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sidered as an undoing of everything which he had done amongst them; and which conduct of theirs drew from him some very strong expressions ; yet none, I think, but what may be fairly understood without supposing him to dispense with the necessity of a virtuous conduct.
Justification is properly distinguished from sanctification. Justification, in the scripture sense of it, is the pardon of sins, prior to a certain period; sanctification is holiness of life subsequent to that period; or more strictly speaking, these words express what God does for us in these different stages of our christian life. Justification is altogether his, because pardon is by its very nature the subject of favor. Sanctification, to say the least of it, is indebted to the support and assistance of his spirit. There is, therefore, an intelligible difference between justification and sanctification, and this is included in the term ; for, as it respects us, it would be called sanctity; as it respects God's assistance, it is called sanctification. But, as hath been said before, they are both necessary. A man may be justified, that is, may have his sins forgiven up to a certain period; yet if he be not also sanctified, if, after that period, he relapse into and go on in unrepented wickedness, he will perish notwithstanding his justification. On the other hand, sanctification itself would not avail, without having a preceding justification to rest upon. Good behaviour, from a certain period, has not in itself any proper virtue or quality such as to atone for bad behaviour before that period. By the grace of God it hath this effect, but not by its proper nature, any more than the regular paying off of our debts, after a certain period, will discharge or cancel those which were contracted before that period. Wherefore there must be a remission of prior sins, or in other words, justification, in order that a subsequent good life, or sanctity, or sanctification, may avail us at the last.
It may be true, that, according to this representation, the terms justification, faith, and works of the law are not every where used in scripture in exactly the same sense. Thus, although justification be generally used to express the pardon of sins that are passed, with a reference to some certain period, commonly that of their becoming believers in Christ, yet one or two passages are found, in which the word denotes our final destiny at the day of judgment. This, I think, is the sense of the word in that text of St Paul, wherein he declares that not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, are justified; and most unquestionably it bears this sense in that discourse of our Saviour, in which he tells his hearers, by thy words thou shalt
be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned ;' for this declaration is equivalent to another, which our Saviour delivers at the same time, namely, that for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment. So again, although in the texts which have been quoted from the epistle to the Galatians, it appears highly probable that, under the word faith, St Paul had in contemplation an efficacious faith; and that by the works of the law he meant particularly the rites and ordinances of the Jewish law, the view with which he wrote that epistle naturally and necessarily suggesting these ideas to his thoughts; yet in the epistle to the Romans, penned with a somewhat different aspect, and under a different impression, especially in that famous text, • Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith without the works of the law,' I think he meant by faith, the simple act of believing, and by the works of the law, the practice of those duties which are enjoined by its precepts, moral as well as ritual; and that the true interpretation of the text turns upon the word justification, which does not here signify finding acceptance, but the pardon of all sins committed before conversion. Therefore, there is some latitude to be allowed in the exposition of these terms as they occur in different places.
It may be also further true, that some passages of St Paul's epistles are not accordiug to the interpretation which we have put upon them, so applicable to us, or as some may think, so useful, or instructive, or affecting, as they are under a different exposition. Is it to be wondered at, that portions of ancient writings are not in all points, and in all their expressions, so applicable to us at this day, as they were to the persons to whom they were immediately addressed ? Is it not true rather, that this is no more than the necessary consequence of those changes which have taken place in the circumstances of christian life? But we are not to put a different sense upon words from that which was intended, in order to make them more closely applicable to our own case; or to make them, as we may suppose, more edifying; for there is no real edification separate from truth. That great revolution which had taken place in the lives of the Christians of St Paul's time, upon their becoming Christians at a ripe age, together with the almost entire change both of opinions and of conduct, which accompanied that event, does not take place in the ordinary life of a Christian at this day; whereby it comes to pass, that such of St Paul's expressions as refer particularly to that change, will not admit of the same proper application to us as it did to them.
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This, no doubt, constitutes a considerable difference; and without having some regard to this difference, we may fall into error in interpreting divers passages of scripture.
Nevertheless, we are not to dismiss every text which we cannot at first sight explain, with the short answer, that it relates to the first Christians, and not to us. This is a negligent and unworthy way of treating subjects of such deep importance. It often proceeds from rashness, or indolence, or religious indifference, and will lead into mistakes of an opposite kind. We are to ascertain, by a serious examination of the text before us, and the place in which it is found, what the actual difference is between the case of the early Christians, and our own, and how far that difference clears up the particular meaning; whilst at the same time, in a more general yet fair construction, much substantial truth may be left, in which we ourselves are interested. If this be so, we are to apply what is applicable. And perhaps there are few portions of scripture, in which, proceeding in this manner, we shall not find something that touches our own case most nearly. For instance, and to return to the question now under consideration, every man who reforms his life; who hath found in himself a general change of his behaviour; and who feels this change, both in the state of his mind and the course of his behaviour, will find a strong similitude between his own case and that of the first christian converts; and I think that he is well warranted in hoping that the justification, the pardon of the past, which in St Paul's epistles is expressly attributed to their conversion, will be extended to his reformation, and upon the same condition ; namely, of his persisting steadily in his new course; for, though the change in him be called reformation, and in them was conversion, reformation is in truth the substance of conversion ; it being to no purpose to go from one religion to another, even from a false to a true religion, if we carry our vices along with us.
Again, he who breaks off any particular sin from a religious motive, and without hypocrisy, such alteration being the effect upon his heart of his faith in Christ, has reason to apply to himself the doctrine of justification by faith, so far as to support and comfort himself with the expectation, that in the sight of God, he is justified from the sin which he had so forsaken; by which is meant, that his former transgressions of that kind are blotted out. This, however, has nothing to do with the case of him, who is merely changing one species of sin for another, according as a different time of life, a different state of fortune, a difference of place, possession, or society, may offer different temptations; for in that sort of change there is no repentance, no reformation, no proof or example of the efficacy or operation of christian faith ; but a mere following of the inclination, which is uppermost at the time. There is no justification by faith, when there is no faith operating, and consequently none in the case here described. But wherever there is a resolute resistance of temptation, a resolute breaking off of sinful habits, from and by virtue of the strength and force of religious motives within us, there is a working, energetic faith, and there is that justification by faith which is so much spoken of in St Paul's epistles. So that though there were circumstances of the age in which these epistles were written, which concerned the doctrine, which circumstances do not subsist now, it is far from being true that the doctrine itself is either barren or unimportant, or such as may be overlooked or neglected.
To conclude : The grand question is, what will save us at last. And this, so far as our present argument is concerned, divides itself into three; Will faith and works together save us ? will faith without works save us ? will works without faith save us? Now that faith in Jesus Christ, accompanied by a good life proceeding from that faith, will infallibly lead to salvation, neither admits, nor ever hath admitted, of any controversy whatever. Upon this point all parties are agreed. And this point is sufficient for the sincere Christian. He may entertain the other questions as matters of very interesting meditation ; but for himself, whilst he believes in Christ's religion, and earnestly and honestly strives to obey its laws, according to the utmost of his power and knowledge, he has no personal cause of doubt or distrust from either of them. The chief thing he has to look to is humility, the want of which may vitiate all his other good qualities. The chief thing he has to guard against, is a false and presumptuous opinion of his good works, so as to found upon them, in his own mind, a secret claim upon Heaven as of justice due to his merits, instead of gratefully referring himself, and all his hopes, to the free bounty and infinite love of God in Christ, displayed by offering him such a reward upon such terms.
The second question is, Will faith save us without works; or, to put the same question in another form, will faith end in salvation, though accompanied by a life of wickedness? Doctrines certainly have been, and are held, which lead to this conclusion, yet the conclusion itself is seriously maintained by few; for, however in terms the doctrine of salvation by faith
without works may appear to agree with certain expressions of St Paul's epistles, yet, when it comes to be offered as a rule of practice, it shows its own inconsistency with every property and character of true religion so strongly, that the practical inference is always denied. It is generally avoided by putting such a construction upon the word faith, as to prevent any li centious deductions being drawn from the doctrine of justification by faith; so that, to the question just now stated, ' will faith end in salvation, though it be accompanied with wickedness of life?' the answer usually given is, that true faith never can be accompanied by wickedness of life. It is not necessary to go over the subject again, for the purpose of inquiring whether it be applicable to all the texts of scripture to which it is applied, or only to some of them ; for, I trust, we have shown upon the whole, that the sense, which the doctrine of justification by faith without works, rigorously taken, would put upon St Paul's expressions, can never have been the sense which St Paul hiniself intended; amongst other strong reasons, chiefly for this, that it is in contradiction with his own repeated declarations, and even with declarations delivered in the very writings in which the contested expressions are found. And I trust also we have shown, what undoubtedly it might be required of us to show, that these are interpretations fairly assignable to St Paul's words, which stand clear of the doctrine in its rigorous, or, as it is sometimes called, its Calvinistic sense.
The third question is, Will good works save us without faith? Now, this is a question of circumstances, and the principal circumstance to be attended to is, whether our want of faith be our own fault. It is certainly true, that want of faith may proceed from, and be a proof of a wrong and a bad disposition of mind, of such a disposition of mind as no good thing can come from. This, perhaps, was both very generally and in a very high degree the case with the Jews in our Saviour's time, and with many of those to whom the apostles preached; because they had evidence afforded them, which ought to have convinced them, and which would have convinced them, had it not been that they gave themselves up to their prejudices, to their vicious propensities, and to wrong habits of thinking. And this their situation and opportunities will account for some of those strong denunciations against want of faith, which are found in scripture addressed to the unbelievers of those times. “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.' And, to a certain extent, the same reason may be alleged concerning many of those by whom, in after ages, the gospel is rejected, after