Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience.
I. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, and condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law;(a) and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin;(b) from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grace, and everlasting damnation;(c) as also, in their free access to God,(d) and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind.(e) All which were common also to believers under the law.(f) But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected;(g) and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace,(h) and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.(i)
(a) Tit. 2:14 ; I Thess. 1:10; Gal. 3:13 .
(b) Gal. 1:4 ; Col. 1:13 ; Acts 26:18 ; Rom. 6:14 .
(c) Rom. 8:28 ; Ps. 119:71; I Cor. 15:54, 55, 56, 57; Rom. 8:1 .
(d) Rom. 5:1 , 2.
(e) Rom. 8:14 , 15; I John 4:18 .
(f) Gal. 3:9 , 14.
(g) Gal. 4:1 , 2, 3, 6, 7; Gal. 5:1 ; Acts 15:10 , 11.
(h) Heb. 4:14 , 16; Heb. 10:19 , 20, 21, 22.
(i) John 7:38 , 39; II Cor. 3:13, 17, 18.
II. God alone is Lord of the conscience,(k) and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith or worship.(l) So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience,(m) is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.(n)
(k) Jam. 4:12; Rom. 14:4 .
(l) Acts 4:19 ; Acts 5:29 ; I Cor. 7:23; Matt. 23:8 , 9, 10; II Cor. 1:24; Matt. 15:9 .
(m) Col. 2:20 , 22, 23; Gal. 1:10 ; Gal. 2:4 , 5; Gal. 5:1.
(n) Rom. 10:17 ; Rom. 14:23 ; Isa. 8:20 ; Acts 17:11 ; John 4:22 ; Hos. 5:11; Rev. 13:12 , 16, 17; Jer. 8:9 .
III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord, without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.(o)
IV. And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.(p) And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation; or, to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church,(q) and by the power of the civil magistrate.(r)
(p) Matt. 12:25 ; I Pet. 2:13, 14, 16; Rom. 13:1 to 8; Heb. 13:17 .
(q) Rom. 1:32 with I Cor. 5:1, 5, 11, 13; II John ver. 10, 11, and II Thess. 3:14, and I Tim. 6:3, 4, 5, and Tit. 1:10 , 11, 13, and Tit. 3:10 with Matt. 18:15, 16, 17; I Tim. 1:19, 20;Rev. 2:2 , 14, 15, 20; Rev. 3:9 .
(r) Deut. 13:6 to 12; Rom. 13:3 , 4 with II John ver. 10, 11; Ezra 7:23 , 25, 26, 27, 28;Rev. 17:12 , 16, 17; Neh. 13:15 , 17, 21, 22, 25, 30; II Kings 23:5, 6, 9, 20, 21; II Chron. 34:33; II Chron. 15:12, 13, 16; Dan. 3:29 ; I Tim. 2:2; Isa. 49:23 ; Zech. 13:2 , 3.
Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day.
I. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.(a) But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.(b)
(a) Rom. 1:20 ; Acts 17:24 ; Ps. 119:68; Jer. 10:7 ; Ps. 31:23; Ps. 18:3; Rom. 10:12 ; Ps. 62:8; Josh. 24:14 ; Mark 12:33 .
(b) Deut. 12:32 ; Matt. 15:9 ; Acts 17:25 ; Matt. 4:9 , 10; Deut. 4:15 to 20; Exod. 20:4 , 5, 6; Col. 2:23 .
II. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone;(c) not to angels, saints, or any other creature:(d) and since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.(e)
III. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,(f) is by God required of all men:(g) and that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,(h) by the help of His Spirit,(i) according to His will,(k) with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance;(l) and, if vocal, in a known tongue.(m)
(f) Phil. 4:6 .
(g) Ps. 65:2.
(h) John 14:13 , 14; I Pet. 2:5.
(i) Rom. 8:26 .
(k) I John 5:14 .
(l) Ps. 47:7; Eccles. 5:1, 2; Heb. 12:28 ; Gen. 18:27; James 5:16 ; James 1:6 , 7; Mark 11:24 ; Matt. 6:12 , 14, 15; Col. 4:2 ; Eph. 6:18 .
(m) I Cor. 14:14.
IV. Prayer is to be made for things lawful;(n) and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter:(o) but not for the dead,(p) nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.(q)
V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,(r) the sound preaching(s) and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence;(t) singing of psalms with grace in the heart;(u) as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:(w) beside religious oaths,(x) vows,(y) solemn fastings,(z) and thanksgivings, upon special occasions,(a) which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.(b)
(r) Acts 15:21 ; Rev. 1:3 .
(s) II Tim. 4:2.
(t) James 1:22 ; Acts 10:33 ; Matt. 13:19 ; Heb. 4:2 ; Isa. 66:2 .
(u) Col. 3:16 ; Eph. 5:19 ; James 5:13 .
(w) Matt. 28:19 ; I Cor. 11:23 to 29; Acts 2:42 .
(x) Deut. 6:13 with Neh. 10:29 .
(y) Isa. 19:21 with Eccles. 5:4, 5.
(z) Joel 2:12 ; Esther 4:16 ; Matt. 9:15 ; I Cor. 7:5.
(a) Ps. 107 throughout; Esther 9:22 .
(b) Heb. 12:28 .
VI. Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the Gospel either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed:(c) but God is to be worshipped everywhere,(d) in spirit and truth;(e) as in private families(f) daily,(g) and in secret each one by himself;(h) so, more solemnly, in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or wilfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by His Word or providence, calls thereunto.(i)
(c) John 4:21 .
(d) Mal. 1:11 ; I Tim. 2:8.
(e) John 4:23 , 24.
(f) Jer. 10:25 ; Deut. 6:6 , 7; Job 1:5 ; II Sam. 6:18, 20; I Pet. 3:7; Acts 10:2 .
(g) Matt. 6:11 .
(h) Matt. 6:6 ; Eph. 6:18 .
(i) Isa. 56:6 , 7; Heb. 10:25 ; Prov. 1:20 , 21, 24; Prov. 8:34 ; Acts 13:42 ; Luke 4:16 ; Acts 2:42 .
VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him:(k) which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,(l) which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day,(m) and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.(n)
VIII. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations,(o) but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.(p)
Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
I. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship,(a) wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.(b)
II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence.(c) Therefore, to swear vainly or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred.(d) Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the New Testament, as well as under the Old;(e) so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.(f)
III. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act; and therein to avouch nothing, but what he is fully persuaded is the truth.(g) Neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.(h) Yet is it a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.(i)
IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation.(k) It cannot oblige to sin: but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt.(l) Not is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.(m)
V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.(n)
(n) Isa. 19:21 ; Eccles. 5:4, 5, 6; Ps. 61:8; Ps. 66:13, 14.
VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone:(o) and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.(p)
VII. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God.(q) In which respects, Popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.(r)