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This is evident from numberless passages in the sacred Scriptures; and even from the prayers of the most eminent saints. But so long as a man needs forgiveness, and blessings innumerable and inestimable, which he hath not in the smallest degree merited by his best services; and so long as he is continually making unsuitable returns for former mercies: he cannot, properly speaking, have any warrant for his faith, except the word of the gospel; however his hope may be encouraged and assured by the seal and witness of the sanctifying Spirit. Nor will the poor publican's prayer be ever laid aside, as unsuitable to his case, by the greatest saint on this side the perfection of heaven: though self-deceivers, of various descriptions, may think themselves tou holy to employ such self-abasing language.
It is commonly urged on this subject, that if any thing be considered as the warrant of faith, except the word of the gospel, boasting will be introduced, and self-confidence encouraged. This is true in general, and the sentiment has a powerful tendency that way: yet many, who are charged with representing holy dispositions as a necessary warrant to faith in Christ, look on those dispositions to be as entirely a free gift of the Saviour, as any of the blessings they afterwards receive: and (whether
consistently or not I pretend not to determine,) they en- ter as fully as their opponents into the spirit of the apos
tle's words, “ By grace ye are saved, through faith; and " that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of « works, lest any man should boast: for we are his work« manship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." “ Who made thee to differ from another?" or what hast “ thou that thou hast not received -“ Being justified “ freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in “ Christ Jesus." The fact seems to be this: Some pious men, in guarding against abuses, have unwarily thrown: impediments in the way of discouraged souls : others by attachment to system have moreover furnished excuses to proud and prejudiced unbelievers; and many have expressed themselves in a manner, which may be perverted to encourage a degree and kind of self-preference,
inconsistent with the pure gospel of Christ. On the other hand, some have incautiously used language on the subject, which may be understood to render even the preaching of regeneration, sanctification, and holiness of life, darigerous; by representing all holy dispositions and good works, as tending to boasting and selfconfidence: and the charge of giving countenance to self-righteousness, has been so indiscriminately advanced, as to involve many persons and opinions, that by no means deserve it. But if we adhere simply to the word, of God, we shall keep at a distance from these extremes :: and none will pervert our doctrine, except those “ who “ stumble at the word, being disobedient,” and who “ wrest the Scriptures themselves to their own destruc-. « tion."
Saving Faith in Christ essentially holy in its
THE holy nature of saving faith, at least in its first ex- ' ercises, has been expressly denied by several persons, who have maintained the doctrine insisted on in the former part of this work, and others have used language capable of this construction: thus the subject has been enveloped in obscurity, and the truth exposed to unmerited objections.
That we may the better understand the subsequent discussion, we should previously obtain precise ideas of the meaning in which the words, holy, holiness, sanctifying, and sanctification are here used. Holy or holiness is opposed to unholy or unholiness; and not to unrighteous or unrighteousness. An unrighteous man, in the language of argumentative theology, signifies a 'man under condemnation for his sins, and not brought into a state of justification: an unholy man is one unrenewed by the Spirit of God, and under the dominion of sin. Holy and holiness therefore relate to the dispositions and affections of his heart, and not to his state as justified before God: nor is this distinction of trivial consequence, but essential to a clear understanding of the subject. Indeed few things have more perplexed religious controversies and discussions, than want of accuracy in speaking of justification and sanctification, and carefully keeping the ideas of them distinct.
The question, therefore, concerning the holy nature of saving faith, has nothing to do with the doctrine of justification, but belongs entirely to another topick in theology. We are “ justified freely by the grace of “ God," or by free mercy, entirely contrary to our deservings : we are justified by the righteousness and atoning blood of Christ, as the meritorious ground of our pardon and title to eternal life: and we are justified by faith alone; because faith alone constitutes our relation to Christ, that we may be made the righteousness of God " in him." According to the holy and good law of our righteous Sovereign, and the covenant of works, the least iinperfection or failure in obedience condemns us; all the holiness we can ever possess, with all the obedience we have performed, weighs not an atom in the opposite scale; and to the last moment of life we need free forgiveiness of every defect, to whatever degree of sanctification , we have attained, or how many good works soever we have
done. 6 Cursed is every one who continucth not in all. “ things written in the book of the law to do them.”Not only the new convert, or the feeble believer in his first actings of faith in Christ, is excluded from taking any encouragement from his incipient sanctification, if he be capable of ascertaining its existence: but the most advanced Christian, after half a century spent in holy obedience, and zealous endeavours to glorify the Saviour and serve his generation; comparing himself and his best duties with the perfect standard, inust exclaim, “I am all! " as an unclean thing, and all my righteousnesses are as. “ filthy rags.” Even perfect holiness of heart, and obé-' dience in conduct, could do nothing towards atoning for past sins, or redeeming the forfeited inheritance: and if Paul's justification at the tribunal of Christ, depended, as its meritorious ground, on the last expression of his love and zeal, when he was expiring as a martyr, he must be condemned by the holy law of God. From first to last we must be justified by mere mercy and grace, through the righteousness and atoning blood of Emmanuel, and by faith alone: nor can sanctification, whether more'or less advanced, avail any thing towards justification. If this was well considered and fully understood, many plau
sible objections to the holy nature of saving faith, which suppose that it interferes with the doctrines of imputed righteousness and free justification, must fall to the ground, and would require no further answer.
“ Now to him that worketh not, but believeth in him " that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted for “ righteousness.". These words of the apostle have been greatly misunderstood, in this controversy: for it may as fairly be inferred from them, that believers never work at all, for any purpose, or from any motive; as that they are in all senses absolutely ungodly, when God justifieth them.—The sinner, when he believes in Christ,“ labours “ for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, “ which the Son of man shall give him :” he “ works “ out his own salvation with fear and trembling :” he 66 gives diligence to make his calling and election sure;" he is “ zealous of good works," “ fruitful in all the works " of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto " the glory and praise of God;" yea “ always abounding '“ in the work of the Lord.” But, notwithstanding this, he not only ceases to work, in respect of justification, when he first applies for an interest in the righteousness of Christ; but, amidst all his “ diligence to the full as• surance of hope unto the end,” to glorify God, and to do good to mankind; he never works at all, at least allow- .. edly, in dependence on his own doings, or in order to add them to “ the righteousness of God by faith."
; In like manner he is ungodly, in himself, according to the law, by his own sincere confession, and in the unerring judgment of God;. not only at the moment when he. is first justified, but during the whole period that he lives by faith in Christ for justification.--His incipient and imperfect godliness is not at all noticed in this respect: yet his coming to Christ with earnest desires of salvation, and his humble, obedient, and willing return to God
through him, essentially distinguish his character from • that of such persons, as “ say unto God, depart from us,
“ we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;" and that of all others, who are in every respect absolutely ungodly, and have “ no fear of God before their eyes.”