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through faith in the merits of a crucified Redeemer. If such occasional and involuntary deviation from the path of duty will not be forgiven, who of the sons of men can be saved? Men, as they now are, are not capable of perfect obedience, but they are capable of endeavouring
to attain it. Such an endeavour is their indis' pensable duty ; and, although it may not in all 'instances and upon every occasion be effectual, it ' is humbly hoped that it may be sufficient to re
commend them to the favour of God, 'forasmuch ' as what their infirmity lacketh, Christ's justice ' hath supplied.' In no part of our public formulariess any thing like actual perfect obedience supposed; and in the only prayer which our Saviour himself commanded his followers to use, we pray 'God to “ forgive us our trespasses ;" all Chris'tians therefore are taught by their Saviour to
consider and confess themselves as sinners, that ' is, at best as yielding an imperfect obedience.'1
"They should sometimes be guilty of sin, and not ‘rise to the standard, &c.' Contrast with this the apostle's confession, “In many things we offend “ all.” 2 No mere man ever rose to this standard
of purity, &c.' St. Paul himself was only pressing forward towards it; and what is this but acknowledging that impossibility which was before denied ?3 Our defective obedience, however, will no doubt be accepted through faith in the merits of a crucified Redeemer, but no obedience of unbelievers will be accepted.—What is involuntary,'
Ref. 173, 174.
? Jam. iii. 2. • Book I. sect. 5. On Iinpossibility.
in the strict sense of the word, cannot be sin ; for the criminality consists in the will. The sins, however, of true believers, are contrary to their habitual purpose and intention.
They desire perfectly to obey : but the will of a creature is changeable, and especially that of a fallen creature; so that often, in the hour of temptation, they do those things against which they were before steadily resolved. Thus Peter in denying his Lord acted contrary to his determined purpose, and inconsistently with his general character ; and, according to the gracious constitution of the gospel, “ It was not he, but sin which dwelt in him." Yet he did not sin involuntarily,' But Judas in betraying Christ acted in character, and consistently with his habitual purpose of rendering his profession subservient to his worldly interest. “ He was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what
was put therein.” The demon of avarice possessed his heart : he robbed the pobr, his brethren, and his Lord; and at last bargained, for filthy lucre, to betray Jesus to his enemies. “ It was he, and “ not sin that dwelt in him." _Sufficient to re
commend them to the favour of God.' The good works of believers are sufficient to prove their faith living, and their love sincere. They are “ the “ fruits of the Spirit,” and are presented in humble faith, through the great Intercessor: but he alone recommends both them and their obedience unto God: "acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”— *Perfect obedience is not supposed in our public for
mularies:' but is it here meant that any description of ministers insist upon perfect obedience, as necessary to our acceptance in Christ Jesus by faith? Calvinists in general, and the evangelical clergy in particular, are often charged with conniving at sin in those who embrace their creed ; and with being in many things too lenient as to practical subjects: yet at other times it is intimated that they are as over-rigorously strict in their requirements ! But custom inures us to bear such discordant censures without any great emotion. That perfect obedience is demanded as the condition of justification by works, is manifest. “ Thou hast answered right, “ This do, and thou shalt live:”that is, “ Love “ God with all thy heart, and love thy neighbour " as thyself:” and indeed his Lordship has maintained it. But, when we have been justified by faith, our sincere and unreserved, though very defective obedience, meets with a gracious acceptance from our reconciled God and Father.
* That I may not be accused of not having ' sufficient ground for what I have said, concern‘ing those who invidiously arrogate to themselves . the exclusive title of evangelical clergy, I will ' refer to some passages in a book written pro' fessedly in vindication of their principles and
practice. We there find one minister of the * established church blamed for 'hoping, that his
congregation will recommend themselves to th ' favour of God, by a regular attendance upon divine
ordinances, and an uniform practice of religious precepts;' a second is blamed for saying, “ Repen: tance, I doubt not, always avails something in : the sight of God;' a third is blamed for ' talking
1 Luke x. 25-29.
? The True Churchmen ascertained.
of works, obedience to the moral law, as constituting men relatively worthy ;' a fourth is blamed * for urging the necessity of recommending our'selves to the mercy of God, and rendering ourselves worthy the mediation of Jesus Christ by holiness of living and by an abhorrence of vice' ;' a fifth is blamed for asserting that 'good works are the condition, but not the meritorious cause of salvation ;' and a sixth is blamed for teaching that, . whatever our tenets may be, nothing can afford us comfort at the hour of death, but the 'consciousness of having “ done justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly with our God;" expressions taken from a well-known passage in • the Old Testament.''
The expression, invidiously arrogate, &c,' might be noticed, but the subject has already been considered. The True Churchmen ascer‘tained,' by Mr. Overton, is the only book of any living author, among the evangelical clergy, or the Calvinists, which his Lordship has noticed in his work: and in some respects it is entitled to this honourable distinction. For I must avow my decided opinion, that the arguments contained in it fully prove the proposition which he attempts to support; and have never been, and never can be fairly answered. Others must determine whether it was exactly the kind of publication which circumstances required: it appears however to me, that by bringing the subject on which it treats fairly and openly before the public, with no common measure of ability, it is calculated to answer
Ref. 174, 175.
? On Ref. 49.
most important purposes, and to excite a careful investigation of the subject, from which truth has never any reason to shrink. At the same time, I cannot but express my surprise that only a few sentences froin this publication are selected, with decided disapprobation ; and, as if these were sufficient to support the heavy charges brought against the whole company of Calvinists, or evangelical clergy; and that none of the numerous quotations bearing directly on the very subjects which his Lordship is discussing, and shewing in what a particular and express manner some, at least, of the evangelical clergy inculcate every kind of practical instruction ; nor any of Mr. Overton's own statements; are at all noticed. Much of the present publication would have been superfluous, had these things, from “The True Church
men,' been fully adduced. I shall leave others to decide, whether it was best for Mr. O. to animadvert on the passages cited; but I cannot doubt that most, if not all of them, compared with the scriptures, and with our authorized books, are very exceptionable. Is it scriptural language, for a minister to tell his congregation, that he ‘ hopes
they will recommend themselves to the favour of * God, by a regular attendance upon divine ordinances, and an uniform practice of religious precepts ?'
Is there any thing like this, in our liturgy, our articles, or our homilies ? Mr. Overton's objection lies, not against ministers exhorting their people to do these duties; but to their attempting to recommend themselves to God' by so doing : when the best of what the most eminent Christian can do, instead of recommending him