Is faith virtuous in itself? Is faith a work that whereby we gain or earn an interest in Christ? Jonathan Edwards says no:
Not that something we do, or some act or work of ours, properly interests us or is the proper condition of interest in Christ; but it is the manner of its interesting us, it is whether faith, or any other acts or works of ours, interests us, as our good works, or by virtue of the goodness and amiableness of the act or work–but whether it be only by virtue of the relation it bears to Christ as a proper receiving of him. He that is orthodox holds that our holy practice interests us only in this way, viz. as it is an expression of our receiving Christ. The others hold that faith justifies only by virtue of its loveliness.
One hold [sic] that our holy works justify only as expressions of faith, the other holds that faith justifies only as an holy work.*
*MS Notebook, “The Doctrines of the [Word of God] Especially [Pertaining to the] Justice and Grace [of God] Explained and Defended” [Gazetteer Notebook], 1-2 in Yale Works 21:338, n. 2. Also see Conrad Cherry, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards: A Reappraisal (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1990), 90-106.