« PredošláPokračovať »
assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ, which he offered for us on the cross.
Q. 68. How many sacraments hath Christ instituted in the new covenant or testament ?
A. Two, namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.
N order to know the value and excellence of any curious work, we must not only attend to its proper form, but must also inquire concerning the workman of it; for a reputable workman renders his work reputable, since we cannot look upon that, which hath been made by a great artificer, to be a bungling work; therefore great workmasters will usually stamp their mark on their work, that they may render it the more reputable. The heathens seeing the shining heaven, and the well adorned earth, with their various forms, were urged of their own accord to inquire after the great Workmaster of the universe, which beamed so in their eyes, "if haply they might feel after him and find him," as the apostle speaks to the Athenians, Acts xxvii. 27. Neither were their endeavours altogether in vain : as the great Worker had stamped the mark of "his eternal power and Godhead" on his work, "they understood and saw clearly his invisible things." according to Rom. 1. 20. Paul, desirous of displaying the excellence of the third heaven, leads us up to "God, the Maker and Builder of it," Heb. xi. 16. What renders all the benefits of the covenant of grace glorious? is it not that the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, is the author of thein? This caused Paul, when he considered all those graces, to end, rest, and lose himself in the Lord, so that he was obliged to cry out "Of him, and through him, and to him are all things," Rom. xi 36. Is it not thus also with the faith of Christians? must we not inquire concerning the Author of it, in order to know the value of it? Verily the great apostle of the Gentiles shows us the worthiness of faith from the Author of it, when he teacheth that faith and all the graces which accompany it, "are things that are given to us of God, 1 Cor. ii. 12. The instructor doth not pursue a different method; for having exhibited precious faith with respect to the great necessity, operative nature, comprehensive object and glorious advantage of it, to wit, "that it renders us partakers of Christ and all his benefits," he inquires also concerning the author of it, that he may magnify the value of it to the utmost, asking in the sixty fifth question, "whence doth this faith proceed," and teaching us that the
great Author of it is the Holy Ghost, who works and confims it. Two general heads are exhibited for our consideration in this Lord's day.
I. How faith is wrought by the Holy Ghost.
II. How it is confirmed by him.
I. With respect to the first general head, the instructor saith, (a) that faith proceeds from the Holy Ghost, (b) that the mean by which it is wrought is the preaching of the gospel, and (c) that the Holy Ghost works it thereby in our hearts.
Faith proceeds indeed from God the Father, "being the gift of God," Eph. ii. 8. Therefore the Saviour saith, John vi. 44, "No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." It is also the work of the Son, to whom, "the apostles prayed for an increase of faith," Luke vii. 5. And it is also ascribed to the Holy Ghost, for he is "the Spirit of faith," 2 Cor. iv. 13. We see this likewise, 1 Cor. xii. 3, 9. Gal. v. 22. The outward works are indeed common to the three Persons, but so that the Father works through the Son, and through the Holy Ghost; and that, according to the distribution of the work of grace among the divine Persons, creation is ascribed to the Father, redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Ghost. The Father foreordained all grace for the elect, the Son purchased it, and the Holy Ghost applies and dispenseth it to the favourites of God. As faith is the first grace which is communicated and applied, therefore faith is attributed to the Holy Ghost.
Although the Holy Ghost alone works faith, he doth not nevertheless work it immediately, as enthusiasts fancy, but by reasonable means, for the Holy Ghost works in a reasonable manner with reasonable men. The mean which the Holy Ghost uses, is not the light of nature, either innate, or acquired by a contemplation of the creatures, as the Socinians persuade themselves; for that light can indeed discover to us "God's eternal power and Godhead, that we may be without excuse," Rom. i. 20, but it cannot reveal Christ to us, nor lead us up to him. For the Gentiles, who had no more than this natural light, "were without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world," Eph. ii. 12. The Holy Ghost makes use of the word only as a mean to work faith; it is indeed true, that a person may be brought to faith by reading the word, but the Holy Ghost makes use of the preaching of the word: "Faith cometh by hearing," saith Paul, Rom. x. 17. "The Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard the word" in the house of Corne
lius, Acts x. 44. When the Holy Ghost would work faith in the Ethiopian, he did not only direct him to read the word, but he also ordered it to be preached to him by Philip, Acts xiii. 28-42. Although the Lord could work faith by himself without the instrumentality of men, it nevertheless pleaseth him to "save them who believe by the foolishness of preaching," 1 Cor. i. 22. When the Lord Jesus would bring Paul to the faith, he called to him indeed out of heaven, and smote him to the ground, so that Paul, who was yet called Saul, asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Yet he doth not instruct him in the faith himself, but saith, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do ;" and he sonos Ananias to him, who preaches the word to him, Acts ix. 3-18. The Holy Ghost could have wrought faith in the Ethiopian immediately; but he would do it by Philip, Acts viii. 28-40. We might think that the angels were better qualified to bring men to the faith by the word; but the admirable wisdom and goodness of God, would rather, for many reasons, which we shall not mention at present, do this "by men, who have infirmity," as "the law" also formerly made such high priests," Heb. vii. 28. God sent an angel indeed to Cornelius the centurion, yet not to preach the word to him, but to direct him to Peter, "who should tell him what he ought to do, and of whom he should hear the words of salvation,” Acts x. 1-48. For God alone will have the honour, and will exalt his grace so much the more, as the instrument, by which he conveys it to the sinner, is ignoble, unworthy and unqualified in itself. Therefore Paul saith, "We have this treasure in earthern vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us," 2 Cor. iv. 7. But it is not the word of the law by which faith is wrought; that can indeed discover a man's sins to him, and condemn him; but the law doth not discover the way of faith to him. The Holy Ghost make use indeed of the law to convince man of his forlorn condition, John xvi. 8, but the gospel is the only capable mean of working faith; therefore Paul asked the Galatians "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?” Gal. iii. 2. The gospel is the power of God to salvation," Rom. i. 16, and "the ministration of the Spirit," 2 Cor. iii. 8. The ob ject of faith, God in Christ, is depicted in the gospel in ali its lustre, and in the fairest colours, that the sinner may be enamoured of it, and allured by it to embrace it in faith; it is therefore called "the gospel of the glory of Christ, by which God shines into the heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." See 2 Cor. iv. 4, 6. Gal. iii, 1. Yea, the gospel is
the voice of the Lord, whereby he invites and calls sinners to turn to him in faith, and to be saved, and by which all desirable grace is made known and offered to them, that they may appropriate that grace to themselves by faith. See Isaiah xlv. 22. Luke ii. 10, 11. "The Holy Ghost works faith in our hearts by this gospel," saith the instructor. But how? It is certain that "faith is the gift of God, and that it is given of grace to believe in Christ," according to the words of the apostle, Eph. ii 8. Phil. i. 29. But it is not so evident to all what this grace is, and how the Holy Ghost works faith in our hearts thereby. The orthodox say, according to the word of God, that the Holy Ghost infuseth faith operatively and effectually, by an almighty and irresistible power, into the heart, by which it believes and is converted: but the ancient Pelagians, whose opinion, condemned of old, hath been again fetched up from the pit of hell by the Socinians, said that the work of God in this matter was only an outward work, consisting merely in creating man a rational creature, endued with a freewill, by which he is able of himself to believe, and that no inward gift of the Holy Ghost was at all necessary, in order that he might believe. This was considered by the Semipelagians, as too harsh: they thought that we ought to ascribe something to grace, as well as to nature: grace and freewill, work together, grace assists our will, and our will assists grace, they resemble two horses, which draw one carriage. This opinion hath often been condemned by the church, according to the word of God, but it hath been again revived by the Remonstrants, who have also endeavoured to force it upon the church. In order to conceal themselves under specious pretences, they spoke at first very highly of grace, yea, said that man could not believe of himself but only by grace; but when they were examined more strictly, and urged to declare what this working grace was, they showed that they understood nothing else by it but the light of nature, and the remains of the divine image in man, and also the preaching of the gospel, which hath an inward operative power; whereby the understanding is enlightened, and which knocks at the door of the heart, and persuades the will in a moral manner to believe; the whole power of the grace of God will consist then herein, that man is able to believe; but that he actually believes proceeds from the natural power of freewill: they will not allow that God the Lord works and infuses faith into the hearts of men effectually and irresistibly, and thus overcomes and destroys the resistance of the sinful will, and renders the unwilling sinner willing.
We see therefore that they join and blend in a shameful manner, grace of God and the powers of man, call nature grace, and grace
nature, leave nothing for the Holy Spirit to do, in order to work faith internally in the heart; all their fair speeches concerning grace are only a great outcry about nothing: and when the scripture saith that faith is the gift of Gol, given of grace, they will utter words without a meaning. But the word of God, which we revere, speaks of an effectually working power of the Holy Ghost, which produceth faith in the hearts of the elect effectually, when it saith that God enlighteneth the understanding, as he enlightened the world in the first creation: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6. The Lord renders the unwilling will willing, giving another heart and another spirit, as he promiseth, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. “A new heart will I give you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." And thus he works, as Paul saith, Eph. i. 19, 20, "with the exceeding greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." What is the working of faith, but a new birth, a creation, and a raising from the dead? Verily the word of God calls it so, Titus iii, 5. Eph. ii. 5-10. But is not a person born, created and raised from the dead effectually and irresistably? What should a sinner indeed do by his free-will to effect faith in himself? is he not a slave, a servant of sin, and entirely impotent? We have shown this upon the eighth and ninth questions.
"Did the Jews resist the Holy Spirit ?" Acts vii. 51, it was not the Spirit of faith, working faith in their hearts, but the Spirit who wrought in Stephen, and enabled him to speak with power, whom they resisted, as the fathers of the Jews had resisted the prophets, according to vrs. 52. Let us admit that they resisted the Spirit, who wrought in their hearts, they nevertheless did not resist the Spirit, who wrought in them, that they might believe, but who wrought in them that he might convince and condemn them, as the Spirit of the Lord strove with the inhabitants of the old world, Gen. vi. 3.
They discover their ignorance concerning the working of the Holy Ghost in effecting faith, when they say, that the will doth not then continue free, but suffers compulsion; for the Holy Ghost works in man agreeably to his rational nature, enabling him to behold his misery, and the beauty of the Son of God, by which, being sweetly drawn, he runs after the Lord, and even cries to him, "Turn me, and I shall be turned," as the church doth, Jer. xxxi. 18. Lam.