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faith. This is certain and evident in itself; for if a man make profession of what he hath not really, it is but a lie, and a lie of a gross sort. No man can make a true profession of faith, but the man who hath not only true faith, but hath some sort of knowledge that he hath it; for the profession of faith is something besides the acting of faith. The acting of faith is, that it be wrought in the heart; the profession of faith is, a confident owning of that act before God, and men, and devils. They are witnesses of mens profession, but the Lord only is the witness of the truth and sincerity of faith ; but when faith is come to profession, it is known to more than God. Now, that I may illustrate this in a few things, That it is a hard thing to make a true profession of faith, I would speak a little to both the words, that in our translation, and that in the original
. We call it profession of faith; the original is, the confese
sion of our hipe.
Ist, To take it for prosession of faith : I believe, the first word in the apostle's creed, applied to divine things, is in some
greatest lie in the world. Most persons are guilty of lying in saying, I believe; for God and their own consciences may tell them, that though their tongues speak the words, their souls are strangers to the power and truth of this believing. I will name some few of the heads that people commonly profess faith on; and when they are seriously considered, it will be found that the faith of them is very rare.
1. To begin with that which the apostle calls the first thing that a man must believe, that God is, Heb. xi. 6. He that cometh unto God, must believe that he is. How uncharitably would people think themselves to be dealt with, if they were charged with want of faith as to God's being? How confident are people that they are sincere, at least in this, “ I believe that "there is a God ?” Pray consider what there is in this believe ing. He dwelleth in light that no man can approach to; whom no man hath seen, nor can see. Whenever his glory shines in any manner before the
of a creature, it is enough to confound him. Do men believe that there is a God, that live plainly as if there were none ? Do men believe that there is a God, in whose presence they are continually, and in the mean time have no awful thoughts of him ? the true faith of the be
ing of a God would make the world a most miserable world, unless Christ were known, and God in Christ. There is nothing more terrible to a man, as a man, and as a sinner, than any displays of the glory of God, unless there be some discos very of this glory, as shining in grace towards men. There is more spiritual sense, I believe, than commonly is conceived, in that Old Testament word, I shall die, for I have seen God. Jacob wondered at the matter, and called the name of the place Peniel: for, says he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved, Gen. xxxii. 30.
2. A future state, and the soul's immortality. How commonly do men pretend to believe that they know God in Christ, that they believe the truth of Christ, and the mystery of God manifest in the flesh? He that can believe this well, may believe any thing. Let people be firm in the spiritual belief of it, they are fit to believe any thing; that God becanie man, Luke i. 35. Gal. iv. 4. ; that this man is God over a!), blessed for ever ; that this man came in the fulness of time, and laid down his life a ransom for many. There is nothing about Christ Jesus, or about the whole mystery of the gospel, but is incredible io a natural man, and to natural reason. When Paul spake about one point, the resurrection of the dead, O king Agrippa, says he, why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? Acts xxvi. 8. Here are inatters far more incredible : That God should become man; that this man should be still God over all, blessed for ever; that this man is made the great ark for the salvation of all the elect of God.' Do not run away easily with an imagination, that it is a common and ordinary thing to believe the truth of gospel-doctrine. People will say, it is very easy to believe what is written in the Bible ; it is a hard matter to believe, they may say, their own salvation ; and that the one is a great deal easier than the orher. If there be a firm assent begotten by the Spirit of God upon the heart, as to the foundation-truth of the gospel, the particular application of that to thy soul for thy sakation will be found an easy thing. Pray now, wherefore is it said so of. ten in the word, that faith is the gift of God; that faith is of the operation of God; that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of faith? It certainly points forih this to you, That believing
is a mighty hard thing; that divine power is needful to be get it, and bring it forward, and act it, and maintain it.
Again, take the matter as to our hope, there is great difficulty to avow the hope of eternal life. It is a hope of the greatest blessing that can be conceived, it is a hope bottomed only upon the pure word of God. When you examine your hearts, you find some hopes of being saved ; and that, in the day of the Lord, you shall stand with peace and confidence before your judge ; why so ? wherefore do you hope for this? Is it not because God hath said it ? is it not because the God that cannot lie hath spoken it? If you expect to be saved upa on any other ground, but because God hath said it, ye must change your minds ere ever you be saved ; for ye are off the rock, ye are off the sure foundation that all God's Israel must test upon. This hope is a hard thing to have and to maintain, because it is a hope that is assaulted; there is no natural probability for it, and a great many difficulties lying in its way. What is there now that can befriend the matter in the
of sense and reason? There is a poor creature under all the frailties of body and mind, that are either natural to us as men, or that grow and creep upon us by age, and that are in us because of sin ; our hope is, that we shall be perfect in soul and body in the enjoyment of God. Now we are encumbered with imperfections every day, and nothing so common and sensible as distance from him, and there is no probability of coming nearer. It is a probable thing that a young child
may live and grow to be a man or woman, it is proba. ble that a young plant may grow to be a tree; these are the common works of God in his providence, in guiding of this world; but what is there of probability, by philosophy, by reason, or sense, unto a poor Christian's attaining the possession of his hope ? There is none for it, but a great many, on the contrary, against it. There is the law, conscience, sin, Satan, and the world, all combating our hope every day. So that from this you may see it is a mighty diffeult matter to make a true profession of faith ; a man must have that faith er hope, before he can truly profess them; these things are hard to come by, and hard to keep. Secondly, It is as hard to hold fast the profession of faith, VOL. III.
after we have made it. When a believer hath made a true profession of his faith, and a true confession of his hope, and made it often, it is very hard to hold it fast. The greatest believers have failed here. I do not say failed quite, but they have stumbled shamefully. Who was a greater believer and confessor of his hope than Abraham ? yet he stumbled by unbelief grievously, again and again ; Isaac did so, Jacob did
David, that great believer and confessor of his faith, says, All men are liars; nay, it were well if his unbelief spake no worse ; it was, in effect, God is a liar. Samuel, and Gad, and Nathan, and the other prophets, spake to him in the name of the Lord: And yet, says he, I said in my haste, All men are liars; and said, I shall one day fall by the hands of Saul; for all the promises God had, made, and for all the faith David had avowed. But above all poor. Peter, who is commended above all men for his confession, Matth. xvi. how does he fall from it? Thou art Christ, says he to our Lord, the Son of the living God, ver. 16. Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and bloed hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. This great confessor, what a strange confession does he make to the maid! Art thou one of his disciples ? says she. I know not the man, says he. It is impossible, that a believer can keep the profession of his faith stedfast, unless he keep the exercise of his faith constant ; if faith decay in its exercise within, the beauty and stedfastness of profession will be marred abroad.
I come now to the second thing in the words, and that is,
2 apostle's argument by which he enforceth this exhortation : For he is faithful that hath promiserd; so we read it. Three things I would take notice of, in the consideration of the reading of the woods as they lie here, before I take them up in themselves; three things I note in general.
1. The apostle names no person promising, only speaks in general of one that promises.
2. He speaks of no sort of promise, but only, that there is a promise.
3. This I note also, that the word which we have rendered, He liath proinised, in the original is in the present time, He is
faithful that is promising. The promise here is not spoken of as an act past and gone, but of that which was present.
(1.) We find here the apostle does not speak of any person that promises, but only says, He is faithful that hath promised. Who then is the promiser ? You may be persuaded that it is a divine person ; and it is no great matter which of the three we confine it to; for I know it is generally applied to Christ's promising. But we find, 1st, That the promises that are the ground of the Christian's faith, are the promises of the Father, as the author, as the grand contriver and original fountain of the covenant. So the apostle calls him, Titus i. 1. In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began. 2dly, We find the promises ascribed unto Jesus Christ, and he is the promiser. So when he left his people and went out of this world, he left them with the opening of his heart to them in abundance of promises. And in his last prayer, that is as good as any promise in the word; Christ's prayer is as good as any promise in the Bible. The promises are also given by the Holy Ghost : He is called the Spirit of promise ; both because he is promised, and because he is a promiser and performer too; for promising and performing are ascribed still to the same person, Heb. x. 15.
(2.) The apostle doth not tell us what is promised, but only says, He is faithful that hath promised. What then must we understand to be the meaning of this dark expression, when a promise is spoken of, and no particular blessing specified ? It is easily gathered from the scope : for the apostle is bidding Christians hold fast the profession of their faith; the confession of their hope ; for, says he, He is faithful that promises; he plainly implies, that what he means by the promise is as large and broad, as all the foundation of the faith and hope that a Christian has. God's promises and our faith are to be commensurate; we are to make our faith as large and wide as the promise ; it is to be shapen as the promise.
(3.) The third thing that I note in general is, That the apostle's word in the original is, He is faithful that is promising, that is, in the act of promising ; so it is in the original; he is faithful that is now, and presently promising; the same word, as in Heb. xi. 11. The promises of God are not, as people