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§ 8. Effects of Faith.
Union with Christ.
The first effect of faith, according to the Scriptures, is union with Christ. We are in Him by faith. There is indeed a federal union between Christ and his people, founded on the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son in the counsels of eternity. We are, therefore, said to be in Him before the foundation of the world. It is one of the promises of that covenant, that all whom the Father had given the Son should come to Him; that his people should be made willing in the day of his power. Christ has, therefore, been exalted to the right hand of God, to give repentance and the remission of sins. But it was also, as we learn from the Scriptures, included in the stipulations of that covenant, that his people, so far as adults are concerned, should not receive the saving benefits of that covenant until they were united to Him by a voluntary act of faith. They are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph. ii. 8.) They remain in this state of condemnation until they believe. Their union is consummated by faith. To be in Christ, and to believe in Christ, are, therefore, in the Scriptures convertible forms of expression. They mean substantially the same thing and, therefore, the same effects are attributed to faith as are attributed to union with Christ.105
Justification an Effect of Faith.
The proximate effect of this union, and, consequently, the see. ond effect of faith, is justification. We are “justified by the faith of Christ.” (Gal. ii. 16.) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. vii. 1.) “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” (John iii. 18.) Faith is the condition on which God promises in the covenant of redemption, to impute unto men the righteousness of Christ. As soon, therefore, as they believe, they cannot be condemned. They are clothed with a righteousness which answers all the demands of justice. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. viii. 33, 34.)
Participation of Christ’s Life an Effect of Faith.
The third effect of faith, or of union with Christ, is a participation of his life. Those united with Christ, the Apostle teaches (Rom. vi. 4-10), so as to be partakers of his death, are partakers also of his life. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John xiv. 19.) Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. (Eph. iii. 17.) Christ is in us. (Rom. viii. 10.) It is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us. (Gal. ii. 20.) Our Lord’s illustration of this vital union is derived from a vine and its branches. (John xv. 1-6.) As the life of the vine is diffused through the branches, and as they live only as connected with the vine, so the life of Christ is diffused through his people, and they are partakers of spiritual and eternal life, only in virtue of their union with Him. Another familiar illustration of this subject is derived from the human body. The members derive their life from the head, and perish if separated from it. (Eph. i. 22; 1 Cor. xii. 12-27, and often). In Ephesians iv. 15, 16, the Apostle carries out this illustration in detail. “The head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” As the principle of animal life located in the head, through the complicated yet ordered system of nerves extending to every member, diffuses life and energy through the whole body; so the Holy 106Spirit, given without measure to Christ the head of the Church, which is his body, diffuses life and strength to every member. Hence, according to Scripture, Christ’s dwelling in us is explained as the Spirit’s dwelling in us. The indwelling of the Spirit is the indwelling of Christ. If God be in you; if Christ be in you; if the Spirit be in you, — all mean the same thing. See Romans viii. 9-11.
To explain this vital and mystical union between Christ and his people as a mere union of thought and feeling, is utterly inadmissible. (1.) In the first place, it is contrary to the plain meaning of his words. No one ever speaks of Plato’s dwelling in men; of his being their life, so that without him they can do nothing; and much less, so that holiness, happiness, and eternal life depend upon that union. (2.) Such interpretation supposes that our relation to Christ is analogous to the relation of one man to another. Whereas it is a relation between men and a divine person, who has life in Himself, and gives life to as many as He wills. (3.) It ignores all that the Scriptures teach of the work of the Holy Spirit and of his dwelling in the hearts of men. (4.) It overlooks the supernatural character of Christianity, and would reduce it to a mere philosophical and ethical system.
Peace as the Fruit of Faith.
The fourth effect of faith is peace. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. v. 1.) Peace arises from a sense of reconciliation. God promises to pardon, to receive into his favour, and finally to save all who believe the record which He has given of his Son. To believe, is therefore to believe this promise; and to appropriate this promise to ourselves is to believe that God is reconciled to us. This faith may be weak or strong. And the peace which flows from it may be tremulous and intermitting, or it may be constant and assured.
To make assurance of personal salvation essential to faith, is contrary to Scripture and to the experience of God’s people. The Bible speaks of a weak faith. It abounds with consolations intended for the doubting and the desponding. God accepts those who can only say, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Those who make assurance the essence of faith, generally reduce faith to a mere intellectual assent. They are often censorious, refusing 107to recognize as brethren those who do not agree with them, and sometimes they are antinomian.
At the same time, Scripture and experience teach that assurance is not only attainable, but a privilege and a duty. There may indeed be assurance, where there is no true faith at all; but where there is true faith, the want of assurance is to be referred either to the weakness of faith, or to erroneous views of the plan of salvation. Many sincere believers are too introspective. They look too exclusively within, so that their hope is graduated by the degree of evidence of regeneration which they find in their own experience. This, except in rare cases, can never lead to the assurance of hope. We may examine our hearts with all the microscopic care prescribed by President Edwards in his work on “The Religious Affections,” and never be satisfied that we have eliminated every ground of misgiving and doubt. The grounds of assurance are not so much within, as without us. They are, according to Scripture, (1.) The universal and unconditional promise of God that those who come to Him in Christ, He will in no wise cast out; that whosoever will, may take of the water of life without money and without price. We are bound to be assured that God is faithful and will certainly save those who believes (2.) The infinite, immutable, and gratuitous love of God. In the first ten verses of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and in the eighth chapter of that epistle from the thirty-first verse to the end, the Apostle dwells on these characteristics of the love of God, as affording an immovable foundation of the believer’s hope. (3.) The infinite merit of the satisfaction of Christ, and the prevalence of his continued intercession. Paul, in Romans viii. 34, especially emphasizes these points. (4.) The covenant of redemption in which it is promised that all given by the Father to the Son, shall come to Him, and that none of them shall be lost. (5.) From the witness of the Spirit, Paul says, “We . . . . rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us. That is, the Holy Ghost assures us that we are the objects of that love which he goes on to describe as infinite, immutable, and gratuitous. (Rom. v. 3-5.) And again, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” If, therefore, any true believer lacks the assurance of faith, the fault is in himself and not in the plan of salvation, or in the promises of God.108
Sanctification a Fruit of Faith.
The fifth effect of faith is sanctification. “Which are sanctified,” says our Lord “by faith that is in me.” Although in this verse (Acts xxvi. 18), the words “by faith” do not qualify the preceding clause, “are sanctified,” alone, but are to be referred to all the preceding particulars, illumination, deliverance from Satan, forgiveness of sins, and the eternal inheritance, yet the immediate antecedent is not to be omitted. We are sanctified by faith as is elsewhere clearly taught. “Faith which worketh by love and purifies the heart.” (Gal. v. 6, and Acts xv. 9.)
The relation of faith to sanctification is thus set forth in the Scriptures, —
1. We are justified by faith. So long as we are under the law, we are under the curse, and bring forth fruit unto death. There is, and can be no love to God, and no holy living until we are delivered from his wrath due to us for sin. We are freed from the law, delivered from its condemnation, by the body or death of Christ. It is by faith in Him as the end of the law for righteousness, that we personally are freed from condemnation and restored to the favour of God. See all this clearly taught in Romans vi., and in the first six verses of the seventh chapter. It is thus by faith we pass from judicial death to judicial life, or justification. This is the first and indispensable step of sanctification so far as it reveals itself in the consciousness of the believer.
2. It is by faith that we receive the indwelling of the Spirit. Christ (or the Spirit of Christ) dwells in our hearts by faith. Faith is the indispensable condition (so far as adults are concerned) of this indwelling of the Spirit. And the indwelling of the Spirit is the source of all spiritual life. Faith is indeed the fruit of the Spirit, and therefore the gift of the Spirit must precede the exercise of faith. It is nevertheless true that faith is the condition of the indwelling of the Spirit, and consequently of spiritual life. Life must precede breathing, and yet breathing is the necessary condition of living.
3. Faith is not only the condition of the Spirit’s dwelling in us as the source of spiritual life, but we live by faith. That is, the continuance and exercise of spiritual life involve and suppose the constant exercise of faith. We live by exercising faith in God, in his attributes, in his providence, in his promises, and in all the truths which He has revealed. Especially is this life sustained by those exercises of faith of which Christ is the object; his divine 109and mysteriously constituted person, as God manifest in the flesh his finished work for our redemption; his constant intercession; his intimate relation to us not only as our prophet, priest, and king, but as our living head in whom our life is hid in God, and from whom it flows into our souls. We are thus sanctified by faith, because it is through faith that all the religious affections and all the activities of spiritual life are called into exercise.
4. We are sanctified by faith, as it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. “The things of God,” the truths which He has revealed concerning the spiritual and eternal world exist for us while in this world, only as the objects of faith. But faith is to the soul what the eye is to the body. It enables us to see the things unseen and eternal. It gives them substance, reality, and therefore power, — power in some little measure in proportion to their value. Thus the things seen and temporal lose their dominant power over the soul. They are not worthy to be compared with the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. The believer, — the ideal, and at times the actual believer, as we learn from Scripture and from history, is raised above the things of time and sense, overcomes the world, and becomes heavenly minded. He lives in heaven, breathes its atmosphere, is pervaded by its spirit, and has a prelibation of its joys. This renders him pure, spiritual, humble, self-denying, laborious, meek, gentle, forgiving, as well as firm and courageous. The whole of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews is devoted to the illustration of the power of faith especially in this aspect. The Apostle shows that in times past, even under the dim light of the former dispensation, it enabled Noah to stand alone against the world, Abraham to offer up his only son, Moses to prefer the reproach of Christ to the treasures of Egypt; that others through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire; that others were by faith made strong out of weakness, waxed valiant in fight; that others submitted to the trial of cruel mockings and scourgings that others by faith endured to be stoned, sawn asunder, or slain with the sword; and that yet others through faith consented to wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented. All these, we are told, through faith obtained a good report.
5. Faith sanctifies because it is the necessary condition of the efficacy of the means of grace. It is through the Word, sacraments, and prayer, that God communicates constant supplies of 110grace. They are the means of calling the activities of spiritual life into exercise. But these means of grace are inoperative unless they are received and used by faith. Faith does not, indeed, give them their power, but it is the condition on which the Spirit of God renders them efficacious.
That good works are the certain effects of faith is included in the doctrine that we are sanctified by faith. For it is impossible that there should be inward holiness, love, spirituality, brotherly kindness, and zeal, without an external manifestation of these graces in the whole outward life. Faith, therefore, without works, is dead. We are saved by faith. But salvation includes deliverance from sin. If, therefore, our faith does not deliver us from sin, it does not save us. Antinomianism involves a contradiction in terms.
Certainty of Salvation.
A sixth effect attributed to faith in the Scriptures is security, or, certainty of salvation. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John iii. 16.) “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John v. 24.) “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” (John vi. 51.) “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. . . . . And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John vi. 37, 40.) “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them. and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John x. 27, 28.)
The Eighth Chapter of Romans.
The whole of the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is designed to prove the certain salvation of all who believe. The proposition to be established is, that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” That is, they can never perish; they can never be so separated from Christ as to come into condemnation. The Apostle’s first argument to establish that proposition, is, that believers are delivered from the law by the sacrifice of Christ. The believer, therefore, is not under the law 111which condemns, as Paul had before said (Rom. vi. 14), “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” But if not under the law he cannot be condemned. The law has had its course, and found full satisfaction in the work of Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. He renders every one righteous, in the sight of the law, who believes on Him. This is the first reason which the Apostle gives why those who are in Christ shall never be condemned.
His second argnment is that they have already within them the principle of eternal life. That principle is the Spirit of God; “the life-giving” as He was designated by the ancient Church. To be carnally minded is death. To be spiritually minded is life and peace. Sin is death; holiness is life. It is a contradiction to say that those in whom the Spirit of life dwells, should die. And, therefore, the Apostle says, Although the body dies, the soul lives. And if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken even your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. The indwelling of the Spirit, therefore, secures not only the life of the soul, but also the ultimate and glorious life of the body.
The third argument for the security of believers, is, that they are the sons of God. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. That is, they are partakers of his nature, the special objects of his love, and entitled to the inheritance which He gives. If sons then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. According to the Apostle’s mode of thinking, that any of the sons of God should perish, is impossible. If sons they shall certainly be saved.
The fourth argument is from the purpose of God. Those whom He has predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, them He calls to the exercise of faith and repentance; and whom He thus calls He justifies, He provides for them and imputes to them a righteousness which satisfies the demands of the law, and which entitles them in Christ and for his sake to eternal life; and those whom He justifies He glorifies. There is no flaw in this chain. If men were predestinated to eternal life on the ground of their repenting and believing through their own strength, or through a cooperation with the grace of God which others fail to exercise, then their continuance in a state of grace might be dependent on themselves. But if faith and repentance are the gifts of God, the results of his effectual vocation, then bestowing 112those gifts is a revelation of the purpose of God to save those to whom they are given. It is an evidence that God has predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his Son, i.e., to be like Him in character, destiny, and glory, and that He will infallibly carry out his purpose. No one can pluck them out of his hands.
Paul’s fifth argument is from the love of God. As stated above,132132Page 107. the Apostle argues from the greatness, the freeness, and the immutability of that love that its objects never can be lost. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” If He has done the greater, will He not do the less? If he gave even his own Son, will He not give us faith to receive and constancy to persevere even unto the end? A love so great as the love of God to his people cannot fail of its object. This love is also gratuitous. It is not founded on the attractiveness of its objects. He loved us “while we were yet sinners;” “when we were enemies.” “Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” God’s love in this aspect is compared to parental love. A mother does not love her child because it is lovely. Her love leads her to do all she can to render it attractive and to keep it so. So the love of God, being in like manner mysterious, unaccountable by anything in its objects, secures his adorning his children with the graces of his Spirit, and arraying them in all the beauty of holiness. It is only the lamentable mistake that God loves us for our goodness, that can lead any one to suppose that his love is dependent on our self-sustained attractiveness, when we should look to his fatherly love as the source of all goodness, and the ground of the assurance that He will not allow Satan or our own evil hearts to destroy the lineaments of his likeness which He has impressed upon our souls. Having loved his own, He loves them to the end. And Christ prays for them that their faith may not fail.
It must be remembered that what the Apostle argues to prove is not merely the certainty of the salvation of those that believe but their certain perseverance in holiness. Salvation in sin, according to Paul’s system, is a contradiction in terms. This perseverance in holiness is secured partly by the inward secret influence 113of the Spirit, and partly by all the means adapted to secure that end — instructions, admonitions, exhortations, warnings, the means of grace, and the dispensations of his providence. Having, through love, determined on the end, He has determined on the means for its accomplishment.
The sixth argument of the Apostle is that, as the love of God is infinitely great and altogether gratuitous, it is also immutable, and, therefore, believers shall certainly be saved. Hence the conclusion, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It will be seen that the Apostle does not rest the perseverance of the saints on the indestructible nature of faith, or on the imperishable nature of the principle of grace in the heart, or on the constancy of the believer’s will, but solely on what is out of ourselves. Perseverance, he teaches us, is due to the purpose of God, to the work of Christ, to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to the primal source of all, the infinite, mysterious, and immutable love of God. We do not keep ourselves; we are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. (1 Peter i. 5.)114
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