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mand of God; and unbelief is the most ruinous and the most provoking of sins. When the Father, in a voice from heaven, proclaimed, “ This is my beloved Son, in “ whoin I am well pleased, hear ye him "," it may perhaps be argued, that he only required the three apostles then present to hear, believe, and obey their Lord: but Peter addressed the unbelieving Jews in the very same manner, by applying to them the words of Moses ; Prophet shall the Lord
God raise up unto you “ of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear in all " things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall
come to pass, that every soul, which shall not hear " that prophet, shall be destroyed 2.” Now, can it be imagined, that the Jews were commanded to hear Christ, and yet not commanded to believe in him?' or would such a hearing without believing have preserved them from the threatened destruction –“ This is his com
mandment, that we should believe in the name of his “ Son Jesus Christ 3:” but it would be a very extraordinary commandment, if none were required to obey it, except such as had done so already!
The obedience of faith implies obedience in believing, as well as that obedience which springs from faith. Thus the apostle says, “ Ye have obeyed from the heart the “ form of doctrine delivered unto you.”
“ (foolish “ Galatians, who hath bewitched you,
should not obey the truth.” . “ They have not all obeyed the “ gospel : for Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our “report? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing
by the word of God 4.” Now what can we infer from such language of the Holy Spirit; but that “ God, who “ commandeth all men every where to repent,” commandeth likewise all men every where to believe in his Son ? We must conclude from it, that believing in Christ is an act of obedience to a divine command; though it doth not justify the sinner as obedience, but as interesting him in the divine righteousness of the Saviour: yea, that believing is the principal part of the obedience which God by the gospel requires of sin." ners; the first command given to condemned transgressors of his holy law, as placed under a dispensation of mercy; the most explicit token they can give of a disposition to submit to him, and return to a state of subjection to his authority. But if this be indeed the truth; no man cạn want any other warrant for faith in Christ, than the commandment itself which enjoins it.
* Matt. pvii. 5o
2 Acts iij. 22, 23. vii. 37. 3 1 John iii, 23. 4 Rom. vi. 17. p. 12–17. Gal. iii. 1.
The point will, however, be more fully established, by considering the language of the Scriptures concerning unbelief. “ He, that believeth not God, hath made him
a liar; because he believeth not the record, that God gave of his Son."
“ He that believeth not is con“ demned already; because he hath not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God.”—“ This is " the condemnation, that light is come into the world, “ and men loved darkness rather than light, because their “ deeds were evil. . For every one that doeth evil hateth “ the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds “ should be reproved"." It is not only certain in fact, that "he who believeth not shall be damned :" but unbelief is the special ground of his condemnation; because it springs from hatred of the truth of God, through determined love of sin. This our Lord elsewhere illustrates.' Having said to the Jews, “ Ye will not come to me, that
ye might have life :" he adds, “ How can ye believe, “ who receive honour one of another; and seek not the - " honour that cometh from God only 2?" Disregard to
God, and inordinate love of worldly honour, were the reasons, why these men did not, and could not, believe in Christ.--" Why do ye not understand my speech ? Even “ because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your fa“ther the devil, and the works of your father ye will do. “ He was a murderer ;-he is a liar and the father of it: " and because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not 3." A disposition like that of the devil, rendered the persons in question incapable of believing Christ's words, or of coming to him for salvation.-“ When He" (the Comforter)
1 i John v. 10-18. John iii. 18-20.
3 John viii. 43-47
2 John v. 39-'47.
“is come, he shall convince the world of sin ;-because “ they believe not in me.” The sin of disbelieving and crucifying the Messiah seems to have been immediately presented to the consciences of the Jews, on the day of Pentecost, when they were so pricked in their hearts, as to cry out, “ Men and brethren, what shall we do?” And indeed, according to the degree of previous information, or means of instruction, convinced sinners are al
most always peculiarly distressed in conscience, by re· collecting their former proud and carnal neglect and
contempt of the gospel. Nay, they frequently imagine it to be even the unpardonable sin: and this sometimes opens the way to powerful and durable temptations to despair, of which, several instances have fallen under the writer's observation. The criminality of unbelief is indeed a species of guilt, of which the world at large has no conception, and which never troubles the consciences of mere moralists or formal Pharisees: but what real Christian can deny, that rejection of Christ implies a high degree of enmity against God and his authority and glory; a contempt of his wisdom as foolishness, of his infinite mercy as needless, or of his authenticated truth as falsehood? The unbeliever says in his heart unto God, Depart from me, I desire not the know"" ledge of thy ways:” or," I shall have peace, in the
way of my own heart,” though I reject the way of peace revealed in the gospel.'
St. Paul mentions somė, “ that are contentious, and “ will not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness;" and of men, “ to whom God sends strong delusion to be“ lieve a lie; that they all might be damned, who be-: “ lieved not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." So that the love of sin, and taking pleasure in it, effectually prevent men from “ receiving the love of the truth that
they might be saved :" and this throws light upon another most alarming declaration of the apostle, “ The “ Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, ---taking ven
geance on them that know not God, and obey not the "gospel,--who shall be punished with everlasting des"truction."
i Rom. ii. 8. a Thess. i. 9-10, ii, 10-12.
“ Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you
an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living 14 God." “ To day, if will hear his voice, harden not
Ye do always érr in your hearts.” It is therefore evident, that the Scriptures represent unbelief and rejection of Christ, as springing from the corrupt state of the heart. “ How then shall we escape, if we
neglect so great salvation?” “See that ye refuse not “ him that speaketh.' For if they escaped not, who re“ fused him that spake on earth; much more shall not
we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh “ from heaven!.” We should therefore consider unbelief, not merely as an occasional circumstance in the sinner's condemnation, in that it leaves him without remedy under the curse of the law: but as the direct' cause of his condemnation; the most provoking disobedience to God's express command, connected with a contemptuous refusal of his unspeakable mercy, resulting from reigning pride, rooted enmity, and determined love of sin in one form or other.
But if this be the case, it must certainly be the duty of all, who hear or may hear the gospel, to believe in Christ: and then it must follow, that no man wants any further warrant for his faith, except the Lord's own word; his testimony, invitation, and command, and his promise “ in no wise to cast out any one who comes to him.”
It may be useful to illustrate this important subject, by an apposite similitude. Suppose a Physician should give the most publick notice that he will bestow advice, medicines, and every other requisite, on all the sick persons in a certain district, who come and put themselves under his care,
This notice would be a sufficient warrant; and no sick person, within that district, could want any other for applying to the physician, and expecting him to do all in his power for his recovery: But some might deem themselves so little indisposed as not to need assistance; and others, being wealthy or proud, might disdain a gratuitous cure. Some might be
1 Heb. ii. 3. iii. xii, 25.
too busy or slothful, or self-indulgent, to pay due regard to their health; while others would place no confidence in the physician's skill, or the sincerity of his proposal. Nay, it is possible, there might be persons, who pretended to expect a cure from him, while they neglected to take his medicines or follow his directions.—Certainly none of these would derive any benefit from him : yet this would not arise from the want of a further warrant; but from their not considering his publick notice, as a faithful saying, and worthy of their ac
ceptation.” He who felt himself diseased, who desired a cure, confided in the physician's skill and faithfulness, and applied to him and observed his directions, might reasonably expect a cure.
But should any man, professing to regard the publick notice, as a sufficient warrant to rely on the physician for the recovery of his health, confidently imagine himself well, or in the way to be cured, though he never had consulted him; he would be thought insane or delirious. Should another apply, and yet refuse to follow the prescriptions and directions given him; he would be deemed insincere, or trifling with his own health and life: and, if he seriously expected a cure in this way, he too must be deemed a madman. Should a third contend, that he ought not apply to the physician, till he had made himself better, and a more proper and deserving object of his attention; every one would perceive the absurdity of his conduct. Finally, should any one imagine that he was recorered; while his languor, want of appetite, inability for work, and other symptoms, proved him to be as diseased as ever: it must be concluded, either that he had not applied to the physician, or not taken his medicines ; or that the physician could not or would not do any thing effectual in his case. The reader requires no help, in accommodating the circumstances of this illustration : in natural things men exercise common sense; while too many speculate on religious subjects, in a manner which contradicts its most obvious suggestions.
The same things are implied in a general invitation to