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Christ to man in the Gospel, and in the order which he has established, by which faith cometh by hearing the word of God, as can possibly be conceived of. Justice, truth, and faithfulness are pledged for the bestowment of every blessing promised in the new covenant, by God, upon those who believe on his Son. God has less power than any other being in the universe, to relieve himself from such necessity. He alone is essentially holy, just, and true; yet I see no diminution in the riches, freeness, or the ful ness of his grace; an incapacity of binding himself by promi ses or declarations would be an incapacity of truth and faithfulness. The sovereignty of God, and the freeness of his grace are perfectly compatible with the revelation of his will, and the requisitions of the Gospel. The power and the will; the sovereignty, and the grace of God, can never be brought to oppose each other, nor can either of those be opposed to the word of God; or be made inconsistent with it, as his medium of communicating the knowledge of spiritual things to man-but they all unite in establishing it, and confer on it its divine authority and truth. Upon the truth and faithfulness of God, in his promises, every believer rests his hope of a glorious immortality.
It is not owing to a defect of power in the Trinity, or in any person of it, that the divine purposes cannot be changed, but because it is impossible for the pow er of God to break in upon the order of his distributive justice. It is upon this account only, that we read that Christ on a particular occasion, "could there do no mighty work." Mark 6. 5. The power of doing a miracle was always present with him, but the place being improper, because of their unbelief, it made the things impossible. In the same manner, that declaration of the Lord in Gen. 19. 22. is to be understood: "Haste thee, escape thither, for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither." No man would hence conclude, that the hand of God is straitened, or his power limited; but only that he does, and by his own nature must act agreeable to the disposition of things in the order he has established, and which is known to himself. Those things, as far as they relate to us, and are for our belief, and observance, are written in the book of God. They are
written there for our instruction; and if we will not believe them, with the evidence which God has given, it seems that we would not believe although one rose from the dead; and it may be on the same account that Christ could dono mighty work by reason of unbelief, because that it was improper, and therefore impossible, that God has not another shaft in his quiver for our conviction, if the Gospel fails. The order of his divine appointment is, that faith cometh by hearing the word of God. It is in this way that we are found of God, who sought not after him; and it is through this channel that faith is given to us by God. This is according to the decree of God; and also that without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. No one knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him; and this revelation is made by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. This Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be learnt, and understood, except by the use of the faculties, and powers which God hath given us.
Faith has ever preceded the operations of the Spirit in the believer, as far as they relate to his immediate agencies upon him. John 1. 12. Gal. 3. 26. Mark 16. 16. Faith receives the promises of the new covenant. Gal. 3. 22. Eph. 1. 13. The Spirit is one of the promises. Acts 2. 38-39. Isai. 44. 3., &c. As the Spirit is a promise, and as we receive the promise by faith, his work is the consequence of faith by which he is received. Gal. 3. 14. John 7. 3839. A sinner believes without the immediate operations of the Spirit, as his reception is in consequence of that belief. God justifies the ungodly, but he justifies none but those who believe. He saves sinners, but none but those that believe; therefore sinners believe unto salvation. Faith is the gift of God, and Christ is the author and finisher of faith. Eph. 2. 8. Heb. 12 2. But how does God give faith? By his word. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom. 10. 17. Acts 17. 31. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world, &c. God is the giver of that faith which is produced by his divine evidence. Faith being the gift of God in any other
sense, puts it out of the sinner's reach, and destroys Gospel responsibility. But some say faith is produced by praying, striving, seeking, &c. How can the sinner call on God in whom he has not believed? Rom. 10. 14. Prayers without faith, James says, are good for nothing-they are an abomination before God. Jas. 1. 5-7. Heb. 11. 6. Rom. 14. 23. It is said, we have natural, and not moral power, to believe, and that the moral power depends on God's Spirit making us willing. Faith does not depend upon will or disposition, but on testimony. We believe many things which we are unwilling to believe as the loss of friends, the burning of our houses, death, &c. A sinner is unwilling to believe that he is exposed every moment to eternal ruin; yet how many do believe it, and tremble. God works in us through faith in his word to will, and to do after his good pleasure our natural acts are contrary to this. We must, therefore, believe the word before God works in us a will, and disposition to serve him; indeed, it is by his operations in us in this way, that we are transformed into the same image, that we are made holy, without which no man can see the Lord. If God works the will or disposition in us to believe before we have faith, then this work is previous to faith in his word; consequently the word is neither the cause nor foundation of faith, but the cause is the previous work of the Spirit immediately upon the mind. This is the foundation of enthusiasm, and delusion; it is Shakerism. But if sinners, being perfectly unholy, are, by that means, unable to believe God, how was it that the perfectly sinless Adam believed the devil? He surely was as morally unable to disbelieve God, as sinners are to believe him. But, it is said that the sinner is dead, and cannot believe. I say, he can never live or be made spiritually alive, before he does believe. John 3. 36. John 20. 31. It is said that sinners are blind, and cannot see: it is by faith that they do see, and see those things which are not objects of sense, or of natural sight. We walk by faith, and not by sight. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11. 1. Jesus said, blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. John 20. 29. It is said, that if the unconverted sinner can believe by the instruction, and evidence of the
Gospel, that he is his own saviour. The bread that sus tains the beggar, is the gift; and the person who bestowed it, is the giver, and benefactor. Some think they glorify God in debasing his creature, man, into a senseless image. Man, though fallen, is the noblest work of God on earth, and shews forth the glory of his maker. According to these ideas, it may be said we believe when we please. There are many things which I would be very willing, and pleased to believe, but, for the want of testimony, I cannot. There are, also, many things that I am unwilling to believe, not pleased with, and highly indisposed to believe-yet, from testimony, I am obliged to believe. They who make the objection, do not know that it falls upon themselves→→ they believe when they please, and are willing, for they profess never to believe but by a power extraneous to the word, and evidence-they then believe because they are willing, or please to believe. Every truth in the Bible is an object of faith, whether it be merely political, historical, or evangelical. The effects of faith are different. Faith in the law produces condemnation to a sinner; but faith in the Gospel, justification, and life. Faith in the promises of a faithful God, produces reliance, and trust in him; this faith increased produces assurance.
It is objected, that the human mind has naturally no spiritual capacity-that, until it is infused, implanted, or created, by the immediate agencies of the Spirit, there is as little effect produced by preaching or teaching the Gospel, as there is in speaking to a grave yard. Ezekiel's vision of the vally of dry bones is the favourite portion of scripture employed to prove this opinion. The influences of preaching, from the mouth of such theorists, are just such as might be expected. No person can, with propriety, and truth, be said to be interested or instructed, except those who have fallen into the same notions; and the failure of such preaching is rolled over on God, by being attributed to his sovereign unwillingness to do the previous work. The first, and favourite object of such instructors, is to make the people believe that they cannot believe the Gospel by its own evidence; and that, even should they believe it, by the evidence of record, that it is only a speculative faith, and not
connected with salvation. The natural mind is very strongly predisposed to believe this, because it absolves it from all obligation; and believing it, rejects christianity as absurd, and contradictory, being in opposition to the plainest principles of right reason, and common sense. The teacher, having succedeed, in the previous part of his discourse, in making the audience believe that they cannot believe what he calls the Gospel by its evidence, nor apprehend or feel the importance of it to their temporal, and eternal happiness, without those immediate agencies; under the pretence of doing his duty in declaring the whole truth, by which he professes to clear his skirts of the perdition of men's souls, he tells them, that if they do not believe in Jesus Christ, they will be doomed to everlasting perdition for rejecting him. While discharging the last part of duty, which is in contradiction to the former, and which is generally done with warmth, and in a manner highly declamatory, exhibiting the terrors of hell, and the torments of the damned on one side, and the glory, and joys of heaven on the other, it is said that the Spirit chooses to operate, and quicken them. As it is manifest that the preaching itself, taking what are called the doctrinal, and practical parts together, according to the most obvious principles of consistency, and just reason, could not produce any effect, agreeably to their own theory, all the effects which are produced are attributed to the immediate operations of the Spirit. No allowance is made for the influence of an impassioned elocution upon these awful, interesting, and grand subjects; it matters not how highly impressive the matter, and manner of address may be upon the audience, or intelligible the style, the effects are attributed to an immediate out-pouring of the Spirit. I am pleased ed with sublime pathos in pulpit eloquence: and, indeed, I cannot well conceive how a person, who perceives the force, and feels the practical importance of Gospel truth to the temporal, and eternal interests of men, can fail throwing Fife, and impressiveness into his discourses, and affecting his audience. Such effects are always divine, if produced by the truth, and authority of God's word. Many very good men, adopting the same opinions about immediate agencies, but who have not the same talent for speaking, and affect