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. M'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 •ertainly had no expectation, when I wrote those letters, that what I advanced would have been publicly 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 to correspond with authors. I have no desire, however, to complain on this account, nor, indeed, on any other; except that my sentiments 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'L. in considering the belief of the gospel as saving faith. Our disagreement on this subject is confined to the question, What the belief of the gospel includes ? Mr. M'L. 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 has 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 qf the law in the article of justification.t On this ground, he accounts for the Apostle's language in Romans iv. 5. To him that ivorketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the Ungodly ; understanding, by the terms he that worketh not, •ne that has done nothing yet which is pleasing to God ; and, by the term ungodly, one that is actually an enemy to God. He does not suppose that God justifies unbelievers: if, therefore, he justifies sinners, while in a state of enmity against him, there can be nothing in the nature of faith but what mayconsist with it.
• Pages f4—§5. f 0n <** Commission, pp. 83—86.
And true it is, if faith have nothing in it of a holy nature, nothing of conformity to the divine law " in heart or life," nothing of the exercise of any holy disposition of heart, it cannot denominate the subjects of it godly. Godliness must, in this case, consist merely in the fruits of faith; and these fruits being subsequent to justification, the sinner must, of course, be justified antecedently to his being the subject of godliness, or while he is actually the enemy of God.
If Mr, M'L. had only affirmed that faith is opposed to works, even to every good disposition of the heart, as the ground of acceptance with God ; that we are not justified by it as a work; or that, whatever moral goodness it may possess, it is not as such that it is imputed unto us for righteousness ; there had been no dispute between us. But this distinction he rejects, and endeavours to improve the caution of those who use it into a tacit acknowledgment, that their views of faith were very liable to misconstruction ; in other words, that they border upon the doctrine of justification by works in so great a degree, as to be in danger of being mistaken for its advocates.* He is not contented with faith being opposed to works, in point of justification; it must also be opposed to them in its own nature. " Paul," he affirms, " did not look upon faith as a work." In short, if there be any possibility of drawing a certain conclusion from what a writer, in almost every form of speech, has advanced ; it must be concluded, that, he means to deny that there is any thing holy in the nature of faith ; and that, could it be separated from its effects, (as he supposes it is in justification,) it would leave the person who possessed it, among the enemies of God.
Notwithstanding the above, however, Mr. M'L. allows faith to be a duly. He has largely, (and, I believe, successfully,) endeavoured to prove, that " faith is the command of God ;" that it is " part of obedience to God ;" that " to believe all that God says, is right;" and that unbelief, which is its opposite, is " a great and heinous sin."f But how can these things agree ?
* Commission, p. ?6.
f Belief »f the Gospel Saving Faith, pp.34—44.
If there be nothing of the exercise of a holy disposition in what is commanded of God, in what is right, and in what is an exercise of obedience: by what rule are we to judge of what is holy, and what is not ? I scarcely can conceive of a truth more self-evident than this: That God's commands extend only to that which comes under the influence of the will. Knowledge can be no further a duty, nor ignorance a sin, than as each is influenced by the moral state of the heart; and the same is true of faith and unbelief. We might as well make the passive admission of light into the eye, or of sound into the ear, duties, as a passive admission of truth into the mind. To receive it into the heart, indeed, is duty; for this is a voluntary acquiescence in it: but that in which the will has no concern, cannot possibly be so.
Mr. M'L. sometimes writes as if he would acknowledge faith to be not only a duty, but to " contain virtue," or true holiness ; seeing, as he observes, " it is the root of all Christian virtues, and that which gives glory to God, and without which it is impossible to please him." Nay, the reader would imagine, by his manner of writing, that he was pleading for the holy nature of faith, and that I had denied it; seeing I am represented as having made the " too bold" and " unfounded assertion," that mere belief contains no virtue. The truth is, I affirmed no such thing, but was pleading for the contrary ; as is manifest from what Mr. M'L. says in the same note : " But why so solicitous to find virtue, or moral excellence, in faith ?" It is true, I contended, that if the belief of the gospel were a mere exercise of the understanding, uninfluenced by the moral state of the heart, it could contain no virtue, nor be the object of a divine command : but I supposed it to be a persuasion of divine truth, arising from the state of the heart, in the same sense as unbelief, which Mr. M'L. justly calls " its opposite," is not a mere mistake of the judgment, but a persuasion arising from aversion to the truth. From the above, however, it would seem, that we are agreed in making faith in Christ something which comprehends "true virtue," or, which is the same thing, true holiness. Yet Mr. M'L. will not abide by all or any of this: if he would, indeed, there would be an end of the dispute. But he proceeds to reason in favour of that very, "unfounded assertion," for making. which, I am unwarrantably accused of having been " too bold." Thus he reasons in support of it:—" If mere belief contain no virtue, it would not follow that unbelief could contain no sin: for such an argument proceeds upon this principle, That if there be no virtue in a thing, there can be no sin in its opposite; but this does not hold true in innumerable instances. There is no positive virtue in abstaining from many crimes that might be mentioned; yet the commission of them, or even the neglect of the opposite duties, would be very sinful. There is no moral virtue in taking food, when hungry; but wilfully to starve one's self to death would be suicide : and, to come nearer the point, there is no moral virtue in believing the testimony of a friend, when I have every reason to do so; yet, in these circumstances, were 1 to discredit his word, he would feel the injury very sensibly. Now, supposing there was no more virtue contained in believing the witness of God, than in believing the witness of men, to which it is compared, it does not follow that there would be no sin in unbelief, which is to make God a liar. To deny that faith is the exercise of a virtuous temper of heart, is to refuse some praise to the creature : but to deny that unbelief is a sin, is to impeach the moral character of God. And why so solicitous to find virtue, or moral excellence, in faith ?"
Now, whether this reasoning be just, or not, it must be allowed to prove that Mr. M'L. notwithstanding what he has said to the contrary, does not consider faith as containing any virtue. It is true, what he says is under a hypothetical form, and it may appear as if he were only allowing me my argument, for the sake of overturning it: but it is manifestly his own principle which he labours to establish, and not mine ; the very principle on which, as he. conceives, depends the freeness of justification. I cannot but express my surprise that so acute a writer should deal so largely in inconsistency. Mr. M'L. cannot conceive of any end to be answered in finding moral excellence in faith, unless it be to give some " praise to the creature." He doubtless means, by this insinuation, to furnish an argument against it. As far as anything which is spiritually good in us, and which is wrought by him who •worketh all our works in us, is praiseworthy ; so fan the same may be granted of faith: and, as we should not
think of denying the one to contain moral excellence, for the sake of humbling the creature ; neither is there any ground for doing so with respect to the other.
But there are other ends to be answered by maintaining ftie holy nature of faith; and such as Mr. M'L. himself will not deny to be of importance. First: It is of importance that faith be considered as a duty: for if this be denied, Christ is denied the honour due to his name. But it is impossible to maintain that faith is a duly, if it contain no holy exercise of the heart. This, I presume, has already been made to appear. God requires nothing of intelligent creatures but what is holy. Secondly : It is of importance that the faith which we inculcate be genuine, or such us will carry us to heaven. But, if it have no holiness in its nature, it is dead, and must be unproductive. Mr. M'L. considers true faith as the root of holiness : but, if it be so, it must be holy itself; for the nature of the fruit corresponds with that of the root. If the difference between a living and dead faith do not consist in this, that the one is of a holy nature, and the other not so, I should be glad to be informed wherein it does consist ? and whether the nature of the one be the same as that of the other, the difference between them arising merely from circumstances ? Thirdly: It is of importance that unbelief be allowed to be a sin; as it is that which, by Mr. M'L.'s acknowledgment, " impeaches the moral character of God." But, if there be no holiness in faith, there can be no sin in its opposite. It is true, Mr. M'L. denies the principle of this argument, and speaks of " innumerable instances" of things which have no virtue; and yet the opposite of them is sin. This, I am persuaded, is not true. Whatever is the proper opposite of sin is holiness. The instances which are given do not prove the contrary; as abstinence from various crimes, eating when we are hungry, and believing a human testimony. There may, indeed, be no holiness in these things, as they are performed by apostate creatures: but, if they were performed as God requires them to be, (which they should be, in order to their being the profier opposites to the sins referred to,) they would be holy exercises. God requires us to abstain from all sin, from a regard to his name; to eat and drink, and do whatever toe do, even the giving credit to the testimony of a friend, " when we have reason to do so/' to his glary. These things, thus performed, would be exercises of holiness.
I am aware, that those who have opposed the doctrine of total depravity have argued, that, as being without natural affection is sin ; so the being possessed of it must be virtue. To this it has been justly answered, that, though a being without natural affection argues the highest degree of depravity, (as nothing else could overcome the common principles of human nature,) yet it does not follow, that mere natural affection is virtuous : for, if so, virtue would be found in animals. This answer is just, and sufficient to repel the objection on the subject of human depravity : but it will not apply to the case in hand. The question there relates to a matter of fact, or what men actually are ; but here, to a matter of right, or what they ought to be. Whatever is capable of being done by a moral agent, with an eye to the glory of God, ought to be so done t and if it be, it is holy ; if not, whatever may be thought of it by men, it is sinful. Natural affection itself, if subordinated to him, would be sanctified, or rendered holy ; and the same may be said of every natural inclination or action of life. It is thus that God should be served, even in our civil concerns; and holiness to the Lord written, as it were, upon the bells of the horses.
I have known several persons in England, who have agreed with Mr. M'L. as to faith belonging merely to the intellectual faculty, and the moral state of the heart having no influence upon it; but then they either denied, or have been very reluctant to admit, that it is duty. ' The mind,' say they, ' is passive in the belief of a proposition : we cannot believe as we will; but according to evidence. It may be our duty to examine that evidence ; but, as to faith, it, being altogether involuntary, cannot be a duty.' And, if it be a mere passive reception of the truth, on which the state of the will has no influence, I do not perceive how this consequence can be denied. But then the same might be said of unbelief: ' If evidence do not appear to us, how can we believe ?' It may be our sin not to examine : but, as to our not believing, it being altogether involuntary, cannot be a sin.' By this mode of reasoning, the sin of unbelief is explained away ; and unbelievers commonly avail themselves of it for that purpose. As both these consequences (I mean the denying of faith being a duty* and unbelief a sin) are allowed by Mr. M'L. to be utterly repugnant to the scriptures, it becomes him, if lie will defend the premises, to show that they have no necessary connexion.
The above reasoning might hold good, for aught I know, in things which do not interest the heart: but to maintain it in things which do, especially in things of a moral and practical nature, is either to deny the existence of prejudice, or that it has any influence in hindering belief.
The author of Glad Tidings'to Perishing Sinners, though be pleads for faith, as including our receiving Christ, and taming to him, yet is decidedly averse from all holy disposition of the heart preceding it, not only as affording a warrant, but as any way necessary to the thing itself. And, as he unites with Mr. M'L. in considering the siuner as an enemy to God at the time of his being justified, he must, to be consistent, consider faith as having no holiness in its nature. His method of reasoning on the priority of repentance to believing, would seem to denote the same thing. He allows speculative repentance, or a change of mind which has '• no holiness" in it, to be necessary to believing; giving this as the reasont " While a sinner is either stupidly inattentive to his immortal interests, or expecting justification by his own obedience, he will not come to Christ." It should seem, then, that aversion of heart from the gospel-plan, or a desire to be justified by one's own obedience, is no objection to coming to Christ; and that a sinner will come to him, notwithstanding this, provided he be right in speculation, and his conscience sufficiently alarmed. If so, there certainly can be nothing spiritual or holy in the act of coming. The respect which I feel both towards Mr. Booth and Mr. M'Lean, is not a little: but there needs no apology for opposing these sentiments. Truth ought to be dearer to us than the greatest or best of men.
Mr. M'L. writes as if he were at a loss to know my meaning. " By a corresponding temper of heart" he says, " cannot be meant some good disposition previous to faith; for as the question relates to faith itself, that would be foreign to the point." I have no scruple in saying, however, that I conVOL. I. R
sider it as previous to faith ; and as to what is suggested of its irrelevancy, the same might be said of unbelief. Were I to say that unbelief includes the exercise of an evil temper of heart, and that herein consists the sin of it, I should say no more than is plainly intimated by the sacred writers ; who describe unbelievers as stumbling at the word, Being DisobediEnt.* Yet Mr. M'L. might answer, ' By an evil temper of heart you cannot mean any thing previous to unbelief; for as the question relates to unbelief itself, that would be foreign to the point. Neither can you mean, that it is the immediate and inseparable effect of unbelief; for that is fully granted : and it is not the effect, but the nature, or essence, of unbelief, that is the point in question. Your meaning, therefore, must be this: that unbelief, in its very nature, is a temper, or disposition, of heart disagreeing with the truth.' To this I should answer, ' I do not consider unbelief as an evil temper of heart, but as a persuasion arising out of it, and partaking of it:* and the same answer is applicable to the subject in hand. . I shall first offer evidence, that faith in Christ is a persuasion influenced by the moral state of the heart, and partaking of it; and then consider the principal objections advanced
against it. - .
If what has been said already, on duty being confined to things in which ihe will has an influence, be just; the whole of the second part of the foregoing treatise may be considered as evidence in favour of the point now at issue ; as whatever proves faith to be a duty, proves it to be a holy exercise of the soul towards Christ, arising from the heart being turned towards him.
In addition to this, the following particulars are submitted to the reader.
First: Faith is a grace of the Holy Spirit. It is ranked with hope and charity, which are spiritual, or holy exercises. Indeed, whatever the Holy Spirit, as a sanctifier, produces, must resemble his own nature. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. As the wisdom which is from above is pure, and of a practical nature ; so faith, which is from above, resembles its divine origin.
. - . , i
* X Pet. ii. 8,
Secondly : It is that in the exercise of which we give glory to God* If faith be what Mr. M'L. acknowledges it to be, a duty, and an exercise of obedience, its possessing such a tendency is easily conceived : but, if it be a passive reception of the truth, on which the moral state of the heart has no influence, how can such a property be ascribed to it ? There is a way in which inanimate nature glorifies God, and he may get himself glory by the works of the most ungodly; but no ungodly man truly gives glory to him ; neither does a godly man, but in the exercise of holiness.
Thirdly : Faith is represented as depending upon choice, or the state of the heart towards God : Said I not unto thee, If thou Wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God ? Horn Can ye believe, Which Receive Honour One Of AnOther., and SEEK NOT THE HONOUR THAT COMETH FROM
God Only?—If thou Canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.-f If faith be a mere passive reception of the truth into the understanding, on which the state of the will has no influence, what fair interpretation can be given to these passages ? If a disposition to seek the divine honour be not necessary to believing, how is it that the want of it should render it impossible ? And if believing had no dependence upon choice, or the state of the heart, how is it that our Saviour should suspend his healing of the child, upon the parents being able to exercise it ? Did he suspend his mercy on the performance of a natural impossibility; or upon something on which the state of the heart had no influence ?
Fourthly : Faith is frequently' represented as implying repentance for sin, which is acknowledged, on all hands, to be a holy exercise. It does not come up to the scripture-representation to say, repentance is a fruit of faith. There is no doubt, but that faith, where it exists, will operate to promote repentance, and every other holy exercise. It is true also, that a conviction of the being and attributes of God must, in the order of nature, precede repentance; because we cannot repent for offending a being of whose existence we doubt, or of whose character we have no just conception: but the. faith, of the gospel, or a believing in Jesus for the salvation of our souls, is represented, in the New Testament, as implying repentance for sin.
* Horn. iv. 20. \ John xi. 40. T. 44. Mark is. 23.
Repeni ye, and believe the gospel:—dnd ye, when ye had seen it, repented not, That Ye Might BeIIEVB.-*—-//-. fieradventure, God will give them repentance To THi Acknowledging Of The Thuth.* Whenever the scriptures speak of repentance as followed by the remission of sins, it will be allowed that faith is supposed : for repentance without faith could not please God, nor have any connexion with the promise of forgiveness: and it is equally evident that, •when they speak of faith as followed by justification, repentance is supposed ; for faith without repentance would not be genuine- It is impossible to discern the giory of Christ's mediation, or to believe in the necessity, the importance, the loveliness, or the suitableness of his undertaking, while we feel not for the dishonour done to God by the sin of creatures, and particularly by our own sin. Ignorance, therefore, is ascribed to obduracy, or insensibility ol heart.f Indeed, it is easy to perceive, that, where there is no sense of the evil and demerit of sin, there can be no form nor comeliness discerned in the Saviour, nor beauty that we should desire him : and, •while this is the case, the servants of Christ will have to lament. Who hath believed our report ?\
Fifthly : Faith is often expressed by terms which indicate the exercise of afftction. It is called receiving Christ, winch stands opposed to rejecting him, or receiving him not; and -which is descriptive of the treatment he met with from the body of the Jewish nation. It is called receiving the love of the truth, that we may be saved; and by salvation being thus connected with it, it is implied, that no other reception of the truth is saving. Christ's word is said to have no place in unbelievers ; which implies that in true believers it has place, and which is expressive of more than a i..ere assent ot the understanding. The good ground in the parable is said to. represent them who, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. It is here intimated, that no one receives the word to purpose, but in the exercise of an honest and good heart.§
• Mark i. 15. Matt. xxi. 32. 2 Tim. ii. 25. •
f Ephes. iv. 18. $ Isa. Hii. 1, 2.
§ John i. 12. 2 Thes. ii. 10. John viit. 37. Luke riii. 15.
Sixthly: Belief is expressly said to be with the heart. If thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe In Thine Heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For With The Heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.—If thou believeth With All Thine Hkart, thou mayest.* It is allowed, that the heart, in these passages, does not denote the affections to the exclusion of the understanding; nor does the argument require that it should : but neither does it denote the understanding to the exclusion of the affections, (which is required by the argument on the other side,) but the inmost soul, in opposition to the mouth with which confession is made unto salvation. Doing any thing with the heart, or with all the heart, are modes of speaking never used in scripture, I believe, for the mere purpose of expressing what is internal, or mental, and which may pertain only to the understanding: they rather denote the quality of unfeignedness, a quality repeatedly ascribed to faith,t and which marks an honesty of heart which is essential to it.
Seventhly : The want of faith is ascribed to Moral Causes, or to The Want Of A Right Disposition Of Heart. Ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye Will Not come tq me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the Love Of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, atid ye Receive Me Not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that comethfrom God only ?—Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.— Jf I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God, heareth God's words: ye, therefore, hear them not, because ye are not of God.\ If a holy disposition were unnecessary to believing in Christ, neither the want of it, nor the existence of the contrary, could form any obstruction to it.
♦ Rom. i. 9, 10. Acts viii. 37. -J- * Tim. i. & 2 Tim. i. 5..
t J»hn T. 38—44. vi*. 45—47.
Lastly : Unbelief is not a mere errour of the understanding, but a positive and practical rejection of the gospel. It is actually treating God as a liar, and all the blessings of the gospel with contempt: but faith is the opposite of unbelief; therefore, it is not a mere assent of the understanding, but a positive and practical reception of the gospel, actually treating God as the God of truth, and the blessings of the gospel as worthy of all acceptation. This statement of things is clearly taught us by the pointed address of our Lord to the Jews, quoted under the foregoing argument. Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.—If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me ? If faith were a mere exercise of the understanding, why do not men as readily believe the truth, as they believe a lie ? Surely truth is not less evident to the mind, not less consistent, than falsehood. It is evident, that their not believing the truth was owing to the aversion of their hearts, and nothing else; and, by what follows, it is equally evident, that the belief of the truth is owing to the removal of this aversion, or to the heart's being brought to be on the side of God : He that is of God, heareth God's words : ye, therefore, hear them not, because ye are not of God.
I proceed to the consideration of objections. The first, and principal objection that Mr. M'L. alleges against this statement of things, is, that it affects the doctrine of justification by grace alone, without the works of the law. " The scriptures pointedly declare," he says, " that God justifies sinners Freely By His Grace, through the Redemption that is in Jesus Christ, and that this justification is received through Faith. in Christ's blood. Faith, in this case, is always distinguished from, and opposed to, the works of the law ; not merely of the ceremonial law, which was peculiar to the Jews, but of that law by which is the knowledge of sin ; which says, Thou shalt not covet, and which requires not only outward good actions, but love, and every good disposition of the heart, both towards God and our neighbour; so that the works of this law respect the heart, as well as life. The distinction, therefore, between faith and works, on this subject, is not that which is between inward and outward conformity to the law ; for, if faith be not, in this case, distinguished from, and opposed to, our conformity to the law, both outwardly and inwardly, it cannot be said that we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law, or that God justifieth the ungodly. Faith, indeed, as a principle of action, worketh by love; but it is not as thus working that it is imputed for righteousness; for it is expressly declared, that righteousness is imputed to him that Worketh Not, but Believeth on him that justifieth the Ungodly. It is of Faith, that it might be by Grace ; and grace and works are represented as incompatible with each other: for to him that Worketh, is the reward not reckoned of Grace, but of Debt. Now, when men include in the verynature of justifying faith such good dispositions, holy affections, and pious exercises of heayt, as the moral law requires, and so make them necessary (no matter under what consideration) to a sinner's acceptance with God, it perverts the apostle's doctrine upon this important subject, and makes justification to be at least, as it were, by the. works of the law."*
There is no dispute whether justification be of grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ; nor whether justification by faith be opposed to justification by the works of the law ; even those works which are internal, as well as those which are external. But it is apprehended, that, in order to maintain these doctrines, there is no necessity to explain away the holy nature of faith, or to maintain that it consists in mere speculation, which it must, if it have nothing of the disposition of the heart in it.
If considering faith as arising from the disposition of the heart be unfriendly to justification by grace, without the works of the law, it must be on one or other of these suppositions: Pirst: Either, that, should there be any holiness in us antecedent to justification, it must be imputed unto us for righteousness. Or, Secondly : If it be not so in fact, yet it will be so in the view of awakened sinners.
The first of these suppositions, so far from being friendly to the doctrine of justification by grace, utterly subverts the grand principle on which the necessity of it is founded. The grand principle on which the apostle rests the doctrine, is this: It is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not In All Things written in the book of the law to do them.\ This declaration goes to an utter denial of the possibility of a sin ner's being justified by the works of his hands.
* On the Commitsion, pp. 83, 84. f Gal. iii. 10.pagebreak/.
But, if the foregoing supposition be true, thfe declaration must be false : for, according to this, the holiness of one that has not continued in all things written in the book of the law to do them, provided he have any, is admissible to his justification. On the other hand, if the declaration be true, the supposition is false : for, according to the apostle's doctrine, it must follow, that, whatever holiness any creature may possess, before, in, or after his believing, unless he could produce a righteousness in conforming in all thing* to God's righteous law, it will avail him nothing in respect of justification. I have no idea of any holiness antecedent to justification, any farther than what is necessarily implied in the nature of justifying faith ; but, if it were otherwise, and a sinner could produce a series of holy actions, performed in a course of years, all must be reckoned as loss and dung in respect oihis being accepted of God. He that would win Christ, must be found in him.
If antecedent holiness destroy the freeness of grace, I know of no solid reason why consequent holiness should not operate in the same way : and then, in order to be justified by grace, it will be necessary to continue the enemies of God through life. It is not the priority of time that n.akes any difference, but that of causation. Holiness may precede justification, as to time, and it may be necessary, on some account, that it should precede it, and yet have no causal influence on it. The sell-abasement of the publican preceded his going down to his house justified; yet it was not on this ground that his justification rested. Holiness, on the other hand, may follow justification, as to time; and yet, for any thing that this will prove, may be that which is accounted for righteousness. The righteousness of Christ was imputed to Old-testament believers, long before it was actually wrought: and good was promised to Abraham, on the ground that God knew him, that he would command his children, and his household after him.*
It was the denial of personal holiness being necessary to justification, as a procuring cause, and not any thing which regarded the time of it, that excited those objections against the doctrine, as leading to licentiousness, which are repelled in the Epistle to the Romans, and which have been pleaded in this controversy.
• Gea. xviii. 18,19.
The doctrine here defended is liable to the same ; not justly, indeed ; neither was that of the Apostle: but so long as we maintain that acceptance with God is wholly out of regard to the righteousness of another, and not for any thing done by us, before, in, or after believing; a self-righteous spirit will be offended, and reproach the doctrine, as immoral.
The argument for the necessity of a sinner's being an enemy to God at the time of his justification, in order to its being wholly of grace, resembles that of some divines, who, for the same purpose, have pleaded for our being justified from eternity. They seem to have supposed, that, if God justified us before we had any existence, or could have performed any good works, it must be on the footing of grace. Yet these divines maintained that some men were ordained to condemnation from eternity ; and that as a punishment for their sin, which God foresaw. But, if an eternal decree of condemnation might rest upon foreseen evil, who does not perceive, that an eternal decree of justification might equally rest upon foreseen good ? The truth is, the freeness of justification does not depend upon the date of it.
Mr. M'Lean charges the sentiment he opposes, as a per-version of the Apostle's doctrine ; and with making justification to be, at least, " as it were, by the works of the law." Yet he is fully aware, that, whatever is pleaded in behalf of the holy nature of faith, it is not supposed to justify us as a work, or holy exercise, or as being any part of that which is accounted unto us for righteousness: but merely as that which unites to Christ, for the sake of whose righteousness alone we are accepted. I have no idea of merit, either of condignity or congruity, or of justification being bestowed as a reward to believing, any more than he has. But I shall be told, that this is " a caution which intimates an apprehension that my idea of faith is very liable to such a misconstruction."* And was the Apostle's doctrine liable to no misconstruction ? and did he use no caution to guard against it ? Is Mr. M'L.'s doctrine liable to none ?
* On the Commission. p. 76.
And does he never use caution for the same purpose ? What else does he mean, when, discoursing on God's justifying the ungodly, he adds, "Faith, indeed, as a principle of action, worketh by love; but it is not as thus working that it is imputed for righteousness ?"* I confess I am not able to discern the difference between this distinction and that which he discards; for, if there be any meaning in words, either in the Apostle's or his, faith does work by love ; and that, from its first existence : and its thus working belongs to it, as genuine, justifying faith : but, though it always possessed this property, and without it could not have been genuine : yet it is not on this account., or in a way of reward, that we are said to be justified by it
If he allege, that the property of working by love does not belong to the nature of faith, as justifying; and that, in the order of time, wc are justified by it previously to its thus working, he must contradict the Apostle, who speaks of receiving the love of the truth, That We May Be Saved, and pronounces those persons unbelievers, who do not thus receive it.f His own words also will, in this case, be ill adapted to express his ideas. Instead of saying, " Faith, indeed, worketh by love; but it is not as Uius working, that it justifies ;" he ought to have said to this effect: Faith, indeed, worketh by love ; but it is not till it has first performed its office in respect to justification, which it does previously to its working at all.
The scriptures constantly represent union with Christ as the foundation of our interest in the blessing of justification: Of him are ye In Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us— righteousness—That I may be found In him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ.— We are accepted In the Beloved. There is—no condemnation to them that are In Christ Jesus.\ Now, faith in him being that by which this union is effected, hence arises the necessity of it in order to justification. It is that by which, as in a marriage, we are joined to the Lord, and so, by his gracious constitution of things, are interested in all he is, and all he possesses.
• On the Commission, p. 84. f 2 Thess. ii. 10—12.
* 1 Cor. i. 30. Phil. iii. 9. Ephes. i. 6. Horn. viii. 1. Gal. v. 6;
And thus it is supposed, that living faith, or faith that toorketh by love, is necessary to justification ; not as being the ground of our acceptance with God; not. as a virtue of which justification is the reward; but as that without which we' could not be united to a living Redeemer.
But we are told, " If any thing holy in us be rendered necessary to our being accepted of God, (no matter under what consideration,) we pervert the Apostle's doctrine, and make justification to be at least, as it were, by the works of the law." Is Mr. M'L. sure that he does not pervert, or at least, sadly -misapply the Apostle's words ? Whatever be the meaning of the phrase as it were, it does not describe the principles of those who renounce all dependence upon their own holiness, and plead for the holy nature of faith, only as being necessary to render it genuine, and, consequently, to unite us to a holy Saviour. The characters there referred to were ungodly men, who relied upon their own works for justification, stumbling at that stumbling-stone.
That we may judge whether this assertion be well founded, It is necessary to examine the evidence on which it rests : and this, if I mistake not, is confined to the phraseology of a single passage of scripture. If this passage (Rom. iv. 4, 5.) do not prove the point for which it is alleged, I know of no other that does : and, what is more, the whole tenor of scripture teaches a doctrine directly opposite; that is to say, that
REPENTANCE PRECEDES FORGIVENESS. But, Waiving this, We
will attend to the passage itself. If by him that worketh not, and the ungodly whom God justifieth, be meant persons who, at the time, had never done any good thing in the sight of God, and who were actually under the dominion of enmity against him, Mr. M'L.'s assertion will be granted him: but, if these terms be meant to describe persons who work not with respect to justification; and who, in their dealings with God for acceptance, come not as righteous, but as ungodly; no such consequence will follow. On the contrary, it will follow, that, if the Apostle's doctrine be perverted, it is Mr. M'L. that has perverted it.
That the Apostle is speaking of believers, we are expressly told in the passage itself. He that worketh not is said, aiihe same time, to believe: but, whenever this can be said of a man, it cannot, with truth, be affirmed of him, that he has done nothing good in the sight of God, or that he is under the dominion of enmity against him. By Mr. M'L.'s own account, he has, by the influence of divine grace, done " what is right, in giving credit to what God says;" he has " obeyed the gospel ;" he has complied with " the command of God," that we should believe in him whom he hath sent. It may, however, be truly affirmed of him, that he worketh not with respect to justification ; for it is of the nature of faith to overlook and relinquish every thing of the kind. Whatever necessity there may be for a writer in vindication of the truth to enumerate these things, they are such as the subject of them thinks nothing of at the time ; especially as the ground of his acceptance with God. All his hopes of mercy are those of a sinner, an ungodly sinner.
Him that worketh not stands opposed, by the apostle, to him that worketh ; to whom, he says, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (Rom. v. 4.) And is this a description of actually working for God ? The character referred to is either real or supposed: either that of a self-righteous sinner, who would, at last, be dealt with on the footing of that covenant to which he adhered ; or of a perfect conformist to the divine law. If it be the former, he that worketh undoubtedly means, not one that actually labours for God, but one that worketh with a view to justification: and, consequently, he that worketh not must mean, not one that has actually wrought nothing for God, but one that worketh not with a view of being justified by it. Or if, on the other hand, the character be allowed to be only a supposed one ; namely, a perfect conformist to the divine law ; yet, as what is done by him that so worketh is done with a view to justification, it is, on this account, properly opposed to the life of a believer ; who, whatever he may do, does nothing without an end, but derives all his hopes of acceptance with God from the righteousness of another.
To this may be added the examples which the apostle refers to for the illustration of his doctrine. These are Abraham and David : and let the reader judge whether they be not decisive of the question. It is of Abraham's justification that he is speaking. He it is that is held up as a pattern of justification by faith, in opposition to the works of the law. Of him it was supposed, that he worked not, but believed on Aim that justifieth the ungodly. If Abraham, therefore, at the time when he is said to have believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, had never done any good thing, and was actually the enemy of God, Mr. M'L.'s position is established. But if the contrary be true, it is overturned. To determine this, the reader has only to consult Gen. xv. 6. xii. 1. and Heb. xi. 8. He will there perceive, that it was several years after his departure from Haran, (at which time the apostle bears witness to his being a believer,) that he is said to have believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. From hence, it is manifest, that the character described by the apostle is not that of an enemy, but a friend of God ; and that it is not merely applicable to a Christian at the first moment of his believing, but through the whole of life. We have to deal with Christ for pardon and justification more than once ; and must always go to him as working not, but believing on him that justifieth the ungodly.
Nor is the example of David less decisive than that of Abraham. When the blessedness of which the apostle speaks came ufion him, he was not in a state of enmity to God : but had been his friend and servant for a series of years. The thirty-second appears, evidently, to be one of his penitential Psalms, composed after his fall in the case of Uriah. Yet he also is supposed to have worked not, but believed on him that justifieth the ungodly. And it is worthy of notice, that the very principle inculcated through this whole Psalm is, the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness; a principle which requires to be disowned, before the position maintained by Mr. M'L. can be admitted.
It has been said, that the term ungodly is not used, but to describe the party as being under actual enmity to God at the time. I apprehend this is a mistake. Christ is said to have died for the ungodly. Did he then lay down his life only for those who, at the time, were actually his enemies ? If so, he did not die for any of the Old-testament saints; nor for any of the godly who were then alive; not even for his own apostles. All that can in truth be said is, that, whatever were their
characters at the time, he died for them as ungodly; and thus it is that he justifieth the ungodly. Gospel-justification stands opposed to that which is in ordinary use: the one acquits the righteous, the worthy, the deserving; the other, the unrighteous, the unworthy, the ungodly.
But let us examine the other branch of Mr. M'L.'s objection ; namely, the effect which such a doctrine must have on the m d of an awakened sinner. " This," he says, " is obvious. He who conceives that, in order to his pardon and acceptance with God, he must be first possessed of such good dispositions and holy affections as are commonly included in the nature of faith, will find no immediate relief from the gospel, nor any thing in it which fully reaches his case, while he views himself merely as a guilty sinner. Instead of believing on him that justifieth the ungodly, he believes, on the contrary, that he cannot be justified till he sustains an opposite character. Though Christ died for sinners—for the ungodly; yet he does not believe that Christ's death will be of any benefit to him as a mere sinner, but as possessed of holy dispositions ; nor does he expect relief to his conscience purely and directly from the atonement, but through the medium of a better opinion of his own heart or character. This sentiment, if he is really concerned about his soul, must set him upon attempts to reform his heart, and to do something under the notion of acting faith that he may be justified; and all his endeavours, prayers, and religious exercises, will be directed to that end."
By the manner in which Mr. M'L. speaks of " pardon and acceptance with God," uniting them together, and denying all holy affection to be necessary to either, it is manifest that he' denies the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness; a doctrine taught not only in the thirty-second Psalm, from which the apostle argued the doctrine of free justification, but also in the whole tenor of scripture.*
Secondly : By rejecting this doctrine, he finds in the gospel " relief for the mere sinner."
• 1 Kings viii. 29—*50. Prov. xxviii. 13. Isa. Iv. 6—8. Matt. iii. 2. Marki. 4. Luke iii. 3. Acts v. 31. Luke x*iv. 47. Acts ii. 38. iii. 19. xxvi. 18.
This " mere sinner" is described as " awakened," and as " viewing himself merely as a guilty sinner." At the same time, however, he is supposed to be destitute of all " holy affection." It may be questioned whether this account of things be consistent with itself; or, whether any » mere sinner" ever " views himself merely as a guilty sinner ;" for such views include a just sense of the evil qf sin, and of his own utter unworthiness of the divine favour, which no " mere sinner" ever possessed. But, passing this, whatever be his " awakenings," and whatever the load of " guilt" that lies upon his conscience, seeing he is allowed to be destitute of all " holy affection," he must be, in fact, no other than a hard-hearted enemy to true religion. He has not a grain of regard to God's name, nor concern for having offended him ; nor the least degree of attachment to the atonement of Christ, on account of its securing his honour; in a word, his whole affection centres in himself. This character wants " relief." And what is it that will relieve him ? Pardon and acceptance with God, through the atonement of Jesus ? If so, he needs neither to climb to heaven, nor to descend into the deep : the word is nigh him. But this is not what he wants : for he sees no form nor comeliness in Him : nor beauty that he should Desire Him. Is it to be saved from his sins ? No: It is to be saved in them. It is to obtain ease to his troubled conscience, and exemption from the dread of divine wrath, without relinquishing his self-righteous lusts, and submitting to the righteousness of God. And is it true that such a character stands in need of " relief i" He may think he does, and may labour hard to obtain it: but surely he needs to be wounded, instead of healed, and killed, rather than made alive. Nay, in such a state of mind, is it possible that he should be " relieved" by the gosfiel as it is in Jesus! Rather, is it not self-evident, that, to relieve him we must assimilate our doctrine to his inclinations? It were as absurd to suppose that a hard-hearted sinner should be relieved by the true gospel, as that the whole should find relief in a physician.
Thirdly : The hard-hearted sinner is not only to be " relieved" by the assurance of " pardon and acceptance with God ;" but this is supposed to be derived " directly from the atonement." If by this were meant merely for the sake of the atonement, it were unobjectionable : but the meaning is, that the mere sinner is pardoned without repentance, or any " holy affection to Christ." There must be no consciousness of any thing of the kind previously to forgiveness: for then it would not be " direct, but through the medium of a good opinion of his own heart or character." And does Mr. M'L. really believe in all this? What, then, will he make of the concurrent language of the Old and New Testament ? Let the wicked Forsake His Way, and the unrighteous man his Thoughts : and let him Return Unto The Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.—Preaching the baptism of Repentance For The Remission Of Sins.—Repent ye, therefore, and be ConVerted, that your Sins May Be Blotted Out.—To turn them from the Power Of Satan Unto God that they may receive Forgiveness Of Sins.* What can be made of this language ? Shall we say, It is the voice of the law, directing a sinner what he must do in order to be accepted by his own obedience .?f An ingenious mind will seldom be at a loss for something to say ; but let us take heed lest we be found perverting the scriptures in support of an hypothesis. If there be any meaning in language, it is manifest, that these exhortations are addressed to sinners, as the means, not of legal, but of evangelical justification, justification of which the forgiveness of sins is an essential branch.
From the foregoing, and many such passages, it is evident, that when we are said to be justified by faith, it is such a faith as involves repentance ; equally so as, when we are said to be forgiven on repentance, it is such repentance as involves believing.
Nay, more: If Mr. M'L. believe as above, what can be made of his own writings ? How are we to understand his note, in page 92, containing a brief but judicious answer to Mr. John Barclay ? He there proves, that no man is pardoned ov accepted of God till he sustain a different character from that which belongs to him merely as a sinner; that is, till he is a believer; and that "the assurance of a man's own justification is not founded merely upon the direct testimony of God, but also upon the testimony of his own conscience bearing him witness in the Holy Spirit that he believes the gospel testimony."
• lsa. lv. 6—8. Luke iii. 3. Acts iii. 19. sxri. 18.
i See Mr. M'L.'s Simple Truth, pp. 21—26
Mr. Barclay might reply to him as he does to others. He might say, concerning the awakened sinner, that, on Mr. M'L.'s principles, ' Though Christ died for tinners, for the ungodly ; yet he does not believe that Christ's death will be of any benefit to him as a mere sinner, hut as possessed of faith; nor does he expect any satisfaction as to the salvation of his soul purely and directly from the atonement ; but through the medium of a better opinion of himself, a consciousness that he is a believer. This sentiment, if he is really concerned about the salvation of his soul, must set him upon attempts that he may obtain this faith, in order to be justified ; and all his endeavours, prayers, and religious exercises will be directed to that end.' If Mr. M'L. can answer this objection, he will answer his own.
After all, there is a way of deriving relief as " mere sinners, directly from the atonement:" but this is what a mere sinner, in Mr. M'L.'s sense of the terms, never does. They are believing sinners only ; sinners possessed of " holy affection" to Christ, who are thus rendered dead to every thing in themselves, and alive to him. By Mr. M'L.'s reasoning, it should seem as though impenitent and unhumbled sinners not only derived their comfort in this way ; but as if they were the only persons that did so ! To derive relief as mere sinners directly from the atonement, it is not necessary that we should possess no holy affection towards Christ; but, that whatever we possess, we make nothing of it as a ground of acceptance, counting all things but loss and dung, that we may win and be found in him. And this manner of deriving relief is not peculiar to the time of our first believing; but belongs to a life of faith on the Son of God.
Again : It is supposed, that the including of holy affection in the nature of faith, and rendering it necessary to acceptance with God, (no matter under what consideration,) must, of necessity, lead the sinner from Christ, to rely on something good in himself. It is true, that, if any holiness in us were required as a ground of acceptance with God, it would be so ; and the same would be true of the requirement of a faith without holiness, provided it were required to this end. That faith, VOL. T. T
whatever be its nature, is required, and is necessary to precede justification, Mr. M'L. will not deny. He denies its being necessary as that on account of which we are justified: and so do I: but, whatever be the place which it occupies, it is allowed to be necessary. Now, if the necessity of a holy faith be more favourable to self-righteousness, than of one which has nothing holy in it, it must be either because it is of the nature of holiness, rather than of unholiness, so to operate ; or because the depravity of the heart can find an occasion for glorying in the one case, which it cannot in the other. To suppose the first, is the same as supposing that it is of the nature of holy affection to Christ, to reject his salvation; of godly sorrow for sin, to render us more attached to it; and of humility of heart, to lift us up with pride. With respect to the last, I cannot answer for it, that the proud spirit of a merely " awakened sinner" shall not make a righteousness of a supposed holy faith; nor can Mr. M'L. answer for it, that he shall not do the same of his " simple belief." Whether faith have any holiness in it, or not, seeing he is taught to consider it as necessary to justification, and told that God makes so great account of it, that without it the atonement itself will avail him nothing ; there is no wonder if his unhumbled heart should take up its rest in his supposed believing, instead of looking to the doctrine of the cross. An unrenewed sinner will make a righteousness of any thing, rather than submit to the righteousness of God. But this I can answer for, If he really have repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, his mind will not be employed in self-admiration. And this, 1 am persuaded, is more than Mr. M'L. can say respecting a faith, in the nature of which there is nothing holy ; for if faith have no holiness in its nature, the sinner must and will, in the very exercise of it, admire himself. It is only in the exercise of a holy disposition of heart that the attention is turned another way : if this, therefore, be absent, there is nothing to counteract a self-righteous spirit; and if, at the same time, the sinner be flattered with having gained more clear and evangelical views of faith than the generality of professing Christians, there is every thing to feed it. To make the requirement of a speculative assent of the judgment, in which there is no holiness, necessary to the destruction of self-righteousness, is supposing that this spirit cannot exist, unless it have true holiness to feed upon : but every one knows, that, in " mere sinners," it reigns uncontrolled ; and that, according to the degree in which true holiness exists, it is so far counteracted. It is natural that it should be so : for it is essential to this principle to sink us into our native nothingness, and to embrace the Saviour as all in all.
From these considerations, I conclude, that, instead of its being necessary for a sinner to be in an ungodly state of mind, in order to his believing in Christ, and being justified as ungodly ; the direct contrary is true. To believe in Christ, as justifying the ungodly, is to forego all claim and expectation of favour on the ground of our own deservings ; to feel that unto us belongs nothing but shame and confusion of face ; and that the only hope which remains for us is in the free mercy of God through Jesus Christ: but this no man ever did, whose heart was still under the dominion of enmity ; for the thing itself is a contradiction. Enmity necessarily blinds the mind, both to its own deformity, and to the glory of the Saviour. An enemy of God, therefore, and a self-righteous unbeliever, are one and the same character.
I cannot but express my surprise, that it should ever have entered into the heart of wise and good men to imagine, that a faith which implies contrition and self-annihilation in its very nature, (the spirit of the publican,) should be supposed to be favourable to self-righteousness; while that which may consist with a hard heart, a proud spirit, and perfect enmity to God, (the very temper of the pharisee,) is pleaded for, as necessary to root it up ! Why, then, did not the pharisee go down to his house justified, rather than the publican ? The one had humbled himself: for God to justify him, therefore, would, it seems, be inconsistent with the freeness of his grace. As to the other, assuredly he was not wanting in ungodliness^ nor had he ever wrought a single work for God, notwithstanding all his boasting. He was " a mere sinner ;" and, if Christ's death will prove a benefit to such, why was it not so to him ? At least, he came very near to the character which, according to Mr. M'L.'s doctrine, God should justify. ' No:' it will be said, ' he did not believe.' It seems, then, that something more is necessary, after all, than being " a mere sinner." Yet, why should it ? Did not Christ " die for tinners, for the ungodly ?" Why should he not, as " a mere sinner," become a partaker of his benefits ? Or, if not, why does Mr. M'L. write as if he should ? ' He did not believe.' .... True : nor, while he was under the dominion of such a spirit, could he believe. Ere he could come to Jesus, or believe in him, he must have heard and learned another lesson.*
It is farther objected, that, to suppose faith to include in it any holy disposition of heart, is confounding it with its effects, and making those to be one, which the scriptures declare to be three; namely, faith, hope, and charity. I do not know that the scriptures any where teach us that all holy disposition is the effect of faith. It is not more so, I apprehend, than all unholy disposition is the effect of unbelief: but unbelief itself is the effect of unholy disposition, as, I suppose, will be allowed : all unholy disposition, therefore, cannot be the effect of unbelief. Mr. M'L. has proved, that faith also is not only a principle of evangelical obedience, but is itself an exercise of obedience: all obedience, therefore, by his own account, is not the effect of faith ; for nothing can be an effect of itself. And, unless it be possible to obey God without any holy disposition of heart to do so ; it will equally follow, that all holy disposition cannot be the effect of faith. With respect to the confounding of what the scriptures distinguish, whatever distinction there is between faith, hope, and charity, it makes nothing to Mr. M'L.'s argument; unless they can be proved to be so distinct as that nothing of the one is to be found in the other. Faith must not only have no love in it, but no hope ; hope must include neither faith nor love ; and love must possess neither faith nor hope. But are they thus distinct ? On the contrary, it may be found, upon strict inquiry, that there is not a grace of the Holy Spirit which does not possess a portion of every other grace. Yet faith is not love, nor hope, nor joy, nor long-suffering, nor gentleness, nor goodness, nor meekness, nor patience : each has a distinctive character; and yet each is so blended with the other, that, in dissecting one, you must cut through the veins of all.
* John v. 44. xii. 39, 40. vi. 45.
"Some affirm," says Mr. M'L. "that faith, hope, and love are three, considered only in respect of their objects."* I had, indeed, suggested that they are three, considered with respect to their objects, but never thought of affirming that they are three in that view only. They may be three in many other respects, for aught I know. My argument only required me to point out a sense in which they were distinct, provided they were not so in respect of their holy nature. I see no solidity in Mr. M'L.'s objection to an objective distinction; and it is rather extraordinary, that what he substitutes in its place, from Mr. Sandeman, is a distinction merely objective.
Mr. M'L. thinks that faith, hope, and love are distinct as to their nature; and that the excellency ascribed to love consists in its being holy ; whereas faith is not so. But what becomes of Aope ? Love is not said to excel faith only : hope, therefore, is required to have no holiness in it, any more than faith. And has it none ? Mr. M'L. when asked whether hope did not imply desire, and desire love ? answered, " Yes : hope is a modification of love." It was replied, " Then you have given up your argument!"
It has been farther objected, that the reception of God's testimony is compared to the reception of human testimony; and, that as a disposition of heart, whether holy or unholy, is not necessary to the one, so neither is it to the other. It is allowed, that the testimony of man may, in many cases, be believed merely by the understanding, and without being at all influenced by the state of the heart: but it is only in cases with which The Heart Has No'concern. If the admission of a human testimony respected things of which there was no sensible evidence ; things, the belief of which would require a total relinquishment of a favourite system, and the pursuit of an opposite course of action; things, which the greater part of those about us disregarded ; and which, if true, might be at a considerable distance ; objections would arise against the admission of it, which, if it were otherwise, would have no existence. Nor could they be removed while the heart remained averse. The fact, it is true, might become so notorious as to silence opposition, and, in the end, extort conviction; but conviction, thus extorted, would not be faith.
* On the Commission, p. 82. Note.
Faith implies that we think well of the testifier, or possess a confidence in his veracity : but this may consist with both ill opinion and ill will. It is the persuasion of sense, rather than of faith. Such was that of some of the chief rulers, that Christ was the Messiah.* The miracles which he wrought silenced their opposition, and planted in their consciences a conviction that it must be so. It is true, this conviction is called believing; but it is only in an improper sense : it was not that faith which is connected with justification, or salvation. Whatever conviction any man may have of the truth, while it is against the grain of his heart, he is not a believer in the proper sense of the term ; nor do the scriptures acknowledge him as such. It is only the receiving the love of the truth that will prove saving: and he that does not thus receive it, is described as an unbeliever.f If Micaiah's testimony of what God had revealed to him had been in favour of the expedition against Ramoth Gilead, Ahab could have believed it, for a little before this, he had believed a prophet who spake good concerning him.| Or, if it had been delivered by a person against whom he had no prejudice, and on a subject that neither favoured nor thwarted his inclinations, he might have believed it merely with his understanding, uninfluenced by any disposition of his heart: but as it was, while four hundred prophets were for him to one against him, and while sensible that appearances were in his favour, he believed it not, and even bade defiance to it. It is possible he might have some misgivings, even while he was ordering Micaiah to prison; and when the arrow pierced him, his/ear* would rise high. As death approached, he would feel the truth of what he had been told, and be possessed, it is likely, of tremendous forebodings of an hereafter : but all this was not faith, but involuntary conviction; a species of conviction this, which neither possesses nor produces any good ; and which has not a promise made to it in the oracles of truth.
It is acknowledged, by the author of A Dialogue between David and Jonathan, that, " After all we can say of the speculative knowledge of practical truth, we must still remember that it implies some very essential imperfection and errour."
• John xii. 42,43. f 2 Thes. ii. 10—12. $ 1 Kings xx. 13,14,
But, if practical truth require something more than speculative knowledge to enter into it, why is not the same acknowledged of believing it ? Can spiritual things require to be spiritually discerned, and yet be believed while the heart is wholly carnal ?
Lastly : it is objected, that the word of God is represented as the mean of regeneration: Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.—Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abidethfor ever* And, as it is supposed that the word must be understood and believed, before it can have any saving influence upon us; so it is concluded, that regeneration must rather be preceded by faith, than faith by regeneration; or, at least, that they are coeval. This objection has been advanced from several quarters, and for several purposes. In answer to it, I would, in the first place, offer two or three general remarks:
First: Whether regeneration influence faith, or faith regeneration ; if either of them influence the other, they cannot be coeval. One must be prior to the other, at least in the order of nature ; as the effect is ever preceded by the cause.
Secondly : Whatever weight this objection may possess, it ought not to be made by any one who denies the belief of the gospel to be saving faith. For, allowing the word, understood and believed, to be that by which we are regenerated, still, if this belief be not faith, but something merely presupposed by it, faith may, notwithstanding, be preceded by regeneration. If faith be the same thing as coming to Christ, receiving him, and relying upon him for acceptance with God, all this, in the order of things, follows upon believing the truth concerning him ; no less so, than coming to God follows a believing that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. We may, therefore, be regenerated by a perception and belief of the truth, and, as the immediate effect of it, come to Jesus and rely upon him for salvation.
Thirdly: It may be questioned, whether this objection ought to be made by those who admit the necessity of a spiritual discernment of the glory of divine things in order to believing.
• James i. 18. 1 Peter i, 23.
That this is a principle clearly established in the scriptures, cannot be denied. Seeing the Son is necessary to believing in him. Unbelief is attributed to spiritual blindness ; and those who believed not the report of the gospel, are described as seeing no form nor comeliness in the Saviour, nor beauty that they should desire him.*
Mr. M'L. speaking of the saving truth of the gospel, says, " It is no sooner perceived and believed, than it takes possession of the will and affections."t This, I should think, is allowing that perception is distinct from believing, and necessarily precedes it. But, if a spiritual perception of the glory of divine truth precede believing, this may be the same, in effect, as regeneration preceding it. Allowing that the word requires to be perceived, ere the will and affections can be changed, it does not follow that it must also be believed, for this purpose : for the very perception itself may change U8 into the same image; and, in virtue of it, we may instantly » with our whole heart, set to our seal that God is true.
Now, I apprehend, that all my opponents are included under one or other of these descriptions : and, if so, I might very well be excused from any farther answer. The word of God may be allowed to be the means of regeneration; and yet regeneration may precede believing.
I do not wish, however, to dismiss the subject without stating my views of it, and the grounds on which they rest. To me, it appears, that the scriptures trace a change of heart to an origin beyond either belief or perception, even to that divine influence which is the cause of both; an influence which, with great propriety, is compared to the power which at first commanded the light to shine out of darkness.%
That there is a divine influence upon the soul, which is necessary to spiritual perception and belief, as being the cause of them, those with whom I am now reasoning will admit. The only question is, In what order these things are caused ? "Whether the Holy Spirit causes the mind, while carnal, to discern and believe spiritual things, and thereby renders it spiritual ?
* 3 Cor. iv. 4. Xsa. liii. 1, 2. f 0n the Commission, p. 82.
Or, whether he imparts a holy susceptibility and relish for the truth, in consequence of which we discern its glory, and embrace it ? The latter appears, to me, to be the truth. The following are the principal grounds on which I embrace it:—
First: The scriptures represent the dominion of sin in the heart, as utterly inconsistent with a spiritual perception and belief of the gospel; and, so long as it continues, as rendering both the one and the other impossible. Spiritual blindness is ascribed to aversion of heart. Their eyes have they closed.— They say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.—The ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness, obduracy, or callousness of the heart.* The obstinacy and aversion of heart is the film to the mental eye, preventing all spiritual glory entering into it. The natural man, therefore, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, neither Can he know them. From hence, it will follow, that unless the Holy Spirit effect that which he has declared to be impossible, his influence must consist, not in causing the mind to see notwithstanding the obstruction, but in removing the obstruction itself out of the way. If it be said, Though it be impossible with men, yet it may be possible with God, I answer, Those things which are impossible with men, but possible with God, are not such as are impossible in their own nature. Where this is the case, the power of God is never introduced as accomplishing them, any more than the power of man. We should not, for instance, think of affirming, that the heart, while carnal, and in a state of enmity against God, can, by his almighty power, be made to love him, and be subject to his law: for this is, in itself, impossible. But the impossibility of the natural man receiving the things of the Spirit of God, while they appear foolishness to him, is manifestly of the same nature as this, and is described in the same language.t God does not cause the mind, while carnal, to be subject to his law, but imparts that which removes the obstruction ; taking away the stony heart out of our flesh, and giving us a heart of flesh.
* Acts xxviii. 27. Job xxi. 14. Ephes. iv. IS. t Compare 1 Cor. ii. 14. with Rom.'viii. 7.
And thus it is supposed to be in respect of spiritual discernment: God does not cause the natural man to receive spiritual things, and thereby render him spiritual; but removes the obstructing film by imparting a spiritual relish for those things. Thus it is that spiritual things are SpirituAlly discerned.
Secondly : Though holiness is frequently ascribed, in the scriptures, to a spiritual perception of the truth, yet that spiritual perception itself, in the first instance, is ascribed to the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. The Lord OpenEd The Heart of I.yd id, and she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul.— God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, Hath Siiined In Our Hearts, To Give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.—The anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you: but, as the same Anointing Teacheth you of all things.— Ye have an unction from the Holt One, and ye know all things*
Finally : Every thing which proves that spiritual blindness and unbelief have their origin in the depravity of the heart, proves that, whatever may be said of particular volitions being caused by ideas received into the mind, original biasses are not so :f and every thing which proves spiritual perception and faith to be holy exercises, proves that a change of heart must, of necessity, precede them ; as no holy exercise can have place while the heart is under the dominion of carnality.
• Acts xvi. 14. 2 Cor. iv. 6. 1 John u. 27.20.
+ President Edwards, (than whom no man will be allowed to have possessed a clearer insight into these difficult subjects,) speaks with great caution on the will being determined by the understanding. He denies that it is so, if by the understanding be meant what is called reason or judgment; and only allows it " in a large sense, as including the whole faculties of perception or apprehension." And, even when taken in this large sense, he rather chooses to say, that " The will always is as the greatest apparent good, or as what appears most agreeable, is, than to say that the will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable ; because an appearing most agreeable, or pleasing to the mind, and the mind's preferring and choosing, seems hardly to be properly and perfectly distinct."* Thus also he writes in his Treatise on the Affections. " Spiritual understanding consists, primarily, in a sense of heart of spiritual beauty. I say in a sense of heart, for it is not speculation merely that is concerned in this kind of understanding: nor can there be a clear distinction made between the two faculties of understanding and will, as acting distinctly and separately in this matter. When the mind is sensible of the sweet beauty and amiableness of a thing, that implies a sensibleness of sweetness and delight in the presence of the idea of it; and this sensibleness of the amiableness or delightfulness of beauty, carries in the nature of it the sense of the heart; or an effect and impression the soul is the subject of, as a substance possessed of taste, inclination, and will."
" There is a distinction to be made between a mere notional understanding, wherein the mind only beholds tilings in the exercise of a speculative faculty; and the sense of the heart, wherein the mind does not only speculate and behold, but relishes and feels. That sort of knowledge, by which a man has a sensible perception of amiableness and loathsomeness, or of sweetness and nauseousness, is not just the same sort of knowledge with that, by which he knows what a triangle is, and what a square is. The one is mere speculative knowledge ; the other, sensible knowledge, in which more than the mere intellect is concerned, the heart is the proper subject of it, or the soul, as a being that not only beholds, but has inclination, and is pleased or displeased. And yet there is the nature of instruction in it; as he that hath perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it, than he who has only looked upon and felt it."**
* Enquiry on th« Will, pp. 11,17. London Edition.
** Pages 227, 228. Fourth Edition.
And whether these principles have not been sufficiently proved in the foregoing pages, the reader must determine. It is thus, I apprehend, that God reveals the truth to us by his Spirit, in order to our discerning and believing it: Blessed art thou, Simon-Barjona: flesh and blood hath not RevealEd these things unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.— Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and Revealed them unto babes.—Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, (that is, into the heart of the worldly man,) the things which God hath prepared for them that love him: but God hath Revealed them unto us by his Sfiirit ; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. JVow we have received not the spirit of the world, But The Spirit Which Is Of God, That We
MIGHT KNOW THE THINGS THAT ARE FREELY GIVEN TO US OF
God. Which things also we (as ministers) speak, not in the words that marl's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Sfiirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: far they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are Spiritually Discerned. This revelation from above communicates no new truths. but imparts a holy sus: ceptibility of spirit, a spirit which is of God, (and which stands opposed to the spirit of the world,) by which those truths that \^ere already revealed in the scriptures, but which were hid from us by our pride and hardness of heart, become manifest. Thus faith is the gift of God. Believing itself, I should think, cannot, with any propriety, be termed a gift; but he gives us that from which it immediately follows ; namely, an heart to know him, an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear.*
I see nothing inconsistent between this statement of things, and that of James and Peter. We are as properly said to be born again by the word by God, as we are said to be born into the world by means of our parents ; yet as, in this case, the instrumentality of man was consistent with the inspiration of him who quickeneth all things, and who, by an immediate, though mysterious operation of his hand, gave us life; so I conceive it is in the other. The term regeneration, in the sacred writings, is not always used in that strict sense in which we use it in theological discussion. Like almost every other term, it is sometimes used in a more strict, and sometimes in a more general sense. Thus repentance is sometimes distinguished from faith : at other times, it comprehends the whole of that which is necessary to forgiveness, and must, therefore, comprehend believing. And thus regeneration is sometimes expressive of that operation in which the soul is passive ; and, in this sense, stands distinguished from conversion, or actual turning to God by Jesus Christ. At other times, it includes not only the first impartation of spiritual life, but the whole of that change which denominates us Christians, or by which we are brought as into a new moral world. When the term is introduced as a cause of faith, or as that of which believing in Jesus is a proof, (as it is in John i. 12, 13. and 1 John v. 1.) we may be certain it stands distinguished from it: but when the same things are ascribed to it, which peculiarly pertain to faith, we may be equally certain that it includes it.
* Jer. xxiv. Y. Deut. xxix. 4.
Thus we read of the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That Being Justified by his grace, we -should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.* If regeneration did not here include faith in Jesus Christ, it would not, I conceive, stand connected, as it does, with justification, which is peculiarly ascribed to faith.
Regeneration, taken in this large sense of the term, is undoubtedly by the word of God. It is by means of this, that a sinner is first convinced of sin, and by this, as exhibiting mercy through Jesus Christ, is kept from despair. It is by this only that he can become acquainted with the character of the being he has offended, the nature and demerit of sin, and the way in which he must be saved from it. These important truths, viewed with the eye of an enlightened conscience, frequently produce great effects upon the soul, even previously to its yielding itself up to Christ. And the impartation of spiritual life, or a susceptibility of heart to receive the truth, may generally, if not always, accompany the representation of truth to the mind. It was while Paul was speaking, that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia. It is also allowed, that when the word is received into the soul, and finds place there, it worfreth effectually, and becomes a principle of holy action, a well of water springing up to everlasting life. All I contend for is, That it is not by means of a spiritual perception, or belief of the gospel, that the heart is, for the first time, effectually influenced towards God; for spiritual perception and belief, are represented as the effects, and not the causes of such influence.
A spiritual perception of the glory of divine things, appears to be the first sensation of which the mind is conscious; but it is not the first operation of God upon it. Spiritual perpeption is that which the scriptures call *itrti<ris, judgment, or sense, or the judgment arising from holy sensibility .\ It is that in spiritual things, which a delicate sense of propriety is in natural things ; in which the mind judges, as it were, inbtinctively, from a feeling of what is proper.
• Titus iii. 5—7. fPhil.i.9.
\ It is by this -unction from the Holy One, that we perceive the glory of the divine character, the evil of sin, and the lovely fitness of the Saviour; neither of which can be properly known by mere intellect, any more than the sweetness of honey, or the bitterness of wormwood, can be ascertained by the sight of the eye. Nor can one be perceived, but in connexion with the other. Without a sense of the glory of the object offended, it is impossible to have any just perception of the evil nature of the offence: and without a sense of the evil of the offence, it is equally impossible to discern either the necessity or the fitness of a Saviour: but, with such a sense of things, each naturally, and perhaps instantaneously, follows the other. Hence arise the exercises of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ s and in the order in which the scriptures represent them.
Much has been said of this statement of things, as involving the absurdity of a godly unbeliever. Scripture-declarations and promises, expressive of the safety of the regenerate, have been urged, and a conclusion drawn, that, if regeneration precede believing, men may be in a safe state without coming to Christ.* It will be allowed, I suppose, that spiritual perception necessarily precedes believing; or that seeing the Son goes before believing in him ; also, that a belief of the doctrine of Christ precedes our coming to him for life, as much so as believing that God is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, precedes coming to him. But it were as easy to produce a number of declarations and promises which express the safety of those who know Christ, and believe his doctrine, as of those who are regenerate : and it might, with equal propriety, be said, There is but little, if any, occasion for those who know Christ, to believe in him; or for those who believe his doctrine, to come to him for eternal life, seeing they are already in a state of salvation. The truth appears to be, these things are inseparable ; and when promises are made to one, it is as connected with the other.
* Mr. BootU's Glad Tidings, Uc, pp. 176.180.
I shall conclude, with a reflection or two on the consequences of the principle I oppose, with respect to addressing the unconverted:
First: If the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness be given up, we shall not be in the practice of urging it on the unconverted. We shall imagine it will be leading souls astray, to press it before, and in order to believing; and afterwards, it will be thought unnecessary; as all that is wanted will come of itself. Thus it will, in effect, be left out of our ministry; but whether, in this case, we can acquit ourselves of having deserted the examples, and, of course, the doctrine, of John the Baptist, Christ, asd his apostles, deserves our serious consideration.
Secondly: For the same reason that we give up the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness, we may give up all exhortations to things spiritually good, as means of salvation.
Instead of uniting with the sacred writers in calling upon the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, aud to return to the Lord, that he may have mercy upon him; we shall consider it as tending to make them Pharisees. Indeed, Mr. M'L. seems prepared for this consequence. If I understand him, he does not approve of unconverted sinners being exhorted to any thing spiritually good, any otherwise than as holding up to them the language of the law, for convincing them of sin. It is thus he answers the question, " Are unbelievers to be exhorted to obedience to God's commandments ?" referring us to the answer of our Lord to the young ruler, which directed him to keep the commandments, if he would enter into life.* It is easy to perceive that his scheme requires this construction of the exhortations of the Bible : for, if he allow that sinners are called to the exercise of any thing spiritually good, in order to their partaking of spiritual blessings, he must give up his favourite notion of God's justifying men while in a state of enmity against him. True it is, that all duty, in some sort, belongs to the law : considering it as the eternal standard of right and wrong, it requires the heart in every modification. Repentance, faith, and all holy exercises of the mind are, in this sense, required by it. But, as a covenant of life, it does not admit of repentance, and much less hold up the promise of forgiveness. When God says, Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin, this is not the language of the law as a covenant of life. Mr. M'L. tells us, in the same page, that " There is no promise of life to the doing of any good thing, except all the commandments be kept." How then can the law, as a covenant of life, so much as admit of repentance, and much less hold up a hope that, in case of it, iniquity shall not be our ruin I The scriptures exhort on this wise: Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.—Seek ye the Lord while he may be found: call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our Godi for he will abundantly pardon.—Labour not for the meat that periaheth; but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.
• Simple Truth, p. 21. Second Edition.
—Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Is this the mere language of the law, and designed to suggest what they must do, if they would be justified by the works of it ?
It should seem, that, if Mr. M'L. was called to visit a dying sinner, he would be careful not to use any such language as this ; or, if he did, it must be ironically, teaching him what he must do, on his own self-justifying principles, to gain eternal life. If he be serious, he has only to state to him what Christ has done upon the cross, and assure him, that, if he believes it, he is happy. Far be it from me, that I should disapprove of an exhibition of the Saviour, as the only foundation of hope to a dying sinner, or plead for such directions as fall short of believing in him. In both these particulars, I am persuaded, Mr. M'L. is in the right; and that all those counsels to sinners, which are adapted only to turn their attention to the workings of their own hearts, to their prayers, or to their tears, and not to the blood of the cross, are delusive and dangerous. But does it follow, that they are to be exhorted to nothing spiritually good, unless it be for their conviction ? Mr. M'L. to be consistent, must not seriously exhort a sinner to come off from those refuges of lies, to renounce all dependence on his prayers and tears, and to rely upon Christ alone, as necessary to justification, lest he make him a pharisee : for this would be the same thing as exhorting him to humble himself, and submit himself to the righteousness of God; exercises in which the mind is active, and which are spiritually good.
Why should we be wise above what is written ? why scruple to address such a character in the language of inspiration: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. The sacred writers warn and exhort, as well as teach. "While they exhibit the Saviour, they expostulate, entreat, and persuade men to embrace him with all their hearts : and this, without any apparent apprehensions of undermining the dortrine of free justification. VOL. T. X
If it be said, The exercises included in the foregoing exhortations imply faith; I grant it. Without faith in Christ, neither repentance, nor ally other spiritual exercise, would be followed with forgiveness. Those who seek the Lord, must be exhorted to seek him in the way in which he is to be found; those that call upon him, must do so in the name of Jesus; the way and thoughts to be forsaken respect not merely a course of outward crimes, but the self-righteous schemes of the heart; and returning to the Lord is nothing less than returning home to God by Jesus Christ. But this does not prove that the exhortation, unless it be to teach them what they must do to be justified by a covenant of works, is improperly addressed to the unconverted. It is manifestly intended for no such purpose, but as a direction to obtain salvation.
The scriptures sometimes give directions as to the way of our obtaining the remission of sins, and acceptance with God; and sometimes of being saved in general, or of obtaining everlasting life ; and we ought to give the same. If they direct us to seek for pardon, it is by repentance ;* if for justification, it is by believing ;t and if for eternal salvation, it is by a life pf evangelical obedience.^ When they speak of pardon, justification is supposed ;§ and when they exhort to repentance in order to it, believing in the name of Jesus is supposed.|| On the other hand, when they speak of justification, they include forgiveness ;f and when they exhort to believing, in order to it, it is to such a believing as comprehends repentance.**
Many of these directions, on the principle I oppose, must be omitted ; but, if they be, some of the most essential branches of the Christian ministry will be neglected.
. * Isa. lv. 6, 7. Acts viii. 22. j Acts xiii. 39. Rom. iv. 4, 5. ix. 32.
i Rom. ii. 7. Heb. xi. 14. § Psa. xxxii. 1, 2. compared with Rom.
iv. 6, 7. || Luke xv. 4. 7. Acts xiii. 38. Ephes. i. 7. Col. i. 14.
fl Rom. iv. 6, 7. •• Mark i. 15. Matt. xxi. 32. Acts xvi. 31.
compared with xx. 21. Luke xiii. 3.