« PreviousContinue »
men might be directed how to obtain the benefit. Thus he says, Thy faith hath made thee wholenot, I have made thee whole; Thy faith hath saved thee-not, I have saved thee. Christ notices not his own power and grace, but the faith of the applicant, and thus teaches his hearers a twofold lesson ; showing them, not only that he is the giver of the blessing, but that faith is the means of their receiving it. His own honour is secured : for it is the very property of faith in him to give all the glory to his name.” Faith in Christ considered in itself in the best is imperfect, and cannot merit the pardon of sin and eternal life; had this been the ground or cause of justification, the best would have just reason for despondency. When, therefore, Scripture tells us that “we are justified by faith,” the meaning is, that faith is not the meritorious cause, but the appointed condition, or way, by which we attain to an interest in the righteousness or merit of Christ, by which alone we are accepted of God.
“ We are justified by faith,” says one ; " that is, by the righteousness of Christ, the benefit whereof unto our justification, we are made partakers of by faith, as the only grace which accepts of the promise, and gives us assurance of the performance. He that looked to the brazen serpent and was cured, might truly be said to be healed by his looking on, though this action was no proper cause working the cure by any efficacy or dignity of itself; but was only a necessary condition required of them that would be healed, upon the obedient observance whereof, God would show them favour. So he that looketh on Christ, believing in him, may truly be said to be saved and justified by faith, not as for the worth, and by the efficacy of that act of his, but as it is the condition of that promise of grace, that must necessarily go before the performance of it to us, upon our obedience whereunto God is pleased of his free grace to justify us." * “ It is,” says the judicious Hooker, “a childish cavil wherewith in the matter of justification our adversaries do so greatly please themselves, exclaiming, that we tread all Christian virtues under our feet, and require nothing in Christians but faith ; because we teach that faith alone justifieth : whereas, by this speech we never meant to exclude either hope or charity from being always joined as inseparable mates with faith in the man that is justified: or works from being added as necessary duties required at the hands of' every justified man; but to show that faith is the only hand which putteth on Christ unto justification; and Christ the only garment, which being so put on, covereth the shame of our defiled natures, hideth the imperfection of our works, preserveth us blameless in the sight of God, before whom, otherwise, the weakness of our faith were causé sufficient to make us
culpable, yea, to shut us from the kingdom of heaven, where nothing that is not absolute can
The objection usually alleged against the doctrine of justification by faith, from the apparent contradiction in the statements of St. James and St. Paul, will be noticed in a subsequent chapter. The doctrine, “ that we are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings,” is “ very
full of comfort” to those who feel their guilt as sinners. The gospel of Christ calls not upon such to do works to merit the blessing, but says to them, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;" it assures them, that however unworthy in themselves, yet that placing their sole trust in the Saviour, and pleading his merits with God, he will for Christ's sake accept and bless them. Believing this doctrine, and realizing the comfort of it, such will be anxious to abound in good works, and to reach the highest standard of moral excellence. True faith, which unites to Christ and obtains righteousness and every blessing from him, purifieth the heart and worketh by love, “it is," as it is excellently observed, “no lazy or languid thing, but a strong ardent breathing for, and thirsting after, divine grace and righteousness; it doth not only pursue an ambitious project of raising the soul immaturely to the condition of a darling favourite with heaven, while it is unripe for it, by procuring a mere empty pardon of sin ; it desires not only to stand upon clear terms with Heaven by procuring the crossing of all the debt books of our sins there, but it rather pursues after an internal participation of the divine nature. We often hear of a saving faith, and that, where it is, is not content to wait for salvation till the world to come ; it is not patient of being an expectant in a probationership for it until this earthly body resigns up all its worldly interest, that so the soul might then come into its room ; no, but it is here perpetually gasping after it, and effecting of it in a way of serious mortification and self-denial : it enlarges and dilates itself as much as may be, according to the vast dimensions of the divine love, that it may comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth thereof, and fill the soul where it is seated with all the fulness of God; it breeds a strong and insatiable appetite, where it comes, after true goodness.” *
* Hooker on Justification.
THE DOCTRINE OF MERIT CONTINUED MERIT OF
Church of Rome.
Church of England. "I embrace and receive all “ Albeit that good works, things, and every thing, which which are the fruits of faith, have been defined and declared and follow after justification, by the holy Council of Trent cannot put away our sins, and concerning sin and justification." endure the severity of God's -Trent. Profess. Art. iv.
judgment; yet are they pleasThe following is the decree of ing and acceptable to God in the Trent Council concerning Christ, and do spring out necesthe merit of good works :- sarily of a true and lively faith,
" If any man shall say that insomuch that by them a lively the good works of a justified faith
may be as evidently known, man are so the gifts of God, as a tree discerned by the fruit." that they are not the justified -Art. xii. person's merits ; or that he who
“Works done before the grace is justified, by good works done of Christ, and the inspiration of by him, through the grace of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, and the merit of Jesus God, forasmuch as they spring Christ, of whom he is a living not of faith in Jesus Christ, nei. member, does not truly merit ther do they make men meet to increase of grace, eternal life, receive grace, or (as the school and (if he depart this life in authors say) deserve grace of grace) the obtaining of eternal
congruity ; yea, rather for that life, and even an increase of they are not done as God hath glory ; let him be accursed.” * willed and commanded them to
* “ Si quis dixerit hominis justificati bona opera ita esse dona Dei, ut non sint etiam bona ipsius justificati merita, aut ipsum