Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

cessary to baptism, will not also serve to a man's state of salvation?6. The baptismal covenant of grace therefore is the essential part of the Gospel, and of the Christian religion; and all the rest are integrals, and accidents or adjuncts. 7. This covenant containeth, I. Objectively, 1. Things true as such, 2. Things good as such, 3. Things practicable or to be done, as such: the 'Credenda, Diligenda, (et Eligenda) et Agenda;' as the objects of man's intellect, will, and practical power. The 'Credenda' or things to be known and believed are, 1. God as God, and our God and Father, 2. Christ as the Saviour, and our Saviour, 3. The Holy Ghost as such, and as the Sanctifier and our Sanctifier (as to the offer of these relations in the covenant). The ' Diligenda' are the same three persons in these three relations as good in themselves and unto us, which includeth the grand benefits of reconciliation and adoption, justification, and sanctification, and salvation. The 'Agenda' in the time of baptism that make us Christians, are 1. The actual dedition, resignation or dedication of ourselves, to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in these relations. 2. A promise or vow to endeavour faithfully to live according to our undertaken relations (though not in perfection); that is, as creatures to their Creator, and their reconciled God and Father; as Christians to their Redeemer, their Teacher, their Ruler, and their Saviour; and as willing receivers of the sanctifying and comforting operations of the Holy Spirit. II. The objects tell you what the acts must be on our part; 1. With the understanding, to know and believe; 2. With the will to love, choose, desire, and resolve; and 3. Practically to deliver up ourselves for the present, and to promise for the time to come. These are the essentials of the Christian religion. 8. The creed is a larger explication of the' credenda,'and the Lord's prayer of the' diligenda,' or things to be willed, desired, and hoped for; and the decalogue of the natural part of the 'agenda.' 9. Suffer not your own ignorance, or the Papists'cheats to confound the question, about fundamentals, as to the matter, and as to the expressing words. It is one thing to ask, What is the matter essential to Christianity? And another, What words, symbols, or sentences are essential to it? To the first, I have now answered you. To the second I say, 1. Taking the Christian religion as it is, an extrinsic doctrine ' in signis,' so the essence of it is, words and signs expressive or significant of the material essence. That they be such in specie is all that is essential. And if they say, 'But which be those words V I answer, 2. That no particular words in the world are essential to the Christian religion. For, (1.) No one language is essential to it. It is not necessary to salvation that you be baptized, or learn the creed or Scriptures, in Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin, or English, so you learn it in any language understood. (2.) It is not necessary to salvation that you use the same words in the same language, as long as it hath more words than one to express the same thing by. (3.) It is not necessary to salvation, that we use the same (or any one single) form, method, or order of words, as they are in the creeds without alteration. And therefore while the ancients did tenaciously cleave to the same symbol or creed, yet they used various words to express it byf. (As may be seen in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Ruffin elsewhere cited by me, so that it is plain, that by the same symbol they meant the same matter, though expressed in some variety of words.) Though they avoided such variety as might introduce variety of sense and matter. 10. Words being needful, 1. To make a learner understand; 2. To tell another what he understandeth; it followeth that the great variety of men's capacities maketh a great variation in the necessity of words or forms. An Englishman must have them in English, and a Frenchman in French. An understanding man may receive all the essentials in a few words: but an ignorant man must have many words to make him understand the matter. To him that understandeth them, the words of the baptismal covenant express all the essentials of Christianity: but to him that understands them not, the creed is necessary for the explication: and to him that understandeth not that, a catechism, or larger exposition is necessary. This is the plain explication of this question, which many Papists seem loath to understand.

'See the Appendix to my Reformed Pastor.

Quest, cxxxix. What is the use and authority of the creed? And is it of the apostles' framing or not? And is it the Word of God, or not? Answ. 1. The use of the creed is, to be a plain explication of the faith professed in the baptismal covenant. 1. For the fuller instruction of the duller sort, and those that had not preparatory knowledge, and could not sufficiently understand the meaning of the three articles of the covenant, what it is to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost without more words. 2. And for the satisfaction of the church, that indeed men understood what they did in baptism, and professed to believe. 2. The creed is the Word of God, as to all the doctrine or matter of it, whatever it be as to the order and composition of words. 3. That is oft by the ancients called the apostles', which containeth the matter derived by the apostles, though not in a form of words compiled by them. 4. It is certain that all the words now in our creed, were not put in by the apostles, 1. Because some of them were not in, till long after their days. 2. Because the ancient 'formulae' agree not in words among themselvess.

5. It is not to be doubted of, but that apostles did appoint and use a creed commonly in their days. And that it is the same with that which is now called the apostles' and the Nicene in the main; but not just the same composure of words, nor had they any such precise composure as can be proved. But this much is easily provable;— (1.) That Christ composed a creed when he made his covenant, and instituted baptism, Matt, xxviii. 19. (2.) That in the Jewish church, where men were educated in the knowledge of the Scriptures, and expectation of the Messiah, it was supposed that the people had so much preparatory knowledge, as made them the more capable of baptism, as soon as they did but seriously profess to be* Vid. Usher and Vossium de Symbolis.

lieve, and consent to the terms of the covenant; and therefore they were presently baptized, Acts ii. 38—40. (3.) That this could not be rationally supposed among the Gentiles, and common, ignorant people of the world. And 'ignorantis non est consensus.' He doth not covenant who understandeth not the covenant, as to what is promised him, and what he promiseth. (4.) That the apostles baptized, and caused others to baptize many thousands, and settle many churches, before any part of the New Testament was written, even many and many years. (5.) That the apostles did their work as well and better than any that succeeded them. (6.) That their successors in the common ministry, did as far as any church history leadeth us up, instruct and catechise men in the meaning of the baptismal covenant, (which is the Christian faith,) before they baptized them: yea, they kept them long in the state of catechumens usually, before they would baptize them. And after baptized but twice a year, at Easter and Whitsuntide, (as our liturgy noteth). And they received an account of their tolerable understanding of religion, before they would receive them into the church. (7.) No doubt then but the apostles did cause the baptizable to understand the three articles of Christ's own creed and covenant, and to give some account of it before they baptized them, ordinarily among the Gentiles. (8.) No doubt therefore but they used many more explicatory words, to cause them to understand those few. (9.) There is neither proof nor probability, that they used a composition of just the same words, and no more or less: because they had to do with persons of several capacities, some knowing, who needed fewer words, and some ignorant and dull, who needed more: nor is any such composition come down to our hands'1.

(10.) But it is more than probable, that the matter opened by them to all the catechumens was still the same, when the words were not the same. For God's promises and man's conditions are still the same, (where the Gospel cometh). Though since by the occasion of heresies, some few material clauses are inserted. For all Christians had one Christianity, and must go one way to heaven, (11.) It is also more than probable, that they did not needlessly vary the words, lest it should teach men to vary the matter: but that all Christians before baptism, did make the same profession of faith as to the sense, and very much the same as to the very words; using necessary caution, and yet avoiding unnecessary preciseness of formality: but so as to obviate damnable heresies, that the Christian profession might attain its ends. (12.) Lastly, no doubt but this practice of the apostles was exemplary, and imitated by the churches, and that thus the essentials of religion were, by the tradition of the creed and baptism, delivered by themselves, as far as Christianity went, long before any book of the New Testament was written: and every Christian was an impress, or transcript, or specimen of it'. And that the following churches using the same creed, (wholly in sense, and mostly in words,) might so far well call it the apostles' creed: as they did both the Western and the Nicene.

u Heb. v. n, i2. vi. 1—3. VOL. v. MM

Quest, Cxl. What is the use of catechisms?Answ. To be a more familiar explication of the essentials of Christianity, and the principal integrals, in a larger manner than the creed, Lord's prayer, and decalogue do; that the ignorant may the more easily understand it. Every man cannot gather out of the Scripture the greatest matters in the true method, as distinct from all the rest: and therefore it is part of the work of the church's teachers, to do it to the hands and use of the ignorant.

Quest, exLi. Could any of us have known by the Scriptures alone, the essentials of religion from the rest, if tradition had not given them to us in the creed, as from apostolical collection?Answ. Yes: for the Scripture itself telleth us what is necessary to salvation: it describeth to us the covenant of grace, both promises and conditions: and it were strange if

t Tim. i. 13. 2 Cor. iii. J, 3. 7. Heb. viii. 10. x. 16.

« AnteriorContinuar »