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offered; but all the virtue and holiness that can be exercised in this case, consists in believing and receiving the things exhibited and offered, or acquiescing in them as real and excellent. And this, as it is opposed to obedience or works, as a worthiness to recommend to favour and a reward, is more properly called FAITH.
The apostle Paul makes this distinction, as a very important one. He calls the gospel the law of faith, by which he distinguishes it from the first covenant, and sets it in opposition to it, which he calls the law of works. " Where is boasting then ?-It is excluded. By what law ? of works? Nay, by the law of faith."* The gospel, or covenant of grace, is the law of faith. It is a revelation and testimony, a proper conformity to which, puts on that peculiar form, which is best denom. inated by calling it FAITH, in distinction from the obedience required by the law of works. He sets this in the same light in the following words.
“ Received ye the spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”+ Here he sets the covenant, or law of works, in opposition to the hearing of faith, or the report or revelation of the gospel or covenant of grace. The former re. quires works, perfect works, as the price of a reward : The latter brings and offers all good io him who will receive it, or which is the same, to him who believeth. In this same view he puts faith in opposition to the works of the law, or obedience to a covenant of works, in the following words, “ Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.”I TO seek righteousness, as it were by the works of the law, is to do works, or attempt acts of obedience to law, with a view to offer this as their righteousness, and worthiness, to recommend themselves hereby to acceptance and favour with God. To seek righteousness by faith, is to receive and trust in the atonement and righteousness of the Mediator, or cordially to embrace the gospel, which is evangelical obedience, and as much a work, and exercise of gospel holiness, as any obedience to the gospel whatever, and is the obedience of faith, as has been proved.
Rom, ji, 27. † Gal. iii. 2. * Rom. ix. 32.
From the foregoing, the following question may arise in the minds of some.
QUESTION. The apostle Paul says, men are not justified by works : But if saving faith implies works, and cannot be distinguished from evangelical obedience, and men are justified by faith ; they are really justified by works, or evangelical obedience. Is not there an inconsistency in this? And why is not evangelical holiness, a righteousness which recommends him who has it, to the favour of God, as a moral worthiness, and a ground of boasting ?
Answer. What has been already said, is a full answer to the first part of this question; and it is presumed every one who has understood it, will see the question to be wholly without ground. By the works and deeds of the law, is meant obedience to law as a covenant of works, in order to obtain the righteousness of the law, to be thereby recommended to the favour of God, as has been observed and shewn. This the apostle opposes to faith, but does not oppose evangelical holiness to faith, but considers these as implying each other; which gospel obedience, is not offered as a righteousness to recommend ; but consists in renouncing all worthiness or claim to any favour, and receiving pardon and salvation as a free gift, to an infinitely unworthy and ill deserving sinner. This point, and the latter part of the question, will be more particularly considered in the next section.
I. From the above description of saving faith, taken from the holy scripture, we learn that what has been called saving faith by some, is not so.
1. Saving faith does not consist in a person's believing that his sins are forgiven, that Jesus Christ died for him, and he shall be saved, and the like. A person may have a strong and most confident persuasion of this, without any good reason for it, and all may be gross delusion. No one can have any ground for such a belief, until he has exercised saying faith, and has evidence that he does believe in Christ, repent, &c. for none but such are pardoned, or can have any evidence that they shall be saved. Men must first repent and believe in Christ, in order to pardon, and a title to salvation, and therefore they cannot know or have any evi. dence that they are forgiven and shall be saved, until they have exercised saving faith. To believe they shall be saved, from any other supposed evidence, is mere delusion, and contrary to the express declaration of scripture. Indeed, a person's faith, which consists in true taste and discerning, and a cordial embracing the gospel, may be so strong and sensible, as to be attended with a consciousness and assurance that he does believe with a saving faith ; and consequently that he is pardoned, and shall be saved. But saving faith does not consist in this belief and assurance ; but must first exist in the mind, as the proper ground of such consciousness and assurance. Therefore, the former may, and often, if not commonly, does take place, without the latter.
2. A mere speculative belief of the truth, not including any exercise of heart, is not saying faith. This, it is presumed, has been abundantly proved from scripture.
3. Saving faith does not consist in that belief, which includes works of the law, done in order to recommend persons to the divine favour, on account of their moral worth and excellence. This is the faith for which Arminians have pled. They say, true faith implies good works : But by good works they evidently mean, what the apostle Paul means by the works of the law, done as the price of the favour of God ; and not evangelical obedience, which stands opposed to the former, as it has been described above. Their faith and their works are wholly antichristian ; and therefore opposed to true evangelical saving faith.
4. That is not saving faith which can be separated, even in theory, from good works, and evangelical obedience. This has been abundantly proved from scripture in this section. It has been too common for those who describe faith as implying exercise of heart, even a cordial reception of Christ, yet to speak of good works and gospel holiness and obedience, as the fruit and effect, of which saving faith is the cause, and as if
they were two distinct things. It is not agreeable to scripture to make such a distinction. It is inconsistent with their own definition of faith, and contrary to the truth ; and therefore of a bad tendency.
5. That is not saving faith which precedes regenera. tion, and the new heart. Some have supposed that the impenitent, unrenewed person believes, and by this faith, his heart is renewed, and becomes penitent and obedient. This is contrary to scripture and all reason, which has been made evident. Faith implies a right disposition of heart, and therefore does not precede it and produce it. No person, but a regenerate one, has saving faith.
II. The view we have had of saving faith serves to show why it is represented in scripture as a duty; and men are commanded to believe on Jesus Christ : And why unbelief is represented as wholly inexcusable, and
a great sin.
If saving faith did consist in mere speculation, and the heart had no concern in it, and no degree of disposition and exercise of that were implied in believing, it could not be required as a duty, or ur belief condemned and forbidden as a sin. For the, in which the heart has no concern, and which does not imply any exercise of disposition or will, is neither virtue nor vice, sin nor holiness : It has no moral good or evil in it; and cannot be the subject of command or prohibition, of blame or commendation. But whatsoever implies exercise of the heart, and depends upon the disposition of that, and in any measure consists in this, is morally right, or wrong, holiness or sin, and must be commanded or forbidden, As therefore saving faith implies the whole of christian obedience and holiness, it must be considered not only as a duty, but as comprising the whole of it: And unbelief must imply the contrary, and therefore be wholly criminal.
Agreeably to this, we find men are commanded in scripture to believe on Jesus Christ ; and this faith is every where represented as a duty. It is needless to mention all the particular passages of scripture which prove this, to the attentive reader of the Bible ; the fole VOL. 11.
lowing are sufficient to establish this point. Jesus, came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “Repent ye, and believe the gos
“ Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”+ “ Ye beheve in God', believe also in me.”I “ And this is his commandment, that ye should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.”'ll
On the contrary, unbelief is considered as a great sin. Our Saviour blames and condemns the Jews for not be lieving on him, and ascribes it to the corrupt and wicked disposition of their hearts. And unbelief is ascribed wholly to an evil heart, and forbidden in the epistle to the Hebrews. “ Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Our divine Teacher not only represents unbelief as a sin of the first magnitude, but as comprehending all the sin of which men are guilty under the gospel. “ And when he (the Holy Spirit) is come, he will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me." “ Not to believe the record God has given of his Son, is to make him a liar."** To slight and reject Jesus Christ, which is unbelief, as it is opposed to faith, is the greatest sin of which man can be guilty; and every sin which men commit under the gospel, is unbelief, or a sin of unbelief, as it carries in it opposition to Christ, and a rejection of him. There. fore, as saving faith, taken in its full latitude, compre, hends all gospel duty or evangelical holiness, so unbelief involves all the sin which men commit under the gospel.
III. From the above account of saving faith, wę learn, that the interest of holiness is secured and promoted in the salvation of sinners by faith in Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone, has been objected to and opposed by many, as a doctrine tend: ing to licentiousness, and encouraging men to neglect good works and an holy life, depending on their faith to
• Mark i. 14, 15. † John vi. 29. + John xiv. 1. N 1 John üi. 23.
$ Chap. iii. 12. 1 John xvi. 8, 9. * 1 John v. 10.