« AnteriorContinuar »
action tinctured with it. What have we, which we have not received ? Now, if we have received it, why do we glory as if we had not received it? This we ought to realize. We ought to acknowledge that we have lost our power to do good, by sin. Such is the testimony of experience, as well as Scripture. Poor in ourselves, we must seek ability from Christ to do our duty. They who have never realized their unworthiness and weakness, never can do what is accepta. ble to a holy God, or really good in itself. They can do nothing conformable to the divine law. :,
Further, A work to be good must be done in faith. This acknowledges God in Christ as reconciled, and draws the power of doing good from the righteous ness and strength of Christ. It is on certain grounds assured, that the work to be done is commanded or permitted by God, and, notwithstanding the imperfections of that work, that God for Christ's sake, in whose strength it is done, will accept the same, and graciously reward it. “Whatsoever is not of faith,” saith the apostle Paul," is sin.” Whoever doubteth, is condemned. These two declarations, though used in relation to the food we eat, is applicable to every action. Without faith, we are expressly told, it is impossible to please God. It accredits God in whatever he says or commands: “. The believer does not receive any thing as God's command, without conviction that it is really such. - Faith is built on knowledge, which knowledge is derived from the Scriptures, the revelation of God. Whatever is therein directly or by induction known to be duty, faith receives and performs. It rejects the opinions and practice of others, our own opinions, and secret impulses, as sufficient authority in themselves, for proving a work to be good : for all these may be contrary to the divine law.
Faith produces love to God and man, and to
the divine law. Without this love, no work can be good. It constrains the Christian to a cheerful compliance with the command of God. If we love not God, we cannot do our duty to him aright; neither can we do our duty to men aright, unless we love them also. If this disposition do not prevail, indifference or evil passions will; both of which are immoral, or contrary to the divine law, which requires love.
Again. A work to be good must be done from a principle of obedience. It is not sufficient that we perform certain actions, because agreeable to our feelings, or our natural disposition. In all these our duty is forgotten, and God is not honoured. The believer feels a willingness to do what the law requires, because it is God's law, and he is under obligations to obey it as a rule of life.
Finally; a work to be good, must be done with a denial of our own opinions, our honours, our profits, our pleasures, and a submission and subjection of ourselves in all things to the Lord, whose we are as his creatures.
Such are the essential principles which produce and characterize good works, or actions conformable to the divine law-principles of spiritual life, or that life which originates in regeneration-principles excellent, and lovely, and commendable in themselves, and which produce excellent, and lovely, and commendable fruits. Of them we are destitute by nature: for we are by nature proud, unbelieving, lovers of ourselves, more than of God or others, disobedient and selfish. Of course, our actions or works, proceeding from such principles, cannot be good they cannot be conformable to the divine law.
3. The last property of good works is, the end they contemplate. This end must be the best possi. ble. It must be the same which the law by which
they are regulated, contemplates, and what is this but principally the glory of God? What better end can rational creatures propose to themselves than this? He is the greatest and best of beings; the source and pattern of all perfection ; the giver of every good and perfect gift; the God in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Subordinate to this principal end, is the happiness of our fellow-men, and our own, both in time and eternity. Between these two ends there is a close and intimate connexion. We cannot separate them : for if we sincerely aim at the first, we must also aim at the last : indeed, we cannot love God if we do not love our fellow-men; and we cannot love our fellow-men, if we do not love God. It is not necessary that we should always think of this end in our works. It is sufficient, if it be the prevailing desire of our souls, and tendency of our conduct. Thus a person who travels to a certain place, does not, every step of his journey, think of that place, though his steps all are directed to it. Without such prevailing desire, an action, good in itself, would be to no purpose. Besides, it is to be observed, that the event is not to be confounded with the intention: the event does not make the action good, unless it proceeds from a right intention : for it oftentimes happens, that actions evil in themselves, or proceeding from an evil intention, are directed by God to a good end; as they were in the case of Joseph and our Saviour*. ;
These properties of good works, must be, and are, all of them, included in a good work: for if any one of them be wanting, it must be defective.
Having thus considered the law and the properties of good works, we now pass on to the
Third thing requisite to form a correct opinion on
this subject; which is, the conformity of these works to the divine law. This conformity is either necessary or accidental. Necessary, when the work is of such a nature that it cannot but be good, such as dedication of ourselves to God, love of him and of our brethren. Accidental, when a work may be good or bad, according to the disposition with which it is done ; such as attending on the ordinances of worship, charity, hospitality, and the like. This conformity ad. mits of degrees, though in this life it is always im. perfect, because the spiritual life which originates this conformity, is imperfect. : The best of men struggle with the remains of corruption. They are sanctified only in part, though striving after, and seeking for, more sanctifying grace. .
These good works, the nature of which has now been explained, are divided into three great classes, according to the objects they contemplate, viz. - God, our fellow-men, and ourselves. They are works of godliness, when they relate to the first, and include all acts of religion, strictly so called; works of righteousness or justice, when they relate to our fel. low-men, including all the diversified works which belong to the different relations of life, from the highest to the lowest; works of sobriety or temperance, when they relate to ourselves, including all those works which promote our health, our comfort, and our happiness. Every situation in life has its pe. culiar works; and it ought to be the study of every ane, as it is his duty, to ascertain what they are, and do them. There are works to be done privately and publicly; in secret; before our families and friends ; and before community. The Christian's life is an ac. tive life. He must be doing the will of his heavenly Father, and in thus doing, he must progress. He must be going on to perfection, striving after more .conformity to the divine law; struggling more vigo
works; and it Every situation in our comfort,
rously against indwelling corruption. Like the shining light which shines more and more to the perfect day, he must walk in his path, going on from strength to strength; from one degree to another; adding to his faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity ; for if these things be in him and abound, they make him that he shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. !
(To be continued.) .
FOR THE CHRISTIAN'S MAGAZINE,
Letters from Mrs. Ilarriet Backus.
Canaan, 11th July:
H! my dear how innumerable are the mer. cies of our God! and how few our returns-how weak our praises ! “Are we,” as Dr. Watts says, “ of such hell-hardened steel that mercy cannot move ??? The kindness of a suffering, dying Saviour, the rich streams of mercy and forgiveness issuing from his bleeding wounds! will they not move these stubborn hearts to repentance and to love?
“Oh! 'tis a thought would melt a rock,
« Should stoop, and wish a mortal's loye !" My hard stupid heart frightens me.'“ Can I deem myself a child, while I come so far short of duty? while I am so altogether unprofitable? Scati., oh, my dearest Lord, these rising doubts and fears; smile on thy
VOL. IV.No. IV. 2 B