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as serving him: and the Apostle affords the strongest confirmation that this is the sense of the passage, and that he means we should bring forth good works, as the fruit of repentance, by another passage, in which he uses the same expression (Heb. vi. 1): Therefore, leaving the PRINCIPLES of the doctrine of Christ (says he ; that is, not always dwelling on them as the cause, which we fully acknowledge, and take for granted every Christian believes), let us go on unto perfection ; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God; that is, not always talking about these principles, but showing the effect of them in our lives and conversation; or, as he declares the same thing, Heb. iii. 13, 14, But this one thing do; forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto the things that are before, I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ; that is to say, I strive to give proof of my calling. In truth, what possibly can we understand by perfection, but improving in holiness, in opposition to dead works, which is living in sin? As God, then, hath exalted Christ, my brethren, to give repentance to his people, let us be earnest to obtain this glorious privilege of the Gospel, and make our prayer unto God, to give us true repentance for all our past offences-let us purpose, by his help, to lead a new life, walking in his commandments for the rest of
our days let us take comfort in the declaration of the Lord, by the mouth of his Prophet Ezekiel (xviii. 21, and following verses), that, if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die: all his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him; in his righteousness that he hath done, he shall live; for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live-repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. To this end, let us constantly supplicate, Turn thou us, O Lord, and so shall we be turned: and, as the conclusion of the whole matter, let us pray for grace to fear God and keep his commandments-for this is the whole duty of man. Now to God, &c.
PHILIPPIANS, IV. 13.
I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.
THE next question that presents itself in the order of our Church Catechism, and which, according to the plan I have formed for your instruction, I am to examine at this time, is contained in these words: "Dost thou not think "that thou art bound to believe and to do as they "have promised for thee?" To which the answer is direct and clear, and perfectly consistent with a true Christian principle: "Yes, verily (or truly), and by God's help so I will."
In the spirit of this question and reply, it is very evident the obligation is now removed from the sponsors, or godfathers and godmothers, to the party for whom they were sureties, who here publicly and positively consent to take all that has been before proposed and explained, upon themselves. But this they do not presumptuously and inconsiderately, from any vain reliance on their own independent power, from which they are guarded by the humble and becoming application to God for grace to enable
them so to do, in the reply of-" Yes, verily, "and by God's help (or grace) so I will." And that they may obtain a clearer notion through what means they can alone arrive at a title to God's help, the Catechism most judiciously proceeds in the further acknowledgment of God's goodness, and a declaration of that article of our Christian faith, which supplies the only support that a weak, sinful, and imperfect creature can depend upon for assistance; viz. " And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he "hath called me to this state of salvation through "Jesus Christ our Saviour." These words, my brethren, contain the whole substance of a Christian's faith; and they will afford abundant subject for a Discourse, or Lecture, on this part of the Catechism. Here, then, we may observe, that the first honour (as is most becoming) is paid to God (the first Person in the undivided Trinity), as the Supreme Father, the original fountain of all wisdom and goodness. We here disclaim all sufficiency in ourselves to fulfil the good promises made for us, without the help of Christ our Lord and Saviour. We are conscious, that, unless he is with us, we can do nothing strictly acceptable to God; but that, as we are indebted to him for animal life and preservation, so we must derive all spiritual life and assistance from the same divine source: for, without him, instead of believing and doing as is expected
from us, and promised on our behalf, and which we now engage to perform ourselves, we shall be inclined to neither of these duties, but sink deeper into infidelity and sin every hour of our lives, from the carnal propensity of our depraved nature, left to itself, and the malice of an inveterate enemy, whose chief study is our eternal ruin.
Having acknowledged from whence alone our help can flow, it seems matter of reasonable inquiry, why, or on what grounds, we think ourselves bound, or under a necessity, to act as Christians, i. e. to make good what was promised for us at our baptism. Now, the reasons that compel us to fulfil these obligations, are very plain: first, Because what was then promised, was not only in our name, but for our advantage; secondly, It is necessary to keep the engagement then made for us, otherwise we cannot expect the blessings which, in consequence of our fidelity, God has been graciously pleased to promise us; and, thirdly, because God requires these things of us, as a positive duty, and also that our very best interest is concerned in obeying him. And, to bind this confession in the most solemn manner, we are early taught to ratify, or renew, that is, again to make the promises and vows in our own persons, which were made for us in the early state of our