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divine favor. Gracious kindness is shown to the unworthy goodness flows from the fountain of goodness, while there is no amiableness in the object upon which it rests. This is the true notion of justification without works. It is not the worthiness of our actions, or any thing in us, which in any measure is accepted as an atonement for the guilt of sin, or as a recommendation to the divine favor. We are justified solely through the righteousness of Christ. When works are opposed to faith, with regard to our justification, and it is said that we are justified by faith and not by works, it is meant that neither our works, nor any dispositions we possess, at all recommend us to an interest in Christ and the blessings of his salvation; but that these blessings are communicated only through faith, or by our souls receiving Christ as our Savior. But that no worthiness in us recommends us to God, is no argument that nothing in us is a sign of interest in his favor.
If the doctrines of free grace, and of justification by faith alone, are inconsistent with the importance of holy practice, as a sign of grace; then they are inconsistent with the importance of any thing in us, regarded as a sign of grace; any holiness, or any experience; for it is as much contrary to the doctrines of free grace, and of justification by faith alone, that either of these should be the righteousness by which we are justified, as that holy practice should. To treat holy obedience with indifference because we are not justified by works, is the same thing in effect as treating all religion with indifference, even all true holiness and gracious experience; for all these are included, when the Scriptures say, we are not justified by works. By works, in this case, is meant every thing that we experience, as well as every thing that we do; every ercise of the
mind, as well as every exertion of the body. If we were justified by any of these, we should, in a scripture sense, be justified by works; and therefore, if it is not legal, nor contrary to the doctrine of justification without works, to insist on any of these, as evidences of our interest in Christ, neither is it, with the same view, to insist on the importance of holy practice. It would be legal to suppose, that holy practice gives us a title to the blessings of salvation; but it is not legal to suppose, that holy practice is the proper and most decisive evidence of our sincerity.
The Apostle James did not think it legal to say, that Abraham was justified by works in this sense. The Spirit that indited the Scriptures, did not think that the absolute necessity of a holy practice, in this respect, was inconsistent with the freeness of grace; for in general the sacred writings teach them in union with each other. In Rev. 21: 6, 7, it is said, "I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely;" and then it is immediately added, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things;" as though behaving well in the Christian race and warfare, was the condition of the promise. In the next chapter, it is said, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city;" and then, in the next verse, it is declared that liars, whoremongers, murderers, &c., shall be excluded; and yet, in the two verses immediately following, an invitation is given to all to come, and take of the water of life freely. Similar is the invitation to sinners to accept of free grace, in Isaiah, 55. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money
and without price;" and yet in the continuation of this passage, the sinner's forsaking his wicked practice, is mentioned as necessary to his obtaining mercy: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Ver. 7. See also Isaiah, 1: 16, &c. Hence it is evident that the freeness of grace, and the necessity of a holy practice, which are often joined together in Scripture, are not inconsistent with each other. Nor does it at all diminish the importance of faith, that its exercises and effects, in practice, are the chief indications of our possessing it, any more than it lessens the importance of animal life, that motion and action are the chief signs of its existence.
Hence it also appears, that in what has been said of the importance of holy practice, as the most decisive mark of sincerity, there is nothing legal: nothing derogatory to the freedom and sovereignty of Gospel grace; nothing in the least clashing with the Gospel doctrine of justification by faith alone, without the works of the law; nothing in the least tending to lessen the glory of the Mediator, and our dependence on his righteousness; nothing infringing on the special prerogatives of faith, in the affair of salvation; nothing in any way detracting from the glory of God, and of his mercy; nothing tending to exalt man, or to lessen his dependence and obligations. So that if any believers are opposed to such an importance of holy practice as that insisted on above, it must arise from an inconsiderate aversion to the word works; when they might with equal reason dislike the words holiness, grace, religion. experience, and even faith itself; for to make a righteousness of our faith, experience, &c. is as legal, and as
inconsistent with the new covenant, as to make a righteousness of holy practice.
It is highly injurious to religion to make light of those things upon which the Scriptures insist most: for instance, to neglect the exercises and effectual operations of grace in practice, and to insist almost wholly on discoveries and our extraordinary experience. It is in vain to look for any better signs than those which the Scriptures have most expressly mentioned as marks of godliness. Those persons who profess, by their extraordinary experience and insight into the nature of things, to point out more distinguishing criterions for the detection of hypocrisy, than those which the Scriptures give us, are but ingenious to the confusion of their own minds, and the minds of others; their penetration and sagacity are, in the sight of God, but refined foolishness and sagacious delusion. To such the words of Agur are applicable: "Every word of God is pure ;-add not thou unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Prov. 30: 5, 6. Our discernment and wisdom, with regard to the hearts of men, are not much to be trusted. We see but a little way into the state of the human soul. The means are so many by which our passions may be moved, without any supernatural influence; the springs of our affections are so various, and so secret; so many things may, at the same time, and in conjunction, influence our affections; for instance, the imagination, natural temper, education, the common influences of the Holy Spirit, a surprising concourse of affecting circumstances, an extraordinary coincidence in the course of our thoughts, together with the subtle management of invisible, malicious spirits; that no philosophy, or experience, will ever be sufficient to guide
us safely, without our closely following the directions which God has given us in his holy word. Our heavenly Father has no doubt his reasons for insisting on some things as marks by which we should try ourselves, rather than by others. Perhaps he knows that those criterions are attended by less perplexity, and that we are less liable to be deceived by them, than by others. He best knows our nature, and the nature of his own operations; he is best acquainted with the means of securing our safety; he knows what allowance to make for different states of his church, and different tempers of particular persons; and therefore it is our wisdom not to take his work out of his hands, but to follow his prescriptions, and judge of ourselves as he directs us. If we do otherwise, no wonder if we are bewildered, confounded, and fatally deluded. But if we are in the habit of looking chiefly at those things as marks of piety, which Christ, and his apostles, and the prophets, most earnestly insisted on, so that in judging of ourselves, and of others, we chiefly regard the practical exercises and effects of grace, our con duct will be attended by the happiest consequences; it will be the means of delivering us from innumerable perplexities, arising from the various schemes which have been invented for the purpose of ascertaining the real state of professors; it will, above all things, lead to the conviction of deluded hypocrites; it will tend to prevent professors from neglecting strictness of life, and to promote their circumspection and earnestness in the Christian walk. Were we guided uniformly by Scripture rules in judging of professors of religion, it would become usual for men to exhibit their piety more by an amiable behavior, than by frequently and obtrusively relating their experience; we should get