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who is enabled so to believe over the belly of every difliculty. My soul be with him.
Object 2d. If we are warranted to believe that we shall be saved by Christ, then we may fold our hands and sit down. Since certain of the event, we may take our ease as to the means.
Answer. It is hard to say whether this objection exceeds in malignity, or in folly. Faith is not a believ. ing that we shall be saved in any way, whatever we do, or do not. No: It is a believing not that we shall be saved in our sins, but that we shall be saved FROM them: that we shall be saved by Christ, and therefore in the diligent use of the means appointed by him. It is a believing that we shall obtain the victory by figliting: not without it.
Suppose a General haranguing his army before their engagement with some mighty foe, should tell them that they should surely overcome, and therefore not to be afraid; would they not be fools or worse, who on this should throw away their weapons, and abandon themselves to their ease? Would not this be putting an affront upon their leader, and exposing themselves to destruction, as he promised them the victory not without fighting, but by it? While Asa and his army rested on the Lord for victory, in his name they went against the huge Ethiopian host, and obtained it, 2 Chron. xiv. 11–15. Certain it is that the right faith of the victory will excite the believer to activity, and not sink him in indolence. If there be any weight in the objection, it presses the assurance of sense as much as that of faith. And accordingly, all to whom Christ intimated a pardon in the days of his flesh, might from that date, have lived at their ease. But who that believes the Bible would draw such a consequence? Is not the very reverse the truth?
Object. 3d. To make faith consist in believing that we shall be saved by Christ, is to make it consist in assurance, which nevertheless many of the saints do not attain.
Answer. In answer to this specious objection, let us observe, 1st. The different kinds. 2dly. The different degrees of assurance. As to the first, it is obvious that there are two different kinds of assurance, viz. the assurance of faith, and the assurance of sense. The first kind of assurance is indeed essential to faith, being just faith itself. It cannot be denied that according to the original word, Ilustas, in the New Testament, faith signifies a persuasion, viz. a persuasion founded on the divine testimony, a persuasion of its truth and goodness, which is nothing else but to be assured of these. My being persuaded of any thing because another says it, is just my being assured of that thing, viz. as much assured of it, as I am that his word is true. If in his testimony he assure me of it, it must follow, that, in my faith founded on that tes. timony, I am assured of it. To say that there is as.surance given in the testimony, but no assurance in the faith crediting that testimony, would be most absurd. It would be saying in effect, that though God assures me of a thing, yet in my believing, I am not sure of that thing: which is much the same as if one should say, faith is doubting. If we take away all assurance from faith, we leave nothing but the empty name behind.
« This notion of assurance or persua“ sion in faith, is so agreeable to the nature of the
thing called believing, and to the style of the holy “ scripture, that sometimes where the original text “ reads faith or believing, we read assurance, accord“ ing to the genuine sense of the original phrase, 66 Acts xvii. 31. Whereof he hath given assurance;
(orig.) faith, as is noted in the margin of our “ Bibles. Deut. xxviii. 66. Thou shalt have none as,
surance of thy life; (orig.) Thou shalt not be“ lieve in thy life*.” This assurance in faith is as inseparable from it, as heat from the fire. But it is
* Bostop on the Marron, 1, 160,
far otherwise with the assurance of sense.
One can not have faith without having assurance in it, for (as said Mr. Patrick Hamilton) " It is a sureness:" but he may have, and in fact often has faith, while he is not assured of it, not certain that he hath it. This assurance is not properly believing in Christ, but be. lieving that we have believed in him.
It is not a direct act terminating in him, but a reflex, whereby we believe, or are persuaded of the truth of that aci. That, as was just now observed, may be without this. He that feareth the Lord may walk in darkness, and have no light, Isa. I. 10. None of that light which is in the reflex act; none of that light whereby he knows that his faith is true and not feigned; the faith of God's elect, and not that which may be found in re. probates. “ For though a man cannot but be conis scious of an act of his own soul, as to the substance “ of that act; yet he may be in the dark as to the “ specific nature of it; than which nothing is more ordi.
nary among serious Christians. And thus, as a real “ saint is conscious of his own heart's moving in af« fection towards God, yet sometimes doth not as. “ suredly know it to be the true love of God in “ him, but fears it to be an hypocritical flash of affec“ tion; so he may be conscious of his persuasion, and “yet doubt if it be the true persuasion of faith, « and not that of the hypocrite*." But though the direct act may be without the reflex, yet this cannot possibly be without that. As a thing must be, before
a I can know its existence; so I must believe, before I can know that I have believed: Christ and his pardon must be mine in possession, before I can know so much. Hence it is that the assurance of sense must, in the order of nature, and time too, follow that assurance which is in faith.
By the one I believe, on the footing of the free promise in Christ, that I shall be saved: by the other I believe on the inward evidence of grace, that that
* Boston ubi. supra.
my faith is true, not hypocritical. The one asketh, What hath God said?" The other, What hath God wrought? By that I believe what he hath said to me; by this, what he hath done in me. In that I hear 2 word, and believe it; in this I see and feel a work, and therefore believe it. By the one I believe that
. I shall be pardoned, by the other that I am pardoned already. By that I am persuaded that I shall be saved, by this I am persuaded that I am actually in a state of grace and salvation. By that I trust wholly upon the
promise for pardon, by this I am assured of pardon as already applied* “ The assurance of faith
" . “ has its object and foundation without the man, but " that of sense has them within him. The assurance :“ of faith looks to Christ in the promise and covenant “ of God, and says, This is all my salvation; God “ has spoken in his holiness, I will rejoice: But the
assurance of sense looks inward at the works of God, “ such as the person's own graces, attainments, ex
periences and the like. The assurance of faith giv
ing an evidence to things not seen, can claim an “ interest in, and plead a relation to, a hiding and “ withdrawing God; Zion said, my Lord hath forgot“ ten me; and the spouse, I opened to my beloved, but
my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone. So “ he may be a forgetting and withdrawing God to
my feeling, and yet to my faith, my God, and
my Lord still, says holy Rutherford; even as the “ wife may believe the angry and forsaking husband, “ is still her husband. But on the other hand, the
assurance of sense is the evidence of things seen “ and felt. The one says, I take him for mine; the “ other says, I feel he is mine. The one says with “ the Church, my God (though he cover bimself with “ a cloud, that my prayer cannot pass through,) yet “ will hear me! The other, my God has heard me. “ The one says he will bring me forth to the light, “ and I shall behold his righteousness; the other,
• Pemble p. 141.
“ He hath brought me forth to the light, and I do « behold his righteousness. The one says, though he “ should kill me, yet will I trust in him; the other, « he smiles and shines on me, therefore will I love « him and trust in him."
Thus much as to the different kinds of assurance. Follow its different degrees. And here I would ob. serve as to the assurance which is in faith, 1st. That sometimes it is little, very little; and that especially in its beginning. Though in the progress of the Chris
. tian life, it may be like a mighty tree; yet at first it is generally as a grain of mustard seed only. “Or “ like a spark amidst the troubled sea of all manner " of corruption and lusts, where the rolling waves “ of unbelieving doubts and fears, hellish temptations 6 and suggestions, and the like, moving on the face
of that depth, are every now and then going over - it; and were there not a divine hand and care en“ gaged for its preservation, would effectually extin“ guish and bury it.
What wonder that in such à case it many times cannot be discerned; yet s will it still hold so much of the exercise of justi“ fying faith, so much persuasion t," or assurance. This lowest degree of assurance is that I apprehend which scripture calls the beginning of our confidence
, Heb. iii. 14. 2dly. Sometimes there is much assurance. The Thessalonian converts received the gospel with much assurance, 1 Ep. i. 5. They were not of little, but of great faith. Believers have this much assurance in proportion as they get the victory over their doubts and fears, having good hope through grace, 2 Thess. ii. 16. This is a good degree, and great boldness in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus, 1 Tim. . iii. 13. 3dly. Sometimes there
Answer to Commissioners Queries, p. 71. + Ibid. p. 63. The Tract to which the Author here refers once and again, is Answers to Queries pot by the Commission of the General Asssembly of the Church of Scotland, to Mesars. Boston, Erskines, &c. by these Ministers. They contain a most accurate and masterly defence of several leading truths of the gospel, and highly deserve the attention of all, especially students of theology and young ministers.