Imatges de pÓgina
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This is the pattern we are to copy after, and this is the certain tendency and effect of his grace. sure of this disposition is found in all who are Christians indeed. Yet we may take shame to ourselves, that we are still so far defective in every branch of our duty. Let us stir up ourselves to greater diligence, watchfulness, and prayer, that we may obtain more lively, abiding, and transforming views of that which is our true good, that so we may be enabled to glorify our heavenly Father, and to adorn our profession, by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

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For as the body without the spirit is dear, so faith without

works is dead also.

WHOEVER has read the Scriptures with attention, must have observed several passages which at first view, and till thoroughly examined and compared, appear hard to reconcile to each other. No instance of this sort is more remarkable than the seeming difference of judgment between St. Paul and St. James on the point of justification. St. Paul having said, “ That a “ man is justified by faith without the deeds of the

law*,” produces the example of Abraham to con

* Rom. iii. 28.

firm his assertion. St. James, (in the chapter before us,) from the example of the same Abraham, draws a conclusion which seems directly to contradict this : “ Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, " and not by faith only*.” Can any two opinions be more opposite in appearance? How then can both be true, or how can we believe both writers infallible in their doctrine, and influenced by the unerring Spirit of God? Must we cleave to the one, and reject the other? and if so, how shall we know which is the real truth?

We may confidently answer, The apostles are both right; their doctrine is equally from God, and does not clash in any particular. The darkness and difficulty is in the apprehensions of men, and not in the word of God. Yet a difficulty there is, and I hope I shall not detain you unprofitably at this time, by endeavouring to clear it, and afterwards to press upon you the words of my text as a proper inference from the whole.

When men who are strangers to Christian experience, and who trust more to their own sagacity and learning than to the word and Spirit of God, attempt to resolve cases of this sort, they make strange work, And it is no wonder; for how can any one explain what he does not understand ? It would tire you if I should relate a tenth part of the conjectures of learned men upon this very subject. I shall mention one or two as a specimen. A writer of some eminence in the world, confesses the difficulty I have noticed in its full strength. He allows and affirms, that it is not only

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hard, but impossible, to reconcile the apostles to each other; and concludes, that since it is impossible to hold both their sentiments, we must abide by him who wrote the last. This, from many arguments his learning furnished him with, he thinks to have been St. James. Accordingly, he gives up the other, and his doctrine of faith without works, to shift for themselves. He supposes that St. Paul, in the heat of his argument, carried the matter a little too far, and that St. James wrote afterwards to correct him.

But to show you, (excuse a familiar expression,) how doctors differ, and at the same time to warn even true believers against hastily judging beyond the line of their experience, I would observe, that the great servant of God, Luther, soon after he began to preach the Gospel, made a mistake no less bold and presuming on the other side of the question. He had felt the power of St. Paui's doctrine in his own soul, and would have defied an angel that should have dared to oppose it; sherefore, when his adversaries pressed him with the authority of St. James, not having at that time light to give a more solid answer, he ventured to deny the authenticity of the whole epistle, and rashly insisted, both in his sermons and books, that St. James never wrote it. But Luther, though mistaken in this point, was under the Lord's teaching; he went on from strength to strength, increasing in knowledge and grace ; and when his judgment was better informed, he publicly retracted his former unguarded assertion.

Leaving, therefore, the authority of men, let us betake ourselves to the word of God, and humbly seek the light of his Spirit, who is promised to guide his. people in their sincere inquiries after truth.

Now, if you consider the scope and design of our apostles, and take in the context, I hope this seeming opposition will be soon removed. St. Paul is evidently treating on the great point of a sinner's justification in the sight of God; he shows that it cannot be of the law, because by the law all men were already condemned, and because then boasting could not be excluded; but that it was freely by grace, through the redemption that is by Christ Jesus. His reasoning will appear to greater advantage by perusing the whole passage, than by producing a few detached sentences. After he had summed up the evidence with respect both to Jews and Gentiles, and pronounced his verdict, that every mouth must be stopped, and that the whole world stood guilty before God, he proceeds thus : “ Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no " Alesh be justified in his sight! for by the law is the “ knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of “ God without the law is manifested, being witnessed

by the law and the prophets ; even the righteousness “ of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, “and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the

glory of God; being justified freely by his grace,

through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ : “ whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation,

through faith in his blood, to declare his righteous“ ness for the remission of sins that are past, through " the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this “ time his righteousness : that he might be just, and “ the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where " is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works ? Nay; but by the law of faith. There“fore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith

"without the deeds of the law*." And because the Jews had a high opinion of Abraham, he proceeds in the next chapter to show that Abraham was justified in the same way. "For what saith the Scripture? Abra"ham believed God, and it was counted unto him "for righteousness. Now to him that worketh, is the "reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to "him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justi"fieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness t." The circumstance in Abraham's life referred to is, when he believed the promise of God, that though he was then childless, he should be the father of many nations; and that particularly from him should proceed the Messiah, the promised seed, in whom both he himself and all the families of the earth should be blessed.

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St. James expressly treats of those who rested in a notion which they called faith, and accounted sufficient for their salvation, though it had no influence upon their hearts, tempers, and conduct. He shows that their hope is vain, because such a faith as this the devils have. And he proves, by the example of Abraham, that his faith was very different from theirs, because it enabled, him to perform the hardest and most painful act of obedience, the offering up his only son. "What "doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath "faith, and have not works? can (this) § faith save him? "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily "food; and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, "be you warmed, and filled; notwithstanding ye give "them not those things which are needful to the body;

* Rom. iii. 20-28.
Gen. xii. 3.; xvii. 4.

† Rom. iv. 3-5.
Siss, this faith.

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