NATURAL BELIEF AND SAVING FAITH – THE DIFFERENCE
I do thank God that I can now look back and remember, in my early experience, being in that place. I did believe in God. I accepted the Bible, and believed what this book says concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. But I knew that this was just natural belief. It was not saving faith that I possessed, and above all things I wanted true faith in Christ. I can still recall being in that situation, and I see now that I was then shut up in unbelief. I believed naturally, yet I did not believe savingly.
To say to someone in that condition you must simply take the promises, you have to come to Christ, you must receive him, is nothing less than mockery. When the Lord has shut a man up in his own unbelief, all talk of duty faith is falsehood. It is little use to one who feels himself lost and helpless, it has been rightly called, “striking the dying dead.”
As I have said natural belief is very different to saving faith. All are responsible before God. All are to be theists, “The fool hath said in his heart, (there is) no God” (Psalm 14:1 and 53:1). Man is to believe, but saving faith is beyond the power of any man. It is a sovereign gift of God, and he bestows it only upon his elect. And in bestowing it what does God do? He makes them dwell in bondage long enough to learn that all doctrines contrary to the sovereignty of grace are contrary to the gospel, and of no use to the soul.
That is why God shuts a man up in his unbelief. The elect sinner is brought to despair totally of himself and his faith is born of that utter self despair. There are many lessons that he has to learn in that prison, “I am shut up, and I cannot come forth” (Psam 88:8).
God will have his people dwell in bondage long enough to know that without Christ they can do nothing. The intention is that Christ might be all in all to them. To those thus sought out, and brought in guilty before God, Christ is most attractive when held forth in the gospel. And it is life from the dead when they are enabled by the Spirit so to believe in Christ as to find courage to come to him in true prayer and humble confession of all sin, even unbelief.