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imagination of his evil heart,' Jer. xviii. 12. It is not so with those who are made the sons of God by Christ Jesus. They know, that when he shall appear, they shall be like him. Every man, therefore, that hath this hope,
. purifieth himself, even as he is pure,' 1 John iii. 2, 3. For • we are saved by hope,' Rom. viii. 24. Besides, is it not an immense advantage, that we, who
, were ' by nature the children of wrath, even as others,' Eph. ii. 3, have power now given us to become the sons of God,' John i. 12. that we, who were sometime alienated,
• and enemies in our mind, by wicked works, yet now hath Christ reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death, to present us holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable, in the sight of God ?' Col. i. 21, 22. While God considered us as enemies, all we did was displeasing to him, not excepting our best actions, which were done without any regard to his will or service. But now that Christ hath made peace for us through the blood of his cross;'Col. i. 20. and hath redeemed us that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons;' Gal. iv. 5. God dealeth with us as with sons,' Heb. xii. 7. ' and, because we are sons, hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,' Gal. iv. 6. If, then, this Holy Spirit lovingly chasteneth us’ at one
' time, Heb. xii. 6. and bestoweth ‘his fruit of love, joy, peace,' upon us at another, Gal. v. 22. if he also helpeth our infirmities,' Rom. viii. 26. if it is by him ' that we have faith,' i Cor. xii. 9. that our souls are purified in obeying the truth,' 1 Pet. i. 22. that we are sanctified,' 1 Cor. vi. 11. that we have 'power, and love, and a sound mind, 2 Tim.i. 7. how can we look upon ourselves as hardly dealt with by the covenant, for requiring reformation and good works of us, since, at the same time that we are commanded to use our utmost endeavours to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,' we are also assured, that it is God which worketh in us both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure ?' Phil. ii. 12, 13.
When we consider the powerful instruments made use of by the Holy Spirit to keep us within the terms of the covenant, we shall be the more clearly convinced, that infinite wisdom, as well as mercy, is employed in the scheme of our salvation; and shall blame ourselves alone, if we are
not happy. All the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were wrought to satisfy us, that the Scriptures are the word of God. Being satisfied of this, we then hear God speaking to us the words of eternal wisdom, and enforcing his injunctions, not only with the most affecting examples, with temporal blessings and judgments, but with sanctions of infinite weight. And, that our attention may be perpetually awakened, and fixed on these things, he hath solemnly sanctified a seventh part of our time, which is to be spent in learning our duty, in searching the Scriptures, in examining ourselves, and in meditating on all the proofs and motives wherewith the faith and practice of a Christian are enforced. He hath also instituted a ministry to assist us in every part of this important work, and given us a covenant, contained in two solemn ordinances, which, by an awful promise, or vow, binds the whole of his religion on our consciences. Now the Holy Spirit, who is the fountain
. both of faith and good works, communicates to us the necessary portions of grace, through the word, through the sabbath, through the ministry, and through the covenant of God, which we enter into by the one sacrament, and continually renew by the other.
Such means can hardly fail of success in any man who diligently applies them. But, forasmuch as there is no man who liveth, and sinneth not,' the door of mercy is still open, provided we repent, and do our best to amend what is amiss in our behaviour; for we are the children of God, who knows we are but dust, and looks upon us, through the merits of Christ our head, with all the patience and pity of a compassionate father, who willeth not the death of any sinner, much less of that poor sinner whom he hath adopted for his own child.
Let us not therefore say our case under covenant is hard, because it ties us to faith, and reformation of manners; for Christ saith, My grace is sufficient for you. Come, therefore, unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' “Provided you do but feel the weight of your own sins, and apply to me for relief, I will lighten you of that load ; and, in lieu of it, will lay on you a 'yoke that is easy, and a burden that is light;' namely, the covenant purchased with my blood, which, both on ac
count of the peace it brings with it, and the assistance I will give you in keeping it, you will find to be not only easy, but delightful.” Neither let us say we believe in the merits of Christ, who hath already suffered the punishment of our sins, and therefore we may persevere in sin, forasmuch as God will not punish it over again in us; for Christ will say, • I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil, and his angels.' And St. James saith,' What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect ?'
We are not to run into extremes, nor to wrest one part of the Scripture to a sense opposed by another. He understands not the word of God, who thinks we must give up this passage of St. James; or others of St. Paul, where the chief stress is laid on faith. To him that worketh,' saith the latter, Rom. iv. 4, 5, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. And, in the foregoing chapter, at the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth verse, he saith, ,: Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.'
To shew the perfect consonancy of the Spirit speaking by these two writers, nothing more will be needful, than to observe, first, That the faith which St. James tells us is not sufficient alone to justify us, is an historical, unfruitful faith ; whereas that which St. Paul says justifieth without the deeds of the law, is a lively operative faith ; for none of the scriptural writers lay greater stress on the necessity of repentance and holiness, than he. Secondly, That the works recommended by St. James, are works done in consequence of a lively and operative faith ; whereas those condemned by St. Paul, are works done before, or without faith. Thirdly, That St. James does by no means exclude the necessity of faith; nor St. Paul, of works done in consequence of faith;
the one only making faith in the blood of Christ the necessary immediate instrument of our salvation; and the other requiring, that this faith shall not be deemed efficacious, till it hath proved itself a true and lively faith by its fruits. St. James, therefore, is not to be understood as contradicting or correcting St. Paul; but as correcting the erroneous readers of St. Paul, who, misinterpreting his words, expected salvation from a faith in Christ which had no effect on their morals. The substance of both their doctrines, laid together, is this : he who believes in the sacrifice made by the death of Christ for the sins of the world, hath a right to the covenant of peace with God, through the righteousness of Christ applied to him by faith, and not through his own righteousness; which could not, exclusive of that faith, have entitled him to the benefit of that covenant; but however, he is not to expect salvation through that faith alone, if it should prove dead, inactive, or unfruitful, because repentance, and reformation of manners, is, by the whole tenor of the Scriptures, made a necessary condition of the covenant. · Christ came into the world to save sinners;' but how? By calling them to faith and repentance; and, under these circumstances, by imputing the merits of his own sinless obedience to them, and satisfying the justice of his Father for them. Thus we see ourselves obliged to do what we can, and Christ's merits and blood laid down to pay for the rest. But what is it we can do? We can honour and please God by a life and conversation conformable to his will, and the example of his Son, whereof nothing but his grace, and, the effect of that grace, a lively faith in us, can be either the rule or motive; but, by such a life, we can in no sort atone for our past and present sins, nor entitle ourselves to the glories of heaven. But this Christ hath done for us, having 'bought us, who were sold under sin,' with such a price as we never can repay, much less overpay; and therefore, when we have done all we can, we must say, We are unprofitable servants ;' for that servant only is profitable, who brings in some gain to his master, over and above the price that was paid for him.
But, since St. Paul exhorts us to stand fast in the faith, 1 Cor. xvi. 13. and St. Peter, in the first chapter of his Second Epistle, to give diligence to make our calling and
election sure, by adding virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, to faith; we are to conclude, that these things are in some measure placed within our own power; and ought to resolve on a strict obedience to the voice of God, thus speaking to us by his apostles.
Give me leave now to conclude with reminding you, that the death of Christ is a fact acknowledged by all ; that it is set forth in the strongest scriptural terms, as a true and an effectual sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and that we must either firmly believe in it as such, or give the lie to God, and undertake to answer ourselves for all we do. Let him that needeth no physician, rely on his own health and strength; but let us, who are sick, and sensible also of our sickness, repose our trust in the prescriptions offered us by the great Healer of souls, who directs us to his blood as a precious balsam for the conscious wounds of guilt; and to repentance, as a regimen preservative of our future inno
Let us apply both by a lively faith to ourselves. Let us also entertain that sense of gratitude which is due to the inconceivable goodness of our Redeemer, who, while we were yet sinners, died for us ;' who, great as he is in himself, and glorious on his throne in heaven, 'took on him the form of a servant, and humbled himself to the death of the cross, despising the shame,' that he might save us his poor offending creatures from the eternal punishment of our sins, and exalt us to the endless joys of heaven. If we are not wholly lost to all goodness, our faith must excite in us this grateful sense of his compassion for us; and this sense, to a mind capable of entertaining it in proportion as it does the sense of infinitely less considerable favours, will be a more powerful motive to a good life, than even the expectation of eternal retribution. Such a mind must have a deep abhorrence of, and a settled indignation at, sin; because it betrays the infinite Benefactor anew ; it puts him to open shame again ; it crucifies him afresh, in his spiritual body. And to such a mind, nothing-less than the possession of heaven itself, can give a pleasure so lasting, or a joy so exalted, as acts of virtue, which in our case, are all acts of gratitude, whereby the infinitely gracious Being is pleased and honoured.