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JOHN i. 12. But as many as received him, to them gave he
power to become the fons of God; even to them that believe on his name.
HE nature and excellency of saving faith, together with
its relation to justification, as an instrument in receiving Christ and his righteousness, having been discoursed doctrinally already, I now come to make application of it, according to the nature of this weighty and fruitful point. And the uses I shall make of it, will be for our, 1. Information,
3. Exhortation, And 2. Examination,
4. Direction. First Use of Information. Use 1. And in the first, this point yields us many, and great, and useful truths, for our information : As,
Infer. 1. Is the receiving of Christ, the vital and saving act of faith, which gives the soul right to the person and privileges of Christ? Then it follows, That the rejecting of Chrif by unbelief, must needs be the damning and foul-destroying fin, which cuts a man off from Christ, and all the benefits purchased by his blood. If there be life in receiving, there must needs be death in rejcct. ing Christ.
There is no grace more excellent than faith ; no fin more execrable, and abominable, than unbelief. Faith is the faving grace, and unbelief the damning fin, Mark xvi. 16. “He that « believeth not, shall be damned.” See Joho iii, 18, 36. and Joho viii. 24.
And the reason why this fio of unbelief is the damning fin is this, Because, in the justification of a fipper, there must be a cooperation of all the con-causes that have a joint-influence on that blessed effect: As there must be free-grace for an impulfive cause, the blood of Christ as the meritorious cause, fo, of neceffity, there must be faith, the instrumental cause, to receive and apply what the free-grace of God designed, and the blood of Christ purchased for us.
For where there are many focial causes or con-caufes, to produce one effect, there the ef. fect is not produced till the last cause be in act.
“ To him give all the prophets witness, that through his
pame, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remiffion of “ fins," Acts x. 43. Faith in its place, is as necessary as the blood of Christ in its place.: “It is Christ in you the hope of
glory,” Col. i: 27. Nor Christ in the womb, pot Christ ia the grave, nor Christ in heaven, except he be also Christ in you.
Though Christ be come in the filelh; though he died and rose again from the dead ; yet if you believe not, you must for all that die in your fins, John viii. 24. And what a dreadful thing is this! better die any death whatever, than die in your fins. If you die in your lips, you will also rise in your fins, and Staud at the bar of Christ in your fins : you can never receive remission, till firft you have received Christ. O cursed unbelief, which damns the foul : dishonours God, 1 John v, 10. Nights Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, as if that glorious design of redemption by his blood, the triumph and master-piece of divine wisdom, were mere foolisbnefs, i Cor. i. 23, 24. frustrates the great design of the gospel, Gal. iv. 11. and consequently it must be the fin of sins; the worst and most dangerous of all fias ; leaving a man under the guilt of all his other fios.
Infer. 2. If such a receiving of Christ, as hath been described, be saving and justifying faith, then faith is a work of greater difficulty than most men understand it to be, and there are but few Jound believers in the world.
Before Chrilt can be received, the heart must be emptied, and opened: but moli mens hearts are full of self-righteousness and vain-confidence : this was the case of the Jews, Rom. x. 3. “Be“ing ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to esta“blish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves
to the righteousness of God.”
Man's righteousness was once in himself, and what liquor is first put into the vessel, it ever afterwards favours of it: It is with Adam's posterity as with bees, which have been accustomed to go to their own hive, and carry all thither; if the hive be removed to another place, they will still fly to the old place, hover up and down about it, aod rather die there, than go to a new place. So it is with most men. God hath removed their righteousness from doing, to believing; from themselves to Christ; but who shall prevail with them to forsake felf? Nature will venture to be damned rather than do it: there is much submis. fion in believing, and great self-denial: a proud self-conceited heart, will never stoop to live upon the stock of another's righteousness.
Besides, it is no easy thing to persuade men to receive Christ as their Lord in all things, and submit their necks to his strict and holy precepts, though it be a great truth that “ * Christ's yoke
* Jugum Cbrifti non deterit fed honeftat colla. Bern.
“ doth not gall, but grace and adorn the neck that bears it ;** that the truelt aod sweetelt liberty is in our freedom from our Justs, not in our fulfilling them; yet who can persuade the car. nal heart to believe this? And much less will men ever be frevailed withal, to forsake father, mother, wife, children, inheri. tance, and life itself, to follow Chriit: and all this upon the account of spiritual and invisible things : and yet this must be done by all that receive the Lord Jesus Christ upon gospel-terms; yea, and before the soul hath any encouraging experience of its own, to balance the manifold discouragements of sense, and carnal reason, improved by the utmost craft of Satan to disnay it; for experience is the fruit and confequent of believing. So that it may well be placed among the great mysteries of godlineis, that Christ is believed on in the world, 1 Tim, iii. 16.
Infer. 3. Hence it will follow, That there may be more true and found believers in the world, than know, or dare conclude themfelves to be such.
For, as many ruin their own fouls by placing the esseoce of saving faith in naked assent, so fome rob themselves of their own comfort, by placing it in full assurance. Faith, and sense of faith, are two distinct and separable mercies : you may have truly received Christ, and not receive the knowledge or assur. ance of it, Isa. 1. 10. Some there be that fay, Thou art our Cod, of whom God never said, You are my people : these have no au. thority to be called the fon's of God: others there are, of whom God faith, These are my people, yet dare not call God their God: these have authority to be called the foos of God, but know it not. They have received Christ, that is their safety ; but they have not yet received the knowledge and assurance of it; that is their trouble : the Father owns his child in the cradle, who yet knows him not to be his father.
Now there are two reafons why many believers, who might argue themselves in to
live without the comforts of their faith : and this may come to pass, either from,
First, The inevidence of the premises.
First, it may come to pass froin the inevidence of the premises, Assurance is a practical syllogi/m, and it proceeds thus :
All that truly have received Christ Jesus, they are the children of God.
I have truly received Jesus Christ,
Therefore I am the child of God. The major propulition is found in the scripture, and there cao
be no doubt of that. The assumption depends upon experience, or internal sense; I have truly received Jesus Christ : Here uiually is the stumble; many great objections lie against it, which they cannot clearly answer : As,
Obj. 1. Light and knowledge are necessarily required to the right receiving of Christ, but I am dark and ignorant, many carnal unregenerate perfons kaow more than I do, aod are more able to discourse of the mysteries of religion than I am.
Sol. But you ought to distinguish of the kinds and degrees of knowledge, and then you would see that your bewailed ignorance is po bar to your interest in Christ. There are two kinds of knowledge :
1. Natural. 1 2. Spiritual. There is a natural knowledge, even of spiritual objects, a fpark of nature blown up by an advantageous education; and though the objects of this knowledge be fpiritual things, yet the light in which they are difceroed, is but a mere natural light.
And there is a spiritual knowledge of fpiritual things, the teaching of the anointing, as it is called, 1 John ii. 27. (i. e.) the effect and fruit of the Spirit's fanctifying work upon our fouls, when the experience of a man's own heart informs, and teacheth his understanding, when by feeling the workings of grace in our own souls, we come to understand its nature : this is spiritual knowledge. Now, a little of this knowledge is a bet- ter evidence of a man's interest in Chrift, than the most raised and excellent degree of natural kaowledge : As the philosopher truly observes; Praeftat paucula de meliori scientia degustale, quim ignobiliori multa : One dram of knowledge of the best and most excellent things, is better than much knowledge of Jesus Chrift, that hath life and favour in it, is more tban all the common things. So it is here, a little spiritual knowledge of natural, fapless knowledge of the unregenerate, which leaves the hcart dead, carnal, and barren : it is not the quintity, but the kind, not the measure, but the favour : If you know so much of the evil of fin, as renders it the most bitter and burdensome thing in the world to you, and so much of the necessity and excellency of Christ, as renders him the most sweet and desirable thing in the world to you, though you may be defective in many degrees of knowledge, yet this is enough to prove yours to be the fruit of the Spirit : you may have a fanctified heart, though you have an irregular or weak head: many that knew more than you, are in hell; and some that once knew as little as you, are now in heaven : In absoluto et facili flat aeternitasi God hath not VOL. II.
prepared heaven only for clear and subtle heads. A little fanc: tified, and effectual knowledge of Christ's perion, offices, fuitablencís, and necetlity, may bring thee thither, when others, with all their curious Ipcculacions and notions, may perish for ever
Ohj. 2. But you tell me, that affent to the iruths of the gofoel is neceffarily included in favjag faith, which, though it be not the jullifyiug and faving act, yet it is pre-suppoled and required to it. Now I have many Itaggerings and doubtings a• bout the certainty and reality of thele things; many horrid atheistical thoughts, which fake the affenting act of faith in the very foundation, aod hence I doubt I do not believe.
Sol. There may be, and often is, a true and sincere affent found in the soul, that is assaulted with violent atheistical lug. gestions from Satan; and thereupon questions the truth of it, And this is a very clear evidence of the reality of our assent, that whatever doubts, or contrary suggestions there be, yet we dare not in our practice, contradict or flight those truths or duties which we are tempted to disbelieve, ex. gr. We are assaulted with atheistical thoughts, and tempted to fight and cast off all fears of sin, and practice of religious duties, yet when it comes to the point of practice, we dare not commit a known sin, the awe of God is upon us; we dare pot omit a known duty, the tie of conscience is found frong enough to hold us close to it: in this case, it is plain we do really affent, when we think we do not. A man thinks he doth not love his child, yet carefully provides for him in health, and is full of grief and fears about him in fickness : why now, fo long as I fee all fatherly duties performed, and affections to his child's welfare manifested, let him say what he will as to the want of love to him, whilst I see this, he must excuse me if I do not believe him, when he faith he hath no love for him. Just fo is it in this case, a man faith I do not affent to the being, neceffity, or excellency of Jetus Chrift; yet, in the mean time, his foul is filled with cares and fears about fecuring his intereft in him, he is found panting and thirsting for hiin with vehement defires, there is nothing in all the world would give him such joy, as to be well afsured of an interest in him ; while it is thus with any man, let him fay or think what he will of his assent, it is manifeft by this he doth truly, and heartily affent, and there can be no better proof of it than these real effects produced by it.
Secondly, But if these, and oiher objections were never fo fully antwered for the clearing of the assumption, yet it often falls out, that believers are afraid to draw the conclufion, and that fcar partly arises from,