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is by no means taken off by what Aspasio says in answer to it, viz., that, though salvation by Christ is not promised to any one of us, and made ours by name, yet our character being pointed out, and it being declared that Christ came to save such, we have as much warrant to believe this salvation ours as if we were named.
If it was declared in the gospel that Christ came into the world to save sinners, so as all of this character are actually in a state of salvation, are actually pardoned, etc., then nothing further would be wanting but knowing that this character belongs to us, in order to our having sufficient ground of be lieving and being assured that Christ died for us, etc. Then sinners, wherever the gospel comes, might be assured that they were in a state of salvation, and might be called upon to believe that they were so. But then, by the way, this could not be called justifying, saving faith, because it is supposed that they are justified and in a state of salvation previous to their believing themselves to be so, otherwise they would have no reason to believe so. But this will be considered by and by. If it should be said that they are not in a state of salvation previous to their believing they are so, but Christ becomes their Savior by their believing that he is so, I think this is as much as to say, that Christ becomes our Savior by our believing a falsehood; for whatever is necessary in order to Christ's being my Savior, must first take place before he can be so; and his being my Savior depends upon and comes in as a consequence of that, and follows it in order of nature and time. Therefore, according to this supposition, he is not mine until I have believed he is so, but he becomes mine in consequence of, and so after my believing he is mine already; which propo sition is, by the supposition, false.
For example, if a rich man had, upon his decease, willed a hundred pounds to each poor man in a parish, so that every one of them that believed himself to have a title to it should actually share in the legacy, while those that did not believe it to be theirs should never have any share in it, or be the better for it, in this case, in order to have a title to this legacy, each poor man must believe a proposition to be true which is not true, that, by his believing it while it is false, it may be afterwards true. This, absurd and contradictory in all cases, is, " Crede quod habes, et habes." Whatever is offered on such a condition, is offered on an impossible one; I mean a condition which cannot possibly be complied with, unless a person is under such a delusion as to believe that to be true which is absolutely false, and is supposed to be so in the proposal. It hence follows, that, if any thing whatsoever is offered upon
such a condition, though a person may be so deceived as to comply with it, and really believe it belongs to him before it does, yet the belief cannot be attended with any degree of assurance, unless a man can be assured that a proposition is true at the same time that it is not so. (See III.) But this I suppose none will believe to be the case; for then every sinner would, no doubt, be saved. Christ came into the world to save sinners; to sinners this salvation is brought and offered, and every sinner is promised a share in it, if he will accept of it as it is offered. But this surely gives the sinner no title to, no share in it, until he accepts of it. Therefore he cannot truly say, "This salvation is mine," until he has heartily accepted of it, or is willing to have it on the terms on which it is offered; and has no further ground to believe it belongs to him than he has evidence that he heartily accepts of it. By finding. myself to be a sinner, I may be assured that salvation by Christ is freely offered to me; that I am invited to come to Christ, to take it and live forever. But as many sinners to whom this salvation is offered have no share in it, and never will have, I can from hence have no ground to believe that it belongs to me. I must first have evidence that I accept of it, before I can have any ground to believe that I have any interest in it. I think, therefore, Theron's objection stands good yet, and shows that the preceding similitude is not to Aspasio's purpose. I find nothing in the Bible that gives sinners in general any assurance or any reason to believe that their sins are forgiven; and, therefore, no sinner has any reason to believe this privilege belongs to him, unless he finds something peculiar in his own character by which he is distinguished from sinners in general, and to which the promise of forgiveness of sin is made; which, surely, is nothing less than a willingness to receive this at the hands of Christ as it is offered. And if this is really his character, salvation belongs to him, and his sins are pardoned, whether he believes this to be his happy case or not. Hence I conclude that such a persuasion cannot be saving faith, as it cannot be built upon any divine promise or declaration.
Perhaps it will be said that a willingness to receive offered mercy, or a hearty acceptance of it, as it is offered, is implied in a person's believing or being persuaded that Christ died for him, that his sins are forgiven, etc.
II. It seems to me that this definition of saving faith implies a contradiction, or supposes that, in order to a person's being entitled to salvation, he must believe or be persuaded of the truth of a proposition which at the same time is supposed to be false. Saving faith, I suppose all will grant, is that by which
men are entitled to salvation.. By this, sinners pass from death to life, and are entitled to all the blessings of the covenant of grace. The sinner has no interest in Christ's righteousness before he believes. With the heart he believeth unto righteousness. (Rom. x. 10.) Now, if this faith is a persuasion that Christ died for me, that thereby reconciliation with God is granted for my sinful soul, etc., I think it must be a real persuasion of the truth of a proposition which at the same time is supposed to be, and really must be, absolutely false.
III. If the former objections were not in the way of my approving of this definition of faith, there is yet another difficulty in my mind.
I think, according to this definition, faith is not a holy act or exercise, nor does it imply any holy or virtuous exercise of heart at all. Neither can I see that holiness is the necessary or natural attendant or consequence of such a faith.
I do not see that the persuasion of the truth of this proposition, that Jesus Christ died for me, etc., implies any gracious or holy exercise of heart. The most unholy man may give as strong an assent to, and be as confident of, the truth of this proposition, as if he was never so holy. There is, I think, nothing in this proposition contrary to the taste and inclination of an unholy heart; and the firm belief of it appears to me no more difficult to a man wholly under the power of sin, than to the most holy man. It was equally true concerning both. Matter of fact, I think, renders this indisputable. What multitudes of evidently unholy persons in the Christian world, who are confident beyond all doubt that Christ is their Savior! Such a persuasion is alike common to the holy and unholy.
Now it appears to me unreasonable to suppose that that should be made a condition on which all th benefits of the covenant of grace are suspended, and should give a title to eternal life, which is neither in itself a holy exercise, nor implies any thing truly virtuous or holy. It would hence follow, I think, that justifying, saving faith is no more out of the reach of a person wholly under the power of sin, or no more above his present moral power, than any act of sin whatsoever, which is contrary to what Mr. Hervey supposes, and contrary to many express declarations of Scripture. Moreover, if this is true of saving faith, I do not see how it can be said to be a principle of holiness, or to purify the heart; (Acts xv. 9;) to be necessarily attended with or evidenced by good works, which is abundantly asserted in Scripture, and much insisted on by Mr. Hervey. I do not remember that he any where says that saving faith is itself a holy act or exercise. He says, indeed, pp. 171, 172, "Wherever He (the Almighty) works this true faith, He
plants the seed of universal holiness, and provides for the propagation of every virtue. This PERSUASION OF THE DIVINE GOOD WILL Overcomes our natural reluctance, and excites a present desire to please our most merciful FATHER. This experience of the abundant grace of Christ attracts and assimilates the soul, turning it into an amiable likeness, as the wax is turned to the imprinted seal." In these words, he asserts that the sanctifying influences of God's Spirit do accompany faith, and that this persuasion effectually turns the heart from sin to God, but not that the persuasion or belief itself is a holy act. Neither does he, I think, prove that this faith is never found where the seed of universal holiness is not implanted, and that this persuasion effectually overcomes the native opposition of heart to holiness; and I am not yet convinced that this is in fact the case. I believe that such a persuasion of God's good will often is found with those who have not the seed of true holiness in their hearts; and that, in many instances, it does not excite the least sincere desire to please God, proves the occasion of making persons easy in sin, and strengthening and confirming them in disobedience. For confirmation of this, I again appeal to matter of fact. Mr. Hervey says a great deal to show what influence his faith, or a persuasion of the divine good will, will certainly have effectually to produce a holy life. But, after all, I am not convinced that this sion does not, in many instances, harden and embolden men in sin The faith of Abraham and of St. Paul produced a holy obedience; but perhaps their faith was not the same with that defined by Mr. Hervey.
If I were to prove that the doctrine of justification by faith only was not a licentious doctrine, but that believers always lived a holy life, and that this was implied in this doctrine, I would endeavor to show that justifying faith is itself a holy act or exercise; that it implies and springs from that in the heart which, being confirmed, is the principal spring or seed of universal holiness; that, therefore, a holy temper or bent of mind, or a disposition and love to all branches of holiness and obedience, was always strong and prevalent in proportion to the strength of the exercise of faith. But in order to prove this, I imagine my definition of faith must not be the same with that I am objecting against.
IV. If this be justifying faith, I see no way to distinguish it from that faith or persuasion of the same thing which is not saving faith. None will deny, I suppose, that a person may believe or be strongly persuaded that his sins are forgiven, etc., when this is not the case. (Though I suspect that they who give that definition of faith that I am objecting against do, by
granting this, contradict themselves.) Mr. Hervey supposes that this persuasion or assurance may be a delusion, (p. 312.) He there says, the love of our brethren "may very justly be admitted as an evidence that our faith is real and our assurance no delusion." Now, I say, I see not how the delusive persuasion shall be distinguished from that which is saving, inasmuch as this definition includes a false, delusive faith, as well as a saving faith. If it be said that there is this difference, viz., a delusive persuasion or assurance is not accompanied with, and does not produce, good works, whereas a saving faith is never without good works, this will not at all remove my difficulty; for upon this supposition, the false, delusive faith is as much included in the definition of saving faith as saving faith itself. Therefore it is not a definition of saving faith, as it is not hereby distinguished from faith that is not saving, and is as much a definition of that as of saving faith.
Further, when it is said that saving faith is accompanied with good works, but that which is not saving is without works, this does not seem to point out any intrinsic difference between these two sorts of faith; but they seem to be supposed to be alike in all other respects but this, viz., that one is without works, being alone; the other is accompanied with good works. If it be said, that the one being accompanied with good works as its genuine attendant and fruit, and the other not, implies and points out an intrinsic difference between these two sorts of faith, I would observe that this is, at most, only to assert that there is an intrinsic difference, which is the occasion or cause of a different production or effect, but does by no means point out this intrinsic difference, and show wherein it consists. I am not yet informed what there is in saving faith which is the proper spring or cause of good works, by which it is in itself essentially different from a false faith. Now, I think no definition of saving faith is just and good, but that which expresses the essential difference between that and every kind of faith that is not saving; inasmuch as it is no more a definition of saving faith than of faith that is not saving.
V. Experience and observation have served to strengthen me in my objections against this definition of saving faith, as it has convinced me of the bad tendency of such a notion of faith, and the sad consequence, in many instances, of persons depending upon such a persuasion or assurance by the direct act of faith, as Mr. Hervey calls it.
You are, no doubt, sensible, sir, that many of those who passed for converted, and thought themselves so, in the time of the outpouring of the Spirit of God on New England some years ago, have so behaved since as to give good reason to