William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 12 – Spirital Faith A Grace, Not A Natural And Legal Duty

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

XII. Spiritual Faith not a Natural and Legal Duty.

We believe that the “precious faith” of “God’s elect,” with which salvation is conjoined,[1] is “the gift of God, “obtained” by the elect “through the righteousness of God our Saviour,” wrought in the heart by “the operation of God,” and manifested by acts of spiritual belief or trust which are performed through gracious ability communicated by the Holy Ghost,[2] and that it is not a duty incumbent on men as men, which they can perform at their pleasure, but is obligatory only upon chosen, blood-bought, and heaven-born sinners, to whom power has been imparted to believe in the Lord Jesus to the saving of their souls.[3]

[1] Mk 16:16; Jn 6:40; Acts 16:31; Rom 3:24-26; Tit 1:1; Heb 10:39; l Pet 1:9
[2] Pet 1:1; Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29; 2:13; Acts 18:27; Col 2:12
[3] Jn 6:44; Jn 3:23—The candid reader may object that these are insufficient as proof texts. This is conceded, but it is confessedly difficult, if not impossible, to prove a negative; nor can texts that directly deny that Duty-faith is scriptural be advanced. It should, however, be remembered that the responsibility of proof is always allowed to be with those who make an assertion. Our Duty-faith brethren should not, therefore, assume that their position is incontrovertible because we do not urge texts against their view: but rather prove it themselves from the Bible. Let them produce texts which assert that it is the duty of natural men to be spiritual, and to perform spiritual acts, spiritual faith being one of them and the controversy will be ended. Young Christians should ask, concerning any doctrine that is claimed to be scriptural, not so much, “can it be be disproved?’ as ‘Is it proved?’ We are told to “prove all things” (1 Thess 5:21) not to disprove every error which may be advanced.


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 souland 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 ch osen 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 act of belief in God, and trust in Jesus as the Saviour.

That Faith in its principle and actions is conjoined with salvation.

That the Holy Spirit who is the Author of Faith must energise this principle before acts of belief and trust can be performed.

These points are amplified and substantiated in the author’s Manual, pages 186—263, to which the reader is referred.

How far our convictions on this subject differ from what is currently held and taught by modern Christians, the reader will, it is hoped, be able to judge.

Granting the truth of what is advanced, it is evident that Faith is the fruit of Divine grace. Grace determined who should believe. (Acts 13:48; 2 Thess 2:13.) On these Grace confers the principle of Faith, (Eph 2:8 ; 1 Pet 1:1;) Grace calls forth this principle into acts of credence and trust, (Acts 18:27 ; Phil 1:29.)

The Gospel of Grace encourages and directs these acts, (Rom 10:17;[2] 1 Thess. 1:6.) Grace connects these acts with salvation. Grace must operate ere Faith can exist. Grace must influence ere Faith can act. Grace crowns with the promised blessing, (Rom 1:16; Heb 10:39; 1 Pet 1:9.)

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.[3]

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 isin 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 sinuers to bolieve.”—and dismisses the subject with a few hackneyed phrases, and popular misapplications of Scripture.[4]

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 Ix>rd 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.

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 salva­ tion 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,[5] is as irrational as it is contrary to the Gospel.

Duty-Faith Is Denied By All Strict And Particular Baptists

Note 6. -Duty-faith is the doctrine that it is the duty of natural men to exercise spiritual Faith in the Lord Jesus, and so to obtain salvation. Its emphatic denial is a distinguishing feature of the Strict and Particular section of the Baptist denomination.

It is variously expressed by different moderate Calvinists, but the following extract from the “Declaration ” of the “Truths believed and held” by the “Home Counties Baptist Association,” formed at Guildford, in October, 1877, may be accepted as embodying the belief of most of the brethren who differ from us on the point.

8. “The duty of all men to whom the Gospel is made known to believe and receive it.”

The view of the Strict and Particular Baptists is thus expressed in the statement of the Doctrinal Basis of the “Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches,” which has also been adopted as expressing the principles of the “Strict Baptist Mission :”—

6. “Regeneration and sanctification by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of Divine truth; and that saving Faith is not a legal duty, but the sovereign and gracious gift of God.”

These declarations are evidently meant to be decisive and final. A preacher who does not insist that it is the duty of unregenerate persons who hear the Gospel from his lips to believe and receive it, has no right to associate with the estimable brethren who are connected with the “Home Counties Baptist Association.” On the other hand, a minister who believes that spiritual Faith is a duty incumbent upon all natural men who hear the Gospel, is not a Strict and Particular Baptist, (according to the received usage of the term) and ought not, in common honesty, to call himself one.

Note 7.—This asserts that it is the “duty” of all to whom the Gospel is made known to “believe” and to “receive” it.

It is, however, expressed with little exactness. The phrase, “Believing [in] the Gospel” is used but once in the New Testament, Mark 1:15, where, (as shown, page 28,) the word “Gospel” is used, not in its later and technical sense, for the glad tidings of the Saviour’s finished work, but for the announce­ ment of His benevolent designs towards the Jewish nation at a crisis in their history. For this only the Lord here craved credence.

The expression is not appropriate to the Faith with which Salvation is conjoined—which has a Person for its object, credence in the testimony leading to trust in Him.

Again, the distinction between “believing” and “receiving” the Gospel is not obvious. It may simply mean that all to whom it is made known, ought to “believe” in its truth, and “receive” it with respectful attention,—namely, the word “receive” should here be regarded as synonymous with “believe,” or, perhaps, as expressing the same idea in a more emphatic manner; or, our brethren may intend that it is the duty of all such persons as they describe, to exercise “the Faith of God’s elect” and believe, to the eternal salvation of their souls?

Once more, our brethren are vague in identifying individuals as those to whom the Gospel “is made known” The word know in relation to the Gospel is used in the New Testament in two senses. It sometimes stands for a mere intellectual ac­ quaintance with the letter of Divine truth, without any spiritual apprehension of its moment, (Matt. 22:29; Rom. 1:21,22; Jude 10.) More often, however, it describes that peculiar knowledge of the truth of God, which is the result of the operations of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of elect and blood-bought sinners, and which is a special blessing of the New Covenant, (Psa. 2:6; Heb. 8:11; John 10:32; 1 John 2:23,27,29.)

In which sense are we here to understand the term? If the meaning is, that all who gain a fair knowledge of God’s gracious way of saving men, ought to believe the Gospel which declares it, we have no controversy with them. The Gospel is “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,” 2 Tim. 4:15.) Having such authority, it demands a candid and cordial reception ( apodocheJ from all to whom it is “made known.” Whether it comes to a man “in power and in the Holy Ghost,” or, in “word only,” (1 Thess. 1:5,) it is his duty to give it attention, and to order his conduct by the informa­ tion he receives from it.

Probably, however, our brethren intend that it is the duty of all who become acquainted with God’s plan of salvation, not only to assent to the veracity of the Divine record, but to approach the Lord Jesus by spiritual Faith, and accept salvation at His hands.

Note 8.—Rightly understood, how fearful is the import of the above Article!

As long as a man is uninformed as to the character, capaoity, and claims of God’s Son, spiritual Faith is not his duty.

The moment, however, this knowledge reaches him, he becomes the subject of a new, paramount, and imperative obligation, which binds him, at his eternal peril, to perform a duty of the most solemn character.

Have our friends duly considered this . Obligation is ad­ mitted to spring from relationship. Does the fact that the Gospel becomes known to a man alter God’s relation to him, or his relation to God? He was a sinner before; he is a sinner still. He was under the Law before: and is under it still. He was destitute of the principle from which the act of Faith springs. A mere knowledge of the letter of the Gospel incon­ testably does not impart this principle, or all who read the New Testament, or hear an evangelical sermon, would be saved. Nothing, therefore, in the cause assigned, accounts for the perilous obligation, under which such a man is alleged to come. Surely the condemnation of the Law is terrible euough, with­ out the introduction of a Gospel, which? while “it is the power of God unto salvation to those that believe it,” is the occasion of increased woe to the myriads that do not.

Note 9.—It may be urged that the obligation from which the duty to believe springs, is not created by a knowledge of the Gospel, but springs from the natural and moral accountability of men, on whom it is incumbent, as rational creatures, to believe the message of Divine mercy, and so act as to ensure their personal participation in its provisions of grace. Men ought to believe God; therefore they ought to believe the Gospel of God, and accept the grace therein tendered to sinners.

If this is our brethren’s view, to state it is surely to refute it. The range of all natural duty is unquestionably defined by the Law, or it would be an incomplete enforcement of the claims of God on man, and insufficient for the purpose of the Divine Judge at the great final assize. If there were one natural duty which it did not enjoin, or one sin which it did not forbid, it might not suffice for the equitable condemnation of the guilty at last.

The Faith that brings a lost sinner to Christ, therefore, if a duty incumbent upon him as a natural man, must be com­ manded by the moral Law. Our brethren must then admit that (if their Article is read in this light) the Law commands all men to whom the Gospel is made known, to believe its testimony, and come to Christ to be saved.

But “the Law is not of Faith, (Gal. 3:12;) “is not a matter of Faith; nor does it relate to it, or require it. It deals in other matters, and pertains to another system.” Albert Barnes.

Yet, if our brethren take this ground, Godby the Law com­mands spiritually dead creatures to become living Christians; natural men to become spiritual men; and those who are under the curse to grasp at the highest favours Heaven itself can bestow.

Yet again, duties which arise from our natural relation to God. and which are commanded by the Law, are “works.” Spiritual Faith, if incumbent on men, as men, is a command of the Law. (or a legal duty) and is, therefore, a “work.” The salvation of God (which the Gospel asserts to be of grace) can only be obtained by legal obedience. Duty-faith thus really means that sinners must inaugurate their salvation by an act of creature merit, or be for ever lost. A legal work is the con­dition of grace.

If these things seem absurd, the absurdity originated with the framers of the Article.

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.”[6]

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.

Note 11.— So often has Duty-faith been shown to be unscriptural, so plainly have its tendencies been pointed out, that it is marvellous that honest and earnest students of the Word of God do not abandon it.

Reasons may, however, be assigned for its retention. Such are:

1. The prevalence and popularity of interpretations which have no authority but tradition. Dead lips used certain texts in a wrong sense. Living lips repeat the ancient errors. Dead hands wrote false expositions. Living hands endorse these. Thus Christ is still said to stand knocking at the door of unregenerate hearts, (Rev. 3:20.) Paul is still asserted to have persuaded Agrippa to become a Christian, (Acts 26:28.) The Spirit is said to strive with men in order, if possible, to make them pious, (Gen. 6:3.) God is represented as intreating sinners to give Him their hearts, (Prov. 23:26.). Our Lord is accredited with having commended men for being violent in their creature efforts to obtain salvation, (Matt. 11:12.)[7] The Apostle’s assertion that he and his colleagues were “ a savour of death uuto death,” (2 Cor. 2:16,) is tortured to mean that the Gospel which saves some, occasions augmented torment to others. These and many other portions which are explained in this book, and in the Author’s Manual of Faith, continue to be misquoted and misapplied, and iu support of ideas which are not only unscriptural, but positively anti-scriptural.

2. Many ministers maintain the doctrine of Duty-faith because of the opportunities it gives them of effective oratorical display. It is pleasing to a speaker’s vanity to present pictorial representations of Christ’s weeping over the hardness of men’s hearts; of His patience in endeavouring to woo and win them ; the anger with which He will shortly abandonthem; and the bitterness of their ultimate reflections in Hell that they would not let Him save them. Mediocrepreachers can easily terrify their congregations into transient religious feeling by dwelling on such startling themes. A reputation for earnestness attends their enforcement, and brethren who “love the praise of men more than the praise of God,” will not abandon what so cheaply secures popularity.

3. Many uphold Duty-faith because it is so generally main­ tained, and because, never having gone closely into the question, they are vaguely persuaded that it is somewhere taught in the Bible, though they cannot say where. The doctrines of Grace they (as they assert) believe and preach,— but they also hold that the Gospel is a bond fide offer of Sal­ vation to all who hear it, and that sinners are responsible for accepting or rejecting it.

That Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility contra­ dict each other they all admit—though the difficulty is met iu different ways.

Some, like the earlier Fullerites, attempt by ingenious arguments to harmonise them, though this is rarely now done. Others, like the late C. H. Spurgeon, evade the tremendous difficulty by a joke, and refuse to try to “reconcile” the conflicting testimonies, on the ground that they “never quarrelled.” Many are content to plead that it is a mystery, inexplicable indeed, but so amply revealed that it must be believed.

A few—for want of Scriptural proof—employ natural similitudes, forgetting that an illustration is not a demonstration. The contradictory doctrines, they allege, resemble the two pictures which, when viewed in a stereoscope, appear as one,—or the two ends of one vast chain, the middle of which is submerged in the ocean,—or two discordant notes in music, which a third will resolve into harmony.

Of this, however, all claim to be persuaded: that both have equal support in the Word of God. This was, twenty-six years ago, the conviction of the writer; but he was brought to reflect “that truth must be evermore consistent with itself,” and that, since Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty do not simply involve a paradox, but are destructive to each other, one must be untrue. He remembered that the meaning of the word “mystery ” in the Bible has a wholly different meaning from that in which it is often employed in reference to this subject.[8] He saw that a poor jest, or a few fancied analogies, were by no means, proofs, and he subjected all the texts pleaded in favour of Human Responsibility to close and careful consideration. He was at length convinced that the doctrine is destitute of Divine authority; and that the Gospel, so far from being a contradictory system, is one in which harmony and consistency are apparent from first to last. His Manual of Faith and this little book are largely the results of those labours.

4. Perhaps the real reason of the all but universal maintenance of Duty-faith among evangelical Christians is a subtle mistrust in the power of the Gospel to effect the work for which God has given it.

There is an unquiet feeling that the full and faithful declaration of the gracious message, and a simple statement of the relation of Repentance and Faith to salvation, are not sufficient. True, that God’s chosen and redeemed people “who are or­ dained unto eternal life will believe,” (Acts 13:48,) but surely the unregenerate ought to be told to do something? To assure them they will continue spiritually dead till it pleases God to quicken them, and legally doomed unless He deliver them, does not suffice. Should not some effort be pressed on them, though it is admitted that they can do nothing? Hence the easy duty of only just believing is urged on dead sinners as a concession to the restlessness of the fleshly energy of such natural men as do these preachers the honour of coming to hear them.

Note 12.—Among the Strict and Particular Baptists there is at presont a strange silence on the error of Duty-faith, which strongly contrasts with the opposition it received from our predecessors. John Stevens’ Help for the True Disciples of Emmanuel was designed to refute it. John Foreman’s Duty-failh fully shows its unscriptural character. James Wells rarely preached without denouncing it, and his Letters to Theophilus cogently disprove it. William Palmer was writing a series of Tracts which expose its evils, when his death brought them to a sudden termination in 1873.

The writer of this book has observed with pain that in the Articles of Faith recently issued by an historical church, the first pastor of which was one of Andrew Fuller’s opponents,— no clause distinctly denying Duty-faith is included.

In this it presents a contrast to those of the majority of the earlier Churches of our Faith and Order. For example:

14. “We believe that there is a common and [a] special Faith: the first which devils [also] exercise, (James 2:19.) and [which] is every man’s duty, (1 John 5:11); the latter is the gracious gift of God, (Eph. 2:8,) and is so, and only so, obtained, (2 Pet. 1:1.)—Faith and Practice of Eden Chapel, Cambridge.

“That [the] Faith which is connected with Salvation is not the duty of men in an unregenerate state, but is the gift and operation of the Holy Ghost, by which the sensible sinner discovers his misery, and then looks solely to Jesus Christ for Salvation. This Faith is emphatically styled “the Faith of God’s elect.”—Articles of Faith of Providence Chapel, Islington; also of Mount Zion Chapel, Chadwell Street, Clerkenwell, and several others.

XIV. “…….We deny Duty-faith…We deny offers of grace, and every Doctrine and Sentiment which tends to rob the Lord Jesus Christ of His glory.”—Articles of Faith, Particular Baptist Church, St. Ives, Hunts.

Note 13.—Several living ministers who once denied Duty- faith, now hold and preach it, and thus “build again that which they destroyed,” (Gal 2:18.)

None of these, however, have made public how they were delivered from what they now see to be error, what text was “opened up to their minds, or laid on their hearts by the Holy Spirit,” and what religious emotions accompanied their con­ version to their present views.

“This only would we learn of them,” did they themselves receive the life of God into their souls at their regeneration, aud were they favoured with the pardon of their sins at first, because of the conscious performance of a duty? If so, what text commanded it, and how did they feel when obeying it?

Surely the method employed by Paul in Gal. 3:2 may be legitimately employed in this discussion. Truth is learned in two ways, from the “counsel” or testimony of the Lord given through the Word; and from the instruction of the “reins,” that is to say, the experience of the heart of the heaven-born and heaven-taught man, (Psa. 16:7.) These concurrently confirm and corroborate each other. Thus Hart says of the Holy Ghost:

“Now what in Holy Writ He says,
In parts or through the whole,
The self-same truth, in divers ways,
He teaches in the soul.”

And, conversely, what “He teaches in the soul,” He explains and confirms in the Word, (l John 2:20,27.)

These brethren must have been brought to see the import­ ance of the error they have abandoned. This conviction must have been originated by, at least, one passage in the Bible. Their changed views must have stirred solemn and deep feeling, and led to much prayer ere they left their former associates.

Will no one tell “those who fear God” what “He hath done for their souls” in this matter? (Psa. 66:16.)

Note 14.—It is sometimes urged that—even granting that Duty-faith has no direct support in the Word of God—it is practically harmless, and often appears to be attended with good results in the more rapid conversion of sinners.

But good men, with holy David, should “hate and abhor lying,” (Psa. 119:163,)—and the substitution of falsehoods for the Gospel is surely the worst form of untruthfulness.

Duty-faith is objectionable; for

1. Baptists who hold it, cannot plead that the Bible and the Bible alone, is the basis of their theology. They blame others for enforcing unscriptural tenets, and freely quote the Bible in denunciation of their errors. With what consistency can they do this, when they know that one distinguishing article of their own creed has no support in the Word of God?

2. The late John Andrews Jones, in the Earthen Vessel for September, 1863, conclusively shows that the Fullerian system of Duty-faith “tends to overthrow the distinguishing and glorious doctrines of the Gospel.” History substantiates this. The churches which adopted it at the close of the eighteenth and the early decades of the nineteenth centuries never contemplated abandoning the truths of the sovereignty of God in the election, redemption, and effectual calling of saving sinners. In how many of these churches, however, are these truths held to-day? The Down-grade is the natural and inevitable result of the departure from the truth which Andrew Fuller inaugurated.

3. It is a cause of the most deplorable division among Calvinistic Baptists. Till it was introduced, the Particular section of the Denomination was harmoniously united in the interests of the truth. This error severed them. Duty-faith mainly kept J. Stevens and J. H. Evans, J. Wells and C. H. Spurgeon apart. Duty-faith prevents all true Strict and Particular Baptists from active intercourse and fellowship with the brethren of the “Home Counties Baptist Association,” whereas they and ourselves would be one on all evangelical questions, but for this most unscriptural error.

How, then, the lie of Duty-faith can be practically harmless we cannot conceive.

[1] The doctrine that the believing acts of saved siuners result from the possession of a spiritual faculty or principle, is not (as some imagine) peculiar to ourselves, or even to Calvinists, as such. Thus A. S. Paterson, A.M., (a moderate but firm Calvinist,) in his work on the Shorter Catechism, page 267, denies it, and contends that ‘‘saving Faith is neither more nor less than belief of the Gospelthat “there is no difference with respect to the manner of believing,” between it and ordinary credence and trust—“and that it is distinguished from ordinary faith only with respect to the object or thing believed.” On the other hand, William Jones. M.A., of Nuyland— (1726-1800,) the great Hutchinsonian divine—and a pronounced opponent of Calvinism, writes : “For an object to be admitted into the mind,” it must “find a faculty there which corresponds with its own peculiar nature.” “For spiritual truth there must be a spiritual sense, and the Scripture calls this sense by the name of Faith—which word sometimes signifies the act of believing; sometimes the matter which is to be believed ; but in many cases it is used for that sense or capacity in the intellect by which the invisible things of the Spirit of God are admitted and approved.’* Works, 1801, vol. iv. pages 16. 17, and vol. vii. page 287.
[2] “Faith com6th by hearing, or rather, as in the Revised Version, “belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” A knowledge of the Gospel does not create the principle of Faith, but calls it forth into exercise—and that, not by any inherent efficiency in the report itself, but, “ by the Gospel’s coming in power, and in the Holy Ghost.” (1 Thess 1:6.)
[3] 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.
[4] 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 senti­ ments at all, to quote from our accredited publications, and not to make wild and unprovable allegations.
[5] 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.”
[6] 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.
[7] This is simply an historical statement, that, during a speci­ fied period—“from the days of John until now,”—unwonted interest had been evinced by earnest persons in the solemn matters of salvation. The verse is difficult to translate—many different renderings being proposed by scholars of equal reliability.
[8] The word “mystery,” in its ordinary use, conveys the notion of something which we oanuot understand; and into which it were fruitless to inquire. Thus our dictionaries tell us that it means (1) “anything which is very obscure; or, (2) beyond human comprehension.” But, if we so interpret the word when it occurs in the Bible, we shall be misled. The heathen had certain rites, which expressed secrets which were carefully concealed from the uninitiated, but were privately made known to a seleot few. Each of these was called, in Greek, a mysterion, and the Apostle Paul, in employing the word, naturally used it in this sense. With him, therefore, it denotes those designs of God’s providence, and those doctrinal truths which had been conoealed from mankind “till the fulness of time” was come, but were now made manifest to regenerated and believing men. Thus we employ the term in reference to those from whom the cause, occasion, or explanation of a fact is withheld, and therefore unknown. Paul uses it in reference to those to whom such things are revealed, and therefore known on Divine authority. Thus we say, “who the man in the iron mask was”—or “who was the author of the letters of Junius,”—“will be mysteries to the end of time,” meaning that no one will ever discover and disclose the full truth concerning these singular historical facts. But when Paul speaks of “the mystery of the Christ,” (Eph. 3:3-5,) he means something which had been kept secret in the Divine mind “in other ages,” but had then been revealed to the Apostles and New Testament prophets, (or in­ spired teachers,) and through them to all Christians, who were therefore called upon to contemplate and study it. Thus when a Fullerite—with pretended humility and piety— tolls us that ho holds the lie of Human Responsibility and the truth of Divine Sovereignty, but how these can be harmo­ nised “is a mystery,” he employs this word, not in its Scriptural sense (as he appears to dol but its popular sense, in order to delude the simple-minded. The Gospel presents many mysteries, but this is not one of them. See Archbishop Whateley’s “Essays on the Writings of the Apostle Paul ” Seventh Edition, pages 163 and 176. Also The Gospel Pulpit, by J. C. Philpot, No. 151, Sermon on Spiritual Mysteries, (1 Cor. 14:2.)

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)