Is Saving Faith commanded by the Moral Law?
Excerpts by John Brine (1703-1765)
"I shall attend unto the small Labour of a thorough Examination of his 'Answer' to the Question propounded, viz. Whether saving Faith in Christ is a Duty required by the moral Law, of all those who live under the Gospel Revelation?...
The Image of God, wherein Man was created, consisted in a perfect Knowledge of God, and of his Duty according to the Nature of the Covenant, under which he then was, in a holy Affection to God, and in a
habitual Disposition to Obedience. These Things ought constantly to be maintained against, the Socinians, who deny original Righteousness, to the Disparagement of human Nature, in its primitive State, and unto the Dishonour of God our Creator. For, to imagine, that God gave Existence to a reasonable Creature destitute of Principles, suited to enable it to walk before, and with him, in all holy Obedience unto his Will, is to cast impious Reproach on his Wisdom, Goodness, and Holiness. Nevertheless, there is a great Difference, between that Life which we had in Adam, and that which we now have. The gracious Principle in Believers, springs from the Fountain of eternal Love, in the Heart of God towards them, as the God of all Grace. But the Life we had in Adam did not. Our spiritual Life is derived from Christ, and by him it is maintained, and influenced in all its Acts, which the living holy Principle in Adam was not. Again, the regenerate Principle is a Disposition to Acts towards God, agreeable to the Nature of the new Revelation, which he hath given of himself in the Covenant of Grace. But the holy Principle in Adam was a Disposition unto, and exerted itself, in Acts of God, suitable to that Revelation, which the Covenant of Works gave of him. As the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace differ in Nature; So our Life unto God is of a different ind, according to the Difference and distinct Nature of the two Covenants:
Says Dr. Owen: For neither would the Life of Adam be sufficient for us, to live unto God according to the Terms of the new Covenant; nor is the Life of Grace we now enjoy, suited to the Covenant, wherein, Adam, stood before God. Wherefore some Differences there between them, the principal whereof may be reduced into two Heads."
"The Author [Mr. Jackson] observes, That those who appear most warm against Faith in Christ being a Duty, do yet own andacknowledge that Faith to be the Duty of all Men to whom the Gospel is preached, which the Scripture declares is a saving Faith. These Persons, then, are a Parcel of extremely weak and silly Creatures, who thus contradict themselves. But the Contradiction will be found in Mr. Jackson [The man who in writing opposes him], not in them. What is that Faith which they maintain, is the Duty of unconverted Sinners? It is a Belief of the Truth of the Report of the Gospel concerning Jesus Christ, in his Person, Offices, and Benefits. This he asserts to be saving Faith, than which there is nothing more false. Thus the Devils believe: Thus Simon Magus believed; and such a Faith as this is a Man may carry to Hell along with him. It is merely a rational Act excited in the Mind by rational Evident. This is not a Sinner’s fleeing to, receiving of, and resting on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for Salvation, which, Mr. Jackson has before observed, is true saving Faith, in perfect Contradiction to what he here affirms. So that this Argument to prove his Point is absolutely and entirely lost..."
"But in his third Argument lies almost the entire Strength of his Cause, which, therefore shall be thoroughly weighed, and, whatever, properly belongs unto it, in the whole Performance, shall not be paired over, without Notice. It is this:
Thirdly, The holy Scripture declares, that Faith in Christ is a commanded Duty; and proves, that it is a Work, which, God,by the moral Law, requires of all Men, to whom the Gospel is preached.
That we may proceed clearly, in our Enquiries, into what we have now before us, I would observe, that the moral Law is to be considered, either as a Covenant of Works, or, merely, as a Law and Rule of Conduct: This twofold Consideration of the Law is absolutely necessary. For, without it, we must grant, that Believers, are under the Covenant of Works, or deny, that they are under the Law. Whereas, neither may be allowed. They are not under the Law, as a Covenant, but under Grace; nevertheless, they are not without Law to God, but under the Law to Christ. Now the Question is plainly this: Whether Faith in Christ for Salvation is required by the Law as a Covenant? The Answer must be, I think, in the Negative; my Reasons for it are these:
1. The Law is not of Faith: It doth not present the Object of Faith, that all will allow. Nor doth it direct to the Act of Faith in Christ, as a Saviour. The Law, as a Covenant, requires Obedience, in order to Acceptance, and receiving the promised Reward. Do and live is the Language of it, but not believe and be saved: Yea, it is so far from requiring Faith in Christ for Salvation, that it allows not the Subject of it to hope for Deliverance from Misery. That Constitution is nothing but Death to the Sinner: The Soul that sins shall die. How, therefore, can it require Faith in Christ in order to Salvation? The Grace of the Gospel, by its Revelation, makes no Change in the legal Constitution; that is the same it was before the Discovery of Salvation in the Gospel, and so it will eternally remain.
But this is no Bar to the Hope of a regenerate Man: For,
2. A Believer is dead to the Law, as a Covenant: He is brought from under its Power; and therefore, in acting Faith on Christ, he yields not Obedience to the first Covenant, which he must be supposed to do, if that Covenant required it. No Actings of Grace, which the new Covenant gives, are Obedience to the Commands of the old Covenant.
3. The Law is dead to a Believer. Now, that which is dead to him can’t reasonably be thought to give him Direction about, and oblige him unto, the Actings of a Principle, in Consequence whereof its Death to him follows. The Exercise of Faith in Christ, therefore, is not Obedience to the Covenant of Works.
4. Until a Man, thro’ the Law, is dead to the Law, he hath no Warrant to receive Christ as a Saviour, or to hope for Salvation through him. Conviction of Sin, a Sense of Misery, as justly deserved, and despairing of Relief from the Law and Works of it, in Order of Nature, at least, precede the first: Act of Faith on Christ for Salvation. The Act is of that Kind as necessarily supposes it. And as, in the Nature of the Thing, such an Act cannot be put forth, previous unto the Relinquishment of all Hope of Life by the Law, there is not any Thing, in the whole Gospel, which directs and encourages Men to exert such an Act, without the Supposition of that Conviction wrought in them; which Conviction is the Effect of Regeneration; and, therefore, a Man is not under the first Covenant, even when he puts forth the first: Act of Faith on Christ.
Now, tho’ special, supernatural Faith is not required by the Covenant of Works, it requires a Belief of the Truth of every Revelation, which God, at any Time, shall be pleased to make of his Will to his Creature, Man, who is the Subject of that Covenant.
1. The first Covenant most certainly obliges Man to believe that is true, which God expresses.
2. The Christian Revelation hath such evident and indelible Characters of its divine Original, or that it really is a Revelation from God, as are abundantly sufficient to satisfy any rational, unprejudiced Enquirer.
3. That Covenant obliges Man to conclude upon the Wisdom and Holiness of all God’s Designs and Acts about and towards his Creatures, both in a Way of Justice and Mercy.
4. The Mysteries of Redemption by Christ are expressed in Language, which is not above the Capacities of Men; and, therefore, they are able to perceive the Truth of those Mysteries, though they are not capable of understanding the real Nature of them, without an additional supernatural Revelation, or Illumination of the Mind, is graciously vouchsafed to them.
Hence it follows,
5. Contempt cast upon the Gospel, or a Disapprobation and Rejection of the wise and gracious Method of Salvation by Christ, involves Men in Guilt, and justly subjects them to Punishment. And, especially,
6. If they, thro’ Prejudice and Pride, throw off all Regard to Christian Doctrines, after a Conviction of their Truth, or being the Matter of divine Revelation. Many awful Instances of this Kind our perilous Times furnish us with.
The first Covenant requires of Men a Belief of, and reverential Regard to, the Doctrine of the new Covenant, tho’ it doth not oblige them unto acting Faith on Christ for Salvation. Every Man, who despises the Grace of the second Covenant, by so doing brings himself under the dreadful Curse of the first. This is what an holy innocent Creature would never do; but, upon the Revelation of it, he would give Credit to, and reverentially regard it. Thus do the holy Angels, as I before observed. And it is thro’ Ignorance, Pride, and corrupt Prejudices, that Men disbelieve, and reject it as Folly, unto their just Condemnation, But thus far of the Law, as a Covenant, and of the Obligation it says Men under to believe, and not reject, the Gospel of the Grace of God."
"Again, the moral Law is to be considered as a Law merely, or Rule of Action; as such, regenerate Persons are under it, and by its Authority they are obliged unto all the Actings of the regenerate Principle, in Faith, Repentance, Love, and evangelical Obedience.
1. The new Man, or the Believer, as a new Creature, is under the Command of the Law, to love God, and to love his Neighbour; and, consequently, he stands obliged unto all those Acts, by Vertue of that Command, unto which that new Principle in him is suited.
2. As by a new Revelation, both external and internal, new Objects of Love, Adoration, and Delight, are presented to his View, those Acts are the Matter of his Duty. Yea,
3. All the Actings of this Principle, in the future State of Glory, will be due unto God, by Vertue of the moral Law, which is no other than his Will, that his Creature, Man, should yield Obedience unto him in every State, suitable to those Principles wherewith he furnishes him, and unto those Discoveries of himself, which he graciously affords him. I am so far from thinking, that Believers are not, in this State, under the moral Law, or that their Acts of Faith, Repentance, Love, and filial Fear of God, are not Obedience to it in the present State, that I am most firmly persuaded, that they will be under that Law in Heaven, and that all their holy Acts of Love, Adoration, and Delight, in that blissful State, will be Obedience due to their heavenly Father, by Vertue thereof."
"The Objection, in Fact, is this: The holy Principle connatural to Adam, and, concreated with him, was not suited to live unto God through a Mediator; that kind of Life was above the Extent of his Powers, though perfect; and, therefore, as he in a State of Integrity had not a Capacity of living unto God, agreeably to the Nature of the new Covenant, it is apprehended, that his Posterity, while under the first Covenant, are not commanded to live unto God after that Sort, or, in other Words, to live by Faith on God, through a Mediator. Capable he was of receiving a Revelation from God of other Truths, than what are contained in the first Covenant, if it had been the Pleasure of God to make such a Revelation unto him. He was able to give an Assent, to the Truth, of what God should please to reveal to him, and had a Capacity of reverentially regarding Truths divinely revealed to him, though not included in that Covenant, wherein he was to walk with, and live unto God."
-Excerpts taken from Motives to Love and Unity Among Calvinists, Who Differ on Some Points
By John Brine