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SAVING FAITH AND THE FAITH OF PRESUMPTION

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SAVING FAITH AND THE FAITH OF PRESUMPTION

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Here I cannot but observe that there are certain doctrines often preached to the people, which need to be delivered with more caution and explanation than they frequently are; for as they are by many understood, they tend greatly to establish this delusion and false confidence of hypocrites. The doctrines I speak of are of Christians living by faith, not by sight; their giving glory to God, by trusting Him in the dark; living upon Christ, and not upon experiences ; not making their good frames the foundation of their faith. These are excellent and important doctrines indeed, rightly understood, but corrupt and destructive, as many understand them. The Scripture speaks of our living or walking by faith, and not by sight, in no other way than these, viz.: When we are governed by a respect to eternal things, which are the objects of faith, and are not seen, and not by a respect to temporal things, which are seen; when we believe things revealed, that we never saw with bodily eyes; and also exercise faith in the promise of future things, without yet seeing or enjoying the things promised, or knowing the way how they can be fulfilled. This will be easily evident to anyone that looks over the Scriptures, which speak of faith in opposition to sight. But this doctrine, as it is understood by many, is that Christians ought firmly to believe and trust in Christ, without spiritual light; even although they are in a dark, dead frame, and for the present, have no spiritual experiences or discoveries. It is truly the duty of those who are thus in darkness to come out of darkness into light, and to believe. But that they should confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without spiritual light or sight, is an anti-scriptural and absurd doctrine.”

The Scripture is ignorant of any such faith in Christ of the operation of God, that is not founded in a spiritual sight of Christ. That believing on Christ, which accompanies a title to everlasting life, is a seeing the Son, and believing on Him (John 6:40). True faith in Christ is never exercised, any farther than persons behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and have the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6). They into whose minds the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine, they believe not. (2 Cor. 4:4) That faith, which is without spiritual light, is not the faith of the children of the light and of the day; but the presumption of the children of darkness. And therefore to press and urge them to believe, without any spiritual light or sight, tends greatly to help forward the delusions of the prince of darkness. Men not only cannot exercise faith without some spiritual light, but they can exercise faith only just in such proportion as they have spiritual light. Men will trust in God no further than they know Him: and they cannot be in the exercise of faith in Him, further than they have a sight of His fulness and faithfulness in exercise. Nor can they have the exercise of trust in God, any further than they are in a gracious frame. They that are in a dead, carnal frame, doubtless ought to trust in God; because that would be the same thing as coming out of their bad frame, and turning to God ; but to exhort men confidently to trust in God, and so hold up their hope and peace, though they are not in a gracious frame, and continue still to be so, is the same thing, in effect as to exhort them confidently to trust in God, but not with a gracious trust: and what is that but a wicked presumption? It is impossible to trust in God, when they have no lively exercises of grace, without the exercises of grace!”

It is true, that it is the duty of God’s people to trust in Him in darkness, even though they remain still in darkness, in one sense, viz. : when the aspects of His providence are dark, and look as though God had forsaken them, and did not hear their prayers. Many clouds gather, many enemies surround them with a formidable aspect, threatening to swallow them up, and all events of providence seem to be against them. All circumstances seem to render the promise of God difficult to be fulfilled, but He must be trusted out of sight, i. e., when we cannot see which way it is possible for Him to fulfill His word. Everything but God’s mere word makes it look unlikely, so that if persons believe, they must hope against hope. Thus the ancient patriarchs, and thus the Psalmist, Jeremiah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego, and the apostle Paul, gave glory to God by trusting Him in darkness. We have many instances of such a glorious, victorious faith in the eleventh of the Hebrews. But how different a thing is this, from trusting in God, without spiritual sight, and being at the same time in a dead and carnal frame !”

Spiritual light may be let into the soul in one way, when it is not in another; and so there is such a thing as the saints trusting in God, and also knowing their good estate, when they are destitute of some kinds of experience. For instance, they may have clear views of God’s all-sufficiency and faithfulness, and so may confidently trust in Him, and know that they are His children; and yet not have those clear and sweet ideas of His love, as at other times. Thus it was with Christ Himself in His last passion. They may also have views of God’s sovereignty, holiness, and all- sufficiency, enabling them quietly to submit to Him, and to exercise a sweet and most encouraging hope in His fulness, when they are not satisfied of their own good estate. But how different things are these, from confidently trusting in God, without spiritual light or experience!”

Those who thus insist on persons living by faith, when they have no experience, and are in very bad frames, are also very absurd in their notions of faith. What they mean by faith is, believing that they are in a good estate. Hence they count it a dreadful sin for them to doubt of their state, whatever frames they are in, and whatever wicked things they do, because it is the great and heinous sin of unbelief; and he is the best man, and puts most honor upon God, that maintains his hope of his good estate the most confidently and immovably, when he has the least light or experience; that is to say, when he is in the worst frame and way; because forsooth, that it is a sign that he is strong in faith, giving glory to God, and against hope believes in hope. But from what Bible do they learn this notion of faith, that it is a man’s confidently believing that he is in a good estate? If this be faith, the Pharisees had faith in an eminent degree; some of whom Christ teaches, committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. The Scripture represents faith, as that by which men are brought into a good estate; and therefore it cannot be the same thing, as believing that they are already in a good estate. To suppose that faith consists in persons believing that they are in a good estate, is in effect the same thing, as to suppose that faith consists in a person’s believing that he has faith, or in believing that he has faith!”

From “Religious Affections” by Jonathan Edwards”

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 juli 1967

The Banner of Truth | 20 Pagina's

SAVING FAITH AND THE FAITH OF PRESUMPTION

Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 juli 1967

The Banner of Truth | 20 Pagina's

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