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conclude that their faith is not saving; and, if my observation is right, those persons whose first and direct act of faith was a persuasion or assurance that Christ died for them, loved them, etc., are most generally the persons whose faith proves vain, being alone.
Most of our enthusiasts, and those that have brought reproach on the work of God, are, I think, of this stamp. They are confidently persuaded and assured that Christ died for them, and their first faith was grounded upon some revelation made to them (which I think they never had from God's word) that Christ loved them, and their sins were forgiven, or the like. This persuasion (which they were more probably led into by the devil than the Holy Spirit of God, as it is a persuasion of that which I think cannot be true) is like to be the ruin of thousands; whereas those who show most of a Chris. tian temper, and behave most to the honor of Christ and his religion, being inquired of, will tell you that they had such a view of the all-sufficiency of Christ, and his readiness to save sinners that come to him, and they had such a sense of his excellency and beauty, and the suitableness and glory of the way of salvation by him, that they could not but admire Christ and place an unreserved trust in him; that in this way their hearts were quieted, and they enjoyed inward peace and satisfaction; while they came to no persuasion that Christ and his salvation were theirs, and had not the least thought at the time about this, that they are conscious of, though perhaps it was not long before they began to entertain a hope that they had believed on Christ, and so were interested in his salvation. For my part, when I have such an account of a person of his conversion, I have a more comfortable persuasion that he is a true believer in Christ than I have of those who tell me that the first discovery they had of Christ was, that he was their Savior, that it was revealed to them that Christ died for them, that he loved them, and had loved them, etc.; from which they were persuaded and assured that they were in a state of salvation, and have great joy and transports in this way of believing. I say, I like the faith of the former better than the latter, and that not only for the reason given before, (which, I think, shows that the faith of the latter is certainly a delusion,) but because, from my acquaintance with persons and their souls' concerns, I find that those who have the latter generally discover a temper and go into a conduct very unbe. coming the gospel, which, I think, is not so common with the former.
I would not be understood to suppose that a persuasion that Christ is their Savior does in no instance attend the first
act of faith, (though I do not think this is generally the case.) No doubt that a person's first hearty acceptance of Christ and reliance upon him for salvation may be attended with a consciousness, a persuasion, yea, an assurance that he does now accept of him and trust in him, and, consequently, he is assured that Christ is his Savior. But then I should not call this persuasion any part of his saving faith. And when this is not the case, this persuasion or belief generally takes place not long after the soul's having closed with Christ, and in many instances, no doubt, answers to what may properly be called an assurance.
I have carefully considered all the texts of Scripture which Mr. Hervey alleges in justification of his definition of faith ; and they appear to me either only to show that the blessings of the gospel are offered freely to those that will accept of them, or to prove that a persuasion or assurance of their title to them is attainable by good men ; except Heb. xi. 1, p. 285, which I think not at all to his purpose, unless it was first proved that it is revealed in the Bible that the sinner has a title to gospel blessings previous to his faith. If this was the case, Mr. Hervey's faith might realize to the sinner's mind what was in divine revelation a real, substantial truth ; but if no such thing is revealed in the Bible, but the contrary, (which I am yet persuaded is the truth,) no true faith can make this real. Things must have a substance, and be realities, in order to their being realized to the mind by faith. This notion of faith was embraced by many of the reformers, I am sensible, and by some eminent godly men since; but as they might err, and no doubt did so in many instances, their authority affords no matter of conviction. I have no evidence that this notion of theirs about faith did in any degree promote their usefulness.
These, reverend sir, are my most material objections against Mr. Hervey's definition of faith. But it may be that I misunderstood Mr. Hervey's definition, and I would be the less confident I do not, because in some passages he seems to set this point in a different light, (p. 239, middle.) He says, “ Nothing is required in order to our participation of Christ and his benefits but a conviction of our need, a sense of their worth, and a willingness to receive them in the appointed way.” I take this to be saving faith, and I should think Mr. Hervey meant to describe saving faith here, as he speaks of this as the only condition or thing required in order to the sinner's partaking of Christ and his benefits; but I find nothing of a persuasion that Christ is our Savior, or that he shed his blood for us, in this passage, nor any thing that implies this. I suppose a person may be willing to receive Christ and his benefits in the appointed way, and yet not be persuaded that Christ and his benefits are his; yea, that this persuasion is so far from being implied in this acceptance, that the former cannot take place but in consequence of the latter, as I have before endeavored to show.
Again, p. 247, he says, “ His (the sinner’s) part is to accept the blessings fully purchased by the Savior and freely offered to the sinner." On page 282, showing it is the sum of the gospel to be preached by Christ's ministers to all nations, he says they are to publish, “ that all unhappy sinners . . . . may come to Christ, and rely on Christ; may, in this manner, obtain pardon, righteousness, and all the privileges of children." In each of these passages, I suppose Mr. Hervey means to speak of saving faith, and I can find no fault with his description, as I belive it to be perfectly scriptural; but that coming to Christ, and relying on Christ, implies a persuasion that my sins are pardoned, or that such a persuasion impließ coming to Christ, or is any thing akin to it, I see not the least evidence.
I like Mr. Hervey's representation of the act by which Christ becomes our security, (pp. 300, 301.) And when I read that passage over, it seems to me to be in some measure inconsistent with what I have been objecting against. Speaking of Christ's being in Scripture represented by a place of refuge,
says, “ If this is a proper emblem of Christ, to what shall we liken faith? To a persuasion that the shelter of the summer-house is free for our use ? That we are welcome to avail ourselves of the commodious retreat ? Would this de. fend us from the inclemencies of the weather? Would this bare persuasion, unless reduced to practice, be any manner of shelter to our persons ? No, surely. We must actually fly to the shelter, and we must actually apply to the Savior; otherwise I see not what comfort or benefit can be derived from either.
Here Mr. Hervey professedly points out a saving faith, in distinction from, and opposition to, that which is not so, in which he appears to me as much to oppose what he elsewhere calls saving faith as any other faith whatsoever. May not his definition be put to the question in the same manner, and fall under the same condemnation ? His faith is a bare persuasion; and will my being persuaded that Christ is my shelter be any security to me, unless I actually betake mysell to him? Will my bare persuasion that Christ died for me render him of any service to me, unless I actually apply to him by a hearty acceptance of him, and trust in him?
Page 253. Theron is without any persuasion that he has any title to Christ's righteousness; yet, upon his professing to beg
and pray for this blessing, Aspasio assures him that he has a title to this blessing. So (pp. 254, 274, 275) Aspasio pronounces Theron entitled to the blessing of the gospel upon his thirsting for them, while Theron himself is wholly without any persuasion or even suspicion of his own interest in these blessings; hence I conclude that Aspasio either supposes that sinners may have a title to the righteousness of Christ upon a condition lower than believing in him, viz., their living and thirsting for this blessing, or he supposes a person may believe with a saving faith, and yet be without any real persuasion that this blessing belongs to him.
That Aspasio supposed the former, one would be apt to suspect, from Theron's being, after all this, spoken of as an unbeliever. (p. 276.) That he should suppose the latter, seems more agreeable to what is said, (p. 290,) where Aspasio allows Palemon's faith to be sound and genuine, though it includes no persuasion of a title to gospel blessings; though, I confess, I see pot how his granting this is cousistent with his not giving up his own definition as not comprehending all sound, genuine, saving faith, but only pointing out a merely generous and tri-. umphant faith.
These and some other passages may, perhaps, give no sufficient ground to suspect that I have in some measure misunderstood Mr. Hervey. However, I refer the whole matter to you, reverend sir; and if you find my objections are frivolous, or that they do not properly lie against Mr. Hervey's faith, please to show me my mistake, and add to the obligations by which I am your friend and servant, etc.
That great, learned, and accurate Dutch divine, Van Mastricht, whose body of divinity perhaps excels all others that have yet been written, and is, in my opinion, richly worth the repeated perusal of every one who would be a divine, argues against the notion of faith which I have been objecting to, in such a nervous and concise manner, that I presume to throw a short transcription from him into a postscript, notwithstanding I have, I fear, trespassed on your patience in my Jong letter.
“Queritur, 4. An applicatio seu persuasio peculiaris, qua quis certus est, Christum esse suum Mediatorem, sit ipsa essentia fidei salvificu? This question he answers in the negative, and gives these reasons for it:
“ 1st. Quia persuasio ista particularis, nullam in Scripturis habet, justificationis, aut salutis promissionem. Nullibi enim, vel verbis dicitur, vel re; quicunque fuerit persuasus, Christum esse suum Servatorem, sibi remissa esse peccata sua; ille justificatus est, aut justificabitur, etc.
“ 2d. Quia non potest obtinere, hujusmodi peculiaris persuasio, nisi, præsupposito actu fidei salvifico, ex quo inferas et colligas, Christum tuum esse Servatorem, tibi remissa esse peccata tua,
“3d. Quia assensus ille applicationis, si modo fides divina velit esse, verbum Dei dicentis, pro objecto requirit; ubi enim Deus non loquitur ; ibi ego etiam non possum credere; jam autem, Deus nullibi dicit; tuus, Petre aut Paule, Christus est Servator, pro te mortuus est, tibi remissa sunt, tua peccata.
"4th. Quia hac ratione, vel Christus, pro reprobis etiam, erit mortuus; vel, credendum nonnullis fide divinâ, quod est falsum. Ratio est, quoniam omnes et singuli, quibus annunciatur Christus, inter quos, plurimi sunt reprobi, tenentur credere in Christum.
“ 5th. Quia persuasio illa particularis, saltem quoad essentiam actus, irregenitis et hypocritis inesse potest."*
See lib. i. cap. i., pp. 56, 57, § xxv.
END OF VOLUME II.