin did my mother
  bring me forth_. Let it be considered what is the reason, that whereas
  the baptism of the church is given for forgiveness, infants also, by
  the usage of the church, are baptized; when if there were nothing in
  infants, which wanted forgiveness and mercy, the grace of baptism
  would be needless to them. And again, infants are baptized for the
  remission of sin. Of what sin? Or when have they sinned? Or how can
  any reason of the laver hold good in their case? But according to that
  sense before mentioned, none is free from pollution, though his life
  be only the length of one day upon the earth. It is for this reason
  that infants are baptized, because by the sacrament of baptism, our
  pollution is taken away.” In another treatise, he says, “the church
  had a tradition, or command from the apostles, to give baptism to
  infants! for they, to whom the divine mysteries were committed, knew
  that there is, in all persons, the natural pollution of sin, which
  ought to be washed away by water and the spirit; by reason of which
  pollution, the body itself is also called _the body of sin_, &c. &c.”

  These testimonies of Origen are full and unequivocal. They put the
  matter in debate beyond all reasonable doubt, if any credit can be
  given to them; and no reason appears, why they should not be credited.
  It is true, they are taken from Latin translations. Origen wrote in
  the Greek language. But the fidelity of the translators and
  authenticity of these passages, have been sufficiently vindicated by
  Dr. Wall, even to the entire satisfaction of all impartial enquirers.
  None will object, but those persons who are disposed to cavil.

  I perceive that you have admitted the aforesaid facts; but have made
  an unusual outcry against the tradition and order from the apostles,
  mentioned by Origen. There is, I suspect, more policy and popularity
  in your remarks, than real weight. It will not do for us to turn those
  weapons against the ancient Fathers and holy apostles, which the
  protestants have used with so much success, in their disputes with the

  Let us hear what St. Paul says, with respect to traditions. 2 Thess.
  ii. 15. “Therefore, brethren, _stand fast, and hold the traditions_
  which ye have been taught, whether _by word_, or our epistle.” And in
  the 3d chap. 6th verse, he says, “Now we _command_ you, brethren, in
  the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from
  every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the _tradition_
  which he received of us.” So also in 1 Corin. 11th chap. 2d verse.
  “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and
  keep the _ordinances_ (the _traditions_, paradoseis) as I delivered
  them to you.” The apostle was here speaking of christian ordinances,
  which he calls _traditions_. The original word signifies _traditions_,
  and is so rendered by our translators in the other aforecited

  Thus, sir, you see in what a solemn manner—_in the name of Christ_,
  the holy apostle charged the primitive christians, _to hold and keep
  the_ traditions—not merely such as had been written by the pen of
  inspiration, but also those which were delivered to them _by word_, or
  in an oral and verbal manner, and with particular reference to the
  rules and ordinances of the gospel. The traditions and commandments of
  mere men, which pretend to divine authority, are to be rejected. But
  those traditions are not to be treated with sneer and ridicule, which
  were delivered by the apostles to the primitive christians—recorded
  and authenticated by the ancient Fathers—and transmitted down to us,
  by the faithful historian.

  Origen has expressly informed us, that infant-baptism was practised in
  his time. With respect to this matter of fact, Origen was certainly a
  competent witness; and he had every opportunity, and advantage for
  knowing what had been the practice of his predecessors and even of the
  apostles. Many of the ancient Fathers were illiterate, and descended
  from heathen parents; and being the first of their family who embraced
  christianity, must have been baptized when adults. But Origen was one
  of the most learned men of the age. He was born and educated at
  Alexandria in Egypt, but travelled into Rome, and Greece, and
  Capadocia, and Arabia. He resided for some time in several of the most
  eminent churches, and spent the greatest part of his life in Syria and
  Palestine. His ancestors were christians. Eusebius tells us, that his
  forefathers had been christians, for several generations. His father
  was martyred, in the persecution under Severus.

  It is very remarkable, that his pedigree should have been so
  accurately ascertained. The occasion was this: Porphyry, a great enemy
  to christianity, had represented the christians as being an ignorant
  people, destitute of science; but not being able to conceal the repute
  of Origen, for his uncommon skill in human literature, pretended that
  he had been at first a heathen, and had learned their philosophy. In
  order to confute this falsehood, Eusebius enquired into his ancestry,
  and set forth his christian descent.

  Origen was born in the year of our Lord 185, that is, eighty-five
  years after the apostles. He was seventeen years old when his father
  suffered martyrdom. He had himself, undoubtedly, been baptized in his
  infancy; and must have been informed concerning the practice of the
  apostles, respecting the baptizing of infants; for his grandfather, or
  at least his great-grandfather, lived in the apostolic times, and they
  both were christians. This is the man, who has expressly declared,
  that infants were baptized in his day, and that the church was
  directed by an order or tradition from the apostles, to baptize them.
  His circumstances were such as afforded him all the necessary and
  suitable means for obtaining information. We have no reason to suspect
  his credibility as a witness; and nothing can be more unreasonable,
  than to reject or treat his testimony with contempt. It is a
  circumstance worthy of our _very particular notice_, that Origen and
  the other ancient Fathers do not speak of infant-baptism as being a
  practice that was denied or opposed by any one. They mention it as a
  practice generally known and approved, and for the purpose of
  illustrating and confirming other points that were then disputed.

  I shall now produce the testimony of the blessed martyr Cyprian, who
  was for some time contemporary with Origen; and next to him, the most
  noted Christian writer of that age. Cyprian was constituted bishop or
  minister of Carthage, in the year 248, and Origen died in the year
  252. The testimony of this ancient saint, to which I now have an
  immediate reference, was occasioned by a question proposed to him, by
  one Fidus, a _presbyter_, or minister in the country, viz. Whether _an
  infant might be baptized before he was eight days old_? The reason of
  his doubt, it seems, was an article in the law respecting
  circumcision, which, under the Old Testament dispensation, required
  that infants should be circumcised on the eighth day from their birth.
  Pursuant to the aforesaid question, an ecclesiastical council of
  sixty-six bishops, having convened at Carthage, A. D. 253, Cyprian
  proposed a resolution of the following import, viz. “that an infant
  might be baptized on the second or third day, or at any time after its
  birth; and that circumcision, besides being a sacramental rite, had
  something in it of a typical nature; and particularly, in the
  circumstance of being administered on the eighth day, which ceased at
  the coming of Christ, who has given us baptism, the spiritual
  circumcision; in which ordinance, we are not thus restricted, with
  respect to the age or time of administration.” To this resolution the
  council agreed unanimously; as it appears from the testimony of
  Cyprian in his epistle to Fidus, from which I shall extract a few
  paragraphs, in order to show the sentiments of those venerable and
  ancient saints relative to infant-baptism.—The inscription is as

  “Cyprian and the rest of the colleagues, who are present in council,
  in number sixty-six, to Fidus our brother,


  “As to the case of infants, whereas _you judge that they must not be
  baptized within two or three days after they are born; and that the
  law of the ancient circumcision is to be observed; so that you think
  none should be baptized and sanctified, until the eighth day after
  their birth_; we were all in our assembly of a quite different
  opinion. For in this matter, with respect to that which you thought
  fitting to be done, there was not one of your mind. But all of us
  rather judged, that the grace and mercy of God is not to be denied to
  any person born. For whereas our Lord in his gospel, _the Son of Man
  came not to destroy men’s souls_ (or lives) _but to save them_.—That
  the eighth day, appointed to be observed in the Jewish circumcision,
  was a type going before in a shadow, or resemblance, but on Christ’s
  coming was fulfilled in the substance; for because the eighth day,
  that is the next after the Sabbath, was to be the day on which the
  Lord was to rise from the dead, and quicken us, and give us the
  spiritual circumcision. This eighth day, that is, the next to the
  Sabbath, or the Lord’s day, went before in the type, which type ceased
  when the substance came, and the spiritual circumcision was given to
  us. So that we judge, no person is to be hindered from obtaining the
  grace, (that is _of baptism_) by the law which is now established; and
  that the spiritual circumcision ought not to be restrained by the
  circumcision which was according to the flesh; but that all are to be
  admitted to the grace of Christ; since Peter, speaking in the Acts of
  the apostles, says, _the Lord hath shown me that no person is to be
  called common or unclean_. This, therefore, dear brother, was our
  opinion in the assembly, that it is not for us to hinder any person
  from baptism, and from the grace of God, who is merciful, and kind,
  and affectionate to all. Which rule, as it holds for all, so we think
  it is more especially to be observed in reference to infants, and
  those that are newly born, to whom our help and the divine mercy is
  rather to be granted, because by their weeping and wailing at their
  first entrance into the world, they do intimate nothing so much as
  that they implore compassion,” &c.

  Saint Ambrose, who wrote about 274 years after the apostles, declares
  expressly, “that infant-baptism was practised in his time, and in the
  time of the apostles.”

  Saint Chrysostom observes, “that persons may be baptized either in
  their infancy, in middle age, or in old age.”—He tells us, infants
  were baptized, although they had no sin; and that the sign of the
  cross was made upon their foreheads at baptism.—Saint Hierome says,
  “if infants be not baptized, the sin of omitting their baptism is laid
  to the parent’s charge.”—Saint Austin, who wrote at the same time,
  about 280 years after the apostles, speaks “of infant-baptism as one
  of those practices which was not _instituted by any council_, but had
  _always_ been in use.” The _whole church of Christ_, he informs us,
  _had constantly held_ that infants were baptized for the forgiveness
  of sin.—That he “had _never read or heard_ of _any Christian,
  Catholic_ or _sectary_, who held otherwise.”—“That no christian, of
  any sort, ever denied it to be useful or necessary.” “If any one,”
  saith he, “should ask for divine authority in this matter, though
  that, which the whole church practises, and which has not been
  instituted by councils, but was ever in use, may be believed, very
  reasonably, to be a thing delivered or ordered by the apostles, yet we
  may, besides, take a true estimate, how much the sacrament of baptism
  does avail infants, by the circumcision which God’s former people

  No one of these ancient Fathers ever wrote directly in favour of, or
  against, infant-baptism. In their various discourses and writings,
  they often mention it, occasionally and transiently, when discoursing
  on some other subject.—They mention it as a general practice of
  universal notoriety, about which there was no controversy, in order to
  confute some prevailing heresy, or establish certain doctrines, that
  were then disputed. Similar testimonies might easily be produced from
  the writings of many other ancient witnesses, but this would
  unnecessarily add to the prolixity of the present work. I will
  therefore conclude, by stating very briefly, the incontestible and
  conclusive evidence in proof of infant-baptism, arising out of the
  well-known Pelagian controversy respecting original sin, which
  happened about three hundred years after the apostles.

  Pelagius held, that infants were born free from any natural and sinful
  defilements. The chief opposers of him and his adherents were Saint
  Hierome, and Saint Austin, who constantly urged, very closely, in all
  their writings upon the subject, the following argument, viz. “_That
  infants are, by all christians, acknowledged to stand in need of
  baptism, which must be in them for original sin, since they have no
  other_.” “If they have no sin, why are they then baptized, according
  to the rule of the church, _for the forgiveness of sins? Why are they
  washed in the laver of regeneration, if they have no pollution?_”
  Pelagius, and also Celestius, one of his principal abettors, were
  extremely puzzled and embarrassed with this argument. They knew not
  how to evade or surmount its force, but by involving themselves in
  greater absurdities and difficulties. Some persons aggravated the
  supposed error, by charging upon them the denial of infant-baptism, as
  a consequence that followed from their tenet. Pelagius disclaimed the
  slanderous imputation with abhorrence, declaring that he was accused
  falsely. In the confession of faith, Pelagius then exhibited, which
  Dr. Wall has recited, he owns, “_that baptism ought to be administered
  to infants, with the same sacramental words which are used in the case
  of adult persons_.”—He vindicates himself in the strongest terms,
  saying, “_that men slander him as if he denied the sacrament of
  baptism to infants, and did promise the kingdom of heaven to any
  person without the redemption of Christ; and affirms that he never
  heard of any, not even the most impious heretic, that would say such a
  thing of infants_.” Now these difficulties would have been instantly
  removed, and the battery, which so greatly annoyed them, been
  demolished at once, by only denying that infants were to be baptized.
  But they did not suggest or entertain any doubt at all respecting this
  doctrine. Pelagius readily avowed, in the most explicit manner, the
  incontested right, and the established immemorial practice of
  infant-baptism. Celestius also confessed, “that infants were to be
  baptized according to the _rule of the universal church_.”

  One of these men was born and educated in Britain, and the other in
  Ireland. They both lived a long time at Rome, the centre of the world
  and place to which all people resorted. Celestius settled at
  Jerusalem, and Pelagius travelled over all the principal churches of
  Europe, Asia and Africa. If there had been any number of churches, or
  a single church, in any part of the world, not only in that but in the
  two preceding ages, who denied the baptism of infants, these learned,
  sagacious persons must have known or heard of it; and certainly they
  would have mentioned it, in order to check the triumph of their
  opponents, and to wrest from them that argument, by which, above all
  others, they were most grievously pressed. It is evident there was no
  society of Baptists then in the world, nor had there been any of that
  denomination, within the memory of man. The confession of Pelagius and
  Celestius amounts almost to demonstration. It proves, beyond all
  reasonable doubt, that infant-baptism had universally obtained, and
  had always been practised among christians, even from the apostolic

  Dr. Wall, who enjoyed the best advantages for being acquainted with
  the history of infant-baptism, and who made this the principal subject
  of his studies and enquiries, briefly sums up the evidence on both
  sides, in the following words: “Lastly, for the first four hundred
  years, there appears only one man, Tertullian, who advised the _delay_
  of infant-baptism in some cases, and one Gregory, who did _perhaps_
  practise such _delay_ in the case of his own children; but no society
  of men so thinking or so practising; or any one man saying it was
  unlawful to baptize infants. So in the next seven hundred years, there
  is not so much as _one_ man to be found, who either spoke for or
  practised any such delay, but all the contrary. And when about the
  year 1130, one sect among the Waldenses or Albigenses declared against
  the baptizing of infants, _as being incapable of salvation_, the main
  body of that people rejected their opinion; and they of them who held
  that opinion, quickly dwindled away and disappeared, there being no
  more persons heard of, holding that tenet, until the rising of the
  German anti-pædobaptists in the year 1522.”


Footnote 86:

  _See Wall’s History of Infant-Baptism, Part II. page 52-86._

Footnote 87:

  _They that would see more on this subject may consult G. J. Voss, de
  baptismo disput. xiv. Forbes. instruct. hist. theol. Lib. x. cap. v.
  and Wall’s history of infant-baptism, vol. I._

Footnote 88:

  See Dr. Owen’s complete Collection of Sermons, page 580, 581. of
  dipping; in which he observes, that βαπτω, when used in these
  scriptures, Luke xvi. 24. and John xiii. 26. is translated to _dip_;
  and in Rev. xix. 13. where we read of a _vesture dipped in blood_; it
  is better rendered _stained_, by sprinkling blood upon it; and all
  these scriptures denote only a touching one part of the body, and not
  plunging. In other authors, it signifies, _tingo_, _immergo_, _lavo_,
  _abluo_; but in no author it ever signifies to dip, but only in order
  to washing, or as the means of washing. As for the Hebrew word טבל,
  rendered, by the LXX. in Gen. xxxvii. 31. by μολύνω, _to stain by
  sprinkling_, or otherwise mostly by βαπτω: In 2 Kings v. 14. they
  render it by βαπτιζω, and no where else: In ver. 10. Elisha commands
  Naaman to _wash_; and accordingly, ver. 14. pursuant to this order, it
  is said, he _dipped himself seven times_; the word is ויטבל; which the
  LXX. render εβαπτισατω; and in Exod. xii. 22. where the word טבל is
  used, which we render _dip_, speaking concerning the dipping the bunch
  of hyssop in the blood, the LXX. render it by the word βαπτω: And, in
  I Sam. xiv. 27; it is said, that Jonathan dipped the end of his rod in
  an honey-comb; the word here is also ויטבל, and the LXX. render it
  εβαψεν; in which place it cannot be understood of his dipping it by
  plunging: And in Lev. iv. 6. 17. and chap. ix. 9. the priest is said
  to dip his finger in the blood, which only intends his touching the
  blood, so as to sprinkle it; and therefore does not signify plunging.

  This learned author likewise observes, that βαπτιζω signifies to wash;
  as instances out of all authors may be given; and he particularly
  mentions Suidas, Hesychius, Julius Pollux, and Phavorinus and
  Eustachius. And he further adds, that it is first used in the
  scripture, in Mark i. 8. John i. 33. and to the same purpose, Acts i.
  5. in which place it signifies to pour; for the expression is
  equivocal; _I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with
  the Holy Ghost_: which is an accomplishment of that promise, that _the
  Holy Ghost should be poured on them_. As for other places, in Mark
  vii. 2. 4. νίπτω, which signifies to _wash_, and is so translated, is
  explained in the words immediately following, as signifying _to
  baptize_. And, in Luke xi. 38. it is said, that the Pharisee marvelled
  that our Saviour had not _washed before dinner_: The word in the Greek
  is ἐβαπτισθη, to whom he replies in the following verse, _Ye Pharisees
  make clean the outside_, &c. so that the word, βαπτιζω signifies there
  to _cleanse_, or to use the means of cleansing.

  He also observes, that though the original and natural signification
  of the word imports, to _dip_, to _plunge_, to _dye_; yet it also
  signifies to _wash_ or _cleanse_: Nevertheless, he thinks that it is
  so far from signifying nothing else but to _dip_ or _plunge_, that
  when it is to be understood in that sense, the words ought to be
  εμβάπτω, or εμβαπτιζω, rather than βαπτω, or βαπτίζω; and also that it
  no where signifies to _dip_, but as denoting a mode of, and in order
  to washing; and that it signifies to _wash_, in all good authors. He
  also refers to Scapula and Stephanus, as translating the word βαπτιζω
  by _lavo_, or _abluo_; and Suidas, as rendering it by _madefacio_,
  _lavo_, _abluo_, _purgo_, _mundo_: And he speaks of some authors, that
  he had searched in every place wherein they mention baptism, and that
  he found not one word to the purpose; and therefore concludes, that he
  was obliged to say, and was ready to make it good, that no honest man,
  who understands the Greek tongue, can deny the word to signify to
  _wash_, as well as to _dip_.[89]

Footnote 89:

  Dr. Wall, in the appendix of his reply to Dr. Gale, mentions a
  remarkable instance, in which the mode of wetting or of applying water
  was certainly that of pouring, and not that of dipping. It is as
  follows:—St. Origen, when commenting on the Baptism of John, enquires
  thus of the Pharisees; “How could you think that Elias, when he should
  come, would _baptize_, who did not in Ahab’s time _baptize_ the wood
  upon the altar, which was to be washed before it was burnt by the
  Lord’s appearing in fire? But he ordered the priest to do that; not
  once only, but he says, do it the second time; and they did it the
  second time. And do it the third time; and they did it the third time.
  Therefore, how could it be likely that this man, who did not then
  _baptize_, but assigned that work to others, would himself _baptize_,
  when he should, according to the prophecy of Malachi, again appear
  here on earth?”

  We find in the first book of Kings, xviii. 33, that the order given by
  Elijah was to fill four barrels with water, and _pour_ it on the wood
  and on the burnt offering. This _pouring of water_, Origen, that
  accurate scholar, who lived in the second century, and was well
  acquainted with the Greek classics, and Greek Testament, calls
  baptizing. In the very same sentence, he makes use of the Greek word
  _Baptizo_ four times; twice with express reference to the _Baptism_ of
  John; and twice with express reference to that _Baptism_ which took
  place in the days of the Prophet Elijah; which baptism, we are
  expressly told, was not performed by _dipping_ the wood and sacrifice
  into water, but by _pouring_ water upon them.

  It is also evident, even from the frequent use of the word baptizo, by
  heathen authors, that it does not always signify a total immersion.
  Mr. Walker tells us, “that Porphyrie mentions a river in India, into
  which if an offender enters, or attempts to pass through it, he is
  immediately _baptized_ up to his head:” (_baptizetai mechri
  Kephales_.) Here a person is said to be baptized, although his head
  did not go under, but remained above the water. This certainly was not
  a total immersion.

  “He also instances a case from Mr. Sydenham, as delivered by the
  oracle (viz. _askos baptize, dunai de toi ou themis esti_.”) In which
  instance, if _dunai_ signifies to plunge wholly under water, as it
  certainly does, then _baptize_ must signify something less than a
  total immersion.—“_Baptize him as a bottle, but it is not lawful to
  plunge him wholly under the water._” The baptism here described,
  resembles that of a blown bladder or bottle of leather, which when put
  into the water, will not sink to the bottom, but swim upon the top.

  The same critical author mentions an instance from Schrevelii’s and
  Robertson’s Lexicons, 19th chapter, in which case, the primitive word
  _bapto_ signifies a wetting with water, that was certainly less, and
  very different from a total dipping or immersion. The sentence is
  this. (“_Baptei men askon, udor de ugron dunei pote._”) “_He indeed
  baptizeth a bladder or bottle, but it never goeth under the liquid

  To these instances, we might add a well known case, taken from a poem
  attributed to Homer, called the battle of the frogs and the mice, in
  which the lake is said to be _baptized_ by the blood of a frog.
  (_Ebapteto de aimati limne porphureo._) This lake was not _dipped_
  into the blood of a frog; it was only _bespattered_ and tinged

  We could easily multiply authorities if it were necessary. It appears
  undeniably evident from the Greek classicks, and from learned writers
  and commentators, both ancient and modern, that the word _baptizo_ has
  other significations besides that of a total dipping or immersion.

  The most celebrated and respectable Lexicographers and criticks have
  often translated baptizo into the following Latin words, viz.
  _baptizo_, _mergo_, _immergo_, _tingo_, _intingo_, _lave_, _abluo_,
  _madefacio_, _purgo_, _mundo_. No one, I presume, will pretend that
  all these words are mentioned as being perfectly synonimous—of the
  same meaning exactly. And certainly if the word baptizo signify any
  thing less or different from a total immersion, then persons may be
  baptized in some other mode.

  Besides, if it had been the intention of Christ and of his Apostles,
  to specify the mode, or to have restricted all christians to one and
  the same mode of baptizing, they might, for this purpose, have
  selected from the Greek language words of the most unequivocal and
  definite signification. If it had been their intention to specify the
  mode of _sprinkling_, they might have used the word _Rantizo_; if the
  mode of _pouring_, they might have used the word _Ekcheo_; if that
  mode of _bathing_ or _washing_, which is performed by the application
  of water with friction or rubbing, they might have used the word
  _Louo_; and if it had been their intention to specify the mode of
  _dipping_, they might have used the word _Dupto_ or _Duno_, &c.


Footnote 90:

  Ἐις and ἐκ.

Footnote 91:

  Ἐις τὴν Θαλασσαν.

Footnote 92:


Footnote 93:

  _If any one has a mind to see how these particles ἐις and ἐκ, are used
  in the New Testament, he may consult Schmid. concord. in voc. ἐις and
  ἐκ, where there are a great number of places mentioned, in which these
  words are used; and, it will hardly be thought, by any impartial
  reader, that the greatest part of them can be rendered by, into or out
  of; but rather to, or from._

Footnote 94:

  Γδατκ πολλα.

Footnote 95:

  _See Lightfoot’s works, Vol. I. Page 500._

Footnote 96:

  In Col. ii. 12. and context, is a succession of figures, designed, in
  different ways, to illustrate and enforce the same fact. Verse 11. “In
  whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision, _made without
  hands_, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the
  circumcision of Christ.” That is, in putting off the old man, you are
  circumcised without hands; the work is effected by the Holy Spirit—You
  are born again, which is spiritual circumcision. “Circumcision is that
  of the _heart_.” This renewing of the Holy Spirit consists in putting
  off the body of sin, in renouncing sin, and reforming the life. Or, we
  are “buried with him in baptism.” As the burial of Jesus Christ gave
  evidence, that he had really died, the just for the unjust; that he
  had yielded himself a sacrifice for sin; so we in our spiritual
  circumcision or baptism, the figure now used, show ourselves to be
  really dead to sin, crucified in the lusts of our minds. As Christ,
  when buried, was dead and separated from the world; so in regeneration
  we become separate from sin. We are new creatures, having put off the
  old man. We are buried from the wicked indulgences and pursuits of the

  The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, are, not only causes,
  but types and symbols to represent the death of our sins, our putting
  off the old man, and becoming new creatures.

  No reference is made in the text to the water of baptism, any more
  than to the knife of circumcision in the preceding verse. The writer
  is speaking of that baptism, and of that alone, in which we “are risen
  with Christ, through the faith, which is the operation of God.” This
  certainly can be nothing less than _spiritual_ baptism, or
  regeneration; for the most violent advocate for dipping, or plunging,
  or burying, will not pretend, that this, necessarily, is connected
  with “faith;” he will allow it may be _possible_ for a man to be
  plunged and buried in _water_, and yet not have “the faith, which is
  the operation of God.” If he allow this, and allow this he must and
  will, then our text is no support of his cause. It cannot be water
  baptism which is mentioned.

  Were not this the fact, nothing could be inferred respecting the
  _mode_ of baptism. It would then only signify that, as Christ was
  buried and separated from the world; so we in baptism are buried and
  separated from a world of sin. The zeal for the literal construction
  of this figure may, perhaps, be extinguished by indulging it in other
  instances. St. Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ.” Would any
  person suppose from this, that he had been led to Calvary, nailed to
  the cross, and pierced by the soldier’s spear? Christians are said to
  be “circumcised in Christ.” Does any one infer from this that all
  Christians experience the bloody rite of the Jews? Or, because
  Christians “are partakers of Christ’s sufferings,” are all christians,
  therefore, betrayed by Judas, spit upon, buffeted, and crowned with
  thorns? Or, because St. Paul says the Philippians were his “_crown_,”
  were they, therefore, formed into a crown of honor, and worn as a
  badge of future glory? Or, because the sacrament represents the
  sufferings and death of Christ, are all worthy communicants crucified?
  Were our baptist brethren consistent with themselves, such would be
  their explanation of these passages of scripture.

  It immediately follows our text; “wherein also you were risen with him
  through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from
  the dead.” Wherein, or in which baptism “we are risen,” actually
  “risen with Christ by the faith” which God gives to the new creature.
  You, who have this spiritual baptism, rise like Christ above the
  selfish motives, and sensual pursuits of a fallen world. You seek the
  kingdom of God; you aspire after divine good.

  Persons, born again, like Jesus Christ, separate their hearts from the
  world, and rise to a divine life. That this is the only true
  construction of the text, may be inferred from a corresponding
  passage, Rom. vi. 4. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into
  death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
  the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” By
  spiritual baptism we partake the privileges of Christ’s death. By
  dying to sin ourselves, as we do in the new birth, we resemble Jesus
  Christ in his death, who died “to make an end of sin.” As Christ was
  raised from the grave; so we, not in water baptism, but in
  regeneration or spiritual baptism, are “raised” to walk in newness of
  life. Old things are done away; _all_ things are become new. If we
  have experienced this spiritual baptism, we shall have the Spirit of
  Christ, We shall be separate from the world of sin, as Christ was in
  the grave, and we shall like him rise to a holy, a new life. We obey a
  new master, seek a new way of salvation, act from new motives, to
  accomplish new designs; we choose new companions, experience new
  sorrows, and new joys. As if buried, we are separate from our former

  St. John says, “He [Christ] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and
  with _fire_.” The Selucians and Hermians understood this literally,
  and maintained that material fire was necessary in the administration
  of baptism. Valentinus, like our baptists, rebaptized those, who had
  received baptism out of the sect, and _drew them through the fire_.
  Herculian, cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, says that some applied a red
  hot iron to the ears of the baptized. St. Paul says, we are buried
  with Christ in baptism. This also has been understood literally; but
  such persons forget that to be consistent, on their plan, they should
  continue “buried” three days and three nights, the time Christ lay in
  the earth. Should any object that this would drown them, the baptist,
  in his way of treating figures, would have an easy answer, and readily
  prove that drowning was the very design of baptism. Rom. vi. 4. “We
  are buried with him by baptism into his death.” We are not merely
  buried, for this is only a part, any more than sprinkling; but we are
  buried to death, “buried into his death.” Thus he has scripture for
  drowning all whom he baptizes, and precisely as much scripture for
  drowning, as for burying. The very same passage, might he say, which
  commands burying, commands drowning, commands “death.”

  In the present mode of plunging, the resemblance is almost entirely
  lost. What is the difference between laying a dead body in a rock,
  covering it with a great stone; sealing it in a solemn manner; all
  things continuing in this state, three days and three nights, what is
  the resemblance between this, and suddenly plunging a living body into
  water, and instantly lifting it out of the water? What possible
  likeness is there between a _living person_ in the _water_, and a
  _dead body_ in a _rock_? The similitude is little better than that of
  the blind man, who supposed the light of the sun was like the noise of
  a cannon. We have accordingly endeavoured to show in the introduction,
  that the elegant scholar, the christian orator of Tarsus, had no
  thought of any such resemblance; his object was to show, that in
  regeneration or spiritual baptism, which is followed “with newness of
  life,” or, a new life, “through faith which is the operation of God,”
  we are dead and buried to sin, and raised or made alive to God, as
  Christ was. The evident design of the text is to illustrate the
  preceding verse, which speaks of spiritual circumcision made without
  hands. This _baptism_ is that by which we are _raised with Christ_;
  but in water baptism we are not always raised with Christ. If men are
  plunged they may generally be raised from the water; but this has no
  necessary connexion with “rising with Christ.” This baptism is also
  effected “through faith which is the operation of God;” but a man may
  be raised out of an ocean of water, every day of his life, and remain
  destitute of faith; therefore, the text has no reference to water


                             Quest. CLXVII.

    QUEST. CLXVII. _How is baptism to be improved by us?_

    ANSW. The needful, but much neglected duty of improving our baptism,
    is to be performed by us all our life long; especially in the time
    of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it
    to others, by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of
    it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges
    and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made
    therein, by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling
    short of, and walking contrary to the grace of baptism and our
    engagements, by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all
    other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament, by drawing strength
    from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are
    baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace, and by
    endeavouring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness
    and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names
    to Christ, and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the
    same Spirit, into one body.

In this answer we may observe,

I. That our baptism, together with the engagements which we are therein
laid under to be the Lord’s, is to be improved by us; though this duty
be too much neglected. That it ought to be improved is evident, inasmuch
as it is an ordinance, or means of grace, for our attaining spiritual
blessings; therefore we are not only guilty of a sinful neglect, but we
lose the advantage that might be expected thereby, if we do not improve
it so as to answer the valuable end thereof; and when we consider it as
a professed dedication to God, as has been before observed, or a bond
and obligation laid on us, to be entirely, and for ever, his, it cannot
but be reckoned the highest affront offered to the divine Majesty, and a
being unstedfast in his covenant, for us practically to disown the
engagement, or, in effect, to deny his right to us. Now, it is farther
observed, that this duty is much neglected, and the reason hereof is,

1. Because many have very low thoughts of this ordinance, and understand
not the spiritual intent or meaning thereof, nor what it is to improve
it. These reckon it no more than an external rite, established by
custom, and commonly observed in a Christian nation, without duly
weighing the end and design for which it was instituted, or what is
signified thereby.

2. Others suppose, that there is nothing in it but a public declaration,
that the person baptized is made a Christian, or has that character put
upon him; but they know not what it is to be a Christian indeed, being
utter strangers to the life and power of religion, and the spiritual
blessings hoped for, or, through the grace of God, consequent upon our
baptismal dedication.

3. Others have, indeed, right apprehensions of the sign and the thing
signified thereby, yet through the prevalency of corruption, and the
pride and deceitfulness of their hearts, they do not fiducially give up
themselves to God, nor desire the spiritual and saving blessings of the
covenant of grace. These therefore do not improve their baptism; and, it
is to be feared, that this is the condition and character of the
greatest number of professors: Which leads us to consider,

II. How baptism is to be improved by us, and that in several cases,

1. When we are present, at the administration of it to others. We are
not, indeed, at that time, so immediately concerned in the ordinance, as
the person who is publicly devoted to God therein. Nevertheless, we are
not to behave ourselves as unconcerned spectators; and therefore,

(1.) We are to join herein with suitable acts of faith and prayer, as
the nature of the ordinance calls for them, and to adore the persons of
the Godhead whose name and glory is mentioned therein. And we are to
apply ourselves to God, for the grace of the covenant, that is signified
thereby, that he would be our God, as well as the God of the person who
is particularly given up to him in baptism. We are also to bewail the
universal depravity of human nature, and that guilt which we bring with
us into the world, which is signified in infant-baptism; and this,
together with the habits of sin, which we have contracted, is confessed
by those who are baptized when adult, which we cannot but see a great
deal of, in our daily experience. We ought also to entertain becoming
thoughts of the virtue of the blood of Christ, and of the power of the
Holy Ghost, which alone can take away the guilt of sin, and render this
ordinance effectual to salvation; which we are not only to desire with
respect to the person baptized, but that we ourselves may be made
partakers of that grace, which we equally stand in need of.

(2.) We ought to confess before God, with sorrow and shame, how
defective we have been, as to the improvement of our baptismal
engagements; so that, though we have been devoted to him, our hearts and
affections have been very prone to depart from him; and we ought to
adore and acknowledge the goodness and faithfulness of God, in that,
though we have been unstedfast in his covenant, through the treachery
and deceitfulness of our hearts; yet he has been ever mindful thereof,
and made good the promises contained therein, to all his servants who
have put their trust in him.

2. Our baptism is to be improved by us in the time of temptation, in
order to our resisting it, and preventing our being entangled and
overcome thereby.

(1.) If the temptation takes its rise from the world, or we are thereby
induced to lay aside, or be remiss in our duty to God, from the
prosperous circumstances in which we are therein, we should consider,
that in having been devoted to God in our infancy, or given up ourselves
professedly to him, when adult, it has been intimated and acknowledged,
that he is our portion, better to us than all we can enjoy in the world;
and therefore we ought to acquiesce in him as such, and say, _Whom have
I in heaven but thee; and there is none_, or nothing, _upon the earth
that I desire besides thee_, Psal. lxxiii. 25.

Moreover, if we are tempted to be uneasy, and repine at the providence
of God, by reason of the many evils that befal us in the world, we ought
to consider, that when we were given up to God, this implied in it an
obligation to be content to be at his disposal, and to be satisfied with
whatever he allots for us, as not questioning the care and justice of
his providence, in which we were under an indispensable obligation to
acquiesce. Therefore when God tries us, by bringing us under various
afflictions, our baptismal engagement obliges us to say, It is the Lord,
let him do with us what seemeth good in his sight.

(2.) If we are exposed to the temptations of Satan, or those inward
suggestions, whereby sinful objects are presented to our thoughts, and a
false gloss put upon them, to induce us to a compliance therewith, we
are to improve our baptismal engagement, by considering that it contains
a solemn acknowledgment of God’s right to us, exclusive of all others:
therefore, we cannot but dread the thoughts of submitting to be vassals
to Satan, which is, in effect, to disown that allegiance which we owe to
God, and to say, that other lords shall have dominion over us. This will
have a tendency to induce us to adhere stedfastly to God, as the result
of our having been devoted to him in this ordinance.

And if we are afraid of being ensnared by those wiles and methods of
deceit, which Satan often makes use of, that are not always discerned by
us, we are to consider ourselves as having been devoted to Christ; and,
pursuant thereunto, if we have, in any instance, improved this solemn
transaction, we have given up ourselves to him, in hope of being under
his protection, and interested in his intercession, so that though we
are _sifted as wheat_, our _faith_ may _not fail_, Luke xxii. 31, 32.

Moreover, when we are assaulted, and, as it were, wounded with Satan’s
fiery darts, whereby great discouragements are thrown in our way, the
guilt of sin magnified, as though it were unpardonable, and the stain
and pollution thereof such, as can never be washed away: And when we are
ready to conclude from hence, that our state is hopeless, and the
comforts we once enjoyed, irrecoverably lost; this is, indeed, an
afflictive case. Nevertheless, our baptism is to be improved by us, as
considering that remission of sins was the blessing desired and hoped
for, inasmuch as it was signified thereby; so that we are to be sensible
that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin; and that, as we were
given up to him, in hope of obtaining this privilege, and have been
enabled since then, to give up ourselves to him by faith, and therein to
improve our baptismal engagement; we therefore trust, that he will
appear for us, rebuke the adversary, establish our comforts, and enable
us to walk as those, who desire to recommend his grace to others, that
they may be encouraged to adhere to him, by the comfortable sense which
we have of his love shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost.

3. Our baptismal engagement is to be improved by us, before and after we
are brought into a converted state.

(1.) Unregenerate persons are to improve it, as it should afford them
matter of deep humiliation, that though they have been devoted to God,
and thereby were called by his name, and made partakers of the external
blessings of his covenant; yet they have been alienated from the life of
God, and strangers to the internal saving blessings thereof. There was a
profession made, in baptism, that they stood in need of Christ’s
mediation, to deliver them from the guilt of sin, and of being cleansed
from the pollution thereof, which is of a spreading nature; but they
have, notwithstanding, given way to it; and, how _pure_ soever they have
been _in their own eyes, are not yet washed from their filthiness_,
Prov. xxx. 12. Now such may take occasion from hence to plead earnestly
with God for converting grace; which is the only means whereby they may
know that he has accepted of their solemn dedication to him; or that
they are not only born of water, but of the Spirit; and are made
partakers of the thing signified in baptism, without which, the external
sign will not afford any saving advantage. We may also plead with God,
that as we are professedly his, he would assert his own right to us,
overcome us to himself, and make us _willing in the day of his power_,
Psal. cx. 3.

(2.) Our baptismal engagement is constantly to be improved by us, if we
are brought into a state of grace, in order to the growth and increase
thereof; especially if we are sensible of great declension therein, or
that it is not, in all respects with us, as it once was; if we are
sensible of deadness and stupidity, in holy duties, and stand in need of
being quickened, excited, and brought into a lively frame of spirit, or
to be restored after great back-slidings; if we would have sin
mortified, and the secret workings thereof in our heart subdued, we
ought to consider, that having been _baptized into Jesus Christ_, we
were _baptized into his death_; and that we are obliged hereby to _walk
in newness of life_; therefore _sin should not reign in our mortal
bodies_, Rom. vi. 3, 4, 12. And as we hope and trust, that we are made
partakers of the saving blessings signified in this ordinance, we desire
to improve the relation we stand in to Christ, as his people, as a
matter of encouragement, that when we are oppressed, he will undertake
for us.

If we are destitute of assurance of his love, and our interest in him,
we are to improve the consideration of our being his, not only by
professed dedication, but by a fiducial adherence to him; this will
encourage us to hope that he will enable us to walk holily and
comfortably before him, and lift up the light of his countenance upon
us, as our reconciled God and Father.

And, in the whole course of our conversation it will be of use, for the
promoting the life of faith, which consists in an entire dependance on
him, as those who are sensible that we can do nothing without him, to
consider, that when we were first devoted to him, it was acknowledged,
and from the time, wherein we have been enabled to give up ourselves to
him by faith, we have been always sensible that we stand in need of
daily supplies of grace from him, as all our springs are in him.
Moreover, our baptismal engagement is to be improved, as it is an
inducement to us to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness;
whereby practical religion will be promoted in all its branches, when we
consider that we are not our own, and therefore dare not think of living
as we list, or serving divers lusts and pleasures, but that we are
obliged to make his revealed will (whose we are, and whom we desire to
serve,) the rule of all our actions.

And lastly, we ought to walk in brotherly love, as being _baptized by
the Spirit into one body_, 1 Cor. xii. 13. They who are partakers of the
saving blessings signified by baptism, have ground to conclude
themselves members of Christ’s mystical body, or the invisible church,
of which he is the head. This is a spiritual baptism, being the effect
of divine power, and the special work of the Holy Ghost; and certainly
this will be an inducement to all who are partakers thereof, to walk
together in brotherly love, as those who are favoured with the same
privileges, and hope to enjoy that complete blessedness, in which they,
who are before devoted to Christ, shall be for ever with him. Thus
concerning the ordinance of baptism.

And now we are led to speak concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s
supper, which is considered either absolutely in itself, or as compared
with baptism. And accordingly it is enquired; wherein they agree, or
differ. In considering the nature of the Lord’s supper, it is farther
enquired; how they, who are to partake of it, ought to prepare
themselves for it before they engage therein? And there are also two
cases of conscience answered; the one respecting those who are not
satisfied concerning their meetness for it; the other respecting those
who ought to be kept from it. We have also an account of the duties of
communicants, while they are engaged in this ordinance; or those that
are incumbent on them, after they have attended on it. These things are
particularly insisted on in several following answers, which we are now
led to consider.

                     Quest. CLXVIII., CLXIX., CLXX.

    QUEST. CLXVIII. _What is the Lord’s Supper?_

    ANSW. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein
    by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to the appointment
    of Jesus Christ, his death is shewed forth; and they that worthily
    communicate, feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual
    nourishment and growth in grace, have their union and communion with
    him confirmed, testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement
    to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as
    members of the same mystical body.

    QUEST. CLXIX. _How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given
    and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?_

    ANSW. Christ hath appointed the ministers of his word, in the
    administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart
    the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution,
    thanksgiving, and prayer, to take and break the bread, and to give
    both the bread, and the wine to the communicants, who are, by the
    same appointment, to take, and eat the bread, and to drink the wine,
    in thankful remembrance, that the body of Christ was broken and
    given, and his blood shed for them.

    QUEST. CLXX. _How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s
    supper, feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?_

    ANSW. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally
    present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper,
    and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no
    less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their
    outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament
    of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of
    Christ, not after a corporal, or carnal, but in a spiritual manner,
    yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto
    themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.

There are several things contained in these answers, _viz._

I. The general description of this ordinance, as it is called a
sacrament of the New Testament; in which we shall be led to speak
concerning the person by whom it was instituted in common with other
ordinances; and that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

II. We shall consider the persons by whom it is to be administered,
namely, the ministers, or pastors of particular churches; inasmuch as it
is an ordinance given only to those who are in church-communion.

III. We have an account of the matter thereof, or the outward elements,
to wit, bread and wine.

IV. We shall consider the ministers act, antecedent to the church’s
partaking of this ordinance, in setting apart the elements from a common
to a sacred use; which is to be done by the word and prayer, joined with

V. We have an account of the actions, both of the minister and people;
the one breaks the bread, and pours out the wine. In order to their
being distributed among those who are to receive them; the other, to
wit, the communicants, partake of them, and join with him in eating the
bread, and drinking the wine.

VI. We are to consider what is signified hereby, namely, the body and
blood of Christ; which are not supposed to be corporally and carnally,
but spiritually present to the faith of the receivers, upon which
account they may be said to feed upon the body and blood of Christ, and
apply the benefits of his death to themselves.

VII. We have an account of the persons who hope to enjoy these
privileges, and partake of the Lord’s supper in a right manner; these
are said worthily to communicate; as also the ends which they ought to
have in view, namely, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace,
their enjoying communion with Christ; and that love that they are
obliged to express to each other, as members of the same mystical body.

I. It is an ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by our Saviour.
That it is an ordinance, is evident, in that it is founded on a divine
command; as appears from the words of institution, in Matt. xxvi. 26,
27. _Take eat, this is my body; and he took the cup, and gave it to
them, saying, Drink ye all of it_, &c. And this is also intimated by the
apostle, when, speaking particularly concerning it, as also the manner
in which it is to be performed, he says, _I have received of the Lord,
that which also I delivered unto you_, 1 Cor. xi. 23. Moreover, there is
a blessing annexed to our partaking of it in a right manner; which may
plainly be inferred from the apostle’s distinguishing those who receive
it _worthily_, from others that receive it _unworthily_, or in an
unbecoming manner; of whom the former are said to _come together for the
better_, the latter _for the worse_, ver. 17. and to partake of the
Lord’s supper for the better, is to partake of it for our spiritual
advantage, which supposes, that there are some blessings annexed to it,
which render it not only a duty, but an ordinance, or means of grace.
And, that it is a gospel-ordinance of the New Testament, appears from
the time of its being instituted by our Saviour, as well as the end and
design thereof. It is particularly intimated, that Christ instituted
this ordinance immediately before his last sufferings, as a memorial of
his dying love. Thus the apostle says, _The same night in which he was
betrayed, he took bread_, ver. 23. And that it was designed to continue
as a standing ordinance in the church throughout all ages, appears from
what he farther adds, _As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this
cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death, till he come_, ver. 26.

The contrary to this is maintained by some modern enthusiasts, who
deny it to be an ordinance, as they also do baptism; concluding that
no ceremony, or significant sign, is consistent with the
gospel-dispensation. And as for what the apostle says concerning our
_shewing forth the Lord’s death till he come_, they suppose, that
hereby is meant, till he comes by the effusion of the Spirit; and
therefore, if it was an ordinance at first, it ceased to be so when
the Spirit was poured forth on the church, in the beginning of the
gospel-dispensation. To this it may be replied,

1. That ceremonial institutions are not inconsistent with the
gospel-dispensation, inasmuch as they may not be designed to signify
some benefits to be procured by Christ, as they did, which were
instituted under the ceremonial law; but they may be considered as
rememorative signs of the work of redemption, which has been brought to
perfection by him.

2. When the apostle, in the scripture but now mentioned, says, that _we
shew the Lord’s death till he come_, it cannot be meant concerning his
coming in the plentiful effusion of the Spirit; inasmuch as this
privilege was conferred on the church in the apostle’s days, at the same
time, when he speaks of their shewing forth his death. Therefore,
doubtless, he intends thereby Christ’s second coming, when this, and all
other ordinances, which are now observed in the church, as adapted to
the present imperfect state thereof, shall cease; we must therefore
conclude from hence, that it was designed to be continued in the church
in all ages, as it is at this day.

II. We are to consider the persons by whom this ordinance is to be
administered; and these are only such as are lawfully called, and set
apart to the pastoral office, whose work is to feed the church, not only
by the preaching of the word, but by the administration of the
sacraments, which are ordinances for their faith, in which they are said
to receive, and spiritually feed upon Christ and his benefits; upon
which account God promises to _give his people pastors according to his
own heart, who should feed them with knowledge and understanding_, Jer.
iii. 15. Now that none but these are appointed to administer this
ordinance, is evident in that they, who partake of it, are said to have
communion with him, and with one another therein, for their mutual
edification and spiritual advantage; therefore it doth not belong to
mankind in general, but the church in particular. And, to prevent
confusion therein, Christ has appointed one, or more proper officers in
his churches, to whom the management of this work is committed; who are
called hereunto, by the providence of God, and the consent and desire of
the church, to whom they are to minister.

III. We are now to consider the matter, or the outward elements to be
used in the Lord’s supper; and these are bread and wine. Thus it is
said, _Jesus took bread_, Matt. xxvi. 26. and _he also took the cup_;
which, by a metonymy, is put for the wine: For, our Saviour referring to
this action, speaks of his _drinking the fruit of the vine_, ver. 29. As
for the bread that is to be used in this ordinance, there was a very
warm debate between the Latin and Greek church concerning it; the
former, as the Papists do at this day, concluding it absolutely
necessary, that it should be unleavened bread, inasmuch as that kind of
bread was used by our Lord, when he first instituted it, which was at
the time of the passover, when no leaven was to be found in their
houses. And they make it also a significant sign of the sincerity and
truth with which the Lord’s supper ought to be eaten; for which, they
refer to what the apostle says, in 1 Cor. v. 8. _Let as keep the feast,
not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth._ But this seems
only to be an allusion to the use of unleavened bread in the passover;
which, it may be, might have a typical reference to that sincerity and
truth with which all the ordinances of God are to be engaged in; but it
does not sufficiently appear that he intends hereby that the bread used
in the Lord’s supper should be of this kind, or, that it was designed to
signify the frame of spirit with which this ordinance is to be

On the other hand, the Greek church thought that the bread ought to be
leavened, according to our common practice at this day, it being the
same that was used at other times. And this seems most eligible, as it
puts a just difference between the bread used in the passover, which was
a part of the ceremonial law, and a gospel-institution, that is distinct
from it. But, I think, there is no need to debate either side of the
question with too much warmth, it being a matter of no great importance.
As for the wine that is to be used in this ordinance, it is a necessary
part thereof; and therefore the Papists are guilty of sacrilege in
withholding the cup from the common people[97].

IV. We are now to consider what the minister is to do, antecedent to the
church’s partaking of the Lord’s supper: He is to set apart the outward
elements of bread and wine from a common, to this particular holy use.
Upon which account it may be said to be _sanctified by the word of God
and prayer_, 1 Tim. iv. 5. The words of institution contain an
intimation that these elements are to be used in this ordinance, by
Christ’s appointment; without which, no significant sign could be used
in any religious matters. And, as for prayer, this is agreeable to
Christ’s practice; for, he _took bread and blessed it_, or prayed for a
blessing on it; and as the apostle expresses it; this was accompanied
with thanksgiving, as he says; _When he had given thanks he brake it_,
Matt. xxvi. 26. 1 Cor. xi. 24. which is agreeable to the nature and
design of the ordinance, as herein we pray for the best of blessings,
and express our thankfulness to him for the benefits of Christ’s

Here I cannot but observe how the Papists pervert this ordinance in the
manner of consecrating the bread, which the priest does only by
repeating these words in Latin; _This is my body_; and from thence they
take occasion to advance the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation; and
suppose, that, by these words pronounced, the bread is changed into the
body and blood of Christ; which they assert, contrary to all sense and
reason, as well as the end and design of the ordinance; and from hence
it will follow, that man has a power to make the body and blood of
Christ; and another consequence thereof, will be, that the human nature
of Christ is omnipresent, which is inconsistent with a finite nature,
and those properties that belong to it as such; from whence it is to be
concluded, that it is no where else but in heaven; and it involves in it
the greatest contradiction to suppose that it is bread, and having all
the qualities thereof; and yet our senses must be so far imposed on, as
that we must believe that it is not so, but Christ’s body. It also
supposes, that Christ has as many bodies as there are wafers in the
world; which is a monstrous absurdity. It likewise confounds the sign
with the thing signified, and is very opposite to the sense of those
words of scripture, _This is my body_; which implies no more, than that
the bread, which is the same in itself, after the words of consecration,
as it was before, is an external symbol of Christ’s body, that is, of
the sufferings which he endured therein for his people.

V. We are now to consider the actions both of the minister and the
church, when engaged in this ordinance, _viz._ breaking, distributing,
eating the bread, pouring forth, and drinking the wine, for the ends
appointed by Christ, in instituting this ordinance. Whether our Saviour
gave the bread and wine to every one of the disciples in particular, is
not sufficiently determined by the words of institution: For, though
Matthew and Mark say, _He gave the bread and the cup to the disciples_,
Matt. xxvi. 26, 27. and Mark xiv. 22, 23. Yet Luke speaking either
concerning the cup used in the passover, or that in the Lord’s supper,
represents our Saviour as saying to his disciples, _Take this and divide
it among yourselves_, Luke xxii. 17. which seems to intimate that he
distributed it to one or more of them, to be conveyed to the rest, that
they might divide it among themselves; which is agreeable to the
practice of several of the reformed churches in our day, and seems most
expedient in case the number of the communicants is very great, and the
elements cannot be so conveniently given by the pastor into the hand of
every one.

Here I may observe how the Papists pervert this part of the Lord’s
supper; inasmuch as they will not permit the common people to touch the
bread with their hands, lest they should defile it; but the priest puts
it into their mouths; for which purpose it is made up into small, round
wafers; and the people are ordered to take great care that they do not
use their teeth in chewing it; for that would be, as it were, a
crucifying Christ afresh, as offering a kind of violence to what they
call his body. But these things are so very absurd and unscriptural,
that they confute themselves. And their consecrating a wafer to be
reserved in a case prepared for that purpose, and set upon the altar in
the church, to be worshipped by all that come near it, savours of gross
superstition and idolatry.

We may farther observe, that they deny the people the cup in this
ordinance, but not the priests; for what reason, it is hard to
determine. And, they mix the wine with water; which, though it does not
seem to be agreeable to Christ’s institution, yet it was often practised
by the ancient church, from whence they took it; and their making this a
sacramental sign of Christ’s divine and human nature, united together in
one person, is much more unwarrantable; nor can I approve of what others
suppose, viz. that it signifies the blood and water that came out of his
side when he was pierced on the cross. And, I can hardly think some
Protestants altogether free from the charge of superstition, when they
so tenaciously adhere to the use of red wine, as bearing some small
resemblance to the colour of Christ’s blood; for which reason others
chuse to bear their testimony against this ungrounded opinion, by the
using of white wine, without supposing that any thing is signified by it
more than by red; and others chuse to use one sort at one time, and
another at another, to signify that this is an indifferent matter; and
these, I think, are most in the right.

Moreover, the practice of the Papists, and some others, in receiving the
Lord’s supper fasting, to the end that the consecrated bread may not be
mixed with undigested food, is not only unwarrantable, but
superstitious, as well as contrary to what we read concerning our
Saviour and his apostles partaking of the Lord’s supper in the first
institution thereof, immediately after having eaten the passover, and to
what the apostle suggests, when he reproves the church at Corinth, for
eating and drinking to excess immediately before they partook of the
Lord’s supper; upon which occasion he advises them _to eat and drink_
(though with moderation) _in their own houses_, 1 Cor. xi. 21, 22.

Again, the administring the Lord’s supper privately, as the Papists and
others do, to sick people, seems to be contrary to the design of its
being a church-ordinance; and when, to give countenance to this
practice, it is styled, as by the former of these, a viaticum, or means
to convey the soul, if it should soon after depart out of the body, to
heaven, they are much more remote from our Saviour’s design in
instituting this ordinance; neither do they rightly understand the sense
of the scripture, from whence they infer the necessity thereof, _except
ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life
in you_, John vi. 53. when they apply it to this purpose.

There is another thing that must not be wholly passed over, viz. the
various gestures used in receiving the Lord’s supper. The Papists not
only receive it kneeling; but, they allege, that they ought to do so, as
being obliged to adore the body and blood of Christ, which, as they
absurdly suppose, is really present, inasmuch as the bread is
transubstantiated, or turned into it. And the Lutherans, with equal
absurdity assert, that the body of Christ, is really, though invisibly,
present in the bread; which is what they call consubstantiation. Some
other Protestants, indeed, plead for the receiving it kneeling, as
supposing Christ to be spiritually, though not corporally, present
therein; and therefore they do not worship the bread and wine, but our
Saviour; which, they suppose, they ought to do with this becoming

What I would take leave to say, in answer to this, is, that we humbly
hope and trust, that Christ, according to his promise, is present with
his people in all his ordinances; yet, it is not supposed that we are
obliged to engage in every one of them kneeling. But that which
determines the faith and practice of all other reformed churches, who do
not use this gesture in the Lord’s supper, is, because it is contrary to
the example of our Saviour and his apostles, when it was first
celebrated; which ought to be a rule to the churches in all succeeding

If it be said, that this is a gesture most agreeable to prayer, or, at
least, that sitting is not so. To this it may be replied, that it is not
an ordinance principally or only designed for prayer; for, whatever
prayers we put up to God therein, are short, ejaculatory, and mixed with
other meditations, which may be performed with an awful reverence of the
divine majesty, such as we ought to have in other acts of religious
worship, though we do not use that gesture of kneeling. And besides, we
think ourselves obliged to receive the Lord’s supper sitting, that being
a table gesture in use among us, in like manner as that which our
Saviour and his apostles used, was among the eastern nations.

As for the reformed Gallican churches, they receive it for the most
part, standing; which, being a medium between both extremes, they
suppose to be most eligible. But this not being a table-gesture, nor, in
that respect, conformed to that which was used by our Saviour and his
apostles, I cannot think it warrantable. Nevertheless, when the gesture
of standing or sitting is made a significant sign as some do the former,
of our being servants, ready to obey the will of Christ our great Lord
and Master; or, as others explain it, as signifying our being travellers
to the heavenly country; and the latter, _viz._ sitting, of our
familiarity, or communion with Christ. These are rather the result of
human invention, than founded on a divine institution, since we have not
the least account in scripture, of these things being signified thereby.
This leads us to consider,

VI. The thing signified in this ordinance, and in what respect Christ is
said to be present therein, together with the benefits expected from
him, as we are said to feed upon him by faith for our spiritual
nourishment and growth in grace. I cannot but think that the general
design hereof, is not much unlike to that which was ordained under the
ceremonial law, in which, after the sacrifice was offered, part of it
was reserved to be _eaten in the holy place_, Lev. vi. 16. which was a
significant feast upon a sacrifice. In like manner, the Lord’s supper,
which comes in the room of the passover, is ordained to be a feast on
Christ’s sacrifice; so the apostle styles it, when he says, _Christ, our
passover, is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast_, &c. 1
Cor. v. 7, 8. The fiducial application of Christ, and the benefits of
his death, is the principal thing to be considered in this
gospel-festival. However, there are some cautions necessary to be
observed with respect to the things signified therein, as what may be
useful to us that our faith may be exercised in a right manner.
Therefore let it be considered,

1. That though the Lord’s supper was instituted in commemoration of
Christ’s love, expressed in his death, which was the last and most
bitter part of his sufferings for our redemption. Yet he did not design
hereby to exclude his other sufferings in life; nor, indeed, his whole
course of obedience from his incarnation to his death; since it is very
evident that the death of Christ is often considered in scripture, by a
synecdoche, as denoting the whole course of obedience, both active and
passive, which is the matter of our justification; and therefore is to
be the object on which our faith is to be conversant in the Lord’s
supper, as well as his sufferings in, or immediately before his death.

2. When Christ’s sufferings upon the cross are said to be signified by
the bread and wine; we are not to conclude that these sufferings are to
be so distinctly or separately considered, as that the bread broken, is
designed to signify the pains that he endured upon the cross, when his
body was as it were broken, its tendons, nerves, and fibres snapped
asunder, and his joints dislocated, by being stretched thereon; and the
wine poured forth, to signify the shedding his blood when his hands and
feet were pierced with the nails, and his side with the spear, as some
suppose; since all these things are to be made the subjects of our
affectionate meditation in every part of this ordinance, while we are
taken up with the contemplation of his last sufferings. And this seems
to give countenance to the practice of many of the reformed churches, in
consecrating and distributing the bread and wine together; though it is
true, many think, on the other hand, that the elements are to be
separately consecrated, as well as distributed, it being most agreeable
to what is said concerning Christ’s blessing the bread, and giving it to
his disciples, and afterwards taking the cup, and giving it to them,
Matt. xxvi. 26, 27. However, if this be allowed of, it is not necessary
for us to infer from hence, that each of these elements are designed to
signify some distinct parts of Christ’s sufferings on the cross, but
only that the ordinance is to be still continued, the whole including in
it two external and visible signs to be used, each of which signify the
means whereby he procured our redemption; and, indeed, when the wine is
poured forth, and set apart for another part of this ordinance, we are
not so much to enter on a new subject in our meditation, though the sign
be different from that of the bread, as to proceed in thinking on, and
improving the love of Christ, in his _humbling himself, and becoming
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross_, Phil. ii. 8. and all
this is signified by this sign, as well as the other, neither of which
are adapted to this end, otherwise than by divine appointment.

3. We must take heed that we do not make more significant signs in the
bread and wine than Christ has done; as some suppose, that almost every
ingredient or action used in making them, is to be applied to signify
some things that he has done or suffered for our redemption. It is a
very great liberty that some take in expatiating on this subject, and
applying it to this ordinance. We have a specimen hereof contained in an
hymn, composed to be sung as a thanksgiving after the receiving the
Lord’s supper[98]; in which the corn, as first living and growing, and
afterwards cut down, and by threshing, separated from the husk, and then
ground in the mill, and baked in the oven, are all made significant
signs of the sufferings and torments which our Saviour endured. And the
corn being united in one loaf, is made a sign of the union between
Christ and his church. In like manner the grapes being gathered,
pressed, and made into wine, is supposed to signify our spiritual joy,
arising from Christ’s shedding his blood. And, as many grapes make one
vine, so believers should be united by faith and love. What lengths is
it possible for the wit and fancy of men to run, when they have a
fruitful invention, and are disposed to make significant signs, and
apply them to this ordinance without a divine warrant!

4. When we meditate on Christ’s sufferings, our faith is not to rest in,
or principally be fixed on the grievousness of them, as Dr. Goodwin
observes[99]; so that we should only endeavour hereby to have our hearts
moved to a relenting, and compassion expressed towards him, and
indignation against the Jews that crucified him, together with an
admiring of his noble and heroical love herein; so that if persons can
get their hearts thus affected, they judge and account this to be grace;
whereas, it is no more than what the like tragical story of some great
and noble personage (full of heroical virtues and ingenuity; yet
inhumanly and ungratefully used) doth ordinarily work in ingenuous
spirits, who read or hear of it; which, when it reacheth no higher, it
is so far from being faith, that it is but a carnal and fleshly
devotion; and Christ himself, at his suffering, found fault with, as not
being spiritual, when he says, _Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me,
but for yourselves and for your children_, Luke xxiii. 28. that is, not
so much for this, when you see me thus unworthily handled by those for
whom I die, as for yourselves.

Moreover, he farther adds, that it was not the malice of the Jews, the
falseness of Judas, the fearfulness of Pilate, the iniquity of the times
he fell into, that wrought our Saviour’s death; God the Father had an
higher design herein: And this our faith is constantly to be conversant
about, considering it as the result of an eternal agreement between the
Father and the Son, and of that covenant which he came into the world to
fulfil; and his being made sin for us, to take away our sins by the
atonement which he made hereby. And, besides this, we may add, that the
highest and most affecting consideration in Christ’s sufferings, ought
to contain in it the idea of his being a divine person, which is the
only thing that argued them sufficient to answer the great ends designed
thereby, as it rendered them of infinite value; and it was upon this
account that his condescension expressed herein, might truly be said to
be infinite. These things, I say, we are principally to rest in, when we
meditate on Christ’s sufferings in this ordinance; though the other,
which are exceedingly moving and affecting in their kind, are not to be
passed over; since the Holy Ghost has, for this end, given a particular
account thereof in the gospels, not barely as an historical relation of
what was done to him, but as a convincing evidence of the greatness of
his love to us.

Thus concerning Christ’s death, shewed forth or signified in this
ordinance. We are farther, under this head, to consider how he is
present, and they who engage in it aright feed on his body and blood by
faith. We are not to suppose that Christ is present in a corporal way,
so that we should be said to partake of his body in a literal sense; but
he being a divine person, and consequently omnipresent; and having
promised his presence with his church in all ages, and places, when met
together in his name; in this respect he is present with them, in like
manner as he is in other ordinances, to supply their wants, hear their
prayers, and strengthen them against corruption and temptation, and
remove their guilt by the application of his blood, which is presented
as an object for their contemplation in a more peculiar manner in this

As for our feeding on, or being nourished by the body and blood of
Christ, these are metaphorical expressions, taken from, and adapted to
the nature and quality of the bread and wine by which it is signified;
but that which we are to understand hereby, is, our graces being farther
strengthened and established, and we enabled to exercise them with
greater vigour and delight; and this derived from Christ, and
particularly founded on his death. And, when we are said to feed upon
him, in order hereunto, it denotes the application of what he has done
and suffered, to ourselves; and, in order hereunto, we are to bring our
sins, with all the guilt that attends them, as it were, to the foot of
the cross of Christ, confess and humble our souls for them before him,
and by faith plead the virtue of his death, in order to our obtaining
forgiveness, and, at the same time, renew our dedication to him, while
hoping and praying for the blessings and privileges of the covenant of
grace, which were purchased by him.

Moreover, there is another thing signified in this ordinance, as a
farther end for which it was instituted, namely, in that we are to have
communion with one another, and thereby express our mutual love, as
members of Christ’s mystical body, who have the same end in view, and
make use of the same means, _viz._ Christ crucified, as we attend on the
same ordinance in which this is set forth, and having the same common
necessities, infirmities and corruptions, and the same encouragements
for our faith. Therefore we ought to sympathize with one another, and,
by faith and prayer, be helpful to them, with whom we join in this
ordinance, while we are representing our own case in common with theirs,
before the Lord. This leads us to consider,

VII. What ought to be the qualifications of those who have a right to,
and are obliged to partake of the Lord’s supper: These are expressed in
general terms by the apostle, by _discerning the Lord’s body_, 1 Cor.
xi. 29. Now this a person cannot do, who is ignorant of the design of
his death; therefore there must be some degree of knowledge in those who
are qualified for this ordinance. There must also be an afflictive sense
of the weight and burden of the guilt of those sins which are daily
committed by us, and an apprehension arising from thence, of our need of
the merits of Christ, to take them away, and that his death is designed
to answer this end. And, that this may be done for our real advantage,
as we are said to feed on Christ by faith; it is supposed, that this
grace is wrought in us, or, that we are effectually called out of a
state of unregeneracy, to partake of gracious communion with Christ;
whereby we may be said to be fitted to have fellowship with him in this
ordinance, and so partake of it in a right manner, for our spiritual
nourishment and growth in grace.

Footnote 97:

  _This was done by the council at Constance, A. D. 1415, before which
  time there were, indeed, several disputes about the matter or form of
  the cup, in which the wine was contained; but it was never taken away
  from the common people till then._

Footnote 98:

  _This hymn is inserted after Sternhold and Hopkin’s version of the

Footnote 99:

  _See Dr. Goodwin’s Christ set forth, § 2. Chap. ii._

                             Quest. CLXXI.

    QUEST. CLXXI. _How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s
    supper, to prepare themselves before they come unto it?_

    ANSW. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, are,
    before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining
    themselves, of their being in Christ, of their sins, and wants, of
    the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance, love to
    God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have
    done them wrong, of their desires after Christ, and of their new
    obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious
    meditation, and fervent prayer.

The Lord’s supper being a sacred and solemn ordinance, it ought not to
be engaged in without due preparation before-hand, in those who partake
of it. The duties mentioned in this answer, which are preparatory for
it, are self-examination, the renewing the exercise of those graces
which are necessary to our partaking of it aright, serious meditation on
the work we are going about, and fervent prayer for the presence and
blessing of God therein.

I. Concerning the duty of self-examination; in order hereunto, we must
retire from the hurries and incumbrances of the world, that our minds
may be disengaged from them, and not filled with distracting thoughts,
which will be an hindrance to us in our enquiries into the state of our
souls. We must also resolve to deal impartially with ourselves, and
consider what really makes against us, as matter of sorrow, shame, and
humiliation, as well as those things that are encouraging, and occasions
of thanksgiving to God. We must also endeavour to be acquainted with the
word of God, to which our actions and behaviour are to be applied;
whereby we are to determine the goodness or badness of our state in
general, or the frame of spirit in which we are, in particular.

Now there are several things, concerning which we are to examine
ourselves before we come to the Lord’s supper.

1. Whether we are in Christ or no? since persons must be first in him
before they can have spiritual communion with him. There are some
things, which, if we find in ourselves, would give us ground to
determine that we are not in Christ; particularly,

That man is not in Christ who is an utter stranger to his person,
natures, offices, and the design of his coming into the world; together
with the spiritual benefits purchased by his death. Neither is he in
Christ, who never saw his need of him, or that there is no hope of
salvation without him. Again, he is not in Christ, who obstinately
refuses to submit to his government, lives in a wilful contempt of his
laws, resolutely persists in the commission of known sins, or in the
total neglect of known duties. Again, he is not in Christ, who is
ashamed of his doctrine, his gospel, his cross, which a true believer
counts his glory; as the apostle says, _God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of Jesus Christ_, Gal. vi. 14. He must also be
reckoned out of Christ, who is stupid and presumptuous; and, though,
probably, he may hope to be saved by him, yet desires not to have
communion with him, but expects to be made partaker of his benefits
without faith; or if he pretends to have faith, it is only an assent to
some truths, without being accompanied with repentance, and other graces
which are inseparably connected with that faith which is saving.

But, on the other hand, we may know that we are in Christ, if we can
truly say,

(1.) That we have received a new nature from him, from whence proceed
renewed actions, which discover themselves in the whole course of our
lives; _If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: Old things are
passed away, behold, all things are become new_, 2 Cor. v. 17.

(2.) We must enquire, whether we endeavour constantly to adhere to his
revealed will, not barely as the result of some sudden conviction; but
as making it the main business of life, to approve ourselves to him in
well doing, as our Saviour says, _If ye continue in my word, then ye are
my disciples indeed_, John viii. 31.

(3.) Converse with Christ in ordinance, is another evidence of our being
in him: For, as a man is said to be known by the company he keeps, or
delights to be in; so a true Christian is known, as the apostle says, by
his _having fellowship with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ_,
1 John i. 3.

(4.) We must enquire, whether we have a great concern for the glory and
interest in our own souls, and an earnest desire that his name may be
known and magnified in the world; and this accompanied with our using
the utmost endeavours in our various stations and capacities in order

2. The next thing that we are to examine ourselves about, before we come
to the Lord’s supper, is, what sense we have of sin? whether we are
truly humbled for, and desirous to be delivered from it? It is not
sufficient for us to take a general view of ourselves as sinners, in
common with the rest of mankind, without being duly affected with it;
but we must consider the various aggravations of sin, with a particular
application thereof to ourselves; and how much we have exceeded many
others therein, either before or since we were called by the grace of
God, by which means we may take occasion to say, as the apostle does
concerning himself, that we are _the chief of sinners_, 1 Tim. i. 15.
and a sense of the guilt hereof, when duly considered, will give us
occasion to lie very low at the foot of God. We are also to take notice
of our natural propensity and inclination to sin, and the various ways
by which this has discovered itself in our actions; and accordingly we
are to enquire,

(1.) Whether we have sinned knowingly, wilfully, presumptuously, and
obstinately? or, whether we have been surprised into it, or ensnared by
some sudden unforeseen temptation, and committed it without the full
bent of our wills? whether we have striven against it, or given way to
it, and suffered ourselves to be prevailed upon without making

(2.) We must enquire, whether we have continued in sin, or unfeignedly
repented of it? whether sin sits light or heavy on our consciences? or,
if our consciences are burdened with it, whether we seek relief against
it in that way which Christ has prescribed in the gospel?

(3.) We must enquire, whether there are not some sins that more
frequently and easily beset us? what they are, and whether we are daily
watchful against them, and use our utmost endeavours to avoid them?

(4.) We must also enquire, whether we have not frequently relapsed into
the same sin which we have resolved against at various times, and, in
particular, at the Lord’s table, and hereby broke our engagements; and
if so, whether we did not rely too much on our own strength, when we
made those resolutions against sin?

(5.) We are to enquire, whether sin gets ground upon us, whereby grace
is weakened? or, whether, though we commit it, we find its strength
abated, and we enabled, in some measure, to mortify it, though we do not
wholly abstain from it? as the apostle says, _That which I do, I allow
not; but what I hate, that do I_, Rom. vii. 15.

(6.) We are also to enquire, whether our sins have not carried in them a
great neglect of Christ, his blood, his grace, his benefits, as not
thinking of them, admiring or prizing them above all things, nor laying
hold on them by faith, and so not making a right use of his dying love,
which is signified in the Lord’s supper.

3. We are to examine ourselves, before we come to the Lord’s table, what
particular wants we have to be supplied. Our Saviour is to be considered
in this ordinance, not only as signified by the external elements; but
as present with his people when met together in his name, with earnest
expectation of enjoying communion with him: And, as he is appointed to
apply, as well as purchase redemption for us, we must consider him as
having his hands full of spiritual blessings, to impart to his
necessitous people, who come to him for them: Therefore they ought
before they go, to enquire, not only, as has been before observed, what
are their sins which are to be confessed and bewailed before him, but
what it is more especially, that they stand in need of from him? The
question that Christ will ask them, when they come there, is, what is
thy petition, and what is thy request? what are those wants which thou
desirest a supply of? Accordingly, we are before-hand to enquire,
whether, though we have some little hope that we have experienced the
grace of God in truth, yet we do not want a full assurance of our
interest in Christ, _that we may know that we have eternal life_, 1 John
v. 13. together with the joy of faith accompanying the actings thereof?
and, whether we do not want enlargement of heart, and raised affections
in holy duties? which the Psalmist seems to intend, when he says, _Bring
my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name_, Psal. cxlii. 7.

Again, whether we do not want many experiences, which we have formerly
had, of the grace of God, and his special presence in holy duties; or
have not occasion to say with Job, _O that it were as in months past, as
in the days when God preserved me: When his candle shined upon my head,
and, by his light I walked through darkness_, Job xxix. 2, 3. Moreover,
we are to enquire, whether we do not want a greater degree of
establishment in the great doctrines of the gospel; or to be kept steady
in a time of temptation? and, whether we do not want a greater degree of
zeal for the honour of God, in a day in which many professors are
lukewarm? as our Saviour observes concerning the church of Laodicea,
_That they were neither cold nor hot_, Rev. iii. 15. or, whether we do
not want together with this zeal, a compassion to the souls of others,
who make shipwreck of faith, not having a good conscience, which may
induce us, as the apostle says, _In meekness to instruct those that
oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the
acknowledging of the truth?_ 2 Tim. ii. 25. and, whether we are duly
affected with the degeneracy of the age wherein we live, and are not too
negligent in bearing our testimony against the errors advanced therein?
or, whether we understand the meaning of those various dispensations of
providence, which we are under, and what is our present duty in
compliance therewith? These things are of a more general nature, and to
be made the subject of our enquiry, whenever we draw nigh to Christ in
any ordinance in which we hope for a supply of our wants.

But there are other things which we ought to have a more particular
regard to in our enquiries, when we are to engage in the ordinance of
the Lord’s supper.

(1.) In order to our partaking of it aright, we are to enquire, whether
we do not want a clear and distinct apprehension of the covenant of
grace, and the seals thereof, and how we are to act faith in a way of
self-dedication, and how we ought to renew our covenant engagements with
God, which we are more especially called to do therein?

(2.) Whether we do not want a broken heart, suitably affected with the
dying love of Jesus Christ, which is signified therein, that we may
_look on him who was pierced, and mourn_, Zech. xii. 10.

(3.) Whether we do not want to be led into the true way of improving
Christ crucified, to answer all those accusations that are brought in
against us, either by Satan or our own consciences, and how this is an
expedient for the taking away the guilt and power of sin?

(4.) Whether we do not want to be made more like to Christ, and
conformed to his death, that, while we behold him represented as dying
for us, we may _reckon ourselves as dead to sin_, and to the world; and
_that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be
destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin_? Rom. vi. 6. 10.

(5.) Whether we do not want an abiding impression of the love of Christ,
and a greater stedfastness in our resolution, to adhere to him; that so,
whatever grace we may be enabled to act, by strength derived from him,
may be maintained and exercised, not only at that time, but when we are
more immediately engaged in that ordinance?

These things we are to examine ourselves concerning, that we may spread
our wants before the Lord at his table. And to induce us hereunto, we
may consider, that our corrupt nature is very prone to think ourselves
better than we really are; so that, how indigent and distressed soever
we may be, we are ready to conclude, with the church of the Laodiceans,
that _we are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing_,
Rev. iii. 17.

Moreover, if we are not truly sensible of our necessities, we shall not
value Christ’s fulness, or the rich provisions he has made for his
people, and is pleased to dispense in this ordinance; as it is said,
_The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick_, Matt. ix. 12.
and we must consider, that a great part of our work therein, consists in
ejaculatory prayer, which we shall not be able to put up in a right
manner, if we are not sensible of our wants; and one reason why we are
so often at a loss in prayer, or go out of the presence of God empty,
is, because our hearts are not enlarged therein, which they cannot be,
unless we are affected with a sense of our necessities.

Now, to encourage us to examine ourselves concerning them, before we
partake of the Lord’s supper, let us consider that Christ invites us to
draw nigh to him therein; that he may take occasion to communicate the
blessings of his redemption, which are signified thereby; that he may
supply our wants, satisfy our desires, surmount our difficulties, and
apply to us the great and precious promises of the covenant of grace,
which are to be sought for at his hands, by faith and prayer, which
supposes the performance of this duty of self-examination, with respect
to the blessings that we stand in need of from him.

4. We are, before we partake of the Lord’s supper, to examine ourselves
concerning the truth and measure of our knowledge in divine things;
inasmuch as without the knowledge hereof, the heart cannot be good, nor
any spiritual duty engaged in, in a right manner. As for a perfect
comprehensive knowledge of divine truths, that is not to be expected, by
reason of the weakness of our capacities, and the imperfection of this
present state; wherein, as the apostle says, _we see_ but _through a
glass darkly_, or, as it is said elsewhere, _We are but of yesterday,
and know_, comparatively, _nothing_, Job viii. 9.

However, there is a degree of knowledge, which is not only attainable,
but necessary to our right engaging in this ordinance; and this does not
consist barely in our knowing that there is a God, or that he is to be
worshipped, or that there was such a person as our Saviour, who lived in
the world, was crucified, rose again from the dead, ascended into
heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead: For a
person may have a general notion of all these things, and yet be
unacquainted with the end and design of Christ’s death, and the
blessings and privileges of the covenant of grace, which he procured
thereby, or with the claim that a person may lay by faith, to them;
without which, there is not a sufficient knowledge, such as the apostle
calls _a discerning the Lord’s body_, 1 Cor. xi. 29. which we ought to
do in this ordinance.

Now, that knowledge of divine truths, which ought not only to be pressed
after, but, we are to examine ourselves, whether we have, in some
measure attained to, respects,

(1.) The person of Christ, as God-man, Mediator, and the offices which
he executes as such; and more particularly, the manner and end of his
executing his priestly office, in which he offered himself as a
sacrifice for sin, which we are more especially to commemorate in this

(2.) We must have an affecting sense or knowledge of the guilt of sin;
and, as a relief against it, must be acquainted with the doctrine of the
free grace of God, displayed in the gospel, and founded in the blood of
Jesus, whereby sin is pardoned. We are also to be fully convinced of the
almighty power of the Holy Ghost, whereby alone it can be subdued, and
of the method he takes therein to make the redemption purchased by
Christ, effectual to answer that end.

(3.) We are to endeavour, in some measure, to know God as our Father,
and covenant-God in Christ, who bestows on his people the rich and
splendid entertainment of his house, and satisfies them with the
abundance of his goodness, pursuant to what Christ has purchased. And we
must also know what it is to deal with him as those who see themselves
obliged herein to devote themselves to him as their God; and what large
expectations they may have from him, whom he has avouched to be his
peculiar people; and how this is a foundation of that humble boldness
with which they are encouraged to come _unto the throne of grace, that
they may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need_, Heb. iv.

Moreover, we are not only to enquire, whether we are apprehensive of the
excellency, glory, and suitableness of those great things, that are
revealed in the gospel, to answer our particular exigencies, and render
us happy in the enjoyment of God; but whether the knowledge hereof makes
a due impression on our hearts, is of a transforming nature, and has a
tendency to regulate the conduct of our lives, and put us on the
application of these great things to ourselves?

As to the degree of our knowledge we must enquire, whether it be only a
single apprehension that the doctrines of the gospel are true, or, at
most, contains in it some general ideas of their being excellent and
worthy of the highest esteem; but whether we can prove them to be true,
and render a reason of our faith, without which, it may, indeed, be
rightly placed as to its object? But it cannot be said to be deeply
rooted; and therefore it is exposed to greater danger of being foiled,
weakened, or overthrown by temptation. We must also enquire, whether we
grow in knowledge in proportion to those opportunities or means of grace
that we are favoured with, which the apostle calls _growing in grace,
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ_, 2 Pet. iii.

5. We are to examine ourselves concerning the truth and degree of our
faith, and other graces that are inseparably connected with it. As for
faith, we are to enquire, whether it be a living, or what the apostle
calls a _dead faith_, James ii. 17, 18. as being alone, and destitute of
those good works which ought to proceed from it? Whether it only
contains in it an assent to the truth of divine revelation; or, whether
it puts us upon a closure with Christ, embracing him in all his offices,
and trusting in him for all those benefits which he has purchased by his
blood? We must also enquire, what fruits or effects it produces, and
what other graces accompany or flow from it? Whether it inclines us to
set the highest value on Christ, as being in our esteem, altogether
lovely; and gives us low thoughts of ourselves, as having nothing but
what we depend on him for, or derive from him? Whether it be attended
with some degree of holiness in heart and life, as the apostle speaks of
the _heart’s being purified by faith_, Acts xv. 9. Again, whether it be
such a faith as _overcomes the world_, 1 John v. 14. and prevents our
being easily turned aside from God, by the snares that we may meet with
in it? Whether we are inclined hereby, to confess ourselves to be
_strangers and pilgrims on the earth_, Heb. xi. 13. and _desire a better
country_, ver. 16.

There are many other fruits and effects of faith, which the apostle
mentions in Heb. xi. by which we may examine ourselves concerning the
truth and sincerity of this grace; and there are several graces
mentioned in this answer, which are connected with faith, concerning
which, we must enquire, whether they are found in us, particularly
repentance, which must of necessity be exercised in this ordinance as
well as faith; inasmuch as by the one, we behold Christ’s glory, and, by
the other, we take a view of sins deformity? And it is such a
repentance, as inclines us not only to hate sin, but forsake and turn
from it, as seeing the detestable and odious nature of it, in what
Christ endured to make satisfaction for it.

But since faith and repentance have been particularly considered under a
foregoing answer, together with the nature, properties, and effects
thereof[100]; we shall pass them over, and consider the graces of love
to God, desire after Christ, and our using endeavours to approve
ourselves his servants and subjects, by constant acts of obedience to
him: These things are to be the subject-matter of our enquiry, before we
engage in this ordinance. It is very suitable to the occasion, to
enquire, whether we love Christ or no; inasmuch as we are to behold and
be affected with the most amazing instance of love, which he has
expressed to us; Let us therefore enquire, whether our love to him be
superlative, far exceeding that which we bear to all creatures, how
valuable soever they may be to us, how nearly soever we may be related
to them, or whatever engagements we may be laid under to esteem and
value them.

We may also try the sincerity of our love to God, by enquiring, whether
it puts us on performing the most difficult duties for his sake, with
the greatest cheerfulness? And, whether we are hereby encouraged to bear
the most afflictive evils with patience; because it is his pleasure that
we should be exercised therewith, 1 Sam. iii. 18. Let us also enquire,
whether we love him with all our heart, or, whether our love is divided
betwixt him and the creature, whereby our affections are often drawn
aside from him? And, whether it puts us upon improving our time,
strength, and all our other talents to his glory? Whether we have no
interest separate from his, which we cannot but prefer to our chief joy?
whether this be the very end of living? As the apostle says, _For me to
live is Christ_, Phil. i. 21. and, whether we are earnestly desirous to
bring others to him, not only by recommending his glory to them in
words; but by expressing the esteem and value we have for him, in the
whole course of our conversation? Whether we are hereby inclined to hate
every thing that he hates; as the Psalmist says, _Ye that love the Lord
hate evil_, Psal. xcviii. 10. and whether we make those things the
object of our choice that he delights in?

Moreover, we are to enquire, whether we have had any communion with him
in ordinances, and particularly in this ordinance at other times? And
when he is pleased to withhold this privilege from us in any degree,
that hereby we may see that all our comforts flow from him; or, when he
has a design to humble us for those sins that provoke him to depart from
us, whether we are earnestly desirous of his return, and cannot be
satisfied with any thing short of him?

As for our desires after Christ, which we are farther to examine
ourselves about, we must enquire, whether, that, which moves or inclines
us to desire him, be the view we have of the glory of his person, and
the delight that arises from our contemplating his divine excellencies;
or whether we desire him, only for the sake of his benefits, or, that he
might deliver us from the wrath to come? Whether we desire Christ only
when his service is attended with the esteem of men, or, as a means to
gain some worldly advantage from them? Or, whether we desire to adhere
to him, when we are called to suffer reproach, or even the loss of all
things for his sake; which will be a convincing evidence of the
sincerity of our desires after, and, consequently, of our love to him?

And, we are farther to enquire, whether our love to Christ, and desire
after him, discovers itself by renewed acts of obedience to him;
particularly, whether our obedience be universal or partial, constant or
wavering, performed with delight and pleasure or with some reluctancy?
And, whether it puts us upon universal holiness, as being induced
hereunto by gospel-motives? Thus concerning our examining ourselves
about our faith, repentance, love to Christ, desire after him, and our
endeavour to yield obedience to him in all things.

The next thing we are to examine ourselves concerning, is, whether we
have such a love to the brethren, and charity to all men, whereby we are
disposed to exercise forgiveness to those that have done us any
injuries? The Lord’s-supper being an ordinance of mutual fellowship, we
are obliged to behave ourselves towards one another as members of the
same body, subjects of the same Lord, engaged in the same religious
exercise; and consequently, are obliged to love one another, whereby it
will appear, that we are Christ’s disciples, John xiii. 35. This love
consists in our desiring and endeavouring to promote the spiritual
interest of each other, to the end that Christ herein may be glorified;
and it includes in it that charity that casts a veil over their failures
and defects, and our forgiving those injuries which they have, at
anytime, done to us. This frame of spirit is certainly becoming the
nature of the ordinance, in which we hope to be made partakers of the
fruits and effects of Christ’s love, and to obtain forgiveness from him,
of all the injuries we have done against him; therefore it is very
necessary for us to enquire,

[1.] Concerning our love to the brethren, whether it be such as is a
distinguishing character of those who are Christ’s friends and
followers; or which, as the apostle expresses it, will afford an
evidence to us, that we are _passed from death to life_, 1 John iii. 14.
And, in order to our discovering this, let us examine ourselves, whether
we love the brethren, because we behold the image of God in them? Which
is, in effect, to love and _glorify God in them_, Gal. i. 24. Again,
whether our love to men leads us to desire and endeavour to be reckoned
a common good to all, according to the utmost of our ability? As it is
said of Mordecai, that _he was accepted of the multitude of his
brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all
his seed_, Esther x. 8.

Again, we are to enquire, whether our love be more especially to the
souls of men, as well as their outward concerns? This consists in our
using all suitable endeavours to bring them under conviction of sin, by
faithful and well-timed reproofs; the contrary to which, or our refusing
to rebuke our _neighbour or brother_, and thereby _suffering sin upon
him_, is reckoned no other than an _hating_ of him, Lev. xix. 17. We are
also to express our love to the souls of men, by endeavouring to
persuade them to believe in Christ, if they are in an unconverted state,
or to walk as becomes his gospel, if they have been made partakers of
the grace thereof: Thus the apostle expresses his love to those to whom
he writes, when he says, _I travail in birth again till Christ be formed
in you_, Gal. iv. 19. and elsewhere, he signifies to another of the
churches, how _affectionately desirous_ he was _of them_; which made him
_willing, not only to impart the gospel of God, but his own soul;
because they were dear unto him_, 1 Thes. ii. 8.

Again, we must enquire, whether our love puts us upon choosing such to
be our associates that truly fear the Lord; whom we count, as the
Psalmist expresses it, _The excellent, in whom is all our delight_?
Psal. xvi. 3. and, on the other hand, whether we avoid the society of,
or intimacy with, those that are Christ’s open enemies; the contrary to
which, good Jehoshaphat was reproved for by the prophet, when he says,
_Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?_ 2
Chron. xix. 2. Again, let us enquire, whether our love to men is then
expressed when it is most needed? As it is said, _A friend loveth at all
times, and a brother is born for adversity_, Prov. xvii. 17. Again,
whether we are inclined to all those acts of charity which covereth a
multitude of faults? As the apostle describes it, that it _suffereth
long, and is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up;
doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own, is not easily
provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in
the truth: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
and endureth all things_, 1 Cor. xiii. 4,-8.

[2.] We are to enquire, whether our love to men be expressed in
forgiving injuries; which is a frame of spirit absolutely necessary for
our engaging in any ordinance; as our Saviour says, _If thou bring thy
gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought
against thee_, Matt. v. 23, 24. that is, if there be a misunderstanding
between you, whoever be the aggressor, or gave the first occasion for
it, _leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be
reconciled to thy brother_; that is, do whatever is in thy power in
order thereunto, and _then come and offer thy gift_. And this is more
necessary when we engage in this ordinance, in which we hope to obtain
forgiveness of the many offences which we have committed against God;
and accordingly the apostle says, _Let us keep the feast, not with old
leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the
unleavened bread of sincerity and truth_, 1 Cor. v. 8. It is no
difficult matter for us to know whether we are disposed to forgive those
who have injured us; therefore the principal thing we are to examine
ourselves about, is, whether we do this with a right frame of spirit, as
considering how prone we are to do those things ourselves, which may
render it necessary for us to be forgiven, both by God and man? and
whether, as the consequence hereof, though we were before this, inclined
to over-look those graces which are discernable in them; yet now we can
love them as brethren, and glorify God for what they have experienced,
and be earnestly solicitous for their salvation as well as our own? Thus
concerning the first duty mentioned in this answer, _viz._ our examining
ourselves before we engage in this ordinance. We now proceed to consider
some other duties mentioned therein, _viz._

II. The renewing the exercise of those graces, which are necessary to
our right engaging in it, whereby the sincerity and truth thereof may be
discerned: Therefore, since faith, repentance, and several other graces,
ought to be exercised in this ordinance, it is necessary for us to give
a specimen thereof, before we engage in it. As the artificer first tries
the instrument he is to make use of in some curious work before he uses
it, so the truth and sincerity of our faith is to be tried before it be
exercised in this ordinance.

There is another duty preparatory to the Lord’s Supper, mentioned in
this answer, _viz._ serious meditation, that so we may not engage in it
without considering the greatness of the Majesty with whom we have to
do, together with our own vileness and unworthiness to approach his
presence: We must also consider his power, wisdom, and goodness, to
encourage us to hope for those supplies of grace from him, which we
stand in need of; and we are to have an awful sense of his omnipresence
and omniscience, as he is an heart-searching God, to excite in us an
holy reverence, and prevent the wandering of our thoughts and affections
from him, or any unbecoming behaviour in his presence; and, more
particularly we are to consider, before-hand, the end and design of
Christ’s instituting this ordinance, _viz._ that his dying love to
sinners might be signified and shewed forth, as an encouragement to our
faith, and an inducement to thanksgiving and praise, as the nature of
the thing calls for it.

After all this it is farther observed, that we are to endeavor to
prepare for this ordinance by fervent prayer, as being sensible, that
when we have done our best, we shall be too much unprepared for it,
unless we have the special assistance of God, when engaging in it; to
which I may apply Hezekiah’s words, _The good Lord pardon every one that
prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his father; though he
be not cleansed according to the cleansing of the sanctuary_, 2 Chron.
xxx. 18, 19. And we are to be earnest with him, that he would give us a
believing view of Christ crucified, and especially of our interest in
him; that we may be able to say as the apostle does, _He loved me, and
gave himself for me_, Gal. ii. 20. and that he would apply to us those
blessings which he has purchased by his death, which we desire to wait
upon him for, when engaging in this ordinance, that our drawing nigh to
him therein may redound to his glory and our spiritual advantage.

Footnote 100:

  _See Quest. LXXII. Vol. III. page 97, & seq. and Quest. LXXVI, LXXXV,

                        Quest. CLXXII., CLXXIII.

    QUEST. CLXXII. _May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, and of
    his due preparation, come to the Lord’s Supper?_

    ANSW. One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due
    preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, may have true
    interest in Christ, though he be not assured thereof; and in God’s
    account, hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of
    the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and
    to depart from iniquity, in which case (because promises are made,
    and this sacrament is appointed for the relief even of weak and
    doubting Christians,) he is to bewail his unbelief; and labour to
    have his doubts resolved, and so doing, he may, and ought to come to
    the Lord’s Supper, that he may be farther strengthened.

    QUEST. CLXXIII. _May any who profess the faith, and desire to come
    to the Lord’s Supper, be kept from it?_

    ANSW. Such as are found to be ignorant, or scandalous,
    notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to
    the Lord’s Supper, may, and ought to be kept from that sacrament by
    the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive
    instruction, and manifest their reformation.

In these answers we have an account of those who are the subjects of
this ordinance and ought to partake of it, or of those who must be kept
from it: the former respects, more especially doubting Christians, who
desire to receive satisfaction, whether they ought to engage in it or
no; the latter respects those who are ready to presume that they are
qualified for it, and ought to partake of it; though, indeed, they are
to be excluded from it.

I. As to the case of one who doubteth of his being in Christ, and duly
prepared for the Lord’s Supper: Here are several things that may afford
matter of encouragement to him; and accordingly it is observed,

1. That though this be a matter of doubt to him, as being destitute of
assurance of his being in Christ; yet he may be mistaken in the judgment
which he passes concerning himself: since assurance, as has been before
observed, is not of the essence of saving faith[101]. For a person may
rely on, or give up himself to Christ, by a direct act of faith, who
cannot at the same time, take the comfort that would otherwise arise
from thence, that Christ has loved him, and given himself for him. Many
have reason to complain of the weakness of their faith, and the great
resistance and disturbance which they meet with from the corruption of
nature: And others, who have assurance, at present, of their interest in
Christ, may afterwards, through divine desertion, lose the comfortable
sense thereof; so that we must not conclude, that every doubting
believer is destitute of faith. Such are to be tenderly dealt with, and
not discouraged from attending on that ordinance, which others, who
converse with them, cannot but think they have a right to, and are
habitually prepared for; though they themselves very much question,
whether they are actually meet for it, as being apprehensive that they
cannot exercise those graces, that are necessary to their partaking of
this ordinance in a right manner. However, it is observed,

(1.) That there are some things, which, if duly considered by such an
one, would afford him, ground of hope; though it may be, he cannot
sufficiently improve them to his own comfort. As,

[1.] If he be truly affected with his want of assurance, and, as the
result thereof, is filled with uneasiness in his own mind, laments his
condition, and can take no comfort in any outward enjoyments, while
destitute of it; and, if he be importunate with God in prayer, that he
would lift up the light of his countenance upon him, and grant him the
exercise, as well as the joy of faith. Moreover, if he frequently
examines himself with impartiality, and an earnest desire to be
satisfied, as to his state; and if, notwithstanding this, he still walks
in darkness, and his doubts and fears prevail against him, he has some
ground to conclude, that he is better than he apprehends himself to be,
if he be truly humbled for those sins that may be reckoned the procuring
cause thereof, and determines to be still waiting, till God shall be
pleased to discover to him his interest in forgiving grace, and thereby
resolve his doubts, and expel his fears, which render him so very

[2.] A person has some ground of hope, if he can say, that he
unfeignedly desires Christ and grace above all things, and can find
satisfaction in nothing short of him; in this respect it may be said,
that Christ is precious to him, as he is to them that believe. And to
this we may add, that if he desires to forsake all sin, as being
offensive, and contrary to him; so that when he commits it, he can
readily say with the apostle, _That which I do I allow not of; for what
I would, that do I not; but what I hate that do I_; and from hence he
concludes himself _wretched_; and earnestly desires to be _delivered
from the body of this death_, Rom. vii. 15, 24.

(2.) There are some promises which a weak Christian may lay hold on for
his encouragement; as,

_1st_, If the guilt of sin lies as an heavy burden upon him, and is the
occasion of his doubts about his being in Christ; there are promises of
forgiveness, Mich. vii. 18, 19. Isa. lv. 7, 8.

_2dly_, If he complains of the power of sin, and its prevalency over
him, there is a promise that is suited to his case, in Rom. vi. 14. ‘Sin
shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but
under grace.’

_3dly_, If satan’s temptations are very grievous to him, and such as he
can hardly resist, there are promises suited to this case, in 1 Cor. x.
13. that ‘God will not suffer his people to be tempted above that they
are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way to escape;’ and in
Rom. xvi. 20. ‘The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet

_4thly_, If he wants enlargement, and raised affections in prayer, or
other religious duties; which is very discouraging to him, that promise
may afford him some relief, in Zech. xii. 10. ‘I will pour upon the
house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of
grace and of supplication.’ And, in Psal. x. 17. ‘Lord, thou hast heard
the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause
thine ear to hear.’

_5thly_ If our doubts arise from frequent backslidings, and relapses
into sin, we may apply that promise in Psal. xxiii. 3. _He restoreth my
soul_, &c. And, Hos. xiv. 4. ‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love
them freely; for mine anger is turned away from them:’ And in Isa. lvii.
17, 18. in which it is supposed, that God was wroth, and hid himself
from his people for their iniquity; and they are described as _going on
frowardly in the way of their heart_; yet God says, ‘I have seen his
ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts to
him, and to his mourners:’ And, in Hos. xi. 7-9. where God’s people are
described as bent to backslide from him; yet he determines not to
destroy them, but says, in a very moving way, ‘How shall I give thee up
Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee Israel, _&c._ Mine heart is turned
within me, my repentings are kindled together? I will not execute the
fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am
God and not man, the holy One in the midst of thee.’

_6thly_, If we want communion with God, or his presence with us in his
ordinances; which makes us conclude that we are not in Christ: Let us
consider what is said in Isa. xlv. 19. ‘I said not unto the seed of
Jacob, Seek ye me in vain:’ And, in chap. liv. 7, 8. ‘For a small moment
have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a
little wrath I hid my face from thee, for a moment; but with everlasting
kindness will I have mercy on thee.’

_7thly_, If we are under frequent convictions, but they soon wear off,
which occasions us to fear that we never experienced a thorough work of
conversion, let us consider, Isa. lxvi. 9. ‘Shall I bring to the birth,
and not cause to bring forth, saith the Lord?’ And, in Zech. iv. 10.
‘Who hath despised the day of small things?’ And, in Isa. lxv. 8. ‘As
the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for
a blessing is in it; So will I do for my servants sake, that I may not
destroy them all.’

_8thly_, If we are in a withering and declining condition, and want
reviving; or, if we complain of barrenness under the means of grace, so
that we may attend upon them, as we apprehend, to very little purpose;
there are some promises that are suited to this case, as Hos. xiv. 7, 8.
Isa. xlviii. 17.

_9thly_, If our doubts arise from the hardness of our hearts, so that we
cannot mourn for sin as we ought to do, or would do, let us consider
what God has promised in Ezek. vii. 16. Deut. xxx. 6. Acts v. 31.

_10thly_, If we are under the visible tokens of God’s displeasure, so
that we are ready to conclude, that he distributes terrors to us in his
anger; and, as the consequence thereof, we walk in darkness, and are far
from peace: There are many promises that are suited to this case, as
Jer. iii. 5. Psal. ciii. 8,-10. Isa. xii. 1. Joel ii. 13. Isa. l. 10.
Psal. lxxix. 15. and xlii. 11.

2. We have a further account how such, who are at present, discouraged
from coming to the Lord’s table, ought to manage themselves in this
case. And here it is observed, that they ought to bewail their unbelief,
to labour to have their doubts resolved; and, instead of being
discouraged, they should come to the Lord’s supper, to be further
strengthened. This advice is not given to stupid sinners, or such as are
unconcerned about their state, or never had the least ground to conclude
that they have had communion with God in any ordinance; and, especially
if their distress of conscience arises rather from a slavish fear of the
wrath of God, than a filial fear of him; or, if they are more concerned
about the dreadful consequences of sin, than the intrinsic evil that is
in it, I say, this advice is not given to such, but those, as before
described, who lament after the Lord, earnestly seek him, though they
cannot, at present, find him; and have fervent desires of his presence,
though no sensible enjoyment thereof, and appear to have some small
degrees of grace, though it be very weak: In this case a few words of
advice ought to be given to them; particularly,

(1.) That they should take heed of giving way to any hard thoughts of
God; but, on the other hand, lay the whole blame hereof on themselves.
Thus God says by the prophet, “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself,
in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the
way?” Jer. ii. 17.

(2.) They should give glory to, depend on, and seek relief from the Holy
Spirit, the Comforter, who glorifies himself by sealing believers unto
the day of redemption; and, together with this, bestows those comforts
on them which they stand in need of.

(3.) They must endeavour, to their utmost, to act grace, and so go
forward in the ways of God, though they do not go on comfortably, and
not say, “why should I wait on the Lord any longer?” Are they sometimes
afraid they shall not arrive safely to the end of their race, they
should nevertheless resolve not to give out, or to run no longer in it;
and because their way is attended with darkness, or hedged up with
thorns, they should not determine, for that reason, to go backward, as
though they had never set their faces heaven-ward.

(4.) They ought to lie at God’s foot, acknowledging their unworthiness
of that peace which they desire, but are destitute of, and plead for his
special presence, that would give an happy turn to the frame of their
spirits, as that which they prefer to all the enjoyments of life; as the
Psalmist says, ‘There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord,
lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us,’ Psal. iv. 6.

(5.) It would be adviseable for such to contract an intimacy, and
frequently converse with experienced Christians, who know the depths of
Satan, and the deceitfulness of the heart of man, and the methods of
divine grace in restoring comforts to those who are, at present,
destitute of them, agreeably to what they themselves have experienced in
the like case, 2 Cor. i. 4.

(6.) They ought, as a farther means for the strengthening of their
faith, and establishing their comforts, to wait on God in the ordinance
of the Lord’s supper, hoping for Christ’s presence therein; in which
many have found that they have been enlivened, quickened, and comforted,
while others, through the neglect hereof, have had their doubts and
fears increased. And this leads us to consider,

II. What is contained in the latter of the answers we are explaining,
which is applicable to those who desire to come to the Lord’s supper,
but are to be kept from it. Here it is taken for granted, that all are
not to be admitted to this ordinance, though it may be, they make a
general profession of the Christian faith, and are not willing that any
should question their right to it. These are described in this answer,

1. As being ignorant of the great doctrines of the gospel, and,
consequently, unacquainted with Christ, whom they never truly applied
themselves to, nor received by faith; and therefore they cannot improve
this ordinance aright, or have communion with Christ therein.

2. They are to be excluded from the Lord’s supper, who are scandalous or
immoral in their practice, whatever pretensions they make to the
character of Christians: These are described by the apostle, as persons
who _profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being
abominable and disobedient and unto every good work reprobate_, Tit. i.
16. Such ought not to have communion with those whom the apostle
describes as _called to be saints_, Rom. i. 7. nor can they partake of
this ordinance aright, since they are not apprized of the end and design
thereof, nor are they able, as the apostle expresses it, to _discern the
Lord’s body_, 1 Cor. ix. 27. for, if they are strangers to themselves,
how can they apply the benefits of Christ’s redemption to their own
case? and, if they neglect the preparatory duty of self-examination, so
that they do not know their own wants, how can they go to Christ in this
ordinance for a supply thereof? or, if they do not desire the spiritual
blessings of the covenant of grace, what right can they have to make use
of the seals thereof? and if they are openly and visibly of another
family, under the dominion of the powers of darkness, what right have
they to the privileges which Christ has purchased for those who are
members of his family, and spiritually united to him?

_Object._ 1. To what has been said concerning those that are to be
excluded from this ordinance, it is objected, that it appears, that both
good and bad have a right to it, from what our Saviour says in the
parable of the wheat and the tares, in Mat. xiii. 29. both which are
said to _grow together until the harvest_, when the reapers will be sent
to _gather first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, and
the wheat into the barn_: So that hypocrites, and sincere Christians,
are to continue together in the same church, and, consequently to
partake of the same ordinances.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied; this is not the sense of the parable;
for our Saviour explains it otherwise, when he says in ver. 38. _The
field is the world: the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but
the tares are the children of the wicked one._ And from hence we may
infer, that good and bad men are, through the forbearance of God,
suffered to live together in the world; but it gives no countenance to
this supposition, that the wicked ought to be joined with the godly as
members of the same church: Not but that hypocrites may, and often do
intrude themselves into the churches of Christ; yet since this is not
known to them, they are not to blame for it, the heart of man being
known to God alone; and the judgment that we are to pass concerning
those who are admitted into church-fellowship, or to the Lord’s supper
in particular, is to be founded on that credible profession which they
make; in which, though it be possible for them to deceive others, yet
the guilt and ill consequence thereof, will only affect themselves.

_Object._ 2. It is further objected, that Judas was at the Lord’s supper
when it was first instituted by our Saviour, though he knew him to be an
hypocrite and a traitor, and that he would speedily execute what he had
designed against his life; and if so, then all ought to be admitted to
this ordinance. And the reason that is generally assigned why he was
there at that time, is, because it is said, in Luke xxii. 14. _When the
hour was come, he sat down, and his twelve apostles with him_; and
afterwards we read, in ver. 19. that _he took bread and brake it_, &c.
_and also the cup after supper_, &c. ver. 20. and then it is said, in
ver. 21. _Behold the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the
table_. This is supposed, by some, to have been spoken by Christ when
they were eating the Lord’s supper; from whence it may be concluded that
Judas was there.

_Answ._ But to this it may be replied; that it seems much more probable
that he was not there when the Lord’s supper was administered though he
joined with Christ and the other apostles in eating the passover; for we
must consider,

(1.) That the passover and the Lord’s supper were celebrated, one
immediately after the other, at the same table, or sitting; therefore
the hand of Judas might be with Christ on the table, in the former,
though not in the latter: So that, though these words, _the hand of him
that betrayeth me, is with me on the table_, are inserted after the
account of both these ordinances being concluded; yet we have ground to
suppose, they were spoken while they were eating the passover, when
Judas was present.

(2.) It appears yet more probable that he was not present at the Lord’s
supper, from the account which John gives of this matter, in chap. xiii.
21. wherein our Saviour tells them, that _one of them should betray
him_: and, in ver. 26. he discovers that he meant Judas, by giving him
the sop; and in ver. 30. it is said, that _having received the sop, he
went immediately out_. Now it is certain there was no sop in the Lord’s
supper, as there was in the passover, inasmuch as there was no flesh
therein: Therefore Judas went out when they were eating the passover,
before they began to partake of the Lord’s supper; being, as we may
reasonably suppose, in a rage that his hypocrisy should be detected, and
he marked out as a traitor, who was, before this, reckoned as good a man
as any of them: Therefore we have not sufficient ground from hence to
conclude, that wicked men ought to be admitted to partake of the Lord’s

_Object._ 3. For Christians to exclude any from the Lord’s supper, would
argue a great deal of pride, or vain-glorious boasting, and it is, as it
were, to say to them who are excluded, “Stand off, for we are holier
than you.”

_Answ._ 1. A believer may with thankfulness, acknowledge the
distinguishing grace of God vouchsafed to him, and not to others; and,
at the same time, bless him, that he has given him a right to the
privilege of his house, which all are not admitted to partake of,
without doing this in a boasting way; he may say with the apostle in 1
Cor. xv. 10. _By the grace of God I am what I am_; and yet at the same
time, deal faithfully with those who are destitute of this grace; he may
bless God for the right which he hopes he has to this ordinance, and yet
it is not his duty to admit them to it who have no right.

2. It is one thing not to admit persons who are unqualified to this
ordinance, and another thing to despise them upon this account. Our
business is not to reproach them, but to treat them with meekness; if
peradventure God may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the
truth, that hereby they may appear to have a right to it.

_Object._ 4. If wicked men are to be excluded from one ordinance which
Christ has instituted in his church, they may, for the same reason be
excluded from all; and so they may as well be debarred the privilege of
hearing the word, and joining with the church in public prayer.

_Answ._ There is not the same reason for excluding wicked men from
hearing the word, or joining in prayer with the church, as there is for
refusing to admit them to partake of the Lord’s supper. For prayer, and
preaching the word, are God’s appointed means for the working the grace
of faith, instructing the ignorant, awakening the stupid and secure
sinner, and putting him on complying with that method of salvation which
God has prescribed in the gospel, and embracing Christ as offered
therein: Whereas, on the other hand, the Lord’s supper is an ordinance
which supposes the soul to have, before this, received Christ by faith;
and therefore he is therein to feed upon him, and to take comfort from
what he has done and suffered for him, as conducive to the farther
mortification of indwelling sin; which supposes that he has had, before
this, some experience of the grace of God in truth. Thus concerning the
exclusion of ignorant or immoral persons, as being not qualified for the
Lord’s supper.

And here we may farther observe, that they who bring these and such-like
objections, with a design to open the door of the church so wide, that
all may be received into it, and partake of those ordinances by which it
is more particularly distinguished from the world, are very ready, in
defence of their own cause, to charge others with being too severe in
their censures, and refusing to admit any into church-communion, unless
they can tell the very time in which they were converted, and the means
by which this work was begun, and carried on; and this they are obliged
to do in so public a manner, as that many are denied the privilege of
partaking of this ordinance, for a mere circumstance; which is an
extreme as much to be avoided as the receiving unqualified persons to
the Lord’s supper.

But it may be replied to this, that since this charge is rather the
result of surmize than founded on sufficient evidence, it deserves to
have less notice taken of it: However, this I would say in answer to it,
that I never knew it to be the practice of any church of Christ, to
exclude persons from its communion, because they knew not the time or
means of their conversion; which may be sometimes occasioned by their
having been favored with the blessing of a religious education and
restraining grace from their childhood, so that they have not run those
lengths in sin which others have done; and therefore the change which is
wrought in conversion, especially as to what concerns the time and
manner thereof, is less discernible. Sometimes the work has been begun
with a less degree of the terrors of conscience, under a sense of the
guilt of sin, and the condemning sentence of the law, than others have
experienced: These have been drawn with the cords of love, and the grace
of God has descended upon them insensibly, like the dew upon the grass;
and therefore all that can be perceived by them, or that is to be
required of them as a necessary qualification for their being admitted
to the ordinances and privileges which belong to believers, is their
discovering those fruits of faith which are discernible in the
conversation of such as have experienced the grace of God in truth.

As to the other part of the charge, in which some churches are pretended
to insist on such terms of communion as are merely circumstantial, so as
to refuse to receive any that cannot comply with them: This is to be
answered by those who appear to be liable to it. All that I shall
therefore add under this head, is, that since a visible profession of
faith in Christ is to be made, as necessary to constitute a visible
church, and the conversation of those who make it, ought to be
apparently agreeable thereunto: And inasmuch as none are obliged to make
any thing known to the church, that contains the least appearance of
dishonour or reflection on their character in the world; but are only
required to testify and give a proof of their steady adherence to
Christ, and their desire to embrace him in all his offices, as well as
worship him in all his ordinances; this cannot justly be reckoned an
unnecessary circumstance or making that a term of communion which Christ
has not made, and thereby excluding those who have a right to the Lord’s

And now we have considered the terms of communion, and the
qualifications for it, as well as the spiritual privileges that are to
be expected by those who have a right to it. I cannot but observe, how
this is abused, and practically disowned, by those who engage in this
ordinance merely as a qualification for a civil employment. A person may
certainly be a good member of a commonwealth, and very fit to be
entrusted with the administration of the civil affairs thereof, who has
little or nothing to say concerning his experiences of the grace of God.
To assert, that a right to a civil employment is founded on the same
qualifications that give a person a right to partake of the Lord’s
supper, would be to advance, not only that which is indefensible, but
what would be almost universally denied, unless it could be proved, that
all might partake of it, the contrary to which, we have endeavoured to

Moreover, when Christ instituted this ordinance, his people were in no
expectation of bearing any part in the civil government; therefore this
was most remote from the first intent and design thereof: And we often
find that this is a temptation to men to profane this ordinance, and
lays a burden on the consciences of those who know themselves unprepared
for it, who had little or nothing in view but the securing their secular
interest; by which means it is to be feared, that many of them eat and
drink unworthily, and, instead of receiving advantage by it, bring their
consciences under such entanglements, that they cannot easily extricate
themselves from. Thus concerning those who are to be admitted to be
partakers of the Lord’s Supper, though doubting of their meetness for
it, and others being excluded, who have no right to it.

The last thing observed in this answer, is, that they who are not, at
present, deemed fit for this ordinance, may afterwards be admitted to it
when they have received instruction, and manifested a thorough
reformation; or when, by their diligent attendance on other ordinances,
or means of grace, accompanied with the divine blessing, that, which at
present disqualifies them, being removed, they may humbly and thankfully
wait on God therein, and hope for his presence and blessing; and then
the church will have reason, as well as themselves, to bless God for
that grace which they have experienced, whereby they may come to it for
the better, and not for the worse.

Footnote 101:

  _See Quest. lxxxi. Vol. III. page 268._

                         Quest. CLXXIV., CLXXV.

    QUEST. CLXXIV. _What is required of them that receive the sacrament
    of the Lord’s Supper, in the time of the administration of it?_

    ANSW. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the
    Lord’s Supper, that during the time of the administration of it,
    with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that
    ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions,
    heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on
    his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a
    vigorous exercise of their graces, in judging themselves and
    sorrowing for sin, in hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding
    on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in his merits,
    rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace, in renewing of
    their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.

    QUEST. CLXXV. _What is the duty of Christians after they have
    received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?_

    _Answ._ The duty of Christians after they have received the
    sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, is, seriously to consider how they
    have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find
    quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of
    it, watch against relapses, fulfil their vows, and encourage
    themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance; but if they
    find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation
    to, and carriage at the sacrament; in both which, if they can
    approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to
    wait for the fruit of it in due time; but if they see they have
    failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it
    afterward with more care and diligence.

These two answers respect our behaviour in, and after our engaging in
this ordinance.

I. We are to consider with what frame of spirit we are to engage
therein; how our meditations are to be employed, and what graces are to
be exercised.

1. Here is something observed, which is common to it with all other
ordinances, _viz._ that we are to wait on God with an holy reverence
arising from a becoming sense of his divine perfections, and the
infinite distance we stand in from him; and we are to impress on our
souls an awful sense of his omniscience and omnipresence; whereby he
knows with what frame of spirit we draw nigh to him, better than this is
known to ourselves; and highly resents every thing that is contrary to
his holiness, or unbecoming the character of those who are worshipping
at his footstool.

2. There are other things peculiar to this ordinance, that are necessary
in order to our engaging in it in a right manner; as,

(1.) We are diligently to observe the sacramental elements and actions,
which contain the external part of the duty required of us. The bread
and wine, together with the actions to be performed in our receiving
them by Christ’s appointment, are, as has been before observed,
significant and instructive signs of his death, and the benefits which
he has procured for us thereby, that are to be attended to, and brought
to our remembrance in this ordinance.

Moreover, we are to consider, that though the blessings of the covenant
of grace are signified thereby, as they are instituted, not natural
signs thereof; yet the gospel, in which we have an account of what
Christ did, and suffered for us, is a large and sufficient explication
hereof for the direction of our faith, when conversant about them.

(2.) We are affectionately to meditate on the sufferings and death of
Christ, which are signified thereby. Meditation is a great part of the
work we are to be engaged in, and the death of Christ is the principal
subject thereof; accordingly we are to consider his condescending love
in giving his life a ransom for us; and, in order to our being affected
therewith, and to excite our admiration and thankfulness for it, we must
contemplate the divine excellency and glory of his Person; which adds an
infinite value to every part of his obedience and sufferings. We must
also consider the kind of death he died; which is called his being
_wounded_, _bruised_, Isa. liii. 5. _cut off_ Dan. ix. 26. and is
represented as that which had the external mark of the curse of God
annexed to it; upon which account he is said to have been made a curse
for us, Gal. iii. 13.

We are also to consider the character of the persons for whom he laid
down his life; who are described as being _without strength_, or ability
to do what is good, and _ungodly_, and so open enemies to him, Rom. v.
6, 8, 10. and therefore there was nothing in us that could induce him to
do this for us. We are also to consider, that he died in our room and
stead, as _bearing our griefs, and carrying our sorrows_, Isa. liii. 4.
and being _delivered for our offences_, Rom. iv. 25. And we are also to
consider the great ends designed thereby, as God is hereby glorified,
his holiness and justice in demanding and receiving a full satisfaction
for sin, illustrated in the highest degree; so that he declares himself
_well-pleased_ in what Christ has done and suffered, Matt. iii. 17. and
_well-pleased_ likewise, as the prophet expresses it, _for his
righteousness’ sake_, Isa. xlii. 21. We are also to consider the great
advantage that we hope to receive thereby, as _being justified by his
blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him_, Rom. v. 9. This is
therefore the highest inducement to us, to give up ourselves entirely to

3. We are, in this ordinance, to stir up ourselves to a vigorous
exercise of those graces that the nature of the ordinance requires: And
accordingly we are,

(1.) To judge ourselves; as the apostle says, _If we would judge
ourselves, we should not be judged_, 1 Cor. xi. 31. and this we ought to
do, by accusing, condemning, and passing sentence against ourselves, for
those sins which we have committed against Christ, whereby we were
plunged into the utmost depths of misery, in which we should for ever
have continued, had he not redeemed us by his blood. We are also to
acknowledge our desert of God’s wrath and curse; so that _if he should
mark iniquity, we could not stand_, Psal. cxxx. 3. and this sense of sin
ought to be particular, including in it those transgressions which are
known to none but God and ourselves; as we ought to make a particular
application of the blood of Christ for the forgiveness thereof. This is
certainly very suitable to the nature of the ordinance we are engaged
in, wherein Christ is set forth as a sacrifice for sin, and we are led,
at the same time, to be duly affected with our malady, and the great
remedy God has provided; which will have a tendency to enhance our
praise and thankfulness to him, who loved us, and gave himself for us.

(2.) We are to exercise a godly sorrow for sin, which is the ground of
all that distress and misery which we are liable to: This ought to take
its rise from the corruption of nature, from whence all actual sins
proceed; and we are to bewail our sins of omission, as well as
commission; our neglect to perform duties that are incumbent on us, as
well as those sins that have been committed by us with the greatest
presumption, deliberation, wilfulness, and obstinacy, which contain in
them the highest ingratitude and contempt of the blood of Christ, and
the method of salvation by him. And this sorrow for sin ought to produce
those good effects of praying and striving against it, endeavouring to
return to God, from whom we have backslidden. The apostle calls it,
_sorrowing after a godly sort_; and speaks of it as attended with
_carefulness_, that we may avoid it for the future; _clearing of
ourselves_, so that we may either be encouraged to hope that we have not
committed the sins which we are ready to charge ourselves with, or, that
the guilt thereof is taken away by the atonement that Christ has made
for us. It ought also to produce an holy _indignation_, and a kind of
revenge against sin, as that which has been so prejudicial to us; as
likewise a _fear_ of offending; a _zeal_ for the glory of God, whom we
have dishonoured; and a _vehement desire_ of those blessings which we
have hereby forfeited. This sorrow for sin ought to proceed from an
inward loathing and abhorrence of it; and the degree thereof ought to
bear some proportion to its respective aggravations, and the dishonour
we have brought to God thereby; which would be an effectual means to
incline us to abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes.

This is very agreeable to the nature of the ordinance we are engaged in,
since nothing tends more to enhance the vile and heinous nature of sin,
than the consideration of its having crucified the Lord of glory; which
is to be the immediate subject of our meditation therein. We read that
Christ, in his last sufferings, was _exceeding sorrowful, even unto
death_, Matt. xxvi. 38. which could not proceed from the afflictive view
that he had of the pains and indignities he was to suffer in his
crucifixion; for that would argue him to have a less degree of holy
courage and resolution than some of the martyrs have expressed when they
have endured extreme torments, and most ignominious reproaches for his
sake: Therefore his sorrow proceeded from the afflictive sense that he
had of the guilt of our sins which he bore. If therefore he not only
suffered, but his soul was exceeding sorrowful for our sins; this ought
to excite in us the exercise of that grace in this ordinance, in which
it is brought to our remembrance.

(3.) We are to hunger and thirst after Christ; which implies in it an
ardent desire of having communion with him: Thus the church says, _With
my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit will I
seek thee early_, Isa. xxvi. 9. and the Psalmist compares this to the
hunted _hart_, that is ready to die for thirst, which _pants after the
water-brooks_, Psal. xlii. 1. This arises from a deep sense of our need
of Christ, and farther supplies of grace from him, and is attended with
a firm resolution that nothing short of him shall satisfy us, as not
being adapted to supply our wants. Such a frame of spirit is agreeable
to the ordinance we are engaged in, since Christ is therein represented
as having purchased, and being ready to apply to his people, those
blessings which are of a satisfying and comforting nature.

(4.) We are to feed on Christ by faith, and thereby receive of his
fulness, as he is frequently represented in scripture, under the
metaphor of _food_: Thus he styles himself, _The bread of life_, John
vi. 35. and the blessings he bestows, are called, ‘The meat which
perisheth not, but endureth to everlasting life,’ ver. 27. and the
gospel-dispensation is set forth by a ‘feast of fat things, a feast of
wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees
well refined,’ Isa. xxv. 6. Thus our Saviour also represents it in the
parable, Matt. xxii. 4. in which he commands his servants to invite
those that were bidden to the marriage-feast, by telling them what
things he had prepared for their entertainment, as an encouragement to
their faith. Thus we are to consider that fulness of grace that is in
Christ, (when drawing nigh to him in this ordinance,) of merit, for our
justification, of strength to enable us to mortify sin, and resist
temptations, of wisdom to direct us in all emergencies and difficulties,
of peace and comfort, to revive and encourage us under all our doubts
and fears, and to give us suitable relief when we are ready to faint
under the burdens we complain of. All these blessings are to be
apprehended and applied by faith, otherwise we cannot conclude that they
belong to us; and nothing can be more adapted to this ordinance, wherein
Christ is represented as having all those blessings to bestow, which he
has purchased by his blood, and these are signified or shewed forth

(5.) We are, in this ordinance, to trust in the merits of Christ, or to
exercise an entire confidence in him, who, by his death, has purchased
for us all spiritual and saving blessings. This ought to be attended
with an humble sense of our own unworthiness, as being _less than the
least of all God’s mercies_, Gen. xxxii. 10. and as deserving nothing
but his fierce wrath for our iniquities. And, since he has paid a full
and satisfactory price of redemption for us, and thereby procured the
blessings that we had forfeited, which have a tendency to make us
completely happy, we ought to lay the whole stress of our salvation on
him, as being sensible that _he is able to save to the uttermost, all
that come unto God by him_, Heb. xii. 25.

(6.) We are to rejoice in Christ’s love, which is infinitely greater
than what can be in the heart of one creature towards another: This love
of Christ has several properties;

_1st_, It doth not consist merely in his desiring our good, or wishing
that we were happy, but in making us so; nor does it only consist in his
sympathizing with us in our miseries, but delivering us from them, and
discovering himself as our refuge and strength, a very present help in

_2dly_, As Christ’s love to his people did not take its motive at first
from any beauty or excellency which he found in them who were deformed,
polluted, and worthy to be abhorred by him, but afterwards adorned and
_made comely through his comeliness put upon them_, Ezek. xvi. 14. so
when they forfeit his love by their frequent backslidings, and deserve
to be cast off by him, it is nevertheless unchangeably fixed upon them,
inasmuch as _having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them
unto the end_, John xiii. 1.

_3dly_, Christ’s love is infinitely condescending, which arises not only
from that infinite distance which there is between him and his people,
but from his remembring them in their low estate, having compassion on
them whom no eye pitied, and saving them when they were in the utmost
depths of despair and misery, _saying to them when they were in their
blood, live_, Ezek. xvi. 6.

_4thly_, It is not like the love of strangers, which contents itself
with some general endeavours to do good to them whom they design not to
contract an intimacy with, but it is attended with the highest acts of
friendship and communion, imparting his secrets to them, as he promises
_to love, and manifest himself to them_, John xiv. 21. and tells his
disciples, ‘Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth
not what his lord doeth: But I have called you friends; for all things
that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you,’ chap. xv.

_5thly_, It is such a love as forgives all former injuries, and upbraids
not his people for what they have done against him, either before or
since they believed in him. Thus God is said to ‘pardon the iniquity,
and pass by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage,’ and ‘to
cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,’ Micah vii. 18, 19. and
‘to blot out their transgressions for his own sake, and not to remember
their sins,’ Isa. xliii. 25.

_6thly_, It is such a love as affords us all seasonable and necessary
help in times of our greatest straights and difficulties, Psal. xlvi. 1.
and makes provision for our future necessities; as he tells his
disciples, _I go to prepare a place for you_, John xiv. 2. that they
might be assured of being happy in another world; and accordingly he
expresses himself in his mediatorial prayer, ‘Father, I will that these
whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, that they may behold
my glory,’ John xvii. 24.

_7thly_, It is such a love, as puts him upon reckoning all injuries done
against his people, as though they were done against himself, and the
kindnesses expressed to them, as though they were expressed to him, as
it is said, _He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye_, Zech.
ii. 8. and, _he that despiseth you, despiseth me_, Luke x. 16. And, when
he takes notice of those expressions of kindness, which his people had
shewn to one another, he says, _Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me_, Mat. xxv. 40.

_8thly_, It is such a love as inclines him to interpose himself between
his people and all danger, whereby he prevents their being overcome by
their enemies; and indeed, he not only hazarded, but as _a good shepherd
gave his life for his sheep_, John x. 11.

This is that love which is to be the subject of our meditation in this
ordinance; accordingly we are first to endeavour, to make out our
interest in him, by faith, which will be evinced by those acts of love
to him that flow from it, and then we may rejoice in it as a constant
spring of peace and blessedness.

(7.) The next grace to be exercised in this ordinance, is thankfulness,
adoring and praising him that he has been pleased to extend compassion
to us in bestowing those blessings, which are the result of his
discriminating grace, the instances whereof are various, _viz._ as he
delivers us from the ruin that sin would have inevitably brought upon
us, prevents us with the blessings of goodness, and restrains the
breaking forth of our corruptions, which would otherwise have inclined
us to commit the vilest abominations; and, more especially, as he renews
our nature, changes our hearts, creates us unto good works, and then
quickens and excites that grace in us which his own hand wrought, and
comforts us when our spirits are overwhelmed with sorrow, whereby he
enables us to go on in his way rejoicing, and so carries on the work
which he has begun in us, till it be completed in glory. There is
nothing that we have, either in hand or hope, but what will afford
matter for the exercise of this grace; and more particularly, our hearts
ought to be excited hereunto from the consideration of the benefits that
are signified in this ordinance; especially if we are enabled to receive
them by faith.

(8.) We are, at the Lord’s supper, to renew our covenant with God. That
this may be rightly understood, we must consider what it is for a
believer to enter into covenant with God, which he is supposed to have
done before this; and that consists not in our promising that we will do
these things that are out of our power, or, that we will exercise those
graces, which none but God, who works in his people, both to will and to
do, can enable us to put forth; but it consists in our making a
surrender of ourselves to Christ, and depending on him for the supply of
all our spiritual wants, humbly hoping and trusting that he will enable
us to adhere stedfastly to him, working in us all that grace which he
requires of us; which blessing if he is pleased to grant us, we shall be
enabled to perform all the duties that are incumbent on us, how
difficult soever they may be. This is an unexceptionable way of entering
into covenant with God, as it contains an acknowledgement of our own
inability to do that which is good without him, and desire to give the
glory of all to him; on whom we stedfastly rely, that we may obtain
mercy from him to be faithful.

Moreover, to renew our covenant, is to declare, that through his grace,
we are inclined stedfastly to adhere to our solemn dedication to him,
not, in the least, repenting of what we did therein; and, that we have
as much reason to depend on his assistance now, as we had at first,
since grace is carried on, as well as begun by him alone; and
accordingly, while we express our earnest desire to be stedfast in his
covenant, we depend on his promise that he will never fail us, nor
forsake us: And we take this occasion, more especially, to renew our
dedication to him, as it is very agreeable to the nature of this
ordinance, in which we have the external symbols of his love to us,
which lays us under the highest obligation thereunto.

(9.) We are, in this ordinance, to shew our readiness to exercise a
Christian love to all saints; which consists, more especially, in our
earnest desire that all grace and peace may abound in them, as in our
own souls; that hereby we may have occasion to glorify God together, and
shew our mutual concern for the spiritual welfare of each other. We are
to bless God for the grace they are enabled to exercise, though, it may
be, we cannot exercise it in the same degree ourselves: And, as for
others, we are to sympathize with them in their weaknesses, grieve for
their falls and miscarriages; and be very ready to make abatements for
those frailties and infirmities that we behold in them, which we
ourselves are sometimes liable to, especially if they are not
inconsistent with grace, in which case we should cast a mantle of love
over them, not knowing but we may be exposed to, and fall by the same

This love is to be expressed, more especially in this ordinance;
inasmuch as we are to consider all saints as members of Christ’s
mystical body, children of the same God and Father, partakers of the
same grace with us, fellow travellers to the same heavenly country,
where we hope to meet with them at last, though now they are liable to
the same difficulties with ourselves, and exposed to those assaults and
temptations that we often meet with from our spiritual enemies. This
expression of our love, though it be more immediately and directly
extended to the same society, that joins in communion with us; yet it is
not to be confined within such narrow limits, but includes in it the
highest esteem for all who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be
saints, though their place of abode be remote from, and they are not
known to us in the flesh.

II. We are now to consider the duty of Christians after they have
received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper; and that consists in
enquiring, how they have behaved themselves therein? and, whether they
have any ground to conclude, that they have been favoured with the
special presence of God in this ordinance, whereby it has been made a
means of grace to them?

As to the former of these enquiries relating to the frame of our
spirits, while engaging in this solemn duty, we shall sometimes find,
that it has been such as affords matter for deep humiliation and
self-abasement, in the sight of God, when we reflect upon it;

1. When our minds and affections have been conversant about those
things, which are altogether unsuitable to the work we have been engaged
in, and, instead of conversing with Christ in this ordinance, we have
had our thoughts and meditations most taken up with worldly matters; or,
if they have, indeed, been conversant about religious affairs, yet we
may, in some measure, see reason to blame ourselves, if these have been
altogether foreign to the great end and design of the ordinance we have
been engaged in. There are many portions of scripture, or heads of
divinity founded upon it, which we may employ our thoughts about at
other times, with great advantage; yet they may not be altogether
suitable, or adapted to our receiving spiritual advantage by, or making
a right improvement of Christ crucified, as the nature of this ordinance

2. They behave themselves unbecomingly, in this ordinance, who meditate
on the thing signified therein, to wit, the dying love of Jesus Christ,
as though they were unconcerned spectators, having only an historical
faith, and content themselves with the bare knowledge of what relates to
the life and death of Christ, without considering the end and design
thereof, _viz._ that he might make atonement for sin, or their
particular concern herein, so as to improve it, as an expedient for the
taking away the guilt and power thereof in their own souls.

3. We may reflect on our behaviour in this ordinance, when we have given
way to deadness and stupidity, without using those endeavours that are
necessary for the exciting our affections; when a subject so affecting
as Christ’s pouring out his soul unto death, being wounded for our
transgressions, despised and rejected of men, bleeding and dying on the
cross, and, in the midst of his sufferings, crying out, _My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me_, has not had an efficacy to raise our
affections, any more than if it were a common subject?

4. We have reason to blame our behaviour in this ordinance, when we have
attended on it with a resolution to continue in any known sin, without
being earnest with God to mortify it, or desiring strength and grace
from Christ, in order thereunto, and improving his death for that end.
Thus we have reason, sometimes, to reflect on our behaviour at the
Lord’s supper, with grief, and sorrow of heart, as what has been
disagreeable to the nature of the ordinance we have been engaged in.

But, on the other hand, we may, sometimes, in taking a view of our
behaviour therein, find matter of encouragement, when, abating for human
frailties, and the imperfection of grace, that inseparably attends this
present state, we can say, to the glory of God, that we have, in some
measure, behaved ourselves as we ought to do. Thus when we have found,
that our hearts have been duly affected with the love of Christ, and we
have had the exercise of those graces that are suitable thereunto; and
if we can say, that we have had some communion with him, and have not
been altogether destitute of his quickening and comforting presence, and
the witness of his Spirit with ours, that we are the children of God;
then we may conclude, that we have engaged in this ordinance in a right
manner. And if we have found that it has been thus with us, we are to
bless God for it, as considering that he alone can excite grace in us,
who wrought it at first. And we are farther to consider, that such-like
acts of grace will be a good evidence of the truth and sincerity
thereof; whereby our comforts may be more established, and we enabled to
walk more closely and thankfully with God, by the communication of those
graces that he is pleased to bestow upon us in this ordinance.

Moreover, if we have had experience of the presence of God therein, and
have been brought into a good frame, we ought to beg the continuance
thereof. The best frame of spirit will be no longer abiding, than it
pleases God to keep up the lively exercise of faith and other graces;
and this, being so valuable a blessing, is to be sought for by fervent
prayer and supplication, that our good frames may not be like the
morning cloud, or early dew, that soon passes away: This will discover,
that we set a value upon them, and glorify God as the author of them;
and it is the best expedient for our walking with God at other times, as
well as when engaged in holy ordinances.

Again, it is farther observed, that they, who have been quickened and
comforted, when partaking of the Lord’s supper, ought to watch against
relapses into those sins, that formerly they have been overtaken with,
but now see reason to abhor. This we ought to do, because, though we are
sometimes brought into a good frame, yet still we have deceitful hearts,
that, before we are aware, may betray us into the commission of those
sins which have occasioned great distress to us in times past; and, to
this we may add, the endeavours of Satan to ensnare us by his wiles; so,
that when we think ourselves the safest, we may be exposed to the
greatest dangers. When we have been least apprehensive of our return to
our former sins, and, it may be, have been too secure in our opinion,
while confiding too much to our own strength, we have lost those good
frames, and our troubles have been renewed thereby: Therefore, it is our
duty to watch against the secret workings of corrupt nature, and the
first motions of sin in our hearts, while we earnestly implore help from
God, that we may be kept from our own iniquities; namely, those sins
that we have formerly committed, or that more easily beset us than any

The next duty incumbent on us, after we have received the Lord’s supper,
is, to fulfil our vows: This will be better unstood, if compared with
what was before observed concerning sacramental vows or covenants: which
ought not to contain in them a making promises, especially in our own
strength, that we will be found in the exercise of those graces which
are the special gift and effects of God’s almighty power. Therefore, I
always, when occasionally mentioning making religious vows, consider
them principally as containing an express declaration, that we are under
an indispensable obligation to perform those duties, and put forth those
acts of grace which are incumbent on us, as those who desire to approve
ourselves Christ’s faithful servants, whom he has taken into a
covenant-relation with himself. We also declare, that without help from
God we can do nothing: This help we implore from him, at the same time
when we devote, or give up ourselves to him; so that we do this, hoping
and trusting that he will bestow upon us that grace which is out of our
own power; which, if he will be pleased to do, we determine that he
shall have all the glory that arises from it. This is most agreeable to
the sense of the Latin word[102]; from whence the word _vow_ is derived;
and, I think, it is much rather to be acquiesced in, than that general
description which some give to it, when they exhort those who are
engaged in this ordinance, first to confess those sins which they have
committed since they were last at the Lord’s table, so far as they occur
to their memories; and, as a means of their obtaining forgiveness, to
make a solemn vow, or promise, that they will abstain from them for the
future, and walk more agreeably to the engagements which they are laid
under: This they do without an humble sense of the treachery of their
own hearts, or their need of strength from God, to perform any thing
that is good; and afterwards, they are as little inclined to fulfil
their own promises, as they were before forward to make them, with too
much reliance on their own strength; and, by this means, they bring
themselves into the greatest perplexities, and go on, as it were, in a
round of making solemn vows and resolutions, and then breaking them, and
afterwards renewing them again: Whereas, when we intend nothing by our
vowing, but a confessing that what others promise in their own strength,
we see ourselves obliged to do; and, at the same time, depend on Christ
for strength to enable us to perform it, and give up ourselves to him,
as his covenant-people, in hope thereof; this is the safest way of
vowing, inasmuch as it redounds most to the honour of God, and contains
every thing in it that may put us upon using our utmost endeavours to
perform the duties that are incumbent on us, and, at the same time, we
express our unfeigned desire to glorify him as the God and Author of
that grace, which is necessary thereunto. And, in this sense I would
understand what we are exhorted to in the answers we are explaining,
when it is said, in one of them, that while we are receiving the Lord’s
supper, we ought to renew our covenant with God; and after we have
received it, we are to fulfil our vows, as it is expressed in the other;
as the former includes in it such a dedication to God as has been but
now considered; the latter, to wit, the fulfilling our vows, implies in
it a doing every thing that is in our power, in order thereunto; and, at
the same time, a waiting on God to give success to our endeavours, and
to work in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, without which we
can do nothing.

After we have waited on the Lord in this ordinance, we are to encourage
ourselves to a frequent attendance thereon; especially if we have ground
to conclude, that we have had any sensible communications of his grace
vouchsafed to us therein. As this is an honour which God puts on his own
institutions, it is certainly an encouragement to us, to persevere in
waiting on him therein. Thus the Psalmist says, _Because he hath
inclined his ear unto me, therefore I call upon him as long as I live_,
Psal. cxvi. 2. This will effectually remove all those doubts and
scruples that discourage us from engaging in this ordinance, lest we
should not behave ourselves in a right manner therein, fearing that we
are not sufficiently prepared for it, and therefore shall be disowned by
Christ, when we engage in it: I say, this we are fenced against, by
having experienced his quickening and comforting presence therein.

But, suppose we have not met with this desirable blessing, which the
best believers do not experience in a like degree, at all times; then we
ought, after we have received the Lord’s Supper, to endeavour to find
out the particular cause of God’s withdrawing his special presence from
us, and what is that root of bitterness which springs up and troubles
us. It may be, he withholds this privilege from us in a way of
sovereignty, that we may hereby learn that our comforts are not at our
own disposal; or, that they are not the necessary result of our
attendance on ordinances, but arise from the divine blessing
accompanying them. This, God, it may be, withholds from us for the trial
of our graces; and that we may see how needful it is for us to wait for
those spiritual comforts, which, at present, he withholds from us; as
the prophet says, _Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious
unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon
you; for the Lord is a God of judgment; blessed are they that wait for
him_, Isa. xxx. 18.

But since we may, for the most part, apprehend some particular reason
why God denies us his quickening, and comforting presence, arising from
sins of omission or commission, antecedent to, or whilst we have been
engaged in this ordinance: We must enquire,

(1.) Whether there has not been some defect, as to preparatory duties?
and particularly, whether we have duly examined ourselves before we came
to the Lord’s table, concerning our knowledge of Christ, and the
benefits of his redemption; or, especially, of our being enabled to
improve them by faith? and, whether we have examined ourselves
concerning the sense we have of the guilt of sin, and the need we stand
in of Christ’s righteousness, to take it away, and accordingly resolved
to wait on him in this ordinance, with earnest desires of obtaining this

(2.) We must enquire, whether our behaviour when we have been engaged in
this ordinance, has not been, in some measure, unbecoming the
spirituality and importance thereof? whether we have not spared, or
indulged, some secret corruption, that has broke forth therein? or,
whether we have not given way to some temptation, that has then beset
us? whether we have not depended on our own righteousness, for the
taking away the guilt of sin, and procuring for us acceptance in the
sight of God? or, whether we have not engaged in this ordinance, in our
own strength, and by this self-confidence, provoked him to withdraw from
us; which, if we have, it will afford matter of deep humiliation in his
sight, and call for repentance and reformation, if we would be fenced
against this inconvenience, which, at present we labour under; and then
we may hope that we shall be enabled to wait on him in this ordinance,
in such a way, that we may have those comfortable experiences of grace
from him, which will be an evidence that we have waited on him for the
better, and not for the worse.

Footnote 102:


                        Quest. CLXXVI., CLXXVII.

    QUEST. CLXXVI. _Wherein do the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s
    Supper agree?_

    ANSW. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, agree, in
    that the author of both is God, the spiritual part of both is Christ
    and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be
    dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other, and to be
    continued in the church of Christ, until his second coming.

    QUEST. CLXXVII. _Wherein do the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s
    Supper differ?_

    ANSW. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in
    that baptism is to be administered but once with water, to be a sign
    and seal of our regeneration, and ingrafting into Christ, and that
    even to infants, whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered
    often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit
    Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our
    continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years
    and ability to examine themselves.

These two answers contain little more than a recapitulation of some
things, that have been occasionally mentioned, in explaining the nature
of these ordinances; and therefore we shall very briefly insist on them.

I. Concerning those things wherein the sacraments of baptism and the
Lord’s supper agree; accordingly,

1. It is observed, that God is the Author of both. This may be inferred
from what has been said concerning their being holy ordinances, or means
of grace; in which we are to expect his presence and blessing to make
them effectual to salvation: This we cannot do without engaging in them
by his own warrant, which he has been pleased to give us, as appears
from his word, and the experience of many believers, who have found
sensible advantage thereby; so that the effects of his power and grace,
that have been produced in their hearts, when engaged therein, afford a
convincing evidence that God is the Author thereof. This, as to what
concerns baptism, respects more especially, the baptism of those that
are adult; for when infants are baptized, though God can, and sometimes
does, as is more than probable, own this ordinance, by regenerating them
at that time; yet this cannot be known by us, unless it be inferred,
from those extraordinary communications of grace which they may
experience, who are enabled, by faith to give up their children to God

2. Baptism and the Lord’s supper farther agree, in that Christ, and his
benefits are signified by both of them: for they are, each of them,
ordinances for our faith, as they are signs and seals of the covenant of
grace, in which Christ, and the benefits of his redemption, are set
forth: Thus the apostle says, with respect to baptism, _So many of as
were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death, buried
with him by baptism into death_, Rom. vi. 3, 4. accordingly we have
communion with Christ as crucified, dying and buried, and, after this,
rising again from the dead, whereby he brought the work of redemption to
perfection: These things are signified; and thus our faith is to make
use of this sign in baptism; and the apostle says the same thing with
respect to the Lord’s Supper: _As often as ye eat this bread, and drink
this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come_, 1 Cor. xi. 26.

3. Baptism and the Lord’s supper, are farther observed to agree, in that
they are to be dispensed by none but the ministers of the gospel. Under
the Old Testament-dispensation, where all the parts of the
temple-service were significant signs of Christ, and the benefits of the
covenant of grace; these were to be administered by none but those who
were qualified, called, and lawfully set apart to that work, as the
apostle says, _No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is
called of God, as was Aaron_, Heb. v. 4. And we may conclude, that the
moral reason of the thing extends itself to the administration of the
seals of the covenant, under the gospel-dispensation. It is certain,
that some must be appointed, or set apart to this work, otherwise it
would belong to every body, and consequently there would be no
determinate administrators of these ordinances, who might be said to
have a special call thereunto, from God and man. It may also be inferred
from those scriptures that speak of _pastors after God’s own heart_, who
are to _feed_ his people _with knowledge and understanding_, as being
his special _gift_, Jer. iii. 15. and from what the apostle says,
concerning gospel-ministers, whether extraordinary or ordinary, as being
Christ’s _gift_, when he _ascended up on high_, Eph. iv. 8, 11.

4. It is farther observed, that these two ordinances agree, in that they
are both to be continued in the church, until Christ’s second coming.
Though we look and hope for more of the presence of God therein, and a
greater effusion of his Spirit, to make them more effectual, and render
the church more bright and glorious, as being favoured with greater
degrees of the communications of divine grace; yet we have no ground to
expect new ordinances, or a new dispensation to succeed this we are
under, till Christ’s second and most glorious coming; therefore this is
called, _The last time_, 1 John ii. 18. Upon which account the apostle
says, that _the ends of the world are come upon us_, 1 Cor. x. 11. by
which we are to understand, that the present dispensation of the gospel
that we are under, is the last we are to expect till Christ’s second

And this also appears, from the promise which Christ has given of his
presence with his ministers and churches, when faithfully engaging in
these ordinances, as he says, _Lo, I am with you always, even unto the
end of the world_, Matt. xxviii. 20. And, as his _death_, as was before
observed, is to be _shewed forth till he come_, 1 Cor. xi. 26. this
proves that the Lord’s supper is also to be continued in the church till
then. This I would the rather observe, inasmuch as it is contrary to
what some maintain, who, while they hope for a greater effusion of the
Spirit, and a more glorious state of the church in the latter day, are
ready to extend their thoughts too far, they conclude that it will be a
new dispensation, as the ordinances which the church is favoured with,
at present, shall cease, particularly baptism and the Lord’s Supper;
which we can by no means approve of.

II. We are now to consider wherein the sacraments of baptism and the
Lord’s supper differ.

1. It is observed that they differ, in that baptism is to be
administered but once; whereas, the Lord’s supper is to be administered
often. This appears from two different circumstances contained in them.
As for baptism, it signifies our first ingrafting into, or putting on
Christ; and when denominated from the thing signified thereby, it is
called, the _washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy
Ghost_, Titus iii. 5. which is hoped for in this ordinance; accordingly
it is considered as our first solemn dedication to Christ; and, as this
is signified thereby, it is called an initiating ordinance, in which we
are bound to be the Lord’s; which bond holds good as long as we live,
and therefore needs not to be signified, sealed, or confirmed by our
being baptized a second time: But, on the other hand, the Lord’s supper
signifies our feeding or living upon Christ, and receiving daily
supplies of grace from him, as our necessities require: Therefore this
ordinance differs from baptism as it is often to be engaged in.

2. They differ, in that the former as has been before proved, is not
only to be applied to the adult, if they have not been baptized before,
but to the infants of believing parents, which the Lord’s supper is not.
In baptism, the person dedicated may be considered as being passive, and
so devoted to God by the faith of another, who has a right to do this:
But none are to partake of the Lord’s supper but those who have such a
degree of knowledge, that they are able to discern the Lord’s body, and
capable of performing that duty which the apostle recommends as
necessary thereunto, when he says, _Let a man examine himself, and so
let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup_, 1 Cor. xi. 28.

I am sensible that some of the ancient church, and particularly Cyprian,
in the third century, have pleaded for, and practised the administration
of the Lord’s supper to infants, being led into this mistake, by
supposing what does not sufficiently appear, _viz._ that infants among
the Jews ate the passover, because whole families are said to eat it.
But this does not appear to include infants; for whom another sort of
food was designed: neither could they reap any advantage by it, not
being capable of discerning the thing signified, or feeding on Christ,
the true Paschal Lamb; which could be done no otherwise than by faith.

Others were led into this mistake from the wrong sense they gave of that
scripture, in which Christ says, _Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of
man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you_, John vi. 53. thinking
that our Saviour meant hereby, the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper.
Therefore this ordinance was absolutely necessary to salvation; upon
which account they thought that it ought to be extended to infants, as a
means of their obtaining it. But it is certain this cannot be the
meaning of that scripture, since the Lord’s supper was not instituted,
or known in the church, when our Saviour spake these words: Therefore,
he intends nothing else thereby but the fiducial application of Christ’s
death, as an expedient for our obtaining eternal life.

                            Quest. CLXXVIII.

    QUEST. CLXXVIII. _Which is Prayer?_

    ANSW. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name
    of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins,
    and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

Having considered the things that are to be believed and done; what
remains is, to enquire concerning those things that are to be prayed
for, and how this great duty of prayer is to be performed. This is
necessary to be insisted on, inasmuch as we are obliged to yield
obedience to the revealed will of God; nevertheless, by reason of our
depravity and weakness, we can do nothing that is good without his
assistance, which is not to be expected, unless it be humbly desired of
him; and this is what we generally call _prayer_; which being performed
by creatures who are not only indigent, but unworthy, this is to be
acknowledged, and accordingly we are, in prayer, to confess sin as the
principal ground and reason of this unworthiness. And, inasmuch as God
has been pleased to encourage us to hope, that we shall not seek his
face in vain, who, in many instances is pleased to grant returns of
prayer; this obliges us to draw nigh to him with thanksgiving. These
things are particularly contained in the answer we are explaining; and
the method in which we shall endeavour to speak to it, is to consider,

I. What, prayer supposes; and that is,

1. That we are dependent and indigent creatures, have many wants to be
supplied, sins to be forgiven, miseries, under which we need pity and
relief, and weaknesses, under which we want to be strengthened and
assisted in the performance of the duties that are incumbent on us. From
hence it may be inferred, that though our Lord Jesus Christ is often
represented as praying to God, this is an action performed by him in his
human nature; in which alone he could be said to be indigent, who, in
his divine nature, is all-sufficient.

2. It supposes that God, who is the object of prayer, is regarded by us,
not only as able, but willing to help us; and that he has encouraged us
to draw nigh to him for relief: And therefore it is a duty that more
especially belongs to those who are favoured with the hope of the

II. We shall now shew how prayer is to be considered, as to the various
kinds hereof; and accordingly we are represented as drawing nigh to God,
with an humble sense of our secret sins and wants, which none but God
and our own consciences are privy to. This kind of prayer our Saviour
intends, when he says, _Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,
and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret,
and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly_, Mat.
vi. 6. and we have an instance hereof in himself; inasmuch, as it is
said, that _when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a
mountain apart to pray_, chap. xiv. 23. also, _Peter went up upon the
house-top to pray_, Acts x. 9. in which, being retired from the world,
he had a greater liberty to pour forth his soul unto God.

Moreover, we are to join with others in performing this duty, in which
we confess those sins, and implore a supply of those wants that are
common to all who are engaged therein: This our Saviour encourages us to
do, when he says, _If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any
thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which
is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them_, Mat. xviii. 19, 20. This is a branch
of social worship, and is to be performed by every family apart, whereof
we have an example in Cornelius, concerning whom it is said, that he was
_a devout man, and feared God with all his house, and prayed to him
always_; and that he did this, at certain times, _in his house_, Acts x.
2. compared with ver. 30. Moreover, this duty is to be performed
publicly in the church, or any worshipping assembly met together for
that purpose: Of this we have an instance in the apostle Paul, who, when
he had called for the elders of the church at Ephesus, designing to take
his leave of them, after an affectionate discourse, and suitable advice
given to them, he _kneeled down and prayed with them all_, chap. xx. 36.

Again, prayer may be considered as that for which a stated time is set
apart by us, either alone, or with others; or, that which is occasional,
short, and ejaculatory, consisting in a secret lifting up of our hearts
to God, and may be done when we are engaged in other business of a
different nature, without being a let or hindrance to it: Thus it is
said that _Nehemiah prayed_, when he has going to _deliver the cup into
the king’s hand_, between the king’s asking him a question, and his
returning him an answer to it; which seems to be the meaning of what is
said in Neh. ii. 4, 5. _Then the king said unto me; for what dost thou
make request? so I prayed to the God of heaven, and I said unto the
king_, &c. These ejaculatory prayers are either such as we put up to God
while engaged in worldly business for direction, assistance, or success
therein; or when attending on the word read or preached, or any other
holy duties, in which we lift up our hearts to him for his presence

III. The next thing to be considered, is, the various parts of prayer;
and these are three, _viz._ Confession of sin; petition for a supply of
our wants; and thanksgiving for mercies received. Confession of sin
supposes that we are guilty, and deserve punishment from God; petition
supposes, that we are miserable and helpless; and thanksgiving implies,
a disposition to own God, the author of all the good we enjoy or hope
for, and includes in it a due sense of those undeserved favours we have
received from him.

From this general account of the duty of prayer, and the parts thereof,
we may infer,

1. That the two former of them, namely, confession of sin, and petition
for relief, under the various miseries and distresses which we are
liable to, is only applicable to those who are in a sinful and imperfect
state, as believers are in this world. As for glorified saints in
heaven, they have no sins to be confessed, nor any miseries under which
they need help and pity. As for that part of prayer which consists of
thanksgiving for mercies already received, that, indeed, is agreeable to
a perfect state, and is represented as the constant work of glorified
saints: Thus the Psalmist says, _The heavens_, that is, the inhabitants
thereof, _shall praise thy wonders, O Lord, thy faithfulness also in the
congregation of the saints_, Psal. lxxxix. 5.

2. Sinners, who have lost their day of grace, against whom the door of
hope and mercy is shut, who are enduring the punishment of sin in hell,
these are not properly the subjects of prayer; concerning whom it may be
said, not only that they cannot pray, being destitute of those graces
that are necessary thereunto; but having no interest in a Mediator, or
in the promises of the covenant of grace, which are a warrant and
encouragement for the performance of this duty.

3. In this world, wherein we enjoy the means of grace, none are the
subjects of prayer but man. The Psalmist, indeed, speaks of God’s
_giving to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry_, Psal.
cxlvii. 9. and elsewhere it is said, _He provideth for the raven his
food, when his young ones cry unto God_, Job. xxxviii. 41. The meaning
of which is, not that brute creatures formally address themselves to God
for a supply of their wants, having no idea of a divine being; but,
that, when they complain for want of food, the providence of God
supplies them, though they know not the hand from whence it comes.

4. Though it be the duty of all men in the world to pray; yet none can
do this by faith, and, consequently, in an acceptable manner, but
believers, concerning whom the apostle says, _Ye have received the
spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father_, Rom. viii. 15.

As for the first part of prayer, _viz._ petition, or supplication. This
will be particularly considered under several following answers, and
especially those that contain an explication of the Lord’s prayer; which
is a directory for what we are to ask of God: Therefore we shall, at
present, only consider the other two parts of prayer, _viz._ confession
of sin, and thanksgiving for mercies.

(1.) Concerning confession of sin; and accordingly,

[1.] We shall prove, that it is an indispensable duty incumbent on all
men; and that, not only on those who are in a state of unregeneracy, and
consequently under the dominion of sin, but on believers themselves, who
are in a justified state. This will appear, if we consider, that not to
confess sin, is, in effect, to justify ourselves in the commission of
it; and, as it were, to deny that which is so well known to the
heart-searching God, as well as to our own consciences. It also contains
in it a charging God with injustice, when he inflicts on us the
punishment that is due to it; which is contrary to what Ezra says;
_Thou, our God, hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve_, Ezra
ix. 13.

Moreover, none was ever truly humbled in the sight of God, or obtained
mercy and forgiveness of sin, but he was first brought to confess it
with suitable affection, and brokenness of heart; which are ingredients
in true repentance: Thus it is said, _He looketh upon men, and if any
say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited
me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life
shall see the light_, Job xxxiii. 27, 28. It is also said elsewhere, _He
that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and
forsaketh them shall have mercy_, Prov. xxviii. 13. This duty is so
evident, that, one would think, no one, who duly considers what he is,
or how contrary his actions are to the revealed will of God, should have
the front to deny it: However, it is well known, that many seem
designedly to wave all confession of sin in prayer; and, others argue
against it, more especially, as to what concerns the case of believers:

_Object._ It is objected, that believers ought not to confess sin; since
that is inconsistent with a justified state: It is, in effect, to plead
guilty, though God has taken away the guilt of sin, by forgiving it for
the sake of the atonement which Christ has made: It is a laying open the
wound that God hath healed and closed up, or bringing to remembrance
that which he hath said, _he will remember no more_, Heb. x. 67. and it
is contrary to the grace of God, who hath said, none shall _lay any
thing to the charge of_ his _elect_, since _it is God that justifieth_,
Rom. viii. 33. for a believer to lay any thing to his own charge, which
he does when he confesses sin.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied;

_1st_, That we must distinguish between a believer’s desert of
punishment or condemnation, and his being actually punished by God, as a
sin-revenging judge, according as his iniquities deserve. That a
believer shall not eventually fall under condemnation, is true, because
his sins are forgiven; and with respect to such, the apostle says,
_There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus_, ver.
1. Nevertheless, though he be in a justified state, and, as the
consequence hereof, shall be undoubtedly saved; yet, according to the
tenor of his own actions, he being a sinner, contracts guilt in the
sight of God; and, a desert of punishment is inseparably connected with
every sin, though a person may be in a justified state who commits it.
It is one thing to be liable to condemnation, and another thing to
deserve to be condemned: The former of these is, indeed, inconsistent
with a justified state; but the latter is not: And it is in this sense
that we are to understand the Psalmist’s words, _If thou, Lord, shouldst
mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand_, Psal. cxxx. 3. And,
accordingly, the best believer on earth, though he have a full assurance
of his being forgiven by God; yet, inasmuch as he is a sinner, he is
obliged to confess that he deserves to be cast off by him, or, if God
should deal with him according to what he finds in him, without looking
upon him as he is in Christ, his head and surety, he would be undone and
lost for ever.

_2dly_, Believers are daily sinning, and therefore contracting fresh
guilt; as it is said, _There is not a just man upon earth that doeth
good and sinneth not_, Eccl. vii. 20. and, indeed their sin is sometimes
so great, that they grieve the Holy Spirit, wound their own consciences,
and act very disagreeably to their character as believers. This
therefore ought to be confessed with shame and self-abhorrence; as the
prophet says, _That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never
open thy mouth anymore, because of thy shame; when I am pacified towards
thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God_, Ezek. xvi. 63.
Moreover, it is certain that believers, when they have had a discovery
that their sin was pardoned, have, at the same time, confessed it with
great humility. Thus, immediately after Nathan had reproved David for
his sin, and told him, upon his repentance, that _the Lord had put it
away_, 2 Sam. xii. 13. yet he makes a penitent confession of it before
God, and says, _Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this
evil in thy sight_, Psal. li. 4.

[2.] We shall now consider with what frame of spirit sin is to be
confessed; and this ought to be done,

_1st_, With a due sense of the infinite evil thereof, as it reflects
dishonour on the divine perfections; and particularly as it is opposite
to the holiness and purity of God, and a contempt cast on his law, which
expressly forbids it, and a disregarding the threatenings denounced
thereby against those who violate it, and renders us liable to his
wrath, as a sin-revenging Judge, pursuant to the intrinsic demerit
thereof: And therefore it is justly styled _an evil thing and bitter_;
the only thing that can be called a moral evil; and it is certainly
bitter in the consequences thereof.

_2dly_, We are to confess sin with humility, shame, confusion of face,
and self-abhorrence; and that more especially, by reason of the vile
ingratitude there is in it, as committed by those who are under the
greatest engagements to the contrary duties.

_3dly_, Sin is to be confessed with the hope of obtaining forgiveness
through the blood of Christ, as laying hold on the promises of mercy,
which are made to those who confess and forsake it, Prov. xxviii. 13.
and, with an earnest desire, to be delivered from the prevailing power
thereof, by strength derived from Christ.

[3.] We shall now consider what sins we are to confess before God; and
these are, either the sin of our nature, or those actual transgressions
that proceed from it.

_1st_, The sin of our nature. As fallen creatures, we are destitute of
the image of God; and, having contracted corrupt habits, by repeated
acts of rebellion against him, all the powers and faculties of our souls
are vitiated thereby, and we not only indisposed and disinclined to what
is good, but naturally bent to backslide from God, and to commit the
greatest abominations, if destitute of his preventing, restraining, or
renewing grace: Thus the apostle says, _I know that in me, (that is, in
my flesh) dwelleth no good thing_, Rom. vii. 18. And this is to be
considered as what has universally defiled and depraved our nature; and
therefore we ought to cry out with the leper, _Unclean, unclean_, Lev.
xiii. 45. or, as the prophet say, _From the sole of the foot even unto
the head, there is no soundness in us, but wounds, and bruises, and
putrifying sores_, Isa. i. 6. We are to consider it as that which
insinuates itself into our best duties; and it is like the fly in the
precious ointment; and it is of such a nature, that when we have been
enabled to gain some advantage against it, it will afterwards recover
strength. Notwithstanding all our endeavours to the contrary. It is like
an incurable disease in the body, which, though we endeavour to keep it
under for a while, yet it will prevail again, till the frame of nature
is demolished, and thereby all diseases cured at once: Nevertheless,
when we confess and are humbled for this propensity, that is in our
nature to sin, we are to pray and hope, that the prevailing power
thereof may be so far weakened, that, by the principle of grace,
implanted in regeneration, and excited by the Spirit, in promoting the
work of sanctification, though it dwells in us it may not entirely have
dominion over us, or we be thereby denominated the servants of sin.

_2dly_, We are to confess the many actual sins that we daily commit,
with all their respective aggravations; sins of omission and commission,
both of which are contained in the apostle’s confession; _The good that
I would do, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do_, Rom.
vii. 19. Our sinful neglects of duty are numberless; we are to confess
our not having redeemed our time, but spent it in those trifles and vain
amusements that profit not; particularly if we have misimproved the very
flower and best part of our time and strength, and not remembered our
Creator in the days of our youth. This Job reckons the principal ground
and reason of the evils that befal him in his advanced age, when he
says, _Thou writest bitter things against me; and makest me to possess
the iniquities of my youth,_ Job xiii. 26. And we are humbly to confess
our not having improved, and, thereby, lost many opportunities for
extraordinary service, either to do, or to get good: Thus the prophet
says, _Yea, the stork the heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the
turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming,
but my people know not the judgment of the Lord_, Jer. viii. 7. We are
also to confess our neglecting to comply with the calls and invitations
of the gospel; upon which account we are said, _to receive the grace of
God in vain,_ 2 Cor. vi. 1. _or not to know the time of our visitation,_
Luke xix. 44. but when God has _called, we have refused; when he has
stretched out his hand, no man regarded, but have set at nought all his
counsel, and would none of his reproof_, Prov. i. 24, 25. We are also to
confess our neglect of public and secret duties, or worshipping of God
in a careless indifferent manner; as the prophet represents the people,
saying, _Behold, what a weariness is it, and ye have snuffed at it,
saith the Lord of Hosts; and ye have brought that which was torn, and
the lame and the sick; should I accept this at your hands?_ Mal. i. 13.
We are also to confess our neglect of relative duties, in not
instructing those under our care, nor reproving them for sin committed,
nor sympathizing with the afflicted, nor warning those who are going out
of God’s way; by which means a multitude of sins might have been
prevented, whereby many have been ruined through our sinful neglect.

As for sins of commission, which are also to be confessed; these are
either such as were committed before or after our conversion to God; the
former of which contain a disowning his authority, or right to
obedience; the latter, an ungrateful disregard to, or forgetfulness of
the greatest benefits received from him. We are also to confess those
sins which are contrary to the moral law, or the very light of nature;
which we are often guilty of: And, that we may be furnished with matter,
and give scope to our thoughts and affections therein, it may be of use
for us to consider the sins forbidden under each of the Ten
Commandments, which have been before particularly insisted on. We ought
also to confess the various aggravations of sin; and, to assist us
therein, those things that are contained in a foregoing answer[103], may
be of some use to us, especially if we make a particular application
thereof to our own case, and observe how far we have reason to fall
under a sense of guilt, or charge ourselves with crimes of the like

Moreover, we are to confess the sins we have committed against the
engagements or grace of the gospel; the low thoughts we have sometimes
had of the person of Christ, his love to us, or the benefits we have
been made partakers of from him, while we have been ready to say, as the
daughters of Jerusalem are represented speaking, _What is thy beloved
more than another beloved,_ Cant. v. 9. and how much we have hardened
our hearts against him, refusing to submit to his yoke, or bear his
cross; how often we have been ashamed of his cause and interest,
especially when called to suffer reproach for it. Have we not sometimes
questioned the truth of his promises, refused to submit to his
righteousness, and depend upon it alone for justification, while we have
had too high thoughts of ourselves, glorying and valuing ourselves upon
the performance of some moral duties, which we have put in the room of

We ought to confess how much we have opposed him in all his offices; not
depending on him as a prophet to lead us in the way of truth and peace,
but have leaned to our own understanding, and therefore have been left
to pervert, disbelieve, or, at least, entertain some doubts about the
great doctrines of the gospel; or, if our minds have been rightly
informed therein, yet we have not made a practical improvement thereof,
for our spiritual advantage. Have we not opposed him as a priest, and
neglected to set a due value on that atonement he has made for sin, not
improving his intercession for us, who is entered into the holy place,
made without hands, to encourage us to come boldly to the throne of
grace? Have we not also refused to submit to him as king of saints, or
seek protection from him against the assaults of our spiritual enemies?
These things are to be confessed by us in prayer; and that with such a
sense of our own guilt, that we ought to acknowledge ourselves to be,
(as the apostle says concerning himself,) _the chief of sinners,_ 1 Tim.
i. 15.

I am sensible that many will be ready to conclude, that much of what has
been said concerning sins to be confessed, is applicable to none but
those that are in a state of unregeneracy; and, among them, few can say,
that they are the chief of sinners, unless they have been notoriously
vile and scandalous in the eye of the world; and that the apostle Paul,
when he applies this to himself, has a peculiar reference to what he was
before his conversion.

But to this it may be replied; that it is impossible we should know so
much of the sins of others, together with their respective aggravations,
as we may of those that have been committed by ourselves. And if we have
not been left to commit those gross and scandalous sins, which we have
beheld in them with abhorrence, this is not owing to ourselves, but the
grace of God, by which we are what we are; which, if we had been
destitute of, we should have been as bad as the worst of men; and if our
hearts have been renewed and changed thereby, so that we are kept from
committing those sins that are inconsistent with a state of grace; yet
there are very heinous aggravations attending those we have reason to
charge ourselves with; whereby we have acted contrary to the experience
we have had of the efficacious influence of the Holy Spirit, and have
been guilty of very great ingratitude against him, that has laid us
under the highest obligations. Thus concerning confession of sin, when
drawing nigh to God in the duty of prayer.

(2.) We are now to consider another part of prayer, namely, that we are
therein thankfully to acknowledge the mercies of God: Thus the Psalmist
says, _Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with
praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name,_ Psal. c. 4. And
elsewhere, _I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving; and will
call upon the name of the Lord,_ Psal. cxvi. 17. that is, I will join
prayer and praise together. Nothing is more obvious, than that favours
received ought to be acknowledged; otherwise we are guilty of that
ingratitude which is one of the vilest crimes. Not to acknowledge what
we receive from God, is, in effect, to deny our obligation to him; which
will provoke him to withhold from us those other mercies which we stand
in need of.

This duty ought to be performed at all times, and on all occasions: Thus
the apostle says, _In every thing by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God,_ Phil. iv. 6.
This is evident, in that there is no condition of life but what has some
mixture of mercy in it; and that this may be more particularly
considered, we may observe, that the mercies we receive from God, are
either outward or spiritual, common or special; the former of these he
gives to all without distinction; as it is said, _The Lord is good to
all, and his tender mercies are over all his works,_ Psal. cxlv. 9. And
elsewhere, he is _kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil,_ Luke vi.
35. _and maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth
rain on the just and on the unjust,_ Matt. v. 45. The latter sort of
mercies he bestows on the heirs of salvation, in a covenant-way, as the
purchase of the blood of Christ, and a pledge of farther blessings which
he has reserved in store for them: There are mercies which we have in
hand, or in possession, and others which we have in hope or in
reversion: Thus the apostle speaks of the _hope_ which is _laid up for_
the saints _in heaven,_ Col. i. 3, 5. which he _thanks_ God for in his
prayer for the church.

Again, the mercies of God may be considered either as personal or
relative; the former we are more immediately the subjects of; the latter
affect us so far as we stand related to others, for whose welfare we are
greatly concerned, and whose happiness makes a very considerable
addition to our own.

[1.] We are to express our thankfulness to God for personal mercies; and
accordingly we are to bless him for the advantages of nature, which are
the effects of divine goodness: Thus the Psalmist says, _I will praise
thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,_ Psal. cxxxix. 14. Though
the human nature falls very short of what it was at first, when the
image of God was perfectly enstamped on all the powers and faculties of
the soul; and it is not what it shall be when brought to a state of
perfection in heaven: Yet there are many natural endowments which we
have received from God, as a means for our glorifying him, and answering
the end of our being, in the whole conduct of our lives: And,

_1st_, As to what concerns the blessings of providence, which we have
received in every age of life. In our childhood and youth we have great
reason to be thankful, if we have had the invaluable blessing of a
religious education, and have been kept or delivered from the pernicious
influence of bad examples, from whence that age of life oftentimes
receives such a tincture as tends to vitiate the soul, and open the way
for all manner of sin, which will afterwards insinuate itself into, and
prevail, like an infectious distemper, over all the powers and faculties
thereof. What reason have we to bless God if we have been favoured with
restraining or preventing grace, whereby we have been kept from youthful
lusts, which are destructive to multitudes, and lay a foundation for
their future ruin; and especially if it has pleased God to bring us
under early convictions of sin; so that we have experienced in that age
of life, the hopeful beginnings of a work of grace, which is an effect
of more than common providence! We ought to take notice, with great
thankfulness, of the methods of divine grace, if we have been early led
into the knowledge of the first principles of the oracles of God,
especially if they have made such an impression on our hearts, that we
can say, with good Obadiah, _I thy servant, fear the Lord from my
youth,_ 1 Kings xviii. 12.

Again, we are to express our thankfulness for the mercies which we have
received in our advanced age, when arrived to a state of manhood; and
accordingly are to bless him for directing and ordering our settlement
in the world, in those things more especially that relate to our secular
callings and employments therein, and the advantages of suitable society
in those families in which our lot has been cast, as well as the many
instances of divine goodness in our own. We ought also to bless him for
succeeding our industry and endeavours used, to promote our comfort and
happiness in the world, together with that degree of usefulness which it
has pleased God to favour us with, therein. We ought also to bless him
for carrying us through many difficulties that lay in our way, some of
which we have been almost ready to think insurmountable; as also for
bringing us under the means of grace, in which the providence of God is
more remarkable, in those who have not been favoured with a religious
education in their childhood; and more especially if these means have
been made effectual to answer the highest and most valuable ends.

There are other mercies which some have reason to bless God for, who are
arrived to old age, which is the last stage of life, wherein the frame
of nature is declining and hastening apace to a dissolution. These, I
say, have reason to be thankful, if they have not, as it were, outlived
themselves, wholly lost their memory and judgment, by which means they
would have been brought back again, as it were, to the state of
childhood, as some have been; or, if old age be not pressed down beyond
measure, with pain and bodily diseases, or a multitude of cares and
troubles about outward circumstances in the world, which would tend to
embitter the small remains of life, which has not much strength of
nature to bear up under great troubles, nor can those methods be made
use of, whereby others, without much difficulty, are able to extricate
themselves out of them: But they, of all others, have most reason to
bless God, who can look back on a long series of usefulness, in
proportion to the number of years they have lived; so that that promise
is fulfilled to them, _They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
they shall be fat and flourishing_, Psal. xcii. 14. This is more than a
common mercy, and therefore requires a greater degree of thankfulness,
when it may be said of them, _The hoary head is a crown of glory, being
found in the way of righteousness_, Prov. xvi. 31. and grace keeps equal
pace with age; and they have nothing to do but to wait for a release,
from a careful, vain, uneasy life to heaven. Thus concerning the
occasions we have for thankfulness in every age of life.

_2dly_, We are now to consider the reason that we have to be thankful in
the various circumstances or conditions of life; particularly,

_1st_, When we have a great measure of outward prosperity, which is more
than many enjoy; which calls for a proportionable degree of
thankfulness, especially if it be sanctified and sweetened with a sense
of God’s special love, so that it is a pledge and earnest of better
things reserved for us hereafter. When we have the good things of this
life for our conveniency, that our passage through the world may be more
easy and comfortable to us; and yet we have ground to hope that this is
not our portion, or that we are not like those whom the Psalmist speaks
of, and calls _the men of the world, who have their portion in this
life_, Psal. xvii. 14. or, like the rich man in the parable, to whom it
was said, _Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good
things_, Luke xvi. 25. We have reason to bless God when outward
prosperity is a means of our glorifying him, and being more serviceable
to promote his interest, and not a snare or occasion of sin, when it is
not like the _prosperity of fools_, which has a tendency to _destroy
them_, Prov. i. 32. or when what is said concerning that murmuring
generation of men, whom the Psalmist speaks of, that _lusted exceedingly
in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert_: so that though _he
gave them their request, he sent leanness into their soul_, is not
applicable to us, Psal. cvi. 14, 15. Again, when we enjoy the outward
blessings of providence, and, at the same time, live above them; so that
our hearts are not too much set upon them; but we are willing to part
with them, when God is about to deprive us of them, or take us from
them; and when outward enjoyments are helps, and not hindrances to us in
our way to heaven. These are inducements to the greatest thankfulness,
and ought to be acknowledged to the glory of God.

_2dly_, We have reason to be thankful, though it pleases God to follow
us with many afflictions and adverse providences in the world: These are
not, indeed, to be reckoned blessings in themselves; nevertheless, they
are not inconsistent with a thankful frame of spirit; especially,

_1st_, When we take occasion from hence to be affected with the vanity,
emptiness, and uncertainty of all outward comforts, which perish in the

_2dly_, When afflictive providences have a tendency to humble and make
us submissive to the divine will, so that we are hereby led to have a
deep sense of sin, the procuring cause thereof. Thus Ephraim speaks of
his being chastised by God, and, at the same time, _ashamed and
confounded_, as _bearing the reproach_ of former sins committed by him,
Jer. xxxi. 18, 19. or, when those sins, which before prevailed, are
hereby prevented, and we enabled to mortify them: Thus the Psalmist
says, _Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept thy
word_, Psal. cxix. 67. And when God is pleased to cause his grace to
abound as outward troubles abound. 2 Cor. iv. 16. and when the want of
outward mercies makes us see the worth of them, and puts us upon
improving every instance of the divine goodness, as a great inducement
to thankfulness.

_3dly_, We have reason to be thankful under afflictions, when we have a
comfortable hope that they are evidences of our being God’s children,
interested in his special love, Heb. xii. 7. so that we have ground to
conclude, that he is hereby training us up, and making us more meet for
the heavenly inheritance, so that we can say with the apostle, _Our
light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory_, 2 Cor. iv. 17.

[2.] We are to express our thankfulness for those mercies which we call
relative, or for the blessings that others enjoy, in whose welfare we
are more immediately concerned. As it is the duty of every one to desire
the good of all men; so we ought to bless God for the mercies bestowed
on others as well as ourselves. The relation we stand in to others, is
either more general or extensive, and, in this respect, it may include
in it all mankind; and accordingly we are to be thankful for the mercies
which our fellow-creatures receive from the hand of God, inasmuch as
hereby the divine perfections are magnified: And, as for those who
receive the blessings that accompany salvation, the ends of Christ’s
death, and the dispensation of the gospel, are hereby attained; and
whatever mercies God bestows on others, we bless him for them, as taking
encouragement to hope that he will bestow the same blessings upon us,
when we stand in need of them.

As for those who are related to us in the bonds of nature, or as members
of the family to which we belong, for whose welfare we are more
immediately concerned, we may, in some measure, reckon the mercies they
enjoy, our own, and therefore should be induced to bless God, and be
thankful for them, as well as for those which we receive in our
persons.—There is also another relation, which is more large and
extensive, namely, that which we stand in to all the members of Christ’s
mystical body, whom the apostle calls _the household of faith_, Gal. vi.
10. and, as such, supposes them to be entitled to our more special
regard: Accordingly we are to express our thankfulness to God, in
prayer, for all the mercies they receive, especially those that are of a
spiritual nature; inasmuch as herein Christ is glorified, and his
interest advanced, which ought to be dearer to us than any thing that
relates to our own private or personal interest, as the Psalmist speaks
of his preferring Jerusalem’s welfare above _his chief joy_, Psal.
cxxxvii. 6. And that which farther inclines us to do this, is, because
we hope that we shall be made partakers of the same blessings, whereby
others will have occasion to bless God on our behalf. Thus concerning
the inducements we have to thankfulness for blessings received, either
by ourselves or others.

I shall conclude this head by considering, that thankfulness, which
ought to be a great ingredient in prayer, is always to be accompanied
with the exercise of other graces, whereby we are disposed to adore and
magnify the divine perfections that are displayed in the distribution of
those favours which we bless him for; together with an humble sense of
our own unworthiness of the least of those mercies which we enjoy, and
an earnest desire that we may be enabled, not only to do this in words,
but to express our thankfulness to him by such a frame of spirit as is
agreeable thereto.

There are two things more, contained in the answer we have been
explaining, without the due consideration whereof, the duty of prayer
would be very imperfectly handled, namely, its being an offering up of
our desires to God in the name of Christ, and by the help of the Spirit:
But since these are particularly insisted on in some following answers,
I have purposely waved the consideration of them at present.

Footnote 103:

  _See Quest._ CLI.

                    Quest. CLXXIX., CLXXX., CLXXXI.

    QUEST. CLXXIX. _Are we to pray unto God only?_

    ANSW. God only being able to search the hearts, hear the requests,
    pardon the sins, and only to be believed in, and worshipped with
    religious worship, prayer, which is a special part thereof, is to be
    made by all to him alone, and to none other.

    QUEST. CLXXX. _What is it to pray the name of Christ?_

    ANSW. To pray in the name of Christ is in obedience to his command,
    and in confidence on his promises to ask mercy for his sake, not by
    bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to
    pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer,
    from Christ and his mediation.

    QUEST. CLXXXI. _Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?_

    ANSW. The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason
    thereof, being so great as that we can have no access into his
    presence without a Mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth
    appointed to, or fit for that glorious work, but Christ alone; we
    are to pray in no other name but his only.

In these answers we have a farther explication of what is briefly laid
down in the last; and that, more especially, as to what respects the
object of prayer; and the method prescribed in the gospel, relating to
our drawing nigh to God, through a mediator, which is called praying in
the name of Christ; together with the reason hereof.

I. It is observed, that prayer is to be made to God alone, and to none
other. This appears,

1. Because it is an act of religious worship, which is due to none but
God; as our Saviour says, _Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him
only shalt thou serve_, Matt. iv. 10.—This can be denied by none who
are, in any measure, acquainted either with natural or revealed
religion; in which we are obliged to extol, adore, and admire those
divine perfections which are displayed in the works of nature and grace,
and to seek that help from him, and those supplies of grace that we
stand in need of to make us completely blessed, which supposes him to be
infinitely perfect and all-sufficient. Now to ascribe this divine glory
to a creature, either directly, or by consequence, is, in effect, to say
that he is equal with God, and thereby to rob him of that glory that is
due to him alone, to seek that from the creature, that none but God can
give, or to ascribe any of the perfections of the divine nature to it,
is the highest affront that can be offered to the divine Majesty. Now as
prayer without adoration and invocation, is destitute of those
ingredients which render it an act of religious worship; so to address
ourselves, in such a way, to any one but God, is an instance of such
profaneness and idolatry, as is not to be mentioned without the greatest

2. Prayer is to be made only to God, inasmuch as he only is able to
search the heart, which is a glory peculiar to himself, in which he is
distinguished from all creatures, 1 Kings viii. 39. Acts i. 24. It is
the heart that is principally to be regarded in prayer: If this be not
right with God, there is no glory that we can ascribe to him, that will
be reckoned any better than _flattering him with our mouth_, and _lying
to him with our tongues_, Psal. lxxviii. 36, 37. as the Psalmist says:
Therefore, the inward frame of our spirit, and the principle, or spring
from whence all religious duties proceed, being only known to God,
prayer is only to be directed to him.

3. He alone can hear our requests, pardon our sins, and fulfil our
desires. Prayer, when addressed to God, is not like that in which we
desire those favours from men, which are of a lower nature, whereby some
particular wants are supplied, in those respects in which one creature
may be of advantage to another; but when we pray to God, we seek those
blessings which are the effects of infinite power and goodness, such as
may make us completely happy, both in this and a better world. Moreover,
we are to implore forgiveness of sin from him in prayer; which is a
blessing none can bestow but God, Mark ii. 7. for as his law is the rule
by which the goodness or badness of actions are determined; and the
threatening which he has annexed to it, is that which renders us liable
to that punishment sin deserves; so it is he alone that can remit the
debt of punishment, which we are liable to, and give us a right and
title to forfeited blessings; which being the principal thing that we
are to seek for in prayer, this argues that none but God is the object

4. God alone is to be believed in: Accordingly prayer, if it be
acceptable to him, must be performed by faith. Thus the apostle says,
_How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed?_ Rom. x.
14. There must be a firm persuasion that he can grant us the blessings
we ask for; herein faith addresses itself to him as God all-sufficient;
and is persuaded that he will fulfil all his promises, as a God of
infinite faithfulness; and accordingly we are to give up ourselves
entirely to him as our proprietor and bountiful benefactor, the only
fountain of blessedness, and object of religious worship: This is to be
done by faith in prayer, and consequently it is to be directed to God

II. We are now to consider what it is to pray in the name of Christ:
This doth not consist barely in a mentioning his name; which many do
when they ask for favours for his sake, without a due regard to the
method God has ordained; in which we are to draw nigh to him by Christ
our great Mediator, who is to be glorified as the person by whom we are
to have access to God the Father as the fountain of all the blessings,
which are communicated to us in this method of divine grace. To come to
God in Christ’s name, includes in it the whole work of faith, as to what
it has to plead with, or hope for, from him, through a Mediator, in that
way which he has prescribed to us in the gospel. And this more
especially consists in our making a right use of what Christ has done
and suffered for us, as the foundation of our hope, that God will be
pleased to grant us what he has purchased thereby; which contains the
sum of all that we can desire, when drawing nigh to him in prayer. Here
let it be considered,

1. That the thoughts of having to do with an absolute God, cannot but
fill us with the utmost distress and confusion, when we consider
ourselves as guilty sinners, and God, out of Christ, as a sin-revenging
Judge, a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 29. in which case we may well say, as
our first parent did, immediately after his fall, _I heard thy voice and
I was afraid_, Gen. iii. 10.

2. God is obliged, in honour, as a God of infinite holiness, to separate
and banish sinners from his comfortable presence, they being liable to
the curse and condemning sentence of the law; by reason whereof his
terror makes them afraid, and his dread falls upon them; nevertheless,

3. They have, in the gospel, not only an invitation to come, but a
discovery of that great Mediator, whom God has ordained to conduct his
people into his presence, having procured liberty of access to him, or,
as the apostle expresses it, _boldness to enter into the holiest by his
blood, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through
the vail, that is to say, his flesh_, Heb. x. 19, 20. and he has, for
this end, erected a throne of grace, and encouraged us to come to it,
and given many great and precious promises, whereby we may hope for
acceptance in his sight; these being all established in Christ, and the
blessings contained therein procured by his blood, and having liberty,
in coming, to plead what he has done and suffered, as what was designed
to be the foundation of our hope of obtaining mercy, we are said to come
and make our supplications to God in the name of Christ.

III. We are now to consider the reason why we are to pray in the name of
Christ; and that we have in one of the answers we are explaining. In
which it is observed; that man, by sin, is set at such a distance from
God, that he cannot, by any means, come into his presence. God cannot
look upon him with any delight or complacency; inasmuch as his guilt
renders him the object of his abhorrence; and he cannot do any thing
which has a tendency to reconcile God to him, and therefore he is
speechless, and can ask for no blessing at his hand. And it is farther
observed, that there is none in heaven or earth, that is, no mere
creature, that is fit for that glorious work; none has a sufficiency of
merit to present to God, whereby he may be said to make atonement for
sin; or, as Job expresses it, there is _no days-man that might lay his
hand on both_ parties, Job ix. 33. that is, able to deal with God in
paying a ransom; which he may, in honour accept of; or with man, by
encouraging him to hope that he shall obtain the blessings which he
stands in need of; and bringing him into such a frame, that he may draw
nigh to God in a right manner. This is only owing to our Lord Jesus
Christ; and he does it as our great Mediator, who alone is fit to manage
this important work; therefore we are to pray to God, only in his name,
who is, by divine appointment, an advocate with the Father, pleading our
cause before his throne, and thereby giving us ground of encouragement,
that our persons shall be accepted, and our prayers answered upon his
account, who is the only Mediator of redemption and intercession, in
whom God is well pleased, and gives a believer ground to conclude that
he shall not seek his face in vain.

                  Quest. CLXXXII., CLXXXIII., CLXXXIV.

    QUEST. CLXXXII. _How doth the Spirit help us to pray?_

    ANSW. We not knowing what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit
    helpeth our infirmities, by enabling us to understand both for whom,
    and what, and how prayer is to be made, and by working and
    quickening in our hearts (although not in all persons, not at all
    times in the same measure) those apprehensions, affections, and
    graces, which are requisite for the right performance of that duty.

    QUEST. CLXXXIII. _For whom are we to pray?_

    ANSW. We are to pray for the whole church of Christ, upon earth, for
    magistrates and ministers, for ourselves, our brethren, yea, our
    enemies, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live
    hereafter, but not for the dead, nor for those that are known to
    have sinned the sin unto death.

    QUEST. CLXXXIV. _For what things are we to pray?_

    ANSW. We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God, the
    welfare of the church, our own, or other’s good, but not for any
    thing that is unlawful.

As there is no duty that we can perform in a right manner, without help
obtained from God—And the same may be said, in particular, concerning
that of prayer: Accordingly we are led,

I. To speak of the help that the Spirit of God is pleased to afford
believers, in order to their engaging aright in this duty. Here we may

1. That it is supposed that we know not what to pray for as we ought, or
how to bring our souls into a prepared frame for this duty, without the
Spirit’s assistance.

(1.) We are oftentimes at a loss with respect to the matter of prayer;
and this may be said to proceed from our being unacquainted with
ourselves, and not duly sensible of our wants, weaknesses, or secret
faults: Sometimes we cannot determine whether we are in a state of grace
or no; or, if we are, whether it is increasing or declining; or, if we
have ground to complain by reason of the hidings of God’s face, and our
want of communion with him, we are oftentimes hard put to it to find out
what is that secret sin which is the occasion of it; nor are we
sufficiently apprized of the wiles of Satan, or the danger we are in of
being ensnared or overcome thereby. Moreover, we are oftentimes not able
to know how to direct our prayers to God aright, as we know not what is
most conducive to his glory, or what it is that he requires of us,
either in obedience to his commanding will, or in submission to his
providential will. Hence it arises, that many good men, in scripture,
have asked for some things which have been in themselves unlawful,
through the weakness of their faith, and the prevalency of their
corruption: Thus some have desired, that God would call them out of this
world by death, being impatient under the many troubles they met with
therein; accordingly we read concerning Elijah, that ‘he requested for
himself that he might die, and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take
away my life; for I am not better than my fathers,’ 1 Kings xix. 4. and
Job says, ‘O that I might have my request! and that God would grant me
the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me;
that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off,’ Job vi. 8, 9. And
Jonah says, ‘O Lord, I beseech thee, take my life from me; for it is
better for me to die than to live,’ Jonah iv. 3. And Moses, though he
had the character of the meekest man upon earth, and doubtless excelled
all others in his day, in those graces which he had received from God,
as well as in the great honours conferred on him; yet he puts up a most
unbecoming prayer, both as to the matter and manner thereof; as it is
observed, that he said unto the Lord, ‘Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy
servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou
layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this
people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry
them in thy bosom (as a nursing-father beareth the sucking child) unto
the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have
flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give
us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone,
because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me,
I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let
me not see my wretchedness,’ Numb. xi. 11-15. And, in another instance,
he asks for a thing which he knew before hand, that God would not grant
him, when he says, ‘I pray thee, let me go over and see the good land
that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon:’ Upon which
God says, ‘Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter,’
Deut. iii. 25, 26.—Many instances of the like nature are mentioned in
scripture; and, indeed, nothing is more obvious from daily experience,
that what the apostle James observes, that persons ‘ask and receive not,
because they ask amiss,’ James iv. 3. or what the apostle Paul says, ‘We
know not what we should pray for as we ought,’ Rom. viii. 26.

(2.) We are, at other times, straitened in our affections, and so know
not how to ask any thing with a suitable frame of spirit: It is certain
we cannot excite our affections, or especially put forth those graces
which are to be exercised in prayer, when we please. Our hearts are
sometimes dead, cold, and inclined to wander from God in this duty; and,
at other times, we pray with a kind of indifferency, as though it was of
no great importance whether our prayer were answered or no. How seldom
do we express that importunity in this duty which Jacob did, ‘I will not
let thee go, except thou bless me?’ Gen. xxxii. 26. And as for those
graces that are to be exercised in prayer, we often want that reverence,
and those high and awful thoughts of the divine Majesty, which we ought
to have, who draw nigh to a God of infinite perfection; nor, on the
other hand, do we express those low and humble thoughts of ourselves, as
our own meanness, the imperfection of our best performances, and the
infinite distance which we stand at from God, ought to suggest; and to
this we may add, that we are often destitute of that love to Christ, and
trust in him, which are necessary to the right performance of this duty,
as also of that hope of being heard, which is a very great encouragement
to it.

2. We are now to enquire wherein the Spirit is said to help our
infirmities; and this may be considered as adapted to that two-fold
necessity which we are often under, respecting the matter or frame of
spirit with which this duty is to be performed.

(1.) The Spirit helps our infirmities, with respect to the matter of
prayer. This is not in the least derogatory to his divine glory, if he
is pleased to condescend thus to converse with man, and it is not
contrary to the nature of things; for the Spirit, being a divine Person,
searches the heart, and can impress those ideas on the souls of his
people, whereby they may be led into the knowledge of those things that
they ought to ask in prayer, with as much facility as any one can convey
his ideas to another by words. If it was impossible for God to do this,
his providence could not be conversant about intelligent creatures, any
otherwise than in an objective way, in which it would not differ from
that which may be attributed to finite spirits. And it would have been
impossible for God to have imparted his mind and will by extraordinary
revelation, (without which, it could not have been known) if he may not,
though it be in an ordinary way, communicate those ideas to the souls of
his people, whereby they may be furnished with matter for prayer.

I am not pleading for extraordinary revelation; for that is to expect a
blessing that God does not now give to his people: But I only argue from
the greater to the less; whereby it may appear, that it is not
impossible, or absurd, from the nature of the thing, or contrary to the
divine perfections, for God to impress the thoughts of men in an
ordinary way; since he formerly did this in an extraordinary, as will be
allowed by all, who are not disposed to deny and set aside revealed
religion. Moreover, there was such a thing in the apostle’s days, as
being led by the Spirit, which was distinguished from his miraculous and
extraordinary influences, as a Spirit of inspiration; otherwise, it is
certain, he would not have assigned this as a character of the children
of God, which he does, Rom. viii. 14. And when our Saviour promises his
people the _Spirit to guide them into all truth_, John xvi. 13. I cannot
think that this only respected the apostles, or their being led into the
truths that they were to impart to the church by divine inspiration; but
it seems to be a privilege that belongs to all believers: Therefore, we
conclude, that it is no absurdity to suppose that he may assist his
people, as to what concerns the matter of their prayers, or suggest to
them those becoming thoughts which they have in prayer, when drawing
nigh to God in a right manner.

Some have enquired, whether we may conclude that the Spirit of God
furnishes his people with words in prayer, distinct from his impressing
ideas on their minds? This I would be very cautious in determining, lest
I should hereby not put a just difference between this assistance of the
Spirit, that believers hope for, and that which the prophets of old
received by inspiration. I dare not say, that the Spirit’s work consists
in furnishing believers with proper expressions, with which their ideas
are clothed, when they engage in this duty, but rather with those
suitable arguments and apprehensions of divine things, which are more
immediately subservient thereunto: Accordingly the apostle, speaking of
the Spirit’s assisting believers, when they know not what to pray for as
they ought, says, that he does this _with groanings that cannot be
uttered_: that is, he impresses on their souls those divine breathings
after things spiritual and heavenly, which they sometimes,
notwithstanding, want words to express; though, at the same time, the
frame of their spirits may be under a divine influence, which God is
said to know the meaning of, when he graciously hears and answers their
prayers, how imperfect soever they may be, as to the mode of expression.

(2.) The Spirit helps our infirmities by giving us a suitable frame of
spirit, and exciting those graces which are to be exercised in this duty
of prayer. This the Psalmist calls, _preparing their hearts_; which God
does, and then _causes his ear to hear_, Psal. x. 17. which is a very
desirable blessing; and, in order to our understanding it aright, let it
be considered,

[1.] That we cannot, without the Spirit’s assistance, bring our hearts
into a right frame for prayer; and that is the reason why we engage in
this duty, in such a manner as gives great uneasiness to us when we
reflect upon it; so that when we pretend to draw nigh to God, we can
hardly say that we worship him as God, but become vain in our
imaginations; and the corruption of our nature discovers itself more at
this time than it does on other occasions; and Satan uses his utmost
endeavours to distract and disturb our thoughts, and take off the edge
of our affections; whereby we seem not really to desire those things
which, with our lips, we ask at the hand of God. As for an unregenerate
man, he has not a principle of grace, and therefore cannot pray in
faith, or with the exercise of those other graces which he is destitute
of; and the believer is renewed but in part, and therefore, if the
Spirit is not pleased to excite the principle of grace which he has
implanted, he is very much indisposed for this duty, which cannot be
performed aright without his assistance.

[2.] We are, nevertheless, to use our utmost endeavours, in order
thereunto, hoping for a blessing from God to succeed them. Accordingly,
we are to meditate on the divine perfections, and the evil of sin, which
is contrary thereunto; whereby we are rendered guilty, defiled, and
unworthy to come into the presence of God; yet we consider ourselves as
invited to come to him in the gospel, and encouraged by his promise and
grace, to cast ourselves before his footstool, in hope of obtaining
mercy from him.

We are also to examine ourselves, that we may know what sins are to be
confessed by us, and what are those necessities which will afford matter
for petition or supplication in prayer, together with the mercies we
have received; which are to be thankfully acknowledged therein. We are
also to consider the many encouragements which we have, to draw nigh to
God in this duty, taken from his being ready to pardon our iniquities,
heal our backslidings, help our infirmities, and grant us undeserved
favours. We must also impress on our souls a due sense of the
spirituality of the duty we are to engage in, and that we have to do
with the heart-searching God, who will be worshipped with reverence and
holy fear; and therefore we are to endeavour to excite all the powers
and faculties of our souls, to engage in this duty in such a way that we
may hereby glorify his name, and hope to receive a gracious answer from

[3.] When we have used our utmost endeavours to bring ourselves into a
praying frame, yet we must depend on the Holy Spirit to give success
thereunto, that we may be enabled to exercise those graces that are more
especially his gift and work: And, in order thereunto,

_1st_, We must give glory to him as the author of regeneration, since no
grace can be exercised in this duty but what proceeds from a right
principle, or a nature renewed, and internally sanctified, and disposed
for the performance hereof; which is his work, as the _Spirit of grace
and of supplication_, Zech. xii. 10.

_2dly_, As we are to draw nigh to God in this duty, as a reconciled God
and Father, if we hope to be accepted by him; so we are to consider,
that this is the peculiar work of the Spirit, whereby we are _enabled to
cry, Abba, Father_, Rom. viii. 15. Gal. iv. 6. This will not only
dispose us to perform this duty in a right manner, so as to enable us to
pray in faith; but it will afford us ground of hope that our prayers
will be heard and answered by him.

_3dly_, Inasmuch as we often are straitened in our spirits, which is a
great hindrance to us in this duty, we must consider it as a peculiar
blessing and gift of the Holy Ghost, to have our hearts enlarged; which
the Psalmist intends, when he says, _Bring my soul out of prison, that I
may praise thy name_, Psal. cxlii. 7. and it is a peculiar branch of
that liberty which he is pleased to bestow on his people, under the
gospel-dispensation; as the apostle says, _Where the Spirit of the Lord
is, there is liberty_, 2 Cor. iii. 17. And by this means our affections
will be raised, and we enabled to pour out our souls before him.

This may give us occasion to enquire concerning the difference that
there is between raised affections in prayer, which unregenerate persons
sometimes have, from external motives; and those which the Spirit
excites in us as a peculiar blessing, whereby he assists us in the
discharge of this duty. There are several things in which they differ;

_1st_, The former of these oftentimes proceeds from a slavish fear and
dread of the wrath of God; the latter from a love to, and desire after
him, which arises from the view we have of his glory, as our covenant
God, in and through a Mediator.

_2dly_, Raised affections in unregenerate persons, are seldom found, but
when they are under some pressing affliction, in which case, as the
prophet says, _They will seek God early_, Hos. v. 15. but when this is
removed, the affections grow stupid, cold, and indifferent, as they were
before his afflicting hand was laid upon them: Whereas, on the other
hand, a believer will find his heart drawn forth after God and divine
things, when he is not sensible of any extraordinary affliction that
gives vent to his passions; or he finds, that as afflictions tend to
excite some graces in the exercise whereof his affections are moved, so
when it pleases God to deliver him from them, his affections are still
raised while other graces are exercised agreeably thereunto.

_3dly_, Raised affections, in unregenerate men, for the most part, carry
them forth in the pursuit of those temporal blessings which they stand
in need of: Thus when Esau sought the blessing carefully with tears, it
was that outward prosperity which was contained therein, that he had
principally in view, as disdaining that his brother Jacob should be
preferred before him; or, as it is said, _made his Lord, and his
brethren given him for servants_, Gen. xxvii. 37. but he had no regard
to the spiritual or saving blessings contained therein: Whereas, a
believer is most concerned for, and affected with those blessings that
immediately accompany salvation, or contain in them the special love of
God, or communion with him, which he prefers to all other things: Thus
the Psalmist says, _There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?
Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us_, Psal. iv. 6.
And to this we may add,

_4thly_, Whatever raised affections unregenerate persons may have, they
want a broken heart, an humble sense of sin, and an earnest desire that
it may be subdued and mortified; they are destitute of self-denial, and
other graces of the like nature, which, in some degree, are found in a
believer, when assisted by the Spirit, in performing the duty of prayer
in a right manner.

From what has been said concerning the Spirit’s assistance in prayer, we
may infer,

_1st_, That there is a great difference between the gift and the grace
of prayer: The former may be attained by the improvement of our natural
abilities, and is oftentimes of use to others who join with us therein;
whereas the latter is a peculiar blessing from the Spirit of God, and an
evidence of the truth of grace.

_2dly_, They who deny that the Spirit has any hand in the work of grace,
and consequently disown his assistance in prayer, cannot be said to give
him that glory that is due to him, and therefore must be supposed to be
destitute of his assistance, and very deficient as to this duty.

_3dly_, Let us not presume on the Spirit’s assistance in prayer, while
we continue in a course of grieving him, and quenching his holy motions.

_4thly_, Let us desire raised affections, as a great blessing from God,
and yet not be discouraged from engaging in prayer, though we want them;
since this grace, as well as all others, is dispensed in a way of
sovereignty: And if he is pleased, for wise ends, to withhold his
assistance; yet we must not say, why should I wait on the Lord any

_5thly_, If we would pray in the Spirit, or experience his help, to
perform this duty in a right manner, let us endeavour to walk in the
Spirit, and to maintain a spiritual, holy, self-denying frame, at all
times, if we would not be destitute of it, when we engage in this duty.
This leads us to consider,

II. The persons for whom we are to pray; and on the other hand, who are
not to be prayed for.

1. As to the former of those: It is observed,

(1.) That we are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth; by
which we are to understand, all those that profess the faith of the
gospel, especially such whose practice is agreeable to their profession;
and in particular, all those religious societies who consent to walk in
those ordinances whereby they testify their subjection to Christ, as
king of saints. The particular members of which these societies consist,
are, for the most part, unknown to us; so that we cannot pray for them
by name, or as being acquainted with the condition and circumstances in
which they are; yet they are not to be wholly disregarded, or excluded
from the benefit of our prayers: Thus the apostle speaks of the _great
conflict he had_, not only _for them at Laodicea; but, for as many as
had not seen his face in the flesh_, Col. ii. 1. This is a peculiar
branch of the communion of saints, and it is accompanied with those
earnest desires which we have, that God may be glorified in them, and by
them, as well as ourselves; particularly we are to pray,

[1.] That they may be united together in love to God and to one another,
John xvii. 21. That this may be attended with all those other graces and
comforts which are an evidence of their interest in Christ.

[2.] That they may have the special presence of God with them in all his
ordinances, which will be a visible testimony of his regard to them, and
an honour put on his own institutions, as well as an accomplishment of
what he promised to his apostles just before he ascended into heaven,
that he would _be with them always even unto the end of the world_, Mat.
xxviii. 20.

[3.] That they may be supported under the burdens, difficulties and
persecutions which they meet with, either from the powers of darkness or
wicked men, for Christ’s sake, that so the promise may be made good to
them, that _the gates of hell shall not prevail against them_, chap.
xvi. 18.

[4.] That there may be added to particular churches out of the world,
many such as shall be saved, Acts ii. 47. which shall be an argument of
the success of the gospel: And when we pray, that God would magnify his
grace in bringing sinners home to himself, we are to pray for the
accomplishment of those promises that respect the conversion of the
Jews: Thus the apostle says, _Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to
God for Israel is, that they might be saved_, Rom. x. 1. and, that there
may be a greater spread of the gospel throughout the most remote and
dark parts of the earth, among whom Christ is, at present, unknown: This
the apostle calls _The fulness of the Gentiles coming in_, chap. xi. 25.
and it is agreeable to what is foretold by the prophet Isaiah, in chap.
lx. which seems not as yet to have had its full accomplishment.

[5.] We are to pray that the life of faith and holiness may be daily
promoted in all the faithful members of the church of Christ, that they
may be enabled more and more to adorn the doctrine of God, our Saviour,
and be abundantly satisfied, and delighted with the fruits and effects
of his redeeming love.

[6.] That God would accept of those sacrifices of prayer and praise that
are daily offered to him by faith, in the blood of Christ, in every
worshipping assembly, which will redound to the advantage of all the
servants of Christ, whom they think themselves obliged to make mention
of in their prayers, as well as to the glory of God, which is owned and
advanced thereby.

[7.] That the children of believers, who are devoted to God, may be
under his special care and protection, that they may follow the
footsteps of the flock, and fill up the places of those who are called
off the stage of this world; that so there may be a constant supply of
those who shall bear a testimony to Christ and his gospel in the rising

[8.] That the members of every particular church of Christ may acquit
themselves so as that they may honour him in the eyes of the world, and
be supported and carried safely through this waste howling wilderness,
till they arrive at that better country for which they are bound; and
that they may not be foiled or overcome while they are in their militant
state, but may be joined with the church triumphant in heaven.

(2.) We are to pray for magistrates. This is not only included in the
general exhortation given us to _pray for all men_; but they are
particularly mentioned by the apostle, and it is intimated that it is
_good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,_ 1 Tim. ii. 1-3.
This also may be argued from hence, that magistracy is God’s ordinance,
Rom. xiii. 1, 2. and there is no ordinance which is enstamped with the
divine authority, though it may principally respect civil affairs; but
we are to pray that God would succeed and prosper it, that it may answer
the valuable ends for which it was appointed.

Now there are several things that we are to pray for in the behalf of
magistrates, _viz._ that they may approve themselves rulers after God’s
own heart, to _fulfil all his will,_ Acts xii. 26. as was said of David;
that their counsels and conduct may be ordered for his glory, and the
good of his church; that they may not be a _terror_ to good _works;_
namely, to persons that perform them, but _to the evil_; and so _may not
bear the sword in vain,_ Rom. xiii. 3, 4. Accordingly we are to pray,
that they may be a public blessing to all their subjects, and herein
that promise may be fulfilled; _Kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and
their queens thy nursing-mothers,_ Isa. xlix. 23. and, as an instance
hereof, that under them _we may lead a quiet and peaceable life,
godliness and honesty,_ 1 Tim. ii. 2. And, as to what concerns their
subjects, that their authority may not be abused and trampled on by
them, on the one hand, while they take occasion to offend with impunity;
nor be dreaded as grievous to others who feel the weight thereof, in
instances of injustice and oppression.

(3.) We are to pray for ministers. This is a necessary duty, inasmuch as
their work is exceeding great and difficult; so that the apostle might
well say, _Who is sufficient for these things,_ 2 Cor. ii. 16. And,
indeed, besides the difficulties that attend the work itself, there are
others that they meet with, arising from the unstable temper of
professed friends, who sometimes, as the apostle says, _become their
enemies for telling them the truth,_ Gal. iv. 16. or from the restless
malice and violent opposition of open enemies; which evidently takes its
rise from that inveterate hatred that they bear to Christ and his
gospel. Moreover, as they have difficulties in the discharge of the work
they are called to, so they must give an account to God for their
faithfulness therein; and it is of the highest importance that they do
this _with joy, and not with grief,_ Heb. xiii. 17, 18. as the apostle
speaks; and immediately he intreats the church’s prayers, as that which
was necessary in order hereunto. Now there are several things which
ought to be the subject-matter of our prayers, with respect to

[1.] That God would send forth a supply or succession of them, to answer
the church’s necessities; inasmuch as _the harvest is plenteous_, as our
Saviour observes, _but the labourers are few,_ Matt. xi. 37, 38.

[2.] That they may answer the character which the apostle gives of a
faithful minister; and accordingly _study to shew themselves approved
unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word
of truth,_ 2 Tim. ii. 15.

[3.] That they may be directed and enabled to impart those truths that
are substantial, edifying, and suitable to the circumstances and
condition of their hearers.

[4.] That they may be spirited with zeal, and love to souls, in the
whole course of their ministry; that the glory of God, and the
advancement of his truth may lie nearest their hearts, and a tender
concern and compassion for the souls of men, may incline them to use
their utmost endeavours, as the apostle speaks, _to save them with fear,
pulling them out of the fire,_ Jude, ver. 23.

[5.] That their endeavours may be attended with success, which, in some
measure, may give them a comfortable hope that they are called,
accepted, and approved of by God, which, from the nature of the thing
will tend to their own advantage, who make this the subject of our
earnest prayers on their behalf; and, indeed, the neglect of performing
this duty, may, in some measure, be assigned as one reason why the word
is often preached with very little success; so that this ought to be
performed, not barely as an act of favour, but as a duty that redounds
to our own advantage.

(4.) We are to pray, not only for ourselves and our brethren, but for
our enemies. That we are to pray for ourselves, none ever denied, how
much so ever many live in the neglect of this duty; and as for our
obligation to pray for our brethren, that is founded in the law of
nature; which obliges us to love them as ourselves, and, consequently,
to desire their welfare, together with our own.

However, it may be enquired, what we are to understand by our brethren,
for whom we are to express this great concern in our supplications to
God? For the understanding of which, let it be considered, that, besides
those who are called _brethren_, in the most known acceptation of the
word, as Jacob’s sons tell Joseph, _We be twelve brethren, sons of one
father,_ Gen. xlii. 32. it is sometimes taken, in scripture, for any
near kinsman: Thus Abraham and Lot are called _brethren_, chap. xiii. 8.
though they were not sons of the same father, for Lot was Abraham’s
brother’s son, chap. xi. 31. this is a very common acceptation of the
word in scripture. Again, it is sometimes taken in a more large sense,
for those who are members of the same church: Thus the apostle calls
those that belonged to the church at Colosse, _the saints and faithful
brethren in Christ,_ Col. i. 2. and sometimes they who are of the same
nation, are called brethren: Thus it is said, _When Moses was full forty
years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children, of
Israel,_ Acts vii. 23. And it is sometimes taken for those who make
profession of the same religion with ourselves; and also for those who
are kind and friendly to us: Thus it is said, _A friend loveth at all
times, and a brother is born for adversity,_ Prov. xvii. 17. and,
indeed, the word is sometimes taken in the largest sense that can be, as
comprizing in it all mankind, who have the same nature with ourselves, 1
John iv. 21. These are objects of love, and therefore our prayers are,
especially in proportion to the nearness of the relation they stand in
to us, to be directed to God on their behalf. Some, indeed, are allied
to us by stronger bonds than others; but none, who are entitled to our
love, pity, and compassion, are to be wholly excluded from our prayers.

This will farther appear, if we consider that we are also to pray for
our enemies, as the law of nature obliges us to do good for evil; and
consequently, as our Saviour says, we are to _pray for them which
despitefully use us, and persecute us,_ Matt. v. 44. We are not, indeed,
to pray for them, that they may obtain their wicked and unjust designs
against us; or that they may have power and opportunity to hurt us; for
that is contrary to the principle of self-preservation, which is
impressed on our nature; but we are to pray for them.

[1.] That however they carry it to us they may be made Christ’s friends,
their hearts changed, and they enabled to serve his interest; that they,
together with ourselves, may be partakers of everlasting salvation;
therefore it is a vile thing, and altogether inconsistent with the
spirit of a christian, to desire the ruin, much more the damnation of
any one, as many wickedly and profanely do.

[2.] We are to pray that their corruptions may be subdued, their tempers
softened, and their hearts changed; so that they may be sensible of, and
lay aside their unjust resentments against us. And,

[3.] If they are under any distress or misery, we are not to insult or
take pleasure in beholding it, but to pity them, and to pray for their
deliverance, as much as though they were not enemies to us.

(5.) We are to pray not only for all sorts of men now living; according
to what is contained in the last head, but for those that shall live
hereafter. This includes in it an earnest desire that the interest of
Christ may be propagated from generation to generation; and his kingdom
and glory advanced in the world until his second coming: Thus the
Psalmist says, _He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not
despise their prayer: This shall be written for the generation to come;
and the people which shall be created, shall praise the Lord_, Psal.
cii. 17, 18. and our Saviour says, _Neither pray I for these alone, but
for them also which shall believe on me through their word_, John xvii,

2. We are now to consider those who are excluded from our prayers; and
these are either such as are dead, or those who have sinned the sin unto

(1.) We are not to pray for the dead. This is asserted in opposition to
what was maintained and practised by some in the early ages of the
church, and paved the way for those abuses and corruptions which are
practised by the church of Rome, at this day, who first prayed for the
dead, and afterwards proceeded farther in praying for them. The first
step that was taken leading hereunto, seems to have been their being
guilty of great excesses in the large encomiums they made in their
public anniversary orations, in commemoration of the martyrs and
confessors, who had suffered in the cause of christianity. This was done
at first, with a good design, viz. to excite those who survived, to
imitate them in their virtues, and to express their love to the cause
for which they suffered; but afterwards they went beyond the bounds of
decency in magnifying and extolling them; and then they proceeded yet
farther, in praying for them; This is often excused, by some modern
writers, from the respect they bear to them, who first practised it;
though it can hardly be vindicated from the charge of will-worship,
since no countenance is given to it in scripture.

That which is generally alleged in their behalf, is, that they supposed
the souls of believers did not immediately enter into heaven, but were
sequestered, or disposed of in some place inferior to it, which they
sometimes call _paradise_, or _Abraham’s bosom_, where they are to
continue till their souls are re-united to their bodies. Whether this
place be above or below the earth, all are not agreed; but their mistake
arises from their misunderstanding those scriptures which describe
heaven under these metaphorical characters of _paradise_, or _Abraham’s
bosom_[104]. Here they suppose that they are, indeed, delivered from the
afflictions and miseries of this present life; but yet not possessed of
perfect blessedness in God’s immediate presence. Therefore they
conclude, that there was some room for prayer, that the degree of
happiness which they were possessed of, might be continued, or rather,
that it might in the end, be perfected, when they are raised from the
dead, and admitted to partake of the heavenly blessedness.

Others thought, that at death, the sentence was not peremptorily past
either on the righteous or the wicked, so that there was room left for
them to pray for the increase of the happiness of the one, or of the
mitigation of the torment of the other; and therefore, in different
respects, they prayed for all, both good and bad, especially for those
who were within the pale or inclosure of the church; and above all, for
such as were useful to, and highly esteemed by it.

The principal thing that is said in vindication of this practice (for
what has been but now mentioned, as the ground and reason thereof, will
by no means justify it) is, that though the souls of believers are in
heaven; yet their happiness will not be, in all respects, complete, till
the day of judgment: Therefore, in their prayers, they chiefly had
regard to the consummation of their blessedness at Christ’s second
coming, together with the continuance thereof, till then; without
supposing that they received any other advantage thereby. And, inasmuch
as this is not a matter of uncertainty, they farther observe, that many
things are to be prayed for, which shall certainly come to pass, whether
we pray for them or no; _e. g._ the gathering of the whole number of the
elect, and the coming of Christ’s kingdom of glory: Therefore they
suppose, that the advantage principally redounds to those who put up
prayers to God for them, as hereby they express their faith in the
doctrine of the resurrection, and the future blessedness of the saints,
and the communion that there is between the church militant and

This is the fairest colour that can be put upon that ancient practice of
the church, and the many instances that we meet with, in the writings of
the Fathers, concerning their prayers for the dead[105].

Thus concerning the practice of the church, before we read of the
fictitious place which the Papists call _purgatory_; where they fancy,
that separate souls endure some degrees of torment, and are relieved by
the prayers of their surviving friends; which was not known to the
church before the seventh century; and is without any foundation from
scripture, as has been before observed under a foregoing answer[106].
Now since this was formerly defended, and is now practised by the
Papists, the contrary doctrine is asserted in this answer, _viz._ that
we are not to pray for the dead; and that this may farther appear, let
it be considered,

That the state of every man is unalterably fixed, at death; so that
nothing remains which can be called an addition to the happiness of the
one, or the misery of the other, but what is the result of the re-union
of the soul and body at the resurrection; and therefore to pray that the
saints may have greater degrees of glory conferred upon them, or sinners
a release from that state of misery in which they are, is altogether
ungrounded; and therefore such prayers must be concluded to be unlawful.

That the state of man is fixed at death is sufficiently evident from
scripture: Thus our Saviour, in the parable of the _rich man_ and
_Lazarus_, speaks of the one as immediately _carried by the angels into
Abraham’s bosom_, Luke xvi. 22, _&c._ (by which, notwithstanding what
some ancient writers have asserted to the contrary, we are to understand
heaven;) and the other as being in a place of _torments_, without any
hope or probability of the least mitigation thereof; whereby hell, not
purgatory is intended: And the apostle says, _It is appointed unto men
once to die, and after this the judgment_, Heb. ix. 27, by which he
intends, that all men must leave the world; and when they are parted
from it, their state is determined by Christ; though this is not done in
so public and visible a manner, as it will be in the general judgment:
If therefore the state of men be unalterably fixed at death; it may be
justly inferred from thence, that there is no room for any one to put up
prayers to God on their behalf: Prayer must have some proof on which it
relies, otherwise it cannot be addressed to God by faith; or, as the
apostle expresses it, _nothing wavering_, James i. 6. Now, if we have no
ground to conclude that our prayers shall be heard and answered; or have
any doubt in our spirits whether the thing prayed for be agreeable to
the will of God; such a prayer cannot be put up in faith, and therefore
is not lawful.

_Obj._ 1. The Papists, in defence of the contrary doctrine, are very
much at a loss for scriptures to support it: However, there is one,
taken from a passage in the apocryphal writings, in which Judas
Maccabeus, and his company, are represented as praying and offering a
sin-offering, and thereby making reconciliation for the dead, _i. e._
some that had been slain in battle, 2 Maccab. xii. 43,-45.

_Answ._ The reply that some make to this, is, that the prayers for the
dead here spoken of, are of a different nature from those which the
Papists make use of in the behalf of those whom they pretend to be in
purgatory, or, that they prayed for nothing but what some of the
Fathers, as before-mentioned did, _viz._ that they might be raised from
the dead, whereby they expressed their faith in the doctrine of the
resurrection: But, I think there is a better reply may be given to it,
namely, that the argument is not taken from any inspired writing; and
therefore no more credit is to be given to it than any other human
composure, in which some things are true, and others false: And as for
this book in particular, the author himself plainly intimates that he
did not receive it by divine inspiration; for he says, _If I have done
well, and as it is fitting the story, it is that which I desired; but if
slenderly and meanly, it is that which I could attain unto_, chap. xv.
38. which is very honestly said; but not like an inspired writer, and
therefore nothing that is said therein is a sufficient proof of any
important article of faith or practice, such as that is, which we are
now defending.

_Obj._ 2. It is farther objected, that the apostle Paul puts up a short
and affectionate prayer for Onesiphorus, in 2 Tim. i. 18. _The Lord
grant unto him, that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day_;
whereas, it is concluded by some, that, at the time the apostle wrote
this epistle, Onesiphorus was dead, since there are two petitions put
up, one in this verse for him, and another in ver. 16. for _his house_;
and in chap. iv. 19. when he salutes some of his friends, according to
his custom, he makes mention of the _household of Onesiphorus_, not of
him. This turn Grotius himself gives of this scripture[107]. And the
Papists greedily embrace it, as it gives countenance to their practice
of praying for the dead.

_Answ._ It is but a weak foundation that this argument is built on; for
though Paul salutes his household, and not himself, in the close of this
epistle, it does not follow from hence, that he was dead; for he might
be absent from his family at this time, as he often was, when engaged in
public service, as being sent by the church, as their messenger, to
enquire concerning the progress and success of the gospel in other
parts; or to carry relief to those who were suffering in Christ’s cause:
It may be, the apostle might be informed that he was then in his way to
Rome, where he was himself a prisoner when he wrote this epistle; and if
so, it would not have been proper to send salutations to him, whom he
expected shortly to see, while, at the same time, he testified the great
love he bore to him and all his family, as being a man of uncommon zeal
for the interest of Christ and religion.

(2.) They are not to be prayed for who have sinned the sin unto death.
This sin we read of, as what excludes persons from forgiveness, in
scripture, Matt. xii. 32. in which such things are said concerning it,
as should make us fear and tremble, not only lest we should be left to
commit it, but give way to those sins which border upon it; and there is
enough expressed therein to encourage us to hope that we have not
committed it; which is the principal thing to be insisted on, when we
treat on this subject in our public discourses, or any are tempted to
fear, lest they are guilty of it. Here let it be observed, that though
it be called _the sin unto death_, we are not to suppose that it is one
particular act of sin, but rather a course or complication of sins,
wherein there are many ingredients of the most heinous nature. And,

[1.] That it cannot be committed by any but those who have been favoured
with gospel light; for it always contains in it a rejection of the
gospel, which supposes the revelation or preaching thereof.

[2.] It is not merely a rejecting the gospel, though attended with
sufficient objective evidence, in those who have not had an inward
conviction of the truth thereof, or whose opposition to it proceeds
principally from ignorance, as the apostle says concerning himself, that
_though he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious; yet he
obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly, in unbelief_, 1 Tim. i.

[3.] It is a rejecting the gospel which we once professed to embrace,
and therefore carries in it the nature of apostacy: Thus the Scribes and
Pharisees, when they attended on John’s ministry, professed their
willingness to adhere to Christ, and afterwards, when he first appeared
publicly in the world, they were convinced in their consciences, by the
miracles which he wrought, that he was the Messiah; though, after this
they were offended in him, and ashamed to own him, because of the
humbled state and condition in which he appeared in the world; for which
reason, they, in particular, were charged with this sin in the scripture

[4.] It also contains in it a rejecting of Christ and the known truth,
out of envy, and this attended with reviling, persecuting, and using
their utmost endeavours to extirpate and banish it out of the world, and
beget in the minds of men the greatest detestation of it: Thus the Jews
are said to _deliver Christ out of envy_, Matt. xxvii, 18. and with the
same spirit they persecuted the gospel.

[5.] Such as are guilty of this sin, have no conviction in their
consciences of any crime committed herein; but stop their ears against
all reproof, and set themselves, with the greatest hatred and malice,
against those, who, with faithfulness, admonish them to the contrary.

[6.] They go out of the way of God’s ordinances, and wilfully exclude
themselves from the means of grace, which they treat with the utmost
contempt, and use all those endeavours that are in their power, that
others may be deprived of them.

[7.] This condition they not only live but die in; so that their
apostacy is not only total, but final.

However, I cannot but observe, that some are of opinion that this sin
cannot be now committed, because we have not the dispensation of
miracles, whereby the Christian religion was incontestibly proved, in
our Saviour’s and the apostles’ time: And the main thing in which it
consisted in the scripture before-mentioned, in Matt. xii. was, in that
the Pharisees were charged with saying, that Christ _cast out devils by
Beelzebub, the prince of the devils_; whereby they intimate that those
miracles, which they had before been convinced of the truth of, as being
wrought by the finger of God, were wrought by the devil: which supposes
that they were eye-witnesses to such-like miracles wrought, which we
cannot be: Therefore it is concluded by some, that this sin cannot now
be committed; inasmuch as the dispensation of miracles is ceased. But
this method of reasoning will not appear so strong and conclusive, if we
consider, that though, it is true, the gospel is not now confirmed to us
by miracles; yet we have no less ground to believe that the christian
religion was confirmed by this means, than if we had been present at the
working of these miracles. Nevertheless, though it should be alleged,
that this ingredient cannot, in every circumstance, be contained in the
sin against the Holy Ghost, in our day; yet there are other things
included in the description of it, before-mentioned, in which it
principally consists, that bear a very great resemblance to that sin
which we have been considering: As for instance, if persons have
formerly believed Christ to be the Messiah, and been persuaded that this
was incontestibly proved by the miracles which he wrought, and
accordingly, were inclined to adhere to him, and embrace the gospel,
wherein his person and glory are set forth; and yet have afterwards
apostatized from this profession; and if this had been attended with
envy and malice against Christ; and if they have treated the evidence
which they once acknowledged, the Christian religion, to have been
undeniably supported by, with contempt and blasphemy; and have totally
rejected that faith which they once professed, arising from carnal
policy, and the love of this world; and when this is attended with
judicial hardness of heart, blindness of mind, and strong delusions,
together with a rooted hatred of all religion, and a malicious
persecution of those that embrace it; This is what we cannot but
conclude to bear a very great resemblance to that which, in scripture,
is called the unpardonable sin; and it is a most deplorable case, which
should be so far improved by us, as that we should use the utmost
caution, that we may not give way to those sins which bear the least
resemblance to it: Nevertheless, doubting christians are to take heed
that they do not apply this account that has been given of it to
themselves, so as to lead them to despair; which is not the design of
any description thereof, which we have in scripture. Now that these may
be fortified against such-like objections, let it be considered,

_1st_, That it is one thing peremptorily to determine that it is
impossible for any one to commit this sin in our day, since the
dispensation of miracles is ceased, (which is, in effect, to suppose
that we can have no evidence for the truth of the Christian religion,
but what is founded on occular demonstration; such as they who saw
Christ’s miracles;) and another thing to determine concerning particular
persons, that they are guilty of this sin. It is certain that this
matter might be determined with special application to particular
persons in our Saviour’s and the apostles’ time, when there was among
other extraordinary gifts, that of discerning of spirits; and
consequently it might be known, whether they who apostatized from the
faith of the gospel, had before this, received a full conviction of the
truth thereof; and it might then be known, by extraordinary revelation,
that God would never give them repentance, and therefore their apostacy
would be final; and, it is more than probable, that this was supposed by
the apostle, when he speaks of some that had committed this sin, who are
not to be prayed for: But these things cannot be known by us; therefore
I would not advise any one to forbear to pray for the worst of sinners,
who seem most to resemble those that are charged with this sin, this
matter not being certainly known by us.

_2dly_, That which is principally to be considered for the encouragement
of those who are afraid that they have committed this sin, is, that
persons certainly know that they have not committed it, though they are
in an unregenerate state; as,

_1st_, When _they have not had opportunity_, or those means that are
necessary to attain the knowledge of the truth, and so remain ignorant
thereof; or if they have had sufficient means to know it, they have not
committed this sin, _if they desire and resolve to wait on God in his
ordinances_, in order to their receiving good thereby.

_2dly_, They _who are under conviction of sin_, disapprove of, and _have
some degree of sorrow and shame for it_, may certainly conclude that
they have not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.

_3dly_, If persons have reason to think that their hearts are hardened
through the deceitfulness of sin, and that they are greatly backslidden
from God; yet they ought not to conclude that they have committed this
sin, _if they are afraid lest they should be given up to a perpetual
backsliding_, or dread nothing more than a total and a final apostacy;
upon which account they are induced to pray against it, and to _desire a
broken heart, and that faith, which, at present, they do not
experience_. In this case, though their state be dangerous, yet they
ought not to determine against themselves, that they have committed the
sin unto death.

The use which we ought to make of this awful doctrine, and the hope that
there is that we have not committed this sin is,

1. That we should _take heed that we do not give way to wilful
impenitency, and a contempt of the means of grace_, lest we should
provoke God to give us up to judicial hardness of heart, so as to make
sad advances towards the commission thereof: Let us take heed that we do
not sin against the light and conviction of our own consciences, _and
wilfully neglect and oppose the means of grace_, which, whether it be
the sin unto death or no, is certainly a crime of the most heinous and
dangerous tendency.

2. Let doubting christians _take heed that they do not give way to
Satan’s suggestions_, tempting them to conclude that they have committed
this sin; which they are sometimes afraid that they have, though they
might determine that they have not, did they duly weigh what has been
but now observed concerning this matter.

3. _Let us bless God, that yet there is a door of hope, and resolve by
his grace_, that we will always wait on him in the ordinances which he
has appointed, till he shall be pleased to give us ground to conclude
better things concerning ourselves, even things that accompany
salvation. This leads us to consider,

III. What we are to pray for; particularly,

1. For those things which concern the glory of God. And that we may know
what they are, we are to enquire; whether, if God should give us what we
ask for, it would have a tendency to set forth any of his divine
perfections, and thereby render him amiable and adorable in the eyes of
his creatures, so that in answering our prayers, he would act becoming
himself? We are also to take an estimate of this matter, from the
intimation he has given us hereof in his word, in which we may observe,
not only whether he has given us leave, but commands and encourages us
to ask for it; more especially, whether he has promised to give it to
us; and, whether our receiving the blessing we ask for, has a tendency
to fit us for his service, that hereby praise that waits for him, may be
ascribed to him.

2. We are to pray for those things which concern our own good, or the
good of others. These are particularly insisted on in the Lord’s prayer,
which is explained in the following answers; therefore it is sufficient
for us, at present, to consider the good we are to pray for in general,
namely, temporal blessings, which are the effects of divine bounty,
concerning which, our Saviour says, _Your heavenly Father knoweth that
ye have need of these things_, Mat. vi. 32. We are also to pray for
spiritual blessings, such as forgiveness of sin, strength against it,
and the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, to produce in us holiness
of heart and life; as also, for deliverance from, and victory over our
spiritual enemies. We are also to pray for the consolations of the holy
Ghost, arising from assurance of the love of God, whereby we may have
peace and joy in believing; and for all those blessings which may make
us happy in a better world.

3. We are to pray for those things which are lawful to be asked of God;
and accordingly,

(1.) The things we pray for, must be such as it is possible for us to
receive, and particularly such as God has determined to bestow, or given
us ground to expect, in this present world: Therefore we are not to pray
for those blessings to be applied here, which he has reserved for the
heavenly state; such as a perfect freedom from sin, tribulation or
temptation, or our enjoying the immediate views of the glory of God:
These things are to be desired in that time and order, in which God has
determined to bestow them; therefore we are to wait for them till we
come to heaven, and, at present, we are to desire only to be made
partakers of those privileges which he gives to his children in their
way thither.

(2.) We are not to pray that God would inflict evils on others, to
satisfy our private revenge for injuries done us; since this is, in
itself, unlawful, and unbecoming a Christian frame of spirit, and
contrary to that duty which was before considered, of our praying for
our very enemies, and seeking their good.

(3.) We are not to ask for outward blessings without setting bounds to
our desires thereof; nor are we to ask for them unseasonably, or for
wrong ends. We are not to pray for them as though they were our chief
good and happiness, or of equal importance with things that are more
immediately conducive to our spiritual advantage; and therefore,
whatever measure of importunity we express in praying for them, it is
not to be inconsistent with an entire submission to the divine will, as
being satisfied that God knows what is best for us; or, whether that
which we desire, will, in the end, prove good or hurtful to us; much
less ought we to ask for outward blessings, that we may abuse, and, as
the apostle James speaks, _Consume them upon our lusts_, James iv. 3.

Footnote 104:

  _See page 317._

Footnote 105:

  _That several of the Fathers practised and pleaded for praying for the
  dead, is evident from what Cyprian says, Epist. xxxix. concerning the
  church’s offering sacrifices, by which he means prayers for the
  martyrs; among whom, he particularly mentions Laurentius and Ignatius,
  on the yearly return of those days, on which the memorial of their
  martyrdom was celebrated. And Eusebius, in the life of Constantine,
  Lib. iv. Cap. lxxi. when speaking concerning the funeral obsequies
  performed for that monarch, says, that a great number of people, with
  tears and lamentations poured forth prayers to God for the emperor’s
  soul. And Gregory Nazianzen prayed for his brother Cæsarius after his
  death. Vid. Ejusd in Fun. Cæsar, Orat. x. Also Ambrose prayed for the
  religious emperors, Valentinian and Gratian, and for Theodosius, and
  for his brother Satyrus. Vid. Ejusd. de obit. Valentin. Theodos. &
  Satyr. And Augustin speaks of his praying for his mother Monica, after
  her decease, in Confess. Lib. ix. Cap. xiii. And Epiphanius defends
  this practice with so much warmth, that he can hardly forbear charging
  the denial hereof as one of Aerius’s heresies. Vid. Epiphan. hæeres.
  lxxv. And some Popish writers, when defending their praying for the
  dead, have, with more malice than reason, charged the Protestants with
  being Aerians, upon this account._

Footnote 106:

  _See Quest. lxxxvi. page 313._

Footnote 107:

  _Vid. Grot. in loc._

                             Quest. CLXXXV.

    QUEST. CLXXXV. _How are we to pray?_

    ANSW. We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the Majesty of
    God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins,
    with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts, with understanding,
    faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon
    him, with humble submission to his will.

This answer respects the manner of performing this duty, and the frame
of spirit with which we are to draw nigh to God. Accordingly,

1. We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the Majesty of God;
otherwise our behaviour would be highly resented by him, and reckoned no
other than a thinking him altogether such an one as ourselves. Some of
the divine perfections have a more immediate tendency to excite an holy
reverence; accordingly we are to consider him as omnipresent, and
omniscient, to whom our secret thoughts, and the principle from whence
our actions proceed, are better known than they can be to themselves. We
are to conceive of him as a God of infinite holiness; and therefore he
cannot but be highly displeased with that worship that is opposite
thereunto, as proceeding from a conscience defiled with sin, or
performed in an unholy manner. Thus the prophet says, _Thou art of purer
eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity_, Hab. i. 13.
that is, thou canst not behold it without the utmost detestation; and
therefore, _if we regard it in our heart, he will not hear_ our prayers,
Psal. lxvi. 18. We are also to have a due sense of the spirituality of
his nature, that we may worship him in a spiritual manner; therefore we
are not to entertain any carnal conceptions, or frame any ideas of him,
like those we have of finite or corporeal beings; nor are we to think it
sufficient, that our external mien and deportment have been grave, and
carried in it a shew of reverence, when our hearts have not, at the same
time, been engaged in this duty, or disposed to give him the glory that
is due to his name. We are also to draw nigh to him with a due sense of
those perfections that tend to encourage us to perform this duty, with
hope of finding acceptance in his sight. Therefore we are to conceive of
him, as a God of infinite goodness, mercy, and faithfulness, with whom
is plenteous redemption, in and through a Mediator, which is suitable to
our condition, as indigent, miserable, and guilty sinners; and a God of
infinite power, who is _able to do exceeding abundantly above all we are
able to ask or think_, Eph. iii. 20.

2. We are to pray to God with an humble sense of our own unworthiness.
This is the necessary result of those high conceptions we have of his
divine excellency and greatness; whereby we are led to consider
ourselves as infinitely below him; and, indeed, the best of creatures
are induced hereby to worship him with the greatest humility: Thus the
Seraphim are represented in that vision, which the prophet Isaiah had of
them, as ministering to, and attending upon our Lord Jesus, when sitting
on a throne on his temple; as _covering their faces and their feet with
their wings_, denoting their unworthiness to behold his glory, or to be
employed by him in his service, Isa. vi. 1-4. But when we take a view of
his infinite holiness, and our own impurity, this should be an
inducement to us to draw nigh to him, with the greatest humility: As
dependent creatures, we have nothing but what we derive from him; as
frail dying creatures, we wither away, and are brought to nothing, Job
xiii. 25. Job compares this to a leaf that is easily broken, and driven
to and fro, or to the dry stubble, that can make no resistance against
the wind that pursues it; and the Psalmist, speaking of man in general,
says, _Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him; or the son
of man, that thou makest account of him?_ Psal. civ. 3. And elsewhere it
is said, _What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him, and that thou
shouldest set thine heart upon him?_ Job vii. 17. These are humbling
considerations; but we shall be led into a farther sense of our own
unworthiness, when we consider ourselves as sinful creatures, worthy to
be abhorred by God; therefore he might justly reject us, and refuse to
answer our prayers. But since this humble frame of spirit is so
necessary for the right performance of this duty, let us farther
observe, as an inducement hereunto.

(1.) That the greatest glory we can bring to God can make no addition to
his infinite perfections: Thus it is said, _Can a man be profitable unto
God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any
pleasure, that is, any advantage, to the Almighty, that thou art
righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?_ Job
xxiii. 2, 3. And elsewhere, _If thou be righteous, what givest thou him,
or what receiveth he of thy hand?_ ch. xxxv. 7. denoting that it is
impossible for us, by any thing we can do or suffer for his sake, to
make him more glorious than he would have been in himself, had we never
had a being: Therefore, if there is nothing by which we can lay any
obligations on God, we have reason to address ourselves to him with a
sense of our own unworthiness.

(2.) We are so far from meriting any good thing from the hand of God,
that by our repeated transgressions, notwithstanding the daily mercies
we receive from him, we give farther proofs of our great unworthiness;
and, indeed, if we are enabled to do any thing in obedience to his will,
this is not from ourselves; yea, it is contrary to the dictates of
corrupt nature, and must be ascribed to him as the author of it.

(3.) If we could do the greatest service to God by espousing his cause,
and promoting his interest in the world; it is no more than what we are
bound to do; and, at the same time we must consider, that _it is God
that worketh in_ us, _both to will and to do of his good pleasure_,
Phil. ii. 13.

(4.) The best believers recorded in scripture, have entertained a
constant, humble sense of their own unworthiness: Thus Abraham, when he
stood before the Lord, making supplications in the behalf of Sodom,
expresses himself thus, _Behold, now I have taken upon me to speak unto
the Lord, who am but dust and ashes_. And Jacob says, _I am not worthy
of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast
shewed unto thy servant_, Gen. xxxii. 10. And they who have been most
zealous for, and made eminently useful in promoting Christ’s interest in
the world, have had an humble sense of their own unworthiness; as the
apostle says concerning himself, _I am the least of the apostles, that
am not meet to be called an apostle_, 1 Cor. xv. 9. And he immediately
adds, _By the grace of God I am what I am_, ver. 10. And elsewhere he
styles himself, _less than the least of all saints_, Eph. iii. 8.

We have another instance of humility in prayer, in the Psalmist’s words,
_I am a worm, and no man_, Psal. xxii. 6. which, so far as they have any
reference to his own case, may give us occasion to infer, that the most
advanced circumstances, in which any are in the world, are not
inconsistent with humility, when drawing nigh to God in prayer; but if
we consider him speaking in the person of Christ, as several expressions
of this Psalm argue him to do, and cannot well be taken in any other
sense[108]; then we have herein the most remarkable instance of the
humble address that was used by Christ in his human nature, when drawing
nigh to God in prayer; which is certainly a great motive to induce us to
engage in this duty with the utmost humility.

3. We are to draw nigh to God in prayer, with a sense of our
necessities, and the sins that we have committed against him.
Accordingly, we are to consider ourselves as indigent creatures, who are
stripped and deprived of that glory, and those bright ornaments which
were put on man at first in his state of innocency; destitute of the
divine image, and all those things that are necessary to our happiness,
unless he is pleased to supply these wants, forgive our iniquities, and
grant us communion with himself; which things we are to draw nigh to him
in prayer for. We are also, in this duty, to have a sense of sin, _viz._
the guilt that we contract thereby, and the punishment we have exposed
ourselves to, that we may see our need of drawing nigh to God in
Christ’s righteousness; and also of the stain and pollution thereof,
which may induce us to fall down before the footstool of the throne of
grace, with the greatest degree of self-abhorrence. We are also to
consider how we are enslaved to sin, how much we have been, and how
prone we are at all times, to _serve divers lusts and pleasures_, Tit.
iii. 3. and to _walk according to the course of this world, according to
the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the
children of disobedience_, Eph. ii. 2.

Moreover, we are to consider sin as deeply rooted in our hearts,
debasing our affections, and captivating our wills. If we are in an
unconverted state, we are to look upon it as growing and encreasing in
us, rendering us more and more indisposed for what is good, by which
means we are set at a farther distance from God and holiness: On the
other hand, if we have ground to hope we are made partakers of
converting grace, then we have acted contrary to the highest
obligations, and been guilty of the greatest ingratitude. These things
we are to endeavour to be affected with, when drawing nigh to God in
prayer, in order to our performing this duty aright.

4. There are several graces that are to be exercised in prayer;

(1.) Repentance: This is necessary, because we are sinners; and as such,
are to come into the presence of God with confession, joined with
supplication which must be made with a penitent frame of spirit; the
contrary to which, is a tacit approbation of sin, and a kind of
resolution to adhere to it, which is very unbecoming those who are
pleading for forgiveness: Accordingly, when God promised that he would
_pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of
Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications_, he adds, that
_they shall look upon him, whom they have pierced, and mourn for him_,
or for it, _as one mourneth for his only son; and shall be in
bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born_: And that
this shall be done by _every family apart, and their wives apart_, Zech.
xii. 10. _& seq._ So when _the priests, the ministers of the Lord_, are
commanded to _pray_, that _he_ would _spare his people_; they, are, at
the same time, to _weep between the porch and the altar, to rent their
hearts, and turn unto the Lord their God_, Joel ii. 13. 17. And when
Israel is advised to _take with them words_, and instructed how they
should pray, they are exhorted to _turn unto the Lord_; to repent of
their seeking help from Assyria and Egypt, and of that abominable
idolatry which they had been guilty of, Hos. xiv. 1, 2, 3, 8.

Now there are several subjects very proper for our meditation; which
may, through the divine blessing accompanying it, excite this grace,
when we are engaged in the duty of prayer; particularly the multitude of
transgressions which are charged on the consciences of men by the law,
that _every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before
God_, Rom. iii. 19. and especially the ingratitude which we have reason
to accuse ourselves of, and our contempt of Christ, and the way of
salvation by him, which is discovered in the gospel; and our having done
many things in the course of our lives, which fill us with shame and
sorrow, whenever we come into the presence of God, to pour out our
hearts before him in this duty.

(2.) The next grace to be exercised in prayer is, thankfulness, in which
respect prayer and praise ought to be joined together: Thus the Psalmist
says, _Praise waiteth for thee O God, in Zion, and unto thee shall the
vow be performed, O thou that hearest prayer_, Psal. lxv. 1, 2. That
this is a part of prayer has been observed under a foregoing answer; in
which we considered the many blessings that we have reason to be
thankful for. I shall only add, at present, that it is matter of
thankfulness, that we have liberty of access to God, in hope of
obtaining mercy from him, as sitting on a throne of grace, who might
have been forever banished from his presence, or have been brought
before his judgment-seat as criminals, doomed to everlasting

Moreover, we are to bless him, not only that we have leave to come
before him, but have often experienced that he has heard, and answered
our prayers, and therein has fulfilled that promise, _I said not to the
seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain_, Isa. xlv. 19. And that we may be
brought into a thankful frame, we ought to consider,

[1.] The worth of every mercy; especially those that are spiritual, or
accompany salvation; and this we may judge of by the price that was paid
for it, which is no less than the blood of Jesus; which the apostle not
only styles _precious_, but speaks of it as infinitely preferable to
every thing that is _corruptible_, 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. And we may, in some
measure, take an estimate thereof by the worth and excellency of the
soul, and as it is conducive to promote its eternal welfare.

[2.] We are also to consider every saving blessing, as the fruit and
result of everlasting love, and as the consequence of God’s eternal
design, in having chosen those, who are the objects thereof, to
salvation in Christ, Jer. xxxi. 3. Eph. i. 3, 4. We must also consider
these mercies as discriminating, whereby God distinguishes his people
from the world, and herein glorifies the riches of his grace, in those
who deserve to have been, for ever, the monuments of his wrath: We might
here consider, as an inducement to this grace of thankfulness, the
aggravations of the sin of ingratitude.

_1st_, It is a virtual disowning our obligation to, or dependence on
God, from whom we receive all mercies, and a behaving ourselves in such
a manner as though we were not beholden to him for them, or could be
happy without him; as though we were self-sufficient, and did not look
upon him as the fountain of blessedness.

_2dly_, It is a refusing to give him the glory of his wisdom, power,
goodness, and faithfulness, which are eminently displayed in the
blessings that he bestows.

_3dly_, It is disagreeable to the large expectations we have of those
blessings he has reserved for his people, or promised to them, or that
hope which he has laid up for them in heaven. Therefore we cannot but
conclude that ingratitude argues a person destitute of that holiness
which eminently discovers itself in the exercise of the contrary grace:
Accordingly the apostle joins these two characters together, when
speaking of the vilest of men, whom he styles, _unthankful, unholy_, 2
Tim. iii. 2.

(3.) Another grace, to be exercised in prayer, is faith. This implies an
habitual disposition of soul, proceeding from a principle of
regenerating grace, whereby we are led to commit ourselves, and all our
concerns, into Christ’s hand, depending on his merits and mediation for
the supply of all our wants, considering him as having purchased, and as
being authorized to apply, all the benefits of the covenant of grace,
which are the subject-matter of our supplications to him. More
particularly, faith exerts and discovers itself in prayer,

[1.] By encouraging the soul, and giving it an holy boldness to draw
nigh to God, notwithstanding our great unworthiness. If we are afraid to
come into the presence of an holy God, and, destruction from him is a
terror to us, if the threatnings he has denounced against sinners, such
as we know ourselves to be, discourage us from drawing nigh to him, so
that we are ready to say with Job, ‘Therefore am I troubled at his
presence; when I consider, I am afraid of him,’ Job xxiii. 15. If his
almighty power, that can easily sink us into perdition, overwhelms our
spirits, and fills us with the utmost distress and confusion, so that we
cannot draw nigh to him in prayer, considering him as an absolute God;
we are encouraged by faith, to look upon him as our covenant God, and
Father in Christ; and then all his divine perfections will afford relief
to us. His sin-revenging justice is regarded by faith, as that which is
fully satisfied by Christ’s obedience and sufferings; and therefore will
not demand that satisfaction at our hands, which it has already received
from our surety, who was ‘made sin for us’ though he ‘knew no sin, that
we might be made the righteousness of God in him,’ 2 Cor. v. 21. His
infinite power is no longer looked upon, as engaged to destroy us, but
rather to succour us under all our weakness; and therefore, as Job says,
‘He will not plead against us with his great power; no, but he will put
strength in us,’ Job xxiii. 6. We consider it as ready to support us
under the heaviest pressures, and so enable us to perform the most
difficult duties, and to overcome all our spiritual enemies, who would
be otherwise too strong for us: So that this attribute is so far from
discouraging us from drawing nigh to God in prayer, that, by faith, we
behold it as delighting to exert and glorify itself, in doing those
great things for us which we have in view, when we engage in this duty.

[2.] Faith discovers itself in prayer, by enabling us to plead, and
apply to ourselves, the great and precious promises which God has given
to his people in the gospel. As prayer cannot subsist without a promise,
so we are enabled, by faith, to apprehend and plead the promises, and to
say, ‘Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me
to hope,’ Psal. cxix. 49. And hereby we look upon God as ready to bestow
the blessings which he has promised, and his faithfulness as engaged to
make them good. Accordingly the Psalmist says, ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord,
give ear to my supplications; in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy
righteousness,’ Psal. cxliii. 1. There is nothing that we want, or ought
to pray for, but there are some promises, contained in the word of God,
which faith improves and takes encouragement from in this duty: And
since what we pray for, respects either temporal, or spiritual, and
eternal blessings, these are looked upon by faith as promised; as the
apostle says, _godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of
that which is to come_, 1 Tim. iv. 18. This might be very largely
insisted on, and many instances given hereof, which are contained in
scripture; but I shall more especially consider those promises which
respect God’s enabling us to pray, and his hearing and answering our
prayers, which faith lays hold on, and improves, in order to our
performing this duty in a right manner.

_1st_, There are promises of the Spirit’s assistance to enable us to
pray. This the apostle calls his _making intercession for us, according
to the will of God_, in Rom. viii. 27. And our Saviour says, in Luke
xii. 13. _If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit
to them that ask him?_

_2dly_, There are other promises that respect God’s hearing and
answering prayer. Thus it is said, in Psal. lxxxvi. 7. _In the day of my
trouble I will call upon thee for thou wilt answer me_: And elsewhere in
Psal. cii. 17. _God will regard the prayer of the destitute and not
despise their prayer._ This is considered as being of a very large
extent: Thus our Saviour says, in John xvi. 23. _Whatsoever ye ask the
Father in my name, he will give it you_: And in chap. xv. 7. _If ye
abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and
it shall be done unto you_: Which universal expressions of God’s giving
believers _what they will_, are to be understood of his granting their
lawful and regular desires; and, indeed, faith will never ask any thing
but what tends to the glory of God, and that with an entire submission
to his will; though it is far otherwise with respect to those prayers
that are not put up in faith.

Moreover God has promised to hear and answer all kinds of prayer,
provided they proceed from this grace; particularly, united prayers in
the assemblies of his saints, as he says to Solomon, after the
dedication of the temple, in 2 Chron. vii. 15. _Mine eyes shall be open,
and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place_; and
those prayers that are put up to God in families, where a small number
are joined together; though it be but _two or three_, Christ has
promised to be _in the midst of them_, xviii. 20. not only to assist
them in this duty, but to give them what they ask for. There are also
promises made to secret prayer: Thus when our Saviour encourages his
people to _pray to their Father, which is in secret_, he tells them, _My
Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly_, chap. vi. 6.

Here it will be enquired, whether it be necessary in order to our
praying by faith, that we be assured, at all times, that our prayer
shall be heard.

To this it may be answered,

_1st_, That it is not our duty to believe that every prayer shall be
heard; for God heareth not sinners, that is, those who are under the
reigning power of sin, and consequently are destitute of the grace of
faith; nor will he hear those _prayers_ that _proceed from feigned
lips_: Thus it is said, _If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will
not hear me_, Psal. lxvi. 18.

_2dly_, It is not the duty of those who have the truth of grace, to
believe that their prayer shall be heard, when, by reason of their
infirmity, or the weakness of their faith, they ask for that which is
unlawful, and not redounding to the glory of God and their real good.

_3dly_, If what we pray for may be for the glory of God, and redound to
our advantage; yet it is not our duty to determine, with too great
peremptoriness, that he will certainly grant what we ask for,
immediately, or in that particular way which we desire; since he may
answer prayer, and yet do it in his own time and way.

_4thly_, It is not our duty to believe assuredly, that God will give us
all those temporal blessings that we ask for; especially if they be not
absolutely necessary for us, since he may answer such-like prayers in
value, though not in kind, and so give spiritual blessings, instead of
those temporal ones, which we pray for; in which case none will say,
that he is unfaithful to his promise, though we have not those blessings
in kind that we desire: Therefore it is our duty, and the great concern
of faith in prayer, to be assured, that as God knows what is best for
us, so he will make good his promises, in such a way, that we shall have
no reason to conclude ourselves to have been disappointed, or that we
have asked in faith, but have not obtained.

I am sensible that there is a difficulty in the mode of expression used
by the apostle James, in chap. i. 6, 7. _But let him ask in faith,
nothing wavering; for let not that man think that he shall receive any
thing of the Lord_: By which, the apostle does not intend, that he who
doubts whether his prayer shall be answered, cannot be said, in any
sense, to pray in faith; for, as assurance of our salvation is not of
the essence of faith, so that faith cannot subsist without it; in like
manner assurance, or a firm persuasion that the very thing we ask shall
be given, is not such an essential ingredient in prayer, as that we
should determine, that for want of it, we shall receive nothing that is
good from the Lord. Therefore, I conceive, that the apostle, by
_wavering_ in this text, rather respects our being in doubt about the
object of faith; or else our not being stedfast in the grace of faith,
but praying with hypocrisy, as he illustrates it by the similitude taken
from a _wave driven with the wind_; which sometimes moves one way, at
other times the contrary; and he farther explains it, when he says, in
ver. 8. _a double-minded man, is unstable in all his ways_; so that the
person, whom he describes as wavering is the same with a _double-minded
man_, or an hypocrite: Such an one cannot ask in faith; therefore the
apostle does not hereby intend that no one can exercise this grace in
prayer, but he that has a full assurance that his prayer shall be
answered, in that particular way and manner as he expects.

_Obj._ 1. It is objected by some, that they have no faith; therefore
since this grace must be exercised in prayer, they are very often
discouraged from performing the duty of prayer.

_Answ._ That though the want of a prepared frame of spirit, for any duty
affords matter of humiliation, yet it is no excuse for the neglect
thereof; and as for prayer in particular, we are to wait on God therein,
for a prepared frame of spirit, that by this means, we may draw nigh to
him in a right manner, as well as for a gracious answer from him.

[2.] If we cannot bring glory to God by a fiducial pleading of the
promises, or applying them to ourselves; we must endeavour to glorify
him by confessing our guilt and unworthiness, and acknowledging that all
our help is in him.

[3.] It is possible for us to have some acts of faith in prayer, when we
are not sensible thereof, and at the same time, bewail our want of this

[4.] If none were to pray but those who have faith, then it would follow
that none must pray for the first grace, which supposes a person to be
in an unregenerate state; nevertheless, such are obliged to perform this
duty, as well as they can, and therein to hope for that grace which may
enable them to do it as they ought.[109]

_Obj._ 2. It is objected by others, that though they dare not lay aside
the duty of prayer, yet, inasmuch as they do not experience those
graces, which are necessary for the right performance thereof, nor any
returns of prayer, they have no satisfaction in their own spirits.

_Answ._ To this it may be replied;

_1st_, That there may be faith in prayer, and yet no immediate answer
thereof. God herein acts in a way of sovereignty, whereby he will have
his people know that if he grants their requests, it shall be in his own
time and way. Therefore it is their duty to wait for him till he is
pleased to manifest himself as a God hearing prayer, and thereby
removing the discouragements that, at present, they labour under.

_2dly_, There are other ways by which the truth of grace is to be judged
of, besides our having sensible answers of prayer. Sometimes, indeed,
God may give many intimations of his acceptance of us, though, at
present we know it not.

(3.) The next grace to be exercised in prayer, is, love to God: This
implies in it an earnest desire of his presence, delight in him, or
taking pleasure in contemplating his perfections as the most glorious
and amiable object. Desire supposes him, in some measure, withdrawn from
us; or that we are not possessed of that complete blessedness, which is
to be enjoyed in him; and delight supposes him present, and, in some
degree, manifesting himself unto us. Now love to God, in both these
respects, is to be exercised in prayer. Is he in any measure withdrawn
from us? we are, with the greatest earnestness to long for his return to
us, whose loving-kindness is better than life. Is he graciously pleased,
in any degree, to manifest himself to us as the fountain of all we enjoy
or hope for? this will have a tendency to excite our delight in him, and
induce us to conclude that our happiness consists in the enjoyment of
him. These graces are to be exercised at all times, but more especially
in prayer, which is an offering up of our desires to God; in which we
first press after the enjoyment of himself, and then of his benefits.
And, as we are to bless and praise him for the discoveries we have of
his glory, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to the
securing our spiritual good and advantage; this is to express that
delight in him, which is the highest instance of love.

(4.) Another grace to be exercised in prayer, is submission to the will
of God; whereby we leave ourselves and our petitions in his hand, as
being sensible that he knows what is best for us. This does not include
in it a being indifferent whether our prayers are heard or no; for that
is to contradict what we express with our lips, by the frame of our
spirits. Whatever may be concluded to be lawful for us to ask, as
redounding to our advantage, and is expressly promised by God, that we
ought to request at his hand, in prayer; and if we pray for it, we
cannot but desire that our prayer may be heard and answered; and this is
not opposed to that submission to the divine will, which we are speaking
of, provided we leave it to God to do what he thinks best for us, being
content that the way and manner of his answering us, as well as the time
of his bestowing those blessings which we want, together with the degree
thereof; especially if they are such as are of a temporal nature, ought
to be resolved into his sovereign will. Thus concerning the graces that
we are to exercise in prayer.

There are other things mentioned in this answer, which are necessary to
our exercising those graces, _viz._ our minds being enlightened, our
hearts enlarged, and our having sincerity in the inward part.

[1.] There must be some degree of understanding, since ignorance is so
far from being, as the Papists pretend, the mother of devotion, that it
is inconsistent with the exercise of those graces, with which we ought
to draw nigh to God in prayer. The affections, indeed, may be moved,
where there is but a very little knowledge of the doctrines of the
gospel; but they will, at the same time, be misled; and this can no more
be called religious devotion than the words or actions of one that is in
a phrenzy, can be called rational; therefore, as prayer is unacceptable
without the exercise of grace, so grace cannot be exercised without the
knowledge of the truth, as derived from the sacred treasury of

Here we might consider, that we must know something of God who is the
object of prayer, as well as of all other acts of religious worship. We
must also know something of Christ the Mediator, through whom we have
access to, as well as acceptance with him; and something of the work and
glory of the Holy Ghost, on whom we are to depend for his assistance in
presenting our supplications to God. We must know our necessities,
otherwise we cannot tell what to ask for; and also the promises of the
gospel, otherwise we cannot be encouraged to hope for an answer.

[2.] In order to our exercising grace in prayer, we must have some
degree of enlargedness of heart; that is, when every thing that tends to
contract our affections, abate the ferfency of our spirits, or hinder
that importunity which we ought to express for the best of blessings, is
removed. Now our hearts may be said to be enlarged in prayer.

_1st_, When we draw nigh to God in this duty with delight and earnest
longing after his presence, and an interest in his love, which we reckon
preferable to all other blessings.

_2dly_, When we are affected with a becoming sense of his glorious
perfections, and our own nothingness, in order to our adoring him, and
coming before him with the greatest humility.

_3dly_, When we have suitable promises given in, and are enabled to
plead them with a degree of hope, arising from the goodness and
faithfulness of God, that he will fulfil them; and that more especially
as we draw nigh to him as to a covenant-God.

_4thly_, When our thoughts and affections are engaged without wandering,
weariness, or lukewarmness, and filled with importunity, agreeable to
the importance of the duty, and our absolute need of the blessings we
pray for.

[3.] In order to our exercising those graces, which are necessary for
our drawing nigh to God aright in prayer, we must have sincerity of
heart: This includes in it much more than what is generally so called,
as opposed to dissimulation, in those who perform some good actions
merely to be seen of men, or who take up religion to answer some base
and vile end, which they have in view; in which respect a sincere person
is one that is no dissembler: But that sincerity, which we are speaking
of, consists in a person’s acting from a principle of grace implanted in
regeneration; or when a person can appeal to God, as Job does, _Thou
knowest that I am not wicked_, Job x. 7. that is, that there is no
reigning sin, whereby my heart is alienated from, or set against thee. A
sincere person is such an one as our Saviour describes, when he speaks
of Nathaniel, and gives him this character, _Behold an Israelite indeed,
in whom is no guile_, John i. 48. In this case a person’s heart and
actions go together; and he may truly say, as David does, _attend unto
my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips_,
Psal. xvii. 1. Thus concerning the graces that are to be exercised in
prayer, and what is necessary in order thereunto.

What is farther observed concerning this duty, is, that we are to
persevere in prayer; resolving not to desist from waiting on God
therein, whatever seeming discouragements may, at present, lie in our
way. Prayer is not a duty to be performed only at some certain times, as
the prophet speaks of those who, _in their affliction will seek God
early_, Hos. v. 15. or, as the mariners in Jonah, who _cried, every man
unto his god_, in a storm; though it is probable, they seldom prayed at
other times, Jon. i. 5. But we are to _pray always with all prayer and
supplication, and_ to _watch thereunto with all perseverance_, Eph. vi.
18. that is, we ought always to endeavour to be in a praying frame, and,
on all occasions, to lift up our hearts to God for direction,
assistance, and success in every thing we do, agreeable to his will, and
for a supply of those wants which daily recur upon us.

_1st_, By reason of the deadness and stupidity of our spirits, which we
cannot bring into a suitable frame for the discharge of this duty; and
therefore we are ready to conclude, that while we draw nigh to God with
our lips, our hearts are far from him. This is, indeed, a very
afflictive case; but we ought not from hence, to take occasion to lay
aside the duty but rather depend on the assistance of the Spirit, to
enable us to perform it in a right manner.

_2dly_, Another discouraging circumstance is, God’s denying us sensible
returns of prayer, which he may do for various reasons. Sometimes he
sees those defects that we are guilty of in prayer, which he is obliged
to testify his displeasure against; and this he sometimes does by hiding
himself, or, as it were, withdrawing from us, and, in all appearance,
shutting out our prayers, that we may take occasion to search out the
secret sin that lies at the root thereof; which we must confess and be
humbled for. Thus when Joshua, after a small defeat, which Israel had
received by the men of Ai, fell upon his face, and spread the matter
before the Lord in prayer, God condescends to tell him the reason of it;
‘Get thee up, wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath
sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded
them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing; therefore could
they not stand before their enemies,’ Josh. vii. 10-12. And when the sin
was discovered, and Achan, who troubled them punished, what he asked for
was granted. Again, God may deny an immediate answer to prayer, out of
his mere sovereignty, that hereby we may know, that it is not for us to
prescribe to him the time or way in which he shall dispense those
benefits, which are not owing to our merit, but his free grace.

_3dly_, Sometimes we pray, but do not use other means, which God has
appointed for the obtaining the blessing! Thus, when Israel was
disheartened, being pursued by Pharaoh and his host, and did not care to
move out of their places, Moses addresses himself to God in prayer, and
_the Lord said unto him, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the
children of Israel, that they go forward_; and then he ordered him to
_lift up his rod, and stretch it over the sea, and divide it, that they
might go through the midst thereof on dry ground_, Exod. xiv. 15, 16. We
are not only to pray, but to use other means that God has appointed;
without which, we cannot expect that prayer should be answered. Thus
Hezekiah, when sick, prayed to God, who assured him, that he had heard
his prayers, and would heal him; nevertheless, he was to use the means
which God had ordered, by _taking a lump of figs and laying it on the
boil_; which he did accordingly, and was restored to health, Isa.
xxxviii. 21. Do we pray for a comfortable subsistence in the world? we
must, if we expect that God should answer us, use industry in our
callings, as well as own him by prayer and supplications. Do we pray for
any of the graces of the Spirit in order to the beginning or carrying on
the work of sanctification? we must, at the same time, attend on the
means of grace, which God has ordained for that purpose: Or, do we pray
for assurance of the love of God, and that spiritual comfort which is
the result thereof? we must be diligent in the performance of the work
of self-examination; or else we are not to expect that God will answer
our prayers.

_4thly_, Sometimes God delays to answer our prayers, because we have not
given him the glory of former mercies; or else he designs hereby to try
our patience, whether we are not only inclined to wait upon him, but to
wait for him; as the prophet says, _I will stand upon my watch, and set
me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and
what I shall answer when I am reproved_, Hab. ii. 1. So the Psalmist
says, _As the eye of servants look unto the hands of their masters, and
the eyes of a maiden unto the hands of her mistress; so our eyes wait
upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us_, Psal. cxxiii.
2. And elsewhere the Psalmist, though he was in great _depths_, and
stood in need of an immediate answer, when he cried unto the Lord; yet
he determines to _wait for him_, and _hope in his word_; that is, while
he is expecting a mercy, he does not despair of having it in the end,
because he depends on God’s word of promise; but yet he resolves to
_wait as those that watch for the morning_, Psal. cxxx. 1, 5, 6, which
contains a mixture of two graces, namely, patiently waiting, and yet
earnestly desiring the blessing expected. This is our indispensable
duty, whereby we glorify God, as being sensible that it is not for us to
prescribe to him, when he should fulfil our desires: Whereas we should
say, with Jacob, _I will not let thee go, except thou bless me_, Gen.
xxxii. 26. I will persevere in prayer till thou art pleased to give me
all the blessings I stand in need of, and bring me into that state in
which I shall be satisfied with thy goodness, and my imperfect prayers
turned into endless praises.

Footnote 108:

  _Many suppose that all those Psalms, in which some particular
  expressions are referred to in the New Testament, as having their
  accomplishment in Christ, are to be understood as containing a double
  reference, namely, to David, as denoting his particular case, and to
  Christ, of whom he was an eminent type. But as for Psalm xxii. there
  are several expressions in it, not only applied to Christ in the New
  Testament; but they cannot well be understood of any other but him. In
  the first verse he uses the same words that were uttered by Christ on
  the cross, Matt. xxvii. 46. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
  and in ver. 8. he trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him; let
  him deliver him: This was an expression used by those who mocked and
  derided him, Matt. xxvii. 41, 45. And what is said in verses 14, 17.
  All my bones are out of joint; I may tell them, they look and stare
  upon me; does not seem to be applicable to David, from any thing said
  concerning him elsewhere; but they are a lively representation of the
  torment a person endures, when hanging on a cross, as our Saviour did;
  which has a tendency to disjoint the bones, and cause them to stick
  out. And when it is said, ver. 16, 18. they pierced my hands and my
  feet; and they part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my
  vesture; the former was fulfilled in Christ’s being nailed to the
  cross, and his side pierced with a spear; and the latter is expressly
  referred to as fulfilled in the parting of Christ’s garments, and
  casting lots upon his vesture, Matt. xxvii. 35. as an accomplishment
  of what was foretold, by the royal prophet in this Psalm. These
  expressions cannot, in the least, be applied to David, but are to be
  understood of our Saviour; therefore, we may conclude that those words
  in ver. 6. I am a worm, &c. are particularly applied to him._

Footnote 109:

  What under one aspect is grace, under another is duty.

                       Quest. CLXXXVI., CLXXXVII.

    QUEST. CLXXXVI. _What rule hath God given for our direction in the
    duty of prayer?_

    ANSW. The whole word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of
    praying; but the special rule of direction, is that form of prayer,
    which our Saviour Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the
    Lord’s prayer.

    QUEST. CLXXXVII. _How is the Lord’s prayer to be used?_

    ANSW. The Lord’s prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern,
    according to which we are to make other prayers, but may also be
    used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith,
    reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of
    the duty.

As to what is said in the former of these answers, concerning the word
of God, being a rule for our direction in prayer, it may be observed,

I. That we need some direction in order to our performing this duty; for
man is naturally a stranger both to God and himself. He knows but little
of the glorious perfections of the divine nature, and is not duly
sensible of the guilt which he contracts, or of the mercies which he
receives; and without the knowledge hereof, we shall be at a loss as to
the matter of the duty which we are to engage in. It is certain, many
have a general notion of religion, or of some moral duties, which they
are sensible of their being obliged to perform: Nevertheless, they
cannot address themselves to God in such a manner as he requires; so
that it may truly be said of them, that _they cannot order their speech
by reason of darkness_, Job xxxvii. 19. We find that the disciples
themselves, who were intimately conversant with Christ, and, as it must
be supposed, often joined with him in prayer, were, notwithstanding, at
a loss, as to this duty; and therefore they say, _Lord teach us to pray,
as John also taught his disciples_, Luke xi. 1.

II. It is farther observed, that the word of God is to be made use of
for our direction in prayer. This is evident, inasmuch as we are to ask
for nothing but what is agreeable to his revealed will, which is
contained therein; and no one, who is well acquainted with it, will have
reason to say, that he wants sufficient matter for prayer. This is a
very useful head, and therefore we shall consider several things which
occur to us in scripture; which ought to be improved, in order to our
direction and assistance in the performance of this duty. And,

1. The historical parts of scripture, which contain an account of the
providences of God in the world, and the church, may be of use for our
direction in prayer, as we are to pray, not only for ourselves, but for
others: Therefore his former dealings with his people, will furnish us
with matter accommodated to our present observation of the necessities
of the church of God in our day: Accordingly we find,

(1.) That the sins which a professing people have committed, have been
followed with many terrible instances of the divine wrath and vengeance:
Thus we have an account, of the universal apostacy of the world from
God, which occasioned their being destroyed by a flood; and the
unnatural lusts of the inhabitants of Sodom, for which they were
consumed by fire from heaven; and of the idolatry and other abominations
committed by the Israelites, for which it is said, that _God was wroth,
and greatly abhorred them_; upon which they were exposed to many
temporal and spiritual judgments, so that, as the Psalmist says, _he
forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;
and delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the
enemies hand_, Psal. lxxviii. 59-61. From hence we may take occasion to
enquire, whether we have not been guilty of sins equally great, and, it
may be, of the same kind, which are to be confessed, and the judgments
which have ensued to be deprecated by us? And when we read in the New
Testament, of some flourishing churches, planted by the apostles, in the
beginning of the gospel dispensation, that have nothing left but a sad
remembrance of the privileges which they once enjoyed; in whom, what
Christ says, concerning his removing _his candlestick out of its place_,
was soon fulfilled, Rev. iii. 15. This is of use for our direction in
prayer, that he would keep his church and people from running into the
same sins, and exposing themselves to the same judgments.

(2.) We have an account, in scripture, of the church’s increase and
preservation, notwithstanding the darkest dispensations of providence,
and the most violent persecutions which it has met with from its
enemies. When it was in hard bondage, and severely dealt with, in Egypt,
it is observed, that the more the Egyptians _afflicted them, the more
they multiplied and grew_, Exod. i. 12. and when they have, in all
appearance, been nearest to ruin, God has opened a door for their
deliverance, and oftentimes done great things in their behalf, which
they looked not for. We have also an historical account, in scripture,
of God’s owning and encouraging his people, so long as they have kept
close to him; and of his visiting their iniquities with a rod, when
backsliding from him; and, indeed, whatever we read concerning the
providences of God towards particular believers in the Old or New
Testament, the same may be observed therein, which is of very great use
for our direction in prayer; and accordingly their experiences are
recorded for our instruction, and their necessities, that we may know
what to pray for, as far as there is an agreement between the account we
have of them, and what we find in ourselves.

2. The word of God, as it is a rule of faith, contains those great
doctrines, without the knowledge whereof, we cannot pray aright. Thus we
have an account in scripture, not only of the Being and perfections of
God, which may be known by the light of nature, but of those glorious
truths which cannot be known but by divine revelation: And,

(1.) Of the personal glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; of the
Father’s giving all spiritual blessings to his people, in and through a
Mediator; and the Son is considered as invested in this office and
character, and, as God incarnate procuring for us, by his obedience and
death, forgiveness of sins, and a right to eternal life. We have also an
account of the Holy Ghost, as being a divine person, and therefore equal
with the Father and Son; yet as subservient to them in his method of
acting, as the application of redemption attains the end of the purchase
thereof, in like manner as the purchase of it was a means to bring about
that _purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world
began_, 2 Tim. i. 9. These doctrines are necessary to direct us in those
things which respect the distinct glory which we are to give to the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the method in which we are to hope for
the blessings which we ask for in prayer. Thus the apostle, speaking of
this duty, supposes that we are acquainted with this doctrine, when he
says, _Through him_, that is, Christ, _we have an access by one Spirit
unto the Father_, Eph. ii. 18.

(2.) In the word of God, we have not only an account of the works of
nature and providence, or God’s being the Creator and Governor of the
world, which we have some knowledge of, in a method of reasoning from
the divine perfections; but we have an account therein of those works
which have an immediate reference to our salvation, and that special
providence in which God expresses a greater regard to the heirs of
salvation than to all the world besides: When we draw nigh to God in
prayer, we are not barely to consider him as the God to whom we owe our
being, as men, but our well-being as christians, delivered from that
ruin which we brought on ourselves, by our apostacy from him; and also,
_what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe,
according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in
Christ, when he raised him from the dead_, chap. i. 18, 19. as the
apostle expresses it in that affectionate prayer put up for the church
at Ephesus. And when we survey the works of providence, we are not
barely to think of God as the Governor of the world in general, but to
consider what have been those special acts of providence, by which he
has governed man before and since the fall, and to consider the first
covenant as made with him in innocency; and the covenant of grace, as
being a dispensation of grace, established in and with Christ, as the
Head of the elect, in order to their being delivered from that state of
sin and misery into which they had brought themselves. These doctrines
will be of use for our direction in prayer, as hereby we are led to
acknowledge our fallen state, what we were by nature, and what we should
have been, had we been left in that state; and hereby we are also led to
adore the riches of God’s grace, as he brings the greatest good to his
saints out of the greatest evil.

(3.) The word of God gives us a distinct account of the offices in which
Christ is invested, as they are suited to the necessities of his people,
which is a means for our direction concerning what we are to ask for,
with a particular relation to each of them, and the hope we have that he
will grant our request. As he is appointed by the Father, to be our High
Priest, to make atonement for sin; our Advocate, to plead our cause; our
Prophet, to lead us in the way of salvation; and our King, to subdue us
to himself, and defend us from the assaults of our spiritual enemies. So
we are, in our prayers, to improve these discoveries which we have
thereof, as a means to direct us in those things which are the
subject-matter both of prayer and praise.

4. The word of God is of use for our direction in prayer, as we have an
account therein of those duties which are to be performed by us as men,
or christians, in every condition of life, and in all those relations
which we stand in to one another. As for that which is matter of duty in
general, or that obedience which we owe to God, this cannot be performed
but by his assistance; which is humbly to be asked in prayer: And
accordingly we are to say as one does, Lord, work in me that which thou
requirest, and then require what thou pleasest. Here we might shew how
all the duties which God has commanded, may be of use to direct us in
prayer: that hereby we may be led to apply ourselves to him, that he
would enable us to perform them; and all the sins forbidden in
scripture, may be of use to instruct us what to deprecate, when we pray
that God would keep us from our own iniquities, and what we are to
confess before him, and implore the forgiveness of; and all those
commands which respect instituted worship, _viz._ our attendance on the
ordinances, or the exercise of various graces therein, in the whole
course of our conversation: These are of use for our direction in
prayer, as hereby we know what to ask for, with relation thereunto; and
particularly as to what concerns the advantage we hope to receive, under
the means of grace, whenever we draw nigh to God in the way which he has

5. As the word of God contains many promises and predictions, together
with their accomplishment, for the encouragement of our faith and hope
in prayer, it is of use to direct us in the performance of this duty. As
for the predictions that are fulfilled, so far as they respect the
blessings which God designed to bestow on his church, they are
equivalent to promises, and we are to take occasion from thence, to
adore and magnify his faithfulness; and hope that whatever remains to be
done for us, or his people in general, shall, in like manner, have its
accomplishment, which will afford matter of encouragement to us in
addressing ourselves to him for it.

The promises which are contained in scripture, are also a motive and
inducement to prayer. These are a declaration of God’s will to give the
blessings, which he sees necessary for us, and therefore are of great
use in order to our performing this duty aright. Thus God gives an
intimation of the great things that he will do for, or bestow upon his
people, when he says, in Jer. xxxi. 33. _I will put my law in their
inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and
they shall be people_: and there are many expressions of the like
nature, which contain the form of a promise. But besides these, there
are others which are equivalent to, and may be applied by us in like
manner as though they were laid down in the same form, as the promises
generally are; as,

(1.) When God is said, in his word, to be able to do his people good, or
bestow some particular blessings upon them, this gives them ground to
conclude, that he will do it, or that his power shall be engaged in
their behalf: Thus God is said, in Jude, ver. 24. to be _able to keep_
them _from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of
his glory with exceeding joy_. And elsewhere it is said, 2 Cor. ix. 8.
that _God is able to make all grace abound towards_ his people, _that_
they _always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every
good work_: This is the same as though it had been said, that he would
do this for them.

(2.) When God is said to glorify any of his perfections in giving those
blessings that his people want, this is also equivalent to a promise:
Thus, in Exod. xxxiv. 4, 6. when _the Lord passed by before Moses, and
proclaimed the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and
abundant in goodness and truth_, &c. it is the same as though he had
said that he would shew mercy to them, since the design thereof is to
encourage them to hope for it.

(3.) Whatever blessings are said to be purchased by Christ as our
Redeemer, or prayed for by him as our Advocate, these may be included in
the number of promised blessings; for they will certainly be applied by
him, who will not lose what he has purchased by his blood, and is never
denied what he asks for.

(4.) The universal experience of believers, relating to the blessings
that accompany salvation, contains the nature, though not the form, of a
promise; and therefore, when this is recorded in scripture, for the
encouragement of others, in all succeeding ages, it is as much to be
applied by us when we are in like circumstances as though it were more
directly promised to us: Thus when God’s faithful servants are said, 1
Pet. i. 5. to be _kept by the power of God, through faith unto
salvation_; or, when the Psalmist says, in Psal. xxxvii. 25. _I have
been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken,
nor his seed begging bread_; these, and such-like expressions, are to be
applied by us as promises.

(5.) That which is proposed to us, or which we are to have in view, as
the end of our attending on ordinances, is equivalent to a promise; and
accordingly, when we are commanded or encouraged to hope and pray for
any spiritual blessings, when waiting upon God therein, in such a way as
he requires, it is the same thing as though he had said, that he would
give us those blessings. If a believer is thirsty, and encouraged to
come to the waters; or if he wants grace or peace, and is told that
these are to be attained in ordinances, the bare intimation that we are
to seek these blessings in such a way is equivalent to a promise.

(6.) God’s seeing our distress or knowing our wants, is sometimes to be
understood in scripture, as containing the nature of a promise, relating
to the supply thereof: Thus our Saviour tells his disciples, in Matt.
vi. 32. _Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these
things_; which is the same as though he had told them, that God had
promised or designed to bestow those outward blessings upon them: And
when he designed, or promised to deliver his people out of the bondage,
in which they were in Egypt, he says, _I have surely seen the affliction
of my people: I know their sorrows_, &c. Exod. iii. 7. Thus concerning
the manner in which the promises are laid down in scripture.

We shall now consider how they are to be made use of in order to our
direction and encouragement in prayer. And here it may be observed, that
the promises either respect outward, or spiritual blessings, both of
which we are to pray for: Thus the apostle says, in 1 Tim. iv. 8.
_Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is
to come_; the former respects the temporal dispensations of providence;
the latter, grace and glory, or the things that accompany salvation.

[1.] We shall consider the promises that respect temporal or outward
blessings which we are obliged to pray for, as we stand in need of them.
These are of various kinds;

_1st_, There are promises of health and strength, whereby our passage
through this world may be made easy and comfortable, and we better
enabled to glorify God therein: Thus it is said, in Prov. iii. 7, 8.
_Fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel,
and marrow to thy bones._ And in Psal. ciii. 5. _Who satisfieth thy
mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagles._

_2dly_, There are promises of food and raiment, or the necessary
provisions and conveniences of life, in Psal. xxxvii. 3. _Trust in the
Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou
shalt be fed._ And in Deut. x. 18. _He doth execute the judgment of the
fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and

_3dly_, There are promises of comfort and peace in our dwellings, in Job
v. 24. ‘Thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou
shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.’ And, in Psal. xci. 10.
‘There shall no evil befal thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy
dwelling.’ And in Psal. cxxi. 8. ‘The Lord shalt preserve thy going out,
and thy coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.’

_4thly_, There are promises of quiet and composed rest by night, on our
beds, in Job xi. 18, 19. _Thou shalt take thy rest in safety: Also thou
shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid._ And in Prov. iii. 24.
_When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie
down, and thy sleep shall be sweet._

_5thly_, There are promises of success, and a blessing to attend us in
our worldly callings, in Psal. cxxviii. 2. _Thou shalt eat the labour of
thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee._ And
in Deut. xxviii. 4, 5, 12. ‘Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and
the fruit of thy ground, the fruit of thy cattle, and the increase of
thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and
thy store. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven
to give the rain unto thy land, in his season, and to bless all the work
of thine hand: And thou shalt lend unto many nations, and shalt not
borrow.’ And in Psal. i. 3. ‘He shall be like a tree, planted by the
rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf
also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.’

_6thly_, There are promises of an intail of blessings on our families,
in Psal. cxxviii. 3. ‘Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine, by the sides
of thine house; thy children like olive-plants round about thy table.’
And, in Psal. ciii. 17. ‘The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to
everlasting, upon them that fear him; and his righteousness unto
children’s children.’ And, in Psal. cii. 28. ‘The children of thy
servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before
thee.’ And, in Psal. xlv. 16. ‘Instead of thy fathers shall be thy
children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.’

I might have mentioned many more promises of outward blessings, which
God will bestow on his people, though with this limitation, so far as it
may be for his glory, and their real good, viz. such as respect riches,
as in Psal. cxii. 3. ‘Wealth and riches shall be in his house; and his
righteousness endureth for ever;’ or honours, as in 1 Sam. ii. 30. and
these accompanied with long life; as, in Prov. iii. 17. ‘Length of days
are in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.’ And, in
Psal. xxxiv. 12, 13. ‘What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many
days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from
speaking guile;’ or, if God does not think fit to give them this, he
will take them out of the world in mercy, and gather them into a better,
to prevent their seeing the evil he designs to bring on the inhabitants
thereof, Isa. lvii. 1. ‘The righteous is taken away from the evil to
come.’ He has also promised some blessings that respect their good name,
in Zeph. iii. 20. ‘I will make you a name and a praise among all people
of the earth.’ And in Prov. x. 7. ‘The memory of the just is blessed.’
But that which I shall principally add concerning these and such-like
outward blessings, is, that God has not only promised, that he will give
them to his people, but that he will sanctify them to them for their
spiritual advantage, and enable them to improve them aright to his
glory, which will render them more sweet and desirable to them. Thus God
has promised,

_1st_, That he will free his people, who enjoy outward good things, from
the sorrow which is oftentimes mixed therewith, and tends greatly to
imbitter them, in Prov. x. 22. ‘The blessing of the Lord maketh rich,
and he addeth no sorrow with it.’ He has also promised to give them
inward peace, together with outward prosperity, in Psal. xxxvii. 11.
‘The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the
abundance of peace.’

_2dly_, He has promised to give them spiritual and heavenly blessings,
together with the good things of this life, in Job xxii. 24-26. ‘Thou
shalt lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the
brooks. Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have
plenty of silver: For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty,
and shalt lift up thy face unto God.’ And in Psal. xxiii. 5, 6. ‘Thou
preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou
anointest mine head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and
mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will, or, I shall,
dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’

_3dly_, God has promised together with outward blessings, to give a
thankful heart, whereby his people may be enabled to give him the glory
thereof, in Deut. viii. 10. ‘When thou hast eaten and art full, then
thou shalt bless the Lord thy God, for the good land which he hath given
thee.’ And, in Joel ii. 26. ‘Ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously
with you; and my people shall never be ashamed.’

_4thly_, He has not only promised that he will confer outward good
things on his people, but that he will make them blessings to others,
and thereby enable them to lay out what he gives them for their good, to
support his cause and gospel in the world; and to relieve those that are
in distress, in Gen. xii. 2. ‘I will bless thee, and make thy name
great; and thou shalt be a blessing.’ And, in Deut. xxvi. 11. ‘Thou
shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto
thee and unto thine house, thou and the Levite, and the stranger that is
among you.’ These promises more especially respect those who are in a
prosperous condition in the world.

But there are others which are made to believers, in an afflicted state;
and, indeed, there is scarce any affliction which they are liable to,
but what has some special promises annexed to it. Accordingly,

(1.) There are promises made to them when lying on a sick bed, in Psal.
xli. 5. ‘The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou
wilt make all his bed in his sickness.’ And, in Deut. vii. 15. ‘The Lord
will take from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases
of Egypt (which thou knowest) upon thee; but will lay them upon all that
hate thee.’ And, in Exod. xxiii. 25. ‘I will take sickness away from the
midst of thee.’

(2.) There are other promises made to believers, when poor and low in
this world, in Psal. cxxxii. 15. ‘I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.’

(3.) There are other promises that respect God’s giving a full
compensation for all the losses which his people have sustained for
Christ’s sake, in Matt. xix. 29. ‘Every one that hath forsaken houses,
or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or
lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall
inherit life everlasting.’ And, in chap. x. 39. ‘He that findeth his
life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my name’s sake shall
find it.’

(4.) There are other promises made to believers under oppression, in
Psal. xii. 5. ‘For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the
needy, now will I arise (saith the Lord) I will set him in safety from
him that puffeth at him.’ And in Hos. xiv. 3. ‘In thee the fatherless
findeth mercy.’ And, in Psal. lxviii. 5. ‘A father of the fatherless,
and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.’

(5.) There are other promises made to believers, when reviled and
persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Matt. v. 11, 12, ‘Blessed are ye
when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner
of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad;
for great is your reward in heaven.’ And, in 1 Pet. iv. 19. ‘Wherefore
let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of
their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.’

(6.) There are promises made to God’s people, when they are in distress,
and, at present, see no way of escape: Thus when Jeremiah was shut up in
the court of the prison, he had this promise given him, in Jer. xxxiii.
3. ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty
things, which thou knowest not.’

(7.) God has made promises suited to the condition of his people, when
their lot is cast in perilous times: Thus it is said, in Isa. xliii. 2.
_When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through
the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: When thou walkest through the
fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon

Now there are several mercies which God has promised to his people,
under the various afflictions which we are exposed to, as,

(_1st_,) Sometimes he promises to prevent the afflictions which we are
most afraid of, in Psal. cxxi. 7. ‘The Lord shall preserve thee from all
evils; he shall preserve thy soul.’ And, in Job v. 19. ‘He shall deliver
thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.’

(_2d_,) He has promised to preserve his people from, or defend them in,
a time of trouble, in Gen. xv. 1. ‘Fear not Abram: I am thy shield, and
thy exceeding great reward.’ And, in Ezek. xi. 16. ‘Thus saith the Lord;
although I have cast them far off among the heathen; and although I have
scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them a little
sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.’

(_3d_,) He has promised to moderate their afflictions, in Isa. xxvii. 8.
‘In measure when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it; he stayeth
his rough wind in the day of his east wind.’ And, in Jer. xlvi. 28.
‘Fear thou not, O Jacob, my servant, saith the Lord, for I am with thee,
for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven
thee, but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in
measure; yet I will not leave thee wholly unpunished.’

(_4th_,) He has also promised, that if need be, he will shorten the
affliction, in Psal. cxxv. 3. ‘The rod of the wicked shall not rest upon
the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto
iniquity.’ And, in Mark xiii. 19, 20. ‘In those days shall be affliction
such as was not from the beginning of the creation: And except that the
Lord had shortened those days, no flesh could be saved; but for the
elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.’

(_5th_,) God has also promised his people that he will enable them to
bear those afflictions which he lays upon them, in Psal. xxxvii. 24.
‘Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord
upholdeth him with his hand.’ And, in 2 Cor. xii. 9. ‘He said unto me,
My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in

(_6th._) He has promised to shew his people the particular sin that is
the cause of the affliction, that they may be humbled for it, in Job
xxxvi. 8, 9. ‘If they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of
affliction; then he sheweth them their work and their transgressions
that they have exceeded.’

(_7th._) He has promised to bring good to them out of their afflictions,
in Isa. xxvii. 9. ‘By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be
purged, and this is all the fruit to take away his sin.’ And in Psal.
xcvii. 11. ‘light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the
upright in heart.’ And in Zech. xiii. 9. ‘I will bring the third part
through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will
try them as gold is tried: They shall call on my name, and I will hear
them: I will say, that it is my people; and they shall say, Thou art my
God.’ Thus concerning the promises that more especially respect outward
blessings which God bestows on his people.

[2.] There are other promises contained in scripture, that relate more
especially to spiritual blessings, which are of great use to us, when we
are asking them of God in prayer.

_1st_, There are promises that relate more especially to the ordinances
or means of grace: These are various,

1. Some respect the duty of prayer, and also the event and success that
shall attend it, in God’s giving gracious returns, or answers thereof,
in Psal. xci. 15. ‘He shall call upon me, and I will answer him.’ And in
Jer. xxix. 12, 13. ‘Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray
unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me,
when ye shall search for me with all your heart.’ And, in Psal. l. 15.
‘Call upon me, in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou
shalt glorify me.’

2. Another ordinance to which promises are also annexed, is meditation
about spiritual things, in Prov. xiv. 22. ‘Mercy and truth shall be to
them that devise good.’ And, in Josh. i. 8. ‘This book of the law shall
not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and
night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written
therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou
shalt have good success.’ There are also promises made to those who read
the word of God, to wit, that he will make known his words to them, so
that they may understand them, Prov. i. 23. ‘Turn you at my reproof:
Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words
unto you.’

3. There are promises made to those who attend on the public worship of
God, in Psal. xxxvi. 8, 9. ‘They shall be abundantly satisfied with the
fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy
pleasures.’ And, in Psal. cxxviii. 5. ‘The Lord shall bless thee out of
Zion; and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy

4. There are promises made to religious fasting on special occasions, as
in Mat. vi. 17. ‘When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy
face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which
is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee

5. There are promises made to alms-giving, in Prov. xi. 25. ‘The liberal
soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also
himself.’ And, in Eccl. xi. 1. ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou
shalt find it after many days.’—And in 2 Cor. ix. 6, 7, 8. ‘He which
soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully: God loveth a cheerful
giver, and is able to make all grace abound, _&c._’

6. There are promises made to believers, when they appear in the behalf
of truth, at those times when it is opposed and perverted, that by this
means it may not be run down, nor they confounded, or put to silence by
its enemies, Luke xxi. 15. ‘I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which
all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay, nor resist.’

7. There are promises made to the religious and strict observation and
sanctification of the Lord’s day, Isa. lvi. 2. ‘Blessed is the man that
doth this; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his
hand from doing any evil.’

_2dly_, There are promises, contained in scripture, which respect God’s
giving his people special grace, together with that joy, peace and
comfort that flows from it, which will be of great use to them, in order
to their engaging aright in the duty of prayer.

1. There are promises of the grace of faith, and others that are made to
it; as it is said, in John vi. 37. ‘All that the Father giveth to me
shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’
And, in Eph. ii. 8. ‘By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not
of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’

2. There are promises of the grace of repentance, in Rom. xi. 26. ‘There
shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness
from Jacob.’ And, in Ezek. xx. 43. ‘Ye shall remember your ways, and all
your doings, wherein ye have been defiled, and ye shall lothe yourselves
in your own sight, for all your evils that ye have committed.’

3. There are promises of love to God: Thus in Gal. v. 2. ‘The fruit of
the Spirit is love.’ And, 2 Tim. i. 7. ‘God hath not given us the spirit
of fear, but of power and love, and of a sound mind.’ And, in Rom. v. 5.
‘Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our
hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’ And, in 2 Thes. iii.
5. ‘The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the
patient waiting for Christ.’

4. Another grace promised is an holy filial fear of God, in Jer. xxx.
39, 40. ‘I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear
them for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn
away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts,
that they shall not depart from me.’ And, in Hos. iii. 5. ‘They shall
fear the Lord and his goodness.’

5. Obedience to God’s commands, which is an indispensable duty, is also
considered as a promised blessing, in Deut. xxx. 8. ‘Thou shalt return
and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I
command thee this day.’

Moreover, as there are promises of the graces of the Spirit, so the
comforts that flow from thence are also promised: Thus it is said in
Isa. li. 12. _I, even I, am he that comforteth you._ And, in chap. xl.
1. _Comfort ye, comfort ye my people: Speak ye comfortably to
Jerusalem_, &c. more particularly,

(1.) There are promises of peace of conscience, which is a great branch
of those spiritual comforts which God gives his people ground to expect:
Thus it is said in Isa. lvii. 18, 19. ‘I will restore comforts unto him,
and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; peace, peace to him
that is afar off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord.’ And, in
chap. xxvi. 4. ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is
stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee.’

(2.) God has promised a good hope of eternal life, in 2 Thes. ii. 16.
‘Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, who hath
loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope
through grace, comfort your hearts.’ And, in Rom. xv. 4. ‘Whatsoever
things were written aforetime were written for our learning; that we
through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.’

(3.) God has promised spiritual joy to his people, in Psal. lxiv. 10.
‘The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and
all the upright in heart shall glory.’ And, in Psal. xcvii. 11, 12.
‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of
his holiness.’

Here we shall consider a believer, when drawing nigh to God in prayer,
as depressed and bowed in his own spirit, and hardly able to speak a
word to him in his own behalf, as the Psalmist says, in Psal. lxxvii. 3,
4. _I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed. I am so troubled that I
cannot speak_; and how he may receive great advantage from those
promises which he will find in the word of God; as,

(_1st_,) When he complains of the wickedness, hardness and perverseness
of his heart; in this case God has promised, in Ezek. xi. 19. ‘I will
put a new spirit within you, and I will take the stony heart out of your
flesh, and will give you an heart of flesh.’ And, in Jer. xxiii. 29. ‘Is
not my word like a fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh
the rock in pieces.’

(_2d_,) When a believer is sensible of his ignorance, or, at least, that
his knowledge of divine truths bears no proportion to the means of
grace, which he has been favoured with, and that he is often destitute
of spiritual wisdom, to direct his way, and carry him through the
difficulties he often meets with, as to what concerns his temporal or
spiritual affairs: There are promises suited to this case, in Prov. ii.
3-6. ‘If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for
understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her, as
for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord; and
find the knowledge of God.’ And in James i. 5. ‘If any of you lack
wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and
upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’

(_3d_,) If they complain of the weakness of their memories, that they
cannot retain the truths of God when they hear them; Christ has
promised, in John xiv. 26. that the Holy Ghost shall _teach_ them _all
things, and bring all things to their remembrance_.

(_4th_,) If they complain of their unthankfulness, or that they have not
hearts disposed to praise God for the mercies they receive, he has
promised, in Isa. 21. _This people have I formed for myself, they shall
shew forth my praise._ And, in Psal. cxl. 14. _Surely the righteous
shall give thanks unto thy name, the upright shall dwell in thy

(_5th_,) There are many who are not altogether destitute of hope that
they have the truth of grace, but yet are filled with trouble, as
apprehending that they do not make those advances, in grace, as they
ought, but seem to be at a stand, which they can reckon little other
than going backward, and they dread the consequences thereof; such may
take encouragement from those promises that respect a believer’s growing
in grace; as it is said, in John viii. 7. _Though thy beginning was
small, yet thy latter end shall greatly increase._ And, in Isa. xl. 29,
31. _He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he
increaseth strength. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and
not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint._ And if they complain
of their unprofitableness under the means of grace, and not receiving
any spiritual advantage by the various dispensations of providence which
they are under; there is a promise adapted to this case, in Isa. xlviii.
17. _Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer, the holy One of Israel, I am the
Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the
way that thou shouldest go._

(_6th_) Are they afraid that they shall fall away after having made a
long profession of religion? There is a promise which our Saviour
himself took encouragement from, though never liable to any fear of this
nature, which a believer may apply to himself, as affording relief
against these fears and discouragements, in Psal. xvi. 8. ‘I have set
the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not
be moved.’ And there is another which is more directly applicable to
this case, in 1 Cor. i. 8. ‘Who shall also confirm you unto the end that
ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ And if he is
fallen, and, at the same time, afraid that he shall never be able to
rise again, and recover what he has lost, there is another promise in
Psal. xxxvi. 24, 28. ‘Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. The Lord loveth judgment, and
forsaketh not his saints:’ And God also says, in Heb. xiii. 5. ‘I will
never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’

(_7th_,) If a believer be under divine desertion, which he may be, and
yet kept from apostacy; if he is mourning after the Lord, and earnestly
desiring that he would return to him; he may take encouragement from
that promise in Psal. xlii. 5. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul; and
why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise
him for the help of his countenance.’ And, in Jer. xxxi. 13, 14. ‘Then
shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together:
For I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make
them rejoice from their sorrow. And I will satiate the soul of the
priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
saith the Lord.’

(_8th_,) Is he cast down under a sense of the guilt of sin, and afraid
of the punishment that will ensue? there are many promises in the word
of God that respect the forgiveness of sin, in Psal. ciii. 3. ‘Who
forgiveth all thine iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases.’ And, in
Psal. cxxx. 4. ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayst be
feared.’ And, in Isa. xliii. 25. ‘I, even I am he that blotteth out thy
transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.’

(_9th_,) Is a believer afraid of the last enemy, death, by reason of the
_fear_ whereof _he is all his life-time subject to bondage_: Heb. ii.
15. and Psal. xlviii. 14. ‘This God is our God for ever and ever; he
will be our guide even unto death.’ And, in Psal. xxiii. 4. ‘Yea, though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’ And, in
Psal. xxxvii. 37. ‘Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the
end of that man is peace.’ Thus we have considered the promises of God
as suited to every condition, and, consequently, as affording matter of
encouragement to us in drawing nigh to him in prayer.

5. Those reproofs for sins committed, and threatenings which are
contained in the word of God, as a means to deter from committing them,
may be improved for our direction in prayer.

(1.) As we are hereby induced to hate sin, beg strength to subdue and
mortify it, and deprecate the wrath and judgments of God against those
that commit it.

(2.) We are hereby led to see our desert of punishment, while we confess
ourselves to be sinners, and to bless God that he has not inflicted it
upon us; but especially if he has given us ground of hope that he has
delivered us from that condemnation which was due to us for sin.

(3.) They will be of use to us in prayer, as we are thereby led to have
an awful sense of the holiness and justice of God, and to draw nigh to
him with fear and trembling, lest we should provoke his wrath by our
unbecoming behaviour in his presence, and thereby bring on ourselves a
curse instead of a blessing.

6. The word of God is of use for our direction in prayer, as it contains
many examples of the performance of this duty in a right manner by the
saints, whose graces, and the manner in which they have drawn nigh to
God, are proposed for our imitation in this duty: Thus we read of
Jacob’s wrestling with God, and his great importunity, when it is said,
in Hos. xii. 4. ‘He had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept and
made supplication unto him;’ as referring to what is mentioned in Gen.
xxxii. 26, 28. ‘The angel,’ that is, Christ, says, ‘let me go, for the
day breaketh,’ _q. d._ cease thy importunity, which thou hast maintained
to the breaking of the day; during which time I have given thee no
encouragement that I will grant thy request. Jacob persists in his
resolution, and says, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me;’
that is, I will not leave off importuning thee, till thou givest me a
gracious answer: Upon which, our Saviour says, ‘as a prince hast thou
power with God,’ that is, with me, ‘and with men,’ to wit, with Esau thy
brother, ‘and hast prevailed:’ So that he shall do thee no hurt, in ver.
28. but his heart shall be turned toward thee.

Again, we read of Abraham’s humility in prayer, when he says, in Gen.
xviii. 27. ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord,
which am but dust and ashes.’ And, in ver. 30. ‘Oh! let not the Lord be
angry, and I will speak.’

We also read of David’s sincerity, in Psal. xvii. 1. ‘Attend unto my
cry, give ear unto my prayer that goeth not out of feigned lips;’ and of
Hezekiah’s addressing himself to God with tears in his sickness; upon
which, he immediately received a gracious answer, in Isa. xxxviii 3, 5.
and when he was recovered, he gives praise to God, in ver. 19. ‘The
living, the living, he shall praise thee as I do this day: The Father to
the children shall make known thy truth.’

We have an instance of Jonah’s faith in prayer, when his disobedience to
the divine command, had brought him into the utmost distress, in Jonah
ii. 2, 4. ‘Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet will I look again toward
thy holy temple.’

We have also an instance of Daniel’s drawing nigh to God with an
uncommon reverence, and awful fear of his divine Majesty, and an account
of the manner in which he addresses himself to him, with confession of
those sins which Israel had been guilty of, in Dan. ix. 4, 5. ‘I prayed
unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the
great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant, and mercy to them that
love him, and to them that keep his commandments: We have sinned, and
committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by
departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgments.’ And we have this
humble confession and supplication, continued to ver. 19. and then an
account of the success thereof, in the gracious answer that God sent him
by an angel from heaven.

We also read of Joshua’s interceding for Israel, when he ‘fell upon his
face before the ark of the Lord, with his clothes rent,’ Josh. vii. 6.
and we have the plea that he makes use of in ver. 9. ‘What wilt thou do
unto thy great name.’

We have also an instance of fervency in Moses, (when pleading for the
people, after they had worshipped the golden calf,) who prefers God’s
glory to his own happiness; and had rather have no name in the church,
or be _blotted out of the book which_ God had _written_, than that his
_wrath_ should _wax hot against Israel, to consume them_; of which we
have an account in Exod. xxxiii. 10, 11, 31, 32.[110]

There are many other instances of this nature mentioned in scripture;
which, for brevity sake, I pass over; and, indeed, the whole book of the
Lamentations is of use to direct us in prayer, under pressing
afflictions, either feared or undergone; and the book of Psalms is a
directory for prayer to the believer, suited to every condition which he
may be supposed to be in, and of praise for mercies of all kinds,
whether temporal or spiritual. And the same may be said of many other
parts of scripture.

From what has been said concerning the word of God being a direction to
us in prayer, we may infer,

(1.) That, as reading the scriptures in our families and closets, is a
great help to raise our affections, and bring us into a praying frame:
So the application of scripture-doctrines and examples to our own case,
will supply us with fit matter and expressions upon all occasions, when
we draw nigh to God in this duty.

(2.) The pretence of some that they know not how to pray, or that they
cannot do it without a prescribed form, arises, for the most part, from
an unacquaintedness with, or a neglect to study the scriptures, to
answer this end.

(3.) Since the word of God is a directory for prayer, we ought not to
affect modes of expression, or human strains of rhetoric, which are not
deduced from, or agreeable to scripture; but, on the other hand, we are
to use such a simplicity of style, and spirituality of expression, as we
find contained therein; especially in those parts thereof, as are more
directly subservient to this duty.

(4.) It will be of very great use for us sometimes, in the course of our
reading scripture, especially in private, to turn what we read into
prayer, though it do not contain in itself the form of a prayer; as when
we read of the presumptuous sins committed by some, and the visible
marks of God’s displeasure that ensued hereupon, we ought to lift up our
hearts to him, to keep us from them; or, if we have reason to charge
ourselves as guilty of them, that we may be humbled, and obtain
forgiveness from him. And when we read, the excellent characters of some
of the saints, in scripture, we ought to pray that God would enable us
to be followers of them herein; or when, in some parts thereof,
believers are represented as praying for particular mercies, we ought,
at the same time, to lift up our hearts to God for the same: This will
be a means, not only to furnish us with matter and proper expressions in
prayer; but to excite our affections when we engage in this duty, in
those stated times which are set apart for it. This leads us to

III. That there is a special rule of direction contained in that form of
prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called _the Lord’s
prayer_. This prayer is mentioned only by two of the evangelists, _viz._
Matthew, in chap. vi. 8,—13. and Luke, in chap. xi. 2, 3, 4. in which we
may observe, that though there be a perfect harmony between them, as
there is between all other parts of scripture, as to the matter or sense
of them; yet it is obvious to all who compare them together, that there
is some difference as to the mode of expression; particularly as to the
_fourth_ and _fifth_ petition, (and that not only in the translation, as
being sufficiently just, but in the original) which there would not have
been, had it been designed for a form of prayer.

1. In the fourth petition, Luke teaches us to say, _Give us day by day
our daily bread_: W