Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Holding this, which Luther has called “the Article of a standing or a falling Church,” its rock if it rests on it, its overthrow, if it casts it aside-our Church will yet be protected. The Saviour whom she honours, will still own, defend and bless her; and preaching His pure Gospel, she shall yet be the means of awakening on the lips of countless spirits in the heavenly world, that song of grateful praise — “ Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

SERMON IV.

OF GOOD WORKS.

JAMES, ii. 17.

Faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone."

The last article denied, in most positive terms, the merit of works, and excluding them altogether from the office of justifying, declared that“ we are accounted righteous before God,” for the merit of Christ only. It represented man as released from condemnation, restored to God's favour, and invested with the high privileges of "adoption” and a title to glory, without any previous qualification whatsoever possessed by himself, and solely on account of the obedience rendered by Christ to the Divine Law; the merit of which is imputed to the sinner through faith in the sacrifice accepted by God for “the sins of the world.” This doctrine, so evidently drawn from Scripture, was the great pillar of all the Reformed Churches, and was set forth in their several confessions of faith in contradiction to the false statements of the Church of Rome, that we are not justified solely by the imputation of Christ's righteousness, that faith alone does not procure our justification, and that good works are meritorious. But the Reformers, because they held this doctrine, were charged by their adversaries with attaching no importance to works. • If (said they) faith without works justifies the soul, then works are useless :-if men can derive no profit from their performance, then why should they do them? Your doctrine thus teaches men to abandon good works, and to rest idly on a notion of faith. It is, therefore, a bad doctrine, and ought to be rejected.' My Brethren, persons ignorant of the truth of the Gospel, as well Protestants as Papists, have always thus argued against the free justification of sinners by Christ Jesus. It seems to them, that if a man can be justified by merely believing, no encouragement is given to the practice of good works: and they therefore prefer the Law to the Gospel, because that calls for obedience, and promises eternal life as its rich and glorious reward. This objection has been met and answered by our Reformers in an admirable and very satisfactory manner: and it would be well if those members of the Church of England, who do not understand the real position which Faith and Works respectively occupy in the matter of justification, would carefully study what has been so judiciously and Scripturally said, on that much controverted point, by the Divines who achieved our blessed Reformation. I must

.

be allowed to say, that many of those who have written on the subject in times nearer our own, and who, from their standing in the Church, have been taken as the models by which many of our clergy have fashioned their system, of theology, have not expressed themselves with that scriptural accuracy which distinguishes the writings of the Reformers. Our Church suffered sadly in her doctrines two centuries ago. Truth was diluted. Meagre and half statements of apostolic doctrine prevailed too generally in our pulpits. Cold moral ethics entirely supplanted, in pulpits not a few, the heart-stirring and animating truths of the Gospel. The life of our religion was almost gone, and a Popish formality substituted in its place. The people could not profit under the teaching of their ministers. They were “blind leaders of the blind,” leading them astray in paths of error, instead of leading them to Heaven! What we then lost we have not yet entirely recovered. God has mercifully brought us out of that darkness, and given us such light, that, as was said by the late eminent Robert Hall, we “have gone forth rekindling the lamp of heavenly truth, where before it had burned with a dim and sickly ray.” But our theology is not yet every where as sound as it ought to be; nor will it be, till we follow less the divines who wrote in a degenerate age, and follow more those who wrote in the middle of the sixteenth century. It will fare ill with our Church if we prefer Laud to

[ocr errors]

Cranmer. Let us hear then what he and others wrote on one of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Religion. They maintain the opinion expressed in the last article, as to what justifies us in the sight of God, viz. Christ received by faith and not works: and yet, concerning works, they make, in the twelfth Article (to which I now call your attention), the following very clear and important declaration. “Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch, that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit."

The importance of good works, and the necessity of them to the character of a Christian, are here strongly asserted by those who had just before declared that they do not at all help our justification. Let us carefully weigh the several statements which the Article makes concerning them.

First.—“ They are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification.”

Secondly.—They “ cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment.” Yet

Thirdly.—They “ are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ.” And

Fourthly.—They are so essentially connected with faith, and do so necessarily spring out of it,

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »