« ForrigeFortsæt »
world, the spirit-stirring, all-engrossing theme of our times, and where shall we trace the characters of this higher wisdom? When shall we see the vigour of our national councils and the strength of our national resources put forth in one mighty effort for the cause of Christ? Throughout all their splendid projects of national regeneration, where shall we trace " Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God?” No! A proud, worldly, infidel spirit debases them all. Their “wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly-secular in its origin, secular in all its measures, secular in all its aims. In the emphatic language of the psalmist, “God is not in all their thoughts." The highest reach of mere worldly politics "comes short of His glory.” And though their splendour may surprise and elevate a worldly mind, yet to the man of God, who takes a loftier stand of observation, they appear as the gross elements of a lower sphere, troubled and lowering, but controlled in all their agitations by a stronger influence, and determined to a higher end. Regarding the cause of Christ as the grand interest, and the triumph of this cause as the last end of all dispensations, he can look on the darkest scenes with unmoved tranquillity or rejoicing hope.
rejoicing hope. Assured that “the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and that he will do all his pleasure,” his faith realizes the glorious era when “the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
We now proceed to the second point proposed-to view, in the light of Scripture testimony, the nature and importance of faith. This subject is kindred to the former, and rises out of it. "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the Gospel.” Now He is pre-eminently the Truth, all the rays of divine truth converge and centre in “the Sun of righteousness, and it is the supreme importance of “ the truth as it is in Jesus," that gives all its value and interest to Gospel faith.
In tracing the doctrines of liberalism on the nature of faith, we formerly observed that it is représented as an intellectual and not a moral principle; az a mere exercise of the understanding, nowise related to the heart, and hence it has been boldly inferred, " that belief, and doubt, and disbelief, are involuntary states of the intellect, severally induced by the nature of the evidence”-states" which we can no more change than we can the hue of our skin or the height of our stature"--and that if a man is an Atheist or an infidel, it is his misfortune, not his
fault.” We do not say that all who hold this doctrine
presume to carry it out, in the length and breadth of it, to these blasphemous extremes; but we maintain that the doctrine leads directly to these results, and that every man who entertains it will presume just as far as his necessities may urge him. But the doctrine is opposed to the whole current of Scripture testimony. It is the uniform language of the Bible, that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and that the faith which alone avails, “worketh by love.' Indeed no word more truly expresses the idea of Gospel faith than trust or confidence. It is the confidence of the child in the parent-sincere, cordial, implicit. This was the faith of Abraham. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” This was the faith of Job—“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” That this faith is the act of an enlightened understanding, will not be questioned; but it is not a mere intellectual act. It is eminently moral, for it is voluntary in its exercise, amiable in its nature, and in the highest degree honouring to God. *
Unbelief also has its seat in the heart, and is therefore essentially a moral principle. To “the blindness of their heart" the apostle distinctly traces the spiritual darkness and alienation of the Gentile world. “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge." And he admonishes his Hebrew brethren—"Lest there be in any of them an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. Unbelief, then, is not "an involuntary state of the intellect, induced by the nature of the evidence :” this is a foul imputation on the divine author of the evidence. It implies, indeed, an exercise of the understanding; but that in this exercise the understanding may not be swayed, debauched, and blinded by the undue influence of the heart, is an assumption not less opposed to experience and sound philosophy than to all the declarations of the Bible. Every day's experience teaches us, that men easily believe what they wish to believe, and that nothing is more difficult than to convince a man against his will. And he must be a mere novice in the philosophy of the human mind, who knows not how deeply the convictions of the judgments
be imbued with the affections of the heart, and
*."Faith is an humble, self-denying grace: it makes the Christian nothing in himself, and all in God,"'-- LEIGHTON.
what a perverting influence may be exerted on all our sentiments by passion, temper, or prejudice. So important is this fact, that none have ever succeeded in the difficult art of governing men's minds but those who have thoroughly understood it. Now this is the very fact which the Bible brings before us when it speaks of an evil heart of unbelief." To
an evil heart” all unbelief may be traced. It is the blindness of the heart” that darkens, the deceitfulness of the heart that beguiles, the pride of the heart that intoxicates, the enmity of the heart that perverts the understanding of the sin
The Gospel testimony may be placed in the clearest and strongest light, yet sinners may not perceive it. What then is their condemnation? It is this- " that light is como into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” But it is the heart that loves. “How can ye believe," said Christ to the Jews, “who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God?" Here it is pronounced that pride (the native principle of the heart) rendered it morally impossible for them to believe. 6 Yé will not come unto me," says Jesus, "that ye might have life:" and he adds the reason “But I know that ye have not the love of God in you." Deep-seated enmity against God was the cause of their stubborn rejection of the Gospel. Now if such is the source and character of unbelief, is there nothing morally wrong in its nature? If wilful blindness, contemptuous pride, and determined enmity against God, partake not of the nature of sin, then there is no sin in the universe, and all moral distinctions are at an end. But the notion is absurd : the very statement of it is its best refutation.
Accordingly faith is treated as a moral principle in all the methods by which God deals with mankind.
All his entreaties, exhortations, and commands, urging us to receive the Gospel testimony, proceed on this idea. Take one example “ This is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christour Lord.” Now this is addressed to the will, and supposes that faith is a voluntary, and therefore a moral act. Nay, the Gospel institution itself is announced under the form of law_“the law of faith”.
'~a law framed to the peculiar character and condition of the sinner, supremely binding in all its requisitions, and enforced by the most solemn sanctions. It is " made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" in such terms as these—“Go ye," says Christ,“ into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that
believeth, and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believethi not shall be condemned." “ He that believeth on the Son of God,” says John, “bath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he hath not believed the record that God gave of his Son.” And when the Saviour promises that the Spirit of truth will come “to convince the world of sin,” he pronounces this to be the great iniquity of which they shall be convicted—“ because they believe not on me." If such then are the decisive statements of God's word, what shall we say of the system which presumes to strip faith of its moral character, affirms that man is not accountable for his belief even to his Maker, and that the grossest infidelity, Deism, Atheism itself partakes not of moral blame-is not sin, or at least regards all such offences as very trifling indeed! Is not this to pronounce the declaration of the Saviour, the testimony of the apostle, and the conviction wrought by the Spirit- A LIE? On no subject does the Bible speak with more solemn emphasis than on this * He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life: he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” To this our modern liberalism offers a bold, unqualified contradiction. Here, then, we leave it at issue with the God of the Bible, who will assuredly vindicate his own cause.
The second grand error which we formerly noticed on the subject of faith, is that which represents it as nowise essentiau either to the Christian character or to acceptable obedience. This, doubtless, originates in that false conception of the nature of faith which we have now endeavoured to correct. Faith is regarded as a merely intellectual and not a moral principle, and on this ground men are led to deny its importance. But the error is, greatly promoted by the mistaken apprehensions that prevail respecting the Christian character itself, and what constitutes acceptable obedience.
By the term Christian, men generally understand something very different from that peculiar character that marks the children of God, and distinguishes them from the world.
In the conventional language of the rld, a Christian is a person born of Christian parents in a Christian country, and professing, or rather not rejecting the religion of Christ. The mere circumstances of birth, country, profession, complete the idea of the world's Christianity. In New Testament language, the Christian is one who is justified, adopted, and sanctified_“Ye are wasbed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of
upon us, that
the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed we should be called the sons of God!” Now faith is indispensable to the formation of this character. It is necessary to our justification, for it is written—“The just shall live by faith.' Christ, by his Spirit, reveals himself to us as hovah our righteousness ;” and in the act of faith we receive him as “ of God made unto us righteousness”—“for the righteousness of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Again, faith is the principle of our adoption—“For ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
“ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” By faith we become related to Christ; he is not ashamed to call us brethren; and it is this relation alone that entitles us to the character of “the sons of God,” for he himself distinctly connects the latter privilege with the former, in his address to Mary—“Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” Once more, faith is necessary to our sanctification. Are we endowed with exceeding great and precious promises ? It is, says Peter, that “we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world, through lust.” Now it is faith that realizes these promises. Paul illustrates the divinely transforming influence of faith's discoveries, by a fine allusion to an incident in the life of Moses—*“We all with unveiled face beholding, as by a glass, the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord the Spirit.” And John assures us, that the perfection of faith in the vision of God, will be the perfection of holiness in the likeness of God—“We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Faith, then, begins and perfects the Christian character. By faith we are justified and made righteous before God, by faith we are adopted in
[Beholding--the glory of the Lord.] " Here is one of the most beautiful contrasts that can be imagined. Moses saw the Shechinah,and it rendered his face resplendent, so that he covered it with a veil, the Jews not being able to bear the reflected light : we behold Christ as in the glass of his word, and (as the reflection of a very luminous object from a mirror gilds the face on which the reverberated rays fall) our faces shine too'; and we veil them not, but diffuse the lustre which, as we disa cover more and more of his glories in the Gospel, is continually ina creasing.”-DODDRIDGE,