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understand how some passages in your book on Religious Affections did appear to me and some others, your real friends and wellwishers in this country, that determined me to presume to offer you some few remarks on the passages mentioned in my former letter; and desire of further information, engages me now, with all respect, to make some observations upon some things in your letter. I hope you will pardon my freedom, and bear with me in it, and set me right wherein you may find me to misapprehend your meaning, or to mistake in any other respect.
"You say, "You conceive that there is a great difference between these two things, viz. its being a man's duty, who is without 'spiritual light or sight, to believe; and its being his duty to believe without spiritual light or sight, or to believe while he yet remains without spiritual light or sight: it is not proper to say, it is a man's duty to believe without faith," etc. Now, dear Sir, the difference here, I am not able to conceive; for all are bound to believe the divine testimony and to trust in Christ, which you acknowledge; and the want of spiritual light or sight does not loose from the obligation one is laid under by the divine command to believe instantly on Christ, and at all seasons, as his circumstances shall require, nor does it excuse him in any degree for not believing. I own that a person who has no spiritual light or sight cannot eventually believe, if by light or sight is meant the influence or grace of the Spirit, by which one's mind is irradiated to take up the object and grounds of faith, so as to be made to have a spiritual sight of Christ, and to act that grace; yet still, even when one wants this, it is his duty, and he is bound to believe, for we know it is a maxim, "ability is not the rule of duty." I also acknowledge, that no person who is, and always has been, without spiritual light or sight, is bound, nor is it his duty to believe, that he has actually believed, or to conclude he is really a partaker of the faith of God's elect. I have some apprehension this is all you meant by the expressions I have noticed, and the reasoning in consequence of them; or else certainly different ideas are affixed to words with you and among
There is indeed a great deal of difference betwixt its being one's duty to believe, or to act faith, and its being his duty to believe he has believed, or has acted divine faith, i. e. you say you apply the particle without, respecting spiritual light or sight, to the act of believing, by which I suppose you intend, "all should believe, though none do really believe, without spiritual light or sight;" in which I entirely agree with you. The word duty indeed, which you use when treating that matter, is ordinarily supposed to signify the obligation the person is under by the divine authority to believe, as applied to the matter of faith, and not to the act of faith put forth in consequence of such obligation. Had I not supposed you plainly meant by the expressions I quoted from the book, the duty or obligation to believe, and not an act of faith exerted, I should have made no
remarks on them. It is indeed as absurd for one to conclude he has really believed without spiritual light or sight, as to say one should believe he had believed, without those things that are essentially implied in faith. But I must differ from you in thinking it is not very proper to say, it is a man's duty to believe without faith, i. e. while he yet remains without spiritual light or sight, or to put forth an act of faith on the Saviour, however void of spiritual light or sight; for if this was not the truth, the finally impenitent sinner could not be condemned for unbelief, as the Holy Ghost declares he will be, John iii. 19, 20, 24, and that notwithstanding the power of the Spirit of faith must make him believe. I should be glad to know the precise idea you affix to the words faith and believing. I do not remember a person's reflecting on his act of faith, any where in Scripture termed believing. You remark, "That I seem to suppose that a person's doubting of his good estate is the proper opposite of faith," and I own, as it is a believer's duty to expect salvation through Christ, which, in other words, is to believe his good estate, Acts xv. 11, Gal. ii. 20, Eph. ii. 4, Job xix. 25, doubting of it must be his sin, an effect of unbelief, a part of it, and thus the proper opposite of faith, considered in its full compass and latitude. Thus once doubting of his good estate by a true believer, and unbelief in one branch of it, or one part and manner of its acting, are the same thing. Faith and unbelief are opposed in Scripture, and what is the opposite of one ingredient in unbelief must be faith in one part of it,-one thing that belongs to its exercise. A person's believing that the Lord will never leave nor forsake him, who is in a gracions state, Heb. xiii. 5, is owned to be his indispensable duty, and this comprehends or supposes his being confident of his good estate, and is properly divine faith, because it has the divine testimony now cited, on which it bottoms, Jer. iii. 19. The Lord says, "Thou shalt call me my father, and shalt not turn away from me," which is evidently faith, and no less manifestly belief of one's good estate, or being confident of it, because the expression must denote the continued exercise of faith, in not turning away from the Lord. Crying Abba father, Rom. viii. 15, is faith in the Lord as one's father, which must have, a being confident of one's good estate inseparable from it, or rather enwrapped in it. I suppose what I have mentioned, is very consistent with what you say, "That faith, and persons believing that they have faith, are not the same:" for one's believing that he has faith, simply and by itself, has for its object the man's inward frame, or the actings and exercises of his spirit, and not a divine testimony. This is not divine faith; but, as I have laid the matter, a being confident of one's good estate has for its foundation the word of God, Heb. xiii. 5, etc. ultimately, at least ; to be suret this is one way in which faith is acted, or one thing in its exercise. I am far from thinking unbelief, or being without faith, and doubting whether they have faith, to be the same thing in an unconverted
sinner, whom your words "being without faith," must mean, and therein we entirely agree. But I must think, as to the believer, his doubting, whether or not he has faith, is sinful, because it is belying the Holy Ghost, denying his work in him, so there is no sin to which that doubting can so properly be reduced as unbelief. You know, dear Sir, doubting and believing are opposed in Scripture, Matt. xiv. 31, xxi. 21, Mark xi. 23, and I cannot exclude from the idea of doubting, a questioning the truth and reality of a work of grace on one's soul, for the Holy Ghost requires us to believe the reality of his work in us, in all its parts, just as it is, and never would allow us, much less call us to sin, or to believe a falsehood, that one is void of grace, when he has it, that good might come of it, i. e. that the person might be awakened from security, etc. 1 John iii. 3, "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, as he is pure;" I think intimates, that in proportion to the degree of one's hope, that the Lord is his father, will be his aim after sanctification, and his attainment of it; if so, to renounce this hope, to throw it up at any season, on any account, must be unlawful; whence I infer, for the believer to doubt of his gracious state, to call it in question for any reason whatever, so as to raze it, it is simply sinful, 1 John ii. 12. 15, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you, viz. Love not the world." Here forgiveness of sin is used as a motive or incitement not to love the world; and this reasoning of the apostle would lose all its force, were it incumbent on a believer, at some seasons, to think he was not within the bond of the new covenant, he is bound ever to hold that conclusion fixed. The exhortation, not to cast away one's confidence, certainly comprehends a call to persevere in believing in our interest in the Lord, and to practise it at all seasons, Heb. x. 35. Job's friends endeavoured to make him question, whether the root of the matter was in him, and to conclude that he was a hypocrite. He resolved, though the Lord should slay him, he would trust in him, chap. xiii. 15, being confident of his own good estate, chap. xxvii. 3, 5, "All the while my breath is in me ;" and ver. 5, “Till I die, I will not remove my integrity from me ;" and we see, from the whole tenor of his book, what there he resolved, he actually did practise; he never entertained the thought of supposing the Lord was not his God, notwithstanding the grievous eruptions of iniquity in him,in quarrelling with the sovereignty of God, etc. And in the end, the Lord condemned his friends for speaking of him "the things that were not right," and pronounced that Job, his servant, had said of him the thing "that is right," Job iv. 1; from which, it is to be presumed, he was approved in guarding against razing his state.* Also, 2 Cor. i. 12, what the apostle terms there, "his rejoicing," was what supposed his being confident of his good estate, that he was participant of a principle
*This, and several other Scotticisms, I do not feel at liberty to alter.
of grace, which made him capable of acting, as he did, with godly sincerity. All which, with other considerations, do satisfy me, that a believer never should raze his state on any account whatever; and that, as has been mentioned, doubting of his gracious state is sinful, one way of unbelief, its acting in him, though not the direct and immediate opposite of that acting of faith by which a person renounces his own righteousness and closes with Christ, yet the opposite of the posterior exercise of faith in him, and upon the promise, in certain respects. Your book is now lent, and therefore I cannot take notice, as you wish and I incline, of what you say on this head, p. 80, 81, more particularly than I have done. However, I have, I think, touched the precise point in difference between us.
"You observe, I seem to intimate, "A person's being confident of his own good estate is the way to be delivered from darkness, deadness, backsliding, and prevailing iniquity." And you add, that "you think whoever supposes this to be God's method of delivering his saints, when sunk into an evil, careless, carnal, and unchristian frame, first to assure them of their good estate and his favour, while they yet remain in such a frame, and so to make that the means of their deliverance, does surely mistake God's method of dealing with such persons." Here I think you represent the case too strong; for the words in my letter to which you refer, were, "I have heard it taught that the believer was bound to trust in the Lord in the very worst frame he could be in, and that the exercise of faith was the way to be delivered from darkness, deadness, backsliding," And afterwards, I said, when questioning whether the believer should ever doubt of his estate on any account whatever, "I know the opposite has been prescribed; when the saint is plunged in the mire of prevailing iniquity." Now, as a believer may be thus plunged, and yet sin at that instant be his grief and burden, Rom.vii. 24, and he may have the hope and expectation of being relieved from it even then, Psal. lxv. 3, I do not think my words convey the idea you affix to them. Also you will observe, I do not say that a person's being confident of his own good estate is the way to be delivered from," etc. but "that the believer was bound to trust the Lord in the worst of frame," etc. This I mention, precisely to state my words, and they are, I think, very defensible; for the believer is called "to trust in the Lord forever," Isa. xxvi. 4. If so, when in the situation mentioned; for this is a trusting in the Lord as one's God. The woman, with the issue of blood, her touching Christ, and the success, is, I suppose, a call and encouragement to touch him by faith, for having the worst soul-maladies healed, Mark v. 25. Trusting in the Lord for needful blessings, in the situation mentioned, gives him the glory of his faithfulness, and engages him to act in the believer's behalf; thus to do, it is both duty and interest. Jonah, when in a course of grievous rebellion, and under awful chastisement for it, when perhaps he had actually disclaim
ed interest in the Lord, or was in danger of it, said, "he would look again toward the Lord's holy temple," chap. ii. 4, evidently in exercise of faith in the Lord as his God, the Lord assuring him of his good estate and his favour, by the operation of the Spirit causing him so to act, and to be conscious of it; and, verse 7, "when my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple." Here is my assertion exemplified in practice, by a believer, I may venture to say, in an evil frame, when the Spirit breathed upon him. Though a prophet, he deliberately disobeyed the express instructions of his Lord, chap. i. 2, 3, and in a careless frame, for he slept securely in the sides of the ship, during a tempest raised for his sake, and when the heathen mariners every one called upon his god, chap. i. 5, 6. So far was he from dreading, as he had reason to do, that the Lord would plead a controversy with him for the part he acted, that dismal security, awful carelessness, and a carnal frame had seized him; for he declared to the Lord, that he said to him in his country, he would repent of the evil he had said he would do to the Ninevites, if they turned from their evil way, and assigned that for the reason why he fled to Tarshish, chap. iv. 2; and thus would rather that the Lord should want the honour, that would redound to his name by the repentance, though only outward, of the Ninevites, and that the whole city should be destroyed, one of the largest the sun shone upon, and the most populous, and that himself should lose the honour and comfort of being the instrument of its preservation, than that he should fall under the imputation of being a false prophet, for which there would yet have been no foundation. Horrid carnality this! for as it was dreadful selfishness, it may, in that view, be termed carnality, astonishing pride! this "filthiness of the spirit" is worse than that of the flesh; and, all circumstances of his conduct considered, he was not only in an ungodly frame, but in an inhumane one, and he sinned presumptuously in one of the highest degrees, we may suppose, in which it is possible for a believer so to act; notwithstanding it appears the happy turn was begun in him, under the influence of the Spirit, by renewing his faith in the Lord as his God, and being confident of his good estate; upon which he prayed, as already mentioned, and was heard by his God, see verses 7, 8, was delivered out of his then dismal and dangerous circumstances, chap. ii. 12.-Thus I have done more than I was bound to do, and have proved the point, not only in the manner in which I expressed it, but in the strong light your words, a comment on mine, had set it; for one plain Scripture instance, such certainly as that I have given, is sufficient, as agreed, to prove any thing. It is so far from being a mistaking of God's method of dealing with such persons, as you suggest, (pardon me, dear Sir,) to say, that it is "the Lord's method of delivering his saints when in a backsliding condition, first to assure them of their good esVOL. I.