Page images

sense for absolute justification of the person before God? How could his works being imputed for righteousness, fulfil that scripture which assures us that his faith was imputed for righteousness; unless faith and works are the same thing, and there be no difference at all between believing and obeying ? Certain it is, that the apostle Paul understood the argument to conclude the quite contrary way, when he undertook to prove, from this very text, that “ righteousness is imputed to him that worketh not;"> and that it " is imputed without works;" and therefore the apostle James must be understood in such a sense as will make both his argument conclusive, and his doctrine consistent with the other inspired writings.--I shall only add, as to that clause, “ And he was called the friend of God,” this does not mean that Abraham's works made him the friend of God; but they declared him so. His obedience did not put him in the state of a friend; but being upon trial found faithful, he obtained this testimony, that he was the friend of God, a justified believer. Now Abraham being the father of all them that believe, an eminent example of faith, and pattern of justification, the Apostle subjoins, ver. 24. “ You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” In a like sense, even as Christ is said to be justified in (or by) the Spirit, so a Christian man is justified by the fruit of the Spirit, in a holy life, that is, declared approved of God. By works, a man that says he has faith, is thus justified, and not by faith only; not by a faith that hath not works attending it; not by a faith which is alone, or by itself, destitute of its proper fruits and evidences.

that is but like a body without spirit, or a carcass without breath, ver. 26.

These are the respective questions handled by these two apostles; and their answers are adapted to the subjects professedly handled by them. They give the very same answers to each of these questions that a judicious Calvinist divine would now give. Should an awakened sinner, under a sense of his guilt and danger, inquire of one of our divines how he may obtain a pardon of his sins, a reconciliation to God, and a title to eternal life? would he not answer, with the apostle Paul, that he must “ seek righteousness by faith, and not, as it were, by the works of the law; for by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in his sight; that he must be found in Christ, not having his 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, then, on the other hand, should any vain professor, that turns the grace of God into wantonness, yet say that he has faith, and flatter himself with salvation, from his historical and doctrinal belief of the Gospel, while living a careless and sensual life; would he not be told, in the language of the apostle James, that such a faith will not save him ; that the very devils have such a faith as well as he ; that faith without works is a dead faith, and but a carcass without breath; that he must have works to justify his pretence to faith, and must show his faith by his works, or his hopes are vain, and he a vain man to entertain such hopes ? Now, what shadow of disagreement would appear in these different answers to such very different subjects in question ?

After this view of the case, it is now to be considered from which of these apostles we may expect to have the doctrine of a sinner's justification before God explained and set in its proper light: whether from him who is purposely handling this subject, or from him who is not purposely handling this matter, but treating on a very different subject ? This is an inquiry very easily answered; and being answered, the whole difficulty vanishes of course.

These things being premised, I proceed to consider the subject before us more directly and particularly; and, by taking notice of the doctrines respectively taught by these apostles, shall endeavour to show you that there is no disagreement at all between them; nor any thing at all in this discourse of the apostle James which you refer to, that is in the least repugnant to our justification by faith without works of righteousness done by us.

This will appear evident, if we consider, in the first place, that these apostles are treating of a different faith. The one of them has not the same idea, and does not mean the same thing with the other, when they discourse of faith and its influence upon our justification. You remember I have formerly shown you at large, in a letter purposely written on that subject, that there are two sorts of faith mentioned and described in the Scripture. By the one we are, and by the other we are not, justified before God. Now the apostle Paul speaks of the former of these, and the apostle James of the latter. There is therefore the greatest truth and propriety in what each of these apostles speak of faith, taking it in the notion which they respectively

intend. It is true, that by the faith of God's elect we are justified and saved; it is also true, that the faith of the vain man, or empty professor, a bare, notional, historical, fruitless faith, will not save us. The apostle Paul speaks of a living faith, by which the just shall live, Rom. i. 17. The apostle James speaks of a dead faith, which is but as a body without the spirit, ver. 17, 26. The apostle Paul speaks of a faith which worketh by love, Gal. v. 6. The apostle James speaks of a faith which hath not works, and which is destitute of mercy or charity, 'ver. 16, 17. Paul treats of a special faith by which we are the children of God, Gal. iii. 26. James, of a faith which is common to the devils, ver. 19. Paul treats of a faith by which we shall be saved, Rom. x. 9. James, of a faith which cannot save us, ver. 14. Paul treats of a faith by which we are justified without the deeds of the law, Rom. iii. 28. James, on the contrary, speaks of a faith which, being alone, without works, is such as will not justify us, ver. 24. Now, can it possibly be true of the same faith, that it is both alive and dead; that it worketh by love, and yet hath not works, but is without love and mercy; that by it we are the children of God, and yet not distinguished from the devil by it; that we are saved by it and not saved by it; that we are justified by it without works, and not justified by this alone, without works? If these are not some of the highest contradictions, I know not what in the world either is or can be so. The consequence thereof is inevitable, either that these contrary characters and accounts of faith cannot be both true, or else that it is a different faith which these apostles speak of.

You dare not assume the former of these consequences, and, therefore, must allow the latter to be necessarily true. You must allow it to be true, that Paul speaks of one kind of faith and James of another. And what argument can now be fairly drawn from this discourse of the apostle James but this only, that a lifeless, fruitless, inoperative faith, will not justify or save us ? And who, but sensual libertines, ever thought that it would ? If you suppose James to be here speaking of a true lively faith, you must suppose him to contradict, not only the apostle Paul, but our blessed Lord himself, and the Holy Ghost, in multitudes of plain and express passages of Scripture, which are every where dispersed through the Bible, that ascribe our justification before God to faith only. Here then the controversy is brought to a point. And what conclusion will

you into ? Is it not time to give up your scheme, and ingenuously acknowledge, that, as the apostle James is here saying nothing to the subject before us, there can nothing be inferred from what he says against the doctrine which you oppose ?

It is also further evident, that the apostle James, in the context referred to, is saying nothing contrary to the doctrine so constantly taught by the apostle Paul, of our being justified before God by faith alone, without the deeds of the law, nor any thing in favour of our justification before God by our own works. This, I say, is further evident, because he is not there treating of justification, as it is the relief of a guilty world, and imports the acceptance of our persons before God; nor is he saying any thing at all about this, one way or an

now come

« PreviousContinue »