תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

which render it necessary for men to know themselves converted, before they begin to pray for spiritual blessings, or to apply for salvation; and thus they perplex the minds of awakened sinners with doubtful disputations, till “ the devil comes, and takes the seed out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”

These things being so, we need not greatly wonder, if they, who justly consider the gospel as glad tidings of free salvation to the chief of sinners, take the alarm: and if any of them, in the warmth of their zeal, drop incautious expressions, capable of misconstruction and perversion to bad purposes, it is no more than has generally occurred to similar cases. And should a by-stander, who has derived much instruction from the writings of several persons, engaged on all sides in these controversies, endeavour, in the spirit of meekness, to state what he considers as the scriptural medium on the cona troverted points; he surely need not be apprehensive lest such men should say, “ who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?”

In the quiet recess of his study, the author of these pages has long and seriously examined the subject; and he has carefully noticed the effects of the several opinions, on the spirit and conduct of those who maintained them, and on the minds of such as were mere spectators of the contest. And several persons, who have favourably received his other publications have expressed a wish for his explicit sentiments respecting it. He therefore feels himself in some respects required to give the result of his inquiries, and to assign his reasons for differing in a measure from those, who have written on both sides of the question.--He is well aware, that great candour, caution, and impartiality, are requisite so to state his views as to give no just offence to any party concerned. He has well considered, and may indirectly answer, the principal objections and arguments, which have on all sides been advanced against the doctrine he maintains : but he purposes to decline all direct controversy.—He means not to support his sentiments by any human authority, (though many of the writers of the last century would fully bear him out, perhaps in every particular :) but he would singly abide by the testimony of Scripture. The general subject will be divided into two questions, What is the sinner's warrant for believing in Christ ?” And, “ Is saving faith an holy exercise of the heart or no?” These two questions are far from coincident; and the want of duly distinguishing them introduces much perplexity into men's reasonings and discourses on the subject.--Many other sources of ambiguity and misapprehension will be adverted to, as the work proceeds: and perspicuity will above all things be consulted; for the author greatly desires to be clearly understood, that the reader may be enabled to perceive whether or not his views be scriptural and his arguments conclusive.--He needs only add, that he most earnestly recommends to every one, who feels difficulties on the subject, to weigh what is advanced in the spirit of prayer ; that the giver of all wisdom may enlighten his mind, and prepare his heart to receive the truth in love; and to rectify every mistake into which he may have been betrayed, as far as it impedes his comfort, fruitfulness, and usefulness in the world.

[ocr errors]

THE

WARRANT AND NATURE

OF

FAITH IN CHRIST.

PART I.

THE SINNER'S WARRANT FOR BELIEVING IN CHRIST.

SECTION I.

THE SUBJECT OPENED.

The word warrant though common in the writings of modern divines, is not once found in Scripture, which uniformly represents faith in Christ as the duty of all who hear the gospel ; and no warrant is required for obedience to a plain commandment. As, however, an inestimable privilege is connected with the performance of this duty, it may properly be inquired, what reason a sinner has for expecting such a benefit from his offended God? In this sense the warrant of faith signifies " that, which authorizes any person to believe in the Lord Jesus; and gives him a ground of confidence, that he shall thus obtain eternal salvation.”

But it is necessary to inquire what is meant by faith in Christ: as without precision in this particular, the discussion might be involved in great perplexity ; because the terms faith, believing, and believing in Christ, are used in different senses, frequently by the same authors; and still more by those who are engaged on opposite sides.

Faith, in its more general acceptation, is the “belief of the truth;” or a cordial consent to the testimony of God in his holy word, with reference to our own concern in it.” Faith in Christ implies®“ a cordial consent to the testimony of God respecting his Son; connected with a humble and earnest application to the divine Redeemer for salvation; and a willing and unreserved acceptance of him, in his whole character and his several distinct offices, according to the method revealed, and the directions given, in the holy Scriptures, Not that I would exclude the idea of reliance, but I thus state the nature of faith, merely to prevent mistakes in an argumentative discussion. The language of believers, as recorded in the Old Testament, when they speak of “ hoping in God," “ trusting under the shadow of nis wings,” or making “his name their strong tower ;” and when they call.. their Rock, their Refuge, their Habitation, and their Portion, always innkaus this earnest application to him for protection, salvation, and comfort, and

never an indolent dependence of expectation. This is evident from other expressions, which they frequently subjoin ; such as “ I lift up my soul unto thee.” “ I cry unto thee daily.” “ Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord;" My soul followeth hard after thee, thy right hand upholdeth me;" “ I pour out my soul unto thee;" and many others. The description of faith in Christ, given in this treatise, is not therefore at all inconsistent with the soul's thus resting itself on God, hanging upon him, and always expecting help from him: and if that idea do not appear sufficiently prominent, that arises from the nature of the subject, which relates to one important topic in divinity, and not to every part of a believer's experience.

When the doctrines of the gospe! are assented to, and men are convinced by argument that there is no salvation, except by faith in Christ; they may more readily imagine that they rely on him, or con fide in him to save them, than that they are daily and earnestly applying to him for salvation. I apprehend numbers think that they rely on Christ, even while they habitually neglect the means of grace, especially secret prayer ; or while they attend to it formally, as an irksome duty, without importunity, fervency, or entering into the particularities of their case. But the idea of believing application to Christ precludes this way of self-deception, without discouraging any upright inquirer: as it represents sinners by faith seeking help for their souls from an invisible Saviour, according to their feeling sense of sin and misery; as the blind and lame, the lepers and paralytics, did for their bodies, when he was visibly present on earth. As an instance how much the idea of reliance, considered as an adequate definition of faith in Christ, may be abused, I once heard a poor prostitute, when avowedly determined on pursuing her infamous course of life, ward off the conviction that she was in the road to eternal destruction, by expressing a firm reliance on God's mercy, and on the love of Christ who shed his blood to save poor sinners !

Having premised these particulars concerning the general nature of faith, I would observe, that if any persons mean by faith in Christ, “ a confident persuasion, that Christ died for them in particular, that they are in a justified state, and shall certainly inherit everlasting life:" it is not only granted, but strenuously maintained, that no man is warranted thus to believe concerning himself, except as he has clear proof that he is “ in Christ a new creature,” and “has crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts ;" for this, and vastly more to the same purpose, is constantly spoken of in the Scriptures concerning all true Christians without exception. Properly speaking, this confident persuasion of a personal interest in Christ, if well grounded, is hope, or the full assurance of hope ; and is opposed to presumption, or a groundless confidence of salvation: nor can it be obtained or preserved except by walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God with persevering diligence.-Again, if faith in Christ be considered as “ A reliance on him for salvation from future punishment, without heartily seeking to him for deliverance from sin and from this present evil world, or falling in with the whole design of his coming in the flesh;” no man is or can be warranted thus to believe on him: for this is a mere selfish desire and presumptuous confidence of escaping misery and obtaining happiness, without the least real understanding of the nature, or value for the blessings, of that holy salvation which the Scriptures propose to us. For in fact, it is nothing better than the cry of the evil spirits, when they besought Christ not to torment them; except as these too well knew God's purposes to expect final impunity.

A few other remarks may tend to elucidate the subject. We are told that “ Faith is the evidence of things not seen,” as it credits the whole of God's sure testimony, concerning things invisible and future: and “the substance of things hoped for,” as it realizes the substantial and eternal blessings which are brought to light by the gospel. It is not then a new feculty of the soul; but the exercise of our original faculties in a manner neue to us as sinners. To believe testimony, to rely on promises, and to expect the performance of them from the faithfulness of him who made them, are as

natural to us as any other act of the rational soul; and indeed almost all the business of life is conducted by this very principle : but the things which the Lord testifies, proposes, and promises, are so foreign to our apprehensions, so contrary to our prejudices, so humiliating to our pride, so disquieting to our consciences, and opposite to our carnal passions and pursuits, that we have no disposition cordially and obediently to believe them, till a change has taken place in our hearts. When, however, a man is properly disposed to believe divine truth in general, either speedily or gradually, he will be led to consider and credit the testimony of God concerning his Son, and so to believe in Christ for salvation. But this faith must imply some perception and understanding of the nature of salvation, some conviction that we need it, and some desire after it ; unless any one be supposed to seek an object, of which he knows nothing, of which he feels no want, and about which he has not the least concern! It must also imply a virtual renouncing of all other confidences to depend on Christ alone, a willingness to use the appointed means, and a disposition rather to part with every thing, than to fall short of an interest in him. For “ The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant-man, seeking goodly pearls; who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matt. xiii. 44–46. This language of our Lord is so decided, and the difference between him “who went away sorrowful, because he had great possessions,” and those “ who left all and followed him,” is so strongly marked, that we cannot on scriptural grounds allow that any man truly believes, if he is inwardly determined to renounce Christ, rather than part with some worldly object. It may indeed be urged, that these things are the effects of faith, and not implied in its nature ; but assuredly the least exercise of true faith in Christ constitutes a man his disciple; yet he expressly says, “ Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke xiv. 25—27. If therefore these are effects of faith, they spring immediately and invariably from its essential nature.-Awakened sinners often hesitate long before they can be induced thus unreservedly to renounce all selfish confidence and worldly idols, for the sake of Christ and his salvation: some shrinking back on one account, and some on another, as carnal lusts, self-wise or self-righteous pride, fear of man, or other corrupt propensities preponderate. Even they, who really believe the testimony of God, and are convinced that the gospel is true, are frequently seduced into very criminal delays, before they decidedly “count all things but loss that they may win Christ.” But every genuine exercise of faith implies these things: though in many cases, they are only discernible as the members of the body in the half-formed embryo, or the parts of the oak in the germ of the acorn.

Faith in Christ is, therefore, the sinner's believing obedient application to the Saviour: reliance on him, and his power, truth, and love; on what he did and suffered on earth, and is now doing in heaven; and on his promises and covenant-engagements, for complete and everlasting salvation: cordial acceptance of him, according to the word of God, in all his characters and offices: and confidential entrusting the immortal soul with all its eternal interests into his hands, from a feeling sense that he needs this salvation; a perception in some degree of its suitableness and value, an approbation and desire of it above all things, and a dread of coming short of it more than any other evil. Such is the idea of faith in Christ adhered to throughout this work; and they, who have formed other notions concerning faith, will of course object to many things contained in it. This should therefore in the first place be considered with peculiar attention ; and some deliberate judgement formed on the general nature of faith in Christ, whether this be or be not a scriptural account of it: otherwise the truth of the propositions, and the conclusiveness of the arguments, contained in the subsequent pages, will not be clearly perceived; and the objections, which arise in the reader's mind,

« הקודםהמשך »