In reading and hearing, I have discovered a considerable variety of opinion, among divines, respecting faith.
Some consider it to be the simple assent of the mind, to a declaration or fact which is supported by rational evidence. Others suppose that faith is expressive of the exercises of a gracious soul, believing and embracing what God reveals to men; and that it is the duty of all men, who hear the gospel, to exercise faith. In this view of the subject, they boldly call on all their hearers to believe and be saved. A third class will have it that faith is the gift of God, that it intends something received, and not anything done by men.
To me, nothing appears more evident, than that faith is an indefinite word, admitting of a variety of significations. That faith frequently intends the exercise of the soul; and that men are under the strongest obligations to hear and believe all that God reveals, admits of no doubt; but that faith always has that meaning is not so clear. Eph. vi. 2, 3. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. II. Thes. i. ii. We pray always for you, that our God Would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power. I Tim. i. 14. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Heb. xi. 1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. xii. 2. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. II. Peter, i. 1. To them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Let any man divest himself of the prejudices of system, and dispassionately reflect on the texts here quoted, and it is probable he will confess that faith sometime bespeaks the work of God in man, and not always the work which God requires of man. Nothing is here intended to chill the burning zeal of those, who so pathetically call on all to repent and believe the gospel, and deal out the vengeance of God and the wrath of the Lamb to unbelievers: but let them at the same time remember, that there is a faith superior to all duty, called, sometimes, the spirit which God pours out upon them; at other times, the water of life; an unction from the Holy One; the word of God which liveth and abideth in the saints; Christ in them the hope of glory, &c. This kind of faith, Adam, in innocency, had not; this faith came not by Abraham or Moses, but by Jesus Christ, and is life eternal.
It is hard to believe that a righteous God, requires us to be inherently more rarified and celestial than innocent Adam was; but if the saints of Jesus are not so, what mean such texts as these? “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. But where sin abounded grace did much more abound. We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Christ did not come to re-Adam the sons men; he does not restore them to the garden of Eden. The flood and other causes, have blotted out of existence the garden of Eden, and sin has done the same to the pristine innocence of Adam; neither of them are in existence, and of course cannot be described. But Christ, in the new covenant, raises men to a station more exalted than the genesian paradise – to a life more sublime than Adam possessed. “His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s.” It is not unreasonable for God to require men to be as good as Adam was; to believe what he did, and as much more as is revealed to them; (for the faith and obedience of men should always keep pace with the revelation and commands of God,) but if the saints of Jesus are made partakers of a divine nature, and are more celestial than Adam was, as has been suggested, then there is one faith which is not a duty; not a work of man; not an exercise of the soul: the want of this faith constitutes no crime: the possession of it meetens us for heaven.
If the scheme of salvation is nothing more than a remedial law, and men are only re-Adamed by grace, they may fall away as Adam did. As temptations have increased a hundred fold, it is a hundred times as likely that all gracious souls will fall, as it was that Adam should fall: every argument, therefore, drawn from Adam’s fall, to prove that saints may fall from grace, proves that they all certainly will. But if we consider the new covenant as established upon better promises, that Christ is the author and finisher of faith, in men; and that faith is eternal life; we may conclude that the saints are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.
Miscellaneous Essays, In Prose and Verse.
Elder John Leland
Published sometime since 1810 (precise year unknown)
The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland
Pages 428 – 430