Page images
PDF
EPUB

blessings belong to us: yet in exactness of language (as was before observed,) this is not faith, but hope; "the full assurance of hope." This should be sought after and preserved by holy diligence and, as the humble believer, however diligent, will commonly be unable of himself to obtain full satisfaction in this matter, it is one part of the office of the Holy Spirit to shine on his own work, to shew us the sacred impression, by which he hath "sealed us to the day of redemption," and thus", to witness with our spirits, that we are the "children and heirs of God." The least degree indeed of these holy dispositions, according to the gracious tenour of the new covenant, characterizes the possessor as a real Christian, and proves his interest in the promises: but in general he cannot make out his title, with habitual satisfaction, except as he is "growing in grace," fruit ful in good works, and careful "not to grieve the Holy Spirit" by negligence, or improper conduct.

66

If any man doubt whether the promises be thus restricted to characters, and desire to give the subject an impartial investigation; let him collect for himself from the scriptures all the promises he can find, and compare them diligently with the context: and this will convince him, that they all either expressly mention some branch of holiness, as marking out the persons to whom the promise is made; or relate to such blessings, as no man, destitute of holiness, can sincerely desire and long to obtain.

The invitations indeed, and such promises as imply exhortations, counsels, warnings, or expos

tulations, are addressed to the vilest of sinners without exception: but they alone become interested in the annexed or implied promise, who embrace the invitation, attend to the exhortation, and through grace obey the call.' For it is folly not faith, for a man to imagine the "feast," the "treasure," the "kingdom" to be his own, merely because he has been invited, instructed how to apply, exhorted to the diligent use of certain means, warned of the consequences of neglecting such unmerited kindness, and assured that nothing but this neglect can deprive him of the benefit; while all the time he absolutely refuses to comply with the end and design of the gracious message!

There is a sense, in which Christ may properly be said to have died for all: and the infinite sufficiency of his merits and atonement, with the general proposals made in the scripture, authorize and require the ministers of Christ, to call on all that hear them, without exception, to repent and believe the gospel. But sober Christians, even if they hesitate as to some deep points of doctrine, will scarcely contend, that Christ died with an express intention of saving all men: yet this express intention alone could warrant a sinner, while an entire stranger to "the things which accompany "salvation," confidently to believe, that Christ died for him, and will assuredly save him. Such a confidence therefore is entirely destitute of any scriptural foundation, and is a most unwarrantable presumption.

Some persons indeed seem to think, that the proposition, Christ is mine and will save me,' would never be true, if I should never believe it:

but that, if I believe it confidently, with or without reason or evidence, it will certainly prove true : But surely it is very extraordinary, not to say absurd, that believing what before was not true should convert it into truth! The doctrines of scripture are eternal truths, whether we believe them or not; and God" abideth faithful" to his promises, though we prove faithless. When a sinner truly believes in Christ, he is interested in all the promises and securities of the new covenant, even while his fears and doubts harass him incessantly and, when on scriptural grounds he obtains "the full assurance of hope," he merely discovers what, though true in itself, he had not before been able to perceive.-One thing indeed is now true which once was not: namely, he is now born of God, a true penitent, a real convert, a believer, a living member of Christ's body, "a "child of God," "a temple of the Holy Spirit," and an heir of heaven; whereas he was (not before his assured hope, but before his regeneration,) dead in sin, a slave of Satan, and under the wrath of God, notwithstanding the secret purposes of electing love respecting him.

The words of St. Peter are peculiarly worthy of our attention in this argument. "Be ready always "to give an answer to every man that asketh you "a reason of the hope that is in you." Now the well instructed Christian, and he alone, is capable of doing this. He can assign his reasons for believing the scriptures to be the word of God; he can state the warrant and encouragement given in them to the chief of sinners to believe in Jesus Christ; and he can shew from his own experience,

character, and pursuits, compared with the declarations and examples of the word of God, the grounds on which he concludes himself a true believer, and an heir of immortal glory. But what

66

"9 reason can be given for an assured hope of everlasting life, as the gift of God in Christ, by that man who has no consciousness of having "fled to him for refuge," and no experience of a new creation unto holiness?-Indeed it would exceedingly perplex one, to find words more suitable to describe an irrational, unscriptural, and enthusiastical presumption, than those which some men have employed on this subject; while they have exhorted and counselled their readers, to work themselves, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, ❝ into an assurance, that Christ, grace, and heaven are their's, without any evidence from reason, sense, or scripture;' and then they have gravely told them, that all holiness will certainly result from this kind of confidence!* What" reason can a man who follows this counsel give, either of his faith, or hope, or of his religion in general?

[ocr errors]

The amount of this assured persuasion (call it by what name you will,) is no more than, 'I believe that I am a believer.' But, if this is true faith, and if "the full assurance of faith" is our duty, (and doubtless we ought to believe the testimony of God without wavering;) it follows of course, that we cannot deceive ourselves: for, the more firmly a man believes that he is a believer, the stronger must his faith be! Thus all exhortations to self-examination, and all warnings against

* Marshall on Sanctification.

self-deception, with which the scriptures abound, are at once vacated and set aside; and that man is actually the safest, who most confidently thinks himself safe!

Far be it from me to charge all who favour, or seem to favour, this notion of faith, with perceiving or allowing, these consequences: for many of them bestow much laudable pains to inculcate a contrary spirit and conduct, and imagine they can shew that their doctrine has no such tendency. But after all, the inference fairly and undeniably follows from the premises: and more consistent men, who have none of their piety, will deduce it, and practise accordingly.

If the reader has imbibed the sentiment, that this high confidence of salvation by Christ, even without conscious humiliation and change of heart, is the strong faith spoken of in scripture; let him very seriously ask himself, (and ask the Lord too in earnest prayer for his teaching,) whether this is not the very character, delineated under the similitude of the stony-ground hearers? whether this is not the vain-confidence of all those evangelical hypocrites, who deceive themselves without expressly designing to deceive others? and whether St. James does not most directly address such professed Christians when he says, "Know, O vain 66 man, that faith without works is dead?"-These are questions which should not be cursorily passed over, by him who would know" the truth as it is "in Jesus" for in fact they comprise the substance of the whole controversy.

It is not generally and expressly denied, by those who feel themselves interested in these inquiries,

« PreviousContinue »