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tive dictates of divine revelation. • Can God,' it has been impiously argued, by his absolute will com• mand, or by his almighty power perform any thing • that is EVIL? To the humble christian, the answer is both plain and easy-' God can command, • and God can perform whatever he pleaseth, and • whatever God does command or perform, or com• mand to be performed—is GOOD.'
Another of these subtle theses, much agitated in the theological schools, and which is held out as the test of modern orthodoxy, is this : • Are good ' works necessary to salvation ? When couched in these terms, the question is ambiguous; and, by explaining the term “ SALVATION' in two different ways, may be answered either negatively or affirmatively : thus, · Are good works necessary to’ (bring us into a state of) salvation ?' Assuredly not. • Are good works necessary to' (keep us in a state of) * salvation ?' Assuredly Yes. This has ever been orthodox protestant doctrine ; and it was the publicly avowed, and authorised doctrine of the Scottish episcopal church, in the time of its first regular establishment, as appears from the tenth of the ecclesiastical canons, deliberately drawn up, and duly sanctioned anno 1636'. This canon ordains, • that all ministers shall, as their text gives • occasion, urge the necessity of good works, as they
By reason of the subsequent troubles, these canons were never reduced into practice; and they are not adapted to the constitution of the church at present,
would be saved ; and remember that they are via • regni, the way to the kingdom of heaven, quamvis non sint causa regnandi, howbeit they be not the cause of our salvation.'
To this declaration of our worthy predecessors we are desirous to adhere ; inasmuch as the distinction via regni, quamvis non causa regnandi,' which the canon, in the words of St Bernard, has laid down, is completely conformable to the doctrine of all the Antipelagian Fathers, and amply sufficient to silence all polemical wrangling about the necessity of good works ; which, in the emphatical language of Article XII. · though they cannot put away our ' sins, nor endure the severity of God's judgement, ' yet, when springing from a true and lively faith, ' are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ.'
The busy and fertile intellect of man has, however, occupied itself with another enquiry on this subject, of a nature more curious than christian. The enquiry is regarding the good works of heathens--what effects are to be attributed to them ; and in what estimation they are to be held, as to their present quality and ultimate reward. Respecting this point the Greek and Latin Fathers differed very widely. Justin Martyr, who was a Greek, and who, previous to his conversion to christianity, belonged to the Platonic school of philosophy, speaks, X X 2
even after his conversion, as I have already shewn', very favourably of Plato's master, Socrates. On the other hand, the Latin Father Tertullian, who seems, prior to his conversion to christianity, to have been a mere tabula rasa, as to philosophy of any sort, represents the great Socrates in a quite opposite light, as being, by his own confession, actuated by an attendant spirit, whom Tertullian, as I have also shewn in a former Letter, hesitates not to call • damonium,' a devil, pessimum revera pædagogum, • the worst in facı of all tutors.' The leading doctor of the Latin church, the celebrated Augustine, denominates the good works of heathens - splendida * peccata '--splendid sins. Perhaps both Tertullian and Augustine have overstepped the bounds of christian propriety in their expressions of censure, as much as Justin Martyr and others have done in their expressions of commendation. We are therefore in duty bound to regard both the one and the other, with an eye to the circumstances of their respective countries, and former principles; while we strictly adhere to the opinion of the most conspicuous part of the reformed church, the venerable church of England, as expressed with becoming modesty in the XIIIth Article-Works done • before the grace of Christ, &c. are not pleasant to God, &c. yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of • sin."
Yet See Letter XI. p. 102,
2 Letter XI. p. 103.
Yet it is not so much the importance of heathen morality, which ought, as a topic of theological discussion, to claim the attention of the christian divine, as the praise which he hears or sees daily bestowed on the heathen sages. The condition of the
pagan world, and the thoughts to be entertained by the christian regarding it, I have already disposed of, in a manner which, I trust, has some claim to notice'. Still, however when christian morality is in danger of being put (to say the least) on a level with any system or systems of heathen ethics; when under the sanction of great names, a heterogeneous and superfluous mixture of paganism and christianity is vamped up, to the visible corruption of christian practice, and to the designed injury of the true christian faith, I dare not forbear from warning those, who are fitting themselves for the ministerial office, against such ensnaring errors ; and from entering my humble protest against their admission into that portion of the church, in which I have long esteemed it my honour to serve.
In the whole catalogue of modern maxims, is there any one more ready to be adduced, in every such discussion as the present, than the unseemly couplet of the Poet
“ For modes of faith let senseless zealots fight,
Yet where, I well may ask, is there to be found a more antichristian sentiment than is sported in these ridiculous, though highly applauded lines? Is the man who has been, by baptism, made a member • of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the • kingdom of heaven? Is he who has been signed with the sign of the cross, in token' that he shall • not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ cru'cified, and manfully to fight under his banner,' &c. and who, when arrived at the years of discretion, has moreover ratified and confirmed the solemn promise and vow which was made in his name at his baptism? Is he to be characterized as a sense« less zealot,' because he fights for that mode of faith, for which he swore at God's holy altar that he would fight? While the man, on the other hand, who, having been admitted to all the privileges of our holy religion, and who having come under the same sworn engagements with us in all, has wilfully and contemptuously rejected the former, and broken the latter ; and has wantonly departed from the true faith and fear of God's holy name and his word, by embracing the Socinian debasement of the person of his glorious Redeemer, or by glorying in the deistical denial of all the life-giving doctrines of the gospel-is to be applauded, and · his • life' pronounced to be in the right, because it may happen that he has no inclination' to murder, steal, or whore?' God forbid. Let then the poet, the philosopher, or the preacher who dares utter such blasphemy, be regarded as • beside himself;' otherwise it shall certainly be more tolerable for the land
Sec Letter XXV. p. 278, 279.