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truste sed do
being fairly proposed to them. Now, in this case, good works without faith, will not save a man; because, in truth, the works are not good, which flow from that disposition which occasions the want of faith. The works may be good, that is, may be useful as to their consequences and effects upon others; but this is not enough for the salvation of the person who performs them. They must also flow from a good disposition, which in the case supposed they could not do; for that good disposition would, along with the works, have produced faith.
On the other hand, cases undoubtedly may be supposed, and cases occur in innumerable instances, in which the want of faith cannot be attributed to the fault of the unbeliever. Whole nations and countries have never yet heard of the name of Christ. In countries in which he has been preached, multitudes have been debarred, by invincible impediments, from coming to the knowledge of his religion. To multitudes of others it has never been preached or proposed truly or fairly. In these and the like cases it is not for us to say, that men will be destroyed for their want of faith. The scripture has not said so, but the contrary. The scripture appears to intimate that which, so far as we can apprehend, is most agreeable to the Divine equity, that such persons shall respectively be judged according to the law and rule with which they were, or, if it had not been their own fault, they might have been acquainted, whether that were simply the law of nature, or any addition made to it by credible revelations. This is generally understood to be the meaning of that passage in the second chapter of St Paul's epistle to the Romans, in which he declares, that as many as have sinned without the law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. To which he adds, that when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, they having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the works of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another. Which two texts, taken together, intimate, as I have said, that in the assignment both of punishment and reward, respect will be had to the law or rule of action with which they were acquainted, so that those who acted conscientiously by that rule would be accepted, but who wilfully went against the dictates of their own conscience would be regarded as transgressors before God, be their condition, as to religious knowledge and information, what it would.
In order to understand that this doctrine does not detract
from the value of Christianity so much as, at first sight, it may seem to do, two considerations are to be attended to, as possessing a material influence upon the subject. One is, that this gracious dispensation which comprises all mankind, which so condescends to their several difficulties and disadvantages, and is so indulgent to human blindness and wickedness, is procured to the world through the intervention, the mission, death, and mediation of Jesus Christ. Christ is the instrument of salvation to all who are saved. The obedient Jew, the virtuous heathen, are saved through him. They do not know this, nor may it be necessary they should. Yet it may be true in fact. That is one important consideration. The other is, that we are expressly taught in scripture, that there are divers degrees of happiness even in heaven ; which being so, it is not unreasonable to expect that faithful followers of Christ will be advanced to higher rewards than others. This opinion is not repugnant to any ideas we form of distributive justice, and is scriptural.
Still, however, this speculation, though we cannot, I think, easily shut it out from our thoughts, does not touch our own proper concern. Our concern is solely with the question how a Christian can be saved. And in this question we rest upon one single conclusion ; viz. that there is no safe reliance upon any thing but upon sincere endeavours after christian obedience; and that a Christian's obedience consists in relinquishing his own sins, and practising his own duties.
Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sac
rifice of himself.
In former discourses upon this text I have shown, first, that the scriptures expressly state the death of Jesus Christ as having an efficacy in the procurement of human salvation, which is
not attributed to the death or sufferings of any other person, however patiently undergone, or undeservedly inflicted; and secondly, that this efficacy is quite consistent with our obligation to obedience; that good works still remain the condition of salvation, though not the cause; the cause being the mercy of Almighty God through Jesus Christ. There is no man living, perhaps, who has considered seriously the state of his soul, to whom this is not a consoling doctrine, and a grateful truth. But there are some situations of mind which dispose us to feel the weight and importance of this doctrine more than others. These situations I will endeavour to describe; and, in doing so, to point out how much more satisfactory it is to have a saviour and redeemer, and the mercies of our Creator excited towards us, and communicated to us by and through that saviour and redeemer, to confide in and rely upon, than any grounds of merit in ourselves.
First, then, souls which are really laboring and endeavouring after salvation, and with sincerity; such souls are every hour made sensible, deeply sensible, of the deficiency and imperfection of their endeavours. Had they no ground, therefore, for hope, but merit, that is to say, could they look for nothing more than what they should strictly deserve, their prospect would be very uncomfortable. I see not how they could look for heaven at all. They may form a conception of a virtue and obedience which might seem to be entitled to a high reward ; but when they come to review their own performances, and to compare them with that conception; when they see how short they have proved of what they ought to have been, and of what they might have been, how weak and broken were their best offices; they will be the first to confess, that it is infinitely for their comfort that they have some other resource than their own righteousness. One infallible effect of sincerity in our endeavours is to beget in us a knowledge of our imperfections. The careless, the heedless, the thoughtless, the nominal Christian, feels no want of a saviour, an intercessor, a mediator, because he feels not his own defects. Try in earnest to perform the duties of religion, and you will soon learn how incomplete your best performances are. I can hardly mention a branch of our duty which is not liable to be both impure in the motive, and imperfect in the execution; or a branch of our duty in which our endeavours can found their hopes of acceptance upon any thing but extended mercy, and the efficacy of those means and causes, which have procured it to be so extended.
In the first place, is not this the case with our acts of piety and devotion ? We may admit, that pure and perfect piety has a natural title to reward at the hand of God. But is ours ever such? To be pure in its motive, it ought to proceed from a sense of God Almighty's goodness towards us, and from no other source, or cause, or motive whatsoever. Whereas even pious, comparatively pious men, will acknowledge, that authority, custom, decency, imitation, have a share in most of their religious exercises, and that they cannot warrant any of their devotions to be entirely independent of these causes. I would not speak disparagingly of the considerations here recited. They are oftentimes necessary inducements, and they may be means of bringing us to better ; but still it is true, that devotion is not pure in its origin, unless it flow from a sense of God Almighty's goodness, unmixed with any other reason. But if our worship of God be defective in its principle, and often debased by the mixture of impure motives, it is still more deficient, when we come to regard it in its performances. Our devotions are broken and interrupted, or they are cold and languid. Worldly thoughts intrude themselves upon them. Our worldly heart is tied down to the earth. Our devotions are unworthy of God. We lift not up our hearts unto him. Our treasure is upon earth, and our hearts are with our treasure. That heavenlymindedness which ought to be inseparable from religious exercises does not accompany ours; at least not constantly. I speak not now of the hypocrite in religion, of him who only makes a show of it. His case comes not within our present consideration. I speak of those who are sincere men. These feel the imperfection of their services, and will acknowledge that I have not stated it more strongly than what is true. Imperfection cleaves to every part of it. Our thankfulness is never what it ought to be, or any thing like it; and it is only when we have some particular reason for being pleased that we are thankful at all. Formality is apt continually to steal upon us in our worship; more especially in our public worship; and formality takes away the immediate consciousness of what we are doing; which consciousness is the very life of devotion ; all that we do without it being a dead ceremony
No man reviews his services towards God, his religious services, but he perceives in them much to be forgiven, much to be excused; great unworthiness as respecting the object of all worship; much deficiency and imperfection to be passed over, before our service can be deemed in its nature an acceptable service. That such services, therefore, should, in fact, be allowed and accepted, and that to no less an end and purpose
wards my, what, duty to God worship
than the attainment of heaven, is an act of abounding grace and goodness in Him who accepts them; and we are taught in scripture, that this so much wanted grace and goodness abounds towards us through Jesus Christ; and particularly through his sufferings, and his death.
But to pass from acts of worship, which form a particular part only of our duty to God; to pass from these to our general duty, what, let us ask, is that duty ? What is our duty towards God? No other, our Saviour himself tells us, than to love him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind.' Luke, x. 27. Are we conscious of such love, to such a degree? If we are not, then, in a most fundamental duty, we fail of being what we ought to be. Here, then, as before, is a call for pardoning mercy on the part of God; which mercy is extended to us by the intervention of Jesus Christ; at least so the scriptures represent it.
In our duties towards one another, it may be said, that our performances are more adequate to our obligation, than in our duties to God; that the subjects of them lie more level with our capacity; and there may be truth in this observation. But still I am afraid, that both in principle and execution our performances are not only defective, but defective in a degree which we are not sufficiently aware of. The rule laid down for us is this; to love our neighbour as ourselves ;' which rule, in fact, enjoins, that our benevolence be as strong as our self interest ; that we be as anxious to do good, as quick to discover, as eager to embrace, every opportunity of doing it, and as active and resolute, and persevering in our endeavours to do it, as we are anxious for ourselves, and active in the pursuit of our own interest. Now is this the case with us? Wherein it is not, we fall below our rule. In the apostles of Jesus Christ, to whom this rule was given from his own mouth, you may read how it operated; and their example proves, what some deny, the possibility of the thing; namely, of benevolence being as strong a motive as self interest. They firmly believed, that to bring men to the knowledge of Christ's religion was the greatest possible good that would be done unto them, was the highest act of benevolence they could exercise. Aud, accordingly, they set about this work, and carried it on with as much energy, as much ardor, as much perseverance, through as great toils and labors, as many sufferings and difficulties, as any person ever pursued a scheme for their own interest, or for the making of a fortune. They could not possibly have done more for their own sakes than what they did for