Thomas Chalmers - Scottish Amyraldian? VI
We are brought then to the important question of what Chalmers called upon people to believe in. What was the appropriate object of faith to Thomas Chalmers?
What is faith? Chalmers dedicated some seventy-eight pages of his 'Institutes' to this question.[Part II, Chapter VI, (Vol. 2, Pp.122-200)] Thomas Chalmers answer was that faith was assent to the propositions of the gospel. ‘Rabbi’ Duncan called it a “Sandemanian” view [John M. Brentnall: ‘Just a Talker’ Sayings of John (‘Rabbi’) Duncan (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1997) P. 175]. While in one sense correct, in another he was not. Sandeman believed no-one could believe the proposition 'Christ died for me', but that faith was just an assent to the truth of the Gospel account. Like Sandeman, Chalmers insisted that faith always led to a changed life. The Rabbi said “Ah! My doctrine about faith was better than his, but he went to prayer, and his faith was better than mine.”[Ibid. P. 174] This assent, Chalmers insisted, if it was real, would lead to consent to what was taught and therefore to obedience.[See Institutes Vol. 2, P. 185] Nevertheless that consent was not a part of saving faith but an effect of it.
What propositions did Chalmers think that all were warranted to accept? While he felt that those who taught all a sinner must accept was that ‘Christ died for me’ unnecessarily narrowed the gospel, he did not think they were wrong. What he called people to was a true assent to the whole of Scripture, an assent that required them to be well taught by their ministers.
“I do not object, you will observe, to the object of their faith being in this particular form, that He died for my sins – as I hold the precious terms of all, and any and whosoever, wherein the overtures of the gospel are couched, abundantly warrant this blessed application.”[Ibid. P. 168]
“A man might fain to believe that Christ died a propitiation for his sins, because he reads that Christ died a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and he, therefore, as one of the world, takes this declaration to himself.”[Ibid. P. 16]
God willing, next time we shall at least begin to look at the effect Chalmers' insistence on the Free Offer as the starting point of theology had on his doctrine of the atonement.
Labels: Thomas Chalmers