"The unregenerate may easily attain unto a historical or creed faith, but all such head-knowledge of Jesus, Christ cannot savingly benefit them. Even the devils knew our Saviour in this intellectual sense.-James ii.19; Mark i.24, 34; iii. 11; Luke iv. 34, 41."
Article taken from the booklet “Miscellaneous Articles” by the late Elder W. S. Craig) (part 1)
PB-History / David Montgomery
"Unbelief. It would seem that amidst the deadly poison infused into our nature by the great enemy of souls, this of unbelief was his masterpiece of contrivance. And to say the truth, it is of all others, the most diabolical and ruinous. For it denies the sovereignty of divine mercy: it sets at naught the infinite merit and value of Christ's blood and righteousness. It is said concerning the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh, 'that He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.'-.Matt. xiii. 58. Yea, the Lord declares the sin of unbelief to be unpardonable: 'He that believeth not shall be damned.'-Mark xvi. 16. And His servant, the beloved apostle, confirms the awful account, when in the close of Scripture, he saith that 'the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which bumeth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.'- Rev. xxi.8. How solemnly the apostle to the Hebrews sums up the history of those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, when he saith, 'So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.'-Heb. iii.19."-Hawker, Con., pages 915-6.
Unbelief means not to believe in God. The Atheist and Infidel are unbelievers. The Agnostic and Skeptic are called doubters, but it is plain to my mind that they are actual unbelievers, though they may not be so bold in their denials. While there are different degrees or shades of unbelief, yet all manner of unbelief is an awful sin in God's sight. Unbelief is often called distrust in God's faithfulness, lack of confidence and reliance upon Him, and discrediting the Bible's testimony concerning Jesus Christ.-John iii. 18-9; xvi. 9.
Unbelief is one of the greatest sins, for it seems to be the cause of so many other sins, and probably was connected with Adam's first transgression. Unbelief strikes directly at God, has no fear of Him, and casts a positive reproach and discredit upon what He says in the Bible, and shows an actual contempt for His authority and dominion. So the dangers of unbelief are many and very great. It surely leads the mind away from God, and is licentious in its very nature. It positively hardens the heart, deceives with many errors, and unless the unbeliever is rescued by the power of God's Spirit, the wrath of God will at last abide on him.-John iii. 36. The unbeliever is already condemned, verse 18; and at last shall be damned, Mark xvi. 16.
All men in nature's night are really unbelievers. The much boasted powers and abilities of the most gifted, before regeneration or the new birth, do not enable anyone to know God in that sense which is life eternal.
While faith and belief are often used interchangeably, yet there is sometimes a very important difference between them. For belief is often confined to the mind or intellect, and so it is possible for an unbeliever in Jesus Christ to give an intellectual admission to the doctrines of the Bible. But faith embraces far more, for it has trust and confidence joined with it, and is of the heart. And this trust springs up from a reliance upon God as its very support. It is with the heart that we believe in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ as being wholly sufficient for our redemption and justification, and this is far more than a mere intellectual assent of the mind or intelligence. The Bible believer actually believes in the wonderful actions, influence and presence of an unseen power. The intelligence reasons, but does not feel. But the heart is sensitive and feels to mourn when made spiritually acquainted with its poverty and helplessness.
The unregenerate may easily attain unto a historical or creed faith, but all such head-knowledge of Jesus, Christ cannot savingly benefit them. Even the devils knew our Saviour in this intellectual sense.-James ii.19; Mark i.24, 34; iii. 11; Luke iv. 34, 41.
- “ 'If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!'-Matt. vi. 23.
Doth not Jesus allude to that kind of head-knowledge, void of heart-influence, which devils, and some men possess; whereby they have a clear apprehension of the great truths of God, but no affection towards them? Such was that of Balaam. Num. xxiv. 3-4. His eyes (he saith himself) were opened, but no regeneration of heart. He knew the Lord, but felt no love towards Him. The devils in the days of our Lord gave the same testimony. We know thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God! But Balaam, in the midst of: this knowledge, hired himself out to curse the people of God. And the devils remain devils with the full conviction of the Godhead of Christ, and' His great salvation upon them. Reader! think what an awful state, to have an historical head-knowledge of the Lord Jesus only; void of a life-giving, soul-renewing grace, from the Spirit of Christ!"-Hawker, 7-48.
"Dead faith brings forth nothing. Living faith is fruitful. It produces a hearty trust in the truth of what God hath spoken, and a quiet reliance on the faithfulness of what God hath promised. It gives Him credit for the finished salvation of His Son, and puts honor upon His record concerning it, whereby peace is received into the conscience, and love into the heart. Upon which there follows a settled dependence upon this reconciled God and loving Father for the fulfillment of every promise, and this is improved by daily experience. He that trusteth in the Lord is never confounded. God is faithful. His promises cannot fail. Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him. The Lord God will be a sun and shield unto him, the Lord will give him grace and glory."- Romaine, page 135.
But it is not so much concerning the unbelief of those who know not God, but of the Lord's chosen and regenerated people that I wish to specially notice. For to their sorrow and uneasiness of mind, they are often more or less filled with a spirit of unbelief. If it was possible for them to trust God fully and at all times, they would never be troubled with doubts and fears concerning either their temporal or eternal welfare. Unbelief is one of the fruitful causes of spiritual backsliding and carelessness in matters of religion and church duties. The warm-hearted Christian is not troubled with unbelief, because love and faith abounds in his heart. But when these grow cold, then a way is opened for the spirit of unbelief to enter and work. And unbelief often manifests its presence in the heart by that awful spirit of murmuring against God, and which is surely a very grievous sin. It will cause the Lord's people to doubt His providential watch care over them in this life, and also fill their minds with discontent.
Surely the gracious Lord loves a trustful dependence upon Him, for He so well knows that His people are "but dust," and that they always have need of Him, though they often may not feel their need very strongly. And should the Christian find himself unable or unwilling to trust God as he should, then his heart is ready to break out in unbelief and contradiction of the teachings of the Bible. And therefore so much of his fears and uneasiness of mind springs from his lack of faith in God. For if he only could feel to commit all his concerns and anxieties into the wise and merciful hands of the Lord, surely his comforts would be far greater and his mind much more serene and tranquil. And most surely God's people should pray for faith just the same as any other blessing. For it should ever be remembered by them that it takes the very same great Author of faith to increase it in the heart, as to give it in the first place. It is recorded that "the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith."-Luke xvii. 5. And if the apostles who had the great benefit of the personal teachings of Jesus Christ, actually needed Him to increase their faith, how very much more do all other poor, weak and needy pilgrims need His help in this very same way. A spirit of grace and supplication, Zech. xii. 10, is well calculated to lead them in trustful confidence to His wonderful throne of mercy.