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READER, 1. If it offend thee, that the parts of this Treatise are so unlike, understand, 1. That they are for various uses. The first part to make men willing, by awakening persuasions ; and the rest, to direct them in the exercises of Faith, who are first made willing. 2. That I write not to win thy praise of an artificial, comely structure ; but to help souls to holiness and heaven; and to these ends I labour to suit the means. 3. That the first sermon was published long ago; and the bookseller desiring me to give him some additions to it, I thought meet first to make up the exciting part in the same style, and then to add a directory for the practice of judicious believers.
2. And if it offend thee that the second part containeth but such matter as I have already published, in my sons of the Christian Religion,” understand. 1. That I perceived that that Treatise was neglected by the more unlearned sort of Christians, as not descending enough to their capacities; and that it would be useful to the confirmation of their faith, to draw forth some of the most obvious arguments, in as plain a manner, and as briefly as I could, that length or obscurity might not deprive them of the benefit, who are too slothful, or too dull to make use of more copious and accurate discourses. 2. And I knew not how to write a Treatise of the Uses of Faith, which should wholly leave out the Confirmations of Faith, without much reluctancy of my reason, 3. And again, I say, I can bear the dispraise of repetition, if I may but further men's faith and salvation.
3. And if it offend thee that I am so dull in all the directive part, I cannot well do both works at once, awaken
the affections, and accurately direct the mind for practice. Or at least if I had spoken all those directions in a copious, applicatory, sermon style, it would have swelled the book to a very tedious, costly volume: and affection must not too much interpose, when the judgment is about its proper work. And being done in the beginning, it may be the better spared afterwards. 4. If it offend you that I open the “Life of Faith” in
I somewhat an unusual manner, I answer for myself, that if it be methodical, true and apt for use, I do that which I intend. And on a subject so frequently and fully handled, it were but an injury to the church, to say but the same which is said already. Mr. John Ball, Mr. Ezekiel Culverwell, and Mr. Samuel Ward, in a narrower room have done exceeding well upon this subject. If you would have nothing more than they have said, read their books only and let this alone.
5. If it offend you that the directions are many of them difficult, and the style requireth a slow, considerate reader, I answer, the nature of the subject requireth it; and without voluminous tediousness, it cannot be avoided. Blame therefore your unprepared, ignorant ininds; and while you are yet dull of hearing, and so make things hard to be uttered to your understanding, because you have still need of milk, and cannot digest strong meat; but must again be taught the principles of the oracles of God; (Heb. v. 11-14.) Think not to get knowledge without hard study, and patient learning, by hearing nothing but what you know already, or can understand by one hasty reading over; lest you discover a conjunction of slothfulness with an ignorant and unhumbled mind. Or at least, if you must learn at so cheap a rate, or else stick still in your milk and your beginnings, be not offended if others outgo you, and think knowledge worthy of much greater diligence; and if leaving the principles we go on towards perfection, as long as we take them along with us, and make them the life of all that followeth, while we seem to leave them: and this we will do, if God permit; Heb. vi. 1. 3.
THE LIFE OF FAITH.
HEBREWS xi. 1.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen. Though the wicked are distinguished into hypocrites and unbelievers, yet hypocrites themselves are unbelievers too. They have no faith which they can justify, by its prevailing efficacy and works; and therefore have no faith by which they can be justified. Because their discovery is needful to their recovery, and all our salvation depends on the sincerity of our faith. I have chosen this text, which is a description of Faith, that the opening of it may help us for the opening of our hearts, and resolving the great question, on which our endless life depends.
To be a Christian, and to be a believer in Christ, are words in Scripture of the same signification. If you have not faith, you are not Christians. This faith hath various offices and objects. By it we are justified, sanctified and saved. We are justified, not by believing that we are justified, but by believing that we may be justified. Not by receiving justification immediately, but by receiving Christ for our justification: nor by mere accepting the pardon in itself, but by first receiving him that procureth and bestoweth it, on his terms: not by mere accepting health, but by receiving the Physician and his remedies, for health.
Faith is the practical believing in God as promising, and Christ as procuring justification and salvation. Or, the practical belief and acceptance of life, as procured by Christ, and promised by God in the Gospel.
The everlasting fruition of God in heaven, is the ultimate object. No man believeth in Christ as Christ, that believeth not in him for eternal life. As Faith looks at Christ as the necessary means, and at the divine benignity
as the fountain, and at his veracity as the foundation or formal object, and at the promise, as the true signification of his will; so doth it ultimately look at our salvation, (begun on earth, and perfected in heaven) as the end, for which it looketh at the rest.
No wonder therefore if the Holy Ghost here speaking of the dignity and power of faith, do principally insist on that part of its description, which is taken from this final object.
As Christ himself in his humiliation was rejected by the Gentiles, and a stumbling-stone to the Jews, despised and not esteemed; (Isa. liii. 2, 3.) Having “ made himself of no reputation;" (Phil. ii. 7.) So faith in Christ as incarnate and crucified, is despised and counted foolishness by the world. But as Christ in his glory, and the glory of believers, shall force them to an awful admiration; so faith itself as exercised on that glory, is more glorious in the eyes of all. Believers are never so reverenced by the world, as when they converse in heaven, and “the Spirit of Glory resteth on them;" 1 Pet. iv. 14.
How faith by beholding this glorious end, doth move all the faculties of the soul, and subdue the inclinations and interests of the flesh, and make the greatest sufferings tolerable, is the work of the Holy Ghost in this chapter to demonstrate, which beginning with the description, proceeds to the proof by a cloud of witnesses. There are two sorts of persons (and employments) in the world, for whom there are two contrary ends hereafter. One sort subjects their reason to their sensual or carnal interest. The other subjects their senses to their reason, cleared, conducted and elevated by faith. Things present or possessed, are the riches of the sensual, and the bias of their hearts and lives : things absent but hoped for, are the riches of believers, which actuate their chief endeavours.
This is the sense of the text which I have read to you; which setting things hoped for, in opposition to things present, and things unseen, to those that sense doth apprehend, assureth us that faith (which fixeth on the first) doth give to its object a subsistence, presence and evidence, that is, it seeth that which supplieth the want of presence and visibility. The 'unósario, is that which 'quoad effectum' is equal to a present subsistence. And the eleyxoo, the evidence is somewhat which quoad effectuni' is equal to visibility. As if he had said, Though the glory promised to believers, and expected by them, be yet to come, and only hoped for, and be yet unseen and only believed, yet is the sound believer as truly affected with it, and acted by its attractive force, as if it were present and before his eyes, as a man is by an inheritance, or estate in reversion, or out of sight if well secured, and not only by that which is present to his view. The Syriac interpreter, instead of a translation, gives us a true exposition of the words, viz. · Faith is a certainty of those things that are in hope, as if they did already actually exist, and the revelation of those things that are not seen.'
Or you may take the sense in this proposition, which I am next to open further, and apply, viz. That the nature and use of faith is to be as it were instead of presence, possession and sight: or to make the things that will be, as if they were already in existence; and the things unseen which God revealeth, as if our bodily eyes beheld them.
1. Not that faith doth really change its object.
2. Nor doth it give the same degree of apprehensions and affections, as the sight of present things would do. But, 1. Things invisible are the objects of our faith. 2. And faith is effectual instead of sight to all these uses: 1. The apprehension is as infallible, because of the objective certainty, (though not so satisfactory to our imperfect souls) as if the things themselves were seen. 2. The will is determined by it in its necessary consent and choice. 3. The affections are moved in the necessary degree. 4. It ruleth in our lives, and bringeth us through duty, and suffering, for the sake of the happiness which we believe.
3. This faith is a grounded wise and justifiable act: an infallible knowledge; and often called so in Scripture; John vi. 69. Cor. xv. 58. Rom. viii. 28, &c. And the constitutive and efficient causes will justify the name.
We know and are infallibly sure, of the truth of God, which we believe : as it is said, “ We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God;" John vi. 69. “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" 2 Cor. v. 1. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God;" Rom. viii. 28. “You know that your