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Holy Living

by Jeremy Taylor






The Acts and Offices of Faith are,

1. To believe everything which God hath revealed to us:[193] and, when once we are convinced that God hath spoken it, to make no further inquiry, but humbly to submit; ever remembering that there are some things which our understanding cannot fathom, nor search out their depth.

2. To believe nothing concerning God but what is honourable and excellent, as knowing that belief to be no honouring of God which entertains of him any dishonourable thoughts. Faith is the parent of charity, and whatsoever faith entertains must be apt to produce love to God; but he that believes God to be cruel or unmerciful, or a rejoicer in the unavoidable damnation of the greatest part of mankind, or that he speaks one thing and privately means another, thinks evil thoughts concerning God, and such as for which we should hate a man, and therefore are great enemies of faith, being apt to destroy charity. Our faith concerning God must be as himself hath revealed and described his own excellencies; and, in our discourses; we must remove from him all imperfection, and attribute to him all excellency.

3. To give ourselves wholly up to Christ, in heart and desire, to become disciples of his doctrine with choice, (besides conviction,) being in the presence of God but as idiots, that is, without any principles of our own to hinder the truth of God; but sucking in greedily all that God hath taught us, believing it infinitely, and loving to believe it. For this is an act of love reflected upon faith, or an act of faith leaning upon love.

4. To believe all God’s promises, and that whatsoever is promised in Scripture shall, on God’s part, be as surely performed as if we had it in possession. This act makes us to rely upon God with the same confidence as we did on our parents when we were children, when we made no doubt but whatsoever we needed we should have it, if it were in their power.

5. To believe, also, the conditions of the promise, or that part of the revelation which concerns our duty. Many are apt to believe the article of remission of sins, but they believe it without the condition of repentance, or the fruits of holy life; and that is to believe the article otherwise than God intended it. For the covenant of the Gospel is the great object of faith, and that supposes our duty to answer his grace; that God will be our God, so long as we are his people. The other is not faith, but flattery.

6. To profess publicly the doctrine of Jesus Christ, openly owning whatsoever he hath revealed and commanded, not being ashamed of the word of God, or of any practices enjoined by it; and this without complying with any man’s interest, not regarding favour, nor being moved with good words, not fearing disgrace, or loss, or inconvenience, or death itself.

7. To pray without doubting, without weariness, without faintness; entertaining no jealousies or suspicions of God, but being confident of God’s hearing us, and of his returns to us, whatsoever the manner or the instance be, that, if we do our duty, it will be gracious and merciful.

These acts of faith are, in several degrees, in the servants of Jesus; some have it but as a grain of mustard-seed; some grow up to a plant; some have the fulness of faith; but the least faith that is must be a persuasion so strong as to make us undertake the doing of all that duty which Christ built upon the foundation of believing. But we shall best discern the truth of our faith by these following signs. St. Jerome reckons three.[194]


Signs of true Faith.

1. An earnest and vehement prayer: for it is impossible we should heartily believe the things of God and the glories of the gospel, and not most importunately desire them. For everything is desired according to our belief of its excellency and possibility.

2. To do nothing for vain-glory, but wholly for the interests of religion and these articles we believe; valuing not at all the rumours of men, but the praise of God, to whom, by faith, we have given up all our intellectual faculties.

3. To be content with God for our judge, for our patron, for our Lord, for our friend; desiring God to be all in all to us, as we are, in our understanding and affections, wholly his.


Add to these:

4. To be a stranger upon earth in our affections, and to have all our thoughts and principal desires fixed upon the matters of faith, the things of heaven. For, if a man were adopted heir to Caesar, he would (if he believed it real and affective) despise the present, and wholly be at court in his father’s eye; and his desires would outrun his swiftest speed, and all his thoughts would spend themselves in creating ideas and little fantastic images of his future condition. Now God hath made us heirs of his kingdom, and co-heirs with Jesus: if we believed this, we should think, and affect, and study accordingly. But he that rejoices in gain, and his heart dwells in the world, and is espoused to a fair estate, and transported with a light momentary joy, and is afflicted with losses, and amazed with temporal persecutions, and esteems disgrace or poverty in a good cause to be intolerable - this man either has no inheritance in heaven, or believes none; and believes not that he is adopted to the son of God - the heir of eternal glory.

5. St. James’s sign is the best: ‘Show me thy faith by thy works.’ Faith makes the merchant diligent and venturous, and that makes him rich. Ferdinando of Arragon believed the story told him by Columbus, and therefore he furnished him with ships, and got the West Indies by his faith in the undertaker. But Henry the Seventh of England believed him not, and therefore trusted him not with shipping, and lost all the purchase of that faith. It is told us by Christ, ‘He that forgiveth shall be forgiven:’ if we believe this, it is certain we shall forgive our enemies; for none of us all but need and desire to be forgiven. No man can possibly despise, or refuse to desire such excellent glories as are revelaed to them that are servants of Christ; and yet we do nothing that is commanded us as a condition to obtain them. No man could work a day’s labour without faith; but because he believes he shall have his wages at the day’s or week’s end, he does his duty. But he only believes who does that thing which other men, in like cases, do when they do believe. He that believes money gotten with danger is better than poverty with safety, will venture for it in unknown lands or seas; and so will he that believes it better to get to heaven with labour, than to go to hell with pleasure.

6. He that believes does not make haste, but waits patiently till the times of refreshment come, and dares trust God for the morrow, and is no more solicitous for the next year than he is for that which is past; and it is certain that man wants faith who dares be more confident of being supplied, when he hath money in his purse, than when he hath it only in bills of exchange from God; or that relies more upon his own industry than upon God’s providence when his own industry fails him. If you dare trust to God when the case, to human reason, seems impossible, and trust to God then also out of choice, not because you have nothing else to trust to, but because he is the only support of a just confidence, then you give a good testimony of your faith.

7. True faith is confident, and will venture all the world upon the strength of its persuasion. Will you lay your life on it, your estate, your reputation, that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is true in every article/ Then you have true faith. But he that fears men more than God, believes men more than he believes in God.

8. Faith, if it be true, living, and justifying, cannot be separated from a good life; it works miracles, makes a drunkard become sober, a lascivious person become chaste, a covetous man become liberal; ‘it overcomes the world-it works righteousness,’[195] and makes us diligently to do, and cheerfully to suffer, whatsoever God hath placed in our way to heaven.


The Means and Instruments to obtain Faith are,

1. A humble, willing, and docile mind, or desire to be instructed in the way of God; for persuasion enters like a sunbeam, gently and without violence and open but the window, and draw the curtain and the Sun of righteousness will enlighten your darkness.

2. Remove all prejudice and love to everything, which may be contradicted by faith. ‘How can ye believe (said Christ) that receive praise one of another?’ An unchaste man cannot easily be brought to believe that, without purity, he shall never see God. He that loves riches can hardly believe the doctrine of poverty and renunciation of the world; and alms and martyrdom, and the doctrine of the cross, is folly to him that loves his ease and pleasures. He that hath within him any principle contrary to the doctrines of faith cannot easily become a disciple.

3. Prayer, which is instrumental to everything, hath a particular promise in this thing. ‘He that lacks wisdom, let him ask it of God:’ and, ‘If you give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Spirit to them that ask him!’

4. The consideration of the divine omnipotence and infinite wisdom, and our own ignorance, are great instruments of curing all doubting and silencing the murmurs of infidelity.[196]

5. Avoid all curiosity of inquiry into particulars and circumstances and mysteries, for true faith is full of ingenuity and hearty simplicity, free from suspicion, wise and confident, trusting upon generals, without watching and prying into unnecessary or indiscernible particulars. No man carries his bed into his field, to watch how his corn grows, but believes upon the general order of Providence and nature; and at harvest finds himself not deceived.

6. In time of temptation be not busy to dispute, but rely upon the conclusion, and throw yourself upon God; and contend not with him but in prayer and in the presence, and with the help of a prudent untempted guide; and be sure to esteem all changes of belief which offer themselves in the time of your greatest weakness (contrary to be temptations, and reject them accordingly.

7. It is a prudent course that, in our health and best advantages, we lay up particular arguments and instruments of persuasion and confidence, to be brought forth and used in the great day of expense; and that especially in such things in which we use to be most tempted, and in which we are least confident, and which are most necessary, and which commonly the devil uses to assault us withal in the days of our visitation.

8. The wisdom of the church of God is very remarkable in appointing festivals or holy days, whose solemnity and offices have no other special business but to record the article of the day; such as Trinity Sunday, Ascension, Easter, Christmas day; and to those persons who can only believe, not prove or dispute, there is no better instrument to cause the remembrance and plain notion, and to endear the affection and hearty assent to the article than the proclaiming and recommending it by the festivity and joy of a holy day.



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