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These things premised, we assert that sinners have a warrant to believe that they shall be saved by Christ, before they see the evidences of grace in themselves. And this assertion we support with the following arguments.
1st. The first argument we take from our text itself. In it we see two apostles preaching to one sinner, the jailor, who so lately had fastened their feet in the stocks, and a few minutes ago designed to plunge his sword in his own bowels. Such an atrocious sin. ner they immediately bid believe in Christ for salvation. And they said, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Here the jailor is warranted to believe prior to his seeing any evidences of grace
in himself. Guilt, great guilt he saw in himself, but no grace.
I grant he was a convinced sinner, and hence desirous to hear of the way of salvation. But that he was any thing more than convin. ced, that he had got spiritual life, does not appear. It cannot be said that the apostles exhorted him to believe, because they saw he had the spirit of faith, and therefore would believe. They had not always the discernment of spirits, as they could not always work miracles. And they preached Christ to many who instead of believing the doctrine, blasphemed the Saviour, and persecuted the preachers.
2dly. Sinners have a warrant to believe the gospel history prior to, and independent of, the inward evidences of grace; and if so, then also to believe the gospel promise. That every man, without exception, is bound to believe the gospel history, will be readily believed by all Christians. But that the obligation to believe the promise is as extensive, is denied by some. For our part we are satisfied that in both cases the obligation is the same. And by this we must a. bide, till it be proved that there is one warrant authorizing all men to believe the gospel history, and another authorizing some men only to believe the gospel promise. It cannot be denied that history and promise come to us in one and the selfsame sacred
scripture, that both are the word of the living and true God, that the one gives evidence of things that are not seen, and the other promiseth things hoped for. Hence they constitute not two different objects, of two different kinds of faith, but both together are one object of one and the selfsame faith. It will be said, perhaps, that many believe the truth of the gospel history, who yet do not believe its promise, or that they shall be saved. We grant that many do in a certain sense believe the one, who do not trust in the other. They believe that there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, that he died, that he rose again, and ascended up into heaven. But how do they believe these things? No otherwise than that there were such men as Alexander the Great, Cæsar, Pompey, and others. They give a human faith to the divine testimony. They credit the gospel history, just as they do any other, bearing strong marks of credibility. They believe it, not because God has said it: if they did, they would also trust to the promise, expecting eternal life through Christ Jesus. Whosoever believes one word because God has said it, must for that very reason believe all. He who can pick and choose; taking some and leaving others, has not the faith of God's elect. Though the history be of things past, and the promise concerning things to come; that makes no difference to faith, inasmuch as both are the words of the one God. Hence we fear not to say, that he who believes that Christ is the Son of God, because God has told him so, will certainly trust in Christ for salvation. If, on the authority of the dia vine testimony, I believe that Christ is the Son of God, I cannot but believe that he will be a Saviour to me, as appears in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch asking to be baptized. Philip answered him, “ If thou believe est with all thine heart, thou mayest.” To which he answered, “ I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” Acts viii. 37. Hence it fairly follows, that his believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, implied that he believed on him with all his heart. If it did
able our case! Unwise sons like Ephraim, we must stay long at the place of the breaking forth of chil. dren. The rock must be removed, the order of grace inverted, for us. How shall we see grace, till we believe in Christ for it? The greatest saint on earth, was he not once in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity? Was he not once without any evi. dences of grace? What encouragement had he, when such, to believe in Christ? What foundation had he to build upon? No other than what we have; the word of the Lord that abideth for ever.
6thly. That a sinner is warranted to believe something, cannot be denied. Now let us see what it is. Is he bound to believe nothing at first but the gospel history? That will not be said ; if it be, let it be also proven. Is he warranted to believe any thing with respect to his own salvation? He surely is. For says our text, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, i. e. believe on him for salvation. Is not this to trust in him for the accomplishment of the promise? And is not that the same thing with believing the promise? Is it enough to believe his salvation is possible? No; that is not coming up to the promise. Is it sufficient to believe that his salvation is probable, that it is very likely he shall be saved? No; that is only opinion, not faith. Is it sufficient to be. lieve that he shall be saved if he believe? No; that is still a step short of faith. It is not believing in the promise, it is only believing that he shall be saved, if he believe in it. And he can believe this of any other sinner, as well as of himself. I can easily believe that this or that man shall be saved if he believe. But this does not set him in the way of salvation, it does not put him within the compass of the promise. As little will believing the same thing concerning myself. So the woman's believing that she should be whole if she touched, was very different from touching, Matt. ix. 21. To use the words of the famous eleven*,
Messrs. Erskine, and the other Digsenting Brethren, who gave in Answers to the Queries put by the Commission of the General Assemblya
" It is certain a believer in the exercise of justifying “ faith, doés believe something with reference to his
own salvation, upon the ground of God's faithful“ ness in the promise, that no other person whatso
ever does, or can believe; which if it be not to " this purpose, that now Christ is, and will be, a Sa“ viour unto him, that he shall have life and salva“ tion by him, we are utterly at a loss to conceive 66 what it can be.” We are warranted to trust on Christ for salvation, but this we never do till we believe that he will save us.
7thly. If it be only when we have seen the eviden. ces of grace in ourselves, that we are warranted to be. lieve that Christ will save us, how shall we deal with persons of distressed consciences, especially in the agonies of death? There, indeed, lies the hardest part of the ministerial office, when the distressed person cries out, that he is a great sinner, when he sees nothing but iniquity, transgression and sin in himself; and cries aloud in the agonies of conscience, What, O what, shall I do to be saved? Shall we stave him off from trusting in Christ, till he see evidences of grace in himself. Shall we tell him, that we are not warranted to bid him believe that he shall be saved by Christ, unless he sees that he is a saint? I durst not for ten thousand worlds preach such doctrine at the beds of the dying. And I much doubt if those who differ from us would. But if their doctrine be true, it would lead them thus far. I know not what warrant Papists and others have to reserve some cordials for a death-bed, which they will not administer in pub, lic. What is truth at a death-bed cannot be error in the pulpit. The same doctrine cannot be balm at the one, and poison in the other. We have no au, thority to conceal the truth lest men abuse it. If that deter us from publishing it, we must not bring it forth, no not to the dying, never being absolutely certain but they may live, and abuse what we have given them. But enough of this. I shall never be ashamed, according to the good old way, to say to the distress.
ed, or the dying sinner, “ Place all thy confidence, and hope, and love, on Christ alone, and commit thyself to his passion and death*."
8thly and Lastly. I might produce some of the most respectable divines as being of the same judgment with us on this head. Marshall on Sanctification gives it as his seventh direction, “ We are not to imagine. . " that our hearts and lives must be changed from sin “ to holiness in any measure, before we may safely 6 venture to trụst on Christ for the sure enjoyment “ of himself, and his salvation.” Boston teaches the same in effect in his Treatise on the Covenant of Grace, while he saith that we have a right to Christ, that all and every one who hear the gospel have a solid ground for trusting on Christ and his righteousness for their own salvation in particular t.
To shut up all, If any thing prior to, or different from believing the promise, be requisite to interest us in it, it is no more purely of faith, but partly by works. Having thus finished what we had to say concerning the nature of faith in Christ Jesus, we go on to the improvement of the subject,
1st. See the excellency of holy scripture, particularly of the free promise so often occurring therein. Without it there could be no true faith.' It, and po. thing else, is the foundation of faith. The promises are scattered like stars in the firmament of scripture. And O how thick they shine, how warm they glow, since He came, in whom they are all yea, and amen! At first there was but one promise, and that not very clear, It was all, however, that our first parents had to set up house with. But now that gold is beat into leaf which runs through all the Bible. And none need be poor, who will be rich. Scripture is a vessel come froin afar, freighted with celestial stores: a Christ
Pictct. Comp p. 195.
+ Bost. Cov, of Grace, page 307 and 923.