תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

And now, Sir, will you indulge me the fame freedom, which you have hitherto borne with; and allow me to be your faithful monitor, in an instance or two?

I would first put you in mind, that it is of much greater consequence to your highest interests, to make it evident to yourself, that you are indeed justified in the sight of God, than to exercise your mind with this arbitrary distinction of a first and second justification. If you are indeed interested in Christ by faith, if you do indeed experience a change of heart and life, in consequence of your faith in him ; and make a progress in the divine life, in the mortification of your corruptions, in love to God and your neighbour, and in heavenly mindedness and spirituality, you will not be examined at the bar of your Judge, about your acquaintance with these modern distinctions; or whether those qualificati ons which will then be gloriously rewarded, are the fruits of the first, or the conditions of a secondary justification.

I would again intreat you to consider, that the life of a Christian is a life of faith in the Son of God. Weare not only justified by faith, but we are faved by faith; and the just must live by faith. Whatever becomes of this debate, you may be therefore certain, that you can be no longer fafe, than while you are humbly committing your soul to Christ as to the author of your eternal fal. vation, depending upon him as the Lord your righte. ousness; and expecting all supplies of grace from his fulness. And believe me, Sir, a lively exercise of faith in Christ will afford you more present comfort, will much more quicken you in devotion and true holiness; and more strengthen and establish you in every good work, in your progress to the heavenly kingdom, than all your ftudies in these fruitless doctrines, about a first and fecondary juftification.

I will take leave to add onee more, that the way to heaven is certainly a way of holiness; and without holinefs you can never see God. It therefore concerns you to look to the Fountain of holiness for all supplies of grace, to watch over your heart and life, to endeavour and pray for a holy conformity to the whole will of God; and amidst and after all, to bring your great defects to the blood of Cbrift for pardon; and continually implore

U

the divine influences, that the work of grace may be carried on in your soul with power, untill you arrive without spot and blameless, before the throne of your sovereign and righteous Judge.

That you may thus be directed safe amidst all the snares and delusions in your way, is the prayer of,

Sir,

Yours, &c.

LETTER XV. Wherein the Apostle James's

Doctrine of JUSTIFICATION BY WORKS, in his second Chapter, is diflinctly reviewed, and set in its genuine light, by a comparison with the Apostle Paul's Doctrine of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.

SIR,

YOU acknowledge, that if it were not for one dif

ficulty in your way, you should think the evidence offered against the doctrine you have proposed, must be conclusive: but you do not know how to give

into a scheme, that is not only exprelly contradičed, i but particularly refuted in the word of God. The • apostle Paul (you fay) does indeed seem to speak in « favour of my principles : but he ought to be interpre<ted by the apostle James, who exprefly rejects my in

terpretation of St. Paul's discourses on the subject beo fore us.

What appearance therefore foever there may be, in favour of my principles, in St. Paul's epistles, • these must not be understood in direct contradiction to

the express declarations of another inspired writer.

You therefore desire me to Thew, how it is poffible to « reconcile my scheme with the doctrine of St. James, " in the second chapter of his epistle, from the fourteenth ( verfe to the end.'

If this be all your remaining difficulty, I hope, it will not prove an hard matter to give you full satisfaction, that the doctrine of the apostle James in the place refer. red to, is no ways inconsistent with the doctrine of our justification by faith, fo plainly and fully taught by the apostle Paul in all his epiftles'; and therefore, that our

[ocr errors]

justification by works (in the sense that I oppose it) has no foundation at all in the whole word of God. That this

may be set in a proper light, there are two or three things necessary to be premised, and distinctly considered, previous to a direct and immediate view of the consistency and concurrence of these two apostles, in the doctrine of a Ginner's juftification by faith, notwithstanding theirseeming disagreement and repugnancy.

It should first be premised, that these two apostles must be understood in such a sense, as will make them confiftent. We must take this for a principle, that whatever becomes of our schemes, on one side or the other, the Spirit of God cannot be inconsistent with himself, nor teach contrary doctrines. That interpretation there. fore must be right, which will make them consistent ; and that must be rejected, which sets them at variance, and makes their doctrines utterly irreconcileable.

It should be likewise premised, that the apostle James must be understood in such a sense, as will make him consistent with himself. We may no: suppose that he teaches such a doctrine in this part of the second chapter, as is repugnant to the doctrine which he himself teaches elsewhere, in the fame epistle. Let us then see if we cannot find the doctrine I am pleading for, taught in this very epistle of James, particularly in chap. i. ver. 5, 6, 7. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not ; and it Jall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the lea, driven of the wind, and tosed. For let not that man think, that he fall receive any thing of the Lord. From whence I argue, if faith be the way to divine acceptance and audience of our prayers, the means by which our duties will find a gracious reception with God, and without which they will be rejected ; then we are justified by faith and not by works. For it is undoubtedly true, that what justifies our obedience, and renders that acceptable to God, does likewise justify our persons, and render them acceptable to him. And our works can have no hand in justifying our persons, if our works. themselves are justified by faith ; but condemned and rejected without it, as the apostle teaches in the cited text.

So we learn from chap. v. 15, 16. that the effectualfer. vent prayer of the righteous man is the prayer of faith.

Moreover, if fpiritual wifdom, or practical holiness, be the fruit and effect of faith (as we are told that it is in the quoted text) then our justification and acceptance with God (by which we do, and without which we cannot obtain the divine influences to our progressive fanctification) is by faith, and not by works. I think, no man will pretend, that we are so acceptable to God, as to obtain his fanctifying influences, in a progress of wisdom and grace, before we are justified: or that we are functified by faith, and justified by works. Whence it follows, that faith is the mean or term of our justification, because it is the mean or term of our fanctification; and that a holy life cannot be the condition of our acceptance with God, because it is the confequence and fruit of that faith, by which we find acceptance with him.

Another text to the fame purpose, we find, in chap. ii. 5. Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chafen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which God hath promised to them that love him? It might be read, hath not God chosen the poor, to be rich (as a similar phrase is translated, Rom. viii. 29.) to be rich with or by faith, and heirs. Does it not plainly teach us, as that the end of God's chafing ibe poor, was that they might be fpiritually rich, fo that it is faith which enriches them, and constitutes them heirs of the kingdom ? And you will readily own, that if we are heirs of the kingdom by faith, we are justified by faith. The kingdom is prepared for them that love God: and faith is the source of that love to God, by which we are qualified for the kingdom. Faith worketh by love, Gal. v. 6. And therefore faith is the term or medium of our acceptance with God, and title to the kingdom. These texts must therefore be remembered, in our explication of the context you refer to, that we may not represent the apostle as teaching contradictions or in. consistencies.

It must also be premised, that we fhould underftand the reasonings and conclusions of the two apofles Paul and Janies, according to the profeffed scope and delign

their discourses, and according to the subject they are

professedly treating upon : and we should congder the expressions they each of them use upon the point in view, not as words occasionally and transiently spoken : but as what relate to, and are connected with, the subject matter profeffedly undertaken to be explained. This must be always allowed to be a natural and rational rule, which ought to be strictly adhered to, in the interpretation of scripture. Now then, let us look a little into this case; and see if we do not find the scope and design of these two apostles very different, where they speak fo very differently of juflification by faith, and by works.

Paul designedly handles this question, How a guilty, condemned and convinced finner shall get reconciled to God, find acceptance with him, and have a title to the heavenly inheritance ? He treats of such who are under fin, whose mouths must be ftopped, who are all become guilty before God; and who have all finned, and come fbort of the glory of God, Rom. ii. 9, 19, 23. He confiders the impossibility in the nature of the thing, that such as these can be justified by works; because when they have done all they can do, they yet in their highest attainments continue finners, and remain under guilt. This is the plain and manifelt scope of the two first, and part of the third chapters to the Romans. He thence proceeds to shew which way, and which only, they may hope for acceptance with God; in the remaining part of the third, and in the following chapters of that epiftle. This cannot be by the deeds of the law. Therefore by the deeds of the law, jball na flesh be justified in his fight, chap. iii. 20. But it must be by the righteoufness of Godt without the law, by the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ ; and by faith without the deeds of the luw. ver. 21, 22, 28. This is the subject, that the apostle Paul keeps constantly in view, in his epifles to the Romans and Galatians.

But then on the contrary, the apostle James designed. ly handles this question, whether carelef licentious professors of Christianity may presume upon their ob. taining salvation, from their doctrinal faith, or from their notional and historical afsent to the truth of the gospel? and thence he takes occasion distinctly to consider, whicla

« הקודםהמשך »