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condition of our justification, can be proportioned to our present abilities. For we have no natural ability for any sincere obedience at all.
“ We are dead in trespasses and sins.” “The carnal mind in us is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But this is what I may have further occasion to inculcate, before I have finished this letter. : I would now only add, that the Scriptures represent to us an irreconcilable opposition between our being saved by works, and our being saved by the grace revealed in the Gospel. I have shown you, in my last, how strongly faith and works are opposed to each other, with respect to our justification. And, I must also observe, that works and grace are, in like manner, opposed as irreconcilably inconsistent with each other, in this grand concern.
* And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.”
“ 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.”
66 Now to him that worketh, is the reward reckoned not of grace, but of debt.” Here are the most plain, express, and peremptory declarations, that can be made in human language, of the utter inconsistency of works and grace, the impossibility of their concurring in the affair of our justification and interest in the saving mercy of God.
Whence it plainly appears, that we must be saved by works alone, or by grace alone. And if the former, it must be by the first covenant of works. But if the latter, then not by
any works, by no obedience at all, as the condition of our justification and acceptance with God.
You have indeed undertaken to obviate all such arguments against your scheme, by pretending that, 6 where works are ejected as having no hand in our justification, and as being inconsistent with the grace of the Gospel, it must be legal obedience which is there intended; whereas, the obedience pleaded for is evangelical. It is not supposed, that we are justified by obedience to the moral law, but by sincere obedience to the Gospel institution."
But I entreat you to consider, that if we are indeed justified by sincere obedience to the Gospel, we must be justified by the works of the law, by obedience to the moral law, and therefore not by the faith of Christ, as revealed in the Gospel. This appears evident from such considerations as these. The moral law is the very rule and standard of all our obedience to God: if, therefore, we obtain justification by sincere obedience, we must obtain it by a conformity to the moral law, without which there can be no obedience at all, and therefore no sincere obedience. All the duty and obedience which we can owe to God, as rational creatures, is comprised in that comprehensive summary of the moral law, to “ love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves;” and there neither is, nor can be, any obedience sincere and acceptable to God, but what flows from this principle of love, the source of all practical conformity to the moral law. Besides, the Gospel does not make void the law, as a rule of obedience, but establishes it: and therefore our justification, by
sincere obedience to the Gospel, is a justification by the deeds of the law, or by a conformity to it as the rule of life. It is no just objection against this, that there are some positive precepts in the Gospel which are not discoverable by the light of nature, nor directly required by the moral law: for, though these positive duties, such as receiving baptism and the Lord's Supper, and faith in Jesus Christ, the Mediator, considered as an act of obedience to a Gospel command, be not directly required; yet they are, by necessary consequence, enjoined in that fundamental statute of the moral law, “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou
Moreover our Lord Jesus Christ wrought out the work of redemption for us, “ that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.". If, therefore, he wrought out our redemption in order to procure justification for us on the condition of sincere obedience, then our sincere obedience is a fulfilling the righteousness of the law in us; for it can no other way be fulfilled in us, upon that supposition. This, then, I think, is a plain case, that we must, upon this scheme, be justified by the works of the law, by a personal conformity to it, and by our own fulfilling the righteousness of it. Here is no place for your distinction of legal and evangelical obedience. All obedience is legal when performed from legal motives and to a legal end, as it is if performed in order to our obtaining justification and acceptance with God upon like conditions with those proposed in the moral law; which I have already shown to be the case before us, according to this scheme of a new law of grace.
Here it will, therefore, be proper to pause a little, and consider, whether a depending upon such legal obedience for a claim to God's favour can be consistent with our salvation by the faith of Christ, as revealed in the Gospel. The Apostle is full and plain upon this head. 6. Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified in his sight. But now the righteousness without the law is mapifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets."
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in 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.” “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore ? Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law.” 66 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” But you
have another answer to make to such texts as these, which are so strongly pointed against any dependence upon legal obedience." There are some (you tell me) who plead, that the legal obedience, or the works of the law, which the Apostle opposes to the grace and faith of the Gospel, intends no more than a conformity to the ceremonial law: and, in that view of the case, those texts of Scripture, wherein such legality is condemned, are nowise inconsistent with, or opposite to, the doctrine you are pleading for.”.
I thought I had fully obviated this objection in
my former letters to you, wherein I endeavoured to set before you the Apostle's scope and design in his Epistle to the Romans, especially in the seventh chapter; and if you will review that letter with proper attention, I think you will find sufficient matter of satisfaction. It is strange that any man who has ever read that Epistle to the Romans, wherein the case before us is so distinctly considered, can espouse such a trifling pretence as this to me most evidently is. The Apostle there speaks of a law by which the doers (supposing there were any) shall be justified before God, chap. ii. 13.; of a law, which the Gentiles may (in part, at least) discover by the light of nature, and thereby be in some measure 'a law. to themselves, ver. 14. But can any man pretend that we could be justified before God by an observance of the ceremonial law? or that the Gentiles, without revelation, could have understood the ceremonial law so as to have been a law to themselves ? The Apostle is there treating of a law by which both Jews and Gentiles are allunder sin, and by which they had the knowledge of sin, chap. iii. 9, 20. and vii. 7. But could the Gentiles be under sin, or have the knowledge of sin by the ceremonial law, which was no law to them? How then could they be capable of any transgression, of it? The Apostle there treats of a law whereby
every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God;" and a law which is established by faith, chap. iii. 19, 31.: neither of which can,
any sepse, be true of the ceremonial law. The Apostle instances in moral precepts, as