« Prev Chapter III. Next »

Chapter III.

The Whole Treasure Of The Inner Man Depends On Faith, Namely, God, Christ, The Holy Spirit, And The Kingdom Of God.

God grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, etc.Eph. 3:16, 17.

A Christian ought to employ his greatest care and diligence, in learning the true nature and practice of faith. It is faith that unites us to Christ, and admits us into all the blessedness of the kingdom of God. Upon this account it is called, “a substance;—the substance of things hoped for.” Heb. 11. For our whole Christian life consists in a living and operative faith, not in mere knowledge, not in a shadow or pretext, but in a living, active power. In a word, it is faith alone that can deliver us from our bondage of corruption and misery, and bring us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Whence, at our first admission into the Christian Church by holy Baptism, through which, as through a gate, we enter into the fold of Christ's sheep, faith stands at the head. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” Mark 16:16. And St. Paul says, “This is the word of faith which we preach, that if thou believe in thine heart, etc., thou shalt be saved, etc.” Rom. 10:8-10. But as the nature of faith may be better known by its properties, I shall briefly speak of eight of them in this chapter.

2. The first of these is, spiritual freedom or a release from sin and death, from the devil, from hell, the curse of the law, the Mosaic typical ceremonies, and from all the commands and traditions of men. For as nothing can cause greater agony to the soul, than to be compelled to bear the fiery darts of Satan, and the tyranny of Antichrist, by which the conscience is fettered and entangled with traditional precepts of men, as with cords and chains: so nothing can give it greater quiet, peace, and comfort, than to be delivered from this servitude of sin, Satan, and human traditions, into a true freedom and liberty of conscience; which liberty is nothing but a true and saving faith. For by 385 this faith we apprehend Jesus Christ, and all the treasures of his grace, particularly reconciliation with God, remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. He that has this faith cannot be hurt by sin, death, the devil, or the world; for he has Christ dwelling in him, who is his righteousness against sin; his life against death; his strength against the devil; his heaven against hell; his victory over the world; his blessing against the curse of all the world; his blessedness against all the miseries of this world; his liberty, from all the vain traditions of men. This our blessed Lord has briefly summed up in one sentence, “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36. Whence Christ is all in all unto faith, and the sum and completion of all our hopes and all our blessedness. So that faith gives quietness to the soul; peace and plenty to the conscience; freeing it from all fears and terrors, and causing the heart to rest joyfully and quietly in God.

3. Secondly, by faith the soul is united to Christ, as a bride with her bridegroom—“I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness.” Hosea 2:19. The consequence of this espousal, is a communication of all good things, yea, and of the cross itself, so that all that Christ has, belongs to the soul, and all that the soul has, belongs to Christ. Now as Christ has all heavenly and eternal gifts, such as wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, blessedness, and eternal life (1 Cor. 1:30): yea, is himself all these; the soul therefore receives them all. And, on the other hand, as our soul has nothing but sin, uncleanness, calamity, misery, sin and death, Christ has taken to him all these; bestowing his good things upon us, and taking our sins and miseries upon himself. But as the good things of Christ are eternal and omnipotent, so they root out, swallow up, and destroy all sin, death, and misery that are in us. For the eternal and invincible righteousness of Christ, is so superior to the power of sin in us, that it utterly destroys it; and by this means, the soul is delivered from its own sins, and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Isa. 61:10. And surely this is a blessed exchange, when a man changes sin for righteousness, death for life, a curse for a blessing, and eternal misery for eternal blessedness. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); for their sins are swallowed up in his righteousness. For if, as St. Paul says, “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54), it follows that sin also must be swallowed up.

4. Hence, thirdly, it follows, that by faith our souls are assured of everlasting happiness. “I am persuaded,” saith St. Paul, “that no creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” Rom. 8:38. “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a tried stone; he that believeth shall not make haste.” Isa. 28:16. And “I will make with you an everlasting covenant.” Isa. 55:3. “My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” Isa. 54:10.

5. Hence, fourthly, arises the victory of faith over sin, death, hell, and the world. “Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world:—who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5, 4. In these words, the original of faith is discovered; that 386 it proceeds not from the powers of man, but that it is the work and gift of God (John 6:29); and that regeneration is a divine, and supernatural work. And as this new birth is in all respects superior to nature, therefore it cannot be hurt by any assaults from the world; for though a Christian be ever so much despised and abused by the world, yet is he in Christ a glorious and triumphant conqueror. “In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” Rom. 8:37.

6. Hence also arises, fifthly, the glory of faith, which is twofold: the one spiritual and hidden; the other, future, visible, and glorious in the world to come. Now faith makes us partakers of both kinds of Christ's glory. So then, as the majesty of Christ consists in his kingdom and high-priesthood; so also he makes us kings and priests unto God; an honor which, when St. Peter speaks of, he can hardly find words to express. “But ye,” says he, “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.” 1 Peter 2:9. Moreover, the glory of Christ's kingdom consists in this, that it is eternal, and all the blessings and benefits of it are eternal: eternal grace, everlasting righteousness, unfading consolation, endless life, joy, peace, and blessedness. What good could we expect from a temporal prince? All the world itself, and all its glories decay and perish; and there is no trust to be put in princes, nor in any child of man. But Christ is our Eternal King; and all his favors and blessings endure to eternity. The spiritual kingdom, then, of a Christian consists in this, that by faith he is spiritually exalted above all things; that nothing can hurt or hinder him, in the great affair of his salvation. Yea, all things are subject to him, and work together for his good, as we are told (Rom. 8:28): even life and death, the world, hell, and the devil himself. Hence it appears how glorious, how extensive this spiritual dominion of a Christian is, since all things, whether good or evil, are forced to contribute to his spiritual good, so soon as he is possessed of Christ, and Christ of him. For the whole treasure and hope of a Christian is—Christ apprehended by faith; Christ is all-sufficient. O the precious liberty of a Christian! O the mighty power of the inward man! As the liberty, righteousness, and blessedness of a Christian, as also his slavery, sin and misery, are not external things; so it follows, that no external thing, nothing but the mere grace and command of God, can justify, sanctify, or glorify a man. What though the body enjoy liberty, health, and strength, and eat and drink well, will the soul be the better for this? If the body be imprisoned, sick, weak, hungry, and thirsty, will the soul be the worse? Not at all. These things cannot make the soul either happy or miserable, whilst she preserves her inward treasure, and is true to her spiritual liberty. So also in respect of her spiritual priesthood, the soul is out of danger from anything that may happen without. Its sacrifices, prayers, and devotions, are spiritually performed by faith, without any necessary dependence upon external things; as time, place, food, garments, or temples. Again, the soul is not at all the better for any external circumstance; such as images, saints' robes, churches, external fasts, oral prayers, and other outward works. These are not efficacious enough to lead the soul into the paths of righteousness and liberty. All these things a hypocrite may do, without 387 any benefit to his soul. For there is nothing either in heaven or earth in which the soul can live, nothing that can bestow upon her righteousness and liberty, nothing in which she can rest with comfort, and joy, but Christ alone, on whom by faith she comfortably and joyfully depends. This is what our Lord himself tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. And, “Come unto me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matt. 11:28. The soul that is by faith united unto Christ, stands in need of nothing (John 10:11); for in Christ she possesses all things: food, joy, peace, light, knowledge, righteousness, truth, wisdom, liberty, comfort, blessedness, life, answers to prayer, and all things. So that “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11), as the Apostle tells us. And whatsoever external ceremonies we may conform to for the sake of peace, order, and uniformity, we may be satisfied that “unto the pure, all things are pure.” Tit. 1:15. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” John 15:3. So that nothing can defile the soul, but unbelief, and its fruits.

7. The sixth property of faith is, that it renews the whole man. It kindles in him the fire of divine love, and furnishes him with all Christian graces and works of mercy; not as if he merited thereby anything from God, but only as it renders the soul grateful to Him. “Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High.” Ps. 50:14. So that faith immediately begins a new life in man, and quickens him through the Word of God: for all the Holy Scripture is contained in faith. As therefore the Word of God is holy, true, just, living, spiritual, free, and full of all good; so also it makes all those who receive it in faith, holy, just, true, the children of God, “thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. 3:17.

8. Seventhly, though true and saving faith triumphs over the world and the devil; yet is it of such a nature, that, in pure love, it makes itself servant unto all. He who has it, considers seriously with himself, that Jesus Christ and all the heavenly graces are freely given him by God, so that he stands in need of no worldly thing in the concern of salvation: and withal, that “nothing can separate him from the love of God” (Rom. 8:38), and that nothing in this world can hurt him. When a man, endued with a lively faith, considers all this, he cannot but acknowledge, that in mere gratitude to God, he is obliged to do for his neighbor, as Christ hath done for him. He will say, “All my gifts and graces, my wisdom, my understanding, my riches, my comfort, are all my neighbor's, as freely as Jesus Christ, by his infinite mercy, has bestowed them on me.”

9. The eighth property of faith is, that it conquers and triumphs over every cross, yea, glories in the cross. For we find more comforts in Christ by faith, than we leave in forsaking the world for his sake; more honor, than the united malice of the world can take from us. In him we meet with so much love, that we shall not regard the hatred and enmities of men; such blessings, that all the curses in the world cannot impair them; so much joy, that all the world cannot make us sad. If it were possible for us to be slain and murdered ten thousand times over, yet Christ remains, and will forever continue to be our Lord, and our everlasting Life, infinitely to be preferred before this short and fleeting life.

« Prev Chapter III. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection