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Lord hath forsaken them, and their God hath forgotten them;" who are yet “graven upon the palms of his hands,” and encouraged to “hope in the Lord, as the health of their countenance and their God.”
In fine, if we may receive the Lord Jesus Christ upon the terms of the Gospel, without a joyful persuasion of our own good state, we may
have a saving faith without it. This consequence cannot be opposed, because receiving the Lord Jesus Christ is the Gospel description of a saving faith. Aud that we may thus receive the Lord Jesus Christ without this joyful persuasion of our own interest in him, may be evidenced by a variety of arguments.
This is evident from the nature of things, in that the act must necessarily precede the evidence of it: and consequently our first receiving the Lord Jesus Christ must necessarily precede our knowledge or grounded persuasion of it; or else we must be persuaded of a noventity, of what is false in fact, and just as different from a saving faith as any other falsehood whatsoever.
This is likewise evident, that our receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and our persuasion of an interest in him, are two very different acts of the mind, which nowise imply each other. It is one act of the mind heartily to consent to the Gospel offer, and another act of the mind, quite different and distinct, to entertain a joyful persuasion that this consent flows from gracious sincerity. The former may, and often does exist without the latter; and therefore Christ may be received by faith, without the persuasion of an interest in him.
This is also evident, in that a true faith may consist with a great deal of remaining unbelief. He may sincerely receive Christ by faith, who has occasion to make that exclamation, “ Lord, help my unbelief !” This may, therefore, so much darken the mind, as to make the believer incapable of discerning, and being fully persuaded of, the sincerity of his faith; and, consequently, true faith may exist without this persuasion, and a man may have received the Lord Jesus Christ who is in great doubts and darkness about it.
This is moreover evident, in that such a one may truly receive the Lord Jesus upon his own terms, who has no clear idea of the nature of justifying faith. He may have a believing heart, who has but a weak and cloudy head. He may despair of all help in himself, most earnestly desire an interest in Christ, be heartily willing to comply with the Gospel offer, resolved to have Christ upon any terms, and may trust in Christ alone for salvation, who, notwithstanding, may have but very confused apprehensions of the nature of these exercises of soul, and of the Gospel promises made to those who have attained them; and, consequently, may receive Christ by faith, without this persuasion of an interest in him. . I
add once more, This is also evident, in that all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ have the power or privilege to become the sons of God, whether they are persuaded of their interest in Christ or not. But all who are persuaded of their own good estate have not that power or privilege, for many of these are presumptuous sinners. Whence it follows, that to receive
the Lord Jesus Christ by faith is one thing, and to be persuaded of our interest in him is another thing, quite distinct in its nature and consequences.
The second thing which I mentioned, as a most dangerous error in the Moravians and Antinomians, is the part they assign to faith in our justification. The most of the Antinomians
that justification, considered as a freedom from guilt or condemnation, and a title to the favour of God, was from eternity. All of them suppose, at least, we were thus justified from the time of Christ's death, before we had any actual existence. Though the most of the Antinomians limit this justification to the elect only, the Moravians herein differ from their other Antinomian brethren; and suppose, that all the world of mankind, without difference, were actually justified when Christ pronounced those words upon the cross, “ It is finished.” Accordingly, Count Zinzendorf, in the forecited book, tells us, “ On the cross he made a confession for all the world, when he said, Father, forgive them;' and when he cried out, “It is finished,' he gave absolution to all wicked rebels.” Whence it appears, that according to them, faith in Christ has no part at all in our justification, considering this as a judicial sentence of our Judge. This justification was not only precedent to our faith, but to our very existence; and, according to the Moravian divinity, multitudes are thus justified who never had, nor ever will have, any true faith in Jesus Christ. According to the doctrine of all the Antinomians, the elect are all justified before faith, as already has been observed. When these, therefore, speak of justification by
faith, they mean no more than that faith gives us the comfortable evidences of that state of peace and favour with God which we were in before; or that it enables our consciences now to pronounce the same sentence concerning our state which our Judge had pronounced before we were born.
I am sure I need no arguments to convince you, that these principles are diametrically contrary to the sentiments set before you in some of my former letters. All that is therefore needful, to give you a surfeit of these Antinomian and Moravian tenets, is only to give you a very brief view of the Scripture doctrine with respect to our justification before God, and then set before you some of the dreadful consequences that must necessarily follow from the wild and extravagant scheme I am opposing.
The Scriptures every where show us, that we are “ justified through faith ;" that Christ's righteousness is received by faith, and that righteousness shall be imputed to us if we believe. But nowhere do they make mention of our justification as prior to our believing in Christ. Thus we are taught, that 56 the righteousness of God is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe: that God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” Now, then, can it possibly be true, that we are justified in the sight of God before we believe in Christ, and yet interested in the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ? Can it be true, that Christ is our propitiation, and declares his righteousness for the remission of our sins through faith in his blood; and yet that his propitiation and his righ
teousness for the remission of our sins are applied to us before, and without any faith in his blood? The Scriptures teach us, that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;" and that there is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." Can there be a greater inconsistency and contradiction imagined, than is between the following propositions, viz. :-That the beginning, the continuance, and the accomplishment of our actual interest in the righteousness of Christ for our justification is by faith, or that both the circumcision and the uncircumcision (that is, all men without difference) are justified by and through faith ; and yet, that the righteousness of Christ was actually imputed to us, and we are accepted as righteous in the sight of God, not only before we did believe, but before it was possible for us to believe, in the Lord Jesus Christ? The Scriptures teach us, that “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law;" that “ God imputeth righteousness without works;" that " we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ;" that “ we are justified by his grace ;” that
we are saved by grace, through faith;” that “righteousness is imputed to all that believe;" and that we must be “ found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
But I should weary your patience should I go on to enumerate quotations of this kind. This is the constant language of the word of God. These wild notions of the Antinomians are, therefore, as repugnant to the whole tenor of the Scriptures as they are to reason and common sense.