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“ another place he says, regeneration is previous to the « first act of true faith; but your
faith may exist in an unregenerate heart*". It is true, the divines, whom Mr. Bellamy opposes, did not allow any regenerate person to be destitute of saving faith : because they considered regeneration as the supernatural work of God by which he produces the grace of faith, and, in adults, the first act of faith ; and therefore they represented that act as the first motion or discovery of the new creation in the soul. “ We cannot possibly find,
says Mr. Marshal, that the Spirit of God doth effect
ually work faith, or give strength to believe, till we 66 act it.” Hence he directs us to begin the exercise of believing, before we know, that the Spirit doth or will work in us savingly : and observes, that, if we be Christ's people we will be willing to set about this work, Psal. cx. 3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. These divines also taught that the ground or warrant, upon which we are to proceed in believing, is not the saving operations of the Spirit in our heart, but Christ held forth to us in the word of promise ; faith not being our sense or feeling of the former, but our spiritual apprehension of and single dependance upon the lattert. Hence they would often warn their hear
* Dial. ii. p. 79.
† “ Though the ministers of the gospel are to declare the es warrant that sinners have in the word to believe in Christ as “ their Saviour, it does not follow, that all sinners have ability “ to believe ; for we are to distinguish between the warrant to « believe and the power to do so. The rule of faith is God's “ speaking in the word; and not his speaking in the heart. The
object of your faith is the gospel declaration, and not the Spi. “ rit's operation. You are carefully to distinguish betwixt your “ warrant to believe and power to believe. Your right and war. " rant to believe is grounded on the gospel-offer and promise, “ together with God's command to believe : this is that which « makes believing your duty, and unbelief your sin. But pow
ers and readers against building for justification and salvation
upon their feelings or a Christ within them, instead of building upon Christ as exhibited in the gospel. But they still taught, that regeneration is, in the order of nature, before faith. Mr. Marshal, towards the close of the explication of his fourth Direction, has the following words : « We are first passive, and then ~ active in the great work of the mystical union. We
are first apprehended of Christ, and then we apprer hend Christ. As the sun first enlighteneth our eyes, « and then we see by its light. We may remark fara “ther,” says this judicious writer, “ to the glory of the “ grace of God, that this union is fully accomplished
by Christ giving the Spirit of faith to us, before we " act that faith in the reception of him. Because by « the grace or Spirit of faith the soul is inclined and « disposed to an active receiving of Christ. And, no & doubt, Christ is thus united to many infants, who “ have the Spirit of faith, and yet cannot act faith, be
cause they are not come to the use of their underá
standing. But those of riper years, who are joined “ passively to Christ by the Spirit of faith, will also « join themselves with him actively by the act of faith. “ And, till they act this faith, they cannot know or
enjoy their union with Christ, or make use of it in performing any other duties of holiness in this life.”
“er to believe is indeed from the Spirit of God in his saving “ operation. You ought, therefore, to cry for the Spirit of pow.
er to accompany the dispensation of the word. Though you “ do not feel this power exerted; yet, that not being your warm “rant, but the word itself, you ought, at the call of God, to es
say believing; for though the power of God be necessary to believing;
; yet the feeling of his power is not so. Distinguish “ carefully between real power and felt power. If, upon the - call of God, you be determined to embrace the promise, and « accordingly essay it, there is real power, though it may not “ be felt til afterwards.” Mr. Erskine's Pregnant Promise.
The occasion of Mr. Bellamy's, censure of Mr. Marshal on this head seems to have been the following words in the explication of his viith. direction : “ Faith is the first grace wrought in our regeneration " and the means of all the rest. When you truly be“ lieve, you are regenerated, and not till then." It seems unnecessary to add to what was advanced on this point in the ninth of the preceding letters. Dr. Owen expresses his judgment in the following words: “I “ confess," says he, “ that the method, which the gos“pel leads unto, is, that absolution, acquitment or the
pardon of sin is the foundation of the communication “ of all saving grace unto the soul ; and so precedeth grace
in the sinner. But because the absolution or pardon of sin is to be received by faith, whereby " the soul is really made partaker of it and of all the “ benefits belonging thereto; and that faith is the radio « cal grace, which we receive in our regeneration. I " place these two together, and shall not dispute as to « their priority in nature ; but in time the one doth 6 not precede the other*."
In the second place, Mr. Bellamy insinuates, that the account given by his opponents, of the Spirit's work in the conversion of a sinner does not include a suffie cient measure of conviction. « The law,” says he, “ requires perfect obedience on pain of eternal damna« tion. It requires us to love God with all our hearts
as being infinitely lovely. If you take measure by " this law, your true character will appear, dead in sin, « at enmity against God, not subject to his law, nei« ther indeed can be. If you judge of your state accor“ ding to this law, you are condemned already, and the
* On the cxxxth. Psalm, p. 361.
i wrath of God abideth on you. You are lost, you “ stand guilty before God. And, if the law is holy, “ just and good, your mouth is stopt. The Lord is 66 righteous, when he speaketh, and clear, when he “ judgeth, although you should perish. All this you 6 must see. Yea, you must feel it, through and " through your heart, as did the apostle Paul, The “ commandment came, sin revived, and I died. It is for 66 want of thorough conviction, that so many awakened u sinners take up with false comfort. Their wound
was never searched to the bottom. It was skinned « over too soon. And such slight cures, though more “ easily performed, may prove fatal in the end. But “ let your legal convictions be ever so deep, you will
perish, unless of his sovereign grace, he who com“ manded the light to shine out of darkness, shine in
your heart, to give you the light of the knowledge of “ the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Such is Mr. Bellamy's account of a thorough work of conviction : but in what respect is it preferable to the representation of the same work given by Mr. Boston and Mr. Hervey? How far inferior is all that we find in Mr. Bellamy's dialogues, letters and essay, on this subject, in respect of a discovery of the various false confidences of awakened sinners before they get a saving sight of Christ, to what we have in the third part of Mr. Boston's Human nature in its four fold state; especially where he shews how the branches are cut off from the natural stock in twelve particulars ! But what deserves particular notice, in Mr. Bellamy's dialogues and letters, is the injustice done to Mr. Hervey's Theron and Aspasio on this head. Theron had heard much from Aspasio about the necessity of such a work of conviction : as, for instance, in Aspasio's application of
the stag chase in the latter part of the ninth dialogue. In the fourteenth dialogue he tells Theron, that “ “ long as the convictions of our great depravity, our 6 extreme guilt and our utterly undone condition, are “ slight and hover only in the imagination, we shall be “ like Galio, listless, indifferent and caring for none of 6 these things. But when they are deep and penetrate 6 the heart, then the righteousness of a Redeemer will « be sweet, tasteful and inviting ; as myrrh and frank“ incense to the smell, as milk and honey to the palate, « and gold and silver to the ruined bankrupt.” When Theron had asked, what method he should use to get these convictions impressed on his heart; Aspasio gives him the following counsel. « Endeavour to un6 derstand God's holy law. Consider how pure, how 6 extensive, how sublimely perfect it is. Then judge 66 of your spiritual state not from the flattering sugges66 tions of self-love, nor from the defective examples « of your fellow creatures, but by the unerring stan“ dard of the sanctuary. Above all, beseech the God « and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to send his en6 lightening Spirit into your soul. For indeed without o the enlightening influences of the Spirit, we have the « divine law in our hand; we may comprehend its “ grammatical meaning;- and yet be like blind Bar6 timeus under the meridian sun. It is the blessed “ Spirit alone, who can rend the veil of ignorance from
our minds, and shew us either the wonderful things b6 of God's law or the glorious mysteries of the gos" pel.” He then recommends to Theron the expe. dient of keeping a diary, at least for some months. « Compile," says he," a secret history of your heart and « conduct. Take notice of the manner in which your a time is spent, and of the strain which runs through: