1 December 1765

Lecture 17

From the object of faith, God, we proceed to the act, I believe. They are happy who can truly say – but alas how many are like parrots who repeat they know not what. To believe in God includes:
1. Knowledge
  Not only to know that there is a God, but to know him according to the revelation he has made of himself. If his holiness, wisdom, justice and grace are not apprehended, if we have no other thoughts of God than of the invisible power who made and upholds the heavens and earth, if together with this we are not impressed with a sense of his moral perfections, he is as to us an unknown God. And while thus it is impossible to believe in him. As is plain from common observation. Many who repeat this creed, regard the great God no more than if he was altogether such a one as themselves.
From this knowledge the other properties of true faith inseparably follow, such as:
2. Love
  It is impossible to know God and not to love him – and that on a threefold account:
  2.1 His glorious excellency
    Where there is a spiritual eye to behold him as glorious in holiness, in wisdom, power and truth, as the fountain of beauty and happiness, he will appear most amiable and worthy our highest admiration.
  2.2 His goodness –
    which shines in all his dealings to his creatures and is more particularly manifested in the wonderful work of redemption by Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord.
  2.3 His covenant relation to his people as an Almighty Father and all-sufficient portion.
    This last view is necessary to engage our love – not only to know that he is God, but that he is our God.
3. Trust
  To believe in God is to rely on him, to acknowledge him in all our ways, to commit all our concerns to him, to seek all our supplies from him and to make him our alone refuge in every distress and trouble.
4. Obedience
  Those who believe in him will not make light of his commands. His authority, power, majesty, mercy and goodness have each an influence upon their hearts to make them faithful in his ways. They dare not wilfully sin because they fear him; they will not because they love him. So Joseph (Genesis 39:9.). [1]
Now do we all believe thus in God?  If you will let conscience speak and judge by the particulars I have mentioned, you may arrive at some certainty in this point.
1. Have you such a knowledge of him? 
  Not unless you know him yourselves, unless you have felt the evil of sin, and the weakness of your own state. Without this it is impossible you should [have/think] any right thought, of the unspeakable distance between him and you, so as to have a truly humble, contrite and broken heart when you approach him. Nor unless you know Jesus Christ for this you have his own Word (Matthew 11:27). [2] Now unless Christ by his Spirit has revealed the Father unto you, you know him not. Ignorance of God is the foundation of self–righteousness which makes so many trust in their own works for salvation. They know not that he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
2. Do you love him? 
  Judge by those texts: 1 John 2:15; [3] James 4:4. [4] How is [it] that so many who know that their prevailing hopes and fears, their chief treasure is in the world, will yet in defiance of all the warnings we can give them, presume that they love God, when not to love him above all, is the same as not to love him at all.
3. Where is your trust?
  If in God, how is it that you are governed by the fear and regard of man – that you are placing your confidence in this world's goods, and in time of trouble are seeking to relieve yourself by sinful methods?  Are not these things common, even amongst where the Gospel is so well known?  If then you do not trust him, how vain is it to say you believe in him.
4. Where is your obedience?
  Know you not that his servants you are to whom you obey?  Abraham believed in God therefore he counselled not with flesh and blood, but cheerfully obeyed – he went forth at God's command not knowing whither, nor did he hesitate when called to offer his only son. So Rahab. But what sort of belief is that which will allow a man to trifle with the Sabbaths and with the name of God – to be a drunkard, a liar, a cheat, a whoremonger – when the Lord God has so assured us in his Word that he will be avenged of those who do these things, that they are worthy of death, and shall never enter into his kingdom?  What advantage have many of you by the preaching of the Gospel so long amongst you?  It brings perhaps more people to church than would otherwise come – and the congregation has in general a serious appearance, though some few there are whose behaviour is at times shameful and scandalous. But as to the rest, my dear friends, in your families, in the streets, at market and in the company you most choose to keep, how many of you talk and act quite inconsistent with the profession you make here – that you believe in God?  Be not deceived, God is not mocked – just as you sow, in time you will reap to eternity.
But some there are, who know and love and trust and serve the Lord. To you I may say, All hail. The God in whom you believe will not disappoint you. He will be your sun, your shield, and your exceeding great reward.
You that are seeking him with your whole hearts, remember that he is made known in Christ. Believe in Jesus as the way to God.

1. Genesis 39:9 …how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
2. Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
3. 1 John 2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
4. James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Cowper & Newton Museum