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ROM. III. 28.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith
without the deeds of the law.
We have expounded and maintained the declaration of St. James, that “a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” to signify that faith and works are unitedly necessary and instrumental to our justification; and have made it evident, we conceive, that, if the discovery of his meaning be sought in a close and fearless examination of his own-language only, that, and no other, must appear to be the proposition which he intended to convey. But the subserviency of works, as well as of faith, to our justification is either wholly rejected, or most reluctantly and equivocally conceded, from an apprehension that such an opinion would militate against those numerous passages in the Holy Scriptures, which represent our eternal life as the effect of Divine mercy and compassion—" the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and not as the desert of our own rectitude, or reward of our own worthiness: and, particularly, that it stands opposed to the affirmation of St. Paul, which we have just cited namely, that “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.” We should, therefore, do most imperfect justice to our argument, were we to pass these objections without especial notice and examination : objections which have prevailed with some to dispute the competency of St. James as a teacher of the Gospel (a fact which, it may be remarked in passing, affords some proof that we have supported the most natural construction of his language, or that which it would at once convey to an unprepossessed judgment)—and have tasked the ingenuity of others to invent the most arbitrary expositions of his language.
In the first place, then, we have to meet the objection, that to allow the instrumentality of works to our justification, is to infer the merit of human rectitude before God, and to bring into question the necessity and sufficiency of our Redeemer's sacrifice for the sins
of the world, and the prevalency of his intercession for the guilty. Now, that no such inference was deducible from the words of St. James, in his own apprehension, would seem to admit of no question ; and to impute it to him must betray a most cursory or undiscriminating perusal of his language. For, let the following passage be considered:-"and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness”* -precisely the same language as is used by St. Paul concerning Abraham, in the original as well as in the translation. Is it not evident that, in penning these words, the mind of St. James reverted to the one only fountain of merit or worthiness to this guilty world—the mediation of the Son of God-in virtue of which the faith of Abraham, and the works which it actuated and sustained him in performing, were imputed to him or accepted for righteousness? It was manifestly taken for granted by St. James, that faith and works stood upon the same level, with regard to any intrinsic worthiness, or claim of desert, that might be presumed to attach to them; and, conse
* James ii. 23.
quently, that it was no less consistent with the efficacy of our Saviour's mediation to ascribe the justification of a man to his works than to his faith. This assumption of St. James, then, is the position which we oppose to the objection in question: one, however, which seems to have been entirely overlooked and unthought of by those who allege that objection. When a preacher maintains the necessity of works, as well as of faith, to our justification, he is liable to a charge of setting up a claim of merit on the part of man: he is supposed to incline to the error of the Jews, who dreamed of justification by the inflexible law, and refused access to a just God by a Mediator; or he is accused of seeking to divide the glory of man's redemption between the Redeemer and the redeemed. From this ungracious, and, to a minister of the Gospel, revolting imputation, the preacher is exempt who presses on his hearers the doc trine, that a man is justified by faith only. But what is the philosophical—what the rational ground of distinction between them? If I attribute man's justification to his faith, do I not, primâ facie, ascribe it to himself, equally as much as when I refer it to his works? Do I not, in the former instance, seem
as much to assume the merit, of faith, as in the latter the merit of works? Faith is acceptable to God as an act or state of the believer's mind, and the acceptableness of a work also consists in the state of the agent's mind. The exercise of faith is, in truth, an act of obedience to God. It is regarded as a proof of our willingness to know his will, and even enjoined upon us under the title of “ a work:"_"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent."* Repeated acts of faith are, in fact, repeated acts of obedience; and, consequently, faith and works, as connected with our justification, stand precisely in the same predicament—that is, a derived, appointed, or subordinate efficacy to procure our justification may pertain to works, as well as to faith; the original, meritorious cause of justification existing in neither.pl
It is incumbent, however, that we point out the consistency of this position, as well as the drift of our argument in general, with the * John vi. 29.
As, then, it is almost proverbial to say that we shall not be saved for our works, though we shall not be saved without them, it were equally correct to say that we shall not be saved for our faith, though we shall not be saved without it.