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Upon the whole, then, as you are taught by the one Apostle how dangerous it is to build upon any other foundation than Christ only; for Christ Jesus is our hope; and “ other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus :" so are you admonished by the other Apostle, that you can have no interest in Christ, nor title to his salvation, but by a faith which purifies the heart, works by love, and is justified by a subsequent life of holiness and new obedience.
The extremes, on both sides of the question, are equally dangerous. He that joins good works with faith as equally the terms of justification before God, virtually rejects the Saviour's sufficiency, substitutes his own righteousness in the room of the righteousness of God, and consequently his expectations must perish. He that separates good works from faith, in his life and conversation, as though they were not requisite to salvation, will be found very unfit for the heavenly world, when the decree brings forth, “ He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”
Suffer me, then, to conclude, Sir, with an earnest entreaty, that, as you love your leave off unprofitable disputes, and not distract your mind, and carry away your thoughts from practical godliness, by such an earnest application to these controverted points: but see to it, that you come to the footstool of divine grace, as a lost, unworthy, perishing sinner; that you depend only upon the riches of God's free sovereign grace to draw you to Christ, and give you an interest in him; that you look to Christ Jesus alone for righteousness and strength, and cheerfully trust in him as a safe foun
manifesting the truth of our profession, and so the safety of our state. If this appears to be so, upon a particular examination of the case, you must own that there is no place for any argument, in favour of your scheme, from this context. Let us then consider the matter distinctly and impartially.
It may be presumed, that the apostle James is not treating of the justification of our persons in the sight of God, in that there is not one character of such justification to be seen in his whole discourse. There is nothing spoken about our obtaining pardon of sin, nothing of our persons being made righteous in the sight of God, nothing of our being entitled to future glory, by the works unto which our justification is ascribed. No more can therefore be proved from this Apostle, but that we are in some respect justified by works; yet not so justified as to obtain remission of sins and reconciliation to God, or to be entitled to an inheritance in the future glory, by our works. For of these things, or of any thing else, which implies them, he says nothing at all. But this may be more fully and clearly evinced, by the following considerations.
It is evident, in the first place, from the occasion of this discourse, as it is represented to us in the first sixteen verses of this chapter. They professed « faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory,” and yet “ had respect of persons ;” making a criminal distinction between the rich and
of the same Christian faith and profession with themselves; as appears from the four first verses of the chapter.—They despised the poor; and thereby violated that royal law, “ Thou shalt love thy neigh
bour as thyself,” verse 6, 8. They respected persons, they committed sin, and were convinced of the law as transgressors, verse 9. They exposed themselves to have judgment without mercy, if they thus showed no mercy, verse 13.
And would such as these pretend to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? “ What doth it profit, if a man say, that he hath faith, but hath not works? Can that faith save him ?” What profit can that faith be to them, which leaves them so uncharitable and unmerciful, that they can see a brother or a sister naked, or destitute of daily food,” and only “say to them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; but notwithstanding, they give them not these things which are needful to the body,” verse 14, 15, 16. This is plainly the occasion of this discourse. They pretended to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; but brought forth fruit quite contrary to their pretensions. How then could they justify their pretensions ? How could they justify their profession of faith against the charge of hypocrisy, and prove it to be sincere and saving? They could never, in this sense, be justified any way, but in that of evidence by a life correspondent to their profession. Their faith must be justified or evidenced by their works. allude to that, Isa. xliii. 9. “ Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified.” Otherwise let them pretend what they would to faith, while they lived without brotherly love and good works, it was but an empty pretence; and their profession wanted the proper witnesses to justify it. Thus the argument is natural and easy; and the conclusion necessarily follows. But then, on the
other hand, if we consider justification as meaning our reconciliation to God, and our personal acceptance with him, the Apostle's argument will appear very lame and defective, and the conclusion will never follow from the premises. For it will by no means follow, because a lifeless, fruitless faith, destitute of mercy and obedience to the royal law of love, will not justify us before God, that therefore good works in truth will justify us before God. It will by no means follow, because we cannot be accepted of God, and saved, by a false and unsincere profession of faith, that therefore we can be accepted of God and saved, by such obedience as we are capable to perform. The inference is therefore necessary, that the Apostl
that the Apostle must be so understood, as will secure the connection of his discourse, and the force of his argument; which cannot be done, if we consider him as speaking of justification in any other sense than that which I am now pleading for.
Further, that the justification here treated of is the justification of our faith and sincerity, but not of our persons, is evident likewise from the consequence the Apostle draws from the foregoing premises, which he undertakes to prove and vindicate in the following verses, which is, “ Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” verse 17. This is the point which he undertakes to prove ; and accordingly this is the conclusion of the whole, when he has finished his reasoning on the subject. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also," verse 26. breathless, spiritless corpse, that cannot act or move, is evidently dead, so a speculative belief, that does
it should always be remembered, that the change to be hoped for by our duties, religious frames, or moral conduct, must be in ourselves, and not in God. “ He is of one mind, and who can turo him? He is the Lord, he changeth not.”
We are therefore not to look to our good works, but to the Redeemer's merits, and the infinite mercy of the divine nature, as what will render God propitious to us. Though we are only to hope for mercy in a way of duty, it is not because this will render God more willing to bestow it, but because it is the way which God has appointed, to render us more disposed and ready to receive it.
It is an imagination very unworthy of God, to suppose that we can move him to the exercise of compassion, whose very nature is goodness and love itself; that we can 'excite any mercy in him, whose infinite mercy endures for ever; or that we can procure any change of
purpose in him who is “ without any variableness, or shadow of turning." When the glorious God treats with us, as if he were a partaker of human affections and passions, this is mere condescension to our weakness, we being incapable to behold him as he is. Surely it is not to lead us into apprehensions, that he is 66
altogether such a one as ourselves.” Our business therefore is, to Christ and learn of him,” to bow our necks to his yoke, to do good works from faith in Christ, and out of love and obedience to him; and in that way to hope in God for mercy, for Christ's sake, and for his own sake, and not for ours. We are to obey him as a gracious Sovereign, and to hope in him as the sovereign author and donor of his own favours.