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Our vows : a work to be read in preparation for baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist online

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F baptized in onr
infancy, w'e were
then joined unto
Christ our spirit
nal Head ; and at
that time we, as
was most fitting
that we should
do, pledged our-
selves (our god-
parents speaking
on our behalf)
to God's service.
Oui* god-parents
then promised in our name three things, which may
be shortly summed up under the three heads, Kepent-
ance, Faith, Obedience.

First, they promised that we should renounce the
devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this
wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. And
we make the same promises in substance for ourselves,
when baptized as adults.

Notice first, and learn from the following passages of
Scripture the real existence and the personality of


Satan: Gen. iii. 1; 1 Chron. xxi. 1; Job i. 6; Matt
iv. 1-10 ; Mark iv. 15 ; Luke xxii. 8 ; Acts v. 3 ; James
iv. 7; 1 Pet. v. 8; 1 John iii. 8; Matt. viii. 28-33;
Mark. ix. 17-27.

It is necessary for us to know that Satan is a real
person, in order that we maj constantly remember
that we have a real, positive enemy to fight against.
St. Paul says, "We wrestle not against flesh and
blood ;"^ not against any man in a visible body, " but
against spiritual wickedness in high places ;" that is,
against wicked spirits, whom we cannot see with our
eyes, but who yet are ever near us, having their place
in the air around us. How often are persons suddenly
assailed with temptation, they know not how ! Wicked
thoughts are put into their minds ; wicked desires are
presented to them ; sinful imaginations are suggested
to them. These things come from Satan. Some sins
are in a peculiar sense works of the devil, such as
tempting others to commit sin, sneering at and ridi-
culing what is good, persecuting in any way those who
are trying to lead holy and Christian lives, and endeav-
oring to make them as bad as ourselves; or such
again, as pride, lying, blasphemy, disobedience, and
evil tempers, which may end in murder.

In some sense aU sins are works of the devil, as St.
John says in his Epistle, " He that committeth sin is of
the devil ; for the devil sinneth from the beginning ;'"
but the sins just mentioned do spring especially from
the temptations of the Evil One, from that Evil One,
to be delivered from whose power we pray when we
say, as we do in the Lord's Prayer, " Deliver us from
evil." See how St. Paul teaches us to withstand this

1 Eph. vi. 12, a 1 John iii. 8.

40 OUR vows.

spiritual enemy, Eplies. vi. 10-18 ; see, too, St. Peter's
words, 1 Pet. v. 8 ; and St, James's, James iv. 7.

Secondly, mark how Holy Scripture speaks of that
world, which, with its pomps and vanity, we promise
to renounce; 1 John ii. 15-17; James iv. 4; Rom.
xii. 2 ; Matt. xiii. 22.

" The things which are seen are temporal,'" says
St. Paul. The world consists partly in these tempor-
al, visible things, which are all around as ; things
which belong to time, not to eternity ; to this life, not
to the next ; " things on the earth"* on which we are
constantly tempted to set our affections, rather than
on those unseen eternal things which are " above."
This " world'' with its " pomps" (that is, things which
make a great outward show), and " vanity " (that is,
things which do not last, which soon pass away, and
are lost to us forever ; or things which are unprofit-
able, which are productive of no real, good, things
which mislead, and deceive, and disappoint us), we are
to renounce.

We cannot choose out certain things, and assert
positively that all these are among the pomps and vani-
ty of this wicked world which every Christian must
equally avoid, if he would be saved ; because there
are many things in this world which, while they may
be safely and properly used by some persons, would
prove to others dangerous in the extreme, injurious to
their Christian character, and hurtful to their souls.

For instance, if a woman in a very humble rank of
life were to deck herself .out in a dress of silk, or if
a man in an inferior station were to drive about in a
very handsome carriage, this, in their cases, would be

» 2 Cor. iv. IS. 2 Col. iii. 2.


pomp ; whereas these very self-same things might he
done innocently bj persons in a different position.

It can only be said generally, that anything which is
unfitted to and unbecoming in that station of life unto
which it has pleased God to call ns ; any thing which
will be likely to foster in us a spirit of pride, or self-
conceit, or vain-glory ; any thing which will destroy in
us that Christian humility, that " meek and quiet spirit
which is, in the sight of God, of great price,"^ must
be reckoned among those pomps of this world which
a servant of God must renounce.

And let it be observed here with respect to different
stations in life ; that it is wrong to regard such differ-
ences as some necessary evil connected with man's
fallen state in this life, an evil which shall be corrected
and cease to exist in the kingdom of heaven. The tyr-
anny, the selfishness, the oppression, the cruelty, the
pride, which too often spring oiit of these differences
through man's corruption and perversity ; the grinding
covetousness of the rich; the idle, intemperate, and
improvident habits of the poor, which produce the
bitterness of want — these all are miserable evils in-
deed ; but the differences in rank and station them-
selves are not an evil, since these are of God's own ap-
pointment, and are intended to foster such Christian
qualities as humility and obedience, charity and self-

Nor is this difference of rank and position confined
to this world only ; a like difference exists in all God's
universe: "There is one glory of the sun, and an-
other " and a feebler "glory of the moon, and another
glory of the stars ; for one star differeth from another

» Pet. iii. 4.


42 ol:r vows.

star ill glory."^ And yet all are unspeakably glorious.
A like distinction exists around God's seat in heaven ;
there are angels and archangels, there are ''thrones"
and "dominions," there are "principalities" and
"powers/" These happy spirits are diverse in their
ranks and orders, but yet all perfect in their bliss. A
like difference shall exist hereafter among the com-
panies of the blessed ; when for some it is prepared to
sit on God's right hand and on his left ; for some to
approach the nearer to that glorious presence where
are pleasures for evermore ; for some to be adorned
with a more " radiant coronet, all gemmed with pure
and living light ;" for others a smaller share of glory.
But for all, happiness ; for all, though they thus differ,
happiness infinite, past understanding, eternal. It is
true beyond all questioning, that men's positions here-
after will be widely altered. The distinctions arising
from wealth, or noble birth, or powers of mind, or
strength of body, will no longer exist. "There are
last" now "which shall be first" hereafter; "and
there are first" in this life " which shall be last"^ in
the life to come. But yet these very words of Christ
Himself, this very mention of some being " first" here-
after, and some "last," must prove that there will be
differences in the future life. And is not this the rea-
son why envy, jealousy, covetousness, and the like
miserable tempers are to be so carefully checked with-
in ourselves ? It is not only because they must render
us unhappy, wretched, and discontented in this life ;
but (which is of far greater importance) because such
tempers cherished here, and so becoming part of our
characters hereafter, tempers ai'ising from the sight of

» Cor. XV. 41. 2 Col. i. 16. » Luke xiiL 80.


OUT fellow-men'' s suiwrior advantages^ must render us
unfit to enjoy the liolj peace, and love, and calm con-
tent of heaven.

Or, again (to return to our subject), with regard to
the question, " How far may we innocently and with-
out fear join in the pleasures and amusements (which
in some sense may be reckoned among the vanities)
of the world ? No answer can be given which will
equally well apply to all persons. It can only again
be said generally, that any thing which draws away
our hearts from God ; any thing which makes us less
able to pray and less willing to seek God's presence ;
any thing which unduly hinders the discharge of our
known and acknowledged duties and renders. us less
active in God's service, must be considered dangerous
and unfitted for a Christian. To learn what really
hurts our souls, and in what we may lawfully and in-
nocently indulge ourselves, is a part of that Christian
watchfulness in which each individual is bound to ex-
ercise himself.

But the "world" means more than "things tempo-
ral," "things on the earth" around us. The world,
our world, consists too in all those wicked, ungodly,
irreligious people whom we meet, with whom we are
mixed up in the daily intercourse of this life, and
whose bad examples may lead us astray. One great
danger which besets all Christians, especially young
Christians, arises from the evil influence of these
worldly people. We are tempted to do as other
people do; we are afraid of appearing singular, and
diflferent from other people ; we fear the ridicule and
taunts to which we may be subjected if we act up
strictly to what we consider right ; it is easier to fol-

44 OUR vows.

low the W.1V of the world than to take our own line,
the line which Holy Scripture perhaps points out, and
which our own conscience approves. It is very hard
to be laughed at, and looked down upon, and thought
poor and mean-spirited, or to be misunderstood by
those whom we love, be.cause we do not rule our con-
duct by the fashion of the world ; because we dress per-
haps more simply, or because we refuse to join in gaye-
ties and amusements in which other people will indulge,
or because we are stricter in the choice of our friends
and companions, or are more careful in our observance
of the Lord's Day, or are humbler, less selfish, and of
a more forgiving spirit than others. But we are to
remen:il)er that every soldier of Jesus Christ is called
upon to "endure hardness."^ This very hardness may
be that "cross" which we must bear after Christ, if
we would be counted worthy of Him.^ We remember,
too, how Christ has said, "Whosoever shall confess
Me before men, him will I confess also before My
Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall
deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My
Father which is in heaven."^ And in our case, very
often, this confessing or denying Christ may consist in
our either disregarding or our complying with the
ways and opinions of this wicked world, and thus
either abiding by or neglecting Christ's rule of holi-
ness. We know, moreover, that we are forbidden to
" follow a multitude to do evil;"^ we are not to follow
tJie example of other persons, if these be ungodly ;
and the only rule or standard by which we may safely
direct and judge our lives and conduct is the will of
God declared to us in Holy Scripture.

i 2 Tim. ii. 3. 2 Matt. x. 33. « Matt. x. 82. ■• Exod. xxiii. 2.


Thirdly, we are to renounce the sinful lusts of the
flesh, that is, the sinful desires or wishes to which we
are prompted through our bodily appetites and inclina-
tions. The flesh is the enemy within us. While the
devil and the world are from withoiit^ our fleshly lusts
and appetites are traitors within^ which war against
the soul, and over which we have to keep the strictest
watch. To keep our bodies under, to bring our un-
ruly appetites into subjection, to restrain our foolish,
sinful, self-indulgent inclinations, to be severe with
ourselves, self-denying, moderate in all things, sober,
chaste, "not slothful in business, fervent in spirit," to
keep watch over our wandering eyes, over our imruly
tongues, over our angry tempers, to repress the pride,
and self-conceit, and haughtiness of spirit, and dis-
obedience to which we are all too prone, — in all this
consists the life-long struggle which Christians must
maintain. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and
the spirit against the flesh ; and these are contrary the
one to the other."^ To subdue the flesh and to cherish
the holy influences which the Spirit of God would im-
part to our spirits, is the great work for which we
live.'* It matters not to enlarge upon the works of
the flesh : they are plainly and unmistakably declared
to us,' and the sentence is evidently pronounced, " They
which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of

Only observe here how St. Paul classes together sing
about which men often think so diflerently, and how
he pronounces the same sentence against them all. It
is not only of them who are guilty of murder and
drunkenness, and such heinous offences against God's

1 Gal. V. 17, 2 Eora. viii. 5-9. s Gal v. 19-21.



law, that the Apostle declares that they who do such
things shall be banished forever from God's presence
hereafter, but of them also who give way to hatred
and wrath and strife — sins of which men think but
little, of which they speak lightly, regarding them as
only natural infirmities, and hardly believing, perhaps,
that such trifling sins (as they would call them) can
aftect their soul's salvation. And yet upon one and all
of these sins of the flesh the same sentence of eternal
wo is equally pronounced ; even as St. James says,
" Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend
in one point, he is guilty of all."^ AVe who have be-
come God's children and heirs of His glorious king-
dom in heaven are to renounce these sinful lusts of the
flesh, on pain of forfeiting our sonship and losing the
promised inheritance for all eternity.
' James ii. 10.



E promise) in the
second place, to
believe all the
articles of the
Christian faith.
These articles, or
different parts, of
the Christian faith
we find summed
up in the Creed
or Creeds.

1. The Apos-
tles' Creed ; so
called, not perhaps from its having been actually
written or drawn up by the Apostles themselves, but
simply from its containing those points of doctrine which,
from the earliest apostolic times, were ever enforced
as necessary to be believed. 2. The Nicene Creed, in
which are embodied those opinions which, at the great
Council of NicEea (held a.d. 325), were declared to be
the truth and the teaching of the Church. Besides
the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, contained in our
American Prayer-book, the English Prayer-book has

3. The

48 OUR vows.

Athanasian Creed, named after the eminent defender
of the faith, St. Athanasius, though of a later age.

To the use of this last-mentioned (Athanasian) Creed,
there are sometimes objections made. Persons ima-
gine it to be uncharitable in its declarations. This
Creed commences thus: "Whosoever will be saved^
before all things it is necessary that he bold the Cath-
olic faith. Which faith except every one do keep
whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish
everlastingly." And it concludes with these words :
" This is the Catholic faith, which except a man be-
lieve faithfully he cannot be saved," These declara-
tions are objected to, as being harsh and uncharitable.
But surely this is a mistaken notion. The words of
the Creed are, in fact, little else than the words of our
Lord Himself. The Creed says, Except a man believe
the Catholic faith, "he cannot be saved," and "shall
perish everlastingly :" Christ says, " He that belie veth
not, shall be damned,"^ This creed, then, in its state-
ment, merely repeats our Lord's own declaration.
There can be nothing uncharitable in this. The words
are simply used as a grave warning, solemnly remind-
ing members of the Church of what the fatal con-
sequences to their own souls must be if they renounce
the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. (That
this Creed does set forth the true doctrines of the
Christian faith, and that there is nothing declared in
it which does not rest on the sure warrant of Holy
Scripture, may be most evidently proved. No objec-
tion, therefore, can be safely grounded upon the sup-
position that it is one thing to warn men, as our
Saviour does, of the danger of disbelieving the truth^

1 Mark xvi. 16.


and another and a very different thing to denounce
men's rejection of the CTiurcK's statement and exposi-
tion of that triitTi. The language of this Creed only
warns men of the necessity of believing, on peril of
their soul's salvation, those things which may be most
surely and certainly proved from Holy Scripture.)
The words in this Creed to which persons object are
not intended as a general sentence passed upon all
unbelievers without exception ; they are, let it be said
again, solemn words of warning addressed to members
of the Churchy telling them, what St. Paul also has
already declared in words of terrible significancy, in
that passage where he speaks of men abandoning the
faith, that "it is impossible for those who were once
enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and
were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have
tasted the good word of Grod, and the powers of the
world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them
again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to them-
selves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open
shame. "^ And certainly, in the giving such warning
there is neither harshness nor uncharity, but rather a
most true love and tenderness. Men require such
warning. There is ever a tendency in some men's
minds to underrate the value and importance of hold-
ing fast the truth and *' the form of sound words."*
Never more so than in these present days ! Men
seem now to forget that there is such a thing as " the
faith once delivered to the saints."^ They forget that
the truth does exist, fixed and unchangeable as God
Himself. They will fondly imagine that to be truth
which they delieve to be truth. They will conceive

1 Heb. vi. 4-(J. « 2 Tim. i. 13. » Jude 3.


50 OUR vows.

that it matters little what they do believe, so only that
they are sincere in their belief, and are fully persuaded
in their minds. For such persons the warning is most
surely necessary, then, that the truth does certainly
exist, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever — that
there are " principles of the doctrine of Christ,"*
which men are called on to believe ; and that Christ
Himself, Christ the fountain of all love and tenderness
and mercy, Christ has declared, "He that believeth
not, shall be damned."

The first great truth contained in the Creeds is the
doctrine of the Soly Trinity — that there is one God,
and that in this one Godhead there are three Persons
— the Fatlier, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Observe,
we do not declare or believe that these three great
Persons are one Person. That w^ould be a contradic-
tion. But we aifirm and believe that the three holy
Persons are one God. They are one in sulstance. By
substance we understand that which God is^ that
which "forms the Divine essence or being." God the
Son and God the Holy Ghost are what God the Father
is. " Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such
is the Holy Ghost. In this Trinity none is afore or
after other ; none is greater or less than another. But
the whole three persons are coeternal together, and
coequal."'* This is one great mystery of the Christian
faith, a mystery which we cannot fully understand
indeed, but which we are called upon to accept and
believe because Holy Scripture teaches it plainly.

1 Heb. vi. 1.

2 " As there is a number in the Trinity, by which the Persons are
neither more nor less than three; so there is also an order, by which,
of these Persons, the Father is the first, the Son the second, and tlie
Holy Ghost the third. Nor is tliis order arbitrary or external, but in-


Observe, that our not understanding a thing is no
suflScient argument against its truth, or against our
accepting and believing it. Facts around us in this
life will abundantly prove thus much. For instance,
to a child the simplest processes ih nature may be un-
intelligible ; — the growth of plants from seed, the won-
derful effects of heat and cold, the motions of the
earth, these all may be beyond its power of under-
standing. Are these things therefore less true and
certain? Or will the child give less credit to their
being true because it cannot comprehend them ? Or
again, to the minds of the ignorant and less perfectly
instructed the commonest elements of science will be
liidden and unfathomable secrets. But will the facts,
then, of chemistry or electricity, or the laws of gravi-
tation, things perfectly intelligible to the more highly
cultivated intellects, will these be less true because
they are beyond the understanding of the ignorant ?
Or, would the ignorant themselves reject things which
are plain through their effects^ because they cannot
fathom the causes which produce them ? In like man-

ternal and necessary, by virtue of a subordination of the second unto
the first, and of the third unto the first and second. The Godhead was
communicated from the Father to the Son, not from the Son unto the
Father ; though therefore this were done from all eternity, and so
there can be no priority of time, yet there must be acknowledged a
priority of order, by which the Father, not the Son, is first, and the
Son, not the Father, second. Again, the same Godhead was communi-
cated by the Father and the Son unto the Holy Ghost, not by the
Holy Ghost to tRe Father or the Son ; though therefore this was also
done from all eternity, and therefore can admit of no priority in refer-
ence to time ; yet that of order must be here observed ; so that the
Spirit receiving the Godhead from the Father, who is the first Person,
cannot be the first ; receiving the same from the Son, who is the sec-
ond, cannot be the second ; but being from the first and second must
bo of the three the third."— P^arswi on the Creed.

52 OUR vows.

ner we may ask, Are the mysteries of God's kingdom
to be rejected and disbelieved because tlie feeble in-
tellect of man cannot grasp and understand them?
No ! "We may not be able to comprehend the hidden
things of God, things which may pass man's under-
standing; but we may believe them none the less
confidently with a simple unhesitating faith. It need
only concern us to inquire whether these things are
or are not revealed in Holy Scripture ; if they are
there declared to us, we may receive them without
a moment's doubting or suspicion.

As regards this great mystery of the Holy Trinity,
we find it stated clearly and unmistakably in Holy
Scripture. Thus, that God is one is declared in
Bent. vi. 4, and repeated Mark xii. 29. That in this
one Godhead there are three Persons, is evident from
Matt. iii. 16. (Here the three great Persons are pres-
ent together, God the Father in the Voice which said,
"This is My beloved Son;" God the Son in fashion as
a man being baptized ; God the Holy Ghost " descend-
ing like a dove.") Again from St. Matt, xxviii. 19,
and from 2 Cor. xiii. 14.

That these three holy Persops are separate and
distinct in person, although they are one in substance,
is certain, because ice can affirm something about each
of them which we may not and cannot affirm of the
others. Thus, of God the Father we can say, that Ho
is made of none, neither jcreated, nor begotten, nor
proceeding ; of God the Son we can say, that He is
not made, nor created, nor proceeding, but He is be-
gotten ;* of God the Holy Ghost we can say that He is
not made, nor created, nor begotten, lut proceeding?
1 John i. 14, 18, iii. 16. £ Ibid. sv. 26.


Notice also in John xiv. 26, xv. 26, that the Holy-
Ghost is sent, by the Father, in the name of the Son
(in the first passage), and by the Son from the Father
(in the second passage) : thus is there one Person sent^
one from whom He is sent, one J)y whom He is sent.
These, then, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
are three Persons, but their substance, their Godhead
is one : the Father is God, the Son is God, and the
Holy Ghost is God.

That the Son is God we learn from John i. 1, 14, x.
30; Phil. ii. 6; Tit. ii. 13; John xx. 31 ; Rev. i. 8, 11,
IT, 18, xxii. 13.

Eemember here, that when our Lord says, "My
Father is greater than I ;"^ or when in another passage
He declares, "But of that day and that hour kuoweth
no man; no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither

1 3 5 6 7 8

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