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I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER, ETC.
THY people, O Lord God, the Father of our Savior Jesus Christ, do here in saying this article, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty,’ etc., by faith know that thou, together with Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, didst create all things that be in heaven and in earth; for by heaven and earth are understand all things therein. And as they know this, so they by the same faith do see thee the same God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to govern all things after thy great wisdom, power, righteousness, and mercy; using every creature they see as means to put them in remembrance of fearing, reverencing, trusting, and loving thee; for in every creature they behold thy presence, power, wisdom, and mercy.
Again by this word ‘Father’ they declare their belief how that they are not only thy creatures, and all that ever they have to be thy gracious gifts and blessings; but also how that they are thy children dearly beloved and cared for of thee through Jesus Christ. Wherethrough, notwithstanding their unworthiness, as they conceive a sure hope of thy goodness and fatherly love towards them in soul and body for ever, so are they thankful for their creation, and for that thou hast made them thy excellent creatures, lords of all: they are thankful for the creation of all creatures, and use the same with thankfulness as visible tokens of thy invisible love: they are thankful for thy conserving and keeping them, and for the governing them and all this world; lamenting that they are no more thankful, that they believe no deeper, that reason hath so great a swing with them in these matters.
But I, most gracious good Lord and Father, though I say, ‘I believe in thee, my Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, yet thou knowest that I am full of much doubting, not only of this whether thou art my good, almighty, and most loving dear Father in Christ, (because I feel in myself such a conscience of unworthiness, and so great want of those things which thou requirest of thy children, and so transfer the cause of my being thy child in part to myself, where it is due only and wholly always to thy mercy and grace in Christ ;) but also thou knowest my doubting of my creation and governance, and of the creation and governance of all this world; as I declare by my unthankfulness for my creation, for mine adoption, for my gubernation , for thy providence for me. Or else, dear Father, I could not but heartily with thy children rejoice, and praise thy holy name, and that continually; being henceforth careful for nothing but how to please thee, and profit thy people, and that they might praise thy name in all things for evermore, desiring the sanctification of thy name, the coming of thy kingdom, the doing of thy will upon earth as it is in heaven.
Thou mightest have made me a dog, but of thy goodness hast made me a creature after thine image. Thou mightest have made me a Turk, a Jew, a Saracen; but thou hast made me a Christian, a member of thy church.
Thou, after my birth, mightest have left me, and in all need have made no providence for me, as we sometimes see hath happened unto others; but yet thou never didst so with me: and yet I am of all others most unthankful.
Thy creatures I thankfully use not. Thy invisible love by thy manifold visible tokens I consider not; as now I should by this apparel of my body, by this corporal health, by this light, by this my hearing, seeing, feeling, memory, understanding, time, place, company, creatures, and benefits, as well in keeping innumerable evils from me both in soul and body, which else could not but come to me, as also in giving to me presently so many things as without thy especial grace and working I never could have had or presently could keep them. In thy creatures I see not thy power, for I fear thee not: I see not thy presence, for I reverence thee not: I see not thy wisdom, for I adore thee not: I see not thy mercy, for I love thee not: I praise thee not but in lips and tongue. And therefore, in that all thy creatures do teach me, cry out upon me to be thankful to thee, to love, fear, serve thee, and trust in thee, and that continually; in that I do not so, they cannot but cry out upon me and against me in thy sight, and in the day of judgment will weapon themselves against me.
O that I did now consider this! O that my blind eyes and my deaf ears were opened! O that my miserable and foolish heart were made wise and converted! This only thou canst do, which hast all men’s hearts in thy hands, to bow them as pleaseth thee. “Bow my heart,” good Lord, “into thy testimonies.” “Open my eyes.” Make me to hear for thy mercy’s sake, that I may believe, and so love thee, be thankful to thee, amend in all things and serve thee; though not as thy dear servants do, yet at the least as other brute creatures do; that is, to obey thee, and to be profitable to others.
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, ETC.
THY servants, O Christ Jesu, and people, do know by faith that as thou art almighty and God with the Father, by whom all things were made and are ruled; (for thou art God eternal, co-equal and consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Ghost ;) so thou art man, and hast taken our nature upon thee by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and art become the blessed “seed which hast bruised the serpent’s head;” the blessed “seed in whom all nations are blessed;” the Prophet whom Moses did prophesy of; the sampler he saw in the mount; the truth and body of all the types, figures, and shadows of the old law; the Messias, Christ, and Savior of thy people; the Advocate and Redeemer; the pacifier of God’s wrath for sins, the opener of heaven, and giver of everlasting life.
This they know thou broughtest to pass in thy human nature, by thy incarnation and nativity, by thy being here on earth, by thy living, teaching, fasting, praying; especially by thy suffering under Pontius Pilate, by thy death, burial, resurrection, ascension unto the heavens, and reigning on the right hand of the Father, from whence thou shalt come to judge both the quick and the dead. And as they know this, so by faith they apply it also to themselves, that for their sake thou wast made man, didst pray, fast, wast tempted, didst die, rosest again, and didst ascend into heaven; and there art set their Advocate, Bishop, and High-priest, always appearing in God’s sight for them; from whence they look for thee, knowing that thou wilt not enter into judgment with them to damn them, which wouldest damn thyself for them.
The hatred of sin they feel, because it is so foul a thing as would not be washed away with any other thing than with thy precious blood-shedding; the fear of God, because his anger is so great against sin that no less price could pacify his wrath than thy most painful death; the love of God, because he hath so loved them, that he would not spare thee his dear Son for them, even when they were his enemies; trust in thee, because thou hadst no respect to thyself, but most willingly didst give thyself wholly to be our Savior and servant; love to thy people and church, because generally and particularly in every member of the same they see how dear they are to thee, and therefore they cannot but be so to them. O how do they imitate and follow thy footsteps! how do they rejoice when they are in any thing by affliction made like to thee! O how do they lament their sins, ingratitude, unbelief; love thee, and wholly yield themselves unto thee!
Whereas I, O gracious God and dear Savior, Jesus Christ, though I say I believe in thee which wast conceived by the Holy Ghost, yet, alas! I do but babble this; for nothing is else in me but unbelief. Of thy power and love, of thine anger and mercy, I have but an opinion, as my insensibleness and unthankfulness doth declare.
If a man should shew me friendship but in a trifle, or suffer any thing at all for me, I could not but be thankful; and thou, besides my creation, hast redeemed me and brought me into the number of God’s children, than which thing nothing is greater: and lo, I am unthankful.
Thou wouldest enter into a communion with me, taking my nature unto thee concerning the substance thereof, that I might enter into a communion with thee concerning the qualities wherewith in thyself thou hast endued it: but I consider it not.
Thou ascendedst to heaven to take possession for me there, to be always in the sight of thy Father for me, to send me down gifts, to pray for me: but I daily am pulling thee down again, as much as in me lieth; I am altogether earthly; I hide myself out of thy sight by forgetting thee; I reject and abuse thy gifts; I neglect prayer.
Thou art now in a readiness to come to judge both quick and dead: but I tremble not at this gear, nor beseech thee before thou come to be merciful unto me, and not to enter into judgment with me: yea, I think nothing at all of thy coming. Mali non cogitant judicium: ‘The wicked’ consider not the end, they ‘think not on thy judgment.’
Now the cause of all these things is unbelief; the which though it be natural by reason of the corruption of our nature, yet I have augmented the same maliciously in not laboring thereagainst, and continuing in all sins and wickedness: by reason whereof I deserve most justly thy anger thereupon, even rejection from thy face for ever.
Long hast thou mourned even with displeasure and anger the incredulity of my heart, calling me therefrom, and offering me thy grace, which I have neglected and rejected, and therefore am never worthy to have it any more offered unto me: much more then I am unworthy to have grace given me to receive thy mercy.
Alas! what shall I do? Shall I despair, or, as long as I can, keep me unmindful of my misery? O Savior Christ Jesu, wilt not thou be merciful unto me? Thou didst die for me when I deserved it not: and now is thy mercy shortened? Wilt not thou give me thy grace, and take from my heart this horrible unbelief? Shall I never love thee? shall I never hate sin? shall I never, as with my mouth I say, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ,’ so in heart say the same? shall Satan possess me for ever? O Christ Jesus, which hast “led captivity captive,” what, wilt not thou help me? Though I desire it not as I should, yet give me to desire when thou wilt.
Thou didst appear “to destroy the work of the devil:” thou seest his work in me: good Christ, destroy his work, but not thy work. Save me for thy great mercy’s sake. Give me to believe in thee, in thy death, resurrection, and ascension. Pardon me my sins, and mortify now in me my corrupt affections. Raise me up and justify me. Regenerate me daily more and more. Give me faith of immortality, resurrection of this body. Give me faith to ascend into heaven, and to be certain that thou hast already taken possession for me there. Give me to look for thy coming, and to be ready in thy coming to find mercy to everlasting life, etc.
I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST, ETC.
O HOLY Spirit, the third person in Trinity, which didst descend upon Christ our Savior in his baptism in the likeness of a dove; thy children know that with the Father and Son thou madest and rulest all creatures, visible and invisible. They know thee in their redemption to be no less willing and loving than the Father and the Son; (for thou didst always declare Christ to be the Son of God, and gavest testimony inwardly in the hearts of thy elect to believe and embrace the same:) and outwardly by miracles and wonders they know thee to be “the Comforter” and Governor whom Christ did promise in his corporal absence should teach, rule, keep, comfort, and govern his church and people.
Again, as in the former part of their belief they consider the works of creation and redemption, so in this part they consider the place where the same is most effectual and taketh place, even thy holy church, which is catholic, (that is extending itself to all times, to all places, to all kinds of people;) for in this church only they know that, as all things were made, so the work of redemption was taken in hand, that thou, blessed Trinity, mightest in this church be praised, magnified, served, and worshipped for ever.
This church is nothing else but a communion and society of saints; that is, not only a society of all such as be, have been, or shall be thy people, but also a society or partaking of Christ Jesus, which is “the head” of the same; yea, by him of thee, O blessed Father which art “the head of Christ,” and of thee, O Holy Ghost which now shadowest and sittest upon the same, to hatch and cherish it, as the hen her chickens, by the extending of thy wings; not only to defend them from their enemies, but also to cover their sins, and to remit them in this life; beginning also here the resurrection of the flesh and everlasting life, the which thou wilt in the end of the world consummate, so that they shall not need to be covered for sin; for then shall they be pure, and have glorious bodies, immortal and spiritual, the which shall have the fruition of eternal joy, life everlasting, and glory, such as “the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard,” nor the heart of man can conceive. For then Christ Jesus shall give up his kingdom to God the Father, that God may be “all in all” concerning the governance of it by the ministration of his word, and other means whereby now he governeth it, that it may be his Father’s kingdom, we being become “like unto him:” that is, as to the manhood of Christ the Godhead is united, and is “all in all” without any other means; even so God shall be in us, assuming then not only in the person of Christ the human nature, but also all the human nature of his church which be members of Christ; the wicked and reprobate being separate then from this communion, and cast into eternal perdition with Satan and antichrist, there to be in torments and horror for ever.
By reason of this their faith they are thankful to thee, O Holy Spirit, which hast taught them this, and given them to believe it. By reason of this faith they singularly pray, love, and help thy church here militant, and labor to be holy, etc. By reason of this faith they confess themselves sinners, they desire and believe pardon of their sins, they are risen and rise daily concerning the inward man, and do feel the life eternal begun in them; more and more laboring, praying, wishing, and desiring for the same wholly and perfectly.
Whereas, O Lord God and most gracious Holy Spirit, thou knowest that it is otherwise with me. I do but babble with my lips in saying, ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost;’ for I am unthankful: to thee, O Holy Spirit, I am unthankful for calling me into thy church: I do not live holily: I confess not, I lament not my sins, I pray not for remission of them, I stand in doubt thereof. As I feel not myself risen from a sinful life as I should be, or as I feel not life begun in me as it is in thy dear children, so do I doubt hereof whether I have pardon of my sins, whether I am regenerate, whether I feel truly everlasting life: the which thing doth most displease thee. And yet with my tongue I say, ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost.’
O, I beseech thee, good Holy Spirit, for thy love’s sake which moved thee to agree and be willing to patefy and open thy goodness, not only in the work of creation, (for thou didst, lie upon the waters, and, as the hen her chickens, didst, as it were, hatch the work of creation,) but also in the work of redemption; and therefore didst ascend and abide not only upon Christ in his baptism, but also on the apostles and church in fiery tongues visibly, the fiftieth day after Christ’s resurrection; as now thou dost invisibly, generally and particularly, sit upon thy church and children, being the consolator, “the Comforter,” the teacher and leader, the guider and governor of us all: for this thy love’s sake, I say, I beseech thee to be merciful unto me, and forgive me my doubting, unbelief, ingratitude, and horrible monstrous uncleanness and sin, and utterly take them from me.
Bring me into thy church which thou guidest: that is, guide me, make me holy, and by faith couple me to Christ, by charity to thy people: that is, give me the communion of saints with thy saints, overshadow my sins, raise me up to righteousness, begin in me everlasting life; and now more and more to expect and look for all these great mercies, and at length to possess eternal felicity with thee, O blessed Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one almighty, eternal, most just, wise, and good God: to whom be all glory, power, and dominion, now and for ever.