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them, implies the perfection, beauty, and vigor thereof. Faith therefore, as implying knowlege, is valuable.
2. But it is much more so, in regard to the quality of its objects; which are most worthy and most useful, advancing our soul into a better state, ennobling, enriching, and embellishing our nature; a knowlege, enlightening the eyes, converting the soul, rejoicing the heart, &c.: objects of this knowlege fully dilated on.
3. Faith also hath this excellent advantage, that it endueth us with such knowlege in a very clear and sure way; it not being grounded on any slippery deduction of reason, nor on slender conjectures of fancy, nor on musty traditions or popular rumors; but on the infallible testimony of God, conveyed by powerful evidence, striking all capacities, equally apt to enlighten the simple, and to convince the wise: this topic fully enlarged on. Thus is faith in its nature honorable.
II. It hath also divers ingredients, or inseparable adjuncts, which it implies, rendering it commendable and acceptable to God.
1. Faith implies a good use of reason. It was a foul aspersion cast on our religion by its ancient opposers, that it required a mere belief, void of reason; challenging assent to its doctrines without trial or proof. It indeed ordinarily refuses a sudden and precipitate assent, admitting no man, capable of judging and choosing for himself, to the participation of it, until after competent time and opportunities of instruction, he can approve himself to understand it well: this point examined and explained. Hence God doth not only allow, but enjoin us to use our best reason in judging of his doctrine, &c.
2. Faith implies a compliance with the providence and grace of God; with his providence framing the economy of things to be believed, discovering it to us by revelation, furnishing motives to faith and opportunities of knowlege leading thereto; with his grace operating in our souls, illuminating our minds to
discern, attracting our wills to embrace, inclining our affections to relish the heavenly truths exhibited to us: this topic enlarged on and illustrated.
3. Faith implies good opinion of God, and good actions towards him. God our parent has stamped on our nature some lineaments of himself, which are not wholly defaced; wherefore he that believeth has managed himself so as to have preserved in his soul the seeds of piety, &c. It is a great instance of respect to a person, when we yield assent to his words, though they appear incredible: this applied to Christian doctrines.
III. 1. To the engendering of faith there is required a mind sober, composed, and wakeful; ready to observe what befals, and embrace what is offered, conducive to our good; a mind not so drowned in worldly cares and sensual enjoyments, as to oversee or neglect the concerns of a better and eternal state.
That we may believe, we must have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart to understand.
2. Faith requires much diligence and industry. We must have patience to give God the hearing, carefully attending to what is propounded; as it is said of Lydia, that she did attend to the words spoken by St. Paul.
3. Faith must needs proceed from sincerity and soundness of judgment; for the gospel comes under trial in a guise nowise plausible or advantageous to human conceits: it tempts us not with any bribe of earthly gain; soothes us not with courtly speech; but advances pleas against the bent of our inclinations, &c.
4. To the begetting of faith there must concur humility, together with suitable affections and desires; for he who embraces Christianity, does thereby stoop to many things very cross to the vain conceits, proud humors, and haughty stomach of man this enlarged on.
5. To faith must conspire much fortitude, much resolution, and great courage; for he that firmly persuades himself to be
a Christian, embarks in a most difficult and dreadful warfare, and in the most bold adventures, setting himself in array against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, &c.
6. The noble virtue of patience is likewise accessary to faith; patience of labor in God's service; patience of hope; patience of persecution; patience of crosses and afflictions, allotted us for trial and correction.
7. With faith also must concur the virtue of prudence, in all its parts and instances; that prudence which guides and prompts us to walk by the best rules, to act in the best manner, to apply the best means to the attainment of the best ends.
8. In fine, the embracing of Christian doctrine supposes a mind imbued with all kinds of virtuous disposition in some good degree, for seeing that doctrine doth highly command and strictly enjoin all virtue, he must needs be a friend to all virtue, who can heartily approve and relish it: this topic enlarged on.
Where then are they who wonder that faith is so commended, is so accepted by God, and so crowned with reward? If from the foregoing premises it appears that faith is voluntary, it surely is very commendable.
Experience fully shows what a mighty influence in all practical matters, our will or appetite has on our judgment: this topic enlarged on.
All faith therefore, even in common things, may be deemed voluntary no less than intellectual; and Christian faith especially is such, as requiring more application of soul, managed by choice, than any other; this the opinion of the ancients the same supposed in holy Scripture; wherein to defect of will infidelity is often ascribed.
To prevent faith being a forced act, and therefore not moral, God has not done all he might have done to convince men: he has raised some mists of difficulty and doubt, to exercise our eyes in looking attentively, and our willingness to see, &c.
He deals with us as he did with his ancient people: this shown. Indeed more abundant light of conviction, as it would deprive good men of much praise and reward, so might it be very hurtful to many persons, who, being indisposed to comply with truth, would outbrave it, however clear and evident. Moreover, on those whom sufficient reasons will not convince, the greatest motives would have small efficacy: this enlarged on. So much for the causes and adjuncts of faith; the effects and consequences are reserved for the next discourse.
I Believe, &c.
OF THE VIRTUE AND REASONABLENESS OF
II PETER, CHAP. I.-VERSE 1.
to them that have obtained like precious faith with us.
THE Holy Scripture recommendeth faith (that is, a hearty and firm persuasion concerning the principal doctrines of our religion, from divine revelation taught by our Lord and his Apostles) as a most precious and honorable practice; as a virtue of the first magnitude, very commendable in itself, very acceptable to God, very beneficial to us; having most excellent fruits growing from it, most noble privileges annexed to it, most ample rewards assigned for it.
It is in a special manner commanded, and obedience to that command is reckoned a prime instance of piety: This is his commandment, that we should believe; this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.'
It is the root of our spiritual life; for,' He that cometh to God must believe;' and,' Add to your faith virtue,' saith St. Peter, supposing faith to precede other virtues.
It is the principal conduit of divine grace; for
By it we are regenerated, and become the sons of God; 'Ye all,' saith St. Paul, are the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.'