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ON THE NECESSITY OF GOOD WORKS,
ST. JAMES ii. 26.
faith without good works is dead also.
Titus iii. 8.
will that thou affirm constantly, that they
to maintain good works. FROM
ROM the first rise of christianity down to SERM. this present time, there has always existed a set of designing or deluded men, calling themselves christians, who have maintained the doctrine of faith in opposition to that of good works; who have imagined, or preVOL. I.
SERM. tended to itnagine, that a belief in the life,
death, and resurrection of our Saviour, and in the miraculous circumstances which accompanied each, would exempt them from the practice of the moral virtues, and leave them to the free indulgence of their lawless and unruly passions.
This doctrine of theirs they have grounded on certain selected passages of scripture, which they have explained in such a manner, as to make them contradict all the rest of it. They tell us of the frequent and vehement assertions of St. Paul, “ of justification by the free grace of God,” and “ of being saved by faith alone,” and “ by faith without the works of the law;" and these expressions they so interpret as to make them counteract the whole design of religion. Salvation, say they, is the free gift of God; it is not of debt but of grace; it is not bestowed in consequence of any actions of ours, but gratuitously given through God's boundless
mercy; a lively faith in the merits of our SÈRM. Redeemer is alone requisite on our parts; what we do is out of the question; we have but firmly to believe, and we shall be entitled to an inheritance of life eternal.
I propose in this discourse to endeavour to overthrow this pernicious opinion, first, by explaining what learned men have in general agreed to be the real meaning of the passages which appear to make for it: secondly, by laying before you some strorig and clear quotations from the scriptures, in which the virtues of a good life are insisted. on as indispensably necessary to salvation ; and lastly, by proving, from common sense and reason, the absurdity of expecting the favour of God and the rewards of Heaven on any other terms than by adding to sound faith good works.
And first; I will explain what learned men have, in general, agreed to be the real meaning of the passages, which are brought-in
se'r M. support of the opinion, that faith alone, un
accompanied by good works, is sufficient unto salvation.
It is very evident that when St. Paul makes use of the words election, vocation, adoption, justification, and some others of che like tenor, he does not always apply them to the final judgment; that is, he does not always mean that those who are elected, called, adopted, or justified, have already obtained, or shall certainly obtain, the kingdom of God. Recollect to whom his epistles were addressed, to those who had once been heathens, who had worshipped gods of wood and stone, or men frail and wicked as themselves, and who had no certain rule to live by, and scarce knew the difference between virtue and vice; but who had now embraced the christian religion, had become acquainted with the knowledge, which that inculcated, and entitled to the rewards, which that held forth.
This acquisition of the laws, and this title
to the blessings of the gospel, thus bestowed SERM. on the heathens, the Apostle calls their “ being elected, adopted, justified ;” and these privileges he affirms them to have obtained without previous good works, but merely by the free grace of God, on their only believing in the truth of the religion which he had sent down. Whenever then St. Paul talks of justification without works, he always means this first justification, men being made christians; but this is a very different thing from final justification at the last day, to which holiness, virtue, good works, are indispensably necessary
As to the expression of justification without the works of the law, it sometimes means without an observance of the rites and ceremonies of the law of Moses, which some early christians insisted to be requisite; but, with respect to the moral part of that law, our Saviour and his apostles constantly dea