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SERMON XVI.

Romans iii. 27. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith.

IMPROVEMENT.

I. WE learn from what has been observed on this subject, that they make a great mistake, and have espoused a dangerous and hurtful error, who believe and assert that if faith or believing in Christ, in order to justification, is a virtuous or holy act, or implies 261any real goodness, then the sinner has something lo recommend himself, which is of real worth, of which he has reason to boast, and must be acceptable to God; and therefore has no need of the merits of Christ and free grace in order to be justified. They therefore contend that to assert that a sinner must exercise any holiness previous to his justification, and in order to it, and that faith is a holy act, is entirely to subvert the gospel, and lays a foundation for boasting, and flatters the pride of man. Of these there have been, and now are, not a few in all parts of the protestant world.

What has been said on this subject serves to show how unreasonable and contrary to the truth this notion is, and the evil tendency of it. But it may be useful and of importance to review some things which have been mentioned in the preceding discourse, by which the error and absurdity of this opinion will be abundantly exposed and confuted.

I. The sinner is under the curse of the holy, righteous and good law of God, which pronounces him to be a hateful, accursed creature, deserving to lie under the divine displeasure and wrath forever. Every transgressor of this law is under this curse and in this state, whatever holy obedience he had performed, and how long soever he had continued perfectly holy before his sin. His transgression, even one instance of it, totally obliterates and annihilates his preceding holiness, so that it cannot have the least influence to prevent the curse coming upon him, or alleviate it in any degree; but he is as odious and guilty, and as much the object of God’s displeasure for his transgression, as if his previous holiness never had existence, which cannot be reckoned in his favour in any respect or degree, without counteracting the law of God, and setting it aside in favour of the sinner, who by it is cursed. And it is the same with regard to any future holiness and obedience. If the sinner repent and turn to obedience, though ever so perfect and long continued, this would not in the least degree atone for the sin of which he had been guilty, or 252remove the curse which the law has fixed upon him for his sin; and therefore could not be more acceptable to God than if he had not obeyed, or than his obedience before he sinned, and cannot be the reason and ground of his receiving any favour from God, as after obedience is as much obliterated and rendered of no avail to recommend to any favour, by his sin, as his obedience before he sinned, it being equally contrary to the law, which pronounces him accursed, to regard and accept or show any favour for his after obedience, as for the former, and it cannot be done without vacating and setting it aside, as not worthy of regard.

This is the plain law of God, which curses every one who continueth not to obey it in all things which it requires, and holds him under this curse, notwithstanding all the obedience he had paid to it before he sinned, or any obedience after that. The law affords no remedy or help, or grants any thing better than what is contained in the curse. This is the law of God. It is his voice to all his creatures who are moral agents. It is the language of his heart, which he will never counteract or contradict, in words or conduct. He views the sinner in the light in which his law sets him, and will treat him accordingly so long as he remains under the curse of it, and is not delivered from it in a way which is perfectly consistent with it, and in which as much regard is paid to it, as if the sinner remained under the curse of it forever.

Therefore, whatever repentance and approbation of the law which curses him, and love to God, the sinner exercises before he is delivered from the curse by actually coming to Christ: and believing on him, does not in any degree remove his guilt, or render him less deserving of the curse, and cannot recommend him to the least favour; but he is in the sight of God as much accursed and the object: of his displeasure, and in this sense as truly ungodly, as he was before, and as if he had no such exercises of love and repentance, as they cannot be reckoned in his favour, so as in the least to remove the 263curse. And whatever repentance, and love to God and his law, or holiness, is necessary in order to come to Christ, and is exercised in coming to him and believing on him, this cannot, in itself considered, recommend the sinner to favour, or render him less unworthy or leis accursed; but as by this the sinner lays hold of Christ, and is united to him, he comes within the reach of his merit and worthiness, so as by him who has been made a curse he may consistent with the law be delivered from the curse of it, and obtain all the favour which he wants. And being thus by Christ delivered from the curse of the law, and pardoned and justified by virtue of his atonement and righteousness, his person and his holy exercises of faith and love become acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, to whom he is united, God may now be just, and maintain and honour his righteous law, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus, he being made accepted in his beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased.55   This serves to fix the true and plain meaning of the Apostle’s words, [Rom. iv. 4, 5.] “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt: but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness.” By him that worketh is meant, him who by his works of obedience recommends himself to favour, and the reward of eternal life, and in this sense earns the reward by the price of his obedience, which no creature can do, except those who are perfectly innocent and holy, as has been observed in explaining the law of works. He who worketh not is the sinner, who neither has nor can have any works to recommend to the least favour; who is convinced of this, and makes no attempt to do any thing in this view and to this end; who feels that he is justly accursed, and under the displeasure of God, and deserves nothing better than everlasting destruction, being an ungodly rebel against God, and wholly unrighteous. As such he looks to Christ, and believeth on him, and cordially receives him and trusts in him for righteousness, who pardons and justifieth such unrighteous, ungodly, infinitely guilty, hell-deserving sinners as he feels and confesses himself to be.
   They who hold the tenet to which the inference under consideration is opposed, lay much stress upon the word ungodly in this passage, as if it denoted a sinner altogether destitute of the least friendly disposition towards God and Christ, being an impenitent enemy to God. But though such are often meant in the scripture by the ungodly, yet it does not follow that precisely this idea is always to be denoted by this word. It has been shewn in what sense every unpardoned, unjustified sinner is properly denominated ungodly, and this appears to be the sense in which the Apostle uses it, from the connection and context. And understanding it as they do, makes the Apostle to say that a sinner, with a hard, impenitent heart, full of enmity to God and to Christ, and the way of salvation by him, and justification by free grace, may and does believe on Christ, receive and trust in him for justification and salvation, which he at the same time abhors with his whole heart! This is to make him assert, with themselves, that which is most absurd and absolutely impossible. It is therefore most certain the Apostle did not use this word here in the sense which they put upon it, but in a sense perfectly agreeable to the subject: of which he treats, and the point he is proving, which is naturally and easily understood by the unprejudiced and discerning i being consistent with himself, with other scripture, and with the clearest reason.

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The reason of all this—why the sinner’s holiness before or after he has once sinned cannot be acceptable and reckoned in his favour, or in any degree remove the curse of the law, and whatever holiness he may exercise previous to his union to Christ, and is necessary in order to his coming to Christ, and actually forming this vital union to him, cannot render him acceptable to God, or less unworthy and accursed, and why he is totally unacceptable, as ungodly and cursed by God, till he is actually united to Christ, and can be accepted only in the worthiness of this beloved Son of God—the reason of this is plain and easy to be seen.

The transgression of the law of God in the least single instance is rebellion against a Being infinitely great, powerful, wise, just and good, who has absolute and unlimited right and authority to command and give law to his creatures; they are therefore under infinite obligation to perfect obedience; and consequently a violation of this obligation can be no less than an infinite crime, or an infinite moral evil. Besides, he who rebels against God, has a disposition and will to dethrone him, and put an end to his law, authority and moral government, and introduce infinite confusion and misery through the whole universe; and his conduct tends to 265 his, and would actually effect it were it possible, and were it not counteracted and prevented. Every sin therefore must be an infinite evil, in the nature and tendency of it. There is no moral truth more demonstrably clear and certain than this; and this is a truth on which many other moral truths depend, which relate to the law of God and his moral government, as we shall see.66   The penalty threatened in the law of God to every transgression, which is endless punishment, has its foundation on the infinite evil of sin, and is a demonstration that it is an evil of such magnitude: for, if sin were not infinitely criminal, it would not deserve an infinite punishment, nor would it be threatened. Christ explains the meaning of the curie or penalty of the law, when he says, “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire.” They who deny the infinite evil of sin, cannot vindicate or understand the divine law, or the gospel, which is founded upon it.

Sin being thus an infinite moral evil, no temporary sufferings of the sinner, or of any mere creature, can make the least degree of atonement for it, so as in any measure to alleviate or deliver him from the curse of the law. And it is equally certain that no holiness of a mere creature can avail to recommend him who has once sinned to the least favour. Though the sinner had been perfectly obedient and holy a thousand years before he sinned, this is but a finite moral good, and therefore the infinite moral evil of which he has been guilty infinitely overbalances his finite holiness, so that it weighs nothing in the opposite scale, and does no more to lighten or take off the curse, than if it never had existence. And this is equally true of any obedience which the sinner should perform after he had once sinned, as has already been observed: it has no tendency to take off the curse, and cannot recommend him to any favour, or be the least ground or reason of his being considered and treated any better or otherwise than as one who is justly cursed, unworthy of any favour, and deserving all the evils of the curse. And therefore it would be unreasonable, and acting contrary to the law, to consider and treat him otherwise, or shew him any favour out of respect to his obedience.

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Thus it appears certain, that it is impossible that the holiness of a creature who has once sinned, should be accepted as a reason of his having any favour, and being in any respect delivered from the curse of the law, as the evil of his sin infinitely outweighs all the moral good of which he is capable, and sinks it into nothing, so as to render it wholly unacceptable, consistent with the divine law, were it true that such obedience or moral good might take off the curse of the law, and render the sinner acceptable, did it overbalance, or were it equal to, the evil of his sin. But even this is not true. The curse of the law denounces infinite natural evil as the punishment which sin deserves, and therefore cannot be taken off or removed by any thing but suffering. No degree of obedience or moral good, be it ever so much or so great, can make any atonement for one the least sin, so as to deliver the sinner from the curse. Therefore Christ himself was made a curse, that by suffering the evil of the curse, the just suffering for the unjust, he might deliver the sinner who believes in him from the curse, and open the way for him to come to God with acceptance.

From all this it appears that the opinion under consideration, that, if the sinner is recovered to any degree of holiness antecedent to his justification by the merit and righteousness of Christ, and in order to it, he has whereof to glory, and has a righteousness of his own which is acceptable to God, so that he stands in no need of the righteousness of Christ in order to be justified; that this opinion is a great and dangerous error, most contrary to the reason and nature of things, and the holy law of God, and really perverts and makes void both law and gospel Therefore they who hold and persist in this error are in truth and in a high degree Antinomians, as their doctrine makes the law wholly void in the most important and essential branch of it. And their doctrine on this point is totally Antichristian. For the law is in such a sense the foundation of the gospel, that if the former be perverted and made void, the latter 267 becomes unintelligible and useless. If sinners may be delivered from the curse of the law, and obtain favour and; unification, by becoming in any degree holy and obedient, then they may be saved without Christ and the gospel. “If there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law; and if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain:” [Gal. ii. 21, iii. 21.]

We hope that men, some of them at least, who hold and propagate these antinomian and antichristian doctrines in theory, have better hearts than heads, and love and embrace the truth in the former, while they believe that which is gross and dangerous error with the latter,

2. Were the preceding observations not true, which is indeed an impossible supposition, and could the sinner, on becoming perfectly holy and obedient, be delivered from the curse of the law, and admitted to the acceptance and favour of God, and his past sin not be remembered against him, out of respect to his present holiness, consistent with the law of God, yet this does not touch the case of a sinner, who only exercises so much of a right disposition as is necessarily implied in approving of the character and law of God, and of Christ, and in coming to him for pardon, justification and life. He may exercise such a degree of holiness consistent with his having much more sin than holiness at the same time, which is undoubtedly true of every sinner who embraces the gospel, and of every Christian as long as he lives in this world. A sinner who becomes friendly to God, and embraces the gospel, has such low and sinfully deficient exercises of love, and so much of that which is contrary, and positive wickedness, that, aside from his guilt for former sins, his present character, considered in itself, has much more evil than good, and, on the whole, is worse than nothing, and cannot be an object of the complacency and favour of God, but rather of his displeasure and curse, and he stands in as much need of favour and justification by free grace through 268the righteousness of Christ, as if he had no holiness, and were altogether an enemy to God: for he has no money or price to purchase this favour, and is continually running more in debt. And to plead his good character as proper to recommend him to the least favour, would be highly displeasing to God, and must be so to every good man, whether done by the sinner himself, or any other person.

They who make the objection under consideration, who think themselves Christians, and that they do exercise holiness, may be asked, whether they think this has railed them above the need of free grace and justification by the righteousness of Christ, or at least do not stand in so much need of it as they should if they had no degree of holiness. If they answer in the affirmative, they are not such Christians as was the apostle Paul. If they answer in the negative, and fav that they are as dependent on the righteousness of Christ for justification and all favour as if they were wholly unholy, and they expect to be saved by free grace as much as they could be if they could be saved in their sins without any holiness, that they are far from having any thing to boast of, and the more conformed they are to God in holiness, or the more they see God and love him, the more they are disposed to abase and humble themselves before him, and feel their need of such a Saviour as Jesus Christ; then by this confession they entirely give up their objection, and grant that whatever holiness the sinner may exercise previous to his justification, and in his coming to Christ for it, this does not make him the more deserving of favour, nor does he stand in less need of justification by free grace through the worthiness of Christ; and it will be so far from disposing him to be proud, and boast, that it will bring him to humble himself at the foot of sovereign, free grace, which humility will increase as he shall grow in grace, and in the knowledge of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

But further to confute, if that be possible, and show how false and absurd the tenet is which we are opposing, it must be observed,

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3. The holiness which the sinner exercises in believing on Christ and coming to him for all he wants, is so far from being the ground of pride and boasting, or promoting and encouraging this, that it directly counteracts and destroys such a disposition. The sinner’s heart is naturally full of pride, and a disposition which is gratified in self exaltation and boasting; and nothing can cure him of this reigning disposition, and in any degree destroy his pride, but a change of heart by the Spirit of God, by which pride receives a deadly wound, and he is disposed to humble himself in the sight of God. And the grace he hereby receives and exercises consists in discerning and confessing his sinful, lost state, that the law he has transgressed is just and good, that he is infinitely vile and ill deserving, that God may justly send him to endless destruction at any time, that he has nothing that can deserve or recommend him to the least favour, but every thing in every respect infinitely to the contrary: and in this view and sense of his own character he comes to Christ as a poor, infinitely guilty and wretched sinner, and begs for mercy, not for his own sake, or for any thing he has done or ever shall do, but for the sake of what Christ has suffered and done, pleased and hoping to be pardoned and received to favour by free, undeserved grace through Jesus Christ, desiring forever to be abased and humbled, and that the most undeserved, sovereign grace may be exalted and honoured in his salvation.

Where is pride and boasting then? It is effectually excluded and destroyed, by the exercise of that grace and holiness by which the sinner approves of the character and law of God, condemns himself as justly deserving eternal misery and nothing better, and looks to Christ for undeserved, free pardon and favour to an infinitely guilty, odious, undeserving, wretched beggar. He who can believe that such exercises, which are according to the law of faith, are agreeable to the pride of man, and will lead to boasting, may with as good reason believe that humility is pride, and self abasement is self exaltation.

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And besides all this which has been now said to confute this error, it must be observed, that they who exclude all holiness from saving faith, by which the sinner is justified, left if it were a holy exercise he would have reason to boast as having something of his own to recommend himself, do suppose that a proud, impenitent enemy to God and his law, may see the truth, wisdom and goodness of the gospel, and approve of the character of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, which supposition is as unreasonable and absurd, and as contrary to the holy scripture, as can be made or conceived. And it is indeed most dishonourable to Christ and the gospel, as if his character was such that a wicked man, an impenitent enemy of God, might discern the truth and excellency of it, and heartily approve and be pleased with it! How contrary is this to the declaration of Christ and his Apostle! The former says, “He that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light.” And the latter, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”77   The importance that this gross error, which is so unscriptural and absurd, and leads to so many hurtful conceptions of the law of faith, should be wholly discarded, has been the motive to attempt thus to expose and confute it. Though it has been embraced by many in the protestant world, and there are those who at this day contend for it, yet it is hoped that an effectual stop will be put to the continuance and spread of it. If they who have imbibed it, and are disposed zealously to defend it, should not be convinced of their mistake, yet they who have not exploded, but have been rather favourable towards it and the doctrines which imply it, through want of conviction of those truths by which it may be made to appear contrary to scripture, and a dangerous error, may, by attending to what has here been said, be led to see their mistake, and renounce it, with proper concern and zeal to suppress it, and vindicate the opposite truth. And they who are coming on the stage, and have not yet formed any opinion on this point, may be prevented imbibing this error, so that it may die with those who now embrace it, and cannot be convinced of their error, and not be handed down to posterity.

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II. From this subject it appears, that saving faith, by which the just do live, is a very different thing from what many have imagined and taught.

Saving faith consists in the discerning and belief of the truths of the gospel, and cordial approbation of them, and conformity to them, which is peculiar to a renewed, wise and understanding heart. It implies the whole of evangelical holiness, in the exercise of which men believe on Christ, receive him and cleave to him with purpose of heart, and walk in him, and by which he dwells in their hearts. It is the life of a Christian, and is essential to all his holiness, and cannot be distinguished from it; for it all consists in fighting the sight of faith, by which he lays hold of eternal life.

Therefore the faith by which sinners are justified does not consist in mere speculation, or conviction and judgment and reason, considered as distinct from the heart and the exercises of that, or of the will and affections; which has been the opinion of many. It is presumed enough has been said fully to confute this notion.

Nor does saving faith consist in the sinner’s believing and persuasion that he is justified, that Christ died for him, is his, so that he shall certainly be saved. This belief an impenitent enemy to Christ may entertain, and yet continue as impenitent and unholy as he was before. Besides, there is no foundation for such a persuasion or belief, antecedent to the exercise of saving faith, by and in consequence of which a sinner is justified; but it is perfect delusion and falsehood. No such thing is revealed in the Bible, that a sinner is justified before he believes in Christ, cordially receives him, and is reconciled to God; but the contrary; that he is condemned, and under the wrath of God. Therefore a belief that his sins are pardoned, and that God loves him, antecedent to his having an interest in Christ by cordially receiving him, is a delusion, and is a persuasion grounded entirely on a false suggestion, either from his own heart, or the father of lies.

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It has been said, and published, in vindication of this sort of faith, that men must believe that they are justified, &c. that by their believing it may become true, according to their faith; and therefore they must believe without any evidence of the truth of it, either from scripture, sense or reason, that by their so believing it may become true. And indeed there is no other way to adhere to this notion of faith, but by embracing this mass of absurdity and nonsense.

Volumes have been written in this century by men in high repute for piety, in which this notion of faith rung through the whole; and they have been, and still are, read by multitudes with high approbation. Without calling in question the piety of the authors or their admirers, many, if not most of whom probably do not critically attend to their notion of faith, but to the good things which they have written; there is sufficient warrant to say that this notion of faith is not only most contrary to the scriptures, but as unintelligible, and attended with as many absurdities, as any religious tenet that was ever thought of and propagated by Mahomet, the Man of Sin, or any one else.

This notion of faith is not only in itself unscriptural and most absurd, but, considered in the tendency of it, and that with which it is connected, the dangerous and destructive consequence of it will appear. They who entertain this notion of faith, suppose that the impenitent enemy of God, upon believing that God loves him, that his sins are pardoned, &c. does begin to repent and love God, &c. because he is persuaded that God loves him and will save him; that by this belief, and under this persuasion, the sinner is converted, and becomes a true friend of God, and a real Christian. They say that a sinner cannot be brought to love God, until he first sees or believes that God loves him, or is in some manner and degree become propitious to him; that a fight and real belief of this is effectual to induce him to love God, and live a holy life. This makes his conversion and all his love and holiness to be nothing but selfishness and 273pride; and such a conversion does not imply any change of heart for the better, but for the worse, and all. his supposed holiness is nothing but selfishness and sin, which the world of men may practise, and continue real enemies to the true character of God. The Lord Jesus Christ has decided this in the most plain and express words: “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.”

The Christian, after he has believed and embraced the gospel, and is justified, may, on reflecting on his own state and exercises, have good evidence that he does love Christ, and is a true believer; and therefore that he is justified and shall be saved; this consequently he may believe, and in this way obtain the “assurance of hope.” But this is not saving faith, or any part of it; for saving faith must take place before he is justified, and there must be ground of evidence that he has saving faith, before he can have any reason to believe that he is in a state of justification, and shall be saved.88   This subject is more largely and very particularly considered by Dr. Bellamy in his “Theron, Paulinus, and Aspasio; or, Letters and Dialogues, upon the Nature of Love to God, Faith in Christ, and Assurance of Eternal Life,” and in his “Essay on the Nature and Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ;” which books may be recommended to all who desire to be well acquainted with the subject, and form their judgment according to the truth.
   This subject is also discussed by President Edwards, in his “Discourses on Justification by Faith alone.” and by the author in his “System of Doctrines contained in Divine Revelation,” vol. ii. chap. iv. section vi., “Concerning Saving Faith; “and section xi., “Concerning Believers’ Assurance of Salvation.”

III. From the view we have had of the law of faith we may see the reason why men are naturally opposed to the gospel, and refuse to comply with it, viz. because holiness is necessarily implied in an approbation of it and cordially embracing it. Therefore faith is the gift of God. In order to believe on Christ, a man must be born again of the Spirit of God, have a new heart given to him, and be made a new creature, friendly to true holiness. 274This is therefore abundantly asserted in the scriptures. It will be sufficient here to refer to the words of the apostle John: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.”

If the gospel were an institution which might be approved of, believed and truly embraced, by an unholy heart, an unregenerate man; it would not be an holy institution, and therefore could not be from God. Jesus Christ is a holy Saviour; holiness is essential to every part of his character, to all his words and works. Salvation by him is a holy salvation, and the way of salvation is wise and holy in every view of it. It is therefore impossible that an unholy heart should come near to this Saviour with the least inclination towards him, and the way of salvation by him; but such an heart must hate him, and choose to keep at a distance from him and avoid him; and can be no more reconciled to him and the gospel, than to the holy law of God.

How degrading and dishonourable to Christ and the gospel then, and how unreasonable and absurd, is their notion, who hold that the gospel is suited to please and win the heart of an unregenerate man, so that while he hates God’s holy law, he with an unholy heart embraces the gospel, and in this way and by this means his heart is changed, and he becomes friendly to God and his holy law! When shall the professed friends of the gospel cease to dishonour and pervert it, in order to suit it to the taste and inclination of an unholy heart?

IV. We hence learn that all the interests of true virtue and holiness are as much and as well secured and promoted by the law of faith, as they are or can be by the law of works.

Many have thought that the doctrine of justification by faith, through the atonement and merit of Christ, not being in the least recommended to this favour by any works or holiness of our own, is a licentious doctrine, and tends to influence men to neglect a holy life, and give themselves to sloth and sin. But this has been wholly owing to their ignorance of the subject.

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According to the law of faith, true holiness is as necessary in order to justification, as if the sinner were justified by the merit of his works, though in a different way and for a different reason, as has been shewn. Faith itself, by which the sinner receives Christ, and renounces all dependence on his own holiness to recommend him to the least favour, and relies on free, undeserved grace for the justification of one infinitely unworthy and ill-deserving; this faith itself is a holy exercise, as has been proved; and men cannot live by faith but by living an holy life.

As real holiness in love to the character of God and his law is exercised in approving of the character of Christ, and coming to him and trusting in him for pardon, justification and eternal life, as can be in obeying the law of God, as the price of the divine favour, according to the law of works. Holiness is as really and necessarily exercised in applying to God as an infinitely gracious and bountiful benefactor; and gratefully receiving of him infinite favour and blessings as a free gift to the infinitely guilty and ill-deserving, as is or can be exercised in obedience to his authority and law as a recommendation to and enjoyment of his favour and blessing.

And as obedience and holiness is as necessary according to the law of faith, as it is according to the law of works, in order to justification and eternal life; so there is not merely as much, but much greater, encouragement to practise it, and the obligations and motives to the exercise of holiness, in love to God and man, are greatly increased, and rendered unspeakably greater and stronger, by the law of faith.

How wholly groundless and unreasonable, and contrary to truth, fact and experience, is the objection to the law of faith, according to which “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law,” or not by the law of works, that this renders unnecessary, and is a discouragement to holiness and good works, and encourages licentiousness and sin!

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V. This subject opens an easy and plain way, and perhaps the only satisfactory and true way, to reconcile the two apostles, Paul and James, in what they say of that by which sinners are justified. St. Paul has said, “Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the, deeds of the law; knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” St. James has said, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” It has been rashly thought by some that the apostles in these words expressly contradict each other; but their perfect consistence and agreement with each other will appear only by observing the different sense in which they use the word works, which is evident by all they say on the point.

Paul expressly defines the works which he excludes from the law of faith, and sets in opposition to it. They are the works of the law, the same with the law of works, meaning works done in order to recommend to favour, as a price offered to purchase and merit acceptance and justification of God, as has been represented and explained. By works James means Christian holiness and obedience, which is the same with the law of faith, which has been explained. By works James means that love, in all its operations and fruits, which he says is the life and soul of faith, and without which there cannot be any true faith. His words are, “For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” How could he more strongly assert the holiness of laving faith, when he says that holy love, the root and essence of all Christian obedience and good works, is as much the life and active nature of a living, having faith, as the spirit is the life and activity of the body? How contrary is this to saying, as many have done, that holy love, which implies and comprehends all the obedience and good works of a Christian, is the effect and consequence of faith, and produced by faith, as the cause produces the effect!

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Paul agrees with James perfectly in his description of saving faith. He says, “Faith worketh by love,” that is, Love, which is the essence of all Christian obedience, and implies all good works, is the soul and active life of faith, by which it operates, or acts and works, as the spirit is the life of the body, by which it moves and acts.

VI. This subject may be improved by those who have attended to it, as affording matter by which they may examine themselves, whether their conversion and consequent religion be true and genuine, or false and spurious.

Have you been effectually cured of a disposition to trust to your own righteousness, and renounced and become dead to the law of works, under a clear conviction that you were cursed by it, notwithstanding any thing you could do, and that you should be justly accursed forever, unless you obtained relief by the law of faith, trusting in the merit and righteousness of Christ for pardon and justification?

And have you been led to understand and cordially to embrace the law of faith, in which you highly approved of the character of Christ, and the way of: salvation by him, condemning yourself as being so far from having or doing any thing to recommend you to God, or render you deserving, that you were infinitely guilty and ill-deserving?

Have you felt and experienced this law of faith, suited to destroy your pride, and set you at the greatest distance from boasting, and the more you understood and cordially embraced this way of salvation, the more disposed you have been to humble yourself in the sight of the Lord?

Do you know that your heart was naturally as much opposed to the gospel, as it was to the holy law of God, and that, had not God given you a new heart by regeneration, you should have continued an enemy to Christ? that the law of faith is a holy law, and that it cannot be complied with by a heart unfriendly to God 278and holiness? that the more you attend to and are pleased with the law of faith, the greater is your aversion from sin, and the more you long to be holy, and hunger and thirst after righteousness?

Are you desiring and looking for that evidence that you are justified and shall be saved, which arises from a consciousness that you do embrace the gospel, and have those holy exercises which imply this, or are implied in conforming to the law of faith? and do you desire no other evidence but this, that your justification may be proved only by good evidence that you are sanctified?


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