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not abide in darkness. And that the believing which Christ required of them was such, as had it been complied with would have issued in their salvation, is manifest from its being added, that ye may be the children of light, an appellation never bestowed on any but true believers.
John vi. 29. This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he hath sent. These words contain an answer to a question. The persons who asked it were men who followed Christ for loaves, who believed not, and who after this walked no more with him. verses 26, 36, 66. Christ had been rebuking them for their mercenary principles in thus following him about, and charging them, saying, Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life, (verse 27.) They replied by asking, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Which was saying in effect, “We have been very zealous for thee in following thee hither and thither; yet thou dost not allow us to please God: Thou directest us to ·labour for that which endureth unto everlasting life.
What wouldst thou have us do? What can we do; . what must we do in order to please God?' To this question our Lord answers, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent : which if it be a proper answer, is the same as saying, This is the first and greatest of all duties, and without it no other duty can be acceptable.
It has been said in answer to the
from this passage, “ The words contain a declaration
* that believing in Christ for salvation is necessary “ to the enjoyment of eternal life, and that faith “ in him is an act acceptable and pleasing to God: “ but afford no proof that it is required of men in
a state of unregeneracy. To declare to unre
generate persons the necessity of faith in order * to salvation, which is what our blessed Lord here “ does, falls very far short of asserting it to be " their present duty."*
We see by this answer that Mr. Brine, who will be allowed to have been one of the most judicious on that side the question, was fully convinced of three things. First, That the persons here addressed were unregenerate sinners. Secondly, That the faith recommended is saving. Thirdly, That when faith is called the work of God, it does not mean the work which God performs, but an act of theirs, which would be acceptable and pleasing to him. Yet we are told that our Lord merely expresses the necessity of it, without asserting it to be their present duty. Was it not the object of their inquiry then, what was their present duty; or what they ought to do in order to please God? What else can be made of it? Further : How can our Lord be supposed in answer to their question to tell them of an act which was necessary, acceptable, and pleasing to God, but which was not their present duty ? Is such an answer worthy of him? Nay, how could their believing be an act accept
* Mr. Brine's Motives to Love and Unity, &c. p. 42
able and pleasing to God, if it were not their present duty ? God is pleased with that only in us which he requires at our hands.
John v. 23. The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth, not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. That men are obliged to honour the Father by a holy hearty love to him and adoration of him, under every character by which he has manifested himself, will be allowed by all except the grossest Antinomians : and if it be the will of the Father that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father, nothing less can be required of them than a holy hearty love to him, and adoration of him, under every character by which he has manifested himself. But such a regard to Christ necessarily supposes faith in him: for it is impossible to honour him while we reject him in all or any of his offices, and neglect his great salvation. To honour an infallible teacher is to place an implicit and unbounded confidence in all he says: to honour an advocate is to commit our cause to him: to honour a physician is to trust our lives in his hands : and to honour a king is to bow to his sceptre, and cheerfully obey his laws. These are characters under which Christ has manifested himself. To treat him in this manner is to honour him; and to treat him otherwise is to dishonour him.
The Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, abound with exhortations to hear the word of God, to hearken to his counsel, to wait on him, to seek his favour, &c.; all which imply saving faith. HEARKEN unto me, Oye children; for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that HEARETH me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wronget! his own soul. All they that hate me love death-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; Behold, I will pour out my heart unto you; I will make known my words unto you -HEAR, ye deaf, and look ye blind, that ye may see HEARKEN, diligently unto me-INCLINE your ear, and come unto me: HEAR, and your soul shall live. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; CALL YE UPON HIM while he is near This is
'beloved Son; HEAR ye
him !--And it shall come to pass that every soul which will not HEAR that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people-LABOUR not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.*
It is a grievous misapplication of such languagë to consider it as expressive of a mere attendance
Prov. viii. 32–36. i. 22, 23. Isai. xlii. 18. lv. 2, 3, 6. Mark ix. 7. Acts üii. 23. John yi. 27.
on the means of grace, without any spiritual desire after God; and to allow that unregenerate sin ners comply with it. Nothing can be further from the truth. The scriptures abound in promises of spiritual and eternal blessings to those who thus hearken, hear, and seek after God; such exercises therefore must of necessity be spiritual, and require to be understood as including faith in Christ. The scriptures exhort to no such exercises as may be complied with by a mind at enmity with God: the duties which they inculcate are all spiritual; and no sinner while unregenerate is supposed to comply with them. So far from allowing that ungodly men seek after God, or do any good thing, they expressly declare the contrary. God looked down from heaven
the children of men to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy : there is none that doeth good, no not one.* To reduce the exhortations of scripture to the level of a carnal mind is to betray the authority of God over the human heart; and to allow that unconverted sinners comply with them is to be aiding and abetting in their self-deception. The unconverted who attend the means of grace generally persuade themselves, and wish to persuade others, that they would gladly be converted, and be real christians, if it were but in their power. They imagine themselves to be waiting at the pool for the moving of the waters: and therefore feel na
* Psalm liii. 2, 3.