SAVING FAITH, &c.
TO THOSE who enjoy Divine Revelation, correct views of saving faith are of the utmost importance. In the Divine word, many great things are said of it; the necessity of it to our salvation is affirmed; the misery of those who are destitute of it; and the blessedness of those who are possessed of it, are plainly declared. In the minds of serious Christians, much perplexity is often felt, relative to their knowledge and exercise of saving faith. Many Gospel hearers are totally indifferent about this matter, and care for none of these things. Besides, many misrepresentations of the nature and operations of this precious grace, have been imposed on Christians, to the injury of their immortal souls. To exhibit the nature of saving faith—to direct and encourage true believers—to rouse the careless to consider their ways—and, above all, to advance the honor of faith’s glorious Author and object—must certainly be the duty of every Gospel minister. That we may cast in our mite, to promote these high ends, the following Doctrinal Observations on Saving Faith, with some practical improvement of them, are most humbly submitted to the consideration of the Christian community.
OBS. I. Faith, in its nature, is an assent unto, or persuasion of, the truth of any declaration, upon the testimony of another, which is opposed to doubting or uncertainty. This is the general notion of faith as it is used in common language, and is comprehended in the idea of it in the Holy Scriptures.—This observation consists in three parts:—Faith is an assent unto, or persuasion of, the truth of a declaration; it is an assent or persuasion founded on the testimony of another; and it is such an assent or persuasion as is opposed to doubting or uncertainty. There is in the nature of faith an assent unto, or persuasion of, the truth of the thing that is believed. When men exercise faith concerning any thing, the mind agrees unto it, and has a conviction of its truth. If that which is proposed to our faith is not thus received, we do not believe it. If the assent of the mind is not given to the verity of the thing, the exercise of faith in it is withheld; and if we are not persuaded of its truth, whatever acts of the mind we have about it, the act of faith concerning it is not exercised at all.
The assent or persuasion of faith, is founded on the testimony of another. We may be persuaded of the truth of things in several ways, in which our faith has no concern. This conviction we may have from our senses. This is not faith, but sight. We may be assured of many truths by infallible demonstration; neither is this certainty that which flows from faith; for the persuasion of faith rests only upon a testimony. This is true of faith, whether we consider it as human or Divine. A human faith, is that belief of the mind which has a respect to the things of men, and rests upon a human testimony. A Divine faith, is that belief of the mind which is versant about the things of God, and is built upon a divine testimony. We entertain things with a human faith, when we believe they are true, because they are attested unto us by creditable men. The persuasion of the truth of the same thing, may be to one person a matter of sight, and unto another a matter of faith, if one person has an opportunity of seeing any transaction, or examining any object, his persuasion of its truth is not from faith, but from sight or personal observation, and is to him intuitive certainty. If another person has not the opportunity of seeing or examining the matter, but has heard it faithfully reported to him by creditable persons, then his persuasion of the truth of it is strictly faith; because it is built upon a testimony. With respect to things that are Divine, a person’s belief of their truth, upon the testimony of God, is a Divine faith. It is an assent unto, or persuasion of, the truth of Divine things, on the warrant of the word of God, and rests upon the veracity of him that cannot lie. There is no assent that we give unto the truth of things in religion, which can properly be called faith. All that persuasion which is built upon the testimony of God in his word. We may be persuaded of the truth of many things in religion, which is not the persuasion of faith. All that persuasion of the truth of these things, which flows from our spiritual sense or experience, is not the persuasion of faith, but is that of sense or feeling; but when our minds are persuaded of their truth, because God hath attested them unto us in his word—this is Faith. We may be persuaded of the truth of religious things in both these ways; but it is the latter only that is the persuasion of faith. For instance, a person may be persuaded that he hath an interest in the love of God, from his discerning the power of God’s grace, and the working of his Spirit on his soul: this is not the persuasion of faith: it is a persuasion which arises from spiritual sense, and religious experience. The same person may be persuaded of the truth of the same thing, that God loves him with an everlasting love, because God declares this to him in his word, and hath enabled him to exercise faith on the Divine veracity in the promise, with application unto himself. This is the persuasion of faith, and is rested alone upon the faithful testimony of God.
This assent or persuasion is opposed to doubting and uncertainty. This is true of faith, whether we consider it as human or Divine—rested on a human, or built on a Divine testimony. Assent or persuasion, and doubting or uncertainty, are contrary the one to the other. They may be in the same person, but they are not of the same nature. In so far as persons believe, they do not doubt; and in so far as they are persuaded, they are not uncertain. In so far as they doubt, they do not believe; and in so far as they are uncertain, they are not persuaded. Faith and doubting, persuasion and uncertainty, stand in direct opposition to one another. Faith, therefore, is an assent unto, or persuasion of, the truth of things which rests upon a testimony, and is opposed to doubting and uncertainty.
OBS. II. The scripture mentions different kinds of faith. The kinds of faith which the Scriptures speak of are two—the faith which has a reference to miracles, and that faith which has a respect to the salvation of the soul. The faith of miracles may be considered in a two-fold point of view—that faith that was necessary unto a person, in order to his having a miracle performed upon himself, and that faith that was necessary unto him who was to perform a miracle upon another. The former of these seems to include the person’s believing that Divine power would be exerted, for accomplishing a miracle on him, either by the personal act of Christ, or of his apostles, acting in his name. This faith Jesus required of the blind man. “And when he was come unto the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.”[Matthew 9:28.] The same thing is evident from the words of Christ to the father of the child, whom he cured by a miracle. “Jesus saith unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”[Mark 9:23,24.] This was not the case with those only who were healed by Christ, but was true also of those who were cured by his apostles. This is evident from the miracle which was performed by Paul upon the lame man at Lystra. “Paul stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet: and he leaped and walked.”[Acts 14:9,10.] The faith of miracles that was necessary unto the worker of the miracle, seems to import the person’s persuasion, that God would exert his Almighty power for working a miracle, through his instrumentality. Of this faith our Saviour speaks, when he answers the question of the disciples, in reference to their not succeeding in the cure, of a child that was brought to them. “Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus saith unto them, Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”[Matt. 17:9,20.] Paul mentions the same faith, when he says, “Though I have, all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”[1 Cor. 13:2.]
The other kind of faith that is mentioned in Scripture, is that which hath a respect to salvation, This may be considered also as two-fold—that which is a false, and that which is a true faith. The false faith of the children of men in reference to salvation, is their general belief of the truths of the Gospel, which they attain by the exercise of their rational powers, and the common operations of the Spirit; notwithstanding of which they fall short of salvation, and deceive their own souls. It is sometimes represented as a temporary faith. “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy, and these have no root, which for awhile believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”[Luke 8:13.] This faith is said to be dead. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”[James 2:26.] And this faith is merely historical or notional. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble.”[James 2:19.] The other kind of faith which has a respect to salvation, is that which we may call a true faith. The Scripture represents it as that which justifies the sinner. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[Rom. 5:1.] This faith justifies, not because there is any merit in the act of faith to procure our justification, but as it receives and applies to the soul the justifying righteousness of Christ, which removes the guilt of sin, and procures our acceptance before God. This true faith is also saving in its nature. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.”[Mark 16:16.] Faith does not save the children of men, as it is the procuring cause of their salvation; for in this sense no act or spiritual attainment of theirs can save them. It is, however, saving in its nature, as it lays hold upon the grace of God reigning through the righteousness of Christ, by which we are saved;—is itself a part of our salvation, and will bring all those who are the subjects of it, to the enjoyment of eternal salvation. This is the faith with which we are at this time principally concerned; and to the opening of its nature our following observations shall be directed.
OBS. III. The children of men are not naturally possessed of saving faith, neither is it in their power to acquire it for themselves. This observation consists of two parts: the former is, that men possess not the grace of faith in their natural state; the latter, that they cannot work it in themselves. That the children of men are not, in their natural state, possessed of saving faith, will be evident, if we consider the Scriptural account of them in this condition. Of man in his natural state, it is said,—“That every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”[Genesis 6:5.] It is not a few, or even many, of human imaginations that are evil, but every imagination of him is so. They are not evil only in part, but they are only evil, and no spiritual good is found in them. Nor are they said to be evil for a time only, but they are continually so. Since this is the state of mankind by nature, it is not possible that they can possess, while in that state, the grace of saving faith. The same truths are confirmed by David’s representation of man’s natural state, when speaking of his own condition: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”[Psalm 51:5.] The children of men, in their very formation and conception in the womb, are constituted sinners. The principles of sin pervade all the faculties of their souls; and there is no such thing as any spiritual grace found in them.—Having seen what they are before and at their birth, let us now view what they continue to be in their lives. David’s son describes this in the following words:—“Yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and madness is in their heart while they live; and after that they go to the dead.”[Eccl. 9:3.] The treasure which is naturally contained in the heart of man is here set before our view; and surely it is an evil treasure. Nothing like saving faith is included in it. Nothing but moral evil and spiritual madness prevail in their hearts, and are manifested in their lives. The New Testament Scriptures ratify the same truth. There we are told, that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God;”[Rom. 8:8.] and if they cannot please God, they do not possess saving faith; because, with them that have it, the Lord is well pleased. Sinners are there represented as being “without Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world;”[Eph. 2:12.] “having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, thro’ the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their minds.”[Eph. 4:18.] Every article of this description, denies to the children of men, in their natural state, the possession of saving faith.
Being without faith in our natural state, we are also destitute of all power to work it in ourselves. Mankind are represented in the word of God, as being under a natural disability of acquiring, for themselves, this or any other saving grace. They are under a sentence of condemnation, and are cast into prison. Of them all the Redeemer asserts, “He that believeth not is condemned already;”[John 3:18.] and when he comes to save them, this is his work, “To bring out the prisoners out of prison; and them that sit in darkness, out of the prison-house.”[Isa. 42:7.] Since the children of men are under the condemning sentence of the broken covenant, bound in the prison of justice by the cords of the threatening and curse of the law, fettered by the absolute dominion of sin, and chained under Satan’s tyranny, it must be impossible for them to work faith in themselves. They are farther said to be under the power of estrangement and alienation from God. “The wicked are estranged from the womb.”[Psalm 58:3.] “And you that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works.”[Col. 1:21.] A principle of moral estrangement and alienation from God, must totally disable its subject for the performance of spiritual actions, about Divine and holy things. To finish this proof, we need only observe, that the Scripture affirms of men, that they are dead. “Even when we were dead in sins, he hath quickened us together with Christ.”[Eph. 2:5.] It is a spiritual death that is here meant; for the miserable creature is said to be dead in trespasses and sins. This moral and spiritual death, under the power of which all mankind naturally are, deprives the creature of all the principles of spiritual life, subjects him to the influence of moral death, and puts him into the state of increasing in moral and spiritual corruption. As less than this cannot be included in the idea of death, and as mankind are by the Spirit of God, declared to be thus dead; certainly the acquiring of saving faith, which is the same with the sinner’s spiritual quickening, must be infinitely superior to their most diligent and vigorous exertions.
OBS. IV. Each of the persons of the adorable Trinity hath a peculiar work in the sinner’s obtaining the grace of faith. The implantation of faith is not a work in which one of the Divine persons only is engaged; but in it all the three, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are concerned. The Scripture informs us that faith is the gift of God the Father, that it is procured by Christ the Mediator, and that it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is the gift of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to the children of men. Christ instructs the church in the knowledge of this truth, when he says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” And again, “Therefore, said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”[John 6:41, 65.] With the doctrine of Christ, that of his apostle perfectly agrees: “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”[Eph. 2:8.] The act of God the Father, in giving faith to men, which is distinctly stated in these texts, must be something different from the meritorious procuring of it for them, and the efficacious bestowal of it upon them; for these are ascribed unto Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. This act, therefore, includes the Father’s treasuring up, from everlasting, this saving faith, with all other new covenant blessings in the fulness of Christ for his people, together with his choosing them in him, from the same unbeginning date, to the actual enjoyment of this precious grace. In this view, faith in the soul of a believer sees itself as God’s gift, from eternity, to the person in whom it dwells. This act of our eternal Father, in relation to faith, comprehends also his sending his Son, in the fulness of time, to procure it for his people; and his sending the Spirit of truth, at the day of conversion, to implant it in their souls. All that Jesus did in order to procure this blessing for men, and all the work of the Spirit in bestowing it upon them, they accomplish under a commission from, and by the appointment of, the Father; and, therefore, in and through Christ’s purchase and the Spirit’s work, the Father gives the grace of faith to his people. In a word, when faith is said to be the gift of God, we are warranted to believe that this grace, with all the blessings of salvation, flow to us from the rich and sovereign grace of the Father in Christ, and by the Spirit.
Faith is procured for the children of men by the Lord Christ. Of this we have ample and clear information in the words of the apostle. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ to believe.”[Philippians 1:29.] This faith is given to the children of men by God the Father, in the behalf of Christ. It is bestowed upon them like all other saving blessings, for Jesus’ sake. Faith is the gift of God unto his people, in the behalf of Christ’s purchase. The work of our Mediator, in his obedience and sufferings unto the death, is the alone, proper meritorious cause of the gift of faith to any of Adam’s race. God the Father had a special respect unto the righteousness to be wrought out by his eternal Son in our nature, in his gift of faith to his people, before the foundation of the world, in his eternal decree; and he has an equal respect unto the same righteousness, when he actually bestows it upon them, at the day of their effectual calling, by the power of his Spirit. Faith is a part of the rich inheritance of eternal life, which is to all believers, through the incarnation, obedience, suffering, and death of Christ, a purchased possession. Faith is the gift of the Father unto his people, in the behalf of Christ’s intercession. He not only died to purchase faith for the objects of his everlasting love, but he lives before the throne of God, and sits in the midst of it, to make intercession for the transgressors. One of his special demands on their behalf, as he appears in the presence of God for them, is, that at the time appointed in the unchangeable decree of God, the blessing of saving faith shall be, by the royal order of God the Father, and by the powerful work of the Lord the Spirit, effectually communicated to them. No sooner is it sought than it is granted; for him the Father heareth always. It is needful only further to observe, that faith is the Father’s gift unto men, in the behalf of Christ, both as it is given to them out of that fulness which is deposited in him; and as the Spirit, in bestowing faith on Christians, acts in virtue of a commission from the Lord Jesus, for Christ’s promise to the church is in the following words:—“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”[John 15:26.]
The peculiar act of the Holy Spirit, in order unto our obtaining faith, is that of actually bestowing it upon us. The nature and truth of the Spirit’s work, in this matter, is explained and confirmed by the following Scriptures:—“To another is given faith by the same Spirit.”[1 Cor. 12:9.] “The fruit of the Spirit is—faith.”[Gal. 5:22.] “We having the same spirit of faith.”[2 Cor. 4:13.] “And, because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”[Gal. 4:6.] These texts clearly prove that the Spirit of God hath a special work in the implantation of faith in the souls of men. This work he performs, as he bears the commission of the Father and Christ. He accomplishes this work in his glorious entry into the hearts of his people, and taking up his dwelling in them, by his personal inhabitation. The Spirit bestows faith on Christians, as it is by his personal act that the Divine power, which is common to each of the Divine persons, is exerted, for the implantation of grace in the soul, and this is called the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The word of faith, the gospel of our salvation, is, by the Spirit’s personal agency, rendered effectual, as a mean for begetting faith in the hearts of men. This saving grace being thus implanted by the power of the Spirit, it is by his gracious influence drawn forth to exercise in believers, not only at first, but also through the course of their Christian life. In this manner, O Christians, is a Three-one-God concerned in bestowing faith upon you!
OBS. V. Several glorious properties are, in the word of God, ascribed unto saving faith. Having already seen by whom it is conferred, let us now consider what are its excellencies. It is called “the faith of God’s elect.”[Titus 1:1.] This grace is not given unto men like the light of the natural sun, or the rain that falls from the clouds; the former of which shines upon the evil and the good, and the latter comes down upon the just and the unjust. No, it is a distinguishing blessing bestowed by the Lord upon the dear objects of his love only. None shall ever be privileged with this grace, but those whom he did foreknow and predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. It is also said to be “precious faith.”[2 Peter 1:1.] It flows from Jehovah’s precious grace, is purchased by Jesus’ precious blood, is bestowed by a precious operation of the Holy Spirit, it interests sinners in a precious salvation, it lays hold upon the precious promises, and makes all who possess it the precious sons and daughters of Zion.—This saving grace is “a most holy faith.”[Jude, verse 20.] Holy in its nature, being a part of the image of God in the soul; holy in its source, as it comes from an holy God; holy in all its effects, as it leads its subjects to the study of universal holiness; and holy in its end, as all those who are possessed of it shall, in due time, be made like Christ, for they shall see him as he is.—It is likewise, “an unfeigned faith.”[1 Tim. 1:5.] However the children of men, who are strangers to this grace, may deceive themselves, or impose upon others with a feigned faith; yet all believers have it in truth and in reality. Sincere, and without dissimulation, are their hearts, in the exercise of this grace. The promises of the Gospel, and the blessings of salvation upon which it is exercised, are not feigned, but real; and therefore it will never disappoint, but shall completely fulfil all the hopes of its possessors.—It is an operative grace: “Faith worketh by love.”[Gal 5:6.] This is that particular grace in the soul of man, which influences the exercise of all the rest; fills the mind with spiritual thoughts; gives realizing views of the heavenly glory; overcomes the world; excites to the right performance of religious duties; and directs to the study of all morality.
We shall now conclude this part with a few inferences.
1. From this doctrine, concerning faith, it appears that this grace has a special respect to the faithfulness of God. The acting of faith in the hearts of believers, carries them directly to the veracity of God. The Christian has this perfection of the Divine nature immediately in his view, when he exercises faith upon the word of the Lord. Faith has a special respect to God’s faithfulness, because it renders the word authentic, and deserving a Divine faith. The joyful information given unto men, that Jesus Christ is come into the world to save sinners, is worthy of all acceptation, chiefly because it is a faithful saying. Let the tidings which we hear be ever so good, yet if they are not true, they are worthy of no acceptation. But when faith discerns the truth of God, interposed in the promise, the person is fully convinced that the declarations of grace are the true sayings of God. Faith respects the faithfulness of God, because it makes the promise which this grace receives, stable forever. The stability of the promise can never be seen, unless its foundation is discerned to be in that faithfulness, which is the girdle of Jehovah’s loins. Faith also respects the veracity of God, as it is the rest of the soul in all its actings of this kind. This grace does not so much concern itself with the promise in its contents, as with the promise in its certainty, in virtue of the truth of its Author. This it discerns, and here it rests. When believers exert, under the influence of the Spirit, what is commonly called an act of faith in the promise, there are various parts of which it is composed; but that part only is faith, in which the soul comes to its rest in the Divine faithfulness, with personal application. In this complex act of the mind, there is a discerning the nature, import, and design of the promise; this is saving knowledge: there is an expectation of enjoying the good contained in it; this is hope which maketh not ashamed: there is an high esteem of the promise; this is love: there is an inward pleasure and satisfaction in it; this is spiritual joy: and there is a spiritual discerning and resting upon the faithfulness of him who has promised, with application to the person’s self: this only is saving faith. Faith principally concerns itself with the Divine veracity, as this perfection is always considered by the soul, when the mind contemplates any other of the Divine attributes, which are exercised through Christ for its salvation. When the Christian improves the Divine mercy in Christ, it is a special encouragement to him in this exercise, that it is the mercy of him who is a God of truth, and without iniquity. When the Christian fixes his view upon Divine love, it is one cause of his joyful exercise in it, that the lover, being faithful, rests in his love. Believing views, of this faithfulness, mix themselves with all our exercise of soul concerning the rest of the Divine perfections. Thus it appears that the grace of faith has a principal respect unto the veracity of God, which confirms the testimony upon which it is built.
2. The deplorable state of the children of men by nature, is, from this subject, set before our view. They have not faith. Some may consider this as a misery of small magnitude; but, alas! this opinion arises from the blindness of our minds. It is the greatest misery that we can possibly be under. To be without faith is to be without an interest in God, without a saving relation to Christ, to have no portion in the covenant of grace, no share in salvation, no title unto, or meetness for heaven, and no enjoyment of communion with God; and must not this condition be very forlorn? To be destitute of saving faith is to be loaded with the guilt of sin, exposed to the curse of the law, liable to the wrath of God, under the dominion of sin and Satan, and ready to drop into the bottomless pit; and how dreadful must this misery be? Let us study both to affect our minds with a sense of our miserable state, and earnestly to seek deliverance from it. The indifference of gospel hearers, about this matter, is both lamentable and surprising. Nothing, O ye children of men, but the stupifying power of sin in you, and the hardening influence which your other concerns have upon you, can preserve in your minds any degree of inward quiet, while you are destitute of saving faith; but this shall come to an end.
3. The great vanity of men in thinking they can work faith in themselves, is evident from what has been said. It is one of the devices of Satan, whereby he detains sinners in their state of indifference about salvation, that saving faith is a matter of very easy acquisition. This is the opinion of those only, who are strangers to this grace. All who possess it know from their experience, and believe from the word of God, that it is false. Where was ever the person to he found, exhibiting in his conversation clear evidence of his being a follower of Jesus, who held the opinion? The apostle informs us that this grace “is the faith of the operation of God.”[Colossians 2:12.] It is wrought in the hearts of the children of men by the power of God; that power, the greatness of that power, the exceeding greatness of that power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Let us, therefore, despair of obtaining faith, by any operation of ours; and let us act like those whose hearts have received such a conviction.
4. We may hence see the reason which Christians have to examine their faith. There is not only a true, but there is also a false faith, among men. Since there is a possibility of being deceived as to our faith, it must be necessary for us to examine whether it be true or false.—I do not propose, at this time, to handle an use of examination on this point, but shall only observe a few things. Saving faith manifests itself by producing in the Christian a prevailing concern to know the truth of this grace in him. Whoever is totally destitute of this concern, gives evidence that this faith has never been implanted in his soul; but wherever this concern exists in the mind, it is an agreeable sign, that faith, about which the person is thus exercised, is there also. By the Christian’s exercise in applying to himself the scriptural marks of saving faith, the truth of this grace may also be discovered. If the concern to know the truth of our faith, formerly mentioned, is of the right kind, it will influence us to make use of the means which God hath appointed, for reaching satisfaction in this matter. If we profess a concern to know this, and are not thereby carried forward to the exercise of self-examination, we are idle, slothful souls, and have reason to doubt the truth of our faith. But, on the other hand, if our consciences bear us witness before God, that we endeavor, according to our measure of grace and knowledge, faithfully to apply the scriptural marks of faith to ourselves, that we may discover what kind of faith we possess, this exercise, when accompanied with prayer, and producing in our minds humility and godly fear, will evidence that we are true believers. The truth of faith is also manifested by the Christian’s earnestly desiring that his faith may, for the glory of God, the honor of Christ, and his own salvation, be of the right kind. The true believer desires that he may have a saving faith, that God may be glorified in his salvation. He wishes to be a real believer, that a rich revenue of glory and praise may redound through eternity to the sovereign grace, unchangeable love, and everlasting mercy of God in Christ, by his salvation. The Christian has the same desire, in order to promote the honor of Jesus. He has seen the excellency of Christ, and desires that the crown of the glory of his salvation may be upon his head forever and ever; that, for the advancement of the Redeemer’s honor, he may be a sharer of the blessings of his purchase, and that he may be made to celebrate the praises of his redeeming work, in time and through eternity. The Christian also desires to enjoy saving faith, that he may have his soul for a prey in the day of the Lord. The person who has his desire of true faith confined unto his own salvation, and does not seek after it that God may be glorified, and Christ may have honor, is either a stranger to true faith, or is a very unenlightened, weak, and selfish believer. If these and the like exercises are in us, and if we desire that they should abound, we shall never be ruined by a false faith; but we shall be saved by that which is true.
5. The Divine original of true and saving faith is manifest from this subject. It is of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is given unto us by a sovereign and glorious act of God the Father, on the footing of the mediation of Jesus Christ, and by an exertion of Divine power, put forth by the personal agency of the Holy Spirit. It is, therefore, surely of God. It is not of a base earthly original; but it comes down from the Father of lights. As there is a blessed economy of the Divine persons in the whole scheme of redemption, so it is evident in this particular part of it, his giving faith unto his people. This spiritual gift is from God, not as he is the God of nature and of providence, but as he is the God of grace, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of our salvation. The special character, in which the Lord bestows this grace, represents its true original; because it is not merely from God, but it is from him in the amiable representation he is making of himself in Christ by the Gospel.
6. From what has been said, we may see, that the method in which the Lord has given faith unto believers, is truly glorious. If we consider the way in which the great Jehovah communicates this grace unto the souls of men, it may justly excite, and ever keep alive our wonder and our praise. Faith is bestowed in such a way, as manifests the Divine wisdom, condescension and goodness. In this the Divine wisdom is displayed. Faith is given to men in such a way, as advances the Divine glory, promotes the honor of Christ and the Spirit, humbles the sinner before the Lord, stops all boasting in the creature, lays the firmest foundation possible for securing both the creature’s happiness and service; and may we not here see the manifold wisdom of God? The Divine condescension is also illustrated by it. That the great and holy Lord should bestow, upon guilty perishing sinners, and obstinate rebels, the precious blessing of saving faith, through the mediation of his dear Son, and by the operation of his Holy Spirit, is such an act of condescension, as has, in all the works of creation and providence, no parallel. In the gift of faith, the Divine goodness is also manifested. When we consider the Lord’s act in granting faith to poor sinners, we must be constrained to acknowledge of him, “Good thou dost;” and this will lead us to confess, unto his glory, that important truth, “Good thou art.”
7. The immoveable stability of saving faith in the souls of believers, may be deduced from this doctrine. As the eternal God is its author and giver, so he will also be its preserver and defence. No weapon that is formed against it shall prosper; for it is the work of the Lord. Were God to create faith in the hearts of his people, and leave to them its preservation and management, it would soon come to the same issue, to which our original stock, which was entrusted with Adam, came, and be totally lost. But this is not the way of the Lord with us; for he is not only the author, but the finisher of faith. Whatever enemies may assail the believer’s faith, and whatever success they may have in disturbing its present exercise; yet they shall never be able to root out of the soul this heavenly and blessed principle. They shall not be able always to hinder its exercise, nor to prevent its designed growth. Nay, over all the enemies of the soul, faith shall in due time triumph, and render them, in whom it dwells, victorious overcomers. Consider this, all ye that believe in God, and assure yourselves that your faith shall never fail.
8. This subject informs us to whom the children of men should apply for the enjoyment of saving faith. Since God is the author of faith, to whom can we go but to him, that we may obtain it? Sinners, in their natural state, are called to go to him for the implantation of saving faith, and the saints should apply to him also for the increase of it. O sinners, be exhorted to pray to God for faith. Go and represent to him, as you can, the great need you have of this grace. Tell him that he has given you the word of faith, in which he is setting before your view the object of faith. Tell him that he has promised the Spirit of faith, to work this grace in the souls of men. Tell him that he has given faith to many perishing sinners like you; and earnestly cry that he may manifest his grace, and exert his power, in blessing you with true faith. Persevere ye in this exercise, until he is pleased to come unto your soul, and leave this blessing behind him. To the same object, O believers, are ye called to apply for the advancement of this grace in you. Be not satisfied with the habit, or the weak and unfrequent actings of faith; but study to reach that happy attainment mentioned in these words of Paul: “your faith growth exceedingly.”[2 Thess. 1:3.] Go to the throne of grace, and present to the Lord the prayer of the disciples: “Increase our faith.”[Luke 17:5.] I know of no mean more proper than this, for Christians to use, in order to growing in this grace, unless it be that of actually exercising it. Let it be your study then, O Christians, to pray for the increase of your faith; and while you pray, endeavor to exercise it; so shall you come, by the good hand of your God on you, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God.