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2. That faith, of whatever kind it be, is of no value, any farther than it is attested by works
(If faith in the first instance apprehends Christ as a Saviour from guilt and condemnation, it does not rest there: it lays hold on him for sanctification, as well as for righteousness; and would account him not worthy of the name of Jesus, if he did not save his people from their sins. The characters given to faith in the inspired volume are inseparable from it: it works by love?, and overcomes the world a, and purifies the heartb: and if it produce not these effects, it will never benefit the soul. Knowing therefore in what way God will appreciate it hereafter, it becomes us to form a correct estimate of it now; and to weigh ourselves in the balance of the sanctuary now, that we may not be found wanting in the day of judgment.] It will here be expected, of course, that we answer
a common OBJECTION to the foregoing statement
[It is said that St. Paul's sentiments and declarations on this subject are directly opposed to those of St. James; since, after a long argument, he comes to this conclusion : “ Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." He goes farther still, and says, that “to him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousnessa.” Now it may well be asked, “How can this be reconciled with the foregoing statement ?' I answer, Only examine St. Paul's argument, as you have that of St. James, and you will see that there is no opposition at all between their respective assertions. The two Apostles are writing on two different subjects. St. Paul is proving that a man is not to seek salvation by any righteousness of his own, but simply by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: whereas St. James is proving, that the man who professes to have faith in Christ, must shew forth his faith by his works. St. Paul endeavours to convince the self-justiciary; St. James, the Antinomian ;-St. Paul, by shewing, that works are nothing without faith ; St. James, by shewing, that faith is nothing without works. St. Paul exalts Christ, as giving a title to heaven; St. James, as giving a meetness for heaven. St. Paul bends the whole force of his mind to establish the one leading doctrine of the Gospel; St. James, to have that doctrine adorned. Thus, according to the two Apostles, a man is justified by faith, because by it he is made righteous; and he
z Gal. v. 6. c Rom. iii. 28.
is justified by works, because by them he is proved righteous : and God in justifying him, whether on the one ground, or the other, approves himself both “a just God and a Saviour.” We may render this matter somewhat more clear by means of a familiar illustration. A scion must be engrafted into a stock in order that it may live : and it must bring forth fruit in order to prove that it does live. Is there any opposition between these two assertions? None whatever. So then with Paul I assert, that man must be engrafted into Christ by faith, in order that he may live : and with St. James I assert, that he must bring forth fruits of righteousness, to prove that he does live. Without being engrafted into the stock, he can have no life : and, if he bring not forth good works, he shews that he has no life. These two positions are perfectly compatible with each other: and so, when properly understood, are the apparently opposite positions of these two Apostles.]
Hoping now that I have set the whole of this matter
in a clear light, I CONCLUDE with a few words, 1. Of caution
[Two things in particular I would caution you against : first, Do not separate faith and works ; and next, Do not confound them.
Do not separate them, or imagine that you can be saved by either of them apart from the other: for faith, if it be alone, is dead; and works, if they be alone, leave you altogether destitute of any interest in Christ. If your faith be strong enough to remove mountains, yet, if it work not by love, it will leave you no better than “ sounding brass, or tinkling cymbals.” And if your works be ever so perfect, they can never exceed what the law requires of you; and consequently, can never discharge the debt which you owe to God for your past violations of it: nor indeed can you ever in your present imperfect state fulfil the law so perfectly as not to come short of it every day you live : and consequently, every day you live, you stand in need of mercy for your daily transgressions, instead of purchasing heaven by your superabounding merits.
On the other hand, Do not confound the two, as though you were to be saved by faith and works united; or to have a first justification by faith, and a second justification by works. Either the one or the other of these errors will invalidate the whole Gospel ; and will rob Christ of his glory, and you of your salvation. Christ is the only Saviour of sinful man : and his righteousness is that in which alone any child of man can be accepted before God. If you join any thing with that, you make it void : and, as far as respects you, “ Christ will have
died in vain." The true way of salvation is this: go to Christ as a sinner: and seek salvation altogether through his atoning sacrifice, and his obedience unto death. But, when you have believed in him, be careful to “ maintain good works,” yea, and to " excel in" good works. Then will Christ be honoured in every way: your faith will honour him as the alone Saviour of mankind; and your works will honour him as your Lord and Master. But remember to keep each in its place. In building an edifice, you do not build the superstructure first, (if I may so speak,) and then lay the foundation afterwards; nor do you mingle the foundation and superstructure in one indiscriminate mass : but you keep each in its place; and then it answers the end for which it was raised. So you must lay Christ as your foundation first; and afterwards raise on him the superstructure of good works: then shall you be found “ workmen that need not be ashamed ;” and both in your faith and in your works be justified before God.) 2. Of encouragement
(Let not any apparent difficulties in this subject embarrass you. They will all vanish in an instant, if only you get a broken and contrite heart. It is surprising what light such a state of mind will reflect on the subject before us. It may not indeed enable you to solve all the verbal difficulties that may be raised : but, as far as relates to the main subject, it will scatter all doubts, as mist is scattered by the noon-day sun. It will convince you that no righteousness but that of Christ can ever avail for your acceptance before God: and, at the same time, that holiness is no less necessary for your final enjoyment of his favour. It will convince you too, that both faith and holiness, being the gifts of God, you have no reason to despair of attaining all that is necessary to your complete salvation; since God is pledged “not to despise the contrite heart," or to withhold from his upright people the blessings either of grace or glory..]
e Gal. v. 2, 4. Tit. iii. 8. apoioraodai. & Ps. lxxxiv. 11.
MMCCCLXVI. THE BEST OF MEN BUT WEAK AND FRAIL. Jam. iii. 2. In many things we offend all. If any man offend
not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
THAT persons instructed in divine truth should be anxious to instruct others is well : but to rush
uncalled into the ostensible office of the ministry, is by no means expedient. By his life, as well as by his doctrine, must a minister instruct his people : and if, on the one hand, his reward will be glorious if he discharge his duties aright; his punishment will, on the other hand, be proportionably severe, if by word or deed he “ cast a stumbling-block before others," and “cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of.” Before a man therefore engage in this arduous calling, he should see his way clear: lest, by entering rashly upon it, he involve himself in the heavier condemnation. This is the hint given by St. James, in the verse before my text: and, to enforce it, he reminds us of our extreme frailty ; since “ in many things we all offend,” and have therefore abundant reason for caution in contracting, without necessity, such an augmented responsibility.
Let me, then, shew you, I. What even good men have to mourn over, in their
daily walk before God“ There is no man that liveth, and sinneth not.” By reason of our extreme weakness, and the numberless obstacles which lie in our way, there is not any man who does not occasionally “ make a trip,” and “ offend," 1. By a slip of his feet
[No good man will, knowingly and deliberately, do that which is evil. “A man truly born of God cannot so commit sin.” He has a principle within him which will not suffer it. But, sometimes through ignorance and inadvertence, and sometimes through weakness and corruption, the very best of men may err: as it is said, “The righteous falleth seven times." When James and John proposed to call fire from heaven, to consume a Samaritan village, it was doubtless from a mistaken idea, that the example of Elijah, who so vindicated the honour of Jehovah, was applicable to the occasion which then presented itself to them; and that such was a proper way of expressing their indignation against those who had refused to their Master the rights of hospitality. It was also from a mistaken love to his Divine Master that Peter dissuaded Jesus from subjecting himself to the sufferings which he had just predicted. But the principle, in both these instances, was
really evil, though the Apostles themselves thought it to be good: and therefore they brought on themselves a just rebuke. În Peter's requiring the Gentiles to submit to the Jewish law, there was downright “ dissimulation ;" such as betrayed Barnabas also into the very same fault. Here was weakness; here was the sad effect of human corruption: and, accordingly, it was reproved with a severity proportioned to the offence. In Paul and Barnabas too, there was a blameworthy contention, issuing in their final separation. The error of Peter and Barnabas proceeded from an undue compliance; and that of Paul and Barnabas from an undue pertinacity, both in sentiment and determination. But, as such things have been in the Church, even amongst the Apostles themselves; so must they be expected to arise, whilst human nature is so weak, and so many difficulties beset our way ---] 2. By a slip of his tongue
[“ If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." The fact is, that every corruption of the heart finds its first and readiest gratification through the tongue. If pride or vanity inflate the mind, it will discover itself, not only in the look and gesture, but through some appropriate language of the lips. If levity have put a man off his guard, it will betray itself by some unadvised expressions, some “ jestings” (facetious terms of double import), which may excite a smile at the moment, but are quite offensive to God. Need I say how anger will vent itself, or how uncharitableness will indulge its malignant propensities? But so it is with every unhallowed feeling of the soul: and he is the most perfect man who puts the most complete restraint upon his tongue, and suffers it not to utter any thing which God will not approve.]
Whilst good men have so much occasion to mourn, let us consider, II. What they have more especially to attend to, in
order to counteract the evil of their heartsAmongst the many things which might be mentioned, I will recommend, 1. Humiliation
[Who has not found, by sad experience, the truth of the Apostle's assertion, that "in many things we all offend ?” Who then has not reason to lie low both before God and man? If Paul complained of “the law in his members warring against the law of his mind," much more may we; and with him cry out, “ O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?"