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for my sins upon the cross : Would you not ask me, whether Abraham, the father of the faithful, who would have believod a lie if he had believed this, had only damning faith?
To avoid therefore such mistakes; to contradict no scriptures; to put no black mark of damnation upon any man, that in any nation fears God and works righteousness;' to leave no room for Solifidianism; and to present the reader with a definition of faith adequate to ' the everlasting gospel,' I would choose to say, that “justifying or saving faith is believing the saving truth with the heart unto internal, and (as we have opportunity] unto external righteousness, according to our light and dispensation.” To St. Paul's words, (Rom. x. 10,) I add the epithets internal and external, in order to exclude, according to 1 John iii. 7, 8, the filthy imputation, under which fallen believers may, if we credit the Antinomians, commit internal and external adultery, mental and bodily murder, without the least reasonable fear of endangering their faith, their interest in God's favour, and their inan.issible title to a throne of glory.
But “ how is faith the gift of God ?"-Some persons think, that faith is as much out of our power, as the lightning that shoots from a distant cloud; they suppose, that God drives sinners to the fountain of Christ's blood, as irresistibly as the infernal legion drore the herd of swine into the sea of Galilee; and that a man is as passive in the first act of faith, as Jonah was in the act of the fish, which cast him upon the shore. Hence, the absurd plea of many, who lay fast hold on the horns of the devil's altar, unbelief, and cry out, " We can no more believe, than we can make a world.”
I call this an absurd plea for several reasons: (1.) It supposes, that when' God commands all men every where to repent, and to believe the gospel,' he cornmands them to do what is as impossible to them as the making of a new world.—(2.) It supposes, that the terms of the covenant of grace are much harder than VOL. II.
the terms of the covenant of works. For the old cures
, (see Mark xvi. 16, and Johu iii. 18,) he acts far more tyrannically than the king would do, if he issued out a proclemation informing all his subjects, that whosoerer shall not, by such a time, raise a uew island withiu
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the British seas, shall be infallibly put to the most painful and lingering death.
Having thus exposed the erroneous sense, in which some people suppose that ' faith is the gift of God;' I beg leave to mention in what sense it appears to me to be so. Believing is the gift of God's grace, as cultivating the root of a rare flower given you, or raisivg-a crop of corn in your field, is the gift of God's providence. -Believing is the gift of the God of grace, as breathing, moving, and eating, are the gifts of the God of nature. He gives me lungs and air, that I may breathe : He gives me life and muscles, that I may move; he bestows upon me food, and a mouth, that I may eat; and when I have no stomach, he gives me commou sense to see I must die, or force myself to take some nourishment or some medicine : But he neither breathes, moves, vor eats for me ; uay, when I think proper, I can accelerate my breathing, motion, and eating'; and if I please I may even fast, lie down, or hang myself, and hy that mean put an end to my eating, moving, and breathing. -Once more, Faith is the gift of God to believers, as sight is to you. The Parent of good freely gives you the light of the sun, and organs proper to receive it : He places you in a world, where that light visits you daily : He apprizes you, that sight is conducive to your safety, pleasure, and profit; and every thing around you bids you use your eyes and see: Nevertheless you may not only drop your curtains, and extinguish your candle, but close your eyes also. This is exactly the case with regard to faith. Free grace removes (in part) the total blindness, which Adam's fall brought upon us : Free grace gently sends us some beams of truth, which is the light of the Sun of righteousness;' it disposes the eyes of our understanding to see those beams; it excites us various ways to welcome them; it blesses us with many, perhaps with all the ineans of faith, such as opportunities to hear, read, inquire; and power to consider, assent, consent, resolve, and reresolve to believe the truth. But, after all, believing is as much our own act as seeing : We may, nay in general
do, suspend, or omit the act of faith ; especially when that act is not yet become babitual, and when the glaring light, that sometimes accompanies the revelation of the truth, is abated. Nay, we may imitate Pharaoh, Judas, and all reprobates; we may do by the eye of our faith, what some report that Democritus did by his bodily eyes. Being tired of seeing the follies of mankind, to rid himself of that disagreeable sight, he put his eyes out: We may be so averse from the light which enlightens every man that comes into the world,' we may so dread it because our works are eril, as to exemplify, like the Pharisees, such awful declarations as these : 'Their eyes have they closed, lest they should see, &c.—wherefore God gave them up to a reprobate mind,' and ' they were blinded.'
When St. Paul says, that Christians' believe accord. ing to the working of God's mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead;' he chiefly alludes to the resurrection of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost; the former of these wonders being the great ground and object of the Christian faith, and the latter displaying the great pri. vilege of the Christian dispensation. To suppose therefore, that nobody savingly believes, who does not believe according to an actual, overwhelming display of God's almighty power, is as unscriptural as to maintain, that God's people no longer believe, than he actually repeats the wonders of Easter-day, aud of the day of Pentecost. Is it not clear, that the apostle had no such notions when he wrote to the Corinthians ? 'I declare unto you the gospel, which I preached unto you, which you have received ;
stand ; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory-[if ye hold fast, as the original means] what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in rain. For I declared unto you, &c., that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the scriptures, &c., so we preach, and so ye believed.' Again, how plain is the account, that our Lord and his fore. runner give us of faith and unbelief ! · Verily we speak
what we do know, and testify what we have seen, and ye receive not our witness.-What he [Christ] hath seen and heard, that he testifieth, and no man [comparatively] receiveth his testimony; but he that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true.'
Two things have chiefly given room to our mistakes, respecting the strange impossibility of believing : The first is our confounding the truths, which characterize the several pel-dispensations. We see, for example, that a poor besotted drunkard, an over-reaching greedy tradesman, a rich sceptical epicure, and a proud ambitious courtier, have no more taste for the gospel of Christ,' than a horse and a mule have for the highseasoned dishes that crown a royal table. An immense gulf is fixed between them, and the Christian faith. In their present state they can no more believe' with their heart unto righteousness in Christ,' than an unborn infant can become a man without passing through infancy and youth. But, although they cannot yet believe savingly in Christ, may they not believe in God according to the import of our Lord's words, “Ye believe in God, believe also IN ME?' If the Pharisees could not believe in Christ, it was not because God never gave them a power equal to that which created the world; but, because they were practical Atheists, who actually rejected the morning light of the Jewish dispensation, and by that mean absolutely unfitted themselves for the meridian light of the Christian dispensation. This is evident from our Lord's own words : ' I know you, that ye have not the love of God, [or a regard for God] in you. I come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not, [though ye might do it; for,] if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another ? &c. There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For, had ye believed Moses, [and submitted to his dispensation,] ye would have believed me, (and submitted to] my gospel. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?'