Page images


and delightful in all its consequences. Faith is a well-spring of water flowing out unto everlasting life. All the streams, which proceed from it in the soul of the believer, are sweet, refreshing, and life-giving. Faith, fixing its eye on the unmerited and boundless goodness of God, sees, in the great act of Justification, faithfulness, truth, and mercy, displayed, to which it neither finds, nor wishes to find, limits. The soul, in the contemplation of what itself has been, and what it has received, becomes fitted, through this confidence, for every thing excellent, and every thing desirable. Peace, and hope, and love, and joy, rise up spontaneously under its happy influence; and flourish, unfavourable as the climate and soil are, with a verdure, and strength, unwithering and unfading. All the gratitude, which can exist in such a soul, is awakened by the strong consciousness of immense and undeserved blessings; and all the obedience prompted, which can be found in such a life. Good, of a celestial kind, and superior to every thing which this world can give, is really, and at times delightfully, enjoyed; and supporting anticipations are acquired of more perfect good beyond the grave.

This extensive and all important subject is the principal theme of St. Paul's discourse in the seven first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. In the 8th chapter, he derives from it a train of more sublime and interesting reflections, than can be found in any other passage of Scripture, of equal extent. He commences them with this triumphant conclusion from what he had before said: There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk nol after the flesh, but after the Spirit. He then goes on to display, in a series of delightful consequences, the remedial influence of the Gospel upon a world, ruined by sin, and condemned by the law of God; marks the immense difference between the native character of man, as a disobedient subject of law, and his renewed character, as an immediate subject of grace ; and discloses, particularly, the agency of the Spirit of truth in regenerating, quickening, purifying, and guiding the soul, in its progress towards heaven. The consequences of this agency he then describes with unrivalled felicity and splendour; and ani. mates the Universe with anxious expectation to see the day, in which these blessed consequences shall be completely discovered. On the consequences themselves he expatiates in language wonderfully lofty, and with images superlatively magnificent. What shall we, then, say to these things? he exclaims; If God be for us who can be against us? He, that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him, also, freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that hath loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is jn Christ Jesus our Lord.

Such ought to be the thoughts of all, who read, and peculiarly of all, who have embraced, the Gospel. Here we find the true application of this doctrine; the proper inferences to which it conducts us. We could not have originated them; but we can imbibe and apply them. A scene is here opened without limits, and without end. On all the blessings, here disclosed, eternity is inscribed by the Divine hand. We are here assured an eternal residence, of immortal virtue, immortal happiness, and immortal glory; of intelligence for ever enlarging, of affections for ever rising, and of conduct for ever refining, towards perfection. Whatever the thoughts can comprehend; whatever the heart can wish ; nay, abundantly more than we can ask, or think, is here by the voice of God promised to every man, who possesses the faith of the Gospel. When we remember, that all these blessings were purchased by the humiliation, life, and death, of the Son of God; can we fail to exclaim in the language of heaven; Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing! Amen.

[ocr errors]






James ii. 24.

Ye see then how that a man is justified by works, and not by faith



his passage of Scripture, together with a part of the context, is directly opposed in terms, to the doctrine, which has been derived, in several preceding discourses, from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Infidels, and particularly Voltaire have seized the occasion, which they have supposed themselves to find here, to sneer against the Scriptures; and have triumphantly asserted, that St. James and St. Paul contradict each other in their doctrine, as well as their phraseology. Nor are Infidels the only persons, to whom this passage has been a stumbling block. Divines, in a multitude of instances, have found in it difficulties which they have plainly felt, and have differed, not a little, concerning the manner in which it is to be interpreted.

Some divines, among whom was the first President Edwards, have taught, that St. James speaks of justification in the sight of men only ; while St. Paul speaks of justification in the sight of God. This, I think, cannot be a just opinion. It is plain from the 21--23

Vol. II.

[ocr errors]


verses, that St. James speaks of the same justification, which Abraham received, and in which his faith was counted unto him for righteousness. It is also evident from the 14th verse in the question, can faith save him? From this it is plain, that St. James had his eye upon the justification, to which salvation is annexed.

Another class of divines have supposed, that St. James teaches, here, a legal or meritorious justification ; and that this is the true doctrine of the Gospel concerning this subject. St. Paul, they therefore conclude, is to be so understood as to be reconcileable with St. James in this doctrine.

Others, among whom are the late Bishop Horne, and Dr. Macknight, suppose, that St. James speaks of our justification, as accomplished, in part, by those good works, which are produced by faith; and this they maintain, also, to be the doctrine of St. Paul. It is believed, that this scheme has been already proved to be unsound, but as it is true that St. James really speaks of such works, it will be necessary to consider the manner, in which he speaks of them, more particularly hereafter..

Others, and among them Pool, (whose comment on this chapter is excellent,) suppose, that St. Paul speaks of justification properly so called ; and St. James of the manifestation, or proof, of that justification. That, in this sense, the Apostles are perfectly reconcileable, I am ready to admit; but am inclined to doubt whether this is the sense, in which St. James is really to be understood.

By this time it must be evident to those who hear me, that there is some real difficulty in a comparison of this passage of St. James with the writings of St. Paul. By a real difficulty I do not intend, that there is any inconsistency between these two Apostles : for, I apprehend, there is none : but I intend, that there is so much obscurity in this discourse of St. James, as to have led divines of great respectability and worth to understand his words in very different manners; and prevented them from agreeing, even when harmonious enough as to their general systems, in any one interpretation of the Apostle's expressions. Even this is not all. Luther went so far, as, on account of this very chapter, to deny the inspiration of St. James : and one of

[ocr errors]

Luther's followers was so displeased with it, as to charge this Apostle with wilful falsehood.

St. James has been called, with more boldness than accuracy, a writer of paradoxes. This character was, I presume, given of him from the pitby, sententious, and figurative manner, in which he delivers his thoughts. This manner of writing, very common among the Asiatics, seems to have been, originally, derived from their poetry. The most perfect example of it in the poetical form, found in the Scriptures, is a part of the book of Proverbs, commencing with the 10th chapter, and ending with the 29th. Here, except in a few instances, there is no connection intended, nor formed, between the successive sentences. The nine first chapters, the book of Job, and Ecclesiastes, are examples of the nearest approximation to this unconnected manner of writing, in continued discourses which the Scriptures exhibit. In all these, although a particular subject is pursued through a considerable length, yet the connection will be found, almost invariably, to lie in the thought only. The transitions are, accordingly, bold and abrupt; and frequently demand no small degree of attention, in order to understand them. Probably, they are more obscure to us, than they were to the Asiatic nations, to whom this mode of writing was familiar : since we have learned from the Greeks to exhibit the connections, and transitions, of thought, universally, in words; and to indicate them clearly in the forms of expression. The wisdom of the Son of Sirach, is another example of the same nature, which may be fairly classed with those already mentioned ; as may also the prophecy of Hosea. Every person, in reading these writings, must perceive a degree of obscurity, arising, not only from the concise and figurative language, but from the abruptness of the transitions also, which at times renders it extremely difficult to trace the connection of the thoughts.

St. James approaches nearer to this manner of writing, than any other prosaic writer in the Old or New Testament. He is bold. er, more figurative, more concise, and more abrupt. That there should be some difficulty in understanding him satisfactorily ought to be expected as a thing of course. We cannot wonder, then, that different meanings should be annexed to the writings

« PreviousContinue »