William Styles, Spirital Faith A Grace: Not A Natural And Legal Duty

Note 5. It is sometimes urged that Faith in Christ is always in the New Testament represented as preceding and leading to salvation, but that we preach it to saved sinners only. Hence we are accused of keeping from men the glad tidings of salva­tion through Faith, until practically they do not need them.

The preceding Note answers this. It is not our custom to tell men indiscriminately that “There is life FOR a look at the Crucified One,” or bid them, “Only believe, and they shall be saved.” We, however, have much to say on the origin, Object and operations of Faith. We love to simplify, aud illustrate, and exemplify this important branch of truth. Faith can be preached scripturally, without unscripturally urging a living act on a dead sinner.

Moreover, the objection is as delusive as it is disingenuous. Those whom we bid trust in the Saviour, though as we hope saved essentially, are not saved experimentally, till they have fled for refuge and laid hold upon the hope which it is our prayerful endeavour, by our testimony, to “set before them.”

We do not command men, who obviously have no concern for their souls, to come to that Christ of whose personality they may bo iguoraut, and in whose character and grace they feel no interest; but to assert that we bid none to trust in Christ who are not consciously and joyously the recipients of salvation (for this is really what the objection in question means) is wholly untrue. Joseph Hart’s well-known hymn, “Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,” exemplifies how, we judge, conscious sinners should be addressed. Their characters are beautifully described; poor, wretched, weak, wounded, sick, sore,—yet they “feel their need” of Christ, since the Spirit has shown them it by the first beam of light He has darted into their hearts. To such, exhortations to believe—to come—to venture—are scriptural and appropriate.

To sinners, however, who are not thus concerned, simple in­ struction about Faith is all that a preacher has scriptural warrant for advancing; while commanding them to believe,— or to close with Christ—or to take Him at His word,[1] is as irrational as it is contrary to the Gospel.

[1] When addressing the unregenerate, unsound preachers in our own pulpits often urge texts of a certain class upon their hearers, and entreat them not to trouble themselves about their own condition and feelings, but to do as Mr. Hart says, “only take Him at His word.” This is an exemplification of the “craft of meu, who lie in wait to deceive for simple hearers are apt to think that, as the preacher quotes Hart, he cannot be preaching error. The poet’s words, however, do not carry the above sense. He is addressing (Hymn 56,) “tempted souls,” whom he bids take their “dying Lord ” at His word,—“It is finished.”

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Note 4. It is the business of an Evangelist to preach the Gospel to every creature—and to state to all the relation of Faith to salvation.

This the inspired preachers of the New Testament continually did. Thus the Lord presented Faith to Nicodemus, (John 3:14-16;) to the Jews, (chaps, 5:24, and 6:40 and 47;) and to the man to whom He gave sight, (9:35-38.) Plainly also He stated the alternative of unbelief. (John 3:18 and 36; and 8:24.)

Thus, also, He instructed His apostles to preach, bidding them tell men that, “he that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

In obedience to His injunction, Peter explained the relation of Faith to salvation, in his Pentecostal sermon (Acts 2:21); and Paul, at Antioch, informs his hearers that the blessing of Justification belongs to “all that believe,” (Acts 13:39.)

These are typical instances. In none of the cases cited are the verbs in the imperative mood. The verses quoted are not commands, but statements of general acceptation. They are simple declarations of the gracious and blessed fact that Faith and salvation are conjoined: that those who believe in His Son, share the pardoning love of God; while the dire con­ demnation of the Law will be visited on all who live and die without Faith in Christ.

Such testimony should be given by all Gospel ministers in the present day.

When, however, an Evangelist has to deal ‘personally with anxious enquirers, or is led to preach the Gospel specifically to those who are awakened to solicitude about sin and its conse­quences, he should direct and encourage such characters to trust in the Lord Jesus. This is the command of the Gospel. Obedience to it is “the obedience of Faith.”

This command is nowhere addressed to men as men, or even to sinners as sinners—but to such sinuers as give evidence that they are conscious of their peril, and anxious to be rescued from it by Jesus Christ. It presupposes a gracious change in those to whom it is addressed. It is a merciful reply to the early distress of a regenerated sinner.

Thus Peter enjoined those who were “pricked in their heart” to “repent and be baptised upon the name of Jesus,” which involves the idea of trusting in Him. (Acts 2:38.) Paul and Silas likewise commanded the jailor to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” for it was amply apparent that he was in the proper condition to receive the gracious direction.

This obvious distinction between preaching Faith declaratively to all men, and directly and personally to sensible sinners only, is so apparent in the Bible, that it is a marvel that any fail to recognise it.

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Note 3.—Ever since it pleased God to give some of His servants clearer light on this question, others have sought to oppose the truth by misrepresenting the view for which we contend.

Thus the Rev. George Rogers, in “The Sword and the Trowel,” vol. ii., page 8, charges us with holding (1) That it is not the duty of men to believe the Gospel; (2) That Faith is in no sense a duty to saint or sinner; and (3) That no man is responsible for its possession or exercise.

William Jay, in his Morniug Exercise for November 29th, speaks of some “who condemn and ridicule” ministers for “calling upon sinners to believe.”—and dismisses the subject with a few hackneyed phrases, and popular misapplications of Scripture.[1]

[1] The text is 1 John 3:23, the author insisting that, because the Father commands His heaven-bom children to “believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ,” ‘‘Faith is a duty,” “unbelief is punishable, and destroys the souland that, “under the Gospel nothing else destroys the soul.”
Very earnestly would we ask our Christian brethren with whom we are at issue, if they deem it right to refer to our sentiments at all, to quote from our accredited publications, and not to make wild and unprovable allegations.

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Note 2. The Article Also insists that the “precious Faith” of “God’s elect” “is not a duty incumbent on men as men.”

We do not deny that it is the duty of men to believe in God. We denounce Atheism and Agnosticism as sin. We hold that all men should trust in God’s providential care, and fear and obey Him.

We do not deny that it is the duty of men to believe in the inspiration of the Bible, and to receive and order their lives according to its teachings; and we regard it as wicked for any man to ignore and neglect God’s holy Word.

We do not deny that it is the duty of men to receive, as true, the story of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament,— to believe in His eternal Deity, His Everlasting Sonship, His mediatorial character, His perfect work, and His present appearing in heaven; and we loathe the sentiments of Free­ thinkers, Socinians, and all others who expressly or overtly repudiate the statements of the Gospel of God.

We do not deny that it is the duty of men to employ their mental and moral powers in relation to God and His worship and service, and we contend that every rational man is account­ able to Him for the right use of his reason, conscience, time, opportunities, money, and influence. We denounce the abuse of these as sin, and insist that it is every man’s duty to live as in the sight of that great and benevolent Being, who is his Creator, Preserver, and continual Benefactor, and will require from all a strict account at last.

We do, however, deny that it is the duty of a natural man to be a spiritual man; to possess the gift of “precious Faith;” to perform acts which are possible to those only who have received that gift; and to believe in Christ Jesus to the saving of his own soul.[1]

[1] Arminians occasionally try to perplex God’s “little children,” who have been led into “the truth,” (1 John 2) by enquiring, “whose fault is it that sinners are not saved?” The answer is, “It is no one’s fault.” The fault lies in the presence and practice of sin, not in the absence of grace and spiritual Faith.

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Note 1. This Article consists of two parts—that which affirms the nature and Divine origin of Faith, and that which denies the error of Duty-faith.

In the first part, it is affirmed that upon chosen, blood- bought and heaven-born sinners a faculty or power is imparted called, “precious faith,” or, “the faith of (namely, that which is peculiar to, or characteristic of) God’s elect that this power is manifested in acts of spiritual belief or trust, one of which is specified, namely, believing in the Lord Jesus “to the saving of the soul and that salvation, (in its fullest and most comprehensive sense) is conjoined with it.

These weighty words involve many important truths.

That the Faith in question is “precious,” inasmuch as it differs, not only in its objects but in its nature, from the ordinary acts of credence and trust, of which the minds of natural or unregenerate men are capable.

That this Faith is not the supreme or highest exercise of the mental powers which belong to men as men, but is a distinct principle or faculty bestowed by the Holy Ghost on chosen redeemed, and heaven-born sinners, who obtain it through the righteousness of Christ.[1]

That the faculty of Faith, or the ability to believe, and the acts which spring from it, should be carefully distinguished.

That the possession of the principle of precious Faith leads to the…

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