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thou warmed; and be thou filled. The Scriptures, with a divine compassion for the sufferer, and with an equal concern for the true interest of him who possesses the means of relief, compel us, by infinite authority, and an infinite example, to clothe, to feed, and to bless, so far as is within our power, all the children of want and wo. Beyond this, they require all useful conduct, whether it immediately respects God, our fellow-creatures, or ourselves; and in this manner provide effectually for the happiness of mankind in the present world, and for their immortal good in the world to come.
2dly. We here see, that the Scriptures, and the Scriptures only, furnish us with an effectual source of good works.
No obedience is of any worth in the sight of God, or man, except that which is voluntary. God loveth the cheerful giver; and with his views those of mankind perfectly coincide. No obedience of our children or servants, no offices of our friends or neighbours, are of any value in our estimation, besides those which spring from the heart.
Of this obedience, the Scriptures inform us, Evangelical faith is the genuine spring, and the only spring, in the present world. The faith of the Gospel, as I have frequently had occasion to observe, is an affectionate confidence in the character of Christ; in which it surrenders itself to him on his own conditions, to be his, and to be employed wholly, and for ever, in his service. To the mind, under the influence of this spirit, Christ, together with all his pleasure, commands, ordinances, and instructions, becomes supremely delightful. Obedience to his commands is to such a mind, of course, voluntary, cheerful, and perpetual. Its faith is the commencement, and in a fallen creature the only commencement, as well as the future support, and soul, of the virtuous character.
In the experience of mankind this great truth has been abundantly proved. The faith of the Gospel, and that alone, transformed the first Christians from idolaters into saints; beautified their minds with every grace; and adorned their lives with every amiable action. Faith alone induced them boldly to renounce idols, and to worship the only living and eternal God. Faith withdrew them from impiety, deceit, fraud, cruelty, revenge, intemperance, and impurity; and rendered them pious, sincere, just, kind, forgiving, temperate, and chaste. Faith, finally, enabled them to
. overcome all worldly considerations, and affections; and to meet the rack, the faggot, and the cross, in the lively hope, the supporting assurance, of being approved by their Maker, and receiving from his hand a crown of immortal glory. In faith, and its effects, all real goodness of character in the race of man, all that is pleasing in the sight of God, has from that time, nay, from the beginning of the world to the present hour, been found. Nor is there any other entrance upon a life of virtue, nor any other foundation of persevering in real excellence.
In this all-important particular the Scriptures differ, infinitely, from the efforts of philosophy. Philosophy never made a single man really virtuous, or really amiable in ihe sight of God. Cicero, who was himself one of the greatest and most learned of the heathen philosophers, declares, in an unqualified manner, that they, so far as he knew, had never, even in a single instance, reformed either themselves or their disciples. Those, who are extensively acquainted with modern infidels, perfectly know, that their principles have been equally unproductive of any proofs of a virtuous character.
But the Scriptures, in the hands of the Spirit of God, have, in an endless multitude of instances, effectuated this glorious reforma. tion of man. Long before the Canon was begun by Moses, a vast number of the human race, by embracing the doctrines and precepts, now published in the Scriptures, and then communicated by occasional Revelations, became the subjects of holiness, and the heirs of endless life. In all these, through every age, and every country, the same faith was the sole source of all their excellent and honourable conduct towards God, and towards mankind. Bu faith, says St. Paul, Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death.
By faith Noah, moved with fear, prepared an ark. By faith Abraham, being called of God to go out into a place, which he should after receive as an inheritance, went out, noi knowing whither he went. This is the testimony of God himself concerning these worthies; and they in this respect are representatives of all the good men, whom the world has ever seen. Their faith was the faith of all such men; and all the virtuous conduct of such men sprang from the same source whence theirs was derived.
3dly. From these things it is evident, that no religion, except Christianity, is of any value.
The end of all doctrines and systems, which profess to be useful, is no other, than to make men virtuous. This end Christianity accomplishes; but it has been accomplished by no religion beside. While the religion of the Old Testament continued to be the only religion, established by God; it was in substance, and, as understood by the saints of that period, the same with the religion of the New. The chief difference was, that they believed in a Messiah, then future; and Christians believe in a Messiah, who has actually appeared. To them the Gospel was preached, as well as to Abraham; and they all believed in the Lord, who appeared unto Abraham; and it was counted to them for righteousness. With Abraham they rejoiced to see the day of Christ afar of, and saw it, and were glad. With Job, they knew that their Redeemer lived, and that he would stand at the latter day upon the earth: and that, though, after their skin, worms would destroy their bodies, yet in their flesh they should see God. But there is not the least reason to believe, that
gion has contributed, at all, to make men virtuous. Some truths have been found in every religion; but they have universally so abounded in falsehoods, and those falsehoods have been so ahsolutely believed, and obeyed, that no moral good appears to have been produced by them. On the contrary, they have warranted, and effectuated, evils, which cannot be measured ; sins with out bounds, and miseries without number. Those, who believed them most sincerely, and obeyed them with the greatest zeal, were among the most profligate of their votaries.
4thly. It is evident from this discourse of St. James, that the religious character of all men is to be estimated by their works.
Shew me thy faith without thy works; that is, if thou canst; and I will shew thee my faith by my works. A faith without works is nothing in the Christian scheme; and can be shown neither to ourselves nor to others. Let us, then, be just to ourselves, and try ourselves as God will try us hereafter. Let us place no confi. dence, no hope, in a faith, which is without works; nor ever dream that it is the faith of the Gospel. By our fruits, he who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins, has declared, our characters are to be known. By this great rule of decision, then, ought every one to examine himself. If our faith worketh by love; if it hath its fruit unto holiness ; its end will be everlasting life: if not, it will only become the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. In what a dreadful manner will the speculative believer be disappointed, to find that the foundation, on which he built, was nothing but sand! and how will he feel, when he sees that building swept away by the final tempest! How will it embitter even perdition itself, to have been in this world secure of eternal life, to have gone to the grave with peace and hope, believing ourselves to be true disciples of Christ, children of the covenant, and heirs of a blessed immortality; and to be first awakened out of this pleasing, flattering, delusive dream, by the condemning voice of the Judge! Oh, that we were wise; that we understood these things; that we would consider our latter end !
JUSTIFICATION.-JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH DOES NOT LESSEN THE
OBLIGATIONS, OR THE MOTIVES, TO OBEDIENCE.
Romans iii. 31.-Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea,
we establish the law.
In a series of discourses, I have endeavoured to explain and prove the doctrine of Justification by faith without works.
Beside the direct opposition made to this doctrine, it has been opposed on account of its apprehended consequences, particularly, on account of this important consequence: that it renders the Laz of God useless, as a rule of obedience. This objection St. Paul foresaw, and thought proper to anticipate, in this passage of Scripture: Do we then make void the law ihrough faith? God forbid : yea, we establish the law. As if he had said, From the doctrine of
, justification by faith without works, which I have here asserted to be the true doctrine of the Gospel, I foresee it will be objected, that I render the law of God, as a rule of obedience, useless. This, however, is so far from being true, that the doctrine which I have taught, in reality establishes the law.
So peremptory a declaration of the Apostle might, one would think, have been amply sufficient to silence the objectors; and to have persuaded them, that this opinion of theirs was totally unfounded, and precluded the necessity of any future effort to establish the doctrine. The fact, however, has been otherwise. The objection has been maintained ever since the Apostle wrote. Even at the present time, it is a favourite and popular objection in the mouths of multitudes; and is alleged with triumphant confidence, in defiance, as I apprehend, of both reason and revelation.
It is remarkable, that the doctrine, contained in the objection, has been strenuously holden by men of totally opposite principles : those who assert, and those who deny, justification by faith. The former class are called Antinomians; the latter Arminians; with whom are united, in this particular, Arians, Socinians, Pelagians, and many others. It ought, however, to be observed, that Arminius himself, and many of his followers, have agreed in admitting with. out hesitation the doctrine of justification by faith.
As the scheme, opposed in the text, has been adopted by these two opposite classes of men; so it has been adopted with precisely contrary views. The former admit the doctrine that the law is made void by faith, as truth; and yet hold, that we are justified by faith. Of course, they consider it as a part of the design of God to make
the law void; and hold themselves to be under no obligations to obey its precepts. In their view, the fact, that the doctrine of justification by faith makes void the law, is so far from being an objection to it, that it is an original part of the Evangelical system; a thing, in itself proper, right, and good. The latter class bring this consequence as a direct, and formidable objection against the doctrine of justification by faith, from which, they suppose, the consequence certainly, and necessarily, flows. Were they right in this supposition, I cannot, I confess, answer the objection; nor should I know how, consistently with the Scriptures, to admit any doctrine, which renders the law of God useless, or in the least degree impairs its authority.
These two different modes of considering this subject, demand different answers. These I shall give under the following scheme: viz, that the doctrine of justification by faith lessens not in any degree, but establishes in the most effectual manner,
I. The Obligations, and,
Under the first of these heads, I shall direct my arguments against the Antinomian, and under the second, against the Arminian scheme concerning this subject.
I. This doctrine does not lessen, but establishes, the Obligations which mankind are under to obey the law of God.
In proof of this position, I observe,
By this I intend, that to love God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves, is to love God, and our neighbour, in the very manner in which He loves both : that is, so far as creatures are capable of resembling their Creator. In other words, it is to be perfectly benevolent. Beloved, says the Apostle John, let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is love. In this passage, St. John refers, as he does also in the 12th and 13th verses of the first chapter of his Gospel, to two observations of Christ: Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God: and this is life eternal ; that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. Every one that loveth, he here informs us, is thus born of God, and knows God, in such a sense as is life eternal. On the other hand, he further declares, that he who loveth not knows not God, in this sense. Hence it is plain, that he who is not the subject of this love, is not a child of God, nor an heir of eternal life. Of course, he is not the subject of justification, nor of the faith, to which it is annexed. Finally, St. John as. serts, that God is love; or that love is his whole moral character, and essence. He, therefore, who is not the subject of this love, is not like God; has not the same moral character; or, in other words, is not renewed after the image of God.