Imágenes de páginas

pect the like success with them in our endeavours unto that end. For the minds of the generality of men are in another posture than they were, when they dealt with them. Under' the power of ignorance and superstition they were, but yet multitudes of them affected with a sense of the guilt of sin. With us, for the most part, things are quite otherwise. Notional light, accompanied with a senselessness of sin, leads men unto a contempt of this doctrine, indeed of the whole mystery of the gospel. We have had experience of the fruits of the faith which we now plead for in this nation for many years, yea now for some ages. And it cannot well be denied but that those who have been most severely tenacious of the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, have been the most exemplary in a holy life; I speak of former days. And if this doctrine be yet farther corrupted, debased, or unlearned among us, we shall quickly fall into one of the extremes wherewith we are at present urged on either side. For although the reliefs provided in the church of Rome, for the satisfaction of the consciences of men are at present by the most disliked, yea, despised; yet, if they are once brought to a loss how to place their whole trust and confidence in the righteousness of Christ and grace of God in him, they will not always live at such an uncertainty of mind, as the best of their own personal obedience will hang them on the briers of, but betake themselves unto somewhat that tenders them certain peace and security, though at present it may seem foolish unto them. And I doubt not but that some out of a mere ignorance of the righteousness of God, which either they have not been taught, or had no mind to learn, have with some integrity in the exercise of their consciences, betaken themselves unto that pretended rest which the church of Rome offers unto them. For being troubled about their sins, they think it better to betake themselves unto that great variety of means for the ease and discharge of their consciences which the Roman church affords, than to abide where they are, without the least pretence of relief, as men will find in due time, there is no such thing to be found or obtained in themselves. They may go on for a time with good satisfaction unto their own minds; but if once they are brought unto a loss through the conviction of sin, they must look

beyond themselves for peace and satisfaction, or sit down without them to eternity. Nor are the principles and ways which others take up withal in another extreme upon the rejection of this doctrine, although more plausible, yet at all more really useful unto the souls of men, than those of the Roman church which they reject as obsolete, and unsuited unto the genius of the present age. For they all of them arise from, or lead unto, the want of a due sense of the nature and guilt of sin, as also of the holiness and righteousness of God with respect thereunto. And when such principles as these do once grow prevalent in the minds of men, they quickly grow careless, negligent, secure in sinning, and end for the most part in atheism, or a great indifferency as unto all religion, and all the duties thereof.


Justifying faith; the causes, object, and nature of it, declared.

THE means of justification on our part is faith. That we are justified by faith, is so frequently, and so expressly affirmed in the Scripture, as that it cannot directly and in terms by any be denied. For whereas some begin, by an excess of partiality, which controversial engagements and provocations do incline them unto, to affirm that our justification is more frequently ascribed unto other things, graces or duties, than unto faith, it is to be passed by in silence, and not contended about. But yet also the explanation which some others make of this general concession, that we are justified by faith, doth as fully overthrow what is affirmed therein, as if it were in terms rejected. And it would more advantage the understandings of men, if it were plainly refused upon its first proposal, than to be led about in a maze of words and distinctions, unto its real exclusion; as is done both by the Romanists and Socinians. At present we may take the proposition as granted, and only inquire into the true genuine sense and meaning of it. That which first occurs unto our consideration is faith; and that which doth concern it may be reduced unto two heads: 1. Its nature. 2. Its use in our justification.

Of the nature of faith in general, of the especial nature of justifying faith, of its characteristical distinctions from that which is called faith, but is not justifying, so many dis courses (divers of them the effects of sound judgment and good experience) are already extant, as it is altogether needless to engage at large into a farther discussion of them. However, something must be spoken to declare in what sense we understand these things; what is that faith, which we ascribe our justification unto, and what is its use therein.

The distinctions that are usually made concerning faith (as it is a word of various significations) I shall wholly pretermit; not only as obvious and known, but as not belonging unto our present argument. That which we are concerned in is, that in the Scripture there is mention made plainly of a twofold faith whereby men believe the gospel. For there is a faith whereby we are justified, which he who hath shall be assuredly saved, which purifieth the heart, and worketh by love. And there is a faith or believing, which doth nothing of all this; which who hath, and hath no more, is not justified, nor can be saved. Wherefore, every faith, whereby men are said to believe, is not justifying. Thus it is said of Simon the magician, that he believed; Acts viii. 13. When he was in the 'gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity,' and therefore did not believe with that faith which purifieth the heart;' Acts xv. 9. And, that many believed on the name of Jesus, when they saw the miracles that he did; but Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew what was in man ;' John ii. 23, 24. They did not believe on his name as those do, or with that kind of faith, who thereon 'receive power to become the sons of God;' John i. 12. And some when they hear the word receive it with joy, believing for awhile,' but have no root; Luke viii. 13. And faith without a root in the heart will not justify any. For ' with the heart men believe unto righteousness;' Rom. x. 10. So is it with them who shall cry, Lord, Lord' (at the last day), 'we have prophesied in thy name,' whilst yet they were always' workers of iniquity;' Matt. vii. 22, 23.

This faith is usually called historical faith. But this denomination is not taken from the object of it, as though it were only the history of the Scripture, or the historical things. contained in it. For it respects the whole truth of the

word, yea, of the promises of the gospel as well as other things. But it is so called from the nature of the assent wherein it doth consist. For it is such as we give unto historical things, that are credibly testified unto us.

And this faith hath divers differences or degrees, both in respect unto the grounds or reasons of it; and also its effects. For as unto the first, all faith is an assent upon testimony; and divine faith is an assent upon a divine testimony. According as this testimony is received, so are the differences or degrees of this faith. Some apprehend it on human motives only, and their credibility unto the judgment of reason; and their assent is a mere natural act of their understanding, which is the lowest degree of this historical faith. Some have their minds enabled unto it by spiritual illumination, making a discovery of the evidences of divine truth whereon it is to be believed; the assent they give hereon is more firm and operative than that of the former sort.

Again, It hath its differences or degrees with respect unto its effects. With some it doth no way, or very little, influence the will or the affections, or work any change in the lives of men. So is it with them that profess they believe the gospel, and yet live in all manner of sins. In this degree it is called by the apostle James 'a dead faith,' and compared unto a dead carcass, without life or motion; and is an assent of the very same nature and kind with that which devils are compelled to give. And this faith abounds in the world. With others it hath an effectual work upon the affections, and that in many degrees also, represented in the several sorts of ground whereinto the seed of the word is cast, and produceth many effects in their lives. In the utmost improvement of it, both as to the evidence it proceeds from, and the effects it produceth, it is usually called temporary faith; for it is neither permanent against all oppositions, nor will bring any unto eternal rest. The name is taken from that expression of our Saviour, concerning him who believeth with this faith, wρóσкaιρós kσтɩ, Matt. xiii. 21. This faith I grant, to be true in its kind, and not merely to be equivocally so called; it is not wioris feudávμos; it is so as unto the general nature of faith; but of the same special nature with justifying faith it is not. Justifying faith is not a higher, or the highest degree of this faith, but

is of another kind or nature. Wherefore, sundry things may be observed concerning this faith in the utmost improvement of it, unto our present purpose. As,

1. This faith, with all the effects of it, men may have and not be justified; and if they have not a faith of another kind they cannot be justified. For justification is nowhere ascribed unto it, yea, it is affirmed by the apostle James, that none can be justified by it.

2. It may produce great effects in the minds, affections, and lives of men, although not one of them that are peculiar unto justifying faith. Yet such they may be, as that those in whom they are wrought, may be, and ought in the judgment of charity to be, looked on as true believers.

3. This is that faith which may be alone. We are justified by faith alone. But we are not justified by that faith which can be alone. Alone, respects its influence into our justification, not its nature and existence. And we absolutely deny that we can be justified by that faith which can be alone, that is, without a principle of spiritual life and universal obedience, operative in all the works of it, as duty doth require.

These things I have observed, only to obviate that calumny and reproach which some endeavour to fix on the doctrine of justification by faith only, through the mediation of Christ. For those who assert it, must be Solifidians, Antinomians, and I know not what; such as oppose or deny the necessity of universal obedience, or good works. Most of them who manage it, cannot but know in their own consciences that this charge is false. But this is the way of handling controversies with many. They can aver any thing that seems to advantage the cause they plead, to the great scandal of religion. If by Solifidians they mean, those who believe that faith alone is on our part, the means, instrument, or condition (of which afterward) of our justification; all the prophets and apostles were so, and were so taught to be by Jesus Christ, as shall be proved. If they mean, those who affirm that the faith whereby we are justified is alone, separate, or separable, from a principle and the fruit of holy obedience, they must find them out themselves, we know nothing of them. For we allow no faith to be of the same kind or nature with that whereby we are justified, but what

« AnteriorContinuar »