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upon us, “but for his own name's sake,” does also let us know, that “ he will be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do this for them." Whence it follows, that if we have not a heart to seek, with earnest diligence, for the gracious influences of the Spirit of God, there is no prospect we shall ever obtain. For God will make us feel the want of his mercy, and will make us esteem his salvation worthy of our care and pains, or leave us to the unhappy effects of our own madness and folly. But if we have hearts given us, to be humbly and earnestly attending upon the means of grace, it is an encouraging sign, that he who has excited our diligence, intends to crown it with success,
You see, Sir, I have obeyed your commands; and have addressed you with as much plainness and familiarity as the case requires, and you yourself have demanded. That God may effectually bring you to submit to the terms of his
grace, and enable
you so to run, as that you may obtain, is the prayer of,
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TRUE SAVING FAITH,
AND A DEAD TEMPORARY FAITH, DISTINCTLY
Your complaints do exactly answer my expectations. It is not your case alone to have 66 unworthy
apprehensions of God, vain trifling imaginations, and strange confusion of mind, accompanying the exercises of religion.” It is no new thing for those who are setting out in earnest in a religious course, to find by experience, that their “ progress in religion bears no proportion to their purposes; and that their good designs and resolutions come to but little more than outside appearances, and no way answer their hopes.” It is matter of thankfulness, that you have a feeling sense of this. I hope, if no other arguments will convince you of the truth of what was insisted on in my last, you will at least be convinced, by your own experience, that you
You “thank me for my plainness and faithfulness to a poor wretched infidel, who yet breathes, out of hell, by the mere patience of an affronted Saviour.” I had not only the warrant of your commands, but the vast importance of the concern before us, to embolden me to lay by all reserves ; and even to transgress the common rules of decorum and respect, in my former letters. And you need not “ conjure me to retain the same freedom.” I am no courtier, nor am I at all acquainted with the fashionable methods of the beau monde. I shall therefore apply myself, according to my capacity, in my accustomed methods of address, to answer your
desires. You s observe, that I insinuate as if men may believe the truth of the Gospel, without a saving faith in Christ, without an interest in him, or a claim to the benefits of his redemption. You therefore desire I would give you the distinguishing characters of a saving faith, and show you wherein the
difference lies, between a true faith, and that which is common to hypocrites, as well as to Christians indeed.”
I do indeed insist upon it, that men may notionally and doctrinally believe the truth of the Gospel, without a saving faith in Christ, and without an interest in him, or a claim to the benefits of his redemption. This is a truth clearly taught in the Scriptures, and abundantly evident from the reason and nature of things. If any, therefore, should expect salvation, from a mere doctrinal and historical faith in Christ, they will in the conclusion find themselves disappointed, and ashamed of their hope.
We read (John xii. 42, 43.) of “ many of the chief rulers who believed in Christ, but dared not confess him, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
And will any man imagine, that such believers, who dare not confess Christ before men, shall be confessed by him. before his heavenly Father and his holy angels, in the great day of retribution? Will any man imagine, that our blessed Lord will own such for his sincere disciples and followers, who “ love the praise of men more than the praise of God?"
Here then is a clear instance of a doctrinal and historical faith, which was not saving, and could give no claim to the promise made to true believers. We have this matter further illustrated and confirmed by the apostle James, in the second chapter of his Epistle ; where we are shown, that such a “ faith is dead, being alone;" that it is but a carcass without breath. “ As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Of such a faith we may therefore say, with
the same Apostle, “ What doth it profit, though a man say
that he has faith? “ Can faith save him ?” But I need not multiply scripture-quotations in
It is what is continually confirmed to us by our own observation. How many do we see every day, who acknowledge the truth of the Gospel, and yet live worldly, sensual, and vicious lives; “who profess they know Christ, but in works deny him;" who call themselves by his name, and yet value their lusts and idols above all the hopes of his salvation; and even run the venture of eternal perdition, rather than “ deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him!” Now, there can be nothing more certain, than that these men are utterly unqualified for the kingdom of God; and that they can have no special interest in Him, “ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
As, on the one hand, there is a gracious promise of final salvation to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ—" he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved: he that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life:” so, on the other hand, there is a sort of believers, who can have no claim to this promise, nor any interest in the salvation by Christ. It must, therefore, be of infinite consequence, that we have indeed " the faith of God's elect," that “ we may become the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ;" and therefore, that our faith be distinct, in its nature and operations, from such an empty, lifeless, and fruitless belief, with which the formal, worldly, and sensual professor may deceive
and destroy his own soul. From whence it
From whence it appears, that your question is most important, and deserves a most careful and distinct answer, which I shall endeavour in the following particulars.
1. A true and saving faith, is a realizing and sensible impression of the truth of the Gospel; whereas a dead faith, is but a mere notional and speculative belief of it. “Faith is, as the Apostle describes it, “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" that which brings eternal things into a near view, and represents them unto the soul as undoubted realities. Whence it is, that the true believer, when he has experienced the defect of his own purposes and endeavours when he is wearied out of all his false refuges, emptied of all hope in himself, and is brought to see and feel the danger and misery of his state by nature, he is then brought in earnest to " look to Jesus," as the only refuge and safety of his soul. He then sees the incomparable excellency of a precious Saviour, breathes with ardent desire after him, repairs to him as the only foundation of his hope ; and, proportionably to the evidence of his interest in him, “ rejoices in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh.” Now, the blessed Saviour, and his glorious salvation, is the subject of his serious, frequent, and delightful contemplation. Now, an interest in Christ is valued by him above all the world; and he is in earnest to obtain and maintain good evidence, that his hope in Christ is well founded. Now, the favour of God, and the concerns of the unseen and eternal world, appear of greater importance than every thing else. He now mourns under a sense of his former sins;