« PreviousContinue »
VOURED TO PROVE; therefore no one shall be condemned for the want of it.” (89.) Again, in the same page,
“ Adam had not faith or any other spi. ritual disposition, as I HAVE ALREADY OBSERVED; therefore,” &c.-But passing general remarks, let us follow Mr. B. in what he has advanced under each of the particular topics in debatę.
ON THE NATURE, AND DEFINITION OF FAITA.
I HAVE the happiness to find Mr. B. agreeing with me, that faith in Christ is not a persuasion of our interest in him. But though he agrees with me in this point, yet he is far from being satisfied with the definition I have given. He objects that it makes no mention of "supernatural illumination and assistance,” (12.) and proposes one that shall include those ideas. If by this he only means to maintain, that the Holy Spirit is the sole author or cause of faith, no one, I should think, who has read my former treatise, can entertain a doubt of my maintaining the same doctrine.
But though this is a truth which I verily believe, yet I must still be excused from thinking it necessary to a definition. Definitions are designed, I appre
hend, to express the nature, and not the causes of things. Thus if man were to be defined, a rational creature, created of God, the last part of the definition would be superfluous.
What Mr. B.'s ideas of faith are, it is difficult to learn. Mr. Brine says, “ Acting faith is no other than suitable thoughts of Christ, and a hearty choice of him as God's appointed way of salvation”-and Mr. Button says, “I do think that every man is bound cordially to receive, and heartily to approve of the gospel.” (49.) But it seems special faith is something distinct from all this, so distinct that this has “nothing to do” with it; (54.) yea, so distinct, that a person may do all this; and yet perish everlastingly. And yet it is not a believing of our interest in Christ: what then is it? Mr. B. tells us what is its cause, and what its effects; but what the thing itself is we are yet to learn.
Sometimes I think I can understand him; but I am soon again at a loss. “ It is such a reception of the truth, says he, as transforms the soul into the image of Christ.” (49.) Very well: then it seems it is a reception of the truth after all; such a reception as is productive of real and transforming effects. This is the very thing for which I plead. Yes, but “ a person may cordially receive the truth, and yet not be transformed into the image of Christ.” (18.) Indeed? Then how are we to distinguish true faith from that which is counterfeit, or partial? According to this, there is no difference as to the thing itself, only a difference in its cause and effects.
But did not “ Christ's hearers at Nazareth, and the stoney-ground hearers cordially receive the truth?” (18.) I answer, no; the latter did not understand it,* and therefore could not cordially receive it: and as to the former, they gazed upon the Lord Jesus, and bare him witness, “ that he was right, as Dr. Gill says, in applying Isaiah's prophecy to the messiah; but not that he himself was the messiah;” much less did they cordially receive his gospel. The scripture declares concerning the gospel, that if we confess it with the mouth, and believe it in the heart, we shall be saved; but it seems to me, the tendency of Mr. B.'s reasoning is to prove the contrary:
But true faith “is such a belief as brings Christ into the soul: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. (19.) Answer; If by bringing Christ into the soul, is meant his having the supreme place in our best affections, which I apprehend is what the apostle intended in the passage referred to, then what Mr. B. affirms is freely granted; nor is it any way inconsistent with what he opposes.
Ought sinners to realize truth, Mr. B. asks, so as to effect their own hearts ?” (21.) This I suppose he thinks is self-evident absurdity. He himself, however, allows it to be every man's duty to love God with all his heart; and when he shall inform me how this is to be done without the heart's being affected, I will answer the foregoing question.
. See Matt. xiii. 23. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
But is it “our duty to do that which God claims as his prerogative?” I answer, It is God's prerogative to write his law in the human heart, and yet every one ought to have that law within his heart; or in other words, to love it with his whole soul. How strange it is that the same thing, in different respects, should be denied to be God's gift and our obedience. I sincerely wish Mr. B. had attentively considered the arguments which I quoted (p. 86-88.) from Dr. Oren. Those arguments doubtless ought to have been solidly answered, before any exclamations were made of the absurdity of making that the duty of men, which it is God's own work effectually to produce.
“ Devils and wicked men, it is said, believe the goodness of gospel blessings for others, though not for themselves.” (17.) By their believing them to be good for others, Mr. B. appears evidently to mean advantageous, or profitable; and in that sense there is no doubt but what he says is true: that is no proof, however, that they believe in their real intrinsic excellency and glory. Cain believed the advantage which his brother Abel had in bringing a lamb for an offering, and hated him accordingly; but he did not believe his own condition as a sinner to be such, as that his offering, being presented without respect to the mediator, deserved to be rejected. Properly speaking, he did not believe in the necessity of a mediator, much less in the fitness and glory of such a way of approaching the Deity. The scriptures speak of those who believe not, as blind to the glory of the
gospel.* Whatever goodness wicked men believe to be in the blessings of the gospel; they do not believe the life and portion of the godly to be so good, as, all things considered, to be preferred before their
Mr. B. it seems, thinks that a man may pursue evil as evil.” (23.) In this I do not differ from him. Nay, I believe that unregenerate persons, without any exception, pursue evil as evil. If any ask me to explain my assertion, quoted by Mr. B. that "human nature cannot pursue evil as evil,” I refer them to the note in the
very same page
from whence the quotation is taken. Unregenerate men pursue evil, as that which is agreeable to their own sinful inclinations. In so doing, they pursue it as a moral evil, and as a natural good. He who pursues evil considered as moral, acts against his conscience. This was the case with Felix in dismissing Paul. But no one pursues moral evil itself under the notion of its being unlovely. The instances Mr. B. has produced do not prove this. People do not take. poison, or pursue death itself, under any other notion than that of its being a good. The Gentoo women who voluntarily cast themselves into the fire at their husbands death, are no more in love with death for its own sake than we are; but are struck either with the honour of so dying, or with the hopes of being the happier hereafter. People are not guilty of suicide, but under the notion of its containing a sort
2 Cor. iv, 4.