The Mystery of Faith, Sermon 2Andrew Gray (1634-1656) - A Powerful Preacher Who Died at a Young Age
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THERE are three great and cardinal mysteries, in the unfolding of which, all a Christian’s time ought to be spent.
First, There is that precious and everlasting mystery of Christ’s love and condescendency, which these intellectual spirits, the angels, are not able fully to comprehend.
Secondly, There is that woeful mystery of the desperate deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart, which no man was ever yet able to fathom and comprehend. And,
Thirdly, There is that precious mystery of that eternal felicity and blessedness that is purchased unto the saints, that once they shall reign with Christ, not a thousand years only, but throughout all the ages of everlasting and endless eternity: so that there is this difference betwixt the garden of everlasting delight that Christ hath purchased to the saints, and that first paradise, and Eden wherein man was placed. There was a secret gate in the first, through which a man that had once entered in, might go out again. But in the second and precious Eden, there is no access for going out: and all that is to be known of these three mysteries is much comprehended in this, to know that they cannot fully be known.
Paul was a blessed proficient in the study of the first mystery, and had almost attained to the highest class of knowledge, and yet he is constrained to profess himself to be ignorant of this. Hence is that word, Eph. 3:19, That ye may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. And is it not a mysterious command, to desire people to know that which cannot be known? The meaning whereof we conceive to be this in part, that Paul pressed this upon them, that they should study to know that this mystery of Christ’s love could not be known. Jeremiah was a blessed proficient in the knowledge and study of the second mystery; he had some morning and twilight discoveries of that, and though in some measure he had fathomed that deep, yet he is constrained to cry out, chap. 17:ver. 9, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it’?
And indeed that which Solomon saith of kings, Prov. xxv. 3, may well be said of all men in this respect, The heavens for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of man is unsearchable. The Apostle Paul also was a blessed proficient in the study of the third mystery, having some morning and twilight discoveries of the promised rest, and was once caught up to the third heaven; and yet when he is beginning to speak of it, 1 Cor. 2:9, he declared all men to be ignorant of the knowledge of this profoun’d mystery of the man’s blessedness, and cried out, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’; and if there be anything further to be known of these mysteries, the grace of faith is found worthy, amongst all the graces of the Spirit, to open the seven seals of these great depths of God.
Is not the grace of faith that whereby a Christian doth take up the invisible excellency and virtue of a dying Christ? Is not faith that grace, by which the Christian must take out the spots and blemishes that are within himself? And is not the grace of faith, that precious grace that placeth a Christian upon the top of Mount Pisgah, and there letteth him see a sight of the promised land, and doth open a door in heaven through which a Christian is admitted to see Christ sitting upon his throne? And faith hath not only a kind of omnipotency, as is clear – that all things are possible to him that believeth, but it hath a kind of omnisciency, and all knowledge, that it can take up, and comprehend all the great mysteries of heaven, according to that word, Prov. xxviii. 5, ‘He that seeketh the Lord, shall understand all things’: as if he had said, there is nothing dark to a believing Christian, as there is nothing impossible to a believing Christian. As likewise, faith is that grace that must take aside the veil that is spread over the face of a crucified Christ: and faith is that precious spy, that goeth forth and taketh up these wonderful excellencies that are in him. The grace of love as it were, is born blind, and it hath nothing wherewith to solace itself, but that which is presented unto it, by this noble and excellent grace of faith.
Now, before we shall speak anything to these things, that we did propose to speak of at the last occasion; we shall yet speak a little unto some things, which are necessary to be known for the distinct uptaking of the nature of justifying faith, which is the great commandment of this everlasting gospel, and that which we would first speak to, shall be this, what is the reason and ground that the gospel-conveyance of righteousness and life (and of the excellent things of this everlasting covenant) should be through the exercise of the grace of faith? For it is not said in the scripture that repentance justifieth, that love justifieth, or that mortification justifieth; but it is faith only that justifieth, and it is faith by which a Christian inheriteth the promises: so that it is clear that faith is the conduit-pipe, through which are conveyed to us the great blessings of this everlasting covenant.
I. And the first ground of it is this, it is through faith that all our blessings may be known to be by love, and by free and unsearchable grace, as is clear, Rom. 4:16, while the Apostle is giving a reason why the inheritance is conveyed to a Christian through faith; it is of faith (saith he) that it might be of grace: for if the inheritance were conveyed to a Christian through a covenant of works, then these spotless draughts of infinite love and unsearchable grace, should not be written on our inheritance, as is clear, Rom. 4:25. And it is that great design of Christ, to make his grace conspicuous, in conveying salvation to us through faith.
II. There is this second ground likewise of it, that all the promises and blessings of this everlasting covenant might be sure and steadfast to us, therefore they are conveyed to us through the exercise of the grace of faith, as is clear, Rom. 4:16, They are of faith (saith he) that they may be sure: or as the word is, that they might be settled, when the promises of life and eternal salvation were conveyed to us through man’s obedience, were they not then most uncertain and unstable: but is not heaven your everlasting crown now steadfast unto you, seeing you have that golden pillar of Christ’s everlasting righteousness to be the foundation of your faith, and the strength of your confidence in the day of need?
III. There is the third ground why the promises and excellent things of this gospel are conveyed to a Christian through the exercise of faith, that all boasting and gloriation might be excluded, according to that word, Rom. 3:27, By what law is boasting excluded? Not by the law of works, but by the law of faith. And certainly, seeing Christians have all the great things of heaven conveyed to them through the exercise of faith; think ye not that this shall be your first song when ye shall be within the gates of the new Jerusalem? Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thee doth belong the glory of our salvation. O! what a precious dignity were it but for one half hour to be admitted to hear these spotless songs that are sung by these thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of holy angels that are round about his throne? Doth not David that sweet singer of Israel, now sing more sweetly than he did when he was here below? Doth not deserted Heman now chaunt forth the praises and everlasting songs of him that sitteth upon the throne? And doth not afflicted Job now sing sweetly after his captivity reduced, and he entered within that land, where the voice of joy and gladness is continually heard: would you have a description of heaven? I could not give it any term so suitable as this, heaven is a rest without a rest, for though there remains a rest for the righteous, yet, Rev. 4:8, These four beasts that stand before the throne, they rest not day nor night, crying holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty; yet there is much divine quietness in that holy unquietness that is above.
IV. There is this last ground, why the blessings of the gospel, and life and righteousness are conveyed to us through the exercise of faith, that the way to attain these things might be pleasant and easy. We are certainly persuaded that the way of winning to heaven by a covenant of works, was much more unpleasant and difficult; but is it not an easy way of entering into the holy of holies, to win into it through the exercise of faith? Are not all wisdom’s ways pleasantness? Are not all her paths peace? Was not that just self-denial in one that said he would not take up a crown though it were lying at his foot? But, Oh! that cursed self-denial doth possess the breasts of many, so that though that crown of immortal glory and eternal blessedness be lying at our feet, yet we will not embrace it, nor take it up: Is not the hatred of many to Christ covered with deceit? And therefore your iniquities shall be declared before the congregation.
Now that what we have spoken unto this, might be more clear, and that the nature of justifying faith be not mistaken, we would have you taking notice of these things.
I. That the grace of faith doth not justify a Christian, as it is a work: or because of any inherent excellency and dignity that is in this grace above any other graces of the Spirit; but faith doth alone justify a Christian instrumentally, and objectively, that is, it is that by which a Christian is just, by laying hold on the precious object of it, the righteousness of Christ. And to clear this, we would only have you knowing this, that faith doth justify as it closeth with Christ, but not because it closeth with Christ, which some vainly are bold to assert, because there is not any dignity or worth in the act of faith in closing with Christ that can be the foundation of our justification, else it were to confound that precious degree of free grace.
II. There is this that we would have you all knowing, that faith is not the instrument of justification, as (sanctification is taken in an active sense) though it is the instrument of justification, as it is taken in a passive sense: and the ground of this conclusion is this, because it is impossible that any action in man can be an instrument in any action in God: and therefore that phrase that you have so ordinary spoken of, that faith justifieth, is thus to be resolved, that we are justified by faith.
III. There is this that we would have you knowing, that betwixt a Christian’s closing by faith with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the justification of a sinner, I say there is no natural and indispensible connexion of divine appointment, and of free-grace, though we conceive there is a natural aptitude in the grace of faith, to lay hold on the righteousness of Christ, more than there is in any other grace of the spirit: as ye may see there is a more natural aptitude and fitness in the hand to receive, than in any other organ of the body.
IV. There is this also that we would have you knowing, that is, a Christian in his first closing with Christ, considers Christ crucified as the immediate object of his faith, and not Christ considered in his personal excellencies. Hence it is often in scripture, that Christ, as crucified, is holden forth as the immediate object of justifying faith, as is clear, Rom. 3:5, 24, 25. And the ground of this assertion is this, because that is the formal object of justifying faith, which doth formally justify the sinner, and on which faith doth immediately lay hold as a ransom to satisfy justice, and as a righteousnesss, in which the soul dare venture to be found, when it shall stand before the judgment-seat of God: and certainly this is Christ, as obedient to the death of the cross, And it is likewise clear, that the thing which doth engage the soul to Christ, is not only because he is good in himself, but because he is good to us.
V. And there is this, lastly, that we would have you knowing, that though faith doth alone justify, yet faith doth not justify, being alone: hence is that which we have so often in schools, That faith justifieth alone, though not being alone: as James doth speak, faith without works is dead, and is of none effect.
Now that which secondly we shall speak to, shall be this. To point out to you some differences betwixt justifying faith, which is in a real believer, and temporary faith, which is in an hypocrite, and one that is destitute of that, is destitute of everlasting hope, though he pretend to have it.
And first, that there is such a thing as temporary faith, as is clear from Luke 8:13. It is said there of some, that they believed for a season; yea, in Acts 8:13, it is said of Simon Magus, (who was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,) he believed, and those in John 2:23, when they did behold the miracles they believed on Jesus Christ, and yet we perceive that their faith was not sincere, and so this was not saving faith. And indeed ye may see a difference betwixt these two, in the very name temporary, for this is such a faith as doth not continue long with him that hath it, but doth evanish and pass away, for as this is certain, that an hypocrite will not always call upon God, Job. xxvii. 10, so that is also certain, that an hypocrite will not always believe in God. I tell you, that the longest time that an hypocrite doth keep his faith, Job hath set down in his 18:chap. verse 14. Their hope (saith be) shall bring them to the king of terrors, and then it shall be rooted out of them, and their tabernacle, their faith will bring them no further than the gates of death, and then their faith will fly away as a dream, and evanish as a vision of the night.
II. There is this difference likewise betwixt them, that temporary faith closeth with Christ as a Saviour, and for righteousness, but it closeth not with Christ as a Prince, and for sanctification: but justifying faith taketh Christ as well for a Prince, as it taketh him for a Saviour: and if Solomon did discern who was the true mother of the child, by that, that she who would have the child divided, was not the mother of the child; so we may say, that they ‘who would divide Christ in his offices’, it is an evidence that they are not amongst those who are actually made partakers of the adoption of children: there is somewhat of this pointed at in John 6:60, where that which made many who were his disciples (and did once believe) desert him, was because of the hardness of his commands, this is a hard saying, who can bear it? And it is certain, that it is a greater difficulty for a Christian to take Christ as a Prince, than as a Saviour: for by that he must make an absolute resignation of himself over to Christ never to be reduced, O! when saw you such a sight of Christ, that you were constrained to cry out (without a compliment) to him, “Truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant ?“ Or were you never ravished with one of his eyes: nor overtaken with one chain of his neck: believe me, they who see him, do believe that his commands are not grievous.
III. There is this difference, that temporary faith is attained unto without the exercise of the law: but justifying faith is not attained to without some measure of the exercise of the law; this is clear, Mark 4:5, where speaking of these temporary believers, it is said of them, the fruit immediately sprang up, Are there not some (it may be here) who think they do believe, and yet ‘were never in any measure trembling under the discovering and condemning power of the law’? Is not that a mystery that one should bring forth without travailing? And is not this a mystery in Christianity that one should believe before he hath found the pangs of the new-birth? I am afraid of this, that many of us hath taken up our religion at our foot; for there are many that take up religion before religion take them up. But would ye know the properties of a Christian’s faith? It is a begotten faith, 1 Pet, 1:2, and not a faith that is taken up at our pleasure: and I would only say these two things to you; be persuaded of this, that hypocrisy may be spun with a very small thread: so that the most discerning Christian cannot take up that desperate enmity that is in them. How long did Judas lurk under the name of a saint, even with those that were most discerning.
And there is that we would say, that among all these “that shall be eternally excommunicate from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” hypocrites in Sion shall have the bitterest cup of divine indignation presented unto them. Hence it is, that Christ when he would tell the worst company that one should have in hell, it is always this, ye shall go to that place where hypocrites and sinners are: and so it would be of your concernment, that by the candle of the Lord you will search the inward parts of the belly, before you go clown to the grave with a lie in your right hand: a deceiving heart having turned you aside. We confess it is sad to discover these anxious disappointments that many in those days shall once meet with.
IV. But there is this last difference betwixt justifying faith, and temporary faith. That there are three precious effects of justifying faith, which a temporary believer cannot win to.
1. To be denied to all his enjoyments and attainments, and walk humbly under them, for we may see that it is impossible for an hypocrite to be denied to his enjoyments, he maketh such a deity of them, and ‘worships them’, or rather he worshippeth himself in them. There are three great graces that a hypocrite doth pursue after, (though he rather seeketh them as gifts than as graces,) knowledge, prayer, and humility: and though it be but little that he can attain of any of the three, (or rather nothing in a saving way,) yet least of all can he attain to the last ; yea, we may judge that there is always within his bosom a standing conviction, that he could never win to that grace of humility. O! could you never win to this, to count your own righteousness as filthy rags, and to rejoice alone in the righteousness of a crucified Saviour? I would press this upon you by the way, (O! Christians of this generation,) forget your perfections, and remember your imperfections; have a holy oblivion of your attainments, but have a divine remembrance of your short-comings; look more to what is before unperfected, than what is behind, and thus shall you evidence true justifying faith.
2. It is an effect of justifying faith, to be under some constant and divine impressions of the preciousness of Jesus Christ, according to that word, 1 Pet. 2:7, to you who believe, Christ is precious. It is not said, that Christ was precious, or shall be precious, but it is said, He is precious, which doth import, (as we use to speak,) a continued act. Did you never know what it was to dwell twenty-four hours under the impression of the matchless excellency and precious worth of a crucified Saviour? I will pose you with this; are there not some here (and elsewhere) that pass under the notion of saints, that never knew what it was to dwell half an hour under these high and elevating thoughts of the preciousness of Jesus Christ? So that we profess we cannot tell ‘whether we shall call him precious’ or undervalued; but we may join these two names together, that he is precious, and yet an undervalued Christ.
3. By true justifying faith, a Christian winneth to mortification of his invisible and predominant lusts, which is impossible for a temporary believer to win to. And is there not a great difference betwixt an idol when it is cast out, and an idol when it goeth out? I will tell you the great mortification of hypocrites, the devil was living in them, as one that was a black one, and now he cometh again and transformeth himself into an angel of light; he was living in them before, by the spirit of profanity, and now he liveth in them by the spirit of hypocrisy, and counterfeiting of these things that were never clear attainments, while it is the dignity of faith, Acts 15:9, to purify the heart.
But are there not many here who never knew what it was to mortify one lust for Christ? Can such a delusion overtake you, O athiests! that ye shall reign with Christ, if ye die not with him? There is an opinion vented in these days, that there may be repentance in heaven, and I think it would seem that the Christians of this age have much of that opinion, we are so little in repentance while we are here below; but know that faith and sanctification are two inseparable companions: and let me tell you, if ye would know the compend of the precious exercise of faith, it is this, faith hath three great things that it perpetually contemplates and views.
1. Faith looketh to the promise, and there it doth rejoice and rest upon it.
2. Faith looketh to the duties that are commanded, and there it crieth out, here I am, I will obey and harken to the voice of thy word. And,
3. Faith looketh to the crown, and there it doth exult and sweetly rejoice in divine expectations. And O! what a sight is that, to behold that everlasting Prince standing at the end of our race, having a crown in his right hand, with this motto engraven on it, he that persevereth to the end shall be saved. And what a faith suppose ye shall it be thought, when we shall get on that immortal crown of blessedness? What think ye is the exercise of those that are above? O! heaven, heaven. If we did know it, would we not be in an holy ecstasy of desire, till we were there? And blessed be he eternally, that hath purchased that precious felicity to us.
Now we shall at this time shut up our discourse, by speaking a little to these things in which a Christian doth ordinarily meet with assurance of his interest in God, and is put to the divine actings of the grace of faith, for there are some sealing times to a Christian.
I. The first time of the sealing is, after the mortification of some predominant lust and idol, when they are admitted to read their names in these precious and ancient records of heaven, and to see (in these books) their own unworthy names written by the hand of that everlasting Prince. This is clear, Rev. 2:17, to him that overcometh, will I give a white stone, and in it a new name written, that no man knows, saving he that receiveth it: and from that, 2 Tim. 4:8. Believe me, more mortification would make more believing ; but would ye know the original of misbelief: it is the want of the exercise of spiritual mortification of our lusts. I know not where the most part of us intendeth to lodge at night, but this is certain, that we live with much contentment with our lusts, and these predominant idols, that do so much possess us. It is readily a sealing-time to a Christian, when he is admitted to the divine enjoyment of these satisfying delights that are to be found in Christ. Whence was it that the spouse cried out so often, my beloved is mine, and I am his? Was it not when she was brought to the banqueting house, and his banner over her was love? Believe me, more communion with an absent Christ would make more intimation (in a divine manner) of our peace with him. We desire to bless those that are above the reach of all these disputings and questions that we are so much subject unto.
III. It is a sealing-time to a Christian, when he is much in the exercise of secret prayer, and of much conversing and corresponding with God in that duty, as is clear from that word in Daniel 9:21. When Daniel was praying at the evening oblation, in verse 23, he meets with a divine intimation, that is, peace with God, O man, greatly beloved of God, as the original hath it, O man of great desires, for he was desirable indeed, and precious to him who holdeth the saints in his right hand.
IV. This also is a sealing.time to a Christian, when he is called to the exercise of some great work, and is to be put upon some eminent holy employment; this is clear from Jer 1:5, where Jeremiah being called to preach the gospel unto such a rebellious people, then he bath his eternal election declared unto him; before thou mast formed in the womb I knew thee. Christ, as it were, giveth them that, to be meat to them for forty days, and that in the strength of it they may go many a day’s journey.
V. There is also another sealing.tiine, when a Christian is first begotten to a precious and everlasting hope: for when at first Christians begin to be acquainted with Christ, even then sometimes he declareth to them his boundless and everlasting love. And this is the ground why some of these, who are but babes in Christ, are so much in the exercise of diligence, so much in the exercise of the grace of love, and so much in the exercise of the grace of tenderness, it is even because of the solemn impression of their interest in Christ; that as it were, they are daily taken in to read their own names in legible letters in the Lamb’s book of life.
VI. And there is this last time, that is a sealing time to a Christian, and that is when he is put under some sad afflicting dispensation: when the furnace is heated seven times more than ordinary, then doth God condescend to manifest himself to his own. When was it that John met with most of the revelations of heaven? was it not when he was in the isle of Patmos, for the testimony of Jesus Christ’s kingdom, and patience of our blessed Lord? Rev. 1:9. And in that place, 2 Cor. 4:6, though our outward man decay, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. Now we would press you to be more serious in the exercise of this precious grace. And I shall tell you the compend of Christianity in these words:
1. By faith, to solace yourselves in Christ’s invisible virtues and excellencies. And,
2. By hope, to be viewing that precious crown, and these everlasting dignities that are to be given to the saints. And,
3. By mortification, to be crucifying your idols. And,
4. By patience, to be possessing your souls, until once you shall pass through the dark land, to that valley of everlasting delight. And as for those that contemn and undervalue the blood of this everlasting covenant, (and I would have all those that delight not with closing with Christ, and those who have not misbelief as their cross, to consider this,) the wrath of the living and eternal God doth abide upon them who do not believe; according to the word, John 3:36, he that believeth not, the wrath of God abideth on, him; it is a remarkable phrase, because of this, the wrath of God will not be as a pilgrim to a misbeliever, and will not turn aside to tarry but for a night, but the wrath of God (to them that will not believe) shall be their household companion, and shall dwell with them; and woe, woe to them eternally, who have this sad and everlasting companion to abide with them, the wrath of a living God. There is one thing we would have these knowing, that amongst all these who are eternally debarred from Jesus Christ, misbelievers are put in the foremost rank: Rev. xxi. There he is to put away the fearful and unbelieving: and from 2 Thess. 1:18. When Christ shall come from heaven with ten thousand of his saints, (what to do?) it is even to execute vengeance on those that obey not the truth of the gospel: that is who do not believe.
And I pose your own hearts with this, whether or not your names be written there in that roll, amongst those that shall be cut off? and that word, 2 Thess. 2:12, that they might be damned who believe not, but took pleasure in unrighteousness. O but the wrath of a dying Christ, and of a crucified Saviour, is dreadful ; it is more sad and terrible than the wrath of God should have been, if Christ had not died. I will tell you (0 hypocrites in Zion) the worst news that ever was published in your ears – and it is this, Christ died and rose again, and to those that are begotten to a lively hope, they are glad tidings of great joy, (and therein they may comfort themselves,) but ye may wear a rough garment to deceive, and go to heaven in your own apprehension: but O! the sad disappointment that is waiting on many such.
And to close with this, we would obtest you, as ye would answer to your terrible and dreadful judge, that shall stand one day upon his throne, which he shall fix in the clouds, we obtest you by all the joys of heaven, and we obtest you by all the everlasting pains of hell, and we obtest you by all the curses that are written within the volume of this book, and by all the sweet and comfortable promises that are in this everlasting gospel, and by the love that you owe to your immortal souls, and as ye would not crucify Christ afresh, believe and embrace the offers that are presented now unto you. Know ye whether or not this shall be the last summons that ye shall get to believe? That so, if ye do reject it, Christ shall come from heaven and pronounce that sad and lamentable sentence unto you, Depart from me ye cursed, I know you not. Now to him that can bless these things to you, we desire to give praise.
Andrew Gray was an exceptionally gifted young preacher. This work is a set of 5 treatises to establish the heart of believers in Christ and give them assurance. Gray is one of the easiest Scottish puritans to read.