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involved are in a great measure artificial. The intemperance of many on the subject will sufficiently account for the wild systems erected upon it. It has unfortunately happened that, because one body of men has represented the Christian Faith as entirely unconnected with the reasoning faculties, others have been disinclined to exert their understandings upon it and have treated it as unworthy of serious attention. A third and intermediate class, impressed with the mischievous effects of enthusiasm, have been altogether frightened from the discussion.
I have endeavoured to explain the principle in precise and explicit terms, avoiding all novelty, and aiming at perspicuity, brevity and the strictest adherence to the language of Scripture. My anxiety to do this has been the greater, from a persuasion that a condition of acceptance with Heaven, so positively prescribed in a volume intended for the instruction of all, must be capable of an explanation so plain as to make its truth manifest and self-evident to all.
The subject of the following pages makes your Grace their appropriate patron. Their publication presents me with an opportunity of acknowledging, with deep feelings of gratitude, my personal obligations to your Grace.
I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give
every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
THERE is scarcely any doctrine of our religion so simple and intelligible as that of Justification by Faith. The plain meaning of these words is this : “ that we are esteemed innocent and righteous before God, on account of a certain quality in our minds called faith, and not for our actions.” This is certainly a very perspicuous proposition,-one most easily understood :-it can require no elucidation whatever. If we proceed to discuss the reasonableness with which such terms of acceptance have been prescribed by the Almighty, if indeed without presumption we can do so, it is possible that we may be led into long and intricate processes of reasoning. At the same time it is contended, and I repeat the assertion, that the principle itself, “ that God does not regard our actions, but the motive from which they spring,” which is the doctrine of
Justification by Faith and not by works, is very plain and intelligible. No acuteness of investigation, no great logical powers, no erudition whatever can be supposed requisite to its comprehension.
It seems, therefore, not a little surprising that so many doubts and difficulties should have arisen on this subject, and that the doctrine itself, the very basis of Christianity, should have been so strangely misrepresented. The language used by many persons respecting it seems to indicate almost an inability to comprehend its meaning, as if they were at a loss to discover the import of the words, and attached little or no meaning to them. What is still more remarkable, this perplexity of mind does not wholly arise from the want of a cultivated understanding, for it is frequently found in persons of considerable attainments, while they who are entirely unlearned are seldom or never subject to it. This seems to shew, notwithstanding the great benefits to be derived from earthly learning when duly extended and properly directed, that there is something in its early tendency, or in its partial operation on the mind, that is decidedly unfavourable to spiritual knowledge. Possibly this may be occasioned by the imperfect manner in which we acquire it, by the confusion to which superficial knowledge is subject, or by the want of arrangement that ensues when our information is rapidly acquired and hastily digested. So that, after all, the wholly unlearned and the half-erudite may be much more on a par with respect to religious advantages than the latter are inclined to grant.