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SYSTEM OF DOCTRINES.
CONCERNING SAVING FAITH.
THERE have been, and still are, various and opposite opinions in the christian world, and among Protestants, respecting saving faith; and very different definitions have been given of it. Instead of particularly describing these, and attempting to refute any of them now, it is proposed to examine the scriptures, and endeavour from them to find what is the nature, and what are the properties of this faith. And if in this way, which is doubtless the most proper to be taken, a clear and satisfactory idea of this subject may be obtained, all erroneous opinions respecting it, which have been imbibed and propagated, will of course be detected.—In this view the following things may be observed.
I. Saving faith is represented in many passages of scripture as consisting in a belief and assurance of the truth and reality of those things which are revealed and asserted by God in the divine oracles. Or a conviction and assured knowledge, that the gospel is true; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the
world; and they who have this belief, assurance or knowledge, are considered and declared to be in a state of salvation.
This is the account given of faith in the most express definition of it in the Bible. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen."* Here faith is described in the general nature of it; and is said to be that by which invisible and future things are seen as evident realities. Hence it appears, that he who realizes and is assured of the truths contained in divine revelation, has true faith, by which men believe to the saving of their souls, which is the faith here defined, as appears from the words immediately preceding these, in the last verse of the foregoing chapter. We are of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith, &c."
When Peter said to Jesus, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Upon this we may observe,
1. That the faith which Peter professes, is a belief and assurance that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God, the Messiah who was to come into the world.
2. That Christ declares this to be saving faith, in pronouncing Peter blessed upon this, and asserting that this faith was the effect of divine, supernatural influences. Very parallel to this is what St. John asserts concern"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God."+ This is the same confession which Peter made; and this is here declared to be peculiar to a good man, a true christian who shall be saved. By confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, is meant a sincere and true declaration of a belief and assurance of this truth. Such a belief and assurance of this truth, is the only proper ground of this confession, and is saving faith. Both these passages are explained and illustrated by the following words of this same apostle. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God."‡ Here a belief of this single proposition, Jesus is the Christ, is † 1 John iv. 15.
Heb. xi. 1.
+ Chap. v. 1.