Page images

and Godhead, rendered them without excuse for being so.

§ 3. But supposing that some of them admitted the conviction of an eternal and almighty Being, and that he was a righteous avenger of evil deeds, and was an approver of virtue; and supposing too that we admit the appellation faith, in reference to such conviction; what influence could a belief that a compliance with • a law within them was acceptable to the

Deity,' have on their salvation from sin and guilt? To believe that a compliance is acceptable, is one thing; but to comply is another. A belief which was not productive of obedience, could be nothing more than a dead faith. Must we recur again to the notion, that their dead faith, brought them into a state of acceptance with God—without baptism? If it be pleaded, that some of them may possibly have rendered as much obedience, according to the means they had, as many Christians who are possessed of a lively faith; I shall not dispute the possibility of it, but must maintain that, on the supposition, they must have derived it from him who is the Head of all spiritual influence to fallen man.

How far he who has power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him, actually imparts a spiritual influence, which produces à

spirit of faith, to adult Heathens, it is not my province to determine. It is sufficient for me to know, that the Judge of the whole earth does all things right, that he "wrongeth no man in his matters,” and that the methods of his mercy, as well as of his justice, are adorable. Of this however we may be sure, First, that if such favours are conferred, they must be, not only for the sake, or through the mediation, of the blessed Saviour, but also by his direct influence, and, Secondly, that wherever a spirit of faith exists, it will shew itself by believing the testimony of God in the Gospel, when fairly proposed in a language understood by its possession. As sure as any one has the Spirit of Christ, he will receive the testimony concerning him, and devote himself to be governed by his laws, in proportion as he understands it.

§ 4. It is one of his Lordship’s very extra, ordinary sentiments, that a dead faith may risę to a lively faith. Witness his words, 'It is very

possible that a sinful or negligent Christian ' may be awakened to a sense of his duty by some calamitous or extraordinary event, and * for a time really feel a true and lively faith; ' but the impression may be effaced, and by 'yielding to temptation to sin, or by being again "engrossed by worldly cares, he may fall from

' his justified state, without losing all belief in " the truth of the gospel. This man's faith rises from a dead to a lively faith, and afterwards relapses into a dead faith again.'* A part of this statement is not controverted, viz. That it is very possible, that a sinful or negligent Christian may be awakened to a sense of his duty; for with God all things are possible, which do not imply a contradiction. He who quickened the sinner when he was dead in trespasses, no doubt can awaken him when sinful or negligent. And this he can do by some * calamitous or extraordinary event, provided grace be conveyed to his heart; otherwise the rod will be lifted up in vain, and the severest discipline will be ineffectual. This also is possible by reading, by hearing the word of God, by the admonitions, remonstrances, or the reproofs of a friend, by musing on the goodness of God, or by other means innumerable; but none of these things operate on a free agent mechanically. The effect will be as the state of his mind is disposed to improve them ;-and I am apprehensive that a dead faith is but ill adapted to produce a lively effect. If he has but a spark of spiritual life, though the spirit of a living faith be but as smoaking flax, these things may contribute to make the fire kindle,

* Refut. p, 160,

and to raise it into a flame : but if the life be gone, not a spark remaining, a supply of fuel will not restore it, except he be baptized with celestial fire.

§ 5. It is again granted, that many a good * impression may be effaced, that the fire of affection may be less warm, and the flame of zeal

grow dim—and this by 'yielding to temptation, or by being too much 'engrossed ! by worldly cares.' But that a person who was once dead to sin and alive to God, 'may fall • from his justified state,' depends upon the good pleasure of him who his is life, his righteousness and strength, who can maintain or dissolve the union from whence his life and righteousness took their origin. And Calvinists think that such declarations as these have some weight: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall

any pluck them out of my hand."* who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”+ Indeed a total falling from the life of faith, would not imply "losing all belief in the truth of the gospel. Since what might be prior to possessing the life of faith, might still remain.

66 He

[blocks in formation]

$ 6. Now the question is, whether in any instance this man's faith rises from a dead to a lively faith. One might think that the proper answer to this question is about as plain as would be the answer to the following, Whether water left to itself, according to the constituted laws of nature, will rise above its level? With God, indeed, all things are possible, and he who raised Lazarus from the grave, can raise the spiritually dead to life again. If his Lordship will but allow, that the giving or the restoring of the life of faith depends more on the grace of God our Saviour, than on the will of a man dead in sin, the Calvinists will not quarrel about the remaining parts of the question.

57. His Lordship contends, that faith only will not preserve justification. These are his words: Faith only will not preserve a man in a justified state; it must be accompanied by works, for faith without works is dead.** One would think it a very natural inference, that if • faith only' will justify a man once, it will do so a second time, or as often as he needs justification,-for how can the circumstance of priority or posteriority of time affect the case? If, for instance, his believing in the Trinity and professing obedience, is sufficient at one time, why

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »