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highly important that, in shewing the necessity of obedience and good works we be careful not to cloud the doctrine of justification, or to mislead men respecting it.
It is evident that Paul esteemed that alone true faith which is productive of obedience, and * so doth virtually, although not formally, include
obedience, as the effect is virtually contained in (the cause.
So that the difference between men of judgment, as to saving faith, is more in words 'than sense, they all designing the same thing, * that we cannot be saved by that faith which doth 'not produce in us a sincere obedience to the laws ' of Christ.''
Thus the acorn'virtually although not formally' contains the oak; as well as the oak, when grown, virtually contains other acorns and future oaks. On such subjects men may speculate in philosophy; but acorns will not answer the purpose of oaks, notwithstanding their virtually containing each other. Nor will obedience answer the purpose of faith as to justification. We agree, however, that we cannot be either justified now, or saved at last, by that faith which does not produce in us a sincere obedience to the laws of Christ.'
• If a minister should, in a country church, tell his parishioners, that they will be saved if they : have faith in Jesus Christ, without explaining • to them what he means by faith ; or even if, with explaining to them the true sense of the word,
· Note from Whitby, Ref. 163.
• he makes this doctrine the constant subject of his 'discourses, and does not frequently inculcate the personal and social duties separately as essential parts of the character of a true Christian, and as an indispensable proof of his possessing a lively · faith, he will be very far from improving the morality of his audience.' 1
If a minister, either in a country church, or in any other place, or before any congregation, learned or unlearned, should preach in the manner here described he would prove, that he was wholly unfit for his important office; and would certainly be more likely to corrupt the principles, than to
improve the morals of his audience;' and to propagate antinomianism rather than Christianity. Much caution therefore is needful on this side as well as on the other, and much heavenly wisdom and faithfulness; which can only be obtained by constant, fervent prayer to “ the Giver of every “ good and perfect gift.”
* An illiterate person, and the bulk of country 'congregations consists of persons of that description, if he be told, that lying and drunkenness are forbidden by the laws of God, and that one of * Christ's apostles has declared that no liar or ‘drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God, will * see in this plain prohibition and declaration a rule í of life.' 2
In what sense is the declaration here quoted ' a ' rule of life?' This expression is used in different senses.
It may signify a rule, by which a may be
2 Ref. 164.
man ought to regulate his conduct : and every prohibition of lying and drunkenness, and other vices, as well as every command given to love God and our neighbour; in short, the whole moral law of God, as explained in the New Testament, by our Lord and his apostles, is in this sense a ' rule of life,' or ' a rule of duty;' which I hope but few of the evangelical clergy neglect frequently to set before their hearers, with suitable warnings and exhortations. But, by a rule of life' meant, a rule by observing which eternal life may be obtained : “ What good thing shall I do, that I
may inherit eternal life?” In this sense no prohibition or precept, except, “ Believe in the Lord “ Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” can, to a sinner be a rule of life: because none of our obedience in any other respect can entitle us to eternal life, which is “ the gift of God through Jesus “ Christ our Lord.” But it is seriously to be feared, (which is my reason for thus noticing the expression,) that multitudes expect, by abstaining from gross vices, and practising some outward duties, to obtain eternal life, though destitute of true repentance, living faith, and inward holiness; and that the religious instructions which they receive do not tend to undeceive them ; though this sentiment at once renders void the whole gospel.—The ambiguity of the language likewise gives Antinomians a great advantage in opposing us, when we maintain that the holy law and commandments of God are our rule of duty, or rule of conduct ; by amusing their bewildered hearers, with shewing that men cannot be justified and saved by this rule, which, (they will say,) if a rule of life, they might be.
• If he be told, that he has only to cherish faith in his mind, and he will be eternally happy, he ' will be apt to persuade himself that he has this ' faith, while he is guilty of every vice within his
means, to which he feels any temptation. He • will remember that the preacher only told him 'to have faith, and that he did not enjoin him to
abstain from lying, drunkenness, theft, and forni'cation. He believes that Christ died for the sins of
men, and is convinced, upon the authority of his ‘minister, that this faith is all which is required for
pardon and salvation. Whoever knows any thing of the common people, cannot but know that this ' mode of reasoning, easily suggested by the corrupt nature of man, is very likely to take place.''
This passage describes a style of preaching which I trust is wholly ideal: at least it has never fallen under my notice. Disproportionate statements, as to the different parts of divine truth; a far too general way of treating on practical subjects ; many unguarded expressions, and methods of exhibiting the grand doctrines of the gospel, which might be perverted by a carnal heart to an antinomian meaning ; I have heard and lamented, and protested against : but never, even from those who are justly considered as Antinomians, any thing so grossly abominable as that which is here described. At present, I am persuaded that the evangelical clergy, with but few exceptions, are very careful to caution their congregations against every antinomian perversion of the doctrine of grace: and I
am fully assured that there are very few in their congregations, who are not deeply convinced that
lying, drunkenness, theft, and fornication,' and every other instance of immorality or profaneness will, unless repented of, forsaken, and abhorred, terminate in their everlasting damnation, whatever doctrines they may assent to, or whatever confidence they may express; nay, that the very circumstance of encouraging themselves in sin, by perverting the doctrine of salvation by grace, will exceedingly enhance their guilt and condemnation. If there be any clergyman who teaches his congregation, that ' faith is all which is required for par'don and salvation, and does not enjoin them to
abstain from lying, drunkenness, theft, and fornication;' and shew the nature and effects of “ faith which worketh by love,” as distinguished from a faith consistent with such abominable wickedness; it will rejoice me, and, I will answer for it, most of my brethren, to see episcopal authority exercised in silencing him ; as well as in silencing many others, who in different ways corrupt the gospel of Christ, or disgrace it by their example. -We are fully aware that“ this mode of reasoning,
easily suggested by the corrupt nature of man, is likely to take place, both among the common ' people, and also among their superiors : and, if we give any occasion to it, nay, if we do not fully warn our congregations against it, we deserve not only the censure of our diocesans, but the awful wrath of our holy God; and shall experience it, except we“ repent, and do works meet for repen“ tance,” how evangelical soever our creed may be.