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deavor to perform all our duties, which is the prevailing sense in which the sacred writers employed the word, speaking in general terms, without anticipating the quibbles that might be raised concerning their language. Peter made the declaration I have cited, with express reference to Cornelius, before he believed anything, perhaps before he had heard anything, of Christ. And how many others did God himself call righteous, who yet of course partook of human imperfections.
To leave this bootless evasion. What unprejudiced man ever read the gospels for the first time, without the impression that an obedient life was their prime requisition? Shall I quote to prove it? I should not know where to begin, and less still where to end. There is no other truth which so sets quotation at defiance. Look at our Saviour's preaching. Turn to his sermon on the mount. What was the whole strain and purpose of his discourse?
St Paul is quoted to prove that works are nothing and faith is all. I shall not plunge into the misty abyss of disputation the subject opens before me. To explain St Paul, I have only to refer to another apostle, as good as he, St James. How can it be overlooked that he wrote an epistle, to correct precisely such misapprehensions of Paul's language on this subject as are now entertained? Can faith save?' he asks; .By works a man is justified, and not by faith only;' 'As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.' Can words make a principle plainer?
Besides all this, and before it all, there are presumptions, antecedent probabilities, in favor of the simple principle before us, that appear to us absolutely decisive.
There is a presumption for it from its simplicity. It bears an analogy to all the other proceedings of the Deity. All his most complicated systems and operations are governed by the fewest and simplest principles. This may be but little alone, but there is a further presumption from its intelligibleness to all human beings. The rule of duty for all must be such as all can understand. Now look through the multitude of clashing sects, and see if there is any other requisite but this, which the humblest capacity among them can comprehend and appreciate.
Again, this requisite is common to all sects whether it be called principal, or only secondary as a requisite. It is common to all, and it alone is so. It is in favor of its claims, that it agrees with all God's most valuable blessings of other kinds. They are, like it, common to all.
Another presumption for it is found in its beneficial effects upon mankind. The supreme sway of this principle, that is the working of righteousness, tends more immediately to promote the happiness of the world than any other test on which men could expect to be judged. Now God does all things to his creatures in benevolence. Is it not probable, that he would offer his favor on such a condition as is most directly adapted to promote their wellbeing ?
And in fine, do not those other terms of acceptance that have been urged, even the most artificially complicated, the most seemingly arbitrary of them all, do they not in truth involve, are they not in truth to be resolved into, this more simple principle, after all, as their unavoidable basis ? What inducement is there, what inducement can there be to any religious performance but regard to God's authority and a disposition to do what is right in his sight? Why does one man join himself to what claims to be the only true church? Why is another exact in going through his routine of ritual offices, or inflicting on himself his fasts, and penances, and sacrifices? Why should another be so troubled, to know, whether his creed contains the indispensable complement of articles? Or why should another take such pains to place himself within reach of the preaching and influences calculated to excite the emotions which will save? Is it not the fear of God and the wish to do what is right, that is the foundation of all this?--All sane Christians now feel, whatever may be their theories, that they have to do something or other themselves, to be saved. And whatever they do, the prime element in the motive of their doings must be regard to the will of God and the desire to approve themselves to him.
That something else may be necessary to our salvation besides what we do ourselves, we never deny. There may be a great many things done that we know
nothing of. But this makes no difference at all between us in what we have to do.
Now, if the fear of God and the intention to do righteously be the common foundation, the general spring of all these modes of religious duty, is it not wisest and best, in settling the conditions of God's favor, to go to the bottom of the matter at once? If we have the source from which all other religious principles and duties take their rise, we may feel sure of all its legitimate effects. But if we have only one of the effects, we cannot feel sure of the rest. How then can it be feared, that this simple principle of the religious character is not adequate to produce the desired results in the soul, though a secondary principle, derived from it, is? Must it not contain in itself the elements, the germs of all its effects? By the conditions of the case, it is acknowledged a much broader spring of action than any particular obligations deduced from it. They are limited; this is universal in its operation.
Let us take the instance of faith. You may tell me you believe a certain truth which has wonderful
power over your religious character. But, if I have a true reverence for God's authority and determination to obey him, I can tell you that you cannot go beyond me in faith; for I not only believe that truth, if it be a truth, but I cannot do otherwise than believe everything which I have reason to think God has said. If I fear him I cannot for my life help doing this. I would die sooner than reject one particle that he has uttered. For I cannot but feel that death would be an infinitely less evil than this. If I have not sufficient reasons to think he has declared what you believe, then this same fear of him and wish to do right prevents my belief of it; and I presume you will think it as useful in deterring me from the belief of what is not true, as in compelling me to the belief of what is.
Or again, suppose you place religion principally in performing a certain act or class of actions, whether offices of devotion, or bodily mortifications, or strenuous efforts to save souls and enlarge your communion, or anything else. I place religion in the fear of God prompting to all works of righteousness. Who has the advantage? Who is likely to do most? In striving to obey all his commands, I shall of course do that which you do, if it be commanded by him, and more
If it be not his command, I have the advantage of you in not doing it ; for there must be something wrong or at least unnecessary in it; and then the energy expended upon it would be better reserved for something decidedly useful.
EXPLANATION OF THE TERMS, WONDERFUL, COUNSELLOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, &c. As
ISAIAH IX, 6.
APPLIED TO OUR SAVIOUR.
*For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and