Page images

counterbalanced by a heavier weight of sin and infirmity, to recommend us in the sight of God; it is the forgiveness of sin, not the reward of righteousness, that is promised; it is only through that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, that this forgiveness can be obtained, so that there is no room for boasting, for pride, for self sufficiency-it is all excluded. By what law? By the law of faith, by the doctrine which teaches us that “Christ once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, to bring us unto God,” and that “through faith in his blood we are justified from all things from which we could not be justified by ” any other method.

But now thirdly, what are the effects which when rightly received, this doctrine will produce?

The infidel slanderer of Christianity, who would wish to excite a prejudice against the religion that he rejects—the self-righteous man who presumptuously thinks that he can establish claim of his own to heaven- the careless sinner who in the midst of an evil life would quiet his upbraiding conscience by administering to it the sop of a vain hope-and the deluded fanatic who has most perversely persuaded himself that the merits of Christ are so complete a substitute for personal holiness, as to render it unnecessarythese will say, that the doctrine of justification by


faith alone, is a license, an encouragement to sin. But how false this imputation is, let the whole Christian Scriptures declare, which though they plainly teach this doctrine, yet condemn all cherished sin as utterly fatal to the hope of salvation, and prescribe the most perfect holiness of life. Let St. Paul declare, who though he is ever insisting on faith in Christ as the only ground of salvation, yet himself anxiously laboured to keep under his body, and to bring it into subjection, and exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offence, towards God, and towards man; and he not only most strenuously inculcates the necessity of practical religion in general, but is most minute and particular in his exhortations to all the various duties of life. Let also those holy Christians of former and of the present times declare, who in proportion to their faith have ever been exemplary in all godliness and virtue ; nay, let the very nature and tendency of the doctrine itself declare, which by direct influence, and necessary obligation, deters men from all sin, and excites them to all goodness, more than any

other doctrine that ever was delivered to the world.

For what is this doctrine that “we are justified, accounted righteous before God, by faith?” Faith in whom? In a sinful being, who has set us an example of unholy conduct? In a licentious

[ocr errors]

and corrupt teacher, who has instructed us that there is no distinction between moral good and evil with God? No: but in Christ, the “ holy, the harmless, the undefiled, and separate from sinners." In Christ, who alone of all that ever lived on this earth, was free from all spot of sin. In Christ, the most perfect pattern of all that is good and excellent. In Christ, who in his admirable laws has commanded us to aim at the utmost purity of heart, and the highest perfection of moral conduct. In Christ, who by his very coming into the world and suffering for our sins, exhibited the danger of sin and its hatefulness to God, in the most striking and awful manner possible. In Christ, who will hereafter sit on the seat of judgment, and who has told us before-hand the different sentences which he shall then pass on the righteous and the wicked; to the former

“ Come

ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world;" to the latter, “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ;" these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” Since faith in such a being is the best possible security for holiness, we cannot truly believe in him, believe in all that he has done and suffered for us, without

he will say,

66 And

loving him ; and if we love him, we shall keep his commandments, we shall desire to be like him, we shall hate sin as he did, we shall studiously endeavour to form ourselves after his spirit, that we may ever dwell in him, and he in us; we shall lift up our hearts and affections to that holy place where he is, and look forwards with joy to the time when we shall depart hence, and be more immediately present with our adored Lord. Is not this a holy faith ? Who can feel and act in this way, that encourages one known sin? Do not pretend to faith, if universal holiness, a perfect conformity to the image of Christ in whom you believe, is not the object of your desire. I mean, do not pretend to a justifying, a saving faith. Another sort of faith you may indeed possess--a dead, an inactive, an unfruitful faith ; a faith therefore, which so far from justifying you, condemns you ; a faith which instead of inspiring hope, ought to fill you with fear; a faith which, though it should be strong enough to remove mountains, yet, coupled with an ungodly life, will not avail to remove so much as the smallest sin from your burthened souls.

Labour then, my brethren, above all things, to acquire that true faith, whereby alone you can obtain a personal interest in the merits and mediation of Christ; labour for it in the way which the scriptures point out, by prayer and by hearing and reading the word of God. “Lord increase our faith,” was the prayer of the apostles, and will you neglect the means which those holy men thought it necessary to use? No: earnestly beseech of God to impart to you that his greatest and most valuable gift, for if he gives you faith, with it he gives you every thing-hope, holiness, love, pardon, eternal life. But use the appointed means also, “ faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Beware lest the “word preached do not profit you, not being mixed with faith in

you that hear it;" but implore the divine blessing upon this ordinance, that it


be effectual to the holy and important purpose for which it is designed. And study the holy scriptures continually, for the knowledge of them is able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus, nor ever rest satisfied with that false faith, which consists in mere notions and opinions, while the heart and life are uninfluenced by it; but "giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity, for if these things be in you and abound, they make you that


shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

« PreviousContinue »