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impenitence which are thus overruled for good. But surely such an inference was altogether unfair. The moral quality of human conduct is one thing, and the result or consequence of it is ancther. It is written indeed, that “the wrath of man shall surely praise” God : but what then? Is it on this account commendable ? No: for it is written again, “ The wrath of man workcth not the righteousness of God.” It may be overruled for a purpose diametrically opposite to its tendency: but its tendency remains the same; and therefore its ill-desert is undiminished. Shall we then practise iniquity, that our unrighteousness may commend the righteousness of God ? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! We have no rule of life but his revealed law. If we transgress that law, we sin ; nor is our guilt removed by any use which his infinite wisdom and power may make of our transgressions.
2. The doctrine of " justification by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," is, in another point of view, made the subject of unfounded and injurious “report.” We are sometimes represented as holding this doctrine in such a sense, as greatly io diminish the importance of human character, and the strength of moral obligation. Because we maintain that God justifies (or pardons) men freely—that is, in the exercise of his own, self-moved mercy, and on account of the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son,—some affirm that we say, He does it arbitrarily, and without any regard to the character and conduct of those whom He pardons. Because we deny that repentance and new obedience are the meritorious ground of our forgiveness, we are considered as denying that they have any connexion with it. This would indeed be to “make void the law through faith.” But we repel the charge. We hold no such doctrine as is here imputed to us. We regard faith in a crucified Redeemer, not as a substitute for obedience, but as a principle of obedience. The faith in our adorable Saviour which we recommend, and which alone can entitle any to the benefit of his mediation, “worketh by love”-6
- purifieth the heart”_"overcometh the world.” Can we have no sufficient motive to evangelical obedience, without regarding it as the ground of our accept
ance with God? We think we can. Yea, we consider that humble and grateful sense of dependence and obli gation, which accompanies a cordial reliance on the sacrifice and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, a motive to obedience more ingenuous and more powerful than any which a mere regard to our own dignity and safety could supply : “ for the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they who live might live henceforth, not unto themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again."
That some do hold the truth in unrighteousness, we cannot deny. But is it fair to infer from this sorrowful fact, that the preachers of a free salvation encourage them to do so ? or that the doctrine of gratuitous forgiveness has an immoral tendency? By no means. On the contrary, the argument, with which Paul opposed that legal spirit which some Galatians manifested by mingling Jewish ceremonies with the simpler duties of Christianity, is applicable, in all its force,
to those who would put any thing else with the merits of Christ, as the ground of their acceptance with God. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ; that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin ? God forbid ! For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ : nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. ii. 16—20.)
But here it may be asked, “ If you really consider good works a constituent part of true religion, why would you enfeeble any motive which may induce us to perform them. Obedience to the moral law, you allow to be den sirable and salutary; nay, even indispensable : let us then have all possible encouragement to render it." I answer, Amen, with all my heart. But let us proceed
understandingly. What is obedience to the moral law ? It is not only acting and speaking, but feeling also agreeably to divine requirement. There are two senses, in which works may be called good. They may be so called with reference merely to their effect on others; or with reference also to the motive and intention, and consequently to the moral character of the performer. This latter class only, God will approve and reward. While therefore we would not enfeeble any right motive to duty, we must be careful not to suggest any of a different nature ; since, by so doing, we should encourage delusive expectations, and thus, at the same time, abate the force of those motives by which men should be actuated in their obedience to the revealed will of God.
Now we believe that the desire and hope of acquiring a title to divine favor, either wholly or in part, by our own doings, is a motive of obedience not only different from that which the gospel suggests, but altogether opposed to it. When some who attended on our Lord's ministry asked him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God ?" He answered, s. This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent." And said Paul, “ Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” If therefore we attempt obedience to the divine law on any principle which implies a contradiction of these plain statements, we cannot be accepted. If, being ignorant of God's righteousness, we go about to establish our own righteousness, we shall not submit ourselves to the righteousness of Christ; and, of course, shall not attain the end or spiritual fulfilment of the law.*
While then we esteem it “a faithful saying," that God saves us, “ not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost ;-—that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life :"-we “affirm it constantly, for this very purpose, “ that they who have believed in God, may be careful to maintain good works ;"-works which, being performed from gospel motives, as well as
* Rom. x. 3, 4.
according to gospel precepts, will be “good and profitable unto men ;" both to those who perform, and those who witness them.* We desire indeed to acknowledge with gratitude, “the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus : for by grace are we saved, through faith ; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.' But though “boasting is excluded by the law of faith," obedience is not ; “ for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We have just as much evidence of our forgiveness, as we have of our sanctification, and no more. Let none therefore slanderously report the doctrine of justification by grace: for it is a “ doctrine according to godliness.”
3. Similar mistakes and misrepresentations are made on the subject of original sin, or the corruption of our moral nature considered as a consequence of our first parents' apostacy; and the renewing influence of the Holy Spirit, which is hence declared necessary to prepare us for the kingdom of heaven. “ The doctrine of Depravity,” says one, I
66 teaches us that, having given us a nature entirely corrupt, incapable of good, and prone to all evil, God placed us in this world, with a command to do what he knows we cannot do; and then condemns us to eternal wo for doing that which he knows we cannot help doing.”—“ According to this doctrine, we come into life with a fixed character; we are then decidedly, entirely, and, for aught we can ever do, incurably wicked.”—“ If so, how can the days or years which may follow be termed a season of probation ?"_" Our doom is decided at the outset, and cannot be the consequence of a trial which it precedes. In fact, to talk of trial here is idle and absurd. Especially when we recollect that it is also declared by the advocates for this doctrine, that nothing less than a special, irresistible agency of God
an ever alter the character we bring with us into the world.”—“And to hasten, retard, or even procure this divine interposition is alike impossible, let
* Titus üi. 548. † Ephes. ii. 7-10. Discourse on Human Depravity, hy Edmund Q. Sewall. Printed for the Am. Unitarian Association
us do what we may. It lies in the counsel of his own will, and God only knows how, when, or on whom the regenerating grace shall descend. If any one share the blessing, his change of character will be as much the sole act of God, as if he had been without sense or motion up to the very moment of its occurrence. In his own time, God will operate on the soul for its recovery. Till then, existence is a mere blank. We can lose nothing, since all was lost at the beginning ; we can gain nothing, because all we do prior to regeneration is done in vain : we are not made worse by the neglect of moral means, for it is impossible to be more than totally depraved; we are not improved by the use of them, for that would detract from the sovereignty of divine grace, to which as the sole unaided cause, all change for the better is attributed.”
Now this portrait of the connected doctrines, Depravity and Regeneration,-or rather, this caricature of them, presents some very disgusting and appalling features, it is true : but let us not be needlessly alarmed; it is only a caricature : every feature is so distorted, that there remains scarcely a distant resemblance of the original from which the author professes to draw. Some affirm that we say such horrid things : but we do not say, them, or any thing which necessarily implies them. We declare indeed, and we take the Bible for our voucher, that "the whole world lieth in wickedness,” because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We believe they have done this in the free exercise of their moral faculties ;-faculties given to render them capable of holy duties and enjoyments, but perverted by them to an opposite purpose. We contend that mankind do so early and so uniformly transgress the spiritual law of God, as to prove themselves originally destitute of that supreme love to God, and that impartial love to each other, which are “the fulfilling of the law;" and consequently that, if left to themselves, they will continue to disobev it, and of course continue subject to the penalty of disobedience. We believe too, because the scriptures tell us so, that there is some connexion between the apostacy and corruption of our first parents, and the character of their descendants ; that " by one man's disobedience many were made sinners :"-not that we are answerable for the first