Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

once in, it will not be inquired by what entrance we passed thither; whether God leads us or drives us in, whether we come by discourse or by inspiration, by the guide of an angel or the conduct of Moses, whether we be born or made Christians, it is indifferent, so we be there, where we should be; for this is but the gate of duty, and the entrance to felicity. For thus far faith is but an act of the understanding, which is a natural faculty, serving indeed as an instrument to godliness, but of itself no part of it; and it is just like fire producing its act inevitably, and burning as long as it can, without power to interrupt or suspend its action; and therefore we cannot be more pleasing to God for understanding rightly, than the fire is for burning clearly : which puts us evidently upon this consideration, that Christian faith, that glorious duty, which gives to Christians a great degree of approximation to God by Jesus Christ, must have a great proportion of that ingredient, which makes actions good or bad, that is, of choice and effect.

4. For the faith of a Christian hath more in it of the will than of the understanding. Faith is that great mark of distinction, which separates and gives formality to the covenant of the Gospel, which is a “law of faith.” The faith of a Christian is his religion, that is, it is that whole conformity to the institution or discipline of Jesus Christ, which distinguishes him from the believers of false religions. And to be one of the faithful signifies the same with being a disciple; and that contains obedience as well as believing. For to the same sense are all those appellatives in Scripture, faithful, brethren, believers, the saints, disciples,” all representing the duty of a Christian. A believer and a saint, or a holy person, is the same thing; brethren signifies charity, and believers faith in the intellectual sense: the faithful and disciples signify both; for besides the consent to the proposition, the first of them is also used for perseverance and sanctity, and the greatest of charity mixed vith a confident faith up to the height of martyrdom.“ Be faithful unto the death, (said the Holy Spirit), and I will give thee the crown of life a.” And when the apostles, by way of abbreviation, express all the body of Christian religion, they call it “ faith

[ocr errors]

" the

a Rev. ii. 10.

[ocr errors]

working by love b;" which also St. Paul, in a parallel place, calls a "new creature ";" it is “ a keeping of the commandments of God d;" that is the faith of a Christian, into whose definition charity 'is ingredient, whose sense is the same with keeping of God's commandments ; so that if we definé faith, we must first distinguish it." The faith of a natural person, or the faith of devils, is a mere believing a certain number of propositions upon conviction of the understanding : but the faith of a Christian, the faith that justifies and saves him, is “ faith working by charity,” or “faith keeping the commandments of God e.” They are distinct faiths, in order to different ends, and therefore of different constitution; and the instrument of distinction is charity or obedience.

5. And this great truth is clear in the perpetual testimony of holy Scripture. For Abraham is called the “ father of the faithful;" and yet our blessed Saviour told the Jews, that if they had been " the sons of Abraham, they would have done the works of Abrahamf;" and therefore good works are, by the apostle, called the “footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham 8.”. For faith, in every of its stages, at its first be+ ginning, at its increment, at its greatest perfection, is a duty made

up of the concurrence of the will and the understanding, when it pretends to the Divine acceptance; faith and repentance begin the Christian course. “Repent and believe the Gospel," was the sum of the apostle's sermons; and all the way after it is, “faith working by love." Repentance puts the first spirit and life into faith, and charity preserves it, and gives it nourishment and increase; itself also growing by a mutual supply of spirits and nutriment from faith. Whoever does heartily believe a resurrection and life eternal, upon certain conditions, will certainly endeavour to acquire the promises, by the purchase of obedience and observation of the conditions. For it is not in the nature or power of man directly to despise and reject so infinite a good : so that faith supplies charity with argument and maintenance, and charity supplies faith with life and motion; faith makes charity reasonable, and charity makes faith living and effectual. And, therefore, the old Greeks called faith and charity a miraculous chariot

d

b Gal. v. 6. e Gal. v. 6. VOL. II.

¢ Gal. vi. 15.
f John, viii. 39.

C C

1 Cor. vii. 19. & Rom. iv. 19.

[ocr errors]

warded;

or yokeh, they bear the burden of the Lord with an equal confederation : these are like Hippocrates' twins, they live and die together. Indeed faith is the first-born of the twins; but they must come both at a birth, or else they die, being strangled at the gates of the womb. But if charity, like Jacob, lays hold upon his elder brother's heel, it makes a timely and a prosperous birth, and gives certain title to the eternal promises. For let us give the right of primogeniture to faith, yet the blessing, yea, and the inheritance too, will at last fall to charity. Not that faith is disinherited, but that charity only enters into the possession. The nature of faith passes into the excellence of charity before they can be re

and that both may have their estimate, that which justifies and saves us, keeps the name of faith, but doth not do the deed till it hath the nature of charity. For to think well, or to have a good opinion, or an excellent or a fortunate understanding, entitles us not to the love of God, and the consequent inheritance i; but to choose the ways of the Spirit, and to relinquish the paths of darkness, this is the way of the kingdom, and the purpose of the Gospel, and the proper work of faith.

6. And if we consider upon what stock faith itself is instrumental and operative of salvation, we shall find it is, in itself, acceptable, because it is a duty, and commanded; and therefore it is an act of obedience, a work of the Gospel, a submitting the understanding, à denying the affections, a laying aside all interests, and a bringing our thoughts under the obedience of Christ. This the apostle calls “ the obedience of faithk.” And it is of the same condition and constitution with other graces, all which equally relate to Christ, and are as firm instruments of union, and are washed by the blood of Christ, and are sanctified by his death, and apprehend him in their capacity and degrees, some higher, and some' not so high: but hope and charity apprehend Christ in a measure and proportion greater than faith, when

και Θαυμαστής ξυλωρίδα. .

και το αγαθούς μεν είναι ημάς η κακούς, ο Θεός ούκ εν τη γνώσει άθηκε γινωσκομένων, årdà év vñ aigéoki tão aigou péywv. — Just. M. Resp. ad Orthod.

Ουδέν κέρδος υγιούς πίστεως, της πολιτείας διεφθαρμένης. Chrys. lib. iv. de Sacerd.

* Rom. xvi. 26.

it distinguishes from them. So that if faith does the work of justification, as it is a mere relation to Christ, then so also does hope and charity; or if these are duties and good works, so also is faith: and they all being alike commanded in order to the same end, and encouraged by the same reward, are also accepted upon the same stock, which is, that they are acts of obedience and relation too; they obey Christ, and lay hold upon Christ's merits, and are but several instances of the great duty of a Christian, but the actions of several faculties of the new creature. But because faith is the beginning of grace, and hath influence and causality in the production of the other, therefore all the other, as they are united in duty, are also united in their title and appellative; they are all called by the name of faith, because they are parts of faith, as faith is taken in the larger sense : and when it is taken in the strictest and distinguishing sense, they are effects and proper products by way of natural emanation.

7. That a good life is the genuine and true-born issue of faith, no man questions, that knows himself the disciple of the holy Jesus, but that obedience is the same thing with faith', and that all Christian graces are parts of its bulk and constitution, is also the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, and the grammar of Scripture, making faith and obedience to be terms coincident and expressive of each other. For faith is not a single star, but a constellation, a chain of graces, called by St. Paul “ the power of God unto salvation to every believerm," that is, faith is all that great instrument, by which God intends to bring us to heaven : and he gives this reason, In the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith ;" for “ it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Which discourse makes faith to be a course of sanctity and holy habits, a continuation of a Christian's duty, such a duty as not only gives the first breath, but by which'a man lives the life of

grace. “ The just shall live by faith ;" that is, such a faith as grows from step to step, till the whole righteousness of God be fulfilled in it. “From faith to faith,” (saith the apostle ;) which St. Austin expounds, from faith believing, to faith obeying"; from imperfect faith, to faith made perfect by the animation of charity; that "he who is justified, may be justified still.” For as there are several degrees and parts of justification, so there are several degrees of faith answerable to it; that in all senses it may be true, that “ by faith we are justified, and by faith we live, and by faith we are saved.” For if we proceed" from faith to faith,” from believing to obeying, from faith in the understanding to faith in the will, from faith barely assenting to the revelations of God, to faith obeying the commandments of God, from the body of faith to the soul of faith, that is, to faith formed and made alive by charity ; then we shall proceed from justification to justification, that is, from remission of sins to become the sons of God, and at last to an actual possession of those glories, to which we were here consigned by the fruits of the Holy Ghost.

| Fides (auctore Cicerone) est firma opinio, et est fida mandatorum executio. Dicta est autem fides (ut' ait idem Cicero de Officiis) à fio, quòd id fieri debeat, quod dictum et promissum est.

m Rom. i. 16, 17.

8. And in this sense the holy Jesus is called by the apostle “ the author and finisher of our faitho:" he is the principle, and he is the promoter; he begins our faith in revelations, and perfects it in commandments; he leads us by the assent of our understanding, and finishes the work of his grace by a holy life: which St. Paul there expresses by its several constituent parts; as “ laying aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets us, and running with patience the race that is set before us, resisting unto blood, striving against sin?;" for, in these things, Jesus is therefore made our example, because he is “ the author and finisher of our faith ;" without these faith is imperfect. But the thing is something plainer yet, for St. James says, that faith lives not but by charity"; and the life or essence of a thing is certainly the better part of its constitution, as the soul is to a man. And if we mark the manner of his probation, it will come home to the main point. For he proves, that “ Abraham's faith was therefore imputed to him for righteousness, because he was justified by works; was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up his son? And the Scripture was

• Ex fide annunciantiuin Evangelium in fidem obedientium Evangelio. — S. Aug. o Heb. xii. 2. p Heb. v. 1, 4.

9 Jam, ii. 20, 21, 22, 23, 26.

« PoprzedniaDalej »