By: Edward Fisher
ACCORDING to the measure of any man’s faith, is his true peace of conscience; for, says the apostle, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom 5:1). Yea, says the prophet Isaiah, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee” (Isa 26:3). Here there is a sure and true grounded peace: “Therefore it is of faith,” says the apostle, “that it might be by grace, and that the promise might be sure to all the seed” (Rom 4:16). And answerable to a man’s believing that he is “justified freely by God’s grace, through that redemption that is in Jesus Christ” (Rom 4:3, 24), is his true humility of spirit. So that, although he be endowed with excellent gifts and graces, and though he perform never so many duties, he denies himself in all; he does not make them as ladders for him to ascend up into heaven by, but he desires to “be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ,” (Phi 3:9).
He does not think himself to be one step nearer to heaven, for all his works and performances. And if he hear any man praise him for his gifts and graces, he will not conceive that he has obtained the same by his own industry and pains-taking, as some men have proudly thought; neither will he speak it out, as some have done, saying; These gifts and graces have cost me something-I have taken much pains to obtain them; but he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am; and not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1Co 15:10). And if he behold an ignorant man, or a wicked liver, he will not call him “Carnal wretch!” or, “Profane fellow!” nor say, “Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am holier than thou” (Isa 65:5), as some have said; but he pities such a man, and prays for him; and in his heart he says concerning himself, “Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received”? (1Co 4:7).
And thus I might go on, and show you how, according to any man’s faith, is his true joy in God, and his true thankfulness to God, and his patience in all troubles and afflictions, and his contentedness in any condition, and his willingness to suffer, and his cheerfulness in suffering, and his contentedness to part with any earthly thing. Yea, according to any man’s faith, is his ability to pray aright (Rom 10:14), to receive the sacrament with profit and comfort: and to do any duty either to God or man after a right manner, and to a right end (Heb 4:2). Yea, according to the measure of any man’s faith, in his love to Christ, and so to man for Christ’s sake; and so, consequently, his readiness and willingness to forgive an injury; yea, to forgive an enemy, and to do good to them that hate him; and the more faith any man has, the less love he has to the world or the things that are in the world. To conclude, the greater any man’s faith is, the more fit he is to die, and the more willing he is to die.
Faith is the chief grace that Christians are to be exhorted to get and exercise; and therefore, when the people asked our Lord Christ, “What they should do to work the works of God,” he answered and said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh 6:29); speaking as if there were no other duty at all required, but only believing; for, indeed, to say as the thing is, believing includes all other duties in it, and they spring all from it; and therefore says one, “Preach faith, and preach all.” “Whilst I bid man believe,” says learned Rollock, “I bid him do all good things”; for, says Dr. Preston, “Truth of belief will bring forth truth of holiness; if a man believe, works of sanctification will follow; for faith draws after it inherent righteousness and sanctification. “Wherefore” says he, “if a man will go about this great work, to change his life, to get victory over any sin, that it may not have dominion over him, to have his conscience purged from dead works and to be made partaker of the divine nature, let him not go about it as a moral man”; that is, let him not consider what commandments there are, what the rectitude is which the law requires, and how to bring his heart to it; but “let him go about it as a Christian, that is, let him believe the promise of pardon, in the blood of Christ; and the very believing the promise will be able to cleanse his heart from dead works.”
Whence has faith its power and virtue to do all this?” Even from our Lord Jesus Christ; for faith doth ingraft a man, who is by nature a wild olive branch, into Christ as into the natural olive; and fetches sap from the root, Christ, and thereby makes the tree bring forth fruit in its kind; yea, faith fetcheth a supernatural efficacy from the death and life of Christ; by virtue whereof it metamorphoses the heart of a believer, and creates and infuses into him new principles of action. So that, what a treasure of all graces Christ hath stored up in him, faith draineth, and draweth them out to the use of a believer; being as a conduit, that watereth all the herbs of the garden. Yea, faith does apply the blood of Christ to a believer’s heart; and the blood of Christ has in it, not only a power to wash from the guilt of sin, but to cleanse and purge likewise from the power and stain of sin, and therefore, says godly Hooker, “If you would have grace, you must first of all get faith, and that will bring all the rest, let faith go to Christ, and there is meekness, patience, humility, and wisdom, and faith will fetch all them to the soul; therefore, [says he,] you must not look for sanctification till you come to Christ in faith.”