(Guthrie, The Christian's Great Interest. part 3)

   4. When a man is thus in hazard of miscarrying, the Lord uses a work 
of preventing mercy towards him, quietly and underhand supporting him; 
and this is by infusing into his mind the possibility of his salvation, 
leading him to the remembrance of numerous proofs of God's free and rich 
grace, in pardoning gross transgressors, such as Manasseh, who was a 
bloody idolatrous man, and had correspondence with the devil, and yet 
obtained mercy (2 Chron. 33: 11, 13); and other scriptures bearing offers 
of grace and favour indifferently to all who will yield to Christ, 
whatsoever they have been formerly; so that the man is brought again to 
this,--'What shall I do to be saved' which supposes that he apprehends a 
possibility of being saved, else he would not propound the question. He 
applies that or the like word to himself, 'It may be ye shall be hid in 
the day of the Lord's anger.' (Zeph. 2: 3.) He finds nothing excluding 
him from mercy now, if he have a heart for the thing. The man does not, 
it may be, here perceive that it is the Lord who upholdeth him, yet 
afterwards he can say that, 'when his foot was slipping, God's mercy held 
him up,' as the Psalmist speaks in another case. (Psa. 94: 17, 18.) And 
he will afterwards say, when he 'was as a beast, and a fool, in many 
respects, God held him by the hand.' (Psa. 73: 22, 23.) 
   5. After this discovery of a possibility to be saved, there is a work 
of desire quickened in the soul; which is clear from that same 
expression, 'What shall I do to be saved?' But sometimes this desire is 
expressed amiss, whilst it goes out thus, 'What shall I do that I may 
work the works of God?' (John 6: 28.) In this case the man, formerly 
perplexed with fear and care about his salvation, would be at some work 
of his own to extricate himself; and here he suddenly resolves to do all 
is commanded, and to forego every evil way (yet much misunderstanding 
Christ Jesus), and so begins to take some courage to himself, 'going 
about to establish his own righteousness, but not submitting unto the 
righteousness of God.' (Rom. 10: 3.) Whereupon the Lord makes a new 
assault upon him, intending the discovery of his absolutely fallen state 
in himself, that so room may be made for the Surety: as Joshua did to the 
people, when he found them so bold in their undertakings: 'Ye cannot 
serve the Lord,' saith he, 'for He is a holy God, a jealous God.' (Josh. 
24) In this new assault the Lord--1. Shows the man the spirituality of 
the law; the commandment cometh with a new charge in the spiritual 
meaning of it. (Rom. 7: 9.) The law came, saith Paul, that is, in the 
spiritual meaning of it. Paul had never entertained such a view of the 
law before. 2. God most holily looseth the restraining bonds which he had 
laid upon the man's corruption, and suffereth it not only to boil and 
swell within, but to threaten to break out in all the outward members. 
Thus sin grows bold, and spurns at the law, becoming exceedingly sinful. 
'But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of 
concupiscence. For without the law, sin was dead. For I was alive without 
the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. Was 
then that which is good made death into me? God forbid. But sin, that it 
might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by 
the commandment might become exceeding sinful.' (Rom. 7:8-13) 3. The Lord 
discovers to the man, more than ever, the uncleanness of his 
righteousness, and the spots of his best things. These things kill the 
man, and he dies in his own conceit (Rom.7:0), and despairs of relief in 
himself, if it come not from another source. 
   6. After many ups and downs, here ordinarily the man resolves on 
retirement; he desires to like those in a besieged city, who, when they 
see they cannot hold out, and would be glad of any good condition from 
the besieging enemy, go to a council, that they may resolve on something; 
so the man here retires that he may speak with himself. This is like that 
'communing with our own heart.' (Psa. 4: 4.) Thus God leadeth into the 
wilderness, that He may speak to the heart. (Hos. 2: 14.) When the person 
is retired, the thoughts of his heart, which were scattered in former 
steps of the exercise, do more observably throng in here. We shall reduce 
them to this method:--1. The man thinks of his unhappy folly in bearing 
arms against God; and here he dwells at large on his former ways, with a 
blushing countenance and self-loathing: 'Then shall ye remember your own 
evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe 
yourselves in your own sight' (Ezek. 36: 31); like that of Psalm 51: 3, 
'His sin is ever before him.' 2. Then he remembers how many fair 
opportunities of yielding to God he has basely lost; his spirit is like 
to faint when he remembereth that, as is said in another case 'When I 
remember these things, I pour out my soul in me. O my God, my soul is 
cast down within me. Deep calleth unto deep, all thy waves are gone over 
me.' (Psa. 42: 1-7.) 3. He now thinks of many Christians whom he mocked 
and despised in his heart, persuading himself now that they are happy, as 
having chosen the better part; he thinks of the condition of those who 
wait on Christ, as the queen of Sheba did of Solomon's servants: 'Happy 
are thy servants,' saith she, 'who stand continually before thee, and 
that hear thy wisdom.' (1 Kings 10: 8.) 'Blessed are they that dwell in 
Thy house.' (Psa. 94: 4.) He wishes to be one of the meanest who have any 
relation to God; as the prodigal son speaks, he would be as 'one of his 
father's hired servants.' (Luke 15: 7, 19.) 4. Then he calls to mind the 
good report that is going abroad of God, according to that testimony of 
the prophet, who knew that God was a 'gracious God, and merciful, slow to 
anger, and of great kindness. (Jonah 4: 2.) The free and large promises 
and offers of grace come in here; and the gracious dealings of God with 
sinners of all sorts, as recorded in Scripture. 5. He thinks with 
himself, 'Why has God spared me so longs and why have I got such a sight 
of my sin? And why has He kept me from breaking prison at my own hand? 
Why has He made this strange change in me? It may be it is in His heart 
to do me good; O that it may be so!' Although all these thoughts be not 
in the preparatory work of every one, yet they are with many, and very 
promising where they are. 
   7. Upon all these thoughts and meditations the man, more seriously 
than ever before, resolveth to pray, and to make some attempt with God, 
upon life and death; he concludes, 'It can be no worse with him; for if 
he sit still he perisheth;' as the lepers speak. (2 Kings 7: 3, 4.) He 
considers, with the perishing prodigal son, 'that there is bread enough 
in his father's house and to spare, whilst he perisheth for want;' so he 
goes to God, for he knows not what else to make of his condition, as the 
prodigal son does. And it may be, here he resolves what to speak; but 
things soon vary when he is present before God, as the prodigal son 
forgot some of his premeditated prayers. 'I will arise, and go to my 
Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and 
before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one 
of thy hired servants. And he arose and came unto his father, and said 
unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am 
no more worthy to be called thy son.' (Luke 15: 17-21.) 
   And now, when he comets before God, more observable than ever before-- 
1. He beginneth, with the publican, afar of, with many thorough 
confessions and self-condemnings, in which he is very liberal, as (Luke 
15: 21)--'I have sinned against Heaven and before thee, and am no more 
worthy,' etc. 2. Now his thoughts are occupied as to the hearing of his 
prayers, which he was not wont to question much: he now knows what those 
expressions of the saints concerning the hearing of their prayers do 
import. 3. It is observable in this address, that there are many broken 
sentences, like that of Psa. 6: 3--'But Thou, O Lord, how long?' supplied 
with sighs and 'groanings which cannot be uttered,' and anxiously looking 
upward, thereby speaking more than can be well expressed by words. 4. 
There are ordinarily some interruptions, and, as it were, diversions; the 
man speaking sometimes to the enemy, sometimes to his own heart, 
sometimes to the multitudes in the world, as David does in other cases'-- 
O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end.' (Psa. 9: 6.) 
'Why art thou cast down, O my souls and why art thou disquieted in me? 
Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the help of my 
countenance.' (Psa. 42: 6.) 'O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my 
glory into shame?' (Psa. 4: 2.) 5. It is observable here that sometimes 
the man will halt, and be silent, to hear some indistinct whisperings of 
a joyful sound glancing on the mind, or some news in some broken word of 
Scripture, which, it may be, the man scarcely knoweth to be Scripture, or 
whether it is come from God, or whether an insinuation from Satan to 
delude him; yet this he has resolved, only to 'hear what God the Lord 
will speak,' as upon another occasion. (Psa. 85: 8.) 6. More distinct 
promises come into the man's mind, on which he attempts to lay hold, but 
is beaten off with objections, as in another case the Psalmist is--'But 
thou art holy--But I am a worm.' (Psa. 22 3, 6.) Now it is about the 
dawning of the day with the man, and faith will stir as soon as the Lord 
imparteth 'the joyful sound.' (Psa. 84: 15.) This is the substance of the 
covenant, which may be shortly summed up in these words, 'Christ Jesus is 
my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.' (Matt. 17: 5.) 
   We can speak no further of the man's exercise as a preparatory work; 
for what followeth is more than preparatory; yet that the exercise may 
appear complete and full, we shall add here, that after all these things, 
the Lord, it may be, after many answers of divers sorts, mightily 
conveyeth the knowledge of His covenant into the heart, and determines 
the heart to close with it; and God now draweth his soul so to Christ 
(John 6: 44), and so layeth out the heart for Him, that the work cannot 
miscarry; for now the heart is so enlarged for Him, as that less cannot 
satisfy, and more is not desired; like that of Psa. 73: 25--'Whom have I 
in heaven but Thee? Or whom have I desired on earth beside Thee?' The 
soul now resolves to die if He shall so command, yet at His door, and 
looking towards Him. 
   We have stated this preparatory work at some length, not tying any man 
to such particular circumstances: only we say, the Lord dealeth so with 
some; and where He so convinceth of sin, corruption, and self-emptiness, 
and makes a man take salvation to beset as the one thing necessary, and 
sets him to work in the use of the means which God has appointed for 
relief; I say, such a work rarely shall be found to fail of a good issue 
and gracious result. 
V.--Objections and difficulties considered 
(1) Object. Hypocrites and reprobates have great stirrings of conscience, 
and deep convictions about sin, setting them to work sometimes; and I do 
suspect any preparatory work of the law I ever had, to be but such as 
they have. 
   Ans. It will be hard to give sure essential differences between the 
preparatory work in those in whom afterwards Christ is formed, and those 
legal stirrings which are sometimes in reprobates. If there were not some 
gracious result of these convictions and awakenings of conscience in the 
Lord's people, and other marks, of which we shall speak afterwards, it 
were hard to adventure upon any difference that is clear in these legal 
stirrings. Yet, for answer to the objection, I shall offer some things, 
which rarely will be found in the stirrings of reprobates, and which are 
ordinarily found in that law-work which has a gracious issue. 
   1. The convictions of hypocrites and reprobates are usually confined 
to some few very gross transgressions. Saul grants no more but the 
persecuting of David. (1 Sam. 26: 21.) Judas grants only the betraying of 
innocent blood (Matt. 7: 4); but usually those convictions by which the 
Lord prepareth His own way in the soul, although they may begin at one or 
more gross particular transgression, yet they stop not; but man is led on 
to see many breaches of the law, and 'innumerable evils compassing Him' 
(Psa. 40: 12), as David speaketh in the sight of his sin. And withal, 
that universal conviction, if I may call it so, is not general, as 
usually we hear senseless men saying, 'that in all things they sin;' but 
it is particular and condescending, as Paul afterwards spoke of himself: 
He not only is the chief of sinners, but particularly, he was a 
blasphemer, a persecutor. (1 Tim. 1: 13.) 
   2. The convictions which hypocrites have, do seldom reach their 
corruption, and that body of death which works an aversion to what is 
good, and strongly inclines to what is evil. Ordinarily where we find 
hypocrites speaking of themselves in Scripture, they speak loftily, and 
with some self-conceit, as to their freedom from corruption. The 
Pharisees say to the poor man, 'Thou west altogether born in sin, and 
dost thou teach us?' (John 9: 34); as if they themselves were not as 
corrupt by nature as he. They speak of great sins, as Hazael did--'Am I a 
dog, that I should do this great thing?' (2 Kings 8: 13); and also in 
their undertakings of duty, as that scribe spoke, 'Master, I will follow 
Thee whithersoever Thou goest.' (Matt. 8: 19.) See how the people speak: 
'Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness 
between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the 
Lord thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be 
evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; 
that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.' 
(Jer. 42: 5, 6.) They undertake to do all that God will command them: so 
that they still 'go about,' in any case, 'to establish their own 
righteousness, not submitting unto the righteousness of God.' (Rom. 10: 
3.) But I may say, that convictions and exercise about corruption, and 
that body of death, inclining them to evil, and disabling for good, is 
not the least part of the work where the Lord is preparing His own way. 
They judge themselves very wretched because of the body of sin, and are 
at their wits' end how to be delivered as Paul speaks when he is under 
the exercise of it afterwards--'O wretched man that I am, who shall 
deliver me from the body of this death.' (Rom. 7: 24.) 
   3. It will generally be found, that the convictions which are in 
hypocrites either are not so serious, as that some other business will 
not put them out of mind before any satisfaction is gotten; as in Cain, 
who went and built a city, and we hear no more of his conviction (Gen. 
4); Felix went away until a more convenient time, and we hear no more of 
his trembling (Acts 14: 25); or, if that work becomes very serious, then 
it runneth to the other extremity, even despair of relief, leaving no 
room for escape. So we find Judas very serious in his convictions, yet he 
grew desperate, and hanged himself. (Matt. 27: 4, 5.) But where the Lord 
prepares His own way, the work is both so serious, that the person cannot 
be put off it, until he find some satisfaction, and yet under that very 
seriousness he lies open for relief; both which are clear from the 
jailer's words, 'What must I do to be saved' (Acts 16: 30.) This serious 
inquiry after relief is a very observable thing in the preparatory work 
which leadeth on to Christ. Yet we desire none to lay too much weight on 
these things, since God has allowed clear differences between the 
precious and the vile. 
   (2) Object. I still fear I have not had so thorough a sight of my sin 
and misery as the Lord giveth to many whom He effectually calleth, 
especially to great transgressors such as I am. 
   Ans. It is true, the Lord discovereth to some clear views of their sin 
and misery, and they are thereby put under great legal terrors; but as 
all are not brought in by that sensible preparatory work of the law, as 
we showed before, so even those who are dealt with after that way are 
very differently and variously exercised in regard of the degrees of 
terror, and of the continuance of that work. The jailer had a violent 
work of very short continuance; Paul had a work continuing three days; 
some persons are 'in bondage through fear of death all their lives.' 
(Heb. 2: 15.) So that we must not limit the Lord to one way of working 
here. The main thing we are to look unto in these legal awakenings and 
convictions of sin and misery is, if the Lord reach those ends in us for 
which usually these stirrings and convictions are sent into the soul; and 
if those ends be reached, it is well; we are not to vex ourselves about 
any preparatory work further. Now, those ends which God seeks to 
accomplish with sinners by these legal terrors and awakenings of 
conscience are four. 
   First, The Lord discovers a sight of men's sin and misery to them, to 
chase them out of themselves, and to put them out of conceit of their own 
righteousness. Men naturally have high thoughts of themselves, and 
incline much to the covenant of works; the Lord therefore discovers to 
them so much of their sin and corruption, even in their best things, that 
they are made to loathe themselves, and despair of relief in themselves; 
and so they are forced to flee out of themselves, and from the covenant 
of works, to seek refuge elsewhere. (Heb. 6: 18.) 'They become dead to 
themselves, and the law,' as to the point of justification. (Rom. 7: 4.) 
Then 'have they no more confidence in the flesh' (Phil. 3: 3.) This is 
supposed in the offers of Christ 'coming to seek and save that which is 
lost' (Luke 19: 10); and 'to be a physician to those who are sick.' 
(Matt. 9: 12.) 
   The second great end is, to commend Christ Jesus to men's hearts above 
all things, that so they may fall in love with Him, and betake themselves 
to that treasure and jewel which only enricheth (Matt. 13: 14); and by so 
doing may serve the Lord's design in the contrivance of the gospel, which 
was the manifestation of His free grace through Christ Jesus in the 
salvation of men. The sight of a man's own misery and lost estate by 
nature is a ready way to make him prize Christ highly, who alone can set 
such a wretch at liberty; yea, it not only leadeth a man to a high esteem 
of Christ, but also of all things that relate to that way of salvation, 
as grace, the new covenant, faith, etc., and maketh him carefully gather 
and treasure up his Michtams, or golden scriptures, for the confirmation 
of his interest in these things. 
   The third great end is, to deter and frighten people from sin, and 
make them quarrel with it, and consent to put their neck under Christ's 
yoke. God kindles some sparks of hell in men's bosoms by the discovery of 
their sin, as a ready means to make them henceforth stand in awe, knowing 
'how bitter a thing it is to depart from the Lord.' (Jer. 2: 19.) So we 
find rest offered to the weary, upon condition they will take Christ's 
yoke: 'Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in 
heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' (Matt. 11: 29.) And God 
offereth to own men as their God and Father, upon condition they will 
allow no peaceable abode to Belial: 'What fellowship has righteousness 
with unrighteousness and what communion has light with darkness and what 
concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believeth with 
an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith 
the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and 
will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith 
the Lord almighty.' (2 Cor. 6: 14-18.) 
   The fourth great end is, to work in men a patient and thankful 
submission to all the Master's pleasure. This is a singular piece of 
work: 'Then shalt thou remember, and be confounded, and never open thy 
mouth anymore, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee, for 
all that thou hast done, saith the Lord.' (Ezek. 16: 63.) The sight of a 
man's own vileness and deserving makes him silent, and constrains him to 
lay his hand on his mouth, whatsoever God does unto him: 'I was dumb and 
opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.' (Psa. 39: 9.) 'God has 
punished us less than our iniquities.' (Ezra 9: 13.) 'I will bear the 
indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned.' (Mic. 7: 9.) The man 
carets not what God does to him, or how He deal with him, if only He save 
him from the deserved wrath to come: also any mercy is great mercy to him 
who has seen such a sight of himself; 'he is less than the least of 
mercies.' (Gen. 32: 10.) 'Any crumb falling from the Master's table' is 
welcome. (Matt. 15: 27.) He thinks it 'rich mercy that he is not 
consumed.' (Lam. 3: 22.) This is the thing that marvelously maketh God's 
poor afflicted people so silent under and satisfied with their lot; nay, 
they think he deserveth hell who openeth his mouth at anything God does 
to him, since he has pardoned his transgressions. 
   So then, for satisfying the objection, I say, if the Lord have driven 
thee out of thyself, and commended Christ to thy heart above all things, 
and made thee resolve, in His strength, to wage war with every known 
transgression, and thou art in some measure as a weaned child, 
acquiescing in what He does unto thee, desiring to lay thy hand on thy 
mouth thankfully; then thy convictions of sin and misery, and whatsoever 
thou dost plead as a preparatory work, is sufficient, and thou art to 
debate no more concerning it. Only be advised so to study new discoveries 
of the sense of thy lost condition every day, because of thy old and new 
sins; and also to seek fresh help in Christ, who is a priest forever to 
male intercession; and to have the work of sanctification and patience 
with thankfulness renewed and quickened often: for somewhat of that work, 
which abaseth thee, exalteth Christ, and renders thee conformed to His 
will, must accompany thee throughout all thy lifetime in this world. 
Chapter III.--Evidences of a Believing State 
We come now to speak of some more clear and sure marks by which men may 
discover their gracious state and interest in Christ. The first thing 
whereby men may know it is, their closing with Christ in the gospel 
wherein He is held forth. This is believing, or faith, which is the 
condition of the covenant: 'It is of faith, that it might be by grace.' 
(Rom. 4: 19.) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' 
(Acts 26: 31.) Now, although, in propriety of speech, it is hard to prove 
an interest by faith, it being one very interest in Him; yet the heart's 
closing with Christ Jesus is so discernible in itself, that we may well 
place it amongst the marks of a gracious state: and if a man can make out 
this, that he believeth on and in Christ Jesus, he thereby proves a very 
true interest in Him. 
I.--Mistakes as to what faith is 
Many object to this as a mark, upon one of these three grounds:-- 
   1. Some conceive faith to be a difficult, mysterious thing, hardly 
attainable. To these I say, Do not mistake: faith is not so difficult as 
many apprehend it to be. I grant true faith in the lowest degree is the 
gift of God, and above the power of flesh and blood; for God must draw 
men to Christ. 'No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent 
me draw him.' (John 6: 44.) 'Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ 
to believe on Him.' (Phil. 1: 29.) Yet it were a reflection upon Christ, 
and all He has done, to say it were a matter of insuperable difficulty; 
as is clear: 'The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, 
Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring 
Christ down from above; or, Who shall descend into the deep? that is, to 
bring up Christ again from the dead. But what saith it? The word is nigh 
thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith 
which we preach, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord 
Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the 
dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto 
righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For 
the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.' 
(Rom. 10: 6-11.) It were, according to that Scriptures as much upon the 
matter as to say, Christ came not from heaven, is not risen from the 
dead, nor ascended victorious to heaven. I say, He has made the way to 
heaven most easy; and faith, which is the condition required on our part, 
more easy than men do imagine. For the better understanding of this, 
consider that justifying faith is not to believe that I am elected, or to 
believe that God loveth me, or that Christ died for me, or the like: 
these things are indeed very difficult, and almost impossible to be 
attained at the first by those who are serious; whilst natural atheists 
and deluded hypocrites find no difficulty in asserting all those things: 
I say, true justifying faith is not any of the aforesaid things; neither 
is it simply the believing of any sentence that is written, or that can 
be thought upon. I grant, he that believeth on Christ Jesus, believeth 
what God has said concerning man's sinful, miserable condition by nature; 
and he believeth that to be true, that 'there is life in the Son, who was 
slain, and is risen again from the dead,' etc.: but none of these, nor 
the believing of many such truths, evinces justifying faith, or that 
believing on the Son of God spoken of in Scripture; for then it were 
simply an act of the understanding; but true justifying faith, which we 
now seek after, as a good mark of an interest in Christ, is chiefly and 
principally an act or work of the heart and will; having presupposed 
sundry things about truth in the understanding--'With the heart man 
believeth unto righteousness.' (Rom. 10: 10.) And although it seem (verse 
9), that a man is saved upon condition that he believes this truth, 
namely, that 'God raised Christ from the dead,' yet we must understand 
another thing there, and verse 10, than the believing the truth of that 
proposition; for besides that all devils have that faith, whereby they 
believe that God raised Christ from the dead; so the Scripture has 
clearly resolved justifying faith into a receiving of Christ: 'as many as 
received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to 
them that believe on His name.' (John 1: 12.) The receiving of Christ is 
there explained to be the believing on His name. It is also called a 
staying on the Lord (Isa. 26: 3); a trusting in God, often mentioned in 
the Psalms, and the word is a leaning on Him. It is a believing on 
Christ: 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has 
sent' (John 6: 29), and often so expressed in the New Testament. When God 
maketh men believe savingly, He is said to draw them unto Christ; and 
when the Lord inviteth them to believe, He calleth them to come to Him. 
'All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that comes to 
me, I will in no wise cast out. No man can come to me, except the Father 
which has sent me draw him.' (John 6: 37, 44.) The kingdom of heaven is 
like a man finding a jewel, with which he falleth in love: 'The kingdom 
of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man 
has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof, goes and sells all that he 
has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a 
merchantman seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of 
great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.' (Matt. 13: 
44-46.) Now, I say, this acting of the heart on Christ Jesus is not so 
difficult a thing as is conceived. Shall that be judged a mysterious 
difficult thing which does consist much in desire? If men have but an 
appetite, they have it; for they are 'blessed that hunger after 
righteousness.' (Matt. 5: 6.) 'If you will,' you are welcome. (Rev. 22: 
17.) Is it a matter of such intricacy and insuperable difficulty, 
earnestly to look to that exalted Saviour: 'Look unto me and be ye saved, 
all the ends of the earth.' (Isa. 45: 22.) And to receive a thing that is 
offered, held forth, and declared to be mine, if I will but accept and 
take it, and in a manner 'open my mouth,' and give way to it? 'Open thy 
mouth wide and I will fill it.' (Psa. 81: 10.) Such a thing is faith, if 
not less. Oh, if I could persuade people what justifying faith is, which 
appropriateth Christ to me! We often drive people from their just rest 
and quiet, by making them apprehend faith to be some deep, mysterious 
thing, and by exciting unnecessary doubts about it, whereby it is 
needlessly darkened. 
   2. Some make no use of this mark, as judging it a high presumptuous 
crime to pretend to so excellent a thing as is the very condition of the 
new covenant. To these I say, you need not startle so much at it, as if 
it were high pride to pretend to it; for whatsoever true faith be, men 
must resolve to have it, or nothing at all: all other marks are in vain 
without it: a thousand things besides will not do the business: unless a 
man believe, he abideth in the state of condemnation. 'He that believeth 
not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the 
only begotten Son of God. He that believeth not the Son shall not see 
life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.' (John 3: 18, 36.) 
   3. Others do not meddle with this noble mark of faith, because they 
judge it a work of the greatest difficulty to find out where faith is. To 
these I say, it is not so difficult to find it out, since 'he that 
believeth, has the witness in himself.' (1 John 5: 10.) It is a thing 
which by some serious search may be known. Not only may we do much to 
find it out by the preparatory work going before it in many, as the 
apprehending and believing of a man's lost estate, and that he cannot 
work out his own salvation, and that there is a satisfying fulness in 
Christ, very desirable if he could obtain it;--a serious minding of this, 
with a heart laid open for relief; as also by the ordinary companions and 
concomitants of it, namely, the liking of Christ's dominion, His kingly 
and prophetical office, a desire to resign myself wholly up to Him, to be 
as His disposing; as also by the native consequences of it, namely, the 
acquitting of the word, the acquitting of my own conscience according to 
the word, a heart purifying work, a working by love, etc.; I say, not 
only may we know faith by these things, but it is discernible by itself 
and of its own nature. Although I deny not but there must be some help of 
God's Spirit, 'by which we know what is freely given unto us of God' (1 
Cor. 2: 12); as also, that God has allowed many evidences and marks as 
precious helps, whereby men may clear up faith more fully to themselves-- 
'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son 
of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life; (1 John 5: 13); yet I 
still say that faith, or believing, which is some acting of the heart 
upon Christ in the gospel, and the transacting with Him there, is 
discernible of itself, and by itself, to a judicious understanding 
person, with an ordinary influence of the Spirit: unless the Lord, for 
reasons known to Himself, overcloud a man's reflex light, by which he 
should perceive what is in him. 
II.--True saving faith described 
This justifying faith, which we assert to be so discernible, is, in the 
Lord's deep wisdom and gracious condescension, variously expressed in 
Scripture, according to the different actings of it upon God, and 
outgoings after Him; so that every one who has it may find and take it up 
in his own mould. It sometimes acts by a desire of union with Him in 
Christ; this is that looking to Him in Isaiah--'Look unto Me and be ye 
saved, all the ends of the earth.' (Isa. 45: 22.) This seems to be a weak 
act of faith, and far below other acting of it at other times perhaps in 
that same person. Men will look to what they dare not approach (in their 
apprehension), which they dare not touch or embrace; they may look to one 
to whom they dare not speak: yet God has made the promise to faith in 
that acting, as the fore-cited Scripture shows: and this He has done 
mercifully and wisely; for this is the only discernible way of the acting 
of faith in some. Such are the actings or outgoings of faith expressed in 
Scripture by 'hungering and thirsting after righteousness' (Matt. 5: 6), 
and that expressed by willing--'And whosoever will, let him take the 
water of life freely.' (Rev. 22: 17.) 
   Again, this faith goes out sometimes in the act of recumbency, or 
leaning on the Lord, the soul taking up Christ then as a resting stone, 
and God has so held him out, although he be a stumbling-stone to others. 
(Rom. 9: 33.) This acting of it is hinted in the expressions of trusting 
and staying on God, so often mentioned in Scripture; and precious 
promises are made to this acting of faith--'God will keep them in perfect 
peace whose minds are stayed on Him; because such do trust in Him. Trust 
in the Lord: for with Him is everlasting strength.' (Isa. 26: 3, 4.) 
'They that trust in the lord shall be as Mount Zion, which abideth for 
ever.' (Psa. 125: 1.) I say, the Lord has made promises to this way of 
faith's acting, as knowing it will often go out after Him in this way 
with many persons; and this way of its acting will be most discernible to 
   It goes out after God sometimes by an act of waiting. When the soul 
has somewhat depending before God, and has not clearly discovered his 
mind concerning it, then faith does wait; and so it has the promise-- 
'They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.' (Isa. 49: 23.) Sometimes it 
acteth in a wilful way upon the Lord, when the soul apprehendeth God 
thrusting it away, and threatening its ruin --'Though He slay me, yet 
will I trust in Him.' (Job 13: 15.) The faith of that poor woman of 
Canaan (Matt. 15.), so highly commended by Christ, went out in this way 
of wilful acting over difficulties: and the Lord speaketh much good of 
it, and to it, because some will be at times called upon to exercise 
faith in that way, and so they have that for their encouragement. It were 
tedious to instance all the several ways of the acting of faith upon, and 
its exercise about, and outgoings after Christ,--I may say, according to 
the various conditions of man. And accordingly faith, which God has 
appointed to traffic and travel between Christ and man, as the instrument 
of conveyance of His fulness unto man, and of maintaining union and 
communion with Him, acteth variously and differently upon God in Christ: 
for faith is the very shaping out of a man's heart according to God's 
device of salvation by Christ Jesus, in whom it pleased the Father that 
all fulness should dwell' (Col. 1: 16); so that, let Christ turn what way 
He will, faith turneth and pointeth that way. Now He turns all ways in 
which He can be useful to poor man; and therefore faith acts accordingly 
on Him for drawing out of that fulness, according to a man's case and 
condition. As for example, The soul is naked, destitute of a covering to 
keep it from the storm of God's wrath; Christ is fine raiment (Rev. 3: 
17, 18); then accordingly faith's work here is to 'put on the Lord 
Jesus.' (Rom. 13: 14.) The soul is hungry and thirsty after somewhat that 
may everlastingly satisfy; Christ Jesus is 'milk, wine, water, the bread 
of life, and the true manna.' (Isa. 40: 1, 2; John 6: 48, 51.) He is 'the 
feast of fat things, and of wines on the lees well refined' (Isa. 25: 6): 
then the work and exercise of faith is to 'go, buy, eat, and drink 
abundantly.' (John 6: 53, 57; Isa. 40: 1.) The soul is pursued for guilt 
more or less, and is not able to withstand the charge: Christ Jesus is 
the city of refuge, and the high-priest there, during whose priesthood, 
that is, forever, the poor man who escapes thither is safe; then the work 
and exercise of faith is 'to flee thither for refuge, to lay hold on the 
hope set before us.' (Heb. 6: 18.) In a word, whatsoever way He may 
benefit poor man, He declares Himself able to do. And as He holdeth out 
Himself in the Scriptures, so faith does point towards Him. If He be a 
Bridegroom, faith will go out in a marriage relation; if He be a Father, 
faith pleadeth the man to be a child; if He be a Shepherd, faith pleads 
the man may be one of His sheep; if He be a Lord, faith calleth Him so, 
which none can do but by the Spirit of Jesus; if He be dead, and risen 
again for our justification, faith 'believeth God has raised Him' on that 
account. (Rom. 10: 9.) Wheresoever He be, there would faith be; and 
whatsoever He is, faith would be somewhat like Him; for by faith the 

(continued in part 4...)

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