Rev. John Love, DD.
An edited extract from The Memorials of the Rev. John Love, DD.
FIRST, in saving faith, there is a realization of things invisible and eternal (Hebrews 11:1). The person is in earnest. Turned out of all other refuges, feeling their insufficiency, he leaves them, and looks to Jesus. He sees His excellency to be incomparable. “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” (Psalm 73:25). He ardently desires Him: and, as his evidence is of his interest in Him, so is his joy. He has serious, frequent, delightful contemplations of Him. A sense of his former sins makes him to mourn, and loathe himself. Remaining corruption and imperfection make him groan. His diligence is constant in pursuing after holiness. Whatever temptations, desertions, or conflicts befall him, the great concern is never banished from his mind. No habitual sloth or indifference is allowed. He is content with nothing short of having his whole heart and soul and strength and mind engaged to, and kept in, the love of God and waiting for Christ, under the habitual impulse of the Holy Ghost.
Dead faith, on the contrary, may consist with a persons being secure, and also being trifling, careless and indifferent about these things. They appear to him distant things of the future. They do not arrest his solemn attention, nor make him truly solicitous about the issue, nor effectually check his inordinate appetites and passions. Because of alarms he may at times be distressed with thoughts of guilt and danger, and driven to duties and external reformations. Having no true impression of the way of salvation by Christ, he thinks to pacify Gods justice, as he does his own conscience, by these duties and reformations, and so falls asleep again. Or, he may agonize under most dark and unworthy conceptions of God as being implacable to such as he is, having no mercy in His nature, and as rigorous, capricious, and austere. He cannot venture his soul upon Christ. While the genuine believer has a lively and affecting view of Divine truths, the person with dead faith yields but a lifeless, inactive assent to them. In the former, the mould of the gospel sinks into his whole soul, and forms the image of itself there, transforming the soul: in the latter, gospel truth swims in the head, leaving the heart secure. In the former, the influence of the truth is abiding and calls forth activity: in the latter, it is transient and unsteady, and without life or activity.
Secondly, in saving faith, there is a receiving of these things, thus seen. The person applies the whole truth to himself with all his power, suitably to his state. He endeavours to draw in the sense of guilt and misery from the threatening. He is so far from seeking to avoid the charge of guilt that he labours to fix it deeper and deeper upon himself, in order that, in the way of first receiving Christ, and then in Him particular promises, he may more distinctly and eagerly draw in hope and joy from the promises, (John 1:12). He not only looks to Christ, and sees Him before him in the promise; but, at the Divine command, he attempts (and he rests not till he knows that he has accomplished it), to receive Him into the very centre of his heart, in all His fulness of grace, and truth, and authority.
This receiving of Christ is all-embracing. He receives Christ in all that He is: a Prophet, Priest, King, Husband, and so on. And he receives Christ along with all that He brings with Him. The cross, which is proposed along with Him to try sincerity, he accepts, in dependence on His strength to enable him to bear it: yea, he delights in it as a part of conformity to Him. In faith in His promise, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” he accepts all that can befall him in this world, saying, “If I get Him, all these things will be easily borne. I will then sing, The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
His heart acquiesces with delight and confidence in Gods way of saving sinners, as a way infinitely suitable to both the divine perfection and his own need; and he falls in love with it. Sensible of his blindness and ignorance, he sees a glorious suitableness in Chris being anointed to open the eyes of the blind. He depends on Him to illuminate his mind, to show him His way, and to give him a true spiritual acquaintance with the invisible world. Among all his best duties and attainments, he cannot single out one, with which he could venture into the Divine presence, looking for favour on account of it. He sees that it would be impossible for God to be favourable to him, were it not for this way which He Himself has devised, even the sufferings and obedience of His Son, whereby to let His favour flow out to sinners. He labours and is heavy laden with the sinfulness of his nature, and longs for more spirituality, progress in sanctification, victory over the flesh and its lusts; and for the renewing, strengthening, and quickening influences of the Holy Spirit. He receives a whole Christ with the whole heart, accepting all His terms without reserve, desiring no other terms, thinking them the best that could be chosen, and better than he could choose for himself. Of himself, or of his own faith and holiness, he may have dark thoughts, but no such thoughts of the gospel scheme. In it he sees the wisdom and the power of God employed in such a way, as to secure for him the utmost good.
In dead faith, on the contrary, there is always some reserve. There is some darling lust, some indulgence of sloth, or some worldly idol, on which the heart is set. Or there is some difficult duty, that must be evaded. The genuine believer believes himself empty: the dead professor is full. The one, renouncing his own understanding, looks to Christ for light: the other leans to his own understanding. The one makes mention of Christs righteousness, and His only: the other thinks to lay some foundation in his own performances for being distinguished from others, hoping the deficiencies of them will be made up by Christ. The one brings with him no qualifications, but comes without any thing to Christ for all things: the others hope in Christ depends on his own qualifications, which he has attained independently of Him. The former thinks himself safest, when he most sees his need of Christ: the latter thinks himself safest when he least sees his need. The former will have Christ on any terms: the latter would make the terms himself.
Thirdly, in saving faith, there is a humble dependence on Christ for salvation. The person may see an entire void in himself, and that he has nothing on which to lean: yet does he reckon Christs salvation not the less sure if he can but get a hold of it. He feels always a supporting and encouraging hope, in venturing himself on Christs righteousness. This keeps him from sinking under terrors of conscience. He puts confidence in Christ, that He will keep him from ruining deceptions.
If he sees not his interest in Christ, he sees nothing for him elsewhere but black despair. Toward Christ, therefore, his face is turned. Any gleam of light that he has, comes from Christ. On Him alone he waits for deliverance. He ventures on the gospel promise as faithful, and believes in the Divine mercy in Christ as unlimited, such a price having been paid as that it may now go forth freely. He sees safety and security in leaving all his interests, for time and eternity, in Christs hands. He sees Him to be faithful, loving, and kind.