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his name." Paul tells us of the pious patriarchs, "These all died in faith; not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them. He also speaks of such as perished, "because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." Peter, having spoken of coming to Christ, and being built upon him as the elect and precious corner stone in Zion, says, unto you, therefore, which believe, he is precious." And James spends a whole chapter in showing that a simple belief of the truth will not save men; observing, among other things, that the devils have this faith.
Thus the apostles taught; and thus they had learned of their Divine Lord. Many are the sayings of our Saviour which evidently teach us that the consent of men to be saved by him, as well as their assent to the truth delivered by him, and revealed concerning him, is necessary in order to an interest in his salvation. He said to unbelievers, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." He said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." He said, "Whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple: and whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." But he hath sufficiently decided this point in our text itself, that saving faith implies activity, or something done; and is not a mere passive conviction of any truth whatever: "This is the work of God, that ye believe."
True believers receive the truth in love. They embrace the doctrines, and promises, and terms of the gospel with cordial complacency. They love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. They come unto him, and to God by him. They trust in him, and are made his willing people in the day of his power -willing to be taught, saved, and governed by him, as their prophet, priest and king. These exercises of heart, as well as right ideas and convictions
of every necessary truth, are evidently, according to the scriptures, of the essence of saving faith.
II. It remains to be considered, how we are to understand, that believing thus on him whom he hath sent, is the work of God.
From the question to which these words are an answer, it is obvious that our Saviour here speaks of the work which God requires us to do, and not of that which he does in us and for us. Faith is the gift of God, as a foundation for it is laid by the renewing of the Holy Ghost: nevertheless, it is the act, and the duty of man. 1 John iii. 23, “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ." And John iii. 18, "He that believeth not is condemned already; because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
But, believing in Christ, is not the only duty required of man, under the gospel. "God now commandeth all men every where to repent." Yea, repentance seems to be spoken of as prior to saving faith Mark i. 15, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." Acts xx. 21, "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." And as a man must repent sincerely, before he can believe to the saving of the soul; so, those who thus believe, must bring forth fruits meet for repentance. They must maintian good works, and be holy in all manner of conversation, or their faith will not save them. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation -teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly Justs, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." And we read that God, "in the day of the revelation of his righteous judgment, will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who, by patient continuance, in well doing,
seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life." Why then should it be said of believing on him whom he hath sent, this is the work, and not rather a work of God?
I answer; Though believing in Christ is not the only duty which God requires of man, nor the only one which is made necessary to his salvation; yet, to believe with the heart on the Saviour of sinners, is required in a peculiar manner, and for singular purposes. More particularly,
1. Believing on him whom he hath sent, is the work of God, as this is the only thing in a sinner, by which he can attain unto justification of life. By this alone can we have admission into the covenant favor of God, or become entitled to the promises of his everlasting love. This alone determines the matter respecting a man's eternal happiness. John iii. 36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Rom. iii. 20-23, "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.—But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." And ver. 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."
Thus faith stands alone, in the affair of gospel justification. By this alone we obtain remission of sins, and an unfailing title to the kingdom of heaven. "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Not that there is any thing so sin
gularly excellent in faith itself. If it entitled a sinner to justification by reason of its own merit, boasting would not be excluded by the law of faith, any more than by the law of works. All that gives faith the only place, or any preference, in this all-important matter, is its laying hold of, resting upon, and so obtaining an interest in, "The Lord our righteousness ;" in whom there is a full sufficiency of merit for the most unworthy. We are justified by faith, in distinction from every thing else, done by us, or found in us, only because, in believing, we receive Christ, and become his disciples and subjects: and this places us in such a relation to him, that, with propriety, we can be received into the covenant favor of God wholly on his account. In families, and in kingdoms, it is a common thing for all the members to partake of the honors and advantages procured by the merit or labors of the head. And whatever makes one a member of a particular family or nation, gives him a title to the privileges and distinctions of that community. Now faith in Christ being that alone by which we become members of his body-of his household and kingdom; it is by this alone that we are entitled to the benefits of his merit and labors-of his obedience, sufferings, and intercession.
For this reason, when our Saviour was asked, "What shall we do that we might work the works of God?" he might well answer, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” As if he had said; You will find yourselves altogether mistaken if you think of obtaining the favor of God, and his spiritual and eternal blessings, by any good works of your own. The only thing you can do in order to this, and the only thing which he requires of you for this end, is to receive his Son, whom he hath sent to fulfil all righteousness for you, relying upon him entirely for all the merit you need, to recommend you to the divine mercy.
2. To believe in Christ is the work of God-the first and great thing which he insists upon, as all our works must be performed in the exercise of this faith, in order to their being acceptable in his sight, and rewardable in the world to come.
Col. iii. 17, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." 1 Pet. ii. 5, "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." And 1 Cor. iii. 11-14, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ. Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day that cometh shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward." Imperfect good works deserve a curse, because of their deficiency; and can never entitle the doer of them to a blessing, on the ground of strict law and justice. But when they are done in the name of Christ, and by one who belongs to him, their imperfections being pardoned through his atonement, as far as there is any real goodness in them, they will be graciously accepted, and gloriously recompensed at the resurrection of the just. The acceptance of our services, as well as the justification of our persons, is only through faith in Christ.
3. To believe on him whom he hath sent, may be said to be the work of God, because all our spiritual ability for the performance of good works, besure with that perseverance which our final salvation requires, is from union to Christ by faith. John xv. 5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing."