« FöregåendeFortsätt »
We will consider this somewhat more particularly. The Holy Ghost works faith in all the elect indeed effectually, nevertheless in a different manner and order in different persons. In some by a judicious contemplation of the truth of the gospel, by which a new light ariseth in them, whereby they contemplate it with singleness, Bo that their minds are captivated by it, and rendered willing to embrace it as an acceptable truth, and also the Mediator exhibited therein, and to surrender themselves unto him. So it fared with Lydia, Acts xvi. 14. "Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things which were spoken by Paul." They hear Jesus say to them, "Follow me," and they experience a sweet, but powerful drawing, that induces them to follow willingly, which was the case of Matthew, according to his own account, Matt. ix. 9. This is effected with great tranquility: but Jesus embraceth and overwhelms others in an exceedingly unexpected manner with his preventing love, which transports their souls as it were out of themselves, and fills them with so much joy, that they cannot contain themselves, but are constrained to receive him within themselves, to accept of him, and to surrender themselves wholly to him. In this manner was faith wrought in Zaccheus ; for when Jesus said to him, «Make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house," he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully:" and his faith became forthwith active in works of charity, Luke xix. 1-9. There are others in whose hearts faith is wrought from their youth, as we may see in Obadiah, the steward of Ahab, 1 Kings xviii. 18, in John the Baptist, and others: all these obtain faith without any remarkable conviction of their sins, and of their damnable condition: children certainly are not convinced of sin, but faith is infused into them, before they attain to the use of reason: but those who are persuaded by a calm contemplation of the truth, or by the power of the love of Christ, see indeed that they are miserable in themselves, but they are not long exercised in this manner; for their view of their misery is presently swallowed up; but they are afterwards led so much the more into the valley of humiliation, and are daily convinced of their sinfulness and of their punishableness, in order to humble them.
The Holy Ghost doth not observe this manner and order of working faith with all the elect; but his ordinary method with the most of them is to convince them of their sinful and damnable condition; for the Holy Ghost "convinceth of sin," John xvi. 8. He darts his light into the soul, by which she is stopped short in her sinful career, is induced to attend to herself, and sees her abominable state, and VOL. II.
her alienation from God and from his blessed favour; this confounds and afflicts her, and "she saith, What have I done," Jer. viii, 6. She thinks, what shall I do : she will reform, and will not sin so any more: she earnestly endeavours to forsake sin, and attends diligently on many ordinances: but the Holy Spirit discovereth to her again and again the sinfulness of her conduct, by which she becomes so distressed, that she cries out, "There is no hope," Isaiah Ivii. 10. As she is not willing to perish, she reads the scripture, seeks good books, and asks an understanding person or preacher, "What she must do " Acts ii. 37. xvi. 30. She is advised to believe in Christ: but she hath such an obscure knowledge of Christ and of faith, that she knows not how to conduct with respect to this matter, until the Holy Ghost discovers to her by his own light the Lord Jesus in his fulness and ability to save her perfectly, 2 Cor. iv. 6. This gives her some hope, and quickens her desire, but doth not afford her a perfect relief, because she knows not yet whether he will save her, since she is so vile. She now betakes herself to prayer, that he may behold her in his kindness; but the poor wavering soul doth not find that he turns to her. The Holy Ghost, designing to work effectually, assures and persuades her that Jesus calls and invites her in his word, and he convinces her of the truth of it, "the Spirit bearing witness, that the Spirit is the truth," 1 John v. 6. And he thus works an historical faith, by which the soul experienceth, that "the gospel doth not come to her in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance," 1 Thess. i. 5. And therefore it is not to her, "as the word of man, but as the word of God, which also worketh in her," 1 Thess. ii. 13. This affords her enlargement, she flees, with a certain confidence that she will be accepted, to this Saviour, who is so precious to her, embraces him, and receives him: for the Holy Ghost inclines her effectually to consent to him heartily, and with a full determination of her will, in order to belong wholly to him, that he may sanctify and save her. And thus the Holy Spirit brings her into the bond of the covenant, according to his promise, Ezek. xx. 37.
What think ye, hearers, is this a forcing of the free-will, which cannot be forced, if it shall remain a will? Yes, it is a force that is agreeable to the nature of the will, which can endure such a force. O sweet force of love, which draws the soul with the cords of a man, with bands of love, Hosea xi, 4. As soon as she is touched, she cries out, "Draw me, we will run after thee," Song i. 4. "Turn me, and I shall be turned," Jer. xxxi. 28. Nothing is more grievous to her, than to find such a depraved unwillingness in herself: she
wishes that "the Lord would work in her both to will and to do of his good pleasure," Philip. i. 13. Thus then the effectual working of God to produce faith in her doth not militate against her will.
II. As the Holy Ghost works faith, so he also confirms it. It doth not please him to work faith from the beginning in its greatest perfection, but rather to make it like "a grain of mustard seed, a bruised reed, and smoking flax," he doth not however leave it so small and weak, but he increases and confirms it, and causes it to " grow exceedingly," 2 Thess. i 3. In order to illustrate this, we will explain, 1. What a strong and a weak faith is, 2. How the Holy Ghost confirms faith, 3. What means the Holy Ghost useth to confirm faith.
1. Faith is strong, (a) when it is able to believe and expect great, yea, almost incredible things. Abraham, though he and his wife were both old, durst nevertheless "believe that his seed should be like the stars for multitude," Gen. xv. 5, 6. The virgin Mary show. ed her great faith, when she believed that she should bear the Son of God, without knowing a man, Luke i. 38-45. See also Matt: viii. 8-10. But a weak faith looks upon great and unusual things, as impossible: Moses discovered a weak faith, when he smote the rock twice, as though it were impossible, that the dry and hard rock should afford water, Numb. xx. 10, 11, 12. Faith is strong, (b) when it can proceed upon the single word of God, without seeing, without signs, and without a probability, that such an event will come to pass. "Abraham, believed in hope against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead," &c. Rom. iv. 18, 19, 20. But a weak faith will have sight, signs and probability, as we see in the priest Zacharias, in the Jews and in Thomas, Luke i. 18, 19. John iv. 48. xx. 25-29. It is a strong faith, (c) which assures itself of God's blessed favour, as the great faith of Paul did, 2 Tim. i. 12. This is "a full assurance of faith," Heb. x. 22, but faith is weak, when it suffers itself to be shaken, and cast down by the least conceit, or accident. Faith is strong, (d) when it is able to receive Christ actually and operatively, "can cause him to dwell in the heart," can lean on him affectionately, and can derive all grace from him for every need, and can exert a holy violence on him, with Jacob, in order to obtain a blessing, Gen xxxii. 26. But faith is weak, when it can only desire, can stretch forth the hand, the power of the soul toward him, but cannot fetch him to her; there is, as it were, a weak breathing of the soul. Further, faith is strong, (e) when it can despise great shame, losses, honors, profits, and pleas
ures, as far as they would detach the soul from her duty, that it may remain faithful to God only, with Moses, Heb. xi. 24, 25, 26,. But it is weak, when it becomes slack in its duty, on account of these outward things. Add to this, that faith is strong, (f) when it remains unaffrighted in great dangers, and can shelter itself with the Lord, like the faith of Moses and David, Psalm xxvii. 1-3. lvii. 1. Heb. xi. 27. But a weak faith trembles at the least appearance of danger, Jer. xii. 5. Matt. viii. 24, 25, 26. xiv. 29, 30, 31. Moreover, (g) a strong faith is able to improve that which would be aginst it, and is discouraging, to its advantage and encouragement. This made the faith of the Canaanitish woman great, Matt. xv. 22-→→→ 28. But a weak faith will abuse that which should encourage, to faint-heartedness. See this weak faith in Manoah, censured by his wife, Judges xiii. 22, 23. I must add also, (b) that a strong faith doth not stop at its unworthiness, but looks beyond it, yea, covers it with the worthiness of the Lord, as the faith of the centurion acted, Matt. viii. 8, 9, 10, while a weak faith dares neither believe, nor attempt any thing, on account of its unworthiness. Moses manifested repeatedly the weakness of his faith, when he endeavoured to excuse himself, on account of his meanness and incapacity, fiom being the ambassadour of the Lord to Pharaoh, Exod. iii. v. vi. Finally, () a strong faith looks through every temporal and visible object to those which are eternal and invisible, in order to encourage itself thereby in its course, according to 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18. Heb. xi. 1. But to a weak faith future things appear exceedingly dark, and they seldom affect the soul with any abiding impression.
3. The Holy Ghost works this strong faith in the hearts of his people, not instantaneously, but progressively, as light, plants and men increase gradually. And he doth this, (a) by shedding a greater measure of light into the soul, in consequence of which Christ a d all his mysteries are discovered to her more fully than before, and so "the path of the righteous becomes like a shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day," Prov. iv. 18. This Paul desired for the Ephesians, Eph. i. 16-19. (b) By convincing and assuring the minds of believers more of the divine truths, that they may in all that they do establish themselves upon them, by which they obtain "all riches of the full assurance of understanding," Coll. ii. 2. This is the work of the Holy Ghost, as John testifieth, 1 John v. 6. Moreover, the Holy Ghost confirms faith, (c) when he increases and renders the habitual life of faith more steadfast in the soul, whereby she is enabled to exercise faith with greater dexterity and ease, and is not so quickly shaken, "being rooted and built up
in Christ, established in the faith, and abounding therein," Coll. ii. 7. This is "being strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell by faith in the heart," Eph. ii. 16, 17. The Holy Ghost confirms faith also, (d) by an abundant and reviving shedding abroad of grace: he speaks to the heart, and affords a feeling sense of his love: Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost," saith Paul, Rom. v. 5. Again, (e) The Holy Ghost confirms faith, when he supports the soul under her dejection on account of spiritual and temporal afflictions, either enabling her to look by his light through all her difficulties to a certain issue; or strength ening her, in order that she may sustain her adversity with courage, by which she therefore "glories in tribulation," Rom. v. 3, and "in her infirmaties, that the power of Christ may rest upon her," 2 Cor. xii. 9, 10, or discovering to her, that in all her distresses he is still with her, and that he comforts her wonderfully in her tribulation, and so she laughs at fear, saying with David, Psalm xxiii. 4. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they com fort me." Thus the Lord saith to his dejected people, Isaiah xli. 10. "Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." Once more, (f) it sometimes happens to believers, that ardor abates exceedingly, and that they forsake their first love, yea, that they are even hurried to a very grievous sin; which doth not indeed destroy their faith, but shakes it exceedingly, and causeth it to languish. But the Holy Ghost having begun a good work in them, and designing to finish it, raiseth them up again, and restores them to their former zeal. Thus David prayed after his grievous fall for "the renewing of a right spirit, and for the upholding of the free Spirit," Psalm li." 10. 12. Peter having been greatly shaken by his sin was converted and strengthened again, according to Luke xxii. 31, 32.
3. As the Holy Ghost doth not work faith without means, so he doth not confirm it neither without them. In order to show his marvellous skilfulness in confirming faith, he will sometimes employ means to confirm it, which are naturally calculated to weaken it. A tempestuous wind which threatens to destroy trees, serves to enroot them more firmly. The horrible blasphemies, which are some times injected into the soul by a messenger of Satan, threaten to extirpate faith but the Holy Spirit uses them to establish it: "He thus perfects his strength in our weakness," 2 Cor. xii, 7, 8, 9.