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If this persuasion may be entertained by those who have never been emptied of their self-sufficiency, nor ever had any sensible discovery of their lost, impotent, and helpless state, it certainly cannot be a true saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That this may be, is evident from the nature of things. There can be no reason assigned, why such may not be capable to entertain a strong opinion of their own good state, who have never discovered how bad, how dangerous and miserable their state by nature is. That this has been is evident from Scripture. Laodicea thought herself rich and increased in goods, and to have need of nothing, when she was poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked; and such there have always been, who think themselves something, when they are nothing, and deceive themselves. And that such have not a true faith in Christ, whatever persuasiou they entertain, is evident, in that men cannot come to Christ for that which they do not feel the want of; nor can they feel the want of deliverance from that lost and miserable state, which they have never had a sensible discovery of. “ The whole need not the physician.” It is also evident, in that saving faith is a dependence upon Christ alone for salvation. For it is impossible to depend upon Christ alone, and yet to depend partly upon ourselves for salvation ; as all such necessarily do that have never felt their own impotent and lost condition.
The Antinoinians, I know, disclaim all pretences to self-dependence. But whence, I beseech them, are the towering imaginations of the divine favour, which some of them entertain, while they have never been broken under
the sense of their sin and misery, never humbled, por lost, nor driven to Christ, as a refuge for guilty sinners, but from a high opinion of themselves ? Whence do they "thank God, that they are not as other men,” but from some imaginary qualifications of their own ? If they pretend to no other, they may still build upon this, that they have a persuasion Christ will save them; and so they make that persuasion their righteousness, and the foundation of their hope of salvation. And this is still further evident, from the express declaration of our blessed Saviour, that be “ came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Inasmuch, therefore, as such self-righteous persons may have the strongest persuasion of their own justification by Christ, and yet have no interest in him, whatever persuasion they entertain, since he came not to call them, while such, to repentance, it is most evident that this
persuasion cannot be a saving faith. Moreover,
If this persuasion may be entertained by those who are under the power and dominion of their sins, it cannot be a saving faith. That this may be, is too evident from our constant observation. Who can be more tenaciously persuaded of their obtaining salvation by Christ than many of our careless and secure sinners, who “profess to know Christ, but in works deny him, and are to every good work reprobate.” That these cannot have a saving faith is evident: for “faith purifies the heart ;” and “he that committeth sin is of the devil.” Furthermore,
If this persuasion may arise from pride and selfesteem, it cannot be saving faith. I think, no man will pretend that the productions of our own proud
and haughty self-esteem will interest us in the favour of God, and give us a claim to the promises of the Gospel. And we have numerous instances of such in Scripture, who entertained this persuasion from their own haughty opinion of themselves. Such were Korah and his
“ All the congregation are holy, (say they,) every one of them.” Such were they in the Prophet, who said, “Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am holier than thou.” Such was the Pharisee, who “thanked God that he was not as other men." Aud such were the body of the Jewish rulers in our Saviour's time. “ We have one Father, (say they,) even God.” And I wish we had not constant occasion to observe, that there are at this time too
such among ourselves; who boast of this strong persuasion of their justified state, and of their rapturous joys, whose highest attainment in religion is, that they “trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others.” Their false apprehension of their own attainments begets this persuasion of their good state; and this persuasion heightens their apprehension of their great attainments in religion; and thus they go on in an unhappy round of pride and self-exaltation. Now, can any pretend that a saving faith consists in pride, and supercilious vanity of mind ?
I may yet add, If such a persuasion may be a diabolical suggestion and hellish delusion, it cannot be a saving faith. This consequence cannot be disputed by any that allow a difference between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial, between the influences of the Spirit of God, and the delusions of the devil.
And I think it will be allowed by all, that the devil has power, craft, and malice enough, thus to impose upon poor unwary sinners, and delude them into transports of joy for which they have no solid grounds. That he may do so, is confirmed by the Apostle, who tells us, that “ Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
That he does so in fact, is too often exemplified in the high rapturous joys of some who are openly and visibly irreligious. I subjoin once more,
If such a persuasion may be entertained by those who embrace the most dangerous and damnable heresies, it cannot be a saving faith. That there may be such heresies as are utterly inconsistent with saving faith, we are certain, both from the nature of things and from the express words of the Apostle, who informs us of such who “shall be left to strong delusions, to believe a lie, that they may all be
And constant experience has convinced us, that the worst heretics which have ever afflicted and infected the church, have had the most undoubted persuasion of their interest in Christ, and of the love and favour of God to them. Now, can such as these have a saving faith?
From every one of these particulars it appears, that men may entertain such a persuasion of their interest in Christ as is false in fact. And I think there cannot need any argument to convince you, that believing a lie is not " the faith of God's elect,” which gives a title to salvation. This, then, appears unquestionably true, that there may be a strong persuasion of a justified state without saving faith.
And it is equally certain, that there may be a
saving faith without this persuasion of an actual interest in Christ. I need not say much to make this appear in a convincing light.
If this persuasion be nowhere found in Scripture, to belong to the description of a saving faith, a man 'may be a true believer without it. This must be allowed to be a necessary consequence,
if there be any true and just description of a saving faith in the Bible. And I think I may confidently affirm, that this persuasion of our interest in Christ, that he will save us in particular, or that we are actually justified by his righteousness, is nowhere found in Scripture to be any part of the description of a saving faith ; and there may, consequently, be a true faith without it. Besides,
This joyful persuasion of our interest in Christ and our justified state, is considered in the Scriptures as the fruit and consequence of a saving faith. “ Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Whence it follows, that faith may and must exist before it can bring forth fruit; and that this persuasion cannot be both faith itself and the fruit or effect of it too; and, consequently, that there may be a true faith without this persuasion whereof I am treating. I further add,
The instances of dark and deserted believers, in Scripture, and the many promises and encouragements given to such, do plainly and fully prove, that a true faith may exist without this persuasion. There may be true believers who “ fear the Lord, and obey the voice of his servant; that walk in darkness, and see no light;" that are ready to conclude, “the