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And what is the utmost plea of the most for their title to heaven, that in these relative and external things they are christians, are baptized, hear the word, and are admitted to the Lord's table ; not considering how many have gone through all these, and daily are going on in the ways of death ; never coming near Jesus Christ, who is the way, and truth, and the life: whom the word, and the seals of it, hold forth to believers, assuring them that they are washed in his blood, and quickened with his life, and made like him, and co-heirs of glory with him.
2. Even they that have some clearer notion of the nature and fruit of the seals of grace, yet are in a practical error, that they look not with due diligence into themselves; inquiring after the efficiency of them in their hearts ; do not study the life of Christ; to know more what it is, and then to search into themselves for the truth, and the growth of that life within them. Is it not an unbecoming thing for a christian (when he is about to appear before the Lord at his table, and so looks something more narrowly within) to find as little faith, as little divine affection, a heart as unmortified to the world, as cold towards Christ, as before his last address to the same table, after the intervening, possibly, of many months; in which time, had he been careful often to reflect inwards on his heart, and to look back upon that new sealing in his last participation, he might probably have been more improved? And, truly, as there is much guiltiness cleaves to us in this, so, generally, much more in reference to this other sacrament that is here the Apostle's subject, baptism, which being but once administered, and that in infancy, is very seldom, and slightly, considered by many, even real christians. And so we are at a loss in that profit and comfort ; that increase of both holiness and faith, that the frequent recollecting of it, after a spiritual manner, would no doubt advance us to.
And not only do we neglect to put ourselves upon the thoughts of it in private, but, in the frequent opportunities of such thoughts in public, we let it pass unregarded,
are idle, inconsiderate, and so truly guilty beholders. And the more frequently we have these opportunities, the less are we touched with them ; they be. come common, and work not; and the slighting of them grows as common with us as the thing. Yea, when the engagement is more special and personal; when parents are to present their infants to this ordinance, and then might, and certainly ought to have a more particular and fixed eye upon it, and themselves, as being sealed with it, to ask within after the fruit and power of it, and to stir up themselves anew to the actings of faith, and ambition after newness of life, and with earnest prayer for their children to be suitors for themselves, for further evidence of their interest in Christ: Yet, possibly, many are not much in these things at such times, but are more busied to prepare their house for entertaining their friends, than to prepare their hearts for offering up their infant unto God to be sealed; and withal to make a new offer of their own hearts to him, to have renewed on them the inward seal of the covenant of grace, the outward seal whereof they did receive, as it is now to be conferred upon their infant.
Did we often look upon the face of our souls, and observe the many spots with which we have defiled them after our washing, it might work us to shame and grief, and would drive us, by renewed application, to wash often in that blood which that water figures; which alone can fetch out the stain of sin; and then it would set us upon renewed purposes
of purity, to walk more carefully, to avoid the pollutions of the world we walk in, and to purge out the pollutions of the hearts that we carry about with us, that defile us more than all the world besides. It would work an holy disdain of sin, often to contemplate ourselves as washed in so precious a laver : * Shall I, would the christian say, considering that I am now cleansed in the precious blood of my Lord Jesus, run again into that puddle out of which he so graciously took me, and made me clean? Let swine wallow in it; he hath made me of his sheepfold; he hath made me of that excellent order for which all are consecrated, by that washing that partake of it: He hath washed us in his blood, and made us kings and priests unto God the Father. Am I of these and shall I debase myself, to the vile pleasures of sin? No, I will think myself too good to serve any sinful lusts; seeing he hath looked on me, and taken me up, and washed and dignified me; I am wholly his, all my study and business shall be to honour and magnify him.
The answer of a good conscience, &c.] The taking away of spiritual filthiness, as the true and saving effect of baptism, the Apostle here expresses by that which is the further result and effect of it, The answer of a good conscience unto God. For it is the washing of that filthiness which makes both the conscience good, and, in making it such, fits it to make answer unto God. A good conscience, in its full sense, is a pure conscience, and a peaceable con. science; and it cannot, indeed, be peaceably good, unless it be purely good. And although, on the other side, it may want the present enjoyment of peace, being purified, yet certainly in a purified conscience there is a title and right to peace; it is radically there, even when it appears not. And, in due time, it shall appear, shall spring forth, bud and flourish.
The purified and good condition of the whole sout may well, as here it doth, go under the name of the good conscience, it being so prime a faculty of it, and as the glass of the whole soul, wherein the estate of it is represented. Therefore, the efficacy of the blood of Christ is expressed thus, that it purgeth our consciences from dead works, which expression is the same thing in effect with that here, the answer of a good conscience unto God.
The answer, iwepártonpice.] The asking or questioning of consicence, which comprises likewise its answer, for it intends the whole correspondence of the conscience with God, and with itself, as towards God, or in the sight of God; and indeed God's questioning it, is by itself; it is his deputy in the soul; he makes it pose itself for him, and before him, concerning its own condition; and so the answer it gives itself in that posture, he as it were sitting and hearing it in his presence, is an answer made unto him : This questioning and answering, (if such a thing were at this time, as it was certainly soon after), yet means not the questions and answers used in the baptism of persons, who, being of years, professed their faith in answering the questions moved; it possibly alludes unto that, but it further, by way of resemblance, expresses the inward questioning and answering which is transacted within, betwixt the soul and itself, and the soul and God; and so is allusively called inépusnja, a questioning and answering, but distinctively specified, as Oddr; so that whereas the other was towards men, this is unto God,
c Heb. ix.
1. A good conscience is a waking, speaking conscience; and as the conscience that questions itself most is of all sorts the best, so that which is dumb, or asleep, and is not active and frequent in self-inquiries, is not a good conscience. The word is judicial, ewepárnua, interrogation used in law for the trial and executing of processes; and this is the great business of conscience, to sit, and examine, and judge within; to hold courts in the soul: and it is of continual necessity that it be so.
There can be no vacation of this judicature without great damage to the estate of the soul; yea, not a day ought to pass without a session of conscience within
; for daily disorders arise in the soul, which, if they pass on, will grow and gather more, and so breed more difficulty in their trial and redress. Yet men do easily turn from this work as hard and unpleasant ; and make many a long vacancy in the
protract it from one day to another. In the morning they must go about their business, and at night they are weary and sleepy; and all the day long one affair steps in after another; and if business fail, some tri
Aing company or other; and so their days pass on ; the soul is overgrown with impurities and disorders.
You know what confusions, and disorders, and evils, will abound amongst a rude people, where there is no kind of court nor judicature held. Thus is it with that unruly rabble, the lusts and passions of our souls, when there is no discipline nor judgment within ; or where there is but a neglect and intermission of it for a short time. And the most part of souls are in the posture of ruin; their vile affections, as a headstrong tumultuous multitude, that will not suffer a deputed judge to sit amongst them, cry down their consciences, and make a continual noise, that the voice of it may not be heard ; and so force it to desist and leave them to their own ways.
But you that take this course, know you are providing the severest judgment for yourselves by disturbing of judgment; as when a people rise against an inferior judge, the prince or supreme magistrate that sent him, hearing of it, doth not fail to vindicate his honour and justice in their exemplary punishment.
Will you not answer unto conscience, but when it begins to speak, turn to business or company, that you may not hear it? Know, that it and you must answer unto God; and when he shall make inquiry, it must report, and report as the truth is, knowing that there is no hiding the matter from him. “ Lord, there are to my knowledge a world of enormities within the circuit I had to judge, and I would have judged them, but was forcibly resisted and interrupted; and was not strong enough to oppose the tumultuous power that rose against me.
Now the matter comes into thine own hand to judge it thyself.” What shall the soul say in that day, when conscience shall make such an answer unto God, and it shall come under the severity of his justice for all ? Whereas if it had given way to the conscience to find out, and judge and rectify matters, so that it could have answered concerning its procedure that way, God