Apr 10, 2010

John 3:36 - William Button

Dear Sir,

I cannot help noticing what is said in p. 27, speaking of the distinction between believing Christ, and believing in Christ. Mr. F. says, “It seems to suppose that a person may really believe Christ, and yet not believe in Christ, or, which is the same thing, not trust in him for salvation. This appears to me impossible” (p. 27). I am surprised at this. Surely there is a great difference between the one and the other. The one is the duty of all, the other the peculiar privilege of some, even of God’s elect. And the very scriptures cited to prove there is no difference, seem to me clearly to point out there is John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth in him." The former part of the verse describes the true believer. He who through the supernatural illumination of the spirit doth so believe the testimony of God concerning his Son, as in a way of trust and dependence to resign himself up to, and rely upon him for life and salvation, he has everlasting life: he really possesses it. Now this is the peculiar privilege of a child of God.—The other part of the verse describes the criminal unbeliever. For, observe, I have no doubt but there is an unbelief which is criminal, and that is, where there is a want of due reverence and attention to the words of Christ, and a positive act of rejecting him as the Messiah and Saviour, in direct opposition to the full evidence he gave of his mission. Observe, it is not said, he that believeth not on the Son, etc. No, it is not for want of special faith he is condemned, but because he believes not what he says, though he gives the most undeniable evidence of his being sent of God, and that what he says is truth. Certainly, if a man will not believe what Christ the Son of God says is true; if he treats the gospel as an idle tale which hath such “evident and indelible characters of its divine original,” he is worthy of condemnation, and shall be condemned, as Mr. Charnock expresses it. “A gospel that hath been propagated with a glorious success, confirmed by a train of miracles, acknowledged in the writings of heathens that lived in the primitive times, witnessed by the blood of martyrs, and those of the wiser and learneder sort, who could not all surely be a parcel of melancholy fools! Shall this have no better a reception than if it were a mere romance, and an impertinent fable?” (Charn. Works, vol. 2. p. 657). Certainly those who give it no better a reception, shall be severely punished. To believe what God has declared in his word, to believe this glorious revelation which God has given, is undoubtedly the duty of all where the gospel comes: the evidence of its being God’s word is so strong, so clear and plain; and to reject it, is base and wicked. To believe what the Lord Jesus Christ says, who is the Son of God, and truth itself, and whose discourses bear such a stamp of divine authority, is unquestionably incumbent on all, and to reject and despise him and his words, deserving of God’s hot displeasure and his fearful indignation. This is what natural light and reason dictate. But what has this to do with believing on Christ, or special faith in him, which is supernatural and the special gift of God, according to Mr. F.’s own words, “peculiar to the elect” (p. 1).

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