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True Faith

Faith is not the human notion and dream that some people call faith. When they see that no improvement of life and no good works follow—although they can hear and say much about faith—they fall into the error of saying, “Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.” This is due to the fact that when they hear the gospel, they get busy and by their own powers create an idea in their heart which says, “I believe”; they take this then to be a true faith. But, as it is a human figment and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, nothing comes of it either, and no improvement follows.

Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1:12–13. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers who imagine themselves wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that he may work faith in you. Otherwise you will surely remain forever without faith, regardless of what you may think or do.

—Martin Luther
Works, 35:370–371 (Preface to Romans).

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Hunger for Happiness

It is surely a great point of wisdom for any man to shun and avoid, if he can, troubles and afflictions, and it [is] also certain that it is as great a part of wisdom for a man, if he can, to get into such a state as that, if troubles and afflictions do come, they can do him no real hurt, or be sure that they not only do him no hurt but good: but such is the state of the good man, and however troublesome those afflictions may seem to a good man at present, yet if they do him but good, it is really and truly as good for him—yea, better—than if they did not befall him. Although this may be a hard lesson to receive, yet it is as certain as that God is true, and however some may endeavor to dissuade to the contrary, every man’s reason will give testimony to it, and surely ’tis the part of a wise man to choose what his reason tells him is best for him. They certainly are the wisest men that do those things that make most for their happiness, and this in effect is acknowledged by all men in the world, for there is no man upon earth but what is earnestly seeking after happiness, and it appears abundantly by their so vigorously trying all manner of ways; they will twist and turn every way, ply all instruments, to make themselves happy men; some will wander all over the face of the earth to find [it]: they will seek it in the waters and dry land, under the waters and in the bowels of the earth, and although the true way to happiness lies right before ’em and they might easily step into it and walk in it and be brought in it to as great happiness as they desire, and greater than they can conceive of, yet they will not enter into it. They try all the false paths; they will spend and be spent, labor all their lives’ time, endanger their lives, will pass over mountains and valleys, go through fire and water, seeking for happiness amongst vanities, and are always disappointed, never find what they seek for; but yet like fools and madmen they violently rush forward, still in the same ways. But the righteous are not so; these only, have the wisdom to find the right paths to happiness.

—Jonathan Edwards
Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1992), 303.

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Right Paths to Happiness

They certainly are the wisest men that do those things that make most for their happiness. This in effect is acknowledged by all men in the world, for there is no man upon earth but what is earnestly seeking after happiness, and it appears abundantly by their so vigorously trying all manner of ways. They will twist and turn every way, ply all instruments, to make themselves happy men. Some will wander all over the face of the earth to find it. They will seek it in the waters and dry land, under the waters and in the bowels of the earth, and although the true way to happiness lies right before them and they might easily step into it and walk in it and be brought in it to as great a happiness as they desire, and greater than they can conceive of, yet they will not enter into it. They try all the false paths. They will spend and be spent, labor all their lives’ time, endanger their lives, will pass over mountains and valleys, go through fire and water, seeking for happiness amongst vanities, and are always disappointed, never find what they seek for; but yet like fools and madmen they violently rush forward, still in the same ways. But the righteous are not so; these only, have the wisdom to find the right paths to happiness.

Hence learn the great goodness of God in joining so great a happiness to our duty. God seems to have contrived all methods to encourage us in our duty. He has not only told us that by our faith and obedience we should escape eternal torments, although indeed, if it were only that it would be enough, one would think, to persuade any man that had the least spark of reason in him, that was not stark  mad and had a mind to be always as miserable as he could be. But He has done more than this, He has told us that by it we should gain eternal happiness; and He has given us not only encouragement that we shall enjoy happiness after this life, but we shall have God to be our director, our guide while here. Even in this life He will be a tender father to us and will keep off all evils that may do us any real harm, and provide for us whatever we stand in need of. Yet not only so, but the thing required of us shall not only be easy but a pleasure and delight, even in the very doing of it. How much the goodness of God shines forth even in his commands!

—Jonathan Edwards
Adapted from Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1992), 303-4.

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A Soul Possessed with Divine Love

Behold! on what sure foundations his happiness is built whose soul is possessed with divine love, whose will is transformed into the will of God, and whose greatest desire is that his Maker should be pleased. O the peace, the rest, the satisfaction that attends such a temper of mind!

—Henry Scougal
The Works of the Rev. H. Scougal (London: Ogle, Duncan, and Co., 1822), 27.

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Enjoyment of God—The Only Thing That Satisfies

God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.

To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.

Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?

—Jonathan Edwards
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2:244.