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use of. Believing is commanded, but it is always acted in trust.
2dly, Faith is not a notional assent to a divine truth, but it is an assent with the heart to the good-will of God. Pray take heed to this ; true faith gives an assent unto all that God says, unto all that God reveals; but if you come to the strict nature of saving faith, it is only a trusting of a promising God, it is only a hearty affiance in God, in, and under, and by virtue of his promises. To believe, is not only to say, God has said this, and therefore it is true ; but it is to believe that what God says, he says to me. What good-will hath God declared in the word concerning me? A believing of that is this faith that we are speaking of. Thus, I say, you are to take up the strict nature of faith; the proper nature of it is trusting God's promises, for God's faithfulness that speaks it. And thus we have these advantages by this strict notion of faith, and these confirmations of its being right.
(1.) Thus it is distinguished from all false faith. There is a great deal of faith in this world that is little worth; there is a
great deal more in the next world that is less worth. In this world a great many of the ungodly have a kind of faith, such as it is; they know divine truth, they give an assent to it; this assent may be so strong sometimes, that it may work some alteration in their conversations, they may escape the corruptions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when, in the mean time, they have no faith for all that; they are dogs and swine still, as the apostle calls them, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21, 22. The great difference that is betwixt all the unsound faith of hypocrites, and the true faith of a believer, is to be determined from the proper nature of believing. There is no unbeliever that ever takes God's word for his security, barely as it is God's word; there is never an unbeliever that trusts God's promise, because God makes it; the promise is never seen by such a one as it is in the hand of the faithful promiser; and therefore the man never believes with the heart, and therefore never believes truly. Again, there is a great deal of faith in the other world. The devil hath faith, all the damned in hell have faith, but a woful faith it is; God save us from ever know
ing what it means. The devil knows the mind of God in the word better than any minister this day in the world ; he knows God, and he knows Christ wofully: What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God ? Mark v. 7. The devil knows the gospel; Acts xvi. 17. These men are the sera vants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. What better can be said of the gospel than this, to call it the way of salvation; and to call the servants that preach it, the servants of the most high God, that have it for their em. ployment, to shew men the way of salvation ? All the damned in hell are great believers, but woful ones. They know certainly that there is a God, for they feel his displeasure; they know certainly he is a just God, for they lie under the lashes of his justice for ever; they believe firmly the day of judgment, for they tremble in the fears and approaches of it: but there is no sound faith there; why? Because there is no promise there. If there was a promise let down to them that are in hell, faith might be there; if the same God would give the promise and work faith, it might be acted there ; but there is no promise there, and therefore there is no faith there, there is no deliverance from that prison, Luke xii. 59.
(2.) This is a fit description of the strict nature of faith, because it answers the first expression of faith, that is in all the word of God. I do not say, that Abraham was the first believer ; but this you may find, that he is the first man that is spoken of as a believer. It is true, in the next chaptei of this epistle, there are some believers named before hirn; Abel was a believer, Enoch and Noah were believers; but the first faith spoken of in the word expressly is Abrahain's; and you know how much use is made of Abraham's faith, and practice, and example, in the New Testament, Gen. xv. 4, 5, 6. The word of the Lord came to Abraham, and said to him, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. What was this believing in the Lord, but the believing with the heart, the truth of what God spoke? And ye know, by Paul's help, what a great deal of gospel there was in this word, So shall thy seed be.
(3.) It answers the frequent name that is given to the revelation of God's will, that is, the way of our salvation, It is called the gospel, that is, good tidings; and what are good tidings, unless they be believed ? It is called a promise ; and what signifies a promise unless trusted ? It is called a covenant; and what signifies a covenant, unless subscribed unto, unless a man enter into it? The entering into it is by believe ing him that promises.
(4.) This is a right notion of faith, because it answers all faith, all sorts of faith whatsoever. It answers the faith of the strongest, and the faith of the weakest; it answers Abraham's faith, and it answers them of little faith. What is the reason of this distinction, that there are some strong in the faith, but because they put a strong trust in God's strong faithfulness? What is the reason some are called weak in the faith, but because they give a weak, wavering, staggering trust to the faithfulness of God? It answers all sorts of faith; faith for justification ; faith for sanctification; faith for our comfortable support in our pilgrimage ; faith for our safe landing at heaven. All these consist in our trusting God's promise for his sake who gave the promise ; as I shall shew more at large, when I come to lay before you your duty of believing. Only this shall serve for the first inference, that we may hence see, what the strict nature of be. lieving is; it is trusting God upon his promise, it is taking God upon his word.
Secondly, We see hence what the reasonableness of believing is; of strong believing; why? Because it is trusting God's faithfulness. What can be more reasonable than this? I know that sense and carnal reason are the greatest enemies of true believing; but there is nothing unreasonable in believing; nay, pure spiritual reason is highly for it. Can there be any thing more reasonable than this, to trust one that cannot lie ? to take an immutable foundation to build our confidence upon ? So the apostle Paul expresses it, when pleading his cause before Agrippa, and Festus, and Bernice, (a great many great folks were there): Acts xxvi. 8. He has this expression to king Agrippa, Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
The apostle's scope there, is not to discourse that head of divinity about the resurrection of the dead, that was not his principal design; but here lay the grand matter, that Paul laboured to pinch their consciences by, that our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, that died for our sins, was risen again for our justification; the unbelieving world that saw him before he died, and saw him die, did not see him after he was risen again; now, says Paul, why should it seem a thing incre. dible, &c.?. The words before, and those following, shew they had a promise for it, and that all the people of Israel had hope in the promise that God had made; thereupon, in ver. 27. he drives the matter most closely upon the conscience of that great man, King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest ; as if Paul would say, « Thou assentest to this, that the prophets spake the mind of “ God by inspiration : dost thou believe that I preach nothing “ else but what the prophets foretold, and what I know “ is fulfilled; that God hath raised his Son Christ Jesus?" Almost, saith Agrippa, thou persuadest me to be a Christian. The highest reason for the believing any thing is, Thus saith the Lord; the most certain reason that a future thing shall be, is, that the Lord hath said it shall be. Therefore now we should tread down carnal reason, and yield to this main grand reason, Thus saith the Lord; God hath spoken, and it must be true, because he saith it; and I will trust it, because it is true. Consider an instance of Abraham's faith with respect of issue from Sarah, Rom. iv. 18, 19. Wha against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations. He considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, Pray ob: serve, Abraham in this case must believe against sense, against reason, and against all experience; though it is likely that, before the flood, women were fruitful, when they were a great deal older than Sarah was; but a little while after the flood, men and womens lives and vigour were contracted to much the same bounds as at this day. Abraham considered not that Sarah was ninety years old : « Nay," would the max
say, " if she were ninescore, or nine hundred years old, God ” hath said it, and I believe it.” Now, the grand matter was not barely and simply, that Abraham should be a father of a son, that he should be a father of many nations : but in this great promise of issue from God Christ was comprehended, who was to be the eternal salvation of the whole church of God. He was to spring from Sarah's womb, and Abraham had the promise of it, and against all sense, reason, and experience, he will believe it. Now observe what use the apostle makes of it: It was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shail be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, ver. 23, 24, 25. Pray, observe what I drive at is this, That the apostle brings in every believer on Jesus Christ for salvation, in the same list of enjoying the blessing with great Abraham, that believed so strange a thing about Sarah. And the truth is, that the salvation of a sinner, dead in sins and trespasses, by Christ Jesus, is a greater won. der and miracle, than Sarah's dead womb bringing forth a liv. ing child: that, in a manner, was a work of wonder, wrought by the God of nature according to his word; and this is a work of wonderful grace against the course of sinful nature, for the overthrowing of it.
Thirdly, Hence we see why faith is said to give glory to God: the reason is, because faith answer's God's faithfulness. Great faith is said to give glory to God; one of the special çommendations of Abraham's faith is, He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, Rom. iv. 20. God magnifies his name of faithfulness above all his names; the believer magnihes his faithfulness by his believing, therefore he gives glory to God. There are three honourable services that some men-get put into their hands, and which are denied to angels. There is preaching of Christ, suffering for Christ, and believing in him: these are three honourable pieces of service, that only poor mortal men are intrusted with. The apostle reckons he had got a great grace, wh, he had got that
ot that of preaching Christ, and that too the unsearchable riches of Christ. When an angel was sent to Cornelius, he was not sent to preach the gasa