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and mine iniquity have I not hid.--I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Ps. xxxii. 5. “ Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin ; for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me." Ps. li. 1-5. The publican, the prodigal son, the thief upon the cross, and other instances already adduced, exemplify this ingenuous unreserved confession of their sinfulness : nor is there a single case in Scripture, real or parabolical, of a sinner acceptably applying to God for pardoning mercy, in which this disposition to glorify him, by a full and free confession is not implied or expressed..“ He looketh upon men; and if any say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not, he will deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” Job xxxiii. 27, 28.
No doubt this (as well as all other holy dispositions) may be counterfeited ; and the appearance of humility assumed where the heart remains unhumbled. Thus Pharaoh, Judas, and several others, confessed their sins in a partial, extorted, and reluctant manner. Yet no doubt, if genuine, it implies a right spirit ; the proper frame of mind, in which a sinner ought to appear before his offended Lord, being exactly the reverse to a proud self-justifying disposition. He who ingenuously confesses his sins, gives unto God the honour both of his justice and of his mercy; he expresses approbation both of the holy law and of the blessed gospel; he willingly submits to God's righteous. ness, and is prepared to welcome a free salvation; he adores the grace, which “ hath abounded towards us, in all wisdom and prudence," and glorifies the Lord, as just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
“ His name," says the angel, “ shall be called Jesus; because he shall save his people from their sins.” “God, having raised up his Son Jesus," says the apostle“ hath sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." “ He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify us unto himself, a peculiar people zealous of good works.” Now let a reflecting person seriously ask himself, whether any one can truly believe in Christ, without in the least understanding this part of his salvation, or desiring the principal blessing which he confers on his people? Can he desire salvation from sin, without the least hatred of sin or love of holiness; Or can there be any hatred of sin and love of holiness in a heart that is en. tirely unholy ?-The views of a newly awakened sinner may be extremely confused, and the fear of wrath with desires of deliverance from it, may greatly preponderate in his experience: nor should this be condemned as mere selfishness, while salvation from deserved punishment is sought from God's mercy in his appointed way; for even this is directly contrary to our natural pride and enmity to God; and the desire of happiness is as strong in an holy as in an unholy creature. Indeed the sinner himself in his first application for mercy, may not, during the anxious trepidation of his heart, perceive any thing more than a desire of forgiveness and happiness in the favour of God: yet in reality, every acting of true faith in Christ is connected with some degree of a desire to be delivered from sin, and to be made holy; which will appear to the intelligent observer, in that tenderness of conscience, and dread of relapsing into former evil ways, which are manifested by convinced sinners, in their deepest distress, and which often help the judicious pastor to discriminate between those convictions which arise from spiritual illumination, and the terrors which spring from merely natural principles.
Indeed they, who are well versed in doctrinal discussions, may feel a kind of wish after sanctification, without any hatred of sin or love of holiness, from a conviction that they cannot be saved unless they be sanctified : and thus the common saying, “ the desire of grace is grace," should be used with caution, or it may aid the enemy to deceive men's souls.—But persons of this description will not sincerely apply to Christ for any part of this salvation, or diligently use the proper means of seeking it. “ The soul of the sluggard desireth and bath not : but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." Prov. xiii. 4.
When our Lord invites “ the weary and heavy laden to come unto him, that they might find rest to their souls;" he adds, “ Take my yokę upon you and learn of me.” He declares that he will treat all those as enemies, « who will not have him to reign over them:" and every scriptural call to sinners implies the same instruction. “ Seek ye the Lord while he may be found ; call ye upon him while he is near : let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him ; and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon.' Isaiah lv. 6, 7. Certainly the evangelical prophet had no idea of forgiveness and the comfort of it, preceding every degree of true repentance and all the works meet for repentance, according to the doctrine maintained by some modern teachers of free salvation. With these Scriptures before us, can we maintain, that any one truly returns to the Lord, by Christ the living Way, and by faith in him, who does not so much as desire salvation from his sins, and renewal unto holiness? And is not a sincere and hearty desire of these blessings itself a genuine part of holiness?
It has been shown, that humility, repentance, hatred of sin, with sincere desires to be saved from it, and a willing submission to Christ as our King, are inseparably connected with every exercise of genuine faith in him: and doubtless all these are branches of true holiness. The same also may be observed concerning the genuine spirit of prayer, which has properly been considered as the very breath of faith, and one of the first symptoms of spiritual life. A person at a distance from the means of clear instruction, or perplexed in attempting to distinguish truth from falsehood, may sincerely pray for divine teaching, and other spiritual blessings, from a general knowledge and feeling of his wants, and a belief of some revealed truths, even previously to explicit faith in Christ: and thus he may be further enlightened as to the nature and glory of the gospel, and have the way of God expounded to him more perfectly. Acts xviii. 24–28. But it cannot be conceived, that any one has believed in Christ, and been even justified by faith in him ; while he has never yet in his heart presented a single sincere petition for spiritual blessings !--- Indeed the application of the soul to Christ for salvation seems to be essentially prayer, mental prayer, and as inseparable from it, as the motion of the lungs from the act of breathing, or that of the heart from pulsation. True Christians are frequently in the New Testament distinguished as “ those who call on the Lord Jesus Christ ;" and it is said, “ The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him: for whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed ?" Rom. x. 10–14. It is allowed that no one can call on the Lord Jesus, before he has some degree of faith in him : but at the same time, these testimonies of the Scripture prove, that the spirit of prayer inseparably accompanies every exercise of faith from first to last. Élse what is the nature of faith? Is it merely assent and inactive reliance ? Or is it the soul going forth with fervent desires after the mercy and grace, of which the urgent want is felt, to him whom it believes able and willing to deliver, to help, and to save? If this latter be the acting of faith in Christ, what is the mea 'dium of the soul's application to him, except the lifting up of the heart in desire and expectation ? and this is the essence of Prayer. Hence it is that salvation is so closely joined with prayer in many places in Scripture. "Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” Ps. Ixxxvi. 1-7. « Ask and it shall be given you :Every one that asketh receiveth.” “Let us come boldly to the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."" All that call on the Lord shall be saved.' According to these promises, it is as impossible a man should truly pray, and yet not be saved, as that he should truly believe, and not be saved, because genuine faith and prayer are inseparable.
Men may read, repeat, or even frame prayers, in a formal manner, without the least degree of real holiness. They may sincerely ask for tempora
things, “ that they may consume them on their lusts ;” or for deliverance from temporal calamities and dangers. They may even pray heartily to be saved from future punishment, and to be made for ever happy, according to their own notions of felicity, without any idea of what happiness consists in. But genuine prayer is the language of humility, and of spiritual desires and expectations : it is the expression of conscious indigence, dependence, and unworthiness ; and of hearty longings after those blessings, which God alone can bestow, and which can only be enjoyed in his favour and presence. “ Lord, thou has heard the desire of the humble ; thou wilt prepare their heart ; thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.” Ps. x. 17. Hence we read of “praying in," or by, “ the Spirit ;" “ praying in the Holy Ghost,” and “worshipping in spirit and truth.” “ The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” Prov. xv. 8. Saul when a Pharisee, may be supposed to have made long prayers: but these were doubtless very different from the earnest supplications which he poured out before the Lord at Damascus, and which were thus noticed, “ For behold he prayeth.” Can it be conceived, that a holy God delighteth in any prayer, which hath nothing holy in its nature? Yet the humble supplicants, who are most acceptable to him, are most apt to be dissatisfied with themselves, and even to question the sincerity and uprightness of their earnest and fervent prayers.
The case of Manasseh may illustrate this subject; for none of those, who enter into the spirit and importance of this discussion, will deny that he found mercy by faith in the promised Saviour. The first intimation of any thing hopeful in his case is thus given: “When he was in affiliction he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him; and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication.” In the subsequent narrative, his prayer is repeatedly mentioned; and his sins before he was humbled are strikingly contrasted with his subsequent conduct. 2 Chron. xxxiii. Hence I apprehend, we may infer with certainty, that acceptable prayer and genuine humiliation always accompany saving faith. “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou will not despise."
If then humility, godly sorrow, hatred of all evil, ingenuous confession, and whatever else belongs to true repentance, with upright desires after salvation from sin, and spiritual prayer, do indeed invariably attend every acting of faith in Christ; that faith must be a holy exercise of a regenerate soul ; for surely none will maintain, that there is not the least symptom of spiritual life, the smallest degree of holiness, in any of these, or in all of them united! On the other hand, it can scarcely be imagined, that any will deliberately persist in maintaining, that justifying faith so precedes all humiliation, and other spiritual affections, as to be wholly unconnected with them; and that a man is actually justified and at peace with God, before he at alt begins to humble himself, be sorry for his sins, to confess and hate them, or to pray for spirie tual blessings! This would invert the whole order of Scripture, and can never be directly and consistently avowed by a candid and serious disciple of the Lord Jesus; however he may be led, upon a controversial subject, to drop expressions, make statements, or adopt sentiments, which fairly admit of such an interpretation.--But in fact, the grand difficulty consists in prevailing with men, so far to examine their preconceived opinions, and to question the truth of them, as to bestow the pains requisite for duly weighing the force of those arguments, which from Scripture are brought against them; and either solidly to refute them, at least so as to satisfy their own minds, or candidly to acknowledge that they were mistaken.
The Holy Nature of Faith more directly shown.
The holiness of saving faith may not only be inferred from its Author, its source, and its concomitants; but likewise from a careful consideration of its peculiar nature.
The apostle exhorts Christians to “ build up themselves in their most koly faith.” Jude 20. Should it be urged, that he meant the doctrine of faith, and not faith itself; we inquire, how a most holy doctrine can be received in a right manner by a faith not at all holy? We read of those who “ held” (or imprisoned) “ the truth in unrighteousness;"_" because they liked not to retain God in their knowledge :" Rom. i. 18—28. and if this were the effect of man's carnal enmity against God, in respect of those truths which are discoverable by reason ; what must be the opposition of the same principle to the offensive message of the gospel?_When the assent of the understanding is compelled, by invincible evidence to the real doctrine of the cross, the most determined resistance is excited: but in general men contrive to cast a shade over that part of truth which most offends them: and by an abuse of the other parts, they stifle their convictions, and quiet themselves in a worldly course of life. This is especially effected by partial and unscriptural views of the gospel ; and thus may evangelical professors “ hold the truth in unrighteousness,” in the most awful sense imaginable.
Christianity, as stated in the Scriptures, displays the glorious justice and noliness of God, in connexion with the odiousness and desert of sin, and the sinner's tremendous danger of everlasting misery, more clearly than any other discovery ever made of the divine perfections and government; though in harmony with the most endearing and encouraging displays of love and mercy to the vilest of sinners. But if every thing be kept out of sight, or very slightly noticed, except the displays of infinite and everlasting love and mercy ; unregenerate men may embrace this mutilated gospel with an unholy faith, and so encourage themselves in sis by the confident expectation of impunity. It will, however, still be undeniable, that the most holy doctrine of primitive Christianity can never be cordially embraced, except by a holy faith.
St. James carefully distinguishes a cordial consent to the true gospel from a dead faith ; for saving faith is living and operative ; and by it we receive the truths of revelation with cordial satisfaction and correspondent affections, as relating to our own situation, character, and everlasting interests. “Being warned of God,” and “ believing the truth," " we are moved with fear;" we perceive ourselves in danger of the wrath to come, and allow that we deserve it; we submit to the righteousness of God, reverence his authority, and implore his mercy; we discover the appointed refuge and flee to it; we perceive the suitableness of his salvation to honour his justice and law, as well as to glorify his grace; and this very circumstance which offends the proud and carnal mind; renders it doubly precious to all those who have “received the love of the truth, that they may be saved.”
The apostle Paul speaks of the “ faith of God's elect;" and Peter addresses those " who had obtained like precious faith.” Tit. i. 1, 2. 2 Pet. i. 1. And thus he gives to faith the same epithet, which he annexes to the promises of God, and even to Christ himself :-precious faith ;--precious promises ; -a precious Saviour : surely then it must be a holy faith, which embraces, and seeks the performance of holy promises, and cordially welcomes a holy Saviour.
Let us, however, more closely examine that peculiar act or exercise of faith, by which we become interested in Christ and his salvation; and inquire whether it be carnal or spiritual in its specific nature.-" That which is born of the flesh is flesh ; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit :" there is no middle term between them. Whatsoever is born of the flesh is carnal: and the apostle declares that “the carnal mind is enmity against God;" and that “they who are in the flesh cannot please God." Hence we before inferred that the faith of an unregenerate man cannot please God : and here let it be carefully noted, that there is no alternative ; but saving faith is either holy or unholy, and not something of a middle nature, which is neither holy nor unholy.
True faith simply credits the divine testimony in those points which most offend and oppose the pride and lusts of the human heart: and thus « he that believeth hath set to his seal that God is true;" while unbelief makes God a liar. Faith owns the Son of God as the Lord from heaven, as God manifested in the flesh, that Jesus, whom unbelieving Jews crucified, and whom all unbelievers crucify afresh ; and views him as now risen from the dead, reigning in glory, the Ruler and Judge of the whole world, Omnipotent to save and destroy. Faith embraces the doctrine of the cross with cordial approbation, as the wisdom and power of God unto salvation, while it is foolishness to those that perish. Faith submits to God's righteousness, allows that every sinner deserves the threatened curse of the law, and renounces expressly all other pleas or confidences, except free mercy through the righteousness, atonement, and mediation of Emmanuel.-Faith unreservedly disavows all attempts to compensate for past sins, to establish a righteousness by any personal obedience or efforts whatever, or to save the soul from deserved and final destruction. Faith gives the Lord credit for his wisdom, justice, and goodness, even where they are not discerned ; and by it the selfcondemned sinner ventures on bis mercy and truth in the grand concerns of eternity; entrusting the soul into his hands in full credence, confidence, and affiance, as both willing and able to keep that which is thus committed to him ; and this in the clearest view of the importance of the case, and the difficulties that lie in the way of salvation. Faith “ counts all things but lost,” in comparison of Christ and his salvation; it discovers the treasure hid in the field, the Pear! of great price; and convinced that its value is inestimable, with joy sells all, to secure the advantageous purchase. Faith dreads nothing so much as falling short of that salvation, which unbelievers despise, and to which they prefer the most trifling interest or most worthless indulgence. Faith comes at the Lord's call, uses his appointed means, waits in his way, stays his time, and says under every delay or discouragement,
Lord, to whom shall I go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” These things are essential to faith, be it weaker or stronger, as must be evident to every one who makes the word of God the standard of his judgment. Even in its feeblest form, its first trembling application to Christ, while the distressed sinner cries with tears, “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief ;" it has this nature, and virtually implies all these things: and do not these denote some degree of a right spirit, of a holy state of the heart and affections ?
The word of God no where mentions two sorts of true faith ; but if the first actings of a sinner's faith in Christ were entirely devoid of holiness, and the subsequent exercises of faith were holy; some distinction of this kind would certainly have been intimated. If it could be proved that saving faith preceded regeneration, and every degree of evangelical repentance : surely no man would suppose that all the subsequent exercises of faith, till it be swallowed up in vision, result from merely natural principles, or such influences of the Spirit as are entirely distinct from sanctification; and that they are detached from repentance and all other holy dispositions and affections ! And will any experienced Christian deliberately maintain, that the established believer's daily exercise of faith in Christ, for pardon, peace, wisdom, strength, and sanctifying grace, essentially differs from his first coming to him for salvation? We acquire indeed, as we go forward, more distinct acquaintance with our own wants, and with that fulness from which they are