The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 7
(... continued from file 6)

Sermon 6. 
Of that Act on our Part, by which we do actually and effectually 
apply Christ to our own Souls. 
John 1: 12. 
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the 
sons of God; even to them that believe on his Name. 
    No sooner is the soul quickened by the Spirit of God, but it 
answers, in some measure, the end of God in that work, by its active 
reception of Jesus Christ, in the day of believing: What this vital 
act of faith is upon which so great a weight depends, as our 
interest in Christ and everlasting blessedness, this scripture 
before us will give you the best account of; wherein (omitting the 
consideration of the coherence and context of the words) we have 
three things to ponder. 
    First, The high and glorious privilege conferred, viz. "Power 
to become the sons of God." 
    Secondly, The subject of this privilege described, "As many as 
received him." 
    Thirdly, The description explained, by way of opposition, "Even 
as many as believe on his name." 
    First, The privilege conferred is a very high and glorious one, 
than which no created being is capable of greater; "power to become 
the sons of God:" this word "eksousian" is of large extent and 
signification, and is, by some, rendered "this right, by others this 
dignity, by others this prerogative, this privilege or honour:" It 
implies a title or right to adoption, not only with respect to the 
present benefits of it in this life, but also to that blessed 
inheritance which is laid up in heaven for the sons of God. And so 
Grotius rightly expounds it of our consummate sonship, consisting in 
the actual enjoyment of blessedness, as well as that which is 
inchoate: not only a right to pardon, favour, and acceptance now, 
but to heaven and the full enjoyment of God hereafter. O what an 
honour, dignity, and privilege is this! 
    Secondly, The subjects of this privilege are described; "As 
many as received him." This text describes them by that very grace, 
faith, which gives them their title and right to Christ and his 
benefits; and by that very act of faith, which primarily confers 
their right to his person, and secondarily to his benefits, viz. 
receiving him: there be many graces besides faith, but faith only is 
the grace that gives us right to Christ; and there be many acts of 
faith besides receiving, but this receiving or embracing of Christ, 
is the justifying and saving act: "As many as received him," "hosoi 
de elabon auton", as many, be they of any nation, sex, age, or 
condition. For "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision, nor 
uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free: but Christ is 
all, and in all," Col. 3: 11. 
    Nothing but unbelief bars men from Christ and his benefits. As 
many as [received him;} the word signifies "to accept, take," or, 
(as we fitly render it), to receive, assume, or take to us; a word 
most aptly expressing the nature and office of faith, yea, the very 
justifying and saving act; and we are also heedfully to note its 
special object, "elabon auton"" The text saith not "auta", his, but 
"auton", him, i.e. his person, as he is clothed with his offices, 
and not only his benefits and privileges. These are secondary and 
consequential things to our receiving him. So that it is a 
receiving, assuming, or accepting the Lord Jesus Christ, which must 
have respect to the tenders and proposals of the gospel, "for 
therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith," 
Rom. 1: 17. therein is Jesus Christ revealed, proposed, and offered 
unto sinners, as the only way of justification and salvation; which 
gospel-offer, as before was opened, is therefore ordinarily 
necessary to believing, Rom. 10: 11,12, 13, &c. 
    Thirdly, This description is yet further explained by this 
additional exegetical clause, [even to them that believe on his 
name;] here the terms are varied, though the things expressed in 
both be the same; what he called receiving there, is called 
believing on his name here, to show us that the very essence of 
saving faith consists in our receiving of Christ. By his name, we 
are to understand Christ himself: it is usual to take these two, 
believing in him, and believing in his name, as terms convertible, 
and of the same importance, "hu hu; shmo ushmo", Ipse est nomen 
suum, et nomen ejus ipse est: His name is Himself, and Himself is 
his name. So that here we have the true nature and precious benefits 
of saving faith excellently expressed in this scripture, the sum of 
which take in this proposition; 
    Doct. That the receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ is that 
    saving and vital act of faith which gives the soul right both 
    to his person and benefits. 
    We cannot act spiritually till we begin to live spiritually: 
Therefore the spirit of life must first join himself to us, in his 
quickening work, (as was shown you in the last sermon), which being 
done, we begin to act spiritually, by taking hold upon, or receiving 
Jesus Christ, which is the thing designed to be opened in this 
    The soul is the life of the body, faith is the life of the 
soul, and Christ is the life of faith. There are several sorts of 
faith besides saving faith, and in saving faith there are several 
acts, besides the justifying or saving act; but this receiving act, 
which is to be our subject this day, is that upon which both our 
righteousness and eternal happiness do depend. "This, as a form, 
differences saving faith from all other kinds or sorts of faith;" by 
this it is that we are justified and saved. "To as many as received 
him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God:" yet it does 
not justify and save us by reason of any proper dignity that is 
found in this act, but by reason of the object it receives or 
apprehends. The same thing is often expressed in scripture by other 
terms, as "Coming to Christ," John 6: 35. Trusting or staying upon 
Christ, Isa. 50: 10. But whatever is found in those expressions, it 
is all comprehended in this, as will appear hereafter. Now, the 
method into which I shall cast my discourse on this subject, that I 
may handle it with as much perspicuity and profit as I can, shall 
    First, To explain and open the nature of this receiving of 
Christ, and show you what it includes. 
    Secondly, To prove that this is the justifying and saving act 
of faith. 
    Thirdly, To show you the excellency of this act of faith. 
    Fourthly, To remove some mistakes, and give you the true 
account of the dignity and excellency of this act. 
    Fifthly, And then bring home all, in a proper and close 
    First, In the first place then, I will endeavour to explain and 
open the nature of this receiving of Christ, and show you what is 
implied in it. 
    And, indeed, it involves many deep mysteries, and things of 
greatest weight. People are generally very ignorant and unacquainted 
with the importance of this expression; they have very slight 
thoughts of faith who never passed under the illuminating, 
convincing, and humbling work of the Spirit: but we shall find that 
saving faith is quite another thing, and differs in its whole kind 
and nature from that traditional faith, and common assent, which is 
so fatally mistaken for it in the world. 
    For, First, It is evident that no man can receive Jesus Christ 
in the darkness of natural ignorance: we must understand and discern 
who and what he is, whom we receive to be the Lord our 
righteousness. If we know not his person, and his offices, we do not 
take, but mistake Christ. It is a good rule in the civil law, Non 
consentit qui non sentit. A mistake of the person invalidates the 
match. He that takes Christ for a mere man, or denies the 
satisfaction of his blood, or divests him of his human nature, or 
denies any of his most glorious and necessary offices, let them cry 
up as high as they will, his spirituality, glory, and exemplary life 
and death, they can never receive Jesus Christ aright. This is such 
a crack, such a flaw in the very foundation of faith, as undoes and 
destroys all. Ignorantis non est consensus: All saving faith is 
founded in light and knowledge, and therefore it is called 
knowledge, Isa. 53: 11. and seeing is inseparably connected with 
believing, John 6: 40. Men must hear and learn of the Father before 
they can come to Christ, John 6: 45. The receiving act of faith is 
directed and guided by knowledge. I will not presume to state the 
degree of knowledge which is absolutely necessary to the reception 
of Christ; I know the first acting of faith are, in most Christians, 
accompanied with much darkness and confusion of understanding: but 
yet we must say in the general, that wherever faith is, there is so 
much light as is sufficient to discover to the soul its own sins, 
dangers and wants, and the all-sufficiency, suitableness, and 
necessity of Christ, for the supply and remedy of all; and without 
this, Christ cannot be received. "Come unto me, all ye that labour, 
and I will give you rest," Matt. 11: 28. 
    Secondly, The receiving of Christ, necessarily implies the 
assent of the understanding to the truths of Christ revealed in the 
gospel, viz. his person, natures, offices, his incarnation, death, 
and satisfaction; which assent, though it be not in itself saving 
faith, yet is it the foundation and ground work of it; it being 
impossible the soul should receive, and fiducially embrace, what the 
mind does not assent unto as true and infallibly certain. Now, there 
are three degrees of assent; conjecture, opinion, and belief: 
Conjecture is but a slight and weak inclination to assent to the 
thing propounded, by reason of the weighty objections that lie 
against it. Opinion is a more steady and fixed assent, when a man is 
almost certain, though yet some fear of the contrary remains with 
him. Belief is a more full and assured assent to the truth; to which 
the mind may be brought four ways. 
    First, By the perfect intelligence of sense, not hindered or 
deceived. So I believe the truth of these propositions, Fire is hot, 
water is moist, honey is sweet, gall is bitter. 
    Secondly, By the native clearness of self evident principles. 
So I believe the truth of these propositions, The whole is more than 
a part; the cause is before the effect. 
    Thirdly, By discourse, and rational deduction. so I believe the 
truth of this proposition, Where all the parts of a thing are, there 
is the whole. 
    Fourthly, By infallible testimony, when any thing is witnessed 
or asserted by one whose truth is unquestionable. And of this sort 
is the assent of faith, which is therefore called our receiving the 
witness of God, 1 John 5: 9. our setting to our seal that God is 
true, John 3: 33. This prima veritas, divine verity, is the very 
formal object of faith: into this we resolve our faith. Thus saith 
the Lord, is that firm foundation upon which our assent is built. 
And thus we see good reason to believe those profound mysteries of 
the incarnation of Christ; the hypostatical union of the two natures 
in his wonderful person; the mystical union of Christ and believers; 
though we cannot understand these things, by reason of the darkness 
of our minds. It satisfies the soul to find these mysteries in the 
written word; upon that foundation it firmly builds its assent: and 
without such an assent of faith, there can be no embracing of 
Christ: all acts of faith and religion, without assent, are but as 
so many arrows shot at random into the open air, they signify 
nothing for want of a fixed determinate object. 
    It is therefore the policy of Satan, by injecting or fomenting 
atheistical thoughts, (with which young converts use to find 
themselves greatly infested) to undermine and destroy the whole work 
of faith. But God makes his people victorious over them: yea, and 
even at that time they do assent to the truths of the word, when 
they think they do not; as appears by their tenderness and fear of 
sin, their diligence and care of duty. If I discern these things in 
a Christian's life, he must excuse me if I believe him not, when he 
saith he does not assent to the truths of the gospel. 
    Thirdly, Our receiving Christ necessarily implies our hearty 
approbation, liking and estimation; yea, the acquiescence of our 
very souls in Jesus Christ, as the most excellent, suitable, and 
complete remedy for all our wants, sins, and dangers, that ever 
could be prepared by the wisdom and love of God for us: We must 
receive him with such a frame of heart, as rests upon, and trusts in 
him, it ever we receive him aright, "To them that believe he is 
precious," 1 Pet. 2: 7. This is the only sovereign-plaister in all 
the world that is large enough, and efficacious enough, to cure our 
wounds: And therefore as Christ is most highly esteemed, and 
heartily approved, as the only remedy for our souls; so the 
sovereign grace and wisdom of God are admired, and the way and 
method he has taken to save poor souls, by Jesus Christ, most 
heartily approved as the most apt and excellent method, both for his 
glory and our good, that ever could be taken: for it is a plain 
case, that none will espouse themselves with conjugal affections, to 
that person whom they esteem not as the best for them that can be 
chosen: none will forsake and quit all for his sake, except they 
account him as the spouse did, "the chiefest of ten thousand." 
    There are two things in Christ, which must gain the greatest 
approbation in the soul of a poor convinced sinner, and bring it to 
rest upon Jesus Christ. 
    First, That it can find nothing in Christ that is distasteful, 
or unsuitable to it, as it does experimentally find in the best 
creatures. In him is no bleakness, but a fulness of all saving 
abilities; "Able to save to the uttermost:" No pride, causing him to 
scorn and condemn the most wretched soul that comes to him: No 
inconstancy or levity, to cause him to cast off the soul whom he has 
once received: No passion but a Lamb for meekness and patience: 
There is no spot to be found in him, but "He is altogether lovely," 
Cant. 5: 16. 
    Secondly, As the believer can find nothing in Christ that is 
distasteful, so it finds nothing wanting in Christ that is 
necessary, or desirable: Such is the fulness of wisdom, 
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that is in Christ, 
that nothing is left to desire but the full enjoyment of him. O, 
saith the soul, how completely happy shall I be, if I can but win 
Christ! I would not envy the nobles of the earth, were I but in 
Christ. I am hungry and athirst, and Christ is meat indeed, and 
drink indeed; this is the best thing in all the world for me, 
because so necessary and so suitable to the needs of a soul ready to 
perish. I am a law-condemned and a self-condemned sinner, trembling 
for fear of the execution of the curse upon me every moment; in 
Christ is complete righteousness to justify my soul; O there is 
nothing better for me than Christ. I see myself plunged, both in 
nature and practice, into the odious pollutions of sin, and in 
Christ is a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness: His blood 
is a fountain of merit, his spirit is a fountain of holiness and 
purity: None but Christ, none but Christ. O the manifold wisdom and 
unsearchable love of God, to prepare and furnish such a Christ so 
fully answering all the needs, all the distresses, all the fears and 
burdens of a poor sinner! Thus the believing soul approves of Christ 
as best for it. And thus in believing, it gives glory to God, Rom. 
    Fourthly, Receiving Christ consists in the consent and choice 
of the will; and this is the opening of the heart and stretching 
forth of he soul to receive him: Thy people shall be willing in the 
day of thy power," Psal. 110:3. 
    It is the great design and main scope of the gospel, to work 
over the wills of poor sinners to this: And this was the great 
complaint of Christ against the incredulous Jews, John 5: 40. "Ye 
will not come unto me that ye might have life." 
    It is disputed by some, whether faith can be seated in two 
distinct faculties, as we seem to place it, when we say it involves 
both the approbation of the judgement and the consent of the will. I 
will not here entangle my discourse with that fruitless dispute. I 
am of the same judgement with those divines, that think faith cannot 
be expressed fully by any one single habit, or act of the mind or 
will distinctly, for that (as one well notes) there are such 
descriptions given of it in scripture, such things are proposed as 
the object of it, and such is the experience of all that sincerely 
believe, as no one single act, either of the mind or will, can 
answer unto: Nor do I see any thing repugnant to scripture or 
philosophy if we place it in both faculties. Consent (saith Vasquez) 
seems to denote the concourse at the will with the understanding; 
but to leave that, it is most certain the saving, justifying act of 
faith lies principally in the consent of the will, which consent is 
the effect of the Almighty power of God, Eph. 1: 19. He allures and 
draws the will to Christ, and he draws with the cords of a man, i.e. 
he prevails with it by rational arguments: For the soul being 
prepared by convictions of its lost and miserable estate by sin, and 
that there is but one door of hope open to it for an escape from the 
wrath to come, and that is Christ; being also satisfied of the 
fulness and completeness of his saving ability, and of his 
willingness to make it over for our salvation, upon such just and 
equal terms; this cannot but prevail with the will of a poor 
distressed sinner, to consent and chose him. 
    Fifthly, and lastly, The last and principal thing included in 
our receiving of Christ, is the respect that this act of acceptance 
has unto the terms upon which Christ is tendered to us in the 
gospel, to which it is most agreeable, 1 Cor. 15: 11. "So we preach, 
and so ye believed:" Faith answers the gospel-offer, as the impress 
upon the zeal does the engraving in the seal; and this is of 
principal consideration, for there is no receiving Christ upon any 
other terms but his own, proposed in the gospel to us; He will never 
come lower, nor make them easier than they are for any man's sake in 
the world; we must either receive him upon these, or part with him 
for ever as thousands do, who could not be content to agree to some 
articles, but rather choose to be damned for ever than submit to 
all: This is the great controversy betwixt Christ and sinners; upon 
this, many thousands break off the treaty, and part with Christ, 
because he will not come to their terms; but every true believer 
receives him upon his own, i.e. their acceptance of him by faith, is 
in all things consentaneous to the overtures made of him in the 
written word. So he tenders himself, and so they receive him, as 
will be evident in the following particulars. 
    First, The gospel offers Christ to us sincerely and really, and 
so the true believer receives and accepts him, even with a faith 
unfeigned; 1 Tim. 1: 5. If ever the soul be serious and in earnest 
in any thing, it is so in this: Can we suppose the heart of him that 
flies for his life to the refuge city, to be serious and in earnest 
to escape by flight the avenger of blood who pursues him? Then is 
the heart of a convinced sinner serious in this matter; for under 
that notion is the work of faith presented to us, Heb. 6: 18. 
    Secondly, Christ is offered to us in the gospel entirely and 
undividedly, as clothed with all his offices, priestly, prophetical, 
and regal; as Christ Jesus the Lord, Acts 16: 31. and so the true 
believer receives him; The hypocrite, like the harlot, is for 
dividing, but the sincere believer finds the need he has of every 
office of Christ, and knows not how to want any thing that is in 
    His ignorance makes him necessary and desirable to him as a 
prophet: His guilt makes him necessary as a priest: His strong and 
powerful lusts and corruptions make him necessary as a king: and in 
truth, he sees not any thing in Christ that he can spare; he needs 
all that is in Christ, and admires infinite wisdom in nothing more 
than the investing Christ with all these offices, which are so 
suited to the poor sinner's wants and miseries. Look, as the three 
offices are undivided in Christ, so they are in the believer's 
acceptance; and before this trial no hypocrite can stand; for all 
hypocrites reject and quarrel with something in Christ; they like 
his pardon better than his government. They call him indeed, Lord 
and Master, but it is but an empty title they bestow upon him; for 
let them ask their own hearts if Christ be Lord over their thoughts, 
as well as words; over their secret, as well as open actions; over 
their darling lusts, as well as others; let them ask, who will 
appear to be Lord and Master over them, when Christ and the world 
come in competition? When the pleasure of sin shall stand upon one 
side, and sufferings to death, and deepest points of self denial, 
upon the other side? Surely it is the greatest affront that can be 
offered to the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, to separate in our 
acceptance, what is so united in Christ, for our salvation and 
happiness. As without any one of these offices, the work of our 
salvation could not be completed, so without acceptance of Christ in 
them all, our union with him by faith cannot be completed. 
    The gospel-offer of Christ includes all his offices, and gospel- 
faith just so receives him; to submit to him, as well as to be 
redeemed by him; to imitate him in the holiness of his life, as well 
as to reap the purchases and fruits of his death. It must be an 
entire receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
    Thirdly, Christ is offered to us in the gospel exclusively, as 
the alone and only Saviour of sinners; with whose blood and 
intercession nothing is to be mixed; but the soul of a sinner is 
singly to rely and depend on him, and no other, Acts 4: 2. 1 Cor. 3: 
11 and so faith receives him, Psal. 71: 16 "I will make mention of 
thy righteousness, even of thine only", Phil 3: 9. "And be found in 
him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but 
that which is through the faith of Christ." To depend partly upon 
Christ's righteousness, and partly upon our own, is to set one foot 
upon a rock, and the other in a quick sand; either Christ will be to 
us all in all, or nothing at all, in point of righteousness and 
salvation; he affects not social honour; as he did the whole work, 
so he expects the sole praise; if we be not able to save to the 
uttermost, why do we depend capon him at all? and if he be, why do 
we lean upon any beside him? 
    Fourthly, The gospel offers Christ freely to sinners as the 
gift, not the sale of God, John 4: 10; Isa. 55: 1; Rev 22: 17 and 
even so faith receives him. The believer comes to Christ with an 
empty hand, not only as an undeserving, but as an hell-deserving 
sinner; he comes to Christ as to one that justifies the ungodly, Rom 
4: 5. "Unto him that worketh not, but believeth in him that 
justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." 
Where by him that worketh not, he means a convinced, humbled sinner 
who finds himself utterly unable to do the task the law sets him, 
i.e. perfectly to obey it; and therefore in a law sense is said not 
to work; for it is all one as to the intent and purpose of the law, 
not to work, and not to work perfectly. This is he convinced of; and 
therefore comes to Christ as one that is in himself ungodly, 
acknowledging the righteousness, by which alone he can stand before 
God, is in Christ, and not in himself, in whole, or in part; and by 
the way, let this encourage poor souls that are scared and daunted 
for want of due qualifications, for closings with and embracing 
Christ. There is nothing qualifies a man for Christ more than a 
sense of his unworthiness of him, and the want of all excellencies 
or ornaments, that may commend him to divine acceptance. 
    Fifthly, The gospel offers Christ orderly to sinners, first his 
person, then his privileges. God first gives his Son, and then with 
him, or as a consequent of that gift, he gives us all things, Rom. 
8: 32. In the same order must our faith receive him. The believer 
does not marry the portion first, and then the person, but to be 
found in him is the first and great care of a believer. 
    I deny not but it is lawful for any to have an eye to the 
benefits of Christ. Salvation from wrath is, and lawfully may be 
intended and aimed at: "Look unto me, and be saved all ye ends of 
the earth," Isa. 45: 22. Nor do I deny but there are many poor 
souls, who being in deep distress and fear, may, and often do, look 
mostly to their own safety at first, and that there is much 
confusion, as well in the acting of their faith, as in their 
condition; but sure I am, it is the proper order in believing, first 
to accept the person of the Lord Jesus: Heaven is no doubt very 
desirable, but Christ is more: "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" 
Psal. 73: 25. Union with Christ is, in order of nature, antecedent 
to the communication of his privileges, therefore so it ought to be 
in the order and method of believing. 
    Sixthly, Christ is advisedly, offered in the gospel to sinners, 
as the result of God's eternal counsel, a project of grace upon 
which his heart and thoughts have been much set, Zech. 6: 13. The 
counsel of peace was betwixt the Father and the Son. And so the 
believer receives him, most deliberately weighing the matter in his 
most deep and serious thoughts; for this is a time of much 
solicitude and thoughtfulness. The soul's espousals are acts of 
judgement, Hos. 2: 19. on our part, as well as on God's; We are 
therefore bid to sit down and count the cost, Luke 14: 28. Faith, or 
the actual receiving of Christ, is the result of many previous 
debates in the soul; The matter has been pondered over and over: The 
objections and discouragements, both from the self-denying terms of 
the gospel, and our own vileness and deep guilt, have been 
ruminated, and lain upon our hearts day and night, and after all 
things have been balanced in the most deep consideration, the soul 
is determined to this conclusion, I must have Christ, be the terms 
never so hard, be my sins never so great and many, I will yet go to 
him, and venture my soul upon him; if I perish, I perish. I have 
thought out all my thoughts, and this is the result, union with 
Christ here, or separation from God for ever must be my lot. 
    And thus does the Lord open the hearts of his elect, and win 
the consent of their wills to receive Jesus Christ upon the deepest 
consideration and debate of the matter in their own most solemn 
thoughts: They understand and know, that they must deeply deny 
themselves, take up his cross and follow him, Matt. 16: 24. renounce 
not only sinful but religious self; these are hard and difficult 
things, but yet the necessity and excellency of Christ make them 
appear eligible and rational: by all which you see faith is another 
thing than what the sound of that word (as it is generally 
understood) signifies to the understandings of most men. This is 
that fiducial receiving of Christ here to be opened. 
    Secondly, Our next work will be to evince this receiving of 
Christ as has been opened, to be that special saving faith of God's 
elect: This is that faith of which such great and glorious things 
are spoken in the gospel, which, whosoever has shall be saved, and 
he that has it not shall be damned; and this I shall evidently prove 
by the following arguments or reasons. 
    Arg. 1. First, That faith which gives the soul right and title 
to spiritual adoption, with all the privileges and benefits thereof, 
is true and saving faith. 
    But such a receiving of Christ as has been described, gives the 
soul right and title to spiritual adoption, with all the privileges 
and benefits thereof. 
    Therefore such a receiving of Christ as has been described is 
true and saving faith. 
    The major proposition is undeniable, for our right and title to 
spiritual adoption, and the privileges thereof arise from our union 
with Jesus Christ; we being united to the Son of God, are, by virtue 
of that union, reckoned or accounted sons, Gal. 3: 26. "You are all 
the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ:" The act of saving 
faith is union with Christ's person, the consequent of that union is 
adoption, or right to the inheritance. 
    The minor is most plain in the text: "To as many as received 
him, to them gave he power or right to become the sons of God:" 
false faith has no such privilege annexed to it; no unbeliever is 
thus dignified: No stranger entitled to this inheritance. 
    Arg. 2. Secondly, That only is saving and justifying faith, 
which is in all true believers, in none but true believers, and in 
all true believers at all times. 
    But such a receiving of Christ as has been described, is in all 
true believers, in none but true believers, and in all true 
believers at all times. 
    Therefore such a receiving of Christ as has been described, is 
the only saving and justifying faith. 
    The major is undeniable, that must needs contain the essence of 
saving faith, which is proper to every true believer at all times, 
and to no other. 
    The minor will be as clear, for there is no other act of faith, 
but this of fiducial receiving Christ as he is offered, that does 
agree to all true believers, to none but true believers, and to all 
true believers at all times. 
    There be three acts of faith, assent, acceptance, and 
assurance: The Papists generally give the essence of saving faith to 
the first, viz. assent. The Lutherans, and some of our own, give it 
to the last, viz. assurance: but it can be neither way so. Assent 
does not agree only to true believers, or justified persons. 
Assurance agrees to justified persons, and them only, but not to all 
justified persons, and that at all times. 
    Assent is too low to contains the essence of saving faith, it 
is found in the unregenerate as well as the regenerate: yea, in 
devils as well as men, James 2: 19. it is supposed and included in 
justifying faith, but it is not the justifying or saving act. 
Assurance is as much too high, being found only in some eminent 
believers: and in them too but at some times. There is many a true 
believer to whom the joy and comfort of assurance is denied; they 
may say of their union with Christ, as Paul said of his vision; 
whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell; so they, 
whether in Christ or out of Christ, they cannot tell. 
    A true believer may "walk in darkness, and see no light," Isa. 
50: 10. Nay a man must be a believer before he know himself to be 
so; the direct act of faith is before the reflex act: so that the 
justifying act of faith lies neither in assent nor in assurance. 
Assent saith, I believe that Christ is, and that he is the Saviour 
of the elect. Assurance saith, I believe and am sure that Christ 
died for me, and that I shall be saved through him. So that assent 
widens the nature of faith too much, and assurance upon the other 
hand straitens it too much; but acceptance, which saith, I take 
Christ in all his offices to be mine, this fits it exactly, and 
belongs to all true believers, and to none but true believers; and 
to all true believers at all times. This therefore must be the 
justifying and saving act of faith. 
    Arg. 3. Thirdly, That and no other is the justifying and saving 
act at faith, to which the properties and effects of saving faith do 
belong, or in which they are only found. 
    But in the fiducial receiving of Christ are the properties and 
effects of saving faith only found. 
    This therefore must be the justifying and saving act of faith. 
    First, By saving faith, Christ is said to "dwell in our 
hearts," Eph. 3: 17. but it is neither by assent, nor assurance, but 
by acceptance, and receiving him that he dwells in our hearts; not 
by assent, for then he would dwell in the unregenerate; nor by 
assurance, for he must dwell in our hearts before we can be assured 
of it: therefore it is by acceptance. 
    Secondly, By faith we are justified, Rom. 5: 1. But neither 
assent nor assurance, for the reasons above, do justify; therefore 
it must be by the receiving act, and no other. 
    Thirdly, The scripture ascribes great difficulties to that 
faith by which we are saved, as being most cross and opposite to the 
corrupt nature of man; but of all the acts of faith, none is clogged 
with like difficulties, or conflicts with greater oppositions than 
the receiving act does; this act is attended with the greatest 
difficulties, fears, and deepest self-denial. In assent, a man's 
reason is convinced, and yields to the evidence of truth, so that he 
can do no other but assent to the truth. In assurance there is 
nothing against man's will or comfort, but much for it; every one 
desires it: but it is not so in the acceptance of Christ, upon the 
self-denying terms of the gospel, as will hereafter be evinced. We 
conclude there fore, that in this consists the nature and essence of 
saving faith. 
    Thirdly, Having seen what the receiving of Jesus Christ is, and 
that it is the faith by which we are justified and saved, I next 
come to open the dignity and excellency of this faith, whose praises 
and encomiums are in all the scriptures; there you find it renowned 
by the title of precious faith, 2 Pet. 1: 7. enriching faith, Jam. 
2: 5. the work of God, John 6: 29. the great mystery of godliness, 1 
Tim. 3: 16. With many more rich epithets throughout the scriptures 
bestowed upon it. 
    Now faith may be considered two ways, viz. either qualitatively 
or relatively. 
    Considered qualitatively, as a saving grace, it has the same 
excellency that all other precious saving graces have; as it is the 
fruit of the Spirit, it is more precious than gold, Prov. 8: 11, 19. 
And so are all other graces as well as faith; in this sense they all 
shine with equal glory, and that a glory transcending all the glory 
of this world: but then consider faith relatively, as the instrument 
by which the righteousness of Christ is apprehended and made ours; 
and in that consideration it excels all other graces. 
    This is the grace that is singled out from among all other 
graces, to receive Christ, by which office it is dignified above all 
its fellows: as Moses was honoured above the many thousands of 
Israel, when God took him up into the mount, admitted him nearer to 
himself than any other of all the tribes might come; for they stood 
without the rail, while Moses was received into the special presence 
of God, and was admitted to such views as others must not have: so 
faith is honoured above all its fellow graces, in being singled out, 
and solemnly appointed to this high office in our justification: 
this is that precious eye that looks unto Christ as the stung 
Israelites did to the brazen serpent, and derives healing virtue 
from him to the soul. It is the grace which instrumentally saves us, 
Eph. 2: 8. As it is Christ's glory to be the door of salvation, so 
it is faith's glory to be the golden key that opens that door. 
    What shall I say of faith? It is the bond of union; the 
instrument of justification; the spring of spiritual peace and joy; 
the means of spiritual life and subsistence; and therefore the great 
scope and drift of the gospel; which aims at and presseth nothing 
more than to bring men and women to believe. 
    First, This is the bond of our union with Christ, that union is 
begun in our vivification, and completed in our actual receiving of 
Christ. The first is the bond of union on the Spirit's part, the 
second a bond of union on our part. "Christ dwelleth in our hearts 
by faith," Eph. 3: 17. And therein it is a door opened to let in 
many rich blessings to the soul, for, by uniting us to Christ, it 
brings us into special favour and acceptation with God, Eph. 1: 6. 
Makes us the special objects of Christ's conjugal love and delight, 
Eph. 5: 29. Draws from his heart sympathy and a tender sense of all 
our miseries and burdens, Heb. 4: 15. 
    Secondly, It is the instrument of our justification, Rom. 5: 1. 
Till Christ be received (thus received by us) we are in our sins; 
under guilt and condemnation; but when faith comes, then comes 
freedom: "By him all that believe are justified from all things." 
Acts 13: 38; Rom 8: 1. For it apprehends or receives the pure and 
perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus, wherein the soul, how 
guilty and sinful soever it be in itself, stands faultless and 
spotless before the presence of God; all obligations to punishment 
are, upon believing, immediately dissolved; a full and final pardon 
sealed. O precious faith! who can sufficiently value it! 
    What respect, reader, wouldst thou have to that hand that 
should bring thee a pardon when on the ladder or block? Why, such a 
pardon, which thou canst not read without tears of joy, is brought 
thee by the hand of faith O inestimable grace! This clothes the pure 
righteousness of Jesus upon our defiled souls, and so causes us to 
become the "righteousness of God in him," or as it is 1 John 3: 7 
"Righteous as he is righteous:" Non formali & intrinsica justitia, 
sed relativa: Not with a formal inherent righteousness of our own, 
but with a relative imputed righteousness from another. 
    I know this most excellent and most comfortable doctrine of 
imputed righteousness, is not only denied but derided by Papists. 
Stapleton calls it spectrum cerebri Lutherani: The monstrous birth 
of Luther's brain! But, blessed be God, this comfortable truth is 
well secured against all attempts of its adversaries. Let their 
blasphemous mouths call it in derision, as they do putative 
righteousness, i.e. a mere fancied or conceited righteousness: Yet 
we know assuredly Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, and that 
in the way of faith. If Adam's sin became ours by imputation, then 
so does Christ's righteousness also become ours by imputation, Rom. 
5: 17. If Christ were made a sinner by the imputation of our sins to 
him, who had no sin of his own, then we are made righteous by the 
imputations of Christ's righteousness to us, who have no 
righteousness of our own, according to 2 Cor 5: 21. This was the way 
in which Abraham, the father of them that believe, was justified; 
and therefore this is the way in which all believers, the children 
of Abraham, must, in the like manner, be justified, Rom 4: 22, 23, 
24. Who can express the worth of faith in this one respect, were 
this all it did for our souls? 
    But, Thirdly, It is the spring of our spiritual peace and joy: 
and that as it is the instrument of our justification. If it be an 
instrument of our justification, it cannot but be the spring of our 
consolation, Rom 5: 1 "Being justified by faith, we have peace with 
God " In uniting us with Christ, and apprehending; and applying his 
righteousness to us, it becomes the seed or root of all the peace 
and joy of a Christian's life. Joy, the child of faith, therefore 
bears its name, Phil 1 25 "The joy of faith". So 1 Pet 1. 8, 9 
"believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable." We cannot forbear 
rejoicing when by faith we are brought to the sight and knowledge of 
such a privileged state; when faith has first given and then cleared 
our title to Christ, joy is no more under the soul's command; we 
cannot but rejoice, and that with joy unspeakable. 
    Fourthly, It is the means of our spiritual livelihood and 
subsistence: all other graces, like birds in the nest, depend upon 
what faith brings in to them; take away faith, and all the graces 
languish and die: joy, peace, hope, patience, and all the rest, 
depend upon faith, as the members of the natural body do upon the 
vessels by which blood and spirits are conveyed to them. "The life 
which I now live (saith the apostle) is by the faith of the Son of 
God," Gal. 2: 20. It provides our ordinary food, and extraordinary 
cordials, Psal. 27: 13. "I had fainted, unless I had believed." And 
seeing it is all this to our souls, 
    Fifthly, In the last place, it is no wonder that it is the main 
scope and drift of the gospel, to press and bring souls to 
believing: it is the gospel's grand design to bring up the hearts of 
men and women to faith. The urgent commands of the gospel aim at 
this, 1 John 3: 23. Mark 1: 14, 15. John 12: 36. Hither also look 
the great promises and encouragements of the gospel, John 6: 35, 37. 
So Mark 16: 16. And the opposite sin of unbelief is every where 
fearfully aggravated and threatened, John 16: 8, 9. John 3: 18, 35. 
And this was the third thing promised, namely, a discovery of the 
transcendent worth and excellency of saving faith. 
    Fourthly, But lest we commit a mistake here, to the prejudice 
of Christ's honour and glory, which must not be given to another, no 
not to faith itself; I promised you in the fourth place, to show you 
upon what account faith is thus dignified and honoured; that so we 
may give unto faith the things that are faith's, and to Christ the 
things that are Christ's. 
    And I find four opinions about the interest of faith in our 
justification: some will have it to justify us formally, not 
relatively: i.e. upon the account of his own intrinsical value and 
worth; and this is the popish sense of justification by faith. Some 
affirm, that though faith be not our perfect legal righteousness, 
considered as a work of ours, yet the act of believing is imputed to 
us for righteousness, i.e. God graciously accepts it instead of 
perfect legal righteousness, and so, in his esteem, it is our 
evangelical righteousness. And this is the Armenian sense of 
justification by faith. 
    Some there are also, even among our reformed divines, that 
contend that faith justifies and saves us, as it is the condition of 
the new covenant. And lastly, others will have it to justify us as 
an instrument apprehending, or receiving the righteousness of 
Christ; with which opinion I must close. When I consider my text 
calls it a receiving of Christ. Most certain it is, 
    That, First, It does not justify in the popish sense, upon the 
account of its own proper worth and dignity; for then, 
    First, Justification should be of debt, not of grace; contrary 
to Rom. 3: 23, 24. 
    Secondly, This would frustrate the very scope and end of the 
death of Christ; for if righteousness come by the law, i.e. by the 
way of works and desert, then is Christ dead in vain, Gal. 2: 21. 
    Thirdly, Then the way of our justification by faith would be so 
far from excluding, that it would establish boasting, expressly 
contrary to the apostle, Rom. 3: 26,27. 
    Fourthly, Then there should be no defects or imperfections in 
faith, for a defective or imperfect thing can never be the matter of 
our justification before God: if it justify upon the account of its 
own worth and proper dignity, it can have no flaw or imperfection in 
it, contrary to the common sense of all believers. Nay, 
    Fifthly, Then it is the same thing to be justified by faith, 
and to be justified by works, which the apostle so carefully 
distinguisheth and opposeth, Phil. 3: 9. and Rom. 4: 6. So that we 
conclude it does not justify in the Popish sense, for any worth or 
proper excellency that is in itself. 
    Secondly, And it is as evident, it does not justify us in the 
Arminian sense, viz. as the "to credere", the act of believing is 
imputed or accepted by God, as our evangelical righteousness, 
instead of perfect legal righteousness. In the former opinion you 
have the dregs of Popery, and here you have refined Popery. Let all 
Armenians know, we have as high an esteem for faith as any men in 
the world, but yet we will not rob Christ to clothe faith. We cannot 
embrace their opinion, because, 
    First, We must then dethrone Christ to exalt faith: we are 
willing to give it all that is due to it, but we dare not despoil 
Christ of his glory for faith's sake: "He is the Lord our 
righteousness," Jer. 23. We dare not set the servant above the 
master. We acknowledge no righteousness but what the obedience and 
satisfaction of Christ yields us. His blood, not our faith; his 
satisfaction, not our believing it, is the matter of our 
justification be fore God. 
    Secondly, We dare not yield this point, lest we undermine all 
the comfort of Christians, by setting their pardon and peace upon a 
weak imperfect work of their own. Oh how tottering and unstable must 
their station be, that stand upon such a bottom as this! What 
alterations are there in our faith, what mixtures of unbelief at all 
times, and prevalence of unbelief at some times; and is this a 
foundation to build our justification and hope upon? Debile 
fundamentum fallit opus: If we lay the stress here, we build upon 
very loose ground, and must be at a continual loss both as to safety 
and comfort. 
    Thirdly, We dare not wrong the justice and truth of God at that 
rate, as to affirm that he esteems and imputes our poor weak faith 
for perfect legal righteousness. We know that the judgement of God 
is always according to truth; if the justice of God require full 
payment, sure it will not say, it is fully satisfied by any acts of 
ours, when all that we can do amounts not to one mite of the vast 
sum we owe to God. So that we deservedly reject this opinion also. 
    Thirdly, And for the third opinion, That it justifies as the 
condition of the new covenant; though some of great name and worth 
among our Protestant divines seem to go that way, yet I cannot see, 
according to this opinion, any reason why repentance may not as 
properly be said to justify us as faith, for it is a condition of 
the new covenant as much as faith; and if faith justify as a 
condition, then every other grace that is a condition must justify 
as well as faith. I acknowledge faith to be a condition of the 
covenant, but cannot allow that it justifies as a condition. And 
therefore must profess myself best satisfied in the last opinion, 
which speaks it an instrument in our justification: it is the hand 
which receives the righteousness of Christ that justifies us, and 
that gives it its value above all other graces; as when we say a 
diamond ring is worth one hundred pounds, we mean not the gold that 
receives, but the stone that is set in it, is worth so much. Faith, 
considered as an habit, is no more precious than other gracious 
habits are, but considered as an instrument to receive Christ and 
his righteousness, so it excels them all; and this instrumentality 
of faith is noted in these phrases, "epi tei pisei", Rom. 3: 28. and 
"dia tes pisteos", Rom. 3: 22. By faith, and through faith. And thus 
much of the nature and excellency of saving faith. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 8...)

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