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THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE
ing statements, with which I most fully coincide, from the writings of Erskine, Russell, and Wardlaw. “ Theological writers have distinguished and described different kinds of faith, as speculative, practical, historical, saving and realizing faith. It would be of little consequence what names we gave to faith, or to any thing else, provided these names did not interfere with the distinctness of our ideas of the things to which they are attached; but as we must be sensible that they do very much interfere with these ideas, we ought to be upon our guard against any false impressions which may be received from an incorrect use of them. Is it not evident that this way of speaking has a direct tendency to draw the attention away from the thing to be believed, and to engage it in a fruitless examination of the mental operation of believing ? And yet, is it not true, that we see and hear of more anxiety amongst religious persons about their faith being of the right kind, than about their believing the right things ? A sincere man, who has never questioned the Divine authority of the Scriptures, and who can converse and reason well on its doctrines, finds, perhaps, that the state of his mind, and the tenour of his life, do not agree with Scripture rule. He is very sensible that there is an error somewhere, but instead of suspecting that there is something in the very essentials of Christian doctrine which he has never yet understood thoroughly, the probability is, that he, and his advisers, if he ask advice, come to the conclusion that his faith is of a wrong kind; that it is speculative, or historical, and not true saving faith. Of course, this conclusion sends him not to the study of the Bible, but to the investigation of his own feelings, or rather of the laws of his own mind. He leaves that truth which God has revealed and blessed as the medicine of our nature, and bewilders himself in a metaphysical labyrinth.” (Essay, pp. 9–11.)
“To the Saviour, as thus revealed, the Scriptures call upon all to come. Do not, then, perplex yourself with questions about the manner of believing, but consider what it is you are called to believe. Instead of disquieting yourself about the manner of coming to Christ, think on him who invites you to come to
OF THESE VIEWS OF FAITH.
him,-think of his atonement and the love there displayed, think on the many proofs which have been given of his sacrifice, in his resurrection and glory; and in the many promises of salvation through faith in him. You know that you are no farther conscious of seeing an object than as it affects you; and, in like manner, you are not conscious of believing any declaration made to you, any further than as what you believe impresses you. In the former case you are not, in looking at some interesting object, thinking of the manner of your seeing it, but of the thing seen; in the latter, you are not thinking of the manner of believing the declaration credited by you, but of the thing credited. In like manner, in believing the gospel, the mind is occupied with the thing believed, and not with the manner of believing it. We cannot dwell on thoughts of the mode in which we see an object, without forgetting, in a measure, the object itself; and so, if we are engrossed with questions respecting the right mode of believing, the great truth to be believed is lost sight of; and, being so, it cannot affect us. Of course, there is no wonder that then we cease to derive peace, comfort, or purity from it. The mind is conscious of believing the gospel, just in proportion to the degree of its faith; or, in other words, in proportion to the measure in which it is affected by the truth. The great thing then is, to keep the soul fixed upon the object of belief.” (Russell's Letters, vol. i., pp. 50, 51.)
Faith, whether considered as justifying, or as sanctifying, or as imparting the hope of futurity, derives its appropriateness and its efficacy from the nature of the truth believed. From that it never should be separated in our conceptions of it; for from that it never can be separated in actual subsist
There is this difference, amongst others, frequently observable, between the statements of the Divine word, and those of human systems of doctrine professedly founded upon it,—that in the latter there is a great deal said about the manner of believing, --about what faith is, as a metaphysical act of the mind,-about how a sinner is to believe, not as it respects the spiritual and practical influence of his faith, but as it respects the process of mind in believing ;—whereas in
THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE
the former there is nothing whatever of this kind; it dwells upon the matter, rather than the manner ; it teaches us what we are to believe, rather than how we are to believe it. In human systems, we have distinctions, without end, of faith into ever so many kinds, and modes, and actings, such as have often been found exceedingly perplexing to the mind of the simple inquirer. It cannot with truth be said of them, as it is said of the word of the Lord, that their entrance "giveth light unto the simple.” The Scriptures, on the contrary, are occupied with the testimony itself. Of it they give a full and clear exhibition ; but there are to be found in them no puzzling metaphysics about the mental process of believing it, and directions as to the manner in which that process is to be set about and effected. All is plain. The testimony is presented on the authority of God;-sinners are invited to consider and believe it—and the practical effects are detailed by which the faith of it must be followed and manifested.” (Vide Wardlaw's Essays on the Assurance of Faith, &c., pp. 59, 60.)
The tendency of these views of the nature of faith to send a mere nominal Christian to the gospel to discover where the defect lies, and a real believer to the same source, that he may obtain the renewal of joy when he has lost it, constitute, in my judgment, one of their strongest recommendations to general reception. Not so, however, thinks one of the opponents of Mr. Erskine, the Rev. James Carlile, of Dublin. He says that the directions which the former gives for correcting defects in faith, are of an intellectual kind. Quoting the following passage from Mr. Erskine,-“ Let the reader pause and ask himself, how far his faith is..conversant with words, and how far with things. If peace, and conformity to the will of God, do not result from your faith, look again at the gospel, for you have not yet come in contact with it.” “We hear the gospel with carelessness and indifference, perhaps with scorn and indignation, or we are indolent in the enjoyment of it. There is no other mode of recovery for a mind in that state, than the contemplation of the proper objects, that is, the doctrines of the gospel;"— Mr. Carlile
OF THESE VIEWS OF FAITH.
says, “I will venture to say that the most pious of our older divines would have treated the matter differently; and, I conceive, more scripturally. They would have viewed a man labouring under this spiritual darkness and insensibility, as the apostles would have viewed the blind and paralytic persons in Judea, while our blessed Lord was amongst them. They would, indeed, have told him the truth respecting Jesus; they would have assured him of his mercy, his compassion, his power, his willingness to open the eyes of the blind; but the object of all their efforts would have been to persuade him to apply to Jesus himself personally by earnest believing prayer; not merely to bring his mind in contact with the truth, but his heart with Jesus. And, if he still complained of his blindness and insensibility, they might, indeed, have cautioned him against erroneous views of Christ; but still the burden of their exhortations would have been, Continue in prayer, go to him again and again, keep by him, wait his time; and they would have assured him of being heard and answered at last. And, when they saw him thus looking to Jesus, praying to him, trusting in him, waiting on him, they would say, not that he was enjoying the fruits of his faith, but that he was exercising, or, as they sometimes expressed it, acting faith on Christ; and when, in answer to his faith and prayers, they saw him advancing in spiritual light, and peace, and comfort, they would then have said, Now are you enjoying the fruit of your faith.” (Pp. 7–9.)
On this statement I remark,
First, That the comparison instituted between the blind paralytic, and an individual in the case supposed by Mr. Carlile, is obviously a most unfair one. There is not so broad a line of distinction between a sinner's coming to Christ, trusting in him, &c., and believing the testimony of God concerning him; as between this paralytic's crediting the reports of the power of Christ, and going to him for a cure.
Secondly, I observe that the language of Mr. Carlile seems to imply that peace, and comfort, and joy, &c., are not necessarily experienced in believing, but that they are sovereign gifts which God may withhold, and sometimes does withhold,
STATEMENTS OF MR. CARLILE.
though he usually, and always ultimately, bestows them as the reward of faith. He represents a sinner looking to Christ, praying to him, trusting in him, waiting on him, and yet as being destitute of spiritual light, peace, and comfort; but as finally brought to enjoy these in answer to his faith and prayers. Now, if no more were meant by all this than that true faith, which receives the gospel as far as it is understood, may not, at its commencement, in consequence of remaining darkness, bring all that peace to the mind which brighter discoveries of Divine truth will originate, no fault could be found with the statement. That it does not do this, is strictly accordant with the nature of things. But this, I apprehend, is not Mr. Carlile's meaning. He thought, with some of the old divines, that God comforts believers by a direct and sovereign act of power, so that if they did not venture to say that comfort might be enjoyed without faith, they did believe the converse of this, viz., that faith may be possessed without comfort. I have long regarded this as a mistaken notion, and, in its practical influence, a very injurious one. Spiritual light, and comfort, and joy, are doubtless to be ascribed to God. But then he does not originate them in the minds of men in a manner which is at variance with his usual mode of proceeding. It is his general practice to work by means.
In the infinite multitude of changes and effects, in the material and the spiritual world, which are all to be traced to him, I can only fix upon two that can be ascribed to his direct agency, -the creation of the material universe, and the new creation of a soul to God. In both these cases, the idea of instrumentality, in my view of the case, is utterly excluded. Every where else instrumentality is quite apparent. God enlightens us by means of the sun; he nourishes us by means of food. In the spiritual world he illuminates, and sanctifies, and comforts, and makes us meet for heaven, by means of Divine truth. And the object which the means are intended to secure, is united with the use of these means, in indissoluble bonds. We cannot, on the one hand, have the light, and purity, and joy, of which we have just been speaking, without the belief of the truth; nor can we, on the other hand, believe the