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the other hand, sunk into a state of despondency, even from a just sense of their own unworthiness, so as to neglect the use of those means, when duly and regularly held out to them. Both these extremes are to be equally avoided, as they are e, qually fatal. The “ stewards of the mysteries of • God' must be true and just in all their dealings; they must not deny the comfort of the bread of life and cup of salvation to any humble supplicant belonging to the household of faith ; but be ever ready to dispense these, and the other benefits of their holy calling, with meekness and charity looking unto Jesus, the author and giver of every

good and perfect gift,' who has graciously invited *

all who are weary and heavy laden to come unto • him ;' and who assures us, that whosoever cometh • to him, he will in nowise cast out'.' Still howeyer must the church (that is, those whom God hath made the overseers of it) retain the prudent exercise of that wholesome discipline, committed to it, for . edification, not for destruction',' for mortifying • the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day • of the Lord Jesus. Atrocious cases of irreligion and immorality may thus, sometimes, require the full extent of that punishment known by the name of excommunication ; a punishment which ought never to be applied, but with the utmost possible caution and tenderness, with no mixture of personal ani

mosity,

2

1 St Matth. xi. 28. St John vi. 37.
3 St Matth. xvii.28, St John xx. 23.

2 Cor. x. 8. , 4 i Cor, v.

mosity, or worldly views of any sort whatever, lest the unhappy offender should be injured in his temporal concerns, or lest he should be unfitted for discharging the duties still incumbent on him, as a member of civil society, as a son, as a parent, as a subject, or as a friend. Excommunication is to be inflicted in a purely spiritual manner, and with views purely spiritual, in order to reform, not to ruin any one, for whom Christ died; in order, by the last resource which the church is permitted to adopt, to fit even the worst of sinners for being in due time restored to the favour and acceptance of his omniscient Judge, and the lost sheep to the healthful pasturage of that flock, from which he may have, for a while, grievously erred and strayed.

LETLETTER XXXI.

WHAT is contained in the two Letters im. mediately preceding brings us now to the discussion of another important branch of theological science, viz. the nature, the necessity, and the consequences, or, as some would have it, the merit of • GOOD WORKS.' In the usual mode of managing this discussion, so apparently simple, and easy of management, such a number of divisions and subdivisions have been introduced as, in my opinion,

, tend more to perplex than to edify the theological student-more to embarass the subject, than to illustrate it.

If, by good works, be understood a life and conversation conformable to, and directed by, the

precepts of christianity, (as must be the meaning of the term, when used by christians), it is certain that good works are not only recommended, but expressly enjoined by Christ and his apostles; and, on the strength of that express injunction, the church believes, that good works are, not generally, but absolutely necessary, and indispensibly obligatory upon all

christian

christian people, under the penalty annexed to the neglect of them ; whether the performance of them be, according to the strictness of divine justice, worthy of reward or not. We therefore detest, and reject the Antinomian error, which, by disparaging the doctrine of good works, discourages the practice of them; and, on the people committed to our charge, we do, on apostolical authority, inculcate the necessity which exists for their being zealous of good works'' This zeal, though in itself no way meritorious' of the salvation purchased for us, by the blood of Christ, and freely offered to us in the gospel, we believe to be in some measure preventive of threatened punishment

And as we disclaim all pretensions to merit, (in the strict sense of that bewitching term), it follows of course, that we cannot entertain the most distant thought of our being able to é supererogate,' that is, do more thun is strictly requisire, being conscious of the inany defects which attend our very best performances; and having been taught by our great lawgiver to acknowledge, that “when we shall have done • all that is commanded us, we are but unprofit• able servants '-unprofitable, literally, to our heavenly Master, who may be pleased, but cannot be benefited by our best services; and without the condescension of his gratuitous promise, unprofitable to ourselves, in as far as to be profitable to ourselves means our attainment of eternal life,

You

1 Tit. ii. 14.

3 See Article xii. 3 St Luke xvii. 10. and Article xiv.

1

You have no doubt often heard of the common and much applauded distinction between moral and positive obligation ; in consequence of which it is boldly argued, • that some things are commanded, • because they are good ;' and ' somethings are

good, because they are commanded. For this philosophical axiom there does not appear to me any just or valid authority; and I suspect that the end, which it is meant to serve, is not such as can well be vindicated. The philosopher may continue to harangue on the eternal laws of good and * evil, but as no adequate interpretation of this cant phrase has ever yet been afforded, I judge it safest and best for the humble christian to derive his ideas and definition of good and evil from the revealed will of that Eternal Being who owns no laws, but the perfections of his own nature; and who, by his own infinite wisdom and sovereign pleasure has impressed the indelible character of • GOOD,' upon what He has positively communded, and of EVIL' on what He has positively forbidden. In this case I, for one, am not ashamed to say, that I do acknowledge no morality, but that which flows from, and which depends upon the positive will of God. The genius of philosophy may, and I doubt not will, continue to sport with the fanciful distinction of moral' and * positive duties; but the introduction of any such fanciful distinction into a system of christian faith, is an act of presumption which ought to be severely reprobated ; as on no account is reason to be permitted to encroach upon the clear and instruc

tire

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