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To proceed with our author :
"He knows, therefore, that this holiness is not to precede his reconciliation to God, and be its cause, but to follow it, and be its effect. That, in short, it is by faith in Christ only that he is to be justified in the sight of God; to be delivered from the condition of a child of wrath, and a slave of Satan; to be adopted into the family of God; to become an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ; entitled to all the privileges which belong to this high relation; here, to the spirit of grace and a partial renewal after the image of his Creator; hereafter, to the more perfect possession of the Divine likeness, and an inheritance of eternal glory."
That general reconciliation of God to man in his fallen condition, through the sacrifice of Christ, by virtue of which he is placed in a state of conditional salvation under the new covenant, seems here not sufficiently distinguished from that particular reconciliation of God to the individual in his redeemed condition, when restored to that degree of likeness to his Creator necessary to qualify him for admission into his presence.
There can be no such thing as holiness in man, independent of the operation of the Holy Spirit; and the work of the Holy Spirit being the part of the Gospel scheme of salvation, consequent upon that all-sufficient sacrifice by which alone God became reconciled to his fallen creatures; tainly follows, that this work cannot precede the cause which gave it birth.
But every one admitted into the Church is, in
some sense, in a state of reconciliation with God;
The line of distinction between professing faith and practising faith, should at all times be so marked as to leave a distinct idea upon the mind respecting a subject which has been so open to misconception. Professing faith, it is to be observed, gives admis
* 2 Cor. v. 20; vi. 1; vii. 1.
sion only into the Church of Christ, and a title to
For, allowing that the practical precepts of Christianity do grow out of her peculiar doctrines, which is certainly true; yet that they are inseparably connected with them,"* is a position not to be admitted: for in such case faith and practice may be considered but as two words for the same thing; and it becomes impossible for professors "to hold the truth in unrighteousness;"+ which St. Paul tells us some did in his days; and which, in consequence of the corrupt nature of man, some will do in a greater or less degree in every stage of the Christian Church. The learned Bishop Bull has so clearly stated this subject, as to render further enlargement upon it unnecessary.‡
Wilberforce, p. 382.
+ Rom. i. 18.
"Quod jactant de instrumentalitate fidei in justificationis negotio, nihil etiam quam meram et inanem subtilitatem redolet. Præterquam enim quod extra scripturas hic loquuntur, si
The Gospel scheme of salvation can then only be complete, when the whole of it is taken together; when each part of the Christian obiigation, comprehended under the general terms of faith, repentance, and obedience, is suffered to have its due weight in the scale of human estimation.
In a word, that man is not to be saved by any works of righteousness of his own, because, in
instrumentum strictè et propriè sumatur pro causâ efficiente minus principali, clarum est, fidem justificationis instrumentum nullo modo dici posse. Nam primò, cum justificatio sit actio Dei solius, éaque tota extra nos producta, quomodo vel fides nostra, vel quævis nostra actio ad justificationis effectum producendum physicam ullam efficientiam habeat, prorsus axaтahníтov est. Deinde omnis causa instrumentalis, (ut jam innuimus) suo modo in effectum influit, eique effecti productio proprié attribui potest. Jam veró cum justificatio nihil aliud sit quàm gratiosus Dei actus, quo precata nostra nobis condonet, ac nos ad salutem acceptet, valdè absurdum esset dicere, vel fidem, vel opera nostra, vel quidvis aliud nostrî, aut remittere peccata nostra, aut personas nostras acceptare; quod tamen, si instrumentalis causa justificationis fides sit, planè discendum esset. Etiam si igitur concederemus, habitum fidei esse instrumentum istius actûs quo Christum amplectimur; qui tamen inde intulerit, fidem esse justificationis instrumentum, manifestissimæ certè inconsequentiæ reus tenebitur. Ut ergo quod res est dicam, si fidem instrumentum esse velimus, fieri non potest, ut concipiatur alio modo instrumentum esse, quám quatenus opus es ex prescripto, et per gratiam Dei a nobis præstitum. Conditio enim, quatenus præstita est, aliquo modo medium, sive instrumentum dici potest,
quo consequimur rem, quæ sub conditione promittitur. Et vocatur hoc a nonnullis instrumentum morale. Et si hoc sensu instrumentum sumatur (nempe pro conditione sive instrumento morali) fidem esse unicum justificationis instrumentum omnino negamus; cum, ut satis evincimus, etiam pænitentiæ opera non minus necessaria ad justificationem obtinendam a Spiritu Saneto diserté statuantur.-BULL. Harmon. Apost. cap. ii. § 9.
consequence of their imperfection, they can have no merit in the eyes of God, but by what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for him, is a doctrine which cannot be too unequivocally expressed; at the same time it is to be remembered, that the qualification of the party, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, is the indispensable condition upon which salvation through Christ is suspended.
Satisfied in my mind that there can be no real difference of opinion between this respectable author and myself upon this matter; he will not, I flatter myself, feel offended at my endeavour to counteract a conclusion, to which certain unqualified passages, against which the best of writers are not always upon their guard, may possibly lead. The apparent disagreement between us, (if I have been correct in my remarks) arises from the different idea annexed to faith, considered either as a comprehensive term, including under it all the conditions of the Gospel covenant on man's part, or the simple act of believing the Christian doctrine, unaccompanied with that spiritual transformation of the sinner, necessary to render the death of Christ effectual to his salvation. These two ideas, applicable to faith in its different stages, ought at all times to be clearly distinguished, to qualify the Christian to form a correct judgment upon this important subject.
The account given by this author of the actual state of Christianity in this country is, it is to be feared, but too true. Vital Christianity we can scarce expect to find at a time, when the meaning annexed to that term is, to the bulk of professing Christians, become unintelligible.