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the works of the law," Rom. iii. 20—28.-A law is a divine institute. The “ law of faith” is that divine institute, according to which sinners are to be justified by faith in the merits of another, and not by any works of their own. This institute has all the authority of a law. The “law of works" is that divine institute, according to which life is promised to personal obedience. On the terms of this law it was, that life was held originally ; and continued to be held, till man became a sinner. It was not then abrogated. Its requirements continued on God's part, and its obligations on man's. But it could no longer be the ground of acceptance. As soon as human nature became a fallen, sinful, guilty nature, the “ law of works,” in this view of it, as a means of justification, was set aside for ever. It could only condemn. The “law of faith” took its place. So that, as it had been the will of God, that man, in his state of innocence, should hold life on the ground of his own obedience, so was it the will of God, that man, in his state of sin and guilt, should have life restored to him on the ground of the merits of the promised Mediator, and should obtain it by faith in his name; that he should be justified, not by works, but by grace. Ever since the fall, this has been the published will or law of heaven, in regard to sinful
Having forfeited life by the “law of works,” they can be justified only by the law of faith," law of grace.
which, as we have seen, is the same thing with the
This is God's authoritative appointment; and he who contravenes it, and, by seeking justification otherwise, breaks "the law of faith," is as really a transgressor against the will of God, as when, by eating the forbidden fruit, man originally broke - the law of works." To sinners, then, justification by faith is God's law; and it may,
perfect truth, be said, that grace is the Law of the Gospel.
I have adverted to Mr Barclay's distinction (a distinction, however, by no means peculiar to him) between the works of the law, and the works of the Gospel ; the latter being the works which, he holds, contribute to justification. Now, I know of no works that are not works of law. Every good work is a work of obedience; and all obedience supposes law. “Where no law is,” there can be no obedience, any more than there can be “transgression.” The distinction, then, cannot relate to the works themselves ; it must relate to the principle from which they are performed. I can form no conception of any other difference. Works of the law must be works performed from a legal principle; while works of the Gospel are works performed from an evangelical principle. Let us see, then, on this supposition, how matters will stand. I am naturally led by it to - observe,
4. Barclay's system, on this subject, is as full as it can hold of inconsistency with itself.—To begin at the point to which I have just adverted. Works of the law do not contribute to justification ; works of the Gospel do. If works of the Gospel do contribute to justification, then it must be the design of God, in the constitution of the Gospel, that they should. And if so, the principle from which they are done ought to be in accordance with that design ; they ought to be done with a view to it;—with a view, that is, to justification. But if they are done with this view, they are, in the very principle of them, converted into works of law. They involve, that is, the palpable contradiction, of evangelical works done from a legal principle. If it should be said, they may contribute to justification, although not performed with a view to it; then it will follow, that it is wrong to have our principles and motives of action in conformity with the divine arrangement of means and ends in the constitution of the Gospel !-But this is not all. According to Barclay, “protestants are right in affirming” that“ good works, wrought by the Spirit of Christ, are rather an effect of justification than the cause of it ;”—and yet he himself affirms these works to be the “ causa sine qua non, that is, the cause without which none are justified !” But a cause must precede its effect; and an effect must follow its cause. If good works are the effect of justification, they cannot be its cause :-and if they be its cause, they cannot be its effect. Even supposing the idea of meritoriousness excluded from the cause altogether; still there can be no excluding from a cause of the idea of precedence ; nor from an effect, of the idea of sequence. If good works, therefore, be the “cause without which none are justified,”-if in this sense, they be necessary to justification,"—then they must exist before it: and if, on the contrary, they be “rather the effect than the cause,” then they must be consequent upon it, and can only exist after it.—And when, confounding justification with sanctification, or rather with regeneration, he speaks of it as consisting in “the formation of Christ in us, born and brought forth in us, from which good works as naturally proceed as fruit from a fruitful tree,”-it takes the precedence of the works, as the tree does of the fruits it produces. Yet in the very next sentence he adds—“ It is this inward birth in us, bringing forth holiness and righteousness in us, that doth justify us ;" where it appears again as a sequence !—There is, in truth, in Mr Barclay's representations of this subject, the most extraordinary and inextricable confusion. We have justification as the cause of good works, and good works as the cause of justification ;-the cause the effect, and the effect the cause ;-we are justified by faith, we are justified by works, we are justified by both, and we are justified by neither ;-we are justified by being sanctified, and we are sanctified by being justified, and justification and sanctification are one and the same thing!
This is not a caricature. Every distinct member of the self-contradictory statement might be authenticated by appropriate citations. And all this comes of his mystical “inward light," and the vain attempt to make the phraseology of Scripture, itself so distinguished for simplicity, quadrate with his necessarily vague conceptions of this impalpable and shadowy principle,—this “ vehiculum dei,"—this real spiritual substance, in which God and Christ are as wrapped up,”—“ in which God, as Father, Son, and Spirit, dwells,"—which “subsists in the hearts of wicked men even while they are in their wickedness,"
and which yet is “the spiritual body of Christ, the flesh and blood of Christ, which came down from heaven, of which all the saints do feed, and are thereby nourished unto eternal life!” It is thus that, by a wretched perversion of the figurative terms of Scripture, “the man Christ Jesus," the messenger of the covenant, “Immanuel, God with us," "the light of the world," is converted into a principle; and that principle, by some mystical inward operation (which can only be understood by experience, but which, judging from the attempts actually made, experience has never enabled any man to explain)