« ForrigeFortsett »
been? For if justice could accept of a less suffering than infinite, why must it have had a greater suffering than what Christ as a man, apparently suffered?
These are serious questions, which the reader is requested duly to weigh, and candidly to consider; and after having paid that attention to the subject which the importance of it merits, it is presumed that every serious reflecting mind must be sat isfied that the death and sufferings of Christ, in a literal sense, ought not to be considered expiatory; neither ought they to be considered as a suffering inflicted by a penal law; but, (in relation to the Divine economy) as an offering or sacrifice under the first covenant, and thereby closing the legal dispensation; and so far as they respect Christ as an individual, his sufferings came from a wicked world as the baneful effects of superstitious ignorance. The sacrifice, or death of Christ, as an offering, contained the sum of all the offerings under the Levitical priesthood, which was offered up once in the end of the world, or age, that is, in the end of the legal dispensation, judicially to put away sin, and was a proper induction of our great high priest into the gospel dispensation. And as he offered up his body on the cross, as a closing sacrifice under the law, so he "gave himself" in his public ministry, "a ransom for all to be testified in due time."* In this offering of himself, he is the life and spirit of the covenant which God made with Abraham; in which covenant all the families of the earth are blessed with justification through faith. He is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; and having been made perfect as the captain of our salvation, through suffering,), he will finally, by the influences of his grace and teachings of his spir it, bring all mankind to the knowledge of the truth as it is in the everlasting covenant of God, whom to know is life eternal. § Heb
St. John 1, 9.
* I. Tim. 11, 6. † Gal, 111, 28. 11, 10.
LETTER TO A METHODIST MINISTER,
Dear Brother in Christ,
As he whom the Son maketh free is free indeed, there re, nains no occasion for any other bondage than that which is imposed by charity, which is the bond of perfectness. This being our freedom, whatever charity dictates we may not hesitate to lo, and wherever charity would lead, we may not hesitate to yo. The differences in particular tenets imbibed by those who who are called of God, ever ought to be kept in subjection to the power of that love which alone distinguishes the disciples of the divine master; for it is evident, beyond all dispute, that hose differences have arisen, not from the CLEARNESS, but the OBSCURITY of mental vision. Therefore, whoever withholds Fellowship from his fellow servant on account of those differences, must be more under the influence of a carnal, than a spiritual mind.
In conformity to the above considerations, I have introduced this epistle with a design to discharge what I feel to be my duty, towards one whom I am willing to own as a brother in the faith once delivered to the saints, and a fellow-laborer in the ministry of reconciliation.
Although the design of this communication is to presert to your mind a more scriptural view of a certain passage of scripture, than it appears to me you at present have, I wish not to communicate an idea that I am able to give you any general information in the scriptures, or that you stand in half the need of instruction that your fellow-servant does.
If I should be so happy as to succeed, as I am well persuaded I shall, in my present undertaking, I hope you will consider me in some measure as deserving a return which may be profitable to me, as I hope my labors, by the blessing of God, may be made to you.
In your Sermon last Thursday evening from 2d. Cor. this clause of the 5th verse, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith," you had occasion to speak of the same apostle's words to the Heb. xi. 1. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
This faith you suggested was a realizing belief of the gospel, or a real gospel belief in one who experiences the knowledge of the truth. I do not pretend to use your words verbatim, but the sense, I have no doubt, I am correct in. Now what I wish to bring to your view is, that the word faith in the
passage quoted from Heb. means something very distinct from that exercise of the human mind which takes cognizance of a fact through the medium of evidence, which exercise is our faith, or belief of a real or a supposed fact.
In the first place, permit me to state the several subjects which must exist as prerequisitions of a true gospel faith or belief of Christ.
Secondly, I will endeavor to show that the faith spoken of in Heb. is not the result of those prerequisitions. And,
Thirdly, I will attempt an illustration of the passage in Heb, by the help of other scriptures.
1st. As prerequisitions of a faith or belief in Christ, as in all other things where belief is well founded, the thing to be believed must exist, and that independent of our believing it.
2d. The thing to be believed must lie so far hid from us, as not to be comprehended among those things of which we have a positive knowledge, as we have of those tangible ob jects with which we are familiar.
3d. Suitable evidences or witnesses of the fact to be believ ed must have a proper action, as witnesses, on the mind. When these circumstances all exist, a belief in the thing thus witnessed to the mind, is the effect.
Secondly. I am to show that the faith spoken of in Heb. is not the result of those prerequisitions. This faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the FVIDENCE of things not seen. In the case of our believing, the THING believed is one thing; the EVIDENCE by which we believe is another thing; and our belief, which is a consequence arising from the two former, is another thing. But the faith in our text is both the SUBSTANCE and the EVIDENCE, in and by which we believe and hope for things unseen. And as our belief can never justly be said to be either the thing in which we believe, or the evidence by which we believe, so our belief, let it be ever so real, true or efficacious as to its spiritual virtue, can never be justly said to be the faith of which St. Paul spake in Heb. xi. 1.
Thirdly, I am to attempt an illustration of the passage in Heb. by the help of other scriptures. One of the most plain passages which serves to set our text in its true scriptural light, is in Rom. iii. 3, &c. "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the FAITH of GOD without effect? God forbid." As the unbelief of man is exactly the reverse of belief, so it as fully renders his belief of no effect, as his belief makes his unbelief of no effect. But the FAITH of God is neither strengthened by our belief nor weakened by our un
belief. And here it is necessary to observe, that God cannot be justly said to BELIEVE any thing, because he possesses no knowledge which comes to him through the medium of evidence; therefore it is not proper to say that the faith of God is his belief.
By looking at the context of the quotation from Rom. we see that the oracles of God were what some did not believe, which ORACLES are the FAITH of God, which cannot be made without effect by the unbelief of those to whom those eracles were given. Those oracles are spoken of by St. Stephen in Acts vii. 38. "This is he that was in the Church in the wil derness, with the Angel which spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; who received the lively ORACLES to give unto us." Again, by St. Paul to the Heb. v. 12 "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." Again, see 1. Peter, iv. 10, 11. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the ORACLES of God." Here it may be well to mention that the ORACLES of the first covenant were committed to the Jewish Church in the wilderness, which covenant was but a type of that which St. Paul spake in Heb. viii. 6, 7. "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." You will naturally discover that the oracles of God, the manifold grace of God, and the better covenant of which Jesus is the Mediator, are all the same thing in the passages above quoted, and are in fact the faith of God which the unbelief of the creature can never make without effect. This better covenant is the substance of the things for which we hope, and it contains all the evidence by which we believe.
Though this subject is of vast importance, and though it admits of a very extensive illustration by the help of the scriptures, yet I may justly suppose it to be made already sufficiently plain to the understanding of one who is studious in the scriptures. I will, however, add some observations explanatory of the word faith. The word in the Greek, (Heb. xi. 1) is pistis, and is the substantive from which the adjective pistos comes, which is rendered faithful in Heb. ii. 19, "Wherefore
in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Likewise see 2. Tim. ii. 13. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself." Here the word rendered faithful is the same as in Heb. ii. 17, and comes from pistis, and agrees as above with the word in Heb. xi. 1, which is rendered faith. This last quotation is similar to that above quoted from Rom. iii. 3, where the word faith comes from pistin, corresponding with the other quotations.
You see, dear sir, I have been particular, though concise. I have shown from the text itself, that our belief cannot be what is meant by that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; I have illustrated the text by the help of other scriptures; and I have shown that the word faith, as it comes from the Greek of those passages which I have quoted, signifies the covenant and faithfulness of God. This faithfulness is manifested in the covenant of promise, which saith, "In thee and in thy seed shall all nations be blessed." "He is faithful who hath promised."
By having a clear view of this subject, we see that the things contained in the everlasting covenant of God, ordered and in all things sure, are the eternal unseen things, which, though they are the proper subjects of our belief, yet our unbelief cannot make them without effect. For those things are not pursuant to our belief, but our belief is pursuant to those eternal truths and realities of God's love finally to be manifested in our salvation. Our belief of those divine realities, if established in our mind, by virtue of the three which bear witness on earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood, brings heavenly things near to us, and we enjoy thereby an antipast of those things laid up for an innumerable multitude, who will finally be to the praise and glory of him who is our merciful and faithful high-priest.
I am, Dear Brother, yours in sincerity,
Rev. ASA KENT, Ministering to the