Page images

tiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.

2. If the doctrine of justification by faith set aside the plea of merit, to which we can have no pretensions, it substitutes a more powerful and commanding motive—that of love: love to Him who first loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.

The love of Christ constraineth us to live unto him who died for us and rose again. Such is the grateful tribute of every renewed heart; and such is the principle on which obedience is uniformly enforced in the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is every where inculcated as a debt of gratitude for God's redeeming mercy ; not as a work of merit, or a price by which we may purchase his favour. It was on this principle that the first converts to Christianity uniformly acted. Struck with astonishment at the wonderful display of mercy and grace which the gospel scheme of salvation exhibits, they believed, adored, loved, and obeyed. They surrendered themselves at once to Christ, as his willing and obedient servants. They took


their cross, and esteemed it an honour to suffer for his sake; not reckoning the sufferings of the present life worthy to be compared to the glory which was revealed in them, nor counting life itself dear to them, so that they might finish their course with joy. The glorious prospects which opened upon them produced an entire revolution in their sentiments and conduct; the world was crucified unto them, and they unto the world ; a moral change was wrought in them corresponding to the change in their views; they counted all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as made of God unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. So that if gratitude for redeeming mercy can be supposed to have any commanding influence on those who are the objects of it; if love be the fulfilling of the law, the source of every right action and feeling, the principle from which alone all holy obedience can originate-then it is evident that the faith by which we are justified is a faith which, purifying the heart and working by love, establishes the law of God.

If it be said, that there are persons who warmly espouse the doctrine of justification by faith, who, nevertheless, lead wicked and immoral lives, the language of whose conduct seems to be, Let us continue in sin, that grace may abound; we readily acknowledge that there have at all times existed men of this description. But what does the existence of such characters prove? Does it prove that the real tendency of the doctrine which they pretend to hold is immoral and licentious ? Would

you argue that the blessings of Providence are evil in their tendency, because men frequently abuse them into instruments of sin ? If this mode of reasoning be allowed—if we must give up with every principle, and abandon every doctrine which has been perverted or abused, then we must relinquish one by one every principle of moral conduct, and every doctrine of religion. By some who profess to believe the doctrine in question, it may be abused ; by those who really believe it, it never can. If the immoral lives of the former be adduced as an argument against it, appeal may confidently be made to the holy and exemplary lives of the latter, in confirmation and support of it. The fact is, that the objection urged against the doctrine of justification by faith, originates in misconception of its nature and design. Justification, though an essential part of the salvation of the gospel, is but a part of that salvation. The gospel not only provides for the justification of our persons—that is, for the removal of the guilt of sin, and bringing about our reconciliation with God; but likewise for the sanctification of our nature, that we may be capable of enjoying communion with him upon earth, and of being admitted into his presence and glory in heaven. Now, all that we have said on this subject, and all that the apostle contends for, amounts to this,—that no holiness of heart or life can have any share in atoning for sin, or in reconciling us to God; but that these glorious privileges are conveyed to us solely through faith in the meritorious obedience and sufferings of Jesus Christ. Justification removes the guilt of sin, and frees us from the condemning sentence of the law. But in order to qualify us for the presence and enjoyment of God, we must be sanctified by his Spirit, as well as justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Hence we are said to be chosen in Christ that we should be holy; to be chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; and to be created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

And it is worthy of remark, that there is no part of the New Testament which treats either directly or indirectly of our justification by faith in Christ, in which allusion is not made to the Spirit of Christ as the seal of justification. It is on this principle that whom God justifies, them he also sanctifies that the whole of the apostle's argument, particularly in the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters of this epistle, is constructed in opposition to the Antinomian tenet, Let us sin, that grace may abound. The same may be said of the epistle to the Galatians, in which the doctrine of justification by faith is also treated at considerable length. In both these epistles we are taught, that every true believer in Christ is quickened and made alive unto God by the Spirit; and in both of them the fruits of the Spirit, as characteristic of the temper and conduct of the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, are contrasted with the works of the flesh, or of the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and is not subject to his law. Let the following passages serve as examples. What fruit had ye in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh ; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death ; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace : because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the

flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Such is the inseparable connexion which the apostle traces, in his épistle to the Romans, betwixt the doctrine of justification by faith in the blood of Christ, and sanctification, or holiness of heart and life, by the renewing and sanctifying influences of his Spirit. In his epistle to the Galatians, he is even, if possible, still more explicit. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these ; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders,

« PreviousContinue »