Page images

sin, and the sinner's tremendous danger of everlasting misery; more clearly than any other discovery ever made of the divine perfections and government; though in harmony with the most endearing and encouraging displays of love and mercy to the vilest of singers.

But if every thing be kept out of sight, or' very slightly noticed, except the displays of infinite and everlasting love and mercy; unregenerate men may embrace this mutilated gospel with an unholy faith, and so encourage themselves in sin by the confident expectation of impunity. It will, however, still be undeniable, that the most holy doctrine of primitive christianity, can never be cordially embraced, except by a holy faith.

St. James carefully distinguishes a cordial consent to the true gospel from a dead faith: for saving faith is living and operative; and by it we receive the truths of revelation with cordial satisfaction and correspondent affections, as relating to our own situation, character, and everlasting interests. “ Being warned of God," and “ believing the truth,” “ we are moved with 6 fear;" we perceive ourselves in danger of the wrath to come, and allow that we deserve it; we submit to the righteousness of God, reverence his authority, and implore his mercy; we discover the appointed refuge and flee to it; we perceive the suitableness of his salvation to honour his justice and law, as well as to glorify his grace; and this very circumstance, which offends the proud and carnal mind, renders it doubly precious to all those who have 6 received the To love of the truth, that they may be saved."

The apostle Paul speaks of the “ faith of God's elect;" and Peter addresses those who had obtained like precious faith*. And thus he gives to faith the same epithet, which he annexes to the promises of God, and even to Christ himself: precious faith ;--precious promises ;-a precious Saviour: surely then it must be a holy faith, which embraces, and seeks the performance of holy promises, and cordially welcomes a holy Saviour ?

* Tit. i. 1, 2, 2 Pet. i. ..

Let us, however, more closely examine that peculiar act or exercise of faith, by which we become interested in Christ and his salvation; and enquire whether it be carnal or spiritual in its specific nature.- .66 That which is born of the * “ flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the “ Spirit is spirit :" there is no middle term between them.-Whatsoever is born of the flesh is carnal: and the apostle declares that “ the carnal “mind is enmity against God :" and that “ they “ who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Hence we before inferred that the faith of an unregenerate man cannot please God: and here let it be carefully noted, that there is no alternative; but saving faith is either holy or unholy, and not something of a middle nature, which is neither holy or unholy.

True faith simply credits the divine testimony, in those points, which most offend and oppose the pride and lusts of the human heart: and thus 66 he that believeth hath set to his seal that God “ is true;" while unbelief makes God a liar. Faith owns as the Son of God, as the Lord from heaven, as God manifested in the flesh, that Jesus, whom unbelieving Jews crucified, and whom all unbelievers crucify afresh; and views him as now risen from the dead, reigning in glory, the Ruler and Judge of the whole world, Omnipotent to save and destroy.-Faith embraces the doctrine of the cross with cordial

approbation, as the wisdom and power of God unto salvation; while it is foolishness to those that perish.-Faith submits to God's righteousness, allows that every sinner deserves the threatened

of the law, and renounces expressly all other pleas or confidences, except free mercy through the righteousness, atonement, and mediation of Emmanuel.-Faith unreservedly disavows all attempts to compensate for past sins, to establish a righteousness by any personal obedience or efforts whatever, or to save the soul from deserved and final destruction. Faith gives the Lord credit for his wisdom, justice, and goodness, even where they are not discerned; and by it the · self-condemned sinner ventures on his mercy and truth, in the grand concerns of eternity: entrusting the soul into his hands in full credence, confidence, and affiance, as both willing and able to keep that which is thus committed to him; and this in the clearest view of the importance of the case, and the difficulties that lie in the way of salvation. Faith “counts all things but lost, in comparison of Christ and his salvation : it discovers the treasure hid in the field, the Pearl of great price; and convinced that its value is inestimable, with joy sells all, to secure the advantageous purchase. Faith dreads nothing so much as falling short of that salvation, which unbelievers despise, and to which they prefer the most trifling interest or most worthless indulgence. Faith comes at the Lord's call, uses his appointed means, waits in his way, stays his time, and says under every delay or discouragement, “Lord, to whom shall I go? thou hast the words “of eternal life.” These things are essential to faith, be it weaker or stronger; as must be evident to every one, who makes the word of God the standard of his judgment. Even in its feeblest form, its first trembling application to Christ, while the distressed sinner cries with tears, “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine un* belief;" it has this nature, and virtually implies all these things : and do not these denote some degree of a right spirit, of a holy state of the heart and affections ?


The word of God no where mentions two sorts of true faith : but if the first actings of a sinner's i faith in Christ were entirely devoid of holiness,

and the subsequent exercises of faith were holy; some distinction of this kind would certainly have been intimated. If it could be proved tha saving faith preceded regeneration, and every degree of evangelical repentence: surely noman would suppose, that all the subsequent exercises of faith, till it be swallowed up in vision, result from merely natural principles, or such influences of the Spirit as are entirely distinct from sanctification, and that they are detached from repentance and all other holy dispositions and af-' fections ! - And will any experienced Christian deliberately maintain, that the established believer's daily exercise of faith in Christ, for pardon, peace, wisdom, strength, and sanctifying grace, essentially differs from his first coming to him for salvation? We acquire indeed, as we go forward, more distinct acquaintance with our own wants, and with that fulness from which they are supplied: and at some times, the testimony of our consciences, aided by that of the Spirit of adoption, inspires peculiar confidence in pleading the Lord's promises. But there are times also, when we feel such darkness, sinfulness, and perplexity, that we can only come on the ground of a general invitation ; and when the whole of our first experience must be again passed through, as the best, or the only, way of finding rest to our souls. Nor are those humiliating seasons uncommon to most of us; when, “ God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is of all other prayers most suited to our feelings; and when we come, to our own apprehension, as poor, " and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and


[ocr errors]

“naked,” as when we first “fled for refuge to “ lay hold on the hope set before us.” The de-/ gree and order of these experiences, desires, and affections, vary: but the nature of them is prezi cisely the same, whether that be holy or unholyj. It is all along, an ignorant helpless child, a cri-, minal, a diseased perishing wretch, applying to an all-merciful and all-powerful Saviour, to be taught, pardoned, cleansed, assisted,, protected, relieved, enriched, and completely, rescued and blessed, by free unmerited grace, through the redemption of his blood, the gift of his righteousness, the prevalence of his intercession, and the supply of his Spirit. The more simply and humbly this is done, the stronger is the faith exercised; and likewise the greater is the measure of a holy disposition which is manifested, though the person himself may not be conscious of it. The sinner, thus exercising faith in Christ, and applying to him continually for the supply of all his numerous wants, deliverance from merited destruction, and the free gift of eternal life ; judges and feels concerning himself

, his past conduct, his present duties, and his own heart, as he ought

judge and feel. He thinks soberly of himself, “and as he ought to think :" and in proportion, the state of his judgment and affections, respecting the perfections, law, and government of God; respecting sin and holiness, this world and the next, Christ and his gospel,

and almost every other subject, is rectified, and rendered what it ought to be. This is implied in the very idea of living by faith in the Son of God, and is inseparable from it, from the first feeble trembling cry, “ Lord save me, I perish," till the believer, in full assurance of hope, breathes his last, saying, “ Lord Jesus receive

my spirit.”



« PreviousContinue »