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I do to be saved? It would seem that he had already heard that they were the servants of the most High God, who shewed unto men the way of salvation, verse 17. and that they were indeed so, he had just now seen attested by the broad seal of Heaven in the earthquake. The apostles rejoicing to find that his conscience was awakened, and that his chief concern turned on the salvation of his soul, readily replied in the words of the text-Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. They are not slow to preach to him who had a few hours ago 'so cruelly persecuted them. Seeing him a wounded sinner, they readily present the balm of their Master's blood, telling him he had nothing to do but to apply it, in order to be saved from sin and wrath.
What must I do? says the trembling jailor.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, say Paul and Silas.
What must I do to be saved? is the great question.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, is the apostolic answer.
The great doctrine obviously deducible from the text is this,
It is the duty of sinners to believe in Christ for salvation.
In handling of which I purpose, as a gracious God may be pleased to assist,
1. To shew what it is to believe in Christ for salvation.
II. Remove some difficulties attending our doctrine.
III. Shew what that salvation is for which sinners believe in him.
IV. and Lastly, Apply the subject.
I return to the first of these, viz. To shew what it is to believe in Christ for salvation. And in the
1st place. You will please observe three things in our text, the act, the object, and the end or effect of that act. The act,“believe.” The object, “on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The end or effect, and thou shalt be saved.” In the act, the agent must have a view to the end: The sinner to the salvation of his soul as the end of his faith, 1 Pet. i. I. Salvation was the great end the poor jailor had in his eye, and accordingly his question was, What shall I do to BE SAVED? The apostles are far from condemning his end is too low, or selfish. They knew it was good in itself, and that he as yet could act from no higher motive. They direct him what to do that he might obtain his end. And hence they point out Christ to him, bidding him beheve on him, viz. for that which he wanted, salvation to his sinful soul. This must be granted, else the answer would not be proper to the question. His question was, “ What must I do to be saved?” i. e. What must I do for salvation? Therefore the meaning of the answer must be, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation: believe on him for it, and thou shalt not be disappointed: thou shalt be saved. Thus it appears,
2dly. That faith in Jesus Christ is a trusting in him for our salvation; or as it is expressed in the 11th verse of the preceding chapter, a believing, that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved. To believe in Jesus Christ is to believe that he will save us, or that we shall be saved by him. Thus it is a persuasion, as the original word undeniably signifies, and being a persuasion not simply of a truth, but but of a truth good for us, it is a trusting: a trusting in Christ for salvation. This important doctrine I shall establish and illustrate by some arguments, to which I request your earnest attention.
1st. To believe that we shall be saved by Christ is faith in him: It is faith, and nothing else. Faith whether human or divine is universally acknowledged to be founded on a testimony, and thus it is distinct from
knowledge, and still more so from opinion. In the one of these we usually say, I know such a thing to be true; in the other, I think it is true: but in faith, we say, I believe such a thing to be true, I believe it on the testimony of another. Humán faith rests upon testimony concerning a thing as either already done, or to be done. If already done, the testimony concerning it is an assertion of a fact. If not yet done, but to be so, the testimony is either a promise of something good, or a threatening of some evil. If the promise be believed, there is a motion of the heart towards the good promised: If the threatening, there is an aversion of heart to the evil. If neither be believed, the good and evil are despised as mere chimeras. The promise or the threat is always made by some person or persons: and according to the person's power and veracity his testimony is to be believed, or not. If he cannot perform his word, though willing, his testimony is not to be trusted. If able, but not faithful, his testimony is as little to be relied on. Of such a one we use to say, we can put no trust, we can have no faith, in him. The application of these things to our purpose is obvious. In divine faith we believe, on the footing of the divine testimony, things past and things to come, particularly that we ourselves shall be saved by Jesus Christ. Thus faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, Heb. xi. 1. It is the substance of things hoped for, inasmuch as we believe that we shall in due time be put in the possession of them. It is the evidence of things not seen, inasmuch as thereby we are as fully persuaded of all the unseen things mentioned in scripture, as if we saw them with our eyes. In this sense, faith makes future things present, and unseen things evident. In human faith our trusting a person for a thing, is a believing he will do that thing for us. And in divine faith our trusting Christ for our salvation, is a believing that he will save us. And this believing is not simply a persuasion of the thing as true, but also a relish of it as good. It is as impossible not to relish
what we believe to be good, as not to be persuaded of what we believe to be true; though yet the belief and the persuasion of the truth are precisely the same; whereas the relish of the good rather arises from the belief that it is good.
2dly. To believe that we shall be saved by Christ necessarily includes a belief of all Scripture truth, particularly of the great mysteries of the gospel. As he that offends in one point of the law is guilty of all, as contemning that authority on which the whole of the law depends, so he who believeth one truth because God has said it, will for the same reason believe all. Thus he who believes that Christ will save him, must of necessity believe that he is lost by nature, that God sent his Son to save sinners, that he became a man, and died as a sacrifice, that he is risen, that he reigns at God's right hand, and that he will come again. All these are as plainly testified as that great truth, “Whosoever believeth in the Son shall not perish, but have everlasting life," John isi, 16. As the convinced and quickened sinner believes his own salvation on the footing of the testimony, so does he every other divine truth. To believe one's own salvation by grace, and at the same time to reject any fundamental doctrine, is impossible. For that light of life whereby he is enabled to do the one, will keep him from the other.
That faith which embraces the one, will not, cannot reject the other. Hence the wonderful harmony a. mong all true believers in the great substantials of doctrine. And wherein they differ, it is not in believing the whole of the divine testimony, but in taking up the true meaning of this or that part of it. Hence also it is, that believing one principal part of the divine testimony is frequently put for believing on Christ. Thus the eunuch in believing the divinity of Christ, must be understood as also believing in him for his sal vation, Acts viii, 37. Exclude this, and his confession would be no more than that of the devils themselves, Matt. viii. 29. Mark i. 24. v. 7. Luke v. 34. viii. 28. So in Rom. x. 9. salvation is promised to him who be.
lieveth and confesseth Christ's resurrection from the dead, i. e. who believes in him thus raised, who be. lieves unto his righteousness, who trusts in it, verse 10. This believing is not a simple belief of his resurrection, but a believing on him, verse 11th: not only a believing that he is risen, but a believing upon him as risen for our justification. Every spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh, is of God, 1 John iv. 2. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, chap. v. i. The simple belief and confession of these truths is not a sign of regeneration, unless accompanied with a cordial trust in Christ alone for salvation. For devils believe them, and have also confessed them. But here lies the difference, they be. lieve and tremble at these truths as destructive to them; whereas the convinced and the quickened sinner believes them and rejoices in them, as truths on which hang all his happiness.
3dly. To believe that we shall be saved by Christ agrees to the scripture idea of faith, as described in a vast variety of passages. Faith is held out under a great many metaphors. But there is not one of these metaphorical descriptions which may not be easily resolved into this plain definition, viz. That faith in Christ, is to believe that we shall be saved by him. Thus coming, John vi. 35. running, Cant i. 4. Isa. Iv. 5, and fleeing to Christ, Heb. vi. 18. what else can they be but believing that he will save us! Believing it on his own word, where can we come to him but in that word? And is not the crediting it, just a closing with, a coming to him in it? While we do not believe it, what is that but keeping at a distance from it, and consequently from him who is in it? Fleeing to him for refuge, what else is it, but under a sense of danger trusting in him for safety? What is looking to him, Isa. xlv. 22. but trusting or believing in him for salvation. What can be meant by casting our burden on him, Psalın lv. 22. but under a deep sense of guilt and danger, trusting to him for deliverance from both? Cleaving to him, Acts xi. 23. is expressive of the soul's resolute trusting in him, re.