« ZurückWeiter »
neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The things of the Spirit of God, to which the apostle has a special respect, are the doctrine of Christ crucified, as appears by the beginning of the chapter, and by the foregoing chapter, which he says is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. And, that the influence of the Spirit, in which this saving faith is given, is not any common influence, or any thing like it, but is that influence by which men are God's workmanship, or made new creatures, is evident by Ephesians ii. 8, 9, 10. “ For by grace are ye saved, through faith ; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” And what makes the argument yet more clear and demonstrative is, that it is mentioned as one of the distinguishing characters of saving faith, that it is the faith of the operation of God ; Col. ii. 12. “ You are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Now, would this faith be any distinguishing character of the true Christian, if it were not a faith of a different kind from that which others may have ? Now is it reasonable to suppose, that such distinctions as these would be taught, as taking place between saving faith, and common faith, if there were no essential difference, but only a gradual difference, and they approached infinitely near to each other?
$ 49. The distinguishing epithets and characters ascribed to saving faith in scripture, are such as denote the difference to be in nature and kind, and not in degree only. One distinguishing epithet is precious; 2 Peter i. 1. “Like precious faith with us.” Now, preciousness is what signifies more properly something of the quality than of the degree ; as preciousness in gold is more properly the designation of the quality of that kind of substance, than the quantity. And therefore, when gold is tried in the fire to see whether it be true gold or not, it is not the quantity of the substance that is tried by the fire, but the precious nature of the substance. So it is when faith is tried to see whether it be a saving faith or not. 1 Pet. i. 7. “ That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." If the trial was not of the nature and kind, but only of the quantity of faith; how exceedingly improper would be the comparison between the trial of faith and the trial of gold ? Another distinguishing scripture note of saving faith is, that it is the faith of Abraham. Rom. iv. 16. “ Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the
law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Now, the faith of Abraham cannot be faith of that degree of which Abraham's was ; for undoubtedly multitudes are in a state of salvation, that have not that emi. nency of faith. Therefore, nothing can be meant by the faith of Abraham, but faith of the same nature and kind. Again, another distinguishing scripture note of saving faith is, that it is faith unfeigned. I Tim. i. 5. “ Now the end of the command. ment is charity, out of a pure heart,and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” 2 Tim. i. 5. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Now this is an epithet which denotes the nature of a thing, and not the degree of it. A thing may be unfeigned, and yet be but to a small degree. To be unfeigned, is to be really a thing of that nature and kind, which it pretends to be ; and not a false appearance, or mere resemblance of it. Again, another note of distinction between saving faith and common faith, plainly implied in scripture, is, that it differs from the faith of devils. It is implied in James ii. 18, 19. “Yea, a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works, show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. Here it is first implied, that there is a difference between saving faith and common that may be shown by works; a difference in the cause, that may be shown by the effects; and then it is implied, this difference lies in something wherein it differs from the faith of devils ; otherwise there is no force in the apostle's reason
; ing. But this difference cannot lie in the degree of the assent of the understanding; for the devils have as high a degree of assent as the real Christian. The difference then must lie in the peculiar nature of the faith.
§ 50. That the difference between common faith and saving faith does not lie in the degree only, but in the nature and essence of it, appears by this; that those who are in a state of damnation are spoken of as being wholly destitute of that sort of faith which the saints have. They are spoken of as those who believe not, and having the gospel hid from them, being blind with regard to this light; as 2 Cor. iv, 3, 4. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Now, can these things be said with any propriety, of such as are lost in general, if many of them as well as the saved, have the same sort of faith, but only in a less degree, and some of them falling short in degree, but very little, perhaps one degree in a million? how can it be proper to speak of the others, so little excelling them in the degree of the same light, as having the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining unto them, and beholding as with open face the glory of the Lord, as is said of all true believers in the context? while those are spoken of as having the gospel hid from them, their minds blinded, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine unto them, and so as being lost, or in a state of damnation ? Such interpretations of scripture are unreasonable.
§ 51. That the difference between saving faith and common faith is not in degree, but in nature and kind, appears from this ; that, in the scripture, saving faith, when weakest, and attended with very great doubts, yet is said never to fail. Luke xxii, 31, 32. "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat : But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." The faith of Peter was aitended with very great doubts concerning Christ and his cause. Now, if the distinction between saving and other faith be only in the degree of assent, whereby a man was brought fully to assent to the truth, and to cease greatly to question it; then Peter's faith would have failed. He would have been without any saving faith. For he greatly questioned the truth concerning Christ and his kingdom, especially when he denied him. Other disciples did so too; for they all for. sook him and fled. Therefore it follows, that there is something peculiar in the very nature of saving faith, that remains in times even of the greatest doubt, and even at those times distinguishes it from all common faith.
$ 52. Saving faith does not consist only in the difference of effects. The supposition that I would disprove is this, that there is no difference between saving faith and common faith as to their nature ; but all the difference lies in this, that in him who is in a state of salvation, faith produces another effect; it works another way; it produces a settled determination of mind, to walk in a way of universal and persevering obedience. In the unregenerate, although his faith be the same with that of the regenerate, and he has the same assent of his understanding to the truths of the gospel, yet it does not prove effectual to bring him to such a resolution and answerable prac
a tice. In opposition to this notion, I would observe,
1. That it is contrary to the reason of mankind to suppose different effects, without any difference in the cause. It has ever been counted to be good reasoning from the effect to the cause ; and it is a way of reasoning to which common sense leads mankind. But if, from a different effect, there is no arguing any difference in the cause, this way of reasoning must be given up. If there be a difference in the effect, that does
not arise from some difference in the cause, then there is something in the effect that proceeds not from its cause, viz. that diversity; because there is no diversity in the cause to answer it: Therefore that diversity must arise from nothing, and consequently is no effect of any thing; which is contrary to the supposition. So this hypothesis is at once reduced to a contradiction. If there be a difference in the effect, that difference must arise from something: and that which it arises from, let it be what it will, must be the cause of it. And if faith be the cause of this diversity in the effect, as is supposed, then I would ask, What is there in faith, that can be the cause of this diversity, seeing there is no diversity in the faith to answer it? To say that the diversity of the effect arises from likeness or sameness in the cause, is a gross and palpable absurdity; and is as much as to say, that difference is produced by no difference : which is the same thing as to say, that nothing produces something.
2. If there were a difference in the effects of faith, no difference in the faith itself, then no difference of faith could be showed by the effects. But this is contrary to scripture, and particularly to James ii. 18. “ Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." The apostle can mean nothing else by this, than that I will show thee by my works that I have a right sort of faith. I will show thee that my faith is a better faith than that of those who have no works. I will show thee the difference of the causes, by the difference of the effect. This the apostle thought good arguing. Christ thought it was proper to argue the difference of the tree from the difference of the fruit; Matt. xii. 33. “ A tree is known by its fruit." How can this be, when there is no difference in the tree? and if there is no difference in the faith that is the cause, then certainly no difference can be shown by the effects. When we
see two human bodies, and see actions performed and works produced by the one, and not by the other, we determine that there is an internal difference in the bodies themselves : We conclude that one is alive, and the other dead ; that one has an operative nature, an active spirit in it, and that the other has none; which is a very essential difference in the causes themselves. Just so we argue an essential difference between a saving and common faith, by the works or effects produced; as the apostle in that context observes, in the last verse of the chapter :-"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
§ 52. There is, in the nature and essence of saving faith, a receiving of the object of faith, not only in the assent of the judgment, but with the heart, or with the inclination and will of the soul; as is evident bır 2 Thess, ii. 10. "Received not
the love of the truth, that they might be saved." And the apostle, describing the nature of saving faith, from the example of the ancient patriarchs, Heb. xi. describes their faith thus, verse 13. “ These all died in faith, not having received the promises ; but, having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” And so the evangelist John calls faith a receiving of Christ ; John i. 12. “ But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to thein that believe on his name.
Here, the apostle expressly declares, that he whom he means by a receiver, was the same with a believer on Christ, or one that has saving faith. And what else can be meant by receiving Christ, or accepting him, than an accepting of him in heart? It is not a taking him with the hand, or any external taking or accepting him, but the acceptance of the mind. The acceptance of the mind is the act of the mind towards an object as acceptable, but that in a special manner, as the act of the inclination or will. And it is farther evident, that saving faith has its seat not only in the speculative anderstanding or judgment, but in the heart or will ; because otherwise, it is not properly of the nature of a virtue or any part of the moral goodness of the mind. For virtue has its special and immediate seat in the will ; and that qualification, that is not at all seated there, though it be a cause of virtue, or an effect of it, yet is not properly any virtue of the mind, nor can properly be in itself a moral qualification, or any fulfilment of a moral rule. But it is evident, that saving faith is one of the chief virtues of a saint, one of the greatest virtues prescribed in the moral law of God. Matt. xxiii. 23. “Wo unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” It is a principal duty that God required, John vi. 28, 29, “ Then said they unto him, What shall we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom God hath sent.” 1 John iii. 23. “And this is his commandment, that ye believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment." And therefore it is called most holy faith, Jude 20. But if it be not seated in the will, it is no more an holy faith, than the faith of devils. That it is most holy, implies, that it is one thing wherein Christian holiness principally consists.
$ 54. An objection may be raised against this, viz, that the words, faith and believing, in common language, signify no more than the assent of the understanding. I answer,
1. It is not at all strange, that in matters of divinity and of the gospel of Christ, which are so exceedingly diverse from the Vol. VII.