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have indeed made the ways of God our chief delight, and do make it our great desire to follow the paths which our blessed Saviour has pointed out, yet still we are renewed only in part; the flesh still lusteth against the spirit; but it is, indeed, our comfort, as Christians, to know that we have a reconciled and compassionate Father, who remembers that we are but dust. He gives us promise upon promise, in his word, to our great and endless comfort. Just so, we see, that, of old, the same merciful Father condescended to repeat to Abraham the assurances of his continued protection and favour.
Verse 4th.--This (that is, one born in thine house) “ shall not be thine heir," but one sprung from thyself.
Verse 5th. “So, that is, so innumerable, as the stars of heaven, shall thy seed be.
Verse 6th. This verse tells us that “Abram believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." This is a very important verse, and mucb argument is built upon it in the New Testament. Righteousness means coming up to the exact rule of right; as when, (to use a familiar example) a workman's task has been so performed that it exactly and perfectly squares with the rule and level which have been given bim to measure it by. Now, we have also a rule by which we are to measure our hearts and lives. :this rule is God's commandments. If we come up to this standard, we are righteous; if not, we are sinners. But no one surely can undertake to say that he has, in heart and life, wholly and perfectly kept God's commandments. Every one therefore must consider himself interested in those glad tidings of the Gospel, which proclaim a Saviour as the propitiation for sin. The knowledge of our sinful state is at the very foundation of our receiving the benefits of the Gospel, and of seeing the need of that pardon which Christ hath purchased for us. St. Paul therefore, before
declaring the great blessings of the Gospel, labours to impress upon the minds of all whom he addresses, that they have need of the Gospel; he shews that both Jew and Gentile were under sin, because neither of them had kept those laws which had been given them. Now, let us see how this is with ourselves. Have we kept the 1st and 2nd Commandments, and has our beavenly Father so been the object of our love and worship, that po earthly pursuit has, like an idol, ever drawn our affections from Him? Have we never broken the 3d Commandment wbich forbids us to take the name of God in vain? or the 4th, which directs us to keep holy the Sabbath day? or the 5th, which enjoins us to honour our father and mother? and so on, we might ask of all the other commandments. But the breaking one of these commandments, one only time, puts and end to any claim that we might think we had as due to our righteousness, just as the man who has stolen a mere trifle has forfeited his claim to honesty, as much as if he had stolen to a larger amount. Thus, nur own hearts must tell us that we bave no claim, as of righteousness, and we must acknowledge the truth of that scripture which saith " There is none righteous, no not one."
“ All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."-We understand now what is meant when it is said that, “ Abraham believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Abraham could put in no claim of righteousness more than any other inan; but he believed in the Lord, received, in humble faith and trust, the favours and promises of God; and was accounted righteous by the free mercy of God. Abraham believed God, who told him that his posterity should be as the sand of the sea ; he believed, also, that from him should proceed that "seed of the woman," who should * bruise the serpent's head;" he looked forward with the eye of faith, to that Saviour whose "righteousness was to be declared, for the remission of sins that are pasti through the forbearance of God;"-" your father Abraham,” said our Saviour, “rejoiced to see my , day, and he saw it, and was glad."
The object, then, of Abraham's faith, we may conclude to be the same as our own, namely, our Saviour Christ. And here, we may remark, that when our Church, founded as it is on Scripture, presses the great doctrine of." justification by faith,” we are not to suppose that there is any merit in our faith, any more than in our works; but it is by the merits of Christ that we are justified; it is by Christ's atonement that a Christian is received into favour; and this doctrine he is to accept by faith *
Now, the doctrine which teaches us that we are justified, or “ accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, “.that we are justified by faith only,” is, as the 11th Article of our Church expresses it, “a most wholesome doctrine.” It is true that some have perverted it, and others have misunderstood it; but it will be a miserable remedy for these evils if we reject it, and thereby miss of the great privileges on which a Christian's only hopes depend.
The word “justify,” means in scripture the same as it means in common discourse,“ to clear from a charge.” If you were brought into a court of justice, and accused of having committed some crime, if you could clearly prove that you had not done so, you would then be justified, or cleared of the charge, and acquitted ; but, if you could not prove your innocence, you would be condemned. Justification, then, is the very opposite of condemnation. To condemn is to declare guilty; to justify, is to clear, to acquit. Now, if, whenever we meet with the word in scripture, we would recollect that it bears this meaning, and recollect also that the charge brought against us in scripture is the charge of sin for baving broken the law of God, we should find light thrown upon many passages of scripture, which, perhaps, we did not understand before. In this before us, for instance, “ If Abraham were justified by works,” &c. If Abraham were cleared from the charge of sin bronght against him by. the law, by bis own works, &c.
We must never suppose, for a moment, that justification, by Christ's merits, is, in the smallest degree, to lessen our exertions in striving to live in holiness and godliness, and in the practice of good and Christian works.
1. Because, such a striving after obedience is commanded in every page of Scripture, and we are told that we shall be judged, at the last day, according to our works.
2. Moreover, the doctrine calls upon us to see, in the strongest light, the eternal justice of God, and the sacred obligations of his holy law, by teaching us that it was to satisfy the demands of that law, that the Son of God himself became the sacrifice, and paid the penalty for our transgressions. Justice required that the penalty should be paid. Our Saviour himself paid it; and thus “God was just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Again, Justification by Christ's merits, excludes boasting, and shuts out every notion which pride might suggest, that it was our own merits which had earned for us our reward. Now pride and boasting are very great sins, very bad works; and the consideration of God's free gift to us is the right way to destroy these wrong feelings, and to produce à sense of humility and lowliness of heart, teaching us to give all the praise and glory to God. This is a truly Christian disposition ; therefore the doctrine is calculated, in this case, to produce, instead of to destroy, good works.
Further. The freedom of God's mercy to us is to awaken our hearts to gratitude and love; motives, the most powerful of all others to excite us to obedience, and to urge us all to ask, “what we shall do unto the Lord for all the benefits which he hath done unto us." “ We love him because he first loved
Thus, right faith is to produce right practice.
A sincere Christian will be ever striving to do the will of God; and he will have no difficulty, at the same tinie, of acknowledging the doctrine of his Church, that we are jnstified by the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and he will make this mercy of his Lord and Saviour his song of constant praise, and his motive to constant watchfulness.
“ When a prince střikes off a malefactor's chains, he frees him not from the duty of a subject; his pardon adds a greater obligation than his protection did before, when he was loyal.”
T. B. P.
THE NEW YEAR.
“ Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order, for thou
shalt die and not live.” 2 Kings xx. 1.. These words were spoken by the Prophet Isaiah, to the good King Hezekiah ; and may, most profitably, lead each of us to consider, and to say within ourselves, upon this our entrance on a new year"bow very possible it is that this same sentence may be passed on me, and that I may die this year!"
Many, young and strong as I, many much younger, and much stronger, have, during the last year, been carried off,--and many, who, though now in all the joy of health and prosperity, may be entering on the last year of their lives, without the least suspicion that, ere the close of it, they will bave passed into an unchangeable state of happiness or of misery.How awful is the thought! When I see these around me tribing away, day after day, and acting as if they have no care for an eternity, as if even they believe not that there will be an eternity, I am always grieved and sometimes angry; but let me check this temper, and turn to myself! let me examine my own heart and conduct; and, since I may be one of those