A Practical Discourse on the Second Commandment by James DurhamArticles on Puritan Worship and the Regulative Principle
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THE LAW UNSEALED OR, A PRACTICAL EXPOSITION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS WITH A RESOLUTION OF SEVERAL MOMENTOUS QUESTIONS AND CASES OF CONSCIENCE
BY THE LEARNED, LABORIOUS, AND FAITHFUL SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST, MR JAMES DURHAM
LATE MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL AT GLASGOW. —Thy Commandment is exceeding broad. Psalm 119.96.
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
EXODUS XX. 4, 5, 6.
Ver. 4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth.
Ver. 5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Ver. 6. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments
THIS Commandment is more largely set down than the former, partly to clear the mandatory part of it, and partly to press it, in which two it may be taken up.
The preceptive or commanding part is expressed in two things, verse 4. and 5. at the beginning. 1. That no image be made: And 2. That it be not worshipped.
Next, it is pressed three ways: 1. From a reason. 2. By a threatening. 3. By a promise: The words are multiplied, that they may the more fully and clearly express what is intended.
1. That this commandment is against all making of images for religious service, is clear, from a threefold extent mentioned in the prohibition. 1. The image of nothing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or under the earth; that is, the similitude of no creature is allowed for this end.
2. Men are forbidden to make either similitudes or likeness, that is, no sort of image, whether that which is engraven in, or hewn out of stone, wood, silver, &c. or that which is made by painting; all kinds are discharged.
3. No sort of worship or service religious is to be given to them, whether mediate, or immediate; whether primarily as to themselves, or secondarily with respect to that which they represent. This is understood under the second part of the commandment, Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve or worship them: under which two all external reverence is discharged; which is clear from the reason adjoined, because God is jealous, and he will not only not endure idolatry, but whatever may look like it; as a jealous husband will not abide any suspicious-like carriage in his wife.
That we may have the clearer access to the meaning and use of this commandment, let us see, 1. What is the scope of it. 2. Wherein it is different from the former.
The scope of this commandment is not merely and only to forbid making and worshipping of images, which is the most gross way of abusing the worship of God; but, under that, to forbid all manner of grossness in the external worship of God, and to command exactness and preciseness in it (as well as internal worship), according to the rule prescribed thereanent by the Lord; and so this commandment includeth all externals commanded in the ceremonial law, and doth forbid all will-worship and superstition in the worship of God, all honouring him by precepts taught by men, and not be himself, Isaiah 29.13. and Matt. 15.9. So then, in the first commandment, the worshipping of the only true God is commanded, and the worshipping of any idol is forbidden: here the true worship of that God is prescribed, and the contrary forbidden. The first commandment sheweth who is to be worshipped: the second how he is to be worshipped; not in the manner that heathens worshipped their idols, nor in any other manner that men should feign and devise to themselves, but in the manner he himself prescribeth
In sum, this commandment holdeth forth these three things: 1. That God will not only be served inwardly in the heart, by good thoughts and intentions (which are prescribed in the first commandment) but also outwardly, in the confessing him before men, in external service and worship, in words and gestures, suitable; for the forbidding this sort of external gestures, worshipping and bowing before idols, doth include the contrary affirmative in all its kinds (according to the first rule before-mentioned for the right understanding of all the commandments.) Thus it taketh in all ordinances of the word, prayer, sacraments, ceremonies, &c. and, failing in these, breaketh this commandment, when even they are not rightly gone about.
2. It holdeth forth this, that, in that external service and worship, God will not have men following their own humour, but will have them to walk by the rule given, or to be given by him to them, and otherwise it is in vain whatever worship men perform to him, Matt. 15.9. Hence it is said here, Thou shalt not make to thyself, that is, at thy own pleasure, without my command, otherwise what is by God’s command, is made to him; and this is to be extended to all ordinances, yea, both to the worship itself, and also to the manner of that worship, all is to be done according to God’s command only.
3. It holdeth forth a spiritual service due to God, or that we should be spiritual in all external service. There should not be in us any carnal apprehensions of God, as if he were like any thing that we could imagine, Acts 17.29. as is fully clear from Deut. 4.15. &c. Also all rashness and carnality in external performances is here discharged under bowing to images, &c.
So then, under these three, we take up the sum of this commandment, whereby it differeth from the former, which may also be cleared from these reasons
1. The first is, that this commandment looketh to external worship, and the ordering of that; which is clear: 1. Because the things forbidden in it, as making of images, and bowing to them, are external acts. 2. These are mentioned as relating to God’s worship; for they are placed in the first table of the law, and for this end images are only mentioned, as made use of by heathens in all their worship, Lev. 26.1. The Lord will not have his people doing so to him, Deut. 12.3-5. &c. 3. Add, that making and worshipping of images are but one part of man’s abusing of the external worship of God, which is mentioned for all of that kind (as adultery is put for all uncleanness in the seventh commandment) and all kinds of false worship, or all the several ways of men’s abusing the external worship of God, are condemned under it. 1. Because it is most gross, and this being a most gross way of adding to his worship, it serveth to shew how God accounteth every adding to his word, or altering of it, to be a gross and heinous sin, Deut. 4.23-25. 2. Because the nations about, especially Egypt, served their gods so: and men naturally are bent to it, as appeareth almost by the practice of all nations; and Rom. 1.25. &c. by the Israelites’ practice in the golden calf, Exod. 32.1-7. and by Jeroboam’s practice, 1 Kings 12.28. Now the Lord will not be served so, but as he commandeth, Deut. 12.4. Ye shall not do so to the Lord, &c. but contrarily, ver. 5. as the Lord shall carve out unto you.
A second reason to clear this to be the meaning, may be taken from the perfection of the law, which lieth in this, that it condemneth all sin, and commandeth all duties. Now it is a sin not only to worship false gods, but to worship the true God in a false way; and it is a duty also to worship him rightly, according as he hath appointed in his word: now these sins must be forbidden in this second commandment, or they are forbidden in none at all; and these duties must be commanded in this commandment, or they are commanded in none.
Next, that we may clear that it is sinful to worship God otherwise than he hath commanded, it would be observed, that there was a twofold idolatry found in Israel, and condemned in the scripture: The first was, when groves and images were planted, and made to idols; and so the people of Israel did often to the heathen gods. The second was, when they had groves, and worshipped in high places, but not to idols, but to the Lord their God, as 2. Chron. 33.17. so, in that place before cited, Deut. 12.2-4. &c. you will find two things forbidden. 1. Making of images to the false gods, which the Canaanites worshipped. 2. Making use of their manner of worship, and turning it unto the true God, both are forbidden; the first, by the first commandment; the last, by the second; compare ver. 8. which holdeth forth this scope, Ye shall not do every man what seemeth right in his own eyes, with what followeth, and with ver. 30. 31. See thou enquire not how these nations worshipped their gods, to wit, by images, &c. as if ye would do so to the Lord: no, but ver. 32. Whatsoever thing I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it; which cleareth the scope of this command, as being purposely there opened up, Ye shall not do so to the Lord your God, wherein more is comprehended than is expressed, namely not only ye shall not serve the Lord, as they do their gods, but also ye shall serve him, as he himself prescribeth.
Hence will it clearly appear, that this command is to be reckoned a distinct command from the former; because 1. It containeth distinct matter, forbiddeth sins of another kind, and commandeth duties of another kind. 2. Because they are certainly ten in number and there cannot be such a reckoning made up if these first two be one, it being clear (as after will appear) that the last is only one, and cannot be divided into two. 3. Besides, it is the common reckoning of the ancient Jews, as may be seen from Josephus, lib. 3.9. Ainsworth, and others. This then being laid down as a truth, we shall, 1. Shortly put by some questions concerning images, for clearing the words. 2. Come particularly to shew what is required, and what is forbidden in this commandment, and how we break it in our ordinary practices: Then, 3. Open the reasons that are annexed.
Concerning images two things are to be enquired. 1. If no image be lawful? and if any be lawful, what these be? 2. If any use, especially religious, of images be lawful? and if adoration of any kind be to be given to them? We say for answer,
1. That making of pictures of creatures, which are visible or may be comprehended, or historical fancies (to speak so), such as the senses and elements used to be holden forth by; (which are rather hieroglyphics than real pictures) these, I say, are not simply unlawful, but are so, when they are abused: so Solomon made images of lions for his use; and thus the gift of engraving and painting, as well as others, which God hath given to men, may be made use of, when, as hath been said, it is not abused. As,
1. When such pictures are obscene and filthy, and against Christian modesty to behold, such break this commandment, but more especially the seventh, because as filthy communication doth pollute the ears, so do they the eyes. 2. When men become prodigal in their bestowing either too much time, or too much expense on them. 3. When they dote too much on them by curiosity, and many other ways they may be abused: but especially, in the fourth place, if they be abused to any religious use, then they become unlawful, as afterwards shall be cleared.
2. Though making of images simply be not unlawful and discharged by this commandment, yet thereby every representation of God (who is the object to be worshipped), and every image religiously made use of in worship, is condemned, though civil and politic images and statues, which were used as ornaments, or badges of honour, or remembrancers of some fact, be not condemned. 1. Because such images cannot but beget carnal thoughts of God, as Acts 1. 7,29. contrarily to this commandment. 2. Because God discovered himself, Deut 4.15,16. &c. by no likeness but only by his word, that they might have no ground of likening him to any thing. 3. Because it is impossible to get a bodily likeness to set him out by, who is a Spirit and an infinite Spirit: so then every such image must be derogatory to God, as turning the glory of the invisible God to the shape of some visible and corruptible creature, which is condemned, Rom. 1.22,23. for every image supposeth some likeness. Now, there can be no conceivable or imaginable likeness betwixt God and any thing that we can invent: Therefore it is aid by the Lord, Isaiah 40.18. To whom will ye liken God or what likeness will ye compare unto him? where it seemeth it was no idol, but God they aimed to represent by their images, which was the fault condemned, ver. 25. As also, when we cannot conceive of God, and of the mysteries of the Trinity and incarnation as we ought, what presumption must it be to paint them?
Therefore, upon these grounds, 1. We simply condemn any delineating of God, or the Godhead, or Trinity; such as some have upon their buildings, or books, like a sun shining with beams, and the Lord’s name, Jehovah, in it, or any other way. This is most abominable to see, and a heinous wronging of God’s majesty.
2. All representing of the persons as distinct, as to set out the Father (personally considered) by the image of an old man, as if he were a creature, the Son under the image of a lamb or young man, the Holy Ghost under the image of a dove, all which wrongeth the Godhead exceedingly; and although the Son was and is man, having taken on him that nature, and united it to his Godhead, yet he is not a mere man; therefore that image, which only holdeth forth one nature, and looketh like any man in the world, cannot be the representation of that person which is God and man.
And if it be said man’s soul cannot be painted, but his body may, and yet that picture representeth a man; I answer, it doth so, because he has but one nature, and what representeth that, representeth the person; but it is not so with Christ: his Godhead is not a distinct part of the human nature, as the soul of man is (which is necessarily supposed in every living man), but a distinct nature, only united with the manhood in that one person, Christ, who has no fellow; therefore what representeth him must not represent a man only, but must represent Christ, Immanuel, God-man, otherwise it is not his image. Beside, there is no warrant for representing him in his manhood; nor any colourable possibility of it, but as men fancy; and shall that be called Christ’s portraiture? would that be called any other man’s portraiture, which were drawn at men’s pleasure, without regard to the pattern? Again, there is no use of it; for either that image behoved to have but common estimation with other images, and that would wrong Christ, or a peculiar respect and reverence, and so it sinneth against this commandment that forbiddeth all religious reverence to images, but he being God, and so the object of worship, we must either divide his natures, or say, that image or picture representeth not Christ.
Again, as to what may be objected from the Lord’s appearing sometimes in the likeness of a man, or the Spirit’s descending as a dove, or as cloven tongues of fire: It is answered,
1. There is a great difference betwixt a sign of the Spirit’s presence, and a representation of the Spirit. 2. Betwixt what representeth the Spirit, as he is one of the persons of the blessed Trinity, and what resembleth some gift of his: The similitude of a dove descending upon Christ was to shew his taking up his residence in him, and furnishing him with gifts and graces, and particularly holy simplicity and meekness without measure; and so his appearing in cloven tongues was to shew his communicating the gift of tongues to the apostles. 3. Neither is there any warrant for drawing him in these shape, more than to look on every living dove, as representing him: and the like may be said of God’s appearing sometimes in human likeness; it was but that men might have some visible help to discern something of God’s presence, but not to give any representation of him: and these bodies were but for a time assumed, as a prelude and forerunning evidence of the Son’s being to become man.
From this ground also it would seem, that painting of angels might be condemned, as a thing impossible, they being spirits, which no corporeal thing can represent, beside that the representing of them has some hazard with it: and for those cherubims that were made by God’s direction under the Old Testament, they were rather some emblem of the nature and service of angels, as being full of zeal, and always (as it were) upon wing ready to obey God’s will, than any likeness of themselves. And it is hardly possible to fancy representations of spirits, good or evil, but thereby men will wrong themselves in the right description of them; though we grant angels being but finite spirits, there is another kind of danger and impossibility of representing God, who is an infinite Spirit. Also some say, That these cherubims mentioned did not represent the nature of angels, but angels appearing under such visible shape; and we find, Ezek. 1. there are divers shapes by which they are pointed out, but it is as to their fitness and readiness for service, and not as to their nature.
3. We say, that no image whatsoever, made use of for religious ends, and without the bounds of civil and politic uses, is allowable, but is by this commandment condemned, as unsuitable to the Lord’s nature and revealed will; so by this, images (otherwise lawful) when abused to idolatry, become unlawful, and are not to be suffered, but orderly to be removed. We call that more than a civil or common use, when religious worship or reverence is purposely intended to them, or there is, by some one occasion or other, danger, lest they may be so abused: and of this sort (viz. dangerous ones) are, 1. Images in places of worship; but it is not idolatry, to have dead men’s images on their tombs or monuments in churches. 2. Images of such angels, saints, &c. which has been abused to idolatry by being worshipped, or most readily may be so abused. 3. Images erected for helping our prayers to be accepted, and which have altars, lights, or temples appointed for them, which will be clearer, when we come to speak of religious worship and bowing. Thus peregrinations and vows to images, touching of them with some apprehension of fruit and advantage thereby, especially when healing is expected from them; and so are they abused also, though help be expected not from the images, but from him whom it is said to represent. And thus also, when any image once lawful cometh to be abused, it ought to be removed, as the brazen serpent was by Hezekiah: and, under this prohibition, come in the images of false gods, as Cupid, Venus, Apollo, Jupiter, &c. which were once abused. Besides some of these idols being nothing, the pourtraying of them maketh them appear something: And if it was the Lord’s way to command the breaking and destroying of all idols and images of false gods, can it be suitable to retain them in memory? that a generation following might have that occasion and help to idolatry, viz. the images of old idols, from Christians: and if it was David’s and the saints’ way, Psalm 16.4. not so much as to mention their names, but with detestation, ought God’s people for sport or delight to look on these images? Zeal for God would abhor these curiosities; and what edification can be in them?
We are now to clear the second question, If any worship may be given, and what worship is due to images of any sort? and if it be not a breach of this command to give any religious worship to any of them? That we may answer.
1. Consider, there was a two-fold worshipping of images, even amongst heathens. The first was more gross, when the worship was given to the image, as being some Godhead of itself: thus some think the images of Baal, Ashtaroth, &c. and particular images, that have special names, were worshipped; thus are men said properly to worship the works of their hands. This is against the first commandment. 2. Their’s was a worshipping of images as representing God, and so the worship was gone about as a part of service done to the true God, such was, in conformity to the heathens’ practice, the worship given to the calf, Exod. 32.1,7. and such were the groves and sacrificings in the high places, 2 Chron. 33.17.
More particularly, there is an immediate worshipping of images as idols, when they in themselves or for themselves, are worshipped: and secondly, there is a mediate worshipping of images for that which they represent, when men worship something in them or signified by them.
This again may be distinguished with respect to the object, when the worship is directed either first to a false god, else secondly to the true God.
2. Consider, that there are diverse sorts of worship given to the images of the true God, or of saints. 1. Some religious worship which is more than civil, yet not that which is due to God, such Bellarmine giveth them for themselves properly, and called duleia.2. A divine worship due to what is typified, such many give to the images of God and Christ; and they call latreia; this Bellarmine giveth them not properly, but per accidens & propter aliud; though the first he maketh properly to terminate on the image, yet Aquinas, and his followers part 3.q.25.3.4. giveth the images of Christ, of Mary, and of the cross latreia, properly so called.
3. Consider what that is which is called religious worship, it differeth from civil or politic worship, (such as is given to living men, yea, from that civil respect which one will give to the image of a king, or of one they love, which is not properly worship even civil) and consisteth in other circumstances of a religious consideration; and it may be known to differ from what is civil, but these things: 1. By the thing to which the worship is given, that is, if it be a thing which passeth not under a civil but under a religious account, as bowing to a living man is one thing, to a saint’s image, a sacrament, or such like, which have nothing in them, calling for civil honour, is another thing; and therefore, if any honour be given them, it must be on another account. 2. By the actions, wherein we give such worship, as if it be in prayer, or in worshipping of God, or in sacrificing, it is one thing to bow then, to or before an image or man, and another thing to do it, when occasionally or historically we are relating something, or doing some civil business, as tying the shoe, or such like. 3. By the sort of worship that has been given to idols or used in religious service to God, and not suitable for any civil respect to such an object, as bowing the knee, uncovering the head, praying, building temples, altars, making vows unto them, or before them, swearing by them, or before them, carrying them about with us because of some religious influence they are supposed to have, setting them up for reverence to be given to them, setting up lights about them, sacrificing, burning incense to them, &c. or something of that kind, used sometime in God’s service, or in the service of idols.
4. Consider, that what is said of images may be said of all creatures and things to which divine honour, or religious worship in the service of God is attributed; for if the one fail all will by this commandment be overturned; such as, 1. Worshipping of angels and saints by duleia, or the virgin Mary by upirduleia, as mediators and helps in our servicing the true God. 2. All adoration to the relics or martyrs, such as their bones, dust, clothes, &c, especially the adoration of the very cross (as they say) whereon Christ suffered, which hath by papists a divine sacrifice offered to it, and a divine worship given, in the highest degree. 3. The adoration of such things as are used in worship, as temples, altars, bread in the sacrament, Agnus Dei, masses, &c. 4. The images of God, Christ, saints, angels, yea of the cross, which are said to be worshipped with respect to the true God, and not as derogatory to his service.
For further clearing of this purpose, we shall speak to a question which here necessarily occureth; namely, Whether these things mentioned, being worshipped by any sort of religious service, whether directly or indirectly, for themselves, or for such things to which they relate, or which they signify, even when men pretend the worship is not given to them, but ultimately referred to the honour of the true God, whether, I say, worshipping them so be not idolatry, and a breach of this commandment?
In answering this question, 1. We shall clear, that there may be and is idolatry committed with images, and means of God’s service, even in such worship, wherein the images which men worship are not accounted gods, but only representations of God; and although these means of worship, which they worship, are made use of in serving the true God. 2. We shall clear, that all such service, as being idolatry, is forbidden by this command, however it be distinguished. If it be performed as religious service, though some service be more gross, and other some more subtle and refined.
First, then, that there is such a kind of idolatry, in worshipping of images, when men rest not on the images, but direct their worship to the God represented by them; we may clear it in divers ways.
And 1. From the heathens, who, though some did, yet all of them did not account their images their gods, but only some representations of them: and first, we may gather this from Rom. 1.22,23. where it is said of them, 1. That they knew God; and yet, 2. That they turned the glory of that incorruptible God into the similitude of beasts and men, corruptible creatures. Their fault is not that they accounted these representations or images which they made, gods; but that they declined in their worship, in the worshipping of the true God by such images.
2. It may also appear by the frequent changes of their images, while they retained their former gods, and by their multiplying images of one sort, and divers sorts, to one and the same God, and by their giving all these images one name: And when it is said, that Solomon and other kings set up images to Ashtaroth, Baal, &c. it cannot be thought they supposed these images to be the very gods themselves which they worshipped, but that they were only set up for their honour, 2 Kings 23.13. And when Manasses made chariots to the sun, he supposed them not to be the sun, 2 Kings 23.11. Yea, was not this commonly acknowledged, that Jupiter was in heaven, as appeareth, Acts 19.39. and that that image came down from him, but was not he, nor yet the feigned goddess Diana.
3. It may appear by the heathens’ own confession, and the shifts they used, when they were charged with the worshipping the works of their hands: As, 1. They used to say, they worshipped but the Numen, or god which was in them, and which invisibly, after their dedication of them (and not before), dwelt in them; yea, some of them would say, they neither worshipped that image, nor any devil, but by a bodily sign they beheld what they should worship. 2. When Christians further urged them, that what was signified by their images, was not the true God, but a creature, as by Neptune, the sea; by Vulcan, the fire, &c.; they replied, it was not those bodies which they worshipped, but the gods which governed them. So Augustine, Psalm 113. nobis 115. concerning the idols of the Gentiles, and Augustine de Civitat. Dei, lib. 7. cap. 5. where he sheweth that Varro giveth that reason, why the gods were rather portrayed in man’s picture (though they were invisible) because, saith he, man’s soul is a spirit, and cometh nearest them; and the body is the vessel of the soul, and therefore it used to represent it. See Chrysost. 1. Eph. Hom. 18. Andrews on Second Command, August. in Psalm 96. nobis 97.
And it may also fourth appear from this, That the heathen gods, for the most part, even those of them that were most commonly worshipped, were some famous men, after death supposed to be deified, to whom they made statues and images, and yet still the honour was intended to those to whom they appointed the images, though they supposed that their gods, in an especial manner, dwelt in these images, and answered from them.
In the second place, this may be made to appear from the command, Deut. 12.31. where the Lord forbiddeth not only the worshipping of idols, but of himself by images, Thou shalt not do so to the Lord thy God; that is, thou shalt not worship me by images, as the heathens do their gods: and therefore this is not only possible, but is also, and that most certainly, a grievous guilt, even though the pretended it was not idols but God they worshipped; yet it was not so, they worshipped not him, but the idol.
3. We shall clear it yet further, That the true God may be worshipped by idolaters, as they pretend, and yet in God’s account their worship is nothing but idolatry committed with their images.
We shall give four instances of this. The first is from Exodus 32. where it is clear,
1. That the image they set up was not itself acknowledged to be God, but as something to represent the true God; for, 1. It cannot be thought their minds were so soon darkened, as altogether to forget what God had done, and to imagine that the thing which was new made with hands, was God, though they be charged with forgetting God, because they were practical forgetters of him, and their sin did speak it out indeed. 2. The image is called Jehovah, that brought them out of Egypt, which was a mercy past, before the calf had a being; and therefore the reason why they gave it this name must certainly be, because they aimed by it to represent Jehovah. 3. It is not likely that now they would have worshipped the gods of Egypt, or that they would have attributed their delivery from Egypt to them, seeing these gods were also plagued: also, that Aaron should do so is incredible, who yet joined with them in this transgression. 4. Beside, can it be thought, that so soon they thought it to be God, and yet so easily passed afterward from it? certainly the words, That it may go before us, that is, not to Egypt, but Canaan, whether God called them, do clearly imply, that they looked on it only as a representation of Jehovah.
2. It is clear that they sacrificed burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before this image; and this was the same service which was due to the Lord, and so it was proclaimed, Exod. 32.5. and therefore it was to the Lord, and not to the image (for itself) that they sacrificed.
3. It is clear that they are charged for turning out of the way, and that because of their making a molten image, which seemeth to infer, that their guilt was rather in the manner of worship, and making of that image for worship, than in quitting God altogether; and thus they grossly failed in the manner of worshipping him, by occasion of Moses’ absence; for now they want that sign of God’s presence, which formerly they had, and have not such a visible commerce (as it were) with God; it is that they complain of, and this want of a visible sign, and not of God simply, do they intend to make up by this image.
4. This may be further confirmed from Acts 7.40-42. where it is said, that because of this sin they were given up to gross idolatry; which could not be, had this been idolatry of the grossest sort.
The second instance is from Judges 17. where you will find that that idol, which Micah made, is not by him or his mother accounted God, but is made use of by them, as they think, for furthering them in God’s service, as appeareth, 1. From this, that it getteth not the name of any strange god. 2. That he seeketh a Levite for a priest to it, and promiseth to himself God’s blessing from that, not that the idol would bless him, but Jehovah, ver. 13. 3. That it is said the priest asked counsel of Jehovah for the Danites, Judges 18.6.
The third instance is, that of Jeroboam, who did sin, and made Israel to sin, by the calves he set up at Dan and Bethel; that they were not intended to be worshipped as idols, for themselves, but as means, whereby they might be helped to worship the true God, may appear, 1. From Jeroboam’s motive, which was not to divert the people from the true God, at least as he supposed, or to make them alter their God, but to alter their manner of worship, and to divert them from going up to Jerusalem to worship, from his fear of their revolt to Rehoboam arose: Hence, the calves are not provided to prevent worshipping of God, but are put in place of their going up to Jerusalem; as the colour of reason, pretended by him for this alteration, sheweth. And so one service is put for another, without changing their god; and all the reproofs that his sins meet with from the prophets run at this, that he altered the manner of God’s worship, in putting up new signs in new places, and appointing new sacrifices and priests. 2. It appeareth from this, that, as it was distinct from that way of serving God, which was in Judah, so was it from the way of the heathens, yea, from the way used by such idolatrous kings as Ahab, who are said to do worse, because they did set up strange gods, which the calves are not called, and Baalim; and Jehu, when he destroyed the false gods, yet he retained this manner of worship; and there were no cause to discriminate Jeroboam’s sin from Ahab’s, or to look upon it as any thing lesser, if all the difference had been only in the change of worshipping the image of one idol into the worshipping the image of another: But the difference was in this, that the one worshipped the true God in these images, the other idols indeed. 3. Hence there was still some knowledge of God in that land, and prophets sometimes sent them by the Lord, yea, when they were led captive, and others sent into their place it is said, 2 Kings 17.26. &c. they learned the manner of the god of the land, that is, the true God, though they corrupted themselves with serving their idols also: And thus the Samaritans continued worshipping they knew not what, though they pretended to worship the true God, John 4.22.
The fourth instance is, that corrupt practice, used sometimes in Judah, of setting up high places and groves, when yet they did not thereby intend to serve idols, but the true God, and yet they are reproved for this, as a gross corrupting of the worship of God.
And it would seem clear sometimes in Judah, and often in Israel, even when they are charged with idolatry, that yet the knowledge of the true God was not obliterate among them, nor they so brutish in their worship as other nations about them: We take it then for a clear truth, that they often did worship the true God by images, when they did not worship the images directly.
The second thing may be easily cleared and made out, to wit, that all worshipping of God by images, though the worship be pretended to be given to the true God, and not to the images, but to the thing signified or represented by the image, is yet unlawful, and idolatry, forbidden by this commandment, whatever sort of worship it be, if it be religious, as hath been said: And this we shall make out by these arguments.
The first is, from the general scope of this command, which is to forbid not only the overturning of God’s service, but also all will-worship, though mixed in with the service, as it seemeth that was, which is mentioned, Col. 2.8. of worshipping angels; which yet was so subtle, that they pretended they were far from taking from God any thing that was his due. That this is the scope of this command, is clear from Deut. 12.8. where the Lord forbiddeth men, in his worship To do what seemeth good to every one in his own eyes: But so it is, that the worshipping of God before images, &c. is will-worship, &c. till it be shewn that it is prescribed by God.
Secondly, That way of worshipping God is clearly condemned by the more particular scope of this command, which is, first, to discharge all thoughts of God, or his service: Which scope, as it saith, God cannot dwell in temples; so neither can he be worshipped by men’s hands, that is, by images made with men’s hands, as those in Athens did, Acts 17.24,25. for they ignorantly worshipped the true God. 2. To shew that he should not be served as idolaters served their gods, by images, Deut. 4. and 12.30-32. This binds us to the word for all institute worship, but especially restraineth us from idolaters, their way of worship, as well as from their idols, Thou shalt not do so to the Lord thy God: Note, that so set down, verse 4. relateth to the groves, images, high places, &c. mentioned ver. 4. which place doth not only discharge such service to be given to idols, but the giving of any such service to God himself, who will have no such service: and if it be clear that worshipping him by groves and high places be condemned, why not worshipping him by images also? for the prohibition so looketh to all.
Thirdly, This command hath a general prohibition in it, that leaveth no image out, whether of God, saint, or any other thing, for any religious use, under whatsoever shape: For, 1. It dischargeth the making of any image of any thing for any religious use. 2. It dischargeth all worship to be given them, whether outward by bowing, or inward by service, or whatsoever followeth on these; and therefore no distinction used by idolaters can salve the matter, or avoid the strength of this command, especially considering that it directeth men in the manner how they should serve the true God, and doth not simply prescribe who is to be acknowledged as true God, which is done by the first command.
Fourthly, If by this command heathenish idolatry, or serving God by images be condemned, then the serving of God by images also amongst Christians is here condemned: but the heathens serving God by images is here condemned, Ergo, &c.
If it be answered, that heathens did represent by their images that which was not God, and that this was their fault, I answer, 1. It is not like all did so, nor that any at first did so; but some had a notion of the invisible Godhead, as Rom. 1.28. though they changed it into an image, like to a corruptible creature. 2. Yet here the argument holdeth; if heathens who worshipped, suppose Jupiter, Vulcan, &c. and their images of gold, silver, &c. were holden for idolaters; not only as worshipping Jupiter and Vulcan, and these idols which were so represented, but also as worshipping gold and silver, and such images and things as they made use of to represent them; then also Christians must be said not only to worship what is represented by those images, but the images themselves, and so to be guilty of idolatry on that account. The reason will hold alike in both; and if their exception, that they worshipped not the images, but what they represented, did not exempt them from being found guilty of worshipping such images in particular, neither will Christians upon that plea be found exeemed from this guilt; for a quatenus ad omne valet consequentia.
5th, Argument, if that idolatry committed by the Israelites in the wilderness, Exod. 32. and that which was set up in Israel by Jeroboam, and that of Manasses, 2 Chron. 33. be to be condemned as idolatry, then that which is practiced amongst the papists in worshipping of their images, and God by them, is to be condemned as idolatry, but the former is condemned in scripture as gross idolatry, because it falleth off, and declineth from the way of worship the Lord hath prescribed, and turned God’s people like idolaters in their way; therefore also the latter is to be condemned as idolatry.
There is no exceptions which the papist give in here against this argument, but the like have been given by the Israelites.
For, 1. If they say, They worshipped not the true God before these images, that is answered already.
2. If they say, it was condemned, because they represented him by such images, that is not enough: For, 1. The command forbiddeth all images of any thing. 2. The opposition mentioned, Deut. 4. Thou sawest no likeness or image but heardest a voice, hath no middle, but argueth against all alike: Hence these images, Psalm 115. that had noses and mouths, but smelled not, and spoke not, were condemned, as well as those complained of, Rom. 1.
3. If they say, It was not lawful then, but is lawful now; this were to say, that the gospel admitteth of more carnal ordinances than the law; whereas its service is more spiritual, without all doubt.
From all which we may clearly conclude, that in such service, there is a twofold idolatry committed: 1. In that because of some holiness and venerability that is supposed to be in such images, reliques, &c. religious worship (though inferior to what is attributed to God) is given to them for themselves, according to the decrees of that second council of Nice. 2. In that they pretend, by such service to worship the true God, though in an idolatrous manner forbidden by him, besides what Aquinas and his followers maintain, who give to the images of God, Christ, Mary, and the cross, latreia itself, part 13. q. 25. a. 1-3. And reason sayeth, It is a snare unto them that worship them, and a scandal to others: for, as Augustine (speaking against the expressions used by heathens, from Psalm 113. and from that of the apostle, Rom. 1. after he hath rejected their images, and their interpretation, and excuses also) sayeth, He who worshippeth and prayeth toward an image, is an idolater: for, who, saith he, worshippeth and prayeth towards an image, who is not affected with it as if it heard him?
In short, then, the idolatry that striketh against this command, may be summoned up in these particulars.
1. When, by some visible sign, representation, or image, the Godhead is wronged, as being thereby made alike to it; this is against Deut. 4.15-17. &c. where every image made to represent the true God, is condemned as unsuitable to him.
2. When by our worship we tie the presence of the true God, to some place, image, statue, or relic, as if they had something in them, or communicated to them more divine than any other thing; or, as if God heard our prayers better at images, and by them; or, as if there were a more special presence of God there, or a more special dispensation of grace granted by them; as heathens supposed their gods dwelt visibly in their images, and did answer them there. Now, the supposing that there is in any thing something venerable and worthy of such respect, is the ground of all idolatry; the inward leaning to it, and trusting in it, is against the first command: but the outward expressing of this esteem and trust is against the second command. Thus men sin in praying to things that are (though rational creatures) as angels and saints; or to things that are not, as empty images that have no deity dwelling in them; or to lifeless creatures, as the cross, bread, &c.
3. It is idolatry, when idolatrous worship, used in the service of idols, is given to God, contrary to his command: so, Deut. 12.30,31. Thou shalt not do so to the Lord thy God; and, 2 Chron. 33.17. their keeping up of groves for the worship of God, and that invention of Jeroboam’s calves, are condemned as idolatry.
4. When any thing of that external worship, which is due to the true God, is given to any other, even though it be with a purpose not to shut him out altogether from his due, yet when it is in part given to any other thing, as to the cross, saints, images, &c. it is called worshipping of them; see Exod. 32. compared with Psalm 106.19,20. there they worshipped the images of gold and silver, &c. yea, verse 37. devils, though they intended to worship God in these images.
5. When any thing of this worship, due to God, is given to servants or means, as if something adorable, and to be worshipped, were in them, although they be not accounted God himself: Thus Cornelius sinned in worshipping Peter, Acts 10.25,26. when he knew he was not God; and Peter rejecteth it on this ground, that he was a man, and not God; and that therefore it was due to none but God: Which reason taketh off all that can be said by men for palliating this kind of idolatry: Thus the scope of the command, and the reason and ground of worship being considered, it is evident that all these are idolatry.
We would now further consider, first, the positive part of this command; and next, what is forbidden in it.
And 1. For the positive part of this command, we conceive it doth reach, 1. To all external ordinances, such as doctrine, worship, government, and discipline: We are here enjoined to keep these pure, according to his word: Thus any error breaketh this command, when it is vented and made public, as secret errors break the first.
2. It reacheth to all external obedience, such as, receiving the truths of God, submitting to the government and discipline of his house, entering therein as church-members, often hearing the word, not only on the Sabbath, which is required in the fourth command, but on all occasions, when God shall give the opportunity, it being a special part of his worship; right using of the sacraments, and worthy receiving of them; praying externally, internal prayer being required in the first command; outward confession of sin, when called for; confession of the truth in times of trial, &c. and this obedience is to be extended to extraordinary duties as well as ordinary, as vowing, swearing, fasting, &c. when they shall be required in providence; external covenanting with God, an ordinance necessary for keeping pure public service, &c. Also it is to be extended to secret duties, and to private duties in families, and Christian fellowship, as well as public, and to diligence in them all.
3. It reacheth to the right manner of doing duties; especially, it requireth it, 1. That they be not done in hypocrisy, for God will not be so worshipped in any duty. 2. That all our worship and duties be directed to God, in and through the Mediator, and that none can come to God but by him, who is the appointed High-priest. 3. That all our obedience and service be spiritual.
4. It taketh in all external gestures, and outward reverence in praying and hearing, &c.; as, that the eye be fixed, and the carriage not light, but decent; that there be no laughing, that the looks be stayed and grave: there in a special manner, in worship, are to be looked unto.
5. It requireth every mean that may further God’s public service, as educating and training up men for the ministry, entertaining them, providing places and accommodations for public worship, and every thing of that kind, without which the external worship of God cannot be performed.
6. It requireth the removing of all letts and impediments of God’s worship, or whatever is contrary thereto, according to our places and stations; such as heresies, and heretics, by condign censuring of them, removing all idolatrous worship, and whatever may be the occasion of it, or whatever hath been, or may be abused to it, purging the house of God from corrupt and insufficient ministers and corrupt members.
But let us see, in the next place, what is forbidden in this command, and how it is broken.
In the first command, what immediately reflecteth upon God himself, is forbidden; here, what immediately reflecteth on his ordinances and appointments, contradicting them, and him in them, is discharged. There is none of the commands more frequently broken, and yet men most readily think themselves free of the breach thereof, and therefore ye should consider that it is broken,
1. In doctrine, or doctrinally. 2. In practice. 3. In both, when the doctrines vented and published against truth, having external practices following on them, as that doctrine of image-worship hath, which we have spoken to already, and is the gross breach of this command; and the Lord instanceth it as being the greatest, because where this is, all sorts of idolatry are: for it supposeth idolatry against the first command, and that some esteem and weight is laid upon that creature we worship, beyond what is its due; as if there were in it some divinity or ability to help, whereby it is thought worthy of such honour, whereupon followeth that external worship which is given to it upon that account: and so, because saints are thought able to hear and help, men pray to them: and because the cross is thought to be holy, men worship it, &c. And as this idolatry is manifold among the papists, so it is palpable when prayer is made to saints, relics, bread, the cross, images, &c.
Now that we may further explain this: consider, that this command is three ways broken doctrinally, (all which have a great influence upon men’s breaking of it in their practice;) or, the service and worship of God is three ways wronged by the doctrines of men.
1. When something is added to his service which he hath not commanded, and this is superstition and will-worship largely so taken: Of this kind are, 1. The five popish sacraments, added to those two the Lord appointed. 2. Other and more mediators than the one Mediator, Christ. 3. More meritorious causes of pardon and justification, than the blood and merits of Christ. 4. More officers in his house than he hath appointed, such as, bishops, cardinals, &c. 5. More ceremonies in worship, as salt, spittle, and cream, added in baptism to water, and kneeling, &c. to the Lord’s supper. 6. More holy days than God hath instituted. 7. Other things to be acknowledged for the word of God than the scripture, as tradition, apocrypha, &c. and many such things, whereof (for the most part) popery is made up.
2. It is broken when his ordinances are diminished, and any thing which he hath commanded is taken away from them, as is clear from Deut. 4.2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought therefrom: and thus they break this command, by taking away the cup from laies (as they call them) in the Lord’s supper, and the use of the Bible from the people in their own language. Also it is broken by taking away baptism from infants, and discipline or excommunication from the church, and by taking away the Sabbath-day, and public singing of psalms, or such like: not to speak of that blasphemous, and some-way pagan-heresy of quakerism, overturning most, if not all the ordinances of God, destructive to all true religion, and Christianity, and introducing, at least having a native tendency to introduce, old paganism and barbarity.
3. This command is broken by corrupting of God’s worship, as when the word is misinterpreted and misapplied, prayers are used in a strange tongue, the word is mixed with errors, and the church both left without discipline, and abused in civil things, which tendeth to the corrupting of God’s service; unqualified men put into the ministry, and kept in it, when sacraments are rested on and worshipped, even as the brazen serpent was abused, and the temple, though appointed by God at first for good ends, was afterwards rested on and idolized.
Again, this command is practically broken four ways:
First, By gross profanity and neglect of the practice of known duties of worship; this way, are guilty all profane contemners of sacraments, word, discipline, &c.; all neglecters of them when they may have them: and all these that set not themselves to go rightly about them, in secret, in families, or in public: and where many opportunities of gospel-ordinances are, this sin is the more frequent; and so all atheists that contemn religion, and these that would only serve God with a good heart and intention, as they pretend, without any outward worship, are condemned here: and also those who, for fear or advantage, give not testimony to the truth and ordinances of Christ, when such a testimony is called for.
2. Men sin against this command, when they practice will-worship and superstition in serving God by duties he never required, whether, 1. It be will-worship in respect of the service itself, as when that is gone about as duty which is not in itself lawful, as when such and such pilgrimages and penances are appointed by men to be done as service to God: Or, 2. When worship, or service under the gospel is astricted to such a place, as if it were holier to pray in one place than in another, and that therefore God did hear prayer there more willingly and easily than in another place. Or, 3. In respect of bodily posture, as if there were more religion in one posture than in another; as in receiving the Lord’s supper kneeling, or praying in such and such a posture, except insofar as is decent, and otherwise rightly regular by rules of prudence and nature’s light. 4. When it is, without a divine warrant, tied to such a time only, as Christmas, (commonly called Yule) Easter, Pasch, &c. which is an observing of times that God hath not appointed. 5. When it is tied to such an occasion or accident, as, to pray when the clock striketh, or when one sneezeth, which Plinius remarked of Tiberius, who was no religious man, yet could not abide one who lifted not his hat when he sneezed, and said not, “God bless;” and he observeth it among these things he can give no reason for; the prayer is good, but the timing of it so, and astricting it to that thing, is superstitious; so your light-wakes, and dirges, (as ye call them) are, upon that account, to be condemned, either as superstitious, or as profane, or, at the best, as the relics and causes or occasions of both: For, 1. Once in times of popish darkness they were so used, or rather, abused. 2. Why are your visits stinted to such a time more than another? It profiteth not the defunct, and it hurteth the person you come unto; a multitude not being fit for comforting or instructing; and yet it cannot be called a mere civil visit, being trysted with such an occasion: but certainly it suiteth not, nor is it a Christian carriage toward the dead, and after the burial of the dead, to spend time together in such a way as is commonly used: Beside, it is superstitious, when a thing without reason is astricted to such a time or occasion, as giving and receiving of gifts on New-year’s-day, too common among Christians, though a heathenish custom: which day, as Gratian observes, was dedicated to their devil-god, Janus. He asserts likewise, that such Christians, as in his time did observe it, were excommunicated: and Alchuinus, with others, writes that the whole catholic church appointed once a solemn public fast to be kept on a New-year’s-day, to bewail those heathenish interludes, sports, and lewd idolatrous practices that had been used on it. 6. When some weight is laid on the number of words, or set repetitions of prayers, Ave Marias, or Pater Nosters, or on the reading so many chapters, or saying so many prayers. 7. When any take a word of scripture at the opening of the Bible, or by a thought suggested, as more befitting their condition, because of that, without weighing the word itself: and lay more weight upon that word than upon another that hath the same authority and suitableness to their case, which is to make a weerd or fortune-book of the book of God, for which end he never appointed it. Thus also men are guilty, when they account sacraments more valid, or lay more weight on them, because dispensed by some ministers than when dispensed by others, though having the same warrant, or because of the difference of the persons that partake therein with them.
However some of these things may be in themselves good, yet they are abused, by some one circumstance, as in unwarrantable timing them, or in laying that weight on them which is not warranted in the word; which, 1. Altereth the way that God has laid down. 2. Bringeth us to prefer one circumstance to another, without any warrant. 3. Maketh a necessity where God has left us free, and so bringeth us into bondage.
3. We may go wrong in practicing lawful duties many ways, as to the manner of performing them, when they are not so done as is required: As, 1. When we do not propose to ourselves the right end we should have before us. 2. When they are not done from a right inward principle. 3. When they are done in hypocrisy and formality, and rested on; all which may go along with men in all duties and ordinances; and generally all our short-comings in the right manner of commanded duties, striketh against this command.
4. We may also consider the breach of this command, by taking a view of what is opposite to every thing required; and so want of reverence in worship, want of zeal against error or false worship, not stretching ourselves in all lawful endeavours to entertain and maintain the true worship of God, are here forbidden; so likewise the putting in, and keeping in, unworthy ministers; the traducing, holding out, and putting out of faithful men; the withdrawing and sequestering their maintenance from them; the diminishing of it, or straitening them in it; Horrid sins, though little thought of, and lightly looked on by men, drawing no less deep before God than obstructing the free course of the gospel, breaking up the treaty of peace betwixt God and sinners, carried on by faithful ministers, as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ; and saying on the matter that he shall not see of the fruit of the travail of his soul, in the salvation of the souls of men, to his satisfaction, so far as they can impede it, by outing and discountenancing his ministers, the instruments made use of by him for bringing about that last warrantably; and thus also, all sacrilege, simony, and the like, come in as breaches of this command; and all partiality in church-proceedings, toleration of errors, countenancing the spreaders of them, slighting of discipline, conversing unnecessarily and unwarrantably with such as are excommunicate, and all unwarrantable innovating in the external worship of God; and when we are not aiming and endeavouring to have our children and servants, and all under our charge, brought under subjection and conformity to the ordinances and service of God, as well as ourselves.
But because this command, in an especial manner, looketh to public ordinances, let us see a little more particularly how it is broken in these: 1. In respect of preaching and hearing. 2. Public prayer. 3. Praising. 4. Sacraments. 5. Fasts; and, in all these, there are faults of three sorts. 1. Some going before the performance of these duties. 2. Some following after. 3. Some going along in the performance of them.
And again, 1. Some are guilty of the breach of the command by neglecting these duties. 2. Some are guilty in the wrong manner of going about them.
And 1. Before hearing the word men break this command. 1. In not praying for the speaker. 2. In not praying for themselves, in reference to this end, that they may profit by the word. 3. In not setting themselves to be in a spiritual composed frame for such a work. 4. In not watchfully preventing what may divert them or distract them, or straiten their minds when they come to hear, not ordering their other affairs, so as they may not be a hindrance to them in meeting with the blessing of the gospel. 5. In not aiming to have the right esteem of the word. 6. In not blessing God for it, or for any good received before by it. 7. In not coming with hunger and thirst, as new born babes, having laid aside what may hinder its being received with desire, 2 Pet. 2.1,2. 8. In not denying our own strength, as to the right discharge of that duty, that so we may make use of Christ. 9. In not minding that, when we are called to hear, it is to tryst with God in his ordinances. 10. In going to hear with prejudice. 11. In coming without expectation of, and longing for the presence of God, or of meeting with him. 12. In not coming from respect to the honour of God; nor out of conscience, but from custom, and for the fashion.
Secondly, Men sin against this command, when they are come to hear, and while they are about this duty of hearing: 1. In not looking to God, or not receiving the word as God’s word, but as man’s. 2. In extravaging and wandering in their minds and thoughts, Ezek. 33.31. 3. In sleeping when they should hear. 4. In letting the word slip out of their mind, and not retaining and laying up what they hear. 5. In not yielding their ears and memories, or yielding only their ears and memories, but not casting open their hearts to the word, to let it sink down in them. 6. When, though it be heard, yet it is not understood, Matth. 13.13. 7. When, though understood, it is soon forgotten. 8. When there is not a peculiar trembling and fear in our waiting upon the ordinances, Isa. 66.2. Eccles. 5.1,2. and Mal. 2.5. There is a special fear which we ought to have before his name. 9. When there is not faith mixed with hearing, giving credit to the word, it must be a great fault not to believe God’s word when we hear it, Heb. 4.1,2. 10. When we fret and canker at the reproofs of the word. 11. When we needlessly stumble at any expression, especially, when we carry so lightly as to laugh at what is spoken to the prejudice of the ordinances. 12. When we are more for knowing than for doing; more for informing the mind, than for reforming the heart and life. 13. When there is carping at the word, or censuring of it rather than ourselves. 14. When we make no application of it to ourselves, and try not whether we have such a fault, or if we perform such a duty, &c. 15. When we are not present, as before God, to hear, as Cornelius was, Acts 10.33. 16. When we itch after novelty of expressions, or words, or things, rather than thirst after the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby. 17. When these novelties are more entertained and laid weight on than known duties or truths. 18. When the word is heard with respect of persons, and the same truth, or expression, or scripture cited by one, is not so respected and received, as when spoken by another, contrary to James 2.9. 19. When there are vain looks as well as idle thoughts. 20. When there is a wanton, light, irreverent carriage. 21. When there is immodest and strange apparel, unbecoming that ordinance. 22. When there is speaking or talking, out of the case of necessity, in time of sermon, though it were by way of prayer, it is sinful, except it were ejaculatory, in reference to what is at present spoken. 23. When there is reading of something (even though scripture) unseasonably. 24. When there is insisting on good thoughts, that tend to divert from hearing. 25. When men are observing vanities in time of hearing, such as the apparel that others have on, or the painting that is on the house, or the cuplings of the roof, or such like. 26. When there is not an intermixing of ejaculatory prayer for ourselves and others; and the speaker, that God would help him, and them, and us, to keep such a word to the time that we may have need of it; and when God is not blessed when a word is rightly spoken. 27. When there is any quenching of convictions, or the motions or stirrings of affection wakened up by the word. 28. When there is diverting to a doting love of the speaker, or the thing as spoken by such a speaker; or the matter of expression, and a delighting in these, more than in God, or a respecting of him or our own profiting. 29. When we do not look upon and make use of the preached word as a means to convert, but only as a means to confirm. 30. When we do not make use of promises offered in preaching, and directed by God to us by an authorized ambassador, and do not so lay weight on them as from him. 31. When we reject the many sweet offers of the gospel, and come not to the marriage of the king’s son. 32. When we do grieve God’s Spirit when he presseth it upon us. 33. When we tread under foot Christ’s blood by our little esteem of it. 34. When we give no credit to, nor lay due weight upon threatenings. 35. When we have not the faith of God’s providence, or of the judgment to come. 36. When there is not an accepting of Christ. 37. When there is not employing of him. 38. When there is not reverence in removing from our hearing of the word.
After hearing also, there are many ways whereby we are guilty of the breach of this command. 1. Forgetting what we have heard. 2. Letting the heart unnecessarily look back again to other objects, and follow other thoughts, and not meditating on what hath been heard. 3. Not comparing what we have heard with the scriptures. 4. Not following the word with prayer for the watering of it. 5. Needless falling to other discourses immediately after the hearing of the word. 6. Casting it all aside as to practice, Psalm 50.6-23. 7. Fretting at some things that have been spoken. 8. Spreading censures. Or, 9. Commendations of the thing preached, or of the instruments that preached, as if that were all. 10. Not following the word with self-searching prayer, and fruits suitable, endeavouring to practice what is required. 11. Not trembling at its threatenings, nor forbearing what was thereby discharged. 12. Not helping others to make use of it. 13. Not repenting of faults committed in the time of hearing. 14. Little delight in remembering of it. 15. Finding out shifts to put by its directions or challenges. 16. Applying them to others rather than ourselves. 17. Misconstruing the minister’s end in pressing of them. 18. Misinterpreting his words. 19. Misreporting or misrepresenting them. 20. Not being troubled for fruitlessness in hearing, without any use, but being as a stone without sense or feeling. 21. Leaning on hearing, as if having been in the church were a piece of holiness, though no fruit follow on it. 22. Profane abusing words of scripture, or phrases used in preaching, in men’s common discourse; much more when they are mixed in wanton and profane sports, or jests and gibes.
All these ways men may sin, when they come to hear the word; they sin also by absence, when they come not, neglecting the opportunities of the gospel; there are also divers sins which men are often guilty of in reference to hearing, even on week days: As 1. Little love to the word, or delight in the opportunities of it on such days. 2. Too much love to some other thing that procureth lukewarmness in hearing. 3. Contemning occasions of hearing the word on such days. 4. Improvidently bringing on a necessity on ourselves that we cannot hear. 5. Caring little to have a ministry, whereby we may be instructed at all times, and therefore we want such occasions. 6. Setting ourselves, and using our wits to discourage the ministers we have. 7. Not being weighted with our absence from week-day sermons. 8. Mocking at them who are present. 9. Disrespect the ordinance for some worldly or personal respects, preferring any small trifle thereto, &c.
2. Let us instance the breach of this command in public prayer, which is a part of worship which very nearly concerns the glory of God; and certainly when it is wronged through the unsuitable, and not right discharging of this duty, this command is in a special way broken.
We shall not here look to every thing, but especially to what concerneth public prayer, indeed we fail also in secret prayer and in giving thanks both alone and in our families. 1. By contempt of this excellent ordinance, many slight prayer in secret, and in their families, Jer. 10. ult. which is a clear breach of this command, as well as neglecting it in public; when men do not countenance sermon or prayer, though at the same time walking idly in the street or in the fields. 2. By casting up of prayer to others, reproaching it, calling it hypocrisy, and those who use it hypocrites. 3. By mocking the Spirit’s work in prayer.
1. Before we come to prayer, we sin, 1. By not watching to keep the heart in a frame for praying, always. 2. By not watching over every opportunity that we may have for prayer, whereby many occasions are lost. 3. In not longing for opportunities of prayer. 4. In not stirring up ourselves to seriousness when we are about to pray. 5. In letting the heart run loose when we are about other things, which indisposeth for prayer. 6. In having a selfy particular end before us in our prayers. 7. In our little respecting God for strength and fitness, and little looking to him for his Spirit to ourselves, or these who are to go before us in this duty of prayer. 8. In our little examining ourselves, that we may know what to pray for, and what distinctly to confess. 9. In our not meditating on what we are to say, that we may, as to the matter of our prayers, speak in faith. 10. In aiming more to find and exercise gifts, than to have grace acting in us. 11. In our rushing rashly on such a weighty and spiritual duty.
2dly. In prayer; and, 1. On the speaker’s part, there are divers ways whereby this command is broken: As, 1. By rashness and senselessness, not exercising the spirit, but the mouth; telling over our prayer as a thing without life. 2. Praying in our own strength, without looking after the influence of the Spirit. 3. Not drawing near to God by faith in Christ, but leaning too much on our prayers, from a secret false opinion of prevailing more with many words well put together, than by exercising faith in Christ, and resting on him, as if God were persuaded with words. 4. Inadvertent praying, uttering unadvised petitions and expressions without understanding. 5. Not praying humbly, and with soul-abasement: Nor, 6. Singly to please God, but men, seeking expressions that are pleasant, rather than sensible. 7. Saying many things we think not, not being touched with the weight of sin when we confess it, nor with the desire of holiness when we mention it; counterfeiting sometimes liberty and boldness, sometimes restraints and complaints, more than is real. 8. Limiting God in particular suits. 9. Cold in what is of greatest concernment. 10. Want of reverence and holy fear. 11. Want of a right impression of a present God. 12. Not praying for others, and little respecting the condition of those we pray with; or, what we do of this kind is either but cold, and for the fashion; or if there be more apparent zeal and seriousness for others, it would be adverted that it be not upon design to flatter and please them, rather than to obtain spiritual blessings to them. 13. Desiring things for satisfying ourselves more than for God’s honour. 14. Breaking off before we come to liveliness and liberty, having begun lazily and without life. 15. Not insisting to wrestle with God when under bands. 16. Precipitating with the words before the heart ponder them, or the affection be warmed. 17. Posting through it, as duty, only for the fashion, without respect to God, or love to the exercise, or driving at any profit by it. 18. Wearying and not delighting in it. 19. Not aiming at God’s presence or sensible manifestations in it, or at a hearing in that which we pray for. 20. Being more desirous of liberty in public than in private. 21. Fretting when we are put or kept under bonds. 22. Growing vain and light when it goeth well with us, and turning carnal and unwatchful when we get liberty. 23. Impertinent use-making of scripture words, either ignorantly or vainly. 24. A secret expectation of something for our prayer, and so resting upon the work done, as if there were merit in it. 25. Using expressions not easily understood. 26. Using indecent gestures, and scurrile expressions. 27. Not observing God’s dispensation to us, nor his dealing with our souls in the time of prayer, that we may conform our suits accordingly, as we find many of the saints have done, who end in songs after they had begun sadly. 28. Not praying with fervency for Christ’s kingdom, and for Jews and Gentiles. 29. Exercising gifts rather than grace when we pray. These are sins upon the speaker’s part.
Next, ye should consider the sins of them that join: And besides what is general and common in the duty of praying, we fail often in joining. And, 1. In this, that many think, When another prayeth, they need not pray, but let the speaker be doing alone. 2. When we observe not what is spoken, that we may go alongst in what he prayeth for, and be upon our watch that we may join, and that we may do it in judgment. 3. The mind wavering or wandering, and we hearing, but not praying. 4. Censuring the words and gestures of the speaker. 5. Fixing our eyes or minds on some other things, and giving way to other thoughts that may divert from joining. 6. Sleeping in time of prayer. 7. Confusedness in that exercise, and not distinctly joining with what agreeth to ourselves and our own case, nor with what agreeth to others joining with it for them. 8. More cold and indifferent in what concerneth others, than in what concerneth ourselves. 9. More careless of being heard, and answered when we speak not, as if we were less concerned, thinking it enough to be present, although in our heart we join not; and, not being affected with the prayer of another, nor acting faith in it, we soon weary when others pray. 10. Not being edified by the praying of another, nor taking up our sins in his confessions, nor our duty in his petitions. 11. Much hypocrisy in such duties, while we seem to be joining, but are doing nothing. 12. Not endeavouring to have affections suitable to what is spoken stirred up in us. 13. Not praying that the speaker may be suitably guided and helped in bringing forth petitions that may answer our wants. 14. More indifferent, that another who speaketh, as mouth for the rest, want liberty, than when we are put to speak for ourselves, although it be God’s ordinance. 15. Not rightly touched with any expression we cannot join with, but rather stumbling at it. 16. Our being ignorant of the meaning of many expressions through our own fault, so that we cannot join in them. 17. Muttering words of our own, and not joining with what is said. 18. Indistinctness, in consenting or saying Amen at the close.
3rdly, After prayer, both speaker and joiners fail. 1. That they watch not over their hearts, but soon return to other things, as if then they might take liberty. 2. Not waiting for an answer, nor observing whether prayers be answered or not. 3. Not being thankful for answers when they come. Nor, 4. Entreating and pressing for an answer if it be delayed. 5. Not reflecting on our failings, whether in speaking or joining. 6. Not remembering what we have uttered in prayer, but presently returning to a carriage that is very unlike those things we have been speaking before him. 7. Not keeping up a frame for new opportunities of prayer. 8. Not pressing after a constant walk with God betwixt occasions of prayer. 9. Resting on prayer after we have done, and thinking something of it, if we seem to have been helped to pray. 10 Carnally heartless and displeased, if it hath been otherwise. 11. Not being humbled for the sinfulness and defects of our prayers. 12. Not having recourse by faith to the blood of sprinkling for pardon of these sinful defects.
We are to consider how men break this command in praise and thanksgiving: and here there is a failing in general. 1. In the utter neglect of this necessary duty: Alas, what of that duty do we in secret, and yet it is singularly for God’s honour and as clear a duty as prayer! 2. In mocking praise often, by profaning psalms for our carnal mirth. 3. In neglecting and slighting of it, though not altogether, yet by unfrequent going about it. 4. In accounting it to be almost no duty at all, and in being but little challenged for slighting of it, or for irreverent using of it.
2ndly, We sin before we go about this duty: 1. In not preparing for it. 2. In not praying for the Spirit, to fit and enable us to praise. 1 Cor. 14.15. and for a fixed heart for that work, Psalm 108.1. 3. In our not aiming at a spiritual disposition for such a spiritual duty. 4. In our not endeavouring for a right impression of the majesty of God. And, 5. For clearness of our interest in him. And, 6. For an impression of the excellency of his way, and meaning of his word; all which are exceeding necessary unto the right performance of this duty, and without them we cannot praise suitably.
3rdly, We are guilty of many faults in the time of praising, 1. Doing it without respect to God’s glory, and for the fashion only. 2. Hypocrisy, not praising him with the whole heart, performing it only with the lips, when the heart is away. 3. Ignorance, when we want understanding of the words we express. 4. No suitable impression of God’s greatness and goodness upon our hearts when we praise. 5. Not aiming at communion with God in this duty, as desiring, minding, and hoping to praise him for ever. 6. Not being taken up with spiritual and heavenly delight in him, and in the work of his praise. 7. Lightness, laughing, or mainly affecting of and carnally doting upon some tone or voice more than being suitably affected with the matter, and making melody in the heart to the Lord. 8. Forgetting what we do sing, and not knowing or considering what it is we sing, the heart not being present nor fixed. 9. Not being constrained by love to praise, but some customer or natural conscience constraining us to it. 10. Not offering up our praises in and through Christ Jesus, Heb. 13.15. 11. Soon satisfied in our praising, as if we were little troubled to be fitted for it, and because little of ourselves lieth in it, we are the less careful how we discharge it, but stint and limit ourselves to some certain customary matter, which puts us to few prayers before, and makes but few challenges after. 12. Not intermixing ejaculatory prayers in our praisings. 13. Much hypocrisy when we sing the cases of others, or their thoughts and estimation of God, and study not to be something like their frame and exercise. 14. Not framing our affections in praising to the subject of our praise; whether it be some sad case, or some cheerful condition, or some historical or prophetical subject; and when imprecations are a part of the song, we soon fall off, or praise one and the same way in all. 15. Not serious in blessing God for former mercies to his servants, if it be not so well with us in the mean time, or cheerfully acknowledging his former deliverances of his church and people, in which we have not personally shared. 16. Not being affected with his keeping of us free of many sad cases we sing, and others have been in, nor blessing him for delivering them. 17. Not letting the word of the Lord, which we sing, sink down in us for engaging our hearts to and cheering our spirits in good. 18. Not assenting to and giving him glory in the acknowledgment of the justness of his severest threatenings, and the most fearful scripture imprecations. 19. Not rightly observing those things that are the subject-matter of scripture songs, so as to put a difference between some things we are to tremble and scare at, such as the falls of the saints, and other things which we are to imitate and follow for our edification. 20. Gadding in idle looks, so that some scarce look on their books (although they can read) that they may the better have the sense of what they sin. 21. Not putting a difference betwixt praying a petition that is in a psalm, and singing of it, which should have a sweetness with it that may encourage us to pray for, and expect what others before us have obtained. 22. Wanting such considerations about the matter sung, when it suits not our present case, as may suitably affect us, and fit us to glorify God in that duty: as when we sing of the eminent holiness of some of the saints, we are to bless him that ever any was so holy, whatever be our sinfulness; and that we have hope of pardon, though under many failings, and much unlikeliness to that case we sing. 23. Not singing with the voice at all, although the tongue be given us as our glory, that we may therewith thus glorify God.
4thly, After we have been about this duty of praise, we sin 1. By falling immediately into a carnal frame. 2. Not looking back or examining, when we have done, how we carried it in praising God. 3. Few challenges for our many failings in praise. 4. Little repentance for those failings. 5. Not keeping the heart right for a new opportunity of praise. 6. Not keeping a record of his mercies in our memories, and upon our hearts, to engage us to praise him. 7. Not walking in the exercise of love, which would sweetly constrain us to this duty, and make us delight in it.
These are but a few of the many iniquities that are to be found in our holy things, Exod. 28.38. It is good we have a High Priest to bear them. O, what if all our sins were reckoned, how heinous would they be! and what a sum will they come to, if our performances of holy duties have so many sins in them? and when the sins of a Sabbath are counted, how many will they be? hundreds of divers sorts, in praying, hearing, and praising; and multiply these to every loose thought, and every declining or wavering of the heart, how many times may they be multiplied: Ah! how many unholy words do we let slip, and then consider all the sabbaths and sermons, prayers and praises, we have had, how many hundred thousands will they amount to! It is sad that men should lie under all these with few or no challenges, or without minding repentance, or thinking of the necessity of employing the High Priest for doing them away; therefore we should accept these challenges, and give him employment, who only can bear the iniquity of our holy things. If this bring not down self-righteousness, and convince you of the necessity of a Mediator, what will do it?
We shall proceed, in the next place, to consider the sins that wait on receiving the sacraments, which, as they were a special part of the worship of God under the Old Testament, so they are yet under the New; and our sins, in reference to them, strike against this command, as it prescribeth and carveth out our external worship; and so much the rather should we consider this, because there cannot be a more express covenanting with God in giving and receiving, proposing terms, and accepting of them, for closing the covenant, than is in the sacraments.
Before we enter to speak of the faults we are here guilty of, we may in general propose some things concerning the sacraments: As, 1. For what ends God hath appointed them, that so we may know what is to be expected in them. 2. How they effectuate the ends, that we may know how we should go about them; and we shall speak to these two jointly, because we cannot speak to the one, but we must speak to the other.
But before we speak to these, some things are to be permitted: As, 1. That God hath thought good always to add sacraments to his covenants: Thus the covenant of works had its sacraments; Adam had the tree of life for a sacrament to confirm him in the faith of that covenant; so the covenant of grace, in all its administrations, had its sacraments also for confirmation thereof: As, before Christ’s incarnation, it had circumcision, the passover, and divers sacrifices effectual for that end; and the fathers, before Abraham, had their sacrifices for sacraments: and, since his incarnation, it hath baptism and the Lord’s supper; for as the Lord has for man’s sake condescended to deal with him after the manner of men, by covenants and mutual engagements, so he keepeth the manner of men in swearing, sealing, and confirming these covenants, for their greater consolation, who are within the same, Heb. 6.18.
2ndly, Although the nature of the covenant alter the sacrament in respect of our use making of it, yet, as all covenants have some essentials in which they agree, to wit, a promise and a restipulation, so all sacraments have something common, to wit, that they signify, seal, and strengthen the covenanters in assurance of enjoying what is promised according to the terms of the covenant to which they are seals appended: The tree of life confirmed the promise of life to Adam, upon condition of perfect obedience: circumcision confirmed it to Abraham, upon condition of faith, Rom. 4.11.
3dly, The sacraments of the covenant of grace, before and after Christ, differ in circumstantials, as the covenants itself under the Old and New Testament doth; but in essentials they agree, for they seal one and the same thing, and after one and the same manner.
4thly, There are some chief things common to all sacraments of the covenant under one administration: As, for example, baptism and the Lord’s supper, they agree both in this, that they seal the covenant, and represent Christ and his benefits, &c. yet, in either of them, there are some peculiar promises and benefits especially looked unto; and also they have their peculiar manner of sealing these things which are common to both: Believers are also confirmed in the same things by the word; but the sacraments confirm them in another way, more clearly and sensibly, and proportionally to our weakness and necessity.
5thly, No sacrament is of, and from itself valid, but its validity and efficacy is from the covenant and promise, whereof it is a sacrament; and so it is a seal to none, but to such as are in the covenant, and keep the condition of it; to them it sealeth the benefits promised, though absolutely and simply it seal the truth of the conditional promises; and so it may be said conditionally to seal, to all the members of the church, the truth of what is promised, upon such a condition: as, for example, the tree of life sealed this truth, that who stood in perfect obedience should have life, but it did not seal to Adam that he should have life, except upon condition of his perfect obedience; the like may be said of circumcision, baptism, &c.
6thly, Hence every sacrament doth suppose a covenant, and the receiver’s entry into the covenant, to which the sacrament that he receiveth relateth: So that we come not to the sacrament properly to enter into covenant with God: But first the covenant is entered, and then the seal is added, as Gen. 17. First, God entered into covenant with Abraham, and then the seal of circumcision is added as a confirmation thereof.
7thly, No sacrament giveth any new right which the receiver had not before; only it confirmeth the right he had before he had access to the sacraments upon the account of his external right.
8thly, Sacraments confirm still something that is future and to come, they being instituted for the confirmation of our faith and hope in those things, of which we are most apt to doubt; as the passover strengthened the Israelites against the fear of being destroyed, the tree of life confirmed what was promised to Adam, and not performed; and so all sacraments help us to believe the making good of some promise not performed, for they serve as the oath and seal; and indeed, when we preach the gospel, we offer a sealed covenant and a sworn covenant.
These things being premised, we come to speak to the things proposed; and we say, the sacraments of the New Testament (of which only we speak purposely) have, in God’s appointment and our use, these three ends especially:
The first is, to represent clearly the nature of the covenant, and the things promised therein, as the washing away of sin, Christ himself, his death and benefits, and the way how we come to the application of all these, to wit, by faith freely, putting on Jesus Christ for taking away guilt, and strengthening us to an holy walk; in all these sacraments (that is, the signs and word of institution added) do fully and clearly, 1. To the ears: 2. To the eyes: 3. To our other senses and feeling, &c. not only hold forth what is offered, but our way of closing with, and accepting of that offer; as if God who, by preaching, letteth us hear him speak (inviting us to be reconciled to him) were in the sacraments, letting us see him tryst and close that bargain with us by his ambassadors; in which respect, the sacrament may be called the symbol and token of the covenant, as it is, Gen. 17. and this way the sacraments have a teaching use, to bring to our remembrance Christ, his sufferings and benefits, as well as our estate, what it was without him, and before our closing with him: all this, by the word and elements, with the actions concurring, is represented to us, as if it were acted before our eyes, for making the way of the gospel the more clear to our judgments and memories, who either senselessly take it up, or sluggishly forget these spiritual things; the Lord, who sometimes maketh use of parables and figurative expressions, or similitudes, to set forth spiritual things, to make them take with us the more, hath chosen this way to make use of external signs and actions, for the same ends also.
2. The second end of sacraments is, to seal and confirm God’s mind and revealed will to man, and to put him out of question of the truth of his promises, that so he may have a further prop to his faith, and may draw more strong consolation from the promises of the covenant upon this ground. In this respect they are called seals, Rom. 4.11. of the righteousness by faith, that is, not the righteousness of Abraham’s faith, but of his obtaining righteousness by it, and not by works; that is, They are seals of that covenant, which offereth and promiseth righteousness to such as believe: So was the tree of life a confirmation to Adam of the promise of life; so was circumcision to Abraham a seal and confirmation of the promises of the gospel, as God’s oath was, Heb. 6.18. And so are the sacraments to us.
This confirmation may be three ways looked on: 1. As that which confirmeth the proposition. 2. The assumption. 3. The conclusion of a practical syllogism, whereby the believer concludeth from the gospel that he shall be saved.
The proposition is this, He that believeth shall be saved; this, by the sacrament, is simply confirmed as a truth that one may lean unto: Then the believer’s conscience in the faith of that, subsumeth, I will then take me by faith to Christ, seeing that is a sure truth, I will rest on him, and hold me there; or, more clearly, I do believe in him.
Now, 2. This assumption that I, or such a man hath faith, is not confirmed simply by the seal; for the sacrament is to be externally applied by men, who can say no more, but, They charitably judge such a one to have faith; yet it may be said to be so far confirmed, as one, whose faith doubteth, may by this be encouraged to rest on Christ, and quiet himself on him.
Thus saith is confirmed, while it is helped to assume, though the man be not clear that he hath assumed: As also, one having, according to God’s command, cast himself on Christ, and according to his institution, taken the seal, I say, such a man may conclude from the seal, as well as from the promise, that he is accepted; even as one having prayed, may conclude he hath been heard, having done it according to God’s will in the name of Christ.
3dly, When the conclusion is drawn, Therefore I shall be saved, the sacrament doth not confirm that simply to us, more than it did to Adam, (who afterward brake the covenant of works, and so attained not the thing promised) but it sealeth it conditionally, If thou believe, thou shalt be saved, and so the assumption must be made out by the search of the conscience, before the conclusion receive any confirmation by the sacrament; yet by strengthening the major proposition, Such as believe, shall be saved; it strengtheneth the conclusion also: For if that were not true, my having faith, or flying to Christ, were no great comfort; and so consequently it has influence on the believer’s comfort in the conclusion, as God’s oath and seal did confirm the promise made to Abraham, and also strengthened his faith in believing it should be made to him, Rom. 4.11.
Again, it is to be considered that the sacrament sealeth particularly, not only as it saith, All that believe shall be saved, But also as it says, Thou, if thou wilt believe, shalt be saved; and the seal is so appended to that conditional offer; that the covenant standeth not only sure in general, to all believers, but to me particularly, upon my closing with it, as if God were particularly singling me out to make the offer unto me, and to take my engagement, and to put the seal in my hand, by which faith is more particularly helped and strengthened, than by the word alone; there is great use therefore of the sacraments, in that thereby we get faith quieted in the believing of this, that God will lay by his controversy, and keep his covenant, and make forthcoming his promises to those who fly for refuge to Jesus Christ, according to his oath and seal: Thus he sealeth the major simply, the minor conditionally, but particularly; or, we may suppose God speaking to us from the covenant thus, He to whom I offer Christ, he may receive him; and all that believe and receive the offer, shall obtain the blessing offered: But I offer Christ to thee; therefore thou mayest and shouldst receive him; and if thou accept the offer, thou shalt obtain the blessing offered, and shalt be saved: Thus the major and minor are simply sealed, but the conclusion conditionally. Or, the sacrament sealeth the offer simply; but the promise, as it is applied to such a particular person conditionally, if he receive the offer; so that none needeth to question God’s offer, nor Christ’s performance on our acceptation. And thus the sacraments may be called testimonies of God’s grace to us, because particularly they seal that offer of his grace unto us, namely, Christ, and salvation by him, and his being content to give him upon condition of our believing.
The third end and use of the sacraments is, to exhibit and apply Christ or his benefits to believers; hence, in the sacraments, we put on Christ, and eat him: which is not done by any physical union of Christ or his benefits with the signs, but as in the word Christ communicateth himself, when the Spirit goeth along with the promises, and hearers bring not only their ears, but their hearts and faith to that ordinance: So here, by the sacraments Christ is communicated to us, when we come not only with ears, eyes, taste, &c. but with faith exercised on Christ in the sacrament, with respect to his institution: And he cometh by his Spirit with the elements and word, whereby the union with Christ is so much the more near and sensible, as it hath upon the one side so many great and external helps in the means appointed by God; and on the other side, a proportional blessing promised to go along with his ordinance by the operation of his Spirit. Hence it is, that all this communion is spiritual, conferred by the Spirit, and received by faith; yet it is most real, and having a real ground and cause, and real effects following, not by virtue of the sacraments in themselves, more than by the word or prayer considered in themselves; but by the virtue of the promise laid hold on by faith. And now word and sacraments being joined together, they concur the more effectually for bringing forth those ends intended in the covenant.
4thly, There is a fourth end which resulteth from these, and that is, a believer’s consolation, Heb. 1.6,8. which, by the strengthening of faith, and beholding of Christ in that ordinance, and being confirmed in the hope of his coming again, &c. proveth very sweet, and corroborateth the soul so much the more, as that therein he trysteth often with the believer, and by it communicateth himself to his senses and spiritual feeling.
5thly, The sacraments hold forth a mutual engaging betwixt God and his people; God holdeth out the contract, the covenant, and offer; we, by our partaking, do declare our acceptance of that offer on those terms, and engage accordingly, that we shall make use of that righteousness therein held forth for our justification, and of that wisdom and strength therein offered for our direction and sanctification. In this respect our taking of the seal is called our covenanting; and Gen. 17. he was to be punished that wanted the seal of God’s covenant: Thus our accepting and receiving looketh to the word, holding forth the terms, and God sealeth and confirmeth on these terms the particular promises of righteousness and strength to the ends before mentioned, that our faith may be strengthened in making use of them.
These are the main and principle ends of the sacraments, though they serve also for outward distinguishing of God’s people from all other societies and persons.
In sum, The word offereth Christ and his benefits, the hearer accepteth him, on the terms on which he is offered, and consenteth; both these are supposed to precede the sacraments, though (as we may see in the jailer, Acts 16. and others) it may be but for a very short time, yet, in order of nature at least, they are prior, and then come the sacraments, which have in them, 1. A clear view of the bargain, that we may close distinctly, and know what we attain. 2. A solemn confirmation of God’s side of the covenant, and the particular offer he therein maketh. 3. A furthering of us in part, and helping us to believe, and a conferring of something offered. 4. A comforting of those upon whom the blessings are conferred. 5. The receiver’s solemn and public engaging to God, that he shall observe and make use of all these; the fifth may be looked upon as the second in order.
We may come now to consider the faults we are guilty of in reference to the sacraments. And first, in general, then more particularly in reference to baptism and the Lord’s supper: We shall not speak to these faults common to papists and others, which are more doctrinal, such as errors about the persons who may administer them, as that women may administer baptism, &c. But we shall speak to those that are incident to us in our practice.
And first, in general we fail, either when too much weight is laid on them, or when too little. First, when too much, as, 1. When there is an absolute necessity supposed to be of them in order to salvation. 2. When they are thought to confer grace of themselves by the very partaking of the outward elements, although without faith. 3. When they are rested on in the outward receiving; as if that made us some way acceptable to God. 4. When there is a superstitious blind preferring of them to, and with the prejudice of all other ordinances, so that one will neglect preaching and praying long, but must have baptism and the communion. 5. When there is a preferring of the outward ordinance to Christ and the thing signified, that is, When men seek more to have the baptism of water, than the baptism of the Spirit, and the external communion more than the inward; in which any heaven that is to be found in the ordinances lieth: And when men are more commoved for wanting of the sacrament once, than for wanting Christ often and long. 6. Coming unto, and going from, the external ordinances, neglecting him, and without dependence upon him who giveth the blessing, and thinking that then all is well enough, seeing they were present at the ordinance. 7. Going far off for the partaking of a sacrament to the prejudice of necessary moral duties called for at that time. 8. Placing more in them than in works of mercy and charity, or doting on them, to the neglect of those. 9. When they are accounted so holy, as if they might not be given, where Christ alloweth them to be given; or as if that wronged them, when they are not administered in some consecrate place, as if one place were now, under the gospel, more holy than another. 10. Adding to Christ’s institution, in the way of administration; as if what he hath appointed, because it is common and ordinary, were base and too low for them.
Again, they get too little esteem, 1. When people use them as bare and empty signs, without respect to their ends. 2. When there is not that reverence given to God in them, as ought to be, according to his command, when we are about so holy and so solemn pieces of worship. 3. When men carnally, and without preparation and observation, can hazard on them as common things. 4. When God’s grace and goodness, in condescending in them to us, is not admired and blessed. 5. When they are not pondered and studied, that we may know them, and be affected in receiving them, and when there is not meditation on them. 6. Want of delight in them. 7. Carelessness of them, whether we have them or want them. 8. Corrupting the Lord’s institution in our manner of going about them, either adding to it, or diminishing from it, or changing it, as if men might do so. 9. Little zeal to keep them pure. 10. Neglecting the occasions of them, when we may have them with some little pains. 11. Accounting them better, when administered by one minister, than when by another; or esteeming little of them, because dispensed by some men, (though lawful ministers) as if men added any worth to the ordinance of God. 12. Never actually laying weight on any of them, or drawing comfort from them, or less than should have been done. 13. Not wishing and praying that others may have good of them. 14. Not fearing the wronging of them by multitudes who partake of them, and not endeavouring to have abuses of that kind helped, but making them common to all, indifferently and promiscuously. 15. When folk fear not the breaking of their engagements in them. 16. When men hang the fruit of them on the administerer’s intention, or on the grace of them that are joint partakers with them. 17. When there is little zeal against the errors that wrong them, as when they are denied by Anabaptists, and when they are corrupted, as in the Mass.
To come particularly to baptism; we may consider, 1. The sins of those who seek it for their children. 2. The sins of those who administer it. 3. The sins of on-lookers, especially those who are called to be witnesses. 4. The sins of those who are baptized.
The parents or presenters of children to baptism fail before, in the time, and after the administration of this ordinance; first, before, 1. By not serious minding that which is to be done. 2. Not considering the child’s condition as needing Christ in that ordinance. Nor, 3. The end of that ordinance. 4. Miskenning Christ, and not going first to him, for conferring the things and blessings signified. 5. Not praying for the child, for the ministers, and for a blessing on the ordinance. 6. Not blessing God that there is a covenant of grace that taketh in our children; nor offering them to be engaged and received in it. 7. Not minding the most simple and edifying way of going about it, but walking by other rules. 8. Needless delaying of it for carnal ends. 9. Being more desirous of the sign than of the thing signified.
2dly, When we come to it, we sin. 1. Not seeking to have our own covenant with God (by which we have this privilege of bring our children to baptism) renewed and made sure. 2. Not considering by what right we claim it to our children. 3. Not repenting of our own breaches of covenant, nor wondering that God keepeth with us, who have often broken to him. 4. Not coming with the exercise of fear and reverence. 5. Waiting on it oft-times without attention or minding our duty in what is spoken. 6. Promising for the fashion when we engage for the children’s education, and without either judgment or resolute purpose to perform. 7. Being ignorant of what is said or done. 8. Not concurring in prayer for the blessing. 9. Not undertaking in Christ’s strength to perform the duties called for.
3dly, After the administration of baptism, we fail, 1. In forgetting all our engagements. 2. In growing careless to maintain any suitable frame, and falling carnally in our mirth on such occasions. 3. Not being much in prayer for the children, nor insisting or continuing in prayer for the blessing. 4. Not being faithful according to our engagements, in educating them. 1. In knowledge, that they may be so trained up as to know what God is. 2. In the fear of God, pressing it upon them by frequent exhortations. 3. In giving them good example. 4. In giving them seasonable correction (but rather sparing them though to their hurt) when there is cause of correction. 5. Being also unfaithful, in not seriously minding them of their engagements by baptism. And, 6. Much more by giving them evil example. 7. Conniving at their faults. 8. Advising them to what is sinful, or sending them where they may meet with snares, or suffering them to go there. 9. Providing for them the things of this life, without respect to that life which is to come. 10. Not enabling ourselves that we may discharge our duty to them. 11. Not insisting to press those things upon them, that concern their souls always; thinking it enough that sometimes they be spoken to. 12. Never purposely stirred up and driven by that tie to see for their good. Nor, 13. Repenting our many short-comings. Nor, 14. Lamenting for what we see sinful in them, when they follow not faithful advise. These are things that should carefully be looked unto, both by fathers and mothers, and all such as engage for the Christian education of the children whom they present to that ordinance.
Next, in him that administereth baptism, there are oft-times diverse failings. As, 1. When it is customarily dispensed without respect to its end. 2. When in prayer the child’s salvation is not really and seriously aimed at, but for the fashion. 3. When it becometh a burden to despise it. 4. When it is not thought much of, that Christ admitteth such into his house, or himself to be a partaker of such mercies, but to be a dispenser of them to others. 5. When he followeth it not privately with his prayers for a blessing: besides what failings may be in unsuitable words, and human ceremonies, &c. And seeking himself in the words that are spoken rather than the edification of the hearers.
When we are witnesses and on-lookers, we fail. 1. In wearying and fretting, because we are detained a while. 2. Not setting ourselves to be edified by what we see done and hear spoken. 3. Not sympathising with the child or its parents in prayer. 4. Not being thankful to God for such a benefit and ordinance to such a child’s behoof. 5. Lightness of carriage, and in looking, speaking, or thinking in the time, as if we were not present at such an ordinance of Christ’s. 6. Not so seriously taken up in sympathising with other folks children, because they are not our own. 7. Removing and withdrawing, and not staying to countenance it. 8. Not minding the child when we are gone. 9. Not helping them as we may, to be answerable to that tie they come under in baptism. 10. Not admonishing them when we see parents and children walk unanswerable, nor testifying against them, nor mourning for the dishonour God getteth by baptized persons’ unsuitable carriage.
Fourthly, All of us that are baptized, fail wonderfully, less or more. 1. That we never (as we ought) reckon ourselves obliged by that tie we come under in baptism. 2. That we neither are, nor seriously study to be, as we ought, answerable to it. 3. That we are not thankful for it to God, who admitted us to that ordinance. 4. That we do not esteem it above all bare carnal birth-rights, how great soever. 5. That we do not seek to have it cleared, in the extent of it, as to the privileges and benefits thereby conferred on us and our children. 6. That we do not pursue after the blessing therein covenanted to us. 7. That we do not endeavor the performance of the condition of the believing and trusting in Christ, which is the condition of the covenant, of which baptism is the seal. 8. That we do not lay weight on our baptism, for strengthening our faith, both in spiritual and temporal difficulties, as if it were no seal of the covenant. 9. That we are often ignorant how to make use of it. 10. That we do not account ourselves wholly God’s, as being given away to him in baptism, but live to ourselves. 11. That we do not fight against our lusts, Satan, and the world, according to our baptismal vow. 12. That we do not adorn our Christian profession with an holy life. 13. That we walk and war against Christ, instead of fighting under his banner. 14. That we do not aggravate our sins [that is, we do not consider the aggravation of our sins—JTK], as being committed against this tie. 15. That we are not patient under sufferings, nor penitent and humble under all sad dispensations; notwithstanding that we are by our baptism bound to take up the cross. 16. That we do not meditate on our engagements, nor repent for our neglects. 17. That we do not aim and endeavour to come up to the main ends of this ordinance: Which are, 1. The evidencing our regeneration and engrafting into Christ. 2. The giving up ourselves to the Father, Son, and Spirit. 3. Sticking by Christ on the most costly and dearest terms. 4. Taking directions from him, and walking in him. 5. Seeking the things above, and not the things that are on earth. 6. Mortification to creatures, and to be crucified with Christ. 7. The improving of this tie, not only for obliging us to these, but for strengthening us in him to attain them, and to comfort ourselves in all difficulties from this ground. These things are much amissing, alas! they are much amissing: For we lamentably neglect to draw all our strength and furniture, under all tentations, and for all duties, from Christ, by virtue of this baptismal obligation and tie: We resort but seldom to this magazine and storehouse; this precious privilege is, alas! but very little manured and improved by us.
We come next to speak of the sins we are usually guilty of in reference to the Lord’s supper; and they be of several sorts. 1. Some are doctrinal, when the institution is corrupted, as in popery: These we will not now meddle with. 2. Others are practical; and they are either in ministers and elders, who admit and debar, or in such as are admitted or debarred.
And first, we are to consider, that men may sin against this ordinance, by not communicating: As, 1. When they contemn and willfully neglect it. 2. When they are not frequent in it, but carelessly slight it, when convenient it may be had. 3. By not foreseeing and ordering our affairs, so as we may not be hindered, when an occasion of that ordinance offereth itself near to us. 4. By incapacitating ourselves to be admitted through ignorance or scandal, and by negligence to remove these. 5. By fretting at our being debarred, or at these who have a hand in it. 6. Not repenting of the causes which procureth our being debarred. 7. Not seeking to be humbled under such a weighty censure, and to get the right use of it for the time to come. 8. Suspecting that it proceedeth from carnal ends. 9. Reporting amiss of those who do it. 10. Not praying for them that partake in this ordinance, wherever we hear of it in any place. 11. Looking rather to the unfitness of some that are admitted, and the neglect of duty in office-bearers in debarring, than our own. 12. Not sympathising with them, and yet on that ground absenting ourselves, to wit, for the faults of others.
And here, by the way, we beseech you, take these few words of exhortation. 1. Look on debarring of ignorant and scandalous persons from the Lord’s table, as Christ’s ordinance. 2. Consider wherefore yourselves are debarred; and as you may be assured it is from no particular prejudice or disrespect, so ye would repent and be humbled for that which procureth it. 3. Be making up what is wanting for the time to come: your failing in any of these is a fault, and let none think themselves the less bound to the study of holiness, because they are kept from partaking of it: But the sin of some is, they shift it, because they will not stir themselves up to a suitable frame for it, and yet they are not suitably affected with the want of it.
Next, there are faults in them that are admitted to communicate, and these both in hypocrites and true believers respectively: and that, 1. Before. 2. In the time. And, 3. After receiving the Lord’s supper.
And first, before receiving, there are many failings: As, 1. Ignorance of the end and nature of this ordinance. 2. Not studying to know it: Nor, 3. To have the heart rightly affected with it. 4. Not endeavouring to keep up an high esteem, and holy reverence of the love of God, in giving of his Son, and the Son’s condescending love, in coming to die for sinners. 5. Not seeking to have the covenant clearly closed with by faith, before it be sealed by the sacrament. 6. Not endeavouring to have all bygone quarrels removed, and our peace established. 7. Not searching our way, that we may be well acquainted with our condition, so as we may have the distinct knowledge of it, when we come. 8. Not carefully endeavouring a suitable frame of heart by prayer, meditation, and reading. 9. Not praying for a blessing, either for him that administereth, or for those who are to join with us, to prevent their sin. 10. Not minding their instruction who are under our charge. 11. Not presently renewing (if before closed with and consented to) our covenant before our partaking. 12. Not sequestering our hearts from other things for that end. 13. Not fearing to miss the thing offered, and to contract guilt instead of getting any good. 14. Not searching after the sins of former communions and other sins, and repenting of them. 15. What we aim at in these, not aiming at them in Christ’s strength. 16. Not aiming and endeavouring constantly to walk with God, and keep communion with him in all duties, that we may have the more access to communion with him in this ordinance. 17. Not laying aside of rooted prejudices and secret malice. Nor, 18. Admonishing such whom we know to lie under any offence of that kind, that they may repent and reform. 19. Unstayedness in our aiming at communion with God in it, or coming to it more selfishly, than our of due regard to the glory of God.
2dly, In our going about this ordinance, there are many faults that usually concur: As, 1. Our giving too little respect, or too much to it, as is said before of the sacraments in general. 2. Our not exercising faith in the present time, according to the covenant and Christ’s institution. 3. Want of love to constrain us, and want of that hunger and thirst that should be after Christ. 4. Want of that discerning the Lord’s body, which should be so, as, 1. To put a difference betwixt bread and wine in the sacrament, and common bread and wine in respect of the end. 2. To put a difference betwixt this ordinance, and Christ himself, who is signified and exhibited by it. 3. To lay, in some respect, a further weight on this, than on the word only, though it be some way of the same nature. 4. To put a difference betwixt this sacrament and other sacraments; and so discerning it, it is to conceive of it rightly. 1. In respect of its use and end according to its institution. 2. In respect of our manner and use-making of it, not only by our senses or bodily organs, but by faith and the faculties of the soul, looking upon, and receiving Christ’s body in that ordinance, and feeding on it there as in the word, and more clearly and sensibly: for the sacraments do not give us any new thing which the word did not offer and give before, but they give the same thing more clearly and sensibly. 3. In respect of the blessing; not only waiting for a common blessing for sustaining the body by that bread and wine, but for a spiritual blessing to be conferred by the spirit to the behoof of the soul. 4. It is so to discern it, as to improve it for obtaining real communion betwixt Christ and us, by a spiritual feeding, as it were, upon his own body; so that, when there is any short-coming in these, in so far the Lord’s body is not discerned. 5. We sin in going about this ordinance, by want of reverence, when we come without holy thoughts, and a divine frame, and without love ravishing the heart, which is most suitable at such a time; much more do we sin when we come with carnal, loose, and idle thoughts, or any irreverent gesture, or with light-like apparel or carriage in coming or sitting. 6. By want of love to others, and sympathy with such as are strangers to communion with Christ. 7. By not distinct closing with Christ, or renewing our covenant with him, or engaging of ourselves to him. 8. By stupidly or senselessly taking the elements without any affection, and by being heartless in the work, and comfortless because we want sense. 9. By not cheering ourselves by faith, that we may obtain and win to sense, and by pressing too little at sense or comfort. 10. By not improving this ordinance in reference to the general ends of a sacrament, or the particular ends we should aim at in this sacrament: As, 1. Fellowship with Christ himself. 2. Communion in his death and sufferings. 3. The sense of these, and the comfort of them. 4. The lively commemoration of Christ’s death and sufferings, and of the love he had to us, in all these, for the stirring up of our love again to him. 5. The strengthening of ourselves in the way of holiness, by strength drawn from him by faith. 6. Minding his glory, and the setting forth thereof, with respect unto, and hope of his coming again. 7. Particular engaging of our affections one to another. 8. Engaging our hearts by serious resolutions to make for suffering. Lastly, We sin here, by not reflecting on our hearts in the mean time, that we may know what they are doing, nor putting up ejaculatory prayers to God in the time; receiving the sacrament with our hand, and yet not receiving him in that mean by faith into the heart, nor feeding on him, and satisfying ourselves with him really present in that mean: for he is to our faith really present there, as well as in his word.
3. After communicating, there is a readiness to slip and fall into these faults: 1. Irreverent and carnal removing from the table. 2. Forgetting what we were doing, and falling immediately to loose words or thoughts. 3. Not reflecting on our by-past carriage, to see what we were doing, and what frame we were in, and what we obtained. 4. Not repenting for what was wrong in every piece of our way and carriage. 5. Not following on to obtain what we yet miss, and not still waiting for the blessing, even after we are come away. 6. Not being thankful if we have obtained any thing. 7. Fretting and fainting, if we have not gotten what we would have. 8. Or being indifferent and careless, whether we get or want. 9. Carnally loose after communions, as if we had no more to do. 10. Vain, or puffed up, if we think we have attained any thing. 11. Little or no keeping of promise made to God, but continuing as before. 12. Digressing on the commendation or censure of what was heard, or seen, rather than making use of it for our profit. 13. Making that ordinance an occasion of contention, for some faults we conceive to have been about it, whereas it should be ground of union and love. 14. Not entertaining tenderness, and a frame that may keep us ready to communicate again. 15. Not meditating on what we have been doing. 16. Not longing again for the like occasion. 17. Not helping others that did not come, or had not the occasion of coming to it. 18. Conceitedness, because we were admitted. 19. Despising others who might not be admitted. 20. Mocking, or secretly snuffing at any who goeth, or has gone about it with more tenderness than we, or who endeavoureth to keep their promises better than we. This sin of emulation and spiritual envy, at any who outruns us in tenderness and proficiency (touched in these two last), is very natural to us, so most dangerous; it participates of cursed Cain’s; this sin is the worst of all malignity, and is always accompanied with a woeful and devilish satisfaction with, and complacency in the shortcomings of others, that so we may be the more noticed. 21. Secret disdain at tender Christians, beside us, as hypocritical. 22. Turning aside, to live like others who have been debarred; as if there ought to be no difference put betwixt those who have this badge, and those who want it, or sitting up as if all were done, when we have communicated. 23. Want of watchfulness against recurring tentations and snares; vanity and conceit, if we attain any thing, and want of pity to those who did not come so good speed. 24. Indiscreet speaking, either to the commending or censuring of speakers and forms, but little or nothing to edification.
In the last place, we shall speak a little to this question; if, and how, the admission of scandalous persons doth pollute the communion? and if it be sinful to receive it with such persons? or, if joint-communicants be thereby defiled: Let us, for answer, consider pollution distinctly, with reference to these four things. 1. In reference to the sacraments themselves. 2. In reference to the admitted that are scandalous. 3. In reference to the admitters. 4. In reference to the joint-communicants.
First, As to the sacraments, there is a twofold pollution: The first is, Intrinsic and essential, which, by corruption of the institution of Christ, turneth it then to be no sacrament, as it is in the mass: or to be hurtful; as when significant ceremonies, sinfully devised by men, are mixed and added besides, and contrary to Christ’s institution. The first everteth the nature of the sacrament, and it is henceforth no more a sacrament. The second poisoneth it, so that it may not be received without partaking of that sin actively.
There is another way of polluting the sacrament, that is extrinsic and circumstantial, not in essentials, but in our use making of it, and the application thereof beyond Christ’s warrant, as when it is administered to one upon whom Christ alloweth it not. In that case, it is not a sacrament to that person; yet it is so in itself. This pollution is a profaning of it to us, or a making it common. Thus the word of promise generally applied in a congregation without separation, in application, betwixt the precious and the vile, is a profaning of the word, (for the word of promise should not be made common more than the sacrament), as it is marked, Ezek. 22.26. The priests have profaned my holy name, they have put no difference between the holy and the profane, between the clean and the unclean. Yet, in that case, the word ceaseth not to be God’s word, though it be so abused: Or, as an admonition cast before a profane mocker, is but the abusing of any holy thing, yet it altereth not the nature of it; as a pearl cast before a sow is puddled and abused, yet it doth not alter its inward nature, but it still remaineth a pearl: so it is here in the word and sacraments; they are abused in their use, when misapplied, yet still (the institution being kept) they are the ordinances of God: Thus was the temple said to be profaned, when it was made more common in its use than was allowed; yet it was still the temple of the Lord: And so admission of scandalous persons may thus be called a polluting of the sacraments, but not essentially in themselves.
2dly, Consider pollutions with reference to persons who are admitted; and so the sacraments may be polluted, 1. By grossly scandalous persons. 2. By hypocrites. 3. By believers not exercising their graces. The sacrament is polluted by, and to all these, because as to the pure, all things (lawful) are pure, so to the unclean and unbelieving, nothing is pure, their mind and conscience being defiled. Thus their praying, sacrificing, hearing, ploughing, &c. all is unclean; and, by proportion, to believers, though in a good and clean state, yet in an evil and unholy frame: The sacrament may be said, in some sense, to be unclean, and polluted by them, to themselves.
3dly, As to the office-bearers, who are the admitters, the sacrament cannot be profaned essentially, the institution being kept pure; yet they may sin, and be guilty of profaning it, by opening the door wider than Christ has allowed, and not keeping the right bounds: And ministers may so sin, in promiscuous applying of the promises and consolations of the covenant, as well as in applying its seals, and both these are sins to them; yet these cases would be excepted.
1. When such a scandal is not made known to them: Scandalous persons may be admitted, because they are not bound to look on them as such, till discovered.
2. When such scandals cannot be made out judicially, though possibly they be true in themselves, they may, though against the inclination and affection of the admitters, be admitted, yet not against their conscience; because, that being a high censure in Christ’s house, his servants are not to walk arbitrary (for that would bring confusion with it) but by rules given them, whereof this is one, not to receive an accusation, but under two or three witnesses.
3. When by some circumstances it proveth not edifying, but rather hurtful to the church, or the persons concerned: As, 1. When the scandal is in such a matter, as is not expressly determined in the word, but is by consequence to be deduced from it; as suppose it be anent such a point of truth, as has divines, that are godly, dissentient in it, or in such a practice (suppose perjury as is evil indeed in itself; but by deduction and consequence, which is not so clear) to be applied; or it is in such things as affect not a natural conscience, as fornication, drunkenness, and adultery, &c. do; or in such things as contradict not expressly any truth: And, 2. When the scandal of these sins is by universality become little among men, or there is not easy access, in an edifying way, to decide in them, or censure them; there is still a right and a wrong in these which a minister in doctrine may reprove, yet he may forbear a judicial sentence in such cases, as it seemeth Paul did with the Corinthians, amongst whom there were several sorts of offenders. 1. Incestuous fornicators, or such as sinned against nature’s light; these, 1 Cor. 5.3,4,5. &c. he commandeth to be excluded or excommunicated. 2. Such as by corrupt doctrine made schisms, and misled the people in factions, to the prejudice of the apostle’s authority and doctrine, chap. 3.3. &c. Deceitful workers, 2 Cor. 11.13. these for a time, 2 Cor. 10.6. he spareth for the people’s sake, 2 Cor. 12.19. 3. Some weakly and carnally misled into factions, 1 Cor. 13.1-4. these he endeavoureth to recover. 4. Some guilty of faults about the sacrament, in their wrong manner of going about it, 1 Cor. 11. These he reproveth and laboureth to amend, yet alloweth them to go on and celebrate the sacrament, but doth not debar for the time either factious ministers, or people from it, as he had done the other; neither is it likely, that the communion was omitted, or they debarred, for he doth not reprove for not debarring them, as he doth. For wronging the institution: the reason is, because that which warranteth debarring and censures of all sorts, is edification; and when that end cannot be gained to a people or person, such censures may be omitted; and except some bounds were to be fixed here, the difficulty in abounding differences would prove inextricable: And therefore, when a sin is become epidemical, and very universal; on the one hand, the more tender conscientiously scrupulous would be instructed to much sobriety, and earnestly dealt with, not to indulge themselves a liberty to rend the church, or to divide from it when such persons are admitted, being otherwise capable of the privilege; because exclusion in this case, by a sentence from the sacrament, would probably miss its end, which is edification, and would weaken the authority of the ordinance of discipline, if not hazard the liberty of the gospel. On the other hand, ministers would by all means take heed, and be obtested in the name of the Lord, that they (which is readily incident in an hour of tentation) run not on the extreme of shifting their duty; insulting, as it were, over-tender consciences, and strengthening the hands of the wicked by compliance with or accession to these sins; but would, under the pain of making themselves horribly guilty, manage obvious ways, deal freely and faithfully in making use of the key of doctrine, when the use of the other will not, in all appearance, be so much for edification; that by public and doctrinal separating the precious from the vile, and by straight down-right private dealing, they may, in the sight of God, commend themselves to every man’s conscience.
4. Let us consider if this ordinance be polluted to the joint-receivers; suppose that some are sinfully admitted by the office-bearers of the church? And we say that it is not a pollution or sin to them to partake with such, for the sacrament may be blessed to them notwithstanding, as Christ’s ordinance, even as when the word is unwarrantably applied in promises and admonitions; so that pearls are cast before swine: yet supposing some tender souls to be present, they may meddle warrantably with the abused word as God’s word, and it may prove useful to them. For confirming this truth we offer these reasons.
The first is, the word and sacraments are of one nature, and are polluted or made use of one and the same way; only the difference is in this, that the one usually is doctrinally wronged, the other disciplinarily. 2. Because that unwarrantable admission of others is not the communicator’s, but the minister’s sin, therefore it cannot wrong them more than want of preparation in others who come. 3. Any other’s sin cannot loosen me from my obligation to a duty; now it is the duty of every one, as to examine themselves, so being prepared by suitable self-examination to eat, 1 Cor. 11.28. and yet, in the church of Corinth, many did sinfully approach to the Lord’s table: Now, though the command requiring self-examination will not warrant rulers not examining, yet it will warrant private communicants to endeavour rightly to go about that duty themselves, and not to be much anxious what others do, as if other men’s carriage were the ground of our approaching to the Lord’s table. 4. It is notwithstanding a sacrament without any mixture of men’s corrupt additions, and so the neglecting of it is the neglecting of a sacrament. 5. If scandalous receivers did corrupt it to others, then a corrupt minister could never celebrate a sacrament; which would contradict the Lord’s way in appointing such sometimes to dispense his mysteries both in the Old and New Testament; and if the minister’s corruption pollute not the ordinance, much less will the scandal of any others. 6. The practice of the Lord’s people in receiving sacraments this way, both before Christ’s incarnation, and since, proveth it. 7. It would be a great and inextricable snare to consciences, if the fruit of their communicating depend, not only on their own preparing themselves, but also on the ministers and joint receivers; if their not preparation, or failing in it, brought guilt on us, it were impossible that ever we could with clearness receive the sacrament.
For, 1. It is hard to think, a communion is celebrated, but there is one or more who could not be admitted, and the admission of one or two, as well as of many, is a profaning of the ordinance: Yea, if we thought them to be scandalous: yea, if we knew them not to be holy, we could not in faith communicate with them, lest the ordinance be defiled by us, if their defiling were ours.
2. The presence of a hypocrite would defile it to us, for his hypocrisy defileth it to him, and he has not right before God to come, neither would it warrant us that we knew not: For, 1. Many do sin when they know not. 2. It is not our knowing his sin that defileth the sacrament, but it is his hypocrisy and rottenness. 3. Thus the same sacrament might be as God’s ordinance participated warrantably by one who knew not, and not by another who knew this; which were hard to make out.
3. Believers their being out of a frame would pollute this ordinance to us, and incapacitate us to receive it, for it is, in that case, sin to them, and we should keep as great a distance from their sins as from the sins of others.
Yea, 4. One could not communicate with himself (to speak so) if that ground were true: For, 1. We have corruption. 2. We know we have it, as well as we can know any other man’s. 3. It doth pollute the ordinance in part to ourselves, and bringeth guilt with it; therefore, if sin known in another would do it, much more that which is in ourselves; for if it be corruption, as known to be in others, that polluteth it, then that same known in ourselves must have that same effect: for, a quatenus ad omne valet consequentia.
If it be said, 1. This corruption is but half (so to say) in ourselves, being weakened by grace, and not allowed. Answer. Yet it is corruption; and certainly half-corruption in ourselves will weigh more than whole corruption in another, especially considering that necessarily this polluteth in part all our holy things.
If it be said, We cannot be freed from corruption, while here, and so we could not go about any duty, if that reasoning were good. Answer. 1. A mixture of good and bad in the visible church is as certain as a mixture of grace and corruption in a believer. 2. If our own corruption, which involveth us in sin in the manner of our doing duties, will not loosen us from a commanded duty, much less sins in others; yea, we are no less prohibited to communicate with sin and corruption in ourselves, than in others; and also we are commanded as effectually to purge our own heart as the church.
This truth in doctrine the sober of the independents approve as to themselves (whatever be their practice as to others) as the only way to eschew confusion, and keep unity and order: So Hooker’s Survey, part 2. Amesius de consc. cap. 4. lib. 1. Norton adver. Appol. Resp. ad ultimam qu�stionem.
As for other questions, as, How the sacraments seal? or what they seal? The major or the minor proposition? The promise as a covenant, or as a testament, legating Christ and his benefits to us: these would require a larger dispute than our intended work will admit; and therefore we shall not meddle with them.
The last thing in which we shall instance the breach of this command, is in reference to the duty of fasting: concerning which we would take notice of two things: 1. That fasting is a solemn piece of external religious worship, when rightly and religiously discharged. 2. That men may be guilty of many sins, as to their practice, in reference thereto.
First, That it is a piece of external worship is clear: 1. From precepts commanding it. 2. From the practices and examples of the saints in scripture. 3. From scripture-directions given to regulate us in it; yet it differeth from prayer and sacraments. 1. That those are ordinary pieces of worship, but this is extraordinary, proceeding from special occasions, either of a cross lying on, or 2. Feared and imminent: 3. Or some great thing which we are to suit for, or such like. Although it be an extraordinary piece of worship; yet the more holy we read any to have been, we find they have been the more in this duty of fasting.
2. We are to consider that fasting is not of itself a piece of immediate worship, as prayer, &c. but mediate only as it is made use of to be helpful to some other duty, such as praying, humbling of ourselves, mortification, &c.
Again, 3. Fasting may be considered in four respects: 1. As it is gone about in secret, by one single person setting himself apart for prayer, and so fasting to that end; many instances whereof are in scripture. 2. As it is private, or little more public, being gone about by a family, or some few persons joining together, as Esther and her maids. 3. As it is public, being performed by a congregation, as Acts 13.2-4. As gone about by a whole national church: These four are all mentioned, Zech 12.11,12.; where we find, 1. The whole land. 2. Families together. 3. Families apart. 4. Particular persons, or wives apart, setting about this duty.
4. Consider fasting in respect of the causes that call for it, and there are, 1. Public causes, Dan. 9.2. 2. Particular and personal, as of David for his child, 2 Sam. 12.16. 3. For others, Psalm 35.13. And, 4. It is to be minded in a special way for helping us against spiritual evils, casting out of devils, mortifying of lusts, as also under sad temporal crosses and losses, Matth. 17.21. and 1 Cor. 9.
Next, as there are some times and cases in all these, which call for fasting, with prayer, to be seriously gone about, so we may sin in reference to this duty many ways: As, 1. When it is slighted, and not gone about at all; and thus men are guilty either, 1. By contemning it; or, 2. Counting it not necessary; or, 3. By negligence, so that we will not be at pains to stir up ourselves to a frame for it: or, 4. Will not leave our pleasures, or work for it. 5. In not esteeming highly of it. 6. In not labouring to have fit opportunities to go about it. 7. In scaring at it as a burden. 8. In casting it up as hypocrisy in others, and mocking at it in them. 9. In not joining in our affections with others we know are fasting. 10. In our unfrequent use of it. 11. In neglecting causes that relate to the public, or to others; contenting ourselves with what relateth to our own necessity. 12. In not being affected with our neglect of that duty, nor mourning for it, and repenting of it, nor being humbled under the many evils which the neglecting of it carrieth along with it. 13. At least, neglecting one part or other of this duty of fasting. 14. Not setting ourselves seriously to be at the end designed in fasting, which maketh us either neglect it, or go formally about it.
In going about this duty of fasting, there are two evils to be avoided: The first is, giving too much to it, as if it did merit, Isa. 58.1. or, as if itself did mortify sin, or make holy, or were religious worship in itself: The second is, on the other hand, when it getteth too little, being looked on as not necessary, or not profitable for the framing of one’s spirit, and fitting them for prayer, self-examination, or wrestling with God, and not accounted a fit mean for that end, more than when it is neglected.
In speaking of the sins we are guilty of, as to this duty, we are to consider more particularly how we sin before it, in our preparation to it. 2. In our going about it. 3. When it is ended.
And first, before our going about it, we sin, 1. When the right end of a fast is mistaken, and it is not considered as a mean to help us to a more spiritual frame. 2. When we do not study to be clear in, and to consider the special grounds that call us to it, not aiming to have our heart from conviction affected suitably with them. 3. When we are not put to it from the right motive, but go about it selfishly, to be seen of men; as Matth. 6.16. or for the fashion. 4. When it is not gone about in obedience to a command of God, and so we fast to ourselves. Zech. 7.5. 5. When there is no secret examination of our own hearts, to try what frame we are in, what lusts reign in us, or prevail over us: Nor 6. Any particular dealing with God beforehand to be enabled for this duty, and helped in it, and that both for ourselves and others. 7. When we are not endeavouring to be in good terms with God, and studying to be clear as to that before we come to put up suits to him. 8. When we neglect Christ, and turn legal in it. 9. When we do not separate ourselves from all other affairs timeously the night before. 10. When we are lazy in rising so timely that day as should be. 11. When we do not (if it be secret) labour to be unseen in it to any. 12. Not setting yourselves seriously to it, Dan 9.3. abstracting ourselves from diversions, and rousing up ourselves for it.
2. In the time of fasting, we sin, 1. By eating unnecessarily, though it be little; as we may sin by not eating, when not eating disableth us in duties; yet the body ought to be in such a measure affected, as may not hinder us in prayer; but many scarce suffer it to be touched, or in the least measure affected, or afflicted with abstinence. 2. In lightness of apparel, or such fineness in it, as they make use of on other days. 3. In gestures, looking light-like, laughing, and in such a carriage, as is very unsuitable for that day. 4. In hypocrisy, there being a more seeming weightedness and heaviness than really there is. 5. In having wrong ends before us. As, 1. To seem holy. 2. To carry on some temporal or politic design, as Jezebel did against Naboth to get his vineyard. 3. To get advantage of some other, and to make some sinister designs digest and go down better, as Isa. 58.4. To smite with the fist of wickedness, as under pretence of long prayers, to take the more liberty to injure others. 4. For strife and debate, and strengthening of factions and parties. 5. We sin here by neglecting works of mercy. 6. By taking pains on works lawful on other days, exacting all our labour, or a part of it, which is unbecoming on that day. 7. By taking delight in temporal things, finding our own pleasures. 8. By words or thoughts of lawful things, diverting us from the work of the day. 9. By wearying of it as a burden, not calling it a delight. 10. By wishing it were over, that we might be at our work or pastime again, Amos 8.5. 11. By negligence in prayer, or not being frequent and fervent in it, nor pertinent to that day, and the end of it; for there should be in all these something on a fast-day suitable to it; and which is called for on that day, more than on other days. 12. By not joining seriously with others when they pray, especially in particulars which concern others. 13. By little mourning or heart-melting, especially in secret duties, which on that day should be more frequent, more serious and affecting, than on other days, that day being set apart for it: And, if private, we should be more abstracted, even from ordinary refreshments and mirth, than upon a Sabbath; and the frame of the heart would be then more humble, mournful, and denied to otherwise lawful comforts. 14. By little of the exercise of repentance or sense of sin that day, for humbling the heart in the sense of our own vileness and loathing of ourselves. 15. By little suitable uptaking of God in his holiness, displeasure against sin, &c. which on that day is in an especial way called for. 16. By not distinct covenanting with him, and engaging to him against our seen evils and defects; a fast-day should be a covenanting-day, as we see in Ezra and Nehemiah. 17. By being defective in reading and meditating on what may humble us; but much more, when, by looks, words, or thoughts, we mar the right frame and set of our hearts. 18. By resting on fasting, or being legal in it. 19. By not minding the profiting of others, nor sympathising with their wants and case, not being careful to see those of our family or charge observant of it. 20. By not abstaining from the marriage-bed, 1 Cor. 7.5.
3d, We sin after fasting. 1. Soon returning to other thoughts. 2. Letting any frame we had attained slack and wear out. 3. Forgetting our confessions and engagements, and falling to former sins, and neglecting these duties to which we have engaged. 4. Being rigid with others we have to do with. 5. Not insisting in prayer for those things we aimed at in fasting. 6. Not trying and observing if any thing we prayed for hath been obtained. 7. Not reflecting upon our carriage in it, that we may know how it was discharged. 8. Not humbled under our many shortcomings and failings in it. 9. Glad when it was done, because that restraint is taken off our carnal humours. 10. Sitting down and resting on that we have done, as if all were done. 11. Thinking ourselves something better by our outward performance. 12. Being vain of it, if it be well to our sense. 13. Being unwatchful after it, and not studying suitableness in our following carriage, so that it is but the hanging down of the head for a day.
These particulars, applied to our own hearts, may be useful for our conviction and humiliation. Ah! Who can say, I am clean? All of us are guilty, either by neglecting such duties, or by thus and thus going about them unsuitably. From these sins, we may read also the contrary duties or qualifications that are required for the right discharging of these duties. The preventing of these sins will bring in the duties called for, and the right manner of going about them. Otherwise the going about these duties, without the manner requisite, is but, as it were, the making of some image for ourselves in the Lord’s worship, which he has not commanded, and so he may say, Is it such a fast that I have chosen? Isa. 58.5. or, Is it such a prayer as I called for; and, Who hath required these things at your hands? Isa. 1.12. These questions, which the Lord putteth to our conscience, will make many prayers, and praises, and much worship, that now seemeth to be in great bings or heaps, come down to a small bulk, when they are thus sifted, and searched by this sieve; and all those things casten, which are found to be breaches of this command.
We come now to the manner how this command is pressed, which is 1st, by a reason. 2d, By a commination. 3d, By a promise. All which speak a readiness in men to fail in this command, and a special notice that God taketh of the duties required in it, and of the sins forbidden in it. Men might readily say, What needeth so much rigidity in the manner of worship? and, if it be to the true God, though it have in it some mixture of those things, which have been formerly abused, it is not much to be stood upon: The Lord, therefore, in pressing it, addeth this reason, I am a jealous God, (saith he) that will not only have my church and spouse honest and chaste indeed, but chaste-like: As C�sar said, his wife behoved not only to abstain from all dishonesty [unchaste carriage], but from all suspicious carriage: Even so will the Lord have his people carry so to him, as a wife should carry to a jealous husband, with such circumspection, as he may not have any occasion of suspicion. Jealousy here implieth two things.
1. A facility or aptness, as it were, to suspect any thing which may look like a giving that to any other, which is due to God: So a husband is said to be jealous, when he is apt to suspect want of love in his wife, and is ready to gather from every circumstance her inclination to another, even though there be no palpably demonstrative ground of it. Thus jealousy is taken amongst men.
2. It importeth a severe indignation against every thing which giveth ground of suspicion: It cannot abide that; hence jealousy is called, The rage of a man, Prov. 6.38. This wrong will not be endured, when many others will be dispensed with. Any thing that seemingly slighteth him, or inclineth the heart to another, is to jealousy insufferable. These two, after the manner of men (as many other things) are applied to God, to shew that he will not admit that which is suspicious-like in his service; but if his people depart from him, in deviating in the least from the rule given, he will be provoked to be avenged on them for it. This is the force of the reason: The commination or threatening added confirmeth this; it is in these words, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children. To visit here is to punish the children for the fathers’ faults; though God should seem for the time to forget the breaches of this command, and not to take notice of corruptions introduced by men in his worship, yet, saith he, I will visit or revenge that iniquity, not only upon the present race, but upon the following, even upon the third and fourth generation.
For clearing this, let us see, First, What is the punishment here threatened? 2. On whom it is? Upon the children of them that transgress this command. 3. How it is executed. 4. Why the Lord doth so? That we may vindicate this place, and clear it from appearance of contradiction, with Ezekiel 18. Where it is said, The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father.
The first question then is, What it is that is here threatened? Answer. We do not think that this place speaketh only of temporal punishments, and that of Ezekiel of eternal. For the scope of both will contradict this; for that passage, Ezek. 18. is occasioned from the people’s present straits, and speaketh directly of temporal judgments; so that distinction will not clear this seeming contradiction. Therefore, we conceive here to be understood mainly spiritual and eternal evils, which God threateneth to the children of wicked parents: For, that temporal judgments follow them, and are included in the threatening, there is no question.
This will be clear, 1. By considering that the thing threatened here is that punishment which the breach of, or iniquity committed against this command, or rather commands, deserveth; yea, it is the punishment that sinful parents deserve, he visiteth the iniquities of the fathers on the children, &c. But that which the breach of this law, or which the parents’ guilt deserveth, is eternal judgment, and not temporal only. Ergo.
2. The thing threatened here is proportionally of the same nature, with the thing promised afterward; the one being opposite to the other: But it were a wronging of God’s mercy to his people to say, That his mercy only looketh to temporal benefits. Ergo, This threatening must also look unto and comprehend eternal plagues.
3. The scope may clear it, which is, To restrain parents from the sins here forbidden; because, by such sins, they bring wrath, not only on themselves, but on their posterity after them, even when they are gone, as ye have it, Jer. 32.18. Now this reason would not have such weight, if the plagues threatened to parents were eternal, and to their children but temporal.
4. This threatening must put some difference betwixt the children of the wicked, and the children of the godly: But temporal difficulties and strokes will not clear up this difference: for often the children of the godly share most in these. It must therefore be in spiritual things they differ mainly.
5. What is threatened here must, especially in the event, light upon the third and fourth generation, and not ordinarily go beyond that. Now, ordinarily, the children of wicked men, in outward things, thrive best unto the third and fourth generation; and after that come their temporal judgments; therefore, it cannot be that, which is here only, or principally meant.
6. Consider Cain, Ham, &c. upon whose posterity this curse was peculiarly derived, and there you will find somewhat more than what is temporal.
The second thing to be cleared here is, the party threatened to be those punished: It is not the fathers that are expressed, but the children after them, as it is, Jer. 32.18. All is forefaulted, the whole stock and family: Concerning which, let us take these three considerations along with us.
1. That these children punished are not innocent in themselves, but, being guilty before the Lord by original corruption, or, by both it and actual sin, making themselves liable to such plagues, they have no reason to say, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge: For, whether the judgments be temporal or spiritual, the children have deserved them, and cannot say they are wronged. And this consideration reconcileth this place with that of Ezekiel, where God putteth them to it thus: None innocent are plagued; but ye are plagued: Therefore, saith he, read your own sin out of your plagues.
2. Consider that the threatening against children of such parents is here limited to the third and fourth generation; all their posterity is not cursed thereby. 1. Because God’s kindness is such, as to leave a door open for penitents. All fell in Adam, yet mercy opened a door of hope to sinful man: And surely the threatenings of this new covenant are not so peremptory as to shut the door of mercy upon sinners. 2. The third and fourth generation are especially threatened, because these are nearest the parent, and have most of his nature in them; he knoweth them best; and often he may live to see these: Therefore, the Lord threateneth these, that it may most affect the parents; it being for the second, third, and fourth generation, that they most ordinarily travel.
3. Consider that, in this threatening, (as also in the promise following) God doth not give or lay down a constant rule, to which he will be tied, as if he could not do otherwise at any time; for to say that, were derogatory to his election, and the sovereignty of his grace; and therefore that is not the scope: But here he giveth a declaration of what usually and ordinarily he doth, and what men, if he deal with them in justice, may expect from him: Yet it is still so to be understood, as the son of a wicked person may be found to be an elect, and the son of a godly person rejected; that he may continue his plagues longer than the third or fourth generation, or break them off sooner when he thinketh good: for though, by this, he would restrain parents from sin, yet hath he a door open to many such children for mercy; even as the contrary promise hath many exceptions as to the children of godly parents, that walk not in the paths of their parents going before them, as many known instances of both, in scripture, do make out.
The third question is, How God doth execute this threatening? or, How he doth reach children with eternal plagues for their parents’ sins?
Answer. 1. He doth it certainly, and he doth it justly: therefore, the children must not only be considered as guilty, but as guilty of the sins of their parents, which we may thus conceive. 1. As to the child of a wicked parent, lying in natural corruption, God denieth and withholdeth his renewing and restraining grace, which he is not obliged to confer; and the Lord, in this, may respect the parents guilt justly. 2. When grace is denied, then followeth the temptation of the parents practice, the devil stirring up to the like sin, and they furthering their children to wickedness by their example, advice, authority, &c. so that it cometh to pass, in God’s justice that they are given up to vent their natural corruption in these ways, and so come, as it is, Ps. 49.13. to approve their parents’ sayings. 3. Upon this followeth God’s casting the child, now guilty of his parents’ faults, into eternal perdition with him; and that this is the meaning of the threatening will appear by the examples of God’s justice in this matter, when wicked parents have children that are not so much miserable in regard of temporal things as they are wicked, cursed, and plagued with ungodliness; so were Cain’s children, so were the children of Cham, so were Esau’s, who were all for a long time prosperous in the world, but following their fathers’ sins (a main part of their curse), God afterward visited them with sad temporal judgments also.
4. If it be asked, Why God thus plagueth and threateneth the children of wicked parents? Answer. 1. God doth it to make sin hateful, seeing it bringeth often a forfeiture of spiritual blessings, yea, of blessings of all sorts, upon whole generations and families. 2. To strike the more terror into others, who by this may be scared from sin, and made to stand in awe of God, who is so dreadful as to put a mark of infamy on the race and posterity of his enemies. 3. The more to affect and weight the sinner, it is a part of his punishment to know, that by his sin, he has not only made himself miserable, but all his posterity: And these may be the reasons why, as it were by the light of nature, all nations, in some cases, are led not only to punish the persons of some malefactors, but to forefault, and put a note of infamy on their posterity, for some kind of faults. 4. This becometh God’s greatness, that men may know how sovereign he is, and how treason against the Most High is to be accounted of. 5. It is to commend holiness, and the necessity of it, to God’s people, and to put them to enrich themselves and their children in God, and a good conscience, rather than in all temporal riches.
These same questions and answers may serve to clear what concerneth the promise also, they being suitably applied to it.
It is further to be observed that the Lord expresseth wicked men under that notion, Them that hate me, to shew what indeed, and on the matter, sin, even the least sin, amounteth to, its hatred of God, as being done (as it were) in despite of him, and preferring some lust to him; for there is no question but, were God loved, holiness (which is his image) would be loved also; and where it is universally hated, so must he be: for a man cannot serve two masters, where their commands and actings are contrary, but he must hate the one, and love the other: And seeing that it is certain that sinners make sin their master, and do not hate it, therefore they must hate God who giveth contrary commands: and so sometimes sinners wish that there were not such commands. Again, he expresseth the godly in the promise, under these two designations, 1. Those that love me; that is, the inward fountain and comprehensive sum of all duties. 2. Those that keep my commandments; that looketh to the outward effects of love, and is the proof of it, so that there is no midst betwixt these two, to love God, and keep his commandments, and to hate him, and slight or break his commandments; and so no midst betwixt God’s gracious promise to parents and children, and his curse on both.
Lastly, It would be in a particular way observed, that though every sin hath hatred to God in it, yet he putteth this name of hating him, in a special way upon the sin of corrupting his worship and service, to shew that there is a special enmity against God in that sin, and that it is in a special way hateful to him; as, upon the other hand, he taketh zeal for the purity of his worship, as a singular evidence of love to him.
Let us close this command with some words of use; and 1. Ye may see what good or evil to us and ours, and that eternally, there is in disobedience or in holiness: O parents! what mercy is it to you, yourselves, and to your children, that you be godly? Alas! this curse here threatened is too palpable upon many children, who are cursed with profanity from the womb upward: Why do you that are parents wrong your poor infants? and why neglect ye that which is best for them? Here also there is matter of much comfort to parents fearing God. This promise is a standing portion to a thousand generations, which, though it be not peremptory as to all individual persons, yet, 1. It secludeth none. 2. It comprehendeth many. 3. It giveth ground for us to be quiet for all our posterity, till they, by their own carriage, disclaim that covenant wherein this promise is included. 4. It giveth warrant for a believer to expect that God may keep up his election amongst his seed rather than amongst others: It is true sometimes he chooseth some of the posterity of wicked parents, yet oft-times the election of grace falleth upon the posterity of the godly. 5. It is a ground upon which we may quiet ourselves for temporal things needful to our children; certainly these promises are not for nought, Psalm 37.16. Psalm 102. Psalm 112.2. Prov. 20.17.
2. Be humble, O be humble before God, for he is jealous.
3. Abhor sin, for it is hateful.
4. Love holiness, for it is useful to us and ours: First, Thereby our children have temporal mercies so far as is needful, Psalm 37.26. Second, They have spiritual and saving mercies amongst them. Third, They have all church-privileges, as being the children of them that are within God’s covenant.
5. Children! be humbled under the sense of the iniquity of your parents, when ye remember their ways; or possess what unjustly they have gotten, ye become guilty of their sins without repentance. Especially you have need to take notice of this, that are children of parents that have opposed the purity of God’s service and worship, and the work of its reformation, and have been corrupters of it: Children may be partakers of their parents’ faults, and so plagued for them several ways; and we think that this forfeiture is more than ordinary. And therefore, as amongst men there are special crimes beyond ordinary, procuring such a sentence, so is it here. And, 1. They be guilty by following their footsteps, in walking in their parents’ sin, as Jeroboam’s children did. 2. In approving their fathers’ way, praising their fathers’ sayings or doings; as it is, Psalm 49.13. 3. In winking at their parents’ sins and wickedness. 4. In boasting of their oppressions, bloodshed, &c. as if they were acts of valour and manhood. 5. In being content that their fathers sinned, if it gained any possession to them. 6. In possessing and enjoying, without repentance, what to their knowledge they sinfully purchased. 7. In spending prodigally and riotously what the parents covetously gathered; the sin of the parent here is the seed of the son’s sin. 8. In professing sorrow for the want of occasion to live in ignorance, profanity, or looseness, as their fathers did, as in Jer. 44.17-19. they said that things went well then. In not being humbled before God for the sins of predecessors, nor confessing them to him, as Lev. 24.42. nor repairing the losses or injuries which we knew they did to any that were wronged or oppressed by them.