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is, therefore, properly not called a gracious ability. It might as truly be argued, that if God require us to obey the Mediator, he is obligated to furnish the Mediator. If he require faith in the atonement, he is bound to furnish the atonement; if he require us to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he is bound to furnish the Holy Spirit; so that none of these gifts are gracious, and grace is excluded from the redemption. With equal truth it might be said that because God requires us to serve him with all our natural endowments, existence, life, faculties, and advantages, therefore none of these are by benevolence, but by debt. Hereby grace is banished from redemption, and benevolence from nature. Every endowment that man receives, by nature or redemption, even though it be the basis of a duty and a requirement, is none the less a gratuity. God gives the grace, and imposes the requirement, because it is a grace; nor does the requirement abolish the grace.
NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT.
Christ as truly died as a substitute for the sinner as Damon could have died as a substitute for Pythias. Yet to make the parallel complete, Damon should so die for Pythias, as that, unless Pythias should accept the substitution of Damon in all its conditions, he should not receive its benefits, and Damon's death should be for him in vain; Pythias may be as rightfully executed as if Damon had not died. If the sinner accept not the atonement, but deny the Lord that bought him, Christ has died for him in vain ; he perishes, for whom Christ died. If the whole human race were to reject the atonement, the atonement would be a demonstration of the righteousness and goodness of God, but would be productive of aggravation of human guilt, rather than of salvation from it. The imputation of the sin of man, or his punishment, to Christ, is but a popular conception, justifiable, if understood as only conceptual; just as we might say that the crime of Pythias was imputed to Damon, in order that we also might be able to say that
Damon was punished instead of Pythias. In strictness of language and thought, neither crime, guilt, nor punishment is personally transferable.
Christ died for all men, and for every man, and for no one man more than for another. The personal, voluntary reception of the atonement, in its full conditions, by the sinner himself, constitutes the difference between one man and another in the obtainment of its benefits. A fountain stands for the entire inhabitants of a town, for one man no more than for another; and the personal drawing and drinking of the water may constitute the only difference in the enjoyment of its benefits. The atonement itself is universal and irrespective; the personal appropriation, by which the individual sinner secures his share of its benefits, is in each case particular.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH. The method by which the sinner appropriates a share of the benefits of the atonement personally to himself, is comprehensively said to be by faith. By the works of the law, that is, by a Christless morality, can no flesh be justified. The law finds us in sin and in depravity, made responsible by volitional action, and reveals our sin unto us. When its perfectness is comprehended, all hopes of meeting its full demands must die within us. We can, therefore, only hope for salvation by the acceptance of the offered atonement for past sins and future short-comings.
The faith which justifies, implies the belief of the intellect, the accord of the affections, and the submissive acceptance by the will. By this entire act of the whole soul, the sinner surrenders himself to Christ for salvation. The sincerity of this faith implies the full renunciation of sin by repentance, and the full self-commitment to obedience to Christ. This act of the sinner is accepted of God, and is imputed to him for righteousness. By the law of the redemptive kingdom, he stands justified before God for all his sins past; the record of condemnation is blotted out, and his name is enrolled in the Lamb's book of life. In accordance with the conditions of the atonement, the Holy
Spirit is now imparted unto him, not merely in its convicting, but in its witnessing, enlightening, strengthening, and sanctifying power.
This faith, by the ordinary laws of mind, is preceded by normal preparatories, viz. by the ordinary gracious ability bestowed through the atonement, by perception and reception of truth, by conscientious feeling, by exercise of reason, by prayer to God, by realization of sin, by successive stages of preparatory faith in the revelations of the law and the gospel Repentance towards God precedes the act of justifying faith in Jesus Christ. The immediate performance of this whole work is in one sense requirable of the sinner, since the law demands his punishment for past sins, and the wrath of God abides upon him, until the moment of his justification. His inability instantaneously to perform the whole work required is self-superinduced by his past sinful life, and is, therefore, not excusatory. Yet it is not in accordance with the laws of mind to expect, or to teach, that the whole process actually can be instantaneously accomplished.
The gracious influences of the Spirit ever precede our action, working within us both to will and to do, and is ever graciously given more abundantly upon our action; so that in attaining justifying grace, God and man previously co-operate.
Though the convicting influences of the Spirit are often, for a time, to a degree irresistible, measurably awakening the conscience and convincing the reason, in spite of our resistance, yet neither is the influence that results in saving faith, nor the saving grace which follows, properly irresistible by the will. Justifying faith is voluntary and free. The soul is normally able to withhold it; nor is the operation of the Spirit such as necessitatively to secure it.
We are not saved by the merit of faith. Faith may indeed be considered in one sense as a work, a good work, a right work, the rightest work which, in the case, the sinner can perform. It has in itself the same sort of good desert, or ethical merit, as we ascribe to every act which in
its given place is morally right. The contrary act would be morally wrong. And it is because of the meetness and ethical fitness and moral rightness in the case, that faith is selected as the proper medium of reconciliation and acceptance. Yet the value of this faith is not such as that it merits the salvation sequently bestowed upon it. Abstractly, God might rightfully drop the being into nonexistence at the instant of its accomplished faith. The sinner has presented no equivalent for the salvation he receives, and he is truly saved by the free and abounding grace of God.
We do not hold that it is necessary, in order to the graciousness of our justification, that the faith should be resistlessly secured by the previous operation of God. Nor is it necessary for the graciousness of this salvation, that the act of faith should, by the natural laws of mind, be secured by the antecedent operation necessitatively, as the assent of the intellect is secured by a mathematical demonstration. For even those who hold to this necessitative securement believe that all right acts of the will are secured in the same way, so that by their own view there is as much moral merit in the act of accepting faith as in any other right, free-volitional act. The difference between us here lies, not in the meritoriousness we are bound to ascribe to the accepting act of the will, but in our views of the nature of the freedom of the will itself. By our views of the freedom of the will, it is necessary to the responsibility or moral good desert of an act, and of this as of all other acts, that it should be performed with full power of other action instead. And when this act is performed in the possession of such power, we are no more obliged to ascribe the great salvation, of which it is the condition, to the merit of the act, than our brethren opposed are obliged to ascribe the salvation to the merit of the necessitated act.
PossibiLITY OF APOSTACY. In full consistency with that doctrine of human freedom and responsibility which pervades our theology, we main
tain that, inasmuch as we were free in first performing the conditions of salvation, so we are free in the continuance or cessation of their performance. The volition by which we accepted the terms, we could have with held ; neither our probation nor our freedom on that test-point has ceased at our conversion. Amid the temptations, the unbeliefs, and the backslidings of life, the test-question may again and again recur, whether we shall bold fast our first faith; and there still exists the same freedom for decision for either alternative. The different views of our two theol . ogies on this point are truly logical corrollaries from their antecedent views of free agency and responsibility. If it be consistent with free probation that God not only require the consent of our will for justification, but also causatively to secure it, that same causative securement must also necessitate our persevering volition. But it seems to us a perfect contradiction of probation and of the freedom for the act to be absolutely secured.
We affirm, indeed, that God grants full enabling grace to persevere. He protects us so that none can snatch us from our Father's hand, nor separate us from the love of God; he keeps, supports, and guards; he confirms us when we are strong, and raises us when we are fallen; but he performs all this for us, not as things, but as agents from whom the consenting accordance and co-operation are conditionally presumed, both in the promise and performance of all these preserving acts of grace. After all these gracious aids on the part of God, there still remains, by the very nature of free agency, an ultimate element of selfhood, which alternatively decides whether or not that grace shall be in vain. That free selfhood intrinsically remains, however it may sometimes objectively be circumscribed, through the entire existence of the self.
Promises, no doubt there are, in abundance, in the word of God, which are verbally in unconditioned form.
Yet the law of conditionality, belonging, as it does, to the gos. pel terms of salvation, is ever to be held as implied. Were that all-pervading law of conditionality but once clearly ex.