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in debt, to become her husband; consequently to render her rich, respectable, and honourable. Now this proposal could not put her in the possession of these benefits, nor give her the least claim or title to them, unless she should consent to take him as her husband, and cordially receive him as he offers himself. Yea, by refusing his glorious proffer, she would announce to all the subjects of his kingdom, her consummate folly and unworthiness. Thus we see, it is by accepting the offer and by the marriage covenant, that the union and relation of husband and wife takes place, and unites the two as one. They are accounted the united head of their family,and haveone common interest. So no sinner can obtain an interest in the unspeakable blessings of Christ's atonement, unless there be a real consent of the heart, and living union by faith ; by which moral union they are in such a sense and degree,one: that the sinner, now justified, becomes entitled to the marvellous and inconceivable benefits of redemption.
These remarks render it obvious, that faith is an essential qualification on the part of man, as a prerequisite to his being pardoned. Hence, it is the term of justification and salvation. Mankind, in an unrenewed state, are ruined and helpless. To them in such a state, Christ is offered as a Saviour on the condition that they will become his; that they will come to him, or give themselves up to him. The act by which this voluntary surrender is accomplished, is the faith of the gospel, and is justly denominated justifying faith. When the soul thus renders itself into the hands of Christ, it complies with his own terms. It casts off all former dependence on its own righteousness for acceptance with God; for forgiveness and justification. Conscious of its entire unworthiness and desert of the Divine
anger, the reality and greatness of its guilt, the justice of its condemnation, and the impossibility of expiating its own sins, it casts itself at the footstool of Divine
mercy, as a suppliant for mere pardon; and welcomes Christ as the glorious, efficacious, and all-sufficient atonement for sin and intercessor for sinners. With these views and affections, it yields itself up to him with an entire confidence in all that he hath taught, done, and suffered in the glorious character of Mediator between God and man. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom, also, we have access by faith into this grace wherein ye now stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Thus we may clearly see, that faith is the means by which man, in the economy of redemption, becomes entitled to its inestimable blessings. It is not only the instrument of justification, but may be considered as the hinge on which the whole evangelical system turns. He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not, shall not see life. These declarations, show that all the future interests of man are suspended on his faith. Generally, all those passages which speak of mankind as justified and saved by the blood and by the death of Christ, indicate, in an unequivocal manner, that our faith especially, respects this as its object; because his death is, in a peculiar sense, the cause of our salvation : since by this, he became a propitiation for the sins of the world. The faith of the gospel always respects Christ as its object. Hence, says St. John, To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. To him that justifieth the ungodly, that is, who pardons and accepts the guilty, the rebellious, when they exercise evangelical faith. Now it must appear indispensible to all, that their faith must respect Christ as its especial object; that whenever this is the fact, they are assured of everlasting life; and wherever it is not, they shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on them.
Now why are mankind justified by faith, rather than by any other christian grace? Says the apostle, Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. Doubtless faith is made the sole term of justification; because it is the only act which embraces Christ and confides in his atonement for the full pardon of sin. Supreme love to God, repentance for sin, and all other Christian graces, are exercised in the view of different objects; and in this view, are essentially different in their natures. Then justification is annexed to faith, because it is that attribute, or act of the soul, which receives Christ' as an atoning and all-sufficient Saviour, as he is freely offered in the gospel.
5th. Let us now inquire, in what sense believers are justified by works? Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
This expression, with the subject inseparable in its connexion, most emphatically establishes the doctrine, that a man is justified by an evangelical and not by a speculative faith; by a living, and not by a dead faith. That is, by a faith which is productive of works, or of a godly life. Hence, obedience to the requisitions of the gospel, would be the best evidence of the genuineness of a man's faith. In this manner, a justifying faith would appear to be real, well grounded, rooted in love, and not spuri- /
Thus the method is pointed out, by which we are to manifest, or prove our justification by faith, to our fellow-men, to ourselves, and to our God. To elucidate these remarks, let me notice that there are two kinds of faith mentioned in the scriptures, essentially and totally distinct in their natures. The one consists in a speculative belief, or mere assent of the understanding to probable evidence. The other, is that gracious confidence in Christ, orthe faith of the gospel. From the former of these, obedience to God never sprang, and cannot spring. The latter is in its own nature, productive of obedience.
St. James introduces his discussion of this subject, with these questions: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Undoubtedly it can, if it can justify him.
But such a faith implies not the least shadow of evidence of its being of a saving nature. The justifying faith of the gospel, is the faith which worketh by love and purifieth the heart; the faith by which alone man believeth unto righteousness.
The uselessness of a faith unproductive of works, St. James then elucidates, by an allusion to an inactive and worthless benevolence. If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace; be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye gave them not those things which are needful' to the body, what doth it profit? As such philanthropy is not only of no use, and therefore, of no value, but a reproach to him who professes it, because his conduct gives the lie to his professions, so the faith of him who believes the gospel and whose life is not governed by its all important doctrines and precepts, is equally destitute of worth, and reproachful to his character. In the words of the apostle, Eyen so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Next it is proved in the strongest manner, that such a faith is not the faith of a Christian. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Christ taught the great doctrine, that his disciples were to be known by their fruits only; and that these were the true, regular, and invariable proofs of that faith by which they were constituted Christians. But the faith, that is without works, is wholly destitute of the grand characteristicks of that faith which is a well spring of water, flowing out unto everlasting life. Consequently, it cannot be of the nature of justifying faith.
Now let us attend to declarations which exhibit
the present subject in a light so clear, as to present the truth beyond controversy.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well : the devils also believe and tremble. The devils are the subjects of speculative belief; but it will not be pretended, that they can be the subjects of justifying faith. It is impossible for fallen angels to exercise this kind of faith, as a Saviour was never provided for them nor the means of redemption in their behalf made known. Neither can holy angels exercise, the saving faith of the gospel, as they need no Saviour and no pardon. And if guilty man should believe in the existence of a God, and tremble in view of his natural and moral perfections, the nature of his faith would be the same as that of the devils. No good works would be the result.
With precision let the subject be exhibited under a different form. But wilt thou know, 0 vain man! that faith without works is dead? Vain man, or hypocrite. But surely the faith of the hypocrite, is not the faith of the gospel. It is the contrast most certainly. It is not a living, but a dead faith.
If we compare such a faith with that of Abraham, the subject will be farther illustrated.
Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, when he had offered up Isaac, his son, upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, Abraham believed God: and it was imputed to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God. Ye see, then, liow that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. These expressions plainly evince, that the faith of Abraham was the genuine faith of the gospel; a real, operative confidence in the promises of God. This it showed in a very forcible manner; because he manifested singularly great and self-denying obedience.
St. James repeats the passages in three different instances; and clearly proves the same doctrine to