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blessing, which we do not heartily desire. Hence the holy scriptures insist so strongly on the regulation of the desires. 'Seek ye first' (says our lord to his disciples) the kingdom of God, and his righteousness!': and his church again professes in reply- The desire of our 'soul is to thy name and to the remembrance ' of thee.' If we desire forbidden objects, we cannot consistently repose faith in the saviour for the attainment of them; and it must be in proportion to our conviction, that we desire that, which he is willing to grant, that we are able to place a sure faith and strong confidence in his mercy.
There is therefore one essential preliminary to believing in the name of the saviour. We must first desire those blessings, which he is willing to confer. In other words we must repent of sin, that we may seriously desire its remission; and we must seriously desire the remission of it, before we can exercise a wellgrounded faith in his power and faithfulness to grant it. Hence it is, that these two states of mind are every where spoken of in scripture, as indissolubly united. The God of our
'fathers' (says saint Peter in the thirtieth and thirty-first verses of the fifth chapter of the
acts) hath exalted Jesus to be a prince and a
saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. To the same effect his forerunner, John, baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe in Christ Jesus: and the lord himself opened his divine commission with that pregnant exhortation-Repent ye, and believe 'the gospel!'
Faith in the saviour therefore, or, as it is constantly expressed, faith in the name of Christ, is a holy quality. It implies an abhorrence of sin, a sense of its polluting nature, a desire to be delivered from it, to be delivered (I mean) not from its guilt or its penalty only, but from its influence and its power; and, this state of the affections being presupposed, it consists in a reliance on the sufficiency and readiness of Jesus Christ to do all this for us through the virtue of his meritorious atonement. These two things, a desire to forsake sin, and a persuasion of the power of the Saviour to deliver us from it, must go together in every act of real
faith. They may be weak, and feeble, and very imperfect. But they must be real; they must be sincere; or we are not among the number of those, who believe in him according to the meaning of holy writ. We may believe the historical evidence of scripture, and yet have no reliance on the goodness or power of the saviour. But if we desire to love God and our neighbour, as we are commanded, though we find ourselves unable to do so, and if we confide in his promise to enable us to do that, to which by nature we are unequal, and if accordingly we seek the fulfilment of that promise in earnest prayer, not doubting in our hearts, but believing, that we shall receive the things, which we desire, when we pray, then have we that saving faith, to which the promises are attached.
Observe however, that this faith, though it implies, that repentance or an abhorrence of sin has gone before, does not imply, that a holy life should have gone before! Sin may be abhorred, before it is actually forsaken; and confidence may be reposed in the power of the saviour to deliver us from it, before that deliverance has begun. But the first act of this
faith brings with it entire remission of sins, of all sin, however deep, a free, absolute, and plenary remission. Whosoever believeth in him, shall thereupon instantly receive remission of sins. The Lord hath laid on his own son the iniquity of us all; and to the man, who believes on him for remission and salvation, it shall no more be imputed. He is justified freely through the divine mercy without the deeds of the law.
We have now therefore, my brethren, advanced one stage further in the progress of our inquiries. Last Sunday it was shewn, that the atonement of Jesus Christ is a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Nevertheless, as it is too plain, that on the last day there will still be found many, to whose salvation that wonderful sacrifice will not have proved effectual, it still remained a serious and critical question, how we might secure ourselves an interest in the merit of the saviour: and this question has now been answered from the concurrent testimony of all the prophets and apostles, attributing this honour to faith.
Moreover the nature and character of that faith have been pointed out to you; and you have seen, that, while it presupposes a right, though still an imperfect, state of the affections and desires, its direct tendency is to withdraw the hope of a sinner from any delusive expectation of being able to save himself from the ruin, in which his sins have involved him, and to fix them on the saviour. And this very disposition of the heart is a holy quality. It is a return of the affections to their proper object, a commencement of that renewal in the spirit of our minds, by which we again learn to love the lord, our God, not with a stinted and penurious gratitude, but with all our mind, all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength.
Thus is the doctrine of justification by grace through faith a most wholesome doctrine, being, as our article declares of it, very full of comfort, yet without giving countenance to licentiousness. It is very full of comfort, because he, who is thus justified, has peace with God, and is no longer troubled with those distressing terrors, which otherwise the