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the law of God, though, by this very mercy, and this very Saviour, they are set at liberty from the law, and are no longer under the law, as a law with its sanctions immediately taking hold of them, and binding them by its sanctions or threatenings, connecting and binding together its fulfilment and life, and its violation and death. Our hearts approving of that holy mercy of God that appears in his showing mercy to sinners, in the way of perfectly satisfying the law, suffering all the penalty of it, and of perfectly fulfilling and answering the precepts of it, implies a heart fully approving the law itself, as most worthy to be fulfilled and satisfied, approving the authority that established the law, and so its infinite worthiness of being obeyed; in that we approve of it, that so great a person should submit to that authority, and do honour to it, by becoming a servant to obey God, and a sacrifice to satisfy for the contempt done his authority, and that we approve the holy law itself as worthy of such great honour to be done it. It implies a heart entirely detesting sin, and in some sort, sensible of the infinite detestableness of it; that we approve of God's making such a manifestation of his detestation of it, and approve of the declared fitness and necessity of its being punished with so great a punishment as the sufferings of Christ. Our accepting such sufferings as an atonement for our sin, implies a heart fully repenting of and renouncing sin; for it implies not only a conviction that we deserve so great a punishment, and not only a mere conviction of conscience, but an approbation of heart of the connexion of such sin with such punishment, which implies a hatred of the sin punished ; and the heart's entire approbation of such methods perfectly to fulfil the obedience of the law, by so great a person, and by his doing so great things, and denying himself so much, implies a very high approbation of this law, and the authority of the lawgiver. Therefore, this acceptance of Christ as a Saviour, by his obedience and atonement, and an acceptance of God's holy mercy, forgiving sin, and giving life in this way, does well secure universal obedience to the law of God as a law of liberty, and with a free and ingenuous spirit, by the obedience of children, and not of slaves. Thus, the faith that justifies the sinner, destroys sin; and the heart is purified by faith. So far as this evangelical spirit prevails, so far fear, or a legal spirit, will be needless to retrain from sin, and so far will such a legal spirit cease and be driven away.
Coroll. What has been observed, is a confirmation that this is the true nature of justifying faith, and that the essence of it lies very much in the approbation and acceptance of the heart.
§ 88. 1 John v. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth bim also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not griev
; ous. For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world : And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” It is a doctrine taught in this text, that saving faith differs from all common faith in its nature, kind, and essence. This doctrine is inferred from the text, thus : It is said, 66 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;" by which is manifest, that there was some great virtue that the Apostles and Christians in those days used to call by the name of faith or believing, believing that Jesus is Christ, and the like; which was a thing very peculiar and distinguishing, and belonging only to those that were born of God. Thereby cannot be meant, therefore, only a mere assent to the doctrines of the gospel, because that is common to saints and sinners, as is very evident. The Apostle James plainly teaches in chapter ii. that this faith may be in those that are not in a state of salvation. And we read in the Evangelists, of many that in this sense believed, to whom Christ did not commit himself, because he knew what was in them ; John ii. at the latter end, and many other places. When it is said, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;" thereby cannot be meant, whosoever has such an assent as is perfect, so as to exclude all remaining unbelief; for it is evident, that the faith of good men does not do this. Thus, a true believer said, Mark ix. 24. “ Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief;" and Christ is often reproving his true disciples, that they have so little faith. He often says to them, “Oye of little faith ;” and speaks sometimes as if their faith were less than a grain of mustard-seed. Nor can the Apostle, when he says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God," mean, that whosoever has a predominent assent, or an assent that prevails above his dissent, or whose judgment preponderates that way, and has more weight in that scale than the other; because it is plain that it is not true that every one that believes in this sense, is born of God. . Many natural, unregenerate men, have such a preponderating judgment of the truth of the doctrines of the gospel; without it there is no belief of it at all. For believing, in the lowest sense, implies a preponderating judgment; but it is evident, as just now was observed, that many natural men do believe: They do judge that the doctrine is true, as the devils do.
And again, when the Apostle says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;" all that he intends, cannot be only, that whosoever is come to a certain particular intermediate degree of assent, between the lowest degree of preponderating assent and a perfect assent, excluding all remains of unbelief; be cannot mean any certain particular intermediate degree of assent, still meaning nothing but mere assent by believing. For he does not say, he that believes or assents that Jesus is the Christ, to such a certain degree is born of God; but whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; by which must be understood, that whosoever at all performs that act which the Apostle calls by that name, or whosoever has any thing at all of that kind of virtue which the Apostle calls believing, is born of God; and that he that is not born of God, has not that virtue that he meant, but is wholly without it. And besides, it would be unreasonable to suppose, that by this believing, which the Apostle there and elsewhere lays down as such a grand note of distinction be.tween those that are born of God, and those that are not, is meant only a certain degree of assent, which such have, that differs less from what those may have, that are not born of God, than nine hundred and ninety and nine from a thousand; yea, that differsfrom it an infinitely little. For this is the case, if the difference be only gradual, and it be only a certain degree of faith that is the mark of being born of God. If this was the Apostle's meaning, he would use words in a manner not consistent with the use of language, as he would call things infinitely nearly alike by such distant and contrary names; and would represent the subjects in whom they are, as of such different and contrary characters, calling one believer, and the other unbeliever, one the children of God, and those that are born of God, and the other the children of the devil, as this Apostle calls all that are not born of God, in this epistle, (see chapter iii. 9, 10,) and would represent one as setting to his seal that God is true, and the other as making him a liar, as in the 10th verse of the context. And besides, if this were the case, if believers, in this sense only, with such an infinitely small gradual difference was all that he meant, it would be no such notable distinction between those that are born of God and those that are not, as the Apostle represents, and as this Apostle, and other Apostles, do every where signify. Nay, it would not be fit to be used as a sign or characteristic for men to distinguish themselves by; for such minute, gradual differences, which in this case would be alone certainly distinguishing, are altogether undiscernible, or at least with great difficulty determined; therefore, are not fit to be given as distinguishing notes of the Christian character. If words are every where used after this manner in the Bible, and, by faith in Christ, as the word is generally used there, is meant only the assent of the understanding, and that not merely a predominant assent, nor yet a perfect assent, excluding all remaining unbelief, but only a certain degree of assent between these two, rising up just to such a precise height, so that he that has this shall every where be called a believer; and he whose assent, though it predominates also, and rises up as high as the other within an infinitely little, shall be called an unbeliever, one that wickedly makes God a liar, &c., this is in effect to use words without any determinate meaning at all, or, which is the same thing, any meaning proportioned to our understandings; therefore, there is undoubtedly some great and
notable difference between the faith of those who are in a state of salvation, and that of those who are not : insomuch that, without that very faith, according to the common use of language in these days, those who were not in a state of salvation, may be said not to believe at all. And besides, that virtue that the Apostle here speaks of as such a great and distinguishing note of a child of God, he plainly speaks of as a supernatural thing, as something not in natural men, and given only in regeneration or being born of God, which is the great change of men from that which is natural to that which is supernatural. Men may have what is natural, by their being born, born in a natural way; but they have what is supernatural, by being born again, and born of God. But, says the Apostle, " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” The same faith is plainly spoken of as a supernatural thing in the foregoing chapter, verse 15. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”
But common faith is not a supernatural thing, any more than a belief of any history. It is obtained by the same means. If one be natural, and the other supernatural, then undoubtedly the difference is not only such a gradual difference, differing but an infinitely little. If all lies in the degree of assent, let us suppose that a thousand degrees of assent be required to salvation, and that there is no difference in kind in the faith of others; how unreasonable is it to say, that when a man can naturally raise his assent to nine hundred and ninety-nine degrees, yet he cannot reach the other degree, by any improvement, but there must be a new birth in order to the other degree! And as it is thus evident, that the faith or believing that Jesus is the Christ, which the Apostle speaks of in the text, is some virtue intended by the Apostle, differing not only in degree, but in nature and kind, from any faith that unregenerate men have ; so I would observe, that it is evident, that this special faith, of which the Apostle speaks, that so differs from common faith, is not only a faith that some Christians only have obtained, but that all have it that are in a state of salvation ; because the same faith is often spoken of as that which first brings men into a state of salvation, and not merely as that which Christians attain to afterwards, after they have performed the condition of salvation.
How often are we taught, that it is by faith in Christ we are justified ; and that he that believes not, is in a state of condemnation ; and that it is by this, men pass from a state of condemnation to a state of salvation. Compare John v. 21. “Verily,
, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life;" with chapter iii. 18. “He that believeth on him, is not condemned ; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed VOL. VIL
in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” And this faith that thus brings into a state of life, is expressed in the same words as it is in the text, in John xx. 31. “But these things are written, that ye might believe tha tJesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have light through his name.” Thus it is manifest that the faith spoken of in the text, is the faith that all men have that are in a state of salvation, and the faith by which they first come into salvation, and that it is a faith especially differing in nature and kind from all common faith.
In the further prosecution of this discourse, I shall, 1. Bring some further arguments to prove, that saving faith differs from common faith in nature and essence. 2. Show wherein the essential difference lies, confirming the same from the Scriptures, which will further prove the truth of the doctrine.
FIRST. I am to bring some further arguments to prove doctrine: And here I would observe, that there is some kind of difference or other, is most apparent from the vast distinctiou made in Scripture, insomuch, that those who have faith, are all from time to time spoken of as justified, and in a state of salvation, having a title to eternal life, &c. Rom. i. 16, 17.
Rom. i. 16, 17. “The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth." And chapter iii. 22. “Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all that believe.” Rom. x. 4. “ Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.". Acts xiii. 39, “And by him all that believe are justified.” In these and other places, a state of salvation is predicted of every one that believeth or hath faith. It is not said of every one that believeth and walks answerably, or of every one that believeth and takes up an answerable resolution to obey ; which would be to limit the proposition, and make an exception, and be as much as to say, not every one that is a believer, but to such believers only as not only believe, but obey. But this does not consist with these universal expressions : “ The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth.' “ The righteousness of God is unto all, and upon all them that believe." “Christ is the end of the law for righteness to every one that believeth.” And by the supposition, they that have not saving faith are in a state of damnation ; as it is also expressly said in Scripture, “ He that believeth not, shall be damned," and the like. So that it is evident that there is a great difference between the virtue that the Scripture calls by the name faith, and speaks of as saving faith, let it be what it will, and all that is or can be in others. But here I would observe particular
. ly: The difference must either be only in the degree of faith, and in the effects of it, or it is in the nature of the faith itsell. And I would,
I. Show that it is not merely a difference in degree.