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3. What are the scripture descriptions, characters, and representations of justifying faith?
4. What is the true definition of justifying faith, a definition which agrees with the scripture representation of faith, and takes all in ?
5. Whether the word faith, as used in the gospel, has a signification diverse from what it has in common speech?
6. Why the word faith is used to signify this complex act of the mind ?
7. How far trusting in Christ is of the nature and essence of faith?
8. Whether assent, consent and affiance, be a proper distribution of the various and distinct acts of faith ?
9. Whether hope, as the world is used in the New Testament, be properly distinct from saving faith?
10. What does the word trust imply in common speech?
14. How self-righteousness is peculiarly opposite to the nature of faith?
15. In what sense there must be a particular application in the act of saving faith?
16. Whether the first act of faith is certainly more lively and sensible, than some of the weakest of the consequent acts of saving faith?
17. In what sense perseverance in faith is necessary to salvation ?
18. What sort of evidence is it which is the principal immediate ground of that assent of the judgment which is implied in saving faith?
73. Calling on the name of Christ, is often spoken of as the proper expression of saving faith in Christ. Acts ii. 21 ; Rom. X. 13, 14; 1 Cor. i. 2; Acts ix. 14, 21. 22, 16. Faith is trusting in Christ. See Doddridge's note on Acts xvi. 31.
What in that prophecy of the Messiah in 1sa. xlii. 4, is expressed thus, “ The isles shall wait for his law,” is, as cited in Matth. xviii. 21. “ In his name shall the Gentiles trust,"
Coming to Christ, and believing in him, are evidently used as equipollent expressions, in John vi. 29, 30. 35. 37. 40. 44, 45. 47. 64, 65. This coming, wherein consists believing, implies an attraction of the heart, as is manisest by verses 44, 45.
Christ, by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, evidently means the same thing that he intends in the same chapter, by believing in him, and coming to him, Compare John vi. 50, 5153, 54. 56, 57, 58, with verses 29, 30. 35, 36, 37. 40. 44, 45. 47. 64, 65.
Saving faith is called in Ηeb. iii. 6. παρρησία και το καυχημα της ελπιδος, stidos, The confidence and the rejoicing of the hope." Well, expressing the act of the whole soul that is implied in saving faith, the judgment, the will
, and affections. So in Heb. x.!23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith.” In the original it is ελπιδος, Hope.
Justifying faith is nothing else, but true virtue in its proper and genuine breathings adapted to the case, to the revelation made, the state we are in, the benefit to be received and the way and means of it, and our relation to these things.
Faith is a sincere seeking righteousness and salvation, of Christ, and in Christ. Rom. ix. 31, 32. “ Hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." See also the promises made, both in the Old Testament and New, to them that seek the Lord. To saving faith in Christ belongs adoration, submission, and subjection, as appears by Isa. xlv.
66 Unto me every knee shall bow,” with the foregoing and following verses.
The general description of justifying faith is a proper reception of Christ and his salvation, or a proper active union of the soul to Christ as a Saviour. I say, a proper reception, which implies that it is a receiving him in a manner agreeable to his office and character and relation to us, in which he is exhibited and offered to us, and with regard to those ends and effects for which he is given to mankind, was sent into the world, and is appointed to be preached ; and in a manner agreeable to the way in which he is exhibited, made known, and offered, i. e. by divine revelation, without being exhibited to the view of ourselves; and the nature of his person, character, offices and benefits; and the way of salvation, as related to our faculties, mysterious and incomprehensible; and in a manner agreeable to our circumstances, and our particular necessities, and immediate and infinite personal concern with the revelation and offer of the Saviour. A union of soul to this Saviour, and a reception of him and his salvation, which is proper in these respects, is most aptly called by the name of faith.
§ 74. That love belongs to the essence of saving faith, is manifest by comparing Isaiah lxiv. 4. “Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, &c., what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him,” as cited by the apostle, i Cor. ii. 9. “It is for them that love him.” Now it is evident that waiting for God, in the Old Testament, signifies the same with faith in God, or trusting in God.
Dr. Goodwin, in vol. 1, of his works, p. 286, says, “The Papists say, wickedly and wretchedly, that love is the form and soul of faith.” But how does the truth of this charge of wickedness appear?
It was of old the coming to the sacrifice, as one consenting to the offering, active in choosing and constituting that as his offering, and looking to it as the means of atonement for his sins, that interested him in the sacrifice; as appears by Heb. x. 1, 2. “ Could never make the comers thereunto perfect. For then, the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins.” Compare chap. ix. 9.
Believing in one for any benefit, as sufficient for the benefit, and disposed to procure it, and accordingly leaving our interest with him, with regard to that benefit
, is implied in trusting in bim, Job xxxix. 11. «Wilt thou trust him, because bis strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labor with bim ? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?"
As the whole soul in all its faculties is the proper subject and agent of faith, so undoubtedly there are two things in saving faith, viz. belief of the truth, and an answerable disposition of heart. And therefore faith may be defined, a thorough believing of what the gospel reveals of a Saviour of sinners, as true and perfectly good, with the exercise of an answerable disposition towards him. That true faith, in the scripture sense of it, implies not only the exercise of the understanding, but of the heart or disposition, is very manifest. Many important things pertaining to saving religion, which the Scripture speaks of under the name of some exercise of the understanding, imply the disposition and exercise of the heart also. Such as, knowing God-understanding the word of God-having eyes to see, and a heart to understand, And piety is called wisdom. So men's wickedness is called ignorance, folly, &c.
A being wise in one's own eyes, implies a high opinion of himself, with an agreeable or answerable disposition.
It is evident that trust in Christ implies the disposition or will, the receiving and embracing of the heart. For we do not trust in any person or thing for any thing but good, or what is agreeable to us; what we choose, incline to, and desire. Yea, trusting commonly is used with respect to great good : good that we choose, as what we depend upon for support, satisfaction, happi
§ 75. The following things concerning the nature of faith, are extracted from Dr. Sherlock's several discourses, preached at Temple Church; discourse 14, page 257, &c.
“Faith, as some think, is no proper subject for exhortation. For if faith is a mere act of the mind judging upon motives of credibility, it is as reasonable to exhort a man to see with bis eyes, as to judge with his understanding. But then, if this be the true notion of faith, how comes it that in every page we find the praises of it in the gospel? What is there in this to deserve the blessings promised to the faithful? Or whence is it that the whole of our salvation is put upon this foot ? How come all
these prerogatives to belong to faith, if faith be nothing else but believing things in themselves credible? Why are we not said to be justified by light as well as by faith? For is not there the same virtue in seeing things visible, as in believing things credible? Tell me then, what is faith, that it should raise men above the level of mortality, and make men become like the angels of heaven?-But further, if it be only an act of the understanding formed upon due reasons,
how comes it to be described in scripture, as having its seat in the heart? The apostle in the text, (Heb. ii. 12,) cautions against an evil heart of unbelief; and the same notion prevails throughout the books of scripture, and is as early as our Saviour's first preaching.. Faith, which is the principle of the gospel, respects the promises and declaration of God, and includes a sure trust and reliance on him for the
performance. Beyond this, there is no further act of faith. We are not taught to believe this, in order to our believing something else ; but here, faith bas its full completion, and leads immediately to the practice of virtue and holiness. For this end was the Son of God revealed, to make known the mind and will of the Father, to declare his mercy and pardon, and to confirm the promises of eternal life to mankind. He that believes and accepts this deliverance from the bondage of sin, and through patience and perseverance in well doing, waits for the blessed hope of immortality; who passes through the world as a stranger and pilgrim, looking for another country, and a city whose builder is God; this is he whose faith shall receive the promise, whose confidence shall have great recompense of reward."
Here Dr. Sherlock speaks of that true Christian faith, which is the principle of the gospel, as including a sure trust and reliance on God. The same author elsewhere, in the same book, page 251, speaks of reliance or dependence on God, as arising from a principle of love to God, in the words following: duties we owe to God, are founded in the relation between God and us. I observed likewise to you, that love naturally transforms itself into all relative duties, which arise from the circumstances of the person related. Thus, in the present case, if we love God, and consider him as Lord and Governor of the world, our love will soon become obedience. If we consider him as wise, and good, and gracious, our love will become honour and adoration. If we add to these our own natural weakness and infirmity, love will teach us dependence, and prompt us in all our wants to fly for refuge to our Great Protector."
§ 76. That expression in Psalm l. 5. “Gather my saints, that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice," seems to show that such is the nature of true faith in Christ, that believers do therein, by the sincere, full act of their minds and hearts, appoint Christ to be their sacrifice; as such, bring him an offering to God; i. e. they entirely concur with what was done in his offering himself a
sacrifice for sinners, as a real sacrifice sufficient and proper for them, trusting in this sacrifice. Faith is the believer's coming to God, and giving himself up to God, hoping for acceptance by this sacrifice, and taking God for his God, hoping for an interest in him as such by this sacrifice, that so God may be his God, and he one of his people.
§ 77. It does not seem congruous, and in itself it is not proper for God quite to pass over sin, rebellion and treachery, and receive the offender into his entire favor, either without a repentance and sorrow, and detestation of his fault, adequate to the aggravation of it, (which can never be) or, if there be another that appears in his stead, and has done and suffered so much as fully to satisfy and pay the debt, it will not be proper to forgive him, whatever is done for him by his representative for his expiation, unless there be an accepting of it by the offender for that end, a sense of its being adequate to the offence, and an applying of the mind to him, and a recumbence upon him for satisfaction. This now seems to me evident from the very light of nature.
§ 78. Justifying faith is more properly called faith than acceptance, because the things received are spiritnal and unseen, and because they are received as future, and entirely the free gift of God.
§ 79. Even the being of a God can be made most rationally, and demonstratively evident, by divine revelation, and by gracious spiritual illumination; aster the same manner as we have shown the Christian religion, the superstructure built upon that foundation, is evident. Snppose all the world had otherwise been ignorant of the being of a God before, yet they might know it, because God has revealed himself; he has shown himself; he has said a great deal to us, and conversed much with us. And this is every whit as rational a way of being convinced of the being of God, as it is of being convinced of the being of a man who comes from an unknown region, and shows himself to us, and converses with us for a long time. We have no other reason to be convinced of his being, than only that we see a long series of external concordant signs of an understanding, will and design, and various affections. The same way God makes known bimself to us in his word. And if we have a full and comprehensive knowledge of the revelation made, of the things revealed, and of the various relations and respects of the various parts, their harmonies, congruities, and mutual concordances, there appear most indubitable signs and expressions of a very high and transcendent understanding, together with a great and mighty design, an exceeding wisdom, or most magnificent power and authority, a marvellous purity, holiness, and goodness. So that if we never knew there was any such being before, yet we might be certain that this must be such a one.