Touching the subject or persons to whom it is appropriate, faith is the proper and peculiar gift of God’s elect, which only [alone] distinguishes them from the rest of the world; for all other graces, be they never so bright, or shining, are common with the reprobate; but faith, with the fruits thereof, is proper to the godly. Whereupon, (Tit. 1:1) it is called, The “faith of God’s elect”: for only they, and of them all and every one, are in their time, by virtue of God’s covenant, brought to believe (John 6:37). “Every one that the Father gives me, comes to me.” Else, in what better case are we now, then when the covenant of works did hold us, seeing it is as impossible of our selves, and by our own strength, to repent, and believe the gospel, (which is the condition of the covenant of grace) as it was to fulfill the law?
Wherefore we must understand, that God, to speak properly, does not require the same, as a mutual re-stipulation of our part, as it was in the former covenant, where nothing is imposed which man’s nature could not wield: but here it is rather a declaration of his pleasure, what he would have us do, and whereunto he will enable us: not a condition to endanger the covenant, but an assurance that he will give us strength to keep it. So as the whole covenant properly and in truth rises of his part, and lies upon him: like his other covenant (brought to confirm this) with the sun and moon, and stars, whom (otherwise unable of themselves) he makes to run their course. But howsoever, all come from his only grace and virtue, yet to us that are not stocks and stones, but endued with a reasonable soul, understanding, will, and other faculties, this covenant is wont to be expressed, sometimes by words conditional, sometimes in commanding wise; that the greatness of the peril, and the difficulty of the precept might make us to bestir ourselves, to use with care and conscience the mean that he appoints, for the attaining of that precious gift, and to work together with God, when we are once wrought upon by his Spirit.
And herein lies one other main difference between the law and the gospel, or the covenant of works, and this covenant of grace: The law only commands obedience, but gives no power to obey; and therefore is called, “the dead letter,” “written with ink,” and “in tables of stone,” ready indeed to be read and seen, but having no life in it to change the heart, which remains as stony as before. The Gospel not only commands, but gives faith and newness of life; and is therefore said to be written in our hearts, and called The ministration of the Spirit, because it gives the Spirit of Christ, and righteousness through him.
The law therefore, pronouncing nothing but judgement and condemnation against us, as that which commands things impossible, by reason of our weakness, terrifies and amazes the conscience: In which respect it is called, “the ministry of death and condemnation.” Contrariwise, the gospel bringing glad tidings of peace and reconciliation, quiets and appeases the conscience (Rom. 5:1) “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Both parts of this difference are found (Rom. 10:5, 6, 7, 8). For Moses thus describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which does these things, shall live thereby. But the righteousness which is of faith, speaks on this wise, “Say not in your heart, ‘who shall ascend into heaven?’ That is to bring Christ from above. Or, ‘Who shall descend into the deep?’ That is, to bring Christ again from the dead. But what says it? The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart. This is the Word of Faith which we preach.”
—John Downame (†1652), The Summe of Sacred Divinite (London, 1620), 406–08. [spelling and punctuation modernized]