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The Essence of Saving Faith

Saving faith has been defined as the combination of three elements: knowledge, assent, and trust (or, if you want to get uppity, notitia, assensus, fiducia). David Clarkson writes,


1. Knowledge. Faith is expressed by knowledge, Isa. liii. 11. If knowledge be not faith, yet there can be no faith without knowledge.

That blind faith of the papists is good for nothing but to lead them into the ditch. That ignorance is the mother of devotion, is one of the principles of the father of lies. Sure it is the nurse of unbelief. It is Satan’s muffler, which he makes use of to lead sinners blindfold into hell; it brings them there before they know where they are. Ignorant persons are like the Syrians, struck with blindness, 2 Kings vi. 20. They thought they were going on a hopeful design, but when their eyes were opened, they found themselves in the midst of Samaria, in the midst of their enemies. The first step to conversion is to open the eyes, to scatter darkness, Acts xxvi. 18. He begins the new creation as he did the creation of the world: ‘Let there be light,’ Gen. i. The first thing he produces is light. There is a dawning of the day before the day-star arise; some light goes before the sun rising. Such a dawning of knowledge there is before the Sun of righteousness arise, before Christ dwell in the heart by faith; some light from the law discovering sin and misery; some light from the gospel discovering Christ’s excellency and all-sufficiency. There is a competent knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, a knowledge more distinct, more convincing, more affecting, than that which he had in the state of unbelief.

2. Assent. As to the principles of the doctrine of Christ, so especially to these two truths: 1, that he has a necessity of a Saviour; 2, that Christ is the only all-sufficient Saviour.

(1.) There is an absolute necessity of a Saviour, which the Scripture declares upon three grounds: 1, the sinfulness of a natural man; 2, his misery; 3, his inability to free himself from it.

There must be a full and effectual assent to, and belief of, what the Lord declares concerning his sinful, miserable, impotent state.

3. Recumbence, relying upon Christ. To rely upon Christ alone for salvation is saving faith.

. . .

It is not to give credit to him, but to rely on him; it is to trust in him. To trust in him is more than to believe him, to assent to his word as true. . . .

This is the essence, the formality of saving faith. There cannot be justifying faith without knowledge and assent, but there may be knowledge and assent without it; these are as the body to faith, this relying is the soul; without this, knowledge and assent are but a carcase. The devils and hypocrites may have more knowledge, and they may have as firm an assent, but this act is above their reach, and they never attain it.

—David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:64–65.

Knowledge and assent are indispensible, but the essence of saving faith is trust—to know that we are utterly dependant, and believe that he who holds us in his hand will never fail us (Hebrews 13:5). It is to give up all hope in ourselves, and rest fully upon him. This kind of faith does not come naturally, proud as we are by nature. That is why we must be reborn (John 3) as new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Posted 2017·08·29 by David Kjos
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Posted in: David Clarkson · Saving Faith · Works of David Clarkson

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