THERE is a passage in an old writer which throws so much light on some points mentioned in this paper, that I make no excuse for giving it to the reader in its entirety. It comes from a work which is little known and less read. It has done me good, and I think it may do good to others.
"When a man is awakened, and brought to that, that all must be brought to, or to worse,' What shall I do to be saved!' (Acts 16:30-31), we have the apostolic answer to it: ' Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.' This answer is so old that with many it seems out of date But it is still, and will ever be, fresh, and new, and savoury, and the only resolution of this grand case of conscience, as long as conscience and the world lasts. No wit or art of man will ever find a crack or flaw in it, or devise another or a better answer; nor can any but this alone heal rightly the wound of an awakened conscience.
"Let us set this man to seek resolution and relief in this case of some masters in our Israel. According to their principles they must say to him, 'Repent, and mourn for your known sins, and leave them and loathe them; and God will have mercy on you.' 'Alas!' (saith the poor man), ' my heart is hard, and I cannot repent aright: yea, I find my heart more hard and vile than when I was secure in sin.' If you speak to this man of qualifications for Christ, he knows nothing of them; if of sincere obedience, his answer is native and ready: ' Obedience is the work of a living man, and sincerity is only in a renewed soul.' Sincere obedience is therefore as impossible to a dead, unrenewed sinner, as perfect obedience is. Why should not the right answer be given to the awakened sinner: ' Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved'? Tell him what Christ is, what He hath done and suffered to obtain eternal redemption for sinners, and that according to the will of God and his Father. Give him a plain downright narrative of the gospel salvation wrought out by the Son of God; tell him the history and mystery of the gospel plainly. It may be the Holy Ghost will work faith thereby, as He did in those first-fruits of the Gentiles. (Acts 10:44).
"If he ask, What warrant he hath to believe on Jesus Christ? tell him, that he hath utter, indispensable necessity for it; for without believing on Him, he must perish eternally. Tell him that he hath God's gracious offer of Christ and all His redemption; with a promise that upon accepting the offer by faith, Christ, and salvation with Him, is his. Tell him that he hath God's express commandment (1 John 3:23), to believe on Christ's name; and that he should make conscience of obeying it, as well as any command in the moral law. Tell him of Christ's ability and goodwill to save; that no man was ever rejected by Him that cast himself upon Him; that desperate cases are the glorious triumphs of His art of saving. Tell him, that there is no midst (or medium) between faith and unbelief; that there is no excuse for neglecting the one, and continuing in the other; that believing on the Lord Jesus for salvation is more pleasing to God than all obedience to His law; and that unbelief is the most provoking to God, and the most damning to man, of all sins. Against the greatness of his sins, the curse of the law, and the severity of God as Judge, there is no relief to be held forth to him, but the free and boundless grace of God in the merit of Christ's satisfaction by the sacrifice of Himself.
"If he should say, What is it to believe on Jesus Christ? as to this, I find no such question in the Word: but that all did some way understand the notion of it; the Jews that did not believe on Him (John 6:28-30); the chief priests and Pharisees (John 7:48); the blind man (John 9:35). When Christ asked him, Believest thou on the Son of God? he answered, Who is he, Lord, that I may believe on Him? Immediately, when Christ had told him (John 9:37), he saith not, What is it to believe on Him? but, Lord, I believe; and worshipped Him: and so both professed and acted faith in Him. So the father of the lunatic (Mark 9:23-24), and the eunuch (Acts 8:37). They all, both Christ's enemies and His disciples, knew that faith in Him was a believing that the man Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Messiah, and Saviour of the world, so as to receive and look for salvation in His name (Acts 9:12). This was the common report, published by Christ and His Apostles and disciples; and known by all that heard it.
"If he yet ask, What he is to believe? you tell him, that he is not called to believe that he is in Christ, and that his sins are pardoned, and he a justified man; but that he is to believe God's record concerning Christ (1 John 5:10-12). And this record is, that God giveth (that is, offereth) to us eternal life in His Son Jesus Christ; and that all that with the heart believe this report, and rest their souls on these glad tidings, shall be saved (Rom.10:9-11). And thus he is to believe, that he may be justified (Gal.2:16).
"If he still say that this believing is hard, this is a good doubt, but easily resolved. It bespeaks a man deeply humbled. Anybody may see his own impotence to obey the law of God fully; but few find the difficulty of believing. For his relief and resolution ask him, What it is he finds makes believing difficult to him? Is it unwillingness to be justified and saved? Is it unwillingness to be so saved by Jesus Christ, to the praise of God's grace in Him, and to the voiding of all boasting in himself? This he will surely deny. Is it a distrust of the truth of the gospel record? This he dare not own. Is it a doubt of Christ's ability or goodwill to save? This is to contradict the testimony of God in the gospel. Is it because he doubts of an interest in Christ and his redemption? You tell him that believing on Christ makes up the interest in Him.
"If he say that he cannot believe on Jesus Christ because of the difficulty of the acting this faith, and that a Divine power is needful to draw it forth, which he finds not, you must tell him that believing in Jesus Christ is no work, but a resting on Jesus Christ. You must tell him that this pretence is as unreasonable as if a man, wearied with a journey and not able to go one step further, should argue, ' I am so tired, that I am not able to lie down,' when indeed he can neither stand nor go. The poor wearied sinner can never believe on Jesus Christ till he finds he can do nothing for himself; and in his first believing doth always apply himself to Christ for salvation, as a man hopeless and helpless in himself. And by such reasonings with him from the gospel, the Lord will (as He hath often done) convey faith and joy and peace by believing." Robert Tralli's Works, 1696. Vol. i.266-269.