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1 Tim. iii. 9.

Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.

THAT which was the Apostle's practice, as he expresses it, 1 Cor. ix. 22, is the standing duty of all the ministers of the same Gospel; To the weak to become as weak, to gain the weak, and all things to all men, that if by any means they may save some. And truly, one main part of the observance of that rule, is, in descending to the instruction of the most ignorant in the principles of the Christian religion. · What I aim at, at this time, is, a very brief and plain exposition of the Articles of our Faith, as we have them in that summary Confession; not staying you at all on the antiquity and authority of it, both of which are confessed. Whether it was penned by the Apostles, or by others in their time, or soon after it, it doth

very clearly and briefly contain the main of their Divine doctrine.

But though it be altogether consonant with the Scriptures, yet, not being a part of the canon of them, I choose these words as pertinent to our intended explication of it. They are, indeed, here, as they stand in the context, a rule for deacons ; but without question, taken in general, they express the great duty of all who are Christians, to keep the mystery of faith, in a pure conscience.



You see clearly in them a rich jewel, and a precious cabinet fit for it; the mystery of faith laid up and kept in a pure conscience. And these two are not only suitable, but inseparable, as we see in the first chapter of this Epistle, ver. 10: they are preserved and lost together, they suffer the same shipwreck; the casting away of the one, is the shipwreck of the other: if the one perish, the other cannot escape. Every believer is the temple of God; and as the tables of the Law were kept in the Ark, this pure conscience is the Ark that holds the mystery of faith. You think you are believers, you do not question that, and would take it ill that others should. It is very hard to convince men of unbelief, directly and in itself. But if you do believe this truth, that the only receptacle of saving faith, is, a purified conscience, then, I beseech you, question yourselves concerning that: being truly answered in it, it will resolve you touching your faith, which you are so loth to question in itself. Are your consciences pure? Have you a living hatred and antipathy against all impurity? Then, surely, faith is there ; for it is the peculiar virtue of faith to purify the heart, (Acts xv. 9.) and the heart so purified, is the proper residence of faith, where it dwells and rests as in its natural place. But have you consciences that can lodge pride, and lust, and malice, and covetousness, and such like pollutions ? Then, be no more so impudent as to say, you believe, nor deceive yourselves so far as to think you do. The blood of Christ never speaks peace to any conscience but the same that it purifies from dead works to serve the living God. Heb. ix. 13, 14. As that blood is a sacrifice to appease God's wrath, so, it is a laver to wash our souls; and, to serve both ends, it is, as was the blood of legal sacrifices, both offered up to God and sprinkled upon us, as both are expressed in the. Apostle's words there. Do not think that God will throw this jewel of faith into a sty or kennel, a conscience full of defilement and uncleanness. Therefore, if you have any mind to these comforts and the peace that faith brings along with it, be careful to lodge it where it delights to dwell, in a pure conscience.

Notwithstanding the unbelieving world mocks the name of purity, yet, study you, above all, that purity and holiness which may make your souls a fit abode for faith, and for that peace which it worketh, and for that Holy Spirit who works

both in you.

Faith is either the doctrine which we believe, or that grace by which we believe that doctrine. Here, I conceive, it is both, met and united in the soul. As they say of the understanding in the schools, Intelligendo fit illud quod intelligit, so, faith, apprehending its proper object, is made one with it. Faith is kept in a pure conscience ; that is, both that pure doctrine of the Gospel which faith receives, and that faith which receives it, are together fitly placed and preserved, when they are laid up in a pure conscience. The doctrine of faith cannot be received into, nor laid up in the soul, but by that faith which believes it; and that faith hath no being, without believing that doctrine. And both are fitly called the mystery of faith. The doctrine is mysterious, and it is a mysterious work, to beget faith in the heart to receive it. For the things we must believe, are very high and heavenly, and our hearts are earthly and base till the Spirit renew them. In our Confession of faith we have both expressed. The first word is, a profession of faith, which receives the doctrine as true, I believe ; and the articles themselves contain the sum of the doctrine believed. And if we who profess this faith, have within us pure consciences, wherein the mystery of faith--the doctrine of faith believed, and the grace of faith believing it, both together as one,-may reside, dwell, and be preserved, then is the text completely answered in the present subject. ·

Remember, then, since we profess this faith, which is the proper seat of faith. Not our books, our tongues only, or memories, or judgment, but our conscience; and not our natural conscience defiled and stuffed with sin, but renewed and sanctified by grace. Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.

I believe in God the Father.]

Not to insist here on the nature of faith, taking it as comprehensively as we can, it is no other than a supernatural belief of God, and confidence in Him. Whether we call God, or the word of God, the object of faith, there is no material difference; for it is God in the word, as revealed by the word, that is that object. God is that veritas incomplexa (as they speak) which faith embraces ; and the word, the veritas complexa which contains what we are to conceive of God, and to believe concerning Him. As, in the Gospel, the peculiar object of that faith which saves fallen man, it is all one whether we say it is Christ or the promises; for it is Christ revealed and held forth in the promises, that faith lays hold on.

In Him are all the promises of God, Yea, and in him, Amen. 2 Cor. i. 20. So that it is all one act of faith that lays hold on Christ, and on the promises, for they are all one: he is in them, and therefore faith rests on them, because they include Christ who is our rest and our peace; as a man at once receives a ring and the precious stone that is set in it. This once rightly understood, any further dispute about placing faith in the understanding or in the will, is, possibly, in itself not at all needful : sure I am, it is no way useful for you. Take heed of carnal, profane presumption, for that will undo you; and labour to be sure of such a faith as dwells in a pure conscience, and it will be sure not to deceive

you. That confidence which this expression bears, believing in God, supposes certainly, (as all agree,) a right belief concerning God, both that He is, and what He is, according as the word reveals Him; especially what He is relating to us. These three we have together, Heb. xi. 6. He that cometh to God must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. 1. That He is. 2. To trust His word, believing that He is true to His promises, a rewarder of them that seek Him. 3. Upon these follows coming to Him, which is this believing in that God which the Apostle speaks

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