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may probably result from an unobserved difference of sentiment on the subject before us. Let this then be well' weighed, and impartially compared with the sacred Scriptures.
These things being premised, it is here maintained, “ That the sinner wants no warrant of any kind for believing in Christ, except the word of God.” No qualifications, (or qualities, endowments, or dispositions in himself,) are at all requisite to authorize his application, or encourage his hope of success; unless any one should choose, with manifest impropriety, to call his willingness to be saved in the Lord's way, a qualification. " Him that cometh to Christ, he will in no wise cast out;" and they, who do not come when they hear the gospel, have as good a warrant as they that do; but they will not avail themselves of it, because they comparatively despise the proffered benefit.-I shall first establish the position by scriptural proofs ; and then assign some reasons for insisting on it.
Scriptural proofs that the sinner wants no warrant for believing in Christ, except
the word of God.
First, then, the commission and instructions which our Lord gave to his apostles, compared with their conduct and that of their fellow-labourers, are conclusive on the subject. “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature : be that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but ne that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark xvi. 15, 16. Nothing can be more evident, than that every human being, however vile, is warranted to believe in Christ, by this declaration of the gospel itself: and that nothing is or can be wanting, but a disposition to accept of the proposed salvation. The other instructions given to the apostles were, beyond all doubt, coincident with this commission, though on several accounts they were worded rather differently: Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Luke xxiv. 47. but one direction, couched under a parable, particularly suits our purpose. “ Go ye into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Luke xiv. 23. Now what further warrant could a poor traveller or beggar stand in need of, who was desirous of admission to a feast, after the servants had been sent with express orders, to use the most urgent invitations, persuasions, intreaties, and assurances of a hearty welcome, in order to induce him to compliance ?
The conduct of the apostles and evangelists show how they understood their instructions. They always called on their hearers, without exception or limitation, to believe in Christ : knowing that all, who became willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit accompanying the word, would be thus encouraged without delay to embrace the gracious invitation, and that the rest would be left without excuse. Thus Peter speaks of his ministry, “ God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Acts xv. 7—9. Nothing else, except the word of the gospel, was required to warrant the faith of the Gentiles.
Paul, addressing the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, said, “ Be it known to you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.' Acts xiii. 38–41. He was sensible, that there were despisers in the company, whom he warned of the consequences of unbelief: yet he preached forgiveness of sins and justification by faith to all present, without exception; which he would not have
done, if the gospel had not been a sufficient warrant to authorize every one of them to believe in Christ for salvation.
The same apostle calls his office, “ The ministry of reconciliation ;" and says, “ Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. v. 18—20. If one, who till then had been an enemy of God and Christ, had asked the apostle, how he might be reconciled ? would he not have answered, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ ;" for “ God hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him?"
II. The invitations of Scripture evidently prove the point in question. The Lord, by his prophet, calls on those, who “ are spending their money for that which is not bread, and labouring for that which satisfieth not,” to come to him for all the blessings of his everlasting covenant. Isaiah lv. 1-3. Such as seek happiness in worldly vanities, or aim to please God by empty forms and superstitions, or go about to establish their own righteousness, are alike described in the very terms of the invitation; nor are the most stupid worshippers of idols, or the vilest workers of iniquity excluded.—“ On the great day of the feast, Jesus stood, and cried, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.” John vii. 37. No one in that large company, who thirsted for salvation, or for happiness, was excluded by the terms of this proclamation.-But, lest any should suppose that this only warrants the faith of such as are conscious that they thirst in a spiritual manner; he afterwards, appearing in vision to his servant John, explains his meaning more fully; “Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev. xxii. 17. This is surely a sufficient warrant for every one that is willing ; and, however unencumbered or universal the invitation may be, none but the willing can be expected to comply with it. But while the gospel is preached men become willing, who were not so before : nay, a desire to be made willing may very properly be formed into a prayer; and then it falls under the general assurance, « Ask, and it shall be given you ;-for every one that asketh receiveth.”
Wisdom calls to the sons of men, and thus expostulates with them; “ How long ye simple ones will ye love simplicity, and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge ? Turn ye at my reproof: I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” Can any further warning for faith in Christ, and for applying to him for his complete salvation, be required for the most careless, scornful, or profligate sinner on earth, whenever he comes with a sincere and willing mind ?
In the parable of the marriage-supper, many, by the king's express command, were urgently and repeatedly invited, who in the event never tasted of the feast. These were excluded merely because they would not come, but made light of the invitation, and went to their farms and merchandize. And whatever we understand by the wedding-garment, it must be considered as supplied by him who made the feast : for the servants were sent “ into the highways, and as many as they could find,' they were ordered “to bid to the marriage;" but how should poor beggars, or even travellers, be provided, on such an unexpected occasion, with raiment suited to a royal feast ? The discovery, therefore, of the man “ who had not on the wedding-garment,” represents the case of those professors, whose faith is dead, and whose confidence is groundless; and consequently it has nothing to do with the warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ. Matt. xxii. 1-14.
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But if the word of the gospel were not a sufficient warrant, a man might truly believe in Christ, and yet perish for want of such a warrant.-Christ said to the woman of Samaria, who was at that time living in habitual gross wickedness, “ If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked, and he would have given thee
living water." The asking here mentioned, could be no other than a believing application to Christ for salvation; and a knowledge of Him, and of the mercy and grace of God in him, would have influenced the woman to make this application, for which she had already a sufficient warrant. Afterwards we are informed, that "many of the Samaritans believed on him, for the saying of the woman:"-" and many more believed because of his own word:" John iv. 10, 39-42. so that they, who before "knew not what they worshipped," wanted no other warrant for faith in Christ, except his word, or even the words of others concerning him.
Our Lord's address to the lukewarm self-sufficient Laodiceans shall close this argument. "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." Rev. iii. 17, 18. Was not this counsel a sufficient warrant to any Laodicean, whatever his previous character had been, to apply to Christ for these blessings, as soon as he felt the least degree of desire to obtain them? Yet the word buy intimates, that none would thus apply, but those who renounced false confidences and worldly idols for the sake of Him and his salvation.
III. Faith in Christ is an act of obedience to the command of God; and unbelief is the most ruinous and the most provoking of sins. When the Father, in a voice from heaven, proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him," Matt. xvii. 5, it may perhaps be argued, that he only required the three apostles then present to hear, believe, and obey their Lord: but Peter addressed the unbelieving Jews in the very same manner, by applying to them the words of Moses; "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which shall not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed." Acts iii. 22, 23; vii. 37. Now, can it be imagined, that the Jews were commanded to hear Christ, and yet not commanded to believe in him? or would such a hearing without believing have preserved them from the threatened destruction ?" This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ:" 1 John iii. 23. but it would be a very extraordinary commandment, if none were required to obey it, except such as had done so already!
The obedience of faith implies obedience in believing, as well as that obedience which springs from faith. Thus the apostle says, "Ye have obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine delivered unto you." "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?" They have not all obeyed the gospel; for Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom. vi. 17; x. 12—17. Gal. iii. 1. Now what can we infer from such language of the Holy Spirit, but that "God, who commandeth all men every where to repent," commandeth likewise all men every where to believe in his Son? We must conclude from it, that believing in Christ is an act of obedience to a divine command; though it doth not justify the sinner as obedience, but as interesting him in the divine righteousness of the Saviour: yea, that believing is the principal part of the obedience which God by the gospel requires of sinners; the first command given to condemned transgressors of his holy law, as placed under a dispensation of mercy; the most explicit token they can give of a disposition to submit to him, and return to a state of subjection to his authority. But if this be indeed the truth, no man can want any other warrant for faith in Christ, than the commandment itself which enjoins it.
The point will, however, be more fully established, by considering the language of the Scriptures concerning unbelief. "He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of
"He that believeth not is condemned already; because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."-" This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." 1 John v. 10-12. John iii. 18-20. It is not only certain in fact, that he who believeth not shall be damned;" but unbelief is the special ground of his condemnation: because it springs from hatred of the truth of God, through determined love of sin. This our Lord elsewhere illustrates. Having said to the Jews, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life :" he adds, "How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" John v. 39–47. Disregard to God, and inordinate love of worldly honour, were the reasons, why these men did not, and could not, believe in Christ.-"Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the works of your father ye will do. He was a murderer ;— he is a liar and the father of it: and because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." John viii. 43-47. A disposition like that of the devil, rendered the persons in question incapable of believing Christ's words, or of coming to him for salvation "When He" (the Comforter) "is come, he shall convince the world of sin ;-because they believe not in me." The sin of disbelieving and crucifying the Messiah seems to have been immediately presented to the consciences of the Jews, on the day of Pentecost, when they were so pricked in their hearts as to cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" And indeed, according to the degree of previous information, or means of information, or means of instruction, convinced sinners are almost always peculiarly distressed in conscience, by recollecting their former proud and carnal neglect and contempt of the gospel. Nay they frequently imagine it to be even the unpardonable sin: and this sometimes opens the way to powerful and durable temptations to despair, of which several instances have fallen under the writer's observation. The criminality of unbelief is indeed a species of guilt, of which the world at large has no conception, and which never troubles the consciences of mere moralists or formal Pharisees: but what real Christian can deny, that rejection of Christ implies a high degree of enmity against God and his authority and glory; a contempt of his wisdom as foolishness, of his infinite mercy as needless, or of his authenticated truth as falsehood? The unbeliever says in his heart unto God," Depart from me, I desire not the knowledge of thy ways:" or, "I shall have peace, in the way of my own heart," though I reject the way of "peace revealed in the gospel."
St. Paul mentions some, "that are contentious, and will not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness;" and of men, " to whom God sends strong delusion to believe a lie; that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." So that the love of sin, and taking pleasure in it, effectually prevent men from "receiving the love of the truth that they might be saved:" and this throws light upon another most alarming declaration of the apostle, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaventaking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel-who shall be punished with everlasting destruction." Rom. ii. 8 .2 Thess. i. 7—10; ii. 10-12.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." "To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." "Ye do always in your hearts." It is therefore evident, that the scriptures represent unbelief and rejection of Christ, as springing from the corrupt state of the heart." How then shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For, if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth; much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven." Heb. ii. 3; iii; xii. 25. We should therefore consider unbelief, not merely
as an occasional circumstance in the sinner’s condemnation, in that it leaves him without remedy under the curse of the law; but as the direct cause of his condemnation; the most provoking disobedience to God's express command, connected with a contemptuous refusal of his unspeakable mercy, resulting from reigning pride, rooted enmity, and determined love of sin in one form or other.
But if this be the case, it must certainly be the duty of all, who hear or may hear the gospel, to believe in Christ : and then it must follow, that no man wants any further warrant for his faith, except the Lord's own word, his testimony, invitation, and command, and his promise “ in no wise to cast out any one who comes to him.”
It may be useful to illustrate this important subject by an apposite similitude. Suppose a Physician should give the most public notice that he will bestow advice, medicines, and every other requisite, on all the sick persons in a certain district, who come and put themselves under his care. This notice would be a sufficient warrant ; and no sick person, within that district, could want any other for applying to the physician, and expecting him to do all in his power for his recovery. But some might deem themselves so little indisposed as not to need assistance ; and others, being wealthy or proud, might disdain a gratuitous cure. Some might be too busy or slothful, or self-indulgent, to pay due regard to their health ; while others would place no confidence in the physician's skill, or the sincerity of his proposal. Nay, it is possible, there might be persons, who pretend to expect a cure from him, while they neglected to take his medicines or follow his directions.—Certainly none of these would derive any benefit from him: yet this would not arise from the want of a further warrant ; but from their not considering his public notice, as “ a faithful saying, and worthy of their acceptation." He who felt himself diseased, who desired a cure, confided in the physician's skill and faithfulness, and applied to him and observed his directions, might reasonably expect a cure. But should any man, professing to regard the public notice, as a sufficient warrant to rely on the physician for the recovery of his health, confidently imagine himself well, or in the way to be cured, though he never had consulted him; he would be thought insane or delirious. Should another apply, and yet refuse to follow the prescriptions and directions given him ; he would be deemed insincere, or trifling with his own health and life; and if he seriously expected a cure in this way, he too must be deemed a madman. Should a third contend, that he ought not to apply to the physician, till he had made himself better and a more proper and deserving object of his attention ; every one would perceive the absurdity of his conduct. Finally, should any one imagine that he was recovered ; while his languor, want of appetite, inability for work, and other symptoms, proved him to be as diseased as ever; it must be concluded, either that he had not applied to the physician, or not taken his medicines, or that the physician could not or would not do any thing effectual in his case.—The reader requires no help, in accommodating the circumstances of this illustration: in natural things men exercise common sense ; while too many speculate on religious subjects in a manner which contradicts its most obvious suggestions.
The same things are implied in a general invitation to a feast ; which is the illustration repeatedly employed by the Holy Spirit. Without an apretite, a relish for the provisions, and some confidence in him who gives us the invitation, men will make light of it: yet they, who go their way, have the same warrant to come to the
feast, as those who actually partake of it. The sincere beggar feels his poverty, desires relief, submits to the humiliating circumstances of his condition, and supplicates his more affluent neighbour in the best manner he can: yet these are not his warrant for applying and expecting help; but he takes his encouragement from the wealth or bounty of him, of whom he solicits relief; and if he has bidden him come, and promised in that case to help him, this constitutes his warrant for coming.
All the Jews had the same warrant to return and rebuild Jerusalem, after