Jan 29, 2010


  You can read the original article HERE [Note: the article starts on pg 5 and continues on pg 27 after pg.7]

THE faith here intended is that belief on Christ with the heart unto righteousness, which, if a man have, he shall certainly be saved. For the sake of brevity we may term it saving faith. The doctrine of duty-faith is,—that it is the duty of every one who hears the gospel to exercise saving faith; with the consequence, that if he do not believe and be saved, he will be condemned with a double condemnation: first, as a transgressor of the law; and, secondly, as a rejecter of the gospel. We affirm the duty of belief in general, but dispute the position that saving faith is a duty. That it is the duty of every sane man who has the Bible, to give his intellectual assent to every truth it contains, who can doubt? That such an intellectual assent is saving faith, who can believe? Such an assent neither requires regeneration nor produces it. It is purely natural in its origin, its character, and its effects. Yet to withhold that assent, either by denying the truth of the Bible, or through neglecting to become acquainted with its contents, is an affront to the majesty of God, and a slight upon his goodness, which betray a state of sinful unbelief.

Faith has been variously defined, and different kinds of faith have been described; but it must be clearly apprehended that the doctrine of duty-faith has no reference to faith of any name or kind but that which is saving. It is equally necessary to be borne in mind, that the doctrine of duty-faith does not refer to the spirit and exercises of a believer, as such. Whether it be the duty of a man, to whom God has given faith, to nourish and exercise it by means of the word or not, is not at all the point under discussion. Duty-faith lays an imperative obligation on a sinner, as such, in his unregenerate state, to believe on the Lord Jesus unto salvation. Whether the just and gracious God has laid such an obligation on the sinner or not, is the only question before us.

We must also clearly define the class of Christians to whom the arguments of this article are addressed, and to whom alone those of the first and second of the following sections are applicable. We do not address ourselves to the Arminian, who denies the doctrines of election, and particular redemption; nor to the Moderate Calvinist, who, accepting the doctrine of election, holds the view of an indefinite atonement, or general redemption. Our argument is addressed to those only who hold the doctrines of eternal, personal, and unconditional election to eternal life; particular redemption, that is, that Christ died for the elect only; and the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit for the production of spiritual life in the soul of man. Some have doubted that any who believe these doctrines believe in the doctrine of duty-faith also. But if we accept the statement of many good men concerning their own views, the doubt must vanish. And it appears that the number of such is increasing. We do not attempt any proof of the doctrines just now referred to: they are assumed to be scriptural, and to be accepted as such by the reader.

We propose to take a rapid view of duty-faith in its relation to the atonement by Christ; to the work of the Holy Spirit; to the law; and to the gospel.

1. Duty-faith in its relation to the atonement.

Saving faith is one and the same in essential character throughout all the stages of its development. The loftiest realization of faith is involved in its living germ, as the oak is in the acorn. One act of saving faith gives its possessor a warrant to claim every privilege, and to indulge every hope that belongs to the people of God. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." The experimental realization of this state of privilege is often attained by slow and struggling stages, but the right to it exists as truly at the first as at the last. Again: the first act of fiducial reliance on the finished work of the Lamb, gives the individual the warrant to say: He "loved me and gave himself for me." If the first do not give that warrant, no subsequent act can give it; for the efficacy of faith does not depend upon the accumulation of its exercises, but upon its essential character. If a man possess a faith that will not warrant him in believing that Christ died for him, it cannot be saving faith; for most certainly the Saviour died for those who savingly believe on him. A child of God may live and die without attaining to the full assurance of faith and hope, but the right to it was his from the first moment of his believing state. Duty-faith, then, calls upon every one who hears the gospel to exercise a faith which at once gives him the warrant to believe, and will ultimately give him to know, that Jesus loved him and gave himself for him.

Let us now turn to the awfully solemn facts of redemption. We deem them to be awfully solemn; for they present a dark side as well as a bright one. On the bright we delight to gaze, while from the dark we avert our eyes. And no wonder! He who thinks or speaks lightly of such momentous alternatives, betrays a very inadequate conception of both the dreadful doom of perdition, and the inconceivable blessedness of salvation. But with godly fear and trembling we must look the matter steadily in the face. If we accept the doctrines we have assumed, we cannot reject their necessary consequences: we must in subdued tones affirm them. We have no doubt that God will ultimately clear his character and his government of every imputation which misapprehension or enmity may cast upon them.

Particular redemption implies that a portion of mankind is left unredeemed. There are some, more or fewer, for whom the Saviour did not die. As there is salvation in none other, it follows that those for whom the Saviour did not die cannot be saved. As it would be a contradiction in terms to say, that a man may have saving faith, and yet not be saved, so it is clear that he who cannot be saved, cannot have saving faith. It is, then, an absolute impossibility for an unredeemed sinner to have saving faith. We are compelled, therefore, to ask with all earnestness, on what principle can it be affirmed that it is the duty of all who hear the gospel to believe it savingly? Is it justice, or grace, or law, or gospel? Can it be the duty of any to perform an impossibility? Can any be righteously condemned for the non-performance of an impossibility ? Can the just and gracious God demand of any of his creatures, as a duty, that which in his pure sovereignty he has rendered impossible.

It is objected, that God righteously demands that men should keep his law, which yet he is unable to do, and, therefore, he may as justly demand that men should believe his gospel. Answer: The cases are not parallel. The impossibility there does not arise from the nature of things, but from the force of circumstances; while here it arises from the nature of things. There, the impossibility arises from a defect in the agent; here, from the non-existence of an object. In that case there is a law to be kept, but in this there is no Saviour to be received.

Again: It is alleged, that a sinner is not called upon immediately to believe that Christ is his Saviour, but to believe the truth concerning Christ as a Saviour. Reply: The faith required of the sinner must be either saving or non-saving. If the latter be intended, the objection is irrelevant; because it is not denied that a belief of the gospel truths is required of those that hear them. If saving faith be meant, the statement is simply an iteration of the doctrine under discussion, and adduces nothing in disproof of its impossibility.

It is further asserted: That not the secret will of God, but his revealed precepts, form the rule and measure of human duty. Granted. But can it be thence inferred that God's secret will ever renders the performance of his precepts an absolute impossibility? To instance the case of the Jews in regard to their rejection of the Saviour. The secret will of God did not render their reception and acknowledgment of the Messiah an absolute impossibility. Can it be credited that the just and holy God would have condemned the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah, if he had never sent them a Messiah to be received by them? For that national and public faith on the Messiah which was required of them, there was the living and present object, standing in their midst, with every requisite credential and proof of his Messiahship. But according to the doctrine of duty-faith, the righteous Judge eternal charges a great number of mankind with additional and aggravated guilt because they do not individually and savingly believe on the Saviour, when the Saviour, as such, is not sent to them, or for them. It may be objected to this view: That the Saviour is sent, in the proclamation of the gospel, to the unredeemed and redeemed alike ; that both classes, before regeneration, have an equal warrant to believe; that all are expressly assured that "he that believeth shall be saved ;" that the unredeemed do not know that they are such; and, therefore, it may be their duty to believe notwithstanding. To which we reply: First, That the Saviour is not sent to any in a personal or tangible manner; that he is not offered conditionally to any; that properly he is not sent to any in the gospel but to those to whom he comes by the gospel; who are his redeemed people only, Second, As the gospel promises are not made to the unregenerate and impenitent, but to the humble and contrite, no man in his hard and impenitent state has a warrant to believe savingly on Christ; which, indeed, he is not able to do. Third, That although man does not know the secret will of God concerning him, God himself does; and we plead more for the honour of God's character than would accrue, were it to be supposed that he took advantage of the unavoidable ignorance of his creatures.

Since, before conversion, the redeemed and the unredeemed cannot be discriminated by the human eye; and since saving faith is an impossibility to the unredeemed; how can the preacher demand saving faith of all his hearers; and since he cannot discriminate, if he cannot demand it of all, how can he demand it of any?

2. Duty-faith in its relation to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The work of the Spirit here intended is regeneration. We assume that there is an essential difference between a natural and a spiritual state,—between natural and spiritual affections, and acts of the heart and of the mind: also, that man, in his natural state, is spiritually dead, and unable to produce spiritual life in himself.

Saving faith must have a spiritual character. It must have that character at the first moment of its existence; for there is no stage in the development of faith at which its character can be essentially changed. If at any stage of its development it was necessary that our faith should be essentially changed, in order that it might be saving, it is evident that in its earlier stages it was not saving faith, but something of an essentially different character. As the demand of duty-faith is for faith that is saving, so its demand must be for faith of that character at its commencement. Hence the demand of duty-faith is, that the unregenerate sinner shall originate the principle and act of spiritual and saving faith in his own soul. If the demand of duty-faith pre-supposed the fact of regeneration, there must be some recognizable evidence of that fact, before the demand could be made in any given instance. But there is no recognizable evidence of a regenerate state but what involves the existence of faith, at least in its germ or incipient form. For, although a man must be regenerate before he can manifest a genuine faith, yet there is nothing short of such a manifestation, more or less clear, that can form a recognizable evidence of his regeneration. On such a pre-supposition, the universality of the demand for saving faith is relinquished, and it is confined to those who already have faith!

There are some who speak as though regeneration were an effect of faith rather than a pre-requisite to it, confounding, as we think, the miracle-working, or the sanctifying and comforting powers of the Holy Spirit, with his quickening or regenerating operations. If a man were to be regenerated by believing, the cause would be, not only totally inadequate to the effect, but, also, essentially different from it in nature. In such a case, the first act of faith must take place before regeneration; for the cause must exist before the effect. An unregenerate soul is a dead soul; and the faith of a dead soul can be only a dead faith. An unregenerate soul is "natural, not having the Spirit." The faith of such a one can be only natural; for no effect can rise above its cause. The faith of such a one cannot be saving faith, because he has not the Spirit: and "if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." But assuredly he that has saving faith belongs to Christ. It follows from the whole, that a man cannot have saving faith without the Holy Spirit. As under the former head we found saving faith to be impossible to the unredeemed, so here we find it to be impossible to the unregenerate. But the demand of duty-faith, as such, is in every case made on men as unregenerate. Hence in every case it demands an impossibility.

It is objected to this view: that although man has lost his power to obey, God has not lost his right to command. Before this objection can be admitted to have any force, three things at least must be proved. First, That man originally possessed the power that is necessary for the production of a spiritual act; in other words, that Adam was created a spiritual man, in the same sense as the regenerate man is spiritual. For as saving faith is a spiritual act, the mere natural powers of Adam, however pure and perfect, would not suffice for its production. Second, That the duty of man in his fallen condition is to be measured by the power he possessed in his unfallen state; and in respect of an obligation, if such it be, that never could have been laid upon him if he had continued sinless. As, in fact, the demand for saving faith can be made only on the lost and guilty, so it is only man's ability in his fallen state that can come under consideration in estimating the rectitude of the demand. Hence it will be necessary to prove, Third, That in this case Jehovah reverses his declared principle of action: that he deals 'with men not according to what they have, but according to what they have not: that he does gather where he has not strawn. For man cannot act spiritually, and, therefore, cannot believe savingly, without the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is the gift of God, and which in none of the cases under view is yet given, and which in many of them will, in the holy and wise sovereignty of God, he entirely withheld. It is obvious that the demand of duty-faith cannot be made on the principle of grace: nor can we see how it can be made on the principle of justice. For the holy law of God must exhibit the principle of justice in its perfection; and its requirements, as interpreted by the Saviour, are no more than co-extensive with the natural powers of man; whilst duty-faith demands the exercise of a power which man has not, never had, and, in innumerable instances, cannot possibly have.

3. Duty-faith in relation to the law.

It is sometimes said, that the duty of faith is involved in the principles and requirements of the moral law, and is, therefore, of universal obligation. If by faith is meant an intellectual assent to all the truth that God has made known to men, we not only admit the truth of the statement, but strenuously maintain it. But such an intellectual assent is not saving faith. If saving faith be meant, we submit the following remarks in disproof: First, The law is the instrument of moral government. The principle and the intention of God's moral government must be unchangeable. Since man was placed under moral government at his creation, he must have been placed under the same law, at least in its principle and intention, as that which has since been revealed and illustrated in the word of God. The law which we have does not, and, consistently with its nature, cannot, contain any promise of mercy to transgressions, or provision for their recovery from the ruin and the guilt of their condition. It seems, then, inconceivable that the law, the nature of which is opposed to the bestowment of pardon, should yet comprise a principle or a precept of duty, adapted only to the transgressor, and prescribed intentionally to secure his forgiveness. Second, Whatever is imposed by the Divine law must be identical in its principle and intention with every other duty prescribed by that law. Faith, then, if it be a duty of the law, must be a work of the law as much as any other duty is. But that faith which is saving cannot be a work of the law; for salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast:" and "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Third, If saving faith be a duty of the law, then every believer is still under the law. The fact of believing cannot bring a man from under the law, if that faith of his is an act of obedience to the law. If the first act of faith be obedience to law, every subsequent act must be so too; for the character of an act is not altered by its repetition. If faith is a duty, it cannot cease to be a duty because it is performed. But the Scriptures affirm that believers are "not under law, but under grace:" that they are "justified by faith without the deeds of the law." It seems, then, incredible that saving faith is a duty under the law, since the supposition that it is so involves a direct contradiction to the general tenour and the explicit statements of the word of God.

4. Duty-faith in relation to the gospel.

Under this head it is obvious to remark: First, That as the Old Testament contains much gospel, so the New Testament contains much law. It is needful to discriminate the one from the other in both cases. Many errors in interpretation have arisen from the absence of this discrimination. The Saviour was "Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee;" and many of his teachings were in keeping with such a description of him. The sermon on the mount bears a legal cast throughout; and many parts of it consist of an intentional exposition and application of the law. Second, That the truths of the gospel, as well as those of the whole Scripture besides, demand the intellectual assent and acceptance of all who become acquainted with them. It appears that some think that, under the gospel, no faith is demanded, and that no faith is in any way acceptable to God, but that which is saving: a view as erroneous as that which will not admit the ascription of any saving benefits to God or Christ, but what secure eternal life. Third, That the forms of speech which may sometimes be employed to define a duty, are at other times used to point out the established connection between two or more things, or the consequences which will follow upon certain states of mind, or acts of life. For example: "Preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned." "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." Fourth, That injunctions which refer to the exercise of Christian graces, imply that those to whom they are given have the principle of those graces in their hearts,—that they are the subjects of the regenerating operations of the Holy Ghost. Hence they are not called upon to originate what they have not, but to exercise that which they have. If these facts and principles be allowed their due place and weight in the interpretation of the New Testament language, it will be found that it may be fully and fairly explained and applied, without resorting to the doctrine of duty-faith.

"By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." We might have supposed that this passage was given for the very purpose of contradicting the doctrine of duty-faith. Is it conceivable that "the gospel of the grace of God" should make its approach to sinners with the stern demand of a duty, on the performance of which the communication of its blessings should be suspended? Is that grace which can be obtained only on the previous performance of a duty? Is that grace which demands, as a duty, that which is to many of whom it is demanded an absolute, and to all a moral impossibility? Is that grace which gives nothing, unless a duty be performed as a pre-requisite? Is that grace which demands an impossibility, and visits the non-performance of that impossibility with a double penalty? Is that grace which, in its demand of duty, cannot have, and cannot be intended to have, any other effect upon millions of mankind, than to aggravate their guilt, and augment their punishment? Is it consistent with the scriptural character of God, that his plan of salvation for a chosen people should be so framed as to necessitate the increased condemnation of those for whom no salvation is provided?

If the doctrine of duty-faith be found, in its relation to the atonement and regeneration, to involve an impossibility; if to derive it from the law were to flatly contradict the statements of Scripture; and if its principle, tendency, and effect, be diametrically and irreconcilably opposed to the spirit and tenour of the gospel, we may warrantably assume and maintain that all the passages in God's word, which have been supposed to teach it, may be and must be otherwise interpreted.

Let the contrite seeker of salvation be reminded, that the object of faith is set before him, even " Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever:" and that every encouragement is given him to roll his wounded and bleeding heart on the wounded and bleeding Saviour. That divine Spirit, whose gracious influences have brought him to lie low at the foot of the cross, shall soon give him to find in Christ all his salvation and all his desire; and having faith divinely wrought in his heart, he shall rely, with sweet acquiescence and confidence, upon the finished work of the Lamb, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.


Duty-faith Expositions

Free Grace Expositions