Page images

one act of faith. And perhaps some others who are said through faith to have subdued kingdoms. For since the apostle faith, ver. 39. All these, though well testified of through faith, have not received the promise. 40. God having foreseen some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect, he certainly. means, that many of these persons were justified by their faith. And with respect to the rest, there can be no doubt, that in so far as their faith led them to obey God in the instances mentioned by the apostle, they did what was pleasing to God.-But even on supposition, that a number of them were not justified by their faith, because it was only temporary, it were wrong, on that account, to conclude concerning the rest, who are said to have obtained a good testimony through faith, and who are to be perfected, that is, rewarded together with us, that their faith did not avail to their justification; unless it could be proved, that, like the Israelites who passed through the Red Sea, they did not persevere in their faith and obedience. In particular, the conclusion would most certainly be false, with respect to Noah, and Abraham, and Rahab. For of them it is teftified in so many words, that they were justified by their faith, notwith. standing we know its objects were such moral and religious truths only, as were discoverable by the light of nature, and such revelations as God was pleased to make to them personally, concerning certain temporal matters in which they were greatly interested.

Thus, from the accounts which the inspired writers have given of the faith necessary to justification, and from the ex.ample of those who are said in the scriptures to have been juf{ified by their faith, it is abundantly evident, that justifying faith in different persons, must be different in respect of its objects, according to the opportunities and advantages bestowed on each. Nevertheless, the principle of faith being the same in every difpensation, it may, by the assistance of the Spirit of God, be attained under every dispensation, and may be productive of holiness in the believer, in proportion to the extent and strength of his belief. If this account of the matter be just, it removes the greatest objection which infidels have raised against the gospel. For, by establishing faith as the condition or means of justifica. zion, it hath excluded none, not even the heathens, from the VOL. III.


possibility posibility of salvation. This liberal doctrine, the apostle Paul, if I mistake not his meaning, hath expressly taught, Rom. iv. II. where he tells us, that Abraham received the mark of circumcision, as a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had in uncircumcision, in order to his being the father of all who believe in uncircumcifon, that righteousness might be counted even to them.

But while we contend, that persons may have the faith neces. fary to justification, who, through their want of revelation, are ignorant of Christ, and of the method of salvation, we are far from thinking, that any person can be justified otherwise than by Christ. All who are justified, are justified of God's free gift, through the merit of Christ's obedience to death. And that many will be justified in that manner, we are warranted to believe. For, as the apostle Paul hath excellently reasoned, Rom. v. 12. Since it was consistent with the justice and goodness of God, to subject all to death for the disobedience of Adam, notwithstanding the greatest part of mankind never heard either of Adam or of his disobedience, it is equally conlistent with the justice and goodness of God, to bestow pardon and eternal life, at the judgment, on believers of all nations, on account of the meritorious obedience of Christ, notwithstanding many of them never heard till then, of the Person to whom they owe the great obligation, nor of his obedience to death, by which it was procured for them. And the rather, that the discovery of the author of their salvation, and of the method by which he procured it, though not made to 'them till the judgment, will come in good time to lay a foundation for their gratitude and love to God and to Christ, throughout the endless ages of eternity.

But however consonant to reason and to the perfections of God it may be, that the benefit of Christ's obedience should be extended, at the judgment, to persons who in their lifetime never had an opportunity to know and believe on him, provided they are found to have been animated by a real principle of faith and piety; the case of those to whom Christ hath been offered in the gospel, but who have rejected him, is very different. Their unbelief having generally proceeded from evil dispositions, they can receive no benefit from Christ's obedience, So he himself hath taught us, John iii. 19. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20. For every one who doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, left his deeds foould be reproved.

Upon the whole, I affirm a second time, that by making faith the condition of men's justification, the gospel excludes none from falvation, but those who exclude themselves through pride of understanding, and vicious dispositions.

[ocr errors]

Sect. IV. Of the propriety of making Faith the condition of men's


The propriety of making faith, and more especially the faith of the gospel, the condition or means of the justification of those to whom the gospel is offered, hath been called in question by the Deists, on this principle, That a man's belief is not in his own power, but depends on the evidence with which the thing to be believed is accompanied ; and on his ability to comprehend and judge of that evidence. But however true this principle, rightly understood, may be, it is no less true, On the one hand, that through indulged prejudices, and the prevalence of corrupt inclinations, and considerations of present interest, and even through inattention, men may render themselves blind to the clearest evidence: And on the other hand, that by attention, impartiality, and willingness to know the truth, men may render themselves capable of discerning, and of being impressed with the evidence by which any doctrine or matter of fact is properly supported. In this view, to require the belief of the gospel from those to whom it is offered, is, in fact, to require them use their rational faculties in a fit manner, and to exercise care and impartiality in judging of an affair which is of the greatest importance to themselves, and to the world. Wherefore, seeing the proofs by which the gospel is shewed to be of divine original, are sufficient to convince those who examine them impartially ; for

any one to reject the gospel as not of divine original, is certainly an evidence that his heart is so corrupted that he is incapable of salvation : whereas, to receive it, is a proof that he pofseffeth a rectitude of disposition which fits him for heaven.

So our Lord hath declared, John iii. 20. Every one who doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, loft his deeds should be reproved. 21. But he who doth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God. The belief of the gospel being thus a proof that men are capable of justification, and the rejection of it disqualifying them for receiving that blessing, to require faith in the gospel as the condition of the falvation of those to whom it is proposed, and to make the disbelief of it the cause of their condemnation, are both of them proper; confequently no fault can be found, either with our Lord's promise, or with his threatening, Mark xvi. 15. Go ye

into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16. He who believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he who believeth net, shall be condemned.

2. The gospel is much to be commended for making faith the condition or means of men's justification, because it is the highest exercise of piety, and the only true principle from which, in every dispensation of religion, good works must proceed. This praise is due to faith, not because by piety and good works men merit justification, but because by these jointly, they became capable of pardon and eternal life. Wherefore, in speaking of men's justification, to separate good works from faith, and to make the latter consist wholly in the belief of doctrines, without connecting it with good works, is to err from the truth: As is plain from the many passages of scripture, in which good works are enjoined as necessary to falvation, and bad works are forbidden as bringing condemnation on those who continue in them. To begin with the highest authority; our Lord hath faid, Matth. vii. 21. Not every one who faith to me, Lord, Lord, that is, who acknowledgeth me for his master, fball enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he who doth the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have caft out devils ? and in thy name have done many wonderful works? 23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from pe

who work iniquity. Matth. xxv. 34. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat, &oc 41. Then fhuil he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me,



ge cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. 42. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat, &c. See allo Matth. xiii. 41, 42, 43:-In like manner, the apostle Peter, Acts iii. 19. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your fins may

be blotted out. 2 Pet. i. 5. Add to your faith courage, &c. 10. For doing these things ye shall never at any time fall. '11. And thus there shall be richly miniftred to yout, an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Chrift.-And especially Paul, the great defender of justification by faith without works of law, Rom. ii. 5. The righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works, ver. 13. Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law Mall be justified. Rom. viii. 13. If ye live according to the flesh, ye shall die : but if, through the Spirit, ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 1 Cor. vi. 9. Do ye not know that the unrighteous fball not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, vor adulterers, &c. Gal. v. 6. In Christ Jesus neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifon, but faith strongly working by bove. Tit. ii. 11. The grace of God which bringeth salvation, hath joone forth to all men, 12. Teaching us that denying ungodliness and quorldly luffs, we sbould live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, 13. Expecting the blessed hope, namely, the appearing of the glory of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, 14. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify' to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Heb. xii. 14. Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one Shall see the Lord. --So also James, ii. 14. Though a man say, he kath faith and have not works, will faith save him ?-And John, 1 Epistle, iii. 7. Little children, let no one deceive you : He who doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

After these declarations from Chriit and his apostles, can any pne doubt that the faith which faves, is necessarily connected with good works; and that it is made the condition or means of our justification for any other reason, but because it is the vital principle of true holiness, whereby men are rendered capable of eternal life.

3. By establishing faith as the condition of men's justification, the gospel teacheth us, that at the judgment, God will principally regard the disposition of men's minds, without severely


F 3

« PreviousContinue »