« PreviousContinue »
His Lordship hath fully shewn that such a faith as is here described cannot justify.'' But how could men be kept in a state of justification, who, having only a dead faith, never were justified ? Dead faith is no better in this respect than direct unbelief: “He that believeth not the Son « shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth “ on him;" 2 and in this state he must abide, unless he believe with a true and lively faith.
* God is pleased to grant remission of all past sins, for the sake of his blessed Son, on account of faith only; but he requires from those, whom he thus graciously receives into his favour, an ' implicit obedience to his commands in future: if 'they disobey, the pardon is cancelled, the state
of acceptance is forfeited, and liability to punish"ment ensues.'
Habitual disobedience proves a professed believer's faith to be dead and worthless. If he never had any other faith, he never was pardoned ; and therefore his pardon cannot be cancelled.' It need not here be argued, whether a true and lively faith ever fails, or degenerates into dead faith : yet the language of scripture is very expressive, respecting forgiveness of sins. “As far as the east “ is from the west, so far hath he removed our “ transgressions from us." 4 "I will forgive their “ iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." “ The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and “ there shall be none ; and the sins of Judah, and
Ref. 124. John iii. 36. 3 Ref. 124. * Ps. ciii. 12.
5 Jer. xxxi. 34. Heb. vii. 12, x. 17.
they shall not be found : for I will pardon them “ whom I reserve.”l“ Thou hast cast all my sins be“ hind thy back.”2 “ He will subdue our iniquities, “ and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths “ of the sea.”3 What is sunk in shallow water may be got up again; but that which sinks to the bottom in the depths of the sea, will never more be brought forth.—Thus also the apostle, in full coincidence with the prophets, “There is no condemnation to “ them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not “after the flesh but after the Spirit.” 4 And thus likewise the Lord of both prophets and apostles ;
They shall not come into condemnation, but are
passed from death unto life.” 5 They who “ in “time of temptation fell away,” “had no root in “ themselves :" the intruder at the marriage feast had not the wedding garment : and “the foolish “ virgins took their lamps, and took no oil with “ them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with “ their lamps."6 Some essential difference between the wise and the foolish is thus marked in their setting out, which made way for the different event that took place respecting each of them. The
servant whose debt was forgiven by his Lord, ' but who afterwards refused to forgive the debt • of his fellow servant, was severely rebuked, and
delivered to the tormentors to suffer punishment ‘for that very debt which had been forgiven.'' And how far this instance of a cancelled for‘giveness, which is single, no other being so much as intimated in scripture, and that merely
Jer. 1. 20.
Is. xxxviii. 17. 3 Mic. vii. 19. • Rom, viü. 1. s John v. 24.
6 Matt. xii. 20, 21. xxii, 11-13. xxv. 2-5. 7 Ref. 124. VOL. VII.
a circumstance in a parable, is to preponderate against all the texts before quoted, the reader must determine. Expositors in general think, that circumstances of this kind are to be explained according to the clear import of other scriptures, and not used to decide controverted points of doctrine. The language also of him who owed the immense sum of ten thousand talents, when he confidently says, “ Have patience with me, and I “ will pay thee all;" which he had not the smallest prospect of doing, was very dissimilar from that of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sin“ ner!" And his harsh treatment of his fellowservant, is as little like the effect of that “faith “ which worketh by love;" as his undertaking to pay the whole debt was like the contrition and humility of a true penitent. If however, a true believer loses his living faith, and commits sins, and does not deeply repent, his pardon no doubt is cancelled, and he will finally perish : nay, if he fall into sin, or grow negligent in his duty, he will lose “ the joy of God's salvation,” and be exposed to alarms, and rebukes, and sharp corrections till he become zealous and repent.
• To the much agitated question, therefore, whe*ther works be necessary to justification, we an
swer, that, if by justification be meant the first • entrance into a state of justification, works are ‘not necessary; if by justification be meant the • continuance in a state of justification, works are necessary.'?
· Ref. 124.
Dead faith, by his Lordship's own statement, does not justify: and a lively holy faith will preserve the believer in a justified state. Concerning this the scriptural language is very decided :.“By
ye stand :"\“We walk by faith :"? “Above “all taking the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be “ able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked :"3
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal “ life :” “ The life, which I now live in the flesh, “ I live by the faith of the Son of God.” 4 All the obedience, victories, and perseverance of ancient worthies, enumerated in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, were effected by faith.
“ We through “the Spirit,” says the apostle, “ wait for the hope “ of righteousness by faith."5 Certainly that faith which does not “ work by love" can accomplish, nothing of this kind: neither can it give 'the first
entrance into a state of justification. But faith which“ worketh by love ” will manifest itself by “ the work of faith, and labour of love, and pa“ tience of hope,” and “ patient continuance in
well-doing."6 Yet, to the very last, it is by faith alone, that we abide in a justified state ; because, to the last, we are in ourselves sinners; our best days are days of imperfect obedience; our best actions are imperfect, defective, if not defiled; and our dying prayer must be, “ God be merciful to
me a sinner."? Forgiveness is only by the blood of Christ, and by faith in him ; and therefore faith alone saves the sinner from first to last : though
I 2 Cor. i. 24.
Gal. v. 5.
2.Cor. v. 7. + Gal. ii. 20.
1 Thes. i. 3. Rom. ii. 7.
not a faith which is solitary, or alone, in him who is saved; but one which produces good works, as certainly as a good tree brings forth good fruit. “ But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your “ most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep “ yourselves in the love of God; looking for the
mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal 6 life.” 2
* By this distinction, we support the fundamental principle of the gospel-justification by faith in Christ; and at the same time secure the main
purpose of our Saviour's incarnation and death, «« who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works ;” we shew * the consistency of justification by faith alone with “the necessity of personal righteousness and holiness; we vindicate the mercy of God and the atonement of Christ, while we afford the strongest ' possible sanction to the cause of moral virtue.'3
By the simple distinction between lively, or living, and dead faith, all this is far more completely answered ; many other difficulties are removed ; apparent inconsistencies reconciled, and pernicious inferences obviated.
It cannot be doubted that his Lordship, in the pages below referred to, has decidedly the best of the argument, in those points, (whether faith, and the merits of Christ mean the same thing,) respecting which he differs from Dr. Pearson, Chris
? Jude 20, 21.