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HUMAN MIND, undoubteDLY MAINTAINS, IF HE HAS ANY MEANING TO HIS WORDS, THAT WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY A WORK EXERTED BY THE HUMAN MIND.
"I have all along studied to make use of every form of expres sion I could think of, for evincing in the most clear, palpable, and striking manner, a difference of the last importance, which thousands of preachers have laboured to cover with a mist. If I have made that difference manifest to those who have any attention for the subject, my great end in writing is gained, on whatever side of it men shall chuse to range themselves. It has frequently appeared to me a thing no less amazing than provoking, when the great difference between the ancient gospel here contended for and the popular doctrine has been pointed out as clear as words could make it, to find many, after all, so obstinately stupid, as to declare they saw no real difference. This I cannot account for by assigning any other cause than the special agency of the prince of darkness."*
After this, it may be thought an act of temerity to complain of not understanding Mr. Sandeman; and indeed I shall make no such complaint, for I think I do clearly uuderstand his meaning; but whether he has fairly represented that of his opponents, I shall take the liberty to inquire.
The popular preachers "rest our acceptance with God," it seems, "not simply on what Christ hath done, but on the active advance of the soul towards him.!' Do they then consider faith, whether we be active or passive in it, as forming a part of our justifying righteousness? In other words, do they consider it as any part of that for the sake of which a sinner is accepted? They every where declare the contrary. I question if there be one of those whom Mr. S. ordinarily denominates popular preachers, who would not cordially subscribe to the passage in Aspasio, which he so highly applauds, and considers as inconsistent with the popular doctrine; viz, "Both grace and faith stand in direct opposition to works; all works whatever, whether they be works of the law, or works of the gospel; exercises of the heart, or actions
*Letters on Theron and Aspasio, Vol. II, pp. 480. 483.
of the life; done while we remain unregenerate, or when we become regenerate; they are all and every of them equally set aside in this great affair."* If the popular preachers maintain an active advance of the soul to be necessary to our acceptance with God, it is in no other sense than that in which he himself maintains "the bare belief of the truth" to be so; that is, not as a procuring cause, but as that without which, according to the established order of things, there is no acceptance. To accuse them therefore of corrupting the doctrine of justification on this account, must be owing either to gross ignorance or disingenuousness.
Yet in this strain, the eulogists of Mr. Sandeman go on to declaim to this day." His main doctrine," says one appears to be this : The bare work of Jesus Christ, which he finished on the cross, is sufficient, without a deed or a thought on the part of man, to present the chief of sinners spotless before God. If by sufficient be meant that it is that only on account of which, or for the sake of which a sinner is justified, it is very true; and Mr. Sandeman's opponents believed it no less than he himself: but if he meant to deny that any deed or thought on the part of man is necessary in the established order of things, or that sinners are presented spotless before God without a deed or a thought on the subject, it is very false, and goes to deny the necessity of faith to salvation; for surely no man can be said to believe in Christ without thinking of him.
Mr. Pike, who had embraced Mr. Sandeman's views of faith. yet says to him, "I cannot but conceive that you are sometimes mistaken in your representations of what you call the popular doctrine; for instance, Upon the popular plan, say you, we can never have · peace in our consciences until we be sensible of some beginning of a good disposition in us towards Christ. Now, setting aside some few unguarded expressions and addresses, you will find that the general drift and purport of their doctrine is just the contrary to this; and they labour this point, both Marshal and Hervey, to convince persons that nothing of this nature does or can recommend them to God, or be any part of their justifying righteous
Theron and Aspasio, Vol. 1. p. 276.
+ Cooper's Letters, p. 33.
ness: and their principal view is to beget, or draw forth such thoughts in the mind as lead the soul entirely out of itself to Christ alone for righteousness,"* It is observable too, that though Mr. S. answered this letter of Mr. Pike, yet he takes no notice of this passage.
I am not vindicating either Marshall or Hervey, in all their views: but justice requires that this misrepresentation should be corrected; especially as it runs through the whole of Mr. Sandeman's writings, and forms the basis of an enormous mass of invective.
By works opposed to grace and faith, the New Testament means works done with a view of obtaining life; or of procuring acceptance with God as the reward of them. If repentance, faith, or sincere obedience be recommended as being such a condition of salvation, as that God may be expected to bestow it in reward of them, this is turning the gospel into a covenant of works, and is as much opposed to grace, and to the true idea of justification by faith, as any works of the law can be. But to deny the activity of the soul in believing, lest faith itself should become a work of the law, and so after all we should be justified by a work, is both antiscriptural and nugatory: antiscriptural, because the whole tenor of the Bible exhorts sinners to forsake their ways and return to the Lord, that he may have mercy upon them to believe in the light, that they may be children of light; and to come to him, that they may have life :-nugatory, because we need not go far for proof that men know how to value themselves and despise others, on account of their notions, as well as of their actions; and so are capable of making a righteousness of he one, as well as of the other.
Farther: If there be any weight in Mr. Sandeman's argument, it falls equally on his own hypothesis as on that of his opponents. Thus we might argue, He who maintains that we are justified only by faith, and at the same time affirms, with Mr. Sandeman, that faith is a notion formed by the human mind, undoubtedly maintains, if he have any meaning to his words, that we are justified by a notion formed by the human mind.
Epistolary Correspondence, p. 24,
Mr. S. as if aware of his exposedness to this retort, labours, in the foregoing quotation, to make nothing of the belief of the truth, or to keep every idea but that of the truth believed out of sight. So fearful is he of making faith to be any thing which has a real subsistence in the mind, that be plunges into gross absurdity to avoid it. Speaking of that of which the believer is "conscious," he makes it to be truth, instead of the belief of it; as if any thing could be an object of consciousness but what passes or exists in the mind!
It may be thought, that the phrase, "All who would have us to be conscious of something else than the bare truth of the gospel," is a mere slip of the pen; but it is not; for had Mr. S. spoken of belief, instead of the truth believed, as an object of consciousness, his statement would have been manifestly liable to the consequence which he charges on his opponents. It might then have been said to him, He who maintains that we are justified only by faith, and at the same time affirms that faith is something inherent in the human mind, undoubtedly maintains, if he have any meaning to his words, that we are justified by something inherent in the human mind.
You must by this time perceive, that Mr. Sandeman's grand argument, or, as he denominates it, his " easy view," turns out to be a mere sophism. To detect it, you have only to consider the same thing in different views; which is what Mr. Sandeman himself does on some occasions, as do all other men. "I agree with you," says he to Mr. Pike, "in maintaining that faith is the principle and spring of every good disposition, or of every good work: but, at the same time, I maintain that faith does not justify the ungodly as a principle of good dispositions."* Why then may we not maintain that we are justified only by faith, and at the same time affirm that faith is a grace inherent, an act of the human mind, a duty commanded of God; and all this without affirming that we are justified by any thing inherent, any act of ours, or any duty that we perform? And why must we be supposed to use words without meaning, or to contradict ourselves, when we only maintain that we are justifi
* Epistolary Correspodence, p. 10.
ed by that which is inherent, is an act of the human mind, and is a duty; while yet it is not as such, but as uniting us to Christ, and deriving righteousness from him that it justifies ?*
Assuredly, there is no necessity for reducing faith to a nullity, in order to maintain the doctrine of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ. While we hold that faith justifies, not in respect of the act of believing, but of the righteousness on which it terminates, or that God's pardoning and receiving us to favour is in reward, not of our believing, but of his Son's obedience unto death, every purpose is answered, and all inherent righteousness is excluded.
I have been the more particular on this "easy view" of Mr. Sandeman, because it is manifestly the grand pillar of his doctrine. If this be overturned, there is nothing left standing but what will fall with a few slight touches; and whether it be so, I now leave you and the reader to judge.
To establish the doctrine of free justification, Mr. S. conceives it to be necessary to reduce justifying faith to a bare "belief," exclusive of every "advance" of the mind towards Christ, or of coming to him, trusting in him, &c. and to maintaining that these terms denote the effects of faith in those who are already in a justified state.
In opposing Mr. S. many have denied that the belief of the gospel is justifying faith. Observing, on the one hand, that numbers appear to believe the truth, on whom, nevertheless, it has no salutary influence; and, on the other, that believing in Christ in the New Testament is synonymous with "receiving him," "trusting in him," and "coming to him," they have concluded that the belief of the gospel is rather to be considered as something presupposed in faith, than faith itself. But there can be no doubt that the belief of the gospel has, in a great number of instances, the promise of salvation; and as to those nominal Christians on whom it has no salutary influence, they believe Christ no more than the Jews believed Moses, which our Lord would not allow that they did.
* Sce President Edwards' Sermons on Justification, pp. 14. 26.
+ Epistolary Correspondence, p. 34.