« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
in a moment disclose the utter worthlessness of all that the world admires and idolizes. The prince and the scholar here stand on the same ground as the humblest peasant. They have precisely the same wants, they need the same supports, and must be cheered with the same promises. They feel alike, and they express themselves alike. They both need forgiveness; and the prayer which befits both alike is, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" They both stand on the verge of the same world, and both must cry, "Save, Lord, or I perish." They both want the same omnipotent support, and both must lay hold of the same "hope set before them in the Gospel.' That hope this lamented individual, had truly obtained, and is now experiencing its blessedness, in a world where hope is lost in enjoyment, and faith is swallowed up in the unclouded visions of eternal glory.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
In reconsidering my "Friendly Remarks" on M. Malan's Conventicle of Rolle, in your Number for Feb ruary, page 73, to which a reply has appeared in your last Number; I see no position, which is not, as I conceive, authorised or positively asserted in the supreme standard of faith and practice the sacred Scriptures. I therefore repeat the assertion, that M. Malan's proposition, "No works in order to salvation," is incorrect, and dangerous in the extreme. Your correspondent F. observes, that "M. Malan evidently means, that our good works have no part in procuring our salvation." I must observe, in reply, that I impute no heterodox intention to that pious and amiable pastor; I give him full credit for integrity and zeal; but, as the sentiments appeared to me to be unguarded and injurious, I wrote the "friendly remarks."
That we are justified by faith
without the deeds of the law, is the doctrine of Scripture; but, at the same time, it must strenuously be maintained, that pardon is never granted to a transgressor independently of repentance and a sincere purpose of obedience. Hence our Saviour began his public ministry with the solemn injunction, Repent and believe the Gospel. St. Paul also informs the church of Ephesus, I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Úpon the exercise of this repentance and faith, we are justified before God, discharged from the obligation to punishment, pardoned, accepted as righteous, admitted to a state of reconciliation, adopted into the family of heaven, and entitled to the hope of glory. Faith is an act of the heart, believing the record that God hath given of his Son, receiving and submitting to him as our Lord and Saviour, our Prophet, Priest, and King. From this happy period, the penitent believer is passed from death unto life, and, continuing in that state, shall not come into condem nation, but shall have everlasting life. He is now a new creature; a moral, spiritual, and relative change has taken place in him. He is not under the law, as a covenant of works, but as a rule of life. He is more than ever obliged to new obedience; he is under the law to Christ. The eternal Law, and the everlasting Gospel, combine their respective claims of duty in the hands of the exalted Redeemer; and by these holy commandments we shall be judged at the last great day. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Cor. iii. 10.) Our repentance and faith will then be tried, and also our dispositions, our motives, our words, and our actions.
Nothing can be more determinate than the solemn declaration of our Judge: Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. vii. 21.) Again, By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matt. xii. 37.) So also in that sublime passage, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. I ask then, is it possible to read these divine and holy decisions of the word of God, and not shudder at the proposition, "No works in order to salvation?"
I am convinced, however, that all which the pious author of the tract intended, and in which I fully concur with him, was, that our works have no meritorious efficacy in procuring either our justification, or our salvation: both were obtained for lost man, by the obedience unto death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Justification is an act of Divine grace, a blessing granted to a transgressor, upon his repentance and faith. In this sense, no works are required in order to justification; but the repentance by which we return to God, brings forth fruit meet for repentance; and the faith, by which we receive the atonement, involves a seminal principle and purpose of new obedience. For, with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. The thief upon the cross repented, believed in the expiring Saviour, and was justified by faith; he made his petition in faith, and he received a promise, an assurance of salvation: To-day thou shalt be with me in paradise. He did not live many hours after he believed; but he lived long enough to certify his repentance, to confess his faith, and to evidence his love to his Saviour. ·Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works
was faith made perfect. He confessed Christ; he rebuked his blaspheming fellow-sufferer; he acknowledged his own desert of death. Behold him on his cross he fears God; he quits the society of the ungodly; he bears his testimony against sin; he gazes on the expiring humanity, yet he believes in the Divinity, of the Saviour,-thus acknowledging the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. He beholds the Son of man crowned with thorns, his visage marred, wounded, smitten, stricken; in the depth of ignominy, in expiring agonies: still he acknowledges him to be the Saviour of the world; he asks life at his hands, when in his lowest degradation; he prays to him as an object of adoration; he has no other wish than to be remembered in his kingdom; and he appears ready to enter an invisible world, relying on his grace and protection. Thus, while no works, in order to justification, merited or entitled him to pardon, as a transgressor of the law of God; at the same time, in the few hours, perhaps even less, of his short Christian pilgrimage, he performed works in order to salvation, namely, those works of faith and labours of love, the good works which God hath ordained that the heirs of glory should walk in them; those works which constitute the evidence and integral parts of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. He entered paradise as the trophy of the dying victory of the crucified Immanuel; and the choir of heaven, without doubt, received him with acclamations of congratulation, with shouts of the triumphs of Divine grace, and ascriptions of glory to God in the highest.
To adopt the words of your correspondent, I therefore maintain that we are, at our admission to a state of grace, "justified irrespectively of good works." Our justification is a free, a gratuitous, act of majestic mercy; but I deny that we are evidently saved "irrespectively of good works:" so far from
it, good works proceed from the divine principles of faith, love, gratitude, and a sense of duty; they occupy the intermediate space between the first act of saving faith, and receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our soul. Good works are the evidences and fruits of faith; they complete the Christian character, they adorn the Gospel, they silence the slander of the enemy, and, by bearing much fruit, they glorify God. Nor this alone; they are, as time and opportunity admit, essentially, absolutely, indispensably requisite, in order to salvation. Good works are not only necessary, as F. admits, "to justify, or prove our faith genuine before man," who can investigate and judge the conduct; but they are also necessary, as being required of God in order to salvation; as constituting a part of our meetness for the heavenly inheritance; and as being the preparatives for that solemn day, when we shall be judged according to our works, in the presence of that God by whom actions are weighed, who not only judgeth the conduct but knoweth the heart.
In a word, whoever will be saved must possess a two-fold righteousness: in the first place, a righteousness imputed, when he is justified by faith without the deeds of the law; in the second, righteousness, imparted by Divine grace in principle, and expressed in conduct. These being united, as a sinner he will, like Abraham, be justified by faith in the promised Seed; and as a disciple of Christ, professing his holy religion, he, like Abraham our father, will be justified by works. Let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness, is righteous even as he is righteous. (1 John iii. 7.) In the words then of the judicious Hooker, the meritorious dignity of good works we renounce, the dutiful necessity we maintain.
But to pass on to your correspondent's second paragraph-I had asserted, that "the promises of the Go
spel are of a general, and also an individual, application." Your correspondent observes, that "this passage certainly involves a contradiction." But surely this cannot possibly be the case. The character of general and individual, or particular, pervades the whole scheme of creation, providence, and redemption. Is there not a general, and also a particular providence? Are not all general providences composed of particular providences? And is there not a general promise in the redemption of the Gospel, and also an individual application? Let the testimony of St. Paul decide the point. If one, that is Christ, died for all, then were all dead; and he died for all, that they which live should not live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Cor. v. 14, 15.)
This testimony distinctly states the general promise embodied in the general redemption, He died for all; and it also states the individual application, distinct from the general object, they who live. It associates also the evidence of this spiritual renovation of life; they live henceforth not to themselves, but to Him, their compassionate Lord and Saviour, who died for them and rose again. In proportion as they are conscious of this evidence, they have a right to believe that the promises are made to them individually; they may humbly conclude, that their faith in Jesus Christ is the true faith, which will justify them in this world, and will be found to glory, honour, and immortality at the appearance of Christ Jesus.
In reference to your correspondent's third paragraph, I would remark,thatwhen St. Paul asserts(2Tim, i. 9), God hath saved us, the meaning I conceive is, that He has saved us from the dominion of sin, and admitted us to a state of salvation.
The quotation given by your correspondent from the Song of Zacharias, does not seem to me in any way applicable to the subject. Every faithful minister of the
Gospel of Christ endeavours, like St. John, to give knowledge of sal vation; that is, to exhibit the only Name given under heaven whereby men can be saved, and also the means of its accomplishment, by redemption, through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. All who by faith truly receive this holy doctrine, are passed from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life. They are now the sons of God. But, as they value their final salvation, let them not presume to regard it but as a salvation already begun, a salvation to be wrought out with fear and trembling; let them remember that the end of our faith is the salvation of our souls.
St. Paul affirms, there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. This is the present privilege of the Christian. He then describes the character of these true believers: they walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. But, so far is the Apostle from exciting to confident boasting, or to say, in the words of M. Malan's tract, "I am then saved," that he adds at the 12th verse, to these very brethren; if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. The real truth is well expressed in the Church Catechism: "Our heavenly Father hath called us to a state of salvation;" therefore, as thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear; take heed lest ye fall short; and daily "pray unto God to give you his grace that you may continue in the same to your life's end."
The last topic I shall advert to, is your correspondent's concluding paragraph. He says: "Since it is impossible that men can be saved but by the free, unconditional gift of this grace in Christ Jesus (unconditional, I say; for faith and repentance are not conditions on our part, but fruits of this grace bestowed on us), shall the ministers of Christ hide its freeness and fulness from the world, lest they should turn it to
licentiousness; as if they were wiser than God, and knew better how to deal with our fallen race than he does? God forbid." I give the writer credit, that this sentence is dictated by a zealous concern for the honour of our Redeemer, and an apprehension that the use of the term condition infringes on the glory of Christ, the freeness of his infinite salvation, and that it implies too much of power in the creature, Your correspondent must however bear with me, when I assert, that, while faith and repentance, holiness and obedience, are free gifts of Divine grace, they are at the same time required of man in the form of conditions. Faith and repentance, are the conditions on our part of jus. tification; perseverance in holiness and obedience is the condition of final salvation, and of our degree of glorification. We shall also be thereby judged at the bar of God, I am not tenacious of the term condition, nor do I frequently use it; nor would I contend for any term that is not strictly scriptural; but I see no objection to it: only let it be observed, that the idea of meritorious condition is totally discarded; and all I contend for is, that there are duties binding on all men, required both by the Law and the Gospel, the constituted order in which God as Governor of the world and the church communicates his favours, causæ sine quibus non, the dispositions and duties, the component parts of the holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.
Ministers of great spiritual attainments and knowledge of the mys tery of Christ, and I may even add high in the school of Calvinism, have used and contended for the word condition. A volume might be easisily filled with quotations. Thus the learned and pious Archbishop Usher, in his Body of Divinity (page 59, fol. ed.) inquires, "What is the condition (of the Covenant of Grace) on man's part?" and answers, "The gift being most free on God's part, nothing is required on man's
part but the receiving of grace offer ed, by faith in Christ. (John i. 12, 14, 15.)" So also Bishop Hopkins, in his Doctrine of the two Covenants, (p. 77, of the edition, published in 1809, by Rev. Josiah Pratt,) observes, "The covenant of grace is a conditional covenant. Life and salvation are promised upon the terms, and conditions of faith and obedience; and therefore it is called a conditional covenant, because these conditions must be fulfilled on our part...yet these conditions are themselves as much the free gift of God, as the salvation itself." The learned and devout Richard Baxter, in his commentary, James ii., observes at the close; "Faith accepting Christ, and consenting to obey him as the Author of eternal salvation, is the condition of our first entering into a state of life, and justification; so our performance of that consent by sincere obedience and perseverance is the condition of our justification, as continued and consummated at judgment, and so of our final salvation." I may add, that when about the year 1805, I published "A concise Statement of the two Covenants," and objections by respected friends were made to some expressions which I had used, I request ed the opinion of my excellent and judicious friend, the Rev. Thomas Scott, on the subject. In his reply, lately printed in his "Letters and Papers," page 261, he observes, "I see nothing in your pamphlet which does not accord with any views, though, in speaking on repentance and faith, I seldom call them conditions or terms...But I have no doubt of these things being in a sober sense conditions; that is, sine qua nons." The Rev. Dr. Williams also, in his admirable treatise on "Modern Calvinism," adopts the same expression: "The condition of the new covenant proposed to us, is to believe with the heart unto righteousness; and the condition of continuance in justification, is the continuance of that which first put us into a justified state: none has a right to conclude
The above quotations I have de. signedly selected from Calvinistic authors (for even Baxter was partly such). I could abundantly multiply the list; but I conclude this long essay with a quotation from the excellent Bishop Hall; "The way not to presume upon salvation, is an humble modesty, to content ourselves with the revealed will of our Maker, not prying into his counsels, but attending his commands. What have we to do to be rifling the hidden counsels of the Most High? Let us look to our own ways. We have his words for this, that if we truly repent, ber lieve, obey, persevere, we shall be saved: if we heartily desire and effectually endeavour, in the careful use of his appointed means, to attain unto these saving dispositions of the soul, we shall not fail of success, what need we to look further than conscionably and cheerfully to do what we are enjoined, and faithfully and comfortably to expect what he hath promised."
I perceive by the Christian Observer for March, that several other anwsers to B. W. have been received, the chief of which you purpose to insert; perhaps the present remarks may anticipate a reply to some of them; if not, as the subject is of great importance, I may perhaps trouble you with a few more observations upon it.-Permit me to state, that I have, ever since its first publication in 1800, regarded the Christian Observer as a truly valua ble, orthodox, and evangelical publication; a bulwark set for the defence of the Gospel, equally guarding against formality,antinomianism,and fanaticism. I am happy in the opportunity of informing you, that I know of various exemplary clergymen, as well as laymen, who have derived great benefit from perusing it; and I doubt not that others of your readers in their respective circles have had similar experience. I have fre