Third. I proceed now to inquire particularly how faith approves of this contrivance, or, what is in it that it doth approve.
(1.) In answer to this, we say faith approves of it as a way full of infinite wisdom. The manifold wisdom of God shines with such a dazzling lustre in the eye of faith that it fills the soul with admiration at the depth of wisdom that appears in this blessed contrivance which reconciles the seemingly irreconcilable interests of justice and mercy in God. Justice seems to rest satisfied with nothing short of the sinner’s death, and mercy demands his life. Moreover it admires this contrivance because it reconciles these two seemingly irreconcilable desires: that of the glory of God and that of our own salvation. Both these desires we should ever have, and both these everyone that is savingly enlightened will have. But how they could have been together in the same soul, the wit of men or angels could never have contrived, for the glory of God’s faithfulness in His threatening – and of His authority, purity and wisdom in the law – seem to rest satisfied with nothing short of the sinner’s destruction. Therefore, in desiring the glory of God he must have at once desired his own damnation, and consequently in desiring his own salvation he must have desired God’s dishonour. But now this blessed contrivance lets us see how these two may be, not only reconciled, but made inseparable one from the other.
(2.) Further, as faith approves of, and admires, the wisdom of God in the contrivance, so faith approves of this as a way full of love and goodness, and consequently as that which highly suits the nature of God, who represents Himself as love: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And the soul sees and perceives a blessed suitableness between God’s nature and His actings. Hereby it perceives the love of God in Christ laying down His life for His people. This is what the apostle takes notice of: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Thus faith sees this way as that which is full of kindness, grace, mercy and love; and it is highly pleased with it as such.
(3.) Faith approves it as a way wherein much of the power of God appears, in that it infallibly obtains His end: “Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”. They see more power, strength and efficacy in it than any creature can profess justly unto; therefore they do, on this account, approve of it as becoming the omnipotent God.
(4.) Faith approves of this way as that which exceedingly honours God’s law in all parts. The obedience that the Son of God gave to it in His life was the highest honour it was capable of, and therein was a glorious testimony of respect given to God’s authority, wisdom, goodness and purity in framing the law. Nor was the sanction of the law less honoured by Christ’s undergoing the penalty in His death than the precept was by the obedience of His life.
(5.) Faith looks upon this way as a way that is full of peace and approves it as such, all challenges being answered by it. The law has nothing to demand. If it require perfect obedience, Christ hath fulfilled all righteousness and so is become “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”. If it demand the bearing of the penalty, Christ has done that also; He became obedient even unto death, so that He answered the law in both its demands. God, by raising Him from the dead, declared Himself satisfied, both as to the one and as to the other. And, God justifying, conscience has no more right to open its mouth against the sinner. Thus is the peace and comfort of the sinner excellently provided for by this contrivance, and faith approves of it with respect to this.
(6.) Faith approves it as a way full of security for poor sinners. The soul by faith sees provision laid in against all these things whence it has any reason to fear hurt, and all this put in the hand of One who is wise to dispense it seasonably and has engaged to do no less. It sees a fountain standing ever open for preventing any hazard from the guilt of sin; it sees armour laid in for preventing any danger from the power of sin, and withal strength provided for the management of that armour. In one word, it sees here what is sufficient to satisfy all its desires. These may be all reduced to two: God’s glory and its own salvation. Here it seems so well provided for that they are now not only consistent, but linked together after such a sort that not only is the salvation of sinners consistent with the glory of God but, moreover, the greater the sinner be, the greater glory God has in his salvation. And upon this account the heart approves this blessed device as that which in particular is suited to its own salvation, counting it a “faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom [itself is] chief”. Hereon the soul cleaves to this way with satisfaction and delight as the only way wherein its own salvation and God’s glory are both provided for.
Fourth. I proceed now to inquire how faith shows its satisfaction with, and approbation of, this way of salvation. And this it doth,
(1.) By the soul’s betaking itself, in all its straits, fears and storms, to this as its anchor. If guilt be charged upon the soul, it has no other relief but this. If the temptation represent God’s glory and the soul’s salvation as inconsistent, the soul flees to this as to its only refuge. If death and judgement and its appearance before God present themselves to the soul’s eye, it fixes only on this as what alone can give it relief in all its perplexities.
(2.) In that the soul doth ever confidently reject all other ways that may be tendered. Other ways will offer themselves to the soul for its relief in its straits, such as diversions to take off the mind, duties to satisfy the conscience, promises of amendment for the future. Faith rejects all these as insufficient; it will not look to them for relief.
(3.) When at any time, through the power of temptation, anything has been attributed to self, to a lessening of the glory of grace in this contrivance, faith will discover its satisfaction with this way by the soul’s displeasure with itself for discrediting this blessed contrivance.
(4.) By that high satisfaction and delight which it takes in its own conformity to this contrivance. When faith gets the soul moulded into the very frame of it, resting in this way, taking shame to itself, attributing all to God, then it fills the soul with refreshing sweetness and satisfaction. The conformity the soul sees in itself to this way, makes it lovely to itself.
(5.) In that it will refuse to abandon this way. Sometimes through the power of temptation, it may be made to fear exceedingly that it does not get to take hold of this blessed device. But it will not be beaten back from this, that it is a way sufficient and able to save it in particular, could it but bring itself to venture on it. Therefore it will lay the weight of its salvation upon this way, and none other. And the doubts that are in such a soul are not about the sufficiency of the way, but about its own being in it.
1. The second of a series of slightly-edited extracts from Faith and Salvation, volume 2 of the current edition of Halyburton’s Works. It continues the discussion of his first main point: “One may know and be sure that he doth believe, even in the midst of all temptations that may befall him, by his heart’s choosing, embracing and approving God’s way of saving sinners by the mediation of Jesus Christ [what he refers to as the gospel contrivance] and relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other pretended ways”.
This article is part 2 of a series
Other articles in this series:[part 1][part 3]