Page images

favoured the world with his thoughts on this subject, and with whom every Christian must wish to join in opinion, has told us," that true faith is in scripture regarded as the radical principle of holiness." Thus far every one who understands the Gospel must agree with him. But when we are told by this same writer,* that where the root exists, the proper fruit will be brought forth, we feel ourselves called upon to deny the conclusion; because it may lead to consequences fatal to the cause it is designed to serve. Nor does the proof brought from St. James, in support of it, strike me in the light in which it is placed on this occasion. St. James has always appeared to me to speak, not of a man who merely says that he has faith, and has it not; but of one who actually possesses faith, but a faith unavailable to salvation, from its being unaccompanied by its correspondent effects. The reader, by turning to the chapter referred to,t and reading from the 14th verse to the end of it, will be qualified to judge for himself.

Christian fruit, it is allowed, can grow only on the Christian tree. But it does not follow, (as it has been above observed) that where the root of this tree exists, there the fruits of it will necessarily be brought forth. These are by no means convertible propositions. To represent them as such, is to say in other words, that principles and practice always go together; whereas the fact is, through the deceitfulness of the human heart, they are too often at variance with each other. And the gene. ral language of scripture agrees with this position; * Wilberforce's Practical View, p. 122. † James ii.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

in which faith and works, the tree and its fruits, are so clearly distinguished from each other, that no man who considers that the Bible, as containing a Divine revelation, must be uniform and consistent in all its parts, can, it should be supposed, be at a loss for his conclusion.

[ocr errors]

It is true, faith is often represented in scripture' as the completion of the Christian plan of salvation. And so, when taken in its full and finished state, as made perfect by works, according to St. James's description, it certainly is. But we are now guarding against a mistake, to which an unqualified use of this term often leads.*

When our Saviour laid the foundation of his religion, he annexed salvation to faith; because faith in him was the basis of that plan of salvation which he came to publish to the world. When St. Paul told the Jews that they must be saved by faith, and not by the works of the law; and that the Gospel alone contained the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth; his object was to oppose the new dispensation, whose basis was faith in Christ crucified, to that old one which Christ came to take away; because, in consequence of the fall, man was no longer in a condition to be saved by it. Upon the Jew renouncing all dependence upon his own righteousness, and professing his faith in Christ crucified, as the author and finisher of his salvation, he was admitted into the privileges of the Gospel covenant. But in this case his faith was, as St. Ignatius calls it, beginning or the principle of his Christian life.”


* Vindiciæ, c. 6, p. 264; and c. 7, p. 363.

It gave him admission into the Christian Church. Now had St. Paul thought, that where this principle was once established, it would of course draw after it all those graces and virtues necessary to render it effectual to salvation; in other words, had he thought that the faith which gave admission into the Church, would of course make the party a perfect member of it, he would not have furnished his disciples with that complete system of moral duties which is to be found in his writings. If he had thought that faith included under it Christian practice, his direction to Titus,* that the constant subject of his preaching should be," that they which have believed in God (those who professed the faith) might be careful to maintain good works," had been superfluous.

If St. Peter had thought that Christian faith was necessarily of that prolific nature, that it could no where exist without producing its proper fruits, he would not, after having mentioned the precious faith obtained through the righteousness of God, have directed his disciples "to give all diligence to add to their faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, temperance; to temperance, patience; to patience, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity." The important reason for this direction he immediately subjoins: For (continues the Apostle) if these be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind." He may have a knowledge

* Titus iii. 8.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of mankind, and profess his faith in him as such; but his faith being barren and unfruitful will profit him nothing. "Wherefore, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if you do these things, ye shall never fall. For so (or upon this condition) an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."*

This plain passage from St. Peter places the whole plan of salvation through Christ fairly before us. It represents the exceeding great and precious promises which have been obtained for man, through the righteousness of Christ, as the basis of his salvation; but the bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, as the condition upon which that salvation will be ultimately realized. In this sense, the writings of St. Paul and St. James, and all other parts of scripture, will be found to harmonize; and we need no longer be afraid to talk of works, if we represent them, as the learned Bishop Bull, in vindication of St. James, has

* 2 Peter i. 5, 6, et seg.

"Accedamus jam ad alterum istud, quod breviter notandum duximus; nempe, phrasi illâ, e gyw, non id voluisse Jacobum opera nostra esse justificationis nostræ causam principalem aut meritoriam; illa quippe in merâ et gratuita Dei Patris misericordiâ, hæc in Christi solius morte ac meritis unicè statuenda est, et ab Apostolo revera statuitur. Etenim quamvis particula eam nonunquam vim obtineat, sæpe tamen adhibere solet sensu quodam mitiori, ut notet medium quodcunque rei obtinenda, sive conditionem præcedaneam, quæ vulgo causa qua non dicitur, licet reverà vix causæ nomen mereatur.


represented them; not as "either the principal or the meritorious cause of man's salvation, but as only the condition upon which, according to the terms of the Gospel covenant, man is to become partaker of it."*

There is another part of this respectable writer's publication which, as it strikes me, ought to be read with some comment; because, as it stands, it seems calculated to lead the indiscriminating reader to a conclusion different, I should suppose, from that meant to be conveyed by it. The part alluded to is to be found in p. 327 and 328, and runs thus: "But the nature of the holiness to which the desires of the true Christian are directed, is no other than the restoration of the image of God; and as to the manner of acquiring it, disclaiming with indignation every idea of attaining it by his own strength; all his hopes of possessing it rest altogether on the Divine assurances of the operation of the Holy Spirit, in those who cordially embrace the Gospel of Christ."-Thus far we

are perfectly agreed.

communi sensu abhorret,
Ut enim alia taceam, cum
particula εκ manifeste hoc

sensu sumitur. Quippe ne ipsâ quidem fide tanquam causâ
principali, imo non ut causâ omnino, nisi improprie dictâ, jus-
tificari aliquis dici potest. Dicitur igitur homo, y dixα-
sola, quia bona opera conditio sunt, juxta ordinationem divinam
in Evangelico fædore stabilitam necessario in hoc requisita, ut
quis justificetur, i. e. remissionem peccatorum per Christum
partam obtineat, Deoque ad salutem gratus et acceptus fiat.”
-BULL, Harmon. Apostol. cap. i. §. 8.

* Vindicia, c. 6, p. 287 and 288.

Atque is loquendi modus neque a neque a stylo scripturæ alienus est. dicitur homo εκ πίστες δικαίεσθαι,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »