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SECT. I. We must enquire amongst what Christians the true doctrine of Christ flourisheth most at this time.
WHOEVER reads over the books of the New Testament, with a desire to come at the knowledge of the truth, and does not want judgment, will not be able to deny, bat that every one of the marks of truth, alleged by Hugo Grotius, in his second and third books, are to be found there. Wherefore, if he has any concern for a blessed immortality, he will apprehend it to be his duty to embrace what is proposed to him in those books as matter of belief; to do what he is commanded, and to expect what he is there taught to hope for. Otherwise, if any one should deny that he doubts of the truth of the Christian religion, and at the same time thinks the doctrines, precepts, and promises of it not fit to be believed or obeyed in every particular; such an one would be inconsistent with himself, and manifestly shew that he is not a sincere Christian. Now this is one of the precepts of Christ and his apostles,868868 Thus Christ saith, Matt. x. 32. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me (to be his Master) before men, him will I confess also (to be my disciple) before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me (to be his Master) before men, him will I also deny (to be my disciple) before my Father which is in heaven.” See also 2 Tim. ii. 12. Rev. iii. 5. 250that we should profess ourselves the disciples of Christ before men, if we would have him own us for his, when he shall pass sentence an the quick and dead at the last day; and if we do not, as we have denied him to be our Master before men, so he also, in that last assembly of mankind, will deny us to be his disciples before God. For Christ would not have those that believe on him to he his disciples privately;869869 Therefore, he says, Matt. v. 14. “That his disciples are the light of the world; that a city set an a hill cannot be hid; neither is a candle lighted to be put under a bushel, but set in a candle- stick, that it may give light to all that are in the house,” &c. as if they were ashamed of his doctrine, or as if they valued the kindnesses, threats, or punishments of men more than his precepts, and the promises of eternal life; but be Christians openly and before all the world, that they may invite other men to embrace the true religion, and render back to God that life which they received from him,870870 Luke xii. 4. Christ bids us, “not to be afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do;” and commands us “to fear him, which after we are killed can cast us into hell fire.” And, moreover, be foretells all manner of evils to his disciples, Matt. x. 39. and following; and says, “that be who shall lose his life for his sake shall find it, (again),” &c. which precept, were particularly observed by the primitive Christians; who, for the testimony they gave to the doctrine of the Gospel, are called martyrs., that is, witnesses. in the most exquisite torments, if it so seem good to him; whilst they openly profess that they prefer his precepts above all things. And thus St. Paul teaches us, that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in our heart that God hath raised him from the dead, we shall be saved:871871 Rom. x. 9, 10, 11.for, says he, with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; for the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him 251shall not be ashamed. Which being thus, it is his duty, wits thinks the Christian religion to be true, to discover and profess boldly, and without fear, this his sincere opinion, upon all occasions that offer themselves.
And it is further necessary for him to enquire, if there be any of the same opinion with himself, and to maintain a particular peace and friendship with them;872872 John xiii. 31, 35. “A new commandment give I unto yon, that ye love one another; that as I have loved you, so ye love one another: by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another.” See 1 John ii. 7. iii. 11, 16, 23. for Christ tells us, this is one mark his disciples are to be known by, if they love one another, and perform all acts of love and kindness towards each other. Moreover, he exhorts them to have congregations in his name, that is, such as should be called Christian;873873 Matt. xviii. 19, 20. and promises that he would be present there, where two or three are met together upon that account; by this means, beside the mutual love and strict friendship of Christians united into one society, there is also a provision made for preserving their doctrines;874874 Thus likewise all the philosophers transmitted their doctrine to posterity, by the help of schools in which it was taught; but the Christian churches, which are united by a much firmer and stronger bond, will, with more certainty and ease, propagate the doctrine they received from their Master, to the end of the world, which ma hardly be done without congregations. Pythagoras would Lave effected this, but in vain, because his doctrine had nothing divine in it. See Laërtius and Jamblichus. which can hardly continue, if every one has a private opinion to himself, and does not declare the sense of his mind to another; unless for his own advantage; for those things that are concealed, are by degrees forgotten, and come in time to be quite extinguished; but Christ would have his doctrine, and the churches which profess it, be perpetual, that it may not cease lo be beneficial to mankind.
Wherefore, whoever derives his knowledge of the Christian religion front the New Testament, and thinks it true, such an one ought to make profession of it, and to join himself 252with those of the like profession.875875 See the epistles to Timothy and Titus, where they are commanded to found churches. And Heb. x. 25. But because there is not at this time (neither was there formerly) one sort of men only, or one congregation of such as are gathered together in the name of Christ; we are not therefore presently to believe that he is a true Christian, who desires to be called by that holy name; neither ought we to join ourselves, without examination, to any assembly who style themselves Christians.876876 See 1 Thess. v. 21. But more expressly, 1 John iv. 1. “Beloved,” says he, “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God; for many false prophets are come into the world,” &c. We must consider, above all things, whether their doctrines agree with that form of sound words, which we have entertained in our mind, from an attentive reading of the New Testament; otherwise it may happen, that we may esteem that a Christian congregation, which is no further Christian than in name. It is, therefore, the part of a prudent man, not to enter himself into any congregation, at least for a continuance; unless it be such, in which he perceives that doctrine established, which he truly thinks to be the Christian doctrine; lest he should put himself under the necessity of saying or doing something contrary to what he thinks delivered and commanded by Christ.
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