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in himself which he required, John xiv. 1. “ Ye believe in God, believe also in me." Besides, where these two, repentance and faith, are elsewhere joined together, as they are frequently, it is an especial sort of faith in God that is intended. See Luke xxiv. 46, 47. Acts xix. 4. xx. 21.
It is therefore faith in God as accomplishing the promise unto Abraham, in sending Jesus Christ, and granting pardon or remission of sins by him, that is intended. The whole is expressed by, “ Repent and believe the gospel,” Mark i. 15. ; that is, the tidings of the accomplishment of the promise made to the fathers, for the deliverance of us from all our sins by Jesus Christ. This is that which was pressed on the Hebrews by Peter in his first sermon unto them, Acts ii. 30-39. iii. 25, 26. Hence these two principles are expressed, by “ Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts xx. 21. As repentance is here described by the terminus a quo; it is repentance from dead works : so there it is described by its terminus cd quem ; it is repentance towards God, in our turning unto him. For those who live in their lusts and sins, do it not only against the command of God, but also they place them, as to their affections and expectation of satisfaction, in the stead of God. And this faith in God is there called by way of explication, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, as he in whose giving and sending the truth of God was fulfilled, and by whom we « believe in God,” i Pet. i. 21. This therefore is the faith in God here intended ; namely, that whereby we believe the accomplishment of his promise, in sending his Son Jesus Christ to die for us, and to save us from our sins. And this the Lord Christ testified unto in his own personal ministry. Hence our apostle says, that “he was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers," Rom. xv. 8. And this he testified unto them, John viii. 24. “ I said therefore unto you, that you shall die in your sins ; for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins ;” and that because they rejected the promise of God made unto the fathers concerning him, which was the only foundation of salvation. And this was the first thing that ordinarily our apostle preached in his dispensation of the gospel, 1 Cor. xv. 3. “ For I delivered unto you first of all, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." He taught the thing itself, and the relation it had unto the promise of God recorded in the Scripture. That this is the faith in God here intended, 'I prove by these reasons : 1. Be. cause this indeed was that faith in particular which in the first preaching of the gospel unto these Hebrews they were taught and instructed in. And therefore with respect unto it our apostle says, that he would not lay again the foundation. The first calling of the church among them was by the sermons of Peter and
the rest of the apostles, Acts ii. 3.-5. Now consult those sermons, and you shall find the principal thing insisted on in them, was the accomplishment of the promises made to Abraham and David, which they exhorted them to believe. This therefore was that faith in God which was first taught them, and which our apostle hath respect unio. 2. Because it was the want of this faith which proved the ruin of that church. As in the wil. derness, the unbelief for which they perished, respected the faithfulness of God in the accomplishment of his promise with respect to the land of Canaan ; so the unbelief which the body of the people now perished for, dying in their sins and for them, respecte ed the accomplishment of the great promise of sending Jesus Christ, which things the apostle compares at large chap. iii. This then was that which he hereof reminds the Hebrews, as the principal foundation of that profession of the gospel which they had taken on them. And we may observe, that,
Obs. II. Faith in God, as to the accomplishing of the great promise in sending his Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, is the great fundamental principle of our interest in and profession of the gospel. Faith in God under this formal consideration, not only that he hath sent and given Jesus Christ his Son, but that he did it in the accomplishment of his promise, is required of us. For whereas he hath chosen to glorify all the properties of his nature, in the person and mediation of Christ, he doth not only declare his grace in giving him, but also his truth in sending bim according unto his word. And this was that which holy persons of old did glorify God in an especial manner upon the account of, Luke i. 54, 55, 68–75. And there is nothing in the gospel that God himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the holy apostles do more insist upon than this, that God had fulfilled his promise in sending bis Son into the world. On this one thing depends all religion, the truth of the Bible, and all our salvation. If it be not evident that God hath accomplished his promise, the whole Bible may pass for a fable ; for it is all built on this supposition, that God gave this promise and hath accomplished it; the first being the foundation of the Old Testament, and the latter of the New.. And there are sundry things that signalize our faith in God with respect hereunto. As,
1. This promise of sending Jesus Christ, was the first express engagement that God ever made, of his faithfulness and veracity unto any creatures. He is essentially faithful and true ; but he had not engaged himself to act according unto those properties in his dealing with us in a way of love and grace, calling for trust and confidence in us, before he gave the promise concerning Christ, Gen. iii. 15. This therefore was the spring and measure of all other subsequent promises. They are all of them but new assurances thereof, and according as it fares with that, so it must
do with all the rest. God gave out this promise, as that whereon he would rest the honour and glory of his fidelity, in all other promises that he should make, As we find him true or failing herein, so he expects our faith and trust in all his other promises should be. Hence this was the first and immediate object of faith in man after the fall.
The first thing proposed unto him, was to believe in God, with respect unto his faithfulness in the future accomplishment of this promise ; and faith concerning its actual accomplishment, is the first thing required of us.
Besides this promise hung longest on the file before its accomplishment. There was not less than four thousand years between its giving and its performance. And many things happened during that season, whereby both the promise, and faith on God thereon, were greatly signalized. For, 1. More and greater objections against the truth of it, more temptations against it were raised and managed, than against all other promises whatever.
This long suspension of its fulfilling, gave such advantages to Satan in his opposition unto it, that be prevailed against every expectation, but that of faith tried and more precious than gold. And the saints themselves had a great exercise in the disappointments which many of them fell into, as to the time of its accomplishment. It is not unlikely that most of them looked for it in their own days; great therefore were the trials of all sorts about it. 2. It was all that the true church of God had to live on during that long season, the sole foundation of its faith, obedience and consolation. It is true, in progress of tiine God added other promises, precepts and institutions, for the direction and instruction of the church, but they were all built on this one promise, and all resolved into it. This gave life and signification to them; therewith were they to stand and fall. 3. This vas that the world broke off from God on, and by rejecting it, fell into all confusion and misery. The promise being given to Adam was indefinitely given to mankind. And it was suited to the reparation of their lost condition, yea their investiture into a better state.' And this increased the wrath and malice of Satan. He saw that if they applied themselves to the faith hereof, his former success against them was utterly frustrated. Wherefore le again attempts to turn them off from the relief provided against the misery he had cast them into. And as to the generality of mankind he prevailed in his attempt. By a relinquishment of this promise, not believing of it, not retaining it in their ininds, they fell into a second apostasy from God. And what disorder, darkness, confusiou, yea what a hell of horror and misery they cast theniselves into, is known. And this consideration grcatly signalizes faith in God, with respect to this promise. 4. The wliole church of the Jews, rejecting the accomplishment of this promise, utterly perished thereon. This was the sin for which that church died, and indeed this is the foundation of the ruin of all unbelievers, who perish under the dispensation of the gospel.
It will be said, it may be, that this promise being now actually accomplished, and that taken for granted, we have not the like concern in it, as they had who lived before the said accomplish. ment. But there is a mistake herein. No man believes aright that the Son of God is come in the flesh, but he who believes that he came in the accomplishment of the promise of God, to the glory of his truth and faithfulness. And it is from hence that we know aright both the occasion, original cause, and end of bis coming: which whoso considereth not, his pretended faith is in vain.
2. This is the greatest promise that God ever gave to the children of men, and therefore faith in him with respect hereunto, is both necessary to us, and greatly tends to his glory. Indeed all the concernments of God's glory in the church, and our eternal welfare are wrapped up herein. But Imust not enlarge hereon.
Obs. III. Only we must add, that the consideration of the accomplishment of this promise is a great encouragement and support to faith, with respect to all other promises of God. - Never was any kept so long in abeyance, the state of the church and design of God requiring it. None ever had such opposition made to its accomplishment. Never was any more likely to be defeated by the unbelief of men; all faith in it being at lengti renounced by Jews and Gentiles, which if any thing, or hal it been suspended on any condition, might have disappointed its event. And shall we think that God will leave any other of his promises unaccomplished ? That he will not in due time engage his omnipotent power and infinite wisdom in the discharge of his truth and faithfulness? Hath he sent his Son after four thousand years expectation, and will he not in due time destroy antichrist, call again the Jews, set up the kingdom of Christ gloriously in the world, and finally save the souls of all that sincerely believe? This great instance of divine fidelity, leaves no room for the objections of unbelief as to any other promises under the same assurance.
Thirdly, The third principle, according to the order and sense of the words laid down before, is, aydOTATEWS TE Ysxgwy, 'the resurrection of the dead.' And this was a fundamental principle of the Judaical church, indeed of all religions properly so called in the world. The twelvę articles of the creed of the present Jews, is, nium Dio', the days of the Messiah, that is, the time will come when God will send the Messiah and restore all things by him. This under the Old Testament respected that faith in God which we before discoursed concerning. But the present Jews, notwithstanding this profession, have no interest herein. For not to believe the accomplishment of a promise when it is fulfilled, as also sufficiently revealed and testiged to, to be fulfilled, is to reject all faith in God concerning that promise. But this they still retain an appearance and profession of. And their thirteenth article is, no 977, the revivification or resurrection from the dead.' And the faith hereof being explained, and confirmed in the gospel, as also sealed by the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, it was ever esteemed as a chief principle of Christianity, and that whose adınittance is indispensably necessary to all religion whatever. And I shall first briefly show how it is a fundamental principle of all religion, and then evidence its especial relation to that taught by Jesus Christ, or declare how it is a fundamental principle of the gospel. And, as to the first, it is evident that without its acknowledgment, all religion whatever would be abolished. For if it be once supposed or granted, that men were made only for a frail mortal life in this world, that they have no other continuance assigned to their being, but what is common to them with the bcasts that perish, there would be no more religion amongst them than there is amongst the beasts themselves. For as they would never be able to solve the difficulties of present temporary dispensations of providence, which will not be reduced to any such known visible rule of righteousness, abstracting from the completement of them hereafter, as of themselves to give a firm apprehension of a divine, holy, righteous power in the government of the universe; so take away all consideration of future rewards and punishments, which are equally asserted in this and the ensuing principle, and the lusts of men would quickly obliterate all those notions of a Deity, as also of good and evil in their practice, which should preserve them from atheism and bestiality. Neither do we ever see any man giving himself up to the unbelief of these things, but that immediately he casts off all considerations of any public or private good, but what is centred in himself, and the satisfaction of his lusts.
But it will be asked, whether the belief of the immortality of the soul, be not sufficient to secure religion, without the addition of this article of the resurrection. Of this indeed some among the ancient heathens had faint apprehensions, without any guess at the resurrection of the body. And some of them also who were most steady in that persuasion, had some thoughts also of such a restoration of all things, as wherein the bodies of men should have their share. But as their thoughts of these things were fluctuating and uncertain, so was all their religion also, and so it must be on this principle. For there can be no reconciliation of the doctrine of future rewards and pu. pishments to be righteously administered, to a supposition of the separate everlasting subsistence of the soul only. That is, eters