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Styles on the Denial of Duty-Faith

July 12, 2007


I–Duty faith

The question which divides us from so many of our fellow Christians, may be thus expressed.

Is the act of believing in Christ to the salvation of the ‘soul, a duty naturally incumbent on all men. Our answer is an emphatic; “No,”–while “Yes” would be the reply of the majority of godly persons. This is the gist of the Duty Faith controversy.

Let the reader understand it. It is not whether men as men are able spiritually to believe in Christ. Many to whom we are opposed deny this as emphatically as we do. We too admit with them that creature inability in no wise diminishes creature obligation-and we deplore that so many of our brethren have weakened our cause by seeking to defend it by arguments that were assailable.

Thus a writer says: “It is absurd to preach that it is man’s duty to believe savingly in Christ. Can that be a duty which is out of the power of a natural man?”–Earthen Vessel, vol. xiii. 208. To this the answerable reply might be made that inability does not destroy obligation. A debtor’s being without money does not cancel his obligation to meet his liabilities.

Again, in reviewing DUTY-FAITH ,Tract by W. Stokes, the late W. Palmer objecting to the course of argument pursued observes, that “The question to be tried is not whether Faith has a Divine origin, or whether man is able to create it for himself. Many Duty-Faith advocates admit both. The question lies deeper, and the issue is joined at another point.”–Voice of Truth, 1864, page 185.

The question therefore concerns not what man can do, but what he ought to do–not ability or inability–but duty.

Yet again, the inquiry is limited to natural men. We admit that regenerated sinners are empowered and commanded to believe in Jesus, and that they ought so to do. (Page 205.)

Remarkable unfairness has been shown by our opponents in evading the point at issue.

Thus the Rev. George Rogers, late professor of Theology at the Pastor’s College, charges us with holding (1) ” that it is not the duty of man to believe the gospel, (2) that Faith is in no sense a duty to saint or sinner, and (3) that no man is responsible for its possession or exercise.” He then proceeds to refute these propositions by eight long and laboured arguments. Sword and Trowel, vol. 1, page 8. His charges, however, lack the foundation of fact, as the preceding chapter proves.

To misrepresent a doctrine is not to refute it.

II–Duty Faith Now Probed

“Is it (asks the late Dr. John Campbell in his Theology for Bible classes and Christian Families) the duty of all who hear the gospel to believe it?

Yes: every sinner who hears it is commanded, exhorted and inviteci to believe in Christ for salvation. Mark i. 15, v. 36 ; Luke viii. 50; Acts xvi. 31; 1 John iii. 23.

Is Faith in Christ, even the Faith which is accompanied with salvation, constantly in Scripture held up as the duty of all to whom the gospel is preached ?

Yes; this is clear beyond all reasonable contradiction. John vi. 29, xi. 36.

What is your view of John vi. 29. “This is the work of God that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent?”

That the persons addressed were unregenerate sinners, that the Faith enjoined is saving, and that when Faith is called “the work of God, it does not mean His act, but theirs, which would be pleasing in His sight.”

These proof texts will be examined in due course.

The reader will notice that Duty-Faith advocates assume one of two positions ; either (1) that it is the duty of all men to believe savingly, or (2) that it is the duty of all that hear the gospel to believe to the Raving of their souls. Both are disproved in what is to follow.

III–Duty Faith Disproved

If spiritual Faith is a natural duty–namely, if it is obligatory on account of the relation in which men stand to God as creatures to their Creator–it is commanded by the Moral Law, (see page 20,) and it was incumbent on Adam as much as on any of his posterity. That it is not commanded by the Moral Law is admitted-or if denied involves absurdity. Faith is the trust of a sinner as such in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. If, then, spiritual Faith is a creature duty, it was incumbent on Adam in a state of innocency to trust as a “Sinner in the redemptive work of Christ. For which none contend.

It has again been urged that man is responsible for any command that God may give; therefore Faith is his duty. This argument is what is in logic called an enthymeme. The conclusion is really drawn from two propositions, one of which is understood. Fully expressed it would stand thus :–

Man is responsible to obey any command which God may give.
He has commanded all men lo believe in Christ and be saved.
Therefore Faith is his duty.

The suppressed proposition, (or minor premise) which we have italicized, assumes the whole question. We meet the argument by denying this point until it is proved.

The following from the pen of the late George Wright, concisely summarizes all that need be said on the question.

If the Faith of God’s elect be required by the Law, it must have been commanded by the Law originally, as an essential part of the duty of man to his Creator [footnote 1]. It must, therefore, have been required before. the Fall, when man had no need of the salvation with which that Faith is inseparably connected, and of which it is an essential part. Nor would it have been more unreasonable to require Faith of one who needed no salvation, and who could not possibly partake of it, than to require Faith of those who are not ordained to eternal life, and who consequently cannot be saved.

But some maintain, that although the Law did not originally command man in innocence to believe with the Faith of God’s elect, it now commands men so to believe. But if this were true, the Law would have received an additional precept under the dispensation of grace; and the commandment, which was ever “exceeding broad,” would have been extended and made broader. If this be grace, it appears difficult to reconcile it with the grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.

If Faith be a duty, it is a work; but according to the reasoning of the Apostle, the works of the Lam are contradistinguished from Faith. Yet, if Faith be a natural duty, though we are saved by grace, it is through the works of the law. The Covenant of Works is blended with the Covenant of Grace, and “grace is no more grace.”

William Jeyes Styles, A Manual of Faith and Practice, Designed for Young and Enquiring Christians, (London: Printed by J. Briscoe, Banner Street, Finsbury, E.C., 1897), 208-211.

Footnote 1:

Adam was not as originally constituted a spiritual man (1 Cor. XV. 45,48)-that is, “the principle of holiness which he possessed before the Fall was not radically and essentially the same as that which the elect receive at Regeneration.” John Stevens. He was constituted to view and worship God through the medium of Nature, and to find satisfaction in the scenes and associations with which Divine goodness originally surrounded him. This is proved by John Stevens, in his help FOR THE TRUE DISCIPLES IMMANUEL, Third edition, pp. 88-96.

William Huntington is, we believe, the only adherent of the doctrines of Free and Sovereign Grace who ever denied it. See his letter to Mr. Britton, Works, Bensley’s edition, vol. xix. Huntington, however, did not hold that the spirituality of Adam (on which he insists) renders it the duty of all his posterity to believe. This he ably disproves in his letter to Ryland–Works, Bensley’s edition. vol. xi. The original constitution of Adam is no theological quibble. See .page 19.

A few pages later, Styles presents the classic Owen-Gill interpretation of Eze 18:31:

Ezek. xxxvi. 26. “A new heart also will I give You, and a New spirit will I put within you.” Ezek. xviii. 31. ” Make you a new heart and a new spirit.” Alleged to prove that the Bible teaches both Divine Sovereignty and Human responsibility since in the first verse God is said to give sinners a new heart, and in the second, they are commanded to make their own hearts new. But–

This interpretation supposes that the two portions refer to the same persons under the same characters, which is not the case. Ezek. xviii. 31., is addressed to the Jews of Ezekiel’s day, and they are enjoined to avert their national death by national repentance and reformation. This necessitates our interpreting the “making of a new heart” to mean–not a spiritual change, but a change in the moral tone of the nation. (See page 245.) Ezek. xxxvi. 26, like chap. xi. 19, refers (1) to the Jews in a far distant day, when the nation will be brought to spiritual Repentance, and (2) to the election of grace, the Israel of God-on whom the Lord confers the spiritual blessings of a change of heart and spirit. Jer. xxxi. 31, 34, as interpreted in Heb. viii. 8, 12, affords a satisfactory precedent for this interpretation. Thus the baselessness of the Fullerite view is apparent.

William Jeyes Styles, A Manual of Faith and Practice, Designed for Young and Enquiring Christians, (London: Printed by J. Briscoe, Banner Street, Finsbury, E.C., 1897), 215.

Styles was a 19thC hypercalvinist Baptist. He was a contemporary of Spurgeon. No one disputes that Styles was a true and classic hypercalvinist.

So lets get the logic down. Styles is rightly classed a hypercalvinist because he denied duty-faith. John Gill denied the same thing, but John Gill was not a hypercalvinist? Why is that? :-)

Ah that’s right, Gill was not a hypercalvinist because he affirmed that it is the duty of all men to naturally and externally repent (as opposed to evangelically and savingly), to reform their outward lives… I forgot…

But wait, that’s also exactly what Styles affirmed too? So what’s going wrong here?

When folk on the net, and writers like Nettles, cite Gill as apparently affirming the duty to repent, they misread and mis-cite him. Gill can deny with his right hand that all men have the duty to savingly believe on Jesus, what he can affirm with his left hand, that all men are duty-bound to externally and naturally repent. Nettles missed this careful Gillite distinction, as do some modern internet defenders of Gill.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2010 10:32 pm

    Where can I find William Jeyes Styles “;A Manual of Faith and Practice?” I’m looking for a hard copy.

    thank you.

  2. Flynn permalink*
    August 23, 2010 10:27 am

    Hey JM,

    I bought mine from an English second hand bookshop back in the mid ’90s. You could check out second hand bookshops, or try ILL from your local library.

    My copy is a quite worn but serviceable.

    His denial of duty-faith and the free offer is exactly the same as Gills, with no daylight between them.

    What is your position on duty-faith nowadays?



  1. links for 2007-07-13 at once more with feeling

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