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Question. It may be demanded, that having heard the excellency und usefulness of this sovereign medicine to cure heart trouble, namely, faith in God and in Christ; can you tell us how we may get this faith? and what means we shall use to obtain it?
Answ. I shall endeavour, by the help of God's spirit, and scripture-light, to direct you herein, and as briefly as I may.
Direct. I. First, You must be convinced of your unbelief, of the greatness of the sin, of unbelief, and of your absolute need of faith. Of these three things you must be fully convinced.
1. Of your unbelief; for most people think they have faith, and that they never without it, and therefore labour not for it. Pray earnestly therefore that the holy spirit may be sent into your hearts to work this conviction in you, for it is his proper work, John xvi, 8. to convince the world of sin, because they believe not on me, saith our Lord: this is the great sin, the damned sin of the world, their not believing on Christ. Now that we may be convinced, that by nature we have no faith, let us consider these scriptures, Eph. ii. 1, 2. 12. and that until we are regenerate and born again, we have no faith, is evident
from John i. 12, 13. there, believing in Christ, and regeneration, are inseparably joined together; Acts xv. 9. and 26. 18. and 20, 21. From which scriptures it is most evident, that such as are strangers to the heart-purifying, the heart-sanctifying work of faith, have no faith; if we have not truly repented, nor know any saving change wrought in us, and upon us, by the spirit of God; for certain, whatever we think, we have no true savingfaith, it is but a fancy: of this then we must be fully convinced, and must most heartily beg the help of the spirit to convince us.
2. Of the greatness of the sin of unbelief: at binds the guilt of all other sins.upon us; it is disobedience and rebellion against the great God: for he commands us to believe, 1 John iii. 21. and by our unbelief we make God a liar, 1 John v. 10. O horrible wickedness.! And
3. We must be convinced also of our absolute need of faith; we must needs have it, or we must perish. Without faith it is ime possible to please God, Heb. xi. 6. without it we cannot be the children of God, John.i. 12. Gal. iii. 26. without it we can have no pardon of sin, Acts x. 43. Rom. üi. 25. John vüi. 24. And in what a dangerous case are we, so long as we lie under the guilt of all our sins ? Without faith we are not reconciled to God, nor justified, Rom. ii. 22. and 5.1. Nor can we be sanctified, Acts. 26. 18, 2 Thess. ii. 13. No access to God but by faith, Rom, v. 2. Éphes. ii. 18. No living the life of religion, nor bearing up under affliction, nor holding out to the end without faith, Heb. xi. No salvation, nor eternal life without it, Ephes. ii. 18. John iii. 16. 36. Heb. 10. last. Of all these things we must be convinced, if ever we will have faith.
Direct. II. Secondly, If we would have faith, we must diligently search the scriptures, read the gospel, attend on the reading and preaching of the gospel for this very end, that we may get faith by it: I say for this very end, certainly, that should be our end, in reading and in hearing the word, which was God's end in publishing of it; now this was his end in publishing of it, John xx. 21. Rom. xvi. 25, 26. Rom. x. 17. Acts xiii. 48. Ephes. i. 13. This is the ordinary means appointed by God, to work faith in the souls of men, as appears by Acts. ii. 12. and iv. 4. and xi. 20, 21. and many more. There are few that read, and hear the word for this end, and therefore get no' faith by it.
Now that the word read, and heard, may be effectual to work this precious, this most necessary grace of faith in us, there are some things antecedent, some concomitant, and some conséquent upon our attendance on the word, and our use of it.
First, Some things, antecedent, are necessary.
(1.) Preparation; for want of this the word most times proves ineffectual. It is
the empty hungry soul that relisheth and taketh in this food, Jam. i. 21. 1 Pet. ii. 1. Matt. xiii. 22. usually our success is according to our preparation; as in prayer, Psal. x. 17. compare 2 Chron. xii. 14. with 2 Chron. xix. 3. make conscience then of preparation.
(2.) Prayer : pour out your hearts to God in prayer, for a blessing on the word, that you read or hear. O, lift up a cry to God, and say, Lord, make this word effectual to work faith in my soul, &c.
(3.) Earnest desire and expectation of meeting God in the word, and of his blessing on it: if we expect nothing from it, no wonder if we receive nothing: there is “ ness of blessing in the gospel,” Rom. xv. 29. We should bring hungry and thirsty souls after God, the living God, as Psal. Ixiii. 1, 2, 3. and lxxxiv. 1, 2. God “ filleth the hungry with good things,” Luke i. 53.
Secondly, Some things are concomitant. As,
(1.) We must read and hear it “ word of God, and not as the word of man,'
," 1 Thess. ii. 33. Acts x. 33. and we must ac. knowledge God's authority in it.
(2.) Receive it with meekness, opening our hearts to it, and give it the most tender en. tertainment, Jam. i. 21.
(3.) With love, readiness of mind, and gladness of heart, 2 Thess. ii. 10. Acts ii. 41.
as the (4.) With faith, giving credit to it, believing it to be the word of God. Heb. iv. 2.
(5.) We must be careful to remember it. See what great stress is laid upon our remembering, 1 Cor. xv. 2. Our salvation lies upon it, Psal. cxix. 11. Love the word, for love is the act of memory.
(6.) Prayer must be added again for a blessing.
Thirdly, Some things must be done afterward also. As, (1.) Meditation upon what
you have heard and read; for want of this usually all is lost. I am persuaded, this is one great reason why most profit so little by the word, because they make no conscience of meditation; they hear and read, but never think more on it afterwards ; so preaching, hearing, reading, and all lost: and souls, and heaven and all lost. For God's sake then, whose word you read and hear, and for your own soul's sake, if you are not willing they should perish for want of faith, make conscience of meditation on the word, Psal. i. 2. and cxix. 97. if ever you get good by the word meditate upon it.
(2.) Application of it; take it home to yourselves, Job v. 27. Let it sink down into your hearts, saith Christ; it must be an ingrafted word, you must receive it into your hearts, and not into your heads only, 2 Cor. iv. 6. your hearts must be jointed to it, and mixed with it.