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FAITH DOES NOT JUSTIFY
tions in which we stand to each other, and to that great Being who is the fountain of all created existence. That another test of fidelity besides that under which our first parents were placed might have been employed, and that another test than that of baptism might have been instituted as the initiatory ordinance under the Christian dispensation, it is easy to conceive. But, to suppose that, in the decalogue, other precepts might have been substituted for those on which hang all the law and the prophets,-“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself,”—is an absurdity too gross to enter into the conception of any whose judgments are deserving of a moment's regard. The notion, indeed, that Christ has purchased a relaxation of the Divine law, in the sense which has been just attached to the words, is so manifestly absurd, that it is but rarely held speculatively, in all its length and breadth, by those who have been in the habit of hearing the gospel. Many there are, indeed, who talk of faith coming in the room of perfect obedience; but this, if the language cannot be thought to be a corrupt mode of expressing the true scriptural doctrine, takes place, for the most part, in the case of those who, being utterly in the dark with regard to spiritual things in general, attach little or no meaning to what they say.
Secondly, we are not to suppose that the efficacy of faith in procuring justification results from its own intrinsic excellence. I mean by this statement, that whatever moral excellence may be conceived to be in faith, and may really be in it, it would be a radical error to suppose that it is as the reward of that moral excellence, or on account of it, that God treats the believer as if he were a righteous person. Certain individuals, who have not just views of their character and state, but are yet sufficiently enlightened to perceive that the law of God cannot require less than that he should be loved with all the heart, and our neighbours as ourselves, have fallen into the error to which I have now alluded. They do not, indeed, exclude Christ altogether from their system, but as little do they shut out all confidence in themselves; and, therefore, if they form any definite conceptions at all upon the subject, their
BY ITS INTRINSIC EXCELLENCE.
sentiment is, that faith being the root of all obedience, though it is not actual obedience, is rewarded by God, in consequence of what Christ has done, with eternal life. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that, if they had an adequate sense of their utter unworthiness before God, nothing more would be needed to convince them that, when eternal life is bestowed upon the guilty, it cannot be imparted as the reward of the sinner's obedience, or of the sinner's faith; but entirely and exclusively as the reward of the Saviour's work ;--that this constitutes the only ground on which it is safe to the Divine government to bestow it, though faith brings them into the number of those to whom the promise of it is given.
We have shown that the work of Christ is the exclusive ground of a sinner's justification; he cannot, therefore, be treated as if he were righteous on account of the moral excellence of his faith. The two things are utterly incompatible with each other—as truly and as directly so, as the doctrine of salvation by grace and by works. Indeed, the sentiment opposed is the doctrine of salvation by works. It may be a less gross and repulsive form of it, but still it is the doctrine. With the grosser form of it, it is equally opposed to the declaration of the apostle, that “God justifieth the ungodly;" for although we do not concede to the Sandemanians that the language implies that, at the moment of justification, there is no vestige of any thing spiritually good in the mind-that the individual who receives the blessing, is really and literally as ungodly as the man who is living in the constant indulgence of criminal propensities ;-a notion which is directly contradicted by the fact, that the former is a believer, and by the existence of all those spiritual perceptions which are pre-supposed in faith, and in the order of nature are previous to it; it must certainly and necessarily imply that they are justified as ungodly ;—that whatever measure of holiness there may be in faith, it is not that which attracts the blessing—not that, on account of which, or on the ground of which, it is bestowed. There, may, indeed, have been lodged in their minds, the germ of better principles and affections; yet God, in imparting the blessing, regards them as ungodly. For such, indeed,
THIS MISTAKE HAS CORRUPTED
they are; being sinners, guilty, condemned, and in danger of destruction. Men are not, then, treated by God as righteous on account of the moral excellence of their faith. Against this notion, it may be further observed, that it is not adapted to hide pride from man, to do which, seems to have constituted one of the great ends at which Jehovah aimed, in all the parts and steps of the great work of human redemption. And, let it be observed, that it would equally frustrate that end, whether justification were bestowed on the ground of a man's works, or a man's faith. Let him only be permitted to consider that ground in himself; and such is the pride and depravity of the heart, it will be impossible to prevent his imbibing the spirit of the Pharisee, “ God, I thank thee I am not as other men, &c. As a measure of precaution, it will be practically in vain to tell him that the faith of which he prides himself was the gift of God—was wrought in him by the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that he ought not "to boast of what he has received, as though he had not received it.” It may be true that this statement ought to extinguish every feeling of pride, but experience shows that it will not do it. He feels that that for the sake of which he is treated as if he were a righteous man, is in himself; and he lifts up his head in the spirit of self-gratulation and confidence, in spite of all that can be said to him.
It is easy to discover the baneful influence which the sentiment I am now opposing has had in corrupting that simple view of the nature of faith which has been presented in a former Lecture—a view which seems essential to the manifestation of the fact, if not to the fact itself, that salvation is of grace. The apostle tells us, in the 4th of Romans and 16th verse, that the enjoyment of the promises “is of faith, that it might be by grace;" an expression which at least appears to intimate that, if it had not been by faith, it would not have been, or at least would not have appeared to be, of grace. Now, if we adhere to those statements of the nature of faith which have been given, we shall see and feel the truth of this assertion. “Faith is, indeed, the intelligent voluntary exercise of the mind, but it is an exercise of the mind to which we
THE SCRIPTURAL VIEW OF FAITH.
never in common life attach any idea of merit; and hence the reasoning of the Scripture on the difference between justification by faith, and by works. Whoever supposes that the exercise of a malefactor's mind, when he believes that the pardon sent him has the royal signature, merits that blessing? And what more merit can there be in a sinner's believing the message of reconciliation, which declares that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their trespasses?" As well might a man believe that there is a merit in his believing that the sun shines, when it is before him in its meridian lustre. The common sense of mankind tells them that there can be no merit whatever in believing the report of a credible witness. (Russell, vol. ii., p. 79.)
Such are the statements of Dr. Russell; and, though I do not think they put the case in a perfectly correct and fair point of view, since faith is an act of subjection to Divine authority. It could not be said to be the duty of the malefactor to believe that it was the royal signature that was attached to the pardon; it is the duty of sinners to believe on the Son of God: and hence believing is called the obedience of faith ; though I do not think, on this account, that Dr. Russell has put the case quite fairly, it cannot be denied that, as there is a radical difference between believing the testimony, and obeying the commands of God, we are more likely to preserve the important doctrine of justification by grace untouched by presenting faith in the light in which it appears in former statements, than if we included in its nature, complacency, - love, joy, and so represented it as almost another name for the whole of practical religion.
To this identification the notion we are now opposing, that faith justifies on account of its own moral excellence, has very frequently, if not mainly contributed. There is most manifest danger, that individuals who entertain this notion will be led to include as much of holiness as possible in the nature of faith. Though there might possibly appear to them some merit in believing the testimony of God, they could hardly persuade themselves that it was in its amount at all equal to the reward of eternal life. Faith was, accordingly, trans
PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING
formed by them into practical religion; and then the propriety of connecting eternal life with it, the spirit of legality still reigning within, became in their view more apparent. “ They do not see how a persuasion of the truth of the Divine testimony can save the guilty, and give peace to conscience, because they discern not the freeness of the grace of God, and have mistaken views of the nature of his salvation. In a word, they look on faith as an arduous and complicated work. This is, in fact, seeking to be justified by works of law, under the name of faith, and is but a refined way of perverting the gospel.” (Vol. ii., p. 79.) Again : “Such as oppose the doctrine of salvation by grace, and yet are unwilling directly to teach that it is obtained by works, contend that faith in Scripture is to be understood in an unusual sense, and not in its ordinary meaning. They include in it most, if not all, of its effects, even every pious and benevolent disposition of heart; which is, in fact, to identify it with the complete fulfilment of the law. According to this scheme, salvation is of faith, that it might be by merit. I need not say that this is directly to contradict the doctrine of Scripture." (Page 80.)
Amongst theological writers of high and deserved reputation, there is also occasionally displayed a more anxious desire to find a high degree of holiness in faith, than I am able to sympathize with; a desire which is almost apt to beget a suspicion that they have not altogether abandoned the opinion that the moral excellence of faith has some influence, after all, in securing for the believer the important blessing of justification. I admit, indeed, as I have already done, that the medium of interest in the work of Christ must be some voluntary act of obedience to the Divine commands; for, though Jehovah is a Sovereign, he does not abandon the character and relation of moral Governor; and though the reward of his government is a reward of grace, and though the fidelity of the faithful servant is the result of grace, yet that reward will be bestowed according to the rule of moral government. I admit further, since God commands nothing which is not spiritually good, that this act of obedience must be a holy act. But why, in as far as justification is concerned, should we be solicitous to