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I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to bim against that day. Thus he rejoices in the prospect of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ; and at times is ready to say, Why tarry the wheels of thy chariot? Verily, blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
I now proceed to some reflections.
1. Let us from hence learn to distinguish between faith, and the righteousness of Christ, in the great affair of acceptance with God. That righteousness which justifies, is altogether the work of Christ : it was finished by himself; and is properly his own. He had no coadjutor. He trod the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with him. Nevertheless, it becomes ours, by the gracious act of God imputing it to us.
Faith, according to the beloved disciple John, and the great St. Paul, is the belief of the truth; the believing that Jesus is the Christ; or a giving credit to the record that God gave of his Son. These definitions are all of the same import, and are all divine ; being dictated by the Spirit of God, they cannot be contradicted by any,' however some have glossed upon them, till they have brought in a sense diverse from the inspired writers. This faith, when it is real, as distinguished from that uninfluential assent to the gospel, which crowds who hear it profess to have, is an effect of the divine influence in us ; hence said to be of the operation of God; and that it is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. As the righteousness by which the sinner is justified, is the sole work of Christ for him, so this is the work of the Holy Ghost in him, and no less necessary in its proper place ; it being that, without which a sinner cannot apprehend, receive, and rest upon Christ for eternal life. By faith, as before observed, he becomes acquainted with the glories of the character of Jesus, the fulness of grace in him, and the suitableness and perfection of his righteousness ; in consequence of this faith, he admires the Saviour's personal excellencies, flies to him, ventures all upon him, and rejoices in him. These, to speak plainly, are all so many effects of faith. The sinner must have a view of the Saviour's excellen. cy, before he will admire it. He must be persuad. ed, that Christ is the only safe refuge, before he will fly to him. He must know that there is in Christ' sufficient matter of consolation, before he will rejoice in him. Of all these he is entirely satisfied by faith in the testimony of God: subsequent to which is his coming, or flying to him, trusting in, or venturing all upon him, rejoicing in him, &c. e. g. Joseph's brethren heard that there was corn enough in Egypt; they believed the report: this was faith ; upon this they went down for a supply, Doubtless this was an effect of their faith; for had they not believed the tidings, they would never have gone. So a sinner must believe that Christ is a full and complete Saviour, before he will run or fly to him. Sense of misery, and faith in his sufficiency, are the main stimulus. Or, I am sick, I hear of an able physician, I believe him to be so, upon which I apply to him ; my application to him, and my belief of his character, are as distinct as any two things can be: my trusting my life in his hands, is an effect of my believing him to be an able physician. This distinction is obvious in the sacred writings, as well as in the nature of things, He that cometh to God, must BELIEVE that he is Here is a manifest distinction between coming and believing
I apprehend that the same distinction should be observed, between believing in Christ, and receiving him. If so, it will follow, that “to receive Christ in all his offices, as a prophet, a priest, and a king," is not properly faith, but an effect of it, and inseparably connected with it. It is certain that a man must believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that he sustains these offices, before he can or will receive him in this light. Christ came unto his own (meaning the Jews) but his own received him not. This refusing to receive him was not unbelief, but an effect of it. Hence should you be asked, why they did not receive him? The answer is ready, because they did not believe him to be the Christ. Nothing is more plain, than that unbelief was the grand cause why they rejected him. On the other hand, nothing is more evident, than that receiving Christ, is an effect of believing in him. And should you
ask the man who defines faith, “ a receiving Christ in all his offices,” why he thus receives him ? he himself will be obliged to observe this distinction ; for the only just answer he can give you is, “ because I believe he sustains them.”
Thus we see that faith is entirely distinct from the righteousness which justifies ; at the same time it is indispensably necessary, answering great and good purposes. Under its influence the sinner flies to Jesus, the hope set before him, and trusts his immortal interest in his hands, being perfectly satisfied with his adorable character. Faith is also the medium of peace and consolation. . You may with equal propriety attempt to separate light and heat from the sun, as peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, from the faitb
of God's elect. The degree of Christian consolation may be greater or less, according to the strength and influence of faith. At one time the believer may have an inward peace and tranquillity, which is exceedingly agreeable. At another time he may be favoured with what St. Paul calls joy unspeakable and full of glory. At another, guilt may rob him of his comfort, and separate between him and his God. Such are his exercises in the present state of things. But he is far from making a righteousness of his frames, feelings, or experi,
The distinction between these he well un. derstands. The righteousn
The righteousness by which he expects to be justified, is the work of Christ alone; the faith by which he is enabled to receive it, is of the operation of God; the consolations that he enjoys are from this glorious Christ, in believing, or through faith: all as different as A, B, and C. His dependence for acceptance with God is neither on his faith nor experiences, but on Christ alone. At the same time he cannot conceive it possible, for a poor, wretched, undone sinner to be enabled to believe in Christ for eternal life, and not rejoice. A view of the glories of his person, and the fullness and freeness of his grace, cannot fail of introducing strong consolation.
Corollary 1. It follows, that believers may still talk of, and plead for Christian experiences, without the least injury to the “ finished work of Christ,” or without making a righteousness of them, seeing they clearly understand the distinction between them, notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary by some who have lately appeared among us.
Corol. 2. Those persons that have ever known the truth as it is in Jesus, must fall into an awful
state of supineness, before they dare affirm, as a term of admission into any religious society, that all their former acquaintance with religion was delusion; and by so doing, they cannot fail of grieving the Holy Spirit of God.
Corol. 3. That faith that is without a heart-felt sense of the truth, or unconnected with the consolation that there is in Christ, is essentially different from the faith of the apostles and primitive Christians : believing, they rejoiced with joy unspeaka able and full of glory.
Corol. 4. They who seem to speak highly of the atonement, or the “ finished work of Christ," but say little, and indeed nothing to the purpose, about the Spirit's work in regeneration, while they appear to extol one sacred person of the Trinity, do manifestly slight another.
2. From the preceding subject we are taught the antiquity of the doctrine of imputation ; which was clearly expressed under the former dispensation, by the laying of hands on the head of the victim, with confession of sin : yea, we are taught that the doctrine of imputed righteousness is not to be confined to the New Testament; for St. Paul, in his exposition of the words of David, assures us that it is held forth in them. It was a doctrine of the primitive church, and much insisted on in the reformation from popery. Luther, that resolute reformer, looked upon it “an article of a standing or a falling church.” It was steadily embraced by the fathers of New-England, and is preserved as precious in many of their writings; and however it may at any time suffer an eclipse, as a truth of God it shall finally prevail to his glory and the comfort of many poor sinners. Doubtless it is calculated to do both. It gives