I shall now proceed to lay before you some evidences of faith, marks whereby you may safely conclude that you do believe.
1. We say 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, and relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other pretended ways. This mark indeed is not distinct from faith, for it is one of the principal actings of saving faith. Yet it is one which is discernible by all that will reflect upon themselves, even under great storms and violent temptations.
Now, that you may understand this mark distinctly, we shall, First, give some short account of the gospel contrivance for the salvation of sinners. Second, show wherein this approbation of the gospel method of salvation consists. Third, show how faith approves of it. Fourth, show how this approbation demonstrates, even under the greatest temptations, that it doth indeed approve of this method to an utter rejection of all others.
First. As for the gospel contrivance which faith approves of, you may take some account of it in the following remarks:
(1.) It leans upon a supposition in reference to man’s estate, which we find our Lord asserting of the church of Laodicea, and it is equally true of all naturally. All men, by nature, are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). Poor straying, apostate man has his eyes put out and knows not how to take one step towards happiness; he is as blind as a stone. Nor has he anything to screen himself from the wrath of a sin-revenging God; sin has made him naked; he has now no garment to clothe him, to keep the shame of his nakedness from being seen. He is a perfect bankrupt and cannot go to the expense of one good thought. Ransack his heart – look never so narrowly into it – you shall not find there so much goodness left by sin as to furnish one really good and acceptable thought. On all these accounts, he is miserable and wretched without a doubt. Again, this contrivance lays down as a foundation this grand supposition: that man can do nothing for the supply of his own wants.
(2.) The gospel is a discovery of a blessed contrivance that God has laid down for the salvation of sinners, for providing them a blessed supply for all these defects. There was from eternity a happy contrivance framed for providing sinful man with a garment, a robe of righteousness, that the shame of his nakedness may not appear; and for preparing eyesalve for him, to cure his natural folly and blindness; and riches for him, that he may have a sufficient stock to live upon in time and for eternity, even riches of grace and riches of glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ.
(3.) This blessed project provides all this supply for poor sinful man in Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the covenant: “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3); for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell” (Col 1:19). It does so upon this blessed design: that all His people might come to Him as the great repository of wisdom, and thence derive such supplies as they find occasion for. He is able to furnish them with riches of grace here and riches of glory hereafter, for with Him are “durable riches and righteousness” (Prov 8:18). And hence it is that we find Him pressing the Laodicean church to come to Him, that she might have gold tried in the fire, that she might be rich; and white raiment that she might be clothed, that the shame of her nakedness might not appear; and eyesalve, that she might see (Rev 3:18).
(4.) There is in this contrivance a way laid down for putting the persons whom God designs to save in actual possession of that blessed provision that is made for them in a Mediator, and such a way as is exactly adapted to the wise and holy ends God proposes to Himself in the whole project.
(5.) The great design God aims at, both in making this provision for the supply of the wants of elect sinners and in putting them in possession of it is, on the one hand, to advance His glorious grace and, on the other, to lay man low. This is expressly asserted to be the design of God in carrying on this project and contrivance: Christ Jesus “is made of God to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption”, “that no flesh should glory in His presence”, but “he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:29-31). Man has wisdom, but there is no access for him to glory in it, since God has provided and treasured it up for him in Christ Jesus – and not only so, but actually put him in possession of it, for Christ is made of God wisdom to him. Man, by this means, is clothed in a stately robe of righteousness; but he has nothing to glory of since, I may say, God not only prepares the robe, but puts it on. Christ Jesus being made of God righteousness to man, he is made holy and so made meet to be a sharer of the inheritance of the saints in light. But what has he to boast of since it is entirely owing to the Lord Jesus Christ that he is so? This is the great contrivance which faith approves of.
Second. As for the nature of this approbation which faith gives of the gospel method of salvation, whereby it evidences its own truth and reality, we may take it up in four things:
(1.) Some knowledge of it. Approbation ever implies knowledge; there is no approving of that which we know not. And before we approve this blessed contrivance, we must see it in a supernatural light. None ever will approve of it who see it only with a carnal eye, for to such it is foolish and weak. To save sinners by a crucified Saviour – in such a way as to ascribe all the glory of it to the grace, mercy and love of God, without allowing man to divide the spoils with God – is “unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23). And it ever will be so, except to those into whose minds and hearts God has shined “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.
(2.) The heart’s satisfaction with God’s ends in this blessed device. What these ends are, you may understand from what He did just discourse to you. They are easily reduced to these three: [1.] He aims at the salvation of His own elect. [2.] He designs to save them in such a way that they shall have no share in the glory of their salvation. [3.] He designs to have all the glory of it to His own blessed name. Now, when one approves the gospel contrivance for the salvation of sinners, his heart is satisfied with all these designs. The first of them would please well enough even a carnal heart; it is natural to everyone to desire salvation. But the other two will never go down with anyone who is not, by a day of God’s power, made willing. Nothing but omnipotent grace can make man content to stoop so low that the Lord alone may be exalted.
(3.) The heart’s satisfaction with the means God has made choice of for compassing these blessed designs. The mind sees them in God’s light; and the heart rests in them as proper and sufficient, such as became the wisdom of God to appoint and make use of in order to the attainment of these ends.
(4.) Hereon there ensues the heart’s cleaving to this contrivance, even to the whole of it, with universal satisfaction, being fully content with it in all its parts and preferring it to all other ways – nay, not only so, but counting them loss and dung, if they may have an interest in this way and method of God’s contriving. This is that acting of saving faith that gives a sure title to Christ and all His purchase. He that thus approves of this blessed device, in so doing putteth to his seal that God is true in the record He hath borne. And this is the record that God hath borne: that He hath provided life, and that “this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:10,11). When once a sinner is brought this length, God reaches all His design, gets all the glory that He is seeking: and therefore no more can be required in order to the sinner’s obtaining the advantage of that contrivance. It were easy to make it appear that all the descriptions of saving faith that we find in the Scriptures terminate here.
1. The first of a series of perhaps four slightly-edited extracts from Faith and Salvation, volume 2 of the current edition of Halyburton’s Works. It was reviewed in the December 2002 issue of this Magazine and is available for £12.99 from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom. Halyburton (1674-1712) was a noted Scottish theologian, but these articles come from a sermon preached while he was minister of Ceres in Fife. They confirm the statement: “His sermons were heart-searching and intensely practical”.
This article is part 1 of a series
Other articles in this series:[part 2] [part 3]