« PreviousContinue »
pardon of our sins, and our acceptance in the Beloved, and our right to impunity and glory. Our second and subordinate righteousness, in baving the true condition of pardon and life. In the first sense, Christ's righteousness alone is our justification and righteousness. Faith and repentance, or new obedience, is not the least part of it. But in the second, believing, repenting, and obeying, is our righteousness in their several respective ways, viz. that the righteousness of Christ may be ours, and continue ours." See also Dr. Manton on James, p. 310, 311, 312, and 331, &c.
§ 43. The very acceptance of Christ in his priestly office, making atonement for sin by his blood, and fulfilling the law of God by his perfect obedience unto death-and so the very approbation of the attribute of God, as it is there exhibited, an infinite holy mercy-thoroughly secures holiness of heart and life in the redeemed of Jesus Christ. Acceptance and approbation will secure their conformity to 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 heart approving of that holy mercy of God, which appears in the showing mercy to sinners-in a way of perfectly satisfying the law, suffering all its penalty, and perfectly fulfilling and answering its precepts-implies a heart fully approving the law itself, as most worthy to be fulfilled and satisfied, the authority that established the law, and to its infinite worthiness of being obeyed. 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 an 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 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 chil
dren, and not of slaves. Thus, the faith that justifies the sinner, destroys sin; and the heart is purified.
§ 44. It is said, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; by which it 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 chap. ii. that this faith may be in those who 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, "O ye 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 predominant 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 gospel doctrines; 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 observed, that many natural men believe: they 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;" he does not mean, he that believes or assents that Jesus is the Christ, to such a certain degree, is born of God but 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 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 between those that are born of God, and those that VOL, VII.
are not, is meant only a certain degree of assent. 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 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, (sce chap. 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 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 this apostle, and other apostles 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 undiscernable, or at least with great difficulty determined; and therefore, are not to be given as distinguishing notes of the Christian character.
§ 45. 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 which the apostle 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, but 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 have what is natural, by their being born in a natural way; but they have what is supernatural, by being 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."
$ 46. But common faith is not a supernatural thing, any more than a belief of any history. It is obtained by the same 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 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 all have it who 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 afterward. 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 in the name of the only begotten Son of God." And this faith that brings into a state of life, is thus expressed, John xx. 31. "But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name." Thus it is manifest, that the faith spoken of in such texts, is the faith that all men have who 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.
§ 47. That there is some kind of difference or other, is most apparent from the vast distinction 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. "The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth." And chap. ii. 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. And by the supposition, they that have no 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. The difference must either be in the degree of faith, and in the effects of it, or it is in the nature of the faith itself.
§ 49. It is not merely a difference in degree. Matt. xvi. 15 -17." He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? and Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." This must evidently be understood of a supernatural way of coming by this belief or faith; such a way as is greatly distinguished from instruction or judgment in other matters, such as the wise and prudent in temporal things had. So Luke x. 21, 22. "In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." So, to the same purpose, is John vi. 44, 45. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they all shall be taught of God: Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." And what is meant is not merely that God gives it in his providence; for so he gives the knowledge of those wise and prudent men mentioned in the forecited passage. It is said, that he gives it by the teaching of his Spirit, as appears by 1 Cor. xii. 3. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." And the common influences of the Spirit, such as natural men may have, are not mcant, as appears by what the same apostle says in the same epistle, chap. ii. 14. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: