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TRUSTING IN CHRIST, &c.
« The latter exercise is, strictly speaking, the effect of the former," and the two are always combined. “So long as the truth is not understood and believed, it will not be confided in; but as soon as believed, it will become an object of trust. In Scripture, faith accordingly is considered as having its immediate issue in coming to Christ; and hence is treated as the same thing. A knowledge of the unlimited bounty of Heaven, and of Jesus, as the dispenser of this bounty, is necessarily followed by an application to him. In coming to Christ, we rest our eternity on him as the foundation which has been laid in Zion, in opposition to all other grounds of confidence. This calms the mind, and inspires it with the purest principles of obedience. Having committed all to the Redeemer, we go forward in the firm persuasion that our all is safe.” (Russell's Letters, vol. ii., pp. 106—116.)
Thirdly, It may be fairly doubted, I think, whether a broader line of distinction has not been made by many writers between believing the gospel, i. e., the doctrines of the gospel, and coming to Christ, trusting in him, than the truth of the case warrants. What is it, for instance, to trust in Christ that he will pardon our sins, but to believe that he will perform the promises he has made to those who apply to him? And is this any thing different from believing the promises themselves? What is it not to rest upon our own works as the ground of acceptance with God, but to believe that God will not treat any one as righteous for the sake of what he himself does, and so to derive no hope personally from that quarter, i. e., to believe the gospel? What is it to rest on the atonement of Christ as the only rock of confidence, but to believe, on the other hand, that, in connexion with his previous obedience, it constitutes the one great work for the sake of which the guilty are accepted, and so to derive from this source all our hope of salvation ? I question much if the phrases, “ believing in Christ,” “trusting in Christ," denote more than a belief of the gospel in its application to us personally, and the latter, perhaps, hope of individual salvation as the result of faith. That relinquishment of every false ground of hope, and trust in the atonement of Christ, of which Dr. Russell speaks, seems to me to
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denote ceasing to expect and to hope for salvation from the one quarter, and beginning to expect and hope for it from the other.
The faith of the gospel is, then, the belief of the gospel, understanding the term “belief” in its ordinary sense ;-a belief however, which requires for its existence the special influence of the Holy Spirit, without which the doctrines of the gospel are never understood, and, therefore, will not be believed. The difference between the faith of a real Christian, and of a mere professor, is in the subject of faith—the thing believed,-and not in the act of believing. It is not that there is joy, complacency, acquiescence of heart, in the faith of one, and none of these emotions in that of the other; for the act of believing, like the act of perceiving, &c., must be in all cases the same. Nor does the difference consist in this, viz., that the Christian trusts or believes in the person of Christ, while the nominal Christian only believes the doctrines of Christ; for the latter is never the case. The difference is, that the one believes the gospel, and the other does not. The one believes the meaning which God intended to convey in it, the other believes the meaning which he himself has attached to it.
There can be little doubt that the conception of different kinds of faith, such as speculative and practical, historical and saving, &c., and, indeed, all the notions which have existed with reference to a difference in the act of faith itself, as put forth by a real Christian, and a mere professor, owe their existence to a desire to account for the different effects of faith on different individuals. Here are two men, both of whom appear to understand the gospel, and both profess to believe it. The conduct of one is regulated by its precepts, while that of the other is not. The conclusion has therefore been, that the latter individual believes the gospel in the wrong way, or has not the right kind of faith; whereas the conclusion should have been, that he believes the wrong gospel; or, in other words, that the thing believed is not the truth as it is in Jesus. No mistake can be greater than that which ascribes the difference in the results, to some difference in the faith; understanding by the term, the act of believing. For the practical effect of faith is, in all cases, to be ascribed not to the act of believing, but to the thing
IS IN THE THING BELIEVED.
believed. I believe, we will suppose, that there are mountains in the moon; the belief is followed by no results, because the truth, to which credit is given, is not adapted to produce any. I believe that the roof of the house in which I am sitting is about to fall; I immediately rush out, because the truth credited is fitted to excite alarm, and precipitate retreat. I believe that God hath reconciled the world to himself by Christ Jesus ; I rejoice, and the joy springs from the report itself. It is not to be traced to the act of faith by which it is admitted into the mind; for that is only the instrument by which, in all cases, the truth to which credit is given, is brought into contact with the mind. In vision, it is the thing seen, and not the act of seeing, which produces the effect upon the mind. Just so it is in believing. It is the truth perceived and believed, and not the act of perceiving or believing it, that effects, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, so mighty a change in the experience and character of the individual who receives it. In reference to the three cases just alluded to, it is abundantly manifest that faith is not inert in the first instance, and active in the second, because the approaching fall of the roof is cordially believed, while the existence of mountains in the moon is not cordially believed; for if there were cordiality in either case, it would be surely in the latter, and not in the former. And in the third case, though there is cordiality, i. e., though the report of the gospel is welcomed into the mind, the joy which subsequently pervades the mind is not to be ascribed to the manner of its entrance, but to the good news it brings. “The influence of faith," says Dr. Russell, “arises from the nature of the thing believed. If we credit good news, we rejoice; if bad news, we are grieved. If we believe a threatening, and are unable to avoid the suspending evil, we are afraid. If we believe the promise of a trifle, we are little affected; but if we credit that of an invaluable gift, we are quite elated; we rely on him who made it, and we expect the promised good according to his word. Thus it is the nature of the thing believed, and the concern we have in it, from which the influence of faith springs. There is an exact correspondence between the former and the latter of these, whatever be the object of
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belief.” And again, “ All the glory and excellency of the gospel is in itself; and, therefore, ought not to be distinguished from it. The truth, then, cannot be said to be believed, unless its glory and importance be so.' The difference between believers and others, lies in the different apprehensions which they have of the same object. In the eyes of one, the gospel, in its true nature, appears to be foolishness; in the eyes of the other, it appears to be full of heavenly wisdom and glory. The reason why the former deems it foolishness is, that he is governed by sin; while the latter is brought by Divine teaching to have a just apprehension of the character of God as revealed in Christ. That system with which the carnal mind is delighted cannot be the truth in its genuine purity and excellence, but a system congenial with some or other of the evil principles of the heart. To such a mind the true glory of the truth does not appear, and error is embraced in its stead. The faith of the gospel is, of course, a conviction of its truth, arising from a spiritual discernment of such a glory, wisdom, and excellence in it, as satisfies the mind that a scheme, at once so glorious in itself, and so adapted to the relations, both of God and of man, could of course have no other than God for its author.” (Letters, vol. ii., pp. 102–104.)
Thus also Mr. Erskine :-"A true faith does not properly refer to the mode of believing, but to the object believed. It means the belief of a true thing; as a correct memory
refers to the accurate representation of the fact remembered. It means the remembrance of a thing as it happened. When we say, that a man has a wrong belief of a thing, we ought to mean merely that he does not believe the thing which really happened. But," he adds, "is there no such thing as a wrong or false way of believing what is true? Let us question two of our acquaintances separately as to their religious belief, concerning God, and eternity, and their own duties, and their own hopes: the answers they give are, in substance, the same; and yet their paths of life are diametrically opposite: the life of the one is in harmony with the belief which he professes, the other's not. They are both incapable of deceit; how then are we to account for this difference, except we suppose
IMPORTANCE OF THESE VIEWS.
there is a right and a wrong way of believing the same thing? This is certainly a very important question, and it seems to me capable of a very satisfactory solution. Although these persons use similar language, and appear to believe the same things, yet in reality they differ essentially in the subject matter of their belief. The one, in short, believes the gospel; the other does not."
The views thus developed of the nature of faith are of great practical importance. Let us suppose the case of an individual who professes to have received the gospel, but is manifestly not living under its influence. He is told by some, that he has not believed the gospel aright, or has not the right kind of faith; by others, that it is not the gospel that he believes, or that he has not those views of its excellence, importance, and glory, which are possessed by real Christians. The tendency of the former exhortation is manifestly to lead him to look into himself; of the latter, to re-examine the gospel, that he may discover the nature and source of his mistake. Now from which of these modes of procedure is he likely to derive the most good? What conceivable benefit can he gain from the former? Suppose that from self-examination he should come to the conviction, that he has not cordially received the truth, not mingled love, or joy, or trust, with his faith ; would he be likely to acquire, or be in the way
of acquiring, these feelings by watching and examining the exercises of his own mind? As well might a man attempt to invigorate his physical system by watching, if he could do it, the process of digestion, instead of taking food. On the contrary, if he be convinced that the gospel does not influence his mind, because some radical misconception mingles itself with his views of its nature, the conviction has a direct tendency to send him to the Bible, the only instrumental source of spiritual knowledge ; and, if at all seriously impressed with reference to eternity, to the throne of grace, that God would open his eyes to behold those wondrous things in his law and his gospel, which have never been apparent to his view, and which alone can save him from the love and practice of sin. On this point I have great pleasure in introducing the follow