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PROFESSION OF OUR FAITH,
RECOMMENDED IN SEVERAL SERMONS.
HEBREWS x. 23.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, &ca HAVING insisted at so great length upon the first exhortation of the apostle, concerning drawing near to God, which is built upon the foundations of the Christian's privileges, that the apostle named, and that we have spoke of, from the 19th, 20th, and 2 1st verses; those exhortations that remain are de duced from the same foundation : wherefore I thought fit not to let them pass. The former exhortation was unto a duty with respect to God, drawing near to him, which the apostle requires to be performed in such a manner, that all Christians, and the best of them, must be learning to answer every day in their life, that they may come up more and more thereunto.
The other two exhortations are with respect to ourselves and others. The first is in the 23d verse, with respect to our own profession; the other, in the 24th verse, is with respect to our brethren and fellow Christians.
The first of these exhortations, which is contained in this 23d verse, plainly divides itself into the duty exhorted to, and the argument to enforce it. The duty is, Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. The argument to this duty is a strong and a proper one, He is faithful that hath prce mised. Our faith should always be built on God's promise ; it is not the right faith if it be not so; and our faith on the promise should answer the faithfulness of the promiser; the strength of our believing the promise, should bear some proportion to the great faithfulness of the maker of it. Now, it is evident, that the apostle's argument is both pertinent and strong: Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for God the promiser does not waver in what he has said.
I shall begin with the first of these at this time, The duty he exhorts to. And you may see here, as I observed from the former exhortations, that the apostle, the penman of this blessed portion of scripture, puts in himself in this exhortation : Let us, says he, draw near, &c. And let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.
In this duty exhorted to, there are three things to be considered.
1. What that is which is, as it were, the subject matter of this duty; and that is, the profession of our faith; so we translate it. The words in the Greek, in the original, are cera tainly the confession of our hope. What reason there hath been in the learned translators for altering it, I do not know. However, it is no great matter; for profession and confession, faith and hope, are closely knit together; they are but several words expressing the same thing. Confession and profession are frequently named one for another, and faith and hope are frequently named one for another, in the word of God.
2. The second thing is the act, that the apostle craves about this profession, and we read it, Let us hold it fast. As if the apostle had said, The profession of your faith is very precious, keep it well; it will be attempted upon by your spiritual enemies, and they will be endeavouring to pluck it from you; hold it fast, keep it firm.
3. There is the manner of this duty the apostle craves about your profession: Hold it fast, says he, without wavering, without declining, without turning it to the one hand or to the other, but holding it steady and even. These are the heads that I would discourse upon from this text.
And to begin with the first of these, that are in the duty itself exhorted to, the prafession of our faith, the apostle, you see here, plainly signifies, that it was made already, it was that they had; they had profession formerly. Now, says the
apostle, let us hold fast this profession of our faith. This is the subject-matter of the exhortation, the profession of faith. And to make the way yet plainer, unto what I would observe and discourse from it, I would speak a little to the opening of these two.
1. What is in this faith, that is the matter of this profession.
II. What is in the profession of our faith, or of this hope, which is as the form of it.
I. What is in this faith or hope. There is none can understand what it is to hold fast faith and hope, till they know what faith and hope is.
First, For faith and hope, for I would still take them in both together, and shew, as we go along, the very small difference that is betwixt them; we find faith, in the word of God, taken for the doctrine of faith, for the truth of God, that is to be received, taken up, and embraced by faith: Do we make void the law through faith? says the apostle. God for. bid, yea, we establish the law, Rom. iii. 31. where the meaning plainly is, Do we make void the law by this doctrine of faith? No; by no means, God forbid. Divine truth is necessarily supposed to be the ground of all divine faith; if there were not such a thing going before, as Thus saith the Lord, no amen of faith could ever follow.
Secondly, In the considering of that faith that we make the profession of, we must consider that God that is to be believed on.
Faith natively, faith ultimately, terminates on God: That your faith and hope might be in God, 1 Pet. i. 21. where he joins them both together. There can be no believing where God is unknown, there is no believing in an unknown God. God cannot be known as the object of faith, but only as in Christ Jesus. It is impossible that God can be grasped, may I so speak, by the faith of a poor sinner, but only as this God reveals himself to us in Christ Jesus. There is no approaching to God by believing immediately: but by him we believe in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God. There is divine faithfulness for the ground of our faith ; there is God himself in Christ Jesus for the object of our faith.
Thirdly, in faith there is always an outgoing of the soul in desire and expectation of some good from him. This is believing, this is hoping. Now, this is inseparable from the former. Wherever divine truth is divinely believed to be true, and God in Christ is embraced by the faith of a poor creature, this is unavoidable; immediately there springs some expectation and hope of getting good from him, and that is believing. All the difference betwixt faith and hope is this, that faith goes first unto God in Christ, on the ground of the promise, for good; and hope goes forth to the same God, upon the same ground, in the expectation of that good that is believed. This is not so distinctly owned by every believer; for there are some that have true faith in them, who, through the weakness of their faith, and manifold temptations, nip the expectations of faith from budding. But this is a violence done thereto.
Wherever a poor sinner hath taken the warrant of God's promise, and has sealed it with the poor weak amen of his faith, that this is true, and he is faithful that hath spoken it; how can he forbear to add, And therefore there will be a fulfilment, when the good word that is spoken will be accomplished, when the good thing spoken of will be given? The apostle Paul speaking of his own faith, gives it two special words, Phil. i. 20. According to my earnest expectation and my hope, (he made no doubt, but all things would do well with him), that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. The word there earnest expectation, is the same word in the original and our translation, with that which is used of the expectation of the whole creation towards the day of the glorious liberty of the sons of God. It is an expreso sion borrowed from an intent looking out as it were, and "stretching forth of the neck, in looking to see a friend coming, that will be very welcome when he comes. This is faith, divine truth known, God in Christ received, grasped