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the one only making faith in the blood of Christ the necessary immediate instrument of our salvation ; and the other requiring, that this faith shall not be deemed efficacious, till it hath proved itself a true and lively faith by its fruits. St. James, therefore, is not to be understood as contradicting or correcting St. Paul; but as correcting the erroneous readers of St. Paul, who, misinterpreting his words, expected salvation from a faith in Christ which had no effect on their morals. The substance of both their doctrines, laid together, is this : he who believes in the sacrifice made by the death of Christ for the sins of the world, hath a right to the covenant of peace with God, through the righteousness of Christ applied to him by faith, and not through his own righteousness; which could not, exclusive of that faith, have entitled him to the benefit of that covenant ; but however, he is not to expect salvation through that faith alone, if it should prove dead, inactive, or unfruitful, because repentance, and reformation of manners, is, by the whole tenor of the Scriptures, made a necessary condition of the covenant. • Christ came into the world to save sinners;' but how? By calling them to faith and repentance; and, under these circumstances, by imputing the merits of his own sinless obedience to them, and satisfying the justice of his Father for them. Thus we see ourselves obliged to do what we can, and Christ's merits and blood laid down to pay for the rest. But what is it we can do? We can honour and please God by a life and conversation conformable to his will, and the example of his Son, whereof nothing but his grace, and, the effect of that grace, a lively faith in us, can be either the rule or motive; but, by such a life, we can in no sort atone for our past and present sins, nor entitle ourselves to the glories of heaven. But this Christ hath done for us, having 'bought us, who were sold under sin,' with such a price as we never can repay, much less overpay; and therefore, when we have done all we can, we must say, We are unprofitable servants ;' for that servant only is profitable, who brings in some gain to his master, over and above the price that was paid for him.
But, since St. Paul exhorts us to stand fast in the faith, 1 Cor. xvi. 13. and St. Peter, in the first chapter of his Second Epistle, to give diligence to make our calling and
election sure, by adding virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, to faith; we are to conclude, that these things are in some measure placed within our own power; and ought to resolve on a strict obedience to the voice of God, thus speaking to us by his apostles.
Give me leave now to conclude with reminding you, that the death of Christ is a fact acknowledged by all; that it is set forth in the strongest scriptural terms, as a true and an effectual sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and that we must either firmly believe in it as such, or give the lie to God, and undertake to answer ourselves for all we do. Let him that needeth no physician, rely on his own health and strength; but let us, who are sick, and sensible also of our sickness, repose our trust in the prescriptions offered us by the great Healer of souls, who directs us to his blood as a precious balsam for the conscious wounds of guilt; and to repentance, as a regimen preservative of our future innocence. Let us apply both by a lively faith to ourselves. Let us also entertain that sense of gratitude which is due to the inconceivable goodness of our Redeemer, 'who, while we were yet sinners, died for us ;' who, great as he is in himself, and glorious on his throne in heaven, 'took on him the form of a servant, and humbled himself to the death of the cross, despising the shame,' that he might save us his poor offending creatures from the eternal punishment of our sins, and exalt us to the endless joys of heaven. If we are not wholly lost to all goodness, our faith must excite in us this grateful sense of his compassion for us; and this sense, to a mind capable of entertaining it in proportion as it does the sense of infinitely less considerable favours, will be a more powerful motive to a good life, than even the expectation of eternal retribution. Such a mind must have a deep abhorrence of, and a settled indignation at, sin ; because it betrays the infinite Benefactor anew; it puts him to open shame again; it crucifies him afresh, in his spiritual body. And to such a mind, nothing-less than the possession of heaven itself, can give a pleasure so lasting, or a joy so exalted, as acts of virtue, which in our case, are all acts of gratitude, whereby the infinitely gracious Being is pleased and honoured.
• Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for he is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another, to provoke unto love, and to good works;' Heb. x. 19, 20. 23, 24.
And now let us humbly beseech the Holy Spirit to quicken our hearts with this faith ; let us earnestly beseech our gracious Saviour powerfully to intercede for us, and all other believers; and, finally, let us humbly beseech the Father of mercies to accept of us, through the effectual merit and mediation of our Redeemer; to whom, in the unity of the ever-blessed Trinity, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
THE SANCTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN LAW.
Matthew xxv. 46.
These shall go away into everlasting punishment ; but the righteous
into life eternal.
The Christian religion is every where represented to us in Scripture, as a covenant between God and each particular Christian. The promise of God, who will never deceive us, is sufficient to assure us of the performance on his part. But as we were by the fallibility of our original nature capable of non-performance on our part; and as we are, under the present corruption of that nature, strongly disposed to falsify our promises to him; so it is necessary, in order to a firm perseverance in our engagements, that we should have somewhat of much greater strength to bind us, than the mere abstracted virtue of a promise. What, or how great, this should be, he can best conjecture, who best knows the depravity of his own nature, and the violence of the temptations to which he is exposed. Such a one will not take the covenant upon him, if he does not expect the greatest advantages from keeping it, unless the disadvantages arising from a total refusal of it should, in his judgment, be nearly equal to those he might apprehend from a failure on his side, in case he should enter into it. But as all men are ‘by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath,' a covenant of peace with God, on any terms must be highly eligible to every man, provided that peace is to be followed by an ability bestowed on the new Christian to keep his part of the covenant, and by the greatest happiness his nature is capable of receiving, expressly engaged to him by the promise of God, on his duly observing the articles he stipulates for. This will continue true, although he should be by the same covenant threatened with an equal degree of misery on nonperformance; first, because he hath no reason to expect exemption from that misery, in case he should not covenant at all; that is, in case he should still remain in his original state of enmity with God; and secondly, because, be the misery ever so great, as he hath it in his power to avoid it, he can have no reasonable objection to the covenant on that account, while he considers himself as a rational creature, whose lowest character it is, to choose good rather than evil, the greatest good rather than the greatest evil.
This is a true account of the Christian covenant, so far as the justice and goodness of God, and the happiness of men, can be considered as affected by it. It proposes infinite happiness, to which we have previously no right. It threatens eternal misery, to which we were liable however. It does both, to beings who have sense enough to prefer the pleasure they find in the smell of a rose, to the pain they feel in the prick of a pin. Whatsoever the weakness of man may really be, the self-sufficient, who thinks his reason a wise enough guide, who loves virtue for its own abstracted beauty, who hates vice for its own abstracted deformity, and who therefore insists he needs nothing but his own nature to make him live a life acceptable to God, hath not the shadow of a pretence for declining this covenant. The observation of its articles will not put him a hair's breadth out of his own way; and, if its motives are not necessary to him, they will not, however, lessen the force of those he borrows from the excellence of his nature. As to us, who confess ourselves corrupt and ill-disposed by nature, we stand in need of strong hopes and fears to keep us in our duty; and therefore have reason, as often as we fall into temptation, to look on the eternal sanctions of our covenant as necessary and happy preservatives of our virtue. Sure I am, we never find them too cogent. Nay, were it not for the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, which he always lends to such as covenant with him, and do their best to stand fast in that covenant, great and powerful as its sanctions are, so miserably are we enslaved, through the corruption of our nature, to sin, that we should never be able to perform the conditions requisite on our part.
The happy self-sufficient may, on this confession, treat us with contempt, as creatures of very bad dispositions, or of such meanness and folly, as to confess a weakness we are perhaps no more addicted to than others; they may call us mercenary wretches, and wholly destitute of virtue, because we do good through hope of reward, and abstain from evil through dread of punishment; but they must own we are humble; especially when they hear we lay claim to no other merit, than that of humility, and a just sense of our own infirmities. It is true, we hope this diffidence of ourselves may make us watchful, and careful to apply for greater strength than our own; may preserve in us a lively attention to the sanctions of our covenant, as necessary to creatures so full of frailty; we hope these helps may keep us in our duty, till that duty becomes agreeable to us on its own account; but infinitely more because it is most pleasing in his sight, to whom we owe our being, and all the good annexed to that being. We think the scheme of improvement, chalked out by the Christian covenant, bids fairer for this effect in us than any other; which if, with the blessing of God, it should at length produce, we shall then have no great reason to envy others, who could begin a course of virtue without, as they tell us, the least regard to their own happiness.
But should these men ask us how we came to think so very meanly of ourselves, since we were cast in the same mould with them, and had originally an equal chance for excellence of nature; we shall readily own, it was experi