Изображения страниц

the assistance of divine grace, to point out the beautiful harmony which subsists between the apostles, St. Paul and St. James, in those very points, on which their writings have sometimes been produced in support of sentiments of a very discordant tendency. The words of St. James, which I have already quoted, will seem, to persons who peruse the holy scriptures in a hasty and unreflecting manner, to convey the intimation, that a man is not saved by faith, but will rather be justified by his own works in the sight of God. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” This question is followed by a declaration of the necessity of works, in which they appear to be considered of more efficiency than faith. The example of Abraham is then adduced, who was "justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar,” The harlot Rahab, also, is said to have been justified by works, "When she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way." The apostle adds, that “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Now let us see what is the language of St. Paul, when treating on this very subject of faith and works. We read in the third chapter of his epistle to the Romans, “Therefore by the deeds

of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” And in the twenty-eighth verse, he thus sums up his previous arguments : “ Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In the next chapter, he brings forward the same example of Abraham, to prove, apparently, the very reverse of that for which it was produced by St. James, that the patriarch was justified by faith and not by works. “ What shall we say then that Abraham, our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace,

but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Having dilated through the whole of this chapter upon the case of Abraham, he concludes his argument with this inference, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ : by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

This testimony of St. Paul to the efficacy of faith, as the means of justification, might easily be supported by other passages drawn from his


writings; enough, however, has been adduced from the epistle to the Romans, to shew that he speaks of faith as alone effectual, through the blood of Christ, in making as heirs of salvation. We have, therefore, completely established our point, that St. Paul does seem, on a cursory view, to teach a different doctrine from that which St. James designed to inculcate in the words of my text. How then shall we proceed in this apparent difficulty? Shall we follow the example which has been set us by some, and adopt one or other of these seemingly opposite sentiments, as may be most agreeable to the dictates of our own reason? Or shall we obey the maxims whichi have been already laid down, and being convinced that there is in reality no discrepancy between the language of the apostles, endeavour, with God's help, to understand them both aright, and by so doing, to reconcile them to each other.

Now it is certain, that the faith as well as the works, spoken of under characters so essentially different, cannot be the same faith and the same works; because if we suppose this to be the case, we admit immediately the contradiction which it is our object to remove. Let us consider the design which the apostles seem to have had in view, in writing their respective epistles, and the difficulty will perhaps be much elucidated. There were amongst the Christians at Rome, certain

men, who having been converted from Judaism, bad never shaken off the prejudices, which they had imbibed from the Mosaic law. These men, notwithstanding the positive injunctions of the apostles to the contrary, persisted in teaching, that the observance of the rite of circumcision, and the other ceremonial as well as moral duties of their religion, was not only necessary to salvation, but effectual also in obtaining it. These sentiments were cherished and strengthened by the unbelieving Jews, who resided at Rome in considerable numbers; and who used every means in their power, to bring the Christians over to their own faith. The reasoning of St. Paul in the beginning of his epistle, evidently proves that his observations were directed against this twofold error.

For he first of all shews, that the external ordinances were not essential to salvation, and then draws the general conclusion, that by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God. The example of Abraham was the strongest which would possibly be found to decide this point; because the Jews said of bim; that he had been justified by his works, having fulfilled all the law. And St. Paul, therefore, argues the case at length, in order to shew, that his countrymen were mistaken in their conclusions, and that their common ancestor was justified, not by his works, but by his firm trust in the power, and goodness of his Creator. “He believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” This justification too, having taken place before the establishment of the rite of circumcision, clearly proved that that ceremony was by no means necessary to salvation, that it was not therefore binding upon the Gentiles, and finally, that it was faith and not circumcision, which distinguished the true children, and the true heirs of Abraham.

The object therefore of St. Paul in this epistle was evidently, to set forth the free and unmerited grace and mercy of God; to show that no obedience which man could pay, would ever entitle him to that salvation, which can be attained only through faith in the merits of Christ Jesus. And this he did, with especial reference to the obstinate errors of those Judaizing Christians, who could not be prevailed upon to shake off the yoke of the Mosaic ordinances. It formed also a part of his design to check presumption, to bring men to a knowledge of their own state by nature, and of their entire dependence upon the Saviour's love, for that mercy, which could be theirs only through his intercession. We have seen besides, that the works to which he alluded, were especially the ceremonial and other ordinances of the Levitical law; and, by inference, any deeds performed in a self-righteous spirit, and in the ex

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »