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yet, on the other hand, believing that God is the Being that he is, is the necessary foundation of the other ; since it is only in proportion to that, that either his judgments or rewards can have any influence upon us. So that manifestly to believe in God implies a believing that he is what he is. Now it is evident that the most of men in fact, and it is certain all men by nature, do not believe God to be what he is ; living incontestably without him in the world ; his being, perfections, and majesty, not having the least practical influence upon them, which plainly shows that they have not in them any real belief that God is such a Being as he is. Devils believe, and in consequence thereof tremble ; but they who lie dead in trespasses and sins, utterly unawakened and unconcerned about their state, are absolutely atheists; for they tremble not, and yet as well as devils would tremble, did they believe that God is the Being that he is, and in common with them they must tremble sooner or later, when they shall be made to know that there is a God that judgeth the earth : but, for the present, their hearts are so engaged by the things of the world, and their eyes are so blinded by the god of the world, that there is no belief in them that such a Being as God is. But how is this, when it is so commonly said, there is no such thing as an atheist in the world, and, in proof of that, it is alleged, that the most hardened sinner in it is afraid of death? My answer is, may not a man be afraid of death, without having any fear of God ? But it is urged further, he is afraid too of what comes after death. This I greatly question, and almost venture to deny, if the man has never been awakened. I am sensible that the traditionary knowledge there is of God left in the world, and handed down from one to another, is sufficient to raise suspicions, and to beget a doubtful apprehension in the foresight of death upon the minds of those who do not believe in reality that God is what he is; as also I am sensible, that this traditionary knowledge is capable of being so reasoned upon by learned men, as to produce in them a seemingly strong assent to the truth of God's being and perfections ; the reality of which I must question, since it begets in them no fear of God, or at least no other than is common to them with others; a superstitious fear, grounded on the vulgar opinion that there is a God: but this fear of death or judgment can by no means prove that a man really believes God to be what he is, when his hardness, obstinacy, and wilfulness, so evidently prove the contrary ; it being, I conceive, unquestionable, that what we really believe we are necessarily affected by in proportion to the importance which that truth is of unto us ; consequently they, who are not moved by fear to seek after the salvation of their souls, have no real belief that God is what he is, though, through the opinion concerning him that prevails in the world, they may be unable to deny it, and so may not be without their apprehensions. There is need, therefore, of a divine illumination to induce a man to believe that God is what he is : and when from the works of nature or Providence the being and perfections of God are made out in the heart, and a firm assent is gained, then the sinner sees God indeed ; but at first he sees him as a consuming fire. What comfort can he take in an everlasting, almighty, omnipresent enemy ? Were God his friend, what could equal his happiness ? To be kept by an almighty arm, to be guided by unerring wisdom, to stand in the favour of divine Majesty and absolute sufficiency; this were glorious! But to look upon him as an enemy and avenger! In this view, every infinite perfection of God makes the wretchedness so much more abundantly deplorable. But out of this state of distress our professor is supposed to be passed. He says, “ I believe that God is everything that he is,” not with the terror of a slave, but with the comfort of a child, who regards what is his father's as having an interest therein. “I believe that God is ; that he liveth omnipresent and eternal ; that his power is boundless ; that he is holy, just, and good ; and my joy it is that he is what he is, though I have sinned against him, and have deserved his indignation. Now I can look upon him with delight in all his perfectness, and because he is all-perfect ; in his perfection lies all my safety and all my happiness.” In short, though a real belief that God (apprehended according to the truth of his being), namely, just and righteous, is, fills the awakened soul with fear, yet, when the belief of God's mercy in Jesus Christ is added thereunto, it fills the believing soul with comfort. And therefore,
2. In this article, “ I believe in God,” is implied a belief of the Gospel, that God is reconciled in Jesus Christ. And this
is what makes the belief of God an article of Christian faith. Without a Mediator, there is a great impassable gulf between a holy Governor of the world and a rebellious creature. God stands off on one side, and man dares not draw near on the other. But, when Jesus comes in between, the breach is healed, the intercourse is opened ; God offers himself to the sinner ; and he, encouraged by the promise, and laying hold on the righteousness of Christ, says unto the Lord, “ Thou art my God.” Whatever belief any one may have of God, that he is everything glorious, excellent, and desirable, yet, considering him absolutely, he not only may not, but even he dares not, come near him with confidence ; sin, guilt, and the curse of the law, forbid. It is to a covenant-God only that there is access, it is through Christ only that we come unto the Father. If any presume to come otherwise, they have no command or other warrant to bear them out; they come in ignorant and arrogant security, not sensible that they are sinful, guilty, and miserable creatures ; and let them not think (whatever their confidence be) that they are accepted with God. Indeed, unless inexpressibly deluded, they can have no confidence in God. His terrors will make them afraid, because they have that within them which tells them they are sinners, and is continually crying out, How canst thou stand before this holy Lord God? But, not to insist on this, the article before us is Christian, stands at the head of all the articles of our most holy faith, is the key unto and the substance of them all; and therefore must needs have reference unto Christ, as that only Saviour by and through whom we believe in God.
3. “ I believe in God” not only implies our believing that God is what he is ; and again, our believing that he is reconciled in Christ, but also our accepting him as he presents himself to us in Christ to be a God unto us. Now this acceptance contains two things. (1.) A taking of God to save and bless us according to the Gospel. To save us, in Christ, from all our enemies; the curse of the law; the power of sin, the world, and the devil; the power of death, and the power of hell. And to bless us in the same Jesus Christ, by being at perfect peace with us; taking us to be his children ; granting us his favour; comforting us in all our troubles ; making us grow in grace ; keeping us in death ; receiving our departing souls ; raising our mortal bodies ; and causing us everlastingly to behold his face in the world to come. This is an act of faith, the betrusting the soul unto God the Saviour, upon a belief of his all-sufficiency, and of his sure mercy in Jesus Christ. And herein we do evidently renounce any pretence of righteousness in ourselves, as well as all hope of happiness in the creature, laying up all our hope and happiness in a covenant-God. (2.) A taking of God to rule over us according to the Gospel ; that is, to rule over us according to his revealed will by the power of his Spirit, wherein we renounce our own wisdom, submitting to his word ; our own strength, subjecting ourselves to the guidance of his grace ; and our own will, yielding ourselves up entirely unto his. This is the surrender of ourselves unto God to be a Lord and Master unto us. And in these two things lie our acceptance of God to be our God according to the offer that he makes of himself in Jesus Christ. In short, to believe in God is to believe that he is what he is, that is, what he hath revealed himself to be ; to believe that, having reconciled the world unto himself by Jesus Christ, he offers himself to be a God unto us; and to declare our acceptance of this offer by betrusting our souls unto him, and surrendering up our whole selves to his service.
From the whole it appears, that when any one says, lieve in God,” according to the true design and meaning of the article, his intention is to declare, “I believe there is one God, though subsisting in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; who, I steadfastly am assured, is a most glorious Spirit; that liveth of himself alone, being the life of all creatures ; neither limited by place nor time, but infinitely filling all things, and subsisting from everlasting to everlasting ; his power without bounds, and his blessedness incapable of addition or diminution; the Governor of the world, and in every respect qualified to be so, being unspottedly upright in all his commandments, just and equal in all his dispensations, and good in all his dealings ; unchangeable, because incapable of mistake, as infinitely wise to order all things, and who cannot fail for ever in his nature or will. I do confess that I have most sinfully departed from the government of this my rightful King, and
66 I be
that for the same I am deserving he should never look upon me: but seeing he has sent his only begotten Son into the world to save sinners, and has commanded me to believe in his name, I do solemnly declare, that I have no hope towards God but through Jesus Christ, in whom, and for whose sake, I desire always to believe God is reconciled to me to the alone glory of grace. I publish this as the sole ground of my confidence towards God, and would have you all take notice, that I do most cordially join with you in our common and professed faith towards God through Jesus Christ our Lord only; in whom, I do hereby solemnly declare, that I have taken, and do take God, according to his most condescending offer, to be my God, to pardon and accept, to sanctify, defend, and keep me to his use while I live, and to glorify me after this life, and this without any known reservation, and in a willing renunciation of all idols. In the full force and meaning of all which things I now say in the presence of you all, and call upon you all to bear witness to this my declaration, I believe in God."
And now, brethren, I may ask, have you understood these things ? If you have, I must say unto you, happy are you, if
For it was just now said, that this first article is the substance of all the Creed ; so that if you truly say, “I believe in God," then God is your God, you have God the Father for your Father, God the Son for your Redeemer, and God the Holy Ghost for your Comforter. And if God be your God, then of course all things are yours; life, death, things present, and things to come, are yours : you are a true member of Christ's body the church, are in the communion of saints, your sins are forgiven you, and the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting wait for you. In a word, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, are actually and always with you. And is all this nothing? Be sensible, I beseech you, of the noble honour and high privilege you are exalted to. Consider from whence you were taken, what you were, and whither you were going ; be attentive to the now happy dif rence. How did you once think of God? With what hatred ! with what terror! And now to behold the blessed object of your heart smiling upon you, O what a difference ! What a forlorn creature once were
you do them.