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and even reward, those that diligently seek “ him," notwithstanding past offences and present sinfulness, has been and is essentially necessary, under every dispensation, and in all possible circumstances, to encourage and incline men to come unto God; and it forms the lowest degree and exercise of faith that can be conceived. But many, we may warrantably conclude, have pleased God, in seeking him as just and merciful, on the ground of revelation, written or handed to them by oral tradition, without explicit faith in Christ, or a clear knowledge of the plan of salvation.
Faith, even in that indistinct and incipient exercise which has been described, receives with cordial approbation many of those truths, against which the proud and carnal heart rises with disgust and indignation, or which it perverts to the vilest purposes. It consents to thein on the ground of divine revelation, though they are contrary to man's vain imaginations and proud reasoninys; and it practically uses them, in various instances, which run counter to worldly interest, reputation, indulgence, and natural inclination.-Even this must require a state of the heart far above the propensities of fallen man, and contrary to his alienation from God, and whatever bears the stamp of his holiness. But when further illumination has led the believer to a more explicit knowledge of Christ, and to receive him for all the purposes of salvation: his faith is an exercise of the soul peculiarly humble, submissive, obedient, and expressive of unreserved reconciliation to God, and it contains alınost as much genuine holiness in its nature, as any thing we are capable of in this state of imperfection.
It is generally and justly agreed, that all the graces of the Spirit have a near agreement, and intimate coexistence, a mutual subserviency, and, an inseparable connexion : like the several colours of the sun beams, which though seen distinct in the prism and the rainbow; yet so coalesce, and blend together, as to form a pure and beautiful whiteness. Thus the love of God cannot subsist in that heart which is totally destitute of faith ; or faith in the heart, which is at enmity with God.--True repentance is believing repentance; true faith is penitent faith ; reverential fear cannot exist without love; holy love of God implies reverence, and fear of dishonouring and offending him: and an earnest desire that the Lord should be reconciled to us, and receive us into his favour according to the gospel, implies an incipient disposition to be reconciled to him, to his character, government, commandments, and service. And hence it is, that the approved character is described in Scripture, sometimes by one and sometimes by another of these holy dispositions : but we must not on that ground conclude, that they exist separately; but on the contrary, that where one is, there all are found.
It has before been observed, that by faith in Christ, is not here meant, “a confidence that Christ and his sal• vation belongs to me in particular, without any regard • to the state of my heart, or my real character at present ' in the sight of God.' Such a confidence may indeed be altogether unholy; and it is generally the selfish presumption of an unhumbled carnal heart, aided by an unfeeling or erroneous conscience, and acquired by the belief of an unscriptural representation of the gospel.
Divine faith must be grounded on the word of God: but no man's name is inserted in Scripture, as names are in grants and wills; to which the engagements and promises of the new covenant are sometimes compared. In order therefore to be assured, that I am the person to whom the promised blessings belong, I must enquire, whether my case and character accord with those described in the promises. Now these are not made to sinners as such, but to saints; to those that fear the Lord, and tremble at his word; to the contrite, the broken-hearted, the mourners; to those who trust in the Lord, call upon him, follow after righteousness, know the Lord, love God, do his will, and hearken to the voice of his servants ; to the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, and such as are persecuted for righteousness sake. In short the promises are made to those who truly believe; for faith is the radical principle of all holy dispositions. As far therefore, as we are conscious, that our experience, de
sires, pursuits, habitual aim and character correspond to these dispositions and affections; we may be sure that the covenanted blessings belong to us: yet in exactness of language this is not faith, but hope; the full assurance of hope. This should be sought after and preserved by holy diligence: and, as the humble believer, however diligent, will commonly be unable of himself to obtain full satisfaction in this matter; it is one part of the office of the Holy Spirit to shine on his own work, to shew us the sacred impression, by “ which he hath “ sealed us to the day of redemption,” and thus “ to “ witness with our spirits, that we are the children and “ heirs of God.” The least degree indeed of these holy dispositions, according to the gracious tenour of the new covenant, characterizes the posessor as a real christian, and proves his interest in the promises : but in general he cannot make out his title, with habitual satisfaction, except as he is growing in grace, fruitful in good works, and careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit by negligence, or improper conduct.
If any man doubt, whether the promises be thus restricted to characters, and desire to give the subject an impartial investigation ; let him collect for himself from the Scriptures all the promises he can find, and compare them diligently with the context: and this will convince him, that they all either expressly mention some branch of holiness, as marking out the persons to whom the promise is made; or relate to such blessings, as no nian, destitute of holiness, can sincerely desire and long to obtain.
The invitations indeed, and such promises as imply exhortations, counsels, warnings, or expostulations are addressed to the vilest of sinners without exception: but they alone become interested in the annexed or implied promise, who embrace the invitation, attend to the exhortation, and ' through grace obey the call.' For it is folly not faith, for a man to imagine the feast, the treasure, the kingdom to be his own ; merely because he has been invited, instructed how to apply, exhorted to the diligent use of certain means, warned of the consequences of neglecting such unmerited kindness, and
assured that nothing but this reglect can deprive him of the benefit: while all the time he absolutely refuses to comply with the end and design of the gracious mes
There is a sense, in which Christ may properly be said to have died for all: and the infinite sufficiency of his merits and atonement, with the general proposals made in the scripture, authorize and require the ministers of Christ, to call on all that hear them without exception, to repent and believe the gospel. But sober Christians, even if they hesitate as to some deep points of doctrine, will scarcely contend, that Christ died with an express intention of saving all men : yet this express intention alone could warrant a sinner, while an entire stranger to "the things which accompany salvation," confidently to believe, that Christ died for him, and will assuredly save him. Such a confidence therefore is entirely destitute of any scriptural foundation, and is a most unwarrantable presumption.
Some persons indeed seem to think, that the proposition, Christ is mine and will save me, would never be true, if I should never believe it: but that, if I believe it confidently, with or without reason or evidence, it will certainly prove true! But surely it is very extraordinary, not to say absurd, that believing ichat before was not true should convert it into truth !--The doctrines of Scripture are eternal truths, whether we believe them or not; and God abideth faithful to his promises, though we prove faithless. When a'sinner truly believes in Christ, he is interested in all the promises and securities of the new covenant, even while his fears and doubts harass him incessantly: and when, on scriptural grounds, he obtains the full assurance of hope, he merely discovers what, though true in itself, he had not before been able to perceive.-One thing indeed is now true which once was not: namely, he is now born of God, a true penitent, a real convert, a believer, a living member of Christ's body, a child of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and an heir of heaven ; whereas he was (not before his assured hope, but before his regeneration) dead in sin, a slave of satan, and under the wrath of God, notwithstanding the secret purposes of electing love respecting him,
The words of St. Peter are peculiarly worthy of our attention in this argument. “ Be ready always to give
an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of “ the hope that is in you.” Now the well instructed Christian, and he alone, is capable of doing this. He can assigu his reasons for believing the Seriptures to be the word of God; he can state the warrant and encouragement given in them to the chief of sinners to believe in Jesus Christ; and he can shew from his own experience, character, and pursuits, compared with the declarations and examples of the word of God, the grounds on which he concludes himself a true believer, and an heir of immortal glory. Bụt what reason can be given for an assured hope of everlasting life, as the gift of God in Christ, by that man who has no consciousness of having fied to him for refuge, and no experience of a new creation unto holiness ?-Indeed it would exceedingly perplex one, to find words more suited to describe an irrational, unscriptural, and enthusiastical presumption, than those which some men have employed on this subject ; while they have exhorted and counselled their readers, to work themselves, by the assistance of the
Holy Spirit, into an assurance, that Christ, grace, and ' heaven are their's, without any evidence from reason,
sense, or Scripture ;' and then they have gravely told them, that all holiness will certainly result from this
kind of confidence'! What reason can a man who fol7. lows this counsel give, either of his faith, or hope, or of his religion in general
The amount of this assured persuasion (call it by what name you will,) is no more than, I believe that I am a believer, But if this is true faith; and if the full assurance of faith is our duty, (and doubtless we ought to believe the testimony of God without wavering ;) it follows of course, that we cannot deceive ourselves : for the more firmly a man believes that he is a believer, the stronger must his faith be! Thus all exhortations to self-examination, and all warnings against self-deception, with which the Scriptures abound, are at once
I Marshall on Sanctification.