Page images

Whatever in any degree accords to the law of God is so far holy but an external or relative holiness falls not under our present enquiry. The moral law is spiritual, and takes cognizance of men's spirits: whatever therefore, in the state of our hearts, answers to the spirituality of the precept is holy. The least intermixture of unholiness, in the best and most spiritual exercises of the heart, or actions of the life, condemns us according to the legal covenant: but the actual existence of the smallest portion of a right and spiritual disposition, if it could be ascertained, would prove the possessor regenerate; being one of the "things which accompany salvation." Abraham might justly have been condemned, and needed merciful forgiveness for the weakness and wavering of that very faith by which he was justified: while the small measure of obedience, which Sarah rendered, in reverencing her husband; though she laughed in unbelief, denied her crime, and was sharply rebuked for it, is noticed with approbation by Peter, as a specimen of the 66 manner, in which holy women who trusted in God "adorned themselves'.' So entirely distinct are the questions concerning holiness, and concerning the way of justification; except as the sanctification of the Spirit evidences our interest in Christ by faith.

The case of Abraham, to which the apostle refers in the words before cited, is peculiarly unfavourable to the conclusions which many deduce from them. For that patriarch had walked with God for many years before the transaction, concerning which the sacred historian records, that "He believed in God, and it was accounted "to him for righteousness." Yet on this passage the apostle grounds his remark," Now to him who worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, "his faith is accounted to him for righteousness." But will any man maintain, that Abraham had been, even to that time, in all respects ungodly, and an enemy to God? And that he had never performed one good work in all the preceding years of his walking with God? Yet this must be the consequence of the absolute interpretation

[ocr errors]

1 1 Pet, iii. 6.

of this remarkable text. The same might also be shewn respecting David, at the time when he penned the thirty second Psalm; to which the apostle referred as another illustration of his subject.

Every degree of humility, fear of God, desire of happiness in his favour and service, love to his perfections and those things which he approves, hatred of what he abhors and forbids; simple belief of his testimony, reliance on his promises, and regard to his authority and glory, if it be genuine, accords to the spiritual precept of the law, and is so far holy. A transgressor, if renewed to a right spirit, and encouraged to hope for mercy, would plead guilty, apply for pardon, and approve of the most humbling and self-denying way of reconciliation, which the glory of his offended God required.

Sanctifying, and sanctification, as these words relate to our present subject, denote the renewal of an unholy creature to a right spirit; and are applicable to every stage of this renovation, from its commencement in regeneration, to its completion in glory.-But no measure of sanctification can possibly form any part of a sinner's justifying righteousness: because while it is imperfect, that imperfection needs forgiveness; and when perfected, it can make no atonement for past sins, nor can it merit eternal life.-It however, distinguishes a living faith from that which is dead and worthless; it forms our meetness for heaven; it enables us to glorify and prepares us to rejoice in God; and it is a distinct part of our free salvation, no less valuable than justification itself; as distinct as a gratuitous cure of the jail-fever would be from the pardon of a felony, and the grant of an inheritance. If then the opinion, that saving faith is holy, even in its first and feeble actings, could countenance self-righteous confidence; more complete sanctification must have proportionably a still stronger tendency to it. Yet this is not supposed by the persons in question: for they see, that justification and sanctification, in the advanced Christian, are perfectly distinct: how is it then, they do not recollect, that they are distinct at the first, as well as at the last? Or if they

[ocr errors]

allow it, how can they but perceive that their objections in this respect are perfectly unfounded?


Saving Faith the effect of Regeneration.

THE holy nature of saving faith may be inferred from the consideration, that it is the gift of God, and wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit. To this it may indeed be objected, that many gifts are conferred by the same divine Agent, which are allowed to have nothing essentially holy in their nature. It should, however, be observed, that in those things which inseparably accompany salvation, the Holy Spirit directly acts upon the dispositions and affections of the heart, stamps his own image, and communicates his own holy nature to the soul, by permanently operating on all its faculties, as an in-dwelling source of life, light, purity, and felicity; whereas in imparting spiritual gifts, or miraculous powers, he only works upon natural principles, or enables a man occasionally to perform supernatural actions, without any abiding union or assimilation. Balaam, Judas, and many who in Christ's name prophesied, cast out devils, and wrought miracles, continued all the while covetous, ambitious, malignant, or sensual workers of iniquity but no man ever truly believed in Christ, while his heart continued the willing slave of any lust. -As these gifts and powers are not holy in their nature, or even in their effects; so neither are they connected with salvation, by any indissoluble bond: but faith in Christ is more explicitly and frequently in Scripture connected with eternal salvation, than any other exercise of the heart or soul whatever. If it therefore be not holy in its own nature; it is an exception to the general rule: for no other fruit, or gift, or operation, of the Holy Spirit, that invariably accompanies salvation, can be mentioned, which is not indisputably holy' in its essential nature.

[ocr errors]

As unbelief springs from the "love of darkness rather "than light;" because the deeds of the unbeliever are evil: so faith must arise from the love of light rather than darkness, because of an incipient disposition to keep God's commandments. "He that doeth truth

"cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made mani"fest that they are wrought in God." When the evil heart of unbelief is removed, and the sinner has received the love of the truth; then "with the heart he believeth "unto righteousness." But in proportion as the doctrines of the gospel are proposed to the minds of proud and carnal men, with convincing energy; they exite the greater measure of scorn, rage and enmity. The overbearing evidence, with which the hated light is poured in upon the reluctant understanding, disturbs and torments the conscience, affronts the self-complacency of the heart, and calls forth into vigorous opposition those evil propensities which before lay dormant. This was the effect of our Lord's discourses and those of his apostles, on the unbelieving priests, scribes, and Pharisees. Undeniable miracles, unanswerable arguments, decisive scriptural proofs, pointed warnings and rebukes, and the clear light of divine truth, connected with the meekness of wisdom and holy love, served but to excite the more determined resistance from their ambition, avarice, envy, and resentment: and when they were completely baffled, and could say nothing against either the miracles or the doctrine, they were enraged even to madness.

When a partial view of divine truth gains the assent of the understanding, without a disposition of heart congenial to the grand scope of christianity; such professors are formed, as our Lord describes under the similitude of the stony-ground: and their fallacious confidence, selfish joy, and temporary faith, while "they have no "root in themselves, but in time of temptation fall away," are exemplified by facts on every side.-The seed too sown on thorny ground represents another very common way, in which a carnal heart "holds the truth "in unrighteousness,” by a dead faith, an unwarrantable confidence, and an awful mistake as to the tendency

and design of revealed truth: but an honest and good heart is the only good ground, in which the word of the kingdom will so "take root, and spring up, as to bring "forth fruit with patience."


It is really surprising, that, with such Scriptures before them, serious and reflecting persons should speak of faith in Christ, as a mere act of the understanding, ' produced by a common illumination, totally distinct 'from regeneration!' I would ask those who use such language whether this be not precisely the definition of a dead faith? and whether any man be capable of giving a better? For is it not an assent of the understanding to the doctrines of the gospel as true, without any consent of the heart to them as good and holy? It is by no means intended, that all, who inadvertently seem to favour this sentiment, really countenance a dead faith; for many parts of their writings have a contrary tendency: but it shews how readily even good men, when contending for a system, may be seduced to sanction opinions which entirely suit the purposes of very bad men.

In forming our judgment on this subject, let us next consider the following words of our blessed Saviour, "No man can come unto me, except the Father which "hath sent me, draw him:""It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God." "Eve-› 66 ry man therefore, that hath heard and learned of the "Father, cometh unto me.-Therefore said I unto you,


no man can come unto me except it were given him "of my Father'" Coming to Christ is the same as be lieving in him, at least as far as the present argument is concerned: and has this gift of the Father, this drawing, teaching, hearing, and learning, nothing holy in its nature? Surely, upon second thoughts, every serious mind will adopt the apostle's words, "Do not err, my "beloved brethren; every good gift, and every perfect "gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of "lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow "of turning :" especially as the same apostle afterwards

↑ John vi. 44, 45, 65.

« PreviousContinue »