The Acts and Offices of Faith are,
1. To believe everything which God hath revealed to us:
and, when once we are convinced that God hath spoken it, to make no further
inquiry, but humbly to submit; ever remembering that there are some things
which our understanding cannot fathom, nor search out their depth.
2. To believe nothing concerning God but what is honourable and
excellent, as knowing that belief to be no honouring of God which entertains of
him any dishonourable thoughts. Faith is the parent of charity, and whatsoever
faith entertains must be apt to produce love to God; but he that believes God
to be cruel or unmerciful, or a rejoicer in the unavoidable damnation of the
greatest part of mankind, or that he speaks one thing and privately means
another, thinks evil thoughts concerning God, and such as for which we should
hate a man, and therefore are great enemies of faith, being apt to destroy
charity. Our faith concerning God must be as himself hath revealed and
described his own excellencies; and, in our discourses; we must remove from him
all imperfection, and attribute to him all excellency.
3. To give ourselves wholly up to Christ, in heart and desire, to
become disciples of his doctrine with choice, (besides conviction,) being in
the presence of God but as idiots, that is, without any principles of our own
to hinder the truth of God; but sucking in greedily all that God hath taught
us, believing it infinitely, and loving to believe it. For this is an act of
love reflected upon faith, or an act of faith leaning upon love.
4. To believe all God’s promises, and that whatsoever is promised
in Scripture shall, on God’s part, be as surely performed as if we had it in
possession. This act makes us to rely upon God with the same confidence as we
did on our parents when we were children, when we made no doubt but whatsoever
we needed we should have it, if it were in their power.
5. To believe, also, the conditions of the promise, or that part
of the revelation which concerns our duty. Many are apt to believe the article
of remission of sins, but they believe it without the condition of repentance,
or the fruits of holy life; and that is to believe the article otherwise than
God intended it. For the covenant of the Gospel is the great object of faith,
and that supposes our duty to answer his grace; that God will be our God, so
long as we are his people. The other is not faith, but flattery.
6. To profess publicly the doctrine of Jesus Christ, openly
owning whatsoever he hath revealed and commanded, not being ashamed of the word
of God, or of any practices enjoined by it; and this without complying with any
man’s interest, not regarding favour, nor being moved with good words, not
fearing disgrace, or loss, or inconvenience, or death itself.
7. To pray without doubting, without weariness, without
faintness; entertaining no jealousies or suspicions of God, but being confident
of God’s hearing us, and of his returns to us, whatsoever the manner or the
instance be, that, if we do our duty, it will be gracious and merciful.
These acts of faith are, in several degrees, in the servants of
Jesus; some have it but as a grain of mustard-seed; some grow up to a plant;
some have the fulness of faith; but the least faith that is must be a
persuasion so strong as to make us undertake the doing of all that duty which
Christ built upon the foundation of believing. But we shall best discern the
truth of our faith by these following signs. St. Jerome reckons three.
Signs of true Faith.
1. An earnest and vehement prayer: for it is impossible we should
heartily believe the things of God and the glories of the gospel, and not most
importunately desire them. For everything is desired according to our belief of
its excellency and possibility.
2. To do nothing for vain-glory, but wholly for the interests of
religion and these articles we believe; valuing not at all the rumours of men,
but the praise of God, to whom, by faith, we have given up all our intellectual
3. To be content with God for our judge, for our patron, for our
Lord, for our friend; desiring God to be all in all to us, as we are, in our
understanding and affections, wholly his.
Add to these:
4. To be a stranger upon earth in our affections, and to have all
our thoughts and principal desires fixed upon the matters of faith, the things
of heaven. For, if a man were adopted heir to Caesar, he would (if he believed
it real and affective) despise the present, and wholly be at court in his
father’s eye; and his desires would outrun his swiftest speed, and all his
thoughts would spend themselves in creating ideas and little fantastic images
of his future condition. Now God hath made us heirs of his kingdom, and
co-heirs with Jesus: if we believed this, we should think, and affect, and
study accordingly. But he that rejoices in gain, and his heart dwells in the
world, and is espoused to a fair estate, and transported with a light momentary
joy, and is afflicted with losses, and amazed with temporal persecutions, and
esteems disgrace or poverty in a good cause to be intolerable - this man either
has no inheritance in heaven, or believes none; and believes not that he is
adopted to the son of God - the heir of eternal glory.
5. St. James’s sign is the best: ‘Show me thy faith by thy
works.’ Faith makes the merchant diligent and venturous, and that makes him
rich. Ferdinando of Arragon believed the story told him by Columbus, and
therefore he furnished him with ships, and got the West Indies by his faith in
the undertaker. But Henry the Seventh of England believed him not, and
therefore trusted him not with shipping, and lost all the purchase of that
faith. It is told us by Christ, ‘He that forgiveth shall be forgiven:’ if we
believe this, it is certain we shall forgive our enemies; for none of us all
but need and desire to be forgiven. No man can possibly despise, or refuse to
desire such excellent glories as are revelaed to them that are servants of
Christ; and yet we do nothing that is commanded us as a condition to obtain
them. No man could work a day’s labour without faith; but because he believes
he shall have his wages at the day’s or week’s end, he does his duty. But he
only believes who does that thing which other men, in like cases, do when they
do believe. He that believes money gotten with danger is better than poverty
with safety, will venture for it in unknown lands or seas; and so will he that
believes it better to get to heaven with labour, than to go to hell with
6. He that believes does not make haste, but waits patiently till
the times of refreshment come, and dares trust God for the morrow, and is no
more solicitous for the next year than he is for that which is past; and it is
certain that man wants faith who dares be more confident of being supplied,
when he hath money in his purse, than when he hath it only in bills of exchange
from God; or that relies more upon his own industry than upon God’s providence
when his own industry fails him. If you dare trust to God when the case, to
human reason, seems impossible, and trust to God then also out of choice, not
because you have nothing else to trust to, but because he is the only support
of a just confidence, then you give a good testimony of your faith.
7. True faith is confident, and will venture all the world upon
the strength of its persuasion. Will you lay your life on it, your estate, your
reputation, that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is true in every article/ Then
you have true faith. But he that fears men more than God, believes men more
than he believes in God.
8. Faith, if it be true, living, and justifying, cannot be
separated from a good life; it works miracles, makes a drunkard become sober, a
lascivious person become chaste, a covetous man become liberal; ‘it overcomes
the world-it works righteousness,’ and makes us diligently to do, and cheerfully to suffer, whatsoever God hath placed in our way to heaven.
The Means and Instruments to obtain Faith are,
1. A humble, willing, and docile mind, or desire to be instructed
in the way of God; for persuasion enters like a sunbeam, gently and without
violence and open but the window, and draw the curtain and the Sun of
righteousness will enlighten your darkness.
2. Remove all prejudice and love to everything, which may be
contradicted by faith. ‘How can ye believe (said Christ) that receive praise
one of another?’ An unchaste man cannot easily be brought to believe that,
without purity, he shall never see God. He that loves riches can hardly believe
the doctrine of poverty and renunciation of the world; and alms and martyrdom,
and the doctrine of the cross, is folly to him that loves his ease and
pleasures. He that hath within him any principle contrary to the doctrines of
faith cannot easily become a disciple.
3. Prayer, which is instrumental to everything, hath a particular
promise in this thing. ‘He that lacks wisdom, let him ask it of God:’ and, ‘If
you give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father
give his Spirit to them that ask him!’
4. The consideration of the divine omnipotence and infinite
wisdom, and our own ignorance, are great instruments of curing all doubting and
silencing the murmurs of infidelity.
5. Avoid all curiosity of inquiry into particulars and
circumstances and mysteries, for true faith is full of ingenuity and hearty
simplicity, free from suspicion, wise and confident, trusting upon generals,
without watching and prying into unnecessary or indiscernible particulars. No
man carries his bed into his field, to watch how his corn grows, but believes
upon the general order of Providence and nature; and at harvest finds himself
6. In time of temptation be not busy to dispute, but rely upon
the conclusion, and throw yourself upon God; and contend not with him but in
prayer and in the presence, and with the help of a prudent untempted guide; and
be sure to esteem all changes of belief which offer themselves in the time of
your greatest weakness (contrary to be temptations, and reject them
7. It is a prudent course that, in our health and best
advantages, we lay up particular arguments and instruments of persuasion and
confidence, to be brought forth and used in the great day of expense; and that
especially in such things in which we use to be most tempted, and in which we
are least confident, and which are most necessary, and which commonly the devil
uses to assault us withal in the days of our visitation.
8. The wisdom of the church of God is very remarkable in
appointing festivals or holy days, whose solemnity and offices have no other
special business but to record the article of the day; such as Trinity Sunday,
Ascension, Easter, Christmas day; and to those persons who can only believe,
not prove or dispute, there is no better instrument to cause the remembrance
and plain notion, and to endear the affection and hearty assent to the article
than the proclaiming and recommending it by the festivity and joy of a holy
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