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beauty, or riches, are rather obligations conferred upon us by God, than merits in us towards him: for though we may be justly punished for injuring ourselves, we can claim no reward for self preservation ; as suicide deserves punishment and infamy, but a man deserves no reward or honours for not being guilty of it.'
Can a man be profitable to God, as he who is wise may be profitable to himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it any gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him; or what receiveth he of thine hands ? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness. may profit the son of man-Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things ; to whom be glory for ever-What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?' Instead, therefore, of attempting to claim the blessedness of heaven on the ground of personal worthiness, it would be acting more in character for a sinful wretch to cry, ‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken ; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further-Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.'
Another reason why good works cannot be meritorious, is the vast disparity between them and the salvation they are supposed to merit.
A natural work can give no title to a supernatural reward. There must be a just proportion between the work and the wages : if the wages exceed the work, they are so far gratuitous-favours to which we have no claim, and of course not merited. But can the best services of a creature, depraved beyond descrip-, tion, be brought into comparison with the debt he owes to his Maker, or with that consummate happiness which in its duration is eternal? No; it is impossible. “The greatest human virtue,' says Dr. Johnson, 'bears no pro
portion to human vanity.' Nothing short of an obedience commensurate to the requirements of divine law, and to the threatenings of eternal justice, can afford the sinner a.well grounded hope of that blessedness which it is the glory of God to bestow as a gift ; but which never was conferred on any as a debt, or as a recompense for diligence in duty.
Ascriptions of merit to man may be the language of mortals on earth ; but it is not the language of saints in heaven. Concerning that great multitude which stood before the throne, and before the lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, not a word is said of their having deserved the honour and the happiness to which they were exalted; but, on the contrary, that they themselves Cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen. Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God, for ever and ever, Amen.' Not an individual of that innumerable company is heard attributing his deliverance and his triumph to himself—to the possession of moral qualities, the performance of moral duties, nor yet to the patient endurance of great tribulation ; but the reason given by one of the elders, why they were before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, is this— They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' The unanimous voice of the church militant and the church triumphant is— Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and has redeemed us to God by his blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ; and has made us unto our God kings and priests—Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.'
But while it is positively asserted that good works have nothing to do in the justification of a sinner before God, it is maintained with
equal confidence, that there are other highly important purposes for which they are indispensably necessary. The scriptures declare, that the elect of God are chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the worldthat when the time to manifest this infinite grace is come, they are called with a holy call. ing, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose, and grace-that they are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them.
That faith without works is dead, is an established maxim with the christian. If there be time and opportunity, every believer is taught, by the Holy Spirit, to maịntain good works for necessary uses—to let his light so shine before men, that they may see his good works, and glorify his Father which is in heaven.' In this case, faith and holiness are inseparable: and it was á conviction of the importance of this truth that induced the apostle, James to ask, when writing to the Jewish converts, Was not Abraham our father justi.