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Perhaps I shall be told that Mr. Brine made an internal revelation the ground of an obligation to believe in Christ.—I suppose he did, when engaged in this controversy; but when engaged with a deist, in the piece referred to, he probably forgot what in other instances had escaped from his pen, and nobly defended the christian religion from IRRATIONALITY or ENTHUSIASM.*
It is somewhat singular, that Mr. B. should charge me with making it the duty of any man to believe without evidence. This nearly amounts to what others have asserted, that I make it incumbent on them to believe a lie. The definition of faith, which I have heretofore given, is the belief of the TRUTH. If truth and falsehood, then, are the same thing, the charge may be well founded, but not otherwise.-If a persuasion of a personal interest in the blessings of the gospel were what denominated us believers, there might be something plausible in Mr. B.'s mode of reasoning; but this he does not pretend to maintain. Dr. Withers appears in some places to maintain this idea, and considers faith, as generally used in scripture, to signify "either an assent to the bible," as containing the history of our Lord, and other important matters; or else, denoting "the knowledge, the assurance of an interest in its present and promised blessings:" (p. 73.) and from p. 153 to 156, he presents us with a long list of scriptures, as if to confirm this second idea of faith; but which evidently only prove what I never thought of doubting, that believers may have a consciousness of their having passed from death unto life, and not that it is this con. sciousness which denominates them believers. Indeed he himself tells us in a note (155) that a man may be a believer without this consciousness. What is it then which constitutes him a believer in that sense which is connected with a title to eternal life? He will hardly assert, that every one who assents to the divine inspiration of the bible is in a state of salvation. And as to
A great deal of Mr. B.'s reasoning tends, in my opinion, rather to degrade a state of primitive purity, than to exalt that in which we are placed through Christ. I cannot perceive that he represents the latter to any better advantage than we do. All the difference is, that he seems to think meanly of supreme love to Goll, as if it were something vastly inferior to that of which Christians are now the subjects. Thus he tells us, from Mr. Charnock, "that a new creature doth exceed a rational creature, considered only as rational, more than a rational doth a brute." (85.) True, but is man in his primitive state to be considered only as rational? Does he not continue to be a rational being, notwithstanding he has lost his primitive purity? Did Mr. Charnock, in the place referred to, mean to represent man in a state of primitive purity as being merely rational? "Adam in a state of innocence, as Dr. Owen observes, besides his natural life, whereby he was a living soul, had a supernatural life with respect to its end, whereby he lived unto God." Discourse on the Holy Spirit, p. 240.
an assurance of being interested in the blessings of the gospel, supposing this were a just idea of faith, he could not be ignorant that I never made it incumbent upon all who hear the gospel: but one should think a man must be a believer before he can be conscious of it, or of any thing in bim that is truly good, or possess any well-grounded persuasion of an interest in Christ; and if so, such a consciousness or persuasion cannot be that which denominates him a believer.
REPLY TO MR B.'s XII. LETTER, ON DIVINE DECREES, THE USE OF MEANS, PARTICULAR REDEMPTION, &c.
THE objection from divine decrees is to all intents
and purposes GIVEN UP. I had said, 'The destruction of Pharaoh was determined of God to be at the time, place, and manner in which it actually came to pass; and yet who will say that he ought not to have taken the counsel of Moses, and let the people go?' To this Mr. B. replies, "but Pharaoh had an express command to let the people go; therefore he was undoubtedly criminal for not doing it—so it may be said of the rest of the instances produced, and therefore these are nothing to the purpose." (88.). I might ask, then, what would have been to the purpose? The very circumstance of an express command, so far from destroying the propriety of the above instances, is one thing that renders them in point. The question here was not, Is faith a commanded duty? that was discussed elsewhere;* but CAN it be such, consistent with the divine decrees? I undertook to prove that it could, inasmuch as the compliance of Pharaoh and
* In proof that faith in Christ is expressly commanded, the reader is referred to p. 57–45, of the former treatise, and to section the second of this.
Sihon with the messages which were sent them, was a commanded duty notwithstanding the divine decrees concerning them. Mr. B. on the contrary, undertakes to prove that it cannot-that to suppose faith in Christ a commanded duty, must clash with the decrees of God. Now, how does he prove his point? Why, by acknowledging that if the command be express, it may be consistent with those decrees; that is, in other words, by giving up the very point in question. If I understand Mr. B.'s mode of reasoning, it amounts to what is usually called reasoning in a circle. In the contents it is intimated, that faith cannot be a commanded duty, because it is inconsistent with the divine decrees; in the page to which those contents refer, it is suggested to be inconsistent with the divine decrees, because it is not commanded!After all, if the thing itself were inconsistent, no command, however express, could make it other
Mr. B. here, and in several other places, allows that men ought to use the means, and be diligently concerned about their eternal salvation, to strive to enter in at the strait gate, &c. (88-43.) He has said nothing, however, to inform us how this is more consistent with the doctrine of decrees than an obligation to believe is. But passing this, it is observable, that what one evangelist calls striving to enter, another calls entering;* and indeed it must appear
*Luke xiii. 24. Matt. vii. 13.
very extraordinary if men ought to strive to do that which they are not obliged to do. Farther, using the means of salvation, waiting and praying for a blessing upon them, ought to be attended to either with the heart, or without it. If without it, it will be but poor striving to enter in at the strait gate, far enongh from the sense of the passage just cited, which denotes such a striving as that of a person in an agony; if with it, this amounts to something spiritually good, and shall certainly terminate in salvation.
What our brethren can mean in consistency with their own sentiments, by making it the duty of men, to use the means of salvation, is difficult to say. Mr. B. will not allow it to be a bare attendance, but "a diligent waiting, and seeking of spiritual blessings." (36-43.) And in the exposition upon Isai. xlii. 18. Look, ye blind, &c. the purport of the exhortation is said to be, "that they (unconverted sinners) would make use of their external hearing and sight, which they had, that they might attain to a spiritual hearing and understanding of divine things.” (102.) But a real diligent use of means, always implies a true desire after the end. It is an abuse of language to call any thing short of this by that name. Men, continuing wicked, may attend what are properly called the means of grace; but they never attend them as the means of grace. 'Tis impossible a man should use means to obtain that after which he hath no real desire; but a wicked man hath no real desire to be saved from that from which the