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received into favour or accepted by God: and I will venture to affirm, that, if Abraham had written a volume to persuade us he firmly believed in God's power, and the preference of his family, and yet had refused to kill Isaac, however finely he had reasoned the cause of his disobedience, God would never have esteemed such a faith as an act of righteousness; nor would St. Paul have allowed him to possess a particle of that sublime virtue, by which alone, he asserts, man is justified or accepted: he would never have deserved to be called the father of the faithful, the friend of God. We must not, therefore, attempt to part asunder what God hath eternally joined together, St. Paul and St. James, in the essence of their doctrine, mean the same: indeed, it is impossible it should be otherwise; for, there is but one Christ-HIM they preached, and him they glorified by their lives, By FAITH, St. Paul means the grace, favour, power, or aid that is to be obtained through Christ's merits only, in opposition to any merit that can be derived by fulfilling the mere letter of the written law, through the efficacy of a fleshly influence, or the exertion, fortitude, or more powerful affections of the human mind, without a belief in his all-sufficient atonement, and the impulse of love, which that belief creates. By works, St. James means the effect of that grace, in the power of keep
ing the commandments, or crucifying sin in the Aesh.
I shall now make a few general observations, which present themselves as a proper conclusion of this Discourse. We engage, at our baptism, not only to KEEP GOD'S HOLY WILL AND COMMANDMENTS (which I have endeavoured to prove to you is positively indispensable to be done), but also TO WALK IN THE SAME ALL THE DAYS OF OUR
Now, this second part of the engagement clearly points at their case, who have not been so happy as to do this, even in the qualified sense in which alone it can be done by the very best of Christians while in the body, and in this imperfect state: I mean, where, far from any uniform practice of holiness being evident, the sincerity even of endeavour has been wanting. This naturally introduces a few thoughts upon an article I alluded to in this division of my subject, and that is, repentance. St. James says, Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of All; that is, who wilfully continues in any one known sin. This must be true from the very nature of all holiness and pure morality. What, then, shall we say for those who, instead of walking in God's HOLY WILL AND COMMANDMENTS ALL THE DAYS OF THEIR LIFE, have unhappily passed through the greater part of their natural life in a general and wilful breach of them? Shall we cast them off as not being within the limits of redemption
-as having lost their day of grace? GOD FORBID! If so, what will become of most of us? How few walk uniformly in the ways of the Lord, from the first period that they became accountable for their conduct, to the last, of giving up the account! Let us magnify liis mercy, then, that conviction is come upon us, though late. The goodness of God leadeth to REPENTANCE.
It is the most precious gift that Christ could obtain for a fallen, weak, and sinful race of creatures : and the true sense of the Apostle's words, that, where sin hath abounded, there did grace much more abound, is this : that we should gratefully and humbly acknowledge the glorious benefit of repentance, intended to restore us to the favour of God, and not presume upon
the long-suffering of God, and wilfully continue in sin, in dependence on his mercy, at the expense of his justice. Our blessed Lord preached that men should repent and believe the Gospel. (Mark, i. 10.) And his Apostles (Acts, xvii. 30) commanded all men every where to repent, and turn unto Him. Here, therefore, is a commandment, which it concerns our greatest interest that we should keep, and walk in it, the rest of our days, as the beginning of a new life. St. Peter afforded this blessed consolation to those who are sincere in forsaking the error of their ways, and in closing with this gracious offer of mercy (2 Pet. üi. 9),
whereby, at the same time, he magnifies the goodness of God in Jesus Christ, that the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And, doubtless, this must be true, or he would not have sent his Son and servants to preach repentance to mankind : and the Apostle urges the necessity of not neglecting to close with God's gracious offer, by this serious consideration, that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: so that it behoves us, as we value our eternal welfare, to be found watching, and not to lose the advantage of one day of grace or trial, till the night cometh, when no man can work. St. Paul teaches us how we are to set about this needful work of repentance-and what is its first appearance; viz. a godly sorrow, that worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of: and thus he describes the fruits of it, by which we may know whether our repentance is sound or not; for, behold (says he), in that ye sorrowed after a GODLY sort, is proved by the CAREFULNESS it wrought in you (that is, to avoid a relapse into wilful sin); yea, what cleansing of yourselves (of every evil habit, of every sinful inclination); yea, what indignation (what remorse and abhorrence at your former wicked lives); yea, what fear (of falling into temptation); yea, what vehement desire (of knowing what is right); yea, what zeal (in doing good); yea, what revenging against yourselves (for former sensualities, by humbling and mortifying the deeds of the body). (2 Cor, vii. 7, 10, 11,) Here are the proofs we must give, my brethren, of our repentance from dead works, to serve the living God. And he further explains this, Heb. ix. 14, where we may understand, by the opposition of dead works, to serving the living God, the works of sin, from which we are to cleanse our consciences, to make room for serving God by works of righteousness. Here the Apostle is clearly recommending the fruits of a holy life, through the efficacy of Christ's death, as much as he is denying the sufficiency of the sacrifices of the ceremonial law to produce it. His argument runs thus : How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God! that is, of how much superior value is the sacrifice of Christ's death to atone for sin, and cleanse from the pollution of it, than all the sacrifices of the ceremonial law, since by it a power is derived to them that ask (and strive to obtain it), to cleanse the conscience from dead works, from the effects of sin, and enable us to work, so as to serve the living God, or, in other words, to keep his commandments, which always signifies the same