« PreviousContinue »
he had cast away his past evil and had come to Christ for pardon and salvation, but the evil had since returned within him, and with its revival the pardon and salvation must have passed away.
Now how is such a man, that is, how is each one of us,—for the case is ours,-how is each one of us putting such a question to be answered ? Shall we say, as some do, that having been redeemed from sin to become servants of holiness, our lives are therefore to be holy; that Christ's Spirit was given us to make them so; that the plain question to be asked therefore is, are we holy? And if we are not, then what benefit have we from our justification? We are not now redeemed, although we might have been once; we are sinners, and as such are to be judged. Surely there is much of truth in this language; but then what hope does it leave for any of us? For it was the imperfection of our holiness which made Christ first needful to us, and yet we are still asked whether we are holy; holy, that is, according to God's judgment of holiness, for as to holy in man's sense of the term, that will serve us nothing. We were but mocked, then, with a prospect of redemption, which could only have been effectual, had we died the very instant that we first embraced it.
We are again called to produce our works, and again we must confess that we are sinners. God be merciful to us, for without His pardon we are again lost.
Or shall we say again, as others have said,—fear not, only believe; Christ is mighty to save His own, and He has saved and will save you to the uttermost. Even at the last hour of life, as at the first moment when you come to Him, you are His redeemed. And surely this too is scriptural language, there is much of God's truth here. Yet again, Christ may save those who have been sinners, will He save those who are sinners still? He will save His own to the uttermost; but are not His own the holy and the good? Or if it be His glory to save sinners, those who are as well as those who have been, is there not an accursed thought close at hand to whisper, “ Then my continued sin is His greater glory." And what then becomes of watchfulness, what of self-denial, what of the victory of the Spirit over the flesh? Death is near, and there is a man of sinful heart and sinful life, not changed into Christ's image, yet claiming to be one of Christ's redeemed, because he believes that Christ has saved him. And is this Christ's Gospel, is it indeed in this sense that Christ died for sinners ?
See then how warily we should speak in this matter, speak whether in answer to others, or to ourselves. Surely the answer has not yet been
found in what has been now given; with much of divinest truth there is clearly something missed or perverted, which causes us in both of the views given above to lose the perfect Gospel of God. If we must look to our holiness of life for assurance, is not that to build again upon the quicksand ? Is not that to look to ourselves for salvation, and not to Christ, and to look where we must look in vain? Or if without looking to ourselves we look only to Christ, and hope and believe whilst we are full of sin, and look to be redeemed from death, because Christ has died, although we have never risen with Him again to a new life of holiness; is not this to make Christ the minister of sin, and to hope where God says that there is no hope? We must see, therefore, how it may be possible to seize the truth of each of these views, and yet escape their error; and after having shown the difficulties of the question on the right and left, to see how far, with God's blessing, it may be possible to avoid them. And this, if God permits, shall be the subject of one more concluding sermon.
February 27, 1842.
THE MEANING OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
St. John, vi. 57. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father : 80
he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
GALATIANS, ï. 20. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
THESE two passages, as it seems to me, speak the same language, and it is by following up the clue which they offer to us that we may arrive, I think, at the full scriptural truth concerning justification, which we now are seeking for. We may arrive at it, and yet we cannot. We may in one sense, for it is there to be seen; so far, at least, as that we may recognise any thing else but it, to be not altogether the true doctrine. Some jarring note there will be which our ears may have listened enough to the true heavenly music to perceive at once to be out of harmony. But yet, when we try to state our impression of the truth in our own words, it is like the copy of a master-work of painting, we see ourselves its inferiority, we see that it is not that very perfect thing which we so admired: it has lost something, we know not what or how, but it is no longer the very same. We must feel and acknowledge this defect in our own representations of Scripture truth: we ought to make allowance for it no less when we find it in the representations of others.
Let us consider once again what we found to be the difficulties of this question of justification. Were they not, on the one hand, that if we laid the whole stress on our being forgiven and justified by Christ already, carelessness and great ungodliness were apt to steal upon us; Christ has done all for us, it were wronging Him to interfere with His work; His grace is glorified in our sinfulness. And on the other hand, if after the one justification once obtained by faith, all else is to be a matter of our own works to preserve or to recover our state of justification, is it not in the end placing the real justification in our works, and have we not, on the one hand, the notion of merit coming in as if we were saving and justifying ourselves, or else do we not take away the comfort of the Gospel promises, and leave ourselves in the fearing and ever restless state of those whose con