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bare and outward declaration of the word of God," says a great writer,* "ought to have largely sufficed to make it to be believed, if our own blindness and stubbornness did not withstand it. But our mind hath such an inclination to vanity, that it can never cleave fast to the truth of God; and such a dulness, that it is always blind, and cannot see the light thereof. Therefore there is nothing available done by the word, without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit."



About fifty years ago, much was written in favour of this position by Mr. Brine. Of late years, much has been advanced against it, by Mr. Booth, Mr. M'Lean, and others. I cannot pretend to determine what ideas Mr. Brine attached to the term principle. He probably meant something different from what God requires of every intelligent creature; and if this were admitted to be necessary to believing, such believing could not be the duty of any, except those who were possessed of it. I have no interest in this question, farther than to maintain, that the moral state, or disposition of the soul, has a necessary influence on believing in Christ. This I feel no difficulty in admitting, on the one side, nor in defending, on the other. If faith were an involuntary reception of the truth, and were produced merely by the power of evidence; if the prejudiced or unprejudiced state of the mind had no influence in retarding or promoting it: in fine, if it were wholly an intellectual, and not a moral exercise; nothing more than rationality, or a capacity of understanding the nature of evidence, would be necessary to it. In this case, it would not be a duty; nor would unbelief be a sin, but a mere mistake of the judgment. Nor could there be any need of divine influence; for the special influences of the Holy Spirit are not required for the production of that which has no holiness in it. But if, on the other hand, faith in Christ be that on which the will has an influence; if it be the same thing as receiving the love of the truth, that we may be saved; if aversion of heart be the only obstruction to it, and the removal of that aversion be the kind of influence necessary to produce it; (and whether these

* Calvin: See Institutes, Book III, Chap. 14.

things be so, or not, let the evidence adduced in the Second Part of this Treatise determine ;*) a contrary conclusion must be drawn. The mere force of evidence, however clear, will not change the disposition of the heart. In this case, therefore, and this only, it requires the exceeding greatness of divine power to enable a sinner to believe.

But, as I design to notice this subject more fully in an Appendix, I shall here pass it over, and attend to the objection to faith being a duty, which is derived from it. If a sinner cannot believe in Christ without being renewed in the spirit of his mind; believing, it is suggested, cannot be his immediate duty. It is remarkable in how many points the system here opposed agrees with Arminianism. The latter admits believing to be the duty of the unregenerate; but, on this account, denies the necessity of a divine change in order to it. The former admits the necessity of a divine change in order to believing; but, on this account, denies that believing can be the duty of the unregenerate. In this they are agreed, that the necessity of a divine change and the obligation of the sinner cannot comport with each other.

But, if this argument have any force, it will prove more than its abettors wish it to prove. It will prove that divine influence is not necessary to believing; or, if it be, that faith is not the IMMEDIATE duty of the sinner. Whether divine influence change the bias of the heart in order to believing, or cause us to believe without such change, or only assist us in it, makes no difference as to this argument: if it be antecedent, and necessary to believing, believing cannot be a duty, according to the reasoning in the objection, till it is communicated. On this principle, Socinians, who allow faith to be the sinner's immediate duty, deny it to be the gift of God.†

To me, it appears that the necessity of divine influence, and even of a change of heart, prior to believing, is perfectly consistent with its being the immediate duty of the unregenerate. If that disposition of heart which is produced by the Holy Spirit, be no more than every intelligent creature ought at all times to possess, the want of it can afford no ex

* Particularly, Propositions IV. V.

Narrative of the York Baptists, Letter III.

cuse for the omission of any duty to which it is necessary. Let the contrary supposition be applied to the common affairs of life, and we shall see what a result will be produced. I am not possessed of a principle of common honesty : But no man is obliged to exercise a principle which he does not possess:

Therefore I am not obliged to live in the exercise of common honesty!

While reasoning upon the absence of moral principles, we are exceedingly apt to forget ourselves, and to consider them as a kind of natural accomplishment, which we are not obliged to possess, but merely to improve, in case of being possessed of them; and that, till then, the whole of our duty consists either in praying to God to bestow them upon us, or in waiting till he shall graciously be pleased to do so. But what should we say, if a man were to reason thus with respect to the common duties of life? Does the whole duty of a dishonest man consist in either praying to God to make him honest, or waiting till he does so? Every one, in this case, feels that an honest heart is itself that which he ought to possess. Nor would any man, in matters that concerned his own interest, think of excusing such deficiency by alleging that the poor man could not give it to himself, nor act otherwise than he did, till he possessed it.

If an upright heart towards God and man be not itself required of us, nothing is or can be required; for all duty is comprehended in the acting-out of the heart. Even those who would compromise the matter, by allowing that sinners are not obliged to possess an upright heart, but merely to pray and wait for it, if they would oblige themselves to understand words, before they used them, must perceive that there is no meaning in this language. For, if it be the duty of a sinner to pray to God for an upright heart, and to wait for its bestowment, I would inquire, whether these exercises ought to be attended to sincerely, or insincerely; with a true desire after the object sought, or without it? It will not be pretended, that he ought to use these means insincerely: but to say he ought to use them sincerely, or with a desire after that for which he prays and waits, is equivalent to saying, he ought to be sincere; which is the same thing as possessing an

upright heart. If a sinner be destitute of all desire after God, and spiritual things, and set on evil; all the forms into which his duty may be thrown, will make no difference. The carnal heart will meet it in every approach, and repel it. Exhort him to repentance: he tells you he cannot repent; his heart is too hard to melt, or be any ways affected with his situation. Say, with a certain writer, he ought to endeavour to repent: he answers, he has no heart to go about it. Tell him he must pray to God to give him a heart: he replies, prayer is the expression of desire, and I have none to express. What shall we say then? Seeing he cannot repent, cannot find in his heart to endeavour to repent, cannot pray sincerely for a heart to make such an endeavour; shall we deny his assertions, and tell him he is not so wicked as he makes himself? This might be more than we should be able to maintain. Or shall we allow them, and acquit him of obligation? Rather ought we not to return to the place where we set out, admonishing him, as the scriptures direct, to repent and believe the gospel: declaring to him that what he calls his inability is his sin and shame; and warning him against the idea of its availing him another day; not in expectation that, of his own accord, he may change his mind, but in hope that God peradventure may give him repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

This doctrine, it will be said, must drive sinners to despair. Be it so it is such despair as I wish to see prevail. Until a sinner despair of any help from himself, he will never fall into the arms of sovereign mercy: but if once we are convinced that there is no help in us, and that this, so far from excusing us, is a proof of the greatest wickedness, we shall then begin to pray as lost sinners; and such prayer, offered in the name of Jesus, will be heard.

Other objections may have been advanced; but I hope it will be allowed, that the most important ones have been fairly stated whether they have been answered, the reader will



FIRST: Though faith be a duty, the requirement of it is not to be considered as a mere exercise of AUTHORITY, but of INFINITE GOODNESS; binding us to pursue our best interest. If a message of peace were sent to a company of rebels, who had been conquered, and lay at the mercy of their injured sovereign, they must, of course, be required to repent, and embrace it, ere they could be interested in it; yet such a requirement would not be considered, by impartial men, as a mere exercise of authority. It is true, the authority of the sovereign would accompany it, and the proceeding would be so conducted as that the honour of his government should be preserved but the grand character of the message would be mercy. Neither would the goodness of it be diminished by the authority which attended it, nor by the malig nant disposition of the parties. Should some of them even prove incorrigible, and be executed as hardened traitors, the mercy of the sovereign in sending the message would be just the same. They might possibly object, that the government which they had resisted was hard and rigid; that their parents before them had always disliked it, and had taught them from their childhood to despise it; that to require them to embrace with all their hearts a message, the very import of which was that they had transgressed without cause, and deserved to die, was too humiliating for flesh and blood to bear; and that, if he would not pardon them without their cordially subscribing such an instrument, he had better have left them to die as they were: for, instead of its being good news to them, it would prove the means of aggravating their misery. Every loyal subject, however, would easily perceive that it was good news, and a great instance of mercy, however they might treat it, and of whatever evil, through their perverseness, it might be the occasion.

If faith in Christ be the duty of the ungodly, it must, of VOL. I.

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