William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

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Faith and Preparation


by William Ames


1. The parts of religion are two: natural worship and voluntary or
instituted worship.

2. This distinction is based on Exod. 20:6 in the words of the
second commandment, Those -who low me and keep my commandments.

3. Natural worship is that which depends upon the nature of God.
Even though there were no law revealed and set forth by God, if we
rightly perceived and knew the nature of God by proper
contemplation, with the grace of God helping, we might know all
those things which pertain to our duty.

4. Everyone who understands the nature of God rightly necessarily
knows that God is to be believed and hoped in, that he is to be
loved and called upon, and to be heard in all things.

5. This natural worship is absolutely basic to salvation. Ps. 79:6;
Jer. 10:25; 2 Thess. 1:8, Pour out thy -wrath upon those nations
that do not know thee and upon the kingdoms that do not call upon
thy name. Although we obtain eternal life neither by merit nor by
virtue of our obedience, this part of obedience has such an
essential connection with faith resting upon Christ for eternal
life that it cannot be separated from it.

6. This worship has been, is, and shall be one and the same,
immutable. 1 John 2:7, The old commandment which you had from the
beginning.

1. Natural worship is prescribed in the first commandment because it
is both internal and external.

8. First, all observance is the same inwardly and outwardly and,
therefore, both inward and outward worship are treated in the same
commandment. Second, in the commandments of the second table, inward
and outward obedience are prescribed together in each one, as Christ
interprets them. Matt. 5, and all the more so in the commandments
of the first table, as in" the first and most important. Third, if
it were true that the first commandment calls only for inward
worship and the second only for outward, then the first commandment
would bind only the inward man and the soul to obedience and the
second only the outward man and the body. This is contrary to all
reason.

9. Natural worship directs itself towards God, either as our good or
as good in himself.

10. The worship which directs itself toward God as our good regards
him either as he is ours at present, in faith, or as he is to be
ours, in hope.

11. Faith is the virtue by which, clinging-to the faithfulness of
God, we lean upon him, so that we may obtain what he gives to us.
John 3:33, He who receives his testimony has sealed that God is
true; John 1:12, As many as received him believed in his name.
12. These five things belong together in divine faith: 1) a
knowledge of what God testifies to; 2) a pious affection toward God
which gives his testimony greatest force with us; 3) an assent given
to the truth testified to, because of this affection toward God who
is the witness of it; 4) a resting upon God for the receiving of
what is given; and 5) the choosing or apprehension of what is made
available to us in the testimony.

13. The first of these is in the understanding. But it does not
produce faith because it is common to us along with unbelievers,
heretics, apostates, and the devils themselves.

14. The second, fourth, and fifth are in the will and produce faith
as the force within and act of religion.

15. The third is in the understanding but only as it is moved by the
will. It does not have the virtue of faith, but is rather an effect
of it.

16. But the perfection of faith lies only in the choosing or
apprehension, and so must be defined by it.

17. The nature of faith is excellently set forth in the Scriptures
when the faithful are said To cleave to God, Josh. 23:6; Acts 11:23;
1 Cor. 6:17. To choose the way of truth and to cleave to the
testimony of Cod, Ps. 119:30, 31.

18. For by faith we first cleave to God and then fasten on to those
things which are made available by God. God himself is, therefore,
the first object of faith and what is made available by God is
secondary.

19. Faith is our life as it joins us to God. But it is also an act
of life because it is a virtue and our duty towards God. Therefore,
in an earlier section we defined it only in reference to its
obtaining of life and salvation, but here we define it as all that
God sets forth for us to believe. Therefore, faith is not wholly
concerned about God's threatenings in themselves, because they do
not make available the good for us to receive; nor about God's
commandments in themselves, because they declare the good to be
done, not to be received;
nor about mere predictions for in the strict sense they make no good
available to us. But faith is rooted in the promises, because in
them is set forth a good to be embraced. Therefore, our theologians
are accustomed to make the promises the primary object of faith.
20. Those who place faith in the understanding confess that there
must be some action of the will to secure that assent, just as in
human faith it is said to be a voluntary matter to give credit to
someone. So if faith depends upon the will, it must be that the
first beginning of faith lies in the will.

21. The material object [objectum quod] of this faith is whatever is
revealed and set forth by God to be believed, whether by spirit or
word, publicly or privately. Acts 24:14, I believe all things that
are written in the law and prophets; John 3:33, He that receives his
testimony.

22. Therefore, the church is not absolutely necessary as an object
of faith, not even for us today, for then Abraham and the other
prophets would not have given assent to those things which were
revealed to them from God without any intervening help of the
church. To hold contrary is both against the Scriptures and sound
reason. But such is the position accepted and maintained by the most
learned papists so that they may defend the feigned authority of
their false church from arguments of this kind.

23. This material object of faith is always some direct axiom or
judgment of truth. But that in which faith has its chief end,
concerning which and on account of which assent is given by faith
to that axiom, is a simple being conceived of as good. Rom. 4:21,
Being fully persuaded that he who had promised was able also to do
it; Heb. 11:13, Not having received the promises, but seeing them . . .
afar off after they were persuaded of them and had embraced them.
24. For the act of the believer is not directed to an axiom but to
the thing, as the most renowned schoolmen say. The reason is this:
We do not frame axioms except to have knowledge of things.
Therefore, the chief end towards which the act of the believer is
directed is the thing itself, to which the axiom chiefly refers.
25. The formal object of faith is the truthfulness or faithfulness
of God. Heb. 11:11, Because she judged him faithful who had
promised. The formal or, as they say, particular reason of faith is
truth telling, i.e., the truthfulness or faithfulness of God truly
revealing something. It is a commonplace that faith depends on the
authority of the one who gives the testimony. Faith is-thus
distinguished from opinion, knowledge, experience, sight, or sense.
The authority of God plainly lies in his truthfulness or
faithfulness. Titus 1:2, God, w/io cannot lie, has promised. Hence
the proposition is most true that whatever we are bound to believe
through divine faith is true. Nothing ought so to be believed unless
God himself witnesses the truth of it; God testifies as one who is
truthful, and the truth in a witness who knows all things cannot be
separated from the truth of his testimony. Therefore, it follows
that all that we are bound to believe through divine faith is true.
The whole matter is clearly confirmed and used by the apostle Paul
in 1 Cor. 15:14, 15, If Christ be not raised our preaching is vain
and your faith is in vain. We are even found to b.e false witnesses
of God, because we have testified of Cod that he raised up Christ.
If the testimony is not true, the witness is false. Unless it is
admitted that whatever God witnesses is true, the surest
consequence namely, that God witnesses this or that and therefore
it is true would avail nothing. Thus divine faith cannot be a
principle or cause of giving assent to what is false or of making a
false assent either directly or indirectly, either by itself or by
accident.

26. Therefore, the certainty of faith about the object is most sure.
And to the extent that it is confirmed in the subject or the heart
of the believer, so much is the glory of God increased. Rom. 4:20,
21, He did not doubt this promise of God because of unbelief, but he
was strengthened in faith giving glory to God and being fully
persuaded that he who had promised was able to do it. It is true
that our faith sometimes wavers, but this comes not from the nature
of faith but from our imperfection.

27. A sufficient and sure presentation of the objects of faith, that
is, both those things which are to be believed and the form in which
they are to be believed is made for us in the Scriptures. Rom.
16:26, It is made manifest and by the writings of the prophets,
according to the commandment of the everlasting Cod, made known to
all nations for the obedience of faith. 2 Tim. 3:15, The Holy
Scripture can make you wise to salvation by faith which is in Christ
Jesus.

28. The light and witness of the Holy Spirit stirring up faith in us
is necessary in the subject, or our hearts. Yet for the object
itself which is to be received by faith absolutely nothing is
requiredneither the things to be believed nor the incentive nor
reason for believingwhich is not found in the Scriptures.
29. Therefore, divine faith cannot be reduced or resolved into the
authority of the church or into any simple external arguments, often
called motives, which by persuasion and inducement prepare us for
faith. Faith goes back to the Scriptures themselves, to the
authority which they bear from the author God, the first and proper
cause of the things to be believed, and to the operation of the Holy
Spirit, which is the proper cause of the believing act itself.

30. So the first principle from which faith takes its start and into
which it is finally resolved is the conviction that the Scriptures
are revealed from God for our salvation as a sufficient rule of
faith and morals. 2 Peter 1:19, 20, You must first know this, that
no prophecy of the Scripture is a matter of private interpretation.

31. Faith is partly implicit and partly explicit.

32. Implicit faith is the believing in the truths of faith in their
common principle, not distinctly in each separately.

33. The common principle of all things to be believed in this way is
the Scriptures, not the church. Acts 24:14, Believing all things
which are written in the law and the prophets.

34. He who believes that the Scripture is true in every way believes
implicitly all things which are contained in the Scripture. Ps.
119:86, compared with verses 18, 33, All the precepts are truth
itself . . . Open my eyes that 1 may see the wonders of the law.
Teach me, 0 Lord, the way of your statutes which I will keep to the
end. David believed that these were wonderful and should be sacredly
kept even though he did not yet sufficiently understand them.

35. This implicit faith is good and necessary but it is not in
itself sufficient for salvation; nor does it possess the true
meaning of faith if it stands alone. The will cannot embrace a good
which it does not know distinctly, nor will it be effectively moved
by it. Rom. 10:14, How shall they believe in him of whom they have
not heard.

36. Explicit faith is the believing in the truths of faith in
particular, not only in general.

37. Explicit faith must necessarily be held concerning those things
given to our faith as indispensable means of salvation. Heb. 6:1;
2 Cor. 4:3, The foundation of repentance from dead works and of
faith in God. If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them who perish.
38. A more explicit faith is required now after the coming of Christ
than before, 2 Cor. 3:18. It is also more required in those who are
set over others in the church than in the common people, Heb. 9:12.
Last, it is more required of those who have occasion to be well
instructed than of others, Luke 12:48, To whom much is given, of him
much shall be required.

39. The outward act of faith is the confession, profession, or
manifestation of it, which in their order and place are necessary
to salvation, Rom. 10:9, 10. These are always necessary for the
preparation and disposition of the mind, 2 Peter 3:15. And they are
necessary for the act of faith itself when the glory of God and the
edification of neighbor require them.

40. Persistence in confession of the faith leading to the loss of
temporal life testifies to the truth and brings the greatest honor
to God. Therefore, ko.t' 'f^oxtv, at its height, it is called
ttaprdpior, martyrdom, and those who engage in it are called
^Aprupw, witnesses, Rev. 2:13. This is as necessary in its place as
confession of faith when it cannot be refused without denying
Christ, Matt. 10:33, 39; 16:25.

41. Infidelity, doubt, error, heresy and apostasy are opposed to
faith.

42. Infidelity is a dissent from the faith in a man who has not yet
professed the true faith, 1 Cor. 14:22, 23.

43. Doubt occurs in one who has made profession but whose assent is
now diminished or taken away.

44. Doubt that only diminishes assent may coexist with a weak faith,
1 Cor. 8:10, 11. But doubt which takes away assent cannot, Jas.
1:6-8.

45. Error in faith puts forth an opinion contrary to faith, 1 Cor.
15:46.

46. Heresy adds stubbornness to error, Titus 3:10, 11.

47. Apostasy taken absolutely adds to heresy all the errors
contrary to faith, 1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Tim. 1:15.

48. These things are opposed to faith not only because they cut off
the understanding's assent, which is necessary to faith, but also
because they take away the choice and apprehension of faith which is
in the will.


 

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