Page images
PDF
EPUB

PART 1.

THE SINNER'S WARRANT

FOR BELIEVING IN CHRIST.

SECTION I.

THE SUBJECT OPENED.

The word warrant, though commom in the writings of modern divines, is not once found in scripture, which uniformly represents faith in Christ as the duty of all who hear the gospel ; and no warrant is required for obedience to a plain commandment. As however an inestimable privilege is connected with the performance of this duty; it may properly be inquired what reason a sinner has for expecting such a benefit from his offended God? . In this sense the warrant of faith signifies

that, which authorizes any person to believe in the Lord Jesus : and gives him a ground of confidence, that he shall thus obtain eternal salvation.'

But it is necessary to inquire what is meant by faith in Christ; as, without precision in this particular, the discussion might be involved in great perplexity: because the terms faith, believing, and believing in Christ, are used in different senses, frequently by the same authors; and still more by those who are engaged on opposite sides.

Faith, in its more general acceptation, is the “ belief of the truth :" or "a cordial consent to the testimony of God in his holy word, with reference

to our own concern in it.' Faith in Christ implies 'A cordial consent to the testimony of God respecting his Son; connected with a humble and earnest application to the divine Redeemer for salvation; and a willing and unreserved acceptance of him, in his whole character and his several distinct offices, according to the method revealed, and the directions given, in the holy scriptures.' Not that I would exclude the idea of reliance; but I thus state the nature of faith, merely to prevent mistakes in an argumentative discussion. The language of believers, as recorded in the old testament, when they speak of “ hoping in God,” “ trusting under the shadow of his wings,” or making“ his name their strong tower ;” and when they call him their Rock, their Refuge, their Habitation, and their Portion ; always implies this earnest application to him for protection, salvation, and comfort, and never an indolent dependence or expectation. This is evident from other expressions which they frequently subjoin ; such as, “I “ lift up my soul unto thee,” “ I cry unto thee ' daily :" “Out of the depths have I cried unto

thee, O Lord :" « My soul followeth hard after “ thee, thy right hand upholdeth me:” “I pour “out my soul unto thee :” and many others. The description of faith in Christ, given in this treatise, is not therefore at all inconsistent with the soul's thus resting itself on God, hanging upon him, and always expecting help from him : and, if that idea do not appear sufficiently prominent, this arises from the nature of the subject, which relates to one important topic in divinity, and not to every part of a believer's experience.

[ocr errors]

When the doctrines of the gospel are assented to, and men are convinced by argument that there is no salvation, except by faith in Christ; they may more readily imagine that they rely on him, or confide in him to save them, than that they are daily and earnestly applying to him for salvation. I apprehend numbers think that they rely on Christ, even while they habitually neglect the means of grace, especially secret prayer; or while they attend to it formally, as an irksome duty, without importunity, fervency, or entering into the particulars of their case. But the idea of believing application to Christ, precludes this way of self-deception, without discouraging any upright inquirer: as it represents sinners by faith seeking help for their, souls from an invisible Saviour, according to their feeling sense of sin and misery; as the blind and lame, the lepers and paralytics, did for their bodies, when he was visibly present on earth.-As an instance how much the idea of reliance, considered as an adequate definition of faith in Christ, may be abused, I once heard a poor prostitute, when avowedly determined on pursuing her infamous course of life, ward off the conviction that she was in the road to eternal destruction, by expressing a firm reliance on God's mercy, and on the love of Christ who shed his blood to save poor sinners!

Having premised these particulars concerning the general nature of faith, I would observe, that, if

any persons mean by faith in Christ,' a confident persuasion, that Christ died for them in particular, that they are in a justified state, and shall certainly inherit everlasting life;' it is not only

granted, but strenuously maintained, that no man is warranted thus to believe concerning himself, except as he has clear proof that he is “ in Christ a

new creature,” and “ has crucified the flesh with “ its affections and lusts:" for this, and vastly more to the same purpose, is constantly spoken of in the scriptures concerning all true Christians without exception. Properly speaking, this confident persuasion of a personal interest in Christ, if well grounded, is hope, or “ the full assurance of hope;" and is opposed to presumption, or a groundless confidence of salvation : nor can it be obtained or preserved except by “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God” with persevering diligence.—Again, if faith in Christ be considered as a reliance on him for salvation from future punishment, without heartily seeking to him for deliverance from sin and from this present evil world, or falling in with the whole design of his coming in the flesh; no man is or can be warranted thus to believe on him : for this is a mere selfish desire and presumptuous confidence of escaping misery and obtaining happiness, without the least real understanding of the nature, or value for the blessings, of that holy salvation which the scriptures propose to us. For, in fact, it is nothing better than the cry of the evil spirits, when they besought Christ not to torment them ; except as these too well knew God's purposes to expect final impunity.

A few other remarks may tend to elucidate the subject. We are told that “ faith is the evidence “ of things not seen,” as it credits the whole of God's sure testimony, concerning things invisible and future : and “ the substance of things hoped

for," as it realizes the substantial and eternal blessings which are brought to light by the gospel. It is not then a new faculty of the soul: but the exercise of our original faculties in a manner new to us as sinners. To believe testimony, to rely on promises, and to expect the performance of them from the faithfulness of him who made them, are as natural to us as any other act of the rational soul ; and indeed almost all the business of life is conducted by this very principle: but the things, which the Lord testifies, purposes, and promises, are so foreign to our apprehensions, so contrary to our prejudices, so humiliating to our pride, so disquieting to our consciences, and so opposite to our carnal passions and pursuits ; that we have no disposition cordially and obediently to believe them, till a change has taken place in our hearts. When, however, a man is properly disposed to believe divine truth in general ; either speedily or gradually, he will be led to consider and credit the testimony of God concerning his Son, and so to believe in Christ for salvation. But this faith must imply some perception and understanding of the nature of salvation ; some conviction that we need it; and some desire after it: unless any one be supposed to seek an object, of which he knows nothing, of which he feels no want, and about which he has not the least concern! It must also imply a virtual renouncing of all other confidences to depend on Christ alone; a willingness to use the appointed means; and a disposition rather to part with every thing, than fall short.of an interest in him. For “ the kingdom of heaven is like unto

« PreviousContinue »