« VorigeDoorgaan »
FAITH AND SANCTIFICATION.
quired removal, or the pardon would have been of no avail to them. Now the wisdom of God pre-eminently appears in the determination to constitute faith the means of interest in the pardon, because it is in its own nature adapted to secure the cure, of the gospel. We are said to be “ born again by the incorruptible seed of the word.” “Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth.” “Sanctify them," said our Lord, “through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Thus the blessings of justification and sanctification are, in Christian experience, inseparably united; and he whose sins are forgiven is. invariably rendered “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." I find it impossible to conceive of a brighter display of wisdom than is here exhibited. Conceive of a number of prisoners on whom the sentence of death has passed, and who are at the same time sinking into the tomb through the influence of fatal disease. The sovereign offers them pardon on certain conditions. Now, it will be at once seen that the performance of these conditions, were the persons able and willing to perform them, would not remove the malady under which they labour. Another process would be necessary to effect this. It is not thus, however, in reference to man as a criminal before God. The very same act which is required of him, by the moral Governor, in order to his enjoyment of the pardon he needs, is also the means of his obtaining the cure he needs! The belief of the glad tidings, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” reconciles his heart to God, and thus prepares him for the full fruition of his presence in the world above.
There can be little doubt that the serious error into which Mr. Erskine has fallen, in his book on Universal Pardon, results from pushing this sentiment too far. The germs of it exist in one of his former works, where he represents the pardon of the gospel as subordinate to the cure.
God does not, he says, cure that he may pardon, but pardons that he may cure. In the publication referred to above, he seems to represent the death of Christ as necessary, not so much to render the exercise of forgiveness consistent with the claims of truth, and justice, and holiness, but to afford a display of
love so overpowering as to win back the alienated hearts of sinners to God, that is, to cure their moral disease. Now, there does not appear to me to be more than a step or two between this and Unitarianism. It overlooks, with that system, the relation which God sustains to man as his moral Governor; and where that is lost sight of, one of the most effectual barriers against that system is removed. The direct object aimed at and accomplished in the mission, and suffering, and death of Christ, was to open a way for the honourable exercise of mercy. The glad tidings of what the Saviour has done are announced to men, that they may enjoy the benefits which result from his work--may be restored to the favour and image of God by the belief of the tidings. But I see no propriety whatever in representing the pardon as subordinate to the cure, or the cure to the pardon.
There is only one other point to which the reader's attention must be directed before we take our final leave of the subject of justification. It may, perhaps, be best to introduce it in the form of an objection against the great doctrine which the preceding Lectures have aimed to support, viz., that “we are justified by faith, without the deeds of the law," The objection is derived from the well-known language of James, “Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (Chap. ii. ver. 24.) Luther, we are told, could not reconcile the two apostles to his own full satisfaction. To preserve, therefore, the important doctrine of justification by faith without works, he was for rejecting the epistle of James as spurious. Others, who adhered to the doctrine of Paul, have resorted to very unsatisfactory modes of explaining the language of James, so as to preserve that harmony between his statements, and those of his brother apostle, which must exist among persons who wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God.
Many imagine that, when James says of Abraham, that he was justified by works, afterwards extending the same statement to men in general, he ineant only to intimate that by our good works we make it manifest to ourselves that we are in a justified state. “Now I readily grant,” says an excellent
PAUL AND JAMES.
writer, “that good works are an evidence to ourselves, that we are in a state of favour with God, but surely it cannot be said that Abraham had no evidence of this till he offered up his son. Besides, to have evidence in our works that we are justified, is not to be justified by works. The evidence of a thing cannot be the thing itself; nor does justification here signify a man's approbation of himself, but the favourable verdict of another concerning him ; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.'”
Others suppose that Paul treats of justification in the sight of God, since he uses the expression, " in his sight :” but that James speaks of it as it appears before men, because he says, “I will show thee my faith by my works.” “ Now we readily admit that a man's faith is rendered manifest by his works, and that it is our duty thus to let our light shine before men, that they may glorify our Father who is in heaven. But surely James, by being justified, meant more than this. And can we suppose that Paul, who esteemed it so light a thing to be justified or condemned by man, intended to state that it was only thus įthat Abraham's faith wrought with his works, or that he was justified ? James introduces what he says of justification by works with this exhortation, “So speak ye, and so judge, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty;" in which words he certainly refers to the law of God. We cannot, therefore, reasonably suppose that he has only the judgment of men in view; for that is always fallible, frequently erroneous, and at best but of small consequence.”
Others, again, imagine that Paul means the justification of our persons, and James the justification of our faith. I
agree with an excellent writer, " that there is not much meaning in this. Our faith is, indeed, shown by our works, but in no other way than we ourselves are shown to be believing persons. No man's faith can be justified abstractedly from his person." Besides, the apostle does not say that by works faith is justified, but a man is justified. To maintain that he means the former, is to charge him with uttering nonsense; for what meaning is there in the assertion, “ By works faith is justified, and not by faith only?”
Dr. Dwight tells us that James is speaking of“ mere speculative faith, and Paul, of that confidence in God from which all works of righteousness certainly and necessarily flow;" and this is perhaps the general opinion. It is, however, most manifestly an erroneous one ; for conceding to Dwight, for the sake of argument, that there is a right and a wrong way of believing the gospel, and that justification is not of course connected with the wrong faith; he surely will not venture to contend, in the face of Paul's assertion, that we are justified by faith alone, without the deeds of the law,--that it is not connected with the right faith,--that there must be both the right faith, and its fruits, i.e., good works, in order to justification. Now Abraham's faith was the right kind of faith, for it produced works; and James tells us that he was justified by works, proceeding to affirm the general doctrine that men are justified by works, and not by faith alone. Dwight makes a very feeble effort to show that these words may be reconciled with his doctrine. In my apprehension they are altogether fatal to it. Some persons, resorting to a subterfuge, tell us that James did not mean, that we are not justified by faith alone, but by a faith which is alone. I venture to call this a subterfuge, a very dishonourable one as it appears to me, because we can only judge of what the apostle James meant, by what he says; and he says that we are not justified by faith alone, but by faith in connexion with works.
It is not possible, therefore, to reconcile the statements of the two apostles, but by supposing that the term "justification" is used by them in a different sense. This may accordingly be regarded as the true reconciling principle. “By justification," says Mr. Fuller, “ Paul meant the acceptance of a sinner before God; but James refers to his being approved of God as a true Christian.”
“ The meaning of James,” says the late MʻLean, of Edinburgh, “ is, that believers in Christ, abounding in the work of faith and labour of love, are approved of the Lord as his faithful servants, and shall at last be openly acknowledged and rewarded by him as such ; not according to the tenor of the law of works, but according to the constiution of grace established in the blood and mediation of
Christ.” “The true solution of the difficulty,” adds Dr. Wardlaw," appears to be, that the subjects of which the inspired writers respectively treat, are not the same. They are reasoning against different descriptions of persons, and are speaking of different justifications. Paul's argument is with those who, in whole or in part, -either without the faith of the gospel, or in combination with it,-sought, and taught others to seek, justification by the works of the law. The argument of James is with another class of persons altogether, -even those who professed to seek justification by faith alone, but whose professed faith was unproductive of good works. Agreeably to this difference of subjects, and of objects, the two writers, I have observed, speak of different justifications. The one treats of the justification before God of a sinner considered as condemned by the law ;-the other treats of the justification of a believer in Christ, considered in that capacity. Now the former of these justifications is by faith,—the latter by works. Both are equally necessary, both mutually consistent. The affirmation of James in the text, I understand to be, not that the same justification is both by works, and by faith, but that there is a justification by works, as well as a justification by faith,—and that where there is not the former, there is not, and cannot be, the latter,—no man being justified by faith as a sinner, who is not also justified by works as a professed believer.” (Sermons, pp. 118, 119.)