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opinion, that a man continues absolutely dead in sin, till after he has come to Christ, and has explicit knowledge of him, and faith in him; or even, as some state it, a full assurance of an interest in his salvation.
The new-born infant instinctively craves the milk of the breast, though incapable of understanding the nature of its wants and desires : but various circumstances may retard its actual satisfaction in the wholesome nutriment provided for it. Thus the new-born babe, in the spiritual world, feels a strong desire after “the sincere milk of the word," yet often scarcely knows what he wants or seeks for: but the salvation of Christ alone can satisfy these new desires which he experiences; and, whatever
he will still continue uneasy and inquiring, till brought to live explicitly by faith in the Son of God. Then he will seek no further, except to secure and enjoy the satisfying blessings he has discovered.
And now let the reader seriously and impartially consider these several arguments, and endeavour to estimate their collective force: after which, let him determine, whether it has not been completely proved, that, according to the word of God, saving faith is always the effect of regeneration ; and consequently that it is holy in its nature, as well as in its fruits.
may hinder his
SAVING FAITH ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY OTHER THINGS
ANOTHER most conclusive argument, to prove the holy nature of faith, may be deduced from the other holy exercises of the heart with which it is inseparably connected.
No man ever yet truly believed in Christ, without some measure of humiliation for sin: and where this is totally wanting, a professed believer can at most rank no higher than a stony-ground hearer, who has “no root in himself,” in whatever manner slavish terrors have been succeeded by selfish comforts. But, when a careless sinner, or a proud despiser of the gospel, is brought, with down-cast eyes, to smite on his breast, and from his inmost soul to 'cry, “God be merciful to me a “ sinner;" he certainly thus far manifests “ a right “ spirit.”—In the parable here alluded to, the question is not, what the Pharisee proudly assumed concerning his own sanctity, or what the publican'humbly confessed of his own sinfulness; but whether the humble confession of the one was not intrinsically better, than the proud boastings of the other? and whether the publican's self-abasing cry for
mercy was not an exercise of true holiness? That it sprang from humility and contrition, and was not extorted by mere terror, our Lord himself testifies : “ I tell you, that this man went down to “ his house justified rather than the other; for
every one that humbleth himself shall be ex“ alted."* And this testimony ought to be decisive: for it evidently proves that genuine humility inseparably attends on justifying faith, even in its feeblest and most discouraged applications. for pardoning mercy.
The Pharisee did not arrogate the honour of making himself to differ from other men; at least the words ascribed to him imply the contrary: and indeed the same is observable in the language of many who are notorious for spiritual pride. But he presumptuously deemed himself eminent in holiness, when he was altogether unholy; and established in the full favour of God, from which he was entirely estranged. If a man say, ‘God I thank thee for giving me humility, repentance, and newness of heart;' and then rely on these supposed endowments as the meritorious ground of his justification ; let him be classed with the Pharisee : but surely we may know that God has given us these holy dispositions, and that “ by his
grace we are what we are,” and heartily thank him for his special love in thus making us to differ ; without in the least “ trusting to our own righ“ teousness, and despising others.” Or else the most eminent believers, both of the Old and New Testament, must be joined with us under this condemnation. In whatever measure we have experienced “ the sanctification of the Spirit unto “ obedience,” we shall not, if properly instructed, depend on it in the smallest degree for justification: and, if this be the case of the most eminent
Luke xvii. 14.
saint on earth, why should it be supposed, that the least conceivable spark of true holiness, even when not discerned, must lead the new convert to a self-righteous confidence, and indispose him to seek the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ?
Saul of Tarsus, when a proud Pharisee, expressed the most contemptuous enmity against the holy Jesus, and “ breathed out threatenings and “ slaughter" against his harmless disciples. But view this same person, prostrate on the ground, trembling with apprehensions of merited vengeance, supplicating undesérved mercy, and saying to the Saviour,“ Lord, what wilt thou have
me to do?” Then observe him, when“ what
things were gain to him, those he counted loss “ for Christ;” and determine whether no degree of genuine humiliation was connected with his first exercises of faith in the Son of God.
But if we carefully examine the language of scripture, we must be convinced, that humility is a radical and most important part of holiness; and especially that humiliation for sin is essential to the existence of holiness in the heart of a fallen creature. “ To this man will I look, even to him “ that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that “trembleth at my
66 Blessed are the poor “in spirit, for their's is the kingdom of heaven." « God resisteth the proud, and giveth his grace «« unto the humble.” Nay, a great part of the holiness of redeemed sinners, even in heaven, seems to consist in a disposition to ascribe all their salvation “ to Him that sitteth upon the “throne, and to the Lamb that was slain ;" and
in feeling, and acting consistently with, the recollection of their own deep guilt, and their inexpressible obligations to the special mercy and love of the Redeemer. Indeed, if pride were the first sin of apostate spirits, humility must be most essential to the holiness even of angels.
The degree of genuine humility, conneeted with the sinner's first exercises of faith in Christ, may be very small : but will any Christian say, that there is absolutely none at all? or that pride is at that moment in full dominion? Can a sinner embrace the salvation of Christ in a cordial manner, without the least disposition to abase and condemn himself? Can he, when merely alarmed by the dread of a punishment which he does not allow that he deserves, sincerely seek the deliverance from free unmerited mercy? Can he sincerely seek this mercy, in the most humiliating way imaginable, without the least degree of humiliation? And, if his professed reliance on the free grace through Emmanuel's atoning blood, be insincere, will a heart-searching God justify him on account of a hypocritical pretension ?
"Blessed “is the man, to whom the Lord will not impute “ iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
In a word, it has often been said, and it never has been disproved, that there can be no more mercy in the sinner's salvation, than there was justice in his condemnation : it is therefore absolutely impossible for any one cordially to welcome salvation altogether of mere mercy, unless he sincerely allow that he might justly have been left under condemnation.
Again, did our Lord, in the parable of the pro