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THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST CONSISTENT WITH THE NECESSITY OF A GOOD LIFE; THE ONE BEING THE CAUSE, THE OTHER THE CONDITION, OF SALVATION.
ROMANS VI. 1.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin,
that grace may abound? God forbid.
In the last discourse I said that good works are the condition of salvation; not the cause : that the cause is no other than the gratuitous abounding mercy of Almighty God. Now, though this position was attempted to be established for the purpose of checking such a notion of merit and pretensions in ourselves as might tend to lessen in our minds the consideration of that goodness and love to which we are above all measure indebted, and by which we are above all degrees obliged—though, I say, there advanced for the sake of this application, and no other, yet the proposition may be again taken up as introductory to a second important argument, namely, the discussion of the question, which
every Christian must have heard of, between good works and faith.
Remarking the great stress that is laid upon faith in Scripture, and the high and strong terms in which it is spoken of in certain passages of St. Paul's Epistles in particular, some persons, though they agreed with us in stating good works to be the condition of salvation, had at the same time alleged faith to be the cause. Now that is not so. Faith is no more the cause of salvation than good works are. The proper cause is distinct from either, being exclusively and solely the grace or voluntary bounty of Almighty God. Therefore it is misrepresenting the matter to advance faith into a different predicament, as I may say, from good works, by calling it the cause, and good works the condition of salvation. In truth, they are neither of them the cause. They are both of the same nature; they both hold the same place in our consideration ; by which I mean to signify, that so far as either of them are necessary, they are of importance and efficacy as conditions only. This, I think, ought to be carefully observed; for it puts us into the true way both of comprehending and of trying the question between them ; which question, though in substance one, is capable of being submitted to examination under three forms.
Whether faith alone be the condition of salvation ? Whether good works alone be that condition ? Whether faith and good works be the condition, neither of them being, without the other, sufficient ?
Now, independently of Scripture texts, I know not that any one would ever have thought of making faith alone, meaning by faith the belief of certain religious propositions, to be the condition of salvation ; because it would have occurred to every one, who reflected upon the subject, that at any rate faith could only be classed amongst other virtues and good qualities, and not as that which superseded all. Be its excellency, or value, or obligation ever so great, it is still a quality of our moral nature, capable of degrees, and liable to imperfections, as our other moral qualities are. Those, therefore, who contend for the sufficiency of faith alone, must found their doctrine, and we will do them the justice to allow, that they do found their doctrine, upon certain strong texts of Scripture. The texts upon which they rely are prin- · · cipally taken from the writings of St. Paul; and they are these :-“ Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law."
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed on Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” “ That no man is justified by the law, in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith.” “ The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
« If thou shalt confess with
“ For by
thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” These, no doubt, are strong texts, and it will not be wondered at, that in conjunction with other inducements, they have led many serious persons to lay such a stress upon them, as to exclude good works from being considered even as a condition of salvation ; and a few perhaps to take refuge in this doctrine, as a ground of hope under a life of continued sins. I say that these inferences are not to be wondered at, if the texts be taken by themselves. Scripture is to be compared with Scripture; particular texts with other particular texts; and especially with the main tenor of the whole. The doctrine even of Transubstantiation has a text to stand upon ; which, taken alone, and interpreted literally, is very strong in its favour; but collated with other texts, and explained according to certain reasonable rules of interpretation, the passage is capable of being disposed of without forcing upon us any doctrine like that which had been deduced from it. Now, proceeding in this manner with the texts above cited, concerning the efficacy of faith, we take upon us to say, that whatever the writer of them meant by these expressions, he did not mean to lay it down as an article to be received by his disciples, that a man leading a wicked life, without change and without repentance, will nevertheless be saved at the last by his belief of the doctrines of the Christian religion ; still less did he mean to encourage any one to go on in a course of sin, expressly and intentionally comforting and protecting himself by this opinion. I repeat, that he, the Apostle, could not mean to say this; because if he did, he would say what is expressly and positively contradicted by other texts of at least equal authority with his own; he would say what is contradicted by the very drift and design of the Christian constitution; and would say, lastly, what is expressly denied and contradicted by himself.
First, he would say what is contradicted by other texts of Scripture, and those of the very highest authority. For instance, what words can be plainer, more positive, or more decisive of this point than our Saviour's own ? “ 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.” There can be no doubt but that they who are here introduced as crying out to Jesus Christ, “ Lord, Lord,” are supposed to believe in him; yet neither their devotion, nor their faith which prompted it, were sufficient to save them. Nay, farther; our Lord, in the same passage, proceeds to tell his hearers, that
say to him in that day, “ Have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many
wonderful works?” It cannot be questioned but that they who do these things in Christ's name believe in Christ. Yet what will be their reception ? “I will profess unto you I never knew you.” And who are they who shall be thus repulsed and rejected ? No others