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gospel, is the adequate proper object of justifying faith, or of saving faith in its work and duty with respect unto our justification.
The reason why I thus state the object of justifying faith, is because it completely answers all that is ascribed unto it in the Scripture, and all that the nature of it doth require. What belongs unto it as faith in general is here supposed; and what is peculiar unto it as justifying is fully expressed. And a few things will serve for the explication of the thesis which shall afterward be confirmed.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ himself is asserted to be the proper object of justifying faith. For so it is required in all those testimonies of Scripture where that faith is declared to be our believing in him, on his name, our receiving of him, or looking unto him, whereunto the promise of justification and eternal life is annexed; whereof afterward. See John i. 12. iii. 16. 36. vi. 29. 47. vii. 38. xv. 25. Acts x. 41. xiii. 38, 39. xvi. 31. xxvi. 18, &c.
2. He is not proposed as the object of our faith unto the justification of life absolutely, but as the ordinance of God, even the Father, unto that end, who therefore also is the immediate object of faith as justifying; in what respects we shall declare immediately. So justification is frequently ascribed unto faith as peculiarly acted on him, John v. 24. He that believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death into life.' And herein is comprised that grace, love, and favour of God, which is the principal moving cause of our justification, Rom. iii. 23, 24. Add hereunto John vi. 29. and the object of faith is complete. This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.' God the Father as sending, and the Son as sent, that is, Jesus Christ in the work of his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, is the object of our faith. See 1 Pet.i. 21.
3. That he may be the object of our faith whose general nature consisteth in assent, and which is the foundation of all its other acts, he is proposed in the promises of the gospel, which I therefore place as concurring unto its complete object. Yet do I not herein consider the promises merely as peculiar divine revelations, in which sense they
belong unto the formal object of faith; but as they contain, propose, and exhibit Christ as the ordinance of God, and the benefits of his mediation unto them that do believe. There is an especial assent unto the promises of the gospel, wherein some place the nature and essence of justifying faith, or of faith in its work and duty with respect unto our justification. And so they make the promises of the gospel to be the proper object of it. And it cannot be, but that in the actings of justifying faith there is a peculiar assent unto them. Howbeit this being only an act of the mind, neither the whole nature, nor the whole work of faith can consist therein. Wherefore, so far as the promises concur to the complete object of faith, they are considered materially also, namely, as they contain, propose, and exhibit Christ unto believers. And in that sense are they frequently affirmed in the Scripture to be the object of our faith unto the justification of life; Acts ii. 39. xxvi. 6. Rom. iv. 16. 20. xv. 8. Gal. iii. 16. 18. Heb. iv. 1. vi. 13. viii. 6. x. 36.
4. The end for which the Lord Christ in the work of his mediation is the ordinance of God, and as such proposed in the promises of the gospel, namely, the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, belongs unto the object of faith as justifying. Hence the forgiveness of sin, and eternal life, are proposed in the Scripture as things that are to be believed unto justification, or as the object of our faith; Matt. ix. 2. Acts ii. 38, 39. v. 31. xxvi. 18. Rom. iii. 25. iv. 7, 8. Col. ii. 13. Tit. i. 2. &c. And whereas the just is to live by his faith, and every one is to believe for himself, or make an application of the things believed unto his own behoof, some from hence have affirmed the pardon of our own sins, and our own salvation to be the proper object of faith; and indeed it doth belong thereunto, when in the way and order of God and the gospel, we can attain unto it; 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4. Gal. ii. 20. Eph. i. 6, 7.
Wherefore, asserting the Lord Jesus Christ in the work of his mediation to be the object of faith unto justification, I include therein the grace of God which is the cause, the pardon of sin which is the effect, and the promises of the gospel, which are the means of communicating Christ and the benefit of his mediation unto us.
And all these things are so united, so intermixed in
their mutual relations and respects, so concatenated in the purpose of God, and the declaration made of his will in the gospel, as that the believing of any one of them doth virtually include the belief of the rest. And by whom any one of them is disbelieved, they frustrate and make void all the rest, and so faith itself.
The due consideration of these things solveth all the difficulties that arise about the nature of faith, either from the Scripture, or from the experience of them that believe, with respect unto its object. Many things in the Scripture are we said to believe with it and by it, and that unto justification. But two things are hence evident: 1. That no one of them can be asserted to be the complete adequate object of our faith. 2. That none of them are so absolutely, but as they relate unto the Lord Christ, as the ordinance of God for our justification and salvation.
And this answereth the experience of all that do truly believe. For these things being united and made inseparable in the constitution of God, all of them are virtually included in every one of them. 1. Some fix their faith and trust principally on the grace, love, and mercy of God; especially they did so under the Old Testament, before the clear revelation of Christ and his mediation. So did the psalmist, Psal. cxxx. 34. xxxiii. 18, 19. And the publican, Luke xviii. 13. And these are in places of the Scripture innumerable proposed as the causes of our justification. See Rom. iii. 24. Eph. ii. 4—8. Tit. iii. 5-7. But this they do not absolutely, but with respect unto the 'redemption that is in the blood of Christ ;' Dan. ix. 17. Nor doth the Scripture any where propose them unto us, but under that consideration. See Rom. iii. 24, 25. Eph. i.6-8. For this is the cause, way, and means of the communication of that grace, love, and mercy unto us. 2. Some place and fix them principally on the Lord Christ, his mediation, and the benefits thereof. This the apostle Paul proposeth frequently unto us in his own example. See Gal. ii. 20. Phil. iii. 8-10. But this they do not absolutely, but with respect unto the grace and love of God, whence it is that they are given and communicated unto us, Rom. viii. 32. John iii. 16. Eph. i. 6-8. Nor are they otherwise any where proposed unto us in the Scripture as the object of our faith unto justification.
3. Some in a peculiar manner fix their souls in believing on the promises. And this is exemplified in the instance of Abraham, Gen. xv. 16. Rom. iv. 20. And so are they proposed in the Scripture as the object of our faith, Acts ii. 39. Rom. iv. 16. Heb. iv. 1, 2. vi. 12, 13. But this they do not merely as they are divine revelations, but as they contain and propose unto us the Lord Christ and the benefits of his mediation, from the grace, love, and mercy of God. Hence the apostle disputes at large in his Epistle unto the Galatians, that if justification be any way but by the promise, both the grace of God, and the death of Christ are evacuated and made of none effect. And the reason is, because the promise is nothing but the way and means of the communication of them unto us. 4. Some fix their faith on the things themselves which they aim at; namely, the pardon of sin and eternal life. And these also in the Scripture are proposed unto us as the object of our faith, or that which we are to believe unto justification; Psal. cxxx. 4. Acts xxvi. 18. Tit. i. 2. But this is to be done in its proper order, especially as unto the application of them unto our own souls. For we are nowhere required to believe them, or our own interest in them, but as they are effects of grace, and love of God, through Christ and his mediation, proposed in the promises of the gospel. Wherefore, the belief of them is included in the belief of these, and is in order of nature antecedent thereunto. And the belief of the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, without the due exercise of faith in those causes of them, is but presumption.
I have therefore given the entire object of faith as justifying, or in its work and duty with respect unto our justification, in compliance with the testimonies of the Scripture, and the experience of them that believe.
Allowing therefore their proper place unto the promises, and unto the effect of all in the pardon of sins and eternal life; that which I shall farther confirm is, that the Lord Christ, in the work of his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, is the proper adequate object of justifying faith. And the true nature of evangelical faith consisteth in the respect of the heart (which we shall immediately describe) unto the love, grace, and wisdom of God, with the mediation of Christ, in
his obedience, with the sacrifice, satisfaction, and atonement for sin which he made by his blood. These things are impiously opposed by some as inconsistent. For the second head of the Socinian impiety is, that the grace of God, and satisfaction of Christ are opposite and inconsistent, so as that if we allow of the one we must deny the other. But as these things are so proposed in the Scripture, as that without granting them both, neither can be believed; so faith, which respects them as subordinate, namely, the mediation of Christ unto the grace of God, that fixeth itself on the Lord Christ and that redemption which is in his blood, as the ordinance of God, the effect of his wisdom, grace, and love, finds rest in both, and in nothing else.
For the proof of the assertion I need not labour in it; it being not only abundantly declared in the Scripture, but that which contains in it a principal part of the design and substance of the gospel. I shall therefore only refer unto some of the places wherein it is taught, or the testimonies that are given unto it.
The whole is expressed in that place of the apostle wherein the doctrine of justification is most eminently proposed unto us; Rom. iii. 24, 25. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.' Whereunto we may add Eph. i. 6, 7. He hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, according to the riches of his grace.' That whereby we are justified is the especial object of our faith unto justification. But this is the Lord Christ in the work of his mediation. For we are justified by the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; for in him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin. Christ as a propitiation is the cause of our justification, and the object of our faith, or we attain it by faith in his blood. But this is so under this formal consideration, as he is the ordinance of God for that end, appointed, given, proposed, set forth from and by the grace, wisdom, and love of God. God set him forth to be a propitiation. He makes us accepted in the beloved. We have redemption in his blood, according to the riches of his grace, whereby he makes us accepted in