Thursday, May 29, 2008

The objects of faith

Scripture sets forth two objects of faith - the Father and the Son. Christ says 'ye believe in God, believe also in me'. These are sweetly joined together in the phrase 'the mercies of God in Christ Jesus'. This is a scriptural phrase but it is also found in the Shorter Catechism definition of repentance unto life.

Thomas Goodwin (Vol. 8, Bk 2, Chap 1) writes that 'the mercies in God s nature are not the object of our faith, but as they are considered together with Christ. That God s mercies and Jesus Christ are accordingly propounded jointly to our faith'. He continues 'THERE are two grand objects our faith doth act upon, God the Father and
Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit being the person who anoints us, generally teaching us all things. Our Saviour Christ therefore, John xvii. 3, having spoken of giving eternal life to them that believe, superadds, This is eternal life, to know thee (the Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent; thereby setting forth them two as the objects which our faith and knowledge are carried out unto for eternal life ; which eternal life is begun in this world by the knowledge of faith, and perfected by the knowledge of sight in the world to come'.

'That which in the Father our faith doth specially act upon, are the riches of his grace; and free grace is indeed, and in reality, but the love of God in election, though uttered in absolute promises and declarations, yet expressed indefinitely as to persons. God indeed absolutely declareth in the promises and covenant of grace what his heart was and is unto an elect company, but conceals the persons (which promises I therefore term indefinite), thereby ascertaining us that there are some of mankind he so loves resolvedly and unchangeably, whom he intends therein; which promises shall infallibly take hold on them. And that covenant and those promises I call absolute, because they promise to give the very conditions required to salvation in that covenant.

The other object of our faith is Jesus Christ, both in his person and his suffering, death, resurrection, intercession ; and likewise the benefits that are the fruits of all these. And our faith is to aim at the having fellowship with him in all these, as the object of faith, as well as the free grace of God the Father. In all which benefits which our faith seeks from these two, I might quote many scriptures, wherein Christ and the free grace of the Father are still joined, and go hand in hand. I instance particularly in justification for all the rest, in which there is both the grace of the Father and the righteousness of the Son, that concur both thereunto; and our faith is distinctly to exercise itself upon both these, for obtaining justification. This conjunction you see in Rom. iii. 24, Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. You have it also in Rom. v. 15, The grace of God, that is, of God the Father, and the gift by grace (the gift of righteousness and justification thereby) which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And again he says at verse 17, They which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, &c. a righteousness by which we are made righteous, ver. 19. There is both the grace of God in the heart of the Father, and there is the gift of righteousness by grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ, as by whose righteousness we are made righteous; and these concur to our justification of life, as it is termed in verse 18.

Now, there being these two grand objects of the faith of all believers for the first benefit they are brought to seek at first, all converts under the gospel are therefore brought to a distinct communion and fellowship (through faith) both with the Father and also with the Son, to obtain both grace and righteousness from both, and afterwards in the course of their lives they enjoy a distinct fellowship with both Father and Son: 1 John i. 3, These things I write to you, that you may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ; with these two objectively is our fellowship transacted. The Holy Ghost is he who, 1 John ii. 20, is styled the anointing of us and our eyes, to
converse with these, and by whom we know all things; but our fellowship is objectively with the Father, and with his Son.'

Goodwin goes on to write of how the ark and the mercy-seat typified this relationship of Christ and the mercies of God in him as the objects of faith. He infers that because the mercy-seat was topmost on the ark that The mercy-seat was uppermost on the top of the ark 'that all the grace in God's heart flowing to us is through Christ, and as supported by Christ, and his mediation and expiation, so as it is God s grace and mercy as in Christ'.

Goodwin also observes that the mercy-seat and the ark were 'both of a like size and proportion, as long, as broad, as deep, the one as the other (Exod. xxv. 10,
17 compared), to shew that however the essential grace and mercy in God's nature is essentially infinite, yet his dispensatory mercy and grace laid up for us, and intended towards us sinners of the sons of men, are of the same extent and commensuration with Christ, and his merits and righteousness, &c., because all that grace which God hath intended to bestow upon us, for the matter, manner, or measure, is but commensurable, and of like extent, with all that Christ purchased and procured, and is no more nor no less. As also because that these two must never be
separated; for God hath conjoined them thus closely and immediately one
to the other, only God's grace is uppermost, and the fountain of us, and
Christ, and all; and the glory of it is the supreme end of all, Eph. i. 5.6.'

Goodwin points out the practical matter that some people find it hard to focus upon Christ and the Father equally. 'Some converts indeed more distinctly, and withal amply and abundantly, have their hearts run out sometimes to God the Father and pursue after the attainment of his love and grace, and have their hearts drawn and set more largely to treat with the Father, and his grace, and to seek the obtain
ing more frequently the manifestations of his grace, and have their hearts more intent upon what his work for their salvation in his heart is. They consider that it was he who first decreed Christ, and our salvation through him, and called Christ to die for us, and gave us to Christ, &c., and with a peremptory and unchangeable love ordained the salvation of some through faith and holiness ; and accordingly they desire to have the manifestations of his grace made forth upon their souls. But others have the Lord Jesus Christ in their eye, and treat with him through his death, redemption, and the works which he performed towards it, in a more large and abundant manner. But though his heart goes out thus more amply to Jesus Christ, and hath communion with him and his righteousness, yet he believeth also on God the Father, that ordained and sent his Son out of his grace, and believes on him as the pardoner of his sin. And...he that hath communion with God the Father in seeking his love, he doth it in Christ impliedly, as through whose mediation he hath access unto the Father.

Goodwin believes that this experience lies behind the text '1 John ii. 13 (I cite it to this very purpose, to shew that sometimes the heart of one Christian runs out more to the Father, and at other times more to the Son), I write unto you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. Who is that? Jesus Christ; chap. i. 1, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life : that is apparently Jesus Christ, Then again, says he, I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. Here the spirits of the one run out at differing seasons, sometimes more to God, sometimes more to Jesus Christ. I will not stand to explain whom he means by fathers, and whom by babes, nor need I do it as to my purpose; it is enough for the present that it is ascribed to the same sort of persons at different times, that when they were babes, they knew the Father ; when fathers, they knew Christ more intently. The reason of which different intentions of our spirits is, that our souls are narrow vessels, and use not to be intent on two so eminent objects at once, which therefore take their turns in our hearts, that we take in sometimes the one, and sometimes the other.'

Goodwin goes on to show in the next chapter that 'when we come to Christ, and believe on him, there is a concurrence and consent of all the three persons in the Godhead unto that great work'. ' Christ is the object of faith, so, when any soul is converted, and drawn to believe on him, there is the concurrence of all the three persons in the Trinity to that work, and that they all put forth conjointly a renewed act of agreement in it'.

We need not think therefore that when Christ is set forth in the gospel that there is a disservice done to the other members of the Godhead. It the mercies of God in Christ are preached this will take in the work of the Father also in setting forth his Son for a propitiation and in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

It is the mercies of God but it is bound up in a person, the person of the Mediator and not merely a bare promise. He that hath the Son hath life. The puritan William Spurstowe said "Those Divines who in their Catechetical Systems have made the formal object of Faith to be the Promise, rather than The Person of Christ, have failed in their expressions, if not in their intentions." - SPURSTOW on Rom. vi. 1.

"Faith does not marry the soul to the portion, benefits, and privileges of Christ, but to Christ Himself. I don't say that the soul may not have an eye to these, and a respect to these in closing with Christ; yea, usually these are the first things that faith has in its eye. But the soul does, and must go higher; he must look at and pitch upon The Person of Christ, or his faith is not so right and complete as it ought to be. It is The Person of Christ that is the great fountain of all grace and of all manifestations of God to us; and faith accordingly does close with His Person." - PEARSE's Best Match, p. 160.