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•as it would be to tell a paralytick, unable to move a hand or a foot, that he might be cured, if he would walk several miles to a certain skilful physician. But some will be ready to say, Is not your own doctrine attended with the same absurdity; since men, in their natural state, are incapable even of that apprehension of > the mercy of God in Christ, and of that believing
-«ip»i'>Mcfition of the free promise, which you allow to be necessary. Answer. The gospel, strictly taken, is adapted to the case of impotent sinners, in regard that it has no commands: for here God hath promised to. give us all things belonging to our salvation, not excepting faith itself, freely for the sake of his beloved Son. And though the law, in subservience to the gospel, enjoins us to believe in Christ as our Saviour; yet there is a great difference between the soul's compliance with this command, and that performance of previous conditions, which our opponents insist upon. These conditions, according to them, must be perform^ ed by sinners before or in order to their having anyground to consider Christ as their own Saviour; and
'consequently whilst they have no ground to consider him as their righteousness for acceptance or as their strength for performance. But this is by no means the
'case even in the very first act of that faith which our doctrine inculcates as.the immediate duty of every sinnerupon hearing the gospel; for in that act Christ is considered as now given to us to be our righteousness and strength. In a word, the difference between the new law requiring certain good qualifications or conditions to give us a right to claim Christ as our own Sauiour, and the call which' God gives us to receive him as such without money and without price,—is, that t!i« former bids us discharge a duty without Christ; whereas the latter directs us to discharge itIn and by him as our only strength.
In the second place, we observe, that Mr. Bellamy's opinion of saving faith, as it stands opposed to the doctrine of Mr. Marshal and Mr. Hervey, represents faith rather as a giving, than as a receiving grace. Faith, according to Mr. Bellamy, far from taking Christ to itself upon the footing of a free grant, makes no claim to him but what is founded upon its reconciliation of heart, to the law of God; upon its love to God on account of his infinite amiableness; upon its disposition to return home to God. But it is the distinguishing character of true faith in Jesus Christ, that it is a receiving, self-emptying grace. It is nothing in or of itself: its all is in and from its glorious object. The language of it is; O our God, we have no might ,agaJnst this great company that cometh against us , neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee. In the Lord Jesus Christ, not in myself, have I righteousness and strength. By faith a person, considering himself np otherwise than as a child of fallen Adam, ignorant, guilty, unholy and subject to innumerable miseries, receives Christ Jesus as made of God to him, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. When the person takes Christ and all : these blessiugs to himself by true faith, the ground he ..proceeds upon in doing so, is not his consciousness of *ny good wrought in him or done by him, but only the grant, the free and unconditional grant, which a gracious 'God in Christ makes, of all in the-word of-the jgospel. In this way,-the believer begins to be a partaker of Christ and of spiritual blessings in him. All <the graces of,the Spirit are among .these blessings. Hence it is .more $>rx>per to -say, thai the other graces
nuppose faith, than to say, that faith supposes them. Faith goes to God in Christ for love, pleading such a promise, as that in Deuteron. xxx. 6. The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart to love the Lord thy God. —For repentance, pleading such a promise as that in Zechar. xii. 10. They shall mourn for him:—for new obedience, pleading such a promise as that in Zechar. x. 12. I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk ufi and down in his name, saith the Lord. Thus, faith may be considered as receiver general for all the other graces. By this property faith is distinguished from all the other graces of the Spirit. For, while they bring some offering to God; love, for example, brings gracious desires; repentance, a broken and contrite heart; zeal, a holy courage to wrestle against all our spiritual enemies; faith comes empty-handed to receive out of the fulness of Christ what is necessary for the preservation, exercise and increase of itself andof all the other graces.
In the third place, Mr. Bellamy's doctrine in oppo"aition to that of Mr. Marshal and Mr. Hervey in relation to the ground of saving faith, is favourable to the legal bias of man's heart. For though a person be brought to some acknowledgment of the insufficiency of his own righteousness and of the necessity of the righteousness of Christ for the purpose of justification before God; yet, under the influence of this corrupt principle, that the person's inherent righteousness or good qualifications are his only warrant for any application of Christ's righteousness to his own case, the legal pride of the heart will continue in its full strength: because his own righteousness is hereby still allowed to be the ground of his hope of acceptance with God through the righteousness of Christ; and he is. still departing from the gospel plan of justification by free grace through faith; a plan, which will not allow us to consider our personal holiness otherwise than as an effect of justification.
Mr. Bellamy's opinion about saving faith has led him to give the following representation of legalism.
* The cnief difficulty," says he, "in the way of true
* faith, is for the sinner, distressed with the fears of h eternal damnation, to yield the point, not only that "the law does in fact require sinless perfection on pain "of eternal aaiiiuation, and that he is under the curse *' of the law; but that this law is holy, just and good; f and so he is justly condemned; and, in fact, in the
* hands and at tne disposal of a sovereign God. This C —» tuis—a proud sell-righteous spirit is diametrically "opposite unto*." -He has a great deal to the same purpose in tne ninth section of his essay. And it is undoubtedly true, that whilst persons are under the reigning power of a legal or self-righteous spirit, they will by no means be reconciled to the purity and spirituality of the precepts or to the inflexible justice of the threat-enings of the law, especially as applied to their own case; and that they will set themselves to excuse and extenuate their sins. Legalism, we allow, is attended, with the evil which Mrt Bellamy here describes, but is iiot formally constituted y it. Legalism is men's natural disposition to depend on their inherent righteousness or personal conformity to the law, as the ground of their justification before God; or to seek life in the Way of the covenaut of works. This disposition was not culpable in man, whilst he continued upright; because it was then the revealed will of God, that mai*
'* Dialogue 2d. page 77.
should live by doing or his personal obedience. But, in fallen men, this disposition argues ignorance both of God and of themselves; and, in those who enjoy the gospel-dispensation, it implies unbelief and contempt of Christ and his righteousness. In scripture* legalism is represented as men's desire to be under the law*; as the bent of their heart to establish their ovm righteousness-f; as their seeking righteousness by the works of the law, in opposition to their seeking it by faith J.
How great is the malignity of this corruption! It is the: principal cause of men's enmity against the gospel plan of salvation. For so ignorant are they of God's holy nature and perfect law; so insensible of their guilt and spiritual impotence; and so elated with an opinion of the moral goodness which, they think, they either have attained or are capable of attaining, that nothing is more offensive to them, than the doctrine which directs them to come to Christ as miserable sinners. Nor can a greater affront be offered to them than to tell them, that, with regard to the right of access to Christ, or the ground of dependance on him for salvation, they must account all their duties and good qualifications but loss and dung, and allow themselves to be on a level with the greatest criminals. Legalism attempts to frustrate the Lord's design both in the giving of the law and in the preaching of the gospel. The law was given to humble the sinner and to destroy the conceit of his own righteousness. But legalism abuses the law to the fostering of that proud conceit. The gospel is preached, that the free grace of God in Christ may reign in our justification and in every other part of our salvation, to the utter exclu^
* Gal, iv. 21. t Rom. x. 3. i Rom. ix. 32.