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or not. We say then that the theory which makes justification depend on faith alone, but at the same time maintains that no faith will justify a man unaccompanied with good works, admits what it seems so strenuously to deny, that the ultimate ground of justification is good works.
Into just the same dilemma are they driven, who assert that man is justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him by faith. For there are different kinds of faith. There is a living and a dead faith. Which are entitled to this imputed righteousness, those who possess a living or dead faith? Those who possess a living faith. But what is a living faith? That, and that only, which produces good works. Then he, and he alone, is entitled to the imputation of Christ's righteousness, who does good works. Good works then, on every hypothesis, are the ultimate and procuring cause of justification, even that which is by imputation. It makes no real difference whether a man's good works prove his faith to be good, and therefore make that acceptable and through that himself acceptable, or whether they are considered immediately and directly to make him acceptable himself. The difference is nothing more than that of a verbal and metaphysical subtilty.
In the next place, the doctrine of the justification of men by faith alone is an unreasonable doctrine. There is no reason in the nature of things why faith should stand so high and works so low in the estimation of God. Let us consider them in the
light of practical utility. Neither of them can be of any immediate benefit to God. His happiness is entirely independent of any thing his creatures either do or fail to do. Neither the righteousness nor the wickedness, the faith or the unbelief, of myriads of beings can add to his happiness nor deprive him of it. · For what says the Scripture? “Look unto the heavens and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than thou. If thou be righteous, what givest thou him; or what receiveth he of thy hand? If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him, or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.” Here then is the standard by which the character and value of actions and properties of man are to be weighed, their effect upon human happiness and welfare.
Now we ask, what above all things else promotes human happiness and welfare? The answer is, good works. That is the very quality from which they derive their name. They are good because they produce good. What portion of real happiness does man enjoy that does not spring from good works? Why is the child happy? Because the parent takes care of it, and provides for its wants. What are these acts of the parent but good works? God commands them to be done, by the law of nature, of morality, and of revelation. Are they not then acceptable to God inasmuch as he loves and cares for little children; especially as he commands and requires them by the laws of nature, morality and revelation? Shall not the great Parent be pleased with every act of kindness done to the children whom he loves? Why is a parent happy? Because his child is affectionate, dutiful and obedient. These are good works because they produce good, they increase the sum of human happiness. God delights in human happiness. Shall he not love and reward that which promotes what he delights in? What makes the dependent happy? Generosity, kindness, and charity in those from whom they must derive all they enjoy. And how many millions there are of such on the globe! God commands that generosity, kindness, and charity to be exercised. And shall not that kindness, and charity, and generosity, be acceptable to him, when they are copies of his own glorious perfections, whereby he causes the sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust?
But you say, perhaps, that this is mere morality, and morality is nothing in the sight of God. It is religion alone that he regards. A heathen may have morality, and God cares nothing about the heathen, or about merely moral men, and will certainly doom them all to perdition at last. We answer, that these lines drawn between religion and morality, are drawn by man and not by God; and more frequently by cold blooded bigotry and metaphysical divinity than by charity or common sense. That is meritorious, that is religion, which a man does from a sense of duty, or in obedience to the moral laws of his nature, and a perception of right. That is acceptable in the sight of God, which it costs self-sacrifice, and personal privation and labour to perform, in obedience to the highest promptings of the mind, and which adds to the sum of human happiness. Call it religion, or call it morality, or call it what you please, you cannot persuade the plain, unsophisticated sense of mankind of any thing else, than that every thing is acceptable to God, which his pure and impartial eye sees to be done by any human agent from a feeling of duty, from a perception of right, from generous emotion, from true and pure affection, from love to truth, and justice, and righteousness.
For what is a man made, except good works? Why has he understanding to perceive, and a will to determine, and hands and energies to execute; but that he may do something? And what shall he do? Not evil, certainly, but good.
And shall that good for which man is made, and for which God has prepared in the very constitution of his nature, be nothing worth in the sight of God? Such a supposition is not reasonable. So far from good deeds having no merit, they are the only merit which man can have. It is the only ground of difference that we know between a bad man and a good man.
Now, we ask, what peculiar merit has faith, that it should be put so infinitely above works in estimating worthiness in the sight of God.
What is faith? Faith is the assent of the mind to truth, or it is trust in God. What are the moral qualities on which assent to truth depends? Candour and honesty. But they are moral qualities, but not faith. Faith then has no moral character of itself, but derives its moral character from candour and honesty. Works have a positive value of themselves. They produce happiness, and fulfill God's law. But were there nothing in the world but faith, there would be a complete stagnation. “The devils,” the apostle says, "believe, and tremble.” There may be such overwhelming evidence for truth as to make faith irresistible, and then belief has no longer any merit or moral character whatever. My faith can confer no happiness or good on others, though it may on myself. But my good works may confer great, lasting, eternal benefit on all around me. Faith may be used in the sense of trust in God. Undoubtedly this is acceptable to him, for it does honour to his perfections. But it is so, only so long as I continue to do my duty, that is, while I do good works. The moment I cease to do good works, my trust in God becomes unacceptable and irrational. So that faith even in the sense of trust, without good works, is vain and unprofitable. Now, we ask, if there be any reasonableness in placing faith so far above works as a ground of acceptance with God? Especially, we ask, if it be reasonable to affirm that faith is every thing, and works are nothing?