Faith and the Gospel (Part 2)

Horatius Bonar (The prince of Scottish hymn writers)

For ease of reading, I have divided this article into 3 parts. Please see further on this blog Parts 1 and 3. – Grant Swart


But whatever view of faith we take, one thing is obvious; that it is from first to last “the gift of God.” Make it as simple as you please, still it is the result of the Holy Spirit’s direct, immediate, all-quickening power. Never attempt to make faith simple, with the view of getting rid of the Spirit to produce it. This is one of the most wretched devices of Satan in the present evil day. By all means correct every mistake in regard to faith, by which hindrances are thrown in the sinners way, or darkness thrown around the soul. Show him that it is the object of faith, even with Christ and His cross, that he has to do, not with his own actions of faith; that it is not the virtue of merit that is in his faith that saved him, but the virtue and merit that are in Christ Jesus alone. Tell him to look outward, not inward for his peace. Beat him off from his self-righteous efforts to get up a particular kind of faith or particular acts of faith in order to obtain something for himself — something short of Christ to rest upon. Simplify, explain and illustrate faith to such an one, but never imagine that you are going to make the Spirit’s help less absolutely necessary.

This is what the aim of the propagators of the new theology seems to be. Their object in simplifying faith is to bring it within the reach of the unrenewed man, so that by performing this very simple act he may become a renewed man. In other words, their object is to make man the beginner of his own salvation. He takes the first step, and God does the rest! He believes, and then God comes in and saves him! This is nothing but a flat and bold denial of the Spirit’s work altogether. If at any time more than another the sinner needs the Spirit’s power, it is at the beginning. And he who denies the need of the Spirit at the beginning cannot believe in it at the after stages — nay, cannot believe in the need of the Spirit’s work at all. The mightiest and most insuperable difficulty lies at the beginning. If the sinner can get over that without the Spirit, he will easily get over the rest. If he does not need Him to enable him to believe, he will not need Him to enable him to love. If when a true object is presented to me, I can believe without the Spirit, then when a lovable object is presented I can love without the Spirit. In short, what is there in the whole Christian life which I cannot do of myself, if I can begin this career without help from God? The denial of the Holy Spirit’s direct agency, in faith and conversion, is the denial of His whole work in the soul both of the saint and the sinner.

But is it not said, “Faith cometh by hearing”? Certainly. And who doubts the blessed truth? How can there be faith where there is not something to be believed? “There is an inseparable relation between faith and the Word, and these can no more be torn asunder from each other than rays of light from the sun” (John Calvin). But does this mean that hearing alone is necessary to the production of faith? The words in the original explain this, “Faith arises out of what we hear, and what we hear comes to us through means of the Word of God.” Who then would say anything but what the apostle does here?, viz., that the foundation of the truth is what we hear (literally, a hearing, or a report). But does this exclude the Spirit from His work in preparing the soul for believing what it hears?

Having said this much as to faith itself, let a few words be added as to what it receives, “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” That which we preach, and which faith believes, “is the glad tidings of great joy.” It is God’s testimony of His own character, His declaration of His gracious mind towards the sinner, the utterance of His manifold yearnings over His lost and long-wandered offspring. That which we make known is the story of Divine love. We tell men that there is such a thing as love in God towards the sinful; that this love has found vent to itself in a righteous way, and that all are welcome to the participation and enjoyment of this love. We show them how God has opened up His heart to let them see what riches of grace are there; and how He has done a work on the earth by which we may measure the infinite dimensions of that gracious heart. This is the good news we bring, the tidings we present to the sinner to be believed, to be rejoiced in with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And this gospel is free, truly, absolutely, unconditionally free. It is without money and without price, making known the exceeding riches of God’s grace. This news shows us how these riches are pouring themselves freely upon all this fallen world. It shows that there is not only grace in God for sinners, but also that that grace has found vent to itself and is flowing down in a righteous channel to unrighteous man. It tells us that the darkness is past, that the true light has arisen upon the world. It tells us that the veil is torn from top to bottom, that every sinner may go freely in; that there is forgiving love in the bosom of the Father; that every sinner, without exception, is invited to avail himself of it. It points each wandering eye to the Cross, that it may read there the Divine compassion towards the rebellious, the unholy. The good news comes to every man, inviting him to partake of all the fullness of God.

(For Parts 1 and 3 see elsewhere on this blog.)

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