Henry Burton

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Certainty of Faith

The Hebrews have three special Words, whereby they express the nature of true Faith, as touching the certainty of it. One is Emun, which signifieth Faith, the Root whereof is Aman, which signifieth to nourish; to which David alludes, Psal. 37:3 "Trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the Land, and verily thou shalt be fed" - in the original, lit. 'fed by faith' word for word as Tremellius renders it. And in the text of John's Gospel, the Lord joineth believing on him, and feeding on him, together, as both one. Now this word which the Hebrews use for Faith, signifieth also Truth, or that which is firm, stable or settled; and what can be more firm or certain than Truth? The Prophet Isaiah  {7:9} hath a very elegant Exposition of this word: If ye believe not, ye shall not be established. To believe, and to be established, both coming of the same Root in the Original. Hence also cometh the word Amen, used in all Languages, which is a Note of Believing, and assenting to the Truth, and as it were sealing it unto us. The Apostle useth it for a note of certainty, 2 Cor. 1:20. "For all the Promises of God in Christ are Yea, and in him Amen, &c., that is, most True and Certain. Faith therefore is no doubtful Conjecture, or wavering Hope, but a most certain Belief, firm as Truth itself. Another word used by the Hebrews for Faith is Betach, which signifieth Trust, Security, Confidence and Affiance. This word is used by Isaiah, notably to set forth the confidence and security of God's saints; as Isa.32:17, where speaking of the full Revelation of the Gospel in the coming of Christ in the Flesh, he saith, "Then the Work of Righteousness shall be Peace, and the effect of Righteousness, Quietness, and Assurance, and Security forever," as the vulgar Latin renders it. Note here, that the effect of the Righteousness of God's Saints is Assurance and Security in Believing. The third word used in the Old Testament for Believing is Chassah, which signifieth so to Believe, Trust, or Confide in God, as to make him our sure Sanctuary and Resting-place, under whose Protection the Believer is safe and secure, as the Chicken under the Wing of the Hen; as we read this word used in Ruth 2:12 - they are the words of Boaz to Ruth. "The Lord recompense thy Work, and a full Reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose Wings thou art come to trust."  And David useth the same word in the same phrase of speech, Psal.36:7. "How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God; therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings." As the Lord useth the same comparison to the unbelieving Jews, Mat.23:37. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." Thus we see the true nature of Faith, as it is expressed by significant Words in the Old Testament; all of them setting forth the Certainty and Assurance of Faith in God. So that the certainty we believers have of their justification, is not by any extraordinary revelation bestowed upon this or that saint in particular, but it is of the very essence and nature of Faith itself; and therefore in whomsoever this faith is, there also is the certainty of Faith, securely reposing itself in the bosom of God's mercy, and under the wings of His heavenly protection. Come we to the New Testament; where let us begin with that excellent Description, which the Apostle makes of Faith, peculiar to the Saints of God, of whom he setteth down an ample Catalogue in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews. "Faith {saith he vs.1} is the Substance of things hoped for, and the Evidence of things not seen." The Greek Text is very emphatical and significant. First therefore to acquit this Faith from being that which the Papists would have it to be; namely, a mere historical Faith, common with Reprobates and Devils, the Apostle shows the Object of it to be, things hoped for, things not seen; such as he meaneth, 1 Cor.2:9, the things which the "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;" which fall not within the reach of that Faith, which is common to the wicked, who are altogether hopeless, and love not the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the Faith here described by the Apostle, is the Faith of God's Elect alone, who only have the hope of eternal Life. Secondly; this Faith is called the Substance (as also the Vulgar Latin hath it) or Substance of things hoped for; that is, Faith makes those things that are hoped for to be sure and certain, as if they were already in our Possession. Or Substance is as much as an Under-prop or Basis, supporting and sustaining us with constant Patience, in the assured expectation of those things hoped for, as yet unseen. So that it signifieth a most steadfast Unmoveableness of Faith. As, 1 Cor.15:58. It is called also an Evidence, Demonstration or Argument (as the vulgar Latin) of things not seen. Now what is more sure and certain than an Evidence or plain Demonstration? Whereupon Chrysostom upon these words saith, 'O what an admirable word he useth, saying, the Argument of things not seen; for an Argument or Demonstration is in things most manifest.' Therefore Faith is a Vision of things not appearing, and it brings us to the same Certainty to the which we are brought by the things which are seen. So that neither about the Object of things, which are seen, can it be called Credulity or Incredulity; nor again can it be called Faith, but when a Man hath Certainty concerning those things which are not seen, more than concerning those things which are seen. For because those things which are yet in hope are reputed as yet without Substance or Subsistence, and Faith giveth unto them their Substance; not that it adds anything unto them, but itself is the Substance or Subsistence of them; for the purpose, the Resurrection is not yet fulfilled, nor yet present or subsistent, but Faith makes it to subsist in our Souls; that this is that which the Apostle calleth Substance. Yea, this word Substance, as it importeth a subsisting, signifieth also a Confidence of full Assurance of the Mind. And it is sometimes used in Authors for a fastening or close-joining together, as a Joint. And such is Faith, which joineth the Object and the Subject together, making the things hoped for to be as it were in our present possession. It is also the Evidence of things not seen, presenting them visibly and sensibly before us; like a most clear perspective Glass, which presents and attracts as it were the most remote Objects nearer to the eye, for the clearer view of it. Thus Abraham and those other Saints of the Old Testament, saw these invisible things afar off with the eye of Faith, Heb. 11. 13, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them; as the Apostle excellently declareth. Thus if Faith be the Substance, the Subsistence, the Assurance, the Confidence, the Coherence of things hoped for; if the Evidence, the Argument and Demonstration of things not seen, prepared for such as love God, and revealed to us by the Spirit; how then is not this Faith most sure and certain of Justification and eternal Salvation? Henry Burton {Christian Bulwark against Satan's Battery, 1632}


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Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle
and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. Hebrews 3:1