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18; Open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.'
Object. How then can God require them of us?
Ans. 1. God gave man this power, and he has lost it by his own fault, Eccl. vii. 29; God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.' If a debtor squander away his substance, the creditor has still a right to require what he owes him: so, though man has lost his power to perform, God has not lost his right to require the duty.
2. Men will not believe their own impotency. They will promise, resolve, and delay to believe and repent, as if these duties were in their own power; they will slight the motions of God's Spirit; yea, they are throwing away the remains of natural light and strength, that have escaped out of the ruins of the fall. So that God may very justly require these of them, to convince them, and stir them up to seek grace.
IV. I proceed to shew the connection betwixt faith and repentance, and escaping the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin. Those who believe and repent shall certainly escape. God has said it, that they shall, John v. 24; He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life,' Ezek. xviii. 30; Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.' Nay, they are got beyond it already, Rom. viii. 1; There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.' In the moment the sinner comes into Christ, he is no more liable to eternal wrath, nor to the curse; for he is not under the law, but under grace: and the utmost he is liable to, is fatherly chastisements, Psal. lxxxix. 30,-33. Thus faith and repentance have the connection of appointed means prescribed by God himself, which, by his blessing, are rendered subservient to this great end, of obtaining salvation. Faith is the hand that receives Christ and his righteousness, as the all of salvation, John i. 12; and repentance unto life consists in that godly sorrow for sin, flowing from faith, which is the exercise of all who are concerned about the salvation of their souls, Jer. 1. 4. 2 Cor. vii. 11.
V. I shall now shew the necessity of using all the outward
means whereby Christ communicateth to his people the benefits of redemption.
1. God has peremptorily required this, Luke xiii. 24. 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate,' namely, that we strive in the appointed means of grace and salvation. and salvation. And so he has particularly enjoined us the conscientious performance of each of them.
2. We have no ground to expect grace or salvation but in the use of the means, Prov. viii. 34. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors,' Prov. ii. 3.-5.If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding: if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures: then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.' 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,' Rom. x. 17.
3. The neglect of the means is a contempt of the thing. If we would be healed, we would lie at the pool. If not, we say we care not for cure.
And there is required here, not a careless or merely superficial use of the outward means, but a diligent one; that is an embracing of every opportunity that God in his providence gives us for attending upon them, a careful improvement of them, and a looking earnestly to him for his blessing upon them, without which they will not contribute to our spiritual advantage, 1 Cor. iii. 6, 7.91
Quest. What is our ability in this point! Ans. The use of outward means is not beyond our reach. One may without saving grace, read, hear, pray, and consider his case. And by these one may attain the highest pitch of preparation for the grace of God, in legal convictions, fears, sorrows for sin, and natural (though not saving) desires of grace. There fore, do what ye can; it may be, while ye are doing what ye can, God will do for you what ye cannot do for yourselves, Acts viii. 22.
Quest. Has God promised to save and convert those who do what is in their power in the use of means? Ans. We dare not say it. But, 1. It is possible. 2. It is probable *. I shall conclude with two inferences.
* See all this illuftrated in Human Nature in its Fourfold State, State ii. head 3. under the title, Objections answered.
Inf. 1. Then as ever ye would escape God's wrath and curse due to you for sin, repent and believe. Come to Christ; turn from your sins unto God. There is no safety otherwise, but this way ye shall be safe. No sin of your's will ruin you, if you believe and repent; and nothing will save you, if you do not.
2. Be diligent in the use of the means of salvation. They are laid before you, while they are by the sovereign disposal of Providence, kept up from others. Neglect them not, as ye would not be found to reject the counsel of God against yourselves. And satisfy not yourselves in the bare use of them, but seek grace and salvation in them from Jesus Christ, they being the appointed means of grace.
OF FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.
JOHN i. 12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
AITH in Jesus Christ being the main thing required for one's escaping the wrath and curse of God, we come now to speak of it particularly, from these words. In which we have, (1.) The nature, (2.) The fruit of faith, viz. the privilege and dignity of adoption into God's family. Passing the latter, [See vol. ii.]
We may take notice of the former, viz. the nature of faith, As many as received, &c. Wherein consider,
1. What it is in the general. It is a saving grace, for by it one becomes a child of God, and so an heir of heaven.
2. What it is in particular. (1.) The object of it is Christ, he, his name, his person, with his benefits. The acts of it, saving the sinner, are, [1.] Receiving him; this is explained to be believing. Now, receiving implies an offer of him made to the receiver, which is done in the gospel. [2.] Resting on him; for it is not a mere believing him, by an historical assent to his word, but a believing on his name, which imports a fiducial recumbency or relying on him, as one who believes
another is said to rest on his word. (2.) The subjects of it are many; not all, but some, namely, the elect of God, quickened by the spirit of regeneration, compare ver. 13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' These receive Christ for salvation; for he offers himself as a Saviour, and the fruit of it in the text is saving.
The doctrine founded on the text is,
DOCT. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive, and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is of fered to us in the gospel.
Here we will consider,
I. How faith in Christ is a saving grace,
III. The subject of faith.
V. The saving and justifying acts of it,
I. I shall shew, how faith in Christ is a saving grace. There are four sorts of faith spoken of in scripture. (1.) Historical faith, which is a bare assent to the truths of God, Jam. ii. 19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou dost well. The devils also believe and tremble.' (2.) A temporary faith, which is such an assent, joined with some affection to the truths of God, though unsanctified, like that of the stony ground hearers, Luke viii, 13. ' who when they hear, re ceive the word with joy; but these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.'
(3.) The faith of miracles, which is a belief of the Lord's working some miraculous effect by us, or in us, upon some intimation of his word concerning it, 1 Cor. xiii. 2.- Thoʻ I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains.' All of these may be in reprobates, and none of them are saving, (4.) Saving faith, already described from the text.
It is called saving faith, because all that have it shall certainly be saved for ever, from sin and God's wrath; yea, as soon as one has it, salvation is his, it is in his possession as to
the beginnings of it, Acts xvi. 31. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'
It saves us, not as an act or work, fulfilling the condition of a new law; for so it is excluded, with all other works, from the causing of our salvation, Rom. iii. 27, 28, Where is boasting then? it is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.' But it saves us as an instrument, apprehending Christ and his salvation, Rom. iii. 22. Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference.' It is as the looking to the brazen serpent, which saved the stung Israelites; or as the hyssop dipped in blood, and sprinkling the leper, that cleansed him.
II. I come to shew, whence this faith proceeds.
1. It is not from our natural powers, the power of man's free-will. No man can come to me,' says Christ' except the Father which hath sent me, draw him,' John vi. 44. It is not a flower of nature's garden; otherwise one should make himself to differ from others.
2. It is a special gift of God. Hence says the apostle to the Philippians, chap i. 29. Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, to believe on him.' It is wrought in the heart by his divine power, through the faith of the operation of God, Col. ii. 12. No less power can produce it, Eph. i. 19. It is ascribed. as to the working of it, to the Father, John vi. 44. forecited; to the Son, Cant. i. 4. Draw me;' but in a special manner to the Spirit, Gal. v. 22. The fruit of the Spirit is faith; therefore he is called the Spirit of faith,' 2 Cor. iv. 13.
The outward means which the Lord usually makes use of to beget faith in one's heart, is the word, the word of the gospel, preached, heard, or read, Rom. x. 17. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' This is the incorruptible seed which the new creature is framed of, 1 Pet. i. 23. the vehicle of saving influences, Gal. iii. 2.
III. I proceed to consider the subject of faith. It is not all men, 2 Thess. iii. 2. For all men have not faith.' They are rare one's who get it, Luke xviii. 8. When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? But they are