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النشر الإلكتروني

I Believe, &c.

SERMON IV.

OF JUSTIFYING FAITH.

ROMANS, CHAP. V.--VERSE 1.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through

our Lord Jesus Christ.

• ThereFORE;' that word implies the text to be a conclusion (by way of inference, or of recapitulation) resulting from the precedent discourse; it is indeed the principal conclusion, which (as being supposed a peculiar and a grand part of the Christian doctrine, and deserving therefore a strong proof and clear vindication) St. Paul designed by several arguments to make good. On the words being of such importance, I should so treat, as first to explain them, or to settle their true sense ; then to make some practical application of the truths they contain.

As to the explicatory part, I should consider first, what the faith is, by which we are said to be justified ; 2. what being justified doth import; 3. how by such faith we are so justified ; 4. what the peace with God is, here adjoined to justification ; 5. what relation the whole matter bears to our Lord Jesus Christ; or how through him being justified, we have peace with God; in the prosecution of which particulars it would appear, who the persons justified are, and who justifies us ; with other circumstances incident.

I shall at this time only insist on the first particular, concerning the notion of faith proper to this place; in order to the resolution of which inquiry, I shall lay down some useful observations: and,

1. First, I observe that faith, or belief, in the vulgar acception, doth signify (as we have it briefly described in Aristotle's Topics*) a opodpá úrólnyes, an earnest opinion or persuasion of mind concerning the truth of some matter propounded. Such an opinion being produced by or grounded on some forcible reason, (either immediate evidence of the matter, or sense and experience, or some strong argument of reason, or some credible testimony; for whatever we assent unto, and judge true on any such grounds and inducements, we are commonly said to believe, this is the popular acception of the word; and according thereto I conceive it usually signifies in holy Scripture ; which being not penned by masters of human art or science, nor directed to persons of more than ordinary capacities or improvements, doth not intend to use words otherwise than in the most plain and ordinary manner.

Belief therefore in general, I suppose, denotes a firm persuasion of mind concerning the truth of what is propounded ; whether it be some one single proposition, (as when Abraham believed that God was able to perform what he had promised;' and Sarah, that God, who had promised, was faithul,') or some system of propositions, as when we are said to • believe God's word,' (that is, all which by his prophets was in his name declared ;) to believe the truth,' (that is, all the propositions taught in the true religion as so;) to believe God's commandments,' (that is, the doctrines in God's law to be true, and the precepts thereof to be good ;) to · believe the gospel,' (that is, to be persuaded of the truth of all the propositions asserted or declared in the gospel.)

2. I observe, secondly, that whereas frequently some person, or single thing, is represented (verbo tenus) as the object of faith, this doth not prejudice, or in effect alter the notion I mentioned; for it is only a figurative manner of speaking, whereby is always meant the being persuaded concerning the truth of

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* Top. 4. 5.

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some proposition, or propositions, relating to that person or thing: for otherwise it is unintelligible how any incomplex thing, as they speak, can be the complete or immediate object of belief. Beside simple apprehension (or framing the bare idea of a thing) there is no operation of a man's mind terminated on one single object; and belief of a thing surely implies more than a simple apprehension thereof: what it is, for instance, to believe this or that proposition about a man, or a tree, (that a man is such a kind of thing, that a tree hath this or that property,) is very easy to conceive; but the phrase believing a man, or a tree, (taken properly, or excluding figures,) is altogether insignificant and unintelligible : indeed to believe, πιστεύειν, is the effect του πεπείσθαι, of a persuasive argument, and the result of ratiocination; whence in Scripture it is commended, or discommended, as implying a good or bad use of

The proper object of faith is therefore some proposition deduced from others by discourse; as it is said, that

many of the Samaritans believed in Christ, because of the woman's word, who testified that he told her all that ever she did;' or as St. Thomas · believed, because he saw;' or as when it is said, that many believed on our Lord's name, beholding the miracles which he did :' when then, for example, the Jews are required to believe Moses, (or to believe in Moses, after the Hebrew manner of speaking,) it is meant, to be persuaded of the truth of what he delivered, as proceeding from divine revelation; or to believe him to be what he professed himself, a messenger or prophet of God. So' to believe the prophets,' or in the Prophets, (**???) was to be persuaded concerning the truth of what they uttered in God's name, (that the doctrines were true, the commands were to be obeyed, the threats and promises should be performed, the predictions should be accomplished : 'to believe all which the prophets did say,' as our Saviour speaks; “to believe all things written in the prophets,' as St. Paul.) So to believe God's works' (a phrașe we have in the Psalms) signifies, to be persuaded that those works did proceed from God, or were the effects of his good providence : to believe in man' (that which is so often prohibited and dis

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* 2 Chron. sx, 20.

suaded) denotes the being persuaded that man in our need is able to relieve and succor us : lastly, “to believe in God' (a duty so often enjoined and inculcated) is to be persuaded that God is true in whatever he says; faithful in performance of what he promises; perfectly wise, powerful, and good ; able and willing to do us good: the being persuaded, I say, of all these propositions, or such of them as suit the present circumstances and occasion, is to believe in God : thus, in fine, to believe on a person, or thing, is only a short expression (figuratively) denoting the being persuaded of the truth of some propusition relating, in one way or other, to that person or thing, (which way is commonly discernible by considering the nature, or state of such a person, or such a thing ;) the use of which observation may afterward appear.

3. I observe, thirdly, that (as it is ordinary in like cases concerning the use of words) the word belief is by a kind of synecdoche (or metonymy, if you please) so commonly extended in signification, as, together with such a persuasion as we spoke of, to imply whatever by a kind of necessity, natural or moral, doth result from it; so comprehending those acts of will, those affections of soul, and those deeds, which may be presumed consequent on such a persuasion : for instance, when God commanded Abraham to forsake his country, promising him a happy establishment in the land of Canaan, with a perpetual blessing on his posterity; Abraham was persuaded concerning the power and fidelity of God, and concerning the truth of what was promised and foretold ; in that persuasion his faith, according to the first, proper, and restrained sense, did consist : but because from such a persuasion (being sincere, and strong enough) there did naturally and duly result a satisfactiou, or acquiescence in the matter enjoined as best to be done ; a choice and resolution to comply with God's appointment; an effectual obedience; a cheerful expectation of a good issue thereon ; therefore all those dispositions of soul and actions concurring become expressed by the name of faith, (that first persuasion being the principle and root of them :) for it is for his faith that he is highly commended; it is for it that he obtained so favorable an approbation and acceptance from God. Yet supposing Abraham to have had such a persuasion concerning God; and yet to have disliked what God required, or to have resolved against doing it, or to have indeed disobeyed, or to have disregarded the happy success; it is plain that Abraham as to the whole matter deserved rather much blame than any commendation; and would not on that account have had 'righteousness imputed to him, and have been called the friend of God:' when therefore his faith is so magnified, that word comprehends not his bare persuasion only, but all those concomitants thereof, which if they had not gone along therewith, it had been a proof that such a persuasion was not sincere, (not å vurópicos Tloris, 'an undissembled faith ;' such as St. Paul commends in Timothy,) or not strong enough, (not a'dáxpiros mintis, 'an undoubting faith,' (but a weak, a small, a dead, an ineffectual faith; which come under blame and reproof; but the effect showed that he did not, as St. Paul says, dobeveiv riotel, had not a weak, or sickly faith ; nor staggered at the promise of God;' but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;' which he did not only in believing his word, but in suiting his affections, and yielding obedience thereto : (πίστει υπήκουσεν εξελdeiv) 'by faith he obeyed, so as to forsake his country,' says the Apostle to the Hebrews; and faith thus taken is not only a single act of a man's understanding, or will, but a complex of many dispositions and actions diffused through divers faculties of a man, denoting the whole complication of good dispositions and actions relating to one matter; which attend on a true and earnest persuasion concerning it; right choice, submission, and satisfaction of mind, firm resolution, dutiful obedience, constant and cheerful hope, or the like.

4. I observe more nearly to our purpose, fourthly, that the faith here spoken of (being here and otherwhere put absolutely, or by itself, without any adjunct of limitation or distinction) is often set down with terms annexed thereto, explaining and determining it; being sometimes styled the faith of Christ, of Jesus, of God, (του Χριστού, του Ιησού, του Θεού,) sometimes faith on Christ, (eis Xploròv, and énè Xploròv,) faith in Christ, (év Xplorõ,) faith to Christ, to the Lord, to God, (πιστεύειν τα Χριστώ, τώ Κυρίω, τω Θεώ,) faith on the name of Christ, (είς όνομα,) faith of his name, (πίστις του ονόματος,) faith to his name, (rö övóparı:) which phrases, all question

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