Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

tions. Lastly, men who have no faith may abound in external duties, and, like the Pharisees, call this righteousness; and if, by the multiplication of religious or moral duties, or any other way, we can persuade ourselves that we are righteous, it must produce a greater or less degree of joy.

Seventh. Not every change in a man, though it be for the better, is proof of saving faith. There may be great changes without faith. There may be a great change wrought in the mind of a man without faith. Man is by nature blind; sin has put out the eyes of the soul. Hence an unregenerate state is called darkness, a regenerate state light. But without this light, men may acquire much knowledge of divine truth. Thus the apostle speaks of those who

once enlightened, and had tasted the good word of God ;" but who might finally be lost. Judas and Balaam had so much light as to be able to instruct others, and yet they never had saving faith. There

may great change wrought in the conscience without faith. There may be carnal security, then pungent convictions, or awakenings, and then a kind of peace, and yet no faith. There may be a great change wrought in the affections without saving faith. There may be sorrow

were

be

a

for sin, fear of wrath, and flashes of joy, without true faith. The will may be changed without saving faith. How many faithless ones have been ready to say as the children of Israel said to Moses: “Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say ; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it." There

may

be

very great changes in the conduct, where there is no faith. The vicious may become moral; the drunkard may become a sober man; and the externally honest and moral man be turned into a professor of religion. There are those who have once “escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ," and have become "again entangled therein and overcome;" thus showing that they never had saving faith ; "the latter end is worse with them than the beginning." Eighth. And, finally, a man may

have some sort of faith, without saving faith. There is one form of this faith, which, for the sake of distinction, we may call cradle-faith, or a faith which men bring with them from their childhood. As far back as they can remember, they always believed. But this faith is not “ the faith of the operation of God;" it is a

weed that

grows

of its own accord. It grows, too, in a bad soil, in corrupt, unsanctified nature. Nor is it kept alive by showers of heavenly grace, like saving faith.

It overlooks the Mediator, and flees to a false refuge. This is proved by its fruit. Saving faith brings forth the fruit of holiness, this does not. There is another kind of faith, which we may call rational faith. It goes one step beyond the former. That is merely the effect of custom and education ; but this is the assent of the mind, that the Bible is true; an assent which is given after examination of the evidences of a divine revelation. Persons who have this kind of faith, pretend to be very candid and liberal. They think it highly unreasonable not to be cautious in examining the grounds of their religious belief. Upon examining the evidences of Christianity, they find them conclusive ; and hence they are led to give a general assent to the Scriptures, and this is the substance and end of their faith. This kind of faith is as common among the learned, as the former is among the ignorant. Another kind of faith, which is not saving, may be called temporary faith. Such was the faith of the stony ground hearers. It has a transient effect upon the soul; for they

ye

heard the word with joy. But it is not a work of grace in the heart; and hence it continues but a short time.

SECTION III. Some of the marks of saving faith._It will of course. be admitted on all hands, that the Christian graces are exercised in different degrees by different persons, and in different degrees by the same person at different times. It is here taken for granted that there are marks, or evidences, by which saving faith may be known. “ These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that have eternal life.” Indeed much of the Bible is designed to assist persons in forming a judgment of their own character and state; so that if some do not know whether they believe or not, it is not because the Scriptures do not give the marks by which faith may be known.

I. One who has saving faith heartily embraces and approves the Scripture method of saving sinners by the mediation of Jesus Christ, and, renouncing all other ways, relies on this alone for salvation. This will be clear if we consider,

First. What the way of salvation proposed in the Gospel is. The Gospel presupposes

[ocr errors]

that man by sin has become "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;" that is, that man, in and of himself, can do nothing to obtain salvation; that he is blind, and knows not how to take one step towards happiness; and that he has nothing to secure him from deserved wrath. He has become, as it were, bankrupt; he has nothing to pay the immense debt he has contracted by sin. Now, in this sinful, weak, and blind condition of man, the Gospel proposes a remedy for his disease, a supply for all his wants. He is wretched, and the Gospel promises him the true honour; he is miserable, and it offers everlasting happiness; he is poor, and it holds out to him the best of all riches; he is blind, and it comes with eye-salve to give him sight; he is naked, and it provides him with the spotless garments of a Saviour's righteousness. Every thing which man, as a sinner, needs is supplied in Jesus Christ, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” In him the sinner may find "durable riches and righteousness.' As he says to the Laodiceans, so he says to all: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »