Page images

OUR OWN WORKS has no share in our justification, in opposition to Papists, who assert, that man's inherent righteousness is the meritorious cause of his justification, and that good works "ad vitam æternam consequendam vere promereri (ƒ)."

It may be proper upon this occasion to explain some passages in the Epistles of St. Paul and St. James, relative to Justification, which at first sight appear to be inconsistent with each other. St. Paul says, that "A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (g)." And again, that "A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (h)." St. James says, "A man is justified by works, and not by faith only (i)." St. Paul and St. James both allude to the case of adult converts to the Gospel; and in order to reconcile these 'seemingly contradictory assertions, we must consider the particular object which each had in view, and also distinguish between the first entrance into a state of justification, and the continuance in that state. St. Paul, when he makes the above declarations, is arguing, as clearly appears from the context, against those judaizing Christians, who contended that circumcision,

(f) Conc. Trid. de Bon, Op. cap. 11.
(g) Rom. c. 3. v. 28, (h) Gal. c. 2. v, 16,
(i) C. 2, v, 24.

circumcision, and an observance of the whole ritual of the Mosaic institution, were required in Gentiles who embraced the Gospel, as essential to their justification; and therefore the justification which he means is the first entrance into a state of justification, and the works and deeds of the law, which he excludes and rejects, are the numerous outward ordinances prescribed by the Law of Moses, and abolished by the Gospel of Christ. But this obvious sense of these passages was soon perverted, and they were made to signify, that faith in Christ, without works or deeds of any kind, that is, without the practice of moral virtue, was of itself sufficient to procure salvation. This most unwarrantable interpretation St. James reprobates and refutes (k), by proving that a man is justified by his works, and not by faith only. He does not say by the works of the law, but by works, that is, by a man's own works or actions. When therefore he says, that a man is not justified by faith only, he means that a man is not preserved in a state of justification by a bare belief in the religion of Christ. "Faith," says he repeatedly in the same chapter, "without

(k) Several antient authors mention that St. James wrote this Epistle to correct some errors which had arisen from a misapprehension of St. Paul's writings. St. Peter observes, that in St. Paul's Epistles, there


$ 3


"without works is dead (1);" that is, although a man believes in the divine mission of Christ, and in consequence of that belief has been admitted in the Gospel Covenant, yet if he does not afterwards obey its precepts, his faith is ineffectual; he will not continue justified; and if he perseveres in his disobedience, he will not inherit eternal life. The Apostles therefore are speaking of different things: St. Paul is shewing what it is which places a man in a state of justification; St. James is shewing what it is which is necessary to continue a person in a state of justification and they were respectively led to discuss these subjects by errors which prevailed among those whom they addressed. St. Paul asserts, that if a man be convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and sincerely intend to obey its precepts, he becomes justified without the observance of the Mosaic ceremonies. St. James asserts, that a man, who has thus been once justified, does not continue in a state of justification, unless he actually obeys the moral precepts of the Gospel. Faith will place a man in a state of justification; but faith and works are both necessary to pre


"" are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." 2 Pet. c. 3. v. 16.

(1) C. 2. v. 17, 20 and 26.

serve a man in a state of justification. These two doctrines are perfectly consistent with each other. In proof that when St. Paul says, a man is justified by faith, without mentioning any other requisite, he means the first entrance into a state of justification, and that by the works of the law which he rejects, he does not mean the duties of morality, we may observe, that every one of his Epistles, and particularly those in which he treats of justification, abounds with the most earnest exhortations and strict injunctions to the practice of moral virtue as essentially necessary in persons after they have embraced the Gospel, and as absolutely indispensable to final salvation. And that St. James, when he says that a man is justified by works, is speaking of the continuance in a state of justification, and that by works he means the moral duties, is equally evident from his reasoning and the examples which he adduces in the second chapter of his Epistle. St. Paul puts faith for faith in Christ, in contradistinction to the Law of Moses; and the works which he declares to be unnecessary for justification, are the rites and ceremonies of that law. On the other hand, by faith St. James means a bare assent to the truth of the Gospel, without conformity to its precepts; and the works, which he pronounces to be necessary for justification, are the moral duties

S 4


enjoined by the Gospel, and which are produced by a true and lively faith.


FORT; the word only is here added for the purpose of again disclaiming the Popish doctrine of Human Merit. Justification by faith cannot but be a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort, as it places our hope of justification in this world, and of everlasting happiness in that which is to come, upon the infallible promises of God, and the all-sufficient merits of Christ.

AS IS MORE LARGELY EXPRESSED IN THE HOMILY OF JUSTIFICATION. It is remarkable, that there is no homily with this title. The homily intitled "Of the Salvation of all Mankind," is generally supposed to be here meant, though some learned men have thought that the four homilies upon "human misery, salvation, faith, and good works," were all referred to. The former opinion seems to be the better founded, as the word in the article is Homily, and not Homilies; and that homily relates more particu larly to the subject of this article. We find in it the following passages: "This saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »