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-* return home to God by Jesus Christ. We answer, that whatever Mr. Bellamy meant by this expression, he could not mean, that we are to believe our acceptance with God through Jesus Christ, in order to our return to God; for, according to him, our return is the previous condition, upon which God's acceptance of us is suspended. "God," says he, "stands ready to ac"cept a sinner, if he return." But all our works, legal and evangelical, are, by the word of God, excluded from being conditions of our justification or acceptance with God. God imputeth righteousness ivithmt io-)rk*. Thirdly, all the faith, which is warranted bv the last of Mr. Bellamy's propositions just now recited, (being only a belief, that returning to God, through Jesus Christ, is a duty of God's law; and that whosoever performs this duty rightly, shall be accepted with God through Jesus Christ) is nothing* which requires the special and saving operation of the Holy Spirit to the production of it. There is no exercise, here, of a poor sinner, who finds himself naked and exposed to God's everlasting wrath, betaking himself to the law-magnifying and justice-satisfying righteousnes of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the only ground of pardon and acceptance with God; no exercise of a person, sensible of his utter inability to return unto God, looking to the Lord Jesus for heart-turning grace. The truth 13, the account, which is here given by- Mr. Bellamy 6f saving faith, is so lame, that it requires the addition of love, repentance or something else, to give it the appearance of a grace of the Holy Spirit. For nothing is more certain, than that the belief of such-propositions as these three of Mr. Bellamy, is nothing more than what may be foundin wicked men and even devils. Hence, indispu
* In merely belieying, that this proposition is true. I
ting against the faith taught by Mr. Marshal and Mr. Hervy, he often introduces something about love to God on account of his infinite amiableness; as if he found fault with these authors for not mentioning the love of God in their definition of faith; or as if he agreed with the Papists in supposing that love, or a disposition to good works, is the form (as they used to speak) of faith, or that which makes it a living faith. But this leads to the erroneous opinion, that a living faith differs not, in its own nature, from a dead faith; but only as it is accompanied with love or repentance. While we firmly maintain that it is by no means true faith, which is not accompanied with a supreme love to God for his infinitely glorious excellencies, and with. sincere love to men for his sake; and also with gospel repentance; yet we hold that love and repentance are graces of the Spirit, which, in their formal nature, are distinct from faith. They are enumerated as distinct things, 1 Corinth. xiii. 13. Mm abideth these three, faith, hope, love. Acts XX. 21. Testify ing-repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Love and repentance are represented as fruits of faith, 1 Timothy i. 5. The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. Zech. xii. 10. They shall look ufion me -vhom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him. We are said to receive Christ, and to be justified before God by faith, but not by love or by repentance. In a word, we hold, that saving faith, is, in itself and -abstracting from all its concomitant and effects, what none can attain without the special supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling.
What is farther proposed in this letter; is to shew more particularly, that we have too much reason. to reject Mr. Bellamy's doctrine concerning saving faith, on three accounts; because it misrepresents the gospel; because it contradicts the scriptural notion of faith as a receiving grace; and because it fosters one of the mostdangerous evils of our depraved nature.
First, with regard to the gospel, it is made up, according to Mr. Bellamy, of two things: One is, the revelation of certain abstract truths; such as, that God, of his own mere motion, gave his Son to die for thoss that are infinitely ill-deserving; and that he can consistently with the honour of his law save such through Jesus Christ his Son. The other thing is a declaration, that God is ready to be reconciled to the sinner, upon condition of the sinner's return to him. There are no promises of the gospel, according to this author, but what are suspended upon the condition of some moral good wrought in us or done by us; and consequently none which a sinner, unconscious of such goodness in himself, has any immediate access to believe or embrace, as directed to him.
But this is, by no means, a just representation of 'the gospel of our salvation. For, in the first place, the gospel is not merely a proposal of some abstract or historical truths to be believed. For when such truths concerning the person and office of Jesus Christ are declared as good news to sinners, there is always implied and often expressed, as was shewn before in the third letter, a free promise of salvation through his name. Thus, when the apostles taught, that Jesus is the true Messiah, they declared, at the same time, that he is the promised seed, in whom all the families or kindreds of the earth were to be blessed, Acts iii. 25, "When. they bore testimony that he died and rose again, they likewise preached through his death and resurrection the forgiveness of sins. Nor, in the second place, are the promises of Cod in Christ exhibited and offered to us in the gospel dispensation to be considered as conditional; but rather as absolutely free to us, the proper condition of them all having been fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ in his obedience unto death: a position which was vindicated in the third letter, and which appears to be sufficiently confirmed by this one consideration j That whatever morally good qualifications have been represented as conditions of the promises, are secured in the promises themselves. Thus,-faith is a promised blessing, In his name shall the Gentiles trust. They shall say, the Lord is my God. Re* pentance, They shall look vpon me, whom they have fderccd, and they shall mourn: Love, The Lord thy Go3' will circumcise thy heart to love the Lord thy God. Acceptable obedience to <}<y}*° h'.r, I will l'iui my "jiiril within them, and cause them to walk in my statutes, and Itetji my jtlugfilints and do them. The fear of the Lord and perseverance in a holy practice unto the end. I -will fait my fear into thy heart that thou mayest never depart from me.
-"We allow, that the word gospelis often taken, in a large sense for tile gospel dispensation, including all the commands and thrnatenings of the law, as these are subservient to the design of the exhibition of the gospel-promise. But when we speak of the gospel, as contradistinguished from the law and as the formal ground of saving faith; then it is no other than a revelation of Jesus Christ, including a free promise of everlasting salvation through his name. The confounding of these two senses seems to be what the papists intended, when they taught, that faith justifies as well by believing the threatenings, the commands and histories of the word, as by believing the promises. This opinion was resolutely opposed by our reformers. For, said they, the life which faith seeks in God is not to be found in the commands of the word or in the threatenings of punishment, but only in an absolutely free promise; for a conditional promise offers; Jife^to those only, who see or feel that they have it in; tibjeyaselves already*. If we would have a firm and unshaken faith, we must build upon those promises of God in which he regards not our worth but our misery; upon his mercy, as revealed in the free message of reconciliation; That God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. A person is not to be called a true believer, because he believes, that the commands of God are just, and his threatenings true; but rather because he apprehends Christ as exhibited in the free promise. Such were the principles upon which our reformers opposed the papists on this head.
Unless the gospel, strictly taken, were such asVe have now described it; that is, unless it were a free unconditional promise of salvation through Jesus Christ; it would be no gospel, no glad tidings, to fallen man; who, being dead in trespasses and sins, has no disposition or ability to will or do what is spiritually good. To tell persons in such a case, that they must acquire some good qualifications or perform'some conditions, before they have a warrant to look for any benefit from Christ as their Saviour, is as impertinent,
* Promissio conditionalis, says Calvin, qua ad opera nostra remittimui', non aliter vitam promittit, quam si perspiciatnus esse in nobis sitam. Vide Institut. lib; iii. cap. 2d. sect. 29.-'