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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 a 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
If the admission of a human testimony respected things, of which there was no sensible evidence ; things, the belief of which would require à 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. 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 per-: suasion of sense, rather than of faith.
han 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 the receiving the love of the truth only that will prove saving: and he that does not thus receive it, is described as an unbeliever.t 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 inclina, tions, 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 appearances were in his favour, he believed it not, and even bid 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 fears would rise high. As death approached, he would feel the truth of what he had
* John xii. 42, 43. + 2 Thess. ii. 10–12. 11 Kings xx. 13, 14.
been told, and be possessed, it is likely, of tremendous forebodings of a 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 Yonathan, 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 error." 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 abideth for 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
* James i. 18. 1 Pet. i. 23.
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 evermore 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. 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., 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.”+ 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 us 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.
* 2 Cor. iv. 4. Isaiah liü. 1, 2.
| On the Commission, p. 82.