Of the Object of Justifying Faith
Though something of the object of Faith was hinted before in Chapter 20 when we were speaking of the nature of faith, yet it will not be amiss to speak a little more of it here, both in reference to what follows; and also, and more particularly, in order to the better understanding of what it is to live by faith.
In order, therefore, to the explaining of this object, we would premit these few things.
1. As was mentioned in the forecited place, there is presupposed unto the right exercise, and actual exerting of faith, accepting the offered Savior and salvation through him, a conviction of sin and misery, in one measure or another, whereby the sinner is brought to a despairing in himself; seeing he can find no remedy or relief for himself, within himself, and to the conclusion that he is an undone man, if there be no other remedy, than what he is able to do for himself. For after all means assayed (and a soul in that case is ready to turn to many hands, to seek relief, and until preventing grace come, will embrace and close with any promising way, however chargeable and troublesome it may be, ere it sweetly comply with the only man-abasing and grace exalting way of salvation, through faith in Christ, revealed in the Gospel) he finds himself disappointed. And further, it is presupposed, as a necessarily requisite hereunto, some knowledge of the grounds of religion; and particularly of the Gospel, of Christ, of his offices, work, &c. all revealed in the Gospel.
2. When we speak here of the object of faith, we mean that faith, by which a soul is united unto Christ, and closes with him, as offered in the Gospel, and improves him to all ends and uses, which their case and necessity, in all time coming, calls for. So that it is one and the same faith, whether it be called uniting faith, saving faith, justifying faith, sanctifying and heart purifying faith, or the like. It is one and the same radical grace, receiving these or the like denominations, from the effects brought about by it, or the several ends and uses it hath, and is appointed for. And the same faith brings all these effects about, in its way, according to the order, method and measure, ordained of God: the same faith,
whereby the believer is married to Christ, and covenants with him, as Head, Husband, Lord and Savior, by the same is he justified, adopted, and brought into a state of peace and reconciliation with God. By the same faith also doth the man get his heart purified, and live the life of sanctification. By the same also he gets strength, reviving, comfort, and support in times of temptation and trial. So that the believer’s life is first and last by faith, the beginning, progress, all the steps of it, and final salvation is by faith; whence it is called saving faith, to distinguish it from that historical faith, which, (though true in its kind yet) is not from the saving grace of God, nor hath it effects accompanying salvation.
3. Though this faith be one and the same, by which the believer lives first and last; and which proves serviceable and useful to him, on all occasions, and to all ends and uses, that his several necessities call for: Yet in reference to these various ends and uses, it acts not after one and the same manner, in order to get strength for duties, that it acts, in order to get sin pardoned: It acts not the same way for subduing the reigning power of sin, that it acts for justification, nor doth it act the same way for comfort and upholding strength in a day of trial, that it acts in order to justification: And yet we need not say, that it acts distinctly and differently, according to every distinct benefit, and blessing, that is had thereby. The different natures of the necessities we stand into, with the different ways of the Lord’s communicating what we stand in need of, according to various relations he stands in, and various offices he has taken on, in reference to his people’s good, may satisfy us herein, and according as these several particular necessities may come under one head, and relief may be conveyed to them, after one and the same manner: All which will be best discerned by the understanding Christian, in his application to Christ, according to his condition and wants, which he would have helped and supplied.
4. Hence, though the principal object of this faith be always one and the same, yet there may be some peculiarities in that object, which faith eyes more in one case, than in another: As we find the saints, in their address to God, in their several straits and necessities, sometimes pitching upon one attribute of God, sometimes upon another; according as thereby faith presented God to the soul in a suitableness to the present case it was in; and so when dispensations seemed to cross the promises, faith eyed God as faithful and unchangeable; when enemies appeared strong, difficulties invincible, and the like, faith took hold on God, as the Almighty, to whom nothing was impossible; and when sin appeared as a discouragement to drive them from their hopes, faith took hold of the mercy of God, &c. So when a poor sinner is under the convictions of sin and threatenings of the law, faith must take up Christ in a suitableness thereto, and eye something in him, that peculiarly suits that case; and when again the believer hath need of light, instruction, strength, comfort, bearing through, and the like, he fixes his eye on something in Christ, that suits that particular
necessity: and so faith acts accordingly. And thus, though the object remains the same, and Christ be always made use of, yet faith may and does act more immediately on Christ, as Prophet, when in one case whereunto this office carries a respect, and at another time more immediately and directly on Christ, as a King, when the present necessity calls for help from Christ as King; and again faith acts on him as a Priest, when only that, which Christ as Priest did, can answer their present necessity. Yet, (which is carefully to be observed, to prevent Mr. Baxter’s challenge) I do not say, nor see I any necessity to say, that these several acts of faith, are as so many several conditions unto receiving of the several favors, taking the term condition in his sense; I do not say, that faith acting one way on Christ is a proper condition of justification, and faith as acting another way on Christ is a proper condition of adoption, and that faith acting a third way on Christ is the proper condition of sanctification, &c. but that, as the effects and benefits, which sinners stand in need of, are ascribed unto several effectuating acts of Christ, and to the several relations and offices he hath taken on, so faith in order to the receiving of these benefits, acts suitably on Christ, and the believer is, taught so to do by the Spirit of the Lord, to his comfort, hope, and encouragement.
5. I presuppose here the formal object of all divine faith, which is the truth and veracity of God; for all divine faith gives credit unto divine revelations upon the credit, truth and veracity of the Revealer. Thus saith the Lord, who is true, and who is truth itself, is the sole formal ground and ratio of this faith.
6. I presuppose here also that comprehensive Material Object of all divine faith, which is the whole will and mind of God, concerning whatsoever is revealed, whether by the Scriptures, or by the light of nature. If the truth and veracity of God be the only formal ground of this faith, then all that this God reveals must be believed and received, as true, when known to be revealed by him. By faith we understand, that the worlds were framed by the word of God, Hebrews 11: 3, and we believe all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets, Acts 24: 14. Yea and in the whole word of God: I do not here determine, what particular truths, revealed in the word, are necessarily to be expressly and explicitly believed, by everyone, that hath a true saving faith, and what not: only this I say, that many particular truths are revealed, whereof a true believer may be ignorant, and yet have a true saving faith, receiving all, which he knows to be revealed by the Lord, and rejecting no truth whatsoever, that he knows to be revealed.
But we are here to speak of that object of faith, which immediately and directly concerns our delivery from our natural state of sin and misery; and our eternal salvation: And this, we judge, to be whole Christ Jesus, as he is held forth and revealed in the Gospel. We say Christ Jesus (1.) wholly, and (2.) as he is held forth and revealed in the Gospel. And both these, for explication’s sake, may be branched out in several particulars.
I say then first, that whole Christ is the object of saving or justifying faith. Hence are we so often commanded to receive him, and to believe in and on Him and on His name: and faith is expressed by coming to him, eating and drinking of Him, receiving of Him, &c. John 1: 12 and 3: 16, 36 and 6: 29, 35, 37, 40, 44, 47, 51, 54, 55, 58 and 7: 38, Acts 10: 41 and 13: 38, 39 and 26: 18, Romans 3: 22, Galatians 2: 16, and many more places. Hence this faith is called the faith of Christ, Galatians 2: 16, and the faith of the Son of God, Galatians 2: 20. So then saving and justifying faith takes whole Christ.
1. Faith takes him and closes with him wholly; as to his natures: faith receives him, as Mediator, God and Man in one person, though it be formally terminated on him, as God John 14: 1, and as the Son of God, Galatians 2: 20. Yet faith receives him, as God manifested in the flesh, I Timothy 3: 16, as the word made flesh, John 1: 14, as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Matthew 16: 16, John 6: 63, as the Immanuel, God with us, Isaiah 7: 15, Matthew 1: 23, Luke 1: 31.
2. Faith takes him wholly, as to his offices; as a Prophet, as a Priest, and as a King: Faith embraces him, as that great prophet, Acts 3: 22, as the Word of God, that came out of the bosom of the Father, to reveal his mind and counsel for our salvation, John 1: 17, 18. Faith receives him also as Priest, offering up himself to God a sacrifice for sins, and making satisfaction to the justice of God, and as interceding with the Father, Ephesians 5: 2, Hebrews 2: 17, 7: 25, 9 and 9: 14, 29. Hence we hear of faith in his blood, Romans 3: 25. And Christ crucified is proposed to faith to receive, and feed upon. And in order to justification and pardon, Faith (as we shall hear) hath a special eye unto the Surety-Righteousness of Christ. Faith also receives him as a King, to subdue their souls unto himself, to make them subjects, to sway his scepter in their souls, to subdue all their spiritual enemies, and to support, rule, guide, and defend them by his Spirit, Isaiah 33: 22, Acts 5: 31, Psalm 110 throughout.
3. Faith receives him wholly, as to the relations he hath taken on, in reference to his people, to wit, as a husband, Ephesians 5: 30 – 32, as a Head, Ephesians 5: 23, 1: 22; Colossians 1: 18, as the Chief corner stone, Ephesians 2: 20, I Peter 2: 4 – 7, as a Vine, John 15: 1, 2, 5: As a witness, Leader and commander, Isaiah 55: 4, as a Light, Isaiah 42: 6, 49: 9. Faith receives him under whatsoever title, and denomination, he is held forth for the comfort of his people.
4. Faith receives him wholly, as to the work imported, and ends designed by these offices, relations, and denominations, which he took upon himself, and under which he holds forth himself.
5. Faith receives him wholly, as to the furniture and qualifications, whereby he was fitted for the discharge of the duties, belonging to the offices, which he did execute both in his Estate of Humiliation and Exaltation, and for perfecting of the work, which he undertook to do: so that Faith receives him, as the Anointed of the Lord, and as having the Spirit of the Lord upon him, and as having all fullness, all power and authority,
even the Spirit without measure, Isaiah 61: 1, Luke 4: 18, John 3: 34 and 1: 14, 16, Colossians 1: 19 and 2: 3, 9, 10, Matthew 28: 18.
6. Faith receives him wholly, as to all the sinners necessities, cases wants, straits, and difficulties, which they either are, or may be into, from first to last: All the vessels must hang on Him, as the nail, that it fastened in a sure place Isaiah 22: 24, 25. Faith eyes Him, and Him alone, and sees the making-up of all in Him alone, as knowing that in Him only, sinners can be complete, Colossians 2: 10, and out of his fullness must they receive, and grace for grace, John 1: 16. Therefore he is held forth, as furnished with all richly, that we stand in need of, as a storehouse and treasury of all necessities, as having eye-salve, gold and raiment, and what we need. Revelation 3: 18.
7. Faith receives Him, with all the sufferings, Crosses, and inconveniences that can follow. Faith takes up the cross, and follows Christ. Matthew 10: 37, 38, Mark 8: 34, Matthew 16: 24, Luke 9: 23.
Next I say, that Christ as revealed, held forth, and offered in the Gospel is the object of saving and justifying faith: and so –
1. He is received, as the result (so to speak) of the wonderful contrivance and design of free grace, love, goodness, mercy, wisdom, concerning the glorifying of God, in the salvation of the chosen ones, in and through him: faith here observes and closes cheerfully with that gracious Covenant of Redemption, betwixt Jehovah, or God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and the Son in order to the salvation of poor man, through the Son becoming Mediator, God-Man, and becoming Cautioner, for such as were given unto Him, and coming in their law-place, and suffering for them, and their debt, &c. Faith closes with, and embraces this fundamental ground of salvation, in all its parts, end and means: and so receives Christ, as standing in such a place, and as engaging to through such a design of love and free grace; so far as the believer comes to know and understand the same to be revealed. We may consider to this end Isaiah 53, Ephesians 1: 3 and forward, Romans 3: 21 – 27, and other places; and there se how Christ is held forth.
2. He is received as the great gift of God, John 4: 10, as the Sovereign Mean, through which all the great design of grace is brought about, in a glorious manner, as the authorized Ambassador of God, and messenger of the Covenant, Malachi 3: 1, as the grand effect of love, grace and goodwill, Titus 3: 4, John 3: 16, as fore-ordained and set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Romans 3: 25, and as made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, I Corinthians 1: 30. He is received as the power of God, and as the Wisdom of God, I Corinthians 1: 24, as He, in whom God was reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, II Corinthians 5: 19, and as made sin, though he knew no sin, for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God, in him II Corinthians 5: 21, that is, as the Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23: 6. Thus faith, in receiving Christ, as thus held forth in the Gospel, eyes God, the Giver, the Sender, the Maker of Christ to be sin, and eyes God, as the Justifier
of the ungodly in him, Romans 4: 5, and as the Reconciler of us to himself by Christ, II Corinthians 5: 18, as forgiving sins, and granting redemption through Christ’s blood, according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded toward us, in all wisdom and prudence, Ephesians 1: 7, 8. Here is the incomprehensible riches of the mercy and grace of God –Father, Son and Holy Ghost, eyed as the object, according to their peculiar method and order of working, in this grand affair.
3. He is received as offered and held forth in the promises. Thus was he embraced of old, as the promised Messiah, and as the substance of all the promises, which the Fathers of old saw afar off, Hebrews 11: 13, John 8: 56. That promise made to Abraham that in him all nations should be blessed, was the Gospel, Galatians 3: 8, and contained a bundle of promises, verse 16. And the faith of this was that faith, by which Abraham was justified, Romans 4: 16 – 22. Hence all the promises are made good in and through him; and they are all yea and amen, in him II Corinthians 1: 20. And he is the substance of them all; for they either hold forth his person, or his work, or something of him, or something from him, according to the various exigencies and necessities of his people.
4. He is received as the grand mean of the declaring and setting forth the glorious attributes of God; which the Lord will have manifested in and by this noble design of the Gospel: for faith sweetly acquiesces in the design of God, to preach forth his excellence and virtue in this manner; and therefore receives Christ as offered and held forth in the Gospel, for such a glorious end; and so receives him, as the great gift of love, John 3: 16, as the mean whereby the righteousness of God is declared, Romans 3: 25, and his grace Ephesians 1: 5, 6, and as the power of God, and the Wisdom of God, I Corinthians 1: 24, Ephesians 3: 10. Thus faith sees the glory of God shining with a peculiar splendor, in the face of Jesus Christ, II Corinthians 4: 6.
5. So he is received as the grand and only means to bring about all the great ends, designed of God, and desired by them: so that in the receiving of him, all these ends are closed with, and expected: such as remission of sins, justification, acceptation, adoption, sanctification, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, yea life, and immortality and full redemption, Ephesians 1: 7, Colossians 1: 14, Acts 26: 18, Romans 3: 25 and 4: 6 – 8, Ephesians 1: 11 – 14, Romans 5: 1 – 3, I Peter 1: 3, 4. So that faith eyes here, by way of end, all that grace and glory, they would have, and can desire to make them up.
6. And, in a word, he is received as the grand means to interest them in God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as theirs; to bring them nigh unto God, and in Covenant with him, and to enjoy the several effects and benefits of their workings. They come to God through him, as the only way to the Father, John 14: 6. They close with the Father, as their God and Father through him, and with the Holy Ghost, as their Sanctifier and Comforter through him, who sends the Spirit from the Father, John 15: 26 and 14: 26.
All these several things belong unto the adequate and full object of that
faith, whereby believers become justified, adopted, sanctified, and shall be at length finally saved, for they shall receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls, I Peter 1: 9. Yet to prevent mistakes, we would add some few considerations.
By all this, we do not mean that all these objects, or various parts or considerations of the one adequate and complete object, are expressly and distinctly conceived and laid hold on by every believer, when they act faith on Christ, or come unto God through him, according to the Gospel command: But that these things belong to the full object of saving faith, and are implied therein; so that whoever believes savingly, believes these several truths, according to the measure of the revelation of God, and of their capacity and information. So that a more full and explicit belief of these particulars is now required under the Gospel, than was required under the Old Testament, when this revelation was not so full and plain, as now: and more is required of such, who have had clear information of Gospel truths, than of others who have wanted that advantage: and more also is required of such, as have large capacities and understandings, than of others who are more rude and of a narrower reach.
2. Wherever any of these truths are rightly believed, and heartily closed with, all the rest are implicitly also received; for they cannot be separated; the whole contrivance is such a noble piece of divine art and of infinite wisdom, that all the several pieces, are indissolubly knit together: Hence whatever piece it be, that the believer first doth directly and explicitly close with, or under whatsoever notion Christ at first be embraced, according as the believer comes to more distinct apprehensions of other pieces or parts of this contrivance, so his heart complies with, and he cordially embraces the same.
3. We may be hereby helped to understand, the several and various expressions used in Scripture, to point forth faith, acting on its object; for, however these be not always one and the same, but different; yet the same whole object is implicitly understood; and these particulars, expressly mentioned, must not be considered abstractly, or alone; but according to their place in the grand design, and with respect thereto; as when the object of faith is said to be he, who justifieth the ungodly, Romans 4: 5, and to be Him, who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, verse 24, and in that same chapter, the object of Abraham’s faith, whereby he was justified, is the promise, that God would make him a father of many nations, &c. verses 17 and 18. All these must be considered with respect unto Christ, the grand medium, who was appointed to be a Savior to all nations, and was to die and rise again, after satisfaction made to justice, and in and through whom alone God will justify the poor sinner, that is ungodly in himself. With reference hereunto must we understand the Publican’s saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner, and the saints under the Old Testament, their so frequent fleeing to the grace, mercy, and bounty of God; for all this was with respect to the only Sovereign way, that the Lord had condescended upon, whereby to show forth, and manifest, his mercy, goodness and grace to sinners. In the
New Testament we find more express mention made of Christ, as the object of faith, as Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah, who was promised, John 20: 31, I John 5: 9, 10, 20, John 1: 45, Acts 13: 38, or as Lord and God, John 20: 28, as the Son of David, Matthew 15: 21 and 9: 27 and 20: 30 and 21: 42, as the Son of God, John 9: 35, as the Christ, the Son of God, John 11: 27, Acts 8: 37, as come forth from God, John 16: 30, 27, as the Lord Jesus, Acts 16: 31, as raised by God from the dead, Romans 10: 9, as one that died and rose again, I Thessalonians 1: 14, as sent of God, John 17: 8, that Jesus is the Christ, I John 5: 1. So that under all these and the like, one and the same thing for substance is pointed forth; though some particular in that grand design of grace is more expressly and immediately pointed at; yet that particular is to be understood with reference to the whole; and the whole is to be included. So also when God is mentioned as the object of faith; either absolutely, I Peter 1: 2, Titus 3: 8, Hebrews 5: 1, I Thessalonians 1: 8, or in reference to Christ, whom he sent, John 5: 24, or through whom he is believed in, I Peter 1: 21, or the like, the matter must be thus understood.
4. Hereby also may the various explications of this object of faith, given by men, be some way understood and reconciled, when some say, the mercy of God is it, others say the promises, some remission of sins, and the like, some God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost: for such as seem to restrict it most, may be understood as not speaking exclusively of what else the Scripture mentions as belonging thereunto.
5. All this notwithstanding, faith may have and hath a special respect to Christ as Priest, and making satisfaction to justice, and laying down the ransom money, and paying the debt, according to his undertaking as Surety, in order to the particular benefit of justification, and of pardon of sins; as was in part cleared above, and may be more spoken to afterward, in the following chapters.