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(2.) The object of this faith : it is a believing on the Son of God. This object of faith is fully illustrated in the following verse, namely, “ This is the record of God, that he hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." True faith then hath the revelation of Christ as the only begotten, and eternal Son of God, and Saviour of the world, for its object. This is God's record and testimony, that Christ is his Son and our Saviour; that he is our salvation and eternal life, by God's appointment and constitution. But,
(3.) We have the evidence of it: He that believeth, hath the witness thereof. By the witness here, I conceive, we are to understand what we have in the eighth verse, and in the close of the sixth. It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. The Spirit, together with the water and blood, is the witness on earth, and within believers, which concurs with the witnesses in heaven, and agrees with them in witnessing the same thing, namely, that Christ is the Son of God, and the true Messias. This is the end and design of all these witnesses in general. But the special end and design of this internal witness to particular souls is, their own adoption, filiation, and salvation, through this Messiah. This is expressly declared to be the end, ver. 13. “ That ye may know, that ye have eternal life.”
(4.) You have the subject of it : He hath the witness in himself. He that believeth the witness and testi. mony of God, testifying his Son to be our life and salvation, he hath the witness in himself, in his own heart, in his own soul. He finds and feels him as the Author of faith within him. It is not a fluctuating opinion, but an internal testimony; and internal sensation of what God testifies and speaks, namely, peace and salvation, in and through his son Jesus Clirist. He that believeth in Christ hath the Spirit of Christ, of whom Christ hath said, “ He shall testify of me,” John xv. 26. And again, “ He shall glorify me; for, he shall receive of mine, and shew it unto you,” John xvi. 14. He testifies in the man also by water and blood. He therefore, that believeth, bath a sufficient efficacious witness in himself, and needs not seek it elsewhere.
What is further necessary for explaining this subject, will come in under the prosecution of the following doctrine. OBSERV. That true faith carries its own evidence, or
witness, along with it. See for illustration of this, besides the text, the fol. lowing scriptures: Eph. i. 13. “ After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.--Rom. viii. 16. “ The Spirit also beareth witness, with our spirits, that we are the sons of God.” I think it was this evidence the apostle's faith carried along with it, when he said, 2 Tim. i. 12. “ I know in whom I have believed.” And the believer's mentioned in the close of this chapter, ver. 20. “ We know, that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding to know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and eternal life.”
The method we propose for illustrating this propo. șition, through the divine favour, shall be the following.
I. To inquire what this faith is ?
along with it? III. What this witness doth depone and attest? IV. What is the quality and property of this witness
that the believer hath in himself? V. W'hy trụe faith bath this witness along with it? VỊ. Make application of the whole subject.
1. We return then to the first thing proposed, viz. to inquire, What true faith is ? The text would give us ground to inquire into two things, viz. 1. Into the object: 2. The nature of it.
1st, The object of it is the Son of God. Not the Son exclusively: God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the object of our faith; “ He that receiveth his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true," John iii. 33. But this God would be as inaccessible to us, as fallen angels, were it not through his Son, who took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham! therefore it follows, in the last verse of John iii. “ He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life :” and in John v. 12. “ He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” Faith centers on him as the Son of God, as the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. Were he not God, faith would want a sure foundation: -Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and besides me there is none else.” The salvation that we need, is a salvation that God only could contrive, that God only could purchase, that God only could administér. This is a strong support to the soul in all things that can difficult it, that he is God, the Son of God, God-man, Mediator.
In a word, I understand here, the Son of God, and all these things in him, on which faith terminates. The object of our faith is the Son of God, as made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption : the Son of God, whom God hath set forth to be the propitiation for our sins. . When faith takes him up as the Son of God, it looks on him as a glorious objeet ; “ More glorious than the mountains of prey :" as an able Saviour; “ Able to save to the uttermost," being the Son of God: as one dear and near to God, and in whom God cannot but be well-pleased : he is well-pleased with him as his own Son, and wellpleased with him as our Saviour, and well-pleased in him: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am wellpleased,” Mat. ii. 17.
2dly, As to the nature of faith: it is not my design to enlarge upon it at present only a short account of such as believe on the Son of God, you may take in the following particulars.
1. “ He that believeth on the Son of God;" that is, he who is self-condemned, and hath the sentence of the Jaw pronounced in his conscience, and thereupon finds himself lost and undone without Christ; “ The Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost. The whole need not the physician, but they that are sick.” For whom then is consolation prepared, but for these that are cast down? For whom is wisdom, but for the foolish? For whom justification, but for the guilty ? For whom sanctification, but for the filthy ? For whom salvation, but for the sinner? · 2. “He that believeth ;" that is, he that hath no ex. pectation from the law as a covenant of works, whom the Lord hath divorced from that husband, in order to his espousal to Christ, who sees his own righteousness to be filthy rags, a bed shorter than that he can stretch himself upon; a covering narrower than that he can wrap himself into: who finds his best duties and holiness cannot over-mantle him, and be proof against the consuming fire of God's infinite justice, which requires infinite satisfaction; or vindicate God's infinite holiness, which requires perfect obedience.
3. “ He that believeth :" that is, he to whom the Son of God hath been made known and revealed, according to that of our Lord, “ I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes. If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, &c. But God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, bath shined into our heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, in the face of Jesus.” Accordingly, every believer hath got the Spirit of wisdom, and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.
4. “ He that believeth ;" that is, he who, from the discovery of his glory, hath had his heart drawn out towards him as the Lord his righteousness and strength; his righteousness, for justification : his strength, for sanctification. The man having seen his fittedness every way for his mediatory work, his eye hath affected his heart, and his heart made to go out after Christ, and to settle in him as the running rive settles in the ocean. The man before this was unfixed, unsettled, running hither and thither; but now, having come to Christ, he is at rest, and hath no further course : “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides thee.”
5. “ He that believeth ;" that is, he that lives upon him, who by faith draws virtue from him, for every thing that appertains to life and godliness. The man hath cast himself into bis arms, to sink or swim with him; he is swallowed up wholly in Christ as his all in all; his all, for light, life, strength, joy, grace, and glory.
6. He that believeth ;" that is, he whose faith works by love, and draws out love. See verse first of this chapter. But these things I do not insist upon.
II. What is that witness that the believer hath in himself? This, according to the explication I give, is threefold, in verse 8th, namely, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood.
1st, The Spirit, by his own immediate testimony ; “ The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits,” Rom viii. 16. The Spirit, by himself, witnesses in a distinct way from that which is by water and blood, by shedding abroad the love of God upon the heart, in a soul-ravishing way: and ordinarily he makes the word useful in this way of witnessing; or, if not an express word, yet some scriptural consideration. Now, that the Spirit doth witness in believers this way, distinct from the water and blood, is evident,
1. From the apostle's ascribing it to the Spirit himself, in that forecited Rom. viii. 16. It is not said, the Spirit, but the Spirit himself. The graces of the Spirit are witnesses ; for, every effect is a witness of its cause : for the Spirit himself doth it, says Paul. A man does many things by his substitute: but when he is said to do it himself, it argues his doing in his own person.
2. It is evident from the fitness of many words and promises to witness immediately to a man, when the Spirit applies them; such as that, “ Fear not, for, I am with thee: Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Now, the Spirit doth apply such words to particular souls ; for they are ordained on purpose for the believer's strong consolation : and the believer hath a right to them, being in Christ,
« In whom all the promises are Yea and Amen:" and the Spirit is promised to take of the things of Christ, and shew them to his people.
3. It is evident from the number of the witnesses that are here owned in the context; there are Three