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really intend, that the beginning, the progress, and the conclusion of our justification is by obedience only? This may easily be brought to a short and determinate issue. Either faith does justify us, as it is a work of ours, and an act of obedience; or it justifies us, as it is the means of our receiving Christ's righteousness, and having the same actually applied to us, for our justification and acceptance with God. There is no other way in which we can be supposed to be justified by faith. All the distinctions that the most exuberant fancies of men can light upon, are reducible to one of these two. Now, if the latter of these be assumed, the controversy is ended; we have a righteousness to plead that is sufficiently perfect, and that will stand us in stead; there is no need of our new obedience, in order to make up its defects, and procure a secondary justification. But if the former of these be assured, then our first justification is as truly by works as the second, and the whole is by obedience only. Much more fair and ingenuous would it therefore be, for the abettors of these principles to speak out, and tell us plainly that we are justified only by works, and that faith has nothing to do in our justification, but as it is our own work, and an act of obedience; than thus to endeavour to hide the deformity of their scheme, as contrary to the whole tenor of the Gospel, by the paint and varnish of this plausible, but groundless distinction.
If we should proceed to consider the nature of their secondary justification, and the obedience by which it is obtained, there will appear to be as little foundation for this new distinction from thence as from the former view. Will
every act of our sincere
comfort, or for quiet, but from a careless inadvertency. However, supposing we may find some satisfying evidence of our sincerity, at certain seasons, under special reformations and enlargements, what will become of our hopes when a contrary frame prevails ? Can we then flatter ourselves with our sincerity ? Must not our hopes and fears keep pace with our frames; and our whole life be a dreadful fluctuating between both, with respect to the infinite eternal concern before us? And is not this to be called the spirit of bondage again to fear?
What room can there be, upon this plan, for the Spirit of adoption? How can the “ Spirit witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God?” How can we experience the sealings of the Holy Spirit, or the earnest of our future inheritance? How can we have the full assurance of hope? Or how can we make our calling and election sure? We must, upon those principles, give up all pretensions to these glorious comforts, benefits, and privileges of the children of God, while our hope is built upon this precarious foundation, and depends upon
the doubtful and uncertain performance of persevering, sincere obedience. Let us suppose the best which can be supposed, that we should make a comforting and encouraging progress in a life of sincere obedience; yet how do we yet know, but death may seize us in an unguarded hour, and find us actually playing the hypocrite? In this case, what will become of all our religious duties, and all our hopes? And what will become of our souls to all eternity? I must confess, Sir, I could see nothing before me but horror and despair, if I had no better
some continuing conditions required of us, in order to our complete justification.”
There is no need to debate with you the propriety of the word conditions in this case, because it may be used in a sound sense. But I know nothing in the nature of any covenant, except a covenant of works, that makes such conditions as you speak of necessary to it.
Whereas, if you consider the covenant of grace in all the exhibitions of it, it is a covenant of promise, as styled, Eph. ii. 12. Thence those who are interested in this covenant are called “ the children of the promise ;” and “ the heirs of the promise.” Thus the tenor of this covenant, when made with Adam, was, that " the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head.” And thus when made with Abraham, it consisted of a promise, that " in him all the families of the earth should be blessed." In neither of these cases was there
any condition added ; it was barely a declaration of mercy to guilty sinners. And yet the Apostle expressly calls this a covenant, which was confirmed of God in Christ, and says “the inheritance God gave to Abraham by promise.” And what is there that should make this inconsistent with the nature of a covenant ? Cannot you, Sir, covenant with a beggar, to bestow upon him what treasure you please, upon the only condition of his thankful acceptance ? Cannot a prince covenant with his rebel subjects to pardon them and receive them into his favour, upon the only condition of their acknowledging his sovereignty, and accepting his pardon ? Would not this be truly and formally a covenant, and a covenant with strongest obligations to the performance,
especially if confirmed by an oath, as the glorious God has condescended to confirm the covenant of grace ?
You further argue, that " good works, and a life of sincere obedience, are absolutely necessary to salvation, without which no man can see the Lord, and therefore necessary to our justification, which is but our title to eternal life. And a right or title to eternal life is promised to obedience, Rev. xxii. 14. • Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city.' Heaven is a recompense of reward.
And God has particularly promised to his people, that he will proportion the dispensations of his grace, to the good or evil behaviour of his people, in the eighteenth and thirtythird chapters of Ezekiel.”
Do you indeed, Sir, suppose, that there is no difference between justification and sanctification ? They are both, it is true, necessary to salvation : but are they both necessary in the same respects, in the same place, and order, and to the same ends ? Are they both necessary, as what will equally entitle us to the continuing favour of God, to grace and glory hereafter ? Holiness, or new obedience, is necessary, as a qualification, disposing or fitting us for the enjoyment of God, and possession of the heavenly glory. But how will it follow from hence, that it is necessary, as the condition of our reconciliation to God, and of our being kept by his power, through faith unto salvation ? How will it follow, that because we cannot be saved without holiness, that therefore we must be saved for it, and upon the account of it? It is necessary to an heir's possession
of an estate, given him by his father's will, that he live and enjoy his reason; yet it is not his life and reason, but his father's donation, which gives him the title. Even so in the present case, our life and activity are necessary to our possessing the eternal inheritance; but it is the free grace of God in Christ which gives us the title. By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
As to the Scriptures cited by you, they are altogether impertinent to your purpose.
You should prove, if you would confirm your point in view, that we are justified by works, and that our works give us the title to salvation.
But all that you do prove by the cited Scripture is, that good works are necessary to salvation; which is a truth equally allowed by both parties in the present controversy, and a consequence equally resulting from the principles of both.
The first text indeed which you quote, does, in the English translation, seem to look something in
But when read in the original, all that appearance is lost. I think it should thus be read, “ Blessed are they who do his commandments, that they may have power, privilege, or liberty, for the tree of life.” And it is on all hands granted, that none will ever have the power, privilege, or liberty, to enter the eternal inheritance, but those who are sanctified. The whole question is, from whence is this power derived ? upon what title is this liberty or privilege founded? Whether only from the righteousness of Christ imputed, or from their sincere conformity to the pretended new law of grace? To