November 6, 2009

Andrew Broaddus (1770–1848) on Faith as a Gift and a Duty

"That "glorious immortality" to which the gospel invites us, is, indeed, received "as a free gift." And your correspondent asks, "Is the reception of this gift a duty or a privilege?" I answer, both; it is both a duty and a privilege to receive God's great gift of Christ to man, and with him all the blessings appertaining to that glorious immortality. And here I would ask the writer to turn to the 14th chapter of Luke, and review the parable of "the Wedding Supper," and see, in the great features of that parable, an exemplification of the answer here given. The master of the feast was angry. And why? Was it merely because the rejectors of the invitation lost the enjoyment of the supper? Surely not. The rejection was an insult to his hospitality—a dishonor to the feast.

Can it be a duty to receive a gift?" Certainly it may. But I will state to the objection in its strongest form, and as I am persuaded your correspondent intended it should be understood. Well, then, faith itself is the gift of God; and how can it be the duty of any one to have it, unless, indeed, it might be said that faith is offered; and this presents but an awkward idea. Blessings may be said to be offered to faith; but I should not say that faith itself is offered. Thus, then, stands the difficulty; and in attempting its solution, I wish to be plain and simple.

I remark, then, at the outset, that the difficulty arises chiefly, (as I conceive,) from an improper view of the gift of faith. It appears here to be conceived, that faith is given to the soul, pretty much in the manner in which a piece of gold is given to the hand; that is, as a thing entirely extraneous to the soul, until it is bestowed. Let me offer some correction of this view. The faculty of faith is surely in every moral agent—I mean the natural faculty of believing and confiding; and it is admitted, on all hands, that regeneration, while it implants a new privilege, does not create any new faculty. It is, then, by the exercise of the natural faculty of faith, that we come to believe in Jesus Christ, and cast ourselves on him. The gift of faith, therefore, does not imply the bestowal of any new faculty or attribute of the soul. Further: the exercise of faith, or faith's action, is ours. It is our act. Otherwise man is a mere machine, and not a rational creature—a moral agent. The gift of faith, therefore, does not imply that God exercises faith in us. Yet, "it is given us to believe." And how? I answer—by "the renewal of the spirit of the mind;" by which, a new principle being implanted, the soul is disposed and enabled to exercise the faculty of faith, in regard to Jesus Christ, believing Him, receiving Him, trusting on Him. Now, that state of heart which induces this exercise of faith, is what none of us naturally possesses. It is, however, what we ought to possess, and it is, I add, what God graciously bestows.

From these considerations we arrive at the conclusion, that faith in Jesus Christ is a glorious privilege—an imperious duty, and a precious gift, and that man, destitute of it, is the subject both of compassion and of blame. The same may be said of other exercises which belong to the character of a renewed sinner, such as godly sorrow for sin; repentance unto life; love to God; delight in his service, &c."
Andrew Broaddus, "On Faith in Christ," in The Sermons and Other Writings of the Rev. Andrew Broaddus, ed. A Broaddus (New York: Published by Lewis Colby, 1852), 358–361.

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