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The way that the Spirit of God accomplishes our union with Christ, and our fellowship with Him in ALL HOLINESS is through the Gospel. It is by this gospel that Christ enters into our hearts to work faith within us. It is by this faith, we actually receive Christ Himself, with all His fullness into our hearts. This faith is a grace of the Spirit, by which we heartily believe the gospel and also believe on Christ as He is revealed and freely promised by the gospel, for all of His salvation.
Holiness depends totally on the fact of our being in Christ, and having Christ in us by a mystical union to enable us for a holy practice. So many people remain in their corrupted and sinful condition. They do not see how they could ever get out of this condition of rebellion and be holy. They think they must continue sinning every day in thought, word and deed. We can not imagine how we should be able to overcome our sinful corrupt condition to receive this glorious union and fellowship, until God is pleased to make it known to us by supernatural revelation. God is well pleased to make known to us, by supernatural revelation, how His Spirit makes us partakers of His divine nature. God reveals the way by which His Spirit accomplishes the mystical union and fellowship between Christ and us, and which we are capable of accomplishing, by His Spirit working in us.
God reveals to us the gospel of His grace. It is by the gospel of grace that God makes known to us the unsearchable riches of Christ and Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is by grace we are invited and commanded to believe on Christ for His salvation. We are encouraged by a free promise of that salvation from our actual sins and our corrupted sin condition, to all that believe on Him. This is God's own instrument of conveyance, in which He sends Christ to us to bless us with His salvation. It is the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness. Faith comes by the hearing of it, and therefore it is a great instrument by which we are birthed in Christ and Christ is formed in us. We may be united and have fellowship with Him in His death and resurrection. The Word is near us, the gospel, the word of faith in which Christ Himself graciously condescends to be near us, so that we may come at Him, if we desire to be joined with Him.
Faith is worked out in us by the Gospel. This is our instrument of reception where the union between Christ and us is accomplished on our part, by our actual receiving Christ Himself with all His fulness, into our hearts. This faith is a grace of the Spirit, by which we heartily believe the gospel and also believe on Christ as He is revealed and freely promised to us in this, for all His salvation. The whole purpose of the gospel is our actual reception of Christ for all His salvation.
Some people think that faith in Christ is no more than a believing the truth of things in religion, on the authority of Christ testifying them. To exercise saving faith we must know the truth of Christ and His salvation, testified and promised in the gospel. This knowledge by itself is not enough, we also need to actually receive and secure Christ and His salvation, as given by and with the promise. Therefore, saving faith must necessarily contain two acts, believing the truth of the gospel, and believing on Christ, as promised freely to us in the gospel, for all salvation. By the one act, it receives the way in which Christ is brought to us; by the other, it receives Christ Himself, and His salvation in this way. Both acts must be preformed heartily with a genuine love to the truth, and a desire of Christ and his salvation above all things. An example of this would be if I offered you a glass of wine. It is one act for you to receive the glass in which wine is contained and another act to drink the wine in the glass. It is by faith that Christ Himself is immediately received into the heart.
This is our spiritual appetite, which is necessary for our eating and drinking Christ, the food of life, as a natural appetite is for bodily nourishment. Our approving of the gospel, or believing the gospel, must not be forced by just the plain conviction of the truth. Wicked men and devils may have an understanding of the gospel facts without actually receiving Christ and His Life. Our believing in Christ must not be only forced for fear of damnation, without any hearty love and desire towards the enjoyment of Him. We must receive the love of the truth by delighting in the goodness and excellency of it. We must consider all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and count them but dung, that we may win Christ and be found in Him. We must esteem Christ to be all our salvation and happiness, in whom all fulness dwells. This love must be extended to every part of Christ's salvation - to holiness as well as forgiveness of sins. We must desire earnestly that God would create in us a clean heart and right spirit, as well as hide His face from our sins. Many people want a Christ that ONLY offers deliverance from hell. These people reject Christ and His true salvation because they wish to remain in their corrupted sinful condition.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. The former of these acts does immediately unite us to Christ, because it is completed only on the means of conveyance, the gospel; yet it is a saving act, if it be rightly performed, because it inclines and disposes the soul to the latter act, whereby Christ Himself is immediately received into the heart. He that believes the gospel with hearty love and liking, as the most excellent truth, will certainly with like heartiness believe on Christ for salvation. They that know the name of the Lord will certainly put their trust in Him. Therefore in Scripture saving faith is sometimes described by the former of these acts, as if it were just a simple believing the gospel; sometimes by the latter, as a believing on Christ, or in Christ: 'If you believe in your heart, that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved' (Rom. 10:9). 'The scripture says, that whoever believes on Him, shall not be ashamed' (v. 11). 'Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1 John 5:1). 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God' (v. 13).
For the better understanding of the nature of faith, let it be further observed, that the second and principal act of it, believing on Christ, includes believing on God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, because they are one and the same infinite God. They all concur in our salvation by Christ, as the only Mediator between God and us, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. By Him (as Mediator) we believe 'in God, who raised Him up from among the dead and gave glory to Him - so that your faith and hope might be in God. It is the same thing with trusting on God, or on the Lord, which is so highly commended in the whole Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, as may easily appear by considering that it has the same causes, effects, objects, opposites and all the same circumstances, excepting only that it had a respect to Christ as promised before His coming, and now it respects Him as already come in the flesh. Believing in the Lord and trusting on His salvation are equal terms that explain one another. I confess that trusting on things seen or known by the plain light of reason, as on our own wisdom, power, riches, or princes, or any arm of flesh, may not so properly be called believing on them. Trusting on a Savior, as understood by a testimony, is properly believing on Him. It is also the same thing that is expressed by the terms of resting, relying, leaning, staying ourselves on the Lord, It is also called hoping in the Lord, because it is the ground of that expectation which is the proper act of hope, though our believing and trusting is for the present as well as future benefit of this salvation. The reason why it is so commonly expressed in the Scriptures of the New Testament by the terms of believing on Christ might be that, when that part of Scripture was written, there was cause in a special manner to urge believing the testimony that was then newly revealed by the gospel.
Having thus explained the nature of faith, I come now to maintain its proper use and office in our salvation. It is the way and instrument by which we receive Christ and all His fulness actually into our hearts. This excellent use and office of faith is encountered by a multitude of errors. Men naturally consider that it seems too easy to produce the required holiness, just as Naaman thought washing in the Jordan too easy a matter for the cure of his leprosy. They condemn the true way of entering in at the narrow gate, because it seems too easy for such purpose. In this way they make the entrance not only difficult, but also impossible to themselves. Some people believe that faith is the sole condition of their justification and the instrument to receive it, but they do not consider it sufficient or effectual for sanctification. They think that it can lead to sinful indulgence and licentiousness, if it is not joined with some other practice to secure holiness. They know that sanctification is necessary to salvation, as well as justification; and though that everyone is justified by faith, yet they think that they will be sanctified by their own performance of the law. The result of this error, they set up salvation by works, and make the grace of justification to be of no effect, and not at all comfortable. Others make saving faith to be only a condition to acquire a right and title to our justification by the righteousness of Christ, which must be performed before we can lay any good claim to the enjoyment of it, and before we have any right to use any instrument for the actual receiving of it. They call this an accepting of, or receiving Christ, that they may the better secure the practice of holiness by their conditional faith, they will not have trusting in God or Christ for salvation to be considered the principal saving act of it. It appears to them that many loose wicked people say they trust on God and Christ for their salvation and still remain more hardened in their wickedness. They press for obedience to all Christ's laws, at least in resolution, or a consent that Christ should be their Lord, accepting of His terms of salvation, and a resignation of themselves to His government in all things. Truly trusting in the Lord which is so much commended in Scripture, is considered by many just an ordinary thing. They try to frighten us from professing faith to be an instrument of justification by telling us that in this way we that use the instrument are made our own principal justifiers, to the dishonor of God. It is easily answered that we are made in this way only the principal receivers of our own justification from GOD, the giver of it, to whom all the glory belongs.
All these errors will fall if it can be proved that such a faith as I have described is an instrument by which we actually receive Christ Himself into our hearts, and holiness of heart and life, as well as justification, by union and fellowship with Him. For the proof of it, I shall offer the following points.
We have the actual enjoyment and possession of Christ Himself by faith. We not only have the remission of sins but of life, and so of holiness. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). We live to God; and yet not we, but Christ lives in us by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:19, 20). He that believes on the Son of God has the Son and everlasting life that is in Him (1 John 5:12, 13; John 3:36). He that hears Christ's word, and believes on Him that sent Christ, has everlasting life and is passed from death to life (John 5:24). These texts express clearly such a faith as I have described. Therefore the operation of faith, in order to the enjoyment of Christ and His fulness, cannot be the procurement of a basic right or title to this enjoyment, but rather it must be an entrance to it, and taking possession of it. We have our access and entrance by faith into that grace of Christ in which we stand (Rom. 5:2).
It is by faith that we receive Christ, put Him on. We are rooted and grounded in Him. We also receive the Spirit, the remission of sins and an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26, 27; Col. 2:6, 7; Gal. 3:14; Acts 26:18) The Scripture illustrates this receiving by the comparison of eating and drinking. He that believes on Christ drinks the living water of His Spirit. Christ is the bread of life. His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. The way to eat and drink it is to believe in Christ and, by so doing, we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us, and we have everlasting life. How can it be taught more clearly that we receive Christ Himself properly into our souls by faith, as we receive food into our bodies by eating and drinking, and that Christ is as truly united to us in this way as our food when we eat or drink it? So that faith cannot be a condition to secure a mere right or title to Christ, no more than eating or drinking secures a simple right or title to our food; but it is rather an instrument to receive it, as the mouth that eats and drinks the food. He that believes on Christ drinks the living water and eats the bread of life. It is clear that we receive Christ Himself properly into our hearts by faith just as we receive food into our body by eating. Christ is as truly united to us by faith as our food is when we eat it.
Christ, with all His salvation, is freely given by the grace of God to all that believe on Him, for we are saved by grace through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8, 9). We are justified freely by His grace, through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:24, 25). The Holy Ghost, who is the bond of union between Christ and us, is a gift (Acts 2:38). Now, that which is a gift of grace must not at all be earned, purchased or acquired by any work, or works performed as a condition to get a right or title to it. Therefore faith itself must not be considered such a conditional work if it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace (Rom. 11:6). The condition of this free gift is only take and have. The free offer of Christ to you now makes it your duty and privilege to receive Christ and His salvation as yours. In this sense we will readily acknowledge faith to be a condition, allowing a liberty in terms where we agree in the thing. Now if you give a grain of salt to purchase a title to it, then you spoil the freeness of the gift. We receive Christ by faith as a free gift, therefore we may consider faith to be the instrument and, as it were, the hand by which we receive Him.
All spiritual life and holiness is treasured up in the fulness of Christ and communicated to us by union with Him. Therefore the accomplishing of our union with Christ is the first work of saving grace in our hearts. This faith itself, being a holy grace, is part of that spiritual life which cannot be in us or come from our own corrupted nature. The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins and has no true life in himself until Christ Himself actually dwells in the heart. This faith is GIVEN to us and then accomplished in us in the very working of the union with Christ. The way in which it conduces to the union cannot be by obtaining a simple title to Christ as a condition, because then it should be performed before the uniting work begins. It is done by faith being an instrument, by which we may actually receive and embrace Christ, who is already come into the soul to take possession of it as His own habitation.
1 John. 5:11-12 "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
True saving faith has in its nature and manner of operation, a unique ability, power or fitness to receive Christ and His salvation. This faith unites our souls to Him by which we are equipped with a new holy nature that brings forth a holy practice by union and fellowship with Him. This gift of the holy nature which is in Christ is our only source for any holiness that is acceptable to God. God has fitted natural instruments for their office, as the hands, feet, etc., so that we may know by their nature and natural manner of operation for what use they are designed.
In like manner, we may know that faith is an instrument formed on purpose for our union with Christ and sanctification, if we consider what a peculiar fitness it has for the work. The revelation of this is of great use for the understanding of the mysterious manner of our receiving and practicing all holiness by union and fellowship with Christ, by this precious grace of faith. To help you fully understand that it is such an instrument as I have stated it to be, I shall give you these three points.
The grace of faith is as well fitted for the soul's receiving Christ and union with Him as any instrument of the body is for receiving the things needful for it. We need to cast off and put away from our self everything that keeps us from Christ. This would include all confidence in our own strength, efforts, works, and privileges. It also includes any worldly pleasures, profits, honors that would hinder Christ working in us. This is done by the very act of hearty trusting or believing on Christ for salvation and happiness or in any human helps and assistance for our happiness and salvation. The reason for this is because such confidences are inconsistent with our confidence in Christ for all salvation. Paul, by his confidence in Christ, refused to place any confidence in his flesh. He suffered the loss of glorying in his privileges and legal righteousness, and counted all other enjoyments in matters of the world, or of religion, to be but 'loss, that he might win Christ, and be found in Him' (Phil. 3:3, 5-9).
I could state many other Scriptures, to show what a self emptying grace faith is, and how it casts other confidences out of the soul by getting above them to Christ as the only happiness and salvation. The same act of trusting or believing on Christ, or on God, is the very manner of our souls coming to Christ (John 6:35); 'drawing near to the Lord' (Ps. 73:28); 'making our refuge in the shadow of His wings' (Ps. 57:1); 'staying ourselves and our minds on the Lord' (Isa. 50:10; 26:3); 'laying hold on eternal life' (1 Tim. 6:12); 'lifting up our souls to the Lord' (Ps. 25:1); 'committing our way , or casting our burden on the Lord' (Ps. 37:5; 55:22); and our eating and drinking Christ, as has already appeared. Let us consider that Christ and His salvation cannot be seen, or handled, or attained to, by any bodily motion; but are revealed and promised to us in the Word. It is IMPOSSIBLE for the soul to exercise any activity or ability in the receiving of this unseen promised salvation, besides believing the Word and trusting on Christ for the benefit promised. If Christ were to be earned by works, or any other kind of conditional faith, yet a faith must be instrumental to receive Him. Some think love as fit to be the uniting grace, but I have showed that love to Christ's salvation is an ingredient of faith. Though love is an appetite to union, yet we have no other likely way to fill this appetite while we are in this world, besides trusting on Christ for all His benefits, as He is promised in the gospel.
There is in this saving faith a natural tendency to equip and furnish the soul with a holy frame and nature, and all powers and abilities to be truly holy. A hearty affectionate trusting on Christ for all His salvation, as freely promised to us, has naturally enough in it to work in our heart the bent and inclination to, and ability for the practice of holiness. We are given both the willing and the power to do His will. This trusting comprehends in it that, through Christ, we are dead to sin and alive to God and that our old man is crucified with Him. We live by the Spirit, and we have forgiveness of sin. God is our God and we have in the Lord, His righteousness and strength, by which we are able to do all things. We will be gloriously happy in the enjoyment of Christ to all eternity. When the saints in Scripture speak so highly of such glorious spiritual privileges as I have here named, they inform us with the familiar sense and language of their faith, trusting on God and Christ, and they give us but an a clear and exhaustive explanation of the nature and contents of it; and they speak of nothing more than what they receive out of the fulness of Christ. How can we otherwise judge, but that those that have a hearty love to Christ and can, on a good ground, think and speak such high things concerning themselves, must needs be heartily inclined and mightily strengthened for the practice of holiness?
Because faith has such a natural tendency to dispose and strengthen the soul for the practice of holiness, we have reason to judge it a suitable instrument to accomplish every part of that practice in an acceptable manner. Those that with a due affection believed steadfastly on Christ for the free gift of all His salvation may find by experience that they are carried forth by that faith, according to the measure of its strength or weakness, to love God heartily, because God has loved them first. They can be patient with cheerfulness, under all afflictions giving thanks to the Father that has called them to His heavenly inheritance. They can love all the children of God out of love to their heavenly Father. They can walk as Christ walked. They can give themselves up to live to Christ in all things, as constrained by His love in dying for them. We have a cloud of witnesses concerning the excellent works that were produced by faith. Some consider trusting on God to be such a frail and contemptible thing, yet I know of no work of obedience which it is not able to produce. Note the excellent manner of working by faith, by it we live and act in all good works, as people in Christ. We are raised above ourselves in our sinful corrupted condition, by partaking of Him and His salvation. This is the practice of that mysterious manner of living to God in holiness which is peculiar to the Christian religion in which we live, yet not we, but Christ lives in us. Who can imagine any other way but this for such a practice, while Christ and His salvation are known to us only by the gospel?
The explanation that I have made of the nature and office of true faith, is sufficient to prove that it is a most holy faith, as it is called, and that such a trusting on Christ as I have described in its own nature cannot have any tendency to licentiousness, but only to holiness; and that it roots and grounds us in holiness, more than the simple accepting of any terms of salvation and consenting to have Christ for our Lord can do. This is more powerful to secure a holy practice than any of those resolutions of obedience, or resignating acts, that some would say are the great conditions of our salvation, which are indeed no better than hypocritical acts, if they are not produced by this faith. There is indeed a counterfeit dead faith, such as wicked men may have and, if that tend to licentiousness, let not true faith be blamed, but rather mark the description of it which I have given, that you may not be deceived with a counterfeit faith instead of it.
I shall add something concerning the efficient cause of this excellent grace and of our union with Christ by it; by which it may appear that it is not so slight and easy a way of salvation as some may imagine. The author and finisher of our faith, and of our union and fellowship with Christ by faith, is no less than the infinite Spirit of God, and God and Christ Himself by the Spirit, for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body of Christ and are all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12, 13). God grant us, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with all might by the Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:16, 17). If we do but consider the great effect of faith, that by it we are raised to live above our natural condition by Christ and His Spirit living in us, we cannot logically conceive that it should be within the power of nature to do anything that advances us so high.
If God had done no more for us in our sanctification than to restore us to our first natural holiness, yet this could not have been done without putting forth His own almighty power to quicken those that are dead in sin; how much more is this almighty power needful to advance us to this wonderful new kind of frame, in which we live and act, above all the power of nature, by a higher principle of life than was given to Adam in innocency, even by Christ and His Spirit living and acting in us? The natural man brings forth his offspring according to his image by that natural power of multiplying with which God blessed him at his first creation. The second Adam brings forth His offspring new-born according to His image only by the Spirit. As many as received Him, even those that believe on His name, are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12, 13). Christ took His own human nature into personal union with Himself, in the womb of the virgin Mary, by the Holy Ghost coming on her and the power of the Highest overshadowing her, the same power by which the world was created (Luke 1:35). So He takes us into mystical union and fellowship with Himself by no less than an infinite creating power, for we are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to good works, and, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.
For the accomplishing of this great work of our new creation in Christ, the Spirit of God works first on our hearts, by and with the gospel, to produce in us the grace of faith. We cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God; yea, we shall consider them foolishness until the Spirit of God enable us to discern them. We shall never come to Christ by any teaching of man, except we also hear and learn of the Father and be drawn to Christ by His Spirit. (John 6:44, 45). When saving faith is worked out in us, the same Spirit gives us secure hold of Christ by it. As He opens the mouth of faith to receive Christ, so He fills it with Christ. If this is not the case then the acting of faith would be like a dream of one that thinks he eats and drinks and, when he awakes, he finds himself empty. The same Spirit of God did both give that faith by which miracles were accomplished, and also worked the miracles by it. The same Spirit of Christ works saving faith in us and answers the aim and goal of that faith by giving us union and fellowship with Christ by it. None of the glory of this work belongs to faith, but only to Christ and His Spirit. Faith is of such a humbling self-denying nature that it recognizes nothing that it receives to itself, but all to the grace of God. Therefore God saves us by faith, that all the glory may be assigned to His free grace. If Adam had strength enough in innocency to perform the duty of faith as well as we, yet it will not follow that he had strength enough to raise himself above his natural state into union with Christ; because faith does not unite us to Christ by its own virtue, but by the power of the Spirit working by it and with it.
We are first seized of Christ, and then we seize Christ in this great work of mystical union. Christ entered first into the soul, to join Himself to it, by giving it the spirit of faith. Then the soul receives Christ and His Spirit by their own power, as the sun first enlightens our eyes, and then we can see it by its own light. We may further note, to the glory of the grace of God, that this union is fully accomplished by Christ giving the spirit of faith to us even before we act that faith in the reception of Him. The soul is inclined by this grace or spirit of faith and disposed to an active receiving of Christ.