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SERMON VIII.

BY THE REV. THOMAS COLE, A.M.

SOMETIME STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, AND PRINCIPAL OF ST. MARY'S HALL, OXFORD.

HOW MAY IT CONVINCINGLY APPEAR, THAT THOSE WHO THINK IT AN EASY MATTER TO BELIEVE, ARE YET DESTITUTE OF SAVING FAITH?

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.-Ephesians i. 19, 20.

THE design of this epistle is to set forth the free grace of God in man's salvation by Christ.

1. More generally: "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings." (Verse 3.)

2. By a particular enumeration of those eternal blessings which were decreed for us in Christ; namely, election and adoption. (Verses 4, 5.)

Having thus looked so far back before the foundation of the world, (verse 4,) the apostle sets down what Christ did in time for us in his own person, when he took our nature upon him, and entered into the office of a Mediator, as our Head, completing our redemption in himself by dying for us: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Verse 7.) Then follow the blessings that we ourselves, as members of Christ, are partakers of in this life; and they are all comprehended in faith, and in the certain consequents of it.

These Ephesians were called to this faith by the preaching of the gospel, which (the Spirit of God accompanying it) became effectual to beget faith in them. Paul was mightily affected with the success the gospel had among the Ephesians, gives God thanks for it, and prays heartily for a further increase of that faith in them, (verses 15-17,) and shows what a wonderful thing it is, that any are brought to believe in Jesus. It is as great a miracle as the resurrection of Christ from the dead: that was an effect of divine power, and so is this.

I have made what haste I could to bring down my discourse to the text, and to the point or question that I am desired to speak to this morning; namely, How it may convincingly appear that those who think it an easy matter to believe, are destitute of saving faith.

In stating this case, I shall do these three things:

I. Show what a difficult thing it is to believe.

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II. Give the reason why many professors count it an easy thing to believe.

III. Prove that those who count so, are destitute of saving faith.
I. The difficulty of believing.

That which requires the greatest power and strength to effect it, is no easy thing: But believing requires the greatest power to effect it: Therefore it is no easy thing to believe.

I prove the assumption; namely, that the greatest power in heaven and earth is required to raise up faith in us :

1. Because faith deals with the power of God only about those things which it believes.-Bears itself up upon that; and when God is about to persuade a sinner to believe his free grace, he first convinces him of his power, that he is able to perform his promises.

(1.) God asserts his power.—He declares himself to be an Almighty God. So to Abraham, Gen. xvii. 1; and in the New Testament he often asserts his power, that all things are possible to him. Omnipotency sticks at nothing, knows no difficulties. What cannot the exceeding greatness of his power do?

(2.) God doth exert and put forth his power in some visible exemplification of it, that fully demonstrates his omnipotency, and can signify nothing less.-Such an instance we have in the text, in the resurrection of Christ. This overt act speaks-out his infinite power; it is matter of fact, and cannot be denied.

(3.) God gives the saints some feeling and experience of the exceeding greatness of his power put forth in their own souls, by working faith in them.-They see it is the Lord's doing; that nothing in man would ever lead him out to it, if God did not persuade him, and bring over his heart to believe the gospel.

Believers under the New Testament though they hear much of the power of God set forth in the letter of the word, and though they experience the efficacy of this power in their own hearts, yet that which puts the matter quite out of doubt with them, is this undeniable instance of divine power in the resurrection of Christ. Abraham wanted this: though he saw much of the power of God toward him, in calling him alone from his father's house, and greatly increasing him afterwards, when he became "two bands;" (Gen. xxxii. 10;) * and in giving him a son in his old age, &c.; yet the greatest proof of God's power to Abraham, was the inward efficacy of it upon his own heart, that he should be brought to believe a resurrection, when there was never any instance of such a thing in the world before. It is a sign he was satisfied in the almighty power of God; "accounted that God was able to raise him up," though "he received him from the dead in a figure." (Heb. xi. 19.) Isaac was not really slain; therefore Abraham's faith was more remarkable, that he should believe that God could raise his son from the dead; and that he would do it, rather than break his promise. He resolved to obey God for the present, and to trust him for the future. All that we believe now is but the consequent of Christ's resurrection, and

• This passage relates to Jacob, and not to Abraham.-EDIT.

follows upon it: the Head being risen, the members will also rise, every one in his own order; not only by a bodily resurrection at the last day, but by a spiritual resurrection in their souls here, when the time of their conversion and regeneration comes. That which convinces us of the almighty power of God to perform his promises, is the resurrection of Christ; but that which was the chiefest proof of God's power to Abraham, was the inward impression of it upon his heart when he was first called.

That he who as a man had this law written in his heart that "he should not kill," should so readily yield to the killing of his son ; and, when he was resolved so to do,—had the knife in his hand ready stretched out, was under the highest impulse of faith to do what God commanded him, that he should presently be taken off from it by a counter-command from heaven! How did God try Abraham, as if he had set himself to puzzle him! turns him and winds him this way and that way, backward and forward: he must not kill; and then he must kill; and by and by he must not kill. God was resolved his faith should move as he would have it, according to his will; and Abraham was as ready to comply. "He is my God," says Abraham, "and I will obey him; Isaac shall die, and Isaac shall live; what God will. He sees further than I do; I will follow him, though I know not whither I go, nor what I do: God knows; that is enough for me; I will trust him. Lord, what wilt thou have me do? Tell me, and I will do it. Shall I kill my son, or shall I spare my son? It shall be as thou wilt, Lord." Herein Abraham excelled all believers under the New Testament: though they have some experience of God's power put forth upon their souls in believing, yet they do not bear only upon this, as Abraham did; they have the resurrection of Christ to support their faith, which Abraham had not, and yet believes a resurrection-power as firmly as they who saw Christ risen from the grave. God appeared to Abraham, and made such immediate impressions of his power upon his heart, that he needs no sign, no visible instance, to confirm his faith: he was satisfied without it; he saw that in God himself that made him never to dispute his power afterwards.

Saints now, though they have experience of a Divine Power touching their hearts, and drawing them to Christ, yet they cannot so clearly discern this conquering, subduing power of God in themselves, as they may in Christ their Head; because they are under many infirmities not yet removed. They do not see sin and death, and the devil and the world, quite overcome in themselves; but they see all overcome in Christ; his resurrection proves all; and they are fain often to reflect upon that, to strengthen their faith and assurance of victory in their own persons at last. They know that Christ did not die for himself, nor rise for himself, but for them. They see Christ "crowned with glory and honour:" (Heb. ii. 9 :) he suffers no more in his person, though he still suffers in his members; but they shall ere long be as free from suffering as the glorified person of Christ now is in heaven. Thus it will be when Christ mystical shall have all things put under his feet; then Christ and his saints will reign glo

riously to all eternity; all tears shall be wiped from their eyes then; and this will as surely come to pass as Christ himself is risen from the dead. "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;' (John xvi. 33;) I have, and you shall, overcome it. In me you already are more than conquerors;' and in your own persons you shall be when 'I come again.'

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2. Because no natural principle in man can take-in the objects of faith.-Flesh and blood cannot reveal them to us. Faith is an act above reason. How is it possible for a man, as a man, to act above his reason? It is absurd and irrational to think so. Gospel-truths are so deep and mysterious, that they do transcend our human capacities, and cannot be discerned but by the light of a divine faith. What is human we may undertake, and count that easy to us; but what is divine is above us, quite out of our reach. Therefore faith is said to be the work of God, fulfilled by his power. (2 Thess. i. 11.) The knowledge of faith, by which we are persuaded of that which we conceive not, is higher than all rational understanding. We acknow ledge the truth of that, as Christians, which as men we do not scientifically know by any logical demonstration. Faith gives us the certainty of those things which we comprehend not.

3. That which makes believing so difficult, is the seeming contradictory acts of faith.-It seems not to consist with itself. Here I take faith more generally, as it has for its object the whole word of God, the law and the gospel. The special object of faith, as saving, is the promise; saving faith seeks life, which is not to be found in commandments and threats, but in a promise of mercy. Faith, acting upon the whole word of God, seems to contradict itself; for faith believes, a sinner is to die according to the law, and that he shall live according to the gospel. Faith has the word of God for both, both for the death and life of a sinner; and both are true. The law must be executed, and the promise must be performed; but how to reconcile this is not so obvious and easy to every one. "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid." (Gal. iii. 21.) It is impossible both should be accomplished in the person of a sinner; he cannot die eternally, and live eternally yet both are wonderfully brought about by Jesus Christ, according to the manifold wisdom of God, without any derogation to his law and justice. God and his law are satisfied, and the promise of salvation made good to the sinner; and so both law and gospel have their ends; not a tittle of either falls to the ground; heaven and earth may sooner pass away than this can be. O what a mystery is Christ! Flesh and blood cannot reveal this to us. Every believer assents to the truth of the law as well as the gospel. He knows that both must have their full course: the law is fulfilled in inflicting death, the gospel in giving life. The law contributes nothing to the eternal life of a sinner; but kills him, and leaves him weltering in his blood; is no more concerned about him for If God will bring this dead sinner to life again, he may dispose of him as he pleases; the law has done its utmost against him. the law did against Christ: [it] spared him not; but killed him out

ever.

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right, and left him for a time under the power of death. But having slain a man who was God as well as man, death was too weak to hold him he swallows up death in victory. He whom the law slew as man, rises as God, by the power of his Godhead. The law contributed nothing to his resurrection: the law had the chief hand in his death, but none in his resurrection. And here begins our eternal life,—in the resurrection of him who dies no more, and is "the resurrection and life" to all who believe in him.

4. The reigning unbelief that is among the generality of men.— Even among those who are of greatest reputation for wisdom and learning; ay, and among those who carry the vogue for zeal and religion, [who] are counted the head and pillars of the church; some pretending to infallibility; others set up themselves, and are cried up by many, as such competent judges in all matters of faith, that their judgment is not to be questioned, but readily complied with by all who would not be counted singular and schismatical. So it was in our Saviour's time: the Jews, who had been the only professors of the true religion for many ages, in opposition to all idolatry and false worship, they stumble at the gospel; the Greeks, who were the more learned sort of the heathen world, they counted it "foolishness." And thus was the whole world set against Christ. Here was the greatest outward hinderance of the belief of the gospel that could be imagined. And add to this the indefatigable pains and industry of the devil to keep out the light of the gospel from shining in upon us. He blinds the eyes of men by a cursed influence upon their corrupt minds, that they should not believe. Is it not a hard matter under all these discouragements to embrace the gospel, and declare our belief of it? "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.' (John vii. 48, 49.) Why should any regard what a company of poor illiterate people do? Their following Christ is rather an argument why we should not follow him; they are all but fools and idiots that do so; a 'cursed' sort of people." This is the judgment the men of the world have of believers. There is nothing, among too many self-conceited sceptics, [which] lies under a greater imputation of folly and madness, than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. O, what a pass are things come to, that, after so many hundred years' profession of Christianity, we should grow weary of Christ and the gospel!

5. The notorious apostasy of many professors this day, who have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, (1 Tim. i. 19,) may convince you all, that it is no easy matter to believe; so to believe as to persevere in the faith.

6. Believers themselves find it a difficult matter to act their faith. -If their lives lie upon it, they cannot act it at their pleasure, without the special aid and assistance of the Spirit. It is God [that] must "work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. ii. 13.)

Believers are hardly put to it. Great is the labour and travail of their souls in believing; they meet with much opposition from flesh and blood in every act of faith they put forth; they are forced to cry

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