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sees they will at last be saved; but, as they are not at present within the fold of his Church, in order to secure their salvation, “ them also he must bring,” before they die, that there may be “one fold and one Shepherd.”
Q. 31. This is very strong, indeed. But, as this is a great case which many pretend to lay a great stress upon, whence arises the weight it seems to have with them in favour of those who even die in a false religion ?
A. Their mistake arises from the idea they form to themselves of good works, and from their not observing the vast difference there is between natural good moral actions, and supernatural Christian good works, which alone will bring a man to heaven. However corrupted our nature is by sin, yet there are few or none of the seed of Adam but. have some good natural dispositions, some being more inclined to one virtue, some to another. Thus some are of a humane benevolent disposition; some tender-hearted and compassionate towards others in distress, some just and upright in their dealings ; some temperate and sober ; some mild and patient ; and so of others : and some also have a natural turn to devotion, and a kind of respect for the supreme Being. Now, all such good, natural dispositions of themselves are far from being Christian virtues, and altogether incapable to bring a man to heaven. They, indeed, make him who has them, agreeable to men, and procure him esteem and regard from those with whom he lives ; but they are of no avail before God, with regard to eternity. To be convinced of this we need only observe, that good natural dispositions of this kind are found in Turks, Jews, and Heathens, as well as among Christians; yet no Christians can suppose that a Turk, Jew, or Heathen, who dies in that state, will obtain the
kingdom of heaven by means of these virtues. Nay, the Pharisees, among the people of God, were remarkable for many such virtues; they had a great veneration for the law of God; they made open profession of piety and devotion ; gave large alms to the poor; fasted and prayed a great deal ; were assiduous in all their public duties of religion ; were remarkable for their strict observance of the Sabbath-day, and had an abhorrence to all profanation of the holy name of God; yet Jesus Christ himself expressly declares, “ Except your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matth. v. 20. We are told that one of their number went up to the temple to pray, who was in the eyes of the world a very good man, he led an innocent life, free from those grosser crimes which are so common among men, fasted twice a week, and gave tithes of all he possessed ; yet Christ himself assures us that he was condemned in the sight of God. All this shews to a demonstration, that none of the above good dispositions of nature are capable of themselves to bring a man to heaven, who lives according to them. And the reason is, because “there is no other name given to man under heaven, by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus only,” Acts, iv. 12.; therefore no good works whatsoever, performed through the good dispositions of nature only, can ever be crowned by God with eternal happiness. To obtain this glorious reward, our good works must be sanctified by the blood of Jesus, and become Christian virtues. Now, if we search the holy Scriptures, we find two conditions absolutely required to make our good works agreeable to God, and conducive to our salvation. First, that we be united to Jesus Christ by true faith, which is the root and founda
tion of all Christian virtues; for St. Paul expressly says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. xi. 6. Observe the word impossible : he does not say it is difficult, but that it is impossible. Let, therefore, a man have ever so many good natural dispositions, and be as charitable and devout, and mortified as the Pharisees were, yet if he has not the true faith in Jesus Christ, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. They refused to believe in him; and, therefore, all their good works were good for nothing as to their salvation; and, unless our righteousness exceed theirs in this point, as Christ himself assures us, we shall never enter into his heavenly kingdom. But even true faith itself, however necessary it be, yet is not sufficient alone to make our good works available to salvation ; for it is necessary, in the second place, that we be in charity with God, in his friendship and grace, without which even true faith itself will never save us. To be convinced of this, let us only give ear to St. Paul, who says,
Though I should bave all faith, so as to remove mountains, though I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, though I should give my body to be burnt, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing," I Cor. xiii. So that let a man be ever so peaceable, regular, inoffensive, and religious in his way, and charitable to the poor, and what else you please; yet, if he have not the true faith of Jesus Christ, and be not in charity with his God, all his apparent virtues go for nothing in the accounts of God; it is impossible for him to please God by them; and, if he live and die in that state, they will profit him nothing. Hence it is manifest, that those who die in a false religion, however unexceptionable their moral conduct may be, in the eyes of men, yet as they want the true faith of Christ, and, of course, are not in charity with
him, are not in the way of salvation ; for nothing can avail us in Christ, but “ faith that works by charity,” Gal. v. 6.
Q. 32. But, as all this is so evident, how comes it, that some, now-a-days, who profess themselves members of the Church of Christ, seem to call this truth in question, by continually pleading in favour of those who are not of their communion, proposing excuses for them, and using all their endeavours to prove a possibility of salvation for those who live and die in a false religion ?
A. This is one of those infernal engines which the enemy of souls makes use of in these unhappy times to promote his own cause, and which there are grounds to fear has, from various reasons, found its way even among those who belong to the fold of Christ ; for, (1.) As they live among those who are of another communion, and often have the most intimate connexions with them, they naturally and most laudably contract a love and affection for them. This makes them first sorry to think their friends should be out of the way of salvation. Then they proceed to wish and hope they may not be so. Hence they come to call in question if they be so. And from this the step is easy to grasp at every pretext to persuade themselves they are not so. (2.) Latitudinarian principles are every where present in these our days ; an uncovenanted mercy, forsooth, is found to be in God for Turks, Jews, and Infidels, which had never before been heard of among Christians. This is gilded over with the specious character of a liberal way of thinking and generous sentiments; and it is become the fashion to think and speak in this manner. Now, the fashion is a most powerful persuasive, which even good people are not always proof against; and, when one hears those sentiments every day resounding in his ears, and
any thing that seems contrary to them, ridiculed and condemned, this naturally clouds the understanding, and discourages the mind from so much as wishing to examine the strength of these sentiments, for fear of finding out their falsehood. When, for fear of being despised, we wish any thing to be true, the translation is very easy to believe it to be true; and every sophistical shew of reason in its favour is adopted, without further examination, as conclusive. (3.) Worldly interest also very often concurs, with its overbearing influence, to produce the same end. A member of the Church of Christ sees his separated friend in power and credit in the world, and capable of being of great service to him and his; he knows, should he embrace the true faith, he would lose alỊ his influence, and become unable to serve him. This makes him cool in wishing his conversion; but the thought that his friend is not in the way of salvation pains him; he, therefore, begins to wish be could be saved as he is, in his own religion. Hence he comes to doubt but that he may, and gladly adopts any shew of proof to make him think that he wilt. It is true, indeed, all these reasons would have little influence with a sincere member of the Church of Christ, wbo understands his religion, and has a just sense of wbat it teaches him on this head : but the great misfortune of many, who give into these loose ways of thinking and speaking, is, (4.) That they are ignorant of the grounds of their religion ; they do not examine the matter to the bottom; and if once they begin to be infected by the spirit of the mode, they are unwilling to examine; they even take it amiss if any zealous friend should attempt to undeceive them, and, grasping at those iniserable sophisms, which are alleged in favour of their loose way of thinking,