« PreviousContinue »
I BELIEVE that there are many persons who oppose the doctrine of justification by faith, from the honest conviction that it opposes the interests of practical holiness, or Christian morals. Such persons deserve at least the respect of those who value holiness. They acknowledge the excellency and the obligation of the precepts which describe the Christian character—they are persuaded that any view of Christian doc. trine which does not agree with the tendency of these precepts must be incorrect; and as they do not perceive that the doctrine of justification by faith without works has this agreement, they conceive them
selves warranted to reject it, as a misrepresentation of the language of Scripture. Now, I do not think that this class of objectors have been often either kindly or fairly answered. Their case certainly at first sight appears a strong one, and they are at all events entitled to have their statement of it candidly received and discussed. Let us endeavour to do so.
1st, In the first place, say they, by making pardon a free gift irrespective of character, you take away a powerful motive to obedience, and you give the strange and pernicious impression, that God is indifferent to right and wrong in his intelligent creatures.
2dly, We object, they continue, to the propriety of the title which you give to your system. You call it a system of free salvation, and
that it attributes all to God; and yet it is in fact as much embarrassed with conditions, and contains as much of human effort, as our own. Faith is in your system what obedience is in ours--and they are both of them acts of the human mind. You blame us for resting our hopes on the obedience which we can discover in our lives, whilst, at the same time, you avowedly rest your hopes on the faith which you can discover in your hearts. But you defend yourselves by saying, that faith is the gift of God. Well, we also say that obedience is the gift of God. In point of gratuitousness, then, the two systems are thus nearly on a par; that is to say, neither of them is gratuitous except in name. And, in point of moral influence, we would ask, whether a system which rests salvation on the belief of any facts whatsoever, can be compared with one which rests it on faithful exertion and holy obedience.
3dly, You depreciate practical holiness by all possible means; for, even when
you are compelled to admit, that “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” you what you can to weaken the force of the admission, by saying that the value of holiness arises simply from its being an evidence of the reality of faith, and not from any intrinsic quality of its own.
4thly, You do not seem at all agreed as to what is the meaning of faith. Sometimes you make it to consist in trust and