James Denney, like John Calvin, viewed faith as being the interpretative key of the atonement especially as it pertains to the sinner's receiving the reconciliation purchased by Christ for the world. It is 'faith' that unlocks Calvin's own theology and it is 'faith' that "is the correlative of Christ wherever Christ really touches the life of men." (Denney, CDR, 1917:288). Denney argues that when Christ, the Author of redemption, appeals to men's hearts and touches their consciences, the most "natural, spontaneous, and in a sense inevitable" response is "the response of faith." How could it be otherwise?
Yes, faith is the gift of the sovereign, saving God to men; but it is a gift that has to be exercised if salvation is to be experienced. It is not the case that when Christ in His death died on Calvary, that all men died in Him, says Denney. Rather is it the case that when Christ died on the Cross, he opened up the way of salvation to all men, so that on their repentance and faith they receive the reconciliation.
It must also be recognised that 'faith' and 'repentance'are spiritual Siamese twins - where the one exists so does the other. So when we speak of faith being the key that unlocks biblical theology, repentance is understood as well.
"There is nothing arbitrary in faith," contends Denney (CDR, 289). It is "the one natural and inevitable way in which the salvation of God, present in Christ, is and must be accepted by men." What faith sees on the Cross is "the revelation of a love in God [that is] deeper and stronger than sin." In Christ crucified, we see God "entering into all that sin means for him and taking the burden of it, in all its dreadful pressure, upon itself, yet clinging to him through it all, and making to him the final appeal which God can make." In this case, what is faith to do? Ignore such love? Despise it? Spurn it? Say it is unnecessary for him?
No. "If a man with a sense of his sin on him sees what Christ on His cross means, there is only one thing for him to do - one thing which is inevitably demanded in that moral situation: to abandon himself to the sin-bearing love which appeals to Him in Christ, and to do so unreservedly, unconditionally, and for ever" (289, 290).
What powerful and wooing words are these! Denney is correct: there is only one thing the awakened sinner can do and that is to flee to Christ alone for his eternal salvation.
Have you done that? Will you do that NOW?