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THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION.
The atonement of Christ, as we have seen, has laid a foundation sufficiently solid and ample in itself, to secure the salvation of all men; yet all men are not in a state of salvation, There remains something to be done by the sinner, ere he can possess scriptural ground to hope that God will treat him as if he were a righteous person.
“ What then is it?" Or, to put the inquiry in another form, “In what way do we become so personally interested in the mediation of the Son of God, as to warrant us to expect, on the ground of the Divine promise, that those exalted blessings, which are conferred upon men as the reward of his infinitely meritorious work, will be as certainly enjoyed by us, as if that work had been our own ?" This is obviously an infinitely important question, and a question to which an answer must be sought for in Divine revelation alone. None but that God who provided the remedy can inform us how far its influence is to extend. None but the great Being who devised and accomplished that glorious scheme, which renders it possible for him honourably to extend mercy to the guilty, can teach us to whom he will grant it, and on what conditions it will be bestowed. We may form conjectures upon the subject; we may exercise our reasoning powers with the utmost degree of vigour; but reason and conjecture must be utterly at fault here. To them it is no disparagement to affirm, that they can give us no direction. The proper work of God can be performed only by God. To Divine revelation, therefore, we at once repair.
FAITH IS THE MEDIUM OF INTEREST.
Our first object must of course be, to ascertain what is the scriptural answer to the question proposed a short time ago, viz., “What is the medium of personal and saving interest in the mediation of Christ?"
On this point nothing can be more explicit than the statements of Divine revelation. “ Therefore," says the apostle Paul, (Rom. iii. 28, "we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law." And this he declares, let it be observed, at the conclusion of a long and a logical argument, expressly intended to show what, in the very nature of the case, must be the exclusive way in which transgressors can obtain acceptance with God. The chain of the argument is as follows. None can be justified by works, because all have sinned. If the blessing should ever be attained by transgressors, it must be enjoyed on the ground of a righteousness received, and not a righteousness performed : and, since the righteousness cannot be received by works, because that would lay a ground for boasting, "we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law."
The same doctrine is taught, also, at the conclusion of the chapter. “Seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.” Again, in the 3rd chap. of Gal. 8th verse : “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they that be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham.” To the same effect, also, is our Lord's language, (John iii. 16,) “ God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life;" to which we may add the words of the commission, “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark xvi. 15, 16.)
That faith is the means of justification is further proved by those passages which exhibit it as the hand, so to speak, which receives the righteousness of the Redeemer-or brings the sinner into that state in which he is treated as if he were a righteous man, on the ground of the Redeemer's perfect
WHAT IS ITS NATURE?
work. “ The righteousness of God without the law is witnessed, &c.--even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe.” (Romans iii. 22.) It is again proved by all the passages which state that faith is counted to the believer unto righteousness. “ Abraham believed God, and it,” (i. e., his believing, in the sense explained, p. 260.) “was counted unto him for righteousness “ To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteous
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” No doubt, then, can be entertained in reference to the doctrine of Scripture on this point. Faith is, beyond all question, the means of justification. It will, then, be necessary to inquire into the nature of faith, and into the connexion which exists between faith and justification.
1.-WHAT IS FAITH ? I am disposed to define faith as the credit which is given to “the record of God concerning his Son" — its meaning, and evidence, and glory, being unveiled to the mind by the Holy Spirit. The latter part of the definition is not indeed essential to it; and, therefore, its strict logical accuracy cannot perhaps be maintained. Faith, strictly speaking, is the belief of the gospel. The mode in which we attain to a spiritual perception of its meaning, &c., does not modify the credit we give to it. Faith is faith, whatever be the manner in which the knowledge of the truth which it receives is obtained. Now, the latter part of this definition merely exhibits the agency to which all correct views of Divine truth are to be ascribed. It cannot, therefore, be regarded as essential to the definition of faith ; and, if not essential, it must be allowed that, logically considered, it is improper to retain it. Yet, as it is adapted to guard against one class of mistakes upon this important subject, I am not prepared to throw it out of the definition.
When I say that faith is the belief of the gospel, attaching
IS BELIEF OF THE MEANING
to the term “belief” the sense which it ordinarily bears, it may be necessary to add, that I mean, of course, the belief of the gospel, as rightly apprehended and understood; for otherwise it is not the belief of the gospel. Suppose the report of some remarkable transaction were brought to us by a friend, and that we, through dulness of hearing, or misapprehension of the meaning of some of the terms employed, totally misunderstood the nature of the transaction,--could it be said, with any propriety, that we believed the report ? Most assuredly not. We might, indeed, repose confidence in our friend, that he was stating what he conceived to be the truth.
We might further believe, that a transaction, such as that which we had falsely conceived to have happened, had really taken place ; but it would be a gross abuse of language to say that believed the report of the real transaction. Nothing can be more manifest than that a correct apprehension of the meaning of the testimony, is essential to the exercise of faith in it.
Similar remarks may be made in reference to faith when the word is used, as it frequently is, in a more extended sense. Strictly speaking, faith supposes a testimony, and is the credit we give to testimony. The term is, however, constantly used to express the confidence we repose in the correctness of a proposition, even though its truth does not rest upon testimony. Thus, we are said to believe that the whole is greater than its part; and, that God exists; though we have no testimony, strictly speaking, in support of either of these propositions. We have, indeed, what we call evidence for their support;-reasons for believing them; and these reasons, being considered by us as so many testimonies to the truth of the propositions, we give to the confidence which we repose in them, the name of faith.
Now, when the word “ faith" is used in this comprehensive sense, and we are said to believe any proposition, the import of the phrase is, that we give credit to the truth which is really contained in the terms of that proposition. It is the meaning, in short, that is believed; so that if the proposition is not understood, it is not believed. We may, indeed, give credit to something; but, if that something were arrayed in a
correct verbal dress, it would be found to be a proposition very different from the one which we are said to receive.
The one testimony of the gospel involves several propositions, and faith, in harmony with the preceding remarks, is the belief of the meaning of these propositions. It is the credit which is given to them, when they are properly apprehended and understood; and since they are never understood without Divine influence, (for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,) faith, as it is stated in the definition, is the credit given to these propositions—their meaning, evidence, and glory being unveiled to the mind by the Holy Spirit.
Should it be alleged, that since the gospel is the testimony of Him who cannot lie, we, without understanding, may be said to believe it, because we exercise confidence in him that all which he says must be true, and so that the gospel must be true, I would answer, that if this statement does pot exhibit a distinction without a difference, the belief of which it speaks is rather belief in God, than in the gospel. Faith, however, is not the confidence we repose in the Divine veracity, but the credit we give to what the Divine Being reveals to us.
It is, in short, the belief of the gospel. Hence it is represented, by the apostle John, as a receiving of the witness, or record, which God hath given of his Son;" while the ungodly are said to “make God a liar, because they receive not the record which he hath given of his Son.” The same view also of the nature of faith is presented to us by the terms of the commission: “ Go ye forth,” said our Lord, “ into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth,”—believeth what? manifestly the gospel,—“shall be saved.” Besides, the mighty influence which is ascribed to faith in the inspired volume, proves that it is not merely a general confidence in the Divine veracity, but the reception of the gospel itself as
It is what God says to us—the paramount and infinitely important declarations which proceed from him,-exhibiting our character, our danger, and the only way of escape -all of which are brought into contact with the mind, and