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  • FAITH AND UNBELIEF - D,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    The guilt and ill-desert of unbelief.

    We have seen, on a former occasion, that the guilt of sin is conditionated upon, and graduated by, the light under which it is committed. The amount of light is the measure of guilt, in every case of sin. This is true of all sin. But it is peculiarly manifest in the sin of unbelief; for unbelief is the rejection of light; it is selfishness in the attitude of rejecting truth. Of course, the amount of light rejected, and the degree of guilt in rejecting it, are equal. This is everywhere assumed and taught in the Bible, and is plainly the doctrine of reason.

    The guilt of unbelief under the light of the gospel must be indefinitely greater, than when merely the light of nature is rejected. The guilt of unbelief, in cases where special divine illumination has been enjoyed, must be vastly and incalculably greater, than where the mere light of the gospel has been enjoyed, without a special enlightening of the Holy Spirit.

    The guilt of unbelief in one who has been converted, and has known the love of God, must be greater beyond comparison, than that of an ordinary sinner. Those things that are implied in unbelief show that it must be one of the most provoking abominations to God in the universe. It is the perfection of all that is unreasonable, unjust, ruinous. It is infinitely slanderous and dishonorable to God, and destructive to man, and to all the interests of the kingdom of God.

    Natural and governmental consequences of both faith and unbelief.

    By natural consequences are intended consequences that flow from the constitution and laws of mind, by a natural necessity. By governmental consequences are intended those that result from the constitution, laws, and administration of moral government.

    1. One of the natural consequences of faith is peace of conscience. When the will receives the truth, and yields itself up to conformity with it, the conscience is satisfied with its present attitude, and the man becomes at peace with himself. The soul is then in a state to really respect itself, and can, as it were, behold its own face without a blush. But faith in truth perceived is the unalterable condition of a man's being at peace with himself.

    A governmental consequence of faith is peace with God:

    (1.) In the sense that God is satisfied with the present obedience of the soul. It is given up to be influenced by all truth, and this is comprehensive of all duty. Of course God is at peace with the soul, so far as its present obedience is concerned.

    (2.) Faith governmentally results in peace with God, in the sense of being a condition of pardon and acceptance. That is, the penalty of the law for past sins is remitted upon condition of true faith in Christ. The soul not only needs present and future obedience, as a necessary condition of peace with self; but it also needs pardon and acceptance on the part of the government for past sins, as a condition of peace with God. But since the subject of justification or acceptance with God is to come up as a distinct subject for consideration, I will not enlarge upon it here.

    2. Self-condemnation is one of the natural consequences of unbelief. Such are the constitution and laws of mind, that it is naturally impossible for the mind to justify the heart's rejection of truth. On the contrary, the conscience necessarily condemns such rejection, and pronounces judgment against it.

    Legal condemnation is a necessary governmental consequence of unbelief. No just government can justify the rejection of known truth. But, on the contrary, all just governments must utterly abhor and condemn the rejection of truths, and especially those truths that relate to the obedience of the subject, and the highest well-being of the rulers and ruled. The government of God must condemn and utterly abhor all unbelief, as a rejection of those truths that are indispensable to the highest well-being of the universe.

    3. A holy or obedient life results from faith by a natural or necessary law. Faith is an act of will which controls the life by a law of necessity. It follows of course that, when the heart receives or obeys the truth, the outward life must be conformed to it.

    4. A disobedient and unholy life results from unbelief also by a law of necessity. If the heart rejects the truth, of course the life will not be conformed to it.

    5. Faith will develop every form of virtue in the heart and life, as their occasions shall arise. It consists in the committing of the will to truth and to the God of truth. Of course as different occasions arise, faith will secure conformity to all truth on all subjects, and then every modification of virtue will exist in the heart, and appear in the life, as circumstances in the providence of God shall develop them.

    6. Unbelief may be expected to develop resistance to all truth upon all subjects that conflict with selfishness; and hence nothing but selfishness in some form can restrain its appearing in any other and every other form possible or conceivable. It consists, be it remembered, in the heart's rejection of truth, and of course implies the cleaving to error. The natural result of this must be the development in the heart, and the appearance in the life, of every form of selfishness that is not prevented by some other form. For example, avarice may restrain amativeness, intemperance, and many other forms of selfishness.

    7. Faith, governmentally results in obtaining help of God. God may and does gratuitously help those who have no faith. But this is not a governmental result or act in God. But to the obedient He extends His governmental protection and aid.

    8. Faith lets God into the soul to dwell and reign there. Faith receives, not only the atonement and mediatorial work of Christ as a redeemer from punishment, but it also receives Christ as king to set up His throne, and reign in the heart. Faith secures to the soul communion with God.

    9. Unbelief shuts God out of the soul, in the sense of refusing His reign in the heart. It also shuts the soul out from an interest in Christ's mediatorial work. This results not from an arbitrary appointment, but is a natural consequence. Unbelief shuts the soul out from communion with God.

    These are hints at some of the natural and governmental consequences of faith and unbelief. They are designed not to exhaust the subject, but merely to call attention to topics which any one who desires may pursue at his pleasure. It should be here remarked, that none of the ways, commandments, or appointments of God are arbitrary. Faith is a naturally indispensable condition of salvation, which is the reason of its being made a governmental condition. Unbelief renders salvation naturally impossible: it must, therefore, render it governmentally impossible.

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