« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Divine truths are like chain-shot; they go together; and we need not perplex ourselves which should enter first; if any one enter, it will draw the rest after it.
Remarks nearly similar may be made concerning . duties. Though the scriptures know nothing of duties to be performed without faith, or which do not include or imply it; yet they do not wait for the sinner's being possessed of faith, before they exhort him to other spiritual exercises ; such as, seeking the Lord, loving him, serving him, &c. nor need we lay any such restraints upon ourselves.. Such is the connexion of the duties, as well as the truths of religion, that if one be truly complied with, we need not fear that the others will be wanting. If God be sought, loved or served, we may be sure that Jesus is embraced; and if Jesus. be embraced, that sîn is abhorred. Or should things first occur to the mind in another form; should sin be the immediate object of our thoughts; if this. be abhorred, the God against whom it is committed must at the same instant be loved; and the Saviour who was made a sacrifice to deliver us. from it, embraced. Let any part of truth or ho. liness, but find place in the heart, and the rest will. be with it. Those parts which, in the order of things, are required to precede it, will come in. by. way of implication; and those which follow it, will be produced by it. Thus the primitive preachers seem to have had none of that scrupulosity which appears in the discourses and writings of some modo
ern preachers. Sometimes they exhorted sinners to believe in Jesus; but it was such belief as implied repentance for sin; sometimes to repent and be converted; but it was such repentance and conversion as included believing: and sometimes to labour for the meat that endured to everlasting life ; but it was such labouring as comprehended both repentance and faith.
Some have inferred, from the doctrine of justification by faith, in opposition to the works of the law, that sinners ought not to be exhorted to any thing which contains obedience to the law, either in heart or life, except we should preach the law to them for the purpose of conviction; and this, lest we should be found directing them to the works of their own hands as the ground of acceptance with God. From the same principle it has been concluded, that faith itself cannot include any holy disposition of the heart, because all holy disposition contains obedience to the law. If this reasoning be just, all exhorting of sinners to things expressive of a holy exercise of heart, is either improper, or requires to be understood as merely preaching the law for the purpose of conviction"; as our Saviour directed the young ruler to keep the commandments, if he would enter into life. Yet the scriptures abound with such exhortations. Sinners are exhorted to seek God, to serve him with fear and joy, to forsake their wicked way, and return to him, to repent and be converted. These are manifestly exercises of the heart, and addressed to the unconverted. Neither are
they to be understood as the requirements of a cov. enant of works. That covenant neither requires repentance, nor promises forgiveness, Butthese things are directed to under a promise of mercy, and abun. dant pardon. There is a wide difference between the address of our Lord to the young ruler, and these addresses : that to which he was directed was the producing of a righteousness adequate to the de. mands of the law, which was naturally impossible; and our Lord's design was to shew its impossibility, and thereby to convince him of the need of gospel mercy; but that to which the above directions point, is not to any natural impossibility, but to the very way of merey. The manner in which the primitive preachers guarded against self-righteousness was different from this. They were not afraid of ex. horting either saints or sinners to holy exercises of heart; nor of connecting with them the promises of mercy. But though they exhibited the promises of eternal life to any and every spiritual exercise, yet they never taught that it was on account of it; but of mere grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. The ground on which they took their stand, was, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them. From hence they inferred the impossibility of a sinner being justified in any other way than for the sake of him who was made a curse for us : and from hence it clearly follows, that whatever holiness any sinner may possess, before, in, or after believing, it is of no account whatever as a ground of acceptance with God. If we inculcate this doc
trine, we need not fear exhorting sinners to holy exercises of heart, nor holding up the promises of mercy to all who thus return to God by Jesus Christ.
ON THE QUESTION, WHETHER THE EXISTENCE OF A HOLY DISPOSITION OF HEART BE
NECESSARY TO BELIEVING.
IT is not from a fondness for controversy that I am induced to offer my sentiments on this subject. I feel myself called upon to do so, on two accounts. First, The leading principle in the foregoing treatise is implicated in the decision of it. If no holy disposition of heart be pre-supposed, or included in believing, it has nothing holy in it; and if it have nothing holy in it, it is absurd to plead for its being a duty. God requires nothing as a duty which is merely natural, or intellectual, or in which the will has no concern. Secondly, Mr. Mc. Lean, in a Second Edition of his treatise on The Commission of Christ, has published several pages of animadversions on what I have advanced on this subject, and has charged me with very serious consequences ; consequences which if substantiated will go to prove that I have subverted the great doctrine of justification by grace alone, without the works of the law.* It is true he has made no mention of my name
owing, as I suppose, to what I had written being contained in two private letters, one of which was addressed to him. I certainly had no expectation when I wrote those letters that what I advanced would have been publickly answered. I do not pretend to understand so much of the etiquette of writing as to decide whether this conduct was proper: but if it were, some people may be tempted to think that it is rather dangerous corresponding with authors. I have no desire, however, to complain on this account, nor indeed on any other, except that my sentimerts are very partially stated, and things introduced so much out of their connexion, that it is impossible for the reader to form any judgment concerning them.
I have the pleasure to agree with Mr. M. in considering the belief of the gospel as a saving faith. Our disagreement on this subject is confined to the question, What the belief of the gospel includes ? Mr. M. so explains it, as carefully to exclude every exercise of the heart or will, as either included in it, or having any influence upon it. Whatever of this exists in a believer, he considers as belonging to the effects of faith, rather than to faith itself. If I understand him, he pleads for such a belief of the gospel as hath nothing in it of a holy nature, nothing of conformity to the moral law “ in heart or life ;” a passive reception of the truth, in which the will has no concern; and this because it is opposed to the works of the law in the article of justification.*
* On the Commission, pp. 83–86.