The Epistle Dedicatory.
To the Congregations of our Lord Jesus Christ, baptiz'd upon Confession of Faith, and under Imposition of Hands, particularly in South-Wales, and more generally throughout Eng∣land; Grace, Mercy, and Peace be multi∣plied.
NOtwithstanding the glorious Light broken forth among us in these later Times, yet we see gross Darkness covering the face of the Earth; nay, and our Heavens are not so clear as we hope e're long to behold them: for tho the Light is come, yet the Glory of the Lord is but rising upon us; ours is but the Morning of that long'd-for Day, and poor Sion is but look∣ing forth of the Wilderness: hence are so many Divisions amongst us; we speak as we see, and according to the Light received, and as we are bound by the Authority of Divine Precept to walk: God gradually discovers Himself, and the true Order and Form of his House and Worship unto us: and tho we are still labouring under many difficulties, having had much Rubbish to remove (like the Israelites when they came out of the 70 years Captivity) and many have en∣deavoured to weaken our Hands, yet through infinite Grace we may say, the Foundation of Page [unnumbered] God's House is laid: Tho some who would build cannot find the Wall, and some strive to bring in a Stone of Babylon for a Corner, whilst others endeavour to cast away a principal Pillar, because it has lain a long time corrupted and covered amongst the Antichristian Rubbish. Refor∣mation is a glorious work, and 'tis what we all long and breathe after. Mr. D. and others have been helpful to the Church of God with respect to Baptism, but for want of further Light have lost their way: by which means I perceive many, in one respect much behind them, in another are got before them, and may (as far as I can judg) get into Canaan as soon as they. Imposition of Hands is the Principle of our present Contro∣versy; and it is to be lamented, that in this day we should be forced to a Work of this na∣ture. Our Brother on this Consideration was dis∣swaded from doing what we now see published, and rather on this account than any other; and tho some judg'd it would do the Truth it self much injury, by weakning the hearts or hands of those established in it, or enquiring after it, yet some judg'd it scarce deserved an Answer: But others considering how well he wrote on the other Prin∣ciple, thought it might the more likely tend to intangle the weak, and more unwary Christian. Now as to my undertaking the Work, as I judged my self uncapable in respect of others: so it was not my purpose to have been concerned, till put upon it by some in this City; and considering the backwardness of others, it the more induc'd me to it. And tho but abruptly done, yet such as it is, I present it to the serious perusal and consi∣deration Page [unnumbered] of all, whose Souls long after the good, full restoration, and perfection of Sion; hoping the God of Truth will cause it to entertainment in the hearts of the humble, tho I expect it will be slighted by such as are passionately opinionated of their own attainments and perswasions, and who are below receiving instruction from their Inferi∣ours. It is the grief of some of you (as I believe) to see any whom you love and tender in the Lord, opposing so holy an Institution of Jesus Christ; but however, this you will find in peru∣sal of this Discourse, that tho too many Baptized Christians utterly disallow and reject it, nay seem not desirous to know the Mind of God herein, yet many godly Persons both of the Presbyterian and Independent Perswasions (tho dark and negli∣gent about the business of Baptism) have longed, and searched after the knowledg and discovery of this Truth, nay have attained to a good under∣standing and satisfaction herein, having laboured after a perfect restoration of it to its primitive use and purity, refining it from the Corruptions and Mutations of the Popish Church, not only in respect of those abominable additions and mix∣tures of Chrism, and other ridiculous Ceremo∣nies in its administration, but also of the Subject to whom of right it belongs, as abundantly ap∣pears in a Treatise of Mr. Jonathan Hanmar's, writ 1658. when 'tis apparent their Spirits were very hot upon it. I find Mr. Caryl (writing E∣pistolary wise in commendation of the said Book) speaking thus: I conceive (saith he) the Learned Author of these elaborate Exercitations has deser∣ved well of the Churches, by clearing the way of those Page [unnumbered] admissions from Scripture-grounds, and the concur∣rent Testimony of many, both Antient and Mo∣dern Writers; also by discovering and removing those Popish Additions and Pollutions, which by se∣veral steps have crept into it. And further he says, that this ingenious and pious Overture holds forth more, than most Churches have hitherto at∣tained.
Also Mr. Vennings's honest and judicious ex∣pressions (in his Epistle to the same Treatise) I can't well omit; who speaking of Reformation and Godliness, saith, Either by reason of our dim∣sightedness, being not able to see afar off, nor pene∣trate into the depth and bottom of them, or by reason of the abusive Traditions, and corrupt Glosses with which for many Ages they have been clouded and over-cast, many Truths seem not so clear, but they need further clearing; among others, such as relate to Church-Discipline and Order, have long been under debate, and not without some considerable advantage, tho I humbly conceive we have not attain∣ed so far as to be already perfect. It remains there∣fore that we press forward, and not be so passionately fond of our prepossest Conceptions, as not to have the patience to consider what may be offered to us, espe∣cially by such as wish well to Sion, and desire to see the Gospel-Temple in its Beauty. If any Persons are spirited to search after further knowledg in these Affairs, to dig for it as for hid Treasures, and when they have found a Vein of Golden Ore, to refine and stamp it for us, we should be in readiness to receive the Truth in the love of it, and pay the tribute and homage of Obedience for the sake of the God of Truth, whose Image and Superscription it bears.
Page [unnumbered]What great and profitable Pains my much honoured Friend, the Reverend Author of the ensuing Ex∣ercitation, has taken in this one Particular presen∣ted to consideration, and with what Curiousness with∣out Curiosity, with what Learning without Ostenta∣tion, &c.—you will best perceive by the perusal of it; and tho my Opinion be of little signification, yet I cannot forbear to say, that as to the substance and main of the design I judg it of so considerable impor∣tance, that I see not how it can be neglected with∣out very great prejudice to Church-Communion, to say no more. Haply some may be so nice as to be offended with the Name, and dislike Confirmation for fear of Bishoping, as if that old-fashioned Gar∣ment had but a piece of new-nam'd Cloth put to it, and drest up in another Mode: if it were so, can no good come out of Nazareth? Bonus odor veri∣tatis ex re qualibet: but if any are under such a fear, I think I may assure them they are more afraid than hurt, yea afraid where no fear is, as they will quickly find if they please to come and see.
I could wish our dissenting Brethren would weigh the matter more seriously and moderately; and since there has been by many of different Per∣swasions so diligent a scrutiny made ad veritatem invest•gandam, and such holy longings after the mind of God herein, the result was hop'd to have been, a singular Agreement in the thing it self. But it may seem strange, I confess, to all discerning Christians, that such should not be able to dis∣cover or find out the Antichristian pollutions and mutations in Baptism, in respect of the Subject and Manner of Baptizing; which is so apparently contrary to the Gospel-rule and pattern also. Page [unnumbered] O that the God of Israel would open the eyes of some eminent ones amongst them, to see the pure chrystal Stream of this Institution of Christ, or help them (to use Mr. Vennings's phrase) to find the Vein of this Golden Ore, since they will not receive it as refin'd and ready-stampt for them by such, whose Skill or Faithfulness they seem to suspect.
But, 1. How can they be perfect in Church-constitution and Order; whilst they miss the mark in so considerable an Ordinance as Baptism, taking a Stone of Babylon for a Foundation, and that for Baptism which is none? For it has been so grosly abused, (as a learned Writer noted in ano∣ther case) that there is nothing remaining of it amongst them save the meer Name.
And, 2. May it not be admired to see Men of such Light and Conscience be only pleased with the Theory and notional part of an Ordinance of Christ? They see it to be a Gospel-Institution, but I could never yet understand they are in the practice thereof; If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
3. But how contrary to the Rule and glorious Doctrine of the Lord Jesus would they act, should they get into the practice thereof, whilst they so grievously err in the administration of Baptism, since that also wholly belongs to adult persons, as must be own'd if the Scriptures be a perfect and sufficient Rule for us to walk by, and express whatever is necessary to know concerning this as well as things of the like nature?
But probably some may object, Since most of the Authors mentioned in this Discourse for the further evincing the Truth contended for, are cor∣rupt Page [unnumbered] either in Baptism or laying on of hands, or both, to what purpose are they produced?
In answer to which I must say, that what's of∣fered on the account of Authors and Antiquity, has been occasionally done, Mr. Danvers having led us in that path. Nay, I might say, we are ne∣cessitated thereto by his means, unless we should leave one chief part of his Book unanswered, in regard he utterly denies the thing it self, viz. Laying on of hands upon baptized Believers, as such, affirming there is no mention made of any such thing or practice in the Scripture: and se∣condly, in saying the Antient Fathers and asserters of it flew mainly to Tradition, and the usage of the Church in the case. Should an Adversary ut∣terly deny Water-baptism, however administred, and say it was never commanded by Christ, but is a meer human Invention, or Innovation of Man; yea and affirm that all the Fathers and Confessors, that heretofore pleaded for it, wholly made use of Tradition, and usage of the Church in vindica∣tion thereof: Would not any that is for Baptism judg it necessary, not only to prove it instituted by the Lord Jesus, and practised by the Apostles and primitive Christians, but also, in opposition to his Opponent, that those Writers both of for∣mer and later times who contended for it, did fly to the Scripture for its proof and confirmation, tho some of them could not do so as touching the Subject and Manner of Administration? Hence it is we have took the same method in the defence of an Ordinance of the same Nature and Authority.
And now, my dear Brethren, I cannot but ac∣quaint you, that my Spirit has been much re∣freshed Page [unnumbered] to hear how the work of the Lord has been carried on of late amongst some of you, and the readiness of many to receive this despised Truth. I am perswaded the more a Truth is opposed, the more it gets ground, and the Saints with others inquire after it: for since Mr. Danvers's Book came forth, at one Meeting in London, on one day, upon my own knowledg, near 30 persons came under the practice hereof: Vincet veritas, let Truth go on conquering, and to conquer; the Lord will arise and scatter all the clouds of Darkness and Opposition, and take away the re∣proach cast upon his Servants for their Witness to his Truth, and Zeal for his Name. Let them be ashamed who transgress without cause: if we are reproached, let us take it patiently, since it is for our precious Redeemer's sake, who hath said, You are my friends if you do whatsoever I com∣mand you; and in another Place, Whosoever there∣fore shall break one of these least Commandments, and teach Men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of God, Mat. 5.11.
Brethren, remember the Spirit of God pronoun∣ces them worthy of commendation who stand fast, and keep the Ordinances as delivered to them, 1 Cor. 11.2. and the more we see evil Men and Se∣ducers (as those called Quakers and others) la∣bouring on every side of us to tread under feet, and contemptuously despise all of them, let us stir up our selves with one heart in defence of them all; and as they are appointed as Conduit-pipes for conveyance of the Spirit and blessings of the Gospel to our Souls, so let us walk as such that experience the inward Life and Virtue of them, that thereby Page [unnumbered] we may beautify the Gospel and Doctrine of God and our Saviour in all things, having Lamps and Oil also in our Vessels, viz. the form of sound Words, and power of Godliness in our Hearts and Lives. And now finally, Brethren, that I may not be further tedious unto you, my breath∣ings and desires are, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Lights, the God of all Comfort and Consolation, would fill you with the knowledg of his Will in all Wisdom and spiritual Understanding, grant you more clear and heavenly Communion with himself, and with one another in the paths of Peace and Righ∣teousness, and enable you to walk inoffensively in all well-pleasing, being fruitful in every good work; and that the God of all Grace would establish, strengthen and settle you in his Truth and Ways, that so you may remain unmovable like a Rock in these evil and perilous times, wherein so many turn aside, giving ear to Seducers, Im∣postors, and lying Spirits, with which our Days so abound, that it will be a choice Blessing to be kept from falling, and preserv'd without blame till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now that the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant, would sanctify you throughout, and keep you from falling, and present you without spot before him, in the day of his glorious Appearance, shall be the constant and hearty Prayer of