Page images

judgment. We describe his conduct as foolish, senseless, or mad; applying to it epithets which properly belong to the understanding. And we do this, it should be observed, without any reference to the fact, that, in all such acts, the judgment itself is warped from its calm and habitual determinations, and made instrumental to the inordinate indulgence of the passions. Accordingly, it is a custom of the sacred writers, as every reader of the Scriptures must have remarked, to describe that portion of mankind who fear God and obey his commandments, as having the “knowledge” of him, and to identify a sinful and unholy life with an ignorance of the true God. “Awake to righteousness," writes St. Paul, “ and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame."* It may appear, then, but an additional instance of this natural connexion of ideas, and current mode of speech, which we have before us in the circumstance, that the phrase " belief in Christ” is understood to imply a practical regard to his precepts and example, and used as an expression for the substance or totality of the Christian character. Indeed, the sacred writers, in this elliptical use of the term faith, may be held to have presumed the peculiar

* 1 Cor. xv. 34.

adaptation and entire sufficiency of the Gospel -when believed to be a divine communication --to relieve the wants, and engage the affections of our rational nature, and, accordingly, to supply the ruling motives of our conduct, and to form the basis of our character. Of the great reasonableness of this presumption we ourselves are witnesses; for it may safely be affirmed, that every careless believer of the Gospel is, on reflection, astonished at his own insensibility to the truths which it has revealed to him, and to the arguments by which it would constrain him to a devout and holy life. Indeed, so manifest to our reason is the incongruity between a belief of Christianity and a practical disregard of its doctrines, that some have affirmed them to be incompatible; and probably few, without difficulty, have perceived them to be otherwise. The sacred writers, we repeat, in frequently annexing so large an import to the term faith, have especially regarded our rational nature; and, on such occasions, have taken for granted that knowledge of so deeply interesting a nature, and so vital concernment to mankind as that which they were inspired to communicate, must stimulate the feelings, and prompt to action; that intelligent beings,

tered and sorely baffled by a sense of demerit before God, and a dread of his righteous retribution, would be at once and most powerfully attracted by the offer of a perfect and endless life in virtue of a Mediator ; that so far from seeking to evade, or consenting to postpone, the gracious and practicable conditions of such an offer, they would be mainly concerned to fulfil them; and be reconciled to any degree of self-denial—any restraint of present inclination—any sacrifice of a perishable good, by which they might attain to peace of conscience, and reserve to themselves a hope in death :-by which they might recover the original perfection of their nature, and secure their everlasting welfare. May none of us disappoint this just presumption and expectation! May none of us “seem to fall short of it!" but applying our belief in the Son of God as a cumulative argument for an obedience of his precepts—a manifold inducement to holiness of life, be entitled to appropriate his gracious promises : appreciating the worththe preciousness of that declaration-" I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

as a



I will show thee my faith by my works.

In the last discourse, we animadverted on an opinion, which some appear to entertain, that a reliance on the merits of Jesus Christ for acceptance with God is the amount or substance of that faith which is imputed to us for righteousness. Those who hold or convey this opinion inculcate, it is true, the performance of good works, and regard these as the fruits and manifestations of a justifying faith ; yet since they consider faith as equivalent to a dependence on the atonement and righteousness of Christ, they want that connecting link in their reasoning, by which, and by which only, it can be determinately shown to be instrumental to personal holiness, or the performance of good works. To supply this deficiency, and with a view to elucidate the greatest of questions — the method of our justification before God, we endeavoured to establish, or to bring more fully into view, the following most important position : namely, that a conviction of the obligation, necessity, and reward of personal rectitude or good works, as inculcated by Christ and his Apostles, is necessarily and fundamentally comprehended in faith, considered as an act of the understanding only, or irrespective of its appropriate influence on the life of the believer; and were proceeding to cite the language of St. James, as furnishing an exact and unequivocal proof of that position.

"I will show thee my faith by my works.” Now we request it to be considered what that faith-what that article of belief is, which a man can show by works of righteousness? If the disputants in the controversy concerning the relative subserviency of faith and works in our salvation, have not proposed to themselves this specific question, and endeavoured to answer it definitively, that controversy, we conceive, has received but little elucidation from the instruction given us by St. James. What faith, we ask,—what conviction of his judgment

« PreviousContinue »