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that every sinner deserves the threatened curse of the law, and renounces expressly all other pleas or confidences, except free mercy through the righteousness, atonement, and mediation of Emmanuel.Faith unreservedly disavows all attempts to compensate for past sins, to establish a righteousness by any personal obedience or efforts whatever, or to save the soul from decrved and final destruction.. Faith gives the Lord credit for his wisdom, justice, and goodness, even where they are not discerned; and by it the self-condemned șinner ventures on his merey and truth, in the grand concerns of eternity: entrusting the soul into his hands in full credence, confidence, and affiance, as both willing and able to keep that which is thus committed to him; and this in the clearest view of the importance of the case, and the difficulties that lie in the way of salvation. Faith “counts all things but loss,” in comparison of Christ and his salvation : it discovers the treasure hid in the field, the Pearl of great price; and convinced that its value is inestimable, with joy sells all, to secure the advantageous purchase. Faith dreads nothing so much as falling short of that salvation, which unbelievers despise, and to which they prefer the most trifiing interest or most worthless indulgence. Faith comes at the Lord's call, uses his appointed means, waits in his way, stays his time, and says under every delay or discouragement, “ Lord to whom shall I go? thou “ hast the words of eternal life.” These things are essential to faith, be it weaker or stronger; as must be evident to every one, who makes the word of God the standard of his judgment. Even in its feeblest form, its first trembling application to Christ, while the distressed sinner cries with tears, “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine
unbelief;" it has this nature, and virtually implies all these things: and do not these denote some degree of a night spirit, of a holy state of the heart and affections ?
The word of God no where mentions two sorts of true faith : but if the first actings of a sinner's faith in Christ were entirely devoid of holiness, and the subsequent exercises of faith were holy; some distinction of this kind would certainly have been intiinated. If it could be
proved that saving faith preceded regeneration, and every degree of evangelical repentance: surely no man would suppose, that all the subsequent exercises of faith, till it be swallowed up in vision, result from merely natural principles, or such influences of the Spirit as are entirely distinct from sanctification; and that they are detached from repentance and all other holy dispositions and affections !-And will any experienced Christian deliberately maintain, that the established believer's daily exercise of faith in Christ, for pardon, peace, wisdon, strength, and sanctifying grace, essentially differs from his first coming to him for-salvation? We acquire indeed, as we go forward, more distinct acquaintance with our own wants, and with that fulness from which they are supplied : and at some times, the testimony of our consciences, aided by that of the Spirit of adoption, inspires peculiar confidence in pleading the Lord's promises. But there are times also, when we feel such darkness, sinfulness, and perplexity, that we can only comé on the ground of a general invitation; and when the whole of our first experience must be again passed through, as the best, or the only, way of finding rest to our souls. Nor are those humiliating seasons uncommon to most of us; when, “ God be merciful to me,
a sinner,” is of all other prayers most suited to our feelings; and when we come, to our own apprehension, as“ poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and ".naked,” as when we first“ fled for refuge to lay hold
on the hope set before us.” The degree and order of these experiences, desires, and affections, vary: but the nature of them is precisely the same, whether that be holy or unholy. It is all along, an ignorant helpless child, a criminal, a diseased perishing wretch, applying to an all-merciful and all-powerful Saviour, to be taught, pardoned, cleansed, assisted, protected, relieved, enriched, and completely rescued and blessed, by free unmerited grace, through the redemption of his blood, the gift of his righteousness, the prevalence of his intercession, and the supply of his Spirit. The more simply and humbly this is done, the stronger is the faith exercised; and likewise the greater is the measure of a boly
disposition which is manifested, though the person himself may not be conscious of it. The sinner, thus exercising faith in Christ, and applying to him continually for the supply of all his numerous wants, deliverance from merited destruction, and the free gift of eternal life; judges and feels concerning himself, his past conduct, his present duties, and his own heart, as he ought to judge and feel. “ He thinks soberly of himself, and as he ought to “ think :” and in proportion, the state of his judgment and affections, respecting the perfections, law, and government of God; respecting sin and holiness, this world and the next, Christ and his gospel, and almost every other subject, is rectified, and rendered what it ought to be. This is implied in the very idea of living by faith in the Son of God, and is inseparable from it, from the first feeble trembling cry,
" Lord save me, I perish,” till the believer, in full assurance of hope, breathes his last, saying, “ Lord Jesus receive my
If some of those, who maintain that there is no holiness in saving faith, (at least when first exercised by the convinced sinner) should be called to converse with a man, whom they had intimately known when a stouthearted self-confident Pharisee; and should find him deploring the wickedness of his past life, the hypocrisy of his proud duties, the worthlessness of his present endeavours to repent and seek mercy, and the exceeding deceitfulness of his own heart; should they hear him own that God might justly leave him to perish, and express many trembling apprehensions, lest the Saviour whom he had so long rejected should now reject him, and disregard his feeble defiled prayers: should they, I say, witness this scene, would they not be convinced that an alteration for the better had taken place in his mind, and that, in proportion as he had more lowly thoughts concerning himself? Would they not be ready to say, " What hath God wrought ?" And could they deny that the change was from a wrong to a right state of the heart and affections? or in other words, from unholiness to holiness? They would feel, that tbey ought not to enquire what the man thought of himself; but in what Jight that God, “ whose judgment is according to truth," viewed his former and his present disposition; and what the Scripture has determined concerning it?
The sacred Scriptures distinguish between a living faith, and a dead faith; but not between a legal and an evangelical faith, as many persons now do: and on this ground alone, we may fairly conclude that this unscriptural distinction was devised to support an unscriptural system. Dead faith credits the doctrines of the gospel, as readily as other parts of revealed truth; and living faith as simply believes the testimony of God concerning the demands and curse of the law, a future judgment, and the wrath to come, as it does the doctrines and promises of the gospel. But, as it hath before been observ- . ed, dead faith is merely an assent to certain opinions as true, without a cordial approbation of them as holy, just, good, suitable, and valuable; with reference to a man's own character, conduct, and situation. It is therefore either wholly inefficacious ; (for being destitute of spiritual life it has no efficacy to excite spiritual affections, much less to produce them; and can only work by natural principles :) or it gives rise to slavish terrors connected with enmity, and sometimes terminating in blasphemous despair; (as “ the devils also believe and “ tremble :") or it abuses divine truth by presumptuous confidence, and excites selfish affections without repentance, love, and holy obedience, like those of the Israelites when they saw the Egyptians dead on the scashore, as they are described by the Psalmist: “ Then “ believed they his word and sang his praise. They
soon forgat his works, and would not abide his counsel; “ but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted “ God in the desert".” According to our Lord's words, converts of this description “ have no root in them“ selves, but for a while believe, and in time of temp“ tation fall away." And he teaches us how to address unproved professors of the gospel, by his own example as recorded by the Evangelist. “As he spake these
believed on him. Then said Jesus to
1 Ps, coi. 12-14
* those Jews which believed on him; If ye continue in
my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall “know the truth, and the truth shall make
free.” But living faith is an active principle in a soul alive to God: it receives the truth in love, and is perinanently and spiritually operative upon the understanding, will; and aliections. A dead corpse may
every limb, organ, and vessel, in exact order and proportion : while a living man may want an eye, a leg, or a hand, or be otherwise mutilated, defective, or ill proportioned. True faith therefore cannot be known by the doctrines believed, as the distinction between legal and evangelical faith seems to suppose; but by the manner in which they are believed. Many, who in a certain way credit the whole gospel, are hypocrites and dead in sin: while others whose creed is very defective, disproportioned, and in some respects erroneous, are sincere christians, and partakers of divine life. Perhaps they are out of the way of systematical, or even solid, instruction; or they are not yet freed from prejudices, through which they cannot receive some parts of divine truth; or they are babes in Christ, who feed on milk, and being unskilful in the word of righteousness cannot digest strong meat: yet their faith is liring, and effectually influences their conduct; their imperfect views of truth are humbling, sanctifying, and transforming; and they are gradually, by searching the Scriptures and praying for divine illumination, “ growing in grace and in the knowledge " of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
When the apostle had said, “ Without faith it is im
possible to please God;" he added, “ for he that “ cometh unto God, must believe that he is, and that he " is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him ?." I apprehend, the reason he assigned for his universal proposition, is not very satisfactory to many persons, who very steadily maintain the proposition itself; but it accords well to the views given in this publication. A general belief concerning the existence and perfections of the one living and true God, and his merciful readiness
John viii. 30-32.
2 Heb. xi. 6.