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A N A CT
CONCERNING FAITH AND JUSTIFICATION ;
EMITTED BY THE
ASSOCIATE REFORMED CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA,
JUNE 12, 1798.
THE ministers and elders in synod assembled, finding that dangerous errors are entertained and propagated concerning the doctrines of saving faith and of justification, feel it their duty to declare, and by this act they do declare, what they conceive the holy scriptures to teach on these important points, chiefly as they are at present perverted or opposed.
I. Of the appropriation and assurance of faith.
Faith, in its general idea, is assent to, and reliance on, testimony. Its peculiar character must arise from the testimony on which it is founded. That divine faith, therefore, by which alone sinners are saved, must be an assent to, and reliance on, the divine testimony, as exhibited in the written word. The gospel is expressly termed the RECoRD or TESTIMONY which God gave of his Son, and faith a BELIEVING of this record. (1 John v. 10.) In perfect harmony with the scriptures, its general character, its special office, and its true and only warrant, are comprehended in the concise and correct definition of the shorter catechism. “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.” 1. In its general character, which it has in common with other benefits of the covenant, it . is said to be a saving grace. A grace, or a free gift; an unmerited favor. It is the GIFT of God, and that both in its principle and in its exercises. Christians believe even as the Lord GiveTH to every man. And it is he who deals out to every man the MEASURE of faith. A grace—being purchased for us by Christ's precious blood, and freely bestowed on us for his sake. It is given unto us IN THE BEHALF of CHRIST to believe on him. - A grace—because it is wrought in the heart of a sinner by the free Spirit of God, through the instrumentality of the word. For this rea
son he is called the SPIRIT of FAITH; and the people of God believe according to the working of His MIGHTY Power, which, by the Spirit, he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. And this faith, so produced, cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of GoD. This faith saves. As its origin is grace, so its issue is salvation from sin and from wrath both here and hereafter. He that believeth shALL be saved; he HATH everlasting life, and shall Nor CoME into condemnation ; but shall receive the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul. 2. The special office of faith is to receive, and rest upon Christ alone for salvation. But, in order to have just views of this part of the subject, we are previously to consider the true and only warrant of faith, which is the free offer of Christ to us in the gospel. All that is necessary for elucidating this point may be summed up in the following propositions: (1.) God hath made a grant of his Son, Jesus Christ, as an all-sufficient Savior, to a lost and perishing world. . He hath not merely revealed a general knowledge of him, but has directly and solemnly given him to sinners as such that they may be saved. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever be
VOI, III, 41
lieveth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (2) This gift is absolutely free; independent, in every possible manner, on the worthiness or good qualities of men. This is essential to the very nature of his gift. Redemption through the blood of Christ is according to the riches of his grace. It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the chief of sinners. (3.) This gift is indiscriminately to all the hearers of the gospel, and to every one of them in particular. Unto Us a child is born ; unto Us a Son is given, The word is migh THEE, even in THY mouth, and in THINE heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach : That if Thou shalf confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, Thou shalt be saved. No sins, however enormous or aggravated, place any sinner beyond the reach of this liberal grant. The very terms in which it is conveyed suppose the objects of it to be unbelieving, unrighteous, and even obstinate in transgression. God gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH on him. might not perish; manifestly implying that they to whom he is given are unbelievers. The Lord Christ, whose invitations to sinners must be grounded on the Father's gift of him as the covenant of the people, thus addresses them :