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CHAPTER ONE:  A Godly Life Begins With Saving Faith

            Human misery grows out of sin (even though some may seek to deny that truth). God has provided a salvation: the ransom of Christ. Therefore, our primary concern must be to obtain that ransom. After noting the obstacles, Baynes sets out what it means to exercise saving faith. He explains the marks of true faith & the nature of assurance.[1]

 

            All Our Trouble Proceeds From Sin

            Sure it is, that it was not thus with mankind in the beginning as now it is.

            God created man happy, ye mutable [subject to change, able to change]; but Satan by deceit did cast him [Adam] from that happy condition; whereby besides the loss of that felicity, he was plunged into extreme misery, which consists in two things.

            First, in sin.

            Second, the curse following upon it.

            First, sin is not only that first transgression of Adam whereby we are all guilty, but also that infection of soul and body arising from the former. Hence it is that the understanding is filled with blindness; the conscience wounded, seared and defiled; the memory forgetting good things, or not remembering anything right.

            The will captive, of no strength to good but only to evil; the affections altogether disordered. The cogitations about heavenly matters are error, falsehood, and lies. The wishes and desires of the heart are earthly and fleshly. The outward behavior is nothing else but a giving up of the members of the body as instruments of sin.

            The curse makes them subject in this life for his use of the creatures to dearth, famine, etc. For his body, to sickness and other pains.

            In his sense for his friends to like calamities; in his soul to vile affections, to blindness, hardness of heart, desperation, madness, etc. And both body and soul to endless and easeless  torture in the world to come.

 

            But Not Everyone Agrees

            Objection[2]: All are not in this case or estate.

            Answer: All are subject by nature to the same wrath of God. They which feel it not, that case is no better, but rather worse than the other.

 

            The Only Remedy to Sin is the Work of Christ

            The only sufficient remedy for the saving of man is to satisfy God’s justice, which by sin is violated. His justice is satisfied by suffering the punishment due to the sin and by present keeping of the Law. Therefore it is not to be sought for ourselves, nor in any other creature. It being appointed by the Father, was undertaken and wrought by Christ, and sealed in men’s hearts by the Holy Ghost.

 

            How Does One Obtain the Redemption of Christ?

            Objection: How did Christ’s redemption become ours; I answer:

            Answer: God the Father of his infinite love gave him freely to us, with all his whole work of redemption. The divine mystery is brought to light by the gospel. The use whereof is to manifest that righteousness in Christ, whereby the law is fully satisfied, and salvation attained.

            The remedy of the tidings of it is received only by faith, which faith is so to give credit to God’s Word, revealing this mercy and truth of God: and by these, the Holy Ghost enlightening him to conceive, drawing him to believe, and so uniting came to Christ.

            The knowledge of the former things is not sufficient for him that will come to happiness: but this knowledge works[3].

            First, he is drawn by the secret work of the Spirit of God, to be persuaded that the doctrine taught does concern him. He has wisdom given to him to apply general things particularly to himself: Colossians 1:9. First, the preaching of the law and the threatened curses of it; whereby he sees himself guilty before God of eternal punishment and wrath.[4]

            Secondly, the Lord directs him to enter into further consideration with himself, of it about his present estate, and counsels what to do in this extremity — and that not lightly, but seriously, as a matter of life and death. Jeremiah 8:6; Luke 7:15.

            Thirdly, from the former consultation, he comes to this resolution, that he will not return to his old ways, but in all humility and meekness and brokenness of heart say with Paul; Lord what will you do I do?

            Fourthly, by this means he comes to an unfeigned desire of forgiveness, which always proceeds from a found hope that God will be entreated of him.

            This hungering after mercy and longing after Christ is very earnest and fervent, though in some with more timorousness than in others. This makes the gospel to be glad tidings and the          feet of them that bring it to be beautiful to him.

            Fifthly, with earnest, humble, and particular confession of his sins, he pours out prayers to God for the pardon of them in Christ.

            Sixthly, he having found out this pearl, prizes it as it is worth: and therefore sells all that he has, and bids farewell to his sweetest delights for the attaining of it; which affection is not for a moment, but is written as it were with the point of the diamond, never to be razed out again.

            Seventhly, then he comes to apply the gospel to himself as before he did the law, and seals up his salvation in his heart, reasoning from those gracious promises which God has made to such as he.

            Thus by often and deep weighing the truth, unchangeableness and perpetuity of the promises, he comes at length to be settled in faith. This faith unites him to Christ, and brings it to happiness. And it is wrought inwardly by the Spirit, while men obey God’s ordinance in the hearing of the Word, the outward means of salvation.

 

            The Visible Signs of Saving Faith

            Now the marks of faith to be seen in the believer by himself or others are:

            1. If he strives against doubting, Judge 6:17.

            2. If not feeling faith, he complains bitterly of the lack of it.

            3. If he seeks fervently to be settled in believing.

            4. If he desires to search out this sin which may possibly hinder him and endeavor expel it.

            The main cause why so many do lack of faith is the devil’s bewitching and blinding of men. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Wherein man’s fault is that he opens his ears, and gives credit to Satan’s deceitful suggestions.

 

            Obstacles to Saving Faith

            For the preventing therefore of this danger, the Lord has given watchmen to warn the people of the peril. The reason therefore why men do not avoid it, is either in the minister — that he does not warn them a right – or else in the people, that they do not receive it.

            In the Ministers:

            1. If they teach not at all.

            2. If they teach seldom.

            3. If they teach, but not plainly to the capacity of the hearer.

            4. If by catechizing they do not teach the grounds of faith in right and good order.

            5. If they be not ready by private conference to satisfy their doubts.[5]

            6. If they have not a Christian care of giving good example by a holy and blameless life.

            Ministers must consider their duty laid forth:

            First, by titles as watchmen, laborers (Matthew 9:37); salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14); shepherds (Job 21:15); good scribes (Matthew 13); stewards (first Corinthians 4:1); nurses (1Thessalonians 2:7).

            Secondly, in Commandments (Acts 20:28; 2 Timothy 4:2). For their better encouragements, they must consider:

            1.The honor vouchsafed to them, to be God’s ambassadors.

            2. The comfort of this labor.

            3. The good that they may do.

            4. The great reward prepared for them, Daniel 12:3.

The lets [hindrances, obstacles] that are the people:

            1. If they esteem lightly of the gospel, preferring other things before it.

            2. If they imagine that an impossible thing to get assurance of salvation in this life.

            3. If they think it but not impossible, yet not anyway necessary.

            4. If they think it both possible and necessary, but to hard to come by.

            5. If they be careless and ignorant.

            6. If for fear of losing other pleasures, they forbear to seek after this.

            7. If they presume of their faith, living still in their sins.

            8. If there were never thorough brokenness of heart prepared to receive the gospel.

            9. If for fear of not continuing, they will not begin.

            10. If they do work upon themselves, but to deal slightly with it.

            11. If they content themselves with sudden flashes but sooner out and do not seek to be settled.

 

            An Occasional Desire to Avoid Hell is not Saving Faith

            A naked and bare desire of salvation now and then stirred up in a man is not to believe.

            First, true desire cannot be satisfied without it, and therefore gives not over [does not stop] till it obtain it.

            Secondly, it makes high account of it, as a book precious faith; and the valuing of it according to the worthiness of it: he seeks willingly and readily: he settles his heart upon the promises of God. He meditates on God’s Commandments, that he should believe: by these means he comes to be settled. Which done, he must beware of all occasions that may unsettled. Again, especially that he did not give too much place to fleshly reasons of carnal bout things, nor hearken to evil suggestions.

 

            Fear and Assurance

            Because the children of God after they have believed are often drawn from their hold, and cause to be suspected themselves, and to so fall into much fear in doubting but they are none of the Lord’s, they must therefore learn to strengthen themselves thus:

            1. They must know that in God there is no shadow of change, and therefore it is their weakness to entertain such thoughts, Psalm 77:13. For he ought not to cast away his confidence, Hebrews 10:35.

            2. He may persuade himself that he laborers after, and going to rest his weary heart on the promises of God, shall never be holy for Satan, though sometimes destitute of feeling.

            Question: Now if any ask, Why does God suffers children to fall to such fears? It is this:

            Answer:  Lest by a sudden absolute change, they should become secure or presumptuous.

            3. They must know that the root of our comfort is not in the strength of our Christian life, but of the free grace of God in Christ. And therefore, the weakness there and ought not to bring us into doubting of our salvation. It may be weak, but it shall never be extinguished; for he that his newborn can never die.

            4. They must call to mind that they may it be yet children, subject to many diseases, and some of those, such as may take away sense of life. Which moves move us not to despair, but to seek with all diligence for the cure of them: whereas if any object:

            Objection: Many of the faithful are brought to that pass, that being persuaded that they are reprobates, or near onto desperation; they have a sense of God’s wrath, and are in great anguish of conscience: how shall they stay themselves in this estate?

Answer

            1. They may be assured of this, they are not without hope of mercy, because they have not sinned against the Holy Ghost; for they have not bullishly set themselves against the truth of God, they have not willfully persecuted against their conscience, but to love the same desire to be partakers of it.

            2. They must learn to know from whom this delusion comes, even from Satan who labors either to wring their hope from them, or else to weary their lives with heaviness and discomfort. This he attempts:

            First, by spiritual suggestion, he being a spirit, and helped also with long experience which he has had of this trade, and therefore fit. He [is] also full of malice, and of unsearchable subtlety, with exceeding strength, and therefore ready thus to trouble us. Thus he incites us sins, not only which by nature we love, but even to those which we have no inclination onto. And when he has thus fastened upon many a man, than he labors to dim his knowledge and understanding, that he may laid no hold on any truth to comfort them, or make benefit of any promise.

            Secondly, [Satan deludes] by outward objects [difficulties] and occasions forcibly persuading to sin. Now because these things proceed rather from Satan than from themselves, there is no cause why they should be discouraged[6].

            Thirdly, they must call to mind that God calls and encourages us to trust and believe in him; and therefore it must needs to please him that they are removed from their faith, to give place to the spirit of error.

 

            One Should Not Judge Saving Faith on the Ground of “Feelings”

            Objection: And now if they feel not the sweet taste of God’s grace?

Answer:

            1. Yet they must not measure themselves by that they presently feel, when the soul has lost her feelings; but by the time passed, when they were free from temptation.

            2. The fruits of their faith are often evident the eye of others, when they themselves cannot see them.

            3. They must be acquainted with the ways of God, who often does hide himself for season, but they may with more earnest desire seek for his wonted [customary] grace, and with more joyful to support praise him when they’ve obtained it again. And if this hinder them because

 

            A True Believer is not a Perfect Christian

            Objection: They cannot live as God’s children do, or as he requires; they are to be encouraged here with, that

            Answer: There plants which take not their full perfection it wants, but little by little with daily watering addressing: and that patience and consistency with a resolute minds to bear God’s trial, will bring a good and in all temptation.

 

 

            Not Every Evidence Proves True Saving Faith

            That every Christian may see his estate to be good, actually profitable to consider how far an unbeliever may go; and so whether he hath gone further.

            1. The unbeliever may be terrified with the sins, his conscience terrified by the spirit of bondage, Matthew 27:3.

            2. He may be pensive after sin committed, 1 Kings 21:7.

            3. He may find joy and delight in the gospel, and of the exercises of religion, Matthew 13:20.

            4. He may have a taste of the life to come with Balaam.

            5. He may reference the ministers and obey them in many things as Herod did, and it never be sealed up to eternal life. Many that have made great glorious shows and seem to have been very forward, have after either in prosperity waxed wanton, or an affliction weary. Many which have shined as lights first season have fallen away even before trouble came. Many have had great grief of mind, and so seem onto themselves to have repented; but yet have deceived themselves, because they never furnish themselves with true faith, a pure heart, a good conscience, change of their life to the love of God; their hearts are not upright, nor will they deal plainly with the Lord. But if we would not lose all or labor, we must go further than any unrepentant person could go; we must never cease to we have more humility, sincerity and truth of heart, and certain marks the testimony of our salvation.

            They [those who have truly repented] will hear the gospel diligently: but we must lay our estate [measure the state of our faith] with it, and receive the print of it upon our hearts and lives, and be cast into the mold of it, and so find the power of salvation.

            They will refrain from, themselves, and drive out of their families many sins[7].

            But we must willingly be reformed and what part of our life soever we can’t be justly challenged: and not blemish or profession in anything.

 

            Distinguishing Marks of Saving Faith

            Although the love of God in Christ, the work of the Spirit applying [it: the love and work of Christ], and faith apprehending [it], be the chief cause of our conversion, [] they are not so easily felt by us[8] – [even though] they are sure and infallible grounds of themselves of salvation. therefore it is necessary to add some other of facts or other properties of true faith, to accompany the love of God, and of Christ Jesus in us; and other works or fruits of the Holy Ghost by the gospel, which may more clearly be perceived discerned in faith and self; and were clearly testified that where the speed, there shall that be found also.

            The first inseparable companion of faith is joy and comfort, glorious and unspeakable, Acts 8:39.

            But it will be said

            Objection: Some true believers are even sad and sorrowful.

            Answer: Indeed they mourn and groan for a while after that which may make them merry forever: and in this morning they are blessed. Matthew 5:4. Their estate [is] far to be preferred before the laughter of the ungodly which is but madness [Ecclesiastes 2:2].

            1. The child of God being converted cannot but admire this change of the state and even be astonished at the love and mercy of God: for what should move him to bestow such happiness upon so unworthy a creature, Job 14:22, Psalms 116:8, 139:34.

            2. This holy and reverent admiration must not be only at our first conversion, but ought every day to be renewed in the Lord, who does every day pardon our sins (Psalms 118:8) and does also uphold us in our confidence and integrity.

            3. The true believer feeling the love of God to be shed abroad in his heart, has also with in him unfeigned love Kindle towards God, Psalm 116:1; Luke 7:47. Which love of God must [over]shadow the love of all other things whatsoever.

            4. He cannot but have his heart enlarged into thankfulness, and praise God even in afflictions themselves, Psalm 116:12.

            5. There is begotten a holy and earnest desire to have more communion with God; even to enjoy his blessed presence and to see his glory, 2 Corinthians 5:1.

            6. The former grace makes him to forsake this world, to become a stranger and pilgrim, and so to have no more to do with this world than he needs must. Not that he leave the necessary duties to forsake his calling, but that he is not so tied to these things, but that he could willingly leave them, and so being ready to die, is made fit to live.

            7. He cannot but lament and be ashamed of his former unkindness to God, and is ready to be revenge of himself for it.

            8. It cannot be, but knowing out of what misery he hath escaped, unto what happiness he has attained, he pity others that already are as he was, and wish and labor to make them as he is. One means whereof is edifying conference, Proverbs 10:21.

 

 

            How to Persevere in Faith

            If any has tasted of that happiness which comes by a true faith and does therefore desire to keep the same, here is the losing of it, he must for his confirmation:

            1. Nourish with himself daily [with a] high estimation [] his grace. He must think it is chief happiness and  most precious treasure [that he ever set his] heart [] upon. [He must fear ever losing that grace.][9]

            2. He must both by prayer daily and oft beg of God, and also seriously meditate on the gracious promises of God in nature, truth, perpetuity. For want [lack] of this calling to mind of [these] things, you need to let slip out of their minds those grounds of faith by which sometimes they have found comfort.

            3. He must help himself by ordinary and reverent hearing the glad tidings of salvation preached unto them; as also by the holy use of the sacraments.

            4. He must carefully retain a viewing of his sins by right examination; the sight of them will keep him from taking offense of the cross of Christ, make the tartness and hardness and bitterness of his sins will make Christ’s death most sweet and pleasant onto him.

            5. He must labor to settle himself even by the experience which he himself had found of God is goodness towards him, and is working in him.

            6. He may confirm himself even by the example of others, who [though] weak, have become strong, and of such as he is; [who] have become such as he desires to be.  By these means God’s children come to have a holy acquaintance with God, and to know his will toward them: the Lord disposing even their weakness onto their good, that they may by their falls be humbled, and God by their of holding may be glorified.

            One special thing is always to begin the day with deep consideration of God, his gracious favor towards us; which if we do not, little can be looked for in the day, but either unsavory lightness, and so to be deceived; or unprofitable care, so to be disquieted.

 

            There are Three Degrees of Subjective Assurance[10]

            By that which has been said before, it is to be observed, that although true faith be in substance one and the same; yet there are three degrees of it, it is plain.

            1. First is the weakest and least measure, when there is a yet no assurance in the believer, and yet inseparable fruits, and infallible tokens of it.

            2. The degree is when some assurances wrought in the believer at some time, but very weak; and is often to seek and wanting, and recovered again by entering into due consideration of his estate, and of the truth of God who has promised it.

            3. The third is the highest degree of it, though more strong in better settled in some than others; and this has assurance accompanying it for the most part usually unless  the believer do[es] quench the Spirit in himself: or the Lord (to show him that he stands by grace) does leave him to himself for his own glory, and the better establishing of him afterwards.


[1] All biblical counseling must proceed in this manner. Since the goal of biblical counseling is not primarily the remediation of some immediate trouble (such as a bad marriage), but rather growth in Christlikeness (although growth in Christlikeness will have the secondary effect of improving one’s marriage), the first step must be saving faith. Thus, the emphasis in biblical counseling on evangelism – or, as Jay Adams calls it, “pre-counseling” – is an emphasis which goes back at least to the Puritans.

[2] Throughout his work – as was typical of Puritan preaching – Baynes responds to potential objections. William Perkins called this “clearing the text”.  You may see this same point in Spurgeon’s sermons: Yet, rather than state it as an “objection” Spurgeon will begin with the words, “Someone may say” (or something like that).

[3] We need more than historical knowledge to come to a saving faith.

[4] A common element of Puritan preaching was to preach the law plainly and surely to bring conviction and establish the need for salvation. A discussion of this may be found in William Guthrie’s The Christian’s Great Interest.

[5] Pastoral ministry must match public preaching with private counsel.

[6] John Bunyan describes this state in Pilgrim’s Progress.

[7] They will personally refrain from many sins. And, they will also see that some sins are removed from their own families.

[8] The work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life is often not immediately understood or experienced as the work of the Spirit. To see this matter developed at more length, see the discussion in The Christian’s Great Interest.

[9] This paragraph is an evidence of the occasionally careless editing of the text.

[10] “Subjective” assurance is the assurance felt by the believer. Assurance is also objective and may be based upon the promises of God.