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Jiciency of Faith, but through our own Folly and MisconduSl in neglecting to make a right Use of so excellent and effectual a Means.—Be that as it may, Faith without Works is expresily declared to be insignificant: and theretore cannot be esteemed sufficient in any other Sense, than as it naturally and generally tends to our Growth and Improvement in true Goodness.—But as it is probable that among the first Converts to the Gospel, it seldom failed of producing this Effect j it is the less to be wondered that St. Paul considers it as including in itself all the Virtues of Christianity, and giving a Title to the Rewards of the Gospel.
I Am sensible the Generality of Christians have supposed a Connection between Faith and Salvation of a very different Kind from what has been here explained. To which they have been led by the seeming Opposition, which every where appears in St. Paul's Writings between Faith and Good Works. The Apostle discovers on all Occasions a particular Zeal on this Head. He does not fay that Faith saves us by making us righteous, which is the Doctrine here maintained: but that our Faith shall be imputed to us for Righteousness. He seems, in very many Places, to ascribe our Salvation wholly to the former: in others he evidently considers it as a Sort of Equivalent for our Desects in the latter.—This is a real
and and great Difficulty. But I apprehend nothing can be inferred from it, except this, that St. "Paul is not yet perfectly understood. Whatever be his Meaning, of this we are very sure, that he could not mean what has been often imagined. He could not mean that the Governor of the World would deal unjustly with his Creatures; or that Justice would allow him to diftribute Happiness, without Regard to the Merit of the Recipients j or lastly, that Faith only was meritorious, and Good Works of no Value at all. This, I fay, he could not mean: because it is contrary to Right Reason j because it is contrary to the Declarations of St. James; because it is contrary to his own Declarations. On Supposition therefore that the Difficulty alleged were really unanswerable, it proves nothing but our own Ignorance; nothing but, what every one allows, the Difficulty of interpreting St. Paul's Epistles.
Bu T after all, perhaps these Passages are less obscure than has been supposed—It has been justly observed by those Writers who attempt to reconcile the two Apostles, that in numberless Places the Works spoken of by St. Paul were nothing else but the Performance of the Ceremonial Law: whereas Faith draws after it, by natural Consequence, a Train of Moral and Christian Virtues. In this Sense therefore it is in no Degree surprizing, that Salvation
is is ascribed to Faith rather than Works. Nay it is persectly agreeable to the Scheme here laid down. And this Consideration alone will greatly diminish the Number of those Palsages which may be alleged against us. — But still, it must be owned, there are Passages, in which Moral Virtues seem to be excluded from any Share in effecting our Salvation; and the whole of it ascribed to Faith only. Concerning this Point I would affirm nothing rashly; not, I mean, as to the Sense of the Apostle. But the following Account I judge most agreeable to Reason, and to other Parts of the Sacred Writings. And it seems to me that the Passages in Question will fairly and naturally allow us to interpret them in Conformity thereto.
Though the Happiness prepared for us in a Future State will be exactly proportioned to our Good Deserts, as Reason and Equity require; yet these Deserts, considered in themselves, give us no Claim or Title to Happiness. The Blessings we enjoy, even in this Life, are strictly and properly the Gift of God ; and indeed, setting aside the Performance of Promises, Expletory Justice can have no Place at all in his Benefits to his Creatures. Were any Man suffered to pals all his Days upon Earth, without once tasting of Grief or Pain; to such a Person, however innocent, however dutiful to his Maker, it could surely be esteemed no
Injury, Injury, should God deprive him of his Life and his Being together. How such a Proceeding might consist with Wijdom and Goodness is indeed another Question; but in regard to Justice the Cafe is quite clear.—And if Creatures of a mixed and irregular Character have a suitable Mixture of Bliss and Woe, the Case is still the fame; here is evidently no Room for Complaint or Murmuring: I mean, when we consider Individual Persons, without reflecting on their Comparative Goodness.If indeed we do this, distributive Justice will require a more regular State of Things, where every Man may be happy or miserable in proportion as he has been virtuous or vicious.— But there is no Occasion for such a State to be much superior to this, either in Degree or Duration. Nothing further is requisite, but that Goods and Evils may be more equably disposed: that, when all Accounts come to be fairly ballanced, no Man may appear to have been a Gainer by his Vice, or a Loser by his Virtue; but, on the contrary, the best Men to have been the most favoured by the Governor of the World.—So far will Justice require j and no farther. Whatever Prospect we have beyond this, it is the Gift of God through Jesus Christ. It is entirely owing to God's free Bounty, that our Future Happiness will be immensely great, and infinitely durable. It is more especially owing to his Mercy, F through through Christ, that our weak and imperfect Obedience, frequently interrupted by wilful Transgressions, and seldom free from lamentable Infirmities, shall yet be accepted in the same Manner, as if it was intire and perfect; all Offences being cancelled, upon our sincere Repentance, and all Penalties beyond the Grave being effectually, and for ever removed. This being the Case; the Apostle
might surely affirm, that we arc not justified by our own Righteousness. He might affirm this, because he was ready to support it with this incontestable Proof; that we have all finned, and come Jhort of the Glory of God. Had our Righteousness been free from all Desetts; it might have been thought sufficient for cur purification: I mean, our Exemption from future Sufferings. But as we are all guilty before God, our Title to Salvation must be derived from a quite different Source. And this Source is evidently no other, than the all-sufficient Merits of our Redeemer; through whom we have received Remission of Sins, and are made Heirs of Everlasting Life.
But if Good Works be not the Cause of our Salvation, yet are they not the proper, the necessary Qualification ?—If they are, no Man can be Javed. For no Man can pretend to be so qualified: because, as I have already observed, no Man can plead Universal Righteoufiiefi. And this it is, which St. Paul means