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On this ground he accounts for the apostle's language in Romans iv. 5.
To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the UNGODLY; understanding by the terms, he that worketh not, one that has done nothing yet which is pleasing to God; and by the term, ungodly, one that is actually an enemy to God. He does not
that God justifieth unbelievers : if therefore he justifieth sinners, while in a state of enmity against him, there can be nothing in the nature of faith but what may consist with it. And true it is, if faith have nothing in it of a holy nature, nothing of conformity to the divine law “in heart or life," nothing of the exerçise of any holy disposition of heart, it cannot denominate the subjects of it godly. Godliness must in this case consist merely in the fruits of faith; and these fruits being subsequent to justification, the sinner must of course be justified antecedent to his being the subject of godliness, or while he is actually the enemy of God.
If Mr. M. had only affirmed that faith is opposed to works, even to every good disposition of the heart, as the ground of acceptance with God; that we are not justified by it as a work; or that whatever moral goodness it may possess, it is not as such that it is imputed unto us for righteousness, there had been no dispute between us. But this distinction he rejects, and endeavours to improve the caution of those who use it, into a tacit acknowledgment that their views of faith were very liable to misconstruction: in other words, that they
border upon the doctrine of justification by works in so great a degree, as to be in danger of being mistaken for its advocates.* He is not contented with faith being opposed to works in point of jus. tification: it must also be opposed to them in its own nature. “ Paul, he affirms, did not look upon faith as a work.” In short, if there be any possibility of drawing a certain conclusion from what a writer, in almost every form of speech, has ad. vanced, it must be concluded that he means to deny that there is any thing holy in the nature of faith ; and that could it be separated from its effects, (as he supposes it is in justification) it would leave the person who possessed it, among the enemies of God.
Notwithstanding the above, however, Mr. M. allows faith to be a duty. He has largely, and I believe successfully, endeavoured to prove that “ faith is the command of God”—that it is “part of obedience to God”_that to believe all that God says is right”-and that unbelief, which is its opposite, is “ a great and heinous sin.”+ But how can these things agree? If there be nothing of the exercise of a holy disposition in what is commanded of God, in what is right, and in what is an exercise of obedience; by what rule are we to judge of what is holy, and what is not? I scarcely can conceive of a truth more self-evident than this, That God's
* Commission, p. 76.
commands extend only to that which comes under the influence of the will. Knowledge can be no further a duty, nor ignorance a sin, than as each is influenced by the moral state of the heart; and the same is true of faith and unbelief. We might as well make the passive admission of light into the eye, or of sound into the ear, duties, as a passive admission of truth into the mind. To receive it into the heart, indeed, is duty; for this is a voluntary acquiescence in it: but that in which the will has no concern cannot possibly be so.
Mr. M. sometimes writes as if he would acknowledge faith to be not only a duty, but to tain virtue," or true holiness ; seeing, as he observes," it is the root of all Christian virtues, and " that which gives glory to God, and without which " it is impossible to please him." Nay, the reader would imagine, by his manner of writing, that he was pleading for the holy nature of faith, and that I had denied it; seeing I am represented as having made the “too bold," and “unfounded assertion," that mere belief contains no virtue. The truth is, I affirmed no such thing, but was pleading for the contrary; as is manifest from what Mr. M. says in the same note : But why so solicitous to find virtue or moral excellence in faith?” It is true, I contended that if the belief of the gospel were a mere exercise of the understanding, uninfluenced by the moral state of the heart, it could contain no virtue, nor be the object of a divine command : but I supposed it to be a persuasion of divine truth,
arising from the state of the heart, in the same sense as unbelief, which Mr. M. justly calls its opposite,” is not a mere mistake of the judgment, but a persuasion arising from aversion to the truth. From the above, however, it would seem that we are agreed in making faith in Christ something which comprehends “true virtue,” or, which is the same thing, true holines. Yet Mr. M. will not abide by all or any of this: if he would indeed, there would be an end of the dispute. But he proceeds to reason in favour of that
6 unfounded assertion,” for making which, I am unwarrantably accused of having been “too bold.” Thus he reasupport
of it: “ If mere belief contain n “ virtue, it would not follow that unbelief could “ contain no sin: for such an argument proceeds
upon this principle, That if there be no virtue in " a thing, there can be no sin in its opposite; but 66 this does not hold true in innumerable instances. “ There is no positive virtue in abstaining from
many crimes that might be mentioned; yet the “ commission of them, or even the neglect of the
opposite duties, would be very sinful. There " is no moral virtue in taking food when hungry; “ but wilfully to starve one's self to death would be " suicide: and to come nearer the point, there is no “ moral virtue in believing the testimony of a -“ friend, when I have every reason to do so; yet “ in these circumstances were I to discredit his “ word, he would feel the injury very sensibly. “ Now supposing there was no more virtue con“ tained in believing the witness of God, than in
“ believing the witness of men, to which it is com“pared, it does not follow that there would be no “ sin in unbelief, which is to make God a liar. “ To deny that faith is the exercise of a virtuous “ temper of heart, is to refuse some praise to the “ creature: but to deny that unbelief is sin, is to “impeach the moral character of God.........And “why so solicitous to find virtue, or moral excel. 6 lence in faith?”
Now whether this reasoning be just or not, it must be allowed to prove that Mr. M. notwithstanding what he has said to the contrary, does not consider faith as containing any virtue. It is true, what he says is under a hypothetical form, and it may appear as if he were only allowing me my argument for the sake of overturning it: but it is manifestly his own principle which he labours to establish, and not mine ; the very principle on which, as he conceives, depends the freeness of justification. I cannot but express my surprize that so acute a writer should deal so largely in inconsistency.
Mr. M. cannot conceive of
end to be answer. ed in finding moral excellence in faith, unless it be to give “some praise to the creature." He doubtless means by this insinuation to furnish an argument against it. As far as any thing which is spiritually good in us, and which is wrought by him who worketh all our works in us, is praise-worthy ; so far the same may be granted of faith : and as we