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CONCERNING SAVING FAITH.
5THERE have been, and still are, various and opposite opinions in the christian world, and among Protestants, respecting saving faith; and very different definitions have been given of it. Instead of particularly describing these, and attempting to refute any of them now, it is proposed to examine the scriptures, and endeavour from them to find what is the nature, and what are the properties of this faith. And if in this way, which is doubtless the most proper to be taken, a clear and satisfactory idea of this subject may be obtained, all erroneous opinions respecting it, which have been imbibed and propagated, will of course be detected.—In this view the following things may be observed.
I. Saving faith is represented in many passages of scripture as consisting in a belief and assurance of the truth and reality of those things which are revealed and asserted by God in the divine oracles. Or a conviction and assured knowledge, that the gospel is true; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the 6world; and they who have this belief, assurance or knowledge, are considered and declared to be in a state of salvation.
This is the account given of faith in the most express definition of it in the Bible. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”11 Heb. xi. 1. Here faith is described in the general nature of it; and is said to be that by which invisible and future things are seen as evident realities. Hence it appears, that he who realizes and is assured of the truths contained in divine revelation, has true faith, by which men believe to the saving of their souls, which is the faith here defined, as appears from the words immediately preceding these, in the last verse of the foregoing chapter. “We are of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith, &c.”
When Peter said to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Upon this we may observe,
1. That the faith which Peter professes, is a belief and assurance that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God, the Messiah who was to come into the world.
2. That Christ declares this to be saving faith, in pronouncing Peter blessed upon this, and asserting that this faith was the effect of divine, supernatural influences.
Very parallel to this is what St. John asserts concerning faith. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”22 1 John iv. 15. This is the same confession which Peter made; and this is here declared to be peculiar to a good man, a true christian who shall be saved. By confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, is meant a sincere and true declaration of a belief and assurance of this truth. Such a belief and assurance of this truth, is the only proper ground of this confession, and is saving faith. Both these passages are explained and illustrated by the following words of this same apostle. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.”33 Chap. v. 1. Here, a belief of this single proposition, Jesus is the Christ, is 7asserted to be justifying saving faith, which is peculiar to those who are born of God.
The same description of saving faith is found in the words of St. Paul, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”44 Rom. x. 9. To believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is the same with believing that Jesus is the Christ: And this is here asserted to be saving faith. This same faith the Eunuch professed, upon which he was baptized by Philip, and admitted among the number of true believers in Christ. “And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”55 Acts viii. 37. Agreeably to this Christ says, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”66 John xvii. 3. Here eternal life is connected with having a true idea or knowledge of God and the Saviour; or seeing their true character and believing them to be such as they are. This therefore must be the same with that faith to which our Saviour so often promises salvation; and without which he repeatedly says, men cannot be saved.
In all these passages faith is represented as that by which the truth is seen, so that the truths of the gospel become present and real to the mind, attended with an assurance of their truth and reality: And that this belief of the truth, with what it necessarily includes, is the whole of saving faith: And is the same thing which is elsewhere called—Coming to the light.77 John iii. 31. Being in the light.88 1 John ii. 9. Knowing the truth.99 John viii. 31. Coming to the knowledge of the truth.1010 1 Tim. ii. 4. A belief the truth.1111 2 Thess. ii. 13. A being illuminated.1212 Heb. x. 32. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, shining in the heart.1313 2 Cor. iv. 6. Beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord.1414 Chap. iii. 18.
II. Saving faith, in a number of places, is represented in a light, which to some, especially at first view may appear different from the description of it in the forementioned passages, if not contrary to it. It is considered and represented, as consisting in the exercise of 8the heart, and choice of the will; this being essential to it, and including the whole.
Believing on the name of Christ, and receiving him, is mentioned as being one and the same thing, “But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”1515 John i. 12. Here receiving Christ, and believing on him, are synonimous expressions, and must mean the same thing. But receiving Christ is an exercise of will or choice, and is the same thing with voluntarily embracing him, as he is offered in the gospel. Faith in Christ, or believing on him, is termed coming to him, as being one and the same. “He that cometh to me, shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst.”1616 John vi. 35. As hungering and thirsting are the same mental exercise, so are believing on Christ, and coming to him. This is farther evident from the words following. “But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and he that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”1717 v. 36, 37. Here Christ speaks of coming to him, as the condition of salvation by him, and as directly the reverse to not believing on him, with which he charges the Jews; and therefore by coming to him he can mean nothing but saving faith, even the same which he, in this discourse, repeatedly calls believing on him.1818 v. 25, 40, 47. It may be also observed, that what Christ here calls not believing, he in another place denotes by not coming to him. “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.”1919 Chap. v. 40. The charge of not coming to him, and not believing on him, is evidently the same. And that coming to Christ, is the same with believing on him, is confirmed from the evident synonimous use of those phrases in the words which follow those which have been mentioned. “And this is the will of the Father, that every one that seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life. No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, 9hath everlasting life.”2020 John vi. 40. 44, 45, 47. And we find him speaking again after the same manner. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters,.”2121 John vii. 37, 38.
Faith in Christ is denoted by eating his flesh, and drinking his blood.2222 John vi. 50. 51, 53, 54. 56 57, 58. “Whosoever eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” It is not only evident from the words themselves, that by eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, that uniting act of the soul to Christ is expressed, which is necessary in order to enjoy what he has obtained for men, which must be saving faith: But this is yet more evident by comparing them with the foregoing words, of which these are evidently designed as an explanation. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”2323 v. 47. And again, “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”2424 v. 40. Here eternal life, and to be raised up by Christ at the last day, is promised in one place to believing on Christ, and in the other to eating his flesh and drinking his blood: therefore it is certain that these are not two different things, but one and the same, which is connected with eternal life, and the condition of enjoying it. But eating the flesh of Christ, and drinking his blood, can mean nothing less than voluntary exercise, by which, from a taste and relish for the character of Christ, and his excellence, the heart receives and embraces him as a suitable and all sufficient Saviour.
Calling on the name of Christ, is spoken of as an exercise of faith, or a proper expression of faith in him. 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 upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”2525 Rom. x. 11, 12, 13. No one who attends to these words can suppose that 10believing on Christ, and calling on his name, are two distinct things, or doubt whether they are one and the same exercise.
To the same purpose are those scriptures which represent faith in Christ by looking unto him, and trusting in him. “Look unto me, all the ends of the earth, and be ye saved.”2626 Isaiah xlv. 22. Here looking to Christ, and salvation, are connected. And this is represented as necessary to salvation, and the only condition of it. But this is the same thing with seeking him, coming to him, and accepting of him. In this passage there is doubtless a reference to the direction which God gave to the Israelites to set a brazen serpent upon a pole, in the wilderness, with a promise that every one who being bitten of a fiery serpent, looked upon it, should live: For this was a designed type of Christ, which our Saviour therefore applies to himself: and at the same time declares that looking upon the exalted serpent, denoted faith in him. “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 everlasting life.”2727 John iii. 14, 15.
Trusting in God, is often mentioned in the book of Psalms, and in other parts of the Old Testament, as necessary in order to enjoy his favour, to which promises of all good are made; in the same manner as faith in Christ is in the New Testament: from whence it may be safely inferred that they are the same. And agreeable to this, believing in Christ is called trusting in him, by St. Paul. “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”2828 Eph. i. 12. “Isaiah saith, there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust.”2929 Rom. xv. 12.Trust in Christ, implies the exercise of the disposition or will, even the receiving and embracing of the heart: For men do not trust in any person or object for any thing but that which to them is a good, what is agreeable to them, what they desire and choose. Yea, trusting is commonly used with respect to some great good upon which men set their hearts, and depend upon it for support, satisfaction and happiness. And that trusting 11in Christ is the same with looking and coming to him, and seeking him, will be evident from the lust mentioned passage, by turning to the words of Isaiah, from which it is taken: For what the Apostle renders, “In him shall the Gentiles trust,” is in the following words in the place quoted, “To it (that is to Christ) shall the Gentiles seek.”
From these passages of scripture, and many others of the like tenor, it may be determined with certainty, that saving faith implies the consent of the will, accepting of Christ; choosing and embracing him, as he is revealed in the gospel; and that this is essential to it; so that where this exercise and consent of heart is not, there is no faith, and no real and proper conviction, knowledge or belief of the truth.
And if what has been said in the foregoing section, on divine illumination, be understood, and kept in mind, the account we have had of saving faith from the scripture, under the two preceding observations, will appear to be consistent and intelligible. It has been there proved from scripture, that a right disposition of mind is necessary in order to have that true discerning in things of a moral and spiritual nature which is implied in saving faith; and that seeing and understanding the truths of the gospel, implies exercise of heart, and the former cannot be distinguished and separated from the latter, even in idea and conception. Therefore a saving belief of the truth of the gospel, supposes and implies right exercises of heart, in tasting and relishing moral beauty, and embracing it as good and excellent; and thus embracing Christ and the gospel implies all that light, conviction and assurance of the truth, which is essential to saving faith; and both these, or rather all this, is really but one and the same whole.
The gospel is all of a moral nature; by it is exhibited the plan of the moral government of God, or his moral, spiritual kingdom, to the best advantage, in the clearest and most striking light. In this, is the greatest and most clear manifestation of the Deity; and it comprises the sum of all the moral beauty and excellence that is to be seen by created intelligences, in the whole universe. In Jesus Christ, the glory of God, his moral beauty and 12perfection, shines with the brightest effulgence, and to the greatest advantage. The glory of God, the bright emanation of the divine fulness, beauty and perfection, is to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ.3030 2 Cor. iv. 6. He is the image of God. In him, as in a mirror, the rays of the divine glory center, and by him are to the greatest advantage reflected on all finite intelligences. He therefore who sees Jesus Christ in his true character, as a beautiful, suitable and all sufficient Saviour, or understands the gospel, sees and understands what is the sum of all moral beauty and perfection; which is the glory of the gospel, and infinitely distinguishes it from every thing which is merely human, or is not divine; and without which the gospel would be infinitely unworthy of God, and want the evidence which the believer has that it is from God. Therefore he who discerns not this moral beauty and excellence, which is the same with having no taste of heart for it, the gospel is hid from him. He does not understand it; has no true idea of Jesus Christ; and consequently discerns not the proper and all convincing evidence that he is the Son of God, and a suitable and all sufficient Saviour: Therefore does not, and cannot believe it, with that faith which it demands.
But such a true idea of Jesus Christ, such a knowledge of him in his true character, such a sight of his moral beauty and excellence, supposes and takes place in the exercise of a right taste and disposition of heart, without which it cannot possibly be perceived. For, as has been proved, a discerning and sight of beauty, especially of moral beauty and excellence, depends upon the taste and disposition of the heart, and it cannot be discerned by the speculative understanding, as distinct from the will, and independent of it. But such taste and disposition of heart, which discerns the moral beauty and excellence of Christ and the gospel, and opens to the mind the all convincing evidence of their reality, necessarily implies, and carries in it, approbation of the gospel, and a cordial embracing it as excellent and divine, which is the same with receiving Jesus Christ, and trusting in him as a worthy and all sufficient Saviour.13
All this, it is presumed, has been made so evident in the foregoing section, from scripture and the reason and nature of things, that it is needless to enlarge on the subject here, or repeat what has been said there. However, it may be proper to mention several passages of scripture, in addition to those there cited, which represent that light, knowledge and belief respecting the truths of the gospel, in which saving faith consists, to imply a right temper of mind, which is the same with a benevolent heart, without which there can be no true light and discerning with respect to those things; and therefore no saving faith.—And consequently that an evil heart, that is, a rebellious disobedient heart, under the power of selfishness, pride and lust, does not, and cannot believe on Jesus Christ with that faith which is reasonable, and which the gospel requires.
Christ says to the unbelieving Jews, “How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”3131 John v. 44. Here a selfish, proud, worldly spirit, which alienated them from God, and rendered them so unfriendly to him, as not to desire the honour which he gives, is represented as inconsistent with believing on Christ, or a sight of that evidence of the truth of the gospel which is implied in saving faith. Therefore a contrary temper of mind to this is necessary in order to believe in Christ, and is implied in saving faith; which must be a benevolent, humble, spiritual disposition, which is friendly to the divine character, and sincerely desires the spiritual blessings which he gives, the honour which cometh from God.—According to this, all the mere speculative knowledge, all the light and conviction, relating to the truths of the gospel, of which unrenewed men are capable, falls essentially short of true faith in Christ; so that they are wholly destitute of any thing of the kind. Therefore men must have an obedient, holy disposition of heart, in order to exercise saving faith. It is with such a renewed heart that men believe unto righteousness.3232 Rom. x. 10. With such an heart the Eunuch believed on Christ.3333 Acts viii. 27. St. John asserts this in the strongest terms, in 14the following words, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.”3434 1 John v. 1. Thus faith in Christ implies renovation of heart, a right disposition of mind. Where this is not, there can be no faith.
We find the same thing implied and inculcated in our Saviour’s parable of the sower, as he explains it.3535 Matt. xiii. 23. Mark iv. 20. Luke viii. 15. He that received seed into good ground, is he who with an honest and good heart, heareth the word, understandeth, receiveth and keepeth it, and bringeth forth fruit with patience. Upon this it may be observed, that what is called understanding the word, by Matthew, is expressed by receiving it by Mark. From hence it is certain, that understanding the word is the same with receiving it; or, at least, that one implies the other. But receiving the word is an exercise of heart, which appears with great certainty from the words which Luke uses, “Which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it.” It is the honest and good heart which understands, receives and keeps the word; and he who has not such an heart, that is, an upright and benevolent heart, does neither receive, nor understand it. It is needless perhaps to observe, that saving faith consists in understanding or receiving the word, the truth of the gospel, which, according to this representation, is found in an honest and good heart, and in no other, and implies the upright, disinterested, benevolent exercises of such a heart. Before we leave this passage, it may be useful to observe, that according to this representation of our Saviour, the word of truth does not make the evil, hard, selfish heart, good; but where it finds such an heart, it produces no saving good, but leaves it as bad as it finds it. The heart must first be made honest and good; for such an heart only understands, receives, loves and keeps the truth, and brings forth good fruit; as the seed takes root so as to bring forth fruit, only in good ground.
The following words of Christ are to the same purpose, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”3636 John vii. 17. To understand the doctrine which Christ taught, to see the divine stamp which is upon it, and to 15know that it is of God, is the description of saving faith, or the character of a true believer. They who have a heart to do the will of God, and none but such, have this discerning of true faith. Such an heart therefore, or a disposition and will, to do the will of God, is essential to saving faith. This is a discerning, wise and understanding heart, which sees the evidence of divine truth, and knows it to be of God. Whereas he whose heart opposes the revealed will of God, which requires love, remains in darkness and unbelief.
It must be farther observed,
III. It appears from the scriptures that love is implied in saving faith, and is essential to it; so that where there is no holy love, there is no true faith. This is asserted by St. Paul: by which he distinguishes true faith from all counterfeits, in the following words. “In Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.”3737 Gal. v. 6. The Apostle does not here say, that faith worketh love or produces it, as if faith preceded, as the cause of love; and that love is connected with faith, and follows it, as the certain consequence and effect of it. But he says, faith worketh by love, as some machines move by wind or water, springs or weights. He asserts that love is the life and active nature of saving faith. By this it is a living active faith, love being the life and soul of it; so that where there is no love, there can be no more than an inactive, dead faith. The Apostle James says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”3838 James ii. 26. The operative nature of anything, is the life of it. Things are said to be alive, from the active nature which is observed to be in them. The active nature of man is the spirit which is in him: Therefore, as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without a working nature is dead also. What this working nature, or active fruitful spirit is, which is in true faith, St. Paul tells us in the words before us: It is love. Love is the spirit and life of faith by which it acts, and produces all its operations, and is distinguished from a spurious, dead faith. These two Apostles perfectly agree in this point. According to them, that 16which distinguishes true saving faith, from every kind, of faith which is not so, is the life and operative nature of it, which consists in true love.
And that St. Paul is to be understood as has been now explained, when he said, “Faith worketh by love,” is confirmed by his following words. “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love,3939 The word in the original is love; αγαπη with Its derivatives αγαπαω and αγαπητος, is used above three hundred times in the New-Testament, and translated love, to love, and beloved, except in about twenty places, besides the instances in this chapter, where it is translated charity; but ought to have been always translated love. I am nothing.”4040 1 Cor. xiii. 2. Here he asserts, there can be no faith that is of any worth, where there is not love. It follows, that saving faith implies love, in the nature of it. No faith availeth any thing, but that living, active faith, to which love is essential, and of which it is the life and active nature. And when he goes on to say, “Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,”4141 verse 7. the most easy, natural and consistent meaning of these words is thought to be, that love is the active nature and life of christian fortitude, faith, hope and patience, that these christian graces are exercised and maintained by love, which is the foundation and soul of the whole, so that where there is no love, there is nothing borne, believed, hoped for, or endured, as christian exercises. Love believeth all things, that is, every exercise of true faith, is an exercise of love; and he who has love, believeth all things which are the proper objects of faith, and ought to be believed. In this view we see the force and propriety of his concluding words, “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the greatest, as faith and hope are comprehended in love, as the active nature, life and essence of them.
That love comes into the essence of saving faith, will be evident by attending to a quotation of St. Paul from the prophet Isaiah.4242 1 Cor. ii. 9. The words of the prophet are, “Men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear—what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”4343 Isaiah lxiv. 4. For which the apostle uses these words, “For them that 17love him.” Waiting on God, or waiting for him, in the Old Testament, is the same with faith and trust in God; and therefore is the same with what is called faith or believing, in the New Testament. But for this, St. Paul uses the word love, which he would not have done, had not love been so essential to faith, and so far implied in it, that to trust or believe in God, and to love him, express nearly the same idea, and are in a measure synonymous.
The words of Christ to Nicodemus represent love as implied in saving faith, and essential to it. “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 is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”4444 John iii. 18, 19, 20. On these words may be observed the following things.
1. That our Saviour here represents men as condemned, or not, according as they believe on him, or not. He that believeth is not condemned: But he that believeth not is condemned.
2. That the ground of this condemnation is their loving darkness, and hating the light or truth. It follows from this, that loving darkness is the reason and ground of unbelief; and therefore that the love of the truth is necessary in order to believing on the Son of God, and is implied in it. Yea, it appears from this representation, that loving darkness rather than light, and so refusing to come to the light, is unbelief itself. And therefore, coming to the truth in the love of it, or in the exercise of love, is saving faith.
This is very parallel with St. Paul’s account of this matter. He says, “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should belief a lie: That they all might be damned, who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”4545 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11, 12. It appears from these words, that not receiving the love of the truth, or not loving the truth, and 18not believing the truth, are one and the same thing: And that having pleasure in unrighteousness, and believing the truth, are opposite to each other; therefore receiving the love of the truth, or loving it, and believing the truth, are not distinct exercises, but one and the same.
What our Saviour says to the Jews, implies, that love to God is essential to saving faith. “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”4646 John v. 42, 43, 44. Here Christ ascribes their unbelief, and rejecting him, to their want of love to God; and speaks of their unbelief as an evidence that they had no love. Therefore, love is here represented as so essential to faith, that where there is no love, there can be no faith. And faith is such a concomitant of love, that where there is no faith, it is certain there is no love. And the last words do plainly assert, that it is impossible any one should believe on Christ, who has no suitable respect or love to God.
Other passages of scripture hold forth the same truth; but it is needless to mention them particularly, since those which have been mentioned are so clear and express on the point before us. And if this were not so, and there were no such scriptures to be produced; the truth asserted may be demonstrated from what has been before proved from scripture respecting divine illumination, and saving faith, viz. That true faith implies a right taste and exercise of heart, which can be nothing but love: And the light and discerning which is essential to faith, implies disinterested benevolence, or love. And who can help seeing that approbation of the character of Christ, and receiving and trusting in him as the Saviour of dinners, which has been shown is the scripture account of faith, does necessarily imply, and really is, love to him? From all this the perfect consistency of the scripture on this head is apparent; and that it is agreeable to the reason and nature of things.19
IV. It appears from the scripture that true repentance is included in saving faith: That repentance comes into the nature and essence of faith, so that where there is no repentance, there is not, nor can be, any saving faith.
This will be evident to any one, who will well observe the following things:
1. The scripture represents repentance as necessary in order to pardon. We are told that John did “preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”4747 Mark i. 4. That is, he preached repentance, as necessary in order to their obtaining forgiveness. Jesus Christ taught his disciples, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.”4848 Luke xxiv. 47. That is, that forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed and offered to all that should repent, and to none but such; to which exercises all should be invited and called. Accordingly, we find the apostles preached agreeable to this direction. “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.”4949 Acts ii. 38. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.”5050 Acts iii. 19.
2. As repentance is necessary in order to forgiveness, so forgiveness of sins is promised to repentance.
The passages mentioned under the foregoing particular are so full and express in this, that it is needless to repeat them, or to turn to others which assert the same thing. As repentance is required, in order to forgiveness, so forgiveness is connected with repentance.
3. Faith is represented in scripture as the only condition of pardon and salvation by Christ: As that without which no man shall be forgiven and saved; and to which pardon and salvation are promised. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”5151 Mark xvi. 16. “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: And he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”5252 John viii. 36. To him give all the Prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins.”5353 Acts x. 43. A great number of passages to the same purpose might be cited.20
From these premises it follows, that saving faith and repentance are not two distinct exercises, but imply and include each other, so that repentance comes into the nature and essence of faith. There is no other possible supposition by which the scripture account of this matter can be reconciled. If he who believes is forgiven, and shall be saved, and he who believeth not is condemned; and yet no one is forgiven, or shall be saved, unless he repent; and pardon and salvation are promised to repentance; then he who believes, does also repent, and he who does not repent, does not believe: Which could not be true, unless repentance and faith imply each other, so that there is faith in evangelical repentance, and repentance comes into the nature of saving faith, and is essential to it. Faith and repentance are not two distinct parallel conditions of pardon and salvation. They cannot be so, consistent with the representation of scripture respecting this matter, which has been produced. But they are so implied in each other, and so far connected, that one is not without the other.
It is abundantly evident that the Evangelists and apostles viewed and treated the matter in this light. This appears not only from what has been already observed; but it will be farther evident by attending to the account which the evangelists, Mark and Luke, give of the gospel, which Jesus Christ directed his apostles to preach to all nations. In Mark, we have it in the following words—“And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”5454 Mark xvi. 16. The good news to be proclaimed is summed up in these words, holding forth the condition on which eternal life is to be offered, and obtained, which is here called believing. Luke says that Christ directed, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.”5555 Luke xxiv. 47. These words contain the sum of what Christ ordered to be preached, and express the condition on which pardon and salvation were to be offered to all nations; and therefore are parallel with the passage 21just cited from Mark, and do express the very same thing, though in different words. But what Mark calls believing, Luke calls repentance. Therefore, saving faith and repentance are not essentially different; but repentance implies what is essential to faith, and faith takes into the nature of it what is essential to true repentance, so that one may be put for the other consistent with propriety and truth.
The account we have of the apostles preaching this same gospel, in the execution of their Lord’s instructions, serves to prove that the above cited words of the evangelists are intended to express one and the same thing, and point out the only condition on which they were to offer pardon and salvation, and that the apostles understood it thus. When the hearers of Peter’s first sermon were brought solicitly to ask, “What shall we do!” he said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.”5656 Acts ii. 38. Here he expressly preached “repentance and remission of sins,” exactly agreeable to the direction of Christ, as it is expressed by Luke. But when this same apostle is called to preach the gospel to Cornelius, and tell him, “what he ought to do,” we find him expressing himself in the following words. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive the remission of sins.” Here, instead of repent, St. Peter uses the word believe, which is the only difference between this, and the above cited direction to his hearers. And in this he comes nearer the words in which Mark expresses the direction of our Lord, which was to be regarded as their rule in this case. “He that believeth—shall be saved.” This apostle cannot be reconciled to himself in any other way but that in which the evangelists may be reconciled to each other, viz. that by repentance he means the same thing which at another time he expresses by faith or believing. And we cannot account for his expressing himself thus, but by supposing that faith implies repentance, so that he who believes, does, in the very act of believing, repent.22
But aside from the express testimony of scripture, it is demonstratively certain, that repentance comes into the nature of saving faith, from what has been proved concerning it, under the preceding particulars, viz. that saving faith implies a right disposition of heart; and that this right taste and disposition consists in love to God. For there can be no degree of right disposition, and love to God, or friendly disposition towards him, in an impenitent heart. Every degree of right exercise, and of love to God, in a sinner, implies repentance, as essential to such exercises. Therefore the impenitent man is always an unbeliever; and every believer is a true penitent.—Where there is no repentance, there is no faith.
That repentance is implied in saving faith, and the reason of it, will be still more evident, by considering the nature of true repentance, and in what it consists, according to scripture. The definition given of repentance by the assembly of divines, in the shorter catechism, appears to be agreeable to the scripture, which is in the following words, “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it, unto God—with full purpose of, and endeavour after new obedience.” Here repentance is defined as including the whole of a saving conversion: And he who attends to his Bible, must be sensible that repentance is commonly used there in this sense, and always, unless it be evidently used in a limited sense. Repentance has a first and more immediate respect to sin, discerning, realizing, and confessing the malignant nature, odiousness and ill desert of it, as committed against God, and a violation of his law. It therefore supposes and implies the true knowledge of God, discerning and realizing his being, greatness, excellence, worthiness and authority: And consequently a conviction and sense of heart, of the righteousness, excellence and perfection of the law of God, both in the precepts and sanctions of it; or an understanding, cordial approbation of it: for it is in the light of those objects that sin, which is the transgression of this law, which derives its foundation and reason 23from the divine character and perfection, appears in its true colours and extent, and as infinitely odious, and deserving infinite evil, even endless punishment. Repentance includes right views and exercises of heart respecting these objects, God, law, sin which right exercises of heart are supposed and implied in right views and sentiments concerning them. Therefore, repentance implies and consists in a hearty regard to God, as infinitely excellent and glorious; or, which is the same, in love to the Deity; and in a cordial approbation of the law of God, in which the divine character appears, and is effectually asserted; and in a true love to this law, rightly understood; and in hatred of sin, as committed against this law, and this God, and an hearty acknowledgment of his own guilt and vileness, and desert of the punishment, which the law of God threatens to sin. All this will be acknowledged to be implied in true repentance, and essential to it, by all who have properly attended to this subject.
But these sentiments and exercises are supposed and implied in saving faith, or faith in Jesus Christ. If we suppose this faith to consist in right speculative views of the gospel, in a conviction of the truth and excellence of it, exclusive of any exercise of heart, if this could be, yet even this supposes and includes right sentiments of God, law, and sin; for without a right view of these, the gospel, or way of salvation by Jesus Christ, cannot be understood. For the gospel implies these truths respecting God, law, and sin, and is founded upon them; and the existence, wisdom and glory of it are derived from the nature and perfection of God and his law, and the consequent nature and ill desert of sin. If these be left out of view, there cannot be any true idea or conception of the gospel in the mind. The ideas and sentiments therefore, which are essential to repentance, are equally essential to faith in Christ.
But if saving faith includes a right disposition and exercises of heart, in receiving Jesus Christ, as he is offered in the gospel, as essential to the nature of it, which has been proved; then it necessarily supposes and implies those exercises in which true repentance consists. Embracing Jesus Christ as a Saviour, or looking to him 24and trusting in him for salvation from sin and misery, implies a true view and cordial approbation of the character of God, and of his law, an acknowledgment of the desert of sin, and of his desert of endless destruction; and a hatred of sin, and hearty renouncing it, and desire of deliverance from it. It is easy to see that a person cannot heartily approve of Christ as a Saviour from sin and misery, to which he is justly exposed by sin, and look to him, and accept of him, in this character, unless he sees and acknowledges himself to be a sinner, deserving eternal destruction; and in his heart hates sin and forsakes it, as no impenitent person does, or can do: For the heart, in turning or cleaving to Christ, turns from, and renounces sin, in this very act. And applying to Christ for deliverance from the curse of the law carries in it an acknowledgment of the desert of sin, and the righteousness of the divine law. It is therefore certain that repentance is implied in saving faith, and comes into the nature of it, and has a coexistence with it; and is not properly a fruit or effect of faith in Christ. Therefore, as saving faith and true repentance are thus implied in each other, so that the exercise of faith is also an exercise of repentance, we may hence clearly see the reason and propriety of the Apostles speaking sometimes of repentance as the condition of salvation, and at other times representing faith in Christ as the only condition; and that they are perfectly consistent in this.
Sometimes, indeed, repentance and faith seem to be used in a more limited sense; and, in this view, distinguished from each other. Thus we find St. Paul speaking, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”5757 Acts xx. 21. Here the Apostle limits the meaning of the words repentance and faith, and so makes a distinction between them. And by repentance toward God, he appears to mean right views and exercises with respect to God, as lawgiver and judge, asserting and maintaining the rights of the Deity; and so right notions and exercises respecting the law God, and sin, the transgression of this law; such sentiments and, 25exercises as ought to take place in the mind of a sinner, and must take place, whenever he comes to a right taste and temper of heart, whether he have any distinct views of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, or not; and which are necessary in order to understand and embrace the gospel, as has been shown. By faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, he intends those views and exercises of heart toward Jesus Christ, as a suitable and all sufficient Saviour from sin, and the curse of the law, which are agreeable to the gospel, and to which sinners are invited. According to this distinction, as repentance toward God is put first, so it takes place in the mind first, in the order of nature, and precedes faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance toward God, in this sense of it, respects the term from which the sinner turns in conversion, and consists in a cordial approbation of the law of God, and self condemnation for his sin, and hating and renouncing it in his heart. Faith in Jesus Christ respects the term to which the sinner turns, viz. God in Jesus Christ, or God manifest in the flesh; and consists in believing the gospel with all his heart, which implies receiving and trusting in Christ, as a sufficient and suitable Saviour for such a sinner.
The same distinction seems to be made between repentance, and faith in Christ, in the following passages.—“Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”5858 Mark i. 15. “And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.”5959 Matt. xxi. 32. “But shewed unto them—that they should repent, and turn unto God.”6060 Acts xxvi. 20. But all this is consistent with repentance being implied in faith, so that where there is no repentance, there is no faith in Christ; and repentance, taken in the full sense of it, implying saving faith: And the whole may be considered as one and the same complex act of the mind, viewed and distinguished according to the different and opposite objects to which it has respect, viz. sin and the curse; and God in Jesus Christ, which is a turning from sin to God, revealed in the gospel. And therefore, when faith or repentance is mentioned without any limitation, 26each comprehends the whole, even active conversion, or turning from sin to God, by Jesus Christ.6161 See Mr. Edwards’s Discourse on Justification by Faith alone, page 103, 114, published in the year 1738. And Mr. Bellamy’s Essay on the Nature and Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Section viii. To prevent mistakes, and farther to elucidate this point, it must be observed, that repentance toward God, which, in the order of nature, at least, is antecedent to faith in Jesus Christ, implies faith in God, or a real belief of his being and glorious perfection. For, as has been observed, God must be seen in some measure in his true character, in order to see the reason and foundation of his law, and consequently the evil nature of sin, which can be known only by understanding the divine law. This discerning and belief of the existence and perfection of God; of the reason, reality, existence and extent of the divine law, and of the sinfulness and ill desert of man, is faith: It is the faith of a mind divinely illuminated, and implies right taste and exercise of heart: Or it is a belief peculiar to a renewed heart. And even this faith implies repentance; for an impenitent heart is not capable of it, and does not discern and believe the existence and character of God, as the renewed penitent heart does. This faith now described is, in the order of nature, antecedent to faith in Jesus Christ; as those objects must be seen as they are, and believed with a faith which implies exercises of heart in some measure answerable to them, before the gospel can be understood, or there can be any discerning or faith respecting Jesus Christ and the way of salvation by him. That the discerning and belief of these objects, God, law, sin, is true faith, and of the same nature with that by which men believe in Jesus Christ, is evident from scripture. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear. He that cometh to God, must believe that he is.”6262 Heb. xi. 1, 3, 6. Here the Apostle is speaking of the faith, which is peculiar to good men, true saints: It is a belief that God is. It is true indeed that this faith is not complete, 27without believing that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, which is the same with believing the gospel, or believing in Jesus Christ; but the belief of the former is first in the order of nature, and is necessarily implied in the latter. And the latter implies a true view and belief of the existence of the divine law, and the character of the sinner as has been shewn. Our Saviour makes this same distinction between believing in God and believing in him, and speaks of the former as prior to the latter, and the foundation of it, in his exhortation to his disciples, “Believe in God, believe also in me.”6363 John xiv. 1.—The words in the original, in both parts of the sentence, translated believe, are exactly the same, without any variation, and should have been so translated, not ye do believe in God, but believe in God.
It must also be observed, that what is properly called evangelical repentance, is not prior to faith in Christ. The repentance which precedes faith in Jesus Christ, respects the objects and truths, which are discerned prior to any true regard to Jesus Christ, or the knowledge of his character as the Saviour of sinners, the former being necessary in order to the latter, as has been shewn. Repentance, considered as it respects sins against Jesus Christ, and the gospel, and the great sin of unbelief, does not precede a belief of the truths of the gospel, or faith in Jesus Christ; for this is impossible. But repentance towards God, as it has been described above, is of the same nature with evangelical repentance; and implies a disposition to repent of the sin of not believing on Christ, when his character comes into view, and does always accompany, and is implied in faith in Jesus Christ.
But though these distinctions may be made in theory, and are founded in the nature of things, and the connexion of revealed truth, and dependence of one revealed object upon another; and such distinctions may be proper and necessary in order more clearly to understand the subject to which we are attending: Yet a person may doubtless be a true believer in Jesus Christ, and not distinguish his views and exercises, so as to perceive experimentally which is prior to the other, and 28in what particular order they have taken place in his mind; and may entertain notions in theory on this point, which are really contrary to the truth of things, which may have been imbibed by education and wrong instruction, or some other way. But whatever contrary opinions have been advanced in theory, on this head, it is presumed that it has been now proved from scripture, and the reason and nature of things, that repentance is implied in saving faith, and comes into the nature and essence of it; so that where there is no repentance, there is no saving faith; and that it is impossible that any person should believe on Jesus Christ in a saving manner, with an impenitent heart, which was the truth advanced, and to be supported under this head.
V. It is evident from the holy scriptures that the whole of evangelical obedience is included in saving faith. Or that saving faith implies all the holy exercises and works of a christian, and is the sum of all; so that where there is no faith, there is no true obedience, and where there is faith, there is obedience, and in this obedience, saving faith does essentially consist. Saving faith does not produce obedience, or the latter flow from the former, as the effect from the cause; but faith itself is evangelical obedience, and cannot be distinguished from it.6464 When Peter says, the hearts of the uncircumcised Gentiles were purified by faith, Acts xv. 9. the meaning is not, that faith was the cause, and purity of heart, the effect; but that faith was the purity of heart itself. This is illustrated by one expression of this same apostle. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in (or by) obeying the truth, through the Spirit.” Peter i. 22. None will suppose that purity of heart, and obeying the truth, can be distinguished here, as if the former were the effect of the latter.
When the Jews asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”6565 John vi. 28, 29. The plain meaning of the question put by the Jews is this: What are these exercises, duties and works which God requires under the dispensation, and in the kingdom which the Messiah is to set up, in order to obtain that everlasting life which he will give? And Jesus comprised it all in believing on the Messiah. It is observable, that our Lord does not say, 29that in order to work the works of God, they must believe, so that their faith should become the foundation and principle of good works: But he says, This is the work itself. It will doubtless appear, that the natural and plain import of the words is, that faith in the Messiah, or believing in Jesus Christ, comprehends the whole of what the gospel requires, or is that in which conformity to the gospel in heart and life consists; and is therefore the sum of gospel holiness, or evangelical obedience.
Agreeable to this are the words of St. Paul, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.”6666 Gal. ii. 20. The Apostle is here speaking of his life as a christian, a life of christian holiness or evangelical obedience, and says, he lived this life by the faith of the Son of God; that is, by faith in Jesus Christ. For the faith of Christ, is the faith by which men believe in Christ for righteousness and justification. Hence it appears, that the spiritual life of a christian is his faith, or it is a life of faith. Therefore, that conformity to the gospel in which christian obedience consists, is called, The obedience of Faith. “According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the Prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.”6767 Rom. xvi. 25, 26. St. Paul uses the same expression in the beginning of this epistle, though it is a little varied in our translation. “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations.”6868 Chap. i. 5. He is evidently speaking here of the same thing as in the above cited words; and the words which are there translated, for obedience of faith, are exactly the same here as in the original, and should have been so translated, as such a translation is most exact and literal. And that the obedience of faith intends conformity in heart and life to the gospel revelation, or evangelical holiness or obedience, not only appears from the words themselves, in the connexion in which they stand, but also from a parallel expression in this 30same epistle. “I have therefore, whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ, in these things which pertain to God—to make the Gentiles obedient in word and deed.”6969 Rom. xv. 17, 18. The Apostle is evidently speaking here of the same thing, as in the above cited passages: He is speaking of the same persons, the Gentiles; of the same causes, means, and operation, the gospel preached and attended with the power of God; and therefore he is doubtless speaking of the same effect. This he here expresses by their being made obedient in word and deed. Hence it follows, that the obedience of faith, is the same with obedience to the gospel, or evangelical holiness. Agreeable to this, faith is called, obeying the gospel, in this epistle. “But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah saith, Who hath believed our report?”7070 Chap. x. 16. Faith then is gospel obedience; that is, evangelical obedience. Therefore, obeying Christ is mentioned as the same thing with believing in him. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation, unto all them that obey him.”7171 Heb. v. 9. The christian life of holy obedience is expressed by “Fighting the fight of faith.”7272 1 Tim. vi. 12.
What the Apostle James says of faith serves farther to establish the point under consideration. He, speaking of saving faith, says, “Faith without works is dead.” And again, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”7373 James ii. 20, 26. According to this, works, or holy exercises and obedience, are essential to true faith. They are the life of faith, by which faith lives and acts; and therefore, are faith living and acting. As the body without the spirit is not a true living man, but the spirit or life is an essential part of a man; so nothing can be called true faith, which is or can exist without works; and works, or evangelical obedience, are included in faith and essential to it, and as really, and as much faith itself, as the spirit or life of a man is essential to the man, and is indeed the man himself.
The Apostle does not say, that faith produces works, which may be distinguished from saving faith, and are 31the effect and consequence of it: Nor is there any thing in the Bible to warrant such a representation of the matter: Nor docs he mean any thing like this; for then the similitude by which he illustrates the subject would be ill chosen, and nothing to the purpose: For the body does not produce the spirit and life of a man, but this coexists with the body, without which it would not be a man; and does itself produce every thing done by the man externally.
But it must be carefully noted, that the Apostle does not mean external actions merely; but those exercises of heart, that disposition of will, of which external actions are the proper and genuine expression; and in which all true evangelical obedience essentially and summarily consists. He does not mean mere external motions and actions, for there is no life in them, any farther than they are the fruit and expression of internal life and motion; which internal life and motion is the life of faith, or faith living and acting; and not any effect produced by faith, any more than the life and motion of the spirit of a man is the fruit and effect of a dead body.
It will farther appear that St. James includes the works of which he speaks, by which he means evangelical obedience, in saving faith, as essential to it, by attending to what he says of the faith of Abraham, the father and pattern of all believers. “Seest thou, how faith wrought with his works; and by works was faith made perfect.”7474 James ii. 22. If faith operates in, or together with works; then works are the operation of faith, or faith exerting and exercising itself. And if faith be not perfect without works, then works are a part of faith, and belong to it, being included in the nature of it. If faith does not include evangelical obedience, which the apostle means by works, then faith may be perfect without it, and cannot be perfected by it. But James says, faith is not perfect without this; therefore it is implied and included in faith. Evangelical obedience is saving faith, in such a sense and manner, that the one cannot be distinguished from the other; it is the obedience of faith; and where there is no such obedience, there is no faith.32
If we compare three remarkable sentences of the apostle Paul, it will appear, that according to him, saving faith and gospel holiness, or evangelical obedience, are not two distinct things; but really one and the same. They are the following: “For in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.”7575 Gal. v. 6. “For in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”7676 Chap. vi. 15. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of god.”7777 1 Cor. vii. 19. The two first of these sentences are the same in words, except the last clause in them. For faith which worketh by love, in the first, he puts, a new creature, in the second. There appears no way to make the apostle consistent, but taking faith that worketh by love, and the new creature, to mean one and the same thing. But by the new creature is meant that holiness which takes place in men under the gospel, by their being “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”7878 Eph. ii. 10. Faith then, which worketh by love, is the new creature exercising itself in acts of evangelical holiness. And it can be nothing else, according to the natural and necessary meaning of the phrase, “Faith which worketh by love,” as it has been explained. For if the life and operative nature of faith be love: then gospel holiness is the essence of faith, and this is the new creature. And it hence appears, that the last sentence is perfectly agreeable to the former, and asserts the same thing; for faith which worketh by love, and the new creature, are gospel holiness, or evangelical obedience, and this consists in keeping the commandments of God our Saviour, and can mean nothing, more or less.
Thus it appears evident from the representation of this subject in the scripture, that saving faith and evangelical obedience, are not two distinct things, or different kinds of exercises; but are so far one and the same, that believing on Jesus Christ intends and implies the whole. Not only is faith an act of evangelical obedience; but every act of gospel holiness is an exercise of saving faith, which implies the whole. And the reason 38and consistence of this will appear, if the whole that has been observed from scripture concerning faith, be kept in view, and properly considered.
It has been shewn, that saving faith does not consist in mere speculation, but right and holy disposition and exercise of heart is implied in it, and essential to it; and that this exercise of heart is love, which is the life and operative nature of saving faith. It is love, discerning, tasting and approving of the divine perfections and truths revealed in the gospel; and particularly, discerning and delighting in the character of Jesus Christ, and heartily receiving, adhering to him, and trusting in him, in the character and offices which he sustains, as the Saviour of sinners. And in these exercises all gospel holiness, or evangelical obedience, consists. It all consists in love; for there is no obedience which does not consist in love, love to God, manifest in the flesh, and the love to our neighbour, which is implied in this. This love is exercised in viewing Jesus Christ in the light in which the gospel sets him, in receiving and trusting in him, and paying proper acknowledgments to him; or, which is the same, in conforming to him, his character, example, doctrines and precepts, in heart and life. In one word, it is all comprehended and consists in receiving Jesus Christ—and all external obedience or holiness, expressed in words and actions, is but a proper outward expression of an inward, hearty receiving Jesus Christ, in a cordial compliance with the gospel.
This may be illustrated farther, by attending to a few particulars. Hearkening to Christ, or yielding and submitting to his teaching and instructions, is the same with receiving him as a prophet and teacher. Every act of true submission to Christ, and obeying him, is receiving him in his kingly office. All self denial for his sake, and every instance of voluntary suffering in his cause, is an exercise and expression of faith in him, and relying on his promises, or trusting in him. Following Christ as his disciple, and cleaving to him, in hope of salvation by him, is the same with actually receiving him and trusting in him as a Saviour. The exercise of true humility, in self condemnation, and renouncing all self dependence, is implied in receiving Christ as our 34righteousness and strength. Actually forsaking sin in heart and life, is an actual acceptance of deliverance and freedom from sin: and therefore an actual acceptance of Christ as a Saviour from sin. And the practice of christian holiness, in every branch of it, is an actual acceptance of Christ, as our sanctification. Heartily engaging in the cause of Christ, forsaking all things for his sake, seeking the interest of his kingdom, as the first and most important object, is an exercise and expression of love and union of heart to him, and a cordial receiving him as the Son of God, and Saviour of men.
Therefore, if receiving Christ is the same with believing on him, or comes into the essence of saving faith; then all gospel holiness, as it has respect to Christ, and is a practical receiving him in his true character, is really the exercise of saving faith, and is all included in it.—This is that by which faith operates, in the proper exertions of it, and is made perfect. And we are hence led to see the meaning and propriety of the following words, as a concise description of evangelical faith and holiness. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him. And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”7979 Col. ii. 6. iii. 17.—“The obedience of a christian, so far as it is truly evangelical, and performed with the spirit of the Son sent forth into the heart, has all relation to Christ the Mediator; and is but an expression of the soul’s believing unition to Christ. All evangelical works, are works of that faith that worketh by love; and every such act of obedience, wherein it is inward, and the act of the soul, is only a new, effective act of reception of Christ, and adherence to the glorious Saviour.”—President Edwards’ Discourse on Justification by Faith alone, page 83.
But a question may be suggested in the minds of some, from the foregoing account of saving faith, which it will be proper to answer, as this may serve to render the subject more clear and intelligible. It is as follows:
Question. If hope, love and repentance are saving faith, and if every christian grace, and all the branches of gospel holiness, are implied in faith, and really are faith, why are these distinguished, and called by these different names, in the scriptures? We find faith, hope, and love, mentioned and distinguished as different graces. And we often find a particular enumeration of 35the several christian graces, such as faith, love, hope, joy, humility, repentance, righteousness, goodness, godliness, meekness, patience, temperance, &c. If all these are faith, or included in it, why are they distinguished from it, as they seem to be?
Ans. 1. It must be evident to every one who will attend, that the various christian exercises, which are denoted by different names in scripture, and commonly called christian graces, are not in themselves so distinct and different as not to imply each other. To suppose them to be distinct, separate and independent one of another, is manifestly contrary to truth, and tends to confuse and mislead the mind in attending to subjects of this nature.
True grace, or christian holiness, is, in the nature of it, one and the same thing, though as it is exerted, and appears in various exercises, on different occasions, in different circumstances, and towards different objects, there is a diversity, or it puts on different forms, from which it is called by different names; while yet, in substance and essence, it is the same thing.
It is abundantly evident from scripture, that love is the whole of all christian grace. This is all that is required of men. In this the law is fulfilled and obeyed. Therefore, all christian holiness consists in this. It follows, that all christian graces are love in the various branches of it, exercised and expressed on various occasions, in different circumstances, and towards different objects.
The apostle Paul says, “All the law (meaning the second table of it) is fulfilled in one word, even in this, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”8080 Gal. v. 14. Yet he denominates the various exercises, in which men do, by this love, serve one another, by different names, such as goodness, mercy, gentleness, patience, meekness, long suffering, &c. In the same manner love to God, which is the whole that is required in the first table of the law, is called love, faith, trust in God, fear, hope, joy, repentance, humility, &c. according to the different views and circumstances in which this same love is exercised: All which, therefore, are the exercises of one 36and the same affection, and do involve and imply each other, and are in substance and essence the same.
The new creature, produced by the Spirit of God in regeneration, by which men are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, is that in which all christian holiness consists. This is the moral image of God; the divine nature communicated and implanted; or Christ formed in the soul. And this consists in a principle of true love. And all the exercises and obedience of a christian, through the course of a holy life, are the exertions and exercises of this love, this new creature. It is the same life and active nature, by which the christian lives, and acts in a holy manner, on all occasions: the new creature living and acting: As much so, as the various exercises of an animal are the same life, exerting itself and acting.
Unless we have this view of the grace or holiness of a christian, as it is exercised on all proper occasions, and towards different objects, and in manifold various circumstances, called love, faith, hope, repentance, &c. our thoughts on this subject will be attended with a degree of darkness and confusion.
Ans. 2. Notwithstanding christian holiness is one and the same thing in the nature and essence of it, and every branch of evangelical obedience is the exercise of the same principle and life; yet this same love or holiness, as it is exercised in different modes and forms, on various occasions, in peculiar circumstances, and with respect to different and opposite objects, may properly be distinguished by different names: Yea, this is convenient and necessary, in order to the most exact and clear communication of the ideas which are essential to the right understanding of this subject. In the course of a christian life, the same holy principle, the same in kind, nature and substance, exerts itself on various occasions, and puts on different modes, and appears in different forms, as it respects the different circumstances of the subject exercising himself, and the different and opposite objects, which are particularly regarded by the mind: And it is proper and necessary, in order to represent and express, in the best manner, this exercise in the different modes and forms of it, to call it by different 37names. And none can talk or write intelligibly on the subject any other way, without a perpetual, tedious circumlocution.
Right views and exercises of heart respecting God, considered as being what he is in himself, is love, considered in the general nature of it, as consisting primarily in disinterested benevolence, and comprehending all holy love. This is generally meant perhaps by love, when spoken of in scripture, in distinction from other graces, such as faith and hope, &c. and is the root and essence of all right exercises of the heart.
The love of a sinner towards God, whom he has offended, so far as it regards those objects which relate to his essence, exercises itself in justifying God in all his declarations and proceedings against the sinner; in confessing his sin with self-condemnation and abhorrence; in hating sin, and turning from it. And this is true repentance.
This same love, as it consists in believing in, realizing and relishing the true character of the invisible God and Saviour, as exhibited in divine revelation, is exercised in receiving and trusting in him as a wonderful, all-sufficient, excellent and glorious Saviour of sinners. And this is saving faith, as distinguished from repentance, hope, and love.
Love, considered as realizing and desiring the future good things, brought to light in the gospel, as the portion of the redeemed, and relying upon the divine declarations and promises, is hope, as distinguished from faith and love.
But it must be observed and remembered, that as faith, hope, repentance, &c. partake of the nature of love, and are really love diversified, with respect to the objects and operations of it; so they are included in each other, and where one is, there the others are, as comprehended in that. Yea, repentance, faith, hope, and every christian grace, may all be comprised in the same exercise of heart. Thus, faith and repentance cannot be separated, but imply each other, and come into the very same act of the mind, as a true sight and sense of the divine character, and of the nature of sin, are implied in both, 38and essential to each: And a turning from sin to Christ, is both repentance and saving faith.
Hence it is that, though there is this variety and distinction in the exercises of the new creature, which is the proper ground of their being called by distinct names; yet as what is called by these different names, is really involved in the same act of the mind, and one is implied in the other, they are often used to denote the whole, or the whole is often intended to be comprehended by one of these names. Thus love is often mentioned in the scriptures as intending the whole of christian holiness. And repentance is frequently put for the whole of active conversion: And the same is often denoted by faith, as has been observed and shown. And hope is used to express the whole of saving faith.
The whole of the foregoing, concerning the nature of saving faith, will lead to the following definition of it.
Saving faith is an understanding, cordial receiving the divine testimony concerning Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation by him; in which the heart accords and conforms to the gospel.
The following observations may serve to illustrate this definition; and farther explain and confirm what has been offered on this important subject:
I. The things, which the gospel contains, as peculiar to it, which relate to Jesus Christ, and redemption by him, and which are the objects about which christian holiness is chiefly exercised, are matters of pure revelation. The exhibition of them to us is by revelation only. And it is a revelation of spiritual, supernatural, mysterious and wonderful things, which, without such revelation, are wholly out of sight, altogether above our senses and reason, and out of the reach of any created faculties, as they depend entirely on the mere good pleasure of God. In this revelation alone are exhibited the person and character of Jesus Christ, an invisible, wonderful and mysterious person. And here we have our state revealed as it respects him, and his character and works, our need of him, and concern with him, as offering himself to us as an all sufficient Saviour. And the benefits offered by Christ, are deliverance from invisible eternal evil, and the bestowment of good 39things, which are invisible, wonderful, incomprehensible and future, belonging to the unseen world.
II. The gospel is not of the nature of a law exhibiting the sovereign authority and will of God, demanding of man what is his duty, which he is to perform and offer to him, being what he expects to receive of man, as the price of his favour: But it is of the nature of a testimony; a revelation not of works to be done by us, in order to a reward, and the price of it; but of what God has done for us; and an offer made to us, to be received by us. It is a revelation testifying to us God’s mysterious, wonderful mercy, wisdom and power, exercised in our behalf, making ample provision for the redemption of man, and offered to us, in order to a reception by us, answerable to such a revelation. It is a record and testimony which God has given of invisible, spiritual, supernatural good things, which are provided and suited to our circumstances and necessities, and freely offered to all who are willing to receive, as a free bounty, without money and without price. This leads to observe again,
III. This revelation presents man as altogether universally and remarkably dependent on God for salvation and happiness: Nothing could set this in a more visible, sensible, striking light, than the gospel does. This represents man as infinitely guilty and miserable, as wholly undone, helpless and lost, and altogether dependent on the Redeemer for that help and grace, of which he is, and ever will be, infinitely unworthy.
Now, in the view of these observations, it appears, that the leading and principal exercise and manifestation of -a right taste, or of the new creature, which consists in the concord or agreement of the heart with the divine truths exhibited in the gospel, is, in believing them, and acquiescing in them as true, and as really being just as they are reported by the word and testimony of God, And this, as has been shown, is not an act of intellect merely; but of the whole soul, in the exercise of a right taste and temper of mind, which is holiness, or the new creature.
And as this divine revelation, in which the things of the gospel are exhibited, is a testimony of good things 40provided by God, and freely offered to man, in order to his reception, that exercise of the heart, which is answerable to this testimony, and by which the heart accords with this revelation, and embraces it as true and good, consists in a proper and cordial reception of the good things therein offered, which is the same with receiving Christ, in which, as has been shewn, christian virtue or holiness consists. And this also has been shewn to be saving faith.
And as the gospel represents man as standing in infinite need of the good things therein brought to view, and offered, he being in himself altogether undone and helpless, in an infinitely wretched and dangerous state, that exercise of soul, which is answerable to this view of the case, by which it consents to this revelation and testimony, is a renouncing all self-dependence, and looking to and trusting in Christ alone for righteousness and strength, and complete redemption. And this also is saving faith.
Saving faith is the proper, active union of the soul to Jesus Christ, as he is revealed in the gospel. But such union with Christ consists in the actual agreement of the heart with Christ, and suiting and adapting itself to him and redemption by him, or actively receiving and embracing the testimony given concerning him, in exercises conformable to this revelation, as a revelation of invisible things, which are supernatural and wonderful, altogether beyond the notice of our senses, and above our reason and comprehension; a revelation of an invisible, wonderful, divine Saviour, and his supernatural miraculous works of power and grace, and as one who was dead, and yet is alive, and lives forever: a revelation not of a law or command, as an expression of the authority of God, demanding something of us which we should render to him, as the price of his favour; but a revelation of his sufficiency for us; his wonderful grace and mercy to us, needy, helpless creatures, infinitely unworthy and guilty; a revelation of a way of salvation consisting in deliverance from infinite invisible evil, and the possession of good things which are unseen, spiritual, incomprehensible, future and eternal; which are all freely offered to him who will receive them, however 41unworthy and ill deserving he be. When the soul actively conforms in its views and exercises to such a revelation and testimony as this, and acquiesces in the truths and objects revealed, as certain realities, excellent and divine, it does actively unite itself to Jesus Christ; and in this active union to him consists. And that act, and that course of exercises of the heart, which are proper and suitable to such an exhibition as this, to a revelation by God of such things, may most properly be called believing, receiving, seeking, looking, trusting, or in one word, faith. It may be presumed that no word can be found which so properly and fully expresses those views and exercises of the mind, by which it actively unites itself to Christ, as he is revealed in the gospel, as the word faith, according to the proper meaning of the word in the original, as it was used when the New Testament was written; or according to the meaning and general use of the word, faith.
The revelation which God first made to innocent man, was a law, or covenant of works, expressing his will and authority in requiring of them supreme and perfect respect and love, which they must render to him, as the price of his favour, and which he would reward with eternal life; and the least neglect of duty required, he threatened with his awful displeasure. This is properly called a law, or covenant of works; and compliance with such a revelation and command consists in works, working in order to a reward. These are “the works of the law.”
The revelation made in the gospel, which is the exhibition of a covenant of grace to guilty man, is exceedingly diverse, in many respects, from the other. This is not a manifestation of the authority of God as lawgiver, demanding obedience as a worthiness to recommend to his favour and rewards; but the revelation of a Saviour for lost man; the unspeakable free gift of God, as a remedy suited to his necessities; the offer of free undeserved mercy and glorious grace, through a worthy Mediator; and every one is invited to partake in this wonderful glorious provision, however unworthy and guilty. Here then no virtue or moral goodness is, or can be given, as a price of the salvation exhibited and 42offered; but all the virtue and holiness that can be exercised in this case, consists in believing and receiving the things exhibited and offered, or acquiescing in them as real and excellent. And this, as it is opposed to obedience or works, as a worthiness to recommend to favour and a reward, is more properly called faith.
The apostle Paul makes this distinction, as a very important one. He calls the gospel the law of faith, by which he distinguishes it from the first covenant, and sets it in opposition to it, which he calls the law of works. “Where is boasting then?—It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, by the law of faith.”8181 Rom. iii. 27. The gospel, or covenant of grace, is the law of faith. It is a revelation and testimony, a proper conformity to which, puts on that peculiar form, which is best denominated by calling it faith, in distinction from the obedience required by the law of works. He sets this in the same light in the following words. “Received ye the spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”8282 Gal. iii. 2. Here he sets the covenant, or law of works, in opposition to the hearing of faith, or the report or revelation of the gospel or covenant of grace. The former requires works, perfect works, as the price of a reward: The latter brings and offers all good to him who will receive it, or which is the same, to him who believeth. In this same view he puts faith in opposition to the works of the law, or obedience to a covenant of works, in the following words, “Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.”8383 Rom. ix. 32. To seek righteousness, as it were by the works of the law, is to do works, or attempt acts of obedience to law, with a view to offer this as their righteousness, and worthiness, to recommend themselves hereby to acceptance and favour with God. To seek righteousness by faith, is to receive and trust in the atonement and righteousness of the Mediator, or cordially to embrace the gospel, which is evangelical obedience, and as much a work, and exercise of gospel holiness, as any obedience to the gospel whatever, and is the obedience of faith, as has been proved.43
From the foregoing, the following question may arise in the minds of some.
Question. The apostle Paul says, men are not justified by works: But if saving faith implies works, and cannot be distinguished from evangelical obedience, and men are justified by faith; they are really justified by works, or evangelical obedience. Is not there an inconsistency in this? And why is not evangelical holiness, a righteousness which recommends him who has it, to the favour of God, as a moral worthiness, and a ground of boasting?
Answer. What has been already said, is a full answer to the first part of this question; and it is presumed every one who has understood it, will see the question to be wholly without ground. By the works and deeds of the law, is meant obedience to law as a covenant of works, in order to obtain the righteousness of the law, to be thereby recommended to the favour of God, as has been observed and shewn. This the apostle opposes to faith, but does not oppose evangelical holiness to faith, but considers these as implying each other; which gospel obedience, is not offered as a righteousness to recommend; but consists in renouncing all worthiness or claim to any favour, and receiving pardon and salvation as a free gift, to an infinitely unworthy and ill deserving sinner. This point, and the latter part of the question, will be more particularly considered in the next section.
I. From the above description of saving faith, taken from the holy scripture, we learn that what has been called saving faith by some, is not so.
1. Saving faith does not consist in a person’s believing that his sins are forgiven, that Jesus Christ died for him, and he shall be saved, and the like. A person may have a strong and most confident persuasion of this, without any good reason for it, and all may be gross delusion. No one can have any ground for such a belief, until he has exercised saving faith, and has evidence 44that he does believe in Christ, repent, &c. for none but such are pardoned, or can have any evidence that they shall be saved. Men must first repent and believe in Christ, in order to pardon, and a title to salvation, and therefore they cannot know or have any evidence that they are forgiven and shall be saved, until they have exercised saving faith. To believe they shall be saved, from any other supposed evidence, is mere delusion, and contrary to the express declaration of scripture. Indeed, a person’s faith, which consists in true taste and discerning, and a cordial embracing the gospel, may be so strong and sensible, as to be attended with a consciousness and assurance that he does believe with a saving faith; and consequently that he is pardoned, and shall be saved. But saving faith does not consist in this belief and assurance; but must first exist in the mind, as the proper ground of such consciousness and assurance. Therefore, the former may, and often, if not commonly, does take place, without the latter.
2. A mere speculative belief of the truth, not including any exercise of heart, is not saving faith. This, it is presumed, has been abundantly proved from scripture.
3. Saving faith does not consist in that belief, which includes works of the law, done in order to recommend persons to the divine favour, on account of their moral worth and excellence. This is the faith for which Arminians have pled. They say, true faith implies good works: But by good works they evidently mean, what the apostle Paul means by the works of the law, done as the price of the favour of God; and not evangelical obedience, which stands opposed to the former, as it has been described above. Their faith and their works are wholly antichristian; and therefore opposed to true evangelical saving faith.
4. That is not saving faith which can be separated, even in theory, from good works, and evangelical obedience. This has been abundantly proved from scripture in this section. It has been too common for those who describe faith as implying exercise of heart, even a cordial reception of Christ, yet to speak of good works and gospel holiness and obedience, as the fruit and effect, of which saving faith is the cause, and as if 45they were two distinct things. It is not agreeable to scripture to make such a distinction. It is inconsistent with their own definition of faith, and contrary to the truth; and therefore of a bad tendency.
5. That is not saving faith which precedes regeneration, and the new heart. Some have supposed that the impenitent, unrenewed person believes, and by this faith, his heart is renewed, and becomes penitent and obedient. This is contrary to scripture and all reason, which has been made evident. Faith implies a right disposition of heart, and therefore does not precede it and produce it. No person, but a regenerate one, has saving faith.
II. The view we have had of saving faith serves to show why it is represented in scripture as a duty; and men are commanded to believe on Jesus Christ: And why unbelief is represented as wholly inexcusable, and a great sin.
If saving faith did consist in mere speculation, and the heart had no concern in it, and no degree of disposition and exercise of that were implied in believing, it could not be required as a duty, or unbelief condemned and forbidden as a sin. For that in which the heart has no concern, and which does not imply any exercise of disposition or will, is neither virtue nor vice, sin nor holiness: It has no moral good or evil in it; and cannot be the subject of command or prohibition, of blame or commendation. But whatsoever implies exercise of the heart, and depends upon the disposition of that, and in any measure consists in this, is morally right, or wrong, holiness or sin, and must be commanded or forbidden. As therefore saving faith implies the whole of christian obedience and holiness, it must be considered not only as a duty, but as comprising the whole of it; And unbelief must imply the contrary, and therefore be wholly criminal.
Agreeably to this, we find men are commanded in scripture to believe on Jesus Christ; and this faith is every where represented as a duty. It is needless to mention all the particular passages of scripture which prove this, to the attentive reader of the Bible; the following 46are sufficient to establish this point. Jesus, came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”8484 Mark i. 14, 15. “Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”8585 John vi. 29. “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”8686 John xiv. 1. “And this is his commandment, that ye should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.”8787 1 John iii. 23.
On the contrary, unbelief is considered as a great sin. Our Saviour blames and condemns the Jews for not believing on him, and ascribes it to the corrupt and wicked disposition of their hearts. And unbelief is ascribed wholly to an evil heart, and forbidden in the epistle to the Hebrews. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”8888 Chap. iii. 12. Our divine Teacher not only represents unbelief as a sin of the first magnitude, but as comprehending all the sin of which men are guilty under the gospel. “And when he (the Holy Spirit) is come, he will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me.”8989 John xvi. 8, 9. “Not to believe the record God has given of his Son, is to make him a liar.”9090 1 John v. 10. To slight and reject Jesus Christ, which is unbelief, as it is opposed to faith, is the greatest sin of which man can be guilty; and every sin which men commit under the gospel, is unbelief, or a sin of unbelief, as it carries in it opposition to Christ, and a rejection of him. Therefore, as saving faith, taken in its full latitude, comprehends all gospel duty or evangelical holiness, so unbelief involves all the sin which men commit under the gospel.
III. From the above account of saving faith, we learn, that the interest of holiness is secured and promoted in the salvation of sinners by faith in Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone, has been objected to and opposed by many, as a doctrine tending to licentiousness, and encouraging men to neglect good works and an holy life, depending on their faith to 47save them. But this objection has been formed wholly from ignorance of the doctrine, and misunderstanding it, not knowing what is implied in saving faith.
It is true, that many have abused this doctrine, and expected to be saved by a spurious, dead faith, without works and holiness of life; but this affords no argument against the doctrine, rightly understood; for there is no truth of the gospel which is not liable to be misunderstood, and abused to bad purposes, and which has not been so abused. Such there were in the days of the apostles, whose dangerous mistake and wicked abuse of this doctrine, the apostle James exposes and confutes, by shewing what saving faith is, viz. That true holiness, and all the virtue and life contained in good works, is implied in saving faith and comes into the nature of it; and that faith which does not imply, and is not all this, will not save; but is a vain dead faith. This is the faith which has been described in this section, as has been shewn, by explaining what this apostle says upon it.
If faith implies the whole of evangelical holiness, then men cannot be justified and saved by faith without holiness; and holiness of heart and life is as necessary, as it could be, were they justified by the works of the law.
There is as real holiness exercised in approving of the holy character of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, and in receiving him, submitting to him, and trusting in him, as there can be in obedience to law, as a covenant of works. There is as real love to the law of God, and conformity of heart to it, in approving and trusting in the righteousness of Christ, for pardon and salvation, which consists in his honouring the law, by suffering the penalty of it, and obeying it, as there would be in obeying the law perfectly, as our own righteousness, were this possible.
IV. It appears from what has been said on this subject of saving faith, that the apostles, Paul and James, are perfectly consistent, wherein they have been, by some, thought to differ. Their consistence and agreement will appear, only by observing, that the apostle Paul means the same thing by “faith which worketh by love,” which the apostle James does, by faith which 48operates by works, and by works is made perfect, as the working life of faith. By this living, active, holy faith, implying all the good works and gospel obedience of a christian, James says, a man is justified, and cannot be justified by any other kind of faith, which does not include all this. Paul says, a man is justified by faith, and that this faith operates by love, as the life and active nature of it, in which all the holiness and good works of a christian are implied and consist. In this they perfectly agree, and assert the same thing in different words. The apostle Paul opposes this faith to the works of the law, to obedience to law as a covenant of works, as the price of the favour of God; and it has been shewn above, wherein the difference and opposition between these consist: therefore it is needless to repeat it here. The apostle James says nothing relating to the works of the law; and speaks only of those works which are implied in faith and christian obedience, or the obedience of faith.
V. From the view we have had of saving faith, we may learn why pardon of sin and salvation are in the Bible promised to the least degree of true holiness and christian obedience, in whatever way it be exercised; such as love to God, or to our neighbour, and to our fellow christians; to hungering and thirsting after righteousness, humility, meekness, a forgiving spirit, &c.—The reason is, not because evangelical holiness in the least degree of it, is only a sign of faith, as something distinct from it; but because it is saving faith itself, and is that in the exercise of which the soul does unite itself to Christ: For every holy exercise of the christian has the nature of saving faith in it, as has been shown. Every act of gospel holiness is connected with pardon and salvation, as it is an act of faith, and implies in it a believing in Christ, and acceptance of pardon and salvation, as a free, undeserved gift.
Therefore, any person may know that he has saving faith, if he have evidence that he does exercise any degree of real holiness, in any branch of it.
VI. We may hence see why saving faith is the gift of God; and in what respect it is so. The apostle Paul says, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that 49 not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”9191 Eph. ii. 8. “For unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”9292 Phil. i. 29. The disciples of Christ prayed him to increase their faith.9393 Luke xvii. 5.
Christ says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him. It is written in the Prophets, And they shall all be taught of God.—Every man therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”9494 John vi. 44, 45. And he said to Peter, when he professed his faith in him, as the Son of God, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”9595 Matt. xvi. 17.
Faith is the gift of God, as holiness is his gift, because they involve each other, and are really the same. If saving faith did not imply holiness, and were not holiness itself, it would be no more the gift of God, than any of the natural exercises of unrenewed men, and in no other sense: For there would be no more opposition to it in their hearts, than to any thing else whatsoever. It is the holiness of saving faith which puts it out of the reach of the unrenewed man, and all the difficulty of believing on Christ lies in this, and this is the only ground of the opposition of the carnal mind to saving faith. This difficulty and opposition to believing, therefore, cannot be removed in any possible way, but by “Taking away the stony heart, and giving a new heart, by which men are created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, being saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” This point is illustrated by what has been observed in the preceding section, on divine illumination.
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