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itself exhorted to, the profession of our faith, the apostle, you see here, plainly signifies, that it was made already, it was that they had; they had profession formerly. Now, says the apostle, let us hold fast this profession of our faith. This is the subject-matter of the exhortation, the profession of faith. to make the way yet plainer, unto what I would observe and discourse from it, I would speak a little to the opening of
I. What is in this faith, that is the matter of this profession. II. What is in the profession of our faith, or of this hope, which is as the form of it.
I. What is in this faith or hope. There is none can understand what it is to hold fast faith and hope, till they know what faith and hope is.
First, For faith and hope, for I would still take them in both together, and shew, as we go along, the very small difference that is betwixt them; we find faith, in the word of God, taken for the doctrine of faith, for the truth of God, that is to be received, taken up, and embraced by faith: Do we make void the law through faith? says the apostle. God forbid, yea, we establish the law, Rom. iii. 31. where the meaning plainly is, Do we make void the law by this doctrine of faith? No; by no means, God forbid. Divine truth is necessarily supposed to be the ground of all divine faith; if there were not such a thing going before, as Thus saith the Lord, nó amen of faith could ever follow.
Secondly, In the considering of that faith that we make the profession of, we must consider that God that is to be believed on. Faith natively, faith ultimately, terminates on God: That your faith and hope might be in God, 1 Pet. i. 21. where he joins them both together. There can be no believing where God is unknown, there is no believing in an unknown God. God cannot be known as the object of faith, but only as in Christ Jesus. It is impossible that God can be grasped, may I so speak, by the faith of a poor sinner, but only as this God reveals himself to us in Christ Jesus. There is no approaching to God by believing immediately: but by
him we believe in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God. There is divine faithfulness for the ground of our faith; there is God himself in Christ Jesus for the object of our faith.
Thirdly, In faith there is always an outgoing of the soul in desire and expectation of some good from him. This is believing, this is hoping. Now, this is inseparable from the former. Wherever divine truth is divinely believed to be true, and God in Christ is embraced by the faith of a poor creature, this is unavoidable; immediately there springs some expectation and hope of getting good from him, and that is believing. All the difference betwixt faith and hope is this, that faith goes first unto God in Christ, on the ground of the promise, for good; and hope goes forth to the same God, upon the same ground, in the expectation of that good that is believed. This is not so distinctly owned by every believer; for there are some that have true faith in them, who, through the weakness of their faith, and manifold temptations, nip the expectations of faith from budding. But this is a violence done thereto. Wherever a poor sinner hath taken the warrant of God's promise, and has sealed it with the poor weak amen of his faith, that this is true, and he is faithful that hath spoken it; how can he forbear to add, And therefore there will be a fulfilment, when the good word that is spoken will be accomplished, when the good thing spoken of will be given? The apostle Paul speaking of his own faith, gives it two special words, Phil. i. 20. According to my earnest expectation and my hope, (he made no doubt, but all things would do well with him), that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. The word there earnest expectation, is the same word in the original and our translation, with that which is used of the expectation of the whole creation towards the day of the glorious liberty of the sons of God. It is an expression borrowed from an intent looking out as it were, and stretching forth of the neck, in looking to see a friend coming, that will be very welcome when he comes. This is faith, divine truth known, God in Christ received, grasped
laid hold of by faith; expectations raised thereupon, that the good will come unto us. Though many poor believers do not own their expectations, yet such expectations are there, and do discover themselves sufficiently.
II. The second thing is, What is this profession of faith? Certainly, profession and confession is a declaring of this expectation I have been speaking of; it is a public declaring it one way or other. The apostle speaks of such kind of confession and profession, Heb. xi. 13. They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; they made an open public profession of it. Profession of faith is made two ways; it is made either by word, or by deed.
First, Profession is made with words. This the apostle does expressly limit to the tongue, Rom. x. 9, 10. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth (the same word with profession here in my text) the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Confession or profession by word is made several ways.
1. It is made unto God in prayer. All our prayers, and all our callings on the name of the Lord, are a confession; all that we say to him is a profession of our faith. O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my God. What great matter is that? Yes, it was a great word, that David's soul could say to the Lord, Thou art my God. There is a duty lying upon Christians to profess their faith unto the Lord, to avow it before him. Our Lord will have a poor man do so. Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Why, was Christ ignorant whether he believed or no? No; he that was the Son of God knew whether the blind man had faith or no; but our Lord will have it out of his own mouth; he will have him profess it, and avow it: as accordingly he did, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
2. Profession is made by the tongue. In that special case of confession, when gospel-truth is opposed, when it is made the state of suffering, then it is that confession is specially called for. It is with respect to this that our Lord's severe
word is, Matth. x. 32, 33. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Secondly, The profession of our faith is made by deed. A man that cannot speak may make a profession of his faith. He cannot make it by words, but he may make it otherwise; I acknowledge not so easy, for the tongue is man's glory.
1. The outward attending on the means of grace is a profession of faith. Whoever they be that give but their bodily presence unto prayer and preaching of the word of God, and other institutions of Christ's appointment, they profess their faith of the gospel. A great many are liars in so saying; for they profess what they have not, and God will judge them accordingly. There is more need to be afraid, than people commonly are aware of. It is the most dangerous employment that an unbeliever can be taken up in, to make a secure attendance on the means of faith, when the man knows in his own heart, that he neither hath faith, nor would have it.
2. People may and should make a profession of their faith in their conversations in their families. This is one part of Christian profession, that every one that has a family, that he is master or she is mistress of, are obliged to make profession of their faith there. The Christian conduct of a family is a very honourable way of professing faith. I will behave myself avisely, says David, in a perfect way: O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart, Psal. ci. 2. Several good words he speaks there of his purpose of owning of God, and declaring his respect to him, by his conduct in his family.
3. People make a profession of their faith by joining to and embodying themselves with the church of Christ. If there were no more but twenty believers in a city, I am persuaded that within a little time these twenty believers would quickly scrape up acquaintance one with another, and would unite themselves in the profession of their faith. Shall we receive faith, this great gift, and the honour of so near a rela
11 tion to God and Christ Jesus as faith brings us to, and shall we not own it? It is remarkable the apostle takes notice of this, 2 Cor. ix. 13. They glorify God, says he, for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ. The word in the Greek is more emphatical; it is for the subjection or stooping of your profession to the gospel of Christ, and your acknowledgment of it. Pray what great subjection is there here? Is it so low a stooping for a man to make profession of his faith, that it must be called a stooping? Is it any wonder that the apostle called it stooping to be subject to the gospel, when he says, Rom. x. 3. that the proud self-justiciary will not submit to the righteousness of God? And it is the same word with subjection in the other place.
4. People make a profession of their faith by an holy conversation. A walk as it becometh the gospel, is a profession of our faith, an outward confession of it. All manner of godly conversation, and the adorning of the gospel of God our Saviour in all things, is what is required even of servants, Titus ii. 10. But, say you, what will the gospel be adorned, is there an ornament added as it were to the gospel, by the faithfulness and obedience of a poor mean servant? Yes, says the Spirit of God, you are to adorn the doctrine of God. our Saviour in all things. We find it instructed in several very like things. There is the giving of charity to the relief of the saints: That is, says the apostle, by the experiment of this ministration, they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ: and you prove your subjection by your liberal distribution to your poor brethren. Nay, to bring the matter yet lower, and I cannot bring it much lower, and that is even in womens apparel: says the apostle, 1 Tim. ii. 9. Likewise let women adorn themselves, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the ornament of a Christian that seeks to adorn the gospel be good works, rather than the vanities of this world, that are utterly unbecoming the gospel; that the gospel never taught, and that it frequently rebukes; for these vanities always bring reproach upon it, and upon mens profession too.
5. The last profession of our faith is the last thing we can.