« PreviousContinue »
Then, as to moral virtue, if that can save those who are not believers in Jesus, it must follow, that man never was lost, and that Christ need not have come into the world.
To shew how clearly the church has given her decision upon this important point, I beg to call the attention of the reader to the xi. Article :-“We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our works or deservings: wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the homily of justification.”
The Christian revelation is distributed into two great divisions, its doctrines and its precepts ; its doctrines are the foundation, upon which obedience to its precepts is established ; its precepts furnish materials for the superstructure, which is to be raised upon the basis of its doctrines. It is the practice of the infidel, the sceptic, the modern philosopher, to commend the moral precepts of Christianity, whilst he discards or neglects the articles of the Christian faith. But let us not suffer ourselves to be deceived ; upon this plan we may practise morality, but it will not be Christian morality.
For it is not merely the things taught, the matter of the instruction, which distinguishes evangelical morality from all others, (though in this, indeed, as well as in all other respects, it is without a rival,) but it is distinguished still more signally by the principle on which it is taught, by the foundation on which it is established, by the motive, which it brings with it to animate the heart of the agent, and to give activity and energy to his exertions. It is the first and great commandment of the gospel, that we “ love God," wherefore? “ because he first loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." It is the second great commandment, that we “ love our brethren," wherefore is this again ? " because God so loved us.”
And if the use of the affections in religion in general, are conformable to reason, it will not require many words to prove, that our blessed Saviour is the proper object of them. We know, that love, gratitude, joy, hope, trust, (the affections in question,) have all their appropriate objects. But if these appropriate objects be not exhibited, it is perfectly unreasonable to expect that the correspondent passions should be excited. If we ask for love, in the case of an object which has no excellence, or desirableness ;for gratitude, where no obligation has been conferred ; for joy, where there is no just cause for self-congratulation ; for hope, where nothing is expected ; for trust, where there exists no ground of reliance ; this would be to demand effects, without the means of producing them ; but is this the case here? are we ready to say, in the language of the avowed enemies of our Saviour," there is no beauty that we should desire him ?” Is it no obligation, that “ he took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ?” Is it no cause of joy, that to us is born a Saviour, by whom we may be delivered from the powers of darkness, and be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light ? Can there be a hope comparable to
that of our calling, which is “ Christ in us the hope of glory ?” Can there be a trust to be preferred to a reliance on Christ Jesus, < who is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
“Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” was the sum of the apostolical instructions.
Faith in the sacred volume, is regarded as the radical principle of holiness. If the root exist, the proper fruits will be brought forth, and the practical precepts of christianity be no less pure, than its doctrines are sublime.
Can the compass of language furnish injunctions, stricter in their measure, or larger in their comprehensions, than those with which the word of God abounds. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,”_" ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Such are the scripture admonitions. If, therefore, we ex
pect to be saved, by the Christian religion, we must practice morality upon Christian principles.
Paganism had its didactic codes, and they present views of great moral elevation. But though these systems of ethics remained for ages, they stood in the midst of manners, ever degenerating, for want of religious doctrine. They stood, but as the summit of a rock, from the sides of which, the vegetable mould has fallen, without soil to give root to a principle, or to support the bloom, and feed the fragrance of a virtue. And what are the precepts of the gospel when heathenised, and stripped of their peculiar sanctions, by that worldly wisdom, to which the preaching of the cross is foolishness ? they are commands, but no longer gospel commands. Man wants motives as much as direction ; his hopes and his fears are the sinews of his actions. The heart of the whole system of Christian morality, is the love of Christ. To take the morals of the new testament, and to discard its faith, is to sever the tree from the root, while it is yet in bloom. The hues may be admired, and the smell be for a