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CHURCH CATECHIS M.
Acts xvi. 30.
What must I do to be saved ?
The importance of the inquiry suggested in these words is undeniable. The person that spoke them was the jailer, who, being duly affected with the miraculous power and presence of God (which shook the foundations of the prison in which Paul and Silas were confined), was brought to a deep concern about the condition of his soul, which drew from him this importunate question, “ What must I do to be saved ?” It would be absurd to imagine the inquiry does not as well become us as him. It were well if every soul of us were brought to make it with his earnestness and purpose of heart. But, however that be, to give a full answer to it will not be amiss. It may, by the blessing of God, beget that concern upon the hearts of those who continue insensible in their sins, which their unhappy case most loudly calls for ; while at the same time it will direct those who are seeking eternal life into a more perfect knowledge of the way
My design is to attempt the resolution of this interesting matter, in an explication of our Church Catechism, during the Sunday afternoons of this summer.* And I am confident, if due attendance and attention be given hereto, none of you will think the matters contained in this little summary to have been so easy to be understood as not to need thought and explanation, nor of so small importance as not to deserve it.
* These sermons were preached at Truro, in Cornwall, in the year 1759.
It will be proper to introduce the explanation intended by this general remark on the design of the Catechism ; which, properly conceived, will serve as a key to open to us what is contained in it; namely, “ that this Catechism does, as all other Christian Catechisms must do, relate entirely to the religion of fallen lost man.” The matter this Catechism explains is not what as gracious persons we must do to keep God's favour, but what as sinners must be done in us and by us to obtain it: not simply what, as in a state of integrity, we must do to be happy, but what, as in a state of ruin, we must do to be saved. If you think it contains an account of the religion of works, you are altogether beside the matter, cannot understand one syllable it says, and, however you may have a certain kind of knowledge respecting the Christian doctrines herein set before you, yet you have still all to learn as to the salvation of your soul in the belief of them. I beseech you, therefore, beware you do not stumble at the threshold, and, by imagining you must be saved by your own doings, overset the covenant of grace (which is no longer such, if our merits are set up as the cause of our acceptance with God), and so render the redemption that is in Christ quite a needless thing; and, what may not be at first thought of, not only faith, but also repentance, the sacraments, and, in short, all means of grace, absolutely impertinent. The Catechism supposes you to be an apostate creature, and, as such, undone and helpless, incapable in yourself of recovering God's favour, or of returning to hiin. It proceeds entirely on this supposition, that you are in a fallen state, explaining to you the method which the mercy of God hath provided for your remedy, how you are called to it, and by what means you may be made effectually a partaker of it. Now, this being laid down, I proceed to observe from it, for the better understanding of the Church Catechism,
First.- That it is a summary of that whole salvation for fallen creatures, which is in the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Every part of it has the most direct eye to him, as the all in all of lost,
fallen man. The baptismal covenant is entirely founded in his merits; the baptismal renunciation stands upon his kingdom and grace; the Christian faith points him out to us as the Author of all our pardon, acceptance, and fellowship with God in time and eternity; the law in the ten commandments sets him before us as our righteousness, and the Procurer of that grace, by which we are restored to that image of God and conformity to his blessed nature and will, which is the substance of the law; prayer, finally, and the sacraments, which are the means of our access unto God as our Father, and of our receiving from him the full assurance of his love and favour, with all needful supplies of his Spirit ; these are no otherwise acceptable to God, or profitable to us, but in the faith of Jesus Christ, and through his mediation. Christ then is the sum of this Catechism, even “Christ of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Wretched expositors therefore of this Catechism are they, who, by passing over lightly the fall of man, by failing to explain the deep apostasy of our nature, and therein our absolute guilt and insufficiency to all good, (artfully, wickedly, and with the most barefaced disingenuity, either saying nothing about them at all, or what only might serve to make people think these were points of uncertainty and of no moment,) have knowingly and wilfully overturned the design which the reformers had in the Catechism ; hid from men's eyes those doctrines which the true church of England thinks to be essentially necessary to salvation ; and effectually struck Christ out of the whole of it, as to his being the righteousness and strength, the now living Head, and the future glorious reward of his people.
Secondly.— I take notice further, for the better knowledge of what is to be expected in the Catechism, that it not only goes upon the supposition of our being fallen, lost, helpless creatures, and of redemption wrought out by Jesus Christ, as the only means of recovery ; but, supposing also that we own the one and the other, it does only explain how it is that we lost creatures are called to this salvation, and upon what condition it is made effectually ours. It supposes you to be in a lost state by nature, explains to you what that lost state is, and, taking it for granted you would be glad to be delivered out of it, and that there is but