Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

is as necessary, as if it had been an offer of mere retribution.
The kindness, the bounty, the generosity of the offer, do not
make it the less necessary to perform the conditions, but more
so. A conditional offer may be infinitely kind on the part of
the benefactor who makes it, may be infinitely beneficial to
those to whom it is made. If it be from a prince or governor,
it may be infinitely gracious and merciful on his part; and yet,
being conditional, the condition is as necessary, as if the offer
had been no more than that of scanty wages by a hard task-
master.

In considering this matter in general, the whole of it appears
to be very plain ; yet, when we apply the consideration to reli-
gion, there are two mistakes into which we are liable to fall.
The first is, that when we hear so much of the exceedingly
great kindness of the offer, we are apt to infer, that the condi-
tions, upon which it was made, will not be exacted. Does that
at all follow ? Because the offer, even with these conditions,
is represented to be the fruit of love, and mercy, and kindness,
and is in truth so, and is most justly so to be accounted, does
it follow that the conditions of the offer are not necessary to be
performed ? This is one error, into which we slide, against
which we ought to guard ourselves most diligently; for it is
not simply false in its principle, but most pernicious in its appli-
cation ; its application always being to countenance us in some
sin which we will not relinquish. The second mistake is, that,
when we have performed the conditions, or think that we have
performed the conditions, or when we endeavour to perform the
conditions, upon which the reward is offered, we forthwith at-
tribute our obtaining the reward to this our performance or
endeavour, and not to that which is the beginning and founda-
tion and cause of the whole, the true and proper cause; name-
ly, the kindness and bounty of the original offer. This turn
of thought, likewise, as well as the former, it is necessary to
warn you against. For it has these consequences; it damps
our gratitude to God, it takes off our attention from Him.

Some, who allow the necessity of good works to salvation, are not willing that they should be called conditions of salvation. But this, I think, is a distinction too refined for common christian apprehension. If they be necessary to salvation, they are conditions of salvation, so far as I can see. It is a question, however, not now before us.

But to return to the immediate subject of our discourse. Our observations have carried us thus far; that in the business of human salvation there are two most momentous considera

Heate

Suba ji se

2.

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

tions, the cause and the conditions, and that these considerations are distinct. I now proceed to say, that there is no inconsistency between the efficacy of the death of Christ and the necessity of a holy life, by which I mean sincere endeavours after holiness; because the first, the death of Christ, relates to the cause of salvation; the second, namely, good works, respects the conditions of salvation ; and that the cause of salvation is one thing, the conditions another.

The cause of salvation is the free will, the free gift, the love and mercy of God. That alone is the source and fountain and cause of salvation, the origin from which it springs, from which all our hopes of attaining to it are derived. This cause is not in ourselves, nor in any thing we do, or can do, but in God, in his good will and pleasure. It is, as we have before shown, in the graciousness of the original offer. Therefore, whatever shall have moved and excited and conciliated that good will and pleasure, so as to have procured that offer to be made, or shall have formed any part or portion of the motive from which it was made, may most truly and properly be said to be efficacious in human salvation.

This efficacy is in scripture attributed to the death of Christ. It is attributed in a variety of ways of expression, but this is the substance of them all. He is 'a sacrifice, an offering to God; a propitiation ; the precious sacrifice foreordained; the lamb slain from the foundation of the world; the lamb which taketh away the sin of the world. We are washed in his blood; we are justified by his blood; we are saved from wrath through him; he hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.' All these terms, and many more that are used, assert in substance the same thing; namely, the efficacy of the death of Christ in the procuring of human salvation. To give to these expressions their proper moment and import, it is necessary to reflect, over and over again, and by reflection to impress our minds with a just idea, what and how great a thing salvation is; for it is by means of that idea alone, that we can ever come to be sensible, how unspeakably important, how inestimable in value, any efficacy, which operates upon that event, must be to us all. The highest terms in which the scriptures speak of that efficacy are not too great, cannot be too great; because it respects an interest and an event, so vast, so momentous, as to make all other interests, and all other events, in comparison contemptible.

The sum of our argument is briefly this. There may appear, and to many there has appeared, to be an inconsistency or in

OWL teret

compatibility between the efficacy of the death of Christ, and the necessity of sincere endeavours after obedience. When the subject is properly examined, there turns out to be no such incompatibility. The graciousness of an offer does not diminish the necessity of the condition. Suppose a prince to promise to one of his subjects, upon compliance with certain terms, and the performance of certain duties, a reward in magnitude and value out of all competition beyond the merit of the compliance, beyond the desert of the performance; to what shall such a subject ascribe the happiness held out to him? He is an ungrateful man, if he attribute it to any cause whatever, but to the bounty and goodness of his prince in making him the offer; or if he suffer any consideration, be it what it will, to interfere with, or diminish his sense of that bounty and goodness. Still it is true, that he will not obtain what is offered, unless he comply with the terms. So far his compliance is a condition of his happiness. But the grand thing is the offer being made at all. That is the ground and origin of the whole. That is the cause ; and is ascribable to favor, grace, and goodness, on the part of the prince, and to nothing else. It would, therefore, be the last degree of ingratitude in such a subject, to forget his prince, while he thought of himself ; to forget the cause, whilst he thought of the condition; to regard every thing promised as merited. The generosity, the kindness, the voluntariness, the bounty of the original offer, come by this means to be neglected in his mind entirely. This, in my opinion, describes our situation with respect to God. The love, goodness, and grace of God, in making us a tender of salvation, and the effects of the death of Christ, do not diminish the necessity or the obligation of the condition of the tender, which is a sincere endeavour after holiness; nor are, in any wise, inconsistent with such obligation.

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

e not

terest other

[ocr errors]

THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST CONSISTENT WITH THE NECESSITY OF A GOOD LIFE; THE ONE BEING THE CAUSE, THE OTHER THE CONDITION, OF SALVATION.

PART III.

ROMANS VI. 1.

What shall we say then

shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

God forbid.

In the last discourse I said that good works are the condition of salvation ; not the cause; that the cause is no other than the gratuitous abounding mercy of Almighty God. Now, though this position was attempted to be established for the purpose of checking such a notion of merit and pretensions in ourselves, as might tend to lessen in our minds the consideration of that goodness and love to which we are above all measure indebted, and by which we are above all degrees obliged; though, I say, it was there advanced for the sake of this application, and no other, yet the proposition may be again taken up as introductory to a second important argument; namely, the discussion of the question, which every Christian must have heard of, between good works and faith.

Remarking the great stress that is laid upon faith in scripture, and the high and strong terms in which it is spoken of in certain passages of St Paul's epistles in particular, some persons, though they agreed with us in stating good works to be the condition of salvation, had at the same time alleged faith to be the cause. Now that is not so. Faith is no more the cause of salvation than good works are. The proper cause is distinct from either, being exclusively and solely the grace or voluntary bounty of Almighty God. Therefore it is misrepresenting the matter to advance faith into a different predicament, as I may say, from good words, by calling it the cause, and good works the condition of salvation. In truth, they are neither of them the cause. They are both of the same nature; they both hold the same place in our consideration ; by which in the

Tai

I mean to signify, that so far as either of them are necessary, they are of importance and efficacy as conditions only. This, I think, ought to be carefully observed ; for it puts us into the true way both of comprehending and of trying the question between them ; which question, though in substance one, is capable of being submitted to examination under three forms.

Whether faith alone be the condition of salvation? Whether good works alone be that condition ? Whether faith and good works be the condition, neither of them being, without the other, sufficient?

Now, independently of scripture texts, I know not that any one would ever have thought of making faith alone, meaning by faith the belief of certain religious propositions, to be the condition of salvation; because it would have occurred to every one, who reflected upon the subject, that at any rate faith could only be classed amongst other virtues and good qualities, and not as that which superseded all. Be its excellency, or value, or obligation ever so great, it is still a quality of our moral nature, capable of degrees, and liable to imperfections, as our other moral qualities are. Those, therefore, who contend for the sufficiency of faith alone, must found their doctrine, and we will do them the justice to allow, that they do found their doctrine, upon certain strong texts of scripture. The texts upon which they rely are principally taken from the writings of St Paul; and they are these ; Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed on Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. “That no man is justified by the law, in the sight of God, it is evident; for the just shall live by faith. The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.' • For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.' 'If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.' These, no doubt, are strong texts, and it will not be wondered at, that in conjunction with other inducements, they have led many serious persons to lay such a stress upon them, as to exclude good works from being considered even as a condition of salvation ; and a few perhaps to take refuge in this doctrine, as a ground of hope under a

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