RPM, Volume 13, Number 42, October 16 to October 22 2011


By Walter Marshall

Chapter Thirteen

Endeavour diligently to make the right use of all means appointed in the Word of God for the obtaining and practicing holiness only in this way of believing in Christ and walking in Him, according to your new state by faith.

This might have been added to the instructions in the explication of the former direction, because its use is the same - to guide us in the mysterious manner of practicing holiness in Christ by the life of faith, but the weight and comprehensiveness of it makes it worthy to be treated of by itself, as a distinct direction. Two things are observable in it.

First, that though all holiness be effectually attained by the life of faith in Christ, yet the use of any means appointed in the Word for attaining and promoting holiness is not hereby made void, but rather established. This is needful to be observed against the pride and ignorance of some carnal gospellers who, being puffed up with a conceit of their feigned faith, imagine themselves to be in such a state of perfection that they are above all ordinances except singing, 'Hallelujahs'; and also against the Papists, that run into the contrary extreme by heaping together a multitude of means of holiness, which God never commanded, neither ever came they into His heart, and that slander the Protestant doctrine of faith and free grace, as if it tended to destroy all diligent use of the means of holiness and salvation, and to breed up a company of lazy Solifidians. We do indeed assert and profess that 'A true and lively faith in Christ is alone sufficient and effectual, through the grace of God, to receive Christ and all His fullness, so far as is necessary in this life, for our justification, sanctification and eternal salvation,' but yet we also assert and profess that 'Several means are appointed of God for the begetting, maintaining and increasing this faith, and the acting and exercising it, in order to the attainment of its end; and that these means are to be used diligently,' which are mentioned in the sequel.

True believers find by experience that their faith needs such helps, and they that think themselves above any need of them do reject the counsel of God against themselves, like to those proud Pharisees and lawyers that thought it a thing beneath them and refused to be baptized by John (Luke 7:30). Yet we account no means necessary or lawful to be used for the attainment of holiness, besides those that are appointed by God in His Word. We know that holiness is a part of our salvation and, therefore, they that think men may, or can invent any means effectual for the attainment of it do ascribe their salvation partly to men, and rob God of His glory in being our only Saviour; and they do thereby plainly show that though they 'draw nigh unto God with their mouth, and honour Him with their lips, yet their hearts are far from Him. And in vain do they worship Him, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men' (Matt. 15:7-9).

The second thing observable and principally designed in this direction is the right manner of using all the means of holiness for the obtaining and practicing it no other way, besides that of believing in Christ and walking in Him, according to our new state by faith, which has been already demonstrated to be the only way in which we may effectually attain to this great end. We must use them as helps to the life to faith in its beginning, continuance and growth; and as instruments subservient to faith, the principal instrument, in all its acts and exercises, in which the soul receives Christ, and walks in all holiness by Him. We must beware lest we use them rather in opposition than in subordination to the way of sanctification and salvation by free grace in Christ through faith; and lest, by our abuse of them, they be made rather hindrances than helps to our faith. We must not idolize any of the means and put them into the place of Christ, as the Papists do, by trusting in them - as if they were effectual to confer grace to the soul by righteousness, to be performed as conditions for the procuring the favour of God and the salvation of Christ. Neither must they be accounted so absolutely necessary to salvation as if a true faith were void, and of none effect, when we are debarred from the enjoyment of several of them. The Holy Scriptures, with all the means of grace appointed therein, are able to make us wise unto salvation, no other way than by faith in Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 3:15). And, therefore, our wise endeavour must be not to use them in any opposition to the grace of God in Christ. For God's ordinances are like the cherubims of glory, made with their faces looking towards the mercy-seat. They are made to guide us to Christ.

This right use of the means of grace is a point wherein many are ignorant, that use them with great zeal and diligence; and thereby they do not only lose their labour, and the benefit of the means, but also they wrest and pervert them to their own destruction. The Jews, under the law of Moses, enjoyed many more ordinances of divine worship than we do under the gospel, but their table became their snare, and they fell miserably from God and Christ, because the 'veil of ignorance was upon their hearts', that they could not look to the end of those ordinances, even to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they sought not salvation by faith, but by the ordinances, as works of righteousness, and by other works of the law, for they stumbled at the stumbling-stone (Rom. 9:31, 32; 10:4, 5; 2 Cor. 3:13, 14). That you may not stumble and fall by the same pernicious error, I shall show particularly how several of the principal means of holiness appointed in the Word of God are to be made use of in that right manner expressed in the direction.

l. We must endeavour diligently to know the Word of God contained in the Holy Scripture, and to improve it to this end that we may be made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15). Other means of salvation are necessary to the more abundant well-being of our faith, and of our new state in Christ; but this is absolutely necessary to the very being thereof, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and receives Christ as manifested by the Word, as I have before proved. Rahab the Canaanite was justified by faith before she had any visible communion with the church in any of God's ordinances, yet not without the Word of God, even the same Word, for substance, which was written in the Scriptures, and was then extant in the books of Moses; though that Word was not brought to her by any book of the Holy Scripture, nor by the preaching of any holy minister, but by the report of the heathens (Josh. 2:9, 11). But here our great work must be to get such a knowledge of the Word as is necessary and sufficient to guide us in the receiving Christ, and walking in Him by faith. You must not be of their minds that think the knowledge of the Ten Commandments to be sufficient to salvation, or that would have mysteries to remain hid from the understanding of the vulgar, and nothing to be preached to them but what they can readily assent to and receive by the light that is in all men; of which mind it may be some ministers are, who unwittingly agree with the Quakers in a fundamental of their heresy. But you must endeavour chiefly to know the mystery of the Father and the Son, as it is discovered in the gospel, 'in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Col. 2:2, 3); which to know is life eternal, and the ignorance of it is death eternal (John 17:3; 2 Cor. 4:3). You must know that Christ is the end of the law (Rom. 10•4) and, therefore, you must endeavour to know the commands of the law, not that you may be enabled by that knowledge to practice them immediately, and so to procure salvation by your works; but rather, by your knowledge of them, you may be made sensible of your inability to perform them and of the enmity that is in your heart against them, and the wrath that you are under for breaking them, and the impossibility of being saved by your own works; that so you may fly to Christ for refuge and trust only to the free grace of God for justification, and strength to fulfil the law acceptably through Christ in your conversation. And for this end, you must endeavour to learn the utmost strictness of the commands, the exact perfection and spiritual purity which they require, that you may be the more convinced of sin and stirred up to seek unto Christ for remission of sin, for purity of heart and spiritual obedience, and be brought nearer to the enjoyment of Him; as Christ testifies that the scribe, who understood the greatness of that command of loving the Lord with all the heart and soul, was not far from the kingdom of God (Matt. 12:34).

The most effectual knowledge for your salvation is to understand these two points: the desperate sinfulness and misery of your own natural condition, and the alone sufficiency of the grace of God in Christ for your salvation, that you may be abased as to the flesh and exalted in Christ alone. And, for the better understanding these two main points, you should learn how the first Adam was the figure of the second (Rom. 5:14); how sin and death came upon all the natural seed of the first Adam by his disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit, and how righteousness and everlasting life come upon all the spiritual seed of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, by His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. You also should learn the true difference between the two covenants, the old and the new, or the law and the gospel: that the former shuts us up under the guilt and power of sin, and the wrath of God and His curse, by its rigorous terms: 'Do all the commandments, and live; and, cursed are you if you do not do them, and fail in the least point'; the latter opens the gates of righteousness and life to all believers (i.e. the new covenant) by its gracious terms: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live,' that is, all your sins shall be forgiven, and holiness and glory shall be given to you freely by His merit and Spirit.

Furthermore, you should learn the gospel principles that you are to walk by for the attainment of holiness in Christ. And here I shall mind you particularly that you would be a good proficient in Christian learning, if you get a good understanding of the sixth and seventh chapters of the apostle Paul to the Romans, where the powerful principles of sanctification are purposely treated of, and differenced from those weak and ineffectual principles, which we are most naturally prone to walk by.

I need not particularly commend any other points of religion to your learning, for if you get the knowledge of these principal points, which I have mentioned, and improve it to a right end, which is, to live and walk by faith in Christ, your own renewed mind will cover the knowledge of all other things that appertain to life and godliness, and if in anything you be otherwise minded than is according to saving truth, God shall reveal even this to you (Phil. 3:15).

Yet let me caution you lest, instead of gaining Christ by your knowledge, you rather lose Him by putting your knowledge in the place of Christ, and trusting on it for your salvation. One cause of the Jews perishing was that they rested in a form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law (Rom. 2:20). And, doubtless, all that many Christians will gain by their knowledge in the end will only be to be beaten with more stripes, because they place their religion and salvation chiefly in the knowledge of their Lord's will, and in their ability to talk and dispute it, without preparing themselves to do according thereunto (Luke 12:47). Much less are you to place your religion and hope of salvation in a daily task of reading chapters, or repeating sermons, without understanding more than the Papists do their lessons in the Latin mass and canonical hours; as sad experience shows that many seemingly devout and frequent hearers of the Word do notwithstanding remain in lamentable and wonderful ignorance of the saving truth. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias: 'That in hearing, they shall hear, and not understand; and, in seeing, they shall see,' etc. (Matt. 13:14, 15).

2. Another means to be used diligently for the promoting the life of faith is examination of our state and ways according to the Word, whether we be at present in a state of sin and wrath, or of grace and salvation; that, if we be in a state of sin, we may know our sickness and come to the great Physician while it is called today; and, if we be in a state of grace, we may know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before God with greater confidence, by the testimony of a good conscience (1 John 3:19, 21); that so our hearts may be more strongly comforted by faith and established in every good work; and that, if our ways be evil, we may turn from them to the Lord our God through Christ; without whom none come to the Father (Lam. 3: 40; John 14:6). But your great care in this work of self-examination must be to perform it in such a manner that it may not hinder and destroy the life of faith, as it does in many, instead of promoting it. Therefore, beware lest you trust upon your self-examination, rather than upon Christ, as some do, that think they have made their peace with God merely because they have examined themselves upon their sick bed, or before the receiving of the Lord's Supper, though they have found themselves stark naught, and do not depend on Christ to make them better, but on their own deceitful purposes and resolutions.

Think not that you must begin this work with doubting whether God will extend mercy to you, and save you, and that you must leave this a question wholly under debate, until you have found out how to resolve it by self-examination. This is a common and very pernicious error in the very foundation of this work, which is hereby laid in the great sin of unbelief, which, as soon as it prevails, does by its great influence dash and obscure all inward gracious qualifications of peace, hope, joy, love to God and His people, before they be all tried, whether they can give any good evidence for their salvation. And it makes people willing to think their own qualifications better than they are, lest they should fall into an utter despair of their salvation; and thus it wholly mars the good work of self-examination, and makes it destructive to our souls, for 'to them that are defiled and unbelieving, there is nothing pure' (Titus 1:15). You should rather begin the work with much assurance of faith that, though you may at present find your heart never so wicked and reprobate (as many of God's choicest servants have found), yet the door of mercy is open for you, and that God will certainly save you for ever, if you put your trust in His grace through Christ.

I have formerly shown that this confident persuasion is of the nature of saving faith, and that we have sufficient ground for it in the free promises of the gospel, when we walk in darkness and can see no light shining forth in our gracious qualifications. If we begin the work with this confidence, it will make us impartial, and not afraid to find out the worst in ourselves, and willing to judge that our hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, beyond what we can find out (Jer. 17:9). And if we have any holy qualifications, this confidence will preserve them in their vigour and brightness, that they may be able to give clear evidence that we are at present in a state of grace.

Mark well the difference between those two questions: 'Whether God will graciously accept and save me, though a vile sinner, through Christ?' as before was said, and 'Whether I am already brought into a state of salvation?' The former of these, I say, is to be resolved affirmatively by a confident faith in Christ; the latter only is to be enquired into by self-examination. Misspend not your time, as many do, in poring upon your hearts to find whether you be good enough to trust on Christ for your salvation, or to find whether you have any faith, before you dare be so bold as to act faith in Christ. But you know that though you cannot find you have any faith or holiness, yet, if you will now believe on Him that justifies the ungodly, it shall be accounted to you for righteousness (Rom. 4:5).

And if you love Christ and your own soul, misspend not your time in examining whether you have committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, except it be with a full purpose to assure yourself, more and more, that you are not guilty thereof, for any doubtfulness in this point will but harden you in unbelief. Remember well, that the question to be resolved is whether you be at present in a state of grace and, to resolve it, you must be willing to know the best of yourself, as well as the worst; and you must not think that humility binds you to overlook your good qualifications, and to take notice only of your corruptions. But your great work must be to find whether there be not some drop of saving grace in the ocean of your corruption. And it will consist well with humility to take notice of, and own any spark of true holiness that is in you, because the praise and glory of it belongs not to you but to God (Phil. 1:11). And you must try inherent grace by the touchstone, not by the measure; by its nature, not its degree; not denying any lustings of the Spirit in you, because of the strong lustings of the flesh against the Spirit; or denying that you are spiritual in some degree and babes in Christ, because you find yourselves carnal in a more prevailing degree, and the old man bigger than the new (Gal. 5:17; 1 Cor. 3: 1).

Especially you are to examine and prove whether you be in the faith? For if you make sure of this, you make sure of all the things that pertain to life and godliness, and if you doubt this, you will certainly doubt of the truth of any other qualifications, and will suspect them to be merely carnal and counterfeit, because it is a known truth that to the unbelieving there is nothing pure, and that all that have not truly received Christ by faith are at present in an unregenerate state, though they seem never so pure and godly (2 Cor. 13:5; Titus 1:15 ).

And let not the issue of this trial depend at all upon your knowledge of the time when, or of the sermon, conference or place of Scripture, by which you were first converted to the faith; though that is good to know, too, if it may be. And some who have formerly lived in gross ignorance, or in a manifest opposition to true faith and holiness, may know such circumstances of their conversion, and may reflect upon them comfortably, as the apostle Paul did, who was turned of a sudden from his persecuting rage to be a disciple and an apostle of Christ; yet others, sincere believers, may be wholly ignorant of them, as John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15); and they that have been trained up religiously, and know the Holy Scripture from their childhood, as Timothy (2 Tim. 3:15), yes, and many that are first turned from gross ignorance and profaneness to some external reformation and then, in process of time, brought nearer to the kingdom of heaven by insensible degrees, before they be really new-begotten by the spirit of faith. There are also some that deceive their souls by imagining they know at what time, and by what text of Scripture, they were converted, and can make large discourses of the workings of God upon their hearts, and are prone to talk unreasonably, with vain glorifying of their own experiences; when, at last, all their experiences are not sufficient to evidence that they ever attained to the least measure of true saving faith.

Therefore, that we may not unjustly condemn or justify our faith by proceeding on insufficient evidences in its trial, our best way is to examine it by the inseparable properties of a true saving faith, by putting ourselves such questions as these: Are we made thoroughly sensible of our sinfulness, and of the deadness and misery of our natural state, so as to despair absolutely of ever attaining to any righteousness, holiness or true happiness, while we continue in it? Are the eyes of our understanding enlightened to see the excellency of Christ, and the alone sufficiency and all sufficiency of His grace for our salvation? Do we prefer the enjoyment of Him above all things, and desire it with our whole heart, as our only happiness, whatsoever we may suffer for His sake? Do we desire with our whole heart to be delivered from the power and practice of sin, as well as from the wrath of God, and the pains of hell? Do our hearts come to Christ and lay hold on Him for salvation, by trusting Him only, and endeavouring to trust on Him confidently, notwithstanding all fears and doubts that assault us?

If you find in yourself a faith that has these properties, though as small as a grain of mustard seed, and opposed with much unbelief and manifold corruptions in your soul, you may conclude that you are in a state of salvation at present, and that your remaining work is to continue and grow in it more and more, and to walk worthy of it.

You should also examine the fruits of your faith, and try whether you can show your faith by your works, as you are taught (James 2:18), that you may be sure not to be deceived in your judgement concerning it. And though it be true, as I have noted, that doubts concerning your faith will breed doubtings concerning the sincerity of other qualifications that are fruits thereof, yet possibly you may get such clear evidences of your sincerity as may overcome and expel all your doubts. And here you are not only to inquire whether your inclinations, purposes, affections and actions be materially good and holy, but also by what principles they are bred and influenced? Whether it be by slavish fears of hell, and mercenary hopes of getting heaven by your works, which are legal and carnal principles that can never breed true holiness, or by gospel principles, as by love to God because God has loved you first, and to Christ because He has died; and by the hope of eternal life, as the free gift of God through Christ, and dependence on God, to sanctify you by His Spirit, according to His promises? Remember that the New Testament is the ministration of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6), and the Spirit will sanctify us, not by legal, but by gospel principles.

Take notice further that you need not trouble yourself to find out a multitude of marks and signs of true grace, if you can find a few good ones. Particularly, you may know that you are passed from death to life, if you love the brothers (1 John 3:14); that is, if you love all whom you can in charity judge to be true believers, and that because they are true believers, and for the truth's sake, that dwells in them. As Solomon discerned the true mother of the child by her affection towards her child, so the mother-grace of faith may be discerned by the love that it breeds in us towards all true believers.

To conclude this point, happy are you if you can find so much evidence of the fruits of your faith as may enable you to express your sincerity in these moderate terms: 'Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly' (Heb. 13:18).

3. Meditation on the Word of God is of very great use and advantage for the attainment and practice of holiness through faith in Christ. It is a duty by which the soul does feed and ruminate upon the Word as its spiritual food, and digests it, and turns it into nourishment, by which we are strengthened for every good work. Our souls are satisfied therewith, as with marrow and fatness; when we remember God upon our beds, and meditate on Him in the night watches (Ps. 63:5, 6). The new nature may well be called 'the mind' (Rom. 7:25), because it lives and acts by minding and meditating on spiritual things. Therefore, it is a duty to be practiced, not only at some limited times, but all the day (Ps. 119:97); yes, 'day and night' (Ps. 1:2), even in our ordinary employment at home and abroad. A habitual knowledge of the Word will not profit us, without an active minding of it by frequent meditation. Some think that much preaching of the Word is not needful, where a people are already brought to the knowledge of those things that are necessary to salvation. But they that are regenerated by the Word find by experience that their spiritual life is maintained and increased by often minding the same Word, and therefore, 'as new-born babes, they desire the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby' (1 Peter 2:2), and would by the preachers be put often in remembrance of the same things, that they may feed upon them by meditation, though they know them already and are established in the present truth (2 Peter 1:12).

But here our greatest skill and chiefest concernment lies in practicing this duty in such a manner as that it may be subservient, and not at all opposite to the life of faith. We must not rely upon the performance of a daily task of meditation as a work of righteousness for the procurement of the favour of God, instead of relying on the righteousness of Christ - as indeed we are prone to do, to catch at any straw, rather than to trust only on the free grace of God in Christ for our salvation. And the end of our meditation must not be mere speculation and knowledge of the truth, but rather the vigorous pressing it upon our consciences, and the stirring up our hearts and affections to the practice of it. And, in stirring up ourselves to a holy practice, we must warily observe how far the several parts of the truths of God are powerful and effectual for the attainment of this end, that we may make use of them accordingly. We must not imagine, as too many do - yea, and some great masters in the art of meditation - that we can bring our hearts effectually to the love of God and holiness, and can work strange alterations, and frame in our hearts any holy qualifications or virtue, merely by working in ourselves strong apprehensions of God's eternal power and Godhead, His sovereign authority, omniscience, perfect holiness, exact justice, the equity of His law, and reasonableness of our obedience to it, the unspeakable happiness prepared for the godly, and misery for the wicked, to all eternity.

Meditation on such things as these is indeed very useful to press upon our consciences the strictness of our obligation to holy duties, and to move us to go by faith to Christ for life and strength to perform them. But, that we may receive this life and strength, by which we are enabled for immediate performance, we must meditate believing on Christ's saving benefits, as they are discovered in the gospel; which is the only doctrine which is the power of God to our salvation, and by which the quickening Spirit is ministered to us, and that is able to build us up, and give us an inheritance among all them that are sanctified (Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 3:6; Acts 20:32). You must take special care to act faith in your meditation; mix the Word of God's grace with it, or else it will not profit you (Heb. 4:2). And if you set the lovingkindness of God frequently before your eyes, by meditating on it believingly, you will be strengthened to walk in the truth (Ps. 26:3); and, by beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, you will be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3: 18). This kind of meditation is sweet, and delightful to those that are guided to it by the spirit of faith, and it needs not the help of such artificial methods as the vulgar cannot easily learn. You may let your thoughts run in it at liberty, without confining them to any rules of method. You will find your souls much enlivened by it, and enriched with the grace of God; which cannot be effected by any other kind of meditation, though it be never so methodical, and curiously framed according to the rules of art.

4. The sacrament of baptism must needs be of great use to promote the life of faith, if it be made use of according to its nature and institution, because it is a seal of the righteousness of faith, as circumcision was formerly (Rom. 4: 11). But then we must take heed of making it a seal of the contrary righteousness of works, as the carnal Jews did, that sought to be justified by the law of Moses; and as many Christians do, that 'transform the new covenant into a covenant of works; requiring sincere obedience to all the laws of Christ, as the condition of our justification', into which new-devised covenant they think themselves to be entered by their baptism. I may say of baptism, thus perverted and abused, as the apostle says of circumcision, 'Baptism verily profits, if you keep the law: but, if you be a breaker of the law, your baptism is made no baptism' (Rom. 2:25). If you are baptized, so long as you continue in the abuse of that holy ordinance, 'Christ shall profit you nothing; Christ is become of none effect to you; you are fallen from grace' (Gal. 5:2, 4).

Beware also of making an idol of baptism, and putting it in the place of Christ, as the Papists do, who hold that it confers grace by the very work that is performed in the administration of it, and as many ignorant people do, that trust rather on their baptism than on Christ - like the Pharisees, who placed their confidence on circumcision and other external privileges (Phil. 3:4, 5). We are to know that God is not well pleased with many that are baptized (1 Cor. 10:2, 5), and the time will come when He will punish the baptized with the unbaptized, as well as the circumcised with the uncircumcised (Jer. 9:25).

Beware also of advancing baptism to an equal partnership with faith in your salvation, as some do, who account all baptism null and void, besides that which is administered to persons grown up to years of discretion; and they that refuse to be rebaptized at those years are to be accounted aliens from the true church, from Christ and His salvation, notwithstanding all their faith in Christ. If the baptism of infants were null and void, yet the want of true baptism would be no damning matter to those that are otherwise persuaded. Circumcision was as necessary as baptism in its time, and yet the Israelites omitted it for the space of forty years in the wilderness without fearing that any would fall short of salvation for want of it (Josh. 5:6, 7). Many precious saints, in the primitive times of persecution, have gone to heaven through a baptism of suffering for the name of Christ, before they had opportunity to be baptized with water. And in those ancient times when the custom of deferring baptism too much prevailed, we are not to think that none were in a state of salvation by faith in Christ that deferred that ordinance, or neglected it.

Take notice further that it is not sufficient to avoid the pernicious errors of those that pervert baptism, contrary to its institution; but you must be also diligent in improving it to the ends for which it was instituted. And here let me desire you to put the question seriously to your souls: 'What good use do you make of your baptism? How often, or seldom, do you think upon it? The vulgar sort of Christians, yes, it may be feared, many sincere converts, do so little think upon their own baptism and study to make a due improvement of it, that it is of no more profit to their souls than if they never had been baptized; yes, their sin is the more aggravated by rendering such an ordinance of none effect to their souls through their own gross neglect. Though baptism be administered to us but once in our lives, yet we ought frequently to reflect upon it, and upon all occasions to put the question to ourselves: 'Unto what were we baptized?' (Acts 19:3.) What does this ordinance seal? What did it engage us to? And accordingly we must stir up and strengthen ourselves by our baptism to lay hold on the grace which it seals to us, and to fulfil its engagements. We should often remember that we are made Christ's disciples by baptism, and engaged to hear Him, rather than Moses, and to believe on Him for our salvation; as John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to people that they should believe on Him that should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus. We should remember that our baptism sealed our putting on of Christ, and our being the children of God by faith in Christ, and our being no longer under the former schoolmaster, the law (Gal. 3:25-27); and that it sealed to us the putting off the body of sin, and our burial and resurrection with Christ by faith, and the forgiving of our trespasses (Col. 2:12, 13); our being made members of one body, Christ; and to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12, 13).

We may find by such things as these, which are more fully discovered in the gospel, that it is the proper nature and tendency of baptism to guide us to faith in Christ alone for remission of sins, holiness and all salvation, by union and fellowship with Him; and that a diligent improvement of this ordinance must needs be of great advantage to the life of faith.

5. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is as a spiritual feast to nourish our faith, and to strengthen us to walk in all holiness by Christ living and working in us, if it be used according to the pattern which Christ gave us in its first institution recorded by three evangelists (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20), and was extraordinarily revealed from heaven by Christ Himself to the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:23-25), that we might be the more obliged and stirred up to the exact observation of it. Its end is not only that we may remember Christ's death in the history, but in the mystery of it: as that His body was broken for us, that His blood is the blood of the New Testament, or covenant, shed for us, and for many, for the remission of sins, that so we may receive and enjoy all the promises of the new covenant which are recorded (Heb. 8:10-12). Its end is to mind us that Christ's body and blood are bread and drink, even all-sufficient food to nourish our souls to everlasting life; and that we ought to take, and eat, and drink Him by faith; and to assure us that, when we 'truly believe on Him, He is as really and closely united to us by His Spirit, as the food which we eat and drink is united to our bodies'. Christ Himself (John 6) does more fully explain this mystery.

Furthermore, this sacrament does not only put us in mind of the spiritual blessings wherewith we are blessed in Christ, and our enjoyment of them by faith, but also it is a means and instrument by which God does really exhibit and give forth Christ and His salvation to true believers, and by which He does stir up and strengthen believers to receive and feed upon Christ by present actings of faith, while they partake of the outward elements. When Christ says, 'Eat, drink; this is My body, this is My blood', no less can be meant than that Christ does as truly give His body and blood to true believers in that ordinance as the bread and cup, and they do as truly receive it by faith. As if a prince invest a subject in some honourable office, by delivering to him a staff, sword or signet and say to him, 'Take this staff, sword or signet; this is such an office or preferment' or if a father should deliver a deed for conveyance of land to his son, and say, 'Take it as your own; this is such a farm or manor' - how can such expressions import anything less, in common sense and reason, than a present, gift and conveyance of the offices, preferments and lands, by and with those outward signs? Therefore the apostle Paul asserts that the bread in the Lord's Supper 'is the communion of the body of Christ', and the 'cup is the communion of His blood' (1 Cor. 10:16); which shows that Christ's body and blood are really communicated to us, and we do really partake of them, as well as of the bread and cup.

The chief excellency and advantage of this ordinance is that it is not only a figure and resemblance of our living upon a crucified Saviour, but also a precious instrument to us, and received by us, through faith. This makes it to be a love-token worthy of that ardent affection towards us, which filled Christ's heart at the time when He instituted it, when He was on the point of finishing His greatest work of love by laying down His life for us (1 Cor. 11:23). And this is diligently to be observed, that we may make a right improvement of this ordinance, and receive the saving benefits of it.

One reason why many do little esteem, and seldom or never partake of this ordinance, and do find little benefit by it, is because they falsely imagine that God in it only holds forth naked signs and resemblances of Christ and His salvation, which they account to be held forth so plainly in Scripture that they need not the help of such a sign; whereas if they understood that God does really give Christ Himself to their faith, by and with those signs and resemblances, they would prize it as the most delicious feast, and be desirous to partake of it on all opportunities (Acts 2:42; 20:7).

Another reason why many partake seldom or never of this ordinance, and know little of the benefit of it is because they think themselves brought by it into great danger of eating and drinking their own damnation, according to those terrifying words of the apostle: 'For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body' (1 Cor. 11:29). Therefore they account it the safest way, wholly to abstain from such a dangerous ordinance or, at least, that once a year is enough to run so great a hazard. And if they be brought to it sometimes by constraint of conscience, their slavish fears bereave them of all comfortable fruit of it. So that instead of striving to receive Christ and His salvation therein, they account themselves to have succeeded well, if they come off without the sentence of damnation; as the Jewish Rabbis write that the high priest's life was so eminently hazarded by his entering once a year into the Holy of Holies, that he stayed there as little time as he could, lest the people should think him to be struck dead by the hand of God; and when he was come forth alive, he usually made a feast of thanksgiving for joy of so great a deliverance.

But there is no reason why we should be so much terrified by those words of the apostle; for they were darted against such a gross profanation of the Lord's Supper among the Corinthians as we may easily avoid by observing the institution of it which the apostle proposes to them as a sufficient remedy against the gross abuse, in not discerning or differencing the Lord's body from other bodily food, and partaking of it as their own supper, with such disorder that one was hungry and another drunken. Besides, that terrifying word 'damnation' may be rendered more mildly judgement, as it is in the margin; yes, the apostle himself (v. 32) does interpret it of a merciful, temporal judgement, by which we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

We are indeed prone to sin in receiving this ordinance unworthily, and so we are also to pollute, more or less, all other holy things that we meddle with. So that the consideration of our danger might fill us with slavish fear in the use of all other means of grace, as well as of this, were it not that we have a great High Priest, to bear this iniquity of our holy things (Exod. 28:38), under the covert of whose righteousness we are to draw near unto God, without slavish fear, in the full assurance of faith, in this as well as in other holy ordinances; and we are to rejoice in the Lord in this spiritual feast, as the Jews were bound to do in their solemn feasts (Deut. 16:14, 15).

There are other abuses of this ordinance, like to those of baptism fore-mentioned, by which it is rendered opposite, rather than subservient to the life of faith. Some put it in the place of Christ, by trusting on it as a work of righteousness for the procuring of God's favour, or an ordinance sufficient to confer grace to the soul by the very work wrought. Others make it so necessary that they account faith is not sufficient without it; and therefore they will partake of it, if they can possibly, though it be in a disorderly manner, upon their sick-beds, when they are in fear of death, as their viaticum. The Papists do horribly idolize it by their figment of transubstantiation, and the adoration of the breaden god, and their sacrifice of the mass for the sins of the quick and the dead. We ought warily to conceive that the true body and blood of Christ are given to us, with the bread and wine, in a spiritual mysterious manner, by the unsearchable operation of the Holy Spirit, uniting Christ and us together by faith, without any transubstantiation in the outward elements.

6. Prayer is to be made use of as a means of living by faith in Christ, according to the new man. And it is the making our requests with supplication and thanksgiving. That it is to be used so, as an eminent means, appears because God requires it (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12); it is our priestly work (1 Peter 2:5; compared with Ps. 141:2); and the property of saints (1 Cor. 1:2); and God is a God of hearing prayer (Ps. 65:2). God will be prayed to by His people for the benefit that He is minded to bestow upon them, when once He has enabled them to pray, though at first He is found of them that seek Him not (Ezek. 36:37; Phil. 1:19, 20), that He may prepare them for thanksgiving and make benefits double benefits to them (Ps. 66:16, 18, 19; 50:15; 2 Cor. 1:10, 11). Though His will not be changed by this means, yet it is accomplished ordinarily and His purpose is to accomplish it this way. And therefore, trusting assuredly should not make us neglect but rather perform this duty (2 Sam. 7:27).

Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant, by whom justification and sanctification are promised, is also the Mediator for acceptance of our prayers (Heb. 4:15, 16). The Spirit that sanctifies us, begets us in Christ and shows the things of Christ to us, is a Spirit of prayer (Zech. 12:10; Gal. 4:6). He is as fire inflaming the soul, and making it to mount upward in prayer to God. Prayerless people are dead to God. If they are children of Zion, yet they are but stillborn, dead children, they cry not (Acts 9:11), not written among the living in Jerusalem; heathens in nature, though Christians in name (Jer. 10:25).

It is a duty so great that it is put for all the service of God, as a fundamental duty which, if it is done, the rest will be done well, and not without it, and other ordinances of worship are helps to it (Isa. 56:7). It is the great means by which faith exerts itself to perform its whole work, and pours itself forth in all holy desires and affections (Ps. 62: 8); and so yields a sweet savour, as Mary's box of precious spikenard (Mark 14:3; John 12:3); and so the same promises are made to faith and prayer (Rom. 10:11-13). It is our continual incense and sacrifice, by which we offer ourselves, our hearts, affections and lives to God (Ps. 141:2). We act all grace in it, and must act in this way, or else we are not likely to act it any other way. And as we act grace, so we obtain grace by it, and all holiness (Ps. 138:3; Luke 11:13; Heb. 4:16; Ps. 81:10). Our riches come in by it. Israel prevails while Moses holds up his hands (Exod. 17:11). By prayer Hannah is strengthened against her sorrows (1 Sam. 1:15, 18), peace is continued (Phil. 4:6, 7), the disordered soul is set in order by it, as Hannah (1 Sam. 1:18; Ps. 32:1-5). Incense was still burnt, while the lamps were dressed (Exod. 30:7, 8). It is added to the spiritual armour, not as a particular piece of it but as a means of putting on all, and making use of all aright, that we may stand in the evil day (Eph. 6:18). It is a means of transfiguring us into the likeness of Christ in holiness and making our spiritual faces to shine, as Christ was transfigured bodily while He prayed (Luke 9:29), and Moses' face shone while he talked with God (Exod. 34:29).

Hence the frequent use of this duty is commended to us (Eph. 6:18): praying always, on all seasons and opportunities and, by the example of the saints, in public with the congregation (Acts 2:42; 10:30, 31). Solemn acts of prayer should be continued daily (Matt. 6:11); yes, several times in a day, as morning and evening sacrifice (Dan. 6:10; Ps. 92:2); or thrice (Ps. 55:17); besides special occasions (James 5:13, 14), and brief ejaculations that hinder not other business (Ps. 129:8; 2 Sam. 15:31; Neh. 2:4). Prayers should be solemn, in our closets (Matt. 6:6), in families (Acts 10:30, 31). And as sacrifices were multiplied on the Sabbath days and days of atonement and at other appointed seasons (Num. 28), besides the continual burnt-offering, so ought prayer also.

In a word, a Christian ought to give up himself eminently to this duty (Ps. 109:4), without limits (Ps. 119:164). But the great work is to practice this duty rightly for holiness, only by faith in Christ. Here we had need say, 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1); and that not only as to the matter, but as to the manner - both which are taught by Christ, in some measure, in that brief pattern of prayer which He taught His disciples. But for the understanding of it we must consult the whole Word (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). And we have need of the Spirit of Christ to guide us in the duty, and therefore we are taught to pray by the Spirit, that is, the Holy Ghost (Jude 20; Eph. 2:18). The Spirit of God only guides and enables our souls to pray aright. And, that you may do so, take these rules.

1. You must pray with your hearts and spirits (Isa. 26: 9; John 4:24); where the Spirit of Christ, and of prayer, principally resides (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:17); with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15, 16); for we are renewed in knowledge (Col. 3:10; 2 Peter 1:3); so that praying in ignorance cannot sanctify. And it must be with sincere hearty desire of the good things we ask in prayer; for God sees the heart (Ps. 62:8). Prayer is chiefly a heart-work (Ps. 27:8). God hears the heart without the mouth, but never hears the mouth acceptably without the heart (1 Sam. 1:13). Your prayer is odious hypocrisy, mocking of God and taking His name in vain, when you utter petitions for the coming of His kingdom, and doing of His will, and yet hate godliness in your heart. This is lying to God and flattering with your lips, but no true prayer, and so God takes it (Ps. 78:36). And you must have a sense of your wants and necessities, and that God only can supply them (2 Chron. 20:12).

And fervency in those desires is required (James 5:16). And you must pray with attention, minding yourselves what you pray, or else you cannot expect that God should mind it (Dan. 9:3). Watch it (1 Peter 4:7). Set yourselves to this duty intently. God sees where your heart is wandering, when you pray without attention (Ezek. 33:31). When you say never so many prayers without understanding, attention, affection, it is not praying at all, but sinning and playing the hypocrite, as Papists mumble over their Latin prayers upon the beads by tale, prating like parrots what they cannot understand. And thus ignorant people say over their form of English prayers and account they have well discharged their duty, though their heart prayed not at all, and they were minding other things. This is a mere lip-labour, and bodily exercise, offering a dead carcass to God, plain deceit (Mal. 1:13, 14), a form of godliness, but denying the power (2 Tim. 3:5), by which Popery has cheated the world of the power of this and all other holy ordinances. They say, 'God minds and knows what they speak, and approves it.' I answer, 'He sees them so as to judge them for hypocrites and profane persons, for not knowing, minding and approving what they utter themselves.' He has no pleasure in fools (Eccles. 5:1, 4). They would not deal so with an earthly prince.

2. You must pray in the name of Christ for the Spirit glorifies Christ (John 16:14); and leads us to God through Christ (Eph. 2:18). As I have shown that walking in the Spirit and walking in Christ is all one, so praying in the Spirit and by and through Christ. And as we are to walk in the name of the Lord, and to do all things in His name, so to pray in His name, as is commanded (John 14:13, 14). It is not enough to conclude our prayers, 'through Jesus Christ our Lord', but we must come for blessings in the garments of our Elder Brother, and must depend upon His worthiness and strength for all.

So also we must praise God for all things in His name, as things received for His sake and by Him (Eph. 5:20). We must lay hold on His strength only, and plead nothing, and own nothing for our acceptance, but Him. We must not plead our own works arrogantly, like the proud Pharisee (Luke 18:11, 12), except only as fruits of grace and rewards of grace (Isa. 38:3). Praying in the Spirit is on gospel, not legal principles (Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:3), with great humiliation and sense of unworthiness (Ps. 51), with a broken spirit, with despair of acceptance otherwise than upon Christ's account (Dan. 9:18). If your enlargements, strugglings, meltings, have been never so great, yet without this all is abominable.

3. Hence you must not think to be accepted for the goodness of your prayers, and trust on them as works of righteousness, which is making idols of your prayers and putting them into the place of Christ - quite contrary to praying in the name of Christ. Thus Papists hope to be saved by saying their tale of prayers upon their bead-rows, and they have indulgences granted upon their saying so many prayers, and of such a sort. Yea, some ignorant Protestants trust on their prayers as duties of righteousness, and they think one prayer to be more acceptable than another by reason of the holiness of the form, if it were made by holy men; especially the Lord's prayer, which they use to help them in an exigence or danger; however little they can apply it to their own case, they make an idol of it. And some use it and other places of Scripture as a spell or charm to drive away the devil. And others think their prayers more acceptable in one place than in another by reason of the holiness of the place (John 4:21, 24; 1 Tim. 2:8). Others trust on their much speaking (Matt. 6:7), which they call the enlarging of their hearts. They think to put off God and to stop the mouth of conscience with a few prayers, and so to live as they list.

4. Pray to God as your Father, through Christ as your Saviour, in faith of remission of sins and your acceptance with God and the obtaining of all other things which you desire of Him, as far as is necessary for your salvation (James 1:5-7; 5:15; 1 John 5:14, 15; Mark 9:24; Heb. 10: 14; Ps. 62:8; 86:7; 55:16; 57:1; 17:6). This is praying in Christ (Eph. 3:12), and by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Without this, prayer is lifeless and heartless, and but a dead carcass (Rom. 10:14; Ps. 77:1, 2). By this you may judge whether you have prayed rightly, more than by your melting affection, or largeness in expression. Though you are not assured that you shall have everything that you ask, yet everything that is good. This faith you must endeavour to act, and therefore, if any sin lie on your conscience, you must strive first to get the pardon of it (Ps. 32:1, 5; 51:14, 15), and purification of it by faith, that you may lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting (1 Tim. 2:8). The sin of wrath there is especially mentioned because that is contrary to love and forgiving others. Here lies the strength, life and powerfulness of prayer. Set faith on work, and you will be powerful and prevail.

5. You must strive in prayer to stir up and act every other sanctifying grace, through faith moving you to this. Thus your spikenards will yield their smell: as godly sorrow (Ps. 38:18); peace (Isa. 27:5); joy (Ps. 105:3); hope (Ps. 71: 5); desire, and love to God (Ps. 4:6); and love to all His commands (Ps. 119:4, 5); and to all His people out of love to Him (Ps. 122:8). You must seek the Spirit Himself, in the first place (Luke 11:13; Ps. 37:5); and all spiritual things (Matt. 6:33). Praying only for carnal things shows a carnal heart and leaves it carnal. Pray for faith (Mark 9:24) and for such things as may serve most for the glorifying God (2 Chron. 1:11, 12). And for outward things you must act faith in submission to His will. And this prayer sets you in a holy frame (Matt. 26:42; Luke 22:42, 43). Hallowing God's name must be your aim (Matt. 6:9), not your lusts (James 4:3).

6. Strive to bring your soul into order by this duty, however disordered by guilt, anguish, inordinate cares or fears (Ps. 32:1, 5; 55:16, 17, 20, 22; 69:32; Phil. 4:6, 7; 1 Sam. 1). A watch must be often wound up. You must wrestle in prayer against your unbelief, doubting, fears, cares, reluctancy of the flesh to that which is good; against all evil lusts and desires, coldness of affection, impatience, trouble of spirit; everything that is contrary to a holy life and the graces and holy desires to be acted for yourselves or others (Col. 4:12; Rom. 15:30). Stir up yourselves to the duty (Col. 2:1, 2; Isa. 64:7). Though the flesh is cross and reluctant, we must not yield, but resist by the Spirit (Matt. 26:41). And thus we shall find the Spirit helping our infirmities (Rom. 8:26, 27). Though God seem to defer long, we must not faint or be discouraged (Luke 18:1, 7). The greater our agonies be, the more earnestly we are to pray (Ps. 22:1, 2; Luke 22:42). This is to continue instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18). Thus you will find prayer a great heart-work, and not such a thing as may be done while you think on other things, and that it requires all the strength of faith and affection that you can possibly stir up. Thus you may get a holy frame.

7. You must make a good use of the whole matter and all the manner of prayer, as ordinary and extraordinary exigencies may require, to stir up grace in you by wrestling, and to bring your hearts into a holy frame. As in confession, you must condemn yourself according to the flesh, but not as you are in Christ. You must not deny that grace that you have, as if you were only wicked before, and now to begin again - which hinders praise for grace received in those that are already converted. In supplication, you must endeavour to work up your heart to a godly sorrow (Ps. 38: 18), and a holy sense of your own sin and misery, and lay before you the aggravations thereof (Ps. 51:3; 102). Complaint and lamentation are one great part of prayer, as the Lamentations of Jeremiah. And you must add pleadings to your petitions, with such arguments as may serve to strengthen faith and to stir up and kindle affection (Job. 23: 4). Which pleadings are taken from attributes (Num. 14:17, 18); promises (2 Sam. 7:26, 28, etc.; Gen. 32:9, 12); the equity of our cause (Ps. 17:2, 3); the advantage and benefit of the thing to the glory of God and our comfort (Ps. 115:1, 2; 79:9, 10, 13). Naked petitions are not sufficient when the soul finds special cause of struggling and wrestling against corruptions and dangers, and for mercies. Christ's large prayer (John 17) is made up of pleading and very few petitions.

And we must make use also of praise and thanksgiving to stir up peace, joy, love, etc. (Gen. 32:10; Ps. 18:1, 2, 3; 33:1; 104:34). Especially be much in praising God for mercies of the new state in Christ (Eph. 1:3), and then you will the better give thanks for all the benefits on this account (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18), and plead those benefits to stir up to faith and duty. That brief ejaculation, 'Lord, have mercy on me', is very good to be used; but it will not answer the end and use of the whole duty of prayer, as some lazy carnal people would have it, and so harden themselves in the neglect of the duty; though the large improvement and use of all the matter of prayer, and at all times, is not required, but only as ordinary or extraordinary occasions may require.

8. You must not confine and limit your prayers by any prescribed form, seeing it is impossible that any such forms should be contrived as should answer and fit all the various conditions and necessities of the soul at all times. I do not condemn all forms, as that made by Christ, the Lord's prayer; though it were easy to show that Christ never intended it for a form of prayer, so as to bind any to the precise form of words; and it is plain the Spirit of God has expressed it in different words (Matt. 6; Luke 11). But better to pray by that form, or other forms, than not at all. It is uncharitable to take away crutches, or wooden legs, from lame people; yet none will look upon them but as dead helps. I say, it is utterly unlawful to bind ourselves to any form, because none can answer the duty fitly and suitably to particular occasions (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; John 15:7; 1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20). You must make the whole Scripture your common prayer-book, as the primitive church did, being the language of the Spirit, reaching all occasions and conditions, and fittest to speak to God in. And if you use a form, you must follow it by the Spirit farther than the form goes, according as He shall guide you by the Word; or else you quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). 1f you know the principles of prayer, and have a lively sense of your necessities, and hearty desires of God's grace and mercies, you will be able to pray without forms, and your affections will bring forth words out of the fullness of your heart. And you need not be over solicitous and timorous about words, for doubtless, the Spirit, who is the help to us in speaking to men, will also much more help us to speak to God, if we desire it (1 Cor. 1:5; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11, 12). And God does not regard eloquent words, nor artificial composure; neither do we need to regard it in private prayer (Isa. 38:14). If you limit yourself to forms, you will in this way grow formal and limit the Spirit.

7. Another means appointed of God, is singing of psalms, that is, songs of any sacred subject composed to a tune, hymns or songs of praise and spiritual songs of any sublime spiritual manner, as Psalm 45 and the Song of Solomon. God has commanded it in the New Testament (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5: 19), though now in these days many question whether it is an ordinance or not. And there were many commands for it under the Old Testament (Ps. 149:1-3; 96:1; 100).

Moses and the children of Israel sang before David's time (Exod. 15). David composed psalms by the Spirit, to be sung publicly (2 Sam. 23:1, 2), yea, privately too (Ps. 40:3; 2 Chron. 29:30; Ps. 105:2). Other songs also were made upon several occasions and used, whether they were parts of the Scripture or not, as Solomon made a thousand and five (1 Kings 4:32). And they made songs upon occasion, which teaches that it is lawful for us to do so, if they be according to the Word (Isa. 38:9-14).

The matter of Scripture may be sung (Ps. 119:54). Christ and His disciples sung a hymn (Matt. 26:30), supposed to be one of David's psalms; and they were written for our instruction, as well as other parts of Scripture (Rom. 15:4), and so to be used now in singing. They speak of the things of the New Testament, either figuratively or clearly, and we may understand them better now than the Jews could under the Old Testament (2 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 2:17).

Christians before practiced this duty as well as Jews (Acts 16:25). Hence their antelucani hymni [the hymns they sang before daylight] were noted by Pliny a heathen. These songs or hymns may be used at all times, especially for holy mirth or rejoicing (James 5:13). But this text is not to be taken exclusively in singing, any more than in prayer (Ps. 38: 18; 2 Chron. 35:25).

But the right manner of this duty is chiefly to be noted. And here, (i) Trust not upon the melody of the voice, as if that pleased God, who delights only in the melody of the heart (Col. 3:16). Neither let the recreating your senses be your end, which is but a carnal work: Non musica chordula, sed cor; non clamans, sed amans, psallit in aure Dei: 'Not a musical string, but the heart; nor crying, but loving sounds in the ear of the Lord.' This spiritual music was typified by musical instruments of old. (ii) You must use it for the same end as meditation and prayer, according to the nature of what is sung, that is, to quicken faith (2 Chron. 20:21, 22; Acts 16:25, 26), and joy and delight in the Lord, glorying in Him (Ps. 104:33, 34; 105:3; 149:1, 2; 33: 1-3). You are never right until you can be heartily merry in the Lord, to act joy and mirth holily (James 5:13; Eph. 5:19), and also to get more knowledge and instruction in heavenly mysteries, and in your duty, teaching and admonishing (Col. 3:16). Many psalms are Maschils (as their title is), that is, psalms of instruction.

Thus we are to sing such psalms as speak in the first person, though we cannot apply them to ourselves, as words uttered by ourselves concerning ourselves; and in this we do not lie. David speaks of Christ as of Himself, as a pattern of affliction and virtue, to instruct others; and we sing such psalms, not as our words, but as words of our instruction. And therein we do not lie, any more than the Levites, the sons of Korah, or Jeduthun or other musicians bound to sing them (Ps. 5; 39; 42). Though it is good to personate all the good that we can, yet we have so much liberty in the use of psalms that though we cannot apply all to ourselves, as speaking and thinking the same, yet we shall answer the end if we sing for our instruction, as in Psalms 6, 26, 46, 101 and 131.

And psalms have a peculiar fitness for teaching and instructing, because the pleasantness of metre, said or sung, is very helpful to the memory (see Deut. 31:19, 21). And there is a variety of curious artifice in the placing of words in the psalms upon this account, and there are some alphabetical psalms, as Psalms 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145. And by the melody of the sound, the instruction comes in with delight, as a physical dose sugared, and sorrow is naturally allayed to fit the mind for spiritual joy, and distempered passions appeased (2 Kings 3:15; 1 Sam. 16: 14-16). So Orpheus, Amphion and others were famous for civilizing rude and barbarous people by music.

8. Fasting is also an ordinance of God to be used for the same purpose and end and is commended to us under the New Testament (Matt. 9:15; 17:21; 1 Cor. 7:5). And we have examples of it (Acts 13:2, 3; 14:23). Under the Old Testament there were frequent commands for it and examples, chiefly upon occasion of extraordinary afflictions (1 Sam. 7:6; Neh. 9:1; Dan. 9:3; 10:2, 3; 2 Sam. 12: 16; Ps. 35:13; 2 Sam. 3:31, 35; Joel 2:12, 13); besides the anniversary great day of atonement (Lev. 16: 29, 31), when everyone was to fast on pain of being cut off. There is a prophecy of the same for the times of the New Testament (Zech. 12:12). It was used most on extraordinary occasions, and it is a help to holiness by faith, because it is a meet help for extraordinary prayer and humiliation (Joel 1:14; 2:12). But the great matter is to use it rightly, as follows.

1. Trust not in it as meriting or satisfying, as Papists and Pharisees do (Luke 18:12), putting it in the place of Christ; or as a means of itself conferring grace and mortifying lusts, as many do, who may sooner kill their bodies than their lusts; or as any purifying rite; yea, or in or for itself acceptable to God (1 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 13:9; Col. 2:16, 17, 20, 23). Imagine not that prayer is not acceptable without it, for this is against faith. Fasts, as well as feasts, are no substantial parts of worship, because not spiritual, but bodily; though under the Old Testament they were parts, as instituted rites, figurative and teaching. But that use is now ceased, as that on the day of atonement, and so many figurative rites adjoined to fasting, as sackcloth, ashes, rending garments, pouring out water, lying on the earth. The kingdom of God consists not in these things (Rom. 14:17). The soul is hardened by trusting in them (Isa. 58:3, 6; Zech. 7:5, 6, 10).

2. Use it as a help to extraordinary prayer and humiliation, that the mind may not be unsuited for it by eating, drinking or bodily pleasures (Joel 2:13; Isa. 22:12, 13; Zech. 12:10-14). It is good only as a help to the soul, removing impediments. The best fast is when the mind is taken off from delights, as in John the Baptist's case (Matt. 3:4), when heaven and godly sorrow take off the soul (Zech. 12:10 -14).

3. Use it in such a measure as may be proper for its end, without which it is worth nothing. If abstinence divert your mind, by reason of a gnawing appetite, then you had better eat sparingly, as Daniel in his great fast (Dan. 10:2, 3). Some have not enough of spiritual-mindedness to give up themselves to fasting and prayer without great distraction; and such had better eat than go beyond their strength in a thing not absolutely necessary, which produces only a slavish act, as in the case of virginity (1 Cor. 7:7-9, 34-36). Christ would not have His weak disciples necessitated to the duty (Matt. 9:14, 15). In the meantime, such should strive to be sensible of the weakness and carnality that hinders their use of this excellent help.

9. You may expect here something to be spoken of vows. But I shall only say this of them. Think not to bring yourselves to good by vows and promises, as if the strength of your own law could do it when the strength of God's law does it not. We bring children to make promises of amendment, but we know how well they keep them. The devil will urge you to vow, and then to break, that he may perplex your conscience the more.

10. Another great mean is fellowship and communion with the saints (Acts 2:42).

First, this mean must be used diligently. Whosoever God saves should be added to some visible church and come into communion of other saints and, if they have no opportunity for it, their heart should be bent towards it. Sometimes the church is in the wilderness and hindered from visible communion and ordinances, but they that believe in Christ are always willing and desirous so to add and join themselves (Acts 2:41, 44, 47). And the continued steadfastly in fellowship (1 John 2:19). Andy God binds His people to leave the fellowship and society of the wicked as much as may be (2 Cor. 6:17). And, so far as we are necessitated to accompany them, we ought to show charity to their souls and bodies (1 Cor. 5:9).

This communion with saints is to be exercised in private converse (Ps. 101:4-7), and in public assemblies (Heb. 10:25; Zech. 14:16, 17). And doubtless, it ought to be used for the attainment of holiness as may be proved.

Firstly, in general, because God communicates all salvation to a people ordinarily by, or in a church, either by taking them into fellowship, or holding forth the light of truth by His churches to the world. A church is the temple of God, where God dwells (1 Tim. 3:15). He has placed His name and salvation there, as in Jerusalem of old (Joel 2:32; 2 Chron. 6:5, 6). He has given to His churches those officers and ordinances whereby He converts others (1 Cor. 12:28). His springs are there (Ps. 87:7). He makes the several members of a church instruments for the conveyance of His grace and fullness from one to another, as the members of the natural body convey to each other the fullness of the head (Eph. 4:16). All the newborn are brought forth and nourished by the church (Isa. 66:8, 11; 49:20; 60:4), and therefore all that would be saved should join to a church; they shall prosper that love the church, so as to stand in its gates and unite as members, brethren and companions (Ps. 122:2, 4, 6). And wrath is denounced against those that are not members of it, at least, of the mystical body: they cannot have God for their Father, that have not that for their mother (S. of S. 1:7, 8). This makes those that desire fellowship with God to take hold of the skirts of His people (Zech. 8:23).

Secondly, in particular, fellowship with the saints conduces to holiness many ways.

1. By manifold helps to holiness, which are received thereby, as:

1. The Word and sacraments (Acts 2:42; Isa. 2:3; Matt. 28:19, 20), and all the ministerial office and labour in watching our souls (Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Isa. 25: 6). None of these helps can be enjoyed without fellowship of saints, each with other. And if believers had been to have stood single by themselves, and not maintained fellowship with each other for mutual assistance and common good, none of these things could have continued; neither could any believer have been extant at this day, in any ordinary way, but even the very name of believers had been abolished.

2. Mutual prayer, which is the more forcible when all pray together (Matt. 18:19, 20; 2 Cor. 1:10, 11; James 5:16; Rom. 15:30).

3. Mutual admonition, instruction, consolation, to help each other when they are ready to fall, and to promote the good work in each other (1 Thess. 5:14). 'He that walks with wise men, shall be wise' (Prov. 13:20). Woe to him that is alone 'when he falls' (see Eccles. 4:9-12). In church fellowship there are many helpers, many to watch. Soldiers have their security in company, and the church is compared to an 'army with banners' (S. of S. 6:4, 10). So, for quickening affections, iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17). Likewise, the counsel of a friend, like ointment and perfume, rejoices the heart (Prov. 27:9), yea, the wounds and reproofs of the righteous are as precious balm (Ps. 141:5).

4. External supports, which mitigate afflictions, and are to be communicated mutually (Eph. 4:28; 1 Peter 4:9, 10). The affliction is increased, when none care for our souls (Ps. 142:4).

5. Excommunication, when offences are exceeding heinous or men obstinate in sin. This ordinance is appointed for the 'destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved' (1 Cor. 5:5). Better and more hopeful it is to be cast out by the church for a person's amendment than to be wholly without the church at all times; and better to be a lost sheep, than a goat or swine; for excommunication cuts off actual communion only until repentance be evident, and not absolutely abolishes the title and relation of a brother and church member, though it judges one to be an unnatural brother and a pernicious rotten member at present, not fit for acts of communion. Besides, admonition is still to be afforded (2 Thess. 3:15), and any means are to be used that may serve to cure and restore him. The church reaches forth a hand to help such a person, though it does not join hands in fellowship with him; or it communicates to him, not with him. Yet, if he have not so much grace as to repent, it were better he had never known the way of righteousness (2 Peter 2:21).

6. The lively examples of saints are before our eyes in church fellowship, to teach and encourage (Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Tim. 3: 10, 11; 2 Cor. 9:2).

2. By those holy duties that are required and do appertain to this fellowship and communion. All acts that belong to this fellowship are holy; as, hearing, receiving the sacraments, prayer, mutual admonitions, etc. I shall consider some such holy acts, by which we are rather doers than receivers, and which we perform towards others, as:

1. Godly discourse, teaching, admonishing, comforting others in Christ, which we cannot so perform towards others as towards those we have strict fellowship with in Christ. Others, like swine, trample these jewels under foot, and saints therefore are forced to refrain from godly discourse in their company (Amos 5:10, 13; 6:10). But holy discourse is most acceptable to the saints, and to be practiced with them (Mal. 3:16), and is greatly to the advantage of holiness (Prov. 11:25).

2. In helping, succouring and conversing with Christ in His members. We do good to Christ in His members in church fellowship; and we ourselves as members of Christ act as well from Christ as towards Christ; whereas, if we do good to others without, we do good only for Christ's sake, but not to Christ (Matt. 25:35-46; Ps. 16:2, 3). We have advantage in general to do all duties that belong to us as members of Christ to fellow members - which we cannot do, if separate from them, as a natural member cannot perform its office to other members, if separate from them.

Secondly, the means must be used rightly, for the attaining of holiness only in Christ.

1. One rule is 'Do not trust in church membership', or on churches, as if this or that relation in fellowship commended you to God of itself, whereas, a church way is but a help to fellowship with Christ and walking in the duties of that fellowship. The Israelites stumbled at Christ by trusting on their carnal privileges, and set them in opposition to Christ, whereas they should have only made them subservient to Christ. Confidence in them should have been abandoned, as Paul's example teaches (Phil. 3:3-5, etc.). We must not glory in Paul, Apollos, Cephas, but in Christ; else we glory in the flesh, and in men (1 Cor. 1:12, 13; 3:21). Trusting on church privileges is an inlet to formality and licentiousness (Jer. 7:4, 8-10), and thence the corruption of churches (Isa. 1:10; 2 Tim. 2:20).

2. Follow no church any farther than you may follow it in the way of Christ, and keep fellowship with it only upon the account of Christ, because it follows Christ and has fellowship with Christ (1 John 1:3; Zech. 8:23). If a church revolts from Christ, we must not follow it, however ancient it may be; as the Israelitish church was not to be followed, when it persecuted Christ and His apostles, and many by adhering to that church fell from Christ (Phil. 3:6; Acts 6: 13, 14; 21:28). We are indeed to hear the church, but not every one that calls itself so, and none any farther than it speaks as a true church, according to the voice of the Shepherd (John 10:27). We must subject ourselves to ministers of Christ and stewards of His mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1), but must give up ourselves first to Christ absolutely, and to the church according to the will of Christ (2 Cor. 8:5).

Our fear must not be taught by the precepts of men (Matt. 15). The doctrines of any men are to be tried by Scripture, whatever authority they pretend to (Acts 17:11). An unlimited following church guides brought the church into Babylon and into all manner of spiritual whoredoms and abominations. You are not baptized into the name of the church, but into the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:13).

3. Do not think that you must attain this or that degree of grace, before you join yourself in full communion with a church of Christ in all ordinances. But when you have given up yourself to Christ, and learned the duty of communion, give up yourself unto a church of Christ, though you find much weakness and inability. For church ordinances of special communion serve to strengthen you, and how can you get heat, being alone? The disciples, as soon as converted, embraced all fellowship (Acts 2:42). And churches, that they may forward holiness in themselves and others, must be willing to receive Christ's weak ones, and to feed His lambs as well as better-grown sheep, and bear them on their sides (Isa. 66:12). How else shall Christ's weak ones grow strong by that nourishment that other parts supply? They are very unreasonable that expect Christians should grow out of church fellowship to as high a degree of grace as these that are in those pastures of tender grass, and are unwilling to receive any that they are like to have occasion to bear with, whereas bearing and long-suffering are great duties of church fellowship (Eph. 4:2, 3; Rom. 14:1). The weakest have most need to be strengthened by church communion, and we are bound to receive them, as Christ has received us (Rom. 15:7). We do not reject or separate the weaker parts of the body (1 Cor. 12:23, 24), but put more honour and comeliness on them.

Admission into the churches in the apostolic times was gained upon profession with a show of seriousness, though tares got in among the wheat, and many scandals arose to the reproach of the ways of Christ; and the greatest strictness will not keep out all hypocrites, yet the best care must be taken so far as not to hinder any that have the least truth of grace.

4. Keep communion with a church for the sake of communion with Christ (1 John 1:3; Zech. 8:23). Therefore, you must keep communion in Christ's pure ways only, and in them seek Christ by faith that, in the enjoyment of those advantages, you may receive and act the godliness and holiness forementioned and aim at spiritual flourishing and growth in grace. Choose therefore fellowship with the most spiritual churches. Judge of churches and men according to e rule of the new creature (2 Cor. 5:16, 17), and try them (Rev. 2:2; 3:9); otherwise a church may corrupt you.

See that your communion answer its end, tend to your edification, not to destruction; which you ought to take all the advantages of, not only in the church where you are a member, but by communion with other churches, as occasionally providence casts you among them, for your communion with a particular church obliges to communion with all churches of Christ in His ways, as you are called to it (1 Cor. 10:17). And it is an abuse to say, 'We are members of a church in London, and therefore refuse fellowship with a church in the country,' seeing, if we are members of Christ, we are members of one another, whether single persons or churches.

And endeavour to join in fellowship with the godly of the place where you live, that you may have the more frequent and constant communion. Onesimus, though converted at Rome, must be one of the church of the Colossians, because he lived there (Col. 4:9, cf. Philem. 10). The union of the saints together in distant societies, according to the places where they lived, was the apostolic practice, and cannot be violated without sin. Such can best watch over one another, admonish, comfort and edify each other - which is the benefit of communion. And they indeed destroy communion that seek a communion where they cannot have this benefit.

I only add to this head that church fellowship without practicing the ways of Christ is but a conspiracy to take His name in vain, and a counterfeit church fellowship of hypocrites. It is impudence for such to invite others to their communion; tyranny to compel them. Every Christian is bound to seek a better church fellowship by reformation; and those that do so are the best sons of Christ's church, who inquire, 'Is this the way to enjoy Christ?' a church way being appointed to enjoy Christ therein.

5. Especially, leave not the church in persecution, when you need its help most and are then most tried whether you will cleave to it. This is a sign of apostasy (Heb. 10:25, 26; Matt. 24:9-14). We should cleave to one another as one flesh, even to prisons and death, or else we deny Christ in His members (Matt. 25:43).

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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