bonar (and sievewright)

Berenike asks what ‘trust’ brings, beyond assent, to the Christian life.

This quote from Andrew A Bonar isn’t a complete answer, but I’m posting it to set the stage for (hopefully, perhaps, maybe) writing something in my own words later … time permitting …

Resting on this Person [ie Christ, the Son of God in our nature] for salvation is called “faith in Jesus Christ.” In this faith, there is an intellectual act – namely, the apprehending of the meaning of what is stated concerning Jesus. But this apprehension of the meaning of what is stated, or testified, concerning Jesus, is but the avenue that leads on to the magnificent mansion. It leads the soul to the Person of whom these things are declared. It is never the belief of bare propositions that saves the soul; for these have only to do with the understanding. Propositions, however weighty, must guide us onward to the Person who is the essence of the testimony; and they are made use of for this end by the same Holy Spirit who enlightens our once carnal understanding to see the real truth. The belief of the testimony, or record, concerning the Son of God, our Saviour, is the porch of the building, through which we pass into the audience-chamber and meet the Living Inhabitant, full of light, and life, and love.

Throughout the book which contains this paragraph, Bonar draws from the writings of other pastors and theologians who made the same point. Some of them I haven’t heard of, but they were presumably well enough known to a nineteenth century Scottish minister like Bonar and his audience. In a footnote to this paragraph, someone called Sievewright is quoted as saying, “Faith is not so much a disposition of the mind toward the truth, as a disposition of the heart toward Christ, produced by means of the truth.”

Even if these excerpts don’t perhaps show precisely that trust is what’s necessary, they are both clearly trying to show that assent alone is not enough to constitute the kind of faith that is required by the gospel.

Andrew A Bonar, The Gospel Pointing to the Person of Christ, 1858. Quote from p3-4 of the edition republished 1988 by Christian Focus Publications, with the title, The Person of Christ.

6 thoughts on “bonar (and sievewright)

  1. You realise that this entire post makes as much sense (to me – an intelligent, semi-rational Scot) as “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”? As a linguist, ask yourself about the selectional restrictions. assuming you care about syntax/semantics? I wonder, are they any academic linguists who are care about more than phonology?


  2. Well Mark, it’s obviously very regrettable that the post didn’t make much sense to you, even though it was part of an ongoing discussion I’m having with someone else.

    If that was a serious point about selectional restrictions I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific about your difficulty, as I’m not really seeing the problem.

    The metaphor which Bonar is using would presumably be recognisable to anyone familiar with the same figure of speech used in various places in the Bible – that, I assume, was at least part of what Richard meant.


  3. I’m sorry not to have said anything. I am thinking, and in thinking have let Aelianus say something, since though he can be immensely irritating in discussion he can also be clear.

    I was more asking where trust comes into faith than where it comes into the Christian life. Yes *of course* the dogmas of the faith are only there to lead us to the reality, ekcetra.
    “assent alone is not enough to constitute the kind of faith that is required by the gospel”

    Now I don’t know whether you mean gospel as in the Gospels, or gospel as in the Christian faith.

    However the point I was trying to get to was that, as I said somewhere before, the NT doesn’tsay anywhere that faith of itself is saving. That it is precisely not enough. And hence a terminology that talks about faith as that which is necessary and sufficient for salvation is, well, not much use for discussion of this matter cos it don’t say what the good book say. And no no I don’t mean “oh you need works’, cos obviously in themselves they’re not much use either. It’s a point of terminology. What is a “saving faith”? What “more” than faith itself, which is clearly not enough, makes it saving? However Aelianus’ comment (which if I hadn’t had such a crappy day I would now go and elevate to the status of a post) does tie in this “more” to faith of the believe and trust kinds. The more being of course charity.

    “the proper effect of God’s love in man is to make man love God: for the chief effort of the lover is laid out in drawing the beloved to the love of him; and unless that succeeds, the love must be broken off.”


  4. Ok, I really will have to get myself organised and write something programmatic about this :) – too much mutually unshared background i think :)

    For the time being: –

    * By ‘gospel’ i was meaning ‘the gospel message,’ which in its briefest form I would summarise as, “There is a Saviour for sinners,” and which I’d elaborate in terms such as, “that Saviour is Christ the Son of God,” and, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

    * I think we both agree that faith is *necessary* to savlation (?) – I would hedge quite carefully around saying it’s also sufficient – and would be happy to discuss that – but my original concern was about the nature of the faith that (i think) we both agree is necessary

    * What I understand by a “saving faith” is faith that connects with Christ himself. It doesn’t stop short at an acquaintance with the truth about him, and it is distinct from (although perhaps not completely separable from) the love that the believer has for him. In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, if you don’t mind an appeal to a classic formulation of what i’m struggling to explain, it’s described as “receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation,” – not just receiving the doctrines, but receiving Christ, and ditto for resting on him.
    What I’ve been calling “trust” is I think essentially this “resting on Christ for salvation” – that’s what’s included in faith, as I understand faith, although as far as I understand what *you* understand :) you’d say that “faith” only deals with the doctrines. You then (if that’s right) would have to explain how a person is meant to believe in *Christ* (as eg the Philippian was instructed to do in Acts 16), as distinct from accepting the doctrines about him.


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