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ject Mr. Bellamy's doctrine concerning saving faith, on three accounts; because it misrepresents the gospel; because it contradicts the scriptural notion of faith as a receiving grace; and because it fosters one of the most dangerous evils of our depraved nature.
First, with regard to the gospel, it is made up, according to Mr. Bellamy, of two things: One is, the revelation of certain abstract truths; such as, that God, of his own mere motion, gave his Son to die for those that are infinitely ill-deserving; and that he can consistently with the honour of his law save such through Jesus Christ his Son. The other thing is a declaration, that God is ready to be reconciled to the sinner, upon condition of the sinner's return to him. There are no promises of the gospel, according to this author, but what are suspended upon the condition of some moral good wrought in us or done by us; and consequently none which a sinner, unconscious of such goodness in himself, has any immediate access to believe or embrace, as directed to him.
But this is, by no means, a just representation of the gospel of our salvation. For, in the first place, the gospel is not merely a proposal of some abstract or historical truths to be believed. For when such truths concerning the person and office of Jesus Christ are declared as good news to sinners, there is always implied and often expressed, as was shewn before in the third letter, a free promise of salvation through his name. Thus, when the apostles taught, that Jesus is the true Messiah, they declared, at the same time, that he is the promised seed, in whom all the families or kindreds of the earth were to be blessed, Acts iii. 25, When they bore testimony that he died and rose again,
they likewise preached through his death and resur rection the forgiveness of sins. Nor, in the second place, are the promises of God in Christ exhibited and offered to us in the gospel dispensation to be considered as conditional; but rather as absolutely free to us, the proper condition of them all having been fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ in his obedience unto death: a position which was vindicated in the third letter, and which appears to be sufficiently confirmed by this one consideration; That whatever moraliy good qualifications have been represented as conditions of the promises, are secured in the promises themselves. Thus, faith is a promised blessing, In his name shall the Gentiles trust. They shall say, the Lord is my God. Repentance, They shall look upon me, whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn: Love, The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart to love the Lord thy God. Acceptable obedience to God's law, I will put my Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in my statutes, and ke my judgments and do them. The fear of the Lord and perseverance in a holy practice unto the end. Ť "will put my fear into thy heart that thou mayest never depart from me.
We allow, that the word gospel is often taken, in a large sense for the gospel dispensation, including all the commands and threatenings of the law, as these are subservient to the design of the exhibition of the gospel-promise. But when we speak of the gospel, as contradistinguished from the law and as the formal ground of saving faith; then it is no other than a revelation of Jesus Christ, including a free promise of everlasting salvation through his name. The confounding of these two senses seems to be what the papists intended, when they taught, that faith justifies as well
by believing the threatenings, the commands and histories of the word, as by believing the promises. This opinion was resolutely opposed by our reformers. For, said they, the life which faith seeks in God is not to be found in the commands of the word or in the threatenings of punishment, but only in an absolutely free promise; for a conditional promise offers life to those only, who see or feel that they have it in themselves already*. If we would have a firm and unshaken faith, we must build upon those promises of God in which he regards not our worth but our misery; upon his mercy, as revealed in the free message of reconciliation; That God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. A person is not to be called a true believer, because he believes, that the commands of God are just, and his threatenings true; but rather because he apprehends Christ as exhibited in the free promise. Such were the principles upon which our reformers opposed the papists on this head.
Unless the gospel, strictly taken, were such as we have now described it; that is, unless it were a free unconditional promise of salvation through Jesus Christ; it would be no gospel, no glad tidings, to fallen man; who, being dead in trespasses and sins, has no disposition or ability to will or do what is spiritually good. To tell persons in such a case, that they must acquire some good qualifications or perform some conditions, before they have a warrant to look for any benefit from Christ as their Saviour, is as impertinent,
Promissio conditionalis, says Calvin, qua ad opera nostra remittimur, non aliter vitam promittit, quam si perspiciamus esse in nobis sitam. Vide Institut. lib. iii. cap. 2d. sect. 29:
as it would be to tell a paralytick, unable to move a hand or a foot, that he might be cured, if he would walk several miles to a certain skilful physician. But some will be ready to say, Is not your own doctrine attended with the same absurdity; since men, in their natural state, are incapable even of that apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, and of that believing -application of the free promise, which you allow to be necessary. Answer. The gospel, strictly taken, is adapted to the case of impotent sinners, in regard that it has no commands for here God hath promised to give us all things belonging to our salvation, not excepting faith itself, freely for the sake of his beloved Son. And though the law, in subservience to the gospel, enjoins us to believe in Christ as our Saviour; yet there is a great difference between the soul's compliance with this command, and that performance of previous conditions, which our opponents insist upon. These conditions, according to them, must be performed by sinners before or in order to their having any ground to consider Christ as their own Saviour; and consequently whilst they have no ground to consider him as their righteousness for acceptance or as their strength for performance. But this is by no means the case even in the very first act of that faith which our doctrine inculcates as the immediate duty of every sin ner upon hearing the gospel; for in that act Christ is considered as now given to us to be our righteousness and strength. In a word, the difference between the new law requiring certain good qualifications or conditions to give us a right to claim Christ as our own Saviour, and the call which God gives us to receive him as such without money and without price,-is, that the former bids us discharge a duty without
Christ; whereas the latter directs us to discharge it in and by him as our only strength.
In the second place, we observe, that Mr. Bellamy's opinion of saving faith, as it stands opposed to the doctrine of Mr. Marshal and Mr. Hervey, represents faith rather as a giving, than as a receiving grace. Faith, according to Mr. Bellamy, far from taking Christ to itself upon the footing of a free grant, makes no claim to him but what is founded upon its reconciliation of heart to the law of God; upon its love to God on account of his infinite amiableness; upon its disposition to return home to God. But it is the distinguishing character of true faith in Jesus Christ, that it is a receiving, self-emptying grace. It is nothing in or of itself: its all is in and from its glorious object. The language of it is; O our God, we have no might against this great company that cometh against us neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee, In the LORD JESUS CHRIST, not in myself, have I righteousness and strength. By faith a person, considering himself no otherwise than as a child of fallen Adam, ignorant, guilty, unholy and subject to innumerable miseries, receives Christ Jesus as made of God to him, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. When the person takes Christ and all these blessings to himself by true faith, the ground he proceeds upon in doing so, is not his consciousness of any good wrought in him or done by him, but only the grant, the free and unconditional grant, which a gracious God in Christ makes, of all in the word of the gospel. In this way, the believer begins to be a partaker of Christ and of spiritual blessings in him. All the graces of the Spirit are among these blessings. Hence it is more proper to say, that the other graces