Mar 5, 2010

THE DUTY OF BELIEVING by Israel Atkinson

This is a chapter from his book on "Faith".

by Israel Atkinson

WHETHER it be a duty that devolves on all men who have
the Scriptures to believe in Christ unto salvation, is a
question that has long been, and now is, always warmly, and
sometimes strongly, disputed. Among the disputants on the
affirmative side there have been those who, advancing with
consequential airs the undisputed dictum that if faith is not a
duty then unbelief is not a sin, have seemed to imagine that
they have hit upon a short argument which must conclusively
settle the whole matter to the utter confusion of their
opponents. In truth this is, what they seem to fail to see, but
a very evident mistake of the question. No one disputes that
faith in Christ is a duty, nor, so far as this extends, that
unbelief is a sin ; but there are some who strongly deny and
who think that they can clearly disprove, that the salvation of
a sinner receives the slightest contribution from, or is in the
least degree furthered in anything by the discharge of any
human duty. Dispassionate enquirers, prepared, as they will
be, to receive the testiniony of God as little children, but who
will be withal persuaded that there is both an essential and
an appreciable harmony in divine truth, will come to the
conclusion that faith in Christ is, and is not, a duty ; and that
unbelief is, and is not, a sin.
God having been pleased to deliver to the world a testimony
of fact and truth which bears in itself appreciable evidence of
its verity, no argument is needed to prove that the divine
record ought to be believed by all who may become
cognisant of it. Equally clear will it appear that, being
delivered to the world as a testimony of fact and truth, he
that receives the record, as such, sets to his seal that God is
true, and discharges the obligation which, in this matter, lies
upon him ; and that he that rejects the word fails in this duty,
and commits the sin of making God a liar. But can any one
fail to see that this obligation to believe springs out of man's
original relation to God ; that the claim arises from the first
table of the law ; that obedience is purely a work of law ; that
the reward of this duty forms no part of the promise of life in
Christ ; that the obligation and obedience, and reward, all fall
under the law of works, according to which no man can be
justified and saved; and that this belief, therefore, in nothing
furthers a sinner's justification and salvation? Everybody
must perceive that whatever is a man's duty is a due from
him to his Sovereign, and that this is prescribed by law. So,
also, that in every case where a duty is clone, and a due is
rendered according to law, that there a debt from the
Sovereign to the subject will arise, and that the dutiful and
obedient man will be come invested with a right of reward.
But how any thing of this kind can become blended in any
mind with, so as to form a part of, the doctrine that a sinner
is justified and saved altogether of grace, passes all
knowledge. What can be clearer than that a duty can only
obtain where, and in respect of what, the law of works is the
governing principle between the Sovereign and the subject ?
And what can be more evident than that the law of works
has no place in the justification and salvation of a sinner ; or
than that by works of law no flesh can be justified and saved
So far, then, as the gospel is a testimony of fact and truth
which God has testified of his Son, an obligation to believe
devolves on all that become acquainted with the record, and,
to the same extent, unbelief is a sin. But this defines the
limits of the duty of believing on this point and the sin of
unbelieving. He that carries the duty and the sin further than
this, errs in principle. For, that salvation is of the Lord, and
altogether of ,grace from first to last in every conceivable
particular, is a truth, and that this is everywhere declared
and insisted on against every contrary notion in the
Scriptures, may be taken as proved. When salvation is the
subject, grace, not works, is all in all. When, therefore, the
testimony of God in the gospel rises from the character of a
proclamation of fact and truth, concerning his Son, and takes
that of the promise of salvation in him, we are at once
elevated wholly out of the region of the principle of duty and
reward, into that of giving and receiving. Not only is every
blessing of salvation a gift of pure grace, but everything that
is collaterally requisite to the possession and enjoyment of
the whole is equally so. Had these things not been so,
salvation could not have been wholly of grace. Had a
provision been made and a duty imposed which must have
been discharged in order to possess and enjoy the good
provided, .then grace and works would have been
Salvation, in that case, would not have been wholly of the
Lord. Men would have been partly their own saviours. They
would have discharged a duty, and have acquired an
economical right of reward. At least, then, they might have
congratulated themselves, and, probably, boasted over
others, that they had rendered a due and reaped a reward of
right; and, possibly, they might even have had somewhat of
which to glorybefore God himself. But how foreign and far
from the truth all such notions are, must be apparent to
every believer in Christ; and they must be, too, as revolting
to him as they are disparaging to the grace of God in his
salvation. And such sentiments ought to excite his
abhorrence and indignation. Against those that promulgate
these doctrines, for many sufficient reasons, he ought to be
angry, and to withstand them. What of the amenities of life
he cannot preserve with them without unfaithfulness to
principle, he had every way better let go. The retention
would be a certain loss ; the sacrifice will be a sure gain to
estimableness, to truth, to honour, and to conscience before
God. Bandying compliments with them, so far from being a
Christian charity, would not be a sincere courtesy, but would
be unfaithfulness to them and treason against Christ. On the
authority of an apostle, an angel should be anathematized
that lays the basis of salvation on the doctrine of works. Let
men and things have attributed to them the distinguishing
titles which belong to them. Let it be faithfully said of every
man that he is in error in principle who is aside of, or has
fallen from the doctrine of the grace of God in the justification
and salvation of a sinner. Yea, as this is no matter in
connection with which men should be spoken of with
honeyed euphemisms in strained courtesies, so neither
should plain terms be used with bating apologies ; therefore,
on this point, let every man be a liar in so far as he
contradicts the truth of God, which declares, in every form by
which meaning can receive an utterance, that sinners are
saved by grace.
The notion that it is the duty of unbelievers to believe in
Christ in order to their salvation receives no countenance
from the general testimony of fact and truth about this
wonderful deliverance in the Scriptures. This general
testimony may be taken as completely represented in the
well-known words of the apostle found in 1 Tim. i. 15 : " This
is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners." While no one
can overrate the importance of the truth taught in these
memorable words, it is quite possible to give them, and very
probable that they often receive, a meaning that is entirely
foreign to them. However this may be, it may be safely
affirmed that they make the salvation of every self-justifier
impossible, and that they declare that of any sinner possible,
nevertheless for any unfavourable conclusion that may be
formed about this matter from any view of the evil of his sins
; but that, at the same time, they contain nothing of the
certainty of an assurance that any particular person shall be
saved. If any man imagines, from any consideration of his
moral and religious virtues, or what not beside of this kind,
that he may be saved, these words completely annihilate his
pretensions and refute his conclusions. If any sinner thinks,
from the evil of his sins, or what not of this kind, that it is
doubtful whether he may be saved, his suspicions are fully
contradicted, and his fears met. But if, again, any man thinks
from these words, because he is a sinner, that he shall be
certainly saved, he is wholly mistaken. From these words,
the possible salvation of any sinner may be assuredly
gathered, whatever may be his sinfulness ; but it can neither
be justly imagined by, nor predicated of, any sinner,
personally, that he shall be saved from what is taught in this
testimony. If then, these words, .o.lbeit they express in sum
the general testimony of God about the salvation of sinners,
contain no evidence of the personal salvation of any sinner,
no sinner can, by them; be under the obligation to believe
that he, personally, shall be saved. No duty, then, is taught
Just as little does the divine command to unbelievers to
believe the gospel countenance this notion. Nothing, it is
admitted, can be clearer than that unbelievers are divinely
commanded to believe the gospel. But to believe the gospel
in obedience to the command of God is of the nature of a
work. He that does this duty shall reap an appropriate
reward, which, whatever it may be, certainly is not salvation;
and he that does not shall bear the consequence of his
unbelief, whatever this may be. Can any man fail to perceive
that whosoever keeps a divine command in order to the
possession and enjoyment of any good performs a work of
law, renders a due, and earns a reward ? Is it possible that
any one cannot see that if any the least thing is demanded
as a duty in order to salvation, and it is done, that this is the
rendering of a due and the earning of a reward ; and that so
far, the salvation of the doer would be wholly of -works? Can
there be anything imagined that could more conclusively
establish the erroneousness of any such interpretation of the
divine command to believe the gospel?
Again, nothing, it is admitted, can be more evident than that,
according to God's economy, faith towards our Lord Jesus
Christ is requisite in order to salvation. But this faith stands
up in high distinction, as the special gift of God, from that
which is commanded to unbelievers. To believe as
commanded requires but the exercise of powers already
possessed to weigh appreciable evidence of fact and truth.
To believe in Christ in order to salvation requires a special
enlightenment of the understanding that is purely the work of
God to enable to receive appreciatively the relative
excellence of the Saviour's character. This distinguished
faith, side by side with the Saviour's mediation, is,
economically, necessary to salvation. Just as when a gift is
to be bestowed, receiving is collaterally requisite with giving,
so this faith is necessary to the appreciation and
appropriation of God's unspeakable gift ; but the reception is
as little a duty devolving on the recipient as the precious
bestowment itself is a due from the Divine Giver. For, seeing
that all sinners are saved wholly by grace, it will follow that
that which may be even only collaterally requisite in order to
salvation in them that are saved, cannot be to them of the
nature of a work, and that the least constituent element of
their deliverance cannot be of the nature of a reward for a
due rendered. In the whole business of salvation, from first
to last, the least commixture of works is inadmissible, and
the doctrine that teaches the contrary, in the lightest form,
should be unequivocally condemned. Those Scriptures,
therefore, which indicate the connection existing between
faith and salvation, cannot be justly interpreted as enjoining
a duty. In the words, " He that believeth and is baptized,
shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned;"
Mark xvi. 16 ; we have, simply, a most important instruction,
given to all whom it may concern, of what shall be to
believers and unbelievers. By this, to use a favourite
expression of the apostle John, we know who will be saved,
and who will not. Substantially, the same interpretation is to
be given to the words, " He that believeth on him is not
condemned ; but he that believeth not is condemned
already, because he hath not believed on the name of the
only begotten Son of God." John iii. 18. We learn here that
every one who with the heart believes in Christ unto
righteousness is passed from a state of condemnation, and
that he who does not, is already condemned. If the
conjunction (oti) "because," which connects the concluding
parts of this sentence, creates a difficulty in any man's mind,
let him compare this occurrence of the word in its relation to
the verb believe here with that which is found in John xvi. 27.
Nothing more can be needed to set any understanding at
rest; and it is unnecessary to pursue this part of the subject
any further. John vi. 29, it may be observed parenthetically,
has considerably perplexed some expositors ; but believing
here is not connected with salvation at all. Mr. Haldane,
speaking on the term, "law of faith," in Rom. iii. 27, says, "
The word law is here used in allusion to the law of works,
according to a figure usual in the Scriptures. By the same
figure Jesus says, " This is the work of God, that ye believe
on him whom he hath sent.' Here faith is called a work for a
similar reason." But this is altogether a mistake; for, in deed,
there is no figure at all in either of these texts.
The words law" and "work" in these instances are to be
taken in their usual meaning, according to Scripture usage.
Law, in the one case, means a principle of government ; and
work, in the other, that which earns a reward. Although, it is
presumed, Mr. Haldane took it that faith unto salvation is
intended here, and that this is a duty, he yet seemed to feel
that, spoken of as the work of God, some softening
explanation was required, and this he found in a figure of
speech. Bengel says of the work of God, "That which is
approved by God." Olshausen takes a long step further, but
wide of the mark. This expositor says, " With a fine allusion
to the ` works' he terms it (faith) the work of God, faith being
not only pleasing to God, but also performed by his grace,
and thus being a work of God in the soul of man." Gill, who
was far enough from making faith unto salvation a duty, falls
into a similar mistake. He says, " This as a principle is purely
God's work ; as it is an act, or as it is exercised under the
influence of divine grace, it is man's act." But surely it will be
plain to the most superficial observer that all ideas of what
God works, mediately or immediately, must be fetched from
afar in expounding this text, and that, when brought, they
have in them no affinity whatever with what is here taught. "
Works " and " work " are to be taken in their usual and wellunderstood
sense in the Scriptures. " That ye believe," here,
is, simply a divine command and a human duty, according to
the law of works, neither more nor less. God had sent his
Son into the world, and he demanded then, as he demands
now, upon sufficient evidence, that men should believe on
him. The belief here required, being a human duty, can have
no connection with salvation, for this is wholly of God, and so
of him that his grace is all in all.
Another Scripture relating, not, indeed, to the duty of
unbelievers, but of believers to believe in Christ, may here
receive a passing consideration. In 1 John iii. 23, it is said,
"And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the
name of his Son, Jesus Christ." Commandment, whatever
may be the relation of the parties commanding and
commanded, is unquestionably a law term. That which is
commanded is, without doubt, a work, and must fall under
the law of works. As has been observed, this law obtains
under the economy of grace; for we everywhere find
appropriate precepts enjoined on the subjects of the spiritual
kingdom of God, together with fit rewards and penalties
severally promised and threatened. One of those precepts,
we here learn, is to believe in the name of Christ. But it
should be distinctly borne in mind that this "work of God" is
not identical with that mentioned in John vi. 29. For that
relates to unbelievers, this to believers. That respects such a
belief in Christ as is due from an unbeliever; this such a faith
as is due from a believer. That has to do with the original
rational act of belief of fact and truth; this with the habitual
exercise of the spiritual faculty which is peculiar to
regenerated persons. Alford teaches us that the aorist, which
is the tense used in John vi. 29, imports one act of receptive
faith ; but that the present, which is the tense he decides for
here, conveys the idea of a continuing habit. God having
given this precious power, then, to regenerated persons,
simply demands its habitual exercise. No one can read the
Scriptures with intelligence about faith who does not
perceive these distinctions. Every one that reads the Word
with understanding on this subject must be able to see that
there is a faith in Christ which is not unto salvation, and
which all unbelievers, who have the testimony of God
concerning his Son, may exercise. He must also perceive
that there is a belief in Christ which is unto salvation, and
which is never, and never can be, exerted, but through the
exceeding greatness of the divine energy working in them
that so believe : Eph. i. 19. And he must understand that
believers, God having bestowed upon them the spiritual
faculty of believing, should habitually believe on Jesus
Christ. Moreover, he should know that the first and third of
these beliefs are explicitly enjoined duties under the law of
works. That the first is the duty of man in his original relation
to his Creator and Governor ; that the third is the duty of a
special people in a new relation to God ; and that the second
is not, and cannot be, the duty of any man ; for that
salvation, from first to last, in every particular, is wholly of
God, and so of him as to be altogether of grace. But it is time
to return from this digression.
When the testimony of God concerning his Son takes a
promissory character, it may be as decisively asserted that
there is no more then a duty enjoined to believe unto
salvation than there is when the record is a simple
declaration of fact and truth, or than there is when the Word
simply teaches us that there is a particular and necessary
connection between faith and salvation. Obviously, this
question can only be determined, according to the terms
upon which the promises are made. Promises may and may
not have their fulfilment suspended upon some conditions to
be performed by the promisees. - Both these kinds of
promises, as we have already seen, were made in reference
to the inheritance of Canaan by the Jews. " God gave it to
Abraham by promise." The original grant was unclogged by
a single condition to be performed by the grantee. The
promise to give the land being wholly unconditional, its
possession was secured to those for whom it was granted
nevertheless for all their disobedience and unbelief. Highly
culpable and justly punished as was the unbelief of the
descendants of Abraham, yet their sin did not make God's
engagement with him without effect to them in the least
degree. Nevertheless for, and as it were in contempt of, all
their wickedness, God redeemed his unconditional pledge to
their father, and put them into possession. The covenant to
give the land was established upon unconditional promises
and was fulfilled accordingly. But the promise to retain
possession and enjoyment of the heritage was wholly
different, for it was entirely conditional. God made a
covenant with the fathers of Israel, when he brought them
out of Egypt, to give them the enjoyment of the good of the
land, (which lie had already granted unconditionally as a
possession to Abraham,) established upon promises the
fulfilment of which was suspended upon conditions that were
clearly laid down and after wards enforced, and the
enforcement has resulted in the dispossession and
dispersion of the Jews. About no two things could the terms
of an agreement be more unlike than were those of these
two covenants ; and about nothing, it is thought, do Christian
teachers blunder more egregiously than in their references
to, and their uses of the terms of these two most dissimilar
instruments. For while it seems impossible that any careful
reader of the Scriptures can mistake the different principles
upon which the covenant made with Abraham and that made
with the heads of Israel were established, nor which of them
stands in contrast to, and which in comparison with, the
covenant of salvation ; it is nevertheless clear, and
monstrous as evident, that not a few, whose utterances are
accepted with a submission as complete as can be claimed
for an oracle, are, with perpetual self-contradiction,
constantly confounding the promises of these radically
distinct compacts. The day yet seems to be far distant when
men will see and leave off the folly of attempting to teach the
doctrine of faith in the language of works.
Now, that the principles of the covenant of salvation are in
agreement with that made with Abraham, and in contrast to
that made with the heads of Israel, the apostle has
everywhere taught ; and this is the point to be noticed here.
Among other noteworthy instances of contrast to the latter,
that in Heb. viii. 6-12, may be mentioned. There the apostle
calls the covenant of salvation a new one, and better than
the other ; and better because " established upon better
promises." But it will be a great mistake if the betterness of
these promises is interpreted merely of their subject matter.
No doubt they have a superior excellency in this respect; but
the true idea of their superiority intended by the apostle lies
in their unconditionality. That this is the correct view will be
plainly apparent to every mind which can see that nobody of
ordinary intelligence requires the authority of inspiration to
persuade him that the promises of salvation in Christ are, as
to their subject matter, better than those which only assured
the enjoyment of an earthly heritage. But it is quite clear that
mankind have required, and still need, to be authoritatively
taught that the promises of the new covenant have the
superiority over those of the old of being unconditional. For
no truth of the gospel from the beginning until now has been
received at first with more disfavour than this, nor submitted
to afterwards with more unwillingness, nor held in esteem
less generally, nor fallen from more commonly ; and at the
present time the sphere in which this truth is accepted and
taught with anything like consistency and a loving conviction
of its excellency is, comparatively, almost infinitesimally
If, then, the covenant of salvation is established upon
unconditional promises, it can be no man's duty to believe
them in order to his salvation ; for the same thing can never
at once be assured to any man unconditionally and
conditionally. Faith in the divine promises is, without doubt,
according to God's economy, necessary to salvation ; but
this is secured to the promisees by gift, and is not and
cannot be a duty to be discharged in order to the possession
of the good promised, for the whole of this is unconditionally
assured. Were the reverse of this true, can any one fail to
see that just in so far as the discharge of the duty
contributed to a man's salvation he would be his own
saviour, and that works, not grace, would be the principle
upon which his deliverance and advancement would be
conducted and established ? And can any one require a
more conclusive disproof of this despicably unevangelical
figment ?
One example of the promise of salvation will server to
illustrate and confirm this teaching as well as a hundred. If, it
is presumed, any part of the divine record can make it to be
the duty of every man, in order to his salvation, to believe the
promises of God, it will be some such passage as that in
Joel ii. 32, which is quoted once and again in the New
Testament, thus " Whosoever shall call on the name of the
Lord shall be saved." No one could desire this promise to be
spoken with less limitation. No union with any outward
association, no hereditary succession, and no genealogical
descent helps or hinders fulfilment. Gentiles stand on equal
terms with Jews. Nothing is mentioned of nationality, of civil
standing, of natural parts, nor of moral excellency.
Individuals, as such, independently of all such distinctions
are spoken of, and that to an extent as wide as the world.
But, can any one fail to see that, nevertheless, the promise
here is not made indefinitely, but only to whosoever may be
found pursuing a particular course, and this such a one,
indeed, as, in this ungodly world, must make him that takes it
a broadly distinguished person ? No man that does not call
upon the name of the Lord is entitled, according to this
Scripture, to believe that he shall be saved, and no one who
is not thus distinguished can be obliged to believe he shall
be saved, because such a consummation respecting him is
not in evidence from this promise. Should any one say that
every man who hears this word of the gospel ought to call
upon the name of the Lord in order to his salvation, that by
so doing he might bring himself within the promise, it will be
enough to answer that nothing of this kind is taught here or
elsewhere in the Scriptures, and that such a way of putting
the matter, is but a very sorry method of begging the whole
question. Such a method may please a partisan who is
eager to support a theory by any means, but no such a
course can ever satisfy one that is seeking for the truth.
Further, what constitutes this particular exercise ought not to
be mistaken. As every true spiritual character has its
spurious resemblance, as there are foolish virgins as well as
wise ones, it ought not to be taken for granted that
everything which looks like a calling upon the name of the
Lord is such in truth. Certain it is that to call on the name of
the Lord is something more than to say prayers, and, indeed,
more than to pray. It may also be safely asserted that this
sacred exercise can only proceed upon a previous
appreciative knowledge of some of the forms of remedial
character which God has graciously assumed by name in his
Word, which he embodies in his great work of salvation, and
which, in the experience of enlightened minds, are happily
appropriate to man's ruined condition. If there is not an
appeal in petition, or an offering praise in thanksgiving to
God under some one of his characteristic excellencies,
whatever there may be of devout feelings and of fervent
utterance, there is not a calling upon the name of the Lord.
On the one band, this sacred exercise may be wholly absent
from the deepest utterances of the most supplicating litany,
from all the forms of the most complete liturgy, conducted as
this may be with profound devotion, and with whatever costly
and ostentatious accessories, and from the most eloquent
expressions of impromptu prayer and praise ; and, on the
other hand, a tear may be the voiceless sign of this blessed
employment in its truest character and highest degree.
But further. If to believe in Christ unto salvation is not a
doctrine of salvation, it is nothing. If it is a doctrine of
salvation, and not a theological delusion, it will necessarily
enter somewhere into the experience of the saved. For it
may be laid down as a self-evident proposition, that every
doctrine of salvation which has a basis of truth will ever have
an exemplification in fact in the experience of some one or
other of them who are saved. No corroborative argument,
therefore, of the unsoundness of this supposed doctrine of
salvation can be stronger than is the simple fact that it has
never been known to enter into the experience of any one
sinner who has been saved by grace. Of this fact itself there
can be no doubt. For who has ever been heard to profess
that he had discharged this supposed duty when relating the
circumstances of his conversion ? Who was ever heard to
make a profession of any saving benefit or right which had at
any subsequent time arose to him from the performance of
this supposed duty ? Absolutely no one. Now if to believe in
Christ unto salvation were a duty, and the obligation had
ever been discharged, somebody would most certainly have
heard of some saving benefit or right arising from its
discharge somewhere in the experience of the saved; but of
any such thing the whole history of what sinners saved by
grace have experienced is altogether silent.
Equally self-evident is it that every doctrine of salvation
which has a basis of truth will ever be found entering into
and variously influencing the worship of them who are
saved. Tried, again, by this test, the doctrine that it is a duty
to believe in Christ unto salvation will be proved unsound to
the core. We never meet with it in the personal worship of
the saved, either in private or public. When they worship
God in direct reference to themselves it is never mentioned
in their prayers. Never, in any view of it, does it form a
subject of their thanksgiving nor a theme of their praise.
Hymnologists, so far as I know, have never embodied it in
verse, either for the home or the sanctuary ; save, indeed,
when here and there some of them, forgetting to worship
and affecting to preach, may have dropped the devotional
strain and picked up the didactic. None of them ever breathe
a hint of it when expressing the lofty sentiments of gratitude
and love, nor the loftier ones of thanksgiving and praise ;
and we never meet with the slightest suggestion about it
when they are uttering the lowly feelings of reverence and
fear, or the lowlier ones of confession and prayer. Liturgists,
save when any of them may have forgotten to confess, or
pray, or praise, and have affected the evangelist or the
homilist, have never embodied this doctrine in any service
for the closet, the hearth, or house of God. What can be the
reasons that this supposed doctrine of salvation exerts no
influence and finds no place in any part of the worship of the
saved ? One may be mentioned, and there needs not
another. This doctrine is wholly unknown to the worship of
the saved, because it is utterly alien from every worshipping
sentiment which they feel, and from every exercise in which
they engage. Not only does not any man who is saved by
grace, with any reference to his own salvation, ever render
any worship to God according to, and under the influence of
this doctrine, but from the very nature of the thing no man
can, because the thing is practically impossible.
We hear, indeed, Nehemiah saying to God, "Think upon me,
my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this
people." Neh. v. 19. And again, " Remember me, 0 my God,
concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have
done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof."
Chap. xiii. 14. See also verses 22 and 31. Nothing, however,
of all this related to salvation, but to matters connected with
the Jewish economy, and the governing principle in force
between Nehemiah and his God respecting all the things
mentioned here was the law of works, not the law of faith.
Hence, unusual as are these prayers, there was a perfect
propriety in their use by him. But while Nehemiah spoke thus
with a complete warrant, no man who is not a fanatic or a
maniac would ever dare to say to God, Think upon me, my
God, for good, because I have discharged the duty of
believing in Christ unto salvation. But if believing in Christ
unto salvation were a duty, and any man had discharged the
obligation, he would be neither fanatical'nor maniacal if he
adopted Nehemiah's style in speaking to God about it. He
would be without rebuke. He would be entirely within his
privilege. But if any man of sound mind will attempt as an
experiment to worship God under the guidance of this
doctrine, I will venture to predict with the utmost confidence
that he will not only find himself wholly outside of his
privilege, but that a sense of horror will make him
speechless, and that nothing on earth would ever induce him
to repeat, what he would come to regard as, the most
offensive and damnable of all presumptuous sins.
That two and two make four is a fact not more simple and
clear than is the truth that this doctrine is wholly alien from
the worship of them who are saved. But can this be said in
truth of any proved doctrine of salvation ? Is not every such
doctrine a prevailing incentive, an instructive guide, and a
living energy in the soul of the saved worshipper when lie is
engag(d in the several acts of his worship ? I lay it down as a
self-evident truth that every doctrine of salvation which
refuses to guide and influence saved sinners in their
personal worship of God is self-condemned as false by its
refusal. I charge such a refusal on the doctrine that it is a
duty to believe in Christ unto salvation, and I pray judgment
on the false, injurious, and presumptuous offender to
proceed accordingly.
Nowhere in the whole field of religion is this doctrine to be
found, save in the several walks of the teacher, and here it
stands condemned as unsound and alien from its being
without example. For it may also be laid down as a selfevident
truth that every presumptive doctrine of salvation
which cannot justify its pretensions by example is a false
one. I challenge the advocates of the doctrine in question to
make good its claims according to this rule. One of the
readiest methods available by the Christian teacher, and one
of his most precious helps, in his teaching of all matters of
personal religion, is a reference to his own example and to
that of others. But who ever heard a preacher illustrate and
enforce the doctrine that it is a duty to believe in Christ unto
salvation by any saving right or benefit which ever arose to
himself or to others from the discharge of this supposed
obligation ? What Christian teacher has ever had the
hardihood and effrontery to point to his own discharge of this
supposed duty as a contribution to his salvation, and to urge
an imitation of his example upon others ? Or, if any man
professing to be a Christian teacher may have been guilty of
such a monstrous anomaly, can there have been a people
silly enough to have been deceived by the preposterous
pride and insolence ? If there have been such instances, if
any Christian teacher has been known to enforce the
discharge of this supposed duty by his own example, and a
people have been known to accept the teaching, a clear
case has been presented, to this extent at least, of the blind
leading the blind. The leader blinded by presumption; the led
by ignorance.
Further evidence against any doctrine of personal religion
than has been here offered against this, would be wholly
unnecessary. If any presumptive doctrine of salvation has
never been embodied in the experience of the saved ; if it
has never been known, and if in the nature of the thing it is
impossible that it should ever be able, to guide and influence
their worship ; and if its most ardent teacher cannot support
and defend it by any reference to his own example or to that
of others, this will be abundantly sufficient to complete the
case against it. Precisely in this condition the notion in
question now stands at the bar. Call, therefore, no more
witnesses. Upon this evidence the jury may be charged to
decide and give their verdict. Venerable as this doctrine may
be for its age, solemnly sanctioned and fondly favoured as it
may be by whatever great names, and whatever else may
be advanced and pleaded on its behalf, having been on fair
trial according to admitted rules proved untrue, it is evidently
guilty of the damning fault of inherent falseness, and this fact
ought to seal its condemnation and to secure execution to
proceed accordingly.

Duty-faith Expositions

Free Grace Expositions