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It is farther objected that men are said to have believed the gospel, who, notwithstanding, were destitute of true religion. Thus some among the chief rulers are said to have believed in Jesus ; but did not confess him: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. It is said of Simon, that he believed also; yet he was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. Agrippa is acknowledged by Paul to have believed the prophets ; and faith is attributed even to the devils. The term belief, like almost every other term, is sometimes used in an improper sense. Judas is said to have repented, and hanged himself, though nothing more is meant by it than his being smitten with remorse, wishing he had not done as he did on account of consequences. Through the paucity of language there is not a name for every thing that differs ; and therefore where two things have the same visible appearance, and differ only in some things which are invisible, it is common to call them by the same name. Thus men are termed honest who are punctual in their dealings, though such conduct in many instances may arise merely, from a regard to their own credit, interest, or safety. Thus the remorse of Judas is called repentance; and thus the convictions of the Jewish rulers, of Simon, and Agrippa, and the fearful apprehension of apostate angels, from what they had already felt, is called faith. But as we do not infer from the application of the term repentance to the feelings of Judas, that there is nothing spiritual in real repentance, so neither ought we to con
clude from the foregoing applications of the term believing, that there is nothing spiritual in a real belief of the gospel.
“The objects of faith, it hath been said, are not bare axioms or propositions : the act of the believer does not terminate at an axiom, but at the thing: for axioms are not formed but that by them knowledge may be had of things.” To believe a bare axiom or proposition, in distinction from the thing, must be barely to believe that such and such letters make certain words, and that such words put together have a certain meaning; but who would call this believing the proposition ? To believe the proposition is to believe the thing. Letters, syllables, words, and propositions, are only means of conveyance; and these as such are not the objects of faith, but the thing conveyed. Nevertheless those things must have a conveyance ere they can be believed in. The person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, for instance, are often said to be objects of faith, and this they doubtless are, as they are objects held forth to us by the language of scripture : but they could not meet our faith unless something were affirmed concerning them in letters and syllables, or vocal sounds, or by some means or other of conveyance. To say therefore that these are objects of faith, is to say the truth, but not the whole truth; the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Scriptures as the way of a sinner's acceptance with God, are, properly speaking, the objects of our faith : for with
out such a revelation it were impossible to believe in them.
Mr. Booth, and various other writers, have considered faith in Christ as a dependence on him, a receiving him, a coming to him, and trusting in him for salvation. There is no doubt but these terms are frequently used in the New Testament to express believing. As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name-He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in me shall never thirst-That we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ-I know whom I have trusted, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.* Whether these terms, however, strictly speaking, convey the same idea as believing, may admit of a question. They seem rather to be the immediate effects of faith, than faith itself. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews describes the order of these things in what he says of the faith of Enoch-He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Here are three different exercises of the mind: first, believing that God is : secondly, believing that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; thirdly, coming to him; and the last is represented as the effect of the former two. The same may be ap
* John i. 12. vi. 35. Eph. i. 12. 2 Tim. i. 12.
plied to Christ. He that cometh to Christ must believe the gospel testimony, that he is the Son of God, and the Saviour of sinners; the only name given under heaven, and among men, by which we . can be saved: he must also believe the gospel promise, that he will bestow eternal salvation on all them that obey him; and under the influence of this persuasion he comes to him, commits himself to him, or trusts the salvation of his soul in his hands. This process may be so quick as not to admit of the mind being conscious of it; and especially as at such a time it is otherwise employed than in speculating upon its own operations. So far as it is able to recollect, the whole may appear to be one complex exercise of the soul. In this large sense also, as comprehending not only the credit of the gospel testimony, but the soul's dependence on Christ alone for acceptance with God, it is allowed that believing is necessary, not only to salvation, but to justification. We must come to Jesus that we may have life. Those who attain the blessing of justification must seek it by faith, and not by the works of the law; submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. This blessing is constantly represented as following our union with Christ; and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”*
Let it but be granted that a real belief of the gospel is not merely a matter presupposed in saving
* John v. 40. Rom. ix. 31, 32. X. 3. 1 Cor. vi. 17.
faith, but that it enters into the essence of it, and the writer of these pages will be far from contend. ing for the exclusion of trust or dependence. He certainly has no such objection to it as is alleged by Mr. MʻLean ; that “ to include in the nature of faith, any holy exercise of the heart, affects the doctrine of justification by grace alone ; without the works of the law.”* If he supposed with that author, however, that in order to justification being wholly of grace, no holiness must precede it, or that the party must at the time be in a state of enmity to God, he must, to be consistent, unite with him also in excluding trust, which undoubtedly is a holy exercise, from having any place in justifying faith ; but persuaded as he is that the freeness of justification rests upon no such ground, he is not under this necessity.
The term trust appears to be most appropriate or best adapted of any, to express the confidence which the soul reposes in Christ for the fulfilment: of his promises. We may credit a report that brings evil tidings as well as good; but we cannot be said to trust it. We may also credit a report, the truth or falsehood of which does not at all concern us; but that in which we place trust must be something in which our well-being is involved. The relinquishment of false confidences which the gospel requires, and the.risque which is made in embracing it, are likewise better expressed by this term than
On the Commission, p. 83.