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Defcribing that Act on our Part, by which we do actually and effectually apply CHRIST to our own Souls.
JOHN i. 12. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the fons of God; even to them that believe on his name.
No fooner is the foul quickened by the Spirit of God, but it anfwers, in fome measure, the end of God in that work, by its active reception of Jefus Chrift, in the way of be lieving: What this vital act of faith is, upon which fo great a weight depends, as our intereft in Chrift, and everlasting blef fednefs, this fcripture before us will give you the best account of; wherein, (omitting the confideration of the coherence and context of the words) we have three things to ponder.
First, The high and glorious privilege conferred, viz. “Pow .. er to become the fons of God."
Secondly, The fubject of this privilege defcribed, "As many as received him."
Thirdly, The defcription explained, by way of oppofition, 66 even as many as believe on his name."
First, The privilege conferred is a very high and glorious one, than which no created being is capable of greater; "power to become the fons of God:" This word is of large extent and fignification, and is, by fome, rendered " this* right, by others this dignity, by others this prerogative, this pri "vilege or honour" It implies a title or right to adoption, not only with respect to the prefent benefits of it in this life, but alfo to that bleffed inheritance which is laid up in heaven for the fons of God. And so Grotius rightly expounds it of our confummate fonship, confifting in the actual enjoyment of bleffedness, as well as that which is inchoate: not only a right to pardon, favour and acceptance now, but to heaven, and the full enjoyment of God hereafter. O what an honour, dignity, and pri vilege is this!
*Beza, hoc jus: Pifcator, hanc dignitatem. Lightfoot, pra rogativam. Heinfius, privilegium; nec multo aliter voce as Hellenifta ufi videntur cum Chaldæorum
Secondly, The fubjects of this privilege are defcribed: "As "many as received him." This text defcribes them by that very grace, faith, which gives them their title and right to Chrift and his benefits; and by that very act of faith, which primarily confers their right to his perfon, and fecondarily to his benefits, viz. receiving him: there be many graces befides faith, but faith only is the grace that gives us right to Chrift; and there be many acts of faith belides receiving, but this receiving or embracing of Chrift, is the juftifying and faving act: "As many as "received him," [oros de enaßov autov,] as many, be they of any nation, fex, age, or condition. For "there is neither Greek, "nor Jew, circumcifion, nor uncircumcifion, Barbarian, Scy"thian, bond or free: but Chrift is all, and in all," Col. iii. II.
Nothing but unbelief bars men from Chrift and his benefits. As many as [received † him;] the word fignifies" to accept, "take," or, (as we fitly render), to receive, affume, or take to us, a word most aptly expreffing the nature and office of faith, yea, the very justifying and faving act: and we are also heedfully to note its special object, shabov avtor: The text faith not avra, his, but avrov, him, i. e. his perfon, as he is clothed with his offices, and not only his benefits and privileges. These are fecondary, and confequential things to our receving him ‡. So that it is a receiving, affuming, or accepting the Lord Jefus Christ, which must have respect to the tenders and proposals of the gospel," for therein is the righteoufnefs of God revealed "from faith to faith," Rom. i. 17. therein is Jesus Christ revealed, proposed, and offered unto finners, as the only way of juftification and falvation; which gofpel-offer, as before was opened, is therefore ordinarily neceffary to believing, Rom. x. 11, 12, 13, &c.
Thirdly, This description is yet further explained, by this additional exegetical claufe, [even to them that believe in his name]; here the terms are varied, though the things expreffed in both be the fame; what he called receiving there, is called believing on his name here, to fhew us that the very effence of faving faith, confifts in our receiving of Chrift. By his name, Dd 2
+ Λαμβάνει» and παραλαμβανειν, both fignify to receive,
The gospel offer is God's act, made by means of the word: ac ceptance is man's act; yet fo, as it is alfo the gift of God; for a man cannot receive the Mediator, unless faith, which is the inftrument of this acceptance, be given him by God.
we are to understand Christ himfelf: it is ufual to take these two, believing in him, and believing in his name, as terms con
,חוא הוא שמו ושמו,vertible, and of the fame importance
Ipfe eft nomen fuum, et nomen ejus ipfe eft *: His name is Himfelf, and himself is his name. So that here we have the true nature, and precious benefits, of faving faith, excellently expreffed in this fcripture; the fum of which take in this propofition :
Doct. That the receiving of the Lord Jefus Chrift, is that faving and vital act of faith, which gives the foul right both to his perfon and benefits.
We cannot act fpiritually, till we begin to live fpiritually: Therefore the spirit of life muft first join himself to us, in his quickening work, (as was fhewn you in the laft fermon), which being done, we begin to act spiritually, by taking hold upon, or receiving Jefus Chrift, which is the thing defigned to be opened in this fermon.
The foul is the life of the body, faith is the life of the foul, and Chrift is the life of faith. There are feveral forts of faith, befides faving faith, and in faving faith there are feveral acts, befides the juftifying or faving act; but this receiving act, which is to be our fubject this day, is that upon which both our righteousness and eternal happiness do depend. "This, as a form, "differences faving faith from all other kinds or forts of "faith ;" by this it is that we are justified and faved.
as many as received him, to them gave he power to become "the fons of God:" yet it doth not justify and fave us by reafon of any proper dignity that is found in this act, but by reafon of the object it receives or apprehends. The fame thing is often expressed in fcripture by other terms, as" Coming to "Chrift," John vi. 35. Trufling or flaying upon Christ, Isa. 1. But whatever is found in thofe expreffions, it is all comprehended in this, as will appear hereafter. Now, the method into which I thall caft my difcourfe on this fubject, that I may handle it with as much perfpicuity and profit as I can, shall be,
First, To explain and open the nature of this receiving of Christ, and fhew you what it includes.
Secondly, To prove, that this is the justifying and faving act of faith.
† Forma vel aliquid formae analogum ponitur differentiae laco.
Thirdly, To fhew you the excellency of this act of faith. Fourthly. To remove some mistakes, and give you the true account of the dignity and excellency of this act.
Fifthly, And then bring home all, in a proper and close application.
First, In the first place then, I will endeavour to explain and open the nature of this receiving of Chrift, and fhew you what is implied in it.
And, indeed, it involves many deep myfteries, and things of greatest weight. People are generally very ignorant and unacquainted with the importance of this expreffion, they have very flight thoughts of faith, who never paffed under the illuminating, convincing, and humbling work of the Spirit but we shall find, that faving faith is quite another thing, and differs in its whole kind and nature from that traditional faith, and common affent, which is fo fatally mistaken for it in the world 1.
For, First, It is evident, that no man can receive Jefus Chrift in the darkness of natural ignorance: we must understand and difcern who and what he is, whom we receive to be the Lord our righteousness. If we know not his perfon, and his offices, we do not take, but mistake Chrift. It is a good rule in the civil law, Non confentit qui non fentit: A miftake of the perfon invalidates the match. He that takes Chrift for a mere man, or denies the fatisfaction of his blood, or divefts him of his human nature, or denies any of his moft glorious and neceffary of
There are divers other expreffions by which the nature of faving faith is expreffed in fcripture, viz. Eating Christ's flesh, and drinking his blood, John vi. 40. Coming to Chrift, Mat. xi. 28. Having the Son, 1 John v. 12. Trufting or depending upon him, for which the Hebrew uses three emphatical words, and Ton. The first fignifies a firm and ftable truft. The fecond, to Jean or depend with fecurity. The third, to betake one's self to a fanctuary for a protection. All which is fuppofed or included in our receiving of the Lord Jefus Chrift: in eating and drinking we must receive meat and drink; coming to Chrift is neceffarily fuppofed in receiving him, for there is no receiving at a distance. Having the Son, and receiving him, are notions of the fame importance; and for trufting, relying with fecurity, and betaking ourselves to Chrift for refuge, they are all involved in the receiving act; for as God offers him to us as the only prop of our hearts and hopes, fo we receive him to rely upon him: And as he is held forth in the gofpel as the only Afylum, or city of refuge, fo we take or receive him, and accordingly betake our fouls to him for refuge.
fices, let them cry up as high as they will his fpirituality, glory, and exemplary life and death, they can never receive Jefus Chrift aright: This is such a crack, fuch a flaw, in the very foundation of faith, as undoes and deftroys all. Ignorantis non eft confenfus: All faving faith is founded in light and knowledge, and therefore it is called knowledge, Ifa. liii. 11.; and feeing is infeparably connected with believing, John vi. 40. Men must hear and learn of the Father, before they can come to Chrift, John vi. 45. The receiving act of faith is directed and guided by knowledge. I will not prefume to state the degree of knowledge, which is abfolutely neceffary to the reception of Christ ; I know the first actings of faith are, in most Christians, accompanied with much darknefs and confufion of understanding : but yet we must say in the general, that wherever faith is, there is fo much light as is fufficient to discover to the foul, its own fins, dangers and wants; and the all-fufficiency, fuitableness, and neceffity of Christ, for the supply and remedy of all; and without this, Chrift cannot be received. "Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you reft," Mat. xi, 28.
Secondly, The receiving Chrift neceffarily implies the affent of the understanding of the truths of Chrift revealed in the gofpel, viz. his perfon, natures, offices, his incarnation, death, and fatisfaction; which affent, though it be not in itself faving faith, yet is it the foundation and ground-work of it; it being impoffible the foul fhould receive and fiducially embrace, what the mind doth not affent unto as true and infallibly certain . Now, there are three degrees of affent; conjecture, opinion, and belief. Conjecture is but a flight and weak inclination to affent to the thing propounded, by reafon of the weighty objections that lie against it. Opinion is a more fteady and fixed affent, when a man is almost certain, though yet some fear of the contrary remains with him, Belief is a more full and affured affent to the truth; to which the mind may be brought four ways.
Firft, By the perfect intelligence of fenfe, not hindered or deceived. So I believe the truth of thefe propofitions, Fire is hot, water moift, honey is fweet, gall is bitter.
Secondly, By the native clearness of felf-evidencing principles. So I believe the truth of thefe propofitions, The whole is more than a part; the caufe is before the effect.
Thirdly, By difcourfe, and rational deduction. So I believe
[ See Dr. Sclater, on Rom. iv. 3.