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Sol. Neither of these, according to our common understanding, do hinder the fulness and freedom of the grace of the Gospel.
1. Not faith, because faith is such a condition, as requires only an empty hand to receive a gift freely given. Now doth that hinder the freeness of the gift, to say, you must take it? Why, this is requisite to the freest gift that can be given. If a man would give something to a beggar, if he would not reach out his hand and take it, let him go without it, it is a free gift still; so that the condition of faith is such a condition as requires nothing but an empty hand, to receive Christ.
2. Obedience hinders it not. I am required, may some say, to be a new man, a new creature, to lead a new life: I must alter my course: and is not this a great clog and burden? And do you account this free? When I must crucify lusts, mortify passions, &c. Is this free, when a man must renounce his own will ? Yes; it is as free, as free may be; as I shewed you the last time. The very touching, and accepting of Christ implies an abnegation of former sinfulness, and a going off from other courses that are contrary to him. If the king give a pardon to a notorious rebel for treason, so that now he must live obedient as a subject, the king need not in regard of himself to have given the pardon; if he give it, it takes not from its freeness, that he must live like a subject afterwards; the very acceptance of the pardon implies it.
But now to declare faith, and to open the mystery thereof. Faith is a great thing, it is our life; our life stands in the practice of it: that as in the offering of Christ for us, there is given him a name above every name, " that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow:” as, I say, in the purchasing of redemption, so in the point of acceptation; God hath given unto this poor virtue of faith a name above all names. Faith indeed, as it is a virtue, is poor and mean, and comes far short of love: and therefore by the apostle, love is many degrees preferred before faith, because love fills the heart, and faith is but a bare hand, it lets all things fall, that it may
fill itself with Christ. It is said of the virgin Mary, “ that God did respect the low estate of his handmaid :" so God respects the low estate of faith, that nothing is required, but a bare empty hand, which hath nothing to bring with it, though it be never so weak, yet if it have a hand to receive, it is “isóriuoc' tiotic, a like precious faith,” that of the poorest believer, and the greatest saint.
Now that we may come unto the point, without any more going backwards. In the words read, there is the point of faith, and a thing God confirms it withal, a seal : “ In whom also, after that you believed, you were sealed.” Faith is of itself a thing unsealed: the sealing with the Holy Spirit of promise is a point beyond faith ; it is a point of feeling, and not only of believing of God's word, but a sensible feeling of the spirit: a believing in my soul, accompanied with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: of which sealing we shall speak more hereafter. Observe for the first.
1. The object of it; "in whom you trusted.” We speak of faith now as it justifies, as it apprehends Christ for its object: for otherwise faith hath as large an extent as all God's word. Faith hath a hand to receive, whatsoever God hath a mouth to speak. What is the object? “ He in whom you trusted.” It is a wonder to see how many are deceived, who make the forgiveness of sins to be the proper object of faith. A man may call, as long as he lives, for forgiveness of sins, yet, unless there be the first act, to lay hold on Christ, in vain doth he expect forgiveness of sins. Until thou dost accept Christ for thy King and Saviour, thou hast no promise. We are never children of the promise, till we are found in him. The proper and immediate object of faith is, first Christ, and then God the Father by him: for faith must have Christ for its object. I must believe in none else but God, in and through Christ. Now that this is so, we may see in that famous place, 1 Peter, chap. III. ver. 21. When he had spoken of the precious blood of Christ, “the Lamb without blemish,” he goes on, and
1 2 Peter, chap. 1. ver. 1.
shews, “ that he was manifested in those last times, for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised up Christ 'from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God." There is no true believing in God the Father, but by the Son. The proper object of hope, and faith, is God, and he that doth believe, or hope, or trust in any thing else, there is idolatry in it; we believe in God by him: so that the primary object of faith is Christ. “Yes are the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ." What is my faith then? If thou wilt be the child of God, receive, hold Christ Jesus, accept him for thy Saviour, and for thy Lord: he is the proper object of thy faith. Again, you must have Christ Jesus, and him crucified, that should be the highest knowledge in our account, “ to know Christ and him crucified,” and by it to accept him. Hereupon the apostle to the Romans, when he speaks of faith,, makes the object of it Christ, and Christ crucified: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God.” Whatsoever then thou findest in Christ, is an object of thy faith. The point is, “ Hei who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood,” that is, he who receiveth me, and makes me as his meat and drink, “dwelleth in me and I in him.” Compare this, Romans, chap. III. ver. 25. with Romans, chap. V. ver. 9. for it is worth comparing. We are said to be “justified by his blood, Romans, chap. V. ver. 9. "by faith in his blood,” Romans, chap. III. ver. 25. Now both these come to one, and they resolve the point, and clear the question, whether faith in itself, as a virtue doth justify, or in respect of its object? surely it is in respect of the object. You that have skill in philosophy, know, that heat, considered as a quality, its effects are not so great; but if considered as an instrument, it transcends the sphere of its own activity; it doth wonders; for it is the principle of generation, and many other strange effects.
John, chap. 6. ver, 56.
8 Gal. chap. 3. ver. 26.
So here, take faith as a virtue, and it is far short of love : but consider it as an instrument, whereby Christ is applied, and it transcends, it works wonders, beyond its proper sphere: for the meanest thing it lays hold on, is the Son of God. “He that hath the Son, hath life.” Some would think this an hard kind of speech, when we are justified by faith, we are justified by Christ, apprehended by faith: and yet that place is clear, to be justified by his blood : and faith in his blood becomes one faith. As if a man should
I was cured by going to the bath: so faith comes unto Christ; faith is the legs. A man is not said properly to be cured, by going to the bath, nor justified by coming to Christ by the legs of faith: but the applying of the bath, the coming to Christ, and applying of his virtue, to make him the object of my faith, this is the way to be justified. As it is not the making and preparing of a plaster, that cures, but the applying it; so that this concludes this point, that the true object of faith is Christ crucified, and God the Father in, and by him. Here then is the point, thou must not look for any comfort in faith, till thou hast Christ; and to think thou shalt ever have any benefit by God, till thou hast Christ, thou deceivest thyself. It is impossible for a man to receive nourishment by his bread and drink, till he partake of it in the substance : so thou must partake of Christ, before thou canst receive any nourishment by him. Christ saith not, thou must have forgiveness of sins, or thou must have my Father's favour, but take my body and blood, take me crucified. Buy the field, and the treasure is thine : but thou hast nothing to do with the treasure, till thou gettest the field. This is preferment enough, to have the Lord's promise to Abraham : “I am thy exceeding great reward : I am my well beloved's, and my well beloved is mine.” There is a spiritual match betwixt Christ and thee: there are many, who are matched with Christ, and yet know not how rich they are: when a man reckons of what he shall get by Christ only, when all his thoughts are on that, he marrieth the portion, and not the person: thou must set thy love on Christ's person,
and then having him, all that he hath is thine : how rich Christ is, so rich art thou: he must first be thine. that hath the Son, hath life," but the Son must first be had. Is there any now in this congregation, who is so hardhearted, as to refuse such a gift as this? When God shall give thee his Son, if thou wilt take him, is there any so prophane, as with Esau to sell his birthright. To pursue the poor pedling things of this life, and refuse salvation, so high a gift? A gift which is not given to angels, they think it an honour to wait at the Lord's table: they have not this precious food given to them; they never taste it: and therefore many Christians, on serious consideration, would not change their estate for the estate of angels. Why? Because hereby Christ is my husband, I am wedded to him, he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, which privilege the angels are not capable of. Our nature is advanced above the angelical nature : for we shall sit and judge the world with Christ, judge the twelve tribes of Israel: and what an high preferment is this? Nay, observe this, and take it for a rule. Never beg of God pardon for thy sins, till thou hast done this one thing, namely, accepted of Christ from God's hands. For thou never canst confidently ask any thing till thou hast him: “ for all the promises of God are in him, yea, and amen.” This may serve for the object of faith: to shew that the primary object is Christ crucified, and God by him. We come now to declare ;
2. The acts of faith what they are, and there intricacy in that too: there is much ado made in what part, and power of the soul faith is : we must not proportionate the act of faith according to our own fancy. For it is no faith, but as it hath relation to the word: now look, how is the word presented: “After you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation.” Now the word is presented under a double respect.
1. It is presented sub ratione veri ; "after you had heard the word of truth ;” and there comes in the understanding.
2. Then sub ratione boni, as a good word, that so we should lay hold on it, and here comes in the will. For the