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affords the only meetness for the inheritance of the i saints in light? This is indeed an important question, which deserves an explicit answer.
The history of man, since the fall of Adam, incontestably proves, that works really good are not the spontaneous produce of the human heart, which of itself is the poisoned spring whence every vice in principle and practice emanates. An inveterate dislike to true religion and goodness, with an obstinate attachment to sinful pursuits and vanities, mark the. behaviour of the unrenewed soul in its most polished state. It neglects humility, contrition, faith, obedience, and conformity to God, as if they were superfluous; or it boldly despises them as odious and unbecoming. This radical aversion to good is easily accounted for, by an indisputable authority, which affirms, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." We maintain, therefore, that no human principles possess sufficient power to rectify the heart, and make it abound in every good word and work. Neither a view of its moral fitness to advance his felicity, nor any impulse of an unregenerate bosom, is strong enough (without the grace of God) to enable a man to acquire a habit of availing piety. It is true, natural motives are capable of effecting natural works, but can never produce those religious fruits and effects which entirely result from heavenly principles.
4. Faith and love are the grand sources from whence acceptable obedience, to God must flow. Faith, which "is the gift of God," is the root and foundation of all holiness of life and conversation, without which a man is counted dead before God.
' Rom. viii. 7.
Now, the very circumstance of faith's being the work of God, demonstrates its holy nature, and should put a stop to the blasphemy of those persons who disparage it as a licentious principle". The direct tendency of this divine principle to produce in us every holy thought, feeling, and desire, is unquestionable, if either the testimony of God as to its nature, or the evidence of facts as to its effects, are to be admitted in its behalf. We may form some idea of its high original, and transcendent efficacy" to purify the soul from dead works to serve the Living God,' when we are told, "that faith is the operation of God," and that it "worketh by love." Does it indeed work by love? Yes, verily, as may be seen in the case of those who are subject to its mighty influence. It removes the enmity of the soul against the righteousness of the Divine law, reconciles it to God, and constrains it to glorify him with the devotion of all its powers. By "shedding abroad, as faith does, the love of God in the soul," it is no marvel, if gratitude for such distinguishing mercy should induce the object of it to love God in return with a pure heart fervently.
Nor is faith a less powerful cause of love to man. By fixing in the soul a principle-of Christian benevolence towards others, it removes that narrow selfish spirit which sin has introduced, and excites us to love our neighbour as ourselves, by doing him all the good we can, both temporal and spiritual. Now, love to God and man, which is the offspring of a saving faith, is said to be the fulfilling of the law, and the sum of all its moral obligations.
5. Whilst the Scriptures ascribe the production of good works to faith, they unanimously declare that Eph. ii. 8. Acts xv. 8, 9. Gal. v. 6.
Rom. xiii. 10.
no acceptable obedience can flow from natural principles." Without faith it is impossible to please God." "Whatsoever is not of faith, is sing.
With these sentiments, the language of the Thirteenth Article fully concurs: "Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God: forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin." This doctrine is ratified by the suffrage of some of the brightest ornaments of our Church, who willingly sealed it with their blood. "Whatsoever work is done without faith, it is sin. Faith giveth life to the soul; and they be as much dead to God that lack faith, as they be to the world whose bodies lack souls. Without this faith we have not (good works), but only the names and shadows of them: as St. Augustine saith, All the life of them that lack the true faith is sin. We must set no good works before faith, nor think that before faith a man may do any good works; for such works, although they seem unto men to be praiseworthy, yet indeed they be but vain, and not allowed before God." How glorious, how divine a grace, is faith! Covet earnestly this precious gift, since it is the efficient cause of all true-goodness in the souls of believers.
6. Furthermore, that ardent love to God which faith produces, is found to be a prevailing motive, with the Christian, to the practice of righteousness. In proportion as a man is under the sway of Divine love, he will cheerfully perform his duty towards God and all mankind. "Whatsoever things are Homily on Good Works, pp. 38, 39.
"Rom. xiv. 23.
true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, he will be induced to think on these things, in order to reduce them to practiceh.
Love generally begets love. We may expect, therefore, that the manifestations of God's abundant kindness to a believing soul will enkindle a flame of reciprocal affection in return, which shall urge it most sincerely to keep his commandments. Accordingly, a prevailing desire to please God, and promote his glory in the world, is discoverable in the deportment of Christ's disciples. The honour of their Divine Lord, and the prosperity of his righteous cause, constrain them to pray with fervency, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!".
And further, it may be observed, that the unosten tatious manner in which they perform their religious duty renders it more pleasing to God, whilst it marks the efficacy of the vital principle by which they are governed. Observant of their heavenly Master's direction, they do their works of faith and righteousness, not to be seen of men, but to glorify their Father who is in heaven. That love which stimulates to this cheerful obedience, is thus characterized by St. Paul: "It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; it beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
7. It is obvious, however, that no such fruits of piety are found in the lives of unregenerate persons. The works which they perform differ so greatly from those above mentioned, both as to quality and the motives from which they spring, that they can only hh Phil. iv. 8. 1 Cor. xiii. 6, 7.
be esteemed as dead works, which are neither beneficial to themselves, nor acceptable to the Lord. The highest motives that can actuate those who are destitute of faith in Christ, in the performance of their best actions, are, in reality, selfish and worldly; and their most brilliant deeds, for want of love to God, are but false resemblances of works truly good. Are such persons charitable,-they will be so under the influence of ostentation, or from a desire of establishing their own righteousness, or a thirst for the applause of their fellow-creatures, whose good opinion they wish to secure. And if, in some instances, unconverted men despise the vulgar applause of the multitude, as an excitement to liberality, still they cannot easily divest themselves of the common though dangerous persuasion, that, by almsgiving to the poor, they shall be able to compound for their sins, and render God propitious to them,notwithstanding they may live in the breach of all his commands.
The mode and the spirit in which such works are done, are solemnly reprobated by Christ:-"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." Works performed in such a temper are as injurious to the souls of men, as they are repugnant to the word of God. They are virtually designed to supersede the necessity, and pour contempt on the atonement of Jesus, which is the only foundation of a sinner's hope of everlasting life. That the most plausible deeds which spring from improper motives cannot avail in the smallest degree to salvation, is clear, from the words of St. Paul :-"Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and
Mat. vi. 1.