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Tim. i. 5: the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also. 2 John, ver. 2: that for the truth's sake that dwelleth in us. 3 John, ver. 3: the truth that is in thee. I might likewise take notice of many other phrases, where the style is somewhat varied, but which still carry the same meaning; as where Paul, Rom. v., speaks of being justified by faith, and justified by his blood; by both which it is plain, he means the same thing—i. e. the truth.
Every one who believes the same truth which the apostles believed, has equally precious faith with them. He has unfeigned faith, and shall assuredly be saved. If any man's faith be found insufficient to save him, it is owing to this, that what he believed for truth, was not the very same thing that the apostles believed, but some lie connected with, or dressed up in the form of truth. So this faith can do him no good; because, however seriously and sincerely he believes, yet that which he believes is false, and therefore it cannot save him. There is but one genuine truth that can save men.
To illustrate this matter, let it be remembered, that the saving truth which the apostles believed was, That Jesus is the Christ. The apostles had one uniform fixed sense to these words, and the whole New Testament is writ to ascertain to us in what sense they understood them. Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ in a different sense from the apostles, or who maintains any thing in connection with these words subversive of their real meaning, believes a falsehood; 80 his faith cannot save him. In the days of the apostles many affirmed along with them, that Jesus is the Christ, who yet meant very differently from them. The far greater part of Christendom will affirm in like manner;
yet we shall not easily find many who, when they come to explain themselves, have the same meaning with the apostles.-Let us then lay aside all questions about faith, or how a man believes; and let the only question be, What does he believe? what sense does he put on the apostolic doctrine about the way of salvation? It
may likewise be observed, that the difference often takes place betwixt the confession of the mouth and the belief of the heart, which time can only discover. Thus a person may profess to believe that the Bible is the word of God; that Jesus Christ was the son of God; talk a great deal about predestination, election, God's mercy, &c., and yet know not the Gospel: know not that the obedience of Christ unto death, is that which ALONE justifies the ungodly. But a man may so explain himself about the way of salvation, as to leave no reasonable ground to suspect that he has any different meaning from the apostles; yet some future trial of his faith may show, that what he spoke with his mouth, was not the persuasion of his heart: and though it may not appear, that he had any intention to deceive others; yet it may appear to his own conscience, as well as to others, that he had been deceiving himself, and retaining false sentiments, clothed with sound words. It may be added, that many never discover this mistake through the whole course of their life, but go down to the grave with a lie in their right hand; yet we have no other way of judging what a man believes in his heart, but by what he confesses with his mouth, and the influence it has on his praetice.
Though the lives of many are very opposite to their declared principles; yet what a man believes in his heart, will certainly influence his conduct in life. God bare witness to the apostles, as having unfeigned faith, as influenced by the spirit of it in their lives, and as proper judges how far others by their own words and actions appeared to be possessed of the same genuine truth or unfeigned faith with them. Every one, while he appeared to agree with them, was considered as having the same' unfeigned faith with them, and as a brother for whom Christ died. Accordingly, some corrupters of the Christian doctrine are said to have swerved from faith unfeigned; and others are charged with denying the Lord that bought them. And Paul, describing a heretic, says, (Tit. iii. 11,) He that is such, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. He is unhinged as to the Christian doctrine, or turned off from the foundation of the apostles and prophets; and he sins against the authority of the Christian revelation, to which he professes subjection, so is self-condemned; that part of the truth which he himself professes to hold, serving to condemn him as to his error.
To illustrate what has been said, we may observe what Paul means by one's believing in vain. (1 Cor. xv. 2.) Speaking of the gospel which he preached, he says, By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. Some of the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the dead, while yet they affirmed along with the apostles, that Christ arose from the dead. On which the apostle says, ver. 13, 14, if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is vain. To believe in vain, then, is to hold, along with the truth, some error which undermines it, makes it void, and of no effect. And the same apostle shows us' at large, in his epistle to the Galatians, that however zealous Christians may be, if we add to Christ's death any requisite whatsoever in the matter of acceptance with God, Christ
shall profit us nothing, Christ is become of no effect unto us. In general, the apostles ascribe every opinion or practice which they condemn to some error in faith, or a lie held in place of the truth. 1 John i. 8, & ii, 4.
Among those who appear to have the same faith with the apostles, we are not allowed to make
difference, till some event make that difference appear. Some are said to believe only for a time, while others believe to the saving of the soul. Though, during the time that the former are said to believe, we can by no means distinguish them from the latter; yet Jesus Christ plainly intimates to us, that there is a real difference, even at the first instance, betwixt the faith of the former and that of the latter. The only use, then, that this intimation can serve for, while appearances are good, is to lead every man to examine himself, and prove his own work. The real difference I speak of, is pointed forth in the parable of the sower, Matth. xiii. In distinction from all who believe only for a while, so believe in vain, he who believes unto the saving of the soul, is thus described, v. 23: But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word and UNDERSTANDETH IT, &c. Those others may appear to men to understand the word of faith as clearly as this last. Their faith may have the same marks with his of being genuine. It may be attended with the same signs of repentance, with the same expressions of desire and joy, or the same appearances of hope and love; while yet they do not understand the word of faith as he does. They do not understand how the bare word of faith, or Christ's death alone, can give them peace with God, without some pious requisite or other, which they secretly either hope to obtain, or presume they have already acquired, Some secret notion of the necessity of some difference
betwixt themselves and others, is lodged in their minds along with the knowledge they have of the truth. And though the new knowledge they have got, may make many warm and kindly impressions on their hearts, and show itself in many amiable appearances in their lives; yet the little old leaven which is still retained, however much it may lie hid for a time, will, by degrees, leaven the whole lump. Their whole religion will become subservient to the darling reserve, made for their pride; and it will require only a proper temptation to lay them open.
FAITH constituting a very prominent part in the supposed work which, some say, man has to perform for his salvation, I will consider the nature of that faith which justifies in the sight of God. Recollect Satan, or the god of this world, is a subtle
beat him out of the doctrine of fire as man's part of the work of salvation, he immediately flies to water and when you beat him out of water he flies to some other subterfuge, till at last he takes shelter under what is called faith. It is by no means agreed as to what this faith is; some say it is an act or work of the mind-others that it is an operative faith-others a living faith-others a cleaving faith-others a closing faith, or a faith which takes hold of Christ, which accepts of the terms of salvation, &c. &c. Now, instead of spending time in examining man's opinion respecting faith, would it not be much better for us to consult the word of God and see what that unerring standard of truth says on the subject. The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, xi. 1, informs us, that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Here we find faith consists of two things—the substance and the evidence.