What has been already advanced, on the nature of faith in Christ, may contribute to the deciding of the question whether faith be the duty of the ungodly; but, in addition to this, the Scriptures furnish abundance of positive evidence. The principal part of that which has occurred to me may be comprehended under the following propositions:—
I. Unconverted sinners are commanded, exhorted, and invited to believe in Christ for salvation
It is here taken for granted that whatever God commands, exhorts, or invites us to comply with, is the duty of those to whom such language is addressed. If, therefore, saving faith be not the duty of the unconverted, we may expect never to find any addresses of this nature directed to them in the Holy Scriptures. We may expect that God will as soon require them to become angels as Christians, if the one be no more their duty than the other.
There is a phraseology suited to different periods of time. Previously to the coming of Christ, and the preaching of the gospel, we read but little of believing; but other terms, fully expressive of the thing, are found in abundance. I shall select a few examples, and accompany them with such remarks as may show them to be applicable to the subject.
Psalm 2:11, 12, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling: kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little: blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” The Psalm is evidently a prophecy of the resurrection and exaltation of the Messiah. Whatever reference may be had to Solomon, there are several things which are not true of either him or his government; and the whole is applicable to Christ, and is plentifully applied to him in the New Testament.
The “kings and judges of the earth,” who are here admonished to “serve the Lord (Messiah) with fear,” and to “kiss the Son lest he be angry,” are the same persons mentioned in verse 2, which words we find, in the New Testament, applied to “Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel” (Acts 4:27): that is, these were the enemies of Christ, unregenerate sinners; and such, for any thing that appears, they lived and died.
The command of God addressed to these rulers is of a spiritual nature, including unfeigned faith in the Messiah, and sincere obedience to his authority. To “kiss the Son” is to be reconciled to him, to embrace his word and ordinances, and bow to his sceptre. To “serve him with fear, and rejoice with trembling,” denote that they should not think meanly of him, on the one hand, nor hypocritically cringe to him, from a mere apprehension of his wrath, on the other; but sincerely embrace his government, and even rejoice that they had it to embrace. That which is here required of unbelievers is the very spirit which distinguishes believers, a holy fear of Christ’s majesty, and a humble confidence in his mercy; taking his yoke upon them, and wearing it as their highest delight. That the object of the command was spiritual is also manifest from the threatening and the promise annexed to it, “lest ye perish from the way”—“blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” It is here plainly supposed that if they did not embrace the Son, they should perish from the way; and if they did put their trust in him, they should be blessed. The result is, unconverted sinners are commanded to believe in Christ for salvation; therefore believing in Christ for salvation is their duty.
Isaiah 55:1–7, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knewest not; and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” This is the language of invitation: but Divine invitation implies an obligation to accept it; otherwise the conduct of those who “made light” of the gospel supper, and preferred their farms and merchandise before it, had been guiltless.
The concluding verses of this passage express those things literally, which the foregoing ones described metaphorically: the person invited and the invitation are the same in both. The thirst which they are supposed to possess does not mean a holy desire after spiritual blessings, but the natural desire of happiness which God has implanted in every bosom, and which, in wicked men, is directed not to “the sure mercies of David,” but to that which “is not bread,” or which has no solid satisfaction in it. The duty, to a compliance with which they are so pathetically urged, is a relinquishment of every false way, and a returning to God in His name who was given for “a witness, a leader, and a commander to the people;” which is the same thing as “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” The encouragements held up to induce a compliance with this duty are the freeness, the substantialness, the durableness, the certainty, and the rich abundance of those blessings which as many as repent and believe the gospel shall receive. The whole passage is exceedingly explicit, as to the duty of the unconverted; neither is it possible to evade the force of it by any just or fair method of interpretation.
Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” The persons here addressed are, beyond all doubt, ungodly men. God himself bears witness of them that “their ears were uncircumcised, and they could not hearken; for the word of the Lord was to them a reproach, and they had no delight in it,” ver. 10. Yea, so hardened were they, that “they were not ashamed when they had committed abomination,” and so impudent that “they could not blush,” ver. 15. And such, for anything that appears, they continued; for when they were exhorted to “walk in the good way,” their answer was, “We will not walk therein.” Hence the awful threatening which follows: “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it,” ver. 19.
The “good way,” in which they were directed to walk, must have been the same as that in which the patriarchs and prophets had walked in former ages; who, we all know, lived and died in the faith of the promised Messiah. Hence our Lord, with great propriety, applied the passage to himself, Matt. 11:28. Jeremiah directed to “the old paths,” and “the good way,” as the only medium of finding rest to the soul: Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Arguments to Prove Faith in Christ is the Duty of All Men who Hear, or have Opportunity to Hear, the Gospel,” Part II, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 343–345). Sprinkle Publications.