Imatges de pÓgina

sinner who concurs in it. It is altogether worthy of observation, how, under this exquisite contrivance, the very elements of disquietude, in a sinner's bosom, are turned into the elements of comfort and confidence, in the mind of a believer. It is the unswerving truth of God, which haunts the former by the thought of the certainty of his coming vengeance. But this very truth, committed to the fulfilment of all those promises, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, sustains the latter by the thought of the certainty of his coming salvation. It is justice, unbending justice, which sets such a seal on the condemnation of the dis. obedient, that every sinner who is out of Christ, feels it to be irrevocable. In Christ, this attribute, instead of a terror, becomes a security; for it is just in God to justify him who be. lieves in Jesus. It is the sense of God's violated authority, which fills the heart of an awakened sinner with the fear that he is undone. But this authority under the gospel proclamation, is leagued on the side of comfort, and not of fear; for this is the commandment of God, that we believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he has given us commandment. It is not by an act of mercy, triumphing over the other attributes, that pardon is extended to the sinful; for, under the economy of the gospel, these attributes are all engaged on the side of mercy; and God is not only merciful, but he is faithful and just in for. giving the sins of those who accept of Christ, as he is offered to them in the gospel. Those very perfections, then, which fix and necessitate the doom of the rebellious, form into a canopy of defence around the head of the believer. The guarantees of a sinner's punishment now become the guarantees of prom ise; and while, like the flaming sword at the gate of paradise, they turn every way, and shut him out of every access to the Deity but one,-let him take to that one, and they instantly be. come to him the sureties and the safe-guard of that hiding-place into which he has entered.

The foundation, then, of a believer's peace, is, in every way, as sure and as solid as is the foundation of a sinner's fears. The very truth which makes the one tremble, because staked to the execution of an unfulfilled threat, ministers to the other the strongest consolation. It is impossible for God to lie, says

an awkened sinner, and this thought pursues him with the agony of an arrow sticking fast. It is impossible for God to lie, says a believer; and as he hath not only said but sworn, there are two immutable things by which to anchor the confidence of him, who hath fled for refuge to the hope set before him. He staggers not at the promises of God, because of unbelief. He holds himself steadfast, by simply counting him to be faithful who hath promised. It is through that very faith, by being strong in which he gives glory to God, that he gains peace to his own heart; and the justice which beams a terror on all who stand without, utterlý passes by the shielded head of him, who hath turned to the strong hold, and taken a place under the shadow of his wings, who hath satisfied the justice of God, and taken upon himself the burden of its fullest vindication.




"Sanctified by faith."

III. It is a matter of direct and obvious understanding, how the law, by its promises and its threatenings, should exert an influence over human conduct. We seem to walk in a plain path, when we pass onwards from the enforcements of the law, to the effect of them on the fears, and the hopes, and the purposes of man. Do this, and you shall live; and do the opposite of this, and you shall forfeit life, form two clear and distinct processes, in the conceiving of which, there is no difficulty whatThe motive and the movement both stand intelligibly out to the discernment of common sense; nor in the application of such argument as this, to the design of operating on the character or life of a human being, is there any mystery to embarrass, any hidden step, which, by baffling our every attempt to seize upon it, leaves us in a state of helpless perplexity.


The same is not true of the gospel, or of the manner in which it operates on the springs of human action. It is not so readily seen, how its privileges can be appropriated by faith, and at the same time its precepts can retain their practical authority over the conduct of a believer. There is an alarm, and an honest alarm, on the part of many, lest a proclamation of free grace unto the world, should undermine all our securities for the cause of righteousness in the world. They look with jealousy upon the freeness. They fear lest a deed so ample and unconditional, of forgiveness for the past, should give rise, in the heart of a

sinner, to a secure opinion of its impunity for the future. What they dread is, that to proclaim such a freeness of pardon on the part of God, would be to proclaim a corresponding freeness of practice on the part of man. They are able to comprehend how the law, by its direct enforcements, should operate in keeping men from sin; but they are not able to comprehend how, when not under the law, but under grace, there should continue the same motives to abstain from sin, as those intelligible ones which the law furnishes, or even other motives, of more pow. erful operation. We are quite sure, that there is something here which needs to be made plain to the understandings of a very numerous class of inquirers,—a knot of difficulty which needs to be untied,-a hidden step in the process of explanation, on which they may firmly pass from what is known to what is unknown. There are not two terms, in the whole compass of human language, which stand more frequently and more familiarly contrasted with each other, than those of faith and good works; and this, not merely on the question of our acceptance before God, but also on the question of the personal character and acquirements of a true disciple of Christ. It is positively not seen, how the possession of the one should at all stimulate to the per. formance of the other,-how the peace of the gospel should re. side in the same heart, from which there emanates, on the life of a believer, the practice of the gospel,-how a righteousness that is without the deeds of the law, should stand connected, in the actual history of him who obtains it, with a zealous, and diligent, and every-day doing of these deeds.

There is much in all this, to puzzle the man who is experimentally a stranger to the truth as it is in Jesus. Nor does it at all serve to extricate or to enlighten him, when he is made to perceive, that, in point of fact, those men who most cordially assent to the doctrine of salvation being all of grace and not of works, are most assiduous in so walking, and in so working, and in so painstaking, as if salvation were all of works, and not of grace. The fact is quite obvious and unquestionable. But the principle on which it rests, remains a mystery to the gene. ral eye of the world. They marvel, but they go no farther. They see that thus it is, but they see not how it is; and they

put it down among those inexplicable oddities which do at times occur, both in the moral and natural kingdom of the creation.

But in all our attempts to dissipate this obscurity, it is well to advert to the total difference between him who has the faith, and him who has it not. The one has the materials of the ar. gument under his eye, and within the grasp of his handling. The other may be able to recognize in the argument, a logical and consistent process; but he is at a loss about the simple conceptions, which form the materials of the argument. He is like a man who can perform all the manipulations of an algebraical process, while he feels not the force or the significancy of the symbols. His habits of ratiocination enable him to perceive, that there is a connexion between the ideas in the argument. But the ideas themselves are not manifest to him. It is not in the power of reasoning to supply this want. Reasoning cannot create the primary materials of the argument. It only cements them together. And here it is, that you are met by the impotency of human demonstration, and are reduced to the attitude of knocking at a door which you cannot open,-and feel your need of an enlightening spirit,—and are made to perceive, that it is only on the threshold of Christianity, where you can hold the intercourse of a common sympathy and understanding with the world,-and that to be admitted to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, you must pass into a region of manifes. tation, where the world cannot follow, but where it will cast the imputation of madness, and of mysticism after you.

Without attempting to define faith, as to the nature of it, which could not be done but with other words more simple than itself, let us look to the objects of faith, and see whether there do not emanate from them, a sanctifying influence on the heart of every real believer.

First, then, the whole object of faith, is the matter of the tes. timony of God in Scripture. So that though faith be a single principle, and is designated in language by a single term,-yet this by no means precludes it from being such a principle, as comes into contact, and is conversant, with a very great variety of objects. In this respect it may bear a resemblance to sight, VOL. IV.-12

« AnteriorContinua »