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forasmuch as that which their infirmity lacked, Christ's justice has supplied.”
In the second part of the homily of salvation our Reformers add-" The true understanding of this doctrine, we be justified freely by faith without works; or that we be justified by faith in Christ only, is not that this our own act to believe in Christ, or this our faith in Christ which is within us, doth justify us, and deserve our justification unto us (for that were to count ourselves to be justified by some act or virtue that is within ourselves) but the true understanding and meaning thereof is, that although we hear God's word and believe it, although we have faith, hope, charity, repentance, dread and fear of God within us, and do never so many works thereunto, yet we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues and good deeds, which we either have done, shall do, or can do, as things that be far too weak and insufficient and imperfect to deserve remission of our sins and our justification; and therefore we must trust only in God's mercy, and that sacrifice which our High Priest and Saviour Christ Jesus, the Son of God, once offered for us upon the cross, to obtain thereby God's grace and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism, as of all actual sin committed by us after our baptism, if we truly repent and turn unfeignedly to Him again. So that as St. John Baptist, although he were never so virtuous and godly a man, yet, in this matter of forgiving of sin, he did put the people from him, and appointed them unto Christ, saying thus unto them, Behold yonder is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. Even so, as great and as godly a virtue as the lively faith is, yet it putteth us from itself, and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ, for to have only by Him remission of our sins or justification. So that our faith in Christ (as it were) saith unto us thus, It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only, and to Him only I send you for that purpose, forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ."
The extract from the standard writings of our church, which has now been made, is long; but its importance will constitute its effectual apology. It shews us in what sense we are to use the language of our collect, by exhibiting fully the sentiments of our Reformers on a subject, which, in the present day, is unhappily misunderstood and opposed by persons calling themselves protestants, and on nearly the same ground which was taken by the papists at the time of the reformation.
So unbending are the requisitions of the Divine law, that nothing can be adniitted as a basis for acceptance under it that has the least flaw attached to it. Now if the quality of our best works, wrought “after justification and the “ grace of Christ,” be examined according to its precepts, when they are weighed in the balance of the sanctuary they will be found awfully defective. But were it otherwise, were some or all the works wrought after conversion to be sinless, or fully commensurate with the standard of perfection, they could afford no ground for trust; because the law requires, not that some only, but that allour doings, in thought, word, and deed, from the earliest dawn of reason to the close of life, be perfect. And “he
" that offendeth in one point is guilty of all.” It is further to be observed that, according to the constitution of the covenant of grace, a sinner must be justified by faith in Christ before he can perform any work that is radically good. For “ works, done before the grace of Christ “and inspiration of His Spirit, are not good « works." They are all sins. And therefore “ whatsoever we do before justification is so far “ from justifying, that it will but more condemn “us: so far from meriting the least happiness, " that it rather deserves the greatest misery. If therefore our trust for acceptance with God be built on any doings of our own, it must be built on works which are altogether sinful; for, previous to acceptance by faith in Christ, all our works are only such. This is the doctrine of our church and of the Bible. For 66 without" that “faith," which embraces Christ for justification, “ it is impossible to please God.”
The meaning of our church, then, in teaching us to say, that “we put not our trust in any
thing that we do,” is evident. She excludes from any share of confidence every thing that is personally our own. Her genuine members lean, only and wholly, on the merits and satisfaction of Jesus Christ their Lord. But can we adopt her language in simplicity and Godly sincerity? Let us enter into a close examination of ourselves on this momentous point, remembering that “ the heart is deceitful above “ all things. and desperately wicked: who can “ know it?" Let us mix earnest prayer for Divine instruction with a scrutiny of our souls, knowing that it is the exclusive office of the Holy Ghost to convince the heart of its unbelief and self-righteousness. John xvi. 9. Let us remember that our collect is an appeal to Omniscience, that therein we call God to witness the truth of our asseveration. We invoke Him as conscious of our sincerity. Our negation is corroborated by an attestation of the Divine Being, and has therefore the nature of an oath. If we falsify, are we not guilty of perjury? And yet, tremendous as the thought is, may we not fear that many persons make this declaration,
* Bishop Beveridge on the 39 Articles.
66 Lord God, thou seest that we put not our trust in is
any thing that we do,” while they feel no concern about the salvation of their precious souls, or are trusting in themselves for justification before God? Can the Searcher of hearts look upon me, when using this
pronource on me the eulogy which He pronounced on Nathanael, « Behold an Israelite indeed, in “ whom there is no guile”? Sincerity is a correspondence between the heart and lips. Genuine churchmanship supposes a cordial communion and harmony with the sentiments of the church, as well as with her rites and ceremonies. And if a separation from the latter be schismatical, a discordance from the former is heretical. O let us then inquire, What is the basis of our hope towards God? To what do we trust for success in our addresses to the throne of grace? In the performance of good works, in what do we confide for their acceptance? In the prospect of death and of a judgment to come, on what is our affiance placed? Christ must be exclusively the Saviour of our souls, or He will be no Saviour to us at all. His honour will He not give to another, nor suffer His merit to be confounded with any supposed worthiness in the sinful acts of man.
The consequence' therefore of putting our trust in any thing that we do, must be fatal to our eternal welfare. For it proves us to be in a state of ignorance both with respect to ourselves and God, to be intirely destitute of faith in Christ, and therefore under condemnation for our sins, and to be disqualified for joining in the work of heaven, which is to sing, “Worthy “is the Lamb that was slain, to receive glory, " and honour, and blessing."
If it should be thought by the reader that the ellipsis in our collect may be differently filled up, and that instead of being supplied with a view to justification before God it may more properly be completed in the following manner, “ « Lord God, who seest that we put not our “ trust in any thing that we do for the purpose “ of defending ourselves against all adversity, “ either of body or mind,"--if this sense should be preferred, the author will not contend for his own. But he observes that these separate lines of interpretation will meet at last in the same point. For if we sincerely renounce self-confidence in one respect, we virtually renounce it in all respects. If we cannot, by our own obedience, justify ourselves before God, neither can we, by our own strength, defend ourselves from the innumerable evils to which we are exposed. This latter view of our own impotence will claim our attention in several of the succeeding collects. And the former is explicitly acknowledged by our church in the prayer that immediately precedes the consecration prayer in the communion service.
We proceed now to consider the earnest prayer to Divine Omnipotence, which is founded on the foregoing appeal to Divine Omniscience,