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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Faith

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in Scripture, is presented to us under two leading views: the first is that of assent or persuasion; the second, that of confidence or reliance. The former may be separate from the latter, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Faith, in the sense of an intellectual assent to truth, is, by St. James, allowed to devils. A dead, inoperative faith is also supposed, or declared, to be possessed by wicked men, professing Christianity; for our Lord represents persons coming to him at the last day, saying, "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" &c, to whom he will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you." And yet the charge in this place does not lie against the sincerity of their belief, but against their conduct as "workers of iniquity." As this distinction is taught in Scripture, so it is also observed in experience: assent to the truths of revealed religion may result from examination and conviction, while yet the spirit and conduct may remain unrenewed and sinful.

2. The faith which is required of us as a condition of salvation always includes confidence or reliance, as well as assent or persuasion. That faith by which "the elders obtained a good report," was of this character; it united assent to the truth of God's revelations with a noble confidence in his promise. "Our fathers trusted in thee, and were not confounded." We have a farther illustration in our Lord's address to his disciples upon the withering away of the fig tree: "Have faith in God." He did not question whether they believed the existence of God, but exhorted them to confidence in his promises, when called by him to contend with mountainous difficulties: "Have faith in God; for verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe (trust) that these things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith." It was in reference to his simple confidence in Christ's power that our Lord so highly commended the centurion, and said, "I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel," Matthew 8:10 . And all the instances of faith in the persons miraculously healed by Christ, were also of this kind: their faith was belief in his claims, and also confidence in his goodness and power.

3. That faith in Christ which in the New Testament is connected with salvation, is clearly of this nature; that is, it combines assent with reliance, belief with trust. "Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name," that is, in dependence upon my interest and merits, "he shall give it you." Christ was preached both to Jews and Gentiles as the object of their trust, because he was preached as the only true sacrifice for sin; and they were required to renounce their dependence upon their own accustomed sacrifices, and to transfer that dependence to his death and mediation,—and "In his name shall the Gentiles trust." He is said to be set forth as a propitiation, "through faith in his blood;" which faith can neither merely mean assent to the historical fact that his blood was shed by a violent death; nor mere assent to the general doctrine that his blood had an atoning quality; but as all expiatory offerings were trusted in as the means of propitiation both among Jews and Gentiles, faith or trust was now to be exclusively rendered to the blood of Christ, as the divinely appointed sacrifice for sin, and the only refuge of the true penitent.

4. To the most unlettered Christian this then will be very obvious, that true and saving faith in Christ consists both of assent and trust; but this is not a blind and superstitious trust in the sacrifice of Christ, like that of the Heathens in their sacrifices; nor the presumptuous trust of wicked and impenitent men, who depend on Christ to save them in their sins; but such a trust as is exercised according to the authority and direction of the word of God; so that to know the Gospel in its leading principles, and to have a cordial of belief in it, is necessary to that more specific act of faith which is called reliance, or in systematic language, fiducial assent. The Gospel, as a scheme of man's salvation, declares that he is under the law; that this law of God has been violated by all; and that every man is under sentence of death. Serious consideration of our ways, confession of the fact, and sorrowful conviction of the evil and danger of sin, will, under the influence of divine grace, follow the cordial belief of the testimony of God; and we shall then turn to God with contrite hearts, and earnest prayers, and supplications for his mercy. This is called "repentance toward God," and repentance being the first subject of evangelical preaching, and then the injunction to believe the Gospel, it is plain, that Christ is only immediately held out, in this divine plan of our redemption, as the object, of trust in order to forgiveness to persons in this state of penitence, and under this sense of danger. The degree of sorrow for sin, and alarm upon this discovery of our danger as sinners, is no where fixed to a precise standard in Scripture; only it is supposed every where, that it is such as to lead men to inquire earnestly, "What shall I do to be saved? " and with earnest seriousness to use all the appointed means of grace, as those who feel that their salvation is at issue, that they are in a lost condition, and must be pardoned or perish. To all such persons, Christ, as the only atonement for sin, is exhibited as the object of their trust, with the promise of God, "that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Nothing is required of such but this actual trust in, and personal apprehension or taking hold of, the merits of Christ's death as a sacrifice for sin; and upon their thus believing they are justified, their "faith is counted for righteousness," or, in other words, they are forgiven.

5. This appears to be the plain Scriptural representation of this doctrine; and we may infer from it,

(1.) That the faith by which we are justified is not a mere assent to the doctrines of the Gospel, which leaves the heart unmoved and unaffected by a sense of the evil and danger of sin and the desire of salvation, although it supposes this assent; nor,

(2.) Is it that more lively and cordial assent to, and belief in, the doctrine of the Gospel, touching our sinful and lost condition, which is wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God, and from which springeth repentance, although this must precede it; nor,

(3.) Is it only the assent of the mind to the method by which God justifies the ungodly by faith in the sacrifice of his Son, although this is an element of it; but it is a hearty concurrence of the will and affections with this plan of salvation, which implies a renunciation of every other refuge, and an actual trust in the Saviour, and personal apprehension of his merits: such a belief of the Gospel by the power of the Spirit of God as leads us to come to Christ, to receive Christ, to trust in Christ, and

to commit the keeping of our souls into his hands, in humble confidence of his ability and his willingness to save us.

6. This is that qualifying condition to which the promise of God annexes justification; that without which justification would not take place; and in this sense it is that we are justified by faith; not by the merit of faith, but by faith instrumentally as this condition: for its connection with the benefit arises from the merits of Christ and the promise of God. If Christ has not merited, God had not promised; if God had not promised, justification had never followed upon this faith; so that the indissoluble connection of faith and justification is from God's institution, whereby he hath bound himself to give the benefit upon performance of the condition. Yet there is an aptitude in this faith to be made a condition; for no other act can receive Christ as a Priest propitiating and pleading the propitiation, and the promise of God for his sake to give the benefit. As receiving Christ and the gracious promise in this manner, it acknowledgeth man's guilt, and so man renounceth all righteousness in himself, and honoureth God the Father, and Christ the Son, the only Redeemer. It glorifies God's mercy and free grace in the highest degree. It acknowledges on earth, as it will be perpetually acknowledged in heaven, that the whole salvation of sinful man, from the beginning to the last degree thereof, whereof there shall be no end, is from God's freest love, Christ's merit and intercession, his own gracious promise, and the power of his own Holy Spirit.

7. Faith, in Scripture, sometimes is taken for the truth and faithfulness of God, Romans 3:3 ; and it is also taken for the persuasion of the mind as to the lawfulness of things indifferent, Romans 14:22-23 ; and it is likewise put for the doctrine of the Gospel, which is the object of faith, Acts 24:24 ; Php_1:27 ; Judges 1:3 ; for the belief and profession of the Gospel, Romans 1:8 ; and for fidelity in the performance of promises.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Faith'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/f/faith.html. 1831-2.

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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