« PreviousContinue »
Dal welfare. In the former sense, they must be utterly disclaimed, and all our righteousness esteemed but as filthy rags, as I have particularly shown you in some former letters.
In the latter sense, they must be diligently and painfully pursued and attended to, as I shall more fully set before you. Our business therefore is, with most earnest application, to “watch daily at wisdom's gates, and wait at the posts of her doors;" to use our most active endeavours in all the ways of godliness, righteousness, and charity; doing all in the name of Christ; and when we have done all we can, to come still as lost, guilty, and worthless and helpless sinners, self-loathing and self-condemning, to the throne of mercy, acknowledging that to us belongs shame and confusion of face, and that we have nothing to plead but the riches of redeeming love, and the boundless grace of God in Christ, for the acceptance either of our persons or services.
In our highest attainments, we should come before God with that language of faith, “ We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great percies."
I will only subjoin, that we must not depend upon our good works for a progressive sanctification, for renewed supplies of grace, and for a continued progress in holiness and comfort unto God's heavenly kingdom. It is a dangerous mistake, which too many seem to fall into, that we are to depend upon Christ alone for justifying righteousness; but trust to our own active endeavours for inherent righteousness, for a victory over our corruptions, and for a conformity of heart and life unto the divine nature
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.
How far these characters are applicable to yourself, Sir, you can best tell. But this I know by experience, that so far as this legal disposition prevails in us, it will not only darken our way, but check our progress in grace and holiness. If you would make any proficiency in your spiritual course, you ought to remember that the divine life must be carried on in your soul in the same manner, and by the same means, that it was begun there.
We are not only justified by faith, but we must be sanctified by faith too; and of " Christ's fulness must receive eveu grace for grace.”
A cheerful dependence upon Christ for all supplies of grace and strength, is the way to obtain his quickening, comforting, and strengthening influences; to have our hearts enlarged in the service of God, and to run the way of his commandments with delight. We must be dead to the law, (to all dependence upon it and hope from it,) if we would live unto God. Though we must discharge the duties of the law, and live in conformity to it; yet these must be done with a Gospel spirit, from Gospel principles and motives. 6. What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the fresh.” Would you then maintain a truly spiritual life, “the life which you live in the flesh must be by the faith of the Son of God." Would
maintain a conversation worthy of your holy profession, your good conversation must be in Christ.
Would you live in the love of God and your neighbour, it is faith which works by love. Would you get a victory over the world and all its allurements, 66 This is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Would you be able to withstand temptations, it is of the shield of faith, by which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked.” Would you walk honestly as in the day, you must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Would you be strengthened in the service of God against all opposition, you must “ be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Would
Would you have your heart purified from sinful lusts, appetites, and passions, you must get" your heart purified by faith.” Would you go on in your way rejoicing, you must “ rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh.” Would you persevere in the fear and service of God, you must be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” It is not your business to run without legs, or fly without wings, but to go “ forth in the strength of the Lord.” Despair of all sufficiency of your own to mortify your corruptions, and quicken your soul in the ways of God and godliness. Humbly repair to the Lord Jesus Christ, and cheerfully trust in him for grace and strength, to make a successful progress in your spiritual course. Let not your imperfections or corruptions discourage you; nor let your good purposes or performances be the ground of your hopes; but, in a diligent use of Gospel means,
“commit your way to the Lord, trust also in him, and he will bring it
I think you cannot so far misunderstand me as to suppose I am exhorting you to depend on Christ for holiness in the careless neglect of good works. This would be presumption and not faith. No! I am exhorting you to a realizing impression,
that your works will not sanctify your heart, your affections, or conversation; when you have done all you can, that you must rely wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ; and that you may rely confidently upon him, to fulfil the good pleasure of his goodness in your soul; and carry you on from grace to grace, and from strength to strength, till you come to the measure of the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. Thus I have shown you negatively, in some instances, to what purposes our good works are not necessary, and in what respects they may not be depended upon.
I proceed, in the next place, to show you affirmatively, in what respects they are of necessity; and to what purposes they must be done, by all those who would approve themselves Christians indeed.
1. Then good works are necessary, as being one design of our election, redemption, and effectual vocation. They are one end of our election. hath chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be boly, and without blame before him in love." And it is by a life of good works, and a progress in holiness, that we are to make it evident to ourselves, that we " chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” And accordingly we are exhorted, in this way, “to give diligence to make our calling and election sure.” Good works are likewise one end and design of our redemption in Christ. He "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And they who are indeed interested