Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

believe in our Saviour, it is like as if we had no sins. For He changeth with us; He taketh our sins and wickedness from us, and giveth unto us His holiness, righteousness, justice, fulfilling of the law, and so, consequently, everlasting life. So that we be like as if we had done no sin at all: for His righteousness standeth us in good stead, as though we of our ownselves had fulfilled the law to the uttermost.” My Brethren, were I to go through the whole range of the pious Fathers of our Protestant Church, I could only give you similar opinions : for they all concur with their Brethren of the Continental Churches, in standing to these truths—that salvation is wholly of grace, and that the merit of Christ is our only righteousness.

Now it is easy to prove that the doctrine of the Reformers is the very doctrine of God's Word. That Book first lays it down that man must possess a perfect righteousness before he can walk in the favour of God. It then declares that he has lost this righteousness, and that all he may do cannot regain it: and then it points him to a righteousness which God has provided, and which is to be apprehended by faith. Hear some of its declarations :-“By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no man can boast.” “He (i. e. Christ) died, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” “He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” “ Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by

Him all that believe are justified from all things for which they could not be justified by the law of Moses." “Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe ; (for there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God :) being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.It says, that God “justifieth the ungodly:" that He is “just” and yet. “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus :" and then adds, “Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what law ? of works ? nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

And as the doctrine is scriptural, so is it, without doubt, “a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." Its enemies have always represented it as a dangerous doctrine, leading to bad consequences. But they, who so speak of it, speak of it ignorantly, not understanding it. So far from hurting the soul, or doing mischief in its practical effects, it has a most healthful influence on a man's moral constitution, purifying his heart, and operating to the production of all good fruits. And, indeed, it is “very full of comfort.What does man want to make him happy, but the favour of God? He cannot have this favour while he rests upon his works for they are sinful and imperfect. But when he looks away from works and looks to Christ, receiving, through faith, His righteousness,

a

fect peace,

[ocr errors]

for us.

then being pardoned, accepted and loved of God, his conscience is quieted—he fears nothing—he has “ a peace that passeth all understanding,” “a per

a peace which the world cannot give, nor the world take away.” He says, in anticipation of the judgment, “ It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth ?—it is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or sickness, or peril or sword ? Nay, I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

You have heard, my Brethren, the doctrine of your Church; a most scriptural, wholesome and comfortable doctrine; one upon which if you rest your souls, you will be saved. I must now state that this Eleventh Article was drawn up by our Reformers to declare the true doctrine of Scripture against the false doctrine held by the Church of Rome on the subject of justification. Her opinions and practice in reference to that great point of our religion, are such that Hooker, her candid and generous opponent, was well justified in calling Popery “ Anti-Christianity,” as “being the bane and overthrow of Christianity.” We charge her with having set aside the righteousness of Jesus

Christ, as the ground of justification, and with having set up in its place justification by works— and if this be not to subvert the foundation of the Christian faith, to set up another religion quite different from that given to the world by Christ and His Apostles, then I know not what is. But we will see what that Church really holds. Her doctrine, fairly stated, is this. She admits man's sinful state by nature; acknowledges that God is the only restoring power ; refers man's righteousness to the merit of Christ, and holds the necessity of applying His merit for the soul's salvation. This is her profession; and so far her religion is apparently sound, Wherein then do we differ from her ? Fundamentally, when she states her view of justifying righteousness. She holds it to be chiefly a divine quality infused into the soul, enabling the man to think and to act rightly. She calls it grace;

which she represents as continually increasing in a true Christian, and justifying the soul more and more in proportion to its increase; and this increase is made to depend on the amount of good works, which are said to deserve this grace, just as they, on account of this grace, are said to be meritorious. The first reception of it in baptism, whether it be the baptism of infants or adults, is their first justification, and the increase of it, by means of good works, is their second justification. But, now, as this grace may be increased, so, according to their doctrine, it may be diminished, and, in some cases, wholly lost. And then comes the question how it may be recovered. Grace, they say, is diminished by what they

F

wickedly call “ venial sin,” which they define to be “ a small and very pardonable offence against God or our neighbour;” and grace is wholly lost by mortal sin,” which they declare to be “ any great offence against the law of God, and so called because it kills the soul, and robs it of the spiritual life of grace.” In the former case, the man has lost a portion only of his justifying righteousness : in the latter, he has lost the whole of it; and is as guilty before God, in the judgment of the Church, as if he had never been justified at all. And how is this guilt, in both cases, to be removed, and the sinner restored to his former state ? Surely application will now be made to the blood and merit of Christ? But no, “Mortal sin,” is said to be remitted “ by hearty penance and contrition,” and “venial sin,"

by all the Sacraments, devout prayers, alms-deeds, and the like good works.” If confession be made to a man, and the penance he enjoins be properly submitted to, the greatest sins against God are entirely forgiven. Sometimes, however, there may

, remain (they say) certain temporal punishments due for sins, even after they are forgiven: and in this case, again, fasts, pilgrimages, prayers, and other such things are recommended to be done, as means of satisfying the justice of God; or the Church can at once release the soul from these punishments by granting an Indulgence: that is, by conveying to the soul some portion of “the superabundant merits of Christ and His saints," with which it has been intrusted. You perceive, then Brethren, from this short but true statement of Romish doctrine, that

« VorigeDoorgaan »