Abbildungen der Seite

“ work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth “ these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will s liken him unto a wise man, which built his “ house upon a rock. And the rain descended, " and the floods came, and the winds blew, and “ beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it

was founded upon a rock. And every one " that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth “ them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man “ which built his house úpon the sand : and the “ rain descended, and the floods came, and the “ winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it “ fell, and great was the fall of it.The wise man doubtless is the true Christian; his faith is living and obedient; thus he builds aright on the only sure foundation, and raises a permanent structure, which all the storms of life and death shall assail in vain. But many foolish men, professing to build on the tried foundation which God hath laid, are either misled by erring guides, or mistake the instructions and slight the warnings of wise master-builders : thus they deceive themselves with notions, and with a dead faith; their presumptuous confidence and disobedient profession will make way for the awful fall of their fair but baseless edifice, in the great decisive day; and unutterable astonishment, anguish, and despair will seize upon them, when the frowning Judge shall leave them speechless, while with an awful frown he will say, " knew you, Depart from me, all ye workers of 6 iniquity."

Whether therefore, we consider the Author and Origin of saving faith, its invariable attendants, its essential nature, or its distinguishing effects, we find unanswerable proof that it is a holy exercise of the rational soul; that it has its especial seat in the heart; that it receives the light of heavenly truth in holy love ; and that

66 I never

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

it employs that light to invigorate and call forth into action all spiritual affections, and to render the believer “ holy in all manner of conversa“ tion.” But if each view of saving faith, considered separately, demonstrate its holy nature: how powerful and overbearing is the evidence, when we collect all these converging rays into one focus, and estimate the force of these several arguments united together! If this do not convince the reader; but he will yet contend that justifying faith is the mere assent of the understanding partially enlightened, and the reluctant consent of an unhumbled unholy heart, as terrified by the report of vengeance, to sue for mercy of which it feels no real need ; and yet that this selfish unholy faith sanctifies the soul, and produces most excellent fruit in the life! Or that true faith is neither the one, nor the other of these, but something between that can neither be defined nor described; he must retain his opinion, and be left as inaccessible to argument. Some may indeed question, whether he do not verge to the honest but absurd exclamation of an ancient zealot, Credo, quia impossibile est :' (I believe, because it is impossible:) and, whatever favourable opinion we may form of his heart, we must again affirm that it is impossible for him to “ give a reason of the hope " that is in him."-But if any one, allowing in general the truth of those things that have been stated concerning saving faith, should yet feel some hesitation about the use of the word holy in this connexion : the author will hold no controversy with him on this point. Provided the essential and unspeakably important distinction between living and dead faith were unreservedly allowed, and given its due prominence in the views and discourses of christians and ministers; the rest would be in great measure a verbal con

troversy, from which every wise man would turn to more pleasant and profitable employments.

SECTION VI. Some Reasons assigned for insisting on the holy

Nature of saving Faith. It may probably be enquired by the reader, why we bestow so much pains to prove the holy nature of saving faith; seeing we allow that the sinner makes no use of this holiness as an encouragement, and indeed seldom notices it, in his first applications to Christ for salvation ? To this question I would answer,

I. It is in order to induce Christians, and especially ministers, to use the scriptural method of preventing men from deceiving theniselves. It will be found at the great decisive day, that nothing has more conduced to quiet nominal Christians in impenitence and unbelief, than a groundless persuasion that they do indeed repent and believe.

The laboured arguments therefore, of the preceding pages are not so much intended for the use of newly awakened persons, as for more established Christians; and especially for those who, by office or in charity, instruct and converse frequently with persons thus circumstanced. Indeed discussions on such topicks cannot be fully understood, except by those " who by reason of use have their senses « exercised to discern good and evil:" and of course they are generally improper for the newborn babe. But the instructions publickly or privately given to enquirers, will accord to the sentiments and judgment of real Christians, and especially those of the pastors of the Lord's flock : whatever therefore tends to a sound upderstanding of Scripture, among those who al'ready believe the gospel, will conduce to prevent self-deception in others, when first entering on a religious profession. And prevention is almost our only hope: for the most able and experienced ministers have agreed, that the undeceiving of one, whom satan haş soothed into a false peace by an unsound profession of the gospel, is a thing which very seldom occurs.

It is commonly indeed answered, that many ** will' deceive themselves, however we state and • explain the doctrine of faith;' bụt surely we should dread, as the most awful calamity, being in any degree accessory to the destructive delusion ! And if we do not dread it on their account, we have proportionable need to be alarmed on our own, lest their blood should be required * at our hands.” Even when the good seed, unmingled with tares, is sown; the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart, the wiles of the tempter, and the fascinations of the world, will

speak peace to themselves, **« when there is no peace: ” but " while the ser'vants slept the enemy sowed the tares;”, and all their subsequent vigilance could not eradicate them; for these children of the wicked one" must be left intermixed with true believers till the harvest. Some good men indeed, in their earnestness to gather up the tares, have endangered the wheat, and offended against the

generation of God's children : ” but may not vigilance and caution be used by way of prevention, without the least danger of that kind ? If we do not, in the most careful and explicit

, manner, explain what we mean by salvation and by faith, satan will prevail with men to catch at peace and comfort prematurely, and to use our words for this purpose : and thus we shall incur the charge of healing their hurt deceitfully".

influence many


by “ speaking peace when there is no peace.” Men are exceedingly apt to conclude, even when the utmost caution is used in stating the doctrines of the gospel, that exemption from punishment and a title to future happiness constitute the whole of salvation, and that confidence in Christ to save them from wrath and bring them to heaven, though they do not concur in other respects with the design of his incarnation and mediation, is faith in him. And if they once get so thoroughly possessed of these notions, through our inaccuracy and incautious language, as to quiet their consciences by them: whenever we' afterwards insist on the fruits of faith, and its sanctifying effects in holy tempers and good works, they will (not altogether without reason) charge us with inconsistency; and meet with numbers to encourage them in exclaiming against all these exhortations, as legal, and as tending to bring them into bondage.--So that while it is allowed that many, who give a very different description of faith from that which is here maintained, bestow much pains to guard their doctrine from abuse, and clearly shew that true faith always produces holiness: it is also asserted that in these attempts they deviate from their own previous definition of faith, and substitute another idea in its place. True believers are doubtless holy in proportion to the degree of their faith: and if their hope be scriptural, the more assured it is, the more “stedfast, unmovea“ ble, and earnestly abounding in the work of “ the Lord," they will certainly be found. But we enquire, whether many do not think them.66 selves something when they are nothing, and

so deceive themselves ?." Whether many, who disclaim good works, do not satisfy their minds with visionary impulses, enthusiastical raptures, and a change of creed; though stran

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »