صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

different from the earnest supplications which he poured out before the Lord at Damascus, and which were thus noticed; "Behold he prayeth." Can it be conceived, that a holy God delighteth in any prayer, which hath nothing holy in its nature? Yet the humble supplicants, who are most acceptable to him, are most apt to be dissatisfied with themselves, and even to question the sincerity and uprightness of their earnest and fervent prayers.

[ocr errors]

The case of Manasseh may illustrate this subject: for none of those, who enter into the spirit and importance of this discussion, will deny that he found mercy by faith in the promised Saviour. The first intimation of any thing hopeful in his case is thus given: "When he was in affliction "he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, " and prayed unto him; and he was intreated of "him, and heard his supplication." In the subsequent narrative, " his prayer" is repeatedly mentioned; and his sins" before he was humbled" are strikingly contrasted with his subsequent conduct.* Hence, I apprehend, we may infer with certainty, that acceptable prayer and genuine humiliation always acccompany saving faith. "The sacrifices " of God are a broken spirit: a broken and con"trite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

If then humility, godly sorrow, hatred of all evil, ingenuous confession, and whatever else belongs to true repentance, with upright desires after salvation from sin, and spiritual prayer, do indeed invariably attend every acting of faith in Christ;

* 2 Chron. xxxiii.

that faith must be a holy exercise of a regenerate soul: for surely none will maintain, that there is not the least symptom of spiritual life, the smallest degree of holiness, in any of these, or in all of them united! On the other hand, it can scarcely be imagined, that any will deliberately persist in maintaining, that justifying faith so precedes all humiliation, and other spiritual affections, as to be wholly unconnected with them; and that a man is actually justified and at peace with God, before he at all begins to humble himself, to be sorry for his sins, to confess and hate them, or to pray for spiritual blessings! This would invert the whole order of scripture; and can never be directly and consistently avowed by a candid and serious disciple of the Lord Jesus; however he may be led, upon a controversial subject, to drop expressions, make statements, or adopt sentiments, which fairly admit of such an interpretation. But in fact, the grand difficulty consists in prevailing with men, so far to examine their preconceived opinions, and to question the truth of them; as to bestow the pains requisite for duly weighing the force of those arguments, which from scripture are brought against them; and either solidly to refute them, at least so as to satisfy their own minds, or candidly to acknowledge that they were mistaken.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

THE holiness of saving faith may not only be inferred from its author, its source, and its concomitants, but likewise from a careful consideration of its peculiar nature.

[ocr errors]

The apostle exhorts Christians to "build up "themselves in their most holy faith."* Should it be urged, that he meant the doctrine of faith, and not faith itself; we inquire, how a 66 most holy" doctrine can be received in a right manner by a faith not at all holy? We read of those, who “held” (or imprisoned) “the truth in unrighteous"ness;" "because they liked not to retain God "in their knowledge:" and if this were the effect of man's carnal enmity against God, in respect of those truths which are discoverable by reason; what must be the opposition of the same principle to the offensive message of the gospel?-When the assent of the understanding is compelled, by invincible evidence, to the real doctrine of the cross, the most determined resistance is excited: but in general men contrive to cast a shade over that part of truth which most offends them; and by an abuse of the other parts, they stifle their convictions, and quiet themselves in a worldly course of life. This is especially effected by partial and unscriptural views of the gospel: and thus many evangelical

* Jude 20.

+ Rom. i. 18--28.

professors "hold the truth in unrighteousness, in the most awful sense imaginable.

Christianity, as stated in the scriptures, displays the glorious justice and holiness of God, in connexion with the odiousness and desert of sin, and the sinner's tremendous danger of everlasting misery, more clearly than any other discovery ever made of the divine perfections and government; though in harmony with the most endearing and encouraging displays of love and mercy to the vilest of sinners. But, if every thing be kept out of sight, or very slightly noticed, except the displays of infinite and everlasting love and mercy; unregenerate men may embrace this mutilated gospel with an unholy faith, and so encourage themselves in sin by the confident expectation of impunity. It will, however, still be undeniable, that the "most holy" doctrine of primitive Christianity can never be cordially embraced, except by a holy faith.

[ocr errors]

St. James carefully distinguishes a cordial consent to the true gospel from "a dead faith:" for saving faith is living and operative; and by it we receive the truths of revelation with cordial satisfaction and correspondent affections, as relating to our own situation, character and everlasting interests. Being warned of God," and "believing the truth," "we are moved with fear;" we perceive ourselves in danger of the wrath to come, and allow that we deserve it; we submit to the righteousness of God, reverence his authority, and implore his mercy; we discover the appointed refuge, and flee to it; we perceive the suitableness of his salvation to honour his justice and

[ocr errors]

law, as well as to glorify his grace; and this very circumstance, which offends the proud and carnal mind, renders it doubly precious to all those who have "received the love of the truth, that they may be saved."


The apostle Paul speaks of the "faith of God's "elect ;" and Peter addresses those "who had obtained like precious faith.* And thus he gives to faith the same epithet, which he annexes to the promises of God, and even to Christ himself: precious faith; precious promises; a precious Saviour. Surely then it must be a holy faith, which embraces, and seeks the performance of holy promises, and cordially welcomes a holy Saviour?

Let us, however, more closely examine that peculiar act or exercise of faith, by which we become interested in Christ and his salvation; and inquire whether it be carnal or spiritual in its specific nature." That which is born of the "flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the "Spirit is spirit:" there is no middle term between them. Whatsoever is born of the flesh is carnal: and the apostle declares that "the carnal "mind is enmity against God:" and that " they "who are in the flesh cannot please God." Hence we before inferred that the faith of an unregenerate man cannot please God: and here let it be carefully noted, that there is no alternative; but saving faith is either holy or unholy, and not something of a middle nature, which is neither holy nor unholy.

True faith simply credits the divine testimony, in

Tit. i. 1, 2. 2 Pet. i. 1

« السابقةمتابعة »