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§ 12. The apostle James had to do with those who abused the doctrine of justification by faith without works. And this abuse consisted, like most other abuses, in drawing false inferences from important truths. If obedience to law, if works of righteousness, be not necessary to justification, but faith only; then how are they necessary at all? If our doings will not justify us, we may content ourselves with being believers without being doers. Nay, says the apostle, this is a false and pernicious inference; “ But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."* “ What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? - Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”+ Their plea that they had faith, was no better than the plea of a barren fig-tree, that it was of a good quality, and therefore should not be cut down as a cumberer of the ground, though year after year it produced no good fruit. Their inference was as irrational as if they had said, we did not obtain our natural life by eating and drinking, therefore to partake of food is not necessary to preserve life. Far different was the conduct of Abraham, after enjoying the peculiar favour of being accepted through faith. He went on to
* Jam. i. 22.
+ Jam. fi. 14, 17.
perform such works as 'God required of him, and for this his renown is in the church. “Was not Abraham our father justified (i. e. approved) by works, (by acts of obedience to the divine mandate) when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought (ouvepyet, co-operates) with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” That is, (stestwin) made complete, by attaining its appropriate. end, as a good tree by the fruit it bears. The good fruit is the completed end of its good quality. The tree is previously good; but that goodness is crowned, and the evidence of it is perfected, by the fruit appearing. “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: (i. e. a righteous act, deserving commendation), and he was called the friend of
How convincing is this argument against those“ filthy dreamers” who infested the church even in the apostolic age, and more or less ever since, and who held that the “ obedience of faith,” and “ works of righteousness,” were needless, if they could but " say" they had faith.
§ 13. St. James's inference, from the above statement, deserves particular notice.
hi Ye see
# Jam, ii. 21.-23.
then how that by works a man is justified, (i. e. approved, so as to be commended by the righteous judge), and not by faith only.” That is, it was not the faith of Abraham only, that formed his righteous character, on account of which he had the approbation of God and commendation from the church, but his works also, his works of faith and holy obedience. And this is applicable to every man professing faith in Christ. To boast of justification by faith, when we cannot “shew our faith by our works,” is ruinous presumption. The solifidians whom St. James attacks with holy zeal and force of argument, boasted probably, that Rahab had no works to shew, but was justified by faith only, and therefore needed no further care. “ Was not Rahab the harlot justified (i. e. approved) by works (commendable deeds, as the effects of her faith), when she had received the messengers (of God), and had sent them out another way" Was not her faith operative, were not these acts the fruit of her belief in the God of Israel, and well pleasing and acceptable in his estimation? Go ye, and do likewise, instead of boasting of a false gift. “ For as the body without the spirit (or breath) is dead, so faith without works (such obedience as God requires) is dead also.”*
* Jam, ii. 24-26.
discard those things which Christ has commanded, and which God's holy law requires from every rational being, you have but the “dead body” of faith. What have you to do with peace, or a justifying righteousness? You have neither lot nor portion in the privileges of the righteous, who can “shew their faith by their works.'
§ 14. His Lordship supposes the meaning of St. James to be, that a dead faith was not sufficient for their continuance in a state of justifi'cation.* But what evidence can be adduced, that a dead faith has ever introduced any man into a state of justification? If the mere circumstance of a profession of faith, or being baptized, introduced them, we must conclude, however absurdly, that Simon Magus was justified, while at the same time he was in “ the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity.” The assumption, that one kind of faith is required for justification, and another for salvation, is alike unsupported by scripture and reason,-a distinction invented by popish ignorance for the sake of giving countenance to the notion of baptism justifying ex opere operato. His Lordship says, that God is pleased to grant remission
of all past sins, for the sake of his blessed Son,
* Refut. p. 119.
on account of Faith only; but he requires ' from those, whom he thus graciously receives into his favour, an implicit obedience to his * commands in future: if they disobey, the pardon is cancelled, the state of acceptance is forfeited, and liability to punishment ensues.** Now it is natural to ask,, is the “ faith” on account of which remission of all past sins is granted, and consequently justification, a dead, or a lively faith? If the former, we have the evidence to seek that they ever were justified, and how can that which was never granted be * cancelled?' If the latter, how comes a lively faith not to produce good works, of which they are the appropriate evidence? But on this pomt his Lordship is still more explicit.
§ 15. We are told that, “as in the case of ' adult converts from Heathenism in the days • of the apostles, the state of justification, thus
[by repentance and faith] recovered by penitent • Christians, does not necessarily remain; its 'continuance depends upon their abstinence • from those sins which are forbidden, and upon 'the practice of those virtues which are en'joined, in the gospel. By the indulgence of
any criminal passion, or by the neglect of any ' practicable duty, the state of justification is