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works, it must be acknowledged that there are some delicate shades of distinction, extremely difficult to trace, as to the exact point at which the confines of the divine influence terminate, and the sphere of human exertion begins. On the utter inefficiency of man's unassisted efforts, the scriptures leave us not a moment's doubt. “ Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, our sufficiency is of God ;'*—"No man can come unto me except my Father which hath sent me draw him ;'-"By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast;"I-Such language as this is not to be mistaken ; and, lest we should conceive the most distant probability of our receiving our reward of “debt,” and not of "grace” alone, we are further assured that “in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing;"S and, that “ every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."|| Nor must the principle be ever overlooked in enquiries on this important subject, that even faith itself has no merit of its own; that at the very best it is only * 2 Cor. iii. 5. + John vi. 44. Eph. ii. 8. § Rom. vii. 18.
|| James i. 17.
the instrument and not the cause of justification ; that works, if they justify at all, can only testify oạr faith, and make us “accounted righteous” in the eyes of our fellow men; and that the most triumphant saint that ever enjoyed the intimate favor and presence of his God, through Christ's atoning blood alone obtained access by one Spirit” there, and by the title of Christ's merits alone can expect his eternal inheritance hereafter.
But when, in contrast to these strong and remarkable expressions, we bring together the multitude of considerations which, it is not too much to say, constitute the general practical purport and tenor of scripture,—the moral of all its history,—the deduction from its most speculative doctrines, prompting to vigilance, activity, and exertion, it must be acknowledged, I repeat, that there arise some apparent difficulties as to the relative efficacy of the supposed contending principles concerned with our justification, which well deserve a particular enquiry, and which, perhaps, may be partially elucidated in a humble attempt to interpret the meaning of the text.
I. And first let us enquire into the supposed discrepancies between St. Paul and St. James. Now it appears to be reasonably conjectured that the principal part of St. James's Epistle was written purposely, not to contradict, but simply to explain certain passages in the writings of his brother apostle, which, even in those days, had been by some misguided persons very imperfectly understood. And the origin of those mistakes can be easily accounted for. One of the great and ruling principles, you will recollect, which St. Paul endeavoured, throughout his Epistles, to illustrate, was the relation which subsisted between what is called the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace; or, in other words, to prove the superior and transcendent value of that second covenant-gradually developed for ages, and completed by the gospel,—which declared that through the merits of Christ alone, and not by the works of the law, could justification be obtained. It was necessary for him, therefore, in order to substantiate his proofs of the excellence of the gospel-not only to shew his converts that the obligation of the law had passed away, and that all the intricate machinery of its rites and observances had lost their efficacy before the superior perfection of the more searching principles of the gospel, but also to state and illustrate the important truth that the works of man in general were never sufficient, after the fall, of themselves to please God, and could not even pretend to any kind of merit in his sight. And so he proves,---which he does especially, and with much eloquence too, in the beginning of his Epistle to the Romans,—that neither man's obedience to the law of nature, nor the law of Moses, was sufficiently perfect or sinless to please God by itself; on the contrary, that, in the very attempt, men lost themselves in every species of iniquity; that the “ Jews and Gentiles were all under sin ;" that “ by the deeds of the law there could no flesh be justified in his sight;"* and that therefore, to remedy this unhappy condition of nature, “the righteousness of God without the law was manifested, being witnessed by the law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ,” t so that Christians were no longer “under the law but under grace.” And he further illustrates the same doctrine by shewing that not even Abraham, or the best of the Patriarchs of old, could presume to claim God's favor by any merit or value in their works, but only through the principle on which they were done, viz. their faith in God, ş on account of the merits of Christ, whose atonement they already anticipated in the rite of sacrifice.
This then constitutes the leading outline of his so much misunderstood doctrine, which goes * Rom. iii. 9, 20. + Rom. iii. 21, 22. Rom. vi. 14.
§ Rom. iv. Heb. xi. xii. .
to establish the point that works are of no value in themselves, whether they be works of the law of nature, or the law of Moses, and could have no claim of their own to merit in the sight of God; but that man's only hope could be in that grace and mercy of God by which, on the condition of our faith and repentance, he condescended to accept the sacrifice and merits of his Son in lieu of our imperfect and all-insufficient righteousness. But yet, while he stated thus much, St. Paul never meant that the faith through which we were to be justified, was to be a mere dead and inanimate principle: he required indeed belief, but in that belief he comprehended all the range of its accompanying obedience: he demanded the soil, but he implied the produce; he spake of the tree, but he did not exclude the fruits. And so he plainly tells us that, though “in Christ, circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision, but faith,” yet that that faith itself “worketh by love ;"* and, though “it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he has saved us;" still, as he declares in the same chapter, “this is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works;"| * Galatians v.
+ Titus iii. 5.