Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

truth, without the enjoyment of these blessings. There must be some defect in the views, or in the faith, probably in both, of that man who has no spiritual light, comfort, and joy. The proximate cause of the defect is here. Nothing can be more unquestionable than the statement of Mr. Erskine, that if peace and conformity to the will of God do not result from the professed faith of an individual, his mind has not come in contact with the gospel; and there is no possibility of bringing him out of that state, but by bringing him into contact with the gospel; and that if the influence of the gospel upon the heart and conduct of an individual be but partial, there is no way of recovering him from that state, but by bringing his mind more entirely into contact with the gospel. It is always well to guard against using language improperly strong; yet I am not sure we may not say that, constituted as the mind of man now is, there is no other mode of recovery which it is competent to God himself to adopt. Omnipotence, we admit, cannot make us happy without holiness; is it less difficult, I would ask, the present constitution of the mind remaining, to render us joyful without something to rejoice in? that is, without a spiritual and believing apprehension of the gospel.

In dealing with the consciences of men, it is of vast importance to show them that the proximate or real cause of any deficiency of spiritual light, comfort, and joy, or the total want of it, is in themselves, in the neglect of duty on their part; or how shall we fix a sense of guilt in their consciences? To show that open transgressors, for instance, are destitute of holy perceptions and holy feelings, because they neglect the duty of believing on the Son of God;-that believers have less knowledge and less enjoyment than it is desirable for them to possess, because they do not receive with such unwavering confidence, or contemplate so steadily and perseveringly, or with a spirit so humble and teachable, and ardently desirous of instruction and spiritual good, those blessed truths which are the life and vigour of the soul, as it becomes them to do. In all cases this is the proximate cause; it is a cause in the individual himself, and for the existence and influence of which he stands guilty before God. No doubt, there is a

300

MISTAKE OF CARLILE,

more ultimate cause, the neglect of prayer, in consequence of which Divine influence is not imparted; and a more ultimate cause still, in that sad depravity of our nature which leads to the neglect of prayer. But still these causes are all in the individual himself, and so fix guilt upon him. But, according to Mr. Carlile, this is not the case. The sinner, according to him, looks to Jesus, prays to him, trusts in him, waits upon him, and still does not enjoy as yet the fruits of faith in spiritual light, and peace, and comfort; that is, in other terms, the sinner has exhausted his duty, and yet does not obtain that which he is commanded to exercise continually; for the Divine precept is, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." On what ground, then, can we charge guilt upon him? On the other hand, if it be the case that Jehovah illuminates, and sanctifies, and comforts, and carries on, in short, the whole work of salvation in the hearts of men by instrumentality, or means, which always lead to the result when rightly employed, we may affirm with confidence that a sinner is not saved, and that a believer is not eminently sanctified, because they do not use those means at all, or do not use them aright, in the use of which alone God imparts the blessing.

It is a misrepresentation, on the part of Mr. Carlile, of Mr. Erskine, or at least of Mr. Erkine's sentiments, to allege that the only directions which he gives for correcting defects in faith are of an intellectual kind. What is to hinder Mr. Erskine, according to the system which he adopts, from exhorting the sinner, while he tells him that his heart has not come into contact with the gospel, to look to Him who opens the heart of man to receive Divine truth aright, in earnest and fervent supplication, for that influence which will bring the gospel to bear, with omnipotent force, upon his mind? At the same time, it is to be wished, that there had been more of this kind of exhortation in this devotional, eloquent, acute, but, in many respects, imperfect and confused production of Mr. Erskine's pen. Mr. Erskine appears to me to approach rather too nearly to those who, in their rigid adherence to system, will not exhort a sinner to pray for Divine influence, be

[blocks in formation]

cause it is only the prayer of faith, which at present he is supposed not to possess, that God can hear. Now, I admit the truth of this latter sentiment; but who shall say when the first dawnings of faith begin to exist in the mind? If there be any feeling on the part of an individual that all is not well with him, who shall say that the Spirit of God is not at work with his soul? Why negatively forbid such a man to pray, by not urging him to it? While directing him to the Scriptures, as the source of all spiritual illumination, how can it be wrong to remind him, (what, indeed, so obviously proper and necessary?) that, if his prejudice and depravity be not counteracted by the mighty agency of the Spirit of God, they will blind his mind to the meaning of the Scriptures, and so prevent their influence upon him; and to urge him, by that consideration, to seek the exertion of that agency? The effect is likely to be good. The exhortation, while it humbles, will console him. It will foster the rising spirit of dependence and faith; and who shall say that his petitions for direction, though he may have but a very imperfect conception of the way of acceptance with God-knowing and feeling scarcely any thing else than that he is a sinner, ready to perish-will not obtain acceptance? "The sacrifice of the wicked which God abhors," is that of the man who has no humbling consciousness of ill desert, who deliberately places himself, in the presence of the Eternal, on the ground of merit, not of mercy. Such sacrifices he must needs abhor.

The sentiments of the writer (Mr. Carlile) to whom I have more than once alluded, are as follows:-that trust, reliance, or confidence, enters into the essence of faith,-that belief of any statement is called faith only when founded upon trust, or reliance, on the veracity of some person on whose authority the statement is believed,-and that, accordingly, the very commencement, or dawning of faith in the soul, is trust or reliance upon the veracity of God, producing belief of his declarations in the holy Scriptures. In this he differs from some of the older writers, though professing to agree with them, because he says he comes to the same conclusions with them.

"They began," says Mr. Carlile, "with the belief of

[blocks in formation]

the truth, which they regarded as the initiatory or lowest act of faith; from which they proceeded to trust or reliance on Jesus Christ." He supposes that trust or reliance on the veracity of God, is pre-supposed in any belief that can be denominated faith. The great difficulty, then, under which this system labours, is to find a basis for this trust. It is not Divine revelation, since it is required in order to the reception of Divine revelation. There would, therefore, seem to be nothing for its support but that knowledge of God which is derived from the works of nature. Whether that is sufficient to produce that confidence in God which will dispose to the reception of the deeply abasing truths of Divine revelation, the reader may be left to judge.

LECTURE XVIII.

JUSTIFICATION.

THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION CONTINUED.

THE last Lecture having been devoted to a consideration of the nature of faith, we proceed now,

II. To inquire into the connexion which exists between faith and justification. On this point it is most especially necessary to guard against misconception. Some of the subsequent observations will, accordingly, keep this object more directly in view.

First, we must guard against the notion that the death of Christ has procured a relaxation of the Divine law, so that he who believes in Christ has really fulfilled his duty, and may claim the promised reward as a matter of right. This is a very gross form of error indeed,—more so, perhaps, than the delusion of those who, discarding all confidence in the atonement, rest their hope of salvation on the ground of their own works. It contains all the essential errors of this palpable and naked system of legality, with additional ones of its own. For, according to the terms in which this sentiment is couched, the law of God having abated its demand,—the moral precepts of the decalogue being abolished-and the law of faith having been substituted in its place, the believer actually performs all that God requires of him; and is, consequently, not less entitled to the reward of life than Adam would have been in case of his entire abstinence from the forbidden fruit.

And, then, it involves in it the superadded absurdity, that a radical change can take place in the precepts of a law prescribing no duties save those which grow out of the varied rela

« VorigeDoorgaan »