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" In Christ Jesus nothing availeth, but faith that worketh by love ;" — “ nothing availeth but a new creature.”—“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing ; but the keeping of the commandments of God.” i Cor, vii. 19. Gal. v. 6; vi. 15. According to the view given above, these several propositions perfectly coincide. The new creature exercises faith that worketh by love ; and “ this is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” “ He,” says the divine Saviour, “ that hath my commandments and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me." “ Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever 1 command you.” And St. John says,
“ And this is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” “ This commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God loveth his brother also.”
If St. James says, “ Faith without works is dead;" St. Paul plainly teaches that no faith availeth, except that which worketh by love. And when the former inquires, “ Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” he answers his own question, by adding, “ Seest thou how faith wrought by his works, and by works was faith made perfect: and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God.” James ii. 14-26.
The question' to be resolved in the decision of every man's doom at the day of judgment, according to numerous Scriptures, must be this, “ Was he a believer in Christ or not?”—If any one profess faith in Christ, it will be inquired, “ Whether his faith were living or dead ?” Whether or not it wrought by love of Christ, and of his brethren for Christ's sake?” As a man's actions when the whole shall be disclosed, determine this point, so will his sentence be: while the degree of the unbeliever's guilt will fix the measure of his punishment; and the believer will be graciously recompensed in proportion to his fruitfulness. This seems to elucidate and harmonize all the representations given us of this infinitely momentous concern. The holy judge himself hath solemnly warned his professed disciples on this all-important subject, when, with unspeakable dignity, he declares, “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works And then will I profess unto you, I never knew you, Depart from me ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand : and the rain descended, and the floods came and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." The wise man doubtless is the true Christian: his faith is living and obedient: thus he builds aright on the only sure foundation, and raises a permanent structure, which all the storms of life and death shall assail in vain. But many foolish men, professing to build on the tried foundation which God hath laid, are either misled by ere ring guides, or mistake the instructions and slight the warnings of wise master-builders : thus they deceive themselves with notions, and with a dead faith; their presumptuous confidence and disobedient profession will make way for the awful fall of their fair but baseless edifice, in the great decisive day; and unutterable astonishment, anguish, and despair, will seize upon them, when the frowning Judge shall leave them speechless, while, with an awful frown, he will say, “ I never knew you, Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”
Whether, therefore, we consider the author and origin of saving faith, its invariable attendants, its essential nature, or its distinguishing effects, we
find unanswerable proof that it is a holy exercise of the rational soul ; that it has its especial seat in the heart ; that it receives the light of heavenly truth in holy love; and it employs that light to invigorate and call forth into action all spiritual affections, and to render the believer "holy in all manner of conversation.". But if each view of saving faith, considered separately, demonstrate its holy nature : how powerful and overbearing is the evidence, when we collect all these converging rays into one focus, and estimate the force of these several arguments united together! If this do not convince the reader ; but he will yet contend that justifying faith is the mere assent of the understanding partially enlightened, and the reluctant consent of an unhumbled unholy heart, as terrified by the report of vengeance, to sue for mercy of which it feels no real need ; and yet that this selfish unholy faith sanctifies the soul, and produces most excellent fruit in the life ! Or that true faith is neither the one nor the other of these, but something between that can neither be defined nor described; he must retain his opinion, and be left as inaccessible to argument. Some may indeed question whether he do not verge to the honest but absurd exclamation of an ancient zealot,” Credo quia impossibile est :'(I believe, because it is impossible :) and, whatever favourable opinion we may form of his heart, we must again affirm that it is impossible for him to “ give a reason of the hope that is in him.” But if any one, allowing in general the truth of those things that have been stated concerning saving faith, should yet feel some hesitation about the use of the word holy in this connexion : the author will hold no controversy with him on this point. Provided the essential and unspeakably important distinction between living and dead faith were unreservedly allowed, and given its due prominence in the views and discourses of Christians and ministers; the rest would be in great measure a verbal controversy, from which every wise man would turn to more pleasant and profitable employments.
Some Reasons assigned for insisting on the Holy Nature of Saving Faith. It may probably be inquired by the reader, why we bestow so much pains to prove the holy nature of saving faith ; seeing we allow that the sinner makes no use of this holiness as an encouragement, and indeed seldom notices it, in his first applications to Christ for salvation ? To this question I would
1. It is in order to induce Christians, and especially ministers, to use the scriptural method of preventing men from deceiving themselves. It will be found at the great decisive day, that nothing has more conduced to quiet nominal Christians in impenitence and unbelief, than a groundless persuasion that they do indeed repent and believe. The laboured arguments, therefore, of the preceding pages are not so much intended for the use of newly awake ned persons, as for more established Christians; and especially for those who, by office or in charity, instruct and converse frequently with persons thus circumstanced. Indeed discussions on-such topics cannot be fully understood, except by those “ who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil :" and of course they are generally improper for the new-born babe. But the instructions publicly or privately given to inquirers, will accord to the sentiments and judgment of real Christians, and especially those of the pastors of the Lord's flock : whatever therefore tends to a sound understanding of Scripture, among those who already believe the gospel, will conduce to prevent self-deception in others, when first entering on a religious
profession. And prevention is almost our only hope : for the most able and experienced ministers have agreed, that the undeceiving of one, whom Satan has soothed into a false peace by an unsound profession of the gospel, is a thing which very seldom occurs.
It is commonly indeed answered, that “ many will deceive themselves, however we may state and explain the doctrine of faith :" but surely we should dread, as the most awful calamity, being in any degree accessory to the destructive delusion! And if we do not dread it on their account, we have proportionable need to be alarmed on our own, lest “ their blood should be required at our hands.” Even when the good seed, unmingled with tares, is sown; the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart, the wiles of the tempter, and the fascinations of the world, will influence many to “speak peace to themselves, when there is no peace :" but “ while the servants slept the enemy sowed the tares, and all their subsequent vigilance could not eradicate them; for these “ children of the wicked one” must be left intermixed with true believers till the harvest. Some good men indeed, in their earnestness to gather up tho tares, have endangered the wheat, and “ offended against the generation of God's children:" but may not vigilance and caution be used by way of prevention, without the least danger of that kind ?
If we do not, in the most careful and explicit manner, explain what we mean by salvation and by faith, Satan will prevail with men to catch at peace and comfort prematurely, and to use our words for this purpose : and thus we shall incur the charge of “ healing their hurt deceitfully," by “ speaking peace when there is no peace.” Men are exceedingly apt to conclude, even when the utmost caution is used in stating the doctrines of the gospel, that exemption from punishment and a title to future happiness constitute the whole of salvation, and that confidence in Christ to save them from wrath and bring them to heaven, though they do not concur in other respects with the design of his incarnation and mediation, is faith in him. And if they once get so thoroughly possessed of these notions, through our inaccuracy and ina cautious language, as to quiet their consciences by them; whenever we afterwards insist on the fruits of faith, and its sanctifying effects in holy tempers and good works, they will (not altogether without reason) charge us with inconsistency; and meet with numbers to encourage them in exclaiming against all these exhortations, as legal, as tending to bring them into bonda age.—So that while it is allowed that many, who give a very different description of faith from that which is here maintained, bestow much pains to guard their doctrine from abuse, and clearly show that true faith always produces holiness : it is also asserted that in these attempts they deviate from their own previous definition of faith, and substitute another idea in its place. True believers are doubtless holy in proportion to the degree of their faith : and if their hope be scriptura), the more assured it is, the more “ steadfast, unmoveable, and earnestly abounding in the work of the Lord,” they will certainly be found. But we inquire, whether many do not “think themselves something when they are nothing, and so deceive themselves ?" Whether many, who disclaim good works, do not satisfy their minds with visionary impulses, enthusiastical raptures, and a change of creed, though strangers to that holy calling of which the apostle spoke? 2 Tim. i. 9. Whether there be not a dead faith as well as a living faith? Whether the former be not often more confident than the latter? Whether there be not a groundless presumption, as well as “ a hope that maketh not ashamed ?" And whether an unholy faith and confidence can be sanctifying? It is true that several of the persons to whom these questions are proposed, are completely exculpated from all intention to loosen the believer's obligation to obedience: but good men may endorse and give currency to bad bills, and thus incautiously aid the dishonest to defraud their unsuspecting neighbours. Nor let it be forgotten, that we can only judge of the tendency of the doctrine, and are not at all required to decide on the intention of the teacher. Shrewd men of corrupt minds, such “ as privily bring in damnable here.
teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake," or from ambition and love
of popularity, will avail themselves of every expression in the works of respectable writers, which can be made to serve their pernicious purposes. They will detach them from their connexion, explain them in their own way, and draw such inferences from them, as the authors of them most heartily abhorred; and this especially after they are dead, and cannot explain themselves. And superficial readers or hearers, who want a cheap opiate to quiet conscience, will be emboldened, by a name of established reputation, to drink the fatal poison. The book whence the passage is quoted, and which, if fairly consulted, would furnish an antidote, is meanwhile neglected ; and thus “ Satan, transformed into an angel of light,” deceives the soul of the unwary.
Even while the apostles were yet alive, it was needful to guard professed Christians against being “ deceived by vain words :" nay, men of perverse minds” distorted the very language of inspiration to bring on others and
on themselves, swift destruction." We ought therefore to be extremely circumspect, not " to give occasion to those that seek occasion :” and we are expressly commanded to “gather up the stumbling-blocks out of the way." of those who inquire after salvation. The enemy will if possible sow tares ; he will do it while we sleep, by his own servants : but his triumph is in this respect complete, when he can prevail with the ministers of Christ to mix tares with the wheat, which they 'sow in their Master's field.
If it has then been proved that saving faith is a holy exercise of the soul, it is certainly of the greatest importance that this should be clearly understood ; and that the servants of the Lord should be fully aware of the consequences which result from a contrary representation, and even from incautious and unguarded expressions on the subject. Without embarrassing inquirers by distinctions which they cannot possibly understand, if a holy faith were constantly described in its nature and effects, and a holy salvation uniformly set before our auditories; and if men were earnestly cautioned to beware of counterfeits, awakened persons would be far less liable to be decieved by a dead faith into vain confidence than they are when such precautions are neglected. Without directly adverting to their own case, they wonld thus be imperceptibly formed to an habitual conviction, that salvation from wrath is inseparably connected with salvation from sin ; and that true faith receives Christ in his whole character, and in all his offices, with cordial approbation and gratitude ; and is in these respects widely different from a mere assent of the understanding to the doctrines of the gospel.
II. We insist on this subject thus earnestly, for the sake of such as are without. If men take offence at the real gospel of Christ, they alone are answerable for it: but if we state things unscripturally, and so needlessly stumble and prejudice them, we become accessory to their destruction. Now, they that are without are liable to be stumbled in various ways by the subject before us.
The doctrine of salvation of free grace, through faith alone, by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and an interest in his atonement, and not in any sense by our own works, is sufficiently offensive to the pride and carnal enmity of man's heart, and entirely contrary to all his vain reasonings and imaginations. This cannot be avoided ; and we ought not to keep back or modify any part of the truth, to render it more palatable. But it must tend exceedingly to increase the prejudices of carnal men against the gospel, (especially those of the more moral, sensible, and respectable among them,) if we maintain that saving faith is not holy in its nature; that it precedes repentance, and completely justifies the man, who to that moment has been destitute of godly sorrow for sin, and every degree of a disposition to amend his life ; and that he is actually reconciled to God, as pardoned, accepted, and received to full favour, before he begins to repent or to do works meet for repentance! Yet all this and much more to the same purpose may be collected from the scattered passages, contained in the writings of those who have espoused this cause; and not merely inferred from their principles ! Worldly men will not annex our ap
propriate ideas to the expressions we use : but they will generally put the least favourable construction on them of which they are capable, and then draw their own conclusions. Indeed facts demonstrate that numbers, view. ing Christianity only at a distance, are set against the gospel by those distorted representations of it, for which some pious men zealously contend ! Many know enough of the Scriptures to perceive, that the doctrines of Christianity are there stated very differently, from what they hear or read in the discourses of several among those, who almost exclusively assume the title of evangelical. And being satisfied that some of their sentiments are unscriptural, their dislike to the whole plan of the gospel shelters itself under that conviction : and supposing that they are only averse to the errors of the system, which in all respects they really dislike, they adhere to their own forms and notions with more decided self-congratulation. Others, on the contrary, perceiving that the doctrines justly called evangelical, are certainly contained in the Scriptures, and hearing such exceptionable inferences drawn from them,
hastily conclude, according to the dictates of a proud and carnal heart that Christianity is chargeable with tne whole, and that such a religion cannot be from God! Thus they are prepared to hearken to the insinuations of infidels, who are more indebted for their success to the follies and vices of professed Christians, than to the strength of their own arguments, or even zealous efforts to promote the desperate cause.
Some individuals who now preach the gospel, have declared, that after they had received serious impressions, they were long prejudiced by these things, and could not receive the doctrines of grace exactly as proposed, even by those of reputation among the evangelical people with whom they were acquainted. This has occasioned many doubts and delays, and exposed them to divers temptations ; till a nearer view of the subject convinced them, that the opinions to which they objected had no foundation in Scripture, and vere not in reality connected with the doctrines in question.
It would probably be found, upon careful inquiry, that this consideration has not its due weight among us. In conversation one with another, we speak of the reception which our sentiments meet with among our friends and favourers, and the good supposed to be done: but do not enough consider what impression is made on occasional hearers, or readers, who are strangers to our system, or prejudiced against it. Perhaps, in some instances, thousands are rendered more determined in their aversion to the gospel, by the reverberated and enhanced report of some crude and unscriptural tenet, or some light and ludicrous expression, which injudicious friends most extravagantly applauded, and fancied very useful.
It has been above observed that when respectable persons adopt unscriptural sentiments, or use terms fairly capable of an ill construction, men of another character will go still further. They will leave the general doctrine unexplained and unguarded, or explain it in the worst sense : they will draw their own conclusions, and make their own use of it; and thus propagate a spurious gospel, by the authority of reputable names. In the mean time sensible and discerning men, who dislike the doctrines of grace, but take merely a distant and exterior view of the heterogeneous multitude, which, in one form or other, profess them, have their prejudices exceedingly increased, and even justified to their own consciences, by the wild and extravagant sentiments thus disseminated in the church. And, as if this were only a small matter, too many, alas ! both of teachers and disciples, fairly reduce their principles to practice! In domestic life, or im the intercourse of society, individuals of this sort disgust numbers by their religious cant, their extravagant notions, and their palpable violation of all established rules of moral and relative duty. Hence scandals and prejudices are multiplied and riveted ; and the opposers of the gospel, some erroneously, others maliciously, charge all these absurdities and iniquities on the whole body of those, who zealously contend for evangelical truth.
The fatal consequences of these things absolutely baffle all the powers of