How Duty Faith Relates to
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
Joseph Bellamy And Duty Faith
Joseph Bellamy's theology was similar to that of Jonathan Edwards in recognizing that God works with sinners before regeneration. God is not in any way constrained - if He wants to give a sinner a revelation of Himself, He can do this without regenerating him. Edwards called the direct communication between God and man "Immediate", as apposed to using a means of common grace such as the preaching or reading of the word of God. While Samuel Hopkins dismissed law works and using the means of grace as an excuse for not repenting and submitting to God, Bellamy saw them as preparation for regeneration.
The Spirit of God shows the believer, more and more, what a poor, sinful, hell deserving wretch he is in himself, and so makes him more and more sensible of his absolute need of free grace, through Jesus Christ, to pardon and to sanctify him. He grows in a sense of these things all his days ; whereby his heart is kept humble, and Christ and free grace made more precious. The Spirit of God shows the believer more and more of the infinite glory and excellency of God, whereby he is more and more influenced to love him, live to him, and delight in him with all his heart ; and, by the whole, his heart is framed more and more to love his neighbor as himself : and thus " the path of the just is like a shining light, that shines more and more to the perfect day ;
First. Awakened sinners see themselves in great danger,
and they therefore earnestly desire and seek after self-preservation; and this is plainly owing to nature, and not to any grace
or goodness in their hearts. " Through the greatness of thy power, thine enemies submit themselves unto thee; "that is, they feign a submission, but they are thine enemies.
Secondly, That which moves them to desire to repent, be humbled, etc., is, they hope by these means to make amends for their past sins, and ingratiate themselves into the favor of God, (Rom. x. 3 ;) that is, merely from self-love, with pure hypocrisy, they would impose upon God. For,
Thirdly, after all their pretences, desires, and prayers, their nature and temper is just what it used to be; and were they but delivered from the fears of hell, and left at full liberty to follow their own inclinations, they would live as viciously as ever they did.
Fourthly. Yet they pretend to love God, and would fain have him believe them sincere, and are ready to expect acceptance for what they do, and to think it hard if God should not accept them. Now, if it was the work of the Spirit of God to build up such a sinner in this hypocritical, self-righteous way, he might be disposed, while under his fears and terrors, to concur and fall in with the Spirit's influence ; and all merely from self-love and for self-ends.
But if the Spirit of God goes about to bring home the law in its strictness, and show such a sinner the very truth, that he does not love God, nor desire to; that his desires, and prayers, and tears, are all hypocritical; that he is still dead in sin, and an enemy to God ; that he deserves to be damned as much as ever he did; that God is at liberty, all his duties notwithstanding, to reject him; that he lies absolutely at God's mercy; now he will hate the light, shut his eyes against it, quarrel at it, and resist it with all his might.
It is exceedingly hard for the poor sinner, when he begins to be awakened, to part with a vain life, and vain companions, his carnal ease and comfort, and all vicious courses, to make restitution to those he has wronged in name or estate, and give himself to reading, meditation, and prayer, and to a serious, mortifying way of living: he cannot bear the thought; would fain contrive an easier way, or else delay, for the present, so mournful and tedious a work. But when, by the dreadful fears of hell and eternal damnation, he has been brought, after much reluctance and unwillingness, to a forced consent to all this, hoping thereby to appease the divine wrath, and procure the divine favor; now, to have all his self-righteous hopes dashed and confounded, by a sight of the badness of his heart, by seeing he has no love to God, no sorrow for sin, no inclination to be holy, but averse to God and all that is good, and that all his forced goodness has no virtue in it; that he is yet under the whole guilt of all his sin; under condemnation of the law and the wrath of God; dead in sin, an enemy to God, absolutely at God's mercy; this, this, I say, is dreadful indeed, and far more cross to the very grain of the sinner's heart, than all he ever met with before.
Here, therefore, there will be the greatest struggle, and strongest resistance, before ever the sinner can, by the Spirit of God, be brought clearly to see and give in to these things; for all these things are directly cross to the sinner's disposition to love himself supremely, and live to himself ultimately; directly cross to a spirit of self-supremacy and independence. The sinner cannot bear that God should be so great and so sovereign, and himself so vile; so little, so absolutely at his mercy; it is a killing thing—" When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
So that it is plain, that notwithstanding all the awakened sinner's selfish desires and prayers, yet, in the habitual temper of his heart, he stands disposed to resist the influences of the divine Spirit with all his might. He is so far from being willing to repent of his sins, that he is utterly unwilling to see and own his sinfulness ; so far from desiring to be humbled, that he is by no means willing to see the cause and reason he has to be humbled; so far from desiring to be made spiritually alive, that he will not so much as own that he is spiritually dead ; so far from desiring the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit to reconcile him to God, that he will not own that he is an enemy to God ; but would fain think that he heartily desires to love God. and stands ready to hate and resist that light, which v/ould discover the enmity of his heart. "He that doeth evil, hateth the light," and flees from it, "lest his evil deeds be discovered;" and, for the same reason, he that hath an evil heart, hates the light and resists it, lest the badness of his heart be discovered.
From all that has been said, we may learn that those influences of the Spirit, which will be sufficient effectually to awaken, convince, and humble the sinner, and recover him to God, must be irresistible and supernatural. That the internal influences of the Holy Spirit are necessary to recover sinners to God, is so plainly held forth every where in the Bible, that the Arminians themselves do not deny it ; but how much and what kind of influences are needful, is very much disputed. Now, so much and such sort of influences are, beyond dispute, needful, as will be sufficient effectually to answer the end, and without which no sinner will ever be converted. This is self evident. If sinners were so good-natured as to see. and feel, and own their sinfulness, and the justice of the sentence whereby they stand condemned, and die to themselves, the world, and sin, and return home to God, through Jesus Christ; to love him, live to him, and delight in him forever of their own accord, merely upon reading the Bible, and hearing the law and the gospel preached, then there would be no need of any inward influences of the Spirit at all; or, if they were so good natured as to be easily persuaded to do so, then some small degree of the inward influences of the Spirit would do.
But if, in the
first place, they are altogether unwilling to see, and feel, and
own their sin and guilt, and the justice of their condemnation
according to law, and entirely disposed to hate and resist the
light, as hath but just now been proved, then they must be
brought to it by an all-conquering, irresistible grace, or not at all.
And if, in the second place, the clearest sight and greatest sense
a natural man can have of what God is, instead of making him
appear infinitely glorious and amiable in the eyes of one whose
heart is dead in sin, and diametrically opposite to the divine
nature, will rather irritate corruption, and make the native enmity
of the heart ferment and rage, and become but the more
apparent and sensible, as has been heretofore proved, then there
must be a supernatural, spiritual, and divine change wrought in
the heart, by the immediate influences of the Spirit of God,
whereby it shall become natural to look upon God as infinitely
glorious and amiable in being what he is, and so a foundation
hereby laid for us to love him with all our hearts, and so sincerely
to repent, return, and give up ourselves to him, to live to
him. and delight in him forever: I say, if these things be so,
there must be such a change wrought by the Spirit of God, or
not one sinner in the world will ever be converted to God;
and, therefore, that there is an absolute necessity of such influences
of the Spirit of God, in order to a saving conversion, is
evident, to a demonstration, from the very reason and nature of
things. God himself must take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh, and write his law on our hearts ; raise us from the dead ; create us anew; open our eyes, etc., according to the language of Scripture. And these things God does do for all that are renewed, and therefore they are said to be born of God; to be born of the Spirit; to be spiritual; to be made partakers of the divine nature, etc., and God is said to give faith, repentance, and every divine grace. (Ezek. xxxvi, 26. Heb. vhi. 10. Eph. ii. 1—10. 1 Cor. iv. 6. John i. 13, and iii. 6. Rom. viii. 6, 9. 2 Pet. i. 4. Acts v. 31. James i. 17.)
(1.) The law requires all mankind to do every duty out of
love to God; and for his glory; but all unregenerate persons,
directly contrary to law, do every duty merely out of love to
themselves, and for self-ends, and so are guilty of rebellion.
(2.) The law requires all mankind to do every duty out of love to God, and for his glory ; but all unregenerate persons do every duty merely out of love to themselves, and for self-ends WHEREBY they prefer themselves, and their interest, above God and his glory ; and so, are guilty of spiritual idolatry.
(3.) The law requires all mankind to do every duty from love to God, and for his glory : but all unregenerate persons do every duty merely from self-love, and for self-ends ; and yet hypocritically pretend to God, that they love and obey him; and so are guilty of mocking God.
(4.) The law supposes that God infinitely deserves to be loved with all our hearts, and obeyed in every thing, and that our neighbor deserves to be loved as ourselves ; and that, therefore, if we should yield perfect obedience in all things, yet we should deserve no thanks : but all unregenerate persons make much of their duties, though such miserable, poor things ; and so affront God to his very face.
Upon these four accounts, their very best performances are done in a manner directly contrary to the law of God.
their best religious performances are thus odious in the sight of God, it is certain that they cannot possibly, in the nature of things, have the least tendency to make amends for their past sins, or recommend them to the divine favor; but rather tend to provoke God still more. So that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. Nor is there the least hope, in the sinner's case, but what arises from the sovereign mercy of God ; whereby he can " have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and have compassion on whom he will have compassion."