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give you Christ and life, when he had given them already, even by a deed of gift under his hand, and by a law of grace ? 1 John v. 10–12.
Object. ' But yet all are not pardoned, and possessed of Christ, and so saved.'
Answ. I told you, that is because they will not ; so that (I pray you mark it well) God hath in these four means before mentioned, given even to the graceless so much ground of comfort, that nothing, but their unwillingness to have Christ, is left to be their terror. For though sin be not actually remitted to them, yet is it conditionally remitted, viz. If they will but accept of Christ offered them. Will you remember this, when your doubts are greatest, and you conclude, that certainly Christ is not yours, because you havo no true grace? Suppose it to be true, yet still know, that Christ may be yours if you will, and when you will. This comfort you may have when you can find no evidences of true grace in yourself. So much for that direction.
Direct. VIII. The next thing that you have to do, for building up a stable comfort, and settling your conscience in a solid peace, is this, . Be sure to get and keep a right understanding of the nature of saving faith.'
As you must have right thoughts of the covenant of grace (of which before), the want thereof doth puzzle and confound very many Christians; so you must be sure to have right thoughts of the condition of the covenant. For indeed that grace which causeth you to perform this condition, is your first special saving grace, which you may take as a certain evidence of your justification. And this condition is the very link which conjoineth all the general foregoing grace to all the rest of the following special grace. The Scripture is so full and plain in assuring pardon and salvation to all true believers, that if you can be sure you are a believer, you need not make any doubt of your interest in Christ, and your salvation. Seeing therefore that all the question will be, Whether you have true faith? Whether you do perform the condition of the new covenant? (for all other doubts God hath given you sufficient ground to resolve, as is said) how much then doth it concern you to have a right understanding of the nature of this faith? Which that you may hàve, let me tell you briefly what it is. Man's soul hath two faculties, understanding and will: accordingly the objects of man's soul (all beings which it is to receive) have two modifications; truth and goodness (as those to be avoided are evil). Accordingly God's word or
) Gospel hath two parts ; the revelation of truth, and the offer and promise of some good. This offered good is principally and immediately Christ himself, to be joined to us by covenant, as our head and husband. The secondary consequential good, is_pardon, justification, reconciliation, adoption, further sanctification and glorification, which are all offered with Christ. By this you may see what saving faith is; it is first, a believing that the Gospel is true; and then an accepting of Christ therein offered to us, with his benefits ; or a consenting that he be ours, and we be his; which is nothing but a true willingness to have an offered Christ. Remember this well, that you may make use of it, when you are in doubt of the truth of your faith. Thousands of poor souls have been in the dark, and unable to see themselves to be believers, merely for want of knowing what saving faith is. The Papists place almost all in the mere assent of the understanding. Some of our Reformers made it to be either an assurance of the pardon of our own sins, or a strong persuasion of their pardon, excluding doubting; or (the most moderate) a persuasion of our particular pardon, though mixed with some doubting. The Antinomians strike in with them, and say
Hence some divines conclude, that justification and remission go before faith, because the act doth always suppose its object. For they thought that remission already past was the object of justifying faith, supposing faith to be nothing else but a belief that we are pardoned. Yea, ordinarily, it hath been taught in the writings of our greatest refuters of the Papists, “That this belief is properly a divine faith, or the belief of a divine testimony, as is the believing of any proposition written in the Scripture (a foul error, which I have confuted in my Book of Rest, part iii. chap. vii). Most of late have come nearer the truth, and affirmed justifying faith to consist in affiance, or recumbency, or resting on Christ for salvation. No doubt this is one act of justifying faith, but not that which a poor troubled soul should first search after and try itself by (except by affiance, any should mean as Amesius doth, election of Christ, and then it is the same act which I am asserting, but very unfitly expressed). For, 1. Affiance is not the
principal act nor that wherein the very life of justifying faith doth consist, but only an imperate allowing act, and an effect of the vital act, (which is consent, or willing, or accepting Christ offered ;) for it lieth mainly in that which we call the sensitive part, or the passions of the soul. 2. It is therefore less constant, and so unfitter to try by. For many a poor soul that knows itself unfeignedly willing to have Christ, yet feeleth not a resting on him, or trusting in him, and therefore cries out, ʻO I cannot believe ;' and think they have no faith. For recumbency, affiance, or resting on Christ, implieth that easing of themselves, or casting off their fears, or doubts, or cares, which true believers do not always find. Many a poor soul complains, ‘0 I cannot rest on Christ ; I cannot trust him!' who .yet would have him
; to be their Lord and Saviour, and can easily be convinced of their willingness. 3. Besides affiance is not the adequate act of faith, suited to the object in that fulness as it must be received, but willingness or acceptance is. Christ is rested on not only for ourselves as our deliverer, but he is accepted also for himself as our Lord and Master. The full proof of these I have performed in other writings, and oft in your hearing in public, and therefore omit them now. then to fix this truth deep in your mind, “That justifying faith is not an assurance of our justification ; no, nor a persuasion or belief that we are justified or pardoned, or that Christ died more for us than for others. Nor yet is affiance or resting on Christ the vital principle, certain, constant, full act; but it is the understanding's belief of the truth of the Gospel, and the will's acceptance of Christ and life offered to us therein; which acceptance is but the hearty consent or willingness that he be yours, and you his?
' This is the faith which must justify and save you.
Object. But, 1. “May not wicked men be willing to have Christ? 2. And do not you oft tell us that justifying faith comprehends love to Christ and thankfulness, and that it receiveth him as a Lord to be obeyed, as well as a deliverer ? And that repentance and sincere obedience are parts of the condition of the new covenant ?'
Answ. I will give as brief a touch now on these as may be, because I have handled them in fitter places.
1. Wicked men are willing to have remission, justification, and freedom from hell (for no man can be willing to be
unpardoned, or to be damned ;) but they are not willing to have Christ himself in that nature and office which he must be accepted; that is, as an holy head and husband to save both from the guilt and power, and all defilement and abode of sin, and to rule them by his law, and guide them by his Spirit, and to make them happy by bringing them to God, that being without sin, they may be perfectly pleasing and amiable in his sight, and enjoy him for
Thus is Christ offered, and thus to be accepted of all that will be saved ; and thus no wicked man will accept him (but when he ceaseth to be wicked). 2. To cut all the rest short in a word, I say, That in this fore-described willingness or acceptance, repentance, love, thankfulness, resolution to obey, are all contained, or nearly implied, as I have elsewhere manifested; so that the heart of saving faith is this acceptance of Christ, or willingness to have him to justify, sanctify, guide, and govern you. Find but this willingness, and you find all the rest, whether you expressly see them or not. So much for that direction.
Direct. IX. Having thus far proceeded, in discovering and improving the general grounds of comfort, and then in discovering the nature of faith, which gives you right to the special mercies of the covenant following it; your next work must be, To perform this condition by actual believing.'
Your soul stands in extreme need of a Saviour. God offereth you a Saviour in the Gospel. What then have you
. next to do but to accept him ? Believe that this offer is general, and therefore to you. And that Christ is not set to sale, nor doth God require you to bring a price in your hand, but only heartily and thankfully to accept of what he freely giveth you. This must be done before you fall on trying your graces to get assurance, for you must have grace before you can discover it; and this is the first proper special saving grace (as it compriseth that knowledge and assent which necessarily go before it). This is not only the method for those that yet never believed, but also for them that have lost the sense of their faith, and so the sight of their evidence. Believe .again, that you may know you do believe; or at least may possess an accepted Saviour. When God in the Gospel bids you take Jesus Christ, and beseecheth you to be reconciled to him, what will you say to him ? If your heart answer, ‘Lord I am willing, I will ac
cept of Christ and be thankful ;' why then the match is made between Christ and you, and the marriage-covenant is truly entered, which none can dissolve. If Christ were not first willing, he would not be the suitor, and make the motion ; and if he be willing, and you be willing, what can break the match ? If you will say, 'I cannot believe ;' if you understand what you say, either you mean that you cannot believe the Gospel is true, or else that you cannot be willing that Christ should be yours. If it be the former, and speak truly, then you are a flat infidel (yet many temptations to doubt of the truth of Scripture, a true believer may have, yea, and actual doubtings; but his faith prevaileth, and is victorious over them); but if you really doubt whether the Gospel be true, use God's means for the discovery of its truth. Read what I have written in the second part of my Book of Rest. I will undertake now more confidently than ever I did, to prove the truth of Scripture by plain, full, undeniable force of reason. But I suppose this is none of your case, If therefore when you say, that you cannot believe, you mean, that you cannot accept an offered Christ, or be willing to have him ; then I demand, 1. What is your reason? The will is led by the reason of the understanding. If you be not willing, there is something that persuades you to be unwilling. This reason must be from something real, or else upon a mistake, upon supposal of something that is not in being. If it be upon mistake, either it is that you be not convinced of Christ's willingness to be yours; and if you thought he did consent, you would consent willingly ; if this be it, you do truly believe while you
think not; for you do consent (and that is all on your part to make the match) and Christ doth certainly consent, though you do not understand it. In this case it concerneth you, to understand better the extent of the new covenant, and then you will be past doubt of the willingness of Christ, and see that wherever the match breaks, it is only for want of consent in men; for Christ is the first suitor, and hath long ago in the covenant proclaimed his consent, to be the head and husband of every sinner, on condition they will bat consent to be his.
If your mistake be from any false apprehension of the nature of Christ, as if he were not a sufficient Saviour, or were an enemy to your comfort, that he would do you more harm