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interest in Christ, and all the benefits he has
purchased for us? Where, then, is the difference ? Why is a conditional interest in the benefits purchased by Christ so very offensive in the one scheme, and so innocent and inoffensive in the other ?”
In answer to this, you must allow me the freedom to tell
you, that this plea takes its rise from a very great inattention to the subject before us. You know, Sir, that I have, in my former letters, largely and particularly shown you, that faith is no otherwise a condition of our interest in Christ, and the benefits of bis redemption, than a beggar's receiving an alms is a condition of his having the benefit of it; or than a condemned malefactor's accepting a free pardon is the condition of his reprieve from execution, and restoration to his prince's favour. And is there no difference between partaking of a free gift, on no other condition than a thankful acceptance, and having the offer of a favour on the condition of long-continued services, of very difficult and uncertain performance? Is there no difference between expecting justification from no righteousness of our own, but only from the righteousness of Christ received by faith, and our supposing this alone an insufficient foundation of confidence, and, therefore, looking to some righteousness of ours as the condition of our acceptance with God? The difference is just as great as between any other contradictory propositions. ' Upon the one supposition, Christ has performed all the proper conditions of our justification, and freely bestows the benefit on our acceptance : whereas, upon the other supposition, Christ has not performed the conditions of our jus
tification, but only procured for us the privilege to perform them ourselves. Upon the one supposition, we are justified on account of Christ's obedience, but on the other supposition, we are justified on the account of our own obedience. Upon the one supo position, Christ has merited justification for us without works, but upon the other supposition, he has merited justification for us by our works. And, in fine, upon the one supposition, the first act of saving faith gives an immediate and continuing interest in the favour of God, but upon the other supposition, faith is but the introduction of that life of sincere obedience, which is properly the condition of our obtaining and enjoying the divine favour.
It belongs now to you, Sir, seriously and impartially to reflect and consider which opinion is most likely to be true : -Whether that which renounces all confidence in the flesh, and proposes no condition of justification but our hearty approbation and aeceptance of, and dependence upon, the Lord Jesus Christ alone, as the way wherein the glory of the righteousness, wisdom, loye, and mercy of God is exalted, and sinful man justly debased, and brought to the foot of an infinite sovereign: or that opinion which denies this honour to the Redeemer's merits and to sovereign grace, and proposes our own performances and attainments as conditions of our justification and acceptance with God.
I have now been showing you that the former is the Scripture representation of the case, and methinks any one that has had a just and sensible discovery of his own depravity and spiritual impotence, must know by experience that it is the only way in which he can
entertain comfortable expectations of safety and happiness.
Another objection against this opinion is, that it is destructive of practical religion, subversive to a life of true holiness. Whatever sentiments we entertain, and whatever principles we espouse, we must yet remember, that “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord: and he that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself as he is pure.” The doctrine of Christ is, in all its parts, a doctrine according to godliness. If it therefore appears, upon an impartial examination of this case, that these principles of your
author are inconsistent with, and repugnant to, that holiness, which is a necessary qualification for the kingdom of heaven, there can no other argument be wanting against this scheme, to convince us, that it cannot be agreeable to him, “who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” But, lest I be misunderstood, and exposed to your censure for uncharitableness, I would premise, that I cannot but hope that there are some who adhere to these principles, whose hearts are sounder than their heads, and who are truly holy in body and spirit, by a dependence very different from their profession. This is what may be reasonably hoped, not only from the exemplary lives of some who embrace these tenets, but from their prayers of a truly evangelical strain, which we ought to suppose the language of their hearts, and which we ought to hope will find audience with God, notwithstanding the error of their judgments.
I must nevertheless insist upon it, that such can
not be truly holy, whose hearts and lives are conformable to the principles I am opposing. Not all their religious purposes, promises, resolutions, reformations-not all their fastings, external mortifications, macerations of their bodies, vows, meditations, prayers, or other endeavours they may use, can be productive of holiness upon these principles. Men may, by such means, put some restraint upon their corruptions; they may, in a slavish manner, perform some hypocritical duties, and thereby may quiet their consciences, obtain a reputation among men, and entertain hopes of heaven; but they must yet remain strangers to any true love to God, delight in him, and conformity of heart and affections to him, wherein the essence of holiness consists. This will appear from such considerations as these : -It is an incontestable truth, that we cannot be holy, before we have a principle of holiness: that we cannot perform vital actions, without a source and priociple of life. It is equally certain, that we naturally have not this principle of spiritual life; but “the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, only evil continually.” It is also certain, that faith in Christ is contemporary with (though, in order of nature, it flows from, and is successive to,) the first principle of spiritual life; and it is from our union to Christ by faith that we derive from him supplies of grace and strength, and that the whole progress of holiness is carried on in the soul. It is therefore necessary that we be first united to Christ, the head of all influences and fountain of all holiness, and so be habitually alive to God, before we can actually live to God, as I have observed before.
attainments in religion, without a vital principle within, will be but as a carcass without breath, or as streams from a corrupt fountain. Whence it fol. lows, that they who are looking to sincere obedience for justification, must be strangers to true holiness ; they not having first committed their souls to Christ, depended upon him alone for righteousness and strength, and thereby obtained supplies of grace for a life of holiness, from that only fountain of life. To seek justification from our sanctification, is to invert the order and method for our salvation; it is to produce the cause from the effect, to fetch the fountain from the streams. We must first, by a new living principle, be enabled to act faith in Christ, to receive him, and thereby be united to him, and be justified in the sight of God; otherwise all our religious and moral duties will be vain, a sacrifice without a heart, mere legal or slavish performances, that have nothing of true holiness in them. We must be “ created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” if we would walk in them. We must be 66
renewed in the spirit of our mind," if we would “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteous
true holiness." We must be “ quickened together with him.”
We are " sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” It is of " Christ's fulness that we all receive, even grace for grace.
grace.” And "as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can we, except we abide in Christ.”
Moreover, I think, it will be readily allowed, that we cannot live a life of holiness, while we remain children and servants of sin and Satan. It