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Jesus Christ. Our union with Christ is the foundation of our interest in him, his atonement and merits ; and so of our title to pardon, justification, and eternal life, according to the Gospel. Faith alone, is that on our part whereby we are united to Christ and become one with him, and so that alone by which we are justified. A consciousness in our own minds, that we have true faith, and those other Christian graces which are connected with it, and always accompany it, is that alone by which we can know that we are justified. So that while we are justified simply on the account of Christ's righteousness, we can know that we are in fact justified merely by a consciousness of our own inherent graces; even as a poor woman is made rich' simply on her husband's estate, with whom she becomes one in the eye of the law by marriage : but she knows her title to her husband's estate, only as she knows that she was married to him, and actually continues to be his wife.
3. There is an essential difference between a full assurance, that those who receive Christ, and come to God in his name, shall be pardoned, justified, and have eternal life : and a consciousness that I do ieceive Christ, and come to God in his name, and am consequently pardoned, justified, and entitled to eternal life. That those who receive Christ and come to God in his name, shall be pardoned, justified, and have eternal life, is plainly and expressly revealed in the Gospel, and was true before I was born. And it appears to be true to every one, who understands the Gospel aright, and believes it with all his heart. But I must actually understand the Gospel, believe it with all my heart, and in the belief of it actually receive Christ, and come to God in bis name, before I am justified; and so before I can be conscious to myself that I have so acted, and that consequently I am pardoned, justified, and entitled to eternal life.
4. Although justification in the sight of God, must of necessity be in order of nature before our knowledge that we are justified, because a thing must exist before its existence can be perceived by the mind: yet it is not impossible that a justified believer may know his justification soon, from an in
ward consciousness of his receiving Christ, and coming to
which are connected with and do always accompany true faith. At conversion, a sinner is brought out of darkness into marvellous light, and beholding the glory of the Lord, is changed into the same image; and may of course in the time of it, in all ordinary cases, be conscious of the change. And the greater the change is, the more conscious will he be of it. No man can prove but that divine light may possibly be imparted in so great a degree, and the change be so clear, that at once it may be known to be a saving change. I do not say, that it is always, or that it is ordinarily so, at present ; but I am willing to grant that it may be 80. From many expressions in the New Testament, I am inclined to think it was commonly so in the apostolic age. The three thousand on the day of pentecost, not only received the word gladly, but immediately began to spend their time in praising God, Acts ii. 41. 47. and converts in that age in general being justified by faith, had peace with God, and rejoised in hope of the glory of God. Rom: v. 1, 2. Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye, (one and all,) rejoice with joy unspeukable and full of glory, 1 Pet. i. 8. Nor do we read of one saint in the New Testament, who doubted of his being in a justified state : nor have we any reason from the writings of the New Testament, to think but that assurance of their good estate was universally enjoyed by all true believers in the apostolic age.
This consideration inclines me to entertain charitable thoughts of the first reformers, that their hearts might be right, although it could be proved that they made assurance of the essence of faith ; as it is affirmed by some, that they did. For they were in the heat of dispute with the Papists who denied that assurance was at all attainable in this life. Good men among the first reformers might be conscious to themselves, that they had had assurance from the very time of their conversion ; and might observe from the apostolic writings, that it used to be so with the apostolic converts, and might observe it to be so with their converts; and so, through want of proper attention to the nature of things, VOL. III.
inight be led to affirm, that assurance itself is of the essence of justifying faith. And by that one false maxim, be insensibly led into many other mistakes. But the assembly of divines at Westminster, who sat about an hundred years after the reformation, time having been had meanwhile to look more carefully into things, and to distinguish between things that differ, left assurance out of their definition of justifying faith, in their confession of faith ; larger and shorter catechisms. Nay, they even expressly affirm, in their larger catechism, in answer to question 81, “ That assurance of grace and salvation are not of the essense of faith.” For while it was affirmed that assurance was of the essence of faith by the protestant preachers, two things would constantly happen, it may reasonably be supposed, which would tend to convince them that they were wrong, viz. 1. Many of their seeming converts who appeared to be full of the strongest assurance of the pardon of their sins, would apostatize and fall away to open wickedness, before their eyes : as it has been with many in our day.
2. And their adversaries, the papists, who hated all assurance of salvation in general, as some do in our day, would take the advantage of their mistake, and inake such objections against them, as they could not answer. Which, when the heat of the controversy was a little over, and the protestant party had had time impartially to weigh things, (loath as men naturally are to give up a point they have once espoused,) they would feel themselves obliged to do it in this case. Accordingly it came to pass, within about an hundred years, that protestant divines in general gave up that notion, and defined faith in a very different manner; as we may see in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the assembly of divines at Westminster, and yet retained the doctrine of assurance, and asserted it in the strongest language, but not as being of the essence of faith, but as resulting " from the inward evidence of those graces, unto which the promises are made." And in New-England, (which was settled about that time,) that notion has been, from the very first settlement of it to this day, universally exploded, by all our divines of note. Nay, 1 never heard of but one single minister in New-Eng
land, who appeared in print to defend the notion, that assurance is of the essence of faith ; and he is a minister over a separate congregation : and testimony has been publicly borne against him in years past, by some of the most noted ministers in the country. In Scotland, when this notion was above forty vears ago advanced and propagated among them by some who have since separated theinselves from that church, it was condemned by the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, as being contrary to the word of God, to their confession of faith and catechisms; and all their ministers were strictly prohibited under the pain of the censures of that church, by writing, printing, preaching, catechising, or in any other way,
to teach this, and the other doctrines in connexion with it a. These things are not said to determine what is truth, by the names and influence of fallible men. To do so, would be to justify the whole popish party in their appeal to the pope, to decide all points of religion; and to give up the first inaxim on which the reformation was built ; viz. that the word of God is the only rule of faith and manners. It is not what the first reformers said, nor what the assembly of divines said, nor what any other men or body of men, since the apostles were dead, have said, or do say, that can determine any doctrine of religion, or settle any point of controversy about religion. If they cannot be settled by the holy Scriptures, they must remain for ever undetermined in this world. To be unwilling to appeal to the bible, and to that alone, to determine what is truth; is a full proof a man is at heart an infidel. He does not really believe that the bible is the word of God, nor does he build his scheme of religion upon it; but upon his own experiences,
a See the acts of the general assembly of the church of Scotland, 1720, Act V. and 1722, Act vii. particularly these words, out of a book entitled, the Marrow of Modern Divinity, were expressly condemned, viz.“ wherefore as Paul and Silas said to the jailor, so say I unto you, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved ; that is, be verily persuaded in your heart, that Jesus Christ is yours, and that you shall have life and salvation by him, that whatsoever Christ did for the salvation of mankind, he did it for you; forasmuch as the holy soripture speaketh to all in general, none of us ought to distrust himself, but believe that it doth belong particularly to himself.” These words were expressly condemned, as making saving faith consist in, “ a man's persuasion that Christ i his, died for him," &c.
or the sayings of others, whose experiences he imagines were like his own. However, what has been said, may let the public see how I can consistently entertain an opinion, that some men's hearts may be more orthodox than their beads in this matter; which was the point I was upon.
But while true converts may, from their first conversion, from a consciousness of the saving change they have passed through, be persuaded, that they are in a state of favour with God, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; satan, that great enemy to all good, may transform bimself into an angel of light, and delude hundreds and thousands, and ten thousands, (and it is foretold that satan is to deceive the nations, till the thousand years of Christ's reign do commence, Rev. xx. 3.) with a firm belief that their sins are forgiven, who never were converted, and so oblige them to believe their sins are forgiven, when, according to the plainest declarations of Scripture, they are not forgiven; and so necessitate them, in order to vindicate themselves, to assert that in justifying faith, “ we believe that to be true which is not true before we believe it, and that without any evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason."
And these false converts, emboldened by the greatness of their number, may rise, sketch out a whole new scheme of religion, subversive of Christianity, and seek to propagate it through the Christian world, showing the greatest rancour against the true Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile, true Christians may gel bewildered, and some perhaps brought unawares to espouse the language of the deluded, and to seem to plead their cause. And the coinmun enemies to all experimental religion may rejoice, in hopes it will finally appear to all the world that there is nothing in vital piety, that all religion consists in an external regular behaviour; and that it is no matter what
b It is very observable, that Mr. Wilson, who is constantly repeating it, that all the protestant world are on his side, and glorying in it, is obliged, in the mirist of it all to own, that while some hold that assurance is of the essence of faith, others only maintain, that assurance accompanies it: (p. 97.) two things in their nature essentially different, nay, contrary to each other. For to say, that assurunce accompanies faith, is to say, “it is not faith, but something else which Prue believers are wont to have in company with faith."