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THE GROUND OF SALVATION

But I am besides my purpose when I fall to bewail the cold affection which we bear towards that whereby we should be saved, my purpose being only to set down what the ground of salvation is. The doctrine of the Gospel proposeth salvation as the end, and doth it not teach the way of attaining thereunto? Yes, the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination spake the truth: "These men are the servants of the most high God who show unto us the way of salvation" [Acts 16:17] -- "a new and living way which Christ hath prepared for us through the veil, that is, his flesh," [Heb 10:20] salvation purchased by the death of Christ. By this foundation the children of God, before the time of the written law, were distinguished from the sons of men. The reverend patriarchs both professed it living and spake expressly of it in the hour of their death.[Heb 11:4-22] It comforted Job in the midst of grief. [Job 19:23-27] It was afterwards likewise the anchor-hold of all the righteous in Israel, from the writing of the law to the time of grace; every prophet maketh mention of it.[Lk 1:70; 24:25f,44-47] It was so famously spoken of about the time when the coming of Christ to accomplish the promises, which were made long before, drew near, that the sound thereof was heard even amongst the Gentiles. [cf Lk 1:28-32] When he was come, as many as were his acknowledged that he was their salvation; he, that long-expected hope of Israel; he, that "seed in whom all the nations of the world should be blessed."[Gen 22:18; Gal 3:16] So that now his name is a name of ruin, a name of death and condemnation, unto such as dream of a new Messiah, to as many as look for salvation by any other than by him: "For amongst men there is given no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved." [Acts 4:12] Thus much St. Mark doth intimate by that which he putteth in the very front of his book, making his entrance with these words: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." His doctrine he termeth the Gospel because it teacheth salvation; the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God because it teacheth salvation by him.

This is then the foundation whereupon the frame of the Gospel is erected; that very Jesus whom the Virgin conceived of the Holy Ghost, whom Simeon embraced in his arms,[Lk 1:34f; 2:25ff] whom Pilate condemned, whom the Jews crucified, whom the Apostles preached, he is Christ, the Lord, the only Saviour of the world: "other foundation can no man lay. [1 Cor 3:11] Thus I have briefly opened that principle in Christianity which we call the foundation of our faith. It followeth now that I declare unto you what it is directly to overthrow it. This will better appear if first we understand what it is to hold the foundation of faith.

There are who defend that many of the Gentiles who never heard the name of Christ held the foundation of Christianity: and why? They acknowledged many of them the providence of God, his infinite wisdom, strength, and power, his goodness and his mercy towards the children of men; that God hath judgment in store for the wicked, but for the righteous that seek him rewards, etc. In this which they confessed that lieth covered which we believe; in the rudiments of their knowledge concerning God the foundation of our faith concerning Christ lieth secretly wrapped up and is virtually contained: therefore they hold the foundation of faith, though they never heard it. Might we not with as good colour of reason defend that every ploughman hath all the sciences wherein philosphers have excelled? For no man is ignorant of the first principles which do virtually contain whatsoever by natural means either is or can be known. Yea, might we not with as good reason affirm that a man may put three mighty oaks wheresoever three acorns may be put? For virtually an acorn is an oak. To avoid such paradoxes, we teach plainly that to hold the foundation is in express terms to acknowledge it.

Now, because the foundation is an affirmative proposition, they all overthrow it who deny it; they directly overthrow it who deny it directly; and they overthrow it by consequent, or indirectly, who hold any one assertion whatsoever whereupon the direct denial thereof may be necessarily concluded. What is the question between the Gentiles and us but this: whether salvation be by Christ? What between the Jews and us but this: whether by this Jesus whom we call Christ, yea or no? This to be the main point whereupon Christianity standeth, it is clear by that one sentence of Festus concerning Paul's accusers: "They brought no crime of such things as I supposed, but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive."[Acts 25:18f] Where we see that Jesus, dead and raised for the salvation of the world, is by Jews denied, despised by a Gentile, and by a Christian apostle maintained. The fathers therefore in the primitive Church when they wrote -- Tertullian, the book which he calleth APOLOGETICUS; Minucius Felix, the book which he entitleth OCTAVIUS; Arnobius, his seven books against the Gentiles; Chrysostom, his orations against the Jews; Eusebius, his ten books of evangelical demonstration -- they stood in defence of Christianity against them by whom the foundation thereof was directly denied. But the writings of the fathers against Novatians, Pelagians, and other heretics of the like note, refel [refute] positions whereby the foundation of Christian faith was overthrown by consequent only. In the former sort of writings the foundation is proved; in the latter it is alleged as a proof, which to men that had been known directly to deny it must needs have seemed a very beggarly kind of disputing. All infidels therefore deny the foundation of faith directly. By consequent, many a Christian man, yea whole Christian churches, have denied it and do deny it at this present day. Christian churches denying the foundation of Christianity? Not directly, for then they cease to be Christian churches; but by consequent, in respect whereof we condemn them as erroneous, although for holding the foundation we do and must hold them Christian.

We see what it is to hold the foundation; what directly and what by consequent to deny it. The next thing which followeth is whether they whom God hath chosen to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ may, being once effectually called, and through faith truly justified, afterwards fall so far as directly to deny the foundation which their hearts have before embraced with joy and comfort in the Holy Ghost, for such is the faith which indeed doth justify. Devils know the same things which we believe [see Jas 2:19], and the minds of the most ungodly may be fully persuaded of the truth, which knowledge in the one and persuasion in the other is sometimes termed faith, but equivocally, being indeed no such faith as that whereby a Christian man is justified. It is the spirit of adoption which worketh faith in us, in them not. The things which we believe are by us apprehended not only as true but also as good, and that to us: as good, they are not by them apprehended; as true, they are.

Whereupon followeth a third difference: the Christian man the more he increaseth in faith the more his joy and comfort aboundeth; but they, the more sure they are of the truth, the more they quake and tremble at it. This begetteth another effect, wherein the hearts of the one sort have a different disposition from the other. "I am not ignorant," saith Minucius, "that there are too many who, being conscious what they are to look for, do rather wish that they might than think that they shall cease to be when they cease to live; because they hold it better that death should consume them unto nothing than God receive them unto punishment." [Minucius Felix, OCTAVIUS, 34] So it is in other articles of faith, whereof wicked men think, no doubt, many times they are too true. On the contrary side, to the other there is no grief nor torment greater than to feel their persuasion weak in things whereof, when they are persuaded, they reap such comfort and joy of spirit; such is the faith whereby we are justified -- such, I mean, in respect of the quality. For touching the principal object of faith, longer than it holdeth that foundation whereof we have spoken it neither justifieth, nor is, but ceaseth to be faith when it ceaseth to believe that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of the world.

The cause of life spiritual in us is Christ, not carnally or corporally inhabiting, but dwelling in the soul of man, as a thing which (when the mind apprehendeth it) is said to inhabit and possess the mind. The mind conceiveth Christ by hearing the doctrine of Christianity. As the light of nature doth cause the mind to apprehend those truths which are merely rational, so that saving truth, which is far above the reach of human reason, cannot otherwise than by the Spirit of the Almighty be conceived. All these are implied wheresoever any one of them is mentioned as the cause of spiritual life. Wherefore when we read that "the Spirit is our life," [Rom 8:10, KJV] or "the Word our life," [Phil 2:16; 1 Jn 1:1] or "Christ our Iife," [Col 3:4] we are in every one of these to understand that our life is Christ, by the hearing of the Gospel apprehended as a Saviour, and assented unto by the power of the Holy Ghost. The first intellectual conceit [concept] and comprehension of Christ so embraced St. Peter calleth the seed whereof we be new born. [1 Pet 1:23] Our first embracing of Christ is our first reviving from the state of death and condemnation. [Eph 2:1-6] "He that hath the Son hath life," saith St. John, "and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." [1 Jn 5:12] If therefore he who once hath the Son may cease to have the Son, though it be but a moment, he ceaseth for that moment to have life. But the life of them who live by the Son of God is everlasting, not only for that it shall be everlasting in the world to come, but because, as "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more power over him," [Rom 6:9] so the justified man, being alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom he hath life, liveth always. [Rom 6:11]

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