« ZurückWeiter »
Christian virtue. It is from a want of properly considering the design of St. James in writing his epistle, that any mistake has ever originated as to the meaning of the apostle's words. So simple and intelligible are they, when viewed in this, their true light, that it is surprising and painful to think, they should ever have been "wrested by the unlearned and unstable to their own destruction,” that upon them should have been raised that most impious and unchristian doctrine, the doctrine of human merit ;-a doctrine which can never be admitted into the heart of that man who feels himself to be a fallen descendant of Adam, a partaker in the sin of his first parents, inheriting from them a deadly corruption, born in sin, and consequently the child of wrath : a doctrine which is at variance with the whole spirit of the Bible ; which teaches us to rely for acceptance with our Almighty Judge, solely on the merits and intercession of our Redeemer; and to make ourselves worthy of that his all-prevailing intercession, by endeavouring to the utmost of our imperfect efforts, to act up to the precepts which He has enjoined.
Thus has it been my object to shew you, that the seeming contradiction between the doctrines of St. Paul and St. James is only seeming; and that the false notions that exist respecting them, have originated either in a partial or prejudiced study of the Holy Scriptures, in a wilful misinterpretation of them, or in a misunderstanding of the design and drift of the writers. I next proposed to prove the mutual connexion and relation between a genuine faith and good works. And here I would appeal to every one, who is well acquainted with his Bible, whether it does not throughout uniformly inculcate religious practice as an indispensable test of religious faith. And first let us attend with humility to the words of our Saviour himself on this important point. “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." “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." " If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” “ Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Can any one read these, and the numerous other declarations of our Saviour, as to the indispensability of a correct and virtuous course of life, and yet presume to flatter himself, that a cold belief, unaccompanied by active virtue, can carry with it any redeeming efficacy? Recollect, that the unfruitful fig-tree withered away and perished. The unprofitable servant, who hid his talent in a napkin and employed it not, was punished most severely for his inactivity and negligence. The young man, mentioned in the Gospel, who consulted our Saviour as to the qualifications necessary for eternal happiness, was by Him instructed to keep the commandments. In a word, there is scarcely a parable of our Lord on record, which does not inculcate an active and conscientious discharge of the duties which religion enjoins. Not less forcible than the words of our Redeemer are the exhortations of all the apostles to the same effect. Hear what St. Paul says, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain
VOL. XIV. NO. VIII.
good works.” What says St. James ? “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” The epistles of St. Peter and St. John abound with passages of similar import. “Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity." " He that doeth good,” says St. John, “is of God, but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” Such is the doctrine of Scripture respecting faith and good works, and such is the doctrine of the Church of England. In the words of the Articles of that Church, are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith ;" but this faith must be genuine, that is, productive of good works; which “are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith ; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit." Good works are absolutely necessary, although not of themselves sufficient to entitle us to reward. Our sins of ignorance or surprise, may, through the infinite mercy of God, be blotted out by the blood of our Redeemer ; but we are no where in Scripture authorized to believe that our presumptuous and deliberate sins will be pardoned by any measure of faith, unless indeed that faith lead us to repent of them bitterly, and forsake them entirely.
The example of Abraham, by which St. James, in the text, illustrates the necessary connexion between faith and works, is at once appropriate and convincing. Vain would have been the most earnest professions of his faith in the Almighty, had they not been accompanied with a prompt and devoted obedience to the heavenly command. And we shall do well to remember, that the blessing which was promised to the patriarch, was declared by an infallible Judge to be the reward of his obedience. “ By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed; as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” After this, let any one decide, whether his obedience was not the very test and criterion of Abraham's faith. He believed in God, and he gave the only satisfactory proof of his belief; he obeyed His commands.
But good works are not only necessary as an evidence of true faith, they are necessary also for its maintenance and support. “Faith without works is dead." It is possible, then, that this holy principle may die; and die it most assuredly will, unless quickened and nourished by the graces of a holy life. An unproductive faith is like the light of the moon, chill and powerless; but faith, accompanied by good works, resembles the splendour of the sun, warming and fertilizing the soul, which is blessed by its celestial and fostering ray. Thus shall we find in every page of Scripture that Christian faith and Christian practice, to be efficacious, must go in hand. The one without the other is ineffectual. Faith without works is dead, because it bears no fruit; and good works without faith are equally unavailing,
because they originate in pride, partake of the corruption of our fallen nature, and spring not out of faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ask then yourselves, my brethren, whether you possess that saving faith, which is made manifest by every good word and work? It is a question of the most vital importance to your eternal happiness; propose it, I beseech you, frequently and impartially to your own conscience. “ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves.” Be assured your faith is not sincere, unless it has a practical influence over you. “They only are Christ's, who have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Whilst, then, we repose with perfect confidence and humble gratitude on the merits of our blessed Saviour, the Paschal Lamb, slain for our transgressions, the vicarious sacrifice for guilty man, appointed from the foundation of the world ; whilst we know and confess that His blood alone can blot out the large catalogue of our sins ; whilst we feel assured that all the good works of all the good men that have ever lived, are not of themselves sufficient to save a single soul from destruction ; let us shew that we cherish a grateful remembrance of the benefits which Christ has conferred upon us, by striving upon all occasions and under all circumstances, to obey the precepts of His most holy Gospel, and to imitate (as far as the frailty of our imperfect nature will allow us to imitate) His pure and spotless example. Thus shall we be justified by faith, if that faith be productive of a life of holiness. And thus, when we shall be summoned, as we soon must be, from this world to another, when we shall have put off the tabernacle of our flesh ; when we shall be called on to render an account of the deeds done in the body, then may we indulge the humble but well-founded hope, that, when we go hence, we shall, through the merits and intercession of our Redeemer, receive remission of our sins, and that our Almighty Judge will accept the all-sufficient ransom paid on our behalf, and thus consistently with His infinite justice, find room for infinite mercy.
ON THE EARLY FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
(Continued from p. 423.) According to the author's own description, the Stromata were intended as “ Reminiscences, for the benefit of his old
every thing memorable, whether in relation to men or to discourses, with which he had been previously acquainted : a semblance and shadow of known and living originals.” Throughout the work there is a
Strom. Ι. p. 322. 'Αλλά μοι υπομνήματα εις γηρας θησαυρίζεται λήθης φάρμακον, είδωλον άτεχνώς και σκιογραφία των εναργών και εμψύχων εκείνων, ών κατηξιώθην επακούσαι, λόγων τε και ανδρών μακαρίων και τω όντι αξιολόγων. A descriptive title of the work is given by Photius (Cod. 111.), from an ancient MS. to the following
want of systematic arrangement, which almost defies analysis ; so that a concise summary of the most important subjects discussed in each book must supply the place of a more comprehensive digest. In the first, after some prefatory remarks on the nature and utility of his undertaking (c. 1.), and on the beneficial effects of philosophy in preparing the Gentile world for the reception of the Gospel (c. 2.), Clement traces the origin of arts and sciences, as well as of revelation, to the goodness of God (c. 3, 4.). He then points out the advantages of philosophy, as subservient to theology, and productive of virtuous sentiments and habits (c. 5, 6.); and recommends the eclectic system as more particularly conducive to these desirable ends (c. 7, 8.). The necessity of human learning in order to a right understanding of the Scriptures (c. 9.); the superiority of good actions above good words (c. 10.); the apostolic declaration respecting the wisdom of the world (c. 11.); and the requisite qualifications for a due perception of the more recondite doctrines of the Gospel (c. 12.); are the next topics of consideration. Assigning to each particular sect the discovery of some important truth (c. 13.), and tracing the succession of Grecian sages from Orpheus downwards (c. 14.), the writer refers a considerable portion of philosophic, as well as scientific, discovery to a barbarous origin (c. 15, 16.); and, after a digressive exposition of John x. 8., and i Cor. i. 19, 20. (c. 17, 18.), estimates the degree of perception which philosophers have acquired of the truth, and the means by which they have attained it (c. 19, 20.). He then investigates the high antiquity of the Mosaic Institutions, and proves them to be the fountain from which all the different systems of philosophy, and that of Plato more especially, were ultimately drawn (c. 21-25.). The book concludes with some observations on the character of Moses as a divine legislator (c. 26.), on the moral obligation of the law (c. 27.), on the quadripartite division of the Levitical scheme (c. 28.), and on the puerile fables of the Greeks (c. 29.).
The second book commences with a few remarks on the legitimate objects of true philosophy, with reference to the author's projected discussions (c. 1.). He then affirms that by faith alone it is possible to attain to a knowledge of the divine attributes (c. 2.), and refutes the Gnostic tenet, which maintains a certain superiority of nature to be the essence of true religion (c. 3, 4.). Having proved, by an induction of examples, that the Greeks were indebted to the sacred writings for their approximate advances to the truth (c. 5.), he again establishes the necessity of faith, without which “it is impossible to please God” (c. 6.), and combats certain errors of Basilides and Valentinus respecting the penalties attached to the violation of the Mosaic law (c. 7, 8.). Aftei tracing the harmony which exists between the several graces that adorn the character of the true Christian (c. 9, 10.), he resumes the subject of faith and repentance; and, exposing the impious absurdity
purport: Τίτου Φλαβίου Κλήμεντος Πρεσβυτέρου Αλεξανδρείας των κατά την αληθή φιλοσοφίαν Γνωστικών υπομνημάτων Στρωματέων α. β. γ. δ. ε. στ. ξ. και η. Compare Euseb. Hist. Eccl. VI. 13.
• In Chap. XXI, is Clement's celebrated chronological calculation ; which concludes with a statement of several opinions respecting the date of our Lord's nativity and crucifixion.
of the Gnostic doctrine, that vice is innate in the original constitution of man, maintains that all actions, to be good, must proceed from a principle of faith, and that benevolence more especially transforms a man into the moral image of God* (c. 11-19.). He then proceeds to enforce the virtues of temperance and forbearance (c. 20.), and, reciting the several opinions of the philosophers respecting the summum bonum, (c. 21.), adopts that of Plato, who places it in a near resemblance to the Deity, as most conformable with Holy Writ (c. 22.). Some remarks on marriage, with respect to the opinions entertained by the philosophers in regard to its utility, as contrasted with the goodness of God in ordaining it for the comfort of his creatures, conclude the book (c. 23.).
In continuation of the subject, upon which he had only entered, Clement occupies the third book with a Dissertation on Marriage. While Basilides, Carpocrates, and Epiphanes, lived in promiscuous concubinage (c. 1, 2.), the Marcionites, regarding all matter in the light of evil, and believing that mankind were born to inevitable punishment, were the advocates of perpetual celibacy (c. 3.); whereas, both the one and the other were equally guilty of the most gross licentiousness (c. 4.). To the former, Clement opposes the advice of St. Paul, in Gal. v. 13. and other arguments in favour of chastity (c. 5.), and to the latter adduces the example of St. Peter and St. Philip, who were both married and had children, in favour of wedded life (c. 6.). He then institutes a spirited contrast between the notions of continence entertained by the Christian and the philosopher (c. 7.), explains several passages of Scripture which bear upon the subject (c. 8–11.), cites the admonition of St. Paul in 1 Tim. iv. 1–4., and maintains that ths husband of one wife, whether he be presbyter, deacon, or layman, is without sin (c. 12.). Citing the opinion of Julius Capianus, a disciple of Valentinus, that Christ, being only a phantom, was not generated, from which he contrived to infer, that the natural propagation of the human race was criminal in the sight of God (c. 13.); he produces a variety of texts in refutation of the absurdity (c. 14–17.); and reprobates the two extremes of a community of wives and a life of celibacy. (c. 18.)
From the subject of marriage, Clement turns in the fourth book to that of martyrdom; which some regarded in the light of self-destruction, while others exposed themselves unnecessarily to its horrors. Observing, that the love of God is the only test of the true martyr, he breaks out into a warm eulogium upon those who suffer death for the sake of Christ (c. 1-4.), and, glancing at the collateral topics of pain, and poverty, and persecution, endured in the cause of the Gospel, illustrates the various beatitudes which Christ has attached to all those men, women, and children who take up their cross and follow him (c. 5—9.). Having severely rebuked those who hazard their lives needlessly in the hopes of the martyr's recompense (c. 10.), be replies to the objection of those who argue the inconsistency of persecution with God's love for the persecuted (c. 11.), and to similar objections of Basilides and Valentinus (c. 12, 13.). He then illustrates the duties
• Strom. ΙΙ. 19. p. 483, 15. Το γαρ όντι εικών του Θεού άνθρωπος ευεργετών.