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SERM. 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 the 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 them. selves, 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 de
SERM. clare that they do not come to destroy, but
to fulfil it.
With these two keys I believe that every passage of scripture, which seems to favour the idea of the sufficiency of faith alone to salvation, may be otherwise explained; and I leave to every candid person to determine whether that interpretation, which makes ą good book consistent with itself, is not to be preferred before that, which makes it at variance.
And this brings me to what I proposed in the second place, to lay before you some strong and clear quotations from the scripture, in which the virtues of a good life are insisted on as indispensably necessary to salvation. And here so many passages, to this purpose, press themselves upon me, that the only difficulty is to select and arrange them. The forerunner of our Saviour, John the Baptist, is described as opening the way for the gospel, by preaching repentance and remission of sins, that is, by preaching that SERM.
1. men should be forgiven on sorrow for past wickedness, and amendment in future. Our Saviour also began his ministry by preaching repentance; “from that time began Jesus to preach and to say, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Or as St. Mark in the parallel passage expresses it, “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye and believe in the gospel.” Not only believing, but forsaking of sin and turning to a life of virtue was required by him of his disciples. In his sermon on the mount he particularly insists on the practice of a variety of good qualities, and in one verse commands us to be exemplary, and even conspicuous, in the exercise of them in general; “let your light so shine before men, that they niay see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.” In the same excellent discourse he tells his hearers, that except their righteousness, that is, their
SERM. practice of what is right, shall exceed the 1.
righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. And still more to my present purpose, he expressly declares, that not every one who shall say unto him “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he only that doeth the will of his father; as if he had said, Not they, who only profess themselves to be christians, and who believe and own me to be their master, but they who do what I teach shall obtain salvation. Nay, he goes still further, and tells them that though they shall have even performed miracles in his name, yet if they have been dis, obedient to his will, and lived wickedly, he shall, at the great day of judgment, reply to their claims of acquaintance and favour, “I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity.”
You remember the parable of the king, who made a marriage feast for his son; those,