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is the sin that makes the death of Christ of none effect to
Gal. 5:4. There is indeed a sovereign virtue in the blood of Christ to pardon sin, but thy soul cannot have the benefit of it while it remains under the dominion of this sin. As it was said of the inhabitants of Nazareth in their treatment of Christ, “He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief,” Matt. 13 : 58; so none of his spiritual works, no ordinances can do thy soul good, until the Lord break the power of this sin. « The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb. 4: 2. If a man were dangerously sick, or wounded, the best medicines could never recover him, unless received and applied. Unbelief pours the most sovereign cordials of the gospel as water upon the ground. The greatest sins ever committed might be pardoned, did not this sin lie in the way; were this gone, all the rest were gone too : but while unbelief remains, they also remain upon thee. (2.) Of all the sins that are upon the souls of men,
this is the most difficult to be removed. Other sins lie open
to conviction, but this has the most specious pretences to countenance it. Men commit this sin out of a fear of sin. They will not believe, lest they should presume; they dare not believe, because they are not qualified. The strength of other sins meets in this sin of unbelief: it is the strongest fort wherein Satan trusts. Take an adulterer, or a profane swearer, and
you have an open way to convince him of his sin: show him the command he has violated, and he has nothing to say in his own defence ; but the unbeliever has a thousand plausible defences.
(3.) This is the great damning sin of the world. All other sins deserve damnation, “ for the wages of sin is death,” but this is the sin in consequence of which other sins damn and ruin the soul. “This is the condemnation." John 3:19. And it is a sin which damns with aggravated ruin. 2 Thess. 1:8. O then, let us mourn over and tremble at this dreadful sin, which opposes and so often frustrates the great design of the whole gospel.
6. Is it the main scope of the gospel to bring men to Christ by faith ? then be persuaded heartily to comply with this great design of the Father, Son, and Spirit, ministers, ordinances, and providences, in opening your hearts to receive Christ this day by faith unfeigned. O that I could suitably press this great point, which falls in so directly with the main scope of the whole gospel : and 0 that while I am pressing it, you would lift up a hearty cry to heaven, Lord, give me faith, whatever else thou deniest me; open my heart to Christ under the gospel calls.
I not only press you to a general assent to the truths of the gospel, that Christ is come in the flesh and laid down his life for sinners, but to a hearty consent to receive him upon gospel terms—to close with him in all his offices, subjecting heart and life to his authority, living entirely upon him for rightousness and to him by holiness. The value of such a faith as this is above all estimation. For,
(1.) This is the grace which God has dignified and crowned with glory and honor above all its fellow-graces. Its praises are in all the Scriptures. It is called precious faith, 2 Pet. 1:1; soul-enriching faith, Jas. 2:5. That is a poor soul indeed that is destitute of it, whatever the gifts of providence have been to him. And he is truly rich to whom God has given faith, whatever he has denied hiin of the comforts of this life. This Christ calls the work of God: “This is the work of God, that ye believe.” John 6:29. So are all other things that your eyes behold the works of God; the earth, the sea, the sun, the
and stars, are his handiwork. True, but this is the work, the most glorious and admirable work of God, excelling all his other works. And, (2.) That which exalts it not only above all the works
of God's hands, but even above its fellow-graces the work of his Spirit, is the high office to which it is appointed in the justification of a sinner. God has singled out this from all the other graces, to be the instrument of receiving and applying the righteousness of Christ for the justification of a guilty soul. You are never said to be justified by love, hope, or desire, but by faith. Rom. 5:1. It is true, all other graces are supposed in the person justified; but none apprehends and applies the righteousness of Christ for justification, but this only. And the justifying act of faith being a receiving act, the glory of God is therein secured : “ Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” Rom. 4:16.
(3.) The grace of faith which I am now recommending to you, is not only the instrument of your justification, but the bond of your union with Christ :
- That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” Eph. 3:17. It is the uniting grace; it is that which gives interest in and title to the person and benefits of Christ; the great thing upon which the eyes of all awakened sinners are intently and solicitously fixed. Whatever views you have of an interest in Christ, and whatever his benefits are worth in your eyes, neither himself nor they can ever be obtained without faith. O brethren, there is a day coming when they that now neglect this concern of their souls, would gladly part with ten thousand worlds for the friendship of Christ, could it be purchased therewith; but it is faith that entitles you to Christ and to his benefits.
(4.) That which should yet more endear this grace of faith to you is, that it is the hand which receives your pardon from the hand of Christ, the messenger that brings pardon to a trembling sinner. “By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:39. They are cleared from all those sins from which the law could never clear them, nor any repentance, restitution, or obedience of their own without faith. O what a welcome messenger is faith, and what joyful tidings does it bring ! you will say so if you have felt the efficacy of the law upon your conscienceif you have lain, as some sinners have, with a cold horror on your panting bosoms, under the apprehensions of the wrath of God. This fruit of faith is rather to be admired than expressed. Psa. 32:1.
(5.) Faith is not only the messenger that brings you a pardon from heaven, but it is, as I may say, the heavenly herald that publishes peace to the sinner. O peace, how sweet a word art thou ; how welcome to a poor condemned sinner! “ Beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace." Isa. 52: 7. It is faith that brings this blessed news and publishes it in the soul, without which all the publishers of peace without us can administer but little support. Rom. 5:1. Faith brings the soul out of the storms with which it was tossed, into a sweet rest : “We which have believed do enter into rest.” Heb. 4:3. Is the quiet harbor welcome to weatherbeaten seamen, after they have passed furious storms and many fears on the raging sea ? O how welcome then must peace be to the soul that hath been tossed on the tempestuous ocean of its own fears, blown up and incensed by the terrible blasts of the law and of conscience. It was a comfortable sight to Noah and his family, to see an olive-leaf in the mouth of the dove, by which they knew the waters were abated. But what is it to hear such a voice as this from the mouth of faith: "Fury is not in me, saith the Lord; his anger is turned away, and he comforteth thee ?” Isa. 12:1. Fear not thou, the God of peace is thy God.
(6.) Faith not only brings the soul into a calm, but opens to it a door of access into the gracious présence of God; without it there is no coming to him acceptably : " He that cometh unto God must believe." Heb. 11:6.
This access to God is indeed the purchase of the blood of Christ; but
faith is the grace that brings the soul actually into the presence of God, and there helps it to ease its griefs, and with holy freedom to make known its grievances, fears, and burdens to the Lord. This world were not worth living in without such a blessed relief to our troubles. The believer only has the key that opens the door of access unto God; if he has sins, wants, burdens, afflictions, or temptations, here he can lay them down. Ah, Christian, the time may come when thy heart may be filled with sorrows, and there may not be found a person of thy acquaintance in all the world to whom thou canst turn to relieve thy sorrows. Blessed be God for faith; 0 the ease that the act of faith gives to a troubled soul. Well may it be said, • The just shall live by his faith.” Hab. 2: 4. How can we imagine we should live without it? Our afflictions and temptations would swallow us up, were it not for the sweet assiduous feliefs that come in by faith.
(7.) And yet further to inflame your desires after faith, this is the grace that gives you the soul-reviving sights of the invisible world, without which this world would be a dungeon to us. It is not only the substance of things hoped for, but the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1. O it is a precious eye: how transporting are those visions of faith. “Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Pet. 1:8. We who preach of heaven to you, cannot show you
the glorious person of Christ there, nor the thrones and crowns that are above ; but faith can make these things visible. That is an eye which can penetrate the clouds, and show to you him that is invisible. Heb. 11:27.
(8.) The grace of faith, which I am now recommending to you, is instrumentally the sustenance of your souls in this world : “ The just shall live by his faith.” Hab. 2: 4. When God gives a man faith, he gives it to him to sustain