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though far from completely perfect; and without which works, the receiving faith would lose its acquired hold, and the annexed grace become of none effect. This is the sense in which the church wishes its firm belief of justification by faith to be understood -by faith not operating as the cause of our justification, any more than works; but as the instrument by which, in the apostle's emphatical language_' we * may apprehend that for which also we are appre• hended by Christ Jesus'.'

LETTER XXXIII.

THE subject of the preceding Letter being of such importance, and so necessary to be well understood by the theological student, I am induced, on that account, to resume it in this Letter. It will not be denied, that it is upon the right understanding of every doctrine, that a right application of the doctrine depends. I come therefore to discuss a topic intimately connected with the doctrine

just

> Philip. iii. 12

just laid down,' whether and how far the keeping • of God's commandments is with man a matter of ' possibility.'

It might be thought that, if in any point of religious concern unanimity were to be found, it would be found in a point of such positive injunction, and universal obligation, as man's obedience to the precepts of his God. Yet even here perplexities have occurred, and learned disputations have been agitated, of more hurtfül tendency, I fear, in practice, than of beneficial tendency in theory. The impossibility of keeping God's commandments' is not only common language; but with many this impossibility is received as an article of faith. The shorter catechism, as it is termed, of the Westminster Assembly, decisively asserts, that no mere man, since

the fall, is able perfectly in this life to keep the . commandments of God, but doth daily break 'them, in thought, word, and deed. Now to say the least, the assertion that no mere man is ABLE'is ambiguously expressed, (whether through inadvertence or design, it matters not), since, if referred, as it may be referred, to the constitution of the commandments of God, it is an assertion manifestly injurious to the goodness of the master ; while, if referred to the constitution of human nature, it is an assertion sadly discouraging to the exertions of the

To add to this discouragement, the frequency and extent of the breach comprehended in the clause, · but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed,' may be thought to insinuate thc utmost pitch of actual transgression; whereas the apostle's declaration, • he that offendeth in one

"roord,

servants.

point is guilty of all ',' on which the insinuation is built, does not imply the actual violation of all; but only that one offence makes the offender liable to the penalty of the law. For so the apostle explains himself in the succeeding verse if thou commit

no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law ;' a maxim in every respect confirmed by the practice of all criminal courts.

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Indeed the whole of this doctrine of Inability does, in my conception, flow from a fallacious theory; and, being founded in error, cannot be but defective in its structure. It sets out with this as a first principle, that man is arrived at the full use of all his faculties, and is thus, on the footing of a servant, entering into the family and service of a strange master, with whom he had previously had no connection, and with the nature of whose work he was altogether unacquainted, nay ignorant of the

very will and pleasure of his master, with respect to the work to be performed. In this case, there might perhaps be some ground for the many attending difficulties, and even for the harsh suppositions with which the business in hand is clogged,

but

i St James ii. 10. 2 That this is the true meaning of the word eroycos, translated guilty, every Greek scholar will readily acknowledge.

but which are the natural result of the erroneous principle on which it is founded. Whereas the truly christian scheme, whích, I grieve to observe, is in many theological systems too little thought of and attended to, presents us with a view of things wholly different, and places us at once in a state of close and intimate relation to the great One, whose precepts we are to obey. It exhibits us, not as servants hired into the family of the living God, but as children of • our Father who is in heaven ;' being, if not born in the household of faith, yet early called into it, and gradually nourished and instructed in it, under the watchful eye of a loving Father, and with the continued aid of a most affectionate elder brother-being · joint heirs' with him, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may • be also glorified together': It moreover describes the work, which we have to perform in our heavenly Father's household, not as a grievous load of constrained and impracticable duties, but as a 'ser• vice' which is perfect freedom, as a profitable and delightful task which we are to learn, and in which we are daily more and more to improve, from the instructive directions, and with the daily assistance of the same skilful Master, who lays down the rules by which we are to walk, and is still training us up to the practice of them. As christians therefore (which designation it is, that constitutes the relation in which we stand, and of which we 2 A

ought

Rom. viii. 17,

ought never to lose sight) we are, if I durst say so without being misunderstood, not so much God's servants, as we are God's children ; and, in virtue of that relation, scholars of Christ, whose precept is, ' Learn of me, and whose apostle has expressly assured us, that · all scripture is given by inspira*tion of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for re

proof, for correction, for instruction in righteous• ness, that the man of God may be perfect,

throughly furnished unto all good works? In this character it will appear, that all our labour and application tend principally to our own wellbeing, our own edification, without in the least profiting him, under whose tuition we are placed ; and that however pleasing or displeasing our conduct may be to him in the mean time, the greater gain or loss will in the end redound to ourselves. Nay it will follow, that while we are thus under him, who was long ago declared to be a' teacher come from God, it is not to be expected that we shall or that we can attain unto that measure of skill and perfection in ‘ science' not · falsely so called, which is to be the study and employment of our whole lives,

Perfection, in the full abstract meaning of the terin, is not required of us; as being so far above the lot of mortality, that it is not to be met with here below, in any one undertaking or acquisition

what

2 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17

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