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Upon the importance and harmony of the two Gospel precepts, believe
and obey; and upon the fatal consequences that flow from parting faith and works.
When the Gospel is considered as opposed to the error of the Pharia sees, and that of the Antinomians, it may be summed up in the two following propositions: (1.) In the day of conversion we are saved freely as sinners, (i. e. made freely partakers of the privileges that belong to our Gospel dispensation in the Church militant,) through the merits of Christ, and by the instrumentality of a living faith. (2.) In the day of judgment we shall be saved freely as saints, (i. e. made freely partakers of the privileges of our Gospel dispensation in the Church triumphant,) through the merits of Christ, and by the evidence of evangelical works. Whence it follows: (1.) That nothing can absolutely hinder our justification in a Gospel day but the want of true faith ; and, (2.) That nothing will absolutely hinder our justification in the day of judgment but the want of good works. If I am not mistaken, all the evangelical doctrine of faith and works turns upon those
propositions. They exactly answer to the grand directions of the Gospel. Wilt thou enter into Christ's sheepfold ? Believe. Wilt thou stay there? Believe and obcy. Wilt thou be numbered among his sheep in the great day? Endure unto the end : continue in well doing; that is, persevere in faith and obedience.
To believe then and obey, or, as Solomon expresses it, “to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man.” Therefore, a professor of the faith without genuine obedience, and a pretender to obedience without genuine faith, equally miss their aim; while a friend to faith and works put in their proper place, a possessor of the faith which works by love, hits the Gospel mark, and so runs as to obtain the prize : for the same “true and faithful Witness” spoke the two following, and equally express declarations : :46 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," John iii, 36. And, “ The hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves
shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation,” John v, 29.
See that sculler upon yonder river. The unwearied diligence and watchful skill with which he plies his two oars point out to us the work and wisdom of an experienced divine. What an even, gentle spring does the mutual effort of his oars give to his boat! Observe him : his right hand never rests but when the stream carries him too much to
the left; he slacks not his left hand unless he is gone too much to the right; nor has he sooner recovered a just medium than he uses both oars again with mutual harmony. Suppose that for a constancy he employed but one, no matter which, what would be the consequence? He would only move in a circle ; and if neither wind nor tide carried him along, after a hard day's work he would find himself in the very spot where he began his idle toil.
This illustration needs very little explaining : I shall just observe that the Antinomian is like a sculler, who uses only his right hand oar; and the Pharisee, like him who plies only the oar in his left hand. One makes an endless bustle about grace and faith, the other about charity and works; but both, after all, find themselves exactly in the same case, with this single difference, that one has turned from truth to the right, and the other to the left.
Not so the judicious, unbiassed preacher, who will safely enter the haven of eternal resi, for which he and his hearers are bound. He makes an equal use of the doctrine of faith, and that of works. any time he insist most upon faith, it is only when the stream carries his congregation upon the Pharisaical shallows on the left hand. And if he lay a preponderating stress upon works, it is only when he sees unwary souls sucked into the Antinomian whirlpool on the right hand. His skill consists in so avoiding one danger as not to run upon the other.
Nor ought this watchful wisdom to be confined to ministers; for though all are not called to direct congregations, yet all moral agents are, and always were, more or less, called to direct themselves, that is, to occupy till the Lord come, by making a proper use of their talents according to the parable, Matt. xxv, 15-31. God gave to angels and man “ remigium alarım,” the two oars, or, if you please, the equal wings of faith and obedience ; charging them to use those grand powers according to their original wisdom and enlightened conscience. Or, to speak without metaphor, he created them in such a manner that they believed it their duty, interest, and glory, to obey him without reserve; and this faith was naturally productive of a universal, delightful, perfect obedience. Nor would they ever have been wanting in practice if they liad no fisi wavered in principle. But when Lucifer had unaccountably persuaded himself, in part at least, either that obedience was mean, or that rebellion would be advantageous; and when the crafty tempter had made our first parents believe, in part, that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, far from dying, they should be as God himself: how possible, how easy was it for them to venture upon an act of rebellion! By rashly playing with the serpent, and sucking in the venom of his crafty insinuations, they soon gave their faith a wilful wound, and their obedience naturally died of it. But, alas! it did not die unrevenged; for no sooner had fainting faith given birth to a dead work, than she was destroyed by her spurious offspring. Thus faith and obedience, that couple more lovely than David and his friend, more inseparable than Saul and Jonathan, in their death were not divided. They even met with a common grave, the corrupt, atrocious breast of a rebellious angel, or of apostate man.
Nor does St. James give us a less melancholy account of this fatal
While faith slumbered, “ lust conceived and brought forth sin, and sin finished, brought forth death,” the death of faith, and consequently the moral death of angelic spirits and human souls, who equally live by faith* during their state of probation. So fell Lucifer from Heaven, to rule and rage in the darkness of this world: so fell Adam from paradise, to toil and die in this vale of tears : so fell Judas from an apostolic throne, to hang himself, and go to his own place.
Nor can we rise but in a way parallel to that by which they fell. For as a disbelief of our CREATOR, productive of bad works, sunk our first parents ; so a faith in our REDEEMER, productive of good works, must instrumentally raise their fallen posterity. Should
you ask which is most necessary to salvation, faith or works? I beg leave to propose a similar question: Which is most essential to breathing, inspiration or expiration? If you reply, that “the moment either is absolutely at an end, so is the other ; and therefore both are equally important :” I return exactly the same answer. If humble faith receive the breath of spiritual life, obedient love gratefully returns it, and makes way for a fresh supply. When it does not, the Spirit is grieved: and if this want of co-operation is persisted in to the end of the day of salvation, the sin unto death is committed, the Spirit is quenched in his saving operation, the apostate dies the second death, and his corrupt soul is cast into the bottomlesss pit, as a putrid corpse into the noisome grave.
Again : if faith has the advantage over works by giving them birth, works have the advantage over faith by perfecting it. - Seest thou,” says St. James, speaking of the father of the faithful, “ how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect ?” And if St. Paul affirms that works without faith are dead, St. James maintains, “ faith without works is dead also.”
Once more : Christ is always the primary, original, properly meritorious cause of our justification and salvation. To dispute it is to renounce the faith, and to plead for antichrist. And yet to deny that, under this primary cause, there are secondary, subordinate, instrumental causes of our justification, and consequently of our salvation, is to set the Bible aside, and fly in the face of judicious Calvinists, who cannot help maintaining it, both from the pulpit and from the press.Ť Now,
* Faith in God as a Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge, was not less necessary to Lucifer and Adam, in order to their standing in a state of innocence, than faith in God as Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Rewarder of thein that diligently seek hin, is necessary to sinners in order to their recovery from a state of guilt ; or to believers, in order to avoid relapses and final apostasy. Faith, therefore, so far as it implies an unshaken confidence in God and a firm adherence to his will, is as eternal as love and obedience. But when it is considered as “ the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen,” which are essential properties of a believer's faith in this present state of things, it is evident that it will necessarily end in sight, as soon as the curtain of time is drawn up; and terminate in enjoyment, as soon as God's glory appears without a veil.
+ The Rev. Mr. Madan does not scruple to call our faith “the instrumental cause" of our justification. (See his sermon on James ji, 24, printed by Fuller, London, 1761, page 18.) And if we shall be justified in the day of judgment by our words, they shall undoubtedly be at least an evidencing cause of our final justification. Hence it is that the same judicious divine speaks (p. 30, 1. 4, &c,) of our eing Vol.I.
if in the day of our conversion faith is the secondary, subordinate cause of our acceptance as penitent sinners ; in the day of judgment works, even the works of faith, will be the secondary, subordinate cause of our acceptance as persevering saints. Let us therefore equally decry dead faith and dead works, equally recommend living faith and its important fruits.
Hitherto I have endeavoured to check the rapid progress of speculative Antinomianism that perpetually decries works, and centres in the following paragraph, which presents without disguise the doctrine of the absolute, unconditional perseverance of adulterous believers, and incestuous saints :
Saving faith, being immortal, can not only subsist without the help of good works, but no aggravated crimes can give it a finishing stroke. A believer may in cool blood murder a man, after having seduced his wife, without exposing himself to the least real danger of forfeiting either his heavenly inheritanc or the Divine favour; because his salvation, which is finished in the full extent of the word, without any of his good works, cannot possibly be frustrated by any of his evil ones.
It will not be improper now to attempt a check to Pharisaism, which perpetually opposes faith, and whose destructive errors, collected in one position, may run thus :—If people perform external acts of worship toward God, and of charity toward their neighbour, their principles* are good enough: and should they be faulty, these good works will make ample amends for that deficiency. Upon this common plan of
“justified in this three-fold sense of the word, meritoriously by Christ, instrumen. tally by faith, and declaratively by works, which are the fruits of faith.”
The reader will permit me to illustrate the essential difference there is between primary and secondary causes, by the manner in which David became Saul's son. in-law. The primary causes of this event were undoubtedly, on God's part, assisting power and wisdom; and on King Saul's part, a free promise of giving his daughter in marriage to the man who should kill Goliah. The secondary causes, according to the Rev. Mr. Madan's plan, may be divided into instrumental and declarative. The instrumental causes of David's honourable match were his faith, his sling, his stone, Goliah's sword, &c. And the declarative or evidenc. ing causes were his works. He insists upon fighting the giant, he renounces car. nal weapons, puts on the armour of God, runs to meet his adversary, slings a fortunate stone, brings his adversary down, flies upon hin, and cuts off his head. By these works he was evidenced a person duly qualified to marry the princess; or, to keep to the Rev. Mr. Madan's expression, “ by" these “works” he was * declaratively” judged a man fit to be rewarded with the hand of the princess. Now, is it not clear that his works, upon the evidence of which he received such a reward, had as important a part in his obtaining it, as the faith and sling, by whose instrumentality he wrought the works? And is it not strange that the Rev. Mr. Madan should be an orthodox divine, when he says that “we are decla. ratively justified by works,” and that Mr. Wesley should be a dreadful heretic for saying that we are “saved, not by the merit of works, but by works as a condi. tion;" or, in other terms, that we are finally justified, not by works as the primary, meritorious cause ; but as a secondary, evidencing, declarative cause ?
* The ingenious author of a new book, called " Essays on Public Worship, Patriotism,” &c, does not scruple to send such an exhortation abroad into the world :-“Let us substitute honesty instead of faith. It is the only foundation of a moral character, and it ought to be the only test of our religion. It should not signify what, or how little a man believed, if he was honest. This would put Christianity upon the best footing.” (See the Monthly Review for March, 1773.)