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§ 1. faith is a belief of a testimony; “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” It is an assent to truth, as appears by the 11th of Hebrews; and it is saving faith that is there spoken of, as appears by the last verses of the foregoing chapter: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they, without us, should not be made perfect.” “Saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.” “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.”
§2. It is the proper act of the soul towards God, as faithful. “For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”
§ 3. It is a belief of truth from a sense of glory and excellency, or at least with such a sense. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” “She said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, sneaking by the Spirit of God, call-eth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
§ 4. It is a belief of the truth, from a spiritual taste and relish of what is excellent and divine. Luke xii. 57. “Yea, and why, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?” Believers receive the truth in the love of it, and speak the truth in love. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
§ 5. The object of faith is the gospel, as well as Jesus Christ. “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they received them, and have known surely that I came from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” “But they have not obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
§6. Faith includes a knowledge of God and Christ. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord; according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
§ 7. A belief of promises is faith, or a great part of faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” &c. “And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” A depending on promises is an act of faith. “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
§ 8. Faith is a receiving of Christ. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
§ 9. It is receiving Christ into the heart. “But the righteousness which is of faith, speak-eth on this wise, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, (that is, the word of faith, which we preach,) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
§ 10. A true faith includes more than a mere belief; it is accepting the gospel, and includes all acceptation. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached; or if you receive another Spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
§ 11. It is something more than merely the assent of the understanding, because it is called an obeying the gospel. “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who has believed our report?” “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin. at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? ”
It is obeying the doctrine from the heart; “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin; but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness,” &c.
§ 12. This expression of obeying the gospel, seems to denote the heart s yielding to the gospel in what it proposes to us in its calls: it is something more than merely what may be called a believing the truth of the gospel. “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also, many believed on him; but, because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” And Philip asked the eunuch, whether he believed with all his heart? It is a fully believing, or a being fully persuaded: this passage evidences that it is so much at least.
§ 13. There are different sorts of faith that are not true and saving, as is evident by what the apostle James says, “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works:’’ where it is supposed that there may be a faith without works, which is not the right faith. When he says, “I will show thee my faith by my works,’’ nothing else can be meant, than that I will show thee that my faith is right.
§ 14. It is a trusting in Christ. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little: blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ: in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Many places in the Old Testament speak of trusting in God as the condition of his favour and salvation; especially “Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation.” It implies submission; “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse; and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust.” “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.” “For which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” “Which Jesus, when he perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life; and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he hear-eth us.” Believing in Christ in one verse, is called confidence, in the text.
§ 15. It is a committing ourselves to Christ; “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” This is a scripture sense of the word believe, as is evident by “Jesus did not commit himself to them.” In the original it is Greek.
§ 16. It is a gladly receiving the gospel; “Then they that gladly received his word, were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” It is approving the gospel; “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. But wisdom is justified of all her children.” It is obeying the doctrine; “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin; but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” It is what may be well understood by those expressions of corning to Christ, of looking to him, of opening the door to lei him in. This is very evident by Scripture. It is a coming and taking the waters of life, eating and drinking Christ’s flesh and blood, hearing Christ’s voice and following him. “But ye believe not; because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep near my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
§ 17. Faith consists in two things, viz. in being persuaded of, and in embracing, the promises: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” “Charity believeth all things, hopeth all things.” If that faith, hope, and charity, spoken of in this verse, be the same with those that are compared together in the last verse, then faith arises from a charitable disposition of heart, or from a principle of divine love. “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you,” with the context. “Thou shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.” “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.”
§ 18. It is a being reconciled unto God, revealing himself by Christ in the gospel, or our minds being reconciled. “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “And you that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” It is the according of the whole soul, and not merely of the understanding. “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.”
§ 19. There is contained in the nature of faith a sense of our own unworthiness. “Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith.” See concerning the centurion, Luke vii. 6-9.; this woman which was a sinner, ib. vii. 37, 38. and especially 50.; the prodigal son, Luke xv.; the penitent thief, Luke xxiii. 41. Consult also “Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” Prov. xxviii. 25. Psal. xl. 4. and Psal. cxxxi.
§ 20. It is a being drawn to Christ. None can come unto Christ, but whom the Father draws. The freeness of the covenant of grace is represented thus, that the condition of finding is only seeking; and the condition of receiving, asking; and the condition of having the door opened, is knocking. From whence I infer, that faith is a hearty applying unto God by Christ for salvation, or the heart’s seeking it of God through him. See also “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” And Luke xxiii. 42. it is calling on Christ; it is the opposite unto disallowing and rejecting Christ Jesus. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” “Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.”
§ 21. Love either is what faith arises from, or is included in faith, by ” He that believeth not is condemned already; and this is their condemnation, that men loved darkness) rather than light.” “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
§ 22. The being athirst for the waters of life is faith, Rev. xxi. 6. It is a true cordial seeking of salvation by Christ. Believing in Christ is heartily joining ourselves to Christ and to his party, as is said of the followers of Theudas, Acts v. 36. And we are justified freely through faith, i.e. we are saved by Christ only on joining ourselves to him. It is a being persuaded to join ourselves to him, and to be of his party. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” To believe in Christ, is to hearken to him as a prophet; to yield ourselves subjects to him as a king; and to depend upon him as a priest. Desiring Christ, is an act of faith in Christ, because he is called the desire of all nations; Hag. ii 7. that is, he that is to be the desire of all nations, when all nations shall believe in him and subject themselves to him, according to the frequent promises and prophecies of God’s word: though there are other things included in the sense, yet this seems to be principally intended. There belongs to faith a sense of the ability and sufficiency of Christ to save, and of his fitness for the work of salvation: 2, and 28, 29, and 21. “And being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he is able to perform.” Of his fidelity, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid: and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Of his readiness to save, Matt. xv. 22., &c. “Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: and I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” Of his ability, “And behold, there came a leper, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” “The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”
§ 23. It is submitting to the righteousness of God. Rom. x. 3. “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” It is what may be well represented by flying for refuge, by the type of flying to the city of refuse. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” It is a sense of the sufficiency and the reality of Christ’s righteousness, and of his power and grace to save. John xvi. 8. “He shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.” It is a receiving the truth with a love to it. It is receiving the love of the truth. “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The heart must close with the new covenant by dependence upon it, and by love and desire. “Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. This is all my salvation and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”
§ 25. Upon the whole, the best, and clearest, and most perfect definition of justifying faith, and most according to the Scripture, that I can think of, is this, faith is the soul’s entirely embracing the revelation of Jesus Christ as our Saviour. The word embrace is a metaphorical expression; but I think it much clearer than any proper expression whatsoever; it is called believing, because believing is the first act of the soul in embracing a narration or revelation: and embracing, when conversant about a revelation or thing declared, is more properly called believing, than loving or choosing. If it were conversant about a person only, it would be mote properly called loving. If it were only conversant about a gift, an inheritance, or reward, it would more properly be called receiving or accepting, &c.
The definition might have been expressed in these words: faith is the soul’s entirely adhering and acquiescing in the revelation of Jesus Christ as our Saviour Or thus: faith is the soul’s embracing that truth of God, that reveals Jesus Christ as our Saviour Or thus: faith is the soul’s entirely acquiescing in, and depending upon, the truth of God, revealing Christ as our Saviour.
It is the whole soul according and assenting to the truth, and embracing of it. There is an entire yielding of the mind and heart to the revelation, and a closing with it, and adhering to it, with the belief, and with the inclination and affection. It is admitting and receiving it with entire credit and respect. The soul receives it as true, as worthy, and excellent. It may be more perfectly described than defined by a short definition, by reason of the penury of words; a great many words express it better than one or two. I here use the same metaphorical expressions; but it is because they are much clearer than any proper expressions that I know of.
It is the soul’s entirely acquiescing in this revelation, from a sense of the sufficiency, dignity, glory, and excellency of the author of the revelation.
Faith is the whole soul’s active agreeing, according, and symphonizing with this truth; all opposition in judgment and inclination, so far as he believes, being taken away. It is called believing, because fully believing this revelation, is the first and principal exercise and manifestation of this accordance and agreement of soul.
§ 25. The adhering to the truth, and acquiescing in it with the judgment, is from a sense of the glory of the revealer, and the sufficiency and excellency of the performer of the facts. The adhering to it, and acquiescing in it with the inclination and affection, is from the goodness and excellency of the thing revealed, and of the performer. If a person be pursued by an enemy, and commit himself to a king or a captain, to defend him, it implies his quitting other endeavours, and applying to him for defence, and putting himself under him, and hoping that he will defend him. If we consider it as a mere act of the mind, a transaction between spiritual beings, considered as abstracted from any external action, then it is the mind’s quitting all other endeavours, and seeking and applying itself to the Saviour for salvation, fully choosing salvation by him, and delivering itself to him, or a being willing to be his, with a hope that he will save him. Therefore, for a person to commit himself to Christ as a Saviour, is quitting all other endeavours and hopes, and heartily applying himself to Christ for salvation, fully choosing salvation by him, and acquiescing in his way of salvation, and a hearty consent of the soul to be his entirely, hoping in his sufficiency and willingness to save.
§ 26. The first act cannot be hoping in a promise, that is, as belonging to the essence of the act. For there must be the essence of the act performed, before any promise belongs to the subject. But the essence of the act, as it is exercised in justifying faith, is a quitting other hopes, and applying to him for salvation, choosing, and with the inclination closing with, salvation by him in his way, with a sense of his absolute, glorious sufficiency and mercy. Hope in the promises may immediately follow in a moment; but it is impossible that there be a foundation for it, before the essence of faith be performed; though it is the same disposition that leads the soul to lay hold on the promise afterwards. It is impossible that a man should be encouraged by a conditional promise, to trust in Christ, if you mean by trusting in Christ, a depending upon his promises to the person trusting; for that is to suppose a dependence upon the promise antecedent to the first dependence upon it; and that the first time a man depends upon the promise, he is encouraged to do it by a dependence upon the promise. The conditional promise is this, that if you will trust in Christ, you shall be saved: and you suppose the essence of this trust is depending upon this promise; and yet that the soul is encouraged to trust in Christ by a dependence thereupon; which is to say, that the first time the soul depends upon Christ’s promises, it is encouraged to do it by a dependence on his promises.
§ 27. Faith is the soul’s entirely adhering to and acquiescing in the revelation of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, from a sense of the excellent dignity and sufficiency of the revealer of the doctrine and of the Saviour. God is the revealer, and Christ is also the revealer. Christ’s excellency and sufficiency include the excellency of his person, and the excellency of the salvation he has revealed, and his adequateness to the performance, &c. and the excellency of his manner of salvation, &c. From the excellency and sufficiency of the revealer and performer, we believe what is said is true, fully believe it; and from the glorious excellency of the Saviour and his salvation, all our inclination closes with the revelation. To depend upon the word of another person, imports two things: first, to he sensible how greatly it concerns us, and how much our interest and happiness really depend upon the truth of it; and, secondly, to depend upon the word of another, is so to believe it, as to dare to act upon it us if it were really true. I do not say, that I think these words are the only true definition of faith. I have used words that most naturally expressed it, of any I could think of. There might have been other words used, that are much of the same sense.
§ 28. Though hope does not enter into the essential nature of faith, yet it is so essential to it, that it is the natural and necessary, and next immediate, fruit of true faith. In the first act of faith the soul is enlightened with a sense of the merciful nature of God and of Christ, and believes the declarations that are made in God’s word of it; and it humbly and heartily applies and seeks to Christ: and it sees such a congruity between the declared mercy of God, and the disposition he then feels towards him, that he cannot but hope, that that declared mercy will be exercised towards him. Yea, he sees that it would be incongruous, for God to give him such inclination and motions of heart towards Christ as a Saviour, if he were not to be saved by him.
§ 29. Any thing that may be called a receiving the revelation of the gospel is not faith, but such a sort of receiving it, as is suitable to the nature of the gospel, and the respect it has to us. The act of reception suitable to truth, is believing it. The suitable reception of that which is excellent, is choosing it and loving it. The proper act of reception of a revelation of deliverance from evil, and the conferring of happiness, is, acquiescing in it and depending upon it. The proper reception of a Saviour, is, committing ourselves to him and trusting in him. The proper act or reception of the favour of God, is, believing and esteeming it, and rejoicing in it. He that suitably receives forgiveness of his fault, does with an humble sense of his fault rejoice in the pardon.
Thus, for instance, he that reads a truth that no way concerns his interest, if he believes it, it is proper to say he receives it, But if there be a declaration of some glorious and excellent truth, that does nearly concern him, he that only believes it. cannot be said to receive it. And if a captain offers to deliver a distressed people, they that only believe what he says, without committing themselves to him, and putting themselves under him, cannot be said to receive him. So, if a prince offers one his favour, he that does not esteem his favour, cannot be said heartily to accept thereof. Again, if one offended offers pardon to another, be cannot be said to receive it, if he be not sensible of his fault, and does not care for the displeasure of the offended.
The whole act of reception suitable to the nature of the gospel, and its relation to us, and our circumstances with respect to it, is best expressed (if it be expressed in one word) by the word Greek or fides.
He that offers any of these things mentioned, and offers them only for these proper acts of reception, may be said to offer them freely, nay, perfectly so.
§ 30. For man to trust in his own righteousness, is to hope that God’s anger will be appeased or abated, or that he will be inclined to accept him into favour, upon the sight of some excellency that belongs to him; or to have such a view of things, that it should appear no other than a suitable and right thing for God’s anger to be abated, and for him to be inclined to tale him into favour, upon the sight of, or out of respect to, some excellency belonging to him.
§ 31. The word Greek, faith, seems to be the most proper word to express the cordial reception of Christ and of the truth, for these reasons. First, this revelation is of things spiritual, unseen, strange, and wonderful, exceedingly remote from all the objects of sense, and those things which we commonly converse within this world, and also exceedingly alien from our fallen nature; so that it is the first and principal manifestation of the symphony between the soul and these divine things, that it believes them, and acquiesces in them as true. And, secondly, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the gospel, appeal’s principally under the character of a Saviour, and not so much of a person absolutely excellent; and therefore, the proper act of reception of him, consists principally in the exercise of a sense of our need of him, and of his sufficiency, his ability, his mercy and love, his faithfulness, the sufficiency of his method of salvation, the sufficiency and completeness of the salvation itself, of the deliverance, and of the happiness, and an answerable application of the soul to him for salvation; which can be expressed so well by no other word but faith, or affiance, or confidence, or trust, and others of the same signification; of which, Greek or faith is much the best, the most significant; because the rest, in their common significations, imply something that is not of the absolute essence of faith. Thirdly, we have these things exhibited to us, to be received by us, only by a divine testimony. We have nothing else to hold them forth to us.
§ 32. Justifying faith is the soul’s sense and conviction of the reality and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as a Saviour, implying a cordial inclination of soul to him as a Saviour. It is the soul’s conviction and acknowledgment of God’s power in the difficult things, of his mercy in the wonderful things, of his truth in the mysterious and unseen things, of the excellency of other holy things, of the salvation of Christ Jesus. Faith prepares the wav for the removal of guilt of conscience. Guilt of conscience is the sense of the connexion between the sin of the subject and punishment; 1st, by God’s law; and 2d, by God’s nature and the propriety of the thing. The mind is under the weight of guilt, as long as it has a sense of its being bound to punishment, according to the reason and nature of things, and the requirements of the divine government.
Faith prepares the way for the removal of this. Therefore there must be in faith, 1. A belief that the law is answered and satisfied by Jesus Christ; and 2. Such a sense of the way of salvation by Christ, that it shall appear proper, and be dutiful, and according to the reason of things, that sin should not be punished in us, but that we nevertheless should be accepted through Christ. When the mind sees a way that this can be done, and there is nothing in the law, nor in the divine nature, nor nature of things, to hinder it; that of itself lightens the burden, and creates hope. It causes the mind to see that it is not for ever bound by the reason of things to suffer; though the mind does not know that it has performed the condition of pardon. This is to have a sense of the sufficiency of this way of salvation. When a man commits sin and is sensible of it, his soul has a natural sense of the propriety of punishment in such a case, a sense that punishment, according to the reason of things, belongs to him; for the same reasons as all nations have a sense of the propriety of punishing men for crimes.
The blood of bulls, and goats, and calves, could never make them that offered them perfect as to the conscience, because the mind never could have a sense of the propriety and beauty, and fitness in reason, of being delivered from punishment upon their account. This kind of sense of the sufficiency of Christ’s mediation, depends upon a sense of the gloriousness and excellency of gospel things in general; as, the greatness of God’s mercy; the greatness of Christ’s excellency and dignity, and dearness to the Father; the greatness of Christ’s love to sinners, &c. That easiness of mind which persons often have, before they have comfort from a sense of their being converted, arises from a sense they have of God’s sovereignty. They see nothing either in the nature of God, or of things, that will necessarily bind them to punishment; but that God may damn them, if he pleases; and may save them, if he pleases When persons are brought to that, then they are fit to be comforted; then their comfort is like to have a true and immovable foundation, when their dependence is no way upon themselves, but wholly upon God. In order to such a sense of the sufficiency of this way of salvation, it must be seen, that God has no disposition and no need to punish us. The sinner, when he considers how he has affronted and provoked God, looks upon it, that the case is such, and the affront is such, that there is need, in order that the majesty, and honour, and authority of God may be vindicated, that he should be punished, and that God’s nature is such, that he must be disposed to punish him.
COROLL. Hence we learn, that our experience of the sufficiency of the doctrine of the gospel, to give peace of conscience, is a rational inward witness to the truth of the gospel. When the mind sees such a fitness in this way of salvation, that it takes off the burden, that arises from the sense of its being necessarily bound to punishment, through proper desert, and from the demands of reason and nature; it is a strong argument, that it is not a thing of mere human imagination. When we experience its fitness to answer its end, this is the third of the three that bear witness on earth. The Spirit bears witness, by discovering the divine glory, and those stamps of divinity that are in the gospel. The water bears witness; that is, the experience of the power of the gospel to purify and sanctify the heart, witnesseth the truth of it: and the blood bears witness by delivering the conscience from guilt. Any other sort of faith than this sense of the sufficiency of Christ’s salvation, does not give such immediate glory and honour to Christ, and does not so necessarily and immediately infer the necessity of Christ’s being known. Nothing besides makes all Christianity to hang upon an actual respect to Christ, and centre in him. Surely, the more the sinner has an inward, an immediate, and sole, and explicit dependence upon Christ, the more Christ has the glory of his salvation from him.
In order to this sort of sense of the congruity of our sins being forgiven, and of punishment’s being removed, by the satisfaction of Christ, there must of necessity be a sense of our guiltiness. For it is impossible any congruity should be seen, without comparison of the satisfaction with the guilt. And they cannot be compared, except there be a sense of them both. There must not only be such a sense of God’s being very angry, and his anger being very dreadful, without any sense of the reasonableness of that anger; but there must be a proper sense of the desert of wrath, such as there is in repentance. Indeed it is possible there may be such a sense of the glory of the Saviour and his salvation, that if we had more of a sense of guilt than we have, we should see a congruity.
§ 33. Sinners, under conviction of their guilt, are generally afraid that God is so angry with them, that he never will give them faith in Christ. They think the majesty and jealousy of God will not allow of it. Therefore, there goes with a sense of the sufficiency of Christ, a sense of God’s sovereignty with respect to mercy and judgment, that he will and may have mercy in Christ, on whom he will have mercy, and leave to hardness whom he will. This eases of that burden.
§ 34. For a man to trust in his own righteousness, is to conceive hopes of some favour of God, or some freedom from his displeasure, from a false notion of his own goodness or excellency, and the proportion it bears to that favour; and of his own badness, and the relation it bears to his displeasure. It is to conceive hopes of some favour of God, from a false notion of the relation which our own goodness or excellency bears to that favour; whether this mistaken relation be supposed to imply an obligation in natural justice, or propriety and decency, or an obligation in point of wisdom and honour; or if he thinks that, without it, God will not do excellently, or according to some one at least of his declared attributes, or whether it be any obligation by virtue of his promise; whether this favourable respect be the pardon of sin, or the bestowment of heaven, or the abating of punishment, or answering of prayers, or mitigation of punishment, or converting grace, or God’s delighting in us, prizing of us, or the bestowing of any temporal or spiritual blessing. This excellency we speak of, is either real or supposed; either negative, in not being so bad as others, and the like, or positive. Whether it be natural or moral excellency, is immaterial: also, whether the sinner himself looks upon it as an excellency, or suppose God looks upon it as such. For men to trust in their own righteousness, is to entertain hope of escaping any displeasure, or obtaining any positive favour from God, from too high a notion of oar own moral excellency, or too light a notion of our badness, as compared with or related to that favour or displeasure.
§ 35. This is to be observed concerning the scriptures that I have cited respecting faith, that they sometimes affix salvation to the natural and immediate effects of faith as well as to faith itself. Such as, asking, knocking, &c. Rom. x. 12,13, 14. In the 14th verse., faith is distinguished from calling upon him.
§ 36. All trusting to our own righteousness, indeed, is expecting justification for our own excellency. But they that expect that God will convert them for their excellency, or do any thing else towards their salvation upon that account, do trust in their own righteousness. Because, the supposing that God will be the more inclined to convert a man, or enable him to come to Christ, for his excellency, is to suppose, that he is justified already, at least in part. It supposes, that God’s anger for sin is at least partly appeased, and that God is more favourably inclined to him for his excellency’s sake, in that he is disposed to give him converting grace, or do something else towards his conversion upon that account.
§ 37. The difficulty in giving a definition of faith is, that we have no word that clearly and adequately expresses the whole act of acceptance, or closing of the soul or heart with Christ. Inclination expresses it but partially; conviction expresses it also but in part; the sense of the soul does not do it fully. And if we use metaphorical expressions, such as embrace, love, &c. they are obscure, and will not carry the same idea with them to the minds of all. All words that are used to express such acts of the mind, are of a very indeterminate signification. It is a difficult thing to find words to exhibit our own ideas. Another difficulty is to find a word, that shall clearly express the whole goodness or righteousness of the Saviour and of the gospel. To be true, is one part of the goodness of the gospel. For the Saviour to be sufficient, is one part of his goodness. To be suitable, is another part. To be bountiful and glorious, is another part. To be necessary, is another part. The idea of a real good or lovely object, that is conceived to be real, possesses the heart after another manner, than a very lovely idea that is only imaginary. So that there is need of both a sense of goodness and reality, to unite the heart to the Saviour.
Faith is the soul’s embracing and acquiescing in the revelation which the word of God gives us of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, in a sense and conviction of his goodness and reality as such. I do not consider the sense of the goodness and reality of Christ as a Saviour, as a distinct thing from the embracing of him, but only explain the nature of the embracing by it. But it is implied in it; it is the first and principal thing in it. And all that belongs to embracing the revelation, an approbation of it, a love to it, adherence to it, acquiescence in it, is in a manner implied in a sense of Christ’s goodness and reality and relation to us, or our concern in him. I say, as our Saviour; for there is implied in believing in Christ, not only and merely that exercise of mind, which arises from a sense of his excellency and reality as a Saviour; but also that which arises from the consideration of his relation to us, and of our concern in him, his being a Saviour for such as we are; for sinful men; and a Saviour that is offered with his benefits to us. The angels have a sense of the reality and goodness of Christ as a Saviour, and may be said with joy to embrace the discovery of it. They cannot be said to believe in Christ. The spirit that they receive, the notice that they have of Christ the Saviour, is the same; but there is a difference in the act, by reason of the different relation that Christ, as a Saviour stands in to us, from what he doth to them.
§ 38. objection 1. It may be objected, that this seems to make the revelation more the object of the essential act of faith than Christ. I answer, no; for the revelation is no otherwise the object by this definition, than as it brings and exhibits Christ to us. It is embracing the revelation in a sense and conviction of the goodness and reality of the Saviour it exhibits. We do not embrace Christ by faith any otherwise, than as brought to us in a revelation: when we come to embrace him as exhibited otherwise, that will not be faith. A man is saved by that faith, which is a reception of Christ in all his offices; but he is justified by his receiving Christ in his priestly office.
§ 39. To believe, is to have a sense and a realizing belief of what the gospel reveals of the mediation of Christ, and particularly as it concerns ourselves. There is in faith a conviction, that redemption by that mediation of Christ which the gospel reveals, exists, and a sense how it does so, and how it may with respect to us in particular. There is a trusting to Christ that belongs to the essence of true faith. That quiet and ease of mind that arises from a sense of- the sufficiency of Christ, may well be called a trusting in that sufficiency. It gives a quietness to the mind, to see that there is a way wherein it may be saved, to see a good and sufficient way, wherein its salvation is very possible, and the attributes of God cannot be opposite to it. This gives ease, though it be not yet certain that he shall be saved. But to believe Christ’s sufficiency, so as to be thus far easy, may be called a trusting in Christ, though it cannot be trusting in him that he will save us. To be easy in any degree, on a belief or persuasion of the sufficiency of any thing for our good, is a degree of trusting. There is in faith not only a belief of what the gospel declares, that Christ has satisfied for our sins, and merited eternal life; but there is also a sense of it; a sense that Christ’s sufferings do satisfy, and that he did merit, or was worthy that we should be accepted for his sake. There is a difference between being convinced that it is so, and having a sense that it is so- There is in the essence of justifying faith, included a receiving of Christ as a Saviour from sin. For we embrace him as the author of life, as well as Saviour from misery. But the sum of that eternal life which Christ purchased is holiness; it is a holy happiness. And there is in faith a liking of the happiness that Christ has procured and offers. The Jews’ despising the pleasant land, is mentioned as part of their unbelief. It must be as the gospel reveals Christ, or in the gospel notion of him, the soul must close with Christ. For whosoever is offended in Christ, in the view that the gospel gives us of him, cannot be said to believe in him; for he is one that is excluded from blessedness, by that saying of Christ, “Blessed is he whosoever is not offended in me.”
§ 40. There is implied in faith, not only a believing of Christ to be a real, sufficient, and excellent Saviour for me, and having a complacency in him as such; but in a complete act of faith, there is an act of the soul in this view of him, and disposition towards him, seeking to him, that he would be my Saviour; as is evident, because otherwise prayer would not be the expression of faith. But prayer is only the voice of faith to God through Christ: and this is further evident, as faith is expressed by a coming to Christ, and a looking to him to be saved.
§ 41. There is hope implied in the essence of justifying faith. Thus there is hope that I may obtain justification by Christ, though there is not contained in its essence a hope that I have obtained it. And so there is a trust in Christ contained in the essence of faith. There is a trust implied in seeking to Christ to be my Saviour, in an apprehension that he is a sufficient Saviour; though not a trust in him, as one that has promised to save me, as having already performed the condition of the promise. If a city was besieged and distressed by a potent enemy, and should hear of some great champion at a distance, and should be induced by what they hear of his valour and goodness, to seek and send to him for relief, believing what they have heard of his sufficiency, and thence conceiving hope that they may be delivered; the people, in sending, may be said to trust in such a champion; as of old the children of Israel, when they sent into Egypt for help, were said to trust in Egypt. It has by many been said, that the soul’s immediately applying Christ to itself as its Saviour, was essential to faith; and so that one should believe him to be his Saviour. Doubtless, an immediate application is necessary. But that which is essential, is not the soul’s immediately applying Christ to itself so properly, as its applying itself to Christ.
§ 42. Good works are in some sort implied in the very nature of faith, as is implied in 1 Tim. v. 8. where the apostle, speaking of them that do not provide for their parents, says, ” If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith.”
§ 43. Faith is that inward sense and act, of which prayer is the expression; as is evident, 1. Because in the same manner as the freedom of grace, according to the gospel covenant, is often set forth by this, that he that believes, receives; so it also oftentimes is by this, that he that asks, or prays, or calls upon God, receives; Matt. vii. 7, 8, 9, 10. “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Mark xi. 23, 24. To the same purpose with that last-mentioned place in Matthew. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.” “The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon him, to all that call upon him m truth.” The prophet, speaking there of gospel-times, says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all, is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved:” quoting the forementioned place in Joel.
2. The same expressions that are used in Scripture for faith, may be well used for prayer also; such as coming to God or Christ, and looking to him. “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
3. Prayer is often plainly spoken of as the expression of faith. As it very certainly is in Rom. x. 11, 12, 13, 14. “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him, shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all, is rich unto all that call upon him; for whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” Christian prayer is called the prayer of faith, James v. 15. And believing is often mentioned as the life and soul of true prayer, as in the forementioned place. Matt. xxi. 21, 22. “I will that men every where lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” And “Draw near in full assurance of faith.” “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”
Faith in God, is expressed in praying to God. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is expressed in praying to Christ, and praying in the name of Christ; John xiv. 13, 14. And the promises are made to asking in Christ’s name, in the same manner as they are to believing in Christ. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thin;; in my name, I will do it.” Chap. xvi. 23, 24. “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name: ask, and receive, that your joy may be fill.”
§ 44. Trusting in Christ, is implied in the nature of faith; as is evident by “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone, and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on him, shall not be ashamed.” The apostle there in the context is speaking of justifying faith; and it is evident, that trusting in Christ is implied in the import of the word believeth. For being ashamed, as the word is used in Scripture, is the passion that arises upon the frustration of truth or confidence. There is implied in justifying faith, a trusting to Christ’s truth and faithfulness, or a believing what he declares and promises; as is evident, in that it is called not only believing in Christ, and believing on Christ, but believing Christ; “He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life.” Trusting in Christ is often implied in faith, according to the representations of Scrip-tare; “Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.”
§ 45. Why is this reception or unition of the soul properly expressed by faith? Answer. Not so much, merely from the nature of the act, more abstractedly considered, which is unition, reception, or closing; but from the nature of the act, conjunctly with the state of the agent and the object of the act, which qualifies and specifies the act, and adds certain qualifications to the abstract idea of unition, closing, or reception. Consider the state of the receiver; guilty, miserable, undone, impotent, helpless, unworthy; and the nature and worth of the received, he being a divine, invisible Saviour: the end for which he is received, the benefits invisible: the ground on which he is received or closed with, the word of God, and his invitations and promises: the circumstances of those things that are received, supernatural, incomprehensible, wonderful, difficult, unsearchable: the proper act of unition or reception in such a case, is most aptly expressed by the word faith. Tearfulness is opposite to faith, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” And “But the fearful and the unbelieving.” Justifying faith is sometimes called hope in Scripture.
§ 46. The condition both of the first and second covenant, is a receiving, compliance with, or yielding to, a signification or declaration from God, or to a revelation made from God. A receiving or yielding to a signification of the will of God, as our sovereign Lord and Lawgiver, is most properly called obedience. The receiving and yielding to a strange, mysterious revelation and offer which God makes of mercy to sinners, being a revelation of things spiritual, supernatural, invisible, and mysterious, through an infinite power, wisdom, and grace of God, is properly called faith. There is indeed obedience in the condition of both covenants, and there is faith or believing God in both. But the different name arises from the remarkably different nature of the revelation or manifestations made. The one is a law; the other a testimony and offer. The one is a signification of what God expects that we should do towards him, and what he expects to receive from us; the other a revelation of what he has done for us, and an offer of what we may receive from him. The one is an expression of God’s great authority over us, in order to a yielding to the authority; the other is a revelation of God’s mysterious and wonderful mercy, and wisdom, and power for us, in order to a reception answerable to such a revelation.
The reason why this was not so fully insisted upon under the Old Testament, under the denomination of faith, was, that the revelation itself of this great salvation, was not thus explicitly and fully made.
It must most naturally be called faith, 1. Because the word that is the object of it, is a revelation which most nearly concerns our interest and good; and that a revelation not of a work to be done by us, but an offer made to us only to be received by us.
If it were a manifestation otherwise than by testimony, a receiving of it, and yielding to it, would not so naturally be called faith; and if a mere manifestation of something not nearly concerning us, it would not naturally be called faith. For idle stories, that do not concern us, are not the object of trust or dependence. If it were a manifestation in order to something expected from us; some work to be done by us; a yielding to it would not so properly be called faith. For yielding, then, would imply something more than just receiving the testimony.
2. Because the person that is the object of it, is revealed in the character of a wonderful Saviour. A receiving of a person in the character of a Saviour, is a proper act of trust and affiance. And a receiving a divine, invisible Saviour, that offers to save us by infinite power, wisdom, and mercy, and by very mysterious, supernatural works, is properly faith.
3. The benefits that are revealed, which are the objects of faith, are things spiritual, invisible, wonderful, and future; and therefore, embracing and depending on these, is properly faith.
§ 47. Faith implies a cleaving to Christ, so as to be disposed to sell and suffer all for him. See “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also, many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.” “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”
§ 48. Faith is not all Kind of assent to the word of God as true and divine. For so the Jews in Christ’s time assented to the books of Moses, and therefore Christ tells them, that they trusted in Moses; “There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.” Yet the very thing that Moses accuses them for, was not believing in him, i. e. believing so as to yield to his sayings, and comply with him, or obey him, as the phrase in the New Testament is concerning Christ. And therefore Christ says in the next verse, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.” There may be a strong belief of divine things in the understanding, and vet no saving faith; as is manifest by “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing.” Not only trusting in Christ, as one that has undertaken to save us, and as believing that he is our Saviour, is faith; but applying to him, or seeking to him, that he would become our Saviour, with a sense of his reality and goodness as a Saviour, is faith; as is evident by “In him shall the Gentiles trust.” Compared with the place whence it is cited, ”To it shall the Gentiles seek;” together with “And they that know thy name, will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Which agrees well with faith’s being called a looking to Christ, or coming to him for life, a flying for refuge to him, or flying to him for safety. And this is the first act of saving faith. And prayer’s being the expression of faith, confirms this. This is further confirmed by “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong: but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord.” When it is said, “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake:” it is equivalent to that scripture, “He that believeth shall never be confounded.” And when it is said, verse 32. “And your heart shall live that seek the Lord;” it is equivalent to that scripture, “The just shall live by faith.” So Psalm xxii. 26. and Psalm lxx. 4. And so verse 6. “Seek the Lord, and ye shall live.” And ver. 8.“Seek him that made the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning.’’ “Look from the top of Amana.” “At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel, and he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands: neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves or the images.” “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” “I will look again towards thine holy temple.” “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” “They looked unto “him, and were lightened; their faces were not ashamed.”
§ 49. Faith is a taking hold of God’s strength; “O let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me.” Faith is expressed by stretching out the hand to Christ; “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.” So Christ said to the man that had the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand.” Promisesof mercy and help are often in Scripture made to rolling our burden, and rolling ourselves, or rolling our way on the Lord. “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Psal. xxii. 8. and xxxii. 5. “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.”
§ 50. That there are different sorts of faith, and that all believing that Christ is the Son of God, and Saviour of the world, &c. is not true and saving faith, or that faith which most commonly has the name of faith appropriated to it in the New Testament, is exceedingly evident by “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” Here all false disciples, that had but a temporary faith, that thought him to be the Messiah, but would fall away, as Judas and others, are said to be those that believed not, making an essential difference between their belief, and that grace that has the term faith, or believing, appropriated to it. Faith is a receiving of Christ into the heart, in such a sense as to believe that he is what he declares himself to be, and to have such a high esteem of him as an excellent Lord and Saviour, and so to prize him, and so to depend upon him, as not to be ashamed nor afraid to profess him, and openly and constantly to appear on his side. See Rom. x.8-13.
§ 51. Trusting in riches, as Christ uses the expression concerning the rich young man, and as the expression is used elsewhere, is an extensive expression, comprehending many dispositions, affections, and exercises of heart towards riches; so faith in Christ, or trusting in Christ, is as extensive. The soul’s active closing or uniting with Christ, is faith. But the act of the soul, in its uniting or closing, must be agreeable to the kind and nature of the union that is to be established between Christ and the saints, and that subsists between them, and is the foundation of the saints’ communion with Christ. Such is the nature of it, that it is not merely like the various parts of a building, that are cemented and cleave fast together; or as marble and precious stones may be joined, so as to become one: but it is such a kind of union as subsists between the head and living members, between stock and branches; between which, and the head or stock, there is such a kind of union, that there is an entire, immediate, perpetual dependence for, and derivation of, nourishment, refreshment, beauty, fruitfulness, and all supplies; yea, life and being. And the union is wholly for this purpose; this derivation is the end of it; and it is the most essential thing in the union. Now such a union as this, when turned into act, (if I may so say,) or an active union of an intelligent rational being, that is agreeable to this kind of union, and is a recognition and expression, and as it were the active band of it, is something else besides mere love. It is an act most properly expressed by the name of faith, according to the proper meaning of the word so translated, as it was used in the days when the Scriptures were written.
§ 52. Trusting in a prince or ruler, as the phrase was understood among the Jews, implied in it faithful adherence and entire subjection, submission, and obedience. So much the phrase plainly implies; “And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and, if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.” We have an account of the fulfilment of this parable in the sequel. How the men of Shechem did not prove faithful subjects to Abimelech, according to their covenant or agreement with him, but dealt treacherously with him. Ver. 23. And how accordingly Abimelech proved the occasion of their destruction. The like figure of speech is used to signify the nation’s obedience to the king of Assyria, “All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations.” So also it signifies the subjection of the nations to Nebuchadnezzar; ” The tree grew, and it was strong: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh fed of it.” The benefit that those who are the true subjects of Christ have by him, is expressed by the very same things; “In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.” Our trusting in God and Christ, is often expressed by our trusting in his shadow, and under the shadow of his wings, and the like; Psal. xvii. 8.and xxxvi. 7. and lvii. 1. and lxiii. 7. and xci. 1. Cant. ii. 3. Isa. iv. 6. and xxv. 4. Here see Ruth ii. 12. compared with chap. i. 16. John iii. 36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: he that believeth not the Son Greek The force of the word may in some measure be learned from Acts v. 36, 37. and “And to him they agreed or obeyed;” the word is the same in the Greek. And “But do not thou yield unto them;” the word is the same in the Greek. “I was not disobedient (Greek) to the heavenly vision;” “Disobedient to parents, Greek.” See also “Some of them believed (in the Greek Greek,) and consorted with Paul and Silas.” “The unbelieving Jews, Greek.” “The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Greek.” We may judge something of the force of the word Greek, by the signification of the word whence it comes; Greek. is the passive of Greek, which signifies, to counsel, to move or entice, draw or persuade unto.
§ 53. That a saving belief of truth arises from love, or a holy disposition and relish of heart, appears by Phil. i. 9.
10. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent.” That this approving of the things that are excellent, is mentioned as an instance of the exercise of that knowledge and judgment that is spoken of as the fruit of love, appears more plainly in the original, as the connexion is evident, Greek, unto the approving. The same thing appears by “That they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
§ 54. It is fit that, seeing we depend so entirely and universally, visibly, and remarkably, on God, in our fallen state, for happiness, and seeing the special design of God was to bring us into such a great and most evident dependence; that the act of the soul, by which it is interested in this benefit, bestowed in this way, should correspond; viz. a looking and seeking to, and depending on God for it; that the unition of heart, that is the proper term, should imply such an application of the soul to God, and seeking his benefits only and entirely, and with full sense of dependence on him, that as the condition before was obedience, or rendering to God, so now it should be seeking and looking to him, drawing and deriving from him, and with the whole heart depending on him, on his power and free grace, &c. Faith is the proper active union of the soul with Christ as our Saviour, as revealed to us in the gospel. But the proper active union of the soul with Christ as our Saviour, as revealed to us in the gospel, is the soul’s active agreeing, and suiting or adapting itself, in its act, to the exhibition God gives us of Christ, and his redemption; to the nature of the exhibition, being pure revelation, and a revelation of things perfectly above our senses and reason; and to Christ himself in his person as revealed, and in the character under which he is revealed to us; and to our state with regard to him in that character; and to our need of him, and concern with him, and his relation to us, and to the benefits to us, with which he is exhibited and offered to us in that revelation; and to the great design of God in that method and divine contrivance of salvation revealed. But the most proper name for such an action, union, or unition of the soul to Christ, as this, of any that language affords, is faith.
§ 55. The revelation or exhibition that God first made of himself, was of his authority, demanding and requiring of us, that we should render something to him that nature and reason required. The act of the soul that is suitable to such an exhibition, may be expressed by submitting, doing, obeying, and rendering to God. The exhibition which God makes of himself, since our fall, in the gospel, is not of his power and authority, as demanding of us, but of his sufficiency for as, as needing, empty, helpless; and of his grace and mercy to us, as unworthy and miserable. And the exhibition is by pure revelation of things quite above all our senses and reason, or the reach of any created faculties, being of the mere good pleasure of God. The act in us, that is proper and suitable to, and well according to, such an exhibition as this, may be expressed by such names as believing, seeking, looking, depending, acquiescing, or in one word, faith.
§ 56. That believing, in the New Testament, is much the same as trusting, in the Old, is confirmed by comparing “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord ver. 7. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, whose hope the Lord is” with “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” It also is confirmed by this, that trusting in God, and hoping in him, are used in the Old Testament as expressions of the same import. So hope is often in the New Testament used to signify the same thing that, in other places, is signified by faith. “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust.” “Now the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Compare Dan. iii. 38. with Dan. vi. 23. and Heb. xi. 33, 34.
It is manifest, that trusting in God is a phrase of the same import with believing in him, by comparing “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me;” with Isa. xxviii. 16. and Rom. ix. 33. and x. 11. 1 Pet. vi. 6, 7, 8. These places show, that waiting for God, signifies the same as believing on him. And it is evident, by various passages of Scripture, that waiting on God, or for God, signifies the same as trusting in him.
§ 57. That saving faith implies in its nature divine love, is manifest by “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” The apostle’s design in this verse seems to be, to show the connexion there is between a true and sincere respect to God, and a respect to and union with Christ; so that he who is united to the Son, is so to the Father, and vice versa. As he believes in Christ, and so loves him, it is evident that lie is a child of God, and vice versa. He whose heart is united to the Father, is so to the Son too. He that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. (Compare chap. ii. 22, 23, 24. and chap. iv. 15. with John xiv. 1. and John xv. 23, 24.) The same is further manifest again by the following verses of this chapter, 3, 4, 5. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous;” i. e. this is a good evidence that we have true love to God, that we are enabled to triumph over the difficulties we meet with in this evil world, and not to esteem the yoke of denial of our worldly lusts a grievous and heavy yoke, and on that account be unwilling to take it upon us. “For whosoever is born of God, overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” This is explaining what he had said before, that our love to God enables us to overcome the difficulties that attend keeping God’s commands; which shows that love is the main thing in saving faith, the life and power of it, by which it produces great effects; agreeably to what the apostle Paul says, when he calls saving faith, ”faith effectual by love.“
§ 58. Seeking God is from time to time spoken of as the condition of God’s favour and salvation, in like manner as trusting in him; “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him; that seek thy face, O Jacob.” “Glory ye in his holy name. Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.” See the same words in Psal. cv. 3. “The meek shall eat and be satisfied. They shall praise the Lord that seek him. Your heart shall live for ever.” “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”
They that seek God are spoken of as those that love God’s salvation. “Let all those that seek thee, rejoice and be glad in thee; and let such as love thy salvation, say continually, Let the Lord be magnified.” We have the same words again, Psal. xl. 16. The expression seems to be in some measure parallel with trusting in God’s salvation; “Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation.” And hoping in God’s salvation, “I have hoped for thy salvation.” And waiting for God’s salvation, “I have waited for thy salvation, O God.” “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him; to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” “I will wait for the God of my salvation.” faith effectual by love Agreeably to this, despising the pleasant land, is spoken of as an exercise of the spirit of unbelief; “Yea, they despised the pleasant land; they believed not his word.”
§ 59. Flying, resorting, or running to, as to a refuge, are terms used as being equivalent to trusting; “My refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, God is a refuge for us.” Psal. xci. 2. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust.” “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort. Thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.” “Who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us.”
§ 60. Waiting on the Lord, waiting for his salvation, and the like, are terms used as being equivalent to trusting in God in the Scripture. “O my God, I trust in thee; let me not be ashamed.” Verse 5. “On thee do I wait all the day.” Verse 21. “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for on thee do I wait.” ” Trust in the Lord.” Ver. 5. “Trust also in him.” Verse 7. “Rest on the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”
§ 61. Hoping in God, hoping in his mercy, &c. are used as terms equivalent to trusting in God. “That they might set their hope in God.” “Happy is that man that hath the God of Jacob for his aid; whose hope is in the Lord his God.” “O the hope of Israel, and the Saviour thereof in time of trouble.” “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord; whose hope the Lord is.” Verse 13. “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed.” Verse 17. “Thou art my hope in the day of evil.” &c. “Hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead; to an inheritance incorruptible, &c. who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, wherein ye greatly rejoice; that the trial of your faith being much more precious whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice, &c. receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” Verse 13. “Be ye sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” verse 21, 22. “Who by him do believe in God, who raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God: seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” Chap. iii. 15. “And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Matt. xii. 21. “In his name shall the Gentiles trust;” in the original GREEK, hope.
§ 62. Looking to, or looking for, are used as phrases equivalent to trusting, seeking, hoping, waiting, believing on, &c. “And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived;” together with “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” “Unto thee I lift up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their master, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the band of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.”
§ 63. Rolling oneself, or burden, on the Lord, is an expression used as equivalent to trusting. “He trusted in the Lord, that he would deliver himin the original, “He rolled himself on the Lord.”:” “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” In the Hebrew, Roll thy way upon the Lord. “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” In the Hebrew, Roll thy works.
§ 64. Leaning on the Lord, and staying ourselves on him, are of the same force. “Yet will they lean on the Lord.” “Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?”
§ 65. Relying on God, “Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed; because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers;” compared with verses 14, 15. wherein it is said, “And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind; and they cried unto the Lord, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. Then the men of Judah gave a shout, and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel, before Abijan and Judah.”
§ 66. Committing ourselves, our cause, &c. unto God, is of the same force. “I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause, who doth great things, and unsearchable, marvellous things without number.”
§ 67. The distinction of the several constituent parts or acts of faith, in assent, consent, and affiance, if strictly considered and examined, will appear not to be proper and just, or strictly according to the truth and nature of things; because the parts are not all entirely distinct one from another, and so are in some measure confounded one with another: for the last, viz. affiance, implies the other two, assent and consent; and is nothing else but a man’s assent and consent, with particular relation or application to himself and his own case, together with the effect of all in his own quietness and comfort of mind, and boldness in venturing on this foundation, in conduct and practice.
Affiance consists in these five things: 1. Consent to something proposed, to be obtained by another person, as good, eligible, or desirable, and so for him. 2. Assent of the judgment to the reality of the good, as to be obtained by him; that he is sufficient, faithful, &c. 3. The mind’s applying itself to him for it, which is no other than the soul’s desiring him to possess us of this good consented to, expressing these desires before him, that he may see and take notice of them, i. e. expressing these desires with an apprehension that he sees our hearts, and designedly spreading them before him, to the end that they might be observed by him and gratified. 4. Hoping that the good will be obtained in this way; which hope consists in two things, viz. expectation of the good in this way; and in some, ease, quietness, or comfort of mind, arising from this expectation. 5. Adventuring some interest on this hope in practice; which consists either in doing something that implies trouble, or brings expense or suffering, or in omitting something that we should otherwise do; by which omission some good is foregone, or some evil is brought on.
If these acts cannot in strictness all take place at the same moment of time, though they follow one another in the order of nature, yet they are all implied in the act that is exercised the first moment, so far as that act is of such a nature as implies a necessary tendency to what follows. In these last three especially consists man’s committing himself to Christ as a Saviour. In the third and fourth especially consists the soul’s looking to Christ as a Saviour.
§ 60. In that consent to the way or method of salvation, which there is in saving faith, the heart has especially respect to two things in that method, that are the peculiar glory of it, and whereby it is peculiarly contrary to corrupt nature: 1. Its being away wherein God is so exalted and set so high, and man so debased and set so low. God is made all in all, and man nothing. God is magnified as self-sufficient, and all-sufficient, and as being all in all to us; his power and grace, and Christ’s satisfaction and merits, being all: and man is annihilated; his power, his righteousness, his dignity, his works, are made nothing of.
2. Its being so holy a way; a way of mere mercy, yet of holy mercy; mercy in saving the sinner, by showing no favour or countenance to sin; a way of free grace, yet of holy grace; not grace exercised to the prejudice of God’s holiness, but in such a way as peculiarly to manifest God’s hatred to sin and opposition to it, and strict justice in punishing it, and that he will by no means clear the guilty; every way manifesting the infinite evil and odiousness of sin, much more than if there had been no salvation offered. Therefore, humiliation and holiness are the chief ingredients in the act of consent to this way of salvation.
In these things I have spoken only of a consent to the way or method of salvation. But in saving faith is included also a consent to the salvation itself, or the benefits procured. What is peculiarly contrary to this in corrupt nature, is a worldly spirit; and therefore in order to this act of consent there must be mortification to or weaned-ness from the world, and a selling of all for the pearl of great price.
Lastly. Besides all these, there is in saving faith a consent to Christ himself, or a closing of the heart or inclination with the person of Christ. This implies each of the three things forementioned, viz. humiliation, holiness, and renouncing the world. It implies humiliation; for as long as men deify themselves, they will not adore Jesus Christ. It implies sanctification; for Christ’s beauty, for which his person is delighted in and chosen, is especially his holiness. It implies forsaking the world; for as long as men set their hearts on the world as their chief good, and have that as the chief object of the relish and complaisance of their minds, they will not relish and take complaisance in Christ, and set their hearts on him as their best good. The heart of a true believer consents to three things exhibited in the gospel of salvation. 1. The person who is the author of the salvation. 2. The benefit, or the salvation itself. 3. The way or method in which this person is the author of this benefit.
§ 69. Faith implies a cleaving of the heart to Christ; because a trusting in others is spoken of as a departing of the heart from the Lord. “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, whose heart departeth from the Lord.” So a heart of unbelief is a heart that departeth from the Lord. “Lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Faith has a double office. It accepts Christ from God, and presents Christ to God. It accepts Christ in the word, and makes use of him in prayer. In the word, God offereth him to you as Lord and Saviour, to give you repentance and remission of sins. Now, when you consent to God’s terms, this is to believe in him. Faith presents Christ to God; “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of him.” All religion lieth in coming to God by him. “Wherefore he is able also to save them unto the uttermost, that come unto God through him; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Dr. Manton, vol. v. p. 382.
§ 70. We often read in the New Testament of the calling of Christians, of their high calling; and that effect of God’s word and Spirit, by which they are brought to a saving faith, is called their calling; and true believers are spoken of as the called of God, called saints, &c. And this call is often represented as an invitation, an invitation to come to Christ, to come and join themselves to him, to come to follow him, to continue with him, to be of his party, his society, seeking his interest, &c. To come to him for his benefits, to come for deliverance from calamity and misery, to come for safety, to come for rest, to come to eat and drink; an invitation to come into his house, to a feast. And faith is often called by the name of GREEK, hearing, hearkening, yielding to, and obeying the gospel, obeying Christ, being obedient to the faith, obeying the form of doctrine, &c. Hence we may learn the nature of saving faith; that it is an accepting, yielding to, and complying with the gospel, as such a call and invitation; which implies the hearing of the mind, i. e. the mind’s apprehending or understanding the call; a believing of the voice, and the offer and promises contained in it; and accepting, esteeming, prizing the person and benefits invited to; a falling in of the inclination, the choice, the affection, &c.
§ 71. Faith, as the word is used in Scripture, does not only signify dependence, as it appears in venturing in practice”, but also appears in the rest of the mind, in opposition to anxiety; as appears by “take no thought shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” So “Take no thought how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith! Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” compared with Philip. iv. 6, 7. and 1 Peter v. 7. This is agreeable to that phrase used in the Old Testament for trusting, “Roll thy burthen on the Lord.” “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
§ 72. The following inquiries concerning saving faith, are proper and important:
1. Whether justifying faith, in its proper essence, implies, besides the act of the judgment, also an act of the inclination and will?
2. Whether it properly implies love in its essence?
3. What are the scripture descriptions, characters, and representations of justifying faith?
4. What is the true definition of justifying faith, a definition which agrees with the scripture representation of faith, and takes all in?
5. Whether the word faith, as used in the gospel, has a signification diverse from what it has in common speech?
6. Why the word faith is used to signify this complex act of the mind?
7. How far trusting in Christ is of the nature and essence of faith?
8. Whether assent, consent, and affiance, be a proper distribution of the various and distinct acts of faith?
9. Whether hope, as the word is used in the New Testament, be properly distinct from saving faith?
10. What does the word trust imply in common speech?
11. What it implies as used in the Scriptures?
12. In what sense faith implies obedience?
13. What is the nature of self-righteousness?
14. How self-righteousness is peculiarly opposite to the nature of faith?
15. In what sense there must be a particular application in the act of saving faith?
16. Whether the first act of faith is certainly more lively and sensible, than some of the weakest of the consequent acts of saving faith?
17. In what sense perseverance in faith is necessary to salvation?
18. What sort of evidence is it which is the principal immediate ground of that assent of the judgment which is implied in saving faith?
§ 73. Calling on the name of Christ, is often spoken of as the proper expression of saving faith in Christ. Acts ii. 21. Rom. x. 13, 14. 1 Cor. i. 2. Acts ix. 14, 21, 22, 16. Faith is trusting in Christ. See Doddriddge’s note on Acts xvi. 31.
What in that prophecy of the Messiah in is expressed thus, “The isles shall wait for his law,” is, as cited in “In his name shall the Gentiles trust.”
Coming to Christ, and believing in him, are evidently used as equipollent expressions, in John vi. 29, 30. 35. 37, 40, 44, 45, 47, 64, 65. This coming, wherein consists believing, implies an attraction of the heart, as is manifest by verses 44, 45.
Christ, by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, evidently means the same thing that he intends in the same chapter, by believing in him, and coming to him. Compare John vi. 50, 51-54. 56-58,. with verses 29, 30, 35-37, 40, 44, 45, 47, 64, 65.
Saving faith is called in Greek, ” The confidence and the rejoicing of the hope.” Well expressing the act of the whole soul that is implied in saving faith, the judgment, the will, and affections. So in ” Let us hold fast the profession of our faith.” In the original it is Greek, hope.
Justifying faith is nothing else but true virtue in its proper and genuine breathings adapted to the case, to the revelation made, the state we are in, the benefit to be received, and the way and the means of it, and our relation to these things.
Faith is a sincere seeking righteousness and salvation, of Christ, and in Christ. “Hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” See also the promises made, both in the Old Testament and New, to them that seek the Lord. To saving faith in Christ belongs adoration, submission, and subjection, as appears by “Unto me every knee shall bow,” with the foregoing and following verses.
The general description of justifying faith is a proper reception of Christ and his salvation, or a proper active union of the soul to Christ as a Saviour. I say, a proper reception, which implies that it is a receiving him in a manner agreeable to his office and character and relation to us, in which he is exhibited and offered to us, and with regard to those ends and effects for which he is given to mankind, was sent into the world, and is appointed to be preached; and in a manner agreeable to the way in which he is exhibited, made known, and offered, i. e, by divine revelation, without being exhibited to the view of ourselves; and the nature of his person, character, offices, and benefits; and the way of salvation, as related to our faculties, mysterious and incomprehensible; and in a manner agreeable to our circumstances, and our particular necessities, and immediate and infinite personal concern with the revelation and offer of the Saviour. A union of soul to this Saviour, and a reception of him and his salvation, which is proper in these respects, is most aptly called by the name of faith.
§ 74. That love belongs to the essence of saving faith, is manifest by comparing “Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, &c. what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him,” as cited by the apostle, “It is for them that love him.” Now it is evident that waiting for God, in the Old Testament, signifies the same with faith in God, or trusting in God.
Dr. Goodwin, in vol. 1. of his Works, p. 286. says, “The papists say, wickedly and wretchedly, that love is the form and soul of faith.” But how does the truth of this charge of wickedness appear?
It was of old the coming to the sacrifice, as one consenting to the offering, active in choosing and constituting that as his offering, and looking to it as the means of atonement for his sins, that interested him in the sacrifice; as appears by “Could never make the comers thereunto perfect. For then, the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins.” Compare chap. ix. 9.
Believing in one for any benefit, as sufficient for the benefit, and disposed to procure it, and accordingly leaving our interest with him, with regard to that benefit, is implied in trusting in him, “Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labour with him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?”
As the whole soul in all its faculties is the proper subject and agent of faith, so undoubtedly there are two things in saving faith, viz. belief of the truth, and an answerable disposition of heart. And therefore faith may be defined, a thorough believing of what the gospel reveals of a Saviour of sinners, as true and perfectly good, with the exercise of an answerable disposition towards him. That true faith, in the scripture sense of it, implies not only the exercise of the understanding, but of the heart or disposition, is very manifest. Many important things pertaining to saving religion, which the Scripture speaks of under the name of some exercise of the understanding, imply the disposition and exercise of the heart also. Such as, knowing God understanding the word of God having eyes to see, and a heart to understand. And piety is called wisdom. So men’s wickedness is called ignorance, folly, &c. A being wise in one’s own eyes, implies a high opinion of himself, with an agreeable or answerable disposition.
It is evident that trust in Christ implies the disposition or will, the receiving and embracing or the heart. For we do not trust in any person or thing for any thing but good, or what is agreeable to us; what we choose, incline to, and desire. Yea, trusting commonly is used with respect to great good: good that we choose, as what we depend upon for support, satisfaction, happiness, &c.
§ 75. The following things concerning the nature of faith, are extracted from Dr. Sherlock’s Several Discourses, preached at Temple. Church; discourse 14. page 257, &c. “Faith, as some think, is no proper subject for exhortation. For if faith is a mere act of the mind judging upon motives of credibility, it is as reasonable to exhort a man to see with his eyes, as to judge with his understanding. But then, if this be the true notion of faith, how comes it that in every rage we find the praises of it in the gospel? What is there in this to deserve the blessings promised to the faithful? Or whence is it that the whole of our salvation is put upon this foot? How come all these prerogatives to belong to faith, if faith be nothing else but believing things in themselves credible? Why are we not said to be justified by light as well as by faith? For is not there the same virtue in seeing things visible, as in believing things credible? Tell me then, what is faith, that it should raise men above the level of mortality, and make men become like the angels of heaven? But further, if it be only an act of the understanding formed upon due reasons, how comes it to be described in Scripture as having its seat in the heart? The apostle in the text (Heb. iii. 12.) cautions against an evil heart of unbelief; and the same notion prevails throughout the books of Scripture, and is as early as our Saviour’s first preaching. Faith, which is the principle of the gospel, respects the promises and declaration of God, and includes a sure trust and reliance on him for the performance. Beyond this, there is no further act of faith. We are not taught to believe this, in order to our believing something else; but here, faith has its full completion, and leads immediately to the practice of virtue and holiness. For this end was the Son of God revealed, to make known the mind and will of the Father, to declare his mercy and pardon, and to confirm the promises of eternal life to mankind. He that believes and accepts this deliverance from the bondage of sin, and through patience and perseverance in well doing, waits for the blessed hope of immortality; who passes through the world as a stranger and pilgrim, looking for another country, and a city whose builder is God; this is he whose faith shall receive the promise, whose confidence shall have great recompence of reward.”
Here Dr. Sherlock speaks of that true Christian faith, which is the principle of the gospel, as including a sure trust and reliance on God. The same author elsewhere, in the same book, page 251. speaks of reliance or dependence on God, as arising from a principle of love to God, in the words following: “The duties we owe to God, are founded in the relation between God and us. I observed likewise to you, that love naturally transforms itself into all relative duties, which arise from the circumstances of the person related. Thus, in the present case, if we love God, and consider him as Lord and Governor of the world, our love will soon become obedience. If we consider him as wise, and good, and gracious, our love will become honour and adoration. If we add to these our own natural weakness and infirmity, lore will teach us dependence, and prompt us in all our wants to fly for refuge to our Great Protector.”
§ 76. That expression in “Gather my saints, that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice,” seems to show that such is the nature of true faith in Christ, that believers do therein, by the sincere, full act of their minds and hearts, appoint Christ to be their sacrifice; as such, bring him an offering to God; i. e. they entirely concur with what was done in his offering himself a sacrifice for sinners, as a real sacrifice sufficient and proper for them, trusting in this sacrifice. Faith is the believer’s coming to God, and giving himself up to God, hoping for acceptance by this sacrifice, and taking God for his God, hoping for an interest in him as such by this sacrifice, that so God may be his God, and he one of his people.
§ 77. It does not seem congruous, and in itself it is not proper, for God quite to pass over sin, rebellion, and treachery, and receive the offender into his entire favour, either without a repentance and sorrow, and detestation of his fault, adequate to the aggravation of it, (which can never be,) or, if there be another that appears in his stead, and has done and suffered so much as fully to satisfy and pay-the debt, it will not be proper to forgive him, whatever is done for him by his representative for his expiation, unless there be an accepting of it by the offender for that end, a sense of its being adequate to the offence, and an applying of the mind to him, and a recumbence upon him for satisfaction. This now seems to me evident from the very light of nature.
§ 78. Justifying faith is more properly called faith than acceptance, because the things received are spiritual and unseen, and because they are received as future, and entirely the free gift of God.
§ 79. Even the being of a God can be made most rationally and demonstratively evident, by divine revelation, and by gracious spiritual illumination; after the same manner as we have shown the Christian religion, the superstructure built upon that foundation, is evident. Suppose all the world had otherwise been ignorant of the being of a God before, yet they might know it, because God has revealed himself; he has shown himself; he has said a great deal to us, and conversed much with us. And this is every whit as rational a way of being convinced of the being of God, as it is of being convinced of the being of a man who comes from un unknown region, and shows himself to us, and converses with us for a long time. We have no other reason to be convinced of his being, than only that we see a long series of external concordant signs of an understanding, will, and design, and various affections. The same way God makes known himself to us in his word. And if we have a full and comprehensive knowledge of the revelation made, of the things revealed, and of the various relations and respects of the various parts, their harmonies, congruities, and mutual concordances, there appear most indubitable signs and expressions of a very high and transcendent understanding, together with a great and mighty design, an exceeding wisdom, or most magnificent power and authority, a marvellous purity, holiness, and goodness. So that if we never knew there was any such being before, yet we might be certain that this must be such a one.
§ 80. One that is well acquainted with the gospel, and sees the beauties, the harmonies, the majesty, the power, and the glorious wisdom of it and the like, may, only by viewing it, be as certain that it is no human work, as a man that is well acquainted with mankind and their works, may, by contemplating the sun, know it is not a human work; or, when he goes upon an island, and sees the various trees, and the manner of their growing, and blossoming, and bearing fruit, may know that they are not the work of man.
§ 81. Faith is very often in the Scripture called trust, especially in the Old Testament. Now, trusting is something more than mere believing. Believing is the assent to any truth testified; trusting, always respects truth that nearly concerns ourselves, in regard of some benefit of our own that it reveals to us, and some benefit that the revealer is the author of. It is the acquiescence of the mind in a belief of any person, that by his word reveals or represents himself to us as the author of some good that concerns us. If the benefit be a deliverance or preservation from misery, it is a being easy in a belief that he will do it. So, if we say, a man trusts in a castle to save him from his enemies, we mean, his mind is easy, and rests in a persuasion that it will keep him safe. If the benefit be the bestowment of happiness, it is the mind’s acquiescing in it, that he will accomplish it; that is, he is persuaded he will do it; he has such a persuasion, that he rejoices in confidence of it.
Thus, if a man has promised a child to make him his heir, if we say he trusts in him to make him his heir, we mean he has such a belief of what he promises, that his mind acquiesces and rejoices in it, so as not to be disturbed by doubts and questions whether he will perform it. These things all the world means by trust. The first fruit of trust is being willing to do and undergo in the expectation of some thing. He that does not expect the benefit, so much as to make him ready to do or undergo, dares not trust it; he dares not run the venture of it. Therefore, they may be said to trust in Christ, and they only, that are ready to do and undergo all that he desires, in expectation of his redemption. And the faith of those that dare not do so, is unsound. Therefore, such trials are called the trials of faith.
But this is to be considered, that Christ does not promise that he will be the author of our redemption, but upon condition; and we have not performed that condition, until we have believed. Therefore, we have no grounds, until we have once believed, to acquiesce in it that Christ will save us. Therefore the first act of faith is no more than this, the acquiescence of the mind in him in what he does declare absolutely. It is the soul’s resting in him, and adhering to him, so far as his word does reveal him to all as a Saviour for sinners, as one that has wrought out redemption, as a sufficient Saviour, as a Saviour suited to their case, as a willing Saviour, as the author of an excellent salvation, &c. so as to be encouraged heartily to seek salvation of him, to come to him, to love, desire, and thirst after him as a Saviour, and fly for refuge to him. This is the very same thing in substance, as that trust we spoke of before, and is the very essence of it. This is all the difference, that it was attended with this additional belief, viz. that the subject had performed the condition, which does not belong to the essence of faith. That definition which we gave of trust before, holds, viz. the acquiescence of the mind in the word of any person who reveals himself to us as the author of some good that nearly concerns us. Trusting is not only believing that a person will accomplish the good he promises: the thing that he promises may be very good, and the person promising or offering may be believed, and yet not properly trusted in; for the person to whom the offer is made, may not be sensible that the thing is good, and he may not desire it. If he offers to deliver him from something that is his misery, perhaps he is not sensible that it is his misery; or, he may offer to bestow that which is his happiness, but he may not be sensible that it is happiness. If so, though he believes him, he does not properly trust in him for it; for he does not seek or desire what he offers; and there can be no adherence or acquiescence of mind. If a man offers another to rescue him from captivity, and carry him to his own country; if the latter believes the former will do it, and yet does not desire it, he cannot be said to trust in him for it. And if the thing be accounted good, and be believed, yet if the person to whom it is offered does not like the person that does it, or the way of accomplishment of it, there cannot be an entire trust, because there is not a full adherence and acquiescence of mind.
§ 82. There are these two ways in which the mind may be said to be sensible that any thing is good or excellent: 1. When the mind judges that any thing is such as, by the agreement of mankind, is called good or excellent, viz. that which is most to general advantage, and that between which and reward there is a suitableness; or that which is agreeable to the law of the country or law of God. It is a being merely convinced in judgment that a thing is according to the meaning of the word, good, as the word is generally applied. 2. The mind is sensible of good in another sense, when it is so sensible of the beauty and amiableness of the thing, that it is sensible of pleasure and delight in the presence of the idea of it. This kind of sensibleness of good, carries in it an act of the will, or inclination or spirit of the mind, as well as of the understanding.
§ 83. The conditions of justification are, repentance and faith; and the freedom of grace appears in the forgiving of sin upon repentance, or only for our being willing to part with it, after the same manner as the bestowment of eternal life, only for accepting of it. For to make us an offer of freedom from a thing, only for quitting of it, is equivalent to the offering the possession of a thing for the receiving of it. God makes us this offer, that if we will. in our hearts quit sin, we shall be freed from it, and all the evil that belongs to it, and flows from it; which is the same thing as the offering us freedom only for accepting it. Accepting, in this case, is quitting and parting with, in our wills and inclination. So that repentance is implied in faith; it is a part of our willing reception of the salvation of Jesus Christ; though faith, with respect to sin, implies something more in it, viz. a respect to Christ, as him by whom we have deliverance. Thus by faith we destroy sin, Gal. ii. 18.
§ 84. As to that question, Whether closing with Christ in his kingly office be of the essence of justifying faith? I would say, 1. That accepting Christ in his kingly office, is doubtless the proper condition of having an interest in Christ’s kingly office, and so the condition of that salvation which he bestows in the execution of that office; as much as accepting the forgiveness of sins is the proper condition of the forgiveness of sin. Christ, in this kingly office, bestows salvation; and therefore, accepting him in his kingly office, by a disposition to sell all and suffer all in duty to Christ, and giving proper respect and honour to him, is the proper condition of salvation. This is manifest by “And being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;” and by “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The apostle speaks of such a confessing of Christ, or outward and open testifying our respect to him, and adhering to our duty to him as exposed to suffering, reproach, and persecution. And that such a disposition and practice is of the essence of saving faith, is manifest by “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also, many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God;” compared with “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”
2. Accepting Christ as a priest and king, cannot be separated. They not only cannot be separated, or be asunder in their subject, but they cannot be considered as separate things in their natures; for they are implied one in another. Accepting Christ as a king, is implied in accepting him as a priest; for, as a priest, he procures a title to the benefits of his kingly office; and therefore, to accept him as a priest, implies an accepting him in his kingly office: for we cannot accept the purchase of his priesthood, but by accepting the benefits purchased. If faith is supposed to contain no more immediately, than only an accepting of Christ as a Mediator for our justification; yet that justification implies a giving a title to the benefits of his kingly office, viz. salvation from sin, and conformity to his nature and will, and actual salvation by actual deliverance from our enemies, and the bestowment of glory.
§ 85. Faith divine, is a spiritual conviction of the truth of the things of religion. Some have objected against a spiritual sight of divine things in their glorious, excellent, and divine form, as being the foundation of a conviction of the truth or real existence of them, because, say they, the existence of things is in the order of nature before forms or qualities of them as excellent or odious; and so the knowledge of their existence must go before the sight of their form or quality; they must be known to be before they are seen to be excellent. I answer, It is true, things must be known to be before they are known to be excellent, if by this proposition it be understood, that things must be known really to exist, before they can be known really to exist excellent, or really to exist with such and such beauty. And all the force of the objection depends on such a meaning of this assertion. But if thereby be intended, that a thing must be known to have a real existence, before the person has a clear understanding, idea, or apprehension of the thing proposed or objected to his view, as it is in its qualities either odious or beautiful, then the assertion is not true; for his having a clear idea of something proposed to his understanding or view, as very beautiful or very odious, as is proposed, does not suppose its reality; that is, it does not presuppose it, though its real existence may perhaps follow from it. But, in our way of understanding things in general of all kinds, we first have some understanding or view of the thing in its qualities, before we know its existence. Thus it is in things that we know by our external senses, by our bodily sight for instance. We first see them, or have a clear idea of them by sight, before we know their existence by our sight. We first see the sun, and have a strong, lively, and clear idea of it in its qualities, its shape, its brightness, &c. before we know there actually exists such a body.
§ 86. Faith in Christ is the condition of salvation. It is observable, that as trusting in God, hoping in him, waiting for him, &c. are abundantly insisted on in the Old Testament, as the main condition of God’s favour, protection, deliverance, and salvation, in the book of Psalms and elsewhere; so, in most of those places where these graces of trust and hope are so insisted upon, the subjects of them arc represented as being in a state of trial, trouble, difficulty, danger, opposition, and oppression of enemies, and the like. And the clearer revelation, and more abundant light of the New Testament, bring into clearer view the state that all mankind are in with regard to those things that are invisible, the invisible God, an invisible world, and invisible enemies, and so show men’s lost, miserable, captivated, dangerous, and helpless state, and reveal the infinite mercy of God, and his glorious all-sufficiency to such wretched, helpless creatures, and also exhibit Christ in the character of the Saviour of the miserable, the great Redeemer of captives, &c. Hence faith, trust, and hope, are most fitly insisted on as the duty and qualification peculiarly proper for all mankind, and the virtue proper to be exercised in their circumstances towards God and Christ, as they reveal themselves in the gospel, as belonging to them in their character and relation to us, and concern with us, in which they are there exhibited; and as the grand condition of our salvation, or our receiving those benefits, which we, as sinful, miserable, and helpless creatures, need from them, and which Christ, as a Redeemer, appears ready to bestow.
§ 87. Dr. Manton reconciles the apostle James and the apostle Paul in the following manner, in his 5th volume of Sermons, p. 374. “Justification hath respect to some accusation: now, as there is a twofold law, there is a twofold accusation and justification; the law of works, and the law of grace. Now, when we are accused as breakers of the law of works, that is, as sinners obnoxious to the wrath of God, we plead Christ’s satisfaction as our righteousness, no works of our own. But when we are accused as non-performers of the conditions of the covenant of grace, as being neglecters and rejecters of Christ the Mediator, we are justified by producing our faith or sincere obedience; so that our righteousness by the new covenant is subordinate to our universal righteousness, with respect to the great law of God; and that we have only by Christ. If we are charged that we have broken the first covenant, the covenant of works, we allege Christ’s satisfaction and merit. If charged not to have performed the conditions of the law of grace, we answer it by producing our faith, repentance, and new obedience, and so show it to be a false charge. Our first and supreme righteousness consists in the pardon of our sins, and our acceptance in the beloved, and our right to impunity and glory. Our second and subordinate righteousness, in having the true condition of pardon and life. In the first sense, Christ’s righteousness alone is our justification and righteousness. Faith and repentance, or new obedience, is not the least part of it. But, in the second, believing, repenting, and obeying, is our righteousness in their several respective ways, viz. that the righteousness of Christ may be ours, and continue ours.” See also Dr. Manton on James, p. 310, 311, 312, and p. 331, &c.
Faith is connected with obedience. The very acceptance of Christ in his priestly office, making atonement for sin by his blood, and fulfilling the law of God by his perfect obedience unto death; and so the very approbation of the attribute of God, as it is there exhibited, an infinitely holy mercy: I say, merely the soul’s acceptance and approbation of these things, do thoroughly secure holiness of heart and life in the redeemed of Jesus Christ. They will secure their conformity to the law of God, though, by this very mercy, and this very Saviour, they arc set at liberty from the law, and are no longer under the law, as a law with its sanctions immediately taking hold of them, and binding them by its sanctions or threatenings, connecting and binding together its fulfilment and life, and its violation and death. Our hearts approving of that holy mercy of God that appears in his showing mercy to sinners, in the way of perfectly satisfying the law, suffering all the penalty of it, and of perfectly fulfilling and answering the precepts of it, implies a heart fully approving the law itself, as most worthy to be fulfilled and satisfied, approving the authority that established the law, and so its infinite worthiness of being obeyed; in that we approve of it, that so great a person should submit to that authority, and do honour to it, by becoming a servant to obey God, and a sacrifice to satisfy for the contempt done his authority, and that we approve the holy law itself as worthy of such great honour to be done it. It implies a heart entirely detesting sin, and in some sort, sensible of the infinite detestable-ness of it; that we approve of God’s making such a manifestation of his detestation of it, and approve of the declared fitness and necessity of its being punished with so great a punishment as the sufferings of Christ. Our accepting such sufferings as an atonement for our sin, implies a heart fully repenting of and renouncing sin; for it implies not only a conviction that we deserve so great a punishment, and not only a mere conviction of conscience, but an approbation of heart of the connexion of such sin with such punishment, which implies a hatred of the sin punished; and the heart’s entire approbation of such methods perfectly to fulfil the obedience of the law, by so great a person, and by his doing so great things, and denying himself so much, implies a very high approbation of this law, and the authority of the lawgiver. Therefore, this acceptance of Christ as a Saviour, by his obedience and atonement, and an acceptance of God’s holy mercy, forgiving sin, and giving life in this way, does well secure universal obedience to the law of God, as a law of liberty, and with a free and ingenuous spirit, by the obedience of children, and not of slaves. Thus, the faith that justifies the sinner, destroys sin; and the heart is purified by faith. So far as this evangelical spirit prevails, so far fear, or a legal spirit, will be needless to restrain from sin, and so far will such a legal spirit cease and be driven away.
Coroll. What has been observed, is a confirmation that this is the true nature of justifying faith, and that the essence of it lies very much in the approbation and acceptance of the heart.
§ 88. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments arc not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our Faith.” It is a doctrine taught in this text, that saving faith differs from all common faith in its nature, kind, and essence. This doctrine is inferred from the text, thus: it s said, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is son of God;” by which is manifest, that there was some great virtue that the apostles and Christians in those days used to call by the name of faith or believing, believing that Jesus is the Christ, and the like; which was a thing very peculiar and distinguishing, and belonging only to those that were born of God. Thereby cannot be meant, therefore, only a mere assent to the doctrine of the gospel, because that is common to saints and sinners, as is very evident. The apostle James plainly teaches in chapter ii. that this faith may be in those that are not in a state of salvation. And we read in the Evangelists, of many that n this sense believed, to whom Christ did not commit himself, because he knew what was in them; John ii. at the latter end, and many other places. When it is said, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;” thereby cannot be meant, whosoever has such an assent as is perfect, so as to exclude all remaining unbelief; for it is evident, that the faith of good men does not do this. Thus, a true believer said, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief;” and Christ is often reproving his true disciples, that they have so little faith. He often says to them, “O ye of little faith;” and speaks sometimes as if their faith were less than a grain of mustard-seed. Nor can the apostle, when he says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God,” mean, that whosoever has a predominant assent, or an assent that prevails above his dissent, or whose judgment preponderates that way, and has more weight in that scale than the other; because it is plain that it is not true that every one that believes in this sense, is born of God. Many natural, unregenerate men, have such a preponderating judgment of the truth of the doctrine of the gospel; without it there is no belief of it at all. For believing, in the lowest sense, implies a preponderating judgment; but it is evident, as just now was observed, that many natural men do believe; they do judge that the doctrine is true, as the devils do.
And again, when the apostle says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;” all that he intends, cannot be only, that whosoever is come to a certain particular intermediate degree of assent between the lowest degree of preponderating assent and a perfect assent, excluding all remains of unbelief; he cannot mean any certain particular intermediate degree of assent, still meaning nothing but mere assent by believing. For he does not say, he that believes or assents that Jesus is the Christ, to such a certain degree is born of God; but whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; by which must be understood, that whosoever at all performs that act which the apostle calls by that name, or whosoever has any thing at all of that kind of virtue which the apostle calls believing, is born of God; and that he that is not born of God has not that virtue that he meant, but is wholly without it. And besides, it would be unreasonable to suppose, that by this believing, which the apostle there and elsewhere lays down as such a grand note of distinction between those that are born of God, and those that are not, is meant only a certain degree of assent, which such have, that differs less from what those may have that are not born of God, than nine hundred and ninety-nine from a thousand; yea, that differs from it an infinitely little. For this is the case, if the difference be only gradual, and it be only a certain degree of faith that is the mark of being born of God. If this was the apostle’s meaning, he would use words in a manner not consistent with the use of language, as he would call things infinitely nearly alike by such distant and contrary names; and would represent the subjects in whom they are, as of such different and contrary characters, calling one believer, and the other unbeliever, one the children of God, and those that are born of God, and the other the children of the devil, as this apostle calls all that are not born of God, in this epistle, (see chapter iii. 9, 10.) and would represent one as setting to his seal that God is true, and the other as making him a liar, as in the 10th verse. of the context. And besides, if this were the case, if believers in this sense only, with such an infinitely small gradual difference, was all that he meant, it would be no such notable distinction between those that are born of God and those that are not, as the apostle represents, and as this apostle, and other apostles, do every where signify. Nay, it would not be fit to be used as a sign or characteristic for men to distinguish themselves by; for such minute gradual differences, which in this case would be alone certainly distinguishing, are altogether undiscernible, or at least with great difficulty determined; therefore, are not fit to be given as distinguishing notes of the Christian character. If words are every where used after this manner in the Bible, and, by faith in Christ, as the word is generally used there, is meant only the assent of the understanding, and that not merely a predominant assent, nor yet a perfect assent, excluding all remaining unbelief, but only a certain degree of assent between these two, rising up just to such a precise height, so that he that has this shall every where be called a believer; and he whose assent, though it predominates also, and rises up as high as the other within an infinitely little, shall be called an unbeliever, one that wickedly makes God a liar, &c. this is in effect to use words without any determinate meaning at all, or, which is the same thing, any meaning proportioned to our understandings; therefore, there is undoubtedly some great and notable difference between the faith of those who are in a state of salvation, and that of those who are not: insomuch that, without that very faith, according to the common use of language in these days, those who were not in a state of salvation, may be said not to believe at all. And besides, that virtue that the apostle here speaks of as such a great and distinguishing note of a child of God, he plainly speaks of as a supernatural thing, as something not in natural men, and given only in regeneration or being born of God, which is the great change of men from that which is natural to that which is supernatural. Men may have what is natural, by their being born, born in a natural way; but they have what is supernatural, by being born again, and born of God. But says the apostle, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” The same faith is plainly spoken of as a supernatural thing in the foregoing chapter, ver. 15. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”
But common faith is not a supernatural thing, any more than a belief of any history. It is obtained by the same means. If one be natural, and the other supernatural, then undoubtedly the difference is not only such a gradual difference, differing but an infinitely little. If all lies in the degree of assent, let us suppose that a thousand degrees of assent be required to salvation, and that there is no difference in kind in the faith of others; how unreasonable is it to say, that when a man can naturally raise his assent to nine hundred and ninety-nine degrees, yet he cannot reach the other degree by any improvement, but there must be a new birth in, order to the other degree I And as it is thus evident, that the faith or believing that Jesus is the Christ which the apostle speaks of in the text, is some virtue intended by the apostle, differing not only in degree, but in nature and kind, from any faith that unregenerate men have; so I would observe, that it is evident that this special faith, of which the apostle speaks, that so differs from common faith, is not only a faith that some Christians only have obtained, but that all have it that are in a state of salvation; because the same faith is often spoken of as that which first brings men into a stale of salvation, and not merely as that which Christians attain to afterwards, after they have performed the condition of salvation.
How often are we taught that it is by faith in Christ we are justified; and that he that believes not, is in a state of condemnation; and that it is by this men pass from a state of condemnation to a state of salvation. Compare “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life;” with chapter iii. 18. “He that believeth on him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” And this faith that thus brings into a stale of life, is expressed in the same words as it is in the text, in “But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name.” Thus it is manifest that the faith spoken of in the text, is the faith that all men have that are in a state of salvation, and the faith by which they first come into salvation, and that it is a faith especially differing in nature and kind from all common faith.
In the further prosecution of this discourse, I shall, 1. Bring some further arguments to prove, that saving faith diners from common faith in nature and essence. 2. Show wherein the essential difference lies, confirming the same from the Scriptures, which will further prove the truth of the doctrine.
FIRST. I am to bring some further arguments to prove the doctrine: and here I would observe, that there is some kind of difference or other, is most apparent from the vast distinction made in Scripture, insomuch, that those who have faith, are all from time to time spoken of as justified, and in a state of salvation, having a title to eternal life, &c. “The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth.” And chapter iii. 22. ” Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all that believe.” Rom. x. 4. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” “And by him all that believe are justified.” In these and other places, a state of salvation is predicted of every one that believeth or hath faith. It is not said of every one that believeth and walks answerably, or of every one that believeth and takes up an answerable resolution to obey; which would be to limit the proposition, and make an exception, and be as much as to say, not every one that is a believer, but to such believers only as not only believe, but obey. But this does not consist with these universal expressions: “The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth.” The righteousness of God is unto all and upon all them that believe.” “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” And by the supposition, they that have not saving faith are in a state of damnation; as it is also expressly said in Scripture, ” He that believeth not, shall be damned,” and the like. So that it is evident that there is a great difference between the virtue that the Scripture calls by the name faith, and speaks of as saving faith, let it be what it will, and all that is or can be in others. But here I would observe particularly: the difference must either be only in the degree of faith, and in the effects of it, or it is in the nature of the faith itself. And I would,
I. Show that it is not merely a difference in degree.
1. There are other scriptures, besides the text, that speak of saving faith as a supernatural thing. “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’’ This must evidently be understood of a supernatural way of coming by this belief or faith; such a way as is greatly distinguished from instruction or judgment in other matters, such as the wise and prudent in temporal things had. So “In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight. No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” So, to the same purpose is “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they all shall be taught of God: every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” And what is meant, is not merely that God gives it in his providence; for so he gives the knowledge of those wise and prudent men mentioned in the fore-cited passage. It is said, that he gives it by the teachings of his Spirit, as appears by “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” And the common influences of the Spirit, such as natural men, or men that are unregenerated, may have, are not meant, as appears by what the same apostle says in the same epistle, chap. ii. 14. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The things of the Spirit of God, to which the apostle has a special respect, are the doctrine of Christ crucified, as appears by the beginning of the chapter, and by the foregoing chapter, which he says is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. And that the influence of the Spirit, in which this saving faith is given, is not any common influence, or any thing like it, but is that influence by which men are God’s workmanship, made over again, or made new creatures, is evident, by “For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God bath before ordained that we should walk in them.” And so it is manifest by the text, that this influence, by which this faith is given, is no common influence, but a regenerating influence, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we lore God, and keep his commandments,” &c. It is spoken of as a great work, so wrought by God, as remarkably to show his power, “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would Count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” And that which makes the argument yet more clear and demonstrative is, that it is mentioned as one of the distinguishing characters of saving faith, that it is the faith of the operation of God; “You are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” Now, would this faith be any distinguishing character of the true Christian, if it were not a faith of a different kind from that which others may have? And besides, it is evidently suggested in the words, that it is by a like wonderful operation as the raising of Christ from the dead; especially taken with the following verse. The words taken together are thus, verse 12, 13. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” Let this be compared with “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” Now, is it reasonable to suppose, that such distinctions as these would be taught, as taking place between saving faith and common faith, if there were no essential difference, but only a gradual difference, and they approached infinitely near to each other?
2. The distinguishing epithets and characters ascribed to saving faith in Scripture, are such as denote the difference to be in nature and kind, and not in degree only. One distinguishing epithet is precious, “Like precious faith with us.” Now, preciousness is what signifies more properly something of the quality, than of the degree. As preciousness in gold is more properly a designation of the quality of that kind of substance, than the quantity. And therefore, when gold is tried in the fire to see whether it be true gold or not, it is not the quantity of the substance that is tried by the fire, but the precious nature of the substance. So it is when faith is tried to see whether it be a saving faith or not. “That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” If the trial was not of the nature and kind, but only of the quantity of faith, how exceedingly improper would be the comparison between the trial of faith and the trial of gold! Another distinguishing scripture note of saving faith is, that it is the faith of Abraham. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Now, the faith of Abraham cannot be the faith of that degree of which Abraham’s was; for undoubtedly multitudes are in a state of salvation, that have not that eminency of faith. Therefore, nothing can be meant by the faith of Abraham, but faith of the same nature and kind. Again, another distinguishing scripture note of saving faith is, that it is faith unfeigned. “Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Now this is an epithet that denotes the nature of a thing, and not the degree of it. A thing may be unfeigned, and yet be but to a small degree To be unfeigned, is to be really a thing of that nature and kind which it pretends to be; and not a false appearance, or mere resemblance of it. Again, another note of distinction between saving faith and common faith, plainly implied in Scripture, is, that it differs from the faith of devils. It is implied in “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is. one God; thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.” Here it is first implied, that there is a difference between saving faith and common, that may be shown by works; a difference in the cause, that may be shown by the effects; and then it is implied this difference lies in something wherein it differs from the faith of devils; otherwise there is no force in the apostle’s reasoning. But this difference cannot lie in the degree of the assent of the understanding; for the devils have as high a degree of assent as the real Christian. The difference then must lie in the peculiar nature of the faith.
3. That the difference between common faith and saving faith does not lie in the degree only, but in the nature and essence of it, appears by this; that those who are in a state of damnation i. e. spoken of as being wholly destitute of it, as wholly without that sort of faith that the saints have. They are spoken of as those that believe not, and having the gospel hid from them, being blind with regard to this light; as ” But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world bath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Now, can these things be said with any propriety, of such as are lost in general, if many of them, as well as the saved, have the same sort of faith of the same gospel, but only in a less degree, and some of them falling short in degree, but very little, perhaps one degree in a million? How can it be proper to speak of the others, so little excelling them in the degree of the same light, as having the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining unto them, and beholding as with open face the glory of the Lord, as is said of all true believers in the context? While those are spoken of as having the gospel hid from them, their minds blinded, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine unto them, and so as being lost, or in a state of damnation? Such interpretations of Scripture are unreasonable.
4. That the difference between saving faith and common faith is not in degree, but in the nature and kind, appears from this, that in the Scripture, saving faith, when weakest, and attended with very great doubts, vet is said never to fail. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” The faith of Peter was attended with very great doubts concerning Christ and his cause. Now, if the distinction between saving faith and other faith be only in the degree of assent, whereby a man was brought fully to assent to the truth, and to cease greatly to question it; then Peter’s faith would have failed. He would have been without any saving faith. For he greatly questioned the truth concerning Christ and his kingdom, especially when he denied him. Other disciples did so too; for they all forsook him and fled. Therefore it follows, that there is something peculiar in the very nature of saving faith, that remains in times even of greatest doubt, and even at those times distinguishes it from all common faith.
I now proceed, II. To show that it does not consist only in the difference of effects. The supposition that I would disprove is this, That there is no difference between saving faith and common faith as to their nature: all the difference lies in this, that in him that is in a state of salvation, faith produces another effect; it works another way; it produces a settled determination of mind, to walk in a way of universal and persevering obedience. In the unregenerate, although his faith be the same with that of the regenerate, and he has the same assent of his understanding to the truths of the gospel, yet it does not prove effectual to bring him to such a resolution and answerable practice. In opposition to this notion, I would observe,
1. That it is contrary to the reason of mankind, to suppose different effects, without any difference in the cause. It has ever been counted to be good reasoning from the effect to the cause; and it is a way of reasoning that common sense leads mankind to. But if, from a different effect, there is no arguing any difference in the cause, this way of reasoning must be given up. If there be a difference in the effect, that does not arise from some difference in the cause, then there is something in the effect that proceeds not from its cause, tax. that diversity; because there is no diversity in the cause to answer it: therefore, that diversity must arise from nothing, and consequently is no effect of any thing; which is contrary to the supposition. So this hypothesis is at once reduced to a contradiction. If there be a difference in the effect, that difference must arise from something; and that which it arises from, let it be what it will, must be the cause of it. And if faith be the cause of this diversity in the effect, as is supposed, then I would ask, what is there in faith, that can be the cause of this diversity, seeing there is no diversity in the faith to answer it? To say that the diversity of the effect arises from likeness or sameness in the cause, is a gross and palpable absurdity; and is as much as to say, that difference is produced by no difference: which is the same thing as to say, that nothing produces something.
2. If there were a difference in the effects of faith, but no difference in the faith itself, then no difference of faith could be showed by the effects. But that is contrary to Scripture, and particularly to “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” The apostle can mean nothing else by this, than that I will show thee by my works that I have a right sort of faith. I will show thee that my faith is a better faith than that of those who have no works. I will show thee the difference of the causes, by the difference of the effect. This the apostle thought good arguing. Christ thought it was good arguing to argue the difference of the trees from the difference of the fruits; “A tree is known by its fruit.” How can this be, when there is no difference in the tree? When the nature of the tree is the same, and when, indeed, though there be a difference of the effects, there is no difference at all in the faith that is the cause? And if there is no difference in the faith that is the cause, then certainly no difference can be shown by the effects. When we see two human bodies, and see actions performed and works produced by the one, and not by the other, we determine that there is an internal difference in the bodies themselves: we conclude that one is alive, and the other dead; that one has an operative nature, an active spirit in it, and that the other has none; which is a very essential difference in the causes themselves. Just so we argue an essential difference between a saving and common faith, by the words or effects produced; as the apostle in that context observes, in the last verse of the chapter, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
I come now, in the second place, to show wherein saving faith differs essentially from common faith: and shall endeavour to prove what I lay down from the Scripture, which will give farther evidence to the truth of the doctrine.
There is, in the nature and essence of saving faith, a receiving of the object of faith, not only in the assent of the judgment, but with the heart, or with the inclination and will of the soul. There is in saving faith, a receiving of the truth, not only with the assent of the mind, but with the consent of the heart; as is evident by “Received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.’’ And the apostle, describing the nature of saving faith, from the example of the ancient patriarchs, Heb. xi. describes their faith thus, verse 13. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises; but, having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” And so the evangelist John calls faith a receiving of Christ; ” But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Here, the apostle expressly declares, that he whom he means by a receiver, was die same with the believer on Christ, or one that has saving faith. And what else can be meant by receiving Christ, or accepting him, than an accepting him in heart? It is not a taking him with the hand, or any external taking or accepting him, but the acceptance of the mind. The acceptance of the mind is the act of the mind towards an object as acceptable, but that in a special manner, as the act of the inclination or will. And it is further evident, that saving faith has its seat not only in the speculative understanding or judgment, but in the heart or will; because, otherwise it is not properly of the nature of a virtue, or any part of the moral goodness of the mind: for virtue has its special and immediate seat in the will; and that qualification, that is not at all seated there, though it be a cause of virtue, or an effect of it, yet is not properly any virtue of the mind, nor can properly be in itself a moral qualification, or any fulfilment of a moral rule. But it is evident, that saving faith is one of the chief virtues of a saint, one of the greatest virtues prescribed in the moral law of God. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” It is a principal duty that God required, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom God hath sent.” “And this is his commandment, that ye believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” And therefore it is called most holy faith, Jude 20. But if it be not seated in the will, it is no more a holy faith, than the faith of devils. That it is most holy, implies, that it is one thing wherein Christian holiness does principally consist.
An objection may be raised against this last particular, viz. that the words, faith and believing, in common language, signify no more than the assent of the understanding.
Answer 1. It is not at all strange, that in matters of divinity and of the gospel of Christ, which are so exceedingly diverse from the common concerns of life, and so much above them, some words should be used in somewhat of a peculiar sense. The languages used among the nations of the world, were not first framed to express the spiritual and supernatural things of the gospel of Christ, but the common concernments of human life. Hence it comes to pass, that language in its common use, is not exactly adapted to express things of this nature; so that there is a necessity, that when the phrases of common speech are adopted into the gospel of Christ, they should some of them be used in a sense somewhat diverse from the most ordinary use of them in temporal concerns. Words were first devised to signify the more ordinary concerns of life: hence, men find a necessity, even in order to express many things in human arts and sciences, to use words in something of a peculiar sense; the sense being somewhat varied from their more ordinary use; and the very same words, as terms of art, do not signify exactly the same thing that they do in common speech. This is well known to be the case in innumerable instances; because the concerns of the arts and sciences are so diverse from the common concerns of life, that unless some phrases were adopted out of common language, and their signification something varied, there would be no words at all to be found to signify such and such things pertaining to those arts. But the things of the gospel of Christ are vastly more diverse from the common concerns of life, than the things of human arts and sciences: those things being heavenly things, and of the most spiritual and sublime nature possible, and most diverse from earthly things. Hence the use of words in common language, must not be looked upon as a universal rule to determine the signification of words in the gospel: but the rule is the use of words in Scripture language. What is found in fact to be the use of words in the Bible, by comparing one place with another, that must determine the sense in which we must understand them.
Answer 2. The words in the original, translated faith, and believing, such as GREEK, and GREEK, as often used in common language, implied more than the mere assent of the understanding: they were often used to signify affiance or trusting; which implies an act of the will, as well as of the understanding: it implies, that the thing believed is received as good and agreeable, as well as true. For trusting always relates to some good sought and aimed at in our trust; and therefore ever more implies the acceptance of the heart, and the embracing of the inclination, and desire of the soul. And therefore, trusting in Christ for salvation, implies, that he and his redemption, and those things wherein his salvation consists, are agreeable and acceptable to us.
Answer 3. Supposing saving faith to be what Calvinistical divines have ordinarily supposed it to be, there seems to be no one word in common language, so fit to express it, as faith, GREEK, as it most commonly is in the original. Orthodox divines, in the definitions of faith, do not all use exactly the same terms, but they generally come to the same thing. Their distinctions generally signify as much as a person’s receiving Christ and his salvation as revealed in the gospel, with his whole soul; acquiescing in what is exhibited as true, excellent, and sufficient for him. And to express this complex act of the mind, I apprehend no word can be found more significant than faith, which signifies both assenting and consenting: because the object of the act is wholly supernatural, and above the reach of mere reason, and therefore exhibited only by revelation and divine testimony: and the person to be believed in, is exhibited and offered in that revelation, especially under the character of a Saviour, and so, as an object of trust: and the benefits are all spiritual, invisible, wonderful, and future. If this be the true account of faith, beware how you entertain any such doctrine, as that there is no essential difference between common and saving faith; and that both consist in a mere assent of the understanding to the doctrine of religion. That this doctrine is false, appears by what has been said; and if it be false, it must needs be exceedingly dangerous. Saving faith, as you well know, is abundantly insisted on in the Bible, as in a peculiar manner the condition of salvation; being the thing by which we are justified. How much is that doctrine insisted on in the New Testament! We are said to be “justified by faith, and by faith alone: By faith we are saved”; and this is the work of God, that we believe in him whom he hath sent: The just shall live by faith: We are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ: He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Therefore, doubtless, saving faith, whatsoever that be, is the grand condition of an interest in Christ, and his great salvation. And if it be so, of what vast importance is it, that we should have right notions of what it is! For certainly no one thing whatever, nothing in religion, is of greater importance, than that which teaches us how we may be saved. If salvation itself be of infinite importance, then it is of equal importance that we do not mistake the terms of it; and if this be of infinite importance, then that doctrine that teaches that to be the term, that is not so, but very diverse, is infinitely dangerous. What we want a revelation from God for chiefly, is, to teach us the terms of his favour, and the way of salvation. And that which the revelation God has given us in the Bible teaches to be the way, is faith in Christ. Therefore, that doctrine that teaches something else to be saving faith, that is essentially another thing, teaches entirely another way of salvation: and therefore such doctrine does in effect make void the revelation we have in the Bible; as it makes void the special end of it, which is to teach us the true way of salvation. The gospel is the revelation of the way of life by faith in Christ. Therefore, he who teaches something else to be that faith, which is essentially diverse from what the gospel of Christ teaches, he teaches another gospel; and he does in effect teach another religion than the religion of Christ. For what is religion, but that way of exercising our respect to God, which is the term of his favour and acceptance to a title to eternal rewards? The Scripture teaches this, in a special manner, to be saving faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he that teaches another faith instead of this, teaches another religion. Such doctrine as I have opposed, must be destructive and damning, i. e. directly tending to man’s damnation; leading such as embrace it, to rest in something essentially different from the grand condition of salvation. And therefore I would advise you, as you would have any regard to your.own soul’s salvation, and to the salvation of your posterity, to beware of such doctrine as this.
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