The third Warrant and special Motive to believe in Christ, is the strait and awful command of God, charging all the hearers of the gospel to approach to Christ in the order set down by him, and to believe in him; holden forth, I John 3:23. ‘This his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.’
Wherein the apostle giveth us to understand these five doctrines:
- That if any man shall not be taken with the sweet invitation of God, nor with the humble and loving request of God, made to him to be reconciled, he shall find he hath to do with the sovereign authority of the highest Majesty; for ‘this is his commandment, that we believe in him,’ saith he.
- That if any man look upon this commandment as he hath looked heretofore upon the neglected commandments of the law, he must consider that this is a command of the gospel, posterior to the law, given for making use of the remedy of all sins; which, if it be disobeyed, there is no other command to follow but this, ‘Go, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire of hell;’ for ‘this is his commandment;’ the obedience of which is most pleasant in his sight, ver. 22, and without which it is impossible to please him, Heb. 11:6.
- That every one who heareth the gospel, must make conscience of the duty of lively faith in Christ; the weak believer must not think it presumption to do what is commanded; the person inclined to desperation must take up himself, and think upon obedience unto this sweet and saving command; the strong believer must dip yet more in the sense of his need he hath of Jesus Christ, and more and more grow in the obedience of this command; yea, the most impenitent, profane and wicked person must not thrust out himself, or be thrust out by others, from orderly aiming at this duty, how desperate soever his condition seems to be; for he that commands all men to believe in Christ, doth thereby command all men to believe that they are damned and lost without Christ: he thereby commands all men to acknowledge their sins, and their need of Christ, and in effect commands all men to repent, that they may believe in him. And whosoever do refuse to repent of their bygone sins, are guilty of disobedience to this command given to all hearers, but especially to those that are within the visible church: for ‘this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.’ saith he.
- That he who obeyeth this commandment hath built his salvation on a solid ground: for, 1st, He hath found the promised Messiah, completely furnished with all perfections unto the perfect execution of the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; for he is that Christ in whom the man doth believe. 2d, He hath embraced a Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost, yea, and who doth effectually save every one that cometh to God through him; for he is Jesus, the true Savior of his people from their sins. 3d, He that obeyeth this command hath built his salvation on the Rock, that is, on the Son of God, to whom it is no robbery to be called equal to the Father, and who is worthy to be the object of saving faith, and of spiritual worship: for ‘this is his command,’ (saith he) ‘that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ.’
- That he who hath believed on Jesus Christ, though he be freed from the curse of the law, is not freed from the command and obedience of the law, but tied thereunto by a new obligation, and a new command from Christ; which new command from Christ importeth help to obey the command: unto which command from Christ, the Father addeth his authority and command also; for ‘this is his commandment,’ (saith John,) ‘that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he hath commanded us.’ The first part of which command, enjoining belief in him, necessarily implieth love to God, and so obedience to the first table; for believing in God, and loving God, are inseparable; and the second part of the command enjoineth love to our neighbour, (especially to the household of faith,) and so obedience to the second table of the law.
Hence may a weak believer strengthen himself, by reasoning from this ground after this manner: ‘Whosoever, in the sense of his own sinfulness, and fear of God’s wrath, at the command of God, is fled to Jesus Christ, the only remedy of sin and misery, and hath engaged his heart to the obedience of the law of love, his faith is not presumptuous or dead, but true and saving faith: But I,’ (may the weak believer say,) ‘in the sense of my own sinfulness, and fear of God’s wrath, am fled to Jesus Christ, the only remedy of sin and misery, and have engaged my heart to the obedience of the law of love: Therefore my faith is not a presumptuous and dead faith, but true and saving faith.’
The fourth Warrant and special Motive to believe in Christ, is much assurance of life given, in
case men shall obey the command of believing; and a fearful certification of destruction, in case they obey not; holden forth, John 3:35. ‘The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.’
Wherein are holden forth to us these five following doctrines:
- That the Father is well satisfied with the undertakings of the Son, entered Redeemer and Surety, to pay the ransom of believers and to perfect them in holiness and salvation: ‘The Father loveth the Son,’ saith he; viz. as he standeth Mediator in our name, undertaking to perfect our redemption in all points: The Father loveth him, that is, doth heartily accept his offer to do the work, and is well pleased with him: his soul delighteth in him, and resteth upon him, and maketh him, in this his office, the ‘receptacle of love, and grace, and good will,’ to be conveyed by him to believers in him.
- That, for fulfilling of the covenant of redemption, the Father hath given to the Son (as he standeth in the capacity of the Mediator, or as he is God incarnate, the Word made flesh) all authority in heaven and earth, all furniture of the riches of grace, and of spirit and life, with all power and ability, which the union of the divine nature with the human, or which the fulness of the Godhead dwelling substantially in his human nature, or which the indivisible all-sufficiency and omnipotency of the inseparable, every where present Trinity doth import, or the work of redemption can require: ‘The Father’ (saith he) ‘hath given all things into the Son’s hand,’ to wit, for accomplishing his work.
- Great assurance of life is holden forth to all who shall heartily receive Christ, and the offer of the covenant of grace and reconciliation through him: ‘He that believeth on the Son’ (saith he) ‘hath everlasting life;’ for it is made fast unto him, 1st, In God’s purpose and irrevocable decree, as the believer is a man elected to life. 2d, By effectual calling of him unto life by God, who, as he is faithful, so will he do it. 3d, By promise and everlasting covenant, sworn by God, to give the believer strong consolation in life and death, upon immutable grounds. 4th, By a pawn and infeftment under the great seal of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, so oft as the believer shall come to receive the symbols and pledges of life. 5th, In Christ the fountain and head of life, who is entered in possession, as attorney for believers; in whom our life is so laid up, that it cannot be taken away. 6th, By begun possession of spiritual life and regeneration, and a kingdom consisting in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, erected within the believer, as earnest of the full possession of everlasting life.
- A fearful certification is given, if a man receive not the doctrine concerning righteousness and eternal life to be had by Jesus Christ: ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life,’ that is, not so much as understand what it meaneth.
- He further certifieth, that if a man receive not the doctrine of the Son of God, he shall be burdened twice with the wrath of God; once, as a born rebel by nature, he shall bear the curse of the law, or the covenant of works; and next, he shall endure a greater condemnation, in respect that light being come into the world, and offered to him, he hath rejected it, and loveth darkness rather than light: and this double wrath shall be fastened and fixed immovably upon him, so long as he remaineth in the condition of misbelief: ‘The wrath of God abideth on him,’ saith he.
Hence may the weak believer strengthen his faith, by reasoning from this ground after this manner: ‘Whosoever believeth the doctrine delivered by the Son of God, and findeth himself partly drawn powerfully to believe in him, by the sight of life in him, and partly driven, by the fear of God’s wrath to adhere unto him, may be sure of right and interest to life eternal through him: But sinful and unworthy I’ (may the weak believer say) ‘do believe the doctrine delivered by the Son of God, and do feel myself partly drawn powerfully to believe in him, by the sight of life in him, and partly driven, by the fear of God’s wrath, to adhere unto him: Therefore I may be sure of my right and interest unto eternal life through him.’