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the libertine, the cheat, the murderer, the sensualist, and in a word, the vilest sinner that we can think of, is at liberty to follow his vicious inclinations here, and yet, by only believing that Christ died for his sins, escape the curses of the law, and possess a state of happiness hereafter !
Now, my brethren, what do you think of such a faith as this? Can there be anything more grateful to flesh and blood than it is? Nothing can; it will suit any one; and we shall find few without it.
But then it may be objected, what does St. Paul mean, when he talks so much of being justified by faith, if it is not a belief in the merits of Christ for salvation, without any works of our own? Though St. Paul tells us we are justified by faith only, yet it is not this mistaken faith; it is a faith that works by love. A man is justified by faith, and faith is justified by works, And this is verified not only by our own reason, but by the testimony of St. Peter. " What doth it profit my brethren," says he, " though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a bruther or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed, and be ye filled ; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." It is nothing more than a bare insignificant belief, and hath nothing to make it acceptable to God. “ Yea a man may say,' says the Apostle, " thou hast faith, and I have works : shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”.
So you see by these plain texts of scripture, that by works it is that faith is made perfect: And when St. Paul talks so much, in the 3d and 4th chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, about being justified by faith, it was in opposition to the works of the law of Moses.
Many of the Jews who were just converted to Christianity, though they believed that Jesus Christ was the son of God, yet they thought it was still necessary to circumcise and keep the ceremonial law. Upon which St. Paul, to convince them of their mistake, tells them that by the deeds of the bur shall no flesh be jus ified. And though St. James says expressly that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only, he does not contradict St. Paul. He does not say a man is justified by the works of the ceremonial law, but by the works of humanity and Christian love; and this, not through any merit in the man, as though he deserved a reward for his good actions; because it is well known that no man can“ perform a perfect obedience to God's law, but it is by the free love of God that we are justified through the merits of Jesus Christ," who liath already made satisfaction to the divine Justice for our breach of his commandments.
It is clear then, that when St. Paul tells them they are justified by faith, it is not in opposition to such good works, as prayer to
God, acts of charity to our fellow creatures, and a sincere obedience to the precepts of the gospel. '
No, it is by such a faith only as is productive of these good works; and yet we have nothing to boast of, because there is neither merit in our faith nor our works in the sight of God; by which I mean, they cannot merit heaven. But God has made our faith and good works the conditions of our salvation, not for any merit in either, but only through the merits of Jesus Christ : 'the merit is all in him.
This, to every serious mind, will appear to be a clear explication of the doctrine of faith. But how many do we meet with who adhere to the most extravagant doctrines of their own sect; and without any examination, receive what should be searched into with the utmost care and circumspection. ,
But, my brethren, should we not, before we believe a doctrine, examine whether it be possible or useful? whether it be consistent with reason'and correspondent to truth? whether it is scriptural, and agreeable to piety and holiness ? surely we should. For all those doctrines that will not stand the test of such an examination, we may be assured are the doctrines of men, and not of God; and those who' propagate them are most justly to be looked upon as actuated by pride, ignorance, corruption, and destitution of the truth.
"A good and conscientious man is startled at à faith pregnant with absurdities ; and the libertine treats it (as it deserves) with cops tempt and ridicule, and from thence concludes that the whole Christian religion is a scheme of error and delusion. And as the libertine is always ready to take every advantage given
him by weak Christians against their religion, · here, he thinks, is a fine opening for him. He
would want no assistance to overturn such a doctrine of faith as this is, but imagines he can do it at once; having, as he supposes, a powerful battery of his own always in readiness to play against it. .
What is this faith, says he? It is no part of a virtuous character; on the contrary, it is folly to believe a thing that is not evident to my senses; and when it is evident to my senses, I cannot withhold my assent. But as no man can see beyond his horizon, so neither can he believe beyond his reason. · This is too vague an argument too carry any force with it; for if faith depends upon irre. sistible evidence only, why do the scriptures all along promise so many blessings to it? Or, why are we said to be saved by faith, when, if we take it in this light, the greatest libertine is not without it?',
To this the libertine may say, “ I believe nothing of the scriptures, therefore have nothing to do with them. I have no opinion of mysteries, nature and reason shall be my guide ; let others who chuse it go by the ignis fatuus of enthusiasm.
Well, we will argue with him from nature and reason. Nature instructs every one, whe has the least degree of reflection, that there is a God that created him, and has made him to know good from évil; and has also left him at liberty to chuse which he will: it must then. naturally follow, that this God will reward or punish him accordingly. Without this persuasion, there could be no religion at all ; and it must be the hope of recommending themselves to the favour of the supreme being that influences the conduct of such as walk by the light of nature.
And, pray now, what does Revelation require more than to believe that God is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him ? Does that which is an article of faith, under the light of nature, cease to be so because it becomes a branch of Revelation ? Shall a man believe those things which nature suggests, and disbelieve them after they have been confirmed to him by the Author of nature ? Monstrous partiality! and perverseness indeed !
Faith, says St. Paul, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things wt seen. What were the things hoped for before the publication of the gospel ? Were they not the rewards that God would give to the upright? What are the things not seen under the gospel dispensation ? Are they not the promised blessings- of heaven, through Jesus Christ? Where then is the mystery that the libertine has no opinion of?
In short, faith is the eye of reason, which will direct such benighted mortals as walk by the light of nature to the regions of bliss and