Imágenes de páginas

believes all its declarations, but also implicitly confides in their goodness, authority, and final fulfilment. We now speak of those parts of the Revelation which distinguish it from all other systems of religion; namely, its provisions for the soul of man, in the atonement of a Redeemer, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, the promises of all things necessary for life and for godliness, and of a crown and kingdom beyond the grave which shall never fade away, together with all the threats of punishment denounced against the wicked. These parts of the Revelation call immediately for faith in the believer; because they involve matters which can rest only on the word and faithfulness of God. The moral law is not of faith; it holds out matter rather for obedience and its declarations are not only good and authoritative as coming from God, but also as considered in themselves: they will command the assent of the reasonable man, because they are good and fitting for the purposes of society. And, it is worthy of remark, that where the peculiar doctrines of faith are unknown or disregarded, the law of works is of necessity most strenuously insisted upon. We mention this merely to remark, and to recommend it to consideration, that these things are widely and essentially different; that the one is what the Christian and the Pagan must recognise at once to be good and just; the other, that, and that only, to which the man grounded in the faith can give a full and hearty reception and obedience. In this point of view, then, it is by the exertion of faith alone, that we can manifest an entire obedience to Almighty God; every thing else may proceed from human sanctions, and may be practised only from worldly motives. Faith in the Scripture as the word of God, and a firm reliance on those provisions which are there made for our salvation, are the only means whereby we can truly honour him, and evince at once that reverence, obedience, and love, which, if a real revelation has ever been made, ought to exist between the creature and the Creator.

We have hitherto spoken only of the character of Scrip


tural faith, and of the reason why it seems to have been made the test and means of salvation. Let us now consider some of the declarations of Scripture on this subject, and particularly those which keep in view the distinction just made. "6 If Abraham," it is said, "were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God."* That is, if Abraham had indeed fulfilled all the moral law, this would have afforded him a real and a good ground for exultation among men; because he might thus have been termed a benefactor (vegyirns),† and been held up for imitation to all succeeding ages. But," what saith the Scripture? Abraham BELIEVED GOD, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Abraham believed the promises; he placed a firm reliance on these, in addition to his obedience of the moral law he walked indeed before God and was perfect; but, he did more, he consulted not with flesh and blood: he knew that He who commanded him to sacrifice his son, was also able to raise him from the dead :§ he staggered not at the promises he went out, not knowing whither he went: neither the deadness of Sarah's womb, nor the unknownL countries in which he was to sojourn as a pilgrim, nor that unseen city whose builder and maker was God, formed matter of doubt or hesitation with him: faith realised the promises made; and he became not only a benefactor to human society, but THE FRIEND OF GOD, the Father of the Church, and the great and memorable example, in these respects, for all future ages. So that all who are of the faith are even now designated as his spiritual children, and as heirs with him of the same promises and privileges. And hence the Apostle concludes on this most interesting subject: "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if

*Rom. iv. 2.
+ Luke, xxii. 25.
§ Heb. xi. 11, 12, 17, 19, &c.

Rom. iv. 3.

Rom. iv. 20, &c.

we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered FOR OUR OFFENCES, and was raised again FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION."*

It is remarkable, to what an extent this distinction is kept up by the Apostle. "To him that worketh," says he, "is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." And again : "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world." Or, in other words, before we had received the knowledge of salvation by faith, we were, like others, subject to the law of works, to the elements of the world, which could raise us, at the best, to a distinction no higher than that of servants, profitless and unprofitable. It is then added, with reference to those who are Abraham's spiritual seed: "Because ye ARE SONS, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no MORE A SERVANT, BUT A SON; AND IF A SON, THEN AN HEIR OF GOD THROUGH CHRIST." The great argument which the Apostle had constantly to urge upon the Jews (and which indeed is the great argument which ministers have still to urge) was, the inestimable privilege held out to the exertion of faith; the reward proposed upon the subjugation of the whole man to God; and that adoption of children, which, under Christ as the great Head of the Church, will enable all to exclaim with affection and confidence, Abba, Father.

Here, then, we have that BETTER HOPE, which the moral law never did, and never could, know or recognise : it is that which, as a covenant of mercy and of grace, ratified indeed by God's oath, and sealed by the blood of Christ, constitutes a real and positive relationship between Him and man; and which exalts the believer above the station of servant, to which alone he could aspire under the moral law, to that of friend and of son, through the redemption that

*Rom. iv. 23, &c. † Ib. ver. 4.

Gal. iv. 3. § Ib. ver. 6, 7.

is in Christ Jesus, and makes him an heir of eternal life. It is here that faith is said to have its perfect work, and hope to be the anchor of the soul sure and steadfast: that man can rejoice both in the common and peculiar mercies of his God, and that his joy is both permanent and full.*

If, then, the destinies of the human soul are immortal, What, it may be asked, can be so acceptable or so suitable to its earthly welfare as instruction of this sort? Or, again, If a revelation has actually been made from above, What could possibly have been its drift or end, if it were not to vest the hopes of man with certainty, as to these its immortal destinies; and to assure him, that these shall finally be blessedness and peace? Why, it may be demanded, has God spoken, if it were only to discover those moral duties, which the requirements of society alone will teach to some extent; and which, when taught, are in their own nature binding upon all? Surely the mission of Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles, must have been almost in vain, if their messages recognised an extent no greater than this; or to assure us that, after all, we were unprofitable servants? Neither was miracle necessary to urge that, which all must have allowed to be good; nor could faith or hope have been reasonably called for, where there could have been no strong ground either for belief or expectation. But, when we come to the consideration of the soul's immortality, and of the necessity there is that man should both know and be assured, that this is attainable in all the blessedness of which his nature is capable, we see at once why this revelation of mercy was made, and why it was made principally to call for an unlimited exercise of faith.

It may be said indeed, as it often is, that this view of our subject will tend greatly to lower the requirements of the Moral Law: which is, however, a great mistake; for here

* John, xv. 11.

alone it is that we can find either its authority or its use ;—its authority in being a part of a Divine revelation ;---and its use in preparing man for a higher and far more excellent state of existence. We do, indeed by this view, confine the law to its proper office; namely, to teach man his duty, to convince him of his imperfections and sins, and to bring him accordingly to the cross of Christ for pardon and peace; but so far are we from divesting it of these its salutary and necessary powers, that we establish them; and declare, that, without the righteousness thus urged and complied with, no man can see the Lord.

It will now, perhaps, be said that, in this point of view, faith is still a work; and, that to be justified by it will be the same thing as to be justified by works. I answer: There can be no doubt, faith is to all intents and purposes an operation of the mind, and, therefore, a work; and, that it is accordingly termed, both by our Lord and the Apostle, a work, the work of faith, and the law of faith; but then it is in no case said to be the final cause of justification or salvation, but only the means to be employed by man. The free gift must, after all, come from the grace of God; and, do what we may, this gift will be still unmerited, and totally independent of this and of every other work. All that can be said of faith, in this point of view, is, It is the means graciously appointed by God, and to which he has promised to annex the mercy had in view; not because the exertion of faith will in any case merit the favour, but only because He has been graciously pleased to appoint this as the means which he will finally accept and bless. If faith be a work, therefore, it is one of a character very different from those supposed to grow out of the moral law; and certainly from those which the Jews generally offered as the grounds of their justification. Its tendency is to call forth the affections, and to command

* John, vi. 29. 1 Thess. i. 3. 2 Thess. i. 11. Rom. iii. 27.

« AnteriorContinuar »