Page images

drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance : against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Thus, though our own obedience is not "the foundation of our peace, it is, nevertheless, the guard of it; and though it can pay no part of the price of our redemption, it is necessary as an evidence of that faith which justifies us, through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ; and which, at the same time, purifies the heart, works by love, overcomes the world, and makes us meet for being made partakers of the heavenly inheritance.

In the conclusion, it may be proper to advert to a seeming difference between the apostles Paul and James, on the subject we have had under our consideration: the one teaching, that we are justified by faith, without the deeds of the law; the other, that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. In order to reconcile these apparently opposite statements, let it be observed, that the terms, faith and justification, are used by Paul and James in a different sense. The faith without works which James reprobates, is what he calls a dead faith, a mere speculative assent to Christian doctrine; that which Paul commends, is a living and operative faith-a faith which purifies the heart, and works by love. The one speaks of that faith by which our persons are justified in the sight of God; the other, of the manner in which alone our faith can be justified, (in the common acceptation of the term,) or proved to be sincere. And in the case of Abraham, whom both the apostles adduce as an illustrious example of being justified by faith, and also by works, the doctrines of Paul and James meet as in a common centre. He was justified by faith, when he believed the promises which were made to him, and particularly that which related to the Messiah, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed ; and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was justified by works, when, in addition to all the hardships and inconveniences to which he had been exposed, when he left his kindred and his home, and became an exile and a wanderer at an advanced period of life, he shewed the most prompt obedience to that trying command, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering, upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. There is then no difference between the apostle James and the apostle Paul ; and it is impossible there should, since they were both under the guidance and direction of the Spirit of truth. The scripture was still fulfilled which saith, Abraham

believed God, and it was counted to him for righte


Let me now exhort you, my Christian friends, to hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering, and to study to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, by the purity of your principles and the integrity of your conduct. Be animated to the faithful discharge of every duty, by the love displayed in your redemption, and by the promises given you by Him who died for your sins, rose again for your justification, and ever liveth to make intercession for you. He, and He alone, is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To Him commit the keeping of your souls in welldoing—I say in well-doing—and let none of you mistake on a point of such infinite importance. Let none imagine, that being justified from the guilt of former sins, no future failures, no transgressions on his part, can provoke the indignation of the Almighty, or endanger his future safety. It was not thus that Paul argued from the doctrine of final perseverance, or the ample provision which the Saviour has made for the preservation of those from final apostasy whom he redeemed unto God with his blood. The doctrine which he invariably teaches is, that though believers are not chosen for, they are chosen unto, holiness. It was the firm impression of this truth which made him pray on behalf of his Thessalonian converts, that God would establish their hearts unblameable in holiness, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with

all his saints. This led him to keep under his own body, and to bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when he had preached the gospel to others, he himself skould be a cast-away.

The security of the righteous, then, does not arise from the total absence of danger; from the non-existence of a law obligatory on the believer as a rule of life, enforced by the sanctions of future rewards and punishments. Behold, says Christ himself, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life: a right, not indeed of merit, but a right of evidence, a right of meetness and of promise, to that eternal life which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.

In order, therefore, to obtain just views of the doctrine of redemption through faith in the blood of Christ, we must recollect, that the state in which the gospel finds us, and from which it proposes to deliver us, is twofold-a state of guilt, and a state of corruption. By the former, we are exposed to the penal consequences of sin; by the latter, we are incapable of enjoying the heavenly happiness. Sanctification, therefore, or holiness of heart and life, as it is an earnest of future glory, is also an infallible evidence, because an unfailing consequence, of reconciliation with God, through faith in the blood of Christ.

Let it be remembered then, that as the body and the spirit make the man, so faith and works make the Christian. The faith by which we are justified, and the obedience by which our faith is proved to be genuine, stand related to each other as cause and effect. The doctrine of justification by faith may, therefore, be justly considered as the turning point of salvation—the foundation of obedience, and the animating principle of holiness. This, we trust, has been fully and clearly established to the conviction of every unprejudiced mind. But the world will judge of the tendency of the doctrine of faith by the influence it has upon the conduct of those who espouse it. All our reasonings on this subject, and all the zeal which you may discover in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, will go for nothing, if you resemble those covetous, hard-hearted, and worldly-minded religionists, whom the apostle James so justly reprobates. If a brother, says he, (one of your Christian brethren, who has been forced by persecution to abandon his home and all his possessions for the sake of the gospel) be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to him, Depart in peace I wish that all good may attend you, and that God may care for you as he did for Jacob, when he was obliged to flee from the persecution of Esau, as you have been obliged to flee from your persecutors that he may give you food to eat and raiment to put on, and keep you in the way


should go, and bring you again to your father's house in peace. What do all these good wishes and fine speeches signify, if you give him not those things

« PreviousContinue »