תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him.” In popular addresses it is by no means expedient to make many distinctions, exceptions, or limitations; yet it is of great consequence that the public teachers of religion should themselves be familiarly acquainted with such distinctions as are important: and then they will so propose the simplest general truths as not to contradict the deepest parts of heavenly wisdom; which “are strong meat, belonging to those that are of age, even such as by reason of age have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Nay, “ if men (as one well observes,) will distinguish ill, they must be opposed by those who distinguish better, and not by such as do not distinguish at all.” If any one should attempt to expound certain precepts of our Lord's sermon on the mount, in an unqualified and unlimited sense, and to deduce the utmost practical consequences from them; every solid divine would protest against such a mode of interpretation, show it to be contradictory to other parts of Scripture, and justly remark that those exceptions and restrictions must be admitted, which common sense could not fail to suggest, and which needed not be particularized in a public discourse. And ought not the same rules of interpretation to be adopted, when declarations, such as these which we are now considering, are made in a general manner ? Certainly they ought; otherwise the Scriptures must perpetually appear to be in opposition to themselves. And when thus explained, they are not in the least repugnant to the proposition, that true faith is always the effect of regeneration.

There may be a vital spark, or a dawning ray, where nothing but darkness and death are discernible by us; and we should remember, to copy him, who “ will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed."--For “ the path of the just is like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” A ray of light breaks in upon the previous reign of entire darkness, and imperceptibly diminishes the gloom : but coming from the sun, it indicates his approach, and will continue to advance till it arrive at the full blaze of noon. “On you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings.” i. Then shall ye know, if follow on to know the Lord, his going forth is prepared as the morning." any man will do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” “ I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths, which they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." These and similar passages in Scripture naturally lead us to consider the work of God, in drawing the sinner unto himself, by Christ the living Way, in many instances at least, as very gradual; and they by no means can be made even to appear consistent with the opinion, that a man continues absolutely dead in sin, till after he has come to Christ, and has explicit knowledge of him, and faith in him ; or even, as some state it, a full assurance of an interest in his salvation.

The new-born infant instinctively craves the milk of the breast, though incapable of understanding the nature of its wants and desires : but various circumstances may retard its actual satisfaction in the wholesome nutriment provided for it. Thus the new-born babe, in the spiritual world, feels a strong desire after the sincere milk of the word, yet often scarcely knows what he wants or seeks for: but the salvation of Christ alone can satisfy these new desires which he experiences; and whatever may hinder his progress, he will still continue uneasy and inquiring, till brought to live explicitly by faith in the Son of God. Then he will seek no further, except to secure and enjoy the satisfying blessings he has discovered.

And now let the reader seriously and impartially consider these several arguments, and endeavour to estimate their collective force : after which, let us determine, whether it has not been completely proved, that, according to the word of God, saving faith is always the effect of regeneration ; and consequently that it is holy in its nature, as well as in its fruits.

ye

« If

SECTION III.

Saving Faith always accompanied by other things essentially holy. ANOTHER most conclusive argument to prove the holy nature of faith, may be deduced from the other holy exercises of the heart with which it is inseparably connected.

No man ever yet truly believed in Christ, without some measure of humi. liation for sin ; and where this is totally wanting, a professed believer can at most rank no higher than a stony-ground hearer, who has no root in himself, in whatever manner slavish terrors have been succeeded by selfish comforts. But when a careless sinner, or a proud despiser of the gospel, is brought with down-cast eyes, to smite on his breast, and from his inmost soul to cry, “ God be merciful to me a sinner;" he certainly thus far manifests

a right spirit.In the parable here alluded to, the question is not, what the Pharisee proudly assumed concerning his own sanctity; or what the publican humbly confessed of his own sinfulness; but whether the humble confession of the one was not intrinsically better, than the proud boastings of the other? And whether the publican's self-abasing cry for mercy was not an exercise of true holiness ? That it sprang from humility and contrition, and was not extorted by mere terror, our Lord himself testifies; “ I tell you, that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke xviii. 14. And this testimony ought to be decisive: for it evidently proves that genuine humility inseparably attends on justifying faith, even in its feeblest and most discouraged applications for pardoning mercy.

The Pharisee did not arrogate the honour of making himself to differ from other men; at least the words ascribed to him imply the contrary: and indeed the same is observable in the language of many who are notorious for spiritual pride. But he presumptuously deemed himself eminent in holiness, when he was altogether unholy; and established in the full favour of God, from which he was entirely estranged. If a man say, God, I thank thee for giving me humility, repentance, and newness of heart;" and then rely on these supposed endowments as the meritorious ground of his justification; let him be classed with the Pharisee : but surely we may know that God hath given us these holy dispositions, and that “ by his grace we are what we are," and heartily thank him for his special love in thus making us to differ, without in the least “trusting to our own righteousness, and despising others.” Or else the most eminent believers, both of the Old and New Testament, must be joined with us under this condemnation. In whatever measure we have experienced “the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience," we shall not, if properly instructed, depend on it in the smallest degree for justification: and if this be the case of the most eminent saint on earth, why should it be supposed, that the least conceivable spark of true holiness, even when not discerned, must lead the new convert to a self-righteous confidence, and indispose him to seek the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ?

Saul of Tarsus, when a proud Pharisee, expressed the most contemptuous enmity against the holy Jesus, and "breathed out threatenings and slaughter” against his harmless disciples. But view this same person, prostrate on the ground, trembling with apprehensions of merited vengeance, supplicating undeserved mercy, and saying to the Saviour, “ Lord, what wouldest thou have me to do?" Then observe him, when “ what things were gain to him, these he counted loss for Christ;" and determine whether no degree of genuine humiliation was connected with his first exercises of faith in the Son of God.

But if we carefully examine the language of Scripture, we must be convinced, that humility is a radical and most important part of holiness ; and especially that humiliation for sin is essential to the existence of holiness in the heart of a fallen creature.-" To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “ God resisteth the proud, and giveth his grace unto the humble.” Nay, a great part of the holiness of redeemed sinners, even in heaven, seems to consist in a disposition to ascribe all their salvation to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb that was slain ; and in feeling and acting consistently with the recollection of their own deep guilt, and their inexpressible obligations to the special mercy and love of the Redeemer. Indeed if pride were the first sin of apostate spirits, humility must be most essential to the holiness even of angels.

The degree of genuine humility, connected with the sinner's first actings of faith in Christ, may be very small : but will any Christian say, that there is absolutely none at all? Or that pride is at that moment in full dominion ? Can a sinner embrace the salvation of Christ in a cordial manner, without the least disposition to abase and condemn himself? Can he, when merely alarmed by the dread of a punishment which he does not allow that he deserves, sincerely seek the deliverance from free unmerited mercy? Can he sincerely seek this mercy, in the most humiliating way imaginable, without the least degree of humiliation? And if his professed reliance on the free grace through Immanuel's atoning blood, be insincere, will a heart-searching God justify him on account of a hypocritical pretension? “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

In a word, it has often been said, and it never has been disproved, that " there can be no more mercy in the sinner's salvation, than there was justice in his condemnation :" it is therefore absolutely impossible for any one cordially to welcome salvation altogether of mere mercy, unless he sincerely allow that he might justly have been left under condemnation.

Again, did our Lord, in the parable of the prodigal son, design to represent the returning sinner as driven merely by distress to seek deliverance from God? What did he then mean by the expression, When he came to himself ?The prodigal is supposed to have felt his misery before, (as devils and damned spirits do, with proud and determined alienation of heart from his father, and the rules of his family: but “when he came to himself,” he awaked as out of sleep, he recovered as from intoxication, he was restored as from insanity; and then he became sensible of his sin and folly. Other thoughts now arise in his mind concerning his father's character, authority, and conduct ; and his own past behaviour and present situation : and he breaks out into this exclamation, “ How many of my father's servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger ! I will arise and go to my father ; and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." Are not these expressions of sorrow and humiliation for sin, and of deep self-abasement ? No extenuation of excuse is so much as thought of by the self-condemned penitent; but he deduces his whole encouragement to return home, from the known kindness and compassion of his offended father. Thus is he represented as resolving to return home, from right principles, and in a right spirit: and when welcomed with immense kindness, and without any upbraidings, by his loving parent, he alters not the terms of his intended confession, except by leaving out the concluding words, as superseded by the undeserved and unexpected reception he met with. As this parable was purposely nained by our Lord, to illustrate the dealings of our merciful God towards the vilest of sinners, who come to him in his appointed way, it is absolutely decisive, that he considered godly sorrow, humiliation, and unreserved confession of guilt, as never-failing attendants on saving faith. Luke xv. And the arrangement of the parable contains a demonstration, that regeneration is at all times antea cedent to faith, as the cause is antecedent to the effect.

Nn

[ocr errors]

Every serious student of the Scriptures must have observed, that they always represent repentance and faith as inseparably connected. It is not indeed worth while formally to dispute, which of these twin-graces is first exercised by the newly regenerated sinner: a belief of some divine truths may show him his need of repentance; and some degree of a penitent disposition may render him sensible that he wants an interest in Christ's salvation by faith in his name. It suffices to say, that true repentance is a believing rea pentance, and true faith is a penitent faith.-A general belief of God's mercy and readiness to forgive, seems essential to genuine repentance; but more explicit views of the way in which mercy is vouchsafed, are not always requisite : yet repentance is doubtless rendered more deep, spiritual, and ingenuous, in proportion as the glory of the gospel is understood, and its consolations experienced. We ought not, however, to overlook, much less to invert, the order in which the inspired writers mention repentance and faith.

« Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “ Repent ye and believe the gospel.' “ Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."

Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ."-" IF peradventure God will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.

If it please God to give repentance to an opposer of his gospel, he will then acknowledge the truth, believe in Christ, and be saved: but if God do not give him repentance, he will continue an unbeliever held fast in the snare of the devil. This at least completely proves, that true repentance always accompanies the first actings of saving faith. And a man's views must certainly be unscriptural, when he cannot support them without inverting or altering the language of inspiration.

The word translated repentance denotes a change of mind : but surely no Christian will deliberately maintain, that this change takes place only in the understanding, withoat at all influencing the will and affections ! Or that it is merely a change of opinion about the doctrine of justification! Yet incautious expressions to that effect are not uncommon. We read however not only of an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;" but also of an hard and impenitent heart, “ through which sinners treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath.” So that, beyond all dispute, the change of mind, which is called repentance, peculiarly relates to the heart, without which every change of opinion can at most only amount to a dead faith and a form of knowledge. True repentance implies an entire revolution in a man's views and judgment respecting himself, and every thing to which he stands related, and in all his corresponding dispositions and affections. But though this internal change be especially denoted by the word thus translated ; yet when the term is used in a popular sense, and as distinguished from regeneration, it includes fear of divine wrath, godly sorrow, humiliation, hatred of sin and all its pleasures and profits, forsaking sin, turning to God with ingenuous confession and cries for mercy, and entering on a new course of life. It is needless in this place to enter further on the subject, as the public has long been in possession of the author's deliberate thoughts upon it ;* but if any man doubt of what has been here advanced, let him carefully and impartially, consider the scriptures referred to, with the several contexts, and I apprehend he will find it impossible to resist conviction. Job xlii. 6. Jer. xxxii. 19. Ezek. xviii. 28. Matt. iii. 8–10. xxi. 29–32. Luke xv. 10, 17, 21. 2 Cor. vii. 9-11. In the last passage referred to, the apostle speaks of godly sorrow as preceding, and working repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of:” surely then no repentance is saving or genuine which is unconnected with godly sorrow !

Repentance is both the command and the gift of God. It is our duty; but without divine grace we are wholly indisposed to perform it: and in this rese

• Discourse on Repentance.

pect it resembles all other duties, each of which is the subject of promises as well as of precepts; and none of them are performed in the right manner, except as the Lord gives us a new heart and a new spirit.

“ God (by the gospel) commandeth all men every where to repent." “ Jesus is exalted to be à Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins.” Repentance belongs entirely to the gospel and to the covenant of grace; and has nothing to do with the law and the covenant of works, except in our being grieved and humbled at heart for violating them, and in our humbly confessing that we deserve that wrath of God which is denounced against every transgressor.The gospel alone gives the call to repentance, the encouragement to repentance, and the grace of repentance: it is therefore most astonishing that the preaching of repentance should have ever been called legal, or thought inconsistent with the free grace of the gospel! Or that repentance should ever have been almost excluded from the list of evangelical graces, the constituent parts of true holiness.

But, says our Lord “What think ye? A certain man had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise : and he answered and said, I go Sir, and went not.- Verily I say unto you, the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before you — For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterwards, that ye might believe.Hence we learn that the general belief of John's testimony brought the publicans and harlots to repentance, and this repentance, prepared them for admission into the Messiah's kingdom by faith in him; and if the Pharisees had repented of their sin, in rejecting the ministry of John, their repena tance would have been connected with the same faith in him to whom John bare testimony. Indeed the office of John Baptist, in preparing the way of the Lord, as the herald of the Saviour to proclaim his appearance and introduce his gospel, is peculiarly important in this argument.--He first called sinners to repentance, showed the Jews in general the fallaciousness of trusting in their national privileges, and the Pharisees in particular the emptiness of their forms and external services; he used the proper means of convincing all sorts of persons of their guilt and danger; and then pointed out to them “ the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;" “ the Son of God,” who “ baptizeth with the Holy Ghost :” concluding with this solemn declaration and warning “ the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not on the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him.” John iii. 35, 36. And his whole ministry undeniably proves, both that genuine repentance is always connected with saving faith ; and that it is an important part of that “ holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”

This appears also in a very convincing manner in the singular example of the penitent thief, who upon the cross humbly acknowledged, that he deserved his ignominious and torturing death ; while he believed in the Saviour suspended beside him, for the salvation of his soul from future condemnation. Was there no essential difference in the frame of his spirit, from that of the other thief, who in the agonies of death, joined the multitude in reviling the holy Jesus? Did this difference arise from any other cause than regeneration? And was not he a partaker of true holiness?

Confession of sin, an essential part of true repentance, is every where represented as inseparable from saving faith, and preparatory to forgiveness. “ He that covereth his sins shall not prosper ; but he that confesseth and forsaketh them, shall obtain mercy.”

Prov. xxviii. 13. “ If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.--If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John i. 8, 9. “ I acknowledged my sin unto thee,

« הקודםהמשך »