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save them. But this objection has been formed wholly from ignorance of the doctrine, and misunderstanding it, not knowing what is implied in saving faith.
It is true, that many have abused this doctrine, and expected to be saved by a spurious, dead faith, without works and holiness of life ; but this affords no argument against the doctrine, rightly understood; for there is no truth of the gospel which is not liable to be misunderstood, and abused to bad purposes, and which has not been so abused. Such there were in the days of the apostles, whose dangerous mistake and ricked abuse of this doctrine, the apostle James exposes and confutes, by shewing what saving faith is, viz, That true holiness, and all the virtue and life contained in good works, is implied in saving faith and comes into the nature of it; and that faith which does not imply, and is not all this, will not save; but is a vain dead faith. This is the faith which has been described in this section, as has been shewn, by explaining what this apostle says
If faith implies the whole of evangelical holiness, then men cannot be justified and saved by faith without holi. ness; and holiness of heart and life is as necessary, as it could be, were they justified by the works of the law.
There is as real holiness exercised in approving of the holy character of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, and in receiving him, submitting to him, and trusting in him, as there can be in obedience to law, as a covenant of works. There is as real love to the law of God, and conformity of heart to it, in approving and trusting in the righteo isness of Christ, for pardon and salvation, which consists in his honouring the law, by suffering the penalty of it, and obeying it, as there would be in obey. ing the law perfectly, as our own righteousness, were this possible.
IV. It appears from what has been said on this subject of saving faith, that the apostles, Paul and James, are perfectly consistent, wherein they have been, by some, thought to differ. Their consistence and agreement will appear, only by observing, that the apostle Paul means the same thing by “faith which worketh by love," which the apostle James does, by faith which operates by works, and by works is made perfect, as the working life of faith. By this living, active, holy faith, implying all the good works and gospel obedience of a christian, James says, a man is justified, and cannot be justified by any other kind of faith, which does not include all this. Paul says, a man is justified by faith, and that this faith operates by love, as the life and active nature of it, in which all the holiness and good works of a christian are implied and consist.
In this they perfectly agree, and assert the same thing in different words. The apostle Paul opposes this faith to the works of the law, to obedience to law as a covenant of works, as the price of the favour of God; and it has been shewn above, wherein the difference and opposition between these consist : therefore it is needless to repeat it here. The apostle James says nothing relating to the works of the law; and speaks only of those works which are im. plied in faith and christian obedience, or the obedience of faith.
V. From the view we have had of saving faith, we may learn why pardon of sin and salvation are in the Bible promised to the least degree of true holiness and christian obedience, in whatever way it be exercised; such as love to God, or to our neighbour, and to our fellow christians ; to hungering and thirsting after righteousness, humility, meekness, a forgiving spirit, &c. The reason is, not because evangelical holiness in the least degree of it, is only a sign of faith, as something distinct from it ; but because it is saving faith itself, and is that in the exercise of which the soul does unite itself to Christ : For every holy exercise of the christian has the nature of saving faith in it, as has been shown. Ev. ery act of gospel holiness is connected with pardon and salvation, as it is an act of faith, and implies in it a believing in Christ, and acceptance of pardon and salvation, as a free, undeserved gift.
Therefore, any person may know that he has saving faith, if he have evidence that he does exercise any
de. gree of real holiness, in any branch of it.
VI. We may hence see why saving faith is the gift of God; and in what respect it is so. The apostle Paul says, “ By grace are ye saved, through faith ; and that
not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."*
« For unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”f The disciples of Christ prayed him to increase their faith.
Christ says, “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him. It is written in the Prophets, And they shall all be taught of God.Every man therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”|| And he said to Peter, when he professed his faith in him, as the Son of God, “ Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
Faith is the gift of God, as holiness is his gift, because they involve each other, and are really the same. If saving faith did not imply holiness, and were not holiness itself, it would be no more the gift of God, than any of the natural exercises of unrenewed men, and in no other sense : For there would be no more opposition to it in their hearts, than to any thing else whatsoever. It is the holiness of saving faith which puts it out of the reach of the unrenewed man, and all the difficulty of believing on Christ lies in this, and this is the only ground of the opposition of the carnal mind to saving faith. This difficulty and opposition to believing, therefore, cannot be removed in any possible way, but by “Taking away the stony heart, and giving a new heart, by which men are created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, being saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” This point is illustrated by what has been observed in the preceding section, on divine illumination.
On the Sinner's Justification by Faith in Christ. THIS doctrine has been considered by calvinistic divines, even in the sense in which they understand it, of great importance, and essential to the system of truth revealed in the scriptures, so that if it be secluded, or not
Epb. i. 8. † Phil. i. 29.
!! Jobn vi, 44, 45. S Matt. avi, 17.
Luke xvii. 5.
understood, the whole system of christian doctrine falls with it, and comes to nothing. And if we attend to the writings of the apostle Paul, especially his letters to the churches at Rome and Galatia, we shall find that he considers the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, for which he earnestly contends, as essential to the christian scheme ; so that Christ and christianity can be of no ad. vantage to them, who oppose and reject it. What is proposed in this section, is, to attempt to explain this doctrine according to the scripture ; and to evince the truth and importance of it.
What has been already said, in the foregoing part of this system, concerning the law of God; the apostasy of man, and the guilty lost state in which he is ; the nature and demerit of sin ; the character, design and work of the Redeemer ; and the nature of saving faith, prepares the way to understand the doctrine we are now to consider, as it is involved in these particular truths, as the foundation of it ; and the proper application of them to this subject will show what is meant by being justified by faith in Jesus Christ, according to the scripture, and that it is an important and essential article of the chris. tian doctrine.
The justification of a sinner, now under consideration, consists in forgiving his sins, or acquitting him from the curse and condemnation of the law; and receiving him to favour, and a title to all the biessings contained in eternal life ; which is treating him as well, at least, as if he never had sinned, and had been always perfectly obedient. Though these may be considered distinctly, as in some respects two, yet they are never separated, but are both always implied in the justification of a sinner. Both these are mentioned by St. Paul, as included in justification by faith. “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.”* By faith men are justified, in which they receive the forgiveness of their sins, and are made heirs of an eternal inheritance, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, agreeable to the following words of Christ. That they may receive forgiveness of sins,
. Rom. v. 1, 2.
and inheritance among them which are sanctified, by faith that is in me."*
For the illustration of this point, the following things must be observed.
1. The sinner has nothing in himself, nor is it possible he ever should have any thing, that could render it proper and reasonable that he should, out of respect to that, be pardoned and received to favour. He is under the curse of the law, which curses every one who once transgresses it. Therefore, every sinner is under this curse, who is not delivered from it by Jesus Christ. Thus St. Paul states the case, “ For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse : For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”+ The law curses the sinner, and leaves him under the curse ; and that is all the law can do. The curse dooms him to eternal destruction, as the just punishment of his crime ; unless by some means it can be taken off, and yet the law be maintained and honoured as just and good. Nothing that can be done by the sinner to make atonement for his sin or recommend himself to favour, will do any thing towards removing the curse. The reason of this is plain, and easy to be seen. The sin of which he has been guilty is an infinite evil, and has therefore rendered him infinitely ill deserving. It is as a weight infinitely heavy lying upon him; and he must eternally sink under it. Though he had all possible finite power, it could not remove it, or lighten it in the least degree ; for finite power is nothing before an infinite weight, and can do nothing to remove, or make it less.
Supposing the sinner comes to repentance, renounces his sin, returns to his duty, and becomes perfectly holy and obedient; he does no more than his present duty, by the supposition. This cannot make up, or atone for his past faults, or do any thing towards it; and therefore can do nothing towards removing the curse. Besides, if he could do more than his present duty, and continued in his obedience a thousand years, or ever so long, this would do nothing towards Acts xxvi. 18.
| Gal. iü. 10, 13.