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to, and approved by the unanimous vote of the Synod, conform to it was framed the following act:
The Bishop and Synod having seriously considered the height of profaneness, and gross sins abounding among their people, particularly drunkenness and uncleanness, and most universally the heinous sin of cursing and swearing, and, that which foments and increases those, and all sins, the great contempt of the Lord's holy day and ordinances; and the gross and almost incredible ignorance of the common sort, under so much assiduous preaching and catechising: for the more effectual redress of all these evils, have agreed and resolved, through the Lord's help, each one, within himself, to stir the grace and zeal of God that is within him, to renewed vigour and fervour, and more earnest endeavours in the use of all due means for that effect; and particularly
1. The applying of their sermons and doctrines more expressly and frequently to the reproof of those wickednesses, especially of that horrible sin, which almost all ranks of men do more easily and frequently commit than they can possibly do other gross sins, and that with less sense and remorsecursing and swearing: And that they will, by God's asssistance, not only use short and frequent reproofs of this and other sins, but at sometimes more largely insist in representing the exceeding sinfulness and vileness of such a particular sin, and the great danger of the Lord's wrath and heaviest judgments upon those that persist in it.
2. That with this they will join constant private inspection over the lives of their people, and, by all due means, particularly inquire into them; and when they find any one guilty of any gross sin, privately to admonish him, meekly and affectionately, but yet with all freedom and plainness; and if upon that they mend not, to proceed in the regular way of discipline and censure within their own charge; and if they be not by that reclaimed, but prove obstinate, then to delate them to the higher judicature, in the ůsual order of this church.
3. To use more frequent catechising, and that in so plain a method and way, as may be most apt, both to inform the minds of the most ignorant, and, through the blessing of God, to make more deep impression upon their hearts.
4. That, as much as is competent for ministers, they will endeavour to procure the executing of these penal laws made against cursing and swearing, and other scandalous offences, in such a way as may be most convenient and feasible in each of their respective parishes.
5. That they will endeavour, both by exhortation, and, where need is, by use of discipline, to bring their people to more careful and constant attendance on all the ordinances of God, at all times of the accustomed public meetings, and to a more religious and reverend deportment in them throughout the whole, but particularly in time of prayer.
6. That they be particularly careful to inquire after the daily performance of the worship of God in families, and, where they find it wanting, to enjoin it, and make inquiry again after it; and this would be especially provided for, in the choice and most eminent families in the several congregations, as exemplary to all the rest.
VI. Concluding Paragraph, April 1668. The Bishop having commended the Brethren for their unity and concord, and good conversation, exhorted them to continue therein, and to be more and more exemplary in holiness, and in modesty and gravity, even in the externals of their hair and habit, and their whole deportment; and to the regulating of their children, and their whole families, to bę patterns of religion and sobriety to all about them; and that they themselves aspire daily to
greater abstraction from the world, and contempt of things below; giving themselves wholly to their great work of watching over souls, for which they must give account; and to reading and meditation; and to prayer, that draws continual fresh supplies from heaven, to enable them for all these duties.
VII. Paragraph respecting Baptismal Vows,
That which had been sometimes spoke of before, the Bishop now again recommended to the Brethren, that, at their set times of catechising and examining their people, they would take particular notice of young persons, towards their first admission to the holy communion; and, having before taken account of their knowledge of the grounds of religion, would then cause them, each one particularly and expressly, to declare their belief of the Christian faith, into which, in their infancy, they were baptized; and, reminding them of that their baptismal vow, and the great engagements it lays upon them to a holy and Christian life, would require of them an explicit owning of that vow and engagement, and their solemn promise accordingly, to endeavour the observing and performance of it, in the whole course of their following life: And then, in their prayer with which they use to conclude those meetings, would recommend the said young persons, now thus engaged, to the effectual blessing of God, beseeching him to own them for his, and to bestow on them the sanctifying and strengthening grace of his Holy Spirit, as his signature upon them, sealing them to the day of redemption.
And this practice, as it hath nothing in it that can offend any, even the most scrupulous minds, so it may be a very fit suppletory of that defect in infant baptism, which the enemies of it do mainly object against it, and may, through the blessing of God, make a lasting impression of religion upon the hearts of those young persons towards whom it is used, and effectually engage them to a Christian life; and if they swerve from it, make them the more inexcusable, and clearly convincible of their unfaithfulness, and breach of that great promise, and sacred vow, they have so renewed to God before his people. And for authority of divines, if we regard it, it hath the general approbation of the most famous reformers, and of the most pious and learned that have followed them since their time; and, being performed in that evangelical simplicity, as it is here propounded, they do not only allow it as lawful, but desire it, and advise it as laudable and profitable, and of very good use, in all Christian churches.
LETTER to the SYNOD of DUNBLANE,
Glasgow, April 6, 1671. The superadded burden that I have here sits so hard upon me, that I cannot escape from under it, to be with you at this time; but ny heart and desires shall be with you, for a blessing from above upon your meeting. I have nothing to recommend to you, but (if you please) to take a review of things formerly agreed upon; and such as you judge most useful, to renew the appointment of putting them in practice; and to add whatsoever further shall occur to your thoughts, that may promote the happy discharge of your ministry, and the good of your peoples souls. I know I need not remind you, for I am confident you daily think of it, that the great principle of fidelity and diligence, and good success, in that great work, is love; and the great spring of love to souls, is love to Him that bought them. He knew it well himself; and gave us to know it, when he said, Simon, lovest thou
me? Feed my sheep, feed my lambs. Deep impression of his blessed name upon our hearts will not fail to produce lively expression of it, not only in our words and discourses in private and public, but will inake the whole tract of our lives to be a true copy and transcript of his holy life: And, if there be within us any sparks of that divine love, you know the best way not only to preserve them, but to excite them, and blow them up into a flame, is by the breath of prayer. Oh! prayer, the converse of the soul with God, the breath of God in man returning to its original, frequent and fervent prayer, the better half of our whole work, and that which makes the other half lively and effectual; as that holy company tells us, when designing deacons to serve the tables, they add, But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word. And is it not, brethren, our unspeakable advantage, beyond all the gainful and honourable employments of the world, that the whole work of our particular calling is a kind of living in heaven, and, besides its tendency to the saving of the souls of others, is all along so proper and adapted to the purifying and saving of our own? will possibly say, what does he himself that speaks these things unto us? Alas! I am ashamed to tell you. All I dare say is this, I think I see the beauty of holiness, and am enamoured with it, though I attain it not; and how little soever I attain, would rather live and die in the pursuit of it, than in the pursuit, yea, or in the possession and enjoyment, though unpursued, of all the advantages that this world affords. And I trust, dear Brethren, you are of the same opinion, and have the same desire and design, and follow it both more diligently, and with better success. But I will stop here, lest I should forget myself, and possibly run on till I have wearied you, if I have not done that already; and yet, if it be so, ,
I will hope for easy pardon at your hands, as of a fault I have not been accus