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recommendation to God. Hence it cannot but be seen, that external religious observances, existing in the highest degree, and performed, primarily, for the purpose of obtaining eternal life, are not in themselves, nor for this reason, virtuous, nor recommendations to the Divine favour. If, then, the doctrine of justification by faith should in fact lessen the motives to this kind of obedience, as performed merely with these views, it cannot, therefore, with any truth be said to make void the law; or to lessen the motives to evangelical obedience.
The dictates of reason perfectly accord with those of the Scriptures concerning this subject. That service, which is emphatically called mercenary, or which, in other words, is performed solely for the sake of a personal reward, is never considered by mankind as being virtuous, however exactly performed. Hence the very term mercenary, though originally indicating nothing immoral, has, in the most common use, acquired a bad signification ; and is customarily used, and regarded, as a term of reproach. Voluntary service, only, in which good-will is exercised about the employment, and towards the object, which it respects, is acknowledged by mankind to be virtuous. Those, who love us, merely because we love them, and who do good to us, merely because we do good to them, are considered by common sense, as well as by Christ, as no better than publicans and sinners. They may be, they usually are, convenient
love them with the same spirit, with which they love us; but it is impossible for us rationally to esteem them virtuous in this conduct.
2dly. The Obligations of the Law are not lessened by this doctrine; and therefore, the Motives to obedience, derived from this source, continue the same.
The nature of the law, its rewards and penalties, and the character and authority of the Lawgiver, the relations which we sustain towards him, as creatures, and as subjects of law, are certainly in no respect changed by the scheme of Evangelical justification. If there is a hint of this nature contained in the Gospel, I have never been able to find it. Until such a hint shall be produced, I shall take it for granted, that there is none.
I know of nothing, of this nature, which can be alleged, even with plausibility, unless it is this: that the believer, being justified by faith, and having his title to justification secured, from the commencement of faith in his mind; the penalty of the law becomes, to him, a nullity. As I suppose this to be the chief thing aimed at by those who make the objection under consideration, and that in which the real difficulty is supposed to lie ; I shall examine it with some degree of attention.
1st. The penalty of the law exists as truly against the Christian, as against the sinner; although in a different sense.
The law denounces its penalty against every soul of man that doeth evil. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
and we may
But it will be said, that those, who hold the doctrine of justifica. tion by faith, hold, also, that of the final perseverance of the saints, and, by consequence deny, that the penalty of the law will ever be executed on any of those, who become the subjects of faith. As this is fairly said, because it is said with truth; particularly, so far as I am concerned; I feel myself bound to give it a fair consideration.
Let it be observed then, that the security, which those, who are the subjects of faith, possess of eternal life, is not, in my view, connected with the first act of faith, in this manner: that they are the subjects of this single act of faith, and will afterwards be the subjects of habitual and characteristical disobedience; but in this manner: that, having once exercised faith, they will continue thenceforth to practice an habitual and characteristical obedience, to the end of life. If a man obide not in me, saith our Saviour, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire; and they are burned. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. In every one of these passages, the doctrine, which I have specified, is declared in terms so plain and unequivocal, as to need no comment. I shall only add one more, although multitudes might be easily added. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. If St. Paul, whose words these are, felt himself, in any manner, exposed to be finally cast away, and considered it as absolutely necessary to make these efforts, in order to avoid this dreadful evil; and the Spirit of Truth dictated to him, this doctrine, and this conduct; nothing can be necessary to prove that all other Christians are, at least in an equal degree, exposed to the same evil; and need the same means, to insure their escape.
The perseverance of Christians is, in my own view, completely secured by the promise of God; but it is not secured by any compulsory, or coercive, act of almighty power. It is accomplished by means, and motives, employed for this purpose, and rendered effectual by their own effort, and the sanctifying energy of the Divine Spirit. If they were not to act; means would be furnished, and motives addressed to them, in vain. If they were not aided by the energy of the Divine Spirit; their efforts would be ineffectual.
The providence, word, and ordinances, of God, are these means. Among the motives, addressed to them for this purpose, are the promises of the Gospel, and the threatenings of the law; by which
intend every thing, contained in the word of God, calculated either to encourage or to alarm. The promises assure the Christian, that he shall persevere; but they do not assure him of this blessing, on the supposition that he ceases to obey, and yields
himself again a servant to corruption. On the contrary, they make it secure to him, conditionally in this sense: that he never turns back, and refuses, or neglects, to walk any more with Christ: that, on the contrary, he yields himself a living sacrifice to God, and thenceforth walks in newness of life; not perfectly, but habitually, and perseveringly unto the end. At the same time, they give him certain assurance, that by the grace of God he will be enabled thus to persevere. The threatenings, on the other hand, continually hold out to him the most awful denunciations against apostacy; the most solemn alarms concerning sloth, worldliness, and backsliding; and the most terrifying assurance, that, if he does not endure in his duty unto the end, in the manner specified, he cannot be saved. Thus while the event is made certain on the one hand, the means are made indispensable to it on the other. A wellknown passage of Scripture will sufficiently illustrate this position. The Angel of the Lord assured Paul, that no one of his companions in the ship should perish. Yet Paul, afterwards, declared to the Centurion, and to the soldiers, that except the seamen abode in the ship, they could not be saved. In this part of the subject, thus explained, it will, I think, be impossible to find any thing, which lessens, in the view of a Christian, his motives to obedience.
In the mean time, it is to be remembered, the Christian is very rarely assured of his own salvation, because he is very rarely assured, that
he is a Christian. Did he know, from the commencement of his Christianity, that he was certainly a Christian ; I freely confess, that, in my own view, he would, in ordinary cases, be in no small danger of the evils, intended in this objection. In the infant state of Christianity in the mind, there is usually so little religious knowledge, so little strength of affection, so infirm a state of virtuous habits, and consequently so little stability of religious character; while there is also so much remaining sin, so riveted a predominance of evil habits, and so imperfect a prevalence of Divine grace over them; that this interesting discovery might, in my own view, prove, in no small degree, detrimental to him, by producing in his mind a dangerous quiet, and a mischievous, if not a fatal, security.
Such, however, is not the fact. The state of the Christian, either by the nature of things, or by the Divine constitution, or by both, is such, that in ordinary cases, though I acknowledge not always, the evidence, which he possesses of being a Christian, is in a good measure proportioned to the degree of his Christianity. When religion is feeble in the mind; when it is interrupted; when it is intruded upon by passion, appetite, temptation, care, error, or perplexity; its proofs become of course few, scattered, dim, and doubtful; and not unfrequently disappear. In the contrary circumstances, luminous seasons are enjoyed; evidences of grace multiply; and the soul is refreshed with alternations of hope, and peace, and joy. In his ordinary state, the utmost, of which the
Christian can boast, if I may rely upon the testimony of such Christians, as I have conversed with, is a prevailing hope, or a comfortable persuasion, that he is a disciple of Christ. In this situation,
a the hope, which he enjoys, allures, and encourages, him to obedience ; while it also prevents him from despondency. Numerous fears at the same time intervene, alarm him concerning the uncertainty of his condition, and compel him to new and more vigorous exertions for the performance of his duty. Thus he is preserved alike from the dangers of both despondency and security ; and is kept, so far as such a being can be supposed to be kept, in a progressive and improving course of obedience. His path is like the shining light, which, however dim and dusky, still shines more and more unto the perfect day.
Whenever a Christian becomes possessed of the faith, or hope, of assurance; he is also so far advanced in virtue, that he is prepared to feel the influence of virtuous motives; to realize the glory and excellency of his Creator and Redeemer; the loveliness of virtuous affections and conduct, and the hatefulness of sin; sufficiently to need little assistance from the influence of fear. Perfect love casteth out fear; and, in this state, a moral being is perfectly safe, without the aid of fear; perfectly inclined to do his duty; and perfectly guarded against the danger of backsliding. The assured Christian approximates towards this state; and is proportionally safe from the moral dangers of the present life.
In the like manner, the inhabitants of heaven are unalterably assured of their eternal perseverance in obedience; and in the same general manner are enabled to persevere. They love God too intensely, they delight too absolutely in virtuous conduct, they hate sin too cordially, and are too efficaciously influenced by the Spirit of
grace, ever to forsake holiness, and relapse into sin. "The assured Christian is chiefly kept alive in his obedience, in the same manner; and differs from them, principally, in the degree of his sanctification.
3dly. The scheme of justification by faith in Christ furnishes new, peculiar, and very powerful motives to obedience.
This position will not be questioned. The whole purpose, for which man is redeemed, is, so far as himself is concerned, that he should walk in newness of life; or that he should obey, anew, the law of God. To this great end he is now urged by motives, of which the law knew nothing. God, unasked and undesired, has sent his Son into the world, to redeem him. That glorious person became incarnate, lived, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven, where he reigns, and intercedes, to accomplish his Salvation. The Spirit of grace has sanctified him; the Father of all mercies has forgiven his sins. He has become a child of mercy; an heir of the Divine favour; a member of the family, which is named after Christ; has his name written in the Lamb's book of life; and is entitled to a glorious immortality. When he remembers what he
was, and to what he was doomed; considers what he now is, and to what he is destined; and realizes these wonderful efforts, by which the infinitely happy change, made both in his character, and in his destiny, is accomplished; he cannot, as a Christian; the subject of an ingenuous, virtuous, and a grateful disposition ; fail to feel, that motives wholly new, entirely peculiar, and wonderfully great, demand of him the most constant and exact obedience to the law of God. In this great particular the law, instead of being made void, is, according to the language of the Apostle, established by the scheme of justification by faith.
4thly. The Faith of the Christian is the real source of Evangelical Obedience.
The truth of this assertion has been already sufficiently proved; and can never be rationally questioned, while the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews remains a part of the Word of God. There it is shown, that faith is the direct source of obedience in all its forms, and all its degrees; of great attainments in Christian excellence, and of all'attainments of this nature; of working righteousness, and inheriting promises ; of pleasing God, and securing a title to the heavenly country. It is exhibited as the energy, by which we vigorously act in the service of God, patiently submit, and firmly endure. It is exhibited as the victory, by which we overcome the world ; and the shield, with which we become able to quench all the fiery darts of the adversary.
Faith, then, is the spirit, the disposition, with which the Christian feels, and without which he cannot feel, the various motives to obedience, furnished by the law of God; motives presented by the excellence of the law itself, and of the government founded on it, the greatness of its sanction, and the glory of its Author. In an eminent degree, also, is it the spirit, which feels the peculiar motives, presented by the evangelical scheme of justification, and mentioned under the last head. These, it hardly needs to be observed, can be realized by no other disposition. The mind, under the expectation of meriting justification, either wholly or partially, by its own righteousness, proportionally recedes from just and affecting views of the excellency of Christ's righteousness, and its infinite importance to itself. Its sense of indebtedness, and its motives to gratitude, are proportionally lessened; and in the same proportion are diminished its inducements to obey, and its actual obedience. In this all-important sense, also, faith is the only real establishment of the law.
5thly. Those who have holden this doctrine have been the most exact, and exemplary, observers of the law.
If this be admitted, it must be allowed to put the question out of debate : for it cannot be denied, that the scheme of those, who obey the law most faithfully in their lives, is the scheme which most influences, and ensures, obedience. It is my business, then, to prove this position. For this purpose I refer you, generally, to