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Describing that Act on our Part, by which we do actually and effectually apply Christ to our own Souls.
John i. 12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name.
NO sooner is the soul quickened by the Spirit of God, but it answers, in some measure, the end of God in that 'work, by its atlive reception of Jesus Christ, in the -way of believing: What this vital act of saith is, upon which so great a weight depends, as our interest in Christ, and everlasting blessedness, this scripture before us will give you the best account of; wherein, (omitting the consideration of the coherence and context of the words) we have three things to ponder.
Firjl, The high and glorious privilege conferred, viz. "Pow'" "er to become the sons of God."
Secondly, The subject of this privilege described, "As many "as received him."
Thirdly, The description explained, by way of opposition, "even as many as believe on his name."
hirst, The privilege conferred is a very high and glorious one, than which no created being is capable of greater; "power "to become the sons of God:" This word i|w«» is of large extent and signification, and is, by some, rendered " this* right, "by others this dignity, by others this prerogative, this /<rf"viiege or honour:" it implies a title or right to adoption, not only with respect to the present benefits of it in this life, but also to that blessed inheritance which is laid up in heaven for the Ions of God. And so Grotius rightly expounds it of ow consummate sonship, consisting in the actual enjoyment of blessedness, as well as that which is inchoate: not only a right to pardon, savour and acceptance now, but to heaven, and the full enjoyment of God hereafter. O what an honour, dignity, and privilege is this!
* Beza, hoc jus: Piscator, hanc dignitatem. Lightsoot, frtrogativam. Heinsius, privilegium; nec multo aliter voce &wm Hellenist* ust videntur cum Chaldæorum TM^W exprtjftrunt. Hems.
Secondly, The subjects of this privilege are described: "As "many as received him." This text describes them by that very grace, faith, which gives them their title and right to Christ and his benefits; and by that very act of saith, which primarily confers their right to his person, and secondarily to his benefits, viz. receiving him; there be many graces besides saith, but faith only is the grace that gives bs right to Christ; and there be many acts of saith belides receiving, but this receiving or embracing of Christ, is the justifying and saving act: "As many as "' received him," [cm 5s £Xa/3»» Xut°*,"] as many, be they of any nation, sex, age, or condition. For " there is neither Greek, "hor Jew, circumcision, nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scy"thian, bond or free: but Christ is all, aud in all," Col. iii. 11.
Nothing but unbelief bars men from Christ and his benefits; As many as [received f him,] the word signifies " to accept, "take," or, (as we fitly render), to receive, assume, or take to us, a word most aptly expressing the nature and office of saith, yea, the very justifying and saving act: and we are also heedfully to note its special object, Sx«ss» «»to»: The text saith not ctvrx, his, but X-atov, him, i. e. his person, as he is clothed with his offices, and not only his benefits and privileges. These are secondary, and consequential things to our reeeving him %. So that it is a receiving, assuming, or accepting the Lord Jesus Christ, which must have respect to the tenders and proposals of the gospel, "for therein is the righteousness of God revealed "from saith to saith," Rom. i. 17. therein is Jesus Christ revealed, proposed, and offered unto sinners, as the only way of justification and salvation; which gospel-offer, as before was opened, is therefore ordinarily necessiry to believing, Rom. x. 11, 12, 13, 6c.
Thirdly, This description is yet further explained, by this, additional exegetical clause, [even to them that believe in his ?iame"] ; here the terms are varied, though the things expressed in both be the same; what he called receiving there, is called believing on his name here, to shew us that the very essence of saving faith, consists in our receiving of Christ. By his name,
D d 2
\ AiuZanii and 'aa^aXtt^a.iai, both signify to receive.
% The gospel offer is God's act, made by means of the word: ac-: ceptance is man's act; yet so, as it is also the gift of God; for a man cannot receive the Mediator, unless saith, which is the instrument of this acceptance, be given him by God. ,
we are to understand Christ himself: it is usual to take these two, believing in him, and believing in his name, as terms convertible, and of the same importance, IDVIft KID Kin, Jpse est nomen suum, et nomen ejus ipfe eji *: His name is Himself, and himself is his name. So that here we have the true nature, and precious benefits, of saving saith, excellently expressed in this scripture; the sum of which take in this proposition:
Doct. That the receiving of the Lori Jesus Christ, is that saving and vital as} of faith, which gives the foul right both to his person and benesits.
We cannot act spiritually, till we begin to live spiritually: Therefore the spirit of fife must first join himself to us, in his quickening work, (as was shewn you in the lad sermon), which being done, we begin to act spiritually, by taking hold upon, or receiving Jesus Christ, which is the thing designed to be opened in this sermon.
The soul is the life of the body, saith is the life of the foul, and Christ is the life of saith. There are several sorts of faith, besides saving saith, and in saving saith there are several acts, besides the justifying or saving act; but this receiving act, which is to be our subject this day, is thar upon which both our righteousness and eternal happiness do depend. "This, as a form, "differences saving saith from all other kinds or forts of ** saith f;" by this it is that we are justified and saved. "To "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become "the sons of God:" yet it doth not justify and save us by reason of any proper dignity that is found in this act, but by reason of the object it receives or apprehends. The fame thing is often expressed in scripture by other terms, as " Coming to "Christ," John vi. 35. Trusting or staying upon Christ, Isa. 1. 10. But whatever is found in those expressions, it is all comprehended in this, as will appear hereafter. Now, the method into which I shall cast my discourse on this subject, that I may handle it with as much perspicuity and profit as I can, shall be,
First, To explain and open the nature of this receiving of Christ, and shew you what it includes.
Secondly, To prove, that this is the justifying and saving act of sahh.
f Forma vel aliquidsormae analogum ponitur differentiae loco.
Thirdly, To shew you the excellency of this act of saith. Fourthly. To remove some mistakes, and give you the true account of the dignity and excellency of this act.
Fifthly, And then bring home all, in a proper and close application.
First, In the first place then, I will endeavour to explain and open the nature of this receiving of Christ, and shew you what is implied iu it.
And, indeed, it involves many deep mysteries, and things of greatest weight. People are generally very ignorant and unacquainted with the importance of this expression, they have veiy flight thoughts of saith, who never passed under the illuminating, convincing, and humbling work of the Spirit: but we stiall sind, that saving saith is quite another thing, and differs in its whole kind and nature from that traditional saith, and common assent, which is ib satally mistaken for it ia the world %.
For, First, It is evident, that no man can receive Jesus Christ in the darkness of natural ignorance :' we must understand aud discern who and what he is, whom we receive to be the Lord our righteousness. If we know not his per/on, and his offices, we do not take, but mistake Christ. It is a good rule in the civil law, Non confentit qui tion fentit: A mistake of the person invalidates the match. He that takes Christ for a mere man, or denies the satissaction of his blood, or divests him of his human nature, or denies any of his most glorious and necessary of
% There are divers other expressions by which the nature of saving saith is expressed in scripture, viz. Eating Christ's skill, and drinking his blood, John vi. 40. Coming to Christ, Mat. xi. 28. Having the Son, 1 John v. 12. Trusting or depeuding upon him, for which the Hebrew uses three emphatical words, FOl 7Q£< and T"iDn. The first signifies a firm and stable trust. The second, to lean or depend with security. The third, to betake one's self to a sanctuary for a protection. All which is supposed or included ia our receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ: in eating and drinking we must receive meat and drink; corning to Christ is necessarily supposed in receiving him, for there is no receiving at a distance. Having the Son, and receiving him, are notions of the same importance; and for trusting, relying with security, and betaking ourselves to Christ for refuge, they are all involved in the receiving act; for as God offers him to us as the only prop of our hearts and hopes, Ib we receive him to rely upon him: And as he is held forth in the gospel as the ooly Asylum, or city of refuge, so we take or receive hua, and accordingly betake our souls to him for refuge.
sices, let them cry up as high as they will his spirituality, glory, and exemplary life and death, they can never receive Jesus Christ aright: This is such a crack, such a flaw, in the very foundation of saith, as undoes and destroys all. Ignorantis -non est consensus: All saving saith is founded in light and knowledge, and therefore it is called knowledge, Isa. liii. I1.; and seeing is inseparably connected with believing, John vi. 40. Men must hear and learn of the Father, before they can come to Christ, John vi. 45. The receiving act of saith is directed and guided by knowledge. I will not presume to state the degree of knowledge, which is absolutely necessary to the reception of Christ; I know the first actings of saith are, in most Christians, accompanied with much darkness and confusion of understanding: but yet we must say in the general, that wherever saith is, there is so much light as is sufficient to discover to the soul, its own fins, dangers and wants,; and the all-sufficiency, suitableness, and necessity of Christ, for the supply and remedy of all; and without this, Christ cannot be received. "Come unto me, all "yc that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," Mat. xir 28.
Secondly, The receiving Christ necessarily implies the assent of the understanding of the truths of Christ revealed in the gospel, viz. his person, natures, offices, his incarnation, death, and satissaction; which assent, though it be not in itself saving faith, yet is it the foundation and ground-work of it; it being impossible the soul should receive and fiducially embrace, what the mind doth not assent unto as true and insallibly certain ||. Now, there are three degrees of assent ; conjetlure, opinion, and belief. Conjecture is but a flight and weak inclination to assent to the thing propounded, by reason of the weighty objections that lie against it. Opinion is a more steady and fixed assent, when a man is almost certain, though yet some fear of the contrary remains with him,. Belief is a more full and assured assent to the truth; to which the mind may be brought four ways.
First, By the perfect intelligence of fense, not hindered or deceived. So I believe the truth of these propositions, Fire is hot, water moist, honey is sweet, gall is bitter.
Secondly, By the native clearness of self-evidencing principles. So I believe the truth of these propositions, The whole is more than a part; the cause is before the effect.
Thirdly, By discourse, and rational deduction. So I believe
( See Dr. Sclater, on Rom. iv. 3.