Page images

tion; they would either reject all religion and commence Deists, or renounce the vain jangling of the professing world, and become Christians indeed, by receiving that truth which is able to save their souls. It remains therefore, that there is no consistent medium between antient apoftolic christianity, and downright infidelity ;-and accordingly, in strict truth, in his fight who fearches the heart, there are but two sorts of men in Chriftendom


and at the day of judgment it will appear fo to all the world. Now we are divided into a great variety of fects and parties, but then of all these fects and parties, there Thall

appear but two sorts of men ; believers, and unbelievers. And then that most remarkable saying of Jesus Christ, will take effect, and be fulfilled, He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. See Bellamy's Essay on the Gospel, p. 252


A general View of the various Notions and



AITH, in the Scripture account of it, is a

very fimple intelligible thing. But as tailed out in the profeffing world, it is sometimes so cut and trimmed, so changed and metamorphosed, that it is hard to say, after all the definitions and directions that have been given, what it is, wherein it confifts, or how it is to be performed! Some notice, however, may be taken of the names which have been given it, in some of its transmutations, though fully to explain their genuine import, our skill would fail us in attempting, 1. Tim. i, 6-7. Faith then, as it appears in human writings, has among several others, obtained the following epithets, viz, historical faith, temporáry, faith, the faith of reliance, the faith of affiance, the faith of applica

tion, the faith of approbation, the direct, the reflex, the recumbent, the courageous, the venturesome, and the triumphant acts of faith. It is also represented by some as having, and putting into action eyes, ears, mouth, arms, hands, fingers, legs, and feet.--To describe these various kinds of faith, and to give direction when each of these acts should be put forth, or which of these members should be exerted, has served to employ the time, talents, and ingenuity of many, though, after all, few of them, if any,

have condescended to make it appear, how their notion of faith is confiftent, either with the Scripture definition thereof, or the use of the term in common life. Fearing, therefore, left I should get involved in a labyrinth of inextricable difficulties, should I attempt to explain the above terms, and indeed, not seeing what use my labors would be of had I talents to perform it, I mall leave that part of the work to those that have more time on their hands than I have, and whose reputation and interest may

lie more in the use of them, than mine happens to do. However, a few of the most intel.. ligent definitions that have been given may be confidered.

Firft : it has been received as a common axiom, for the use of the weak and wavering, who nevertheless wish to think well of themselves in religious concerns, that the desire of grace, is grace, and so, that the desire of faith, is faith. “ So if there be but a willing mind to this service it is accepted.”Without doubt, where the true grace of God is' known, there will be an earnest delire after its increase, it being a living principle in the foul. But" surely this is a very unwarrantable way of proceeding, either in defining faith, 'or leading those who wish to know whether they have believed or not, to a fair 'trial. The human heart' is deceitful above all things, and is ever ready to fancy what is most agreeable ; and indeed there are but few under'a re


[ocr errors]

ligious profesion, but are ready to think, that they sincerely desire and endeavor to believe, though they are not able to perform their desire. Surely then we are not allowed to say, that every desire of faith is faith; this would be too 'vague. The defire then must be limited, and of course qualified. Without doubt it should be, in order to prove itself genuine, an humble, penitent, fincere, earnest, and affectionate desire. But there are some very material objections to this notion of faith ; First it leads those who think they have such a desire, to presume upon it. If a sense of guilt trouble the conscience, nothing but that which fairly atones for fin can ef. fectually remove it. But sinners are naturally dilaffected to the gospel hope, and would rather catch at any thing for present relief, than give up every good thought of themselves, and be relieved by that which is equally free for the profligate, as for the morally decent. To lead finners therefore to take peace, or encouragement, from the workings of their own minds (which while in a state of nature, are nothing better than the working of pride) is to establish them in their enmity to the gospel hope; and this cannot be done without confirming them in presumption. Again : it tends to, and often actually does, involve those for whose relief it is intended, in greater diftres, since it is told them that the desire, must be qualified. The distressed soul is led to seek within himself, for the approved qualities of this desire; but finding so much of the world there, so many interruptions in his devotion, fo many instances of deceit in his heart, &c. cither he comes to a conclusion that he has not such a desire, or has it not to that degree, which it is thoughtnecessary to have it, in order to constitute a right defire. This he fincerely laments; yet lives in fad suspense from day to day, waiting and praying, he is encouraged, for this delire. Soinctimes he thinks (especially under preaching) he has obtained


it, and then hope, joy, and comfort, begin to arise. Anon all these pleasing symptoms are cut down, dried up, and withered ! 'then his life hangs in doubt, and were it not that he is told by his iniserable comforters, that to sincerely lament these things is a token for good, his soul would be driven into black dispair, unless it could obtain some ternporary cale, by mingling again with the world. It needs not be told, at least to those who have had accefs to class-meetings, and meetings for relating experiences, how common this method of comforting them that mourn, is in our day. But ah! how foreign to the hope set before us in the gospel ! In fact it is neither law nor gospel. Neither works nor grace. But a a mere device of satan to blind the minds of them that believe not, 2. Cor. x. 12. For

Further : the thing itself is contrary to scripture and common sense. When a person says “ I defire to believe," * nothing more pertinent can be replied H

than, * What is here supposed, is a great mistake, and gross ab. surdity; even that men may fincerely chuse and delire those Spiritual duties of love, acceptance, choice, rejection, &c. conlifting in the exercise of the will itself, or in the disposition and inclination of the heart; and yet not be able to perform or exert them. This is absurd, because it supposes, that a man directly, properly and sincerely inclines to have an inclination, which ac The same time is contrary to his inclination, and that is to suppose him not to be inclined to that, which he is inclined to. If a man, in the disposition and acts of bis will and inclination does properly and direly fall in with those duties, he therein vir. tually performs then; for the duties themfelves confift in that very thing, they confit in the itate and acts of the will being fo formed and directed. If the foul properly and fincerely falls in with a certain proposed act of will or choice, the soul therein makes that choice its own. Even as when a moving body falls in with a proposed direction of its motion, that is the same thing as to move in that direction. That which is called a desire and willingness for those inward duries, in such as do not perform them, has respect to these duries only indirectly and remotely, and is improperly represented as a willingness for them ; nctona ly because it respects those good volitions only in a distant view, and with respect to future iime; but also because evermore, not these things themselves, tut something else, that is alien and foreign, is the object that terminates these volitions and de fires, a See Edwards on free will, p. 238.

than, why then don't you believe? Does some sovereign power, some fatal necessity prevent you? Or have you a sincere desire to believe what God has said, only there is not fufficient evidence thereof; the salvation is desirable ; but not sufficiently proved to be true ? Rather, does not your unbelief proceed from ignorance, and a consequent disinclination to believe? Without doubt it does. But to convince of this is a work, which he only whose name is the ALMIGHTY can perform. Therefore is it said, hy way of apology, that such desire to know the gorpel. Then surely the nature, defign and evidence of the gospel salvation should be laid before them, instead of putting them to pore upon their own hearts, in order to extract some kind of comfort from their supposed desires.

But, as before hinted, the plain fact is, the gorpel hope is thought to be too weak to support them; and therefore this humble, fincere, earneft, and affectionate desire, is to believe, not in Christ alone, but that they are the children of the most High, the peculiar favorites of heaven. This desire therefore may be considered as an important struggle, between conscience, which bears witness that they are not the children of God, and which the holy Spirit in the word confirms—and the aspirations of their pride, under the influence of that ancient doctrine, Ye fall be as gods. Now as the former prevails, conviction, fear, shame and torment are the painful confequences. But when the latter gains the ascendency, and so the conscience becomes blinded or feared there. by, then fome kind of peace, joy and comfort are its attendants. But if such persons are, through divine teaching, mercifully brought to obtain peace by the blood of the Redeemer's cross; they will then perceive, that all their previous desires, prayers, resolutions and endeavors were not in reality after God's salvation ; but aimed at doing or feeling something from which, or through which, their peace and hope might be derived.


« PreviousContinue »