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hope which God has set before us of living again after death in more glorious scenes, where knowledge, and virtue, and happiness shall be experienced in measures now beyond our conception-should suffer the degradation it has, even among the followers of Jesus ! -- the degradation of its possession being made to depend upon every thing else almost, rather than upon that purity of heart, that solid virtue, that likeness of Christ, from which alone we are sure it can proceed. The least reflection, we should suppose, would convince the mind that, as it cannot be happy, or saved or justified, even in this life but through virtue, it could not, for the same or stronger reasons of the same kind, any other life. But while it has felt the truth of the first part of this proposition, and acknowledged that we are here truly blessed only as we are morally upright, spiritually risen with Christ, the future happiness has, at the same time, with a strange and unaccountable inconsistency, been made conditional upon acts or states of mind with which virtue may have nothing to do. Earth can be enjoyed and truly possessed, it is admitted, only through holiness ; heaven, many ways beside. Earth can be inherited only by the meek, the peacemakers, the pure in heart ; heaven, even by the violent, the unjust, the impure, provided they have conformed to certain other requirements, fulfilled certain other conditions, held true doctrine, belonged to the true church.
And when asked, therefore, how else a man shall be saved or justified than by a genuine faith in Christ, producing the fruits which alone show it to be genuine, we answer, readily, in no other way possibly, we believe.
It is justification by faith, by a faith that believes and acts as it believes, which we hold to be the gospel method, the Christian doctrine of life and salvation. Without hesitation, we reject all other doctrines that are ever substituted for this. In this, with joyful confidence, we place our trust. And we ask, in the last place, accordingly, in the assurance that only one answer can be returned,
II. How can it be that a man shall not be justified by faith ?
We believe he is justified by faith, and that no other conditions are imposed or necessary to be complied with. A proper faith cannot but justify and save ; it achieves the whole work ; no more remains for any other principle to effect. To revert, in illustration, to an example already used ; — if poverty and want are evils from which I wish to be saved, and I firmly believe that industry is the principle of conduct that will save me from them, and I act accordingly, I am saved ; and so far as that particular evil which I dreaded is concerned, there is no more to be done. No other doctrine, principle, or act can do more for me ; the benefit is secured, the salvation is effected, the justification is complete. Nothing remains to be added; I am saved from the evil, and, by that faith I had, was necessarily saved. They are connected together as cause and consequence. To believe so was of necessity to be saved.
Is it otherwise in the matter of Christian faith? We ask if it can be otherwise than that a man shall be justified by faith ? Is it not here, as in the instance just given, a necessary principle of justification. I believe in Jesus Christ, in his commission from the Father, in his authority as the Son of God. I not only believe in him, but I also believe him. What he has taught and enjoined I believe. I believe that he has shown the true path to heaven. I believe that all the evils which could overwhelm the soul after death, he has shown me how to escape. I so implicitly believe in him, and believe him also (that he is true in all he has called upon me to do as his believer), that
my actions and my whole life are in accordance with my faith. I have believed and have acted according to my belief. How can it be that I shall not be justified ? I have believed the precepts of Jesus, and acted accordingly. He showed me how to walk and live ; I believed him, and walked and lived accordingly. I believed in the virtues he enjoined upon me, and sought them. I believed in the destructive nature of the sins he taught me to shun, and eschewed them. I believed him when he enforced upon me the love of God and the love of man as comprising the sum of the commandments, and I fixed in my heart God's love and the love of my brother-man. I believed him, in a word, when I said, “These (the wicked) shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal," and I followed after righteousness with my whole heart. Such being my faith, shall it not to me, as to Abraham, be counted for righteousness? Has it not saved me? Has it not justified me? What can any other principle, act, or doctrine do for me more, which my faith has not already done ? Is not the benefit secured, the salvation effected, the justification complete ? Not that any obedience of man can be such as to lay claim to salvation. There can be no proportion whatever, any more than between finite and infinite, between man's best obedience and the recompense of eternal life ; that recompense is of grace. Not that any obedience of man can be such as to lay claim to salvation ; but that, by the best obedience he can give, he complies with the conditions prescribed, - prescribed not by the justice, but by the boundless compassions, of God, who knows our frame and remembers that we are dust, - and so may humbly hope for a life to which merit could never lay claim, but which mercy has freely promised, and freely bestows, upon our imperfect, but sincere, obedience.
If such as has now been stated be the character of the faith to which by Paul justification is ascribed, such a belief, namely, and confidence in another, as to constrain to a corresponding obedience as absolutely a part of that confidence, we cannot be surprised that often by our Lord salvation is assured to Faith alone. They who had faith in Jesus, who believed him when on earth, see to what it led them ! - to what labors, to what disinterestedness, to what sacrifices, to what sufferings, - to what deaths ! Their faith was also righteousness. And now to what a high and holy life is the believer in Jesus drawn! The true believer in Jesus now, as at first, renounces all to follow Christ. He is not obliged to leave now, as at first, father or mother, or estates. He may retain them all ; but he is obliged to renounce and deny himself in view of the requirements of the gospel. If he believes not only in Jesus, but what Jesus has said, he necessarily (or he does not really believe) denies his evil desires, passions, envy, lust, and pride. He puts on the righteousness of Christ, as well as assumes his name ; he receives
VOL. XIX, NO. 231.
his spirit, and it possesses and rules him wholly. Nor, to effect his salvation, is any other doctrine or principle needed. Just, precisely just, as believing in and believing the
compass saves the mariner, and cannot but save him, so believing in and believing Jesus saves the sinner, and necessarily saves him ; and as the seaman, in the tempest and darkness of the midnight ocean, tossing amid a thousand dangers, can be saved in no other way, so the Christian, driven about and beset by yet worse evils, can be saved in no other way ; but let him only believe and he shall be saved.
Then why are we not saved ? Why is it that the night has come and we are not saved ? that salvation is as far off as when we first believed ? Because we have not believed. Our belief is a name, a pretence, a form, not a reality, not a faith of the heart, and so not possibly a justifying faith. Whose life almost does not show that he does not truly, fully believe in Jesus? Are these believers of Jesus whom we behold contradicting every day both his life and his spirit ? who, by their vices, their sloth, their ingratitude, their worldliness, their earthly and sensual lives, crucify the Lord afresh, — are these believers ? No, but the most genuine of unbelievers. They may be believers in him, - that, testimony may compel them to be,
but they are not believers of him. They give the lie to his spirit and his precepts. Let them believe with the heart, and it shall then be counted to them for right. eousness, sanctification, and redemption,