INTRODUCTION.

DUTY OF BELIEVING IN JESUS CHRIST.[1]

In close connection with repentance for sin, the Word of God enjoins the duty of believing in Christ; "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel;[2] "Testifying repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."[3] Both the duties relate to men as sinners, and without the performance of them, escape from the penalty of sin is impossible. The requirement of faith, in addition to repentance, proves that mere sorrow for sin will not suffice; and the passages of Scripture are numerous in which faith is expressly declared to be necessary to salvation; "Preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned."[4] "Without faith it is impossible to please him."[5] "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."[6] "He that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."[7]

These clear proofs that faith is necessary to salvation, render it important to understand the nature of faith. And since the saving benefit does not result from every kind of exercise of faith, but only from faith in Christ, what it is to believe in Jesus Christ, is an inquiry of highest interest.

Every one who reflects on the operations of his own mind, will perceive that faith lies at the foundation of every mental affection, and of every purpose to act. The testimony of our senses must be believed, before external objects can awaken any emotion in the mind; and the uniformity of nature's laws, and the deductions of our reason, must be believed before we can resolve to shun a precipice, or to labor for a future crop. In the ordinary affairs of life, faith is the basis of action. The man who believes that his house is on fire, or that a rich treasure is buried under it, acts accordingly. It is equally true that faith lies at the foundation of every religious affection and of every religious duty. He who loves God, and delights in his will and works, must believe that he is, and that the will and works in which he delights are realities, and possess the qualities which his mind attributes to them. He who repents of sin, must believe that the sin of which he repents has been committed, and that it possesses the evil nature which he condemns and loathes. So, in everything else, faith is the foundation of all religion.

In the view which has been taken, faith is merely intellectual, and does not imply any emotion, either pleasurable or painful. It may immediately excite emotions, pleasurable or painful, according to the character of the truth believed, and the state of mind in which it is received. The belief of one truth gives pleasure; pleasure to one mind and pain to another. So, the truth of God, which a man dislikes while he is unconverted, is delighted in after his heart has been changed.

Faith, in this general sense, is necessary to the obedience of holy creatures, and mingles with all the holy exercises of their minds. But holy beings are incapable of repentance, because they have no sin to repent of; and they are unable to approach to God through Christ as guilty beings, seeking pardon. The Gospel addresses men as sinners, and presents Christ to them as the Saviour of sinners; and the faith in Christ which it requires, is the receiving of the truth which it declares concerning Christ.

Although faith may be contemplated as merely intellectual, and as antecedent to all emotion; it is not, in this abstract view of it, that faith in Christ is enjoined in the Gospel, and has the promise of salvation. Men must receive "the love of the truth, that they may be saved,"[8] as well as the truth itself. A merely intellectual faith, without the love of the truth believed, cannot produce the proper fruits of faith; for "faith worketh by love;"[9] and it cannot secure the blessings promised to faith; for "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness."[10] A faith which dwells exclusively in the intellect, and leaves the heart untouched and cold, is the dead faith which the apostle James describes.[11]

Faith in Christ, is faith in the declarations of the Gospel concerning Christ; and it is faith in these as coming from God. It is the receiving of God's testimony concerning his Son; and, in this view of it, we see the great sinfulness of unbelief; for he who believeth not, hath made God a liar.[12] We see, also, how firm a foundation is laid for strong faith. The Gospel is the Word of God that cannot lie. Our senses may deceive us and the deductions of our reason may be false. Relying on these, we may err, in things pertaining to the present life; but, in laying hold on life eternal, we may believe the truth of God with unwavering confidence. His word cannot fail.

Faith in Christ is necessary to salvation. We may believe many things that God has said in his Holy Word, without believing in Christ; and we may believe many truths concerning Christ, without possessing that faith in him which has the promise of eternal life. True faith receives Christ entire, as he is presented in the Gospel. If any part of his character, of his offices, or of his doctrine, is unwelcome to the heart, true faith does not dwell there. A perfect knowledge of Christ is not necessary to true faith; otherwise true faith would be impossible; for the riches of Christ are unsearchable,[13] and his love passeth knowledge.[14] But the true believer delights in Christ, just so far as he has knowledge of him; and desires to know more of him, that he may be more filled with his love. The revelation made to the Old Testament saints was obscure; but, so far as they could see Christ, in the light which was afforded them, they rejoiced to see his day and were glad.[15]

From the necessity of faith in Christ may be inferred the greatness of Christ's character. When Jesus said, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins,"[16] he claimed an importance to which Isaiah or Paul could never have aspired. When the ministers of his religion taught, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,"[17] they ascribed to him an office of exceeding greatness. If we believe in Christ, according to the Scriptures, we fully justify all that he claimed for himself, and all that his apostles claimed for him; and we rejoice to render to him all honor and praise.

We may consider the question proposed to us; "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" On the decision of this question our eternal all depends. As guilty sinners we are under condemnation, and the wrath of God abides on us. Among all the beings in the universe, no deliverer can be found, except Jesus Christ and there is no salvation possible, except by faith in him. It is, therefore, an inquiry of infinite importance whether we believe in him. The man, to whom the question was proposed by the Saviour, very pertinently asked in turn, "Who is he, that I might believe on him?" We are about to institute the inquiry, Who is he? While we search the Holy Scriptures, to find the answer, let us take heed to it that we believe in him with all our hearts. Let us rejoice to discover that he is mighty to save; and that he is, in every particular, just such a Saviour as we need. While we study his character and works, let us receive him into our hearts, and yield ourselves up to him, as bought with his blood, and seek to glorify him with our bodies and spirits, which are his.

[1] Acts xvi. 31. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.

John ix. 35. Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Who is he, that I might believe on him?

[2] Mark i. 15.

[3] Acts xx. 21.

[4] Mark xvi. 15, 16.

[5] Heb. xi. 6.

[6] John iii. 36.

[7] John iii. 18.

[8] 2 Thess. ii. 10.

[9] Gal. v. 6.

[10] Rom. x. 10.

[11] James ii. 26.

[12] 1 John v. 10.

[13] Eph. iii. 8.

[14] Eph. iii. 19.

[15] John viii. 56.

[16] John viii. 24.

[17] Acts iv. 12.