« PreviousContinue »
gifts, that “
as well as by the declaration of our Saviour with respect to those, who pretend to spiritual
by their fruits we shall know " themm.”
Nor shall we suffer ourselves, on the authority of a few texts of doubtful or erroneous interpretation, to be reduced into the Moravian and Methodistical tenets, that a true Chriftian has a sensible and certain assurance of falvation, and is incapable of fin; or to adopt the doctrine of the Antinomian, that God fees no fin in believers; while we bear in mind the clear admonition of St. Paul, « him that thinketh he standeth, take heed • left he fall" ;” and the no less intelligible and universal confession of St. John, " that we have no fin, we deceive ourselves, 66 and the truth is not in uso."
7. A farther rule, which I would propose to affist us in our interpretation of Scripture, unless indeed it be confidered as a special modification of one of the foregoing, is, that where the fame term is employed at different times and under different circumstances, we ought not to be fatisfied with one independent description, but should compare and combine them together.
It is in pursuance of this principle that we
. If we fay
m Matt. vii. 20,
1 I Cor. x. 12.
• 1 John i. 8.
believe in three persons united in one Godhead; and in the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ. And it was from a disregard of this principle, that Noetus afferted, that the Father bad united himself with the man Cbrist, and was born and crucified with him; and that Sabellius pretended that there was no difference between the persons of the Trinity, but that they were all one person under three names P: that Neltorius, divided Christ into two persons; and Eutyches confounded in bis person his two natures: that Arius denied him to be truly God; and Apollinaris affirmed, that he was not really man.
I would apply this principle to the much controverted question of justification. “ We « conclude,” lays St. Paul, “ that a man is “ jultified by faith, without the deeds of the “ law.” And again, “ Knowing that a man “ is not justified by the works of the law, but “ by the faith of Jesus Christ.”. On these, and some similar texts, the Solifidian faftens: he overlooks, or despises, the testimony of another Apostle, who affirms that “ by works a
P. Moiheim, Cent. i. part ii. chap. 5.
4 See Bishop Horne's Sermon on the Word Incarnare, Difc. vol. i. p. 205. Mosheim, Cent. v. part ü. chap. v. and Cent. iv. part ii. chap. v. Rom. iii. 28.
s Gal. ii. 16.
man is justified, and not by faith only.; and who thrice within a few sentences pronounces, that “faith without works is dead":" he treats the epistle, wherein this testimony occurs, and which appears intended to obviate the falfe conclusions likely to be drawn from St. Paul's words, as what Luther once lamented that he had called it, an epistle of ftraw: he
goes fo far perhaps, as to accuse the divinely inspired author “ of false testimony, “ of lying, of contradicting the Holy Spirit, “ the Law, the Prophets, Christ, and all the
Apostles *,” and fo he persists in an unreserved and unqualified affirmation, that we are justified by faith alone.
Now as the epistle of St. James, not less than those of his brother in the Apostleship, forms part of the sacred canon; furely it would be both safer and more becoming, instead of confining ourselves to the testimony of one alone, to compare and combine the declarations of both Apostles, as constituting consistent portions of the same holy revelation. And the result of such a comparison would probably be a conviction, that there is no inconsistency in the positions of the two facred writers; but that “ faith,” in St. James's acceptation, fignifies an inactive belief in the truths of the Gospel, not producing holiness of life, and, in St. Paul's, faith in Christ comprehending Christian holiness; that “ by works,” St. James intends a religious and charitable, that is a Christian, life; and St. Paul, the performances of a man in his natural state, or a compliance with the outward ordinances, and sometimes with the moral obligations, of the Mosaic law: and that the position is accordingly true in one sense, but not in another, as that is true of Christ in his human nature, which is not true of him in his divine.
i James ii. 24.
• Ibid. 17, 20, 26. * Imno repertus eft non nemo, qui eo audaciæ atque adeo impietatis processit, ut in Authorem ejus epiftolæ, cui Jacobi nomen infcribitur, calamum liberius ftrinxerit, eumque falfitatis ac mendacii arguerit. Is fuit Althamerus, qui (citante Grotio) in Scriptorem, non modo innoxium, sed et divinum hæc verba indignabundus effudit. Directe (inquit) in Scripturam agit; citat Scripturas falso; et folus Spiritui fancto, Legi, Prophetis, Christo, Apoftolisque omnibus contradicit. Bulli Harm. Apoft. Introd. lect. 3.
Election too, that other Shibboleth of a party, has two distinct fcriptural significations, analogous to those borne by “ the kingdom of “ heaven.” As the kingdom of heaven fometimes signifies the whole body of professed Chriftians in this world, and sometimes " the assem
bly of juft men made perfect” in another; so by the elect are intended fometimes all those persons, who are in covenant with God, and profess his religion, as all the people of the
Jews under the old dispensation, and all Chriftians under the new; fometimes they alone are intended, who give all diligence to make their lives agreeable to the doctrine, which they profefs, and are chofen by God to eternal life on a foresight of their faith and obedience. However plainly the doctrine of God's election being absolute and unconditional may be asserted in the former signification of the term; the Scriptures give no fanction to the doctrine, if applied to the latter.
8. These interpretations will be confirmed by the application of another rule; namely, that we give diligent attention to the design and scope of the composition, which we are examining; instead of fixing upon it an arbitrary conftruction, foreign perhaps from the object of the author, and perhaps also incompatible with his principles.
“ It is a general 66 and uncontested rule,” as Archbishop Sharp remarks, “ in the interpreting of Scripture and « all other writings, that the scope of the aua thor and the subject matter of his discourse " is to fix and limit the sense of all his propo“ fitions ; so that though a proposition be seem
ingly universal, yet it is to be extended no “ farther than the subject matter that is treat 1 « ed abouty.”
Ý Archbishop Sharp's Works, vol. iv, p. 274