Page images

fusing to let him go, or to be thrust away. Putting hiin on, Rom. xiii. 14. Gal. iii. 27. speaks the soul's trusting to him for ornament and defence, under a sense of its naked and defenceless state. Eating his flesh and drinking his blood, John vi. 53. speaks the pleasure the soul finds in trusting, and the close union betwixt the believing sinner and the Saviour. Hunger and thirst, Matt. v. 6. signify the believer's ardent desire after that Saviour in whom he trusts. Receiving Christ is nothing else but a believing on his name, John i. 12. as receiving a word is the believing that it is true, Matt. xi. 14. Leaning, staying, resting, on him, Cant. viii. 5. Isa. 1. 10. 2 Chron. xiv. 11. Psalm xxxvii. 7. cannot possibly be any other thing than a trusting in him for his salvation. And hence they are used as synony. mous with the word trust, Isa. xxvi. 3. I. 10. Psalm xxxvii, 3, 7. A resting on one's word is a trusting that he will do as he hath said. These appropriating Mys, my God, my Lord, and other similar expressions, so often occurring, speak this belief. For in calling the Lord our God, we express our belief that he will do the part of a God to us.

Therefore all the scripture definitions of faith agree in this, that we trust in Christ for salvation, Eph. i. 12, 13. or which is the same thing, that we believe we shall be saved by him.

4thly. To believe that we shall be saved by Christ is building on the foundation which God has laid. That foundation lies in the word. There it is laid firm and broad. So broad that all mankind sinners without exception may build upon it, and so firm, that they may build without fear of losing their labour, John ii. 16. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. This whosoever is an ample warrant for us, for every one of us, to believe in the Son for everlasting life. For if whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life, then surely if we believe in him, we shall not perish. And in believing in him, we be.

licve that we shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Few, if any, will adventure to say, that building on this foundation, is to believe that we shall be saved, if we believe. I much question if Judas limself doubted of that. At any rate such a believing is only the outer court through which we pass into the inner chamber of true faith. It is only that without which we cannot believe in Christ, not that by which we believe in him. Divine faith is just believing the divine testimony. And what that is, we learn from 1 John v. 11. This is the testimony, that God hath given us eternal life: and that this life is in his Son. Of these two parts the testimony consists. And he who does not believe, makes God a liar, verse 10. This unbelief, this giving God the lie, does not consist in not believing that God has given in possession, or will give, eternal life to elect sinners; for devils themselves believe that: but it consists in not believ. ing either that God has given us eternal life already in respect of offer; or ever will give it us in respect of possession. Till we believe this, we do not set to our seal that God is true, John iii. 33. true in the testimony which he hath given. But by believing it we do, inasmuch as we believe that God hath given unto us, even to us, eternal life by way of grant, and will give it us in possession. And this belicøing that he will give it us, is that whereby we begin actively to be possessed of it: for thereby we meet God in his testimony. While he says, Believe, and eternal life is you rs; our hearts echo back, We believe, amen, be it ours, and otrs it shall be. That the giving mentioned, 1 John v. 11. is not to be understood of the elect only, but of mankind sinners, is evident not only from what has been already observed, but also from this, that a gift to the elect only, does not warrant any other to take it, nay, not themselves, till they know their election. A gift made to certain select men, can never be a foundation or warrant for All men to

[ocr errors]

accept and take it *. Therefore that the building may suit the foundation, that our faith may answer to the divine testimony, each of us must believe that God hath given unto us eternal life, and that that life is in his Son. That is, we must believe that there is life in the Son for us, which is nothing else but believing that we shall be saved by him.

5thly. No less than this persuasion can amount to saving faith. A persuasion that Christ is able and willing to save others, particularly the elect, is not saving faith as we have already seen, for devils and the desperate raise no doubt on that head. We may believe that one is able and willing to give a certain favour to others, while we do not believe he will give it to us: therefore it is not enough that we believe Christ is able to save us. Indeed without the belief of his ability, we cannot believe in him for salvation. Unless we believe that he is able to save us, we cannot possibly believe that we shall be saved by him. His ability lies as at the foundation of all, he is mighty to

But the belief of his power must be joined with that of his will. We must believe that he is able and willing to save us, even us.

And if we believe both, then we certainly believe that we shall be saved by him.

This cannot be denied. In believing that he is able to save us, we are persuaded that no obstacle can be too hard for him to surmount, that neither earth, nor hell, nay, nor worlds of guilt, can hin. der him. In believing that he is willing to save us, as willing as able, we are persuaded that he will make bare his arm in our behalf, that as nothing without him can hinder him to save us, nothing within him will. If we believe that he is willing to save us, what else is this but to believe that he will save us? To believe that he is willing to save us, and yet that he will not save us, is a fat contradiction. We may be persuaded that a man like ourselves is willing to do us a favour, and yet that we shall never be the bet



ter, because he cannot do what he would. But who can resist the Saviour's will? who can stay his hand?

6thly. A belief that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only medium betwixt cold assent and good works, and therefore is saving faith. In describing faith, men have run into two very opposite extremes: some making it nothing but a naked assent to the truth of the gospel, others confounding it with works. The one have sat down as on this side of it, the other gone beyond it, mistaking the daughters for the mother, the necessary fruits of faith for faith itself. An assent to the gospel as true, is nothing more than devils and many wicked men are possessed of, while neither have any relish of it, but a fixed aversion to it. Works, such as are truly good, are not' faith, but the native effects of faith. That works of new obedience are not faith itself, might be proven at great length were it proper. If they were to be so understood, it natively follows, that the apostle in opposing faith to works in the matter of justification, would be opposing only one kind of works to another, viz. evangelical to legal, works of the gospel to works of the law; and thus all that he has so laboriously proven in his espistles to the Romans and Galatians, would be only this, that men are justified not by works of perfect obedience, but by a sincere, though imperfect obedience: that is by one kind of works, though not by another. But who sees not the absurdity of this? Faith and works differ in their specific nature, as the believing a truth, and the doing a deed. Hence also it is evident that a purpose, a promise, or consent to obey Christ's royal law in all things to the utmost of our power, is not saving faith. All these, though our indispensable duty, and necessarily accompanying true faith, are not faith itself. In them we do not believe any thing, but purpose, promise, or consent to do something: In them we do not believe what Christ will do for us, but purpose, promise, or consent, what we by his grace will do for him. Thus they belong to repentance not to faith, accord

ing to our Shorter Catechism, and so cannot enter in. to our justification before God. A belief, therefore, that we shall be saved by grace, is the golden medium betwixt the dangerous extremes into which so many have run. It is not that cold assent which may be found in the natural man, who has no relish for the great salvation, and therefore shall never enjoy it. Neither is it doing any thing either in purpose or in practice that we may obtain salvation, absolutely necessary as these are, but a believing that we shall be sav. ed by grace. To make faith a doing either in design or in fact is to confound it with works, and to obscure the grace, the free grace of God in our justification. So far as works enter into, or have influence upon, our justification, so far is grace, precious grace, excluded. Though I cannot purchase the king's pardon together with an estate of 10,000 pounds per annum, yet if I give him an hundred pence that he may give me these, they are no more free, though exceeding cheap. As far as that petty sum goes, so far is the royal bounty obscured. Cold assent is no proper mean to justification: works obscure grace in obtaining justification. When I do not believe in a man for a thing, when I do not trust that he will do it for me, my heart must be turned away from him. When I give him something, or do something, however small, that he may do some great thing for me, boasting on my part is not altogether excluded. Yea, though he should give me of his own money to purchase an estate from himself, that estatc, though materially a gift, would be formally a purchase. But when he promises me grcat thir:gs, requiring only that I believe him faithful, that I believe he will do as he has said, O! how bounty, pure bounty shines! And in that case, my believing that he will do these great things for me, is the sure, the gracious mean to receive or obtain them. The application of this to our subject is easy. The inheritance is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, Rom. iv. 16.

« PreviousContinue »