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Chapter III. – Evidences of a Believing State


  • I. Mistakes as to what faith is
  • II.True saving faith described
  • III.Farther explanatory remarks concerning saving faith
  • IV.Difficulties as to what seems to be faith removed

We come now to speak of some more clear and sure marks by which men may discover their gracious state and interest in Christ. The first thing whereby men may know it is, their closing with Christ in the gospel wherein He is held forth. This is believing, or faith, which is the condition of the covenant: 'It is of faith, that it might be by grace.' (Rom. 4: 19 .) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' (Acts 26: 31.) Now, although, in propriety of speech, it is hard to prove an interest by faith, it being one very interest in Him; yet the heart's closing with Christ Jesus is so discernible in itself, that we may well place it amongst the marks of a gracious state: and if a man can make out this, that he believeth on and in Christ Jesus, he thereby proves a very true interest in Him.


I. – Mistakes as to what faith is

Many object to this as a mark, upon one of these three grounds:-- 1. Some conceive faith to be a difficult, mysterious thing, hardly attainable. To these I say, Do not mistake: faith is not so difficult as many apprehend it to be. I grant true faith in the lowest degree is the gift of God, and above the power of flesh and blood; for God must draw men to Christ. 'No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.' (John 6: 44.) 'Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ to believe on Him.' (Phil. 1: 29.) Yet it were a reflection upon Christ, and all He has done, to say it were a matter of insuperable difficulty; as is clear: 'The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down from above; or, Who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.' ( Rom. 10: 6-11.) It were, according to that Scriptures as much upon the matter as to say, Christ came not from heaven, is not risen from the dead, nor ascended victorious to heaven. I say, He has made the way to heaven most easy; and faith, which is the condition required on our part, more easy than men do imagine. For the better understanding of this, consider that justifying faith is not to believe that I am elected, or to believe that God loveth me, or that Christ died for me, or the like: these things are indeed very difficult, and almost impossible to be attained at the first by those who are serious; whilst natural atheists and deluded hypocrites find no difficulty in asserting all those things: I say, true justifying faith is not any of the aforesaid things; neither is it simply the believing of any sentence that is written, or that can be thought upon. I grant, he that believeth on Christ Jesus, believeth what God has said concerning man's sinful, miserable condition by nature; and he believeth that to be true, that 'there is life in the Son, who was slain, and is risen again from the dead,' etc.: but none of these, nor the believing of many such truths, evinces justifying faith, or that believing on the Son of God spoken of in Scripture; for then it were simply an act of the understanding; but true justifying faith, which we now seek after, as a good mark of an interest in Christ, is chiefly and principally an act or work of the heart and will; having presupposed sundry things about truth in the understanding--'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.' (Rom. 10: 10.) And although it seem (verse 9), that a man is saved upon condition that he believes this truth, namely, that 'God raised Christ from the dead,' yet we must understand another thing there, and verse 10, than the believing the truth of that proposition; for besides that all devils have that faith, whereby they believe that God raised Christ from the dead; so the Scripture has clearly resolved justifying faith into a receiving of Christ: 'as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.' (John 1: 12.) The receiving of Christ is there explained to be the believing on His name. It is also called a staying on the Lord (Isa. 26: 3); a trusting in God, often mentioned in the Psalms, and the word is a leaning on Him. It is a believing on Christ: 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent' (John 6: 29), and often so expressed in the New Testament. When God maketh men believe savingly, He is said to draw them unto Christ; and when the Lord inviteth them to believe, He calleth them to come to Him. 'All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out. No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.' (John 6: 37, 44.) The kingdom of heaven is like a man finding a jewel, with which he falleth in love: 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof, goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.' (Matt. 13: 44-46.) Now, I say, this acting of the heart on Christ Jesus is not so difficult a thing as is conceived. Shall that be judged a mysterious difficult thing which does consist much in desire? If men have but an appetite, they have it; for they are 'blessed that hunger after righteousness.' (Matt. 5: 6.) 'If you will,' you are welcome. (Rev. 22: 17.) Is it a matter of such intricacy and insuperable difficulty, earnestly to look to that exalted Saviour: 'Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' (Isa. 45: 22.) And to receive a thing that is offered, held forth, and declared to be mine, if I will but accept and take it, and in a manner 'open my mouth,' and give way to it? 'Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.' (Psa. 81: 10.) Such a thing is faith, if not less. Oh, if I could persuade people what justifying faith is, which appropriateth Christ to me! We often drive people from their just rest and quiet, by making them apprehend faith to be some deep, mysterious thing, and by exciting unnecessary doubts about it, whereby it is needlessly darkened. 2. Some make no use of this mark, as judging it a high presumptuous crime to pretend to so excellent a thing as is the very condition of the new covenant. To these I say, you need not startle so much at it, as if it were high pride to pretend to it; for whatsoever true faith be, men must resolve to have it, or nothing at all: all other marks are in vain without it: a thousand things besides will not do the business: unless a man believe, he abideth in the state of condemnation. 'He that believeth not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.' (John 3: 18, 36.) 3. Others do not meddle with this noble mark of faith, because they judge it a work of the greatest difficulty to find out where faith is. To these I say, it is not so difficult to find it out, since 'he that believeth, has the witness in himself.' (1 John 5: 10.) It is a thing which by some serious search may be known. Not only may we do much to find it out by the preparatory work going before it in many, as the apprehending and believing of a man's lost estate, and that he cannot work out his own salvation, and that there is a satisfying fulness in Christ, very desirable if he could obtain it;--a serious minding of this, with a heart laid open for relief; as also by the ordinary companions and concomitants of it, namely, the liking of Christ's dominion, His kingly and prophetical office, a desire to resign myself wholly up to Him, to be as His disposing; as also by the native consequences of it, namely, the acquitting of the word, the acquitting of my own conscience according to the word, a heart purifying work, a working by love, etc.; I say, not only may we know faith by these things, but it is discernible by itself and of its own nature. Although I deny not but there must be some help of God's Spirit, 'by which we know what is freely given unto us of God' (1 Cor. 2: 12); as also, that God has allowed many evidences and marks as precious helps, whereby men may clear up faith more fully to themselves-- 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life; (1 John 5: 13); yet I still say that faith, or believing, which is some acting of the heart upon Christ in the gospel, and the transacting with Him there, is discernible of itself, and by itself, to a judicious understanding person, with an ordinary influence of the Spirit: unless the Lord, for reasons known to Himself, overcloud a man's reflex light, by which he should perceive what is in him.


II. – True saving faith described

This justifying faith, which we assert to be so discernible, is, in the Lord's deep wisdom and gracious condescension, variously expressed in Scripture, according to the different actings of it upon God, and outgoings after Him; so that every one who has it may find and take it up in his own mould. It sometimes acts by a desire of union with Him in Christ; this is that looking to Him in Isaiah--'Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' (Isa. 45: 22.) This seems to be a weak act of faith, and far below other acting of it at other times perhaps in that same person. Men will look to what they dare not approach (in their apprehension), which they dare not touch or embrace; they may look to one to whom they dare not speak: yet God has made the promise to faith in that acting, as the fore-cited Scripture shows: and this He has done mercifully and wisely; for this is the only discernible way of the acting of faith in some. Such are the actings or outgoings of faith expressed in Scripture by 'hungering and thirsting after righteousness' (Matt. 5: 6), and that expressed by willing--'And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.' (Rev. 22: 17.) Again, this faith goes out sometimes in the act of recumbency, or leaning on the Lord, the soul taking up Christ then as a resting stone, and God has so held him out, although he be a stumbling-stone to others. (Rom. 9: 33.) This acting of it is hinted in the expressions of trusting and staying on God, so often mentioned in Scripture; and precious promises are made to this acting of faith--'God will keep them in perfect peace whose minds are stayed on Him; because such do trust in Him. Trust in the Lord: for with Him is everlasting strength.' (Isa. 26: 3, 4.) 'They that trust in the lord shall be as Mount Zion, which abideth for ever.' (Psa. 125: 1.) I say, the Lord has made promises to this way of faith's acting, as knowing it will often go out after Him in this way with many persons; and this way of its acting will be most discernible to them. It goes out after God sometimes by an act of waiting. When the soul has somewhat depending before God, and has not clearly discovered his mind concerning it, then faith does wait; and so it has the promise-- 'They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.' (Isa. 49: 23.) Sometimes it acteth in a wilful way upon the Lord, when the soul apprehendeth God thrusting it away, and threatening its ruin --'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' (Job 13: 15.) The faith of that poor woman of Canaan (Matt. 15.), so highly commended by Christ, went out in this way of wilful acting over difficulties: and the Lord speaketh much good of it, and to it, because some will be at times called upon to exercise faith in that way, and so they have that for their encouragement. It were tedious to instance all the several ways of the acting of faith upon, and its exercise about, and outgoings after Christ,--I may say, according to the various conditions of man. And accordingly faith, which God has appointed to traffic and travel between Christ and man, as the instrument of conveyance of His fulness unto man, and of maintaining union and communion with Him, acteth variously and differently upon God in Christ: for faith is the very shaping out of a man's heart according to God's device of salvation by Christ Jesus, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell' (Col. 1: 16); so that, let Christ turn what way He will, faith turneth and pointeth that way. Now He turns all ways in which He can be useful to poor man; and therefore faith acts accordingly on Him for drawing out of that fulness, according to a man's case and condition. As for example, The soul is naked, destitute of a covering to keep it from the storm of God's wrath; Christ is fine raiment (Rev. 3: 17, 18); then accordingly faith's work here is to 'put on the Lord Jesus.' (Rom. 13: 14.) The soul is hungry and thirsty after somewhat that may everlastingly satisfy; Christ Jesus is 'milk, wine, water, the bread of life, and the true manna.' (Isa. 40: 1, 2; John 6: 48, 51.) He is 'the feast of fat things, and of wines on the lees well refined' (Isa. 25: 6): then the work and exercise of faith is to 'go, buy, eat, and drink abundantly.' (John 6: 53, 57; Isa. 40: 1.) The soul is pursued for guilt more or less, and is not able to withstand the charge: Christ Jesus is the city of refuge, and the high-priest there, during whose priesthood, that is, forever, the poor man who escapes thither is safe; then the work and exercise of faith is 'to flee thither for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us.' (Heb. 6: 18.) In a word, whatsoever way He may benefit poor man, He declares Himself able to do. And as He holdeth out Himself in the Scriptures, so faith does point towards Him. If He be a Bridegroom, faith will go out in a marriage relation; if He be a Father, faith pleadeth the man to be a child; if He be a Shepherd, faith pleads the man may be one of His sheep; if He be a Lord, faith calleth Him so, which none can do but by the Spirit of Jesus; if He be dead, and risen again for our justification, faith 'believeth God has raised Him' on that account. (Rom. 10: 9.) Wheresoever He be, there would faith be; and whatsoever He is, faith would be somewhat like Him; for by faith the heart is laid out in breadth and length for Him; yea, when the fame and report of Him goes abroad in His truth, although faith sees not much, yet it 'believeth on His name,' upon the very fame He has sent abroad of Himself. (John 1: 12.)


III. – Farther explanatory remarks concerning saving faith

But here, for avoiding mistakes, considers--1. That although justifying faith acts so variously, yet every believer who has a good title to Christ Jesus has not all these various actings and exercises of faith; for his condition requires them not; and also the faster is sometimes pleased not to lead out the faith of some persons, in all these particular ways, for reasons known to Himself, even when their necessity (to their apprehension) calleth for such an acting of faith. Surely, every one dare not say, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' (Job 13: 15.) Many would not have gone up with the woman of Canaan, spoken of in Matt. 15:, but would have been discouraged, and have given up the pursuit. It is on this account that Christ highly commends the faith of some beyond the faith of others; as of the centurion, and the woman of Canaan. (Matt. 8: 10.) Many good people are much disquieted about their faith, because it goes not out in all those ways we find recorded in Scripture; but there is hardly any one to be found whose faith has acted all these ways. 2. Many of these actings of faith are much intended and remitted. They are sometimes strong and vigorous, and discernible; and sometime they fail, and unbelief prevails, so it were an uncertain thing to judge of a man's state by these. We find the saints at times very different from themselves in regard of the acting of faith, as we showed before. 3. Each one of these actings of faith speaks good to the person in whom it is, and has promises annexed unto it, as we have said. Yet-- 4. Although these acting of faith have promises annexed to them, they are not, on that account, the condition of the new covenant; for then every one behaved to have each one of them, which is not true, as we said before. A promise is made to him who overcometh: but perseverance is not the condition of the new covenant, though it supposeth it. There are promises made to the exercise of all graces in Scripture; but faith only is the condition of the covenant. I say, then, these promises are made to these workings of faith, not as such, but as they imply justifying faith, which is the condition of the covenant. All these are acting of faith, but not as it is justifying. Therefore-- 5. There is something common to all gracious persons, which may be supposed by all the aforesaid acting of faith, wherein the nature and essence of justifying faith consist: and this is the heart's satisfaction with God's plan of salvation by Christ. When man is pleased with God's method of satisfaction to justice, through Christ Jesus, in whom all fulness now dwells, by the Father's pleasure; when the soul and heart of man acquiesce in that, then it believeth unto salvation. As at first the Lord made man suitable to the covenant of works, by creating him perfect, and so putting him in a capacity to perform his will in that covenant: so, under the new covenant, when God giveth the new heart to man, He puts the idea and stamp of all His device in the new covenant upon the man, so as there is a consonance to God's will there: thus he bears the image of the second Adam, Christ Jesus, on him. This is a great part of the new heart, and is most opposed to works: since now the man absolutely falls from works, 'becoming dead to the law,' as to the point of justification, 'by the body of Christ.' (Rom. 7: 4.) Man perceiving that God has devised a way of satisfying Divine justice, and recovering lost man by the incarnation of Christ, he thinks this so good and sure a way, that he absolutely gives up with the law, as I said before, and closes with this device; and this is believing or faith, very opposite to works, and all resting thereupon. This cannot fail to be in all gracious persons, in whom many of the acting of faith are not to be found. This does clearly suppose known distress in a man, without any relief in himself: this supposes known fulness in Christ, as the alone sufficient relief: this imports a sort of appropriation; for the heart, being pleased with that device, in so far swayeth towards it. This is a thing clearly supposed in all the acting of faith spoken of before. He that greedily hungereth, has this; and he that leaneth has this, etc. This is to esteem 'Christ the wisdom and power of God' to salvation, as He is said to be to all that believe. (1 Cor. 1: 24.) They esteem that device wise and sure, becoming God; and that is to believe. On this account, Christ, who is the stone rejected by many, is 'precious to them who believe;' a fit stone to recover, fortify, and beautify the tottering building and fabric of lost man--'To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious; ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe He is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner; and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed.' (1 Peter 2: 4-8.) 'The kingdom of God is like a man finding a treasure, for which with joy he selleth all.' (Matt. 13: 44.) These words hold out the very way of believing, namely, salvation is discovered in the gospel to be by Christ; the heart valueth that method as satisfying. This is to believe on the Son of God lifted up; which is compared with looking to the brazen serpent. (John 3: 14.) It was man's approbation of that device which made it effectual for his healing; so is it here, 'He that so believeth, setteth to his seal that God is true.' (John 3: 33.) True! Wherein? In that record He has borne, that God has provided life for men, and placed it all in Christ. 'He that believeth not maketh God a liar.' (1 John 5: 10.) Wherein? In His saying that Christ is a safe and sure way to heaven. This is being pleased and acquiescing in that device; and it is consonant to all I know spoken of justifying faith in Scripture. This is the believing on Christ and on His name, the receiving of Him, and resting on Him for salvation, in our Catechism; the believing that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the anointed one, whom the Father has sealed and set apart, and qualified for the work of reconciling man unto God; and 'he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.' (1 John 5: 1.) This is to 'believe with the heart that God has raised Christ from the dead.' (Acts 8: 37.) The man believeth Christ died and rose on the account of satisfaction for man's transgression. Devils may believe that: nay, but the man I speak of, 'believeth it with the heart' (which no natural man does, until a new heart be given unto him); that is, he is cordially pleased, and satisfied with, and acquiesceth in, this glorious method. And thus faith layeth out itself now and then in its acting, outgoings, and exercise, according to all the covenant relations under which Christ is held forth in the Scripture. Now, I say, this faith is discernible, not only in these actings;-- many times a man may know if his heart does hunger after Christ, and flee for refuge to Him when pursued, and if he does commit himself unto God, etc.--but also in its very nature; as it is justifying, it is discernible, and may be known. A man may clearly know, if from known distress in himself, upon the report and fame of Christ's fulness, his heart is pleased with God's device in the new covenant; if it goes after Christ in that discovery, and approveth Him as Lord of the life of men, terminating and resting there, and nowhere else, acquiescing in that contrivance with desire and complacency. This is a discernible thing; therefore I call upon men impartially to examine themselves, and if they find that their heart has closed so with that device of salvation, and is gone out after Him as precious, that thereupon they conclude a sure and true interest in Jesus Christ, and a good claim and title to the crown, since 'he that believeth shall never perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3: 16, 36.)


IV.Difficulties as to what seems to be faith removed

Object. Hypocrites and reprobates have a sort of faith, and are said to believe; and cannot choose but go out after Christ, and that device of salvation, when they hear of it; and they profess they do so, yet are deluded, and so may I. 'Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men.' (John 2: 23, 24.) 'Then Simon the sorcerer himself believed also.' (Acts 8: 13.) Ans. To say nothing of that thought of your heart, whereby you wonder that any man should not approve of the device of salvation by Christ, and be led out towards Him, as a very promising thing, and implying that justifying faith is in your bosom; and, to say nothing in contradiction to that which you think, that a natural man, whilst such, and before he gets a new heart, can be pleased with that device, and affectionately believe with his heart, and that which perfectly overthrows the covenant of works, and abaseth man in the point of self righteousness already attained, or that can be attained by him, which is inconsistent with many scriptural truths; I shall notice the following differences between the faith of all hypocrites or reprobates, and that true saving justifying faith, whereof we have spoken. 1. They never close with Christ Jesus in that device, and Him alone, as a sufficient severing of the eyes, as is said of Abraham to Sarah (Gen. 20: 16); they still hold fast somewhat of their own, at least to help to procure God's favour and salvation; their heart does still speak, as that young man in Luke insinuates, 'What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' (Luke 10: 25; 18: 18.) Besides that, they still retain their former lovers, and will not break their covenants with hell and death, imagining they may have Christ with these things equally sharing in their heart; contrary to that, 'A man cannot serve two masters.' (Matt. 6: 24.) Either Christ must be judged absolute Lord, and worthy to be so, or nothing at all; and so it is clear their heart is not prepared for that device of salvation by Christ, whom God has alone made Lord here, in whom all fulness shall dwell. But where justifying faith is, the soul of a man and his heart does close with Christ, and Him alone, 'having no confidence in the flesh,' and trusting only in God. (Phil. 3: 3; Psa. 62: 5.) Also the man here giveth up all other lovers; as they compete with Christ, he resolves 'not to be for another.' (Hos. 3: 3.) He calls Him Lord, which a man can only do by the Spirit of Christ. 2. As hypocrites and reprobates never close with Christ alone, so they never fully close with Christ as anointed to be a King, to rule over a man in all things; a Priest, to procure pardon and to make peace for man upon all occasions; a Prophet, to be wisdom, and a teacher and counsellor in all cases to man: so they do not receive Christ, especially in the first and third offices. But where true justifying faith is, a man closeth wholly with Christ in all His offices, judging all His will 'good, holy, just, and spiritual (Rom. 7: 12); and right concerning all things' (Psa. 119: 128); 'making mention of His righteousness only.' (Psa. 71: 16.) The man also giveth up himself to be taught of Him--'Learn of me.' (Matt. 11: 29.) So that 'Christ is made,' to the true believer, with His own consent, 'wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.' (1 Cor. 1: 30.) And although he has not all these things formally in exercise when his heart goes out after Christ, yet, upon search and trial, it will be found with him as I have said. 3. Hypocrites and reprobates never close with Christ, and all the inconveniences that may follow Him; they stick at that, with the scribe-- 'And a certain scribe came and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goes. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head.' (Matt. 8: 19, 20.) But where true justifying faith is, a man closes with Him at all hazards; he resolves to forego all rather than forego Christ. 'We have left all and followed Thee' (Mark 10: 28); 'he reckoned all to be loss and dung for the excellency of Christ Jesus, as his Lord, and to be found in Him.' (Phil. 3: 8.) We might point out other differences also, as that true faith is operative, 'purifying the heart' (Acts 15: 9); 'working by love' (Gal. 5: 6); whilst hypocrites do only cleanse the 'outside of the platter' (Matt. 23: 5); and 'do all to be seen of men' (Matt. 6: 5); 'not seeking the honour that is of God only' (John 5: 44), and so cannot believe. We might also show, that true faith is never alone in a man, but attended with other saving graces. But because these things will coincide with what follows, and as we are showing here that a man may determine his gracious state by his faith, and the acting thereof on Christ, we pass these things for the present.


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