Note 10. We have seen that, if spiritual Faith is the duty of natural men, it must be commanded either by the Law or the Gospel. If, however, it is commanded by the Law, it is a “work,” having in it the element of human merit, and men are saved for performing a legal duty. If it is commanded by the Gospel, the Gospel has the force of a law binding on natural and unregenerate men, and which not only exacts duty from them, but exposes them to increased punishment for dis­ obedience. This is so foreign to its admitted nature, that it is idle to refute it.

In spite of these considerations, religious persons in a careless way cite texts in proof of this popular error.

The majority of these are examined in the Author’s Manual ot Faith and Practice. Up to the present time no portion of God’s word has been advanced, which, under any circumstances, imposes spiritual Faith as the duty of a natural man.

1. Texts whioh oommand men. to believe in God, or commend them for so doing, do not establish the disputed doctrine: such a9 exempli gratid, “The people of Nineveh believed God,” (Jonah 3:5.) “Thou believest that there is one God, (or that God is one, R.V.); thou doest well. The demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19, R.V.) The absence of such faith is sin. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,” (Psa. 14:1.) See Acts 14:15-17. Portions like these have no bearing on the matter before us.

2. Nor may texts which commanded Jews, as Jews, to believe in God as their Divine Benefactor and King, in accord­ ance with the Covenant which He had made with them as a nation, (see page 29.) “Believe in the Lord your God,” (2 Chron. 20:20.) “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established,” (Isa. 7:9.) They are often rebuked for the absence of this form of trust in God. “ Children in whom is no Faith,” (Deut. 32:20.) Also Deut. 1:32; Num. 22.; Psa. 78:22; Jer, 13:25 ; Rom. 11:20. Such texts do not touch the present question.

3. It will, again, be in vain to cite portions whioh refer to the time of Christ’s residence on earth, and relate to Faith in His person and power at this period. “Believe ye that I am able to do this,” (Matt. 9:28.) “Be not afraid, only believe,” (Mark 5:36.) “Many believed in His name”, (John 2:22,)—where the context makes it plain that the Faitn was not spiritual and saving. “Of sin, (that is the sin of the Jewish “world” in rejecting the Messiah) because they believe not in me,” (John 16:9.) “How are ye able to believe (i.e., it would be a moral impossibility) while ye receive (or court) honour (or glory) one from another,” (John 5:44.) Such portions, do not bear on the present discussion.

4. Neither must texts be advanced which enjoin acts of belief on chosen, blood-bought, and heaven-born men. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 16:31.) “This is Ilis commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son,” (1 John 3:23; John 14:1; John 20:31.) Such texts do not refer to unregenerate men, with whom we are now solely concerned.

5. Nor must the texts advanced be simple statements of the relation of Faith to salvation.

Thus Mark 16:16 is not a command to believe, but a doctrinal statement that “he that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved.”

In conversing with Nicodemus, the Lord neither commands nor solicits Faith in Himself—but simply states that whoever feels spiritually like a serpent-bitten Israelite, and believes in the Son of God, whatever his nationality, shall not perish; and conversely, that he that believeth not, is under the condemna­ tion of the holy Law of God, (John 3:14-18.) John 6:29 is not a command to unbelievers to trust Christ, but a declara­ tion that God would regard the reception of His Son by the Jewish nation with pre-eminent favour as a good work, and that trust in Him by men as sinners is viewed with Divine appro bation. Acts 13:39 is not a command to the men in the Synagogue at Antioch to accept Christ, but a simple statement ot the vital truth that “by Christ all that believe are justified.”

In some cases the privileges and immunities of Faith are presented hypothetically. It does not appear from Acts 8:37 that Philip commanded the Eunuch to believe; but when the latter requested to be baptised, said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”[1]

In Rom. 10:9, which reads like an extract from an apostolic sermon, the hypothetical method is again adopted. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Somewhat similarly, statements of the relation of Faith to salvation are introduced by the word “whosoever.” Acts 10:43, “Through His name whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.” Rom. 10:11, “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame.”

Passages of this class indisputably do not enjoin Faith as a human duty.

If proof texts to our brethren’s Article are to be produced, they must either be the words of Christ, or His apostles which command people who were indisputably unregenerate to believe spiritually, or they must be passages in the Epistles which clearly state this doctrine—or directions to preachers like Timothy and Titus thus to command unregenerate sinners to believe and be saved.

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[1] This verse is wanting in several of the best manuscripts, and is not only regarded as of doubtful authority by many scholars, but omitted in the Revised Version. “Its genuineness is, how­ ever, recognised by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other primitive writers.” Trollope’s Note. If we must part with it as a proof text, it is still valuable as showing how Faith in its relation to Baptism was regarded in the early Church.



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