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The giving mentioned in these texts is not to be understod of a giv: ing unto possession, which is peculiar to them who believe. But it is such a giving to sinners by way of offer, as warrants them to receive the gift, or to take possession of it. As it behoved the manna to be given or rained down, before it could be tasted or fed upon; so God's ĝiving his only begotten Son in the gospel is necessary in order to men's believing on him, that they may not perish, but have everlasting life. The persons, to whoin this grant or offer is made, are not the elect only, but mankind considered as lost. Før such is the record of God, that it warrants all to believe on the Son of God. But the offer of a gift to a certain select company of men can never be a warrant for all men to receive it or take possession of it. Men's unbelief lies in their not believing this record, viz. “ that God hath given to us eternal “ life.” Unbeliet doth not consist in a mere disbelieving of this proposition, that God hathegiven eternal life to the elect: for of this the most despairing unbeliever may be persuaded; and their belief of it adds to their torment. But their unbelief lies in this, that they make him a liar, in their not believing the record of God, even that he hath given to them eternal life in his Son Jesus Christ. Hereby they deny the faithfulness of God in that record ; as if he were not in earnest in the gift which he makes of Christ to sinners as such in the gospel. They slight and des pise the authority of the God of grace, commanding them to give the answer of a particular applying faith to the offer and call of his word. They deservedly perish in unbelief; since the kingdom and gift of God was brought near to them in the gospel, and they would not receive it; but treated it with contempt.
This grant of Christ, of his righteousness and salvation, is plainly set fourth in these passages of scripture which represent the gospel as a promise directed to all the hearers of the word. Acts ii. 39. The promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, and to as niany as the Lord our God shall call ; to as many as he shall call in the same manner in which he was now calling all Peter's hearers, that is, by the outward call of the word. Another text is that in Heb. iv. 1, 2. Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you skould seem to come short of it; for to us was the gospel preached as well as unto them. Here it is evident, from the connecting particle for in verse 2d, that what is called the gospel or good news, is the promise of God's rest mentioned in verse 1st. Our privilege, in having the promise of the heavenly rest left or directed to us in the gospel, is similar to that of the Israelites in having had the promise of a temporal rest in the land of Canaan given to them; particularly in this respect, that we are liable through unbelief to fall short of the good of the promise, as they fell short of it. This is called an absolute promise, in opposition to the promise of the covenant of works; which was properly conditional ; and in opposition to the scheme of the Arminians and Mr. Baxter formerly mentioned. If you allow the new covenant to be properly conditional to us, you allow it to be in effect a covenant of works; you adhere to the way of doing for life; whether the condition be faith and repentance, or sincere obedience, or faith only. Whereas the covenant of grace is exhibited ko siyner's in free promises of justification and salvation for the sake of him, whose name is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: and this exhibition of the new covenant is the gospel of the grace of God. Faith itself is a blessing contained in the gospel promise; and therefore, though it be a means of receiving the promise, and of our obtaining the possession of other promised blessings, yet it is not, in any proper sense, the condition of the promise, or the ground of our right or title to the promised blessings.
Alex. How is it consistent with the truth and faithfulness of God, for him to direct absolute promises of eternal lMe to those sinners, who according to his purpose are never to obtain it ?
Ruf. The Seceders often say, These promises are to be considered two ways; either as they were made to Christ in the secret transaction of the everlasting covenant between the Father and him, to be, according to God's unchangeable decree, completely fulfilled in due time to all those who were given to Christ; or as they are directed to sinners indefinitely in the gospel dispensation.
In the last consideration of these promises, they are viewed as expressive of God's free offer to do according to the tenor of them to every one who embraces them by faith.. Hence it appears, that, according to the doctrine of Seceders on this head, these promises, as they are exhibited in the gospel dispensation, in connexion with the call to believe then, or confide in them, beleng to the revelation of God's will, with regard to the duty of sinners under that dispensation. So that your objection is just the same with that of the Arminians, who represent God's calling men to embrace the offer of grace and salvation, as inconsistent with his appointment of many of them in his decree to everlasting ruin. We answer this objection by observing that, in the gospel dispensation, there is a certain and infallible connexion declared, not between men's external privilege under that dispensation, or any efforts of their natural ability or free will, and their eventual attainment of any spiritual and saving blessing which God hath promised in the gospel; but between their real attainment of one of these blessings and their attainment in due time of all the rest. God's dealing with men in the gospel dispensation says, That he sincerely delights in the work of faith as agreeable to his commanding will; and in its connexion with all the other parts of the promised salvation; but does not at all say of any person, while he continues in his natural state, that it is God's purpose to give him in the event faith or salvation. I am convinced, that the doctrine of the associate presbytery on this head is the same with that of all true Calvinists in opposition to the Arminian error.
The Seceders allow the exhibition of Christ, of his righteousness and salvation in the gospel to perishing sinners, to be an offer; but in order to signify that this offer is most free, without money and without price, without any condition of moral good to be found in us, or done by us, in order to our belief or acceptance of it, they often choose to call it, agreeably to the language of scripture, an unconditional promise, a free gift or grant.
But another reason why the associate presbytery call the gospel offer a grant or promise of the righteousness and salvation of Christ is, the common interest, which the scripture represents sinners of mankind as having in him. They have a common interest in Christ, which the fallen angels have not, it being warrantable for them, and not for the
fallen angels, to take possession of Christ and his whole salvation. Hence, he is called the Saviour of the world, and his salvation is termed a common salvation. Jonah, in his prayer, said, They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy.* The persons here spoken of, have no special or saving interest in Christ, whom they neglect for the sake of lying vanities; but they have a common interest in him as their own mercy. The evangelist John
of Christ, He came to his own, and his own received him not. Relations are mutual; and therefore, as they to whom Christ came, were his own, so he was their own: they had a common and external, though not a special and saving interest in him; while they did not receive him. To the same purpose, is the gracious declaration in the preface to the ten commandments, so often repeated in the books of Moses, and in other places of the Old Testament, I am the Lord thy God. The Lord said so to every person in the camp of Israel; and he is now saying so to every person in the visible church. Thus the gospel offer is called a free grant of the Saviour, as it gives those to whom it is made, a common interest in him; which is distinct from, and opposite to, that special and saving interest in him, which is attained by actual believing in him.
In fine, the associate presbytery represented the gospel offer as a free grant and promise of Christ and his salvation; because it is a proposal of Christ and his salvation to be received, not by working or performing any condition, but by believing; and therefore, the matter of the gospel offer must be something to be believed ; and something which a person cannot truly believe without an application of it to himself: and such is the free grant and promise of Christ, now - mentioned.
The tenets, rejected and condemned by the associate presbytery on this head, are these two: 1. That the free, unlimited and universal offer of Christ in the gospel, to sinners of mankind as such, is inconsistent with particular redemption; or that God the Father's making a deed of gift to all mankind, importing, that whosoever of them all shall believe on his Son, shall not perish, but have everlasting life, infers an universal atonement, or redemption as to purchase. 2. That this grant or offer is made to the elect only, or to such as have previous qualifications recommending them above others.
35. Alex. Another charge in the act of the assembly against the Marrow, is, that it defines saving faith, as it corresponds with the gospel, to be a man's persuasion, that Christ is his; and that whosoever has not that persuasion, has not answered the gospel call, nor is a true believer. This is condemned by the assembly, as contrary to those passages of scripture and of the confession of faith, which teach, that assurance is not the essence of faith.
Ruf. The associate presbytery observe, that it will be obvious to any one, who shall carefully consider the places of scripture and passages of our confession and larger catechism, quoted by the assembly, that they speak of the assurance of sense or reflexion; that is, the certain knowledge which persons may attain of their having already believed, and of their being already in a state of grace,
founded on the evidence of the marks given of that state in the word of God. But
* Jonah ii. 9.
this assurance of sense is
different from the assurance which the Marrow represents as belonging to the nature of justifying faith. It is one thing to be assured, that Christ is ours, that his righteousness and salvation are ours, on the single ground of the free promise of the gospel addressed to sinners; an assurance which belongs to the direct act of saving faith wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit. It is another thing to be assured that Christ and his righteousness are ours, and his salvation ours, because we have found, upon impartial selfexamination, that we have the scriptural characters of true believers, or of those that are Christ's. This is what the associate presbytery call the assurance of sense. It is by the direct act of faith that we know, that in the gospel God speaks pardon, peace and salvation to our souls, through the blood of Jesus Christ: but it is by spiritual sense and reflection, that we come to know, that he has actually begun that good work which he hath promised to fulfil in us.
The associate presbytery agreed with the Marrow in defining saving faith to be a persons real persuasion, that Jesus Christ is his; that he shall have life and salvation by Christ; and that whatsoever Christ did for the redemption of mankind, he did it for him.
In the first place, it is here asserted that there is in justifying faith a person's real persuasion, “ that Christ is his in particular.” This is evident, from the consideration of the nature of justifying faith as effectual to the relief of the sinner who finds himself in particular bound under the curse. A man having only a general faith of the law, will easily rest in a general faith of the gospel, or of Christ's willingness and ability to save sinners, or to save them that come to him. But when one is brought to a faith of the law, as directed to, and condemning him in particular; his conscience cannot be satisfied, nor will it absolve him, or be purged from guilt, without a special faith of the gospel, or of the mercy of God in Christ, as reaching him in particular. Nor can a person's belief of the gospel be answerable to it, as it is a free grant of a Saviour, unless it be such a belief as includes a person's persuasion, that in virtue of that grant, he is warranted to take the Saviour to himself as his Saviour in particular. A person's faith is not answerable to the name of Christ proclaimed in the gospel without this appropriating persuasion. The Lord says to the whole visible church, I am the Lord your God : his name is the Lord our righteousnes; a light to the Gentiles; salvation unto the ends of the earth. The language of a person's faith corresponding to the Lord's name thus proclaimed, must be, He is the Lord my righteousness, my light, my salvation, my God. If we have nothing of this persuasion, we refuse to own him by that name by which he has revealed himself to us;--we deny his naine. In the preface to the ten commandments, God makes over himself to sinners as their God and Redeemer, saying, to each of them to whom his word comes, I am the Lord thy God. And as all the commandments are directed to every one in particular; so the first requires every one to know and acknowledge the Lord to be his God' and Redeemer. Our larger catechism, on this command, teaches us, that to trust in God is to know and acknowledge him, as our own God and Redeemer: and therefore, that there is no trusting in God without faith's persuasion of his being oor God: no trusting in Christ without faith's persuasion,
that Christ is our Saviour. It may be added, that this appropriation accords with the covenant relation between Christ and the whole visible church, which is commonly set forth under the similitude of a marriage relation. When God
you; swer of faith is, Ishi, my husband. When God says, it is my people; the answer of faith is, the Lord is my God. Such is the profession of the visible church; and true faith is the persuasion of the heart answerable to that profession.
In the second place, it is here asserted, that a man's justifying faith has in it a persuasion, “that he shall have life and salvation by Christ.”* Without this persuasion, in some measure, we have no true faith; for it is the same thing with believing on the Son, or resting on him for salvation. None can trust in him or rest on him for salvation without some degree of persuasion, that they shall have life and salvation by him, from sin as well as from wrath. Without this persuasion, we do not set to our seal that God is true in his promise and record concerning his Son; nor do we give any suitable answer to his call, Look unto me and be saved. Accordingly, we find the saints in scripture, using the language of this persuasion in the profession of their faith, Acts xv. 11, We believe, that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved.
In the third place, it is asserted, that a man's justifying faith hath in its persuasion, that whatsoever Christ did for the redemption of “ mankind, he did it for him.” This branch of the persuasion of faith is affirmed by the apostle when he says, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. It is certain, that what Christ did for the redemption of mankind, was his obedience unto death in their stead, or the surety righteousness which, as the second Adam, he fulfilled for us, and for the sake of which the Lord is well pleased. This perfect righteousness is brought near to every one of us in the gospel, even to the stout-hearted and far from righteousness, and is laid in Zion as the foundation of our acceptance with God, and of our hope of eternal salvation :t and therefore, our persuasion, that whatsoever Christ did for the redemption of mankind, he did it for us, in connexion with the former parts of this definition, enters into the nature of that faith which answers the free grant and promise of Christ in the word. I may add, that the persuasion, which is here aserted to belong to a person's justifying faith, is not his believing that Christ died intentionally for him in particular; this faith being the same, on the matter, with the belief of his election; which belief, however attainable it be, cannot belong to faith as justifying. I But when Christ, with his whole salvation, is applied by faith upon the ground of the gospel offer and call; then, whatsoever he did. for
With regard to this persuasion, it is obvious from the connexion here, that it is not to be understood of a persuasion respecting abstract or doctrinal propositions only; but of a persuasian respecting also a grant or promise, which is embraced not only with the understanding as true, but with the heart as good.
* Isaiah xlvi, 12, 13-xxviii. 16.
# For justifying faith is not a persuasion that God from eternity decreed our justifica tion by the righteousness of Christ; but it is a persuasion of two things: First, that his righteousness is sufficient to be our justifying rightcousness; and secondly, That there is such a grant of it in the gospel as warrants us now to present it to God, and to rest on it as our only justifying righteousness.