William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

The Nature of that Faith and Obedience which the Holy Scriptures Teach

by Thomas Boston

First, as to faith. Divine faith is a believing of what God has revealed,
because God has said it, or revealed it. People may believe scripture truths,
but not with a divine faith, unless they believe it on that very ground, the
authority of God speaking in his word. And this divine faith is the product of
the Spirit of God in the heart of a sinner, implanting the habit or principle of
faith there, and exciting it to a hearty reception and firm belief of whatever
God reveals in his word. And the faith which the scripture teaches is what a man
is to believe concerning God. This may be reduced to four heads: What God is;
the persons in the Godhead; the decrees of God relating to every thing that
comes to pass; and the execution of them in his works of creation and
providence. Now, though the works of creation and providence show that there is
a God, yet that fundamental truth, that God is, and the doctrines relating to
the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Essence, God's acts and
purposes, the creation of all things, the state of man at his creation, his
fall, and his recovery by the mediation and satisfaction of Christ, are only to
be learned from the holy scriptures. Hence we may infer,

1. That there can be no right knowledge of God acquired in an ordinary way
without the scriptures, Matt. 22:29. 'Ye do err,' said Christ to the Sadducees,
'not knowing the scriptures.' As there must be a dark night where the light is
gone, so those places of the earth must needs be dark, and without the saving
knowledge of God, that lack the scriptures. Thus the Apostle tells the
Ephesians, that, before they were visited with the light of the gospel, they
were 'without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and
strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the
world.' Eph. 2:12.

2. That where the scriptures are not known, there can be no saving faith. For,
says the Apostle, Rom. 10:14, 15, 17. 'How shall they call on him in whom they
have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not
heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach,
except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet. of them that
preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! So then faith
comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.'

3. That there is nothing we are bound to believe as a part of faith but what the
scripture teaches, be who they will that propose it, and whatever they may
pretend for their warrant. 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not
according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,' Isa. 8:20. No
man must be our master in these things: 'For one is our master even Christ,'
Matt. 23:10. He is Lord of our faith, and we are bound to believe whatever he
has revealed in his word.

Secondly, As to obedience, it is that duty which God requires of man. It is that
duty and obedience which man owes to God, to his will and laws, in respect of
God's universal supremacy and sovereign authority over man; and which lie should
render to film out of love and gratitude. The scriptures are the holy oracle
from whence we are to learn our duty, Psal. 19:11. 'By them is thy servant
warned,' says David. The Bible is the light we are to take heed to, that we may
know how to steer our course, and order the several steps of our life. 'Thy word
is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path,' says the Psalmist, Psalm
119:105. From whence we may infer,

1. That there can be no sufficient knowledge of the duty which we owe to God
without the scriptures. Though the light of nature does in some measure show our
duty to God, yet it is too dim to take up the will of God sufficiently in order
to salvation.

2. That there can he no right obedience yielded to God without them. Men that
walk in the dark must needs stumble; and the works that are wrought in the dark
will never abide the light; for there is no working rightly by guess in this
matter. All proper obedience to God must be learned from the scriptures.

3. That there is no point of duty that we are called to, but what the scripture
teaches, Isa. 8:20, mentioned before. Men must neither make duties to themselves
or others, but what God has made duty. The law of God is exceeding broad, and
reaches the whole life of man, outward and inward, Psalm 19; and man is bound to
conform himself to it alone as the rule of his duty.

Thirdly, As to the connection of these two: faith and obedience are joined
together, because there is no true faith but what is followed with obedience,
and no true obedience but what flows from faith. Faith is the loadstone of
obedience, and obedience the touchstone of faith, as appears from James 2:They
that lack faith cannot be holy; and they that have true faith, their faith will
work by love. Hence we may see,

1. That faith is the foundation of duty or obedience, and not obedience or duty
the foundation of faith, Tit. 3:8. 'This is a faithful saying, and these things
I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might
be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto
men;' and that the things to be believed are placed before the things to be
practised, in order to distinguish between the order of the things in the
covenant of grace, and what they were under the covenant of works. Under the
latter, doing, or perfect obedience to the law, was the foundation of the
promised privilege of life; but under the former, the promise is to be believed,
and the promised life is to he freely received: and thereupon follows the
believer's obedience to the law, out of gratitude and love for the mercy
received. This appears from the order laid down by God himself in delivering the
moral law from mount Sinai. He lays the foundation of faith, first of all, in
these words, 'I am the Lord thy God,.' &c. which is the sum and substance of the
covenant of grace; and then follows the law of the Ten Commandments, which is as
it were grafted upon this declaration of sovereign grace and love, Exod.
20:2-18. And let it be remembered, that the Apostle Paul calls gospel-obedience
the obedience of faith, as springing from and founded upon faith. And if we
examine the order of doctrine laid down in all his epistles, we shall find, that
he first propounds the doctrine of faith, or what man is to believe, and upon
that foundation inculcates the duties that are to be practised.

2. That all works without faith are dead, and so cannot please God. For
whatsoever is not of faith is sin; and without or separate from Christ we can do
nothing. Faith is the principle of all holy and acceptable obedience.

3. That those who inculcate moral duties without proclaiming the necessity of
regeneration, and union with Christ, as the source of all true obedience, are
foolish builders; they lay their foundation on the sand, and the superstructure
they raise will soon be overturned; and they pervert the gospel of Christ, Such
would do well to consider what the Apostle says, Gal. 1:9, 'If any man preach
any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.'


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