Page images

not sufficient at another? Or, if nothing less than a lively faith will do the second time, why should any thing less do at the first? If it be said, that at first baptism was added to his dead faith to make it effectual; Calvinists will reply, that they cannot admit the argument to be decided by the force of a Popish conceit: they look, (but look in vain,) for scripture and sound reason to confirm it. When however, it is said, 'Faith only will not preserve,' the terms may be taken two ways: first, a faith without life will not preserve; and, secondly, a lively faith without works, will not preserve. We allow the first, for good reason, because what in its nature cannot introduce us into a justified state, as before proved, cannot preserve that state. But we have some further observations to make upon the second acceptation of the phrase, viz. that a lively faith without works will not preserve justification. Candour requires us to understand his Lordship in this way; for he never would impute to us the absurdity of holding the notion of a dead faith having the efficacy of preserving us in a state into which it never introduced us. He must have known our sentiments better; nor would he have given himself so useless a trouble.

$ 8. "Faith only will not preserve us. Here several difficulties arise. First, from his Lord

ship's own declarations, Faith then stands in ‘ the place of righteousness, or uniform obe'dience.* Again, 'Repentance and faith, if

sincere, will in all cases procure justification.? It is indeed subjoined “but obedience must be

added, to préserve the state of justification when obtained.'t This, however, increases the difficulty: for we are told that 'in reality, true • Christian faith, and good works pleasant and "acceptable to God, are in their own nature inseparable. True faith produces good works 'as naturally as a tree produces its fruit.'I If sincere faith in all cases' will procure justification, why not procure its continuance? And if such faith naturally' produces good works, and both are “inseparable,' of what use is it to warn us against the inefficacy of 'faith only ?' We acknowledge that good works are the proper evidence to ourselves and other men of a true Christian faith; but the appearance of these works does not alter the nature of faith, any more than fruit alters the nature of the tree that bears it.

$ 9. But, secondly, what can be the preservation of a justified state, but the continuance of the same cause producing the same effect ? His Lordship allows, that ' faith only, procures'

Refut. p. 112.

+ Ib. p. 142.

| Ib. p. 160.

the favour; how is it then that the continuance of the same cause does not preserve the same effect? A good tree is not equally fruitful in all seasons, and a season may occur when ihe wonted fruit does not appear; shall we therefore pass the sentence of condemnation upon the tree, and pronounce it to be bad in the root, as well as accidentally bare in the branches? Or, shall we not rather continue to justify it as a good tree, and as such preserve it, notwithstanding its accidental failure, and employ suitable means to assist its fructification. But if a tree be planted in a favourable situation, under whatever promise or persuasion of its producing sweet apples, and it uniformly bears only sour crabs, we condemn it, as being different from the promise and persuasion.

§ 10. It will be said, perhaps, ' that the contrast to good works, are bad 'works, rather than no fruit. We will then change the illustration. Christian faith in the human mind, may be compared to a scion of an excellent quality, that in due time bears corresponding fruit. But if any of the other branches remain of the crab stock, these, also may bear fruit of à very different quality. Then the same observations will apply as in the former case. Blessed are those trees of righteousness whose good fruits abound to the suppression of the bad. In

another view of the same subject, "our life is hid with Christ in God." From him we derive a quickening influence and fruitfulness, And those who are in him only by profession, without a living union, he taketh away, and casteth into the fire; but the branch that beareth fruit, he pruneth it, that it may bring forth more fruit; and then is our heavenly Father most glorified, when we bring forth most good fruit. In short, we may safely conclude; that whatever procureș justification, preserves it; and that good works, or active holy devotedness to the will of God, are the legitimate evidence in both cases. A vital union to Christ is, in the sight of God, the only thing that can render us acceptable. This union is formed, on Christ's part, by his Holy Spirit; and on our part, by the spirit of faith aspiring to its divine object. But the nature of our works, shews the nature of our faith; and their degree, the degree of its prevalence.

§ 11. We do not magnify the importance of Faith at the expence of practice. Every thing should be regarded with reference to its appropriate end. The end of a testimony given is believing it; the end of a command is obeying it; the end of obedience, virtue and piety, is the chief good, which is objectively the infinite, eternal, and blessed God, and subjectively our enjoyment of him as our endless portion. The

whole of divine revelation is of the nature of a testimony from God to mankind; hence the importance of believing it without wavering: and much of this testimony is in the forın of authoritative command; whence arises the importance of implicit and unreserved obedience. The end of sanctions is an unhesitating compliance: the end of benefits proposed, is a grateful reception, and of those actually conferred, a profitable improvement: the end of threatenings is abstinence from evil, and if slighted, condign sufferings. Hence Calvinistic teachers inculcate the importance both of faith and of practice; the former as the foundation, the latter as the superstructure. Not only the , unbeliever, but the offender of whatever class is admonished, warned, and threatened in the name of God and our Saviour, “who will come with flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They are in the habit of proclaiming to their hearers that “with God there is no respect of persons,” and “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap;" that “to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” I believe they are not behind any other denomination of Christians, in reproving sinners of every class, and inculcating personal and relative duties. Look at their societies, their families, their tempers, their conversations, their

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »