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S E R M O N VI.
Describing that Act on our Part, by which we do actu
ally and effectually apply Christ to our own Souls.
John i. 12. But as many as received him, to them gave he
power to become the fons of God; even to them that believe on
Nofooner is the foul quickened by the Spirit of God, but
, , work, by its active reception of Jesus Chrift, in the way of believing : What this vital act of faith is, upon which so great a weight depends, as our iaterest in Christ, and everlasting blesfedness, this scripture before us will give you the best account of; wherein, (omitting the consideration of the coherence and context of the words) we have three things to ponder.
First, The high and glorious privilege conferred, viz." Pow " er to become the song of God."
Secondly, The subject of this privilege described, “ As many as received him." Thirdly, The description explained, by way of opposition, even as many as believe on his name.”
First, The privilege conferred is a very high and glorious one, than which no created being is capable of greater ; " power 56 to become the sons of God;" This word egyolcv is of large extent and figoification, and is, by fome, rendered " this* right, “ by others this dignity, by others this prerogative, this pri“ viiege or boncur :" It implies a title or right to adoption, not only with respect to the present benefits of it in this life, but also to that bleffed inheritance which is laid up in heaven for the fons of God. And fo Grotius rightly expounds it of our confummate fonship, consisting in the actual enjoyment of blessedness, as well as that which is inchoate : not only a right to pardon, fa. vour and acceptance now, but to heaven, and the full enjoyment of God hereafter. O what an honour, dignity, and prie vilege is this !
* Beza, hoc jus : Piscator, hanc dignitatem. Lightfoot, prerogativam. Heinsius, privilegium ; nec multo aliter voce stories Hellenisa ufi videntur cum Chaldæorum 700 expreferuni. Heins.
Secondly, The subjects of this privilege are described : “ As “ many as received him.” This text defcribes them by that Very grace, faith, which gives them their title and right to Christ and his benefits; and by that very act of faith, which primarily confers their right to his perfon, and secondarily to his benefits, viz. receiving him : there be many graces besides faith, but faith only is the grace that gives us right to Christ; and there be maoy acts of faith belides receiving, but this receiving or embracing of Christ, is the justifying and saving act : “As many as " received him," [oros de EndBox autov,] as many, be they of any pation, sex, age, or condition. For “ there is neither Greek, “ por Jew, circumcision, nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scy, “thian, bond or free : but Christ is all, and in all,” Col. jii. 11.
Nothing but unbelief bars men from Christ and his benefits, As many as [received + him ;] the word figoifies“ to accept, “ take,” or, (as we fitly reader), to receive, assume, or take to us, a word most aptly expressing the nature and office of faith, yea, the very justifying and saving act: and we are also heedfully to note its special object, encov avtoy : The text faith not auta, his, but auTOY, him, i. e. his person, as he is clothed with his offices, and not only his benefits and privileges. These are secondary, and consequential things to our recevirg him I. So that it is a receiving, assuming, or accepting the Lord Jesus Christ, which must have respect to the tenders and proposals of the gospel, “ for therein is the righteousness of God revealed “.from faith to faith,” Rom. i. 17. therein is Jesus Christ revealed, proposed, and offered unto singers, as the only way of juftification and salvation; which gospel-offer, as before was opened, is therefore ordinarily necessary to believing, Rom. x. 11, 12, 13, &c.
Thirdly, This description is yet further explained, by thiş additional exegetical clause, [even to them that believe in his name] ; here the terms are varied, though the things expressed in both be the fame; what he called receiving there, is called believing on his name here, to fhew us that the very essence of saving faith, consists in our receiving of Christ. By his name,
+ Asubuvav and wupanau Bavely, both fignify to receive.
# The gospel offer is God's act, made by means of the word : ac, ceptance is man's act; yet so, as it is also the gift of God; for a man cannot receive the Mediator, unless faith, which is the instrument of this acceptance, be given him by God.
we are to understand Christ himself: it is usual to take these two, believing in him, and believing in his name, as terms convertible, and of the fame importance, * xin, Ipfe eft nomen suum, et nomen ejus ipfe eft * : His name is Himfelf, and himself is his name. So that here we have the true nature, and precious benefits, of saving faith, excellently expressed in this scripture; the fum of which take in this proposition :
Doct. That the receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ, is that fav
ing and vital act of faith, which gives the foul right both to
his person and benefits. We cannot act (piritually, till we begin to live spiritually: Therefore the spirit of life must first join himself to us, in his quickening work, as was sewn you in the last fermon), which being done, we begin to act fpiritually, by taking hold upon, or receiving Jesus Christ, which is the thing designed to be opened in this sermon.
The soul is the life of the body, faith is the life of the soul, and Christ is the life of faith. There are several sorts of faith, besides faving faith, and in saving faith there are several acts, besides the justifying or saving act; but this receiving act, which is to be our subject this day, is that upon which both our righteousness and eternal happiness do depend. *This, as a form, “ differences faving faith from all other kinds or forts of “ faith t;" by this it is that we are justified and saved. as many as received him, to them
power to become “ the fons of God :" yet it doth pot justify and save us by rea. fon of any proper dignity that is found in this act, but by reason of the object it receives or apprehends. The same thing is often expressed in scripture by other terms, as “ Coming to “ Christ,” John vi. 35. Trufling or staying upon Christ, isa. l.
But whatever is found in those expressions, it is all comprehended in this, as will appear hereafter. Now, the method into which I shall cast my discourse on this subject, that I may handle it with as much perspicuity and profit as I can, shall be,
Firs, To explain and open the nature of this receiving of Christ, and shew yoŲ what it includes.
Secondly, To prove, that this is the justifying and saving act of faith.
* Drufius. + Forma vel aliquid formae analogum ponitur diferentiac laco.
Thirdly, To shew you the excellency of this act of faith,
Fourthly. To remove some mistakes, and give you the true account of the dignity and excellency of this act.
Fifthly, And then bring home all, in a proper and close application.
Firft, In the first place then, I will endeavour to explain and open the nature of this receiving of Christ, and thew you what is implied in it.
And, indeed, it involves many deep mysteries, and things of greatest weight. People are generally very ignorant and unacquainted with the importance of this expression, they have very night thoughts of faith, who never passed under the illuminating, convincing, and humbling work of the Spirit : but we shall find, that faving faith is quite another thing, and differs in its whole kind and nature from that traditional faith, and common assent, which is fo fatally miltaken for it in the world 1.
For, First, It is evident, that no man can receive Jesus Chrilt in the darkness of natural ignorance :' we must understand and discern who and what he is, whom we receive to be the Lord our righteousness. If we know not his perfon, and his offices, we do not take, but mistake Christ. It is a good rule in the civil law, Non consentit qui non sentit : A mistake of the person invalidates the match. He that takes Christ for a mere man, or denies the fatisfaction of his blood, or divests him of his human nature, or denies any of his most glorious and necessary of
† There are divers other expressions by which the nature of faving faith is expressed in fcripture, viz. Eating Christ's flesh, and drinking bis blood, John vi. 40. Coming to Christ, Mat. xi. 28. Having the Son, i John v. 12. Trusting or depevding upon him, for which the Hebrew uses three emphatical words, TOOX and TON. The first signifies a firm and stable trust. The second, to lean or depend with security. The third, to betake one's self to a sanctuary for a protection. All which is supposed or included in our receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ: in eating and drinking we must receive meat and drink ; coming to Christ is necessarily suppored in receiving him, for there is no receiving at a distance. Having the Son, and receiving him, are notions of the same importance ; and for trusting, relying with security, and betaking ourselves to Christ for refuge, they are all involved in the receiving act; for as God offers him to us as the only prop of our hearts and hopes, so we receive him to rely upon him: And as he is held forth in the gospel as the only Asylum, or city of refuge, so we take or receive him, and accordingly betake our souls to him for refuge.
fices, let them cry up as high as they will his spirituality, glory, and exemplary life and death, they can never receive Jesus Christ aright: This is such a crack, fuch a flaw, in the very
foundation of faith, as uodoes and destroys all. Ignorantis non : eft confenfus : All saving faith is founded in light and knowledge,
and therefore it is called knowledge, Ifa. liii. 11.; and seeing is infeparably connected with believing, John vi. 40. Men must hear and learn of the Father, before they can come to Chrift, John vi. 45. The receiving act of faith is directed and guided by knowledge. I will not presume to state the degree of knowledge, which is absolutely necessary to the reception of Christ; I know the first actings of faith are, in most Christians, accoin. panied with much darkness and confusion of understanding: but yet we must say in the general, that wherever faith is, there is so much light as is sufficient to discover to the foul, its own fins, dangers and wants; and the all-sufficiency, suitablepels, and decessity of Christ, for the supply and remedy of all; and without this, Christ cannot be received. “ Come un to me, all
ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," Mat. xi, 28.
Secondly, The receiving Christ neceffarily implies the afsent of the understanding of the truths of Christ revealed in the gospel, viz. his perfon, natures, offices, his incarnation, death, and satisfaction, which affent, though it be not in itself saving faith, yet is it the foundation and ground-work of it; it being impossible the foul should receive and fiducially embrace, what the mind doth not affent unio as true and infallibly certain l. Now, there are three degrees of assent; conjecture, opinion, and
belief. Conjecture is but a flight and weak inclination to affent " to the thing propounded, by reason of the weighty objections
that lie against it. Opinion is a more steady and fixed assent, when a man is almost certaio, though yet some fear of the contrary remains with him, Belief is a more full and assured affeat to the truth; to which the mind may be brought four ways.
First, By the perfect intelligence of sense, not hindered or deceived. So I believe the truth of these propositions, Fire is hot, water moilt, honey is sweet, gall is bitter.
Secondly, By the native clearness of self-evidencing principles. So I believe the truth of these propositions, The whole is more than a part; the cause is before the effect.
Thirdly, By discourse, and rational deduction. So I bclieve
I See Dr. Sclater, on Rom. iv.