William Guthrie: What does “faith in Christ” mean?

19 12 2011

William Guthrie was a minister of Fenwick, Ayrshire, from 1650-1664. Guthrie was unfortunately forced from his church due to the Act of Uniformity (when the CofE lost 2000 of its best and brightest ministers). In his time he was considered one of the greatest practical preachers in Scotland. All of Guthrie’s teaching and pastoral experience was poured into one book, “The Christian’s Great Interest” (read it online here, or buy it here). Having just finished it I thought I would share with you a few of the more profound things that Guthrie had to say on “faith in Christ,” which for us has become an all together too familiar notion. All quotations are taken from the Puritan Paperbacks edt 2002 courtesy of the Banner of Truth Trust.

“Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God- ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God’ (John 1.12); but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import: for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome offer of Christ in all of his offices, as a King to rule over me, a Pries to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for Him and towards Him, resting on Him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word RECEIVING? Therefore may I say, and conclude plainly and warrantably, I am justly to reckon myself God’s child, according to the aforesaid scripture, which cannot fail.” pg 25

“For the better understanding of this, consider that justifying faith is not to believe that I am elected, or to believe that God loveth me, or that Christ died for me, or the like: these things are indeed very difficult, and almost impossible to be attained at the first by those who are very serious; whilst natural atheists and deluded hypocrites find no difficulty in asserting all those things: I say, true justifying faith is not any of the aforesaid things; neither is it simply believing of any sentence is written, or that can be thought about upon. I grant, he that believeth on Christ Jesus believeth what God hath said concerning man’s sinful, miserable condition by nature; and he believeth that to be true, that ‘there is life in the Son, who was slain , and is risen again from the dead,’ etc: but none of these, nor the believing of many such truths, evinces justifying faith, or that believing on the Son of God spoken of in Scripture; for then it were simply an act of the understanding; but true justifying faith, which we now seek after, as a good mark of an interest in Christ, is chiefly and principally an act or work of the heart and will; having presupposed sundry things about truth in understanding- ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’ (Rom 10.10). And although it seem (verse 9), that a man is saved upon condition that he believes this truth, namely, that ‘God raised Christ from the dead,’ yet we must understand another thing there, and verse 10, than the believing the truth of that proposition; for besides that all devils have that faith, whereby they believe that God raised Christ from the dead; so the Scripture hath clearly resolved justifying faith into the receiving of Christ: ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’ (John 1.12). The receiving of Christ is there explained to be the believing on His name. It is also called a staying on the Lord (Isa 26.3) a trusting in God, often mentioned in the Psalms, and the word is a leaning on Him. It is a believing on Christ: ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him who He hath sent (John 6.29). pg 62

“There is a communion between husband and wife, whereby they have a special interest in each other’s persons, goods, concerns: so it is here. There is such a communion with God; He is our God, and all things are ours, because He is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times, as we shall show afterwards. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly approach unto God and converse with Him as their God with holy familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul doth converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto Him, and sweetly traveling through His attributes, and, with some confidence of interest, viewing these things as the man’s own goods and property: this we call communion of God” pg 99

‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him’ (John 6.44); yet the Lord hath left it as a duty upon people who hear this gospel, to close with His offer of salvation through Christ Jesus, as if it were in their power to do it; and the Lord, through these commands and exhortations, wherein He obliged men to the thing, doth convey life and strength to the elect, and doth therein convey the new heart unto them, which pointeth kindly towards this new device of saving sinners, and towards Christ in His covenant relations; for it is the Lord’s mind, in these commands and invitations, to put people on some duty, with which He useth to concur for accomplishing that business between Him and them: so then, it is a coming on our part, and yet a drawing on his part; ‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.’ (John 6.44). It is a drawing on His part, and a running on our part- ‘Draw me, we will run after Thee.’ (Cant 1.4). It is an approaching on our part, and yet a ‘choosing and causing ot aproach’ on His part (Ps 65.4). It is a believing or receiving on our part- ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name’; and yet it is given to us to believe’ (John 1.12; Phil 1.29).” pg 121


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