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THE TRUE WAY OF SALVATION.
EPHESIANS II. 8, 9. For by grace are ye saved, through faith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
You cannot be addressed too frequently on the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel; for any error with regard to them must always be ruinous. A weak house, that is built upon a rock, will last long, and withstand a great deal of violence; but the most substantial edifice, founded upon the sand, must very soon fall to the ground.
I am therefore induced to enter again upon a subject on which I have often dwelt before, and to explain to you at large, to what cause, as the Gospel teaches us, we owe our salvation..
But first, permit me to point out to you a grammatical error, into which many fall, who read these words, without due consideration.
St. Paul says, “by grace are ye saved, through faith.” This is very intelligible, and no one can mistake his meaning. In other words, “Ye are saved, by the free mercy of God, if you have faith in his revelation and promises." It is the following sentence, which is sometimes misunderstood, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The word “that"
many people suppose to refer to “faith,” and thus understand the Apostle to say, “faith is the gift of God,” but that is not what he here asserts; to one who is conversant with the original language, his meaning plainly appears to be this, “ by grace ye are saved, through faith, and that (viz. salvation by grace through faith) “is not of yourselves,” but is God's free and unmerited gift, so that he does not say that faith, but that salvation “is the gift of God;” not, as he adds, to be purchased by our “works;" so that all ground of boasting is excluded, or to reduce the whole text to another form of expression; you cannot be saved by your own works and deseryings, but only by God's mercy, which he freely bestows on all true believers.
You will find that St. Paul in all his Epistles,
earnestly insists upon this important doctrine. His reason was this; because in all his churches he had to contend with some Jewish converts to Christianity, who clung to their old prejudices, and maintained that none could be saved, who were not circumcised, and obedient to the law of Moses. There was no error that he had need, more frequently, and more vehemently to strive against than this; and therefore he always took the trouble to explain, both to Jews and Gentiles, that the former dispensation was quite done away, and that God would freely admit to the hopes and privileges of the Gospel, all who had faith in Christ, without requiring of them any observance of the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic Covenant. Herein consisted his “grace,” his free “gift;" formerly the Jews were his chosen, his peculiar people; now Christ had thrown down (as he says) “ the middle wall of partition,” which used to separate the Israelites from the rest of the world, and had called in all mankind to be partakers of his favour without any distinction of persons, or nations, and without any restriction of his mercy to those, who should be members of the former covenant.
I need not dwell longer on this; the error, which would confine salvation to those who were “ Jews outwardly,” has long passed away; only
it is necessary always to recollect, how prevalent
do not bear it in mind, you will be apt very frequently to mistake his meaning; and to shew you how dangerous a mistake this is, let me here observe, that I believe it is that alone, which has in modern days, given birth to the fatal doctrine of "faith without works."
But you may be inclined to ask me, whether I therefore mean to preach that we are saved by
works.” God forbid ! how can I preach a doctrine which the whole tenour of the Gospel denies ? how could I select a more unfavourable moment
than the present, to preach a doctrine, the very contrary to which, you heard me, but a few moments since, read to you from the word of God ! " If there had been a law given which would have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law, but the Scripture hath concluded (or included) all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe.” * Besides in that case I should not preach salvation, but condemnation; I should in fact, reverse our blessed Saviour's gracious words, and say, “ the Son of Man came not into the world to
Epistle for thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.
save the world, but that the world, through him might be condemned.” I should
I should say, if you break one of the least of the commandments, in thought, word, or deed, you cannot possibly be saved; “ for as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is
every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them,” Gal. iii. 10. In fact, I should declare that the gate of eternal life is shut, even against the most righteous, instead of being open to the greatest sinners. The Gospel would not be your friend, your comfort, your happiness, if it taught that there was no other way of being saved, but by your own merits; on the contrary, it would be your enemy, the cause of your despair, the herald of your lost and ruined condition; for who could hope to deserve eternal life, if he had none to trust to but himself? how can a creature have any claim, as of right, upon his Creator? how can a rebel demand a recompense from his offended sovereign? how can a sinner challenge the justice of a holy God for a reward ? how could our finite and short lived services (however “perfect” of their kind) merit an infinity, and eternity of happiness? You must clearly perceive that all this is in the nature of things impossible; you could never be saved, if you were commanded to