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of a sinner to His God. He was guilty, he is now accounted righteous; he was condemned because he had broken God's law, he is now pardoned; he was an enemy, he is now reconciled unto God by the death of his Son; he was a prodigal, he is now accepted by his offended Father. Were we to take another step, were wę, in speaking of this blessing, to refer to a change of nature as well as of relation, we should, I think, go beyond the boundary which the Holy Scriptures usually assign to justification, and find ourselves in the region of regeneration. Roman Catholic divines have often confounded these two blessings, it was especially done by the Council of Trent. We shall keep them perfectly distinct; indeed our present scheme of doctrinal exposition assigns, to the next lecture, the discussion of the important subject of Regeneration.
The plan which I propose to follow this evening is, to lay down a scheme, or chain, of Protestant propositions, proving their truth out of the Douay Bible, and, as occasion may serve, out of the writings of the early fathers of the Church ; and showing, as we proceed, whether the deduction which shall be drawn from these sources, are, or are not, correspondent with the teaching and the practices of the Church of Rome.
I. The following proposition will form the first link in this chain :-THERE IS NO MAN, BE HE IN HIS NATURAL STATE, OR IN A JUSTIFIED STATE, WHO
UTTERLY DESTITUTE OF PERSONAL MERIT.
I am not unaware that this is a proposition which strikes at the root of our natural pride ; I know how difficult it is to bring man down from those moral
heights to which his dreamy and misguided fancy has elevated him ; but am I, therefore, to conceal the truth? Am I even to smooth down the hard and rugged doctrine of man's absolute demerit in the sight of God? I dare not, with this book of divine scripture before me; for I here read, (Romans iii) that "there is none just, that all have turned out of the way, are become unprofitable together, there is none that doeth good, there is not so much as one.” These pregnant sentences are surely sufficient to annihilate, at least this opinion--that man, before justification, is, or may be possessed of merit. Where is the merit, if there is none that doeth good? Where is the merit, if they have all turned out of the way? Where is the merit, if there is none just? And experience is parallel with this scripture. Bring me any unregenerated man
LI care not how many steps he may have taken towards the kingdom of grace, or how nearly he may have arrived thither, he will confess to an admixture of impurity, or insincerity, or pride, or selfishness, in even those words and works which seemed most meritorious; he will confess that ever, in his experience, when he would do good, evil is present with him. But the most startling feature of this proposition is that which denudes of all merit, a man who is even justified and regenerate ; that which denies to all the zeal, and all the love, and all the sacrifices, and all the charities, and all the obedience of the people of God, the smallest particle of merit. This is a hard saying, who can hear it? But let us go to the law and to the testimony, for if we speak not according to this word, there is no light
I turn then to the seventeeth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, and I read in the tenth verse :-“ So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.”. In the very nature of things it must be so. Whence come these fruits of righteousness, but from Him from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift? To constitute the works of Christians meritorious, it must be shown that they are wrought independently of extraneous influence, suggestion, or aid ; wrought also of perfect free will. But because they are not thus wrought, because we are moved and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do them, because there is in us, naturally, no disposition to good works, where is the merit of them? What of merit is there in the branch of the vine laden with its rich clusters of fruit, the branch that derives all its life and nourishment from the roots and the stock; that is pruned by the husbandman; that is warmed by the sun, and fanned by the breeze? Sever it from the vine, and the question is answered. And so it is with the Christian. Is there life in his soul? it is the life of Christ. Is there strength ? It is the power
of Christ. Is there warmth? It comes from Christ the Sun of Righteousness—“ CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL," and if
you desire to sum up the amount of merit which the Christian possesses, sever him from Christ, and the problem is solved. Orthodox to the letter are the sentiments on this subject of Pope Gregory the First who said, “ that the best of men will find no merit in
their best actions, and that if he should attain to the highest virtue, he should obtain eternal life, not by merits, but by pardon.” Again, in commenting on the Penitential Psalms, he says, “ I pray to be saved, not trusting to my merits, but presuming to obtain that by mercy alone, which I hope not for by my merit." Would that the Council of Trent had taken this leaf out of the writings of Gregory the Great, and inserted it amongst their canons instead of the following :-“ Whoever shall affirm, that the good works of a justified man are in such sense the gifts of God, that they are not also his worthy merits; or that he, being justified by his good works, which are wrought by him through the grace of God, and the merits of Jesus Christ, of whom he is a living member, does not really deserve increase of grace, eternal life, the enjoyment of that eternal life if he dies in a state of grace, and even an increase of glory : let him be accursed.” Here then is Gregory the Great, a Pope and a Saint, anathematized by the Trentine Fathers !
A striking illustration of the present doctrine of the Church of Rome, as it respects human merit, is found in a grave-yard in Cork, on a tomb stone, upon which the following inscription is engraved :-“I. H. S. Sacred to the memory of the benevolent Edward Molloy, the friend of humanity and father of the poor : he employed the wealth of this world only to secure the riches of the next; and, leaving a balance of merit on the book of life, he made heaven debtor to mercy. He died October 17, 1818.-R. I. P.”
II. The second proposition which we advance is this : JUSTIFICATION IS A GRATUITOUS BLESSING, i. e. IT IS
IRRESPECTIVE, IN DEGREE, OF HUMAN MERIT.
The very term forgiveness which St. Paul uses in the text as synonymous with justification, proves this. If I break the laws of my country, am found guilty by an adequate tribunal, and am sentenced to punishment, and then, in her clemency, the Queen should extend to me her Royal pardon, it would not, methinks, be difficult to show that the act was an act of free and gratuitous mercy on the part of the Sovereign. It is even so as it respects ourselves and the King of Kings : we have broken his laws, all the world is declared guilty before Him, we are condemned to punishment, but God extends to us the offer of a free pardon. This is grace without merit, and hence the Apostle Paul, as I read in his epistle to the Ephesians, Douay version, says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood the remission of sins ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE.”
And the term justified, as it is employed by the Apostle, does not detract from the doctrine of the gra.. tuitousness of the blessing. We have already seen that man, as a sinner, may be both forgiven and justified. This arises from the peculiar nature of the economy
of redemption. Evangelical justification indeed means neither more nor less than forgiveness bestowed consistently with the claims of the divine character and laws, and we know that this is the only principle upon which forgiveness could or would be bestowed. As, therefore, forgiveness is bestowed by God, of his grace,