« AnteriorContinuar »
the converts in different parts of the world, after our Saviour's ascension into Heaven.. So great and so many sacrifices were to be made, both by the Jew and the Gentile, by their believing christianity, and by their declaring that belief publicly; it proved such a thorough change in their hearts; that the practice of the gospel precepts was almost a certain consequence of their de claring themselves to be christians. For it required less fortitude and resolution to do the will of God, after they had become believers ; than it did, to profess the faith of Christ in the first instance.
From what I have said, I think it must be clear to you, my friends, that faith in CHRIST, in these days, and among modern christians, is very different to what it was in the times of our Saviour and his apostles, and in those converts, who turned from the Jewish and heathen religions to the religion of the gospel ; and consequently, that faith alone cannot be so acceptable to God in Us, as it was in them.' We are born in a christian country; have christian parents, and a christian education ; and therefore, our faith is more the effect of habit than conviction. I mean, that it does not require such efforts in us to believe the doctrines of christianity; as it did in them: I mean, that
we may believe, without having our hearts affected, and our wills. subdued. I mean, that as faith does not now call upon us to make any sacrifices of former prejudices, of deeply-rooted notions, or of worldly comforts; we may possess it, without having thought 011, considered, or weighed the subject in our minds; and without having formed the resolution of doing whatsoever that faith requires. This is a distinction very necessary to be made, and understood, in the present day; when, by many people, so much stress is laid upon faith, as to make us suppose, that this is all which the gospel requires of us. The fatal mistake arises from their confounding together the faich spoken of by Christ and his apostles, (and which could only be shewn forth by a new convert to christianity from the Jewish or heathen religions,) and that faith which a christian professes, in an age and a country, where christianity is the received and established religion. The same mistake existed, indeed, so early in the christian church, as, thirty or forty years after CHRIST's ascension ; and the epistle of. St. Janies . (at least a great part of it) was writien to correct it. Many believers had already begun to entertain the notion, that faith was all in all” in religion. Misapplying or misunderstanding some passages in St. Paul's epistles, where he speaks of the great efficacy of this principle ; such as, « being justified by faith," " by faith are ye saved,"
“ the just shall live by faith," and so forth; they had forgotten, that faith was only a means, and not an end; and were in danger of making religion a sound, instead of a substance. To convince them of this error, and to prove that a holy life, a benevolent behaviour, and the practice of “ good works,” make an important and a necessary part of the profession they had embraced, St. James thus addresses the christians to whom he writes.. “ Be ye w doers of the word, and not hearers only, “ deceiving your ownselves.”
“ What “ doth it profit, my brethren, though a mañ
say he hath faith, and have not works? 66 Can faith save him? If a brother or “ sister be naked, and destitute of food, and “one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, “ be you warmed and filled ; notwithstand“ing, ye give them not those things which « are needful for the body; what doth it “ profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not “ works, is dead, being alone.” Nay, what is more, he goes on to prove that even the faith of Abraham, so bighly praised in scripture,' was made beneficial to himself, and
acceptable to God, merely on the account of the “good works” by which it was accompanied. 66 Was not Abraham, our “ father, justified by works, when he had “ offered Isaac his son upon the altar? “ Seest thou how faith wrought with his “ work, and by works was faith made per
And the scripture was fulfilled, « which saith, Abraham belieyed in God, " and it was accounted unto him for right.
eousness; and he was called the friend of “ God. Ye see, then, how that by works
a man is justified, and not by faith only." Thus you see, my brethren, that “good
works," or practical religion, which con. sists in a man's keeping the commandiments of God, and acting as a christian should act, in the station he is placed in, is as necessary to salyation as faith ; and, therefore, that sort of preaching, so common in our days, which is ever dwelling upon faith, and saying little or nothing about good works, is not gospel preaching ;-—it is not deli-, vering the “ whole counsel" of God to the hearer ;-it is not saying what our Saviour said, “ he it is that loveth me, who keepeth
my commandments;"-it is not enjoining what St. Paul enjoined, " be careful to “maintain good works, for these things “are good and profitable unto men;"—it is
not declaring what St. James declared ; “as “ the body without the spirit is dead, so “ faith without works is dead also.". The scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, are full of express commands to us, to shew forth the laws of God in our out. ward behaviour, as well as to keep them in our hearts; to glorify our Father who is in Heaven, by being virtuous, and benevolent, and useful, in the world, and to make the Bible the rule of our actions, as well as the guide of our faith. The great object of the christian should be, to unite together faith and practice ; for this alone can make true religion. They are like body and soul, and one cannot exist without the otlier; God hath joined them together, and no man ought to attempt to put them asunder.
This leads me to consider the second point, which I intended in the present discourse, and to shew you, what our faith must be, in order to procure for us the approbation and blessing
blessing of God. There can be no doubt, that faith is absolutely essential in the character of the christian, and necessary for the salvation of the soul; for we are expressly told, that “ without faith we cannot please God.” It must also be the foundation stone of all holiness and virtue ; for he that would