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THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST WORTHY
OF ALL ACCEPTATION, .
WHEREIN THE SUBJECT IS SHOWN TO BE IMPOXTANT,
STATED, AND EXPLAINED.
GOD having blessed mankind with the glorious gospel of tis Son, hath spoken much in his word, as it might be supposed he would, of the treatment which it should receive from those to whom it was addressed. A cordial reception of it is call. ed, in scripture, receiving Christ, allowing him, beletrar to him, &c. and the contrary, refusing, disallowing, and prgcen ing him ; and those who thus reject him, are, in so dose, said to judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life. These are things on which the New Testament largely insists: great stress is there laid on the reception which the truth shall meet with. The same lips which commissioned the apostles to go and preach the gospel to every creature, added, He that BELIEVETH AND IS BAPTIZED, SHALL BE SAVED ; BUT NE THAT BELIEVETH NOT, SHALL BE DAMNED. To as many as RECEIV. ED HIM, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; but to them who received him not, but refused him, and rejected his way of salvation, he became a stumbling-stone, and a rock of offence, that they might stumble, and fall, and per. ish. Thus the gospel, according to the different reception it
John i. 12. üi. 16. Psa. cxvii. 22. Matt. sti. 42. 1 Peter i ". Acts xiii. 46.
WHEREIN THE SUBJECT IS SHOWN TO BE IMPORTÀNT,
STATED, AND EXPLAINED.
God having blessed mankind with the glorious gospel of his
Psa. cxviii. 22. Matt. xxi. 42. 1 Peter ii. 7.
* John i. 12. üi. 16. Acts xiii. 46.
meets with, becomes a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.*
The controversies which have arisen concerning faith in Jesus Christ, are not so much an object of surprise, as the conduct of those, who, professing to be Christians, affect to decry the subject as a matter of little or no importance. There is not any principle or exercise of the human mind, of which the New Testament speaks so frequently, and on which so great a stress is laid. And, with regard to the inquiry, whether faith be required of all men who hear, or have opportunity to hear the word, it cannot be uninteresting. If it be not, to inculcate it would be unwarrantable and cruel to our fellow-sinners, as it subjects them to an additional charge of abundance of guilt: but, if it be, to explain it away is to undermine the divine prerogative, and, as far as it goes, to subvert the very intent of the promulgation of the gospel, which is, that men should believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, believing, have life through his name.t This is doubtless a very serious thing, and ought to be seriously considered. Though some good men may, be implicated in this matter, it becomes them to remember, that whosoever breaketh one of the least of Christ's commandments, and teacheth men 80, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. If believing be a commandment, it cannot be one of the least : the important relations which it sustains, as well as the dignity of its object, must prevent this : the knowledge of sin, repentance for it, and gratitude for pardoning mercy, all depend upon our admitting it. And, if it be a great commandment, the breach of it must be a great sin; and whosoover teaches men otherwise, is a partaker of their guilt; and, if they perish, will be found to have been accessary to their eternal ruin. Let it be considered, whether the apostle to the Hebrews did not proceed upon such principles, when he exclaimed, How shall we escape, if we neglect 80 GREAT salvation? And the Lord Jesus himself, when he declared, He THAT BELIEVETU NOT SHALL BE DAMNED!
In order to determine, whether faith in Christ be the duty
of all men who have opportunity to hear the gospel, it will be necessary to determine what it is, or wherein it consists. Some have maintained, that it consists in a persuasion of our interest in Christ, and in all the benefits and blessings of his mediation. The author of The Further Inquiry, Mr. L. Wayman, of Kimbolton, who wrote about sixty years ago upon the subject, questions, “ Whether there be any act of special faith, which hath not the nature of appropriation in it;” (p. 13.) and by appropriation he appears to mean, a persuasion of our interest in spiritual blessings. This is the ground upon which he rests the main body of his argument : to overturn it, therefore, will be, in effect, to answer his book. Some, who would not be thought to maintain that a persuasion of interest in Christ, is essential to faith, for the sake of many Christians whom they cannot but observe, upon this principle, to be, generally speaking, unbelievers, yet maintain what fully implies it. Though they will allow, for the comfort of such Christians, that assurance is not of the essence of faith, understanding by assurance, an assured persuasion of our salvation ; but, that a reliance on Christ is sufficient; yet, in almost all other things, they speak as if they did not believe what, at those times, they say. It is common for such persons to call those fears which occupy the minds of Christians, lest they should miss of salvation at last, by the name of unbelief; and to reprove them for being guilty of this God-dishonouring sin, exhorting them to be strong in faith, like Abraham, giving glory to God; when all that is meant is, that they should, without doubting, believe the goodness of their state. If this be saving faith, it must inevitably follow, that it is not the duty of unconverted sinners ; for they are not interested in Christ, and it cannot possibly be their duty to believe a lie. But, if it can be proved, that the proper object of saving faith is, not our being interested in Christ, but the glorious gospel of the ever-blessed God'; (which is true, whether we believe it, or not ;) a contrary inference must be drawn: for it is admitted, on all hands, that it is the duty of every man to believe what God reveals.
I have no objection to allowing that true faith hath in it the nature of appropriation;" if by this term be meant an application of the truths believed to our own particular cases.
66 When the scriptures teach," says a pungent writer, “WC are to receive instruction, for the enlightening of our own minds; when they admonish, we are to take warning; when they reprove, we are to be checked; when they comfort, we are to be cheered and encouraged ; and when they recommend any grace, we are to desire and embrace it; when they command any duty, we are to hold ourselves enjoined to do it; when they promise, we are to hope ; when they threaten, we are to be terrified, as if the judgment were denounced against us; and when they forbid any sin, we are to think they forbid it unto us. By which application we shall make all the rich treasures contained in the scriptures wholly our own, and in such a powerful and peculiar manner enjoy the fruit and benefit of them, as if they had been wholly written for us, and none other else besides us."*
By saving faith, we undoubtedly embrace Christ for ourselves, in the same sense as Jacob embraced Jehovah' as his God; (Gen. xxviii. 21.) that is, to a rejecting of every idol that stands in competition with him. Christ is all-sufficient, and suited to save us, as well as others; and it is for the forgiveness of our sins, that we put our trust in him. But this is very different from a persuasion of our being in a state of salvation.
My objections to this notion of faith are as follows :
First : Nothing can be an object of faith, except what God has revealed in his word: but the interest that any individual has in Christ and the blessings of the gospel, more than anr other, is not revealed. God has no where declared, concerning any one of us, as individuals, that we shall be saved : all that he has revealed on this subject respects us as characters, He has abundantly promised, that all who believe in him, love him, and obey him, shall be saved; and a persuasion, that, if we sustain these characters, we shall be saved, is, doubtless, an exercise of faith : but whether we do, or not, is an cbject, not of faith, but of consciousness. Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of Gud perfected : hereby know we that we are in him.-My little children, let us not love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth : hereby
* Downame's Guide to Golliness, p. 647.