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The NATURE Of FAITH.
1 J O H N iii. 23.
Am/ fA/'s M his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.
WE propofe, in a little, to draw near to God in the moft folemn act of Chriftian worfhip. With what humble folicitude ought we to enquire, whether we are .truly intitled to this great privilege, or may hope for acceptance in this important duty. It is the moft explicit, and the moft public profeffion we can make of faith in the Redeemer's blood; and therefore none can do it in a proper manner, but thofe who have indeed believed in the Redeemer's name.
Faith in Chrift js the great foundation of our peace with God. It is the great principle of our fanctification. It is the great diftinction between the heirs of glory and the heirs of hell: "For he that believeth, and is baptized, "Ihall be faved; but he that believeth not, fhall be damn"ed." And therefore no fubject can be of more importance in general, or more fuited to' our prefent employment, than what is prefented to us in the words of the text: This is his commandment, That wc should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.
In the context the apoftle is fpeaking of the Chriftian's confidence or perfuation of his relation to God, ver. 20, 21, 22. "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than "our heart and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart "condemn us not, then have we confidence towards M God. And whatioever we afk we receive of him; be"caufe we keep his commandments, and do thofe things "that are pleafingin his fight."
Having thus mentioned the commandments, he points out in the words now read, the great commandments cf the gofpel, in their order, And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. My purpofe at this time is, to confine myfelf to the firft of thefe; and open, in as comprehenfive and practical a manner as I am able, what it is to beliete on the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God; and having done fo, to make fome practical improvement of the fubject; particularly, by preffing every hearer, in the moll earneft manner, to obey this commandment of God
I- In theirs/ place, then, I am to explain what it is to believe on the name of Jefus Chrifl the Son of GodMany have been the cont.roverfies raifed and agitated on this fubject, moft of them unprofitable, and fome of them very hurtful, as tending to difquiet and perplex the minds of ferious perfons, and fometirnes even to furniih an objection to the enemies of the gofpel. I fhall therefore avoid every thing of this kind, as in general undefirable, and at this time highly unfeafonable; and endeavor to lay it down in fuch a manner as I hope may be underllood by the meaneft real Chrillian, and may afford to every exerciibd foul inward confolation and peace with God.
. For this purpofe, I hope it will be fufficient to obferve, that faith may be confidered in two views; its object, and its actings: lft, The object of faith; that is to fay, the truths to be believed: idly, The actings of faith; or what it is to believe thefe to the faving of the foul. As to the object of faith, it is thus exprefied in our text, This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Sou Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus, the Saviour, then, is the object of faith. This, in its full extent, includes every thing that is revealed in the holy lcriptures, with relpecl to his perfon, character, and work. It may indeed be laid to include the whole revealed will of God; becaufe every part of this will has a more remote or immediate reference to him. Chrift Jelus is " the Alpha and Orne"ga, the firli and the laft, the beginning and the ending," of the will of God as revealed for our falvatton. But as every thing elle was only introductory and preparatory to his atonement, or coniequent upon it, I fhall chiefly direct your attention to him as a Saviour from guilt and pollution. This the name of Jefus immediately imports: Matth. i. 21. "And thou fhalt call his name Jems: for "he flull lave his people from their fins." In this view, 1 think the object of faith may be fummed up in the following particulars.
1. That we are, by nature, in a ftate of fin, alienated in heart from God, tranfgreflbrs of his law, and liable to his wrath. If this were not the cafe, a Saviour would not be neceflary; salvation would be a word without force, and even without meaning. It is accordingly found in experience, that till there be a conviction of this truth upon the confcience, the tidings of a Saviour are always treated with neglect or difdain. Nothing can be ftronger than the language of fcripture on this fubject in many pafiages; particularly, Matth. xviii. II. "For the Son of "man is come to fave that which was loft." Luke v. 3-1, 32. " And Jefus anl wering, faid unto them, they that are "whole, need not a phyfician; but they that are fick. I "came not to call the righteous, but finners to repentance." 1 fhall alfo read to you the account of our natural ftate, and the end of Chrift's coming, given by the apolile Paul,
Eph. ii. 1 5. "And you hath he quickened who
"were dead in trefpaffes and fins, wherein in time paft "ye walked according to thecourfe of this world, accord"ing to the prince of the power of the air, the fpirit that "now worketh in the children of difobedience. Among '' whom alfo we all had our converfation in times paft, in "the lulls of our flefh, fulfilling the defires of the rlefh, '' and of the mind; and were by nature the children of
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"wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, "for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we "were dead in fins hath quickened us together with Chrift, "foy grace ye are faved)." I forbear to mention the proof of this from the hiftory of the world, from the marks of God's difpleafure againft fin in the courfe of providence, and from the teftimony of confcience, as I have illuftrated them at confiderable length in other difcourfes. Let it fuffice at prefent to fay, that the firft truth which is the object of faith, is the guilt and mifery of our nature.
2. The next part of the object of faith is, that there is no way of recovery from this ftate but by Chrift: Acts iv. 12. " Neither is there falvation in any other; for there is "none other name under heaven given among men where"by we muft be faved." If there were any other, it would not be the command of God that we fhould believe in the name of his Ion Jefus Chrift. After men are in fome meafure fenfible that they are guilty, it is often difficult to convince them that they are helplefs. There is fomething fo mortifying in this confideration, and fo humbling to our pride, that it is with great unwillingnefs we yield to it. Nay, after we have feemed to confefs it, we are often ready to retract it. The finner has always a pronenefs to feek fome refource in himfelf. Hence the difpofition to extenuate his guilt; and if he cannot plead abiblute, to place fome dependance upon comparative innocence. Hence the difpofition to magnify human merit, as if, by the value of fome good deeds, we could balance or cancel the guilt of our diiobedience. Hence the endlefs variety of human inventions, of coftly facrifices and voluntary penance. Micah vi. 6, 7. "Wherewith ftiall "I come before the Lord, and bow myfelf before the high "God: fhall I come before him with burnt-offerings, "with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleafed *' with thoufands of rams, or with ten thoufands of rivers "of oil ? fhall I give my firft-born for my tranfgreffion, the "fruit of my body for the fin of my foul?" The truth is, till the finner is ftript of every plea, and found to be without excufe, he will ftill refufe to be indebted to the grace of his Redeemer. But hear ye the Spirit of God, Rev. iii. 17, 18. "Becaufe thou fayeft, I am rich, and increaf"ed with goods, and have need of nothing; and knoweft "not that thou art wretched, and miferable, and poor, and "blind, and naked. 1 counfel thee to buy of me gold tri"ed in the fire, that thou mayeft be rich; and white rai"ment, that thou mayeft be clothed, and that the fhame of "thy nakednefs do not appear; and anoint thine eyes "with eye-falve, that thou mayeft fee."
3. This leads me to the third part of the object of faith, viz. That the pardon of fin, and peace with an offended God, is freely offered to the chief of finners through Chrift. The two preceding truths are preparatory to this, and ferve to point out its neceifity and moment. This is the gracious meflage which was brought into the world by the gofpel; and from which it derives its name, importing glad tidings. What we are particularly to attend to here is, (1.) that Chrift Jefus was fubftituted in the room of finners, and fuffered, the juft for the unjuft, that he might bring us to God; that the holinel's and juftice of God required an expiation of fin, which was made by this immaculate victim: Ifa. liii. 5, 6. "But he was wounded "for our tranfgrefiions, he was bruifed for our iniquities ■■ "the chaftifement of our peace was upon him, and with "his ftripes we are healed. All we like fheep have gone "aftray; we have turned every one to his own way, and "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Rom. iii, 25. "Whom God hath fet forth to be a propi"tiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righte"oufnefs for the remiffion of fins that are pall, through the "forbearance of God." (2.) Another thing alfo to be obferved, is the conftitution of the fufferer's perfon. It was no lefs than the eternal and only begotten Son of God. This is a circumftance of the utmoit moment, and on which the greatefl ftrefe is manifeftly laid in fcripture- It is included in the words of the text: "This is his command"ment, That we fhould believe on the name of his Son "jefus Chrift." It is alfo conftantly found in the early Confeffions of Faith; John i. 49. "Nathaniel anfwered. "and faid unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou "art the King of Ifrael." Matth, xvi. 16. •4 And Sir