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fied by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? He knew there was a connexion between the faith of which he then spoke and moral duties : that it would be as congruous to expect grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles, as to suppose faith in the heart unproductive of real holiness in the life. It is as impossible for the sun to be in his meridian sphere, and not to dissipate darkness, or diffuse light, as for faith to exist in the soul and not exalt the temper and meliorate the conduct.' Faith, as a divine principle in the soul, purifies the heart ; and is, in fact, the only source of good works. The tree must be made good before the fruit can be good. But without faith it is impossible to please God :' and hence we learn that Abraham's faith was prior to that striking proof of filial obedience by which he is said to be justified ; and, therefore, neither the cause nor the condition of his justification.
In examining another part of the same chapter, we find the apostle asserts, when speaking of the extent and spirituality of the moral
law, That whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.' Now as Abraham had, in many instances, violated this divine statute ; his works could not so justify him, as to render him guiltless and acceptable in the sight of God. Throughout the whole of the apostle's reasoning there is a beautiful connexion and consistency. For, by reciting the affecting story of Abraham and his beloved Isaac, he has shown, that by the venerable patriarch's obedience to the command of God, was manifested both the genuineness and the strength of his faith.
It is an article of the christian's faith, and from which he ought never to depart, that God, for the display of his own almighty power, sovereignty, and grace, does at the last hour, and perhaps in the latest moments, sometimes snatch sinners from the very jaws of hell, without any consideration as to moral worth, of what they have been, or what they then are. For the glory of infinite mercy, it may probably be said of numbers at the last day as was
said in reference to the ancient Jewish high priest — Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?? Or at least this will be said of him whom the compassionate Saviour took from the cross to the crown—who was introduced in triumph to bear witness in heaven, as he had done upon earth, that salvation is not of works, but of grace!
What advantage, it may be asked, do those gain over their opponents, who zealously maintain that good works are essential to salvation? For whatever is essential to the completion of any purpose cannot be relinquished. On this hypothesis, the salvation of the expiring thief was absolutely impossible. He had neither time nor opportunity to perform good works.
Impossible also must it be to thousands, per• haps to millions, who have died, or may die,
if not in similar situations, yet so circumstanced as to have no space for amendment: and equally impossible to infants, more than half of whom die before they are capable of moral action. This incapacity may probably be urged to prove, that, in reference to them, the cases are dissimilar; and that their not having committed actual sin, is a sufficient warrant to believe that they are not obnoxious to the divine displeasure. But this conclusion is not just. The scriptures positively declare, that we are by nature the children of wraththat we are shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin; the offspring of a degerlerate head, in whom we sinned, and from whom we derive pollution and guilt: and unless these facts be admitted, it is impossible to reconcile the conduct of Providence with the oracles of truth; because death, which is the wages of sin, passes upon infants, though they have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. But this would not be the case-it would be incompatible with divine goodness and the divine government, were they not federally connected with him, involved in his guilt, and the subjects of moral evil. “To deny the imputation of that offence, and yet grant, as it must be, that we suffer in consequence of it, necessarily supposes that we are condemned and punished, considered as innocent; than which nothing can be more unjust.' But, were it admitted that there never existed any federal relation between Adam and his posterity, the difficulty with which the subject is supposed to be embarrassed' would not be lessened. It is demonstrable, as far as cause and effect can be, that children are naturally depraved that they are, without exception, agitated by sinful passions, long before the mind can possibly be influenced by example. Now, as these passions must arise from a corrupt principle latent in the heart, it cannot reasonably be denied, that defiled nature in an infant is, in its degree, as inconsistent with the purity and felicity of heaven, as that which is peculiar to those who have committed actual transgressions; and that the comparatively small depravity of the one will as effectually bar the way to blessedness, as the enormous load of the other.