Page images
PDF

us solely through the atoning blood of our Redeemer, it is evident, that nothing which we can do subsequently can bestow any additional efficacy on the sacrifice once performed. God, we learn from Scripture, has already accepted that sacrifice of his beloved Son, and has intimated to us, that in him he is ivtll pleased. Nothing, then, can be added to, or diminished from, Christ—he is all in all to us— in Him the whole mystery of redemption has been at once transacted— and all men, whatever may be their individual attainments in righteousness, are saved through the satisfaction made on the cross.

While, however, from the universality of its efficacy, we are entitled to presume, that the atonement of Christ will be extended unconditionally to those who never heard of his name, and who walk only by the light of nature—the case is very different with all of us who enjoy the benefit of a written Revelation, and by the knowledge of that Revelation, are brought into covenant with God. All to whom the glad tidings of mercy are made known, are placed in a state of trial with regard to them; and it becomes of the highest consequence to such, in what manner they receive those glad tidings thus particularly revealed to them. To all such God may be supposed to say:— "See, I have set before thee this day life and good—death and evil—blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that thou mayestlive*."

Hence arises the doctrine of justification by faith. For it is by faith that God now calls upon us who have received the Gospel, to acknowledge the saving power of Christ's atonement, and to rest our hopes accordingly, exclusively on his meritorious redemption. Agreeably to the words of St. Paul, where he says—by grace ye are saved, through faith; that is, it is God's grace manifested in Christ which saves us; but faith is necessary to conduct us to that salvation.

* J'cut. xxx. 15 and 19.

We to whom the Gospel has been preached, are in the situation of the impotent man who sat by the pool of Bethesda. The blood of Christ is.our Bethesda—it is that which possesses all the virtue, of healing; but faith must also be present with us, to place us within the reach of its salutary operation.

Here then we see that victory whieh overcometh the world, even our faith—inasmuch as it is by faith that we obtain for ourselves individually, the benefits of the sacrifice made by Christ for the whole world collectively. When the glorious light of the Gospel is. shed abroad upon us, and Christ, the very God, is manifested to us by mighty works, and by prophetic declarations strictly verified in him, as reconciling the world to himself;—wheu the most effectual means of conviction are set before us, and the greatest encouragements held out to us,—unless we unfeignedly believe the sacred truths of Revelation, there is Do hope to us of escape from the terrible wrath, denounced against such impenitent hardness of heart. Do we, on the contrary, believe them with sincerity and earnestness, our faith will be counted to us for righteousness; we shall then, we may piously trust, be made partaken of the blessed effects of the omnipotent sacrifice of the Son of God.

But while we lay so great a stress on our justification by faith, it is important to bear in mind, that faith has no meritorious effect in the great work of our redemption. We are justified, that is, reconciled to God, without the deeds of the law—it is the free grace of God by which we stand, independently of our own works or exertions. Hence, not only are the deeds of the law excluded from any share in the glory of redemption, but all merit is also taken away from the act of faith. Faith, then, cannot be too highly estimated as a means of salvation; but we must, at the same time, be careful, lest, by magnifying it too much, we exalt it into a cause of salvation, in derogation of the merits of Christ.

Again, because we are saved by the free grace of God, independently of our own works or exertions, let not this be construed into a denial of (he necessity of outward works, as an evidence of the faith which is in us, and the conditions of our final acceptance with God. Because we give the merit and the glory to God, to whom alone it is due, let us not be supposed to exempt man from exertion. Because God is good and merciful, let not man therefore think himself entitled to be a mere spectator of his gracious dispensation, and to live in inactivity and indifference, still less, as is shocking even to suppose, in a course of folly and dissipation.* Is it not evident, that if there be any who cherish such a fond persuasion, in opposition to the whole tenor of Scripture; they must also, at the same time, in effect deny even the very doctrine of faith, to which they exclusively assent? For though it is infallibly true that a real faith proceeds from the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, yet is faith, in some respect, an act of our own minds, and so far, therefore, how. ever strange it may appear when so stated, may be reckoned in the

* Though we say there is uo trust to be put in the Hunts of our works and actions, ami place all the hopes and reason of our salvation only in Christ; yet we do not therefore say that men should live loosely and dissolutely, as if Baptism and Faith were sufficient for a Christian, and there were nothing more required. The true faith is a living faith, and cannot be idle; therefore we teach the people that God liaiii not called us to luxury and disorder, but, as St. Paul saith, unto good works, that we might walk in them; that God hath delivered Tit from the power of darkness, that we might serve the Hting God; that we shonld root up all the relics of sin; that we should work outonr salvation with fear and trembling; that it might appear that the spirit of sanctification was in us, and that Christ himself dwelletu in our hearts by faith."—Jewel's Apology, Trans. chap. ii. tecv82.

score of works. By supposing, therefore, that in consequence of the free pardon vouchsafed to us, mankind are released from the obligation of their personal endeavours, while we deny the necessity of any co-operation on our part, we shall undermine that very faith which admits us, as a door of entrance, to the invaluable privilege of being the sons of God through Christ.

The error, however, of such a supposition, will be amply exposed as we proceed in the consideration of the true tests of that faith by which we are born of God, and which is the victory that overcometli the world.

Whoever sincerely believes that Jesus Christ died to save sinners,— the just for the unjust,-~-he who alone was without sin, for those who were laden with sins—he who was with the Father before all ages, dwelling in perpetual bliss, for the sake of lost and abject men, condescending to be clothed with human nature, and as man to bear our sorrows, and to be humbled to death, even the death of the cross —whoever believes this great truth of Revelation, cannot but conform himself, Ks far as his mortal infirmity will allow, to that divine pattern of holiness which is presented to him in his Saviour and his God. When we feel to what a miserable stateof despair we were reduced by our unhappy fall, and at how great a price we were redeemed from the sure destruction which awaited us, when we reflect that nothing short of infinite love could have effected so great a sacrifice, must we not be ready to exclaim, "Behold how he loved us!" Must not our hearts burn within us; and must we not be animated by an ardent love of him who so loved us, that he gave his life a ransom for us, and, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame? If we have faith in his merits, and believe that we are freely justified through him, we cannot but love him—it is 8 0 2

the first thought which strikes our minds—if he has done so much for us, ought we not to make him what return we can?—if he has interceded with the Divine Justice, and gained our pardon, ought we not to express to him our gratitude? Is not this the least return we can make, for all the benefits he has conferred on us?

But how are we fitly to express to him our gratitude i The answer to this question will instruct us in the true nature of a justifying faith. If we love pur Saviour, his commandments must be our delight, aud we shall exercise ourselves in his holy law, so that we may become more and more perfect in the knowledge and in the execution of it. To shew our love, therefore, we shall seek to please him by word, thought, aud deed. We shall not rest in a mere speculative assent to his doctrines and precepts—we shall endeavour to shew our faith by our works—we shall account that faith as dead, or, as in reality no faith at all, which is satisfied with a confession of Christianity, and is not at the same time a living exemplification of its truth—we shall think it to be vain, as destitute of root and foundation, unless it display its zeal for the honour of God, and put forth its genuine fruits in all their lustre and beauty. Even the devils believe and tremble. We shall do more than simply believe and tremble, if we have true Christian faith—we shall believe and love; and Christian love, we know, while it casteth out fear, is also the fulfilment of the law.

Thus faith becomes practically the victory which overcometh the world. It is that which mortifies within us all our corrupt affections, and makes us triumphant over the temptations which assault us ou every side during our continuance in this state of discipline and trial. By means of it we are dead to the world and the world to us. It fixes our conversation in heaven, and estranges us from the communion of guilt and

wretchedness. When we see a man professing his belief in the Gospel, and yet walking after the lusts of the flesh, we may well address him in the words of St. James:—" Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." We want the only real proof that he has been really converted, and until we discover bis faith shiuing through bis conduct, we must still deny him the high rank and privilege of a true believer. They that are Christ's, we read, have crucified the flesh—they are no more the servants of sin, but of righteousHiss unto righteousness: they walk not after the ways of the world— while enlisted under the banners of Christ, the great Captain of their salvation, they fight the good fight, and with him overcome the world.

Still, however, though through our faith in the merits of Christ, the heavy consequences both of original and actual sins are certainly removed, so that, upon our repentance, they will not be imputed to us by our merciful Judge; yet are we all, even after our justification, subject to the infirmities of our nature, and through tbem to occasional, nay perhaps, frequent deviation from the paths of righteousness and peace. This fact, did we not as well leant it from the Holy Scriptures, daily experience abundantly confirms to us. Hence the proper effect of faith is, not to be elated with an empty idea of ourselves, as if we were in that state from which we could not fall, but with all humility to labour in working out our salvation, and to strive that, though justified, we maybe justified still. Though we have been converted, yet we still need continual improvement—we must not count ourselves to have apprehended, but ever advance in our Christian course—ever pressing toward the mark of the prize of our high calling.

Accordingly, this spirit of humble diffidence in ourselves is one genuine test of a well-grounded faith. Not even the great Apostle of the Geo. tiles himself, although he had been converted in a miraculous manner, and had the Strongest conviction as the ground of his faith, yet on alluding to his own attainments in righteousness, ventured to speak without a modest reserve of himself, lest that by any means, he adds, after I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away. Like him, therefore, all who are similarly actuated by faith in their crucified Redeemer, while they give evidence in their conduct of that victory which overcometh the world, will betray the same distrust of themselves, the same anxiety after spiritual improvement, and the same reliance on the tender mercies of God, for their final and complete justification in the world to come.

Are we, then, firmly assured of the efficacy of Christ's atonement in our behalf?—we shall be scrupulously careful, lest, after that so much has been done for us, we should, through a negligent security on our own part, deprive ourselves of the great benefits so dearly purchased for us by the blood of the righteous One, lest through our own fault that soul should perish, which is now no longer our's put the Lord's, who redeemed it. This reflection must indeed stimulate us to surpass our own selves,— together with the just confidence that the heavy yoke of bondage is now removed from us, and that our exertions, by the blessing of God, may, under the happy freedom of the Gospel, be eventually successful, it suggests a proper sense of our own weakness, and, consequently, a constant watchfulness, lest we should again fall away, and become twofold more the child of hell than before.

I should however omit the strongest touch by which the portrait of true faith is distinguished, and cast into the back-ground its brightest ornament, were I not expressly to add, that without fervent charity to*

wards man, it cannot exist in its genuine character. While it shines itself with a glory derived from the love of God, it also reflects the brightness of its borrowed lustre on the world around. As one who holds converse with a heavenly visitant, its countenance appears enlivened by the gracious smiles of its guest, and imparts a sympathetic influence throughout the circle of its society. Where this influence is wanting, where there does not appear a beneficial effect on the heart, prompting it to acts of disinterested benevolence and universal charity, we may justly argue that the real, sanctifying, quickening faith is altogether absent.—And the converse also holds good — that wherever faith is not, neither is there charity—true Christian charity—for the love of man has for its only source the love of God. In fact, these two main branches of Christian duty run up and entwine with each Other, so that the force which would produce their disunion, must involve

the destruction of both To judge

accordingly, whether a man has a sincere and spiritual faith, (or, rather, as it becomes every man first to examine himself before he ven. tures to pass sentence on the conduct of others), to judge of ourselves individually, whether our faith be such as the Gospel requires of us— let us ask ourselves, whether we find the love of man to be a predominant principle in our hearts—whether we look upon all our fellow-creatures as common children of the same Divine Father,—as the ransomed of the same Divine Saviour—the sanctified of the same Holy Spirit:—and whether we are ever ready to stretch out our hands to their necessities both of soul and body—to advance their spiritual no less than their temporal welfare;—in short, to walk in the steps of our blessed Lord, in going about doing good—let us examine ourselves, I say, by this further criterion, aud if we find our. •elves wanting, let us not rest until we arrive at such a degree of godliness —let us be persuaded that we arc not as yet fully sensible of the benefits of Christ's atonement, because it does not rightly operate on our hearts, and diffuse a divine warmth into our affections.

Thus have we considered the nature of true Christian faith, which St. John has described in the words of the text, as the victory that overcoineth the world; and have shewn that they who really possess it are those who, walking uprightly and charitably in this present world, look forward to their happy reward in that which is to come, not for their own works or deservings, but solely through the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. — According to the view which we have here taken of it, it is equivalent to the full reception of Christianity in the heart—it is not an assent to doctrine and a rejection of practice—it is not an admission of one part of revelation aud an inattention to the rest—it is not a vain assurance that we are ourselves a select few, the favoured of God, while others are cast out for ever, and doomed to perdition—an assurance as profane as it is unreasonable and unscriptural:—it is no creature of the imagination; every sensible unprejudiced mind must acknowledge, that nothing is more delusive than a tiust in mere inter

rial feelings and impressions;—nor It it finally a conviction of the judgment alone, as in a matter of simple credibility—this is far too cold and unproductive for the warmth aud vitality of Christian faith.—It is, as I have said, a full receptiou of Christianity in the heart—of Christianity, as a whole, made up of doctrine, of precept, and divine example, —a reception of it, which prompts us to lean on its doctrines for support and comfort and instruction—on its precepts for direction in our conduct—on its examples as the models of righteousness, and our encouragements in the path of duty and obedience. This is true faith—this should be the object of our prayers—this the ground of our confidence, that we shall obtain a blissful resurrection to the life eternal.

To sum up the whole, I cannot better fix the desired impression of this discourse on your minds, than by concluding it in the words of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, at the 6th chapter and loth verse—" Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."

H.

ECCLESIASTICAL LIFE.

BISHOP JEWEL*.

John Jewel was born May 24, 1522, at Buden, in the parish of Bcriuber, in the county of Devon; and though a younger brother, yet inherited his father's name. His mother was a Bcllamie, aud he had so great

an esteem for the name and her, that he engraved it on his signet, and had it always imprinted in his heart; alasting testimony both of her virtue and kindness to him. •

His father was- a gentleman de^'

• Tlii» memoir is compiled from the Life prefixed to the " Apology of the Church ot England," made English by a Person of Quality (fcady Bacon). London, 1685. .

« PreviousContinue »