Pristine Grace

Faith and Believing
Paraphrased in Modern English by David Bishop
by Robert Sandeman
Faith and Believing

Many, despising disputes about faith, take a pleasure in saying, “if we do as we would be done by, we hope God will not condemn us, or make any inquiry about what was our faith.” Agreed; do this, and you shall live. If you hope then to live by doing your duty, take care henceforth to do it perfectly. If you have already sinned, hope to live by your repentance, take care that your repentance be sincere, uniform, effectual, and permanent. Let your repentance be such an effectual turning away from all sin, as to admit of no return in any one instance. Let it be such a turning to righteousness as to admit of no failure. For the moment you fail in any one instance, all your former righteousness goes for nothing. Hearken not to the teachers, who would persuade you to compromise or abridge your duty into one or more acts of faith, contrition, or repentance. This would be making void; yea, mocking both the Law and the Gospel, for neither of these acknowledge that for righteousness which comes short of perfection. Do not then imagine that God will accept of any righteousness short of perfection, be it called sincerity or by any other name. If you pretend then to do anything less or more in order to acceptance with God, you must do everything. God is not mocked. Go not about to impose on yourselves, by substituting, instead of the perfect obedience that God’s Law requires, any ambiguous, equivocal acts or motions of the heart. For you cannot do your duty to purpose, unless in plain terms, and in good earnest, you obey every Divine precept, performing everything required, and avoiding everything forbidden by the Divine Law. On the other hand, if there be any of you who, after many repeated trials, have found all your most serious endeavors to do your duty to prove in the issue both unsuccessful and deceitful, and have accordingly been brought to despair of so much as thinking one good thought, if it could save your souls forever, then certainly you have great reason to bless God for that Gospel, which evinces, with the highest kind of demonstration, that all is already done; {accomplished by Christ, for that which Christ did long before we were born is alone sufficient to justify us as we presently stand;} for - the Gospel is called the ministration of righteousness, as it brings the glad tidings that a perfect righteousness is already wrought for the ungodly. The Law came demanding righteousness; the Gospel brings you the good news, that its demand is fully answered. Are you persuaded of this; or does this stand true in your consciences? Then you have found an answer to that most pinching of all questions, “wherewith shall I come before the Lord?” And now you can understand the nature of the command to believe, that it is not a command calling you to do anything, or any new law of works, but the gracious voice of God willing you to know, that everything required is already done, even a gracious proclamation, stamped with the highest proofs of Divine Authority, approaching you with all the force of a Divine Law, and carrying in itself evidence all sufficient to command the belief or persuasion of your hearts. For how vain, how absurd is it to talk of a command to believe, that carries not along with it evidence sufficient to command persuasion, or to produce belief in the heart.    

  by Robert Sandeman {Essay on Preaching, 1763}