THE MORAL EFFECTS OF A FREE JUSTIFICATION. 

WE learn from the Epistle to the Romans, that Paul had no sooner declared his conclusion, “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” than the cavil was thrown back, “Shall we, then, continue in sin that grace may abound?” From that day to this the enemies and malingers of the gospel theology on the one hand, and its perverters on the other, have echoed the same deduction. On the one hand, the tendency to antinomianism has adopted and justified it as a correct inference, sometimes openly, and more often covertly.

In the Lutheran Church, Agricola of Eisleben, a contemporary of Luther, and among the English Puritans of the seventeenth century, Dr. Crisp, were charged with this monstrous error; the first with justice, the second, probably, unjustly. “Since Christ has vicariously paid the whole legal debt due from sinners to God,” the antinomian argues, “and the title to acceptance and life thus accruing is bestowed on every believer through his faith alone, the precept has no further claim, either of penalty or obedience, upon us who believe. God cannot justly demand payment of the same obligation twice over. If Christ’s work was vicarious, we who embrace it are free in every sense. Disobedience to the moral law cannot bring us into condemnation. Or, in other words, transgression ceases to be guilty when committed by the justified believer. There may be a certain seemliness in the grateful hearkening of the believer to the wishes of his divine benefactor. There may be motives drawn from secular order and temporal advantage in favour of a moral life; but the justified believer is under no obligation. If his faith is clear, no sin vitiates his title to heaven.” But it is seldom such speculations have been openly uttered in the history of Christian doctrine. Luther and some other Protestants, in the heat of their zeal against Pharisaism, have perhaps uttered rhetorical assertions of the believer’s emancipation from the penalty of the moral law too bold to be safe when torn from their designed connection. It was not seldom the complaint of the best Protestant divines, in the Lutheran, the Reformed, and even the Moravian communions, that sluggish and lustful minds perverted their precious gospel of free justification to excuse their idle or profligate living. But what truth peculiar to revelation has not been wrested?

We freely admit, that should a man whose soul is enslaved to his lusts, and wholly unenlightened by the purifying principles of the gospel, be so unlucky as to adopt a false hope of heaven (on any scheme of doctrine), the result will be the emboldening of his evil desires. But this evil effect will be as sure upon a sacramentarian or a Pharisaic theory in the case supposed as upon ours; and such is the testimony of experience. There have always been a thousand licentious professors of the self-righteous schemes to one of the evangelical. In the latter class we have to enumerate those frequent and shocking instances where an unholy life is startlingly illustrated by the contrast of the gracious creed which is so loudly and so falsely professed. But in the former class are found the millions who live in shameless sin under the altars of the Greek, Roman, and other ritualistic churches.

But the conclusion, that a free justification must encourage licentious living, is advanced by-opposite parties.

The Romish, the Socinian, and many worldly writers, argue thus:—

“The consequence is unavoidable, and therefore the principle cannot be true. For God is a holy God, and Christ’s was a holy mission. Therefore the Scriptures cannot have intended to teach so odious a doctrine. If men are told that no merit of a virtuous life can contribute one whit to their acceptance with God, and that, provided they are believers, no sin can jeopardize it, they must be indifferent to obedience. Yea; the inference is at least plausible:—

The more wickedness in God’s children the more his grace is glorified! It cannot be, then, that the doctrine of justification by faith without works is of God.”

We must expect that so long as there are minds unenlightened by grace, there will be such cavilling. Dr. Thomas Chalmers informs us that in the days of his sceptical worldliness (which extended beyond his ordination), he regarded the doctrine with. abhorrence on this ground. But after he had learned to preach, Christ crucified in Paul’s method, he bore wholly another testimony ( Life, by Hanna, Vol. I., pp. 434-’5.) “During the whole of that period, in which I made no attempt against the enmity of the mind to God; while I was inattentive to the way in which this enmity is dissolved—even by the free offer, on the one hand, and the believing acceptance of the gospel salvation—even at this time I certainly did press the reformation of honour and truth and integrity among my people, but I never once heard of any such reformations having been effected among them…It was not till I took the scriptural way of laying the method of reconciliation before them that I ever heard of any of those subordinate reformations.”

It is well known to theologians that Romanists uniformly charge a licentious result upon the Protestant doctrine of justification. We need do no more than cite the most bitter and adroit of their modern polemics. Möhler, in his Symbolism (Ch. 3, § 25), labours through dreary pages of fraud to evince this. He charges that the antinomianism of Agricola of Eisleben, or of Nicholas Amsdorf, was the legitimate corollary of Luther’s teachings. He represents Luther as teaching “an inward and essential opposition between religion and morality.”

He says that had Luther been sufficiently well informed of the history of opinion, he must have avowed as his own that conclusion of Marcion, so denounced by the Fathers:—

That the preceptive God of the Old Testament was a different being from the gracious God of the New.

Passing to a very different school of legalists, we quote from the great New England Unitarian, Dr. Channing, a representation of the manner in which the Socinians adopt the same cavil. In his sermon, “Unitarian Christianity more Favourable to Piety,” ( Works, Vol. III., p. 190), he says:—

“Trinitarians also exhibit the work, as well as the character, of Christ, in lights less favourable to piety. It does not make the promotion of piety its chief end.

It teaches that the highest purpose of his mission was to reconcile God to man, not man to God. It teaches that the most formidable obstacle to human happiness lies in the claims and threatenings of divine justice. Hence it leads men to prize Christ more for answering these claims and averting these threatenings, than for awakening in the soul human sentiments of love toward the Father in heaven. Accordingly, multitudes appear to prize pardon more than piety, and think it a greater boon to escape, through Christ’s sufferings, the fire of hell, than to receive, through his influence, the spirit of heaven, the spirit of devotion. Is such a system propitious to a generous, ever-growing piety?”

Froude, in both the works cited at the beginning of this article, discloses very plainly his Socinian and latitudinarian affinities. He is fond of pointing to the Protestant doctrine of justification as the corrupter of the English people, and of identifying its foremost advocates in church and state -with corrupt scoundrels. He takes care not to mention that staunch Hugh Latimer and John Knox, whose spotless integrity he cannot but applaud, were the firmest advocates and best exemplars, at once, of that doctrine, In the History (Vol. V., p. 259,) he writes:—

“Such was the state of things which lay before the successors of Somerset (Protector to the child-king, Edward.) They were called upon to fight against corruption, which had infected the whole community, and, among the rest, had infected themselves. It was easier and pleasanter to earn the titles of ‘Ministers of God,’ by patronizing teachers who insisted on the worthlessness of good works, and could distinguish correctly between imputed and infused righteousness.”

Under the heading of “Moral Results of the Reformation” (p. 405), he writes:—

“The people had exchanged a superstition which, in its grossest abuses, prescribed some shadow of respect for obedience, for a superstition which merged obedience in speculative belief:—

And under that baneful influence, not only the higher virtues of self-sacrifice, but the commonest duties of probity and morality were disappearing.”

In his Short Studies on Great Subjects, under the title of “The Condition and Prospects of Protestantism,” he tells us that he attended in the West of England (evidently among either the Welsh or the Wesleyan Methodists), a devotional meeting of evangelical Protestants. Here is a part of his malignant travesty of the truths there inculcated:—

“We were told that the business of each individual man and woman in the world was to save his or her soul; that we are all sinners together; all equally guilty helpless, lost, accursed children, unable to stir a finger, or do a thing to help ourselves. Happily, we were not required to stir a finger; rather, we were forbidden to attempt it. An antidote had been provided for our sins, and a substitute for our obedience.

Everything had been done for us. “We had but to lay hold of the perfect righteousness which had been fulfilled in our behalf. We had but to put on the vesture provided for our wearing, and our safety was assured. The reproaches of conscience were silenced. We are perfectly happy in this world, and certain to be blessed in the next. If, on the other hand, we neglected the offered grace; if, through carelessness, or intellectual perverseness, or any other cause, we did not apprehend it in the proper manner, if we tried to please God ourselves by ‘works of righteousness,’ the sacrifice would then cease to avail for us. It mattered nothing whether, in the common acceptation of the word, we were good or bad, “we were lost all the same, condemned by perfect justice to everlasting torture.”

“It is, of course, impossible for human creatures to act toward one another on these principles. The man of business, on weekdays, deals with those whom he employs on weekday rules. He gives them work to do, and he expects them to do it. He knows the meaning of good desert, as well as of ill desert. He promises and he threatens. He praises and he blames. He will not hear of vicarious labour. He rewards the honest and industrious. He punishes the lazy and the vicious. He finds society so constructed that he cannot exist unless men treat one another as responsible for their actions, and as able to do right as well as wrong,” etc., etc. That is to say, Mr. Froude thinks it very absurd that we do not think God ransoms and saves a world of lost, guilty sinners on the same principles on which “the man of business” governs some of his fellow-creatures and natural equals! Perhaps he might be undeceived if he would listen to such words as the following, from a book of which he manifestly knows little:—

“Thou. thoughtest,” says God, “that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee.” (Psalm 50:21.)

We propose, however, as the most effectual way to expose the errors and misconceptions of all these objectors, to present a connected view of the teachings of a number of Protestant Confessions upon the doctrine of our justification. If there is any representation of its doctrines for which a church may properly be held responsible, and to which it may appeal, to show what it does and does not teach, it is the creed or confession deliberately adopted for itself. We “wish to evince, first, the glorious harmony (amidst all less important diversities) of all the Protestant communities upon this “Articulus Ecclesice stantis aut cadentis”; and, second, the unanimity with which they disclaim and denounce the antinomian corollary sought to be fixed upon them.

Let us begin with the most noted of these documents, the Augsburg Confession, written by Melancthon, sanctioned by Luther, and presented by the German Protestants to Charles V., in 1540.

“When the gospel accuseth us of sin, our convicted hearts ought to conclude that the remission of sins and justification are bestowed on us, gratis, for Christ’s sake, by faith … It is given gratis, that is, it doth not depend on the condition of our worth, nor is it given for the sake of any works precedent, or the worthiness of [works] following,” etc. (Sec. 4.) They then add section 6:—

“They teach that when we are reconciled by faith, the righteousness of our good works must necessarily follow, which God hath commanded us, as also Christ hath enjoined:—

‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.’”

The Helvetic Confession, composed by Bellinger, Myconius, and Grynæus, A. D. 1536, says, after defining justification as God’s “remitting our sins, absolving us from their guilt and penalty, receiving us into grace, and pronouncing us just” (§ 15):—

“But since we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith on the mercy of God and on Christ, so we teach and believe with the apostle, that sinful man is justified by faith alone on Christ, not by the law or any works.” But, in § 16, they add:—

“The same apostle called faith ‘efficacious,’ and ‘working by love,’

Galatians 5…This same faith retaineth us in our duty, which we owe to God and our neighbour, and confirmeth patience in adversity, and formeth and maketh a true confession, and, to say all in one word, propagateth good fruits of every kind, and good works.” “For we teach that works really good are born of a living faith, through the Holy Ghost, and are done by believers according to the will of God and the rule of his word,” etc.

“Although, therefore, we teach with the apostle, that man is justified gratis, through faith in Christ, and not through any good works, still we do not therein vilipend or disapprove of good works. For we know that man was neither created, nor is he born again, through faith, in order to idle; but rather in order that he may do ceaselessly the things which are good and useful,” etc.

The Confession of the French Protestant Church, 1561, says (§ 17):—

“We believe that we are reconciled to God by that sole sacrifice which Christ offered on the cross, so that we are accounted before him as righteous; since we cannot be pleasing to him, nor possess the fruit of our adoption, save as he pardoneth our sins.

Accordingly, we testify that Jesus Christ is our whole and perfect cleansing, in whose death we obtain a full satisfaction for guilt,” etc. (§ 18):—

“Accordingly, we clearly repudiate all other grounds by which men deem they may be justified before God, and, all estimate of our virtues and merits discarded, we rest in the sole obedience of Jesus Christ,” etc.

Compare, now, the following from § 22:—

“We believe that we, who are by nature servants of sin, when this same faith intervenes, are regenerated into a new life. But by this faith we receive the grace of living holily, while we embrace that gospel promise, that the Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. Faith is, then, so far from extinguishing the zeal for living well and holily, that it rather wakens and inflames that zeal in us; whence good works do necessarily proceed.”

The well-known Confession of the Westminster divines, adopted by the Presbyterians of Great Britain and America, may sufficiently represent the views of all the Protestants known as Calvinistic; and a brief citation from it may fairly stand for the Belgic, the Heidelberg, the Augsburg, and other symbols of that school. In the eleventh chapter the Westminster Confession says:—

“§ 1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone,” etc.

“§ 2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.”

As a representative of the Anabaptist communions, we insert an extract from the Mennonite standards. They show that, widely as these sects differed from other Protestants, they were all at one touching justification and good works:—

“Catechism:—

Ques. 3.—Do you then hope to be justified, and saved by your good. works in keeping the commandments of Christ?’

“Ans—No; by our good works we cannot gain heaven, or merit eternal blessedness; but it is by grace that we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8.)

“Ques. 4.—Whereunto, then, do good. works and the keeping of the commandments of Christ serve?

“Ans. —By good works we show forth and manifest our faith in Jesus Christ; for obedience to the commandments of God., wrought by love, is the light and. life of faith, and. without which faith is dead. (James 2:20.)”

The Articles of Religion adopted by the Episcopal Churches of Great Britain and America (the churches which love the parental relation to the great Wesleyan communion, if often stepparents), state the matter thus:—

“ART. XI.—Of the Justification of Man. We are accounted. righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the homily of justification.

“ART. XII.—Of Good Works. Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.”

The Articles as held by our Methodist Episcopal Church are identical, save that in the former of them, the reference to the homily, and in the latter, the word “necessarily,” are omitted, and the idiom is a little modernized.

The most venerable of all these Confessions we have, for a particular reason, reserved for the last of our witnesses. It is the Confession of the Bohemian and Moravian ministers and nobles, the leaders of that Reformed Church before the Reformation, whose character was illustrated by the labours and martyrdom of John Huss. This body, at the dawn of the Reformation, joyfully recognized the new Protestants as their brethren in the faith. The renewed discussions of the movement, begun by Luther and Zwinglius, caused the church of “the Picards,” as they were styled, to present their formal Confession to their prince, the Austrian king of the Romans, A. D. 1535. At the end of Article. VI. they say:—

“They further teach, that men are justified before God by faith, or trust on Jesus Christ, alone, without any strivings, merits, and works of their own. As Paul teacheth:—

‘But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ Again:— 

‘But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed. by the law and the prophets.’ And this righteousness is ‘by the faith of Jesus Christ.’ Elsewhere:—

‘Through him, whosoever believeth is justified.’ And this sixth Article is among us held the most fundamental of all, as being the sum of all Christianity and piety. Accordingly, our people teach and discuss it with all diligence and zeal, and strive to inculcate it on all.”

ART. VII. — “To this they add:—

‘Let those who are justified by the sole grace of God, and faith on Christ, do the good works which God commands, and let each one walk worthily in them according to his vocation, in whatsoever grade of life, state and age he may be. For thus the Lord, with Matthew:—

‘Teach them,’ saith he, ‘to observe all things which I command you.’ But, since many things are extant in Scripture touching this, we forbear to treat it farther.’ … ‘But they teach that good. works must thus be done, that faith may be by them approved. For good works are the sure witnessings, seals, and indices of the living faith within, and fruits thereof, by which the tree is distinguished (Matthew 7.) as good or evil,’” etc.

The point of present interest to us in this witness is, that the great founder of the Wesleyan communion was so largely indebted, under God, to the descendants of this Moravian communion for his final and joyful establishment in the peace of the gospel. A shattered remnant of these Christians, fleeing out of fiery persecutions in the eighteenth century, found refuge under Count Zinzendorf, at Herrnhut, in Prussian Lusatia, and spreading thence, planted themselves in several spots of Europe and America. It was during Wesley’s voyage to Georgia that he first saw these humble Christians, and was struck with their possession of an assured spiritual peace which he then lacked, notwithstanding his ardent strivings. After his return he entered into more intimate relations with their ministers in England; and, finally, seeking the rest his soul craved, he visited their parent seat at Hermhut. There he met Christian David, a Moravian minister, whose simple and sincere wisdom he learned to esteem above that of the others, and of Count Zinzendorf himself, from whose mouth he received this testimony:

“The word of reconciliation which the apostles preached, as the foundation of all they taught, was:—

That we are reconciled to God, not by our own works, nor by our own righteousness, but wholly and solely by the blood of Christ.”… “The right foundation is not your contrition, not your righteousness, nothing of your own, nothing that is wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, but it is something without you, viz., the righteousness and blood of Christ.”…”And when they have received this gift from God, then their hearts will melt for sorrow that they have offended him,” etc.

Wesley tells us, in his journal (May 24th, 1738), the issue of his doubts and fears. “I was now thoroughly convinced, and by the grace of God I resolved to seek it [faith] unto the end.

By absolutely renouncing all dependence, in whole or in part, on my own works or righteousness, on which I had really grounded my hope of salvation, though I knew it not, from my youth up.

By adding to the constant use of all other means of grace continual prayer for this very thing—justifying, saving faith, a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for me, a trust in him as my Christ, as my sole justification, sanctification, and redemption.” Thenceforward he was able, with a triumphant hand, to sweep his hallowed lyre, as he took up that strain which was silenced no more, and which to-day he is singing in glory:—

“Jesus, thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”

“We shall close our appeal to this “great cloud of witnesses” with two emphatic sentences from those

“Sermons” of Wesley which are recognized by Methodists as carrying almost the force of a doctrinal covenant among them. In Sermon V., on Justification, he says:—

“5th, Faith, therefore, is the necessary condition of justification; yea, and the only necessary condition thereof.

This is the second point carefully to be observed, that the very moment God giveth faith (for it is the gift of God) to the ‘ungodly,’ that worketh not,’ that faith is counted to him for righteousness.”

These witnesses evince at least two things:—

The universal agreement of the evangelical churches in excluding the merits of man’s works from his justification, and their equally hearty belief that this justification by the sole righteousness of Christ is only conducive to holy living. It is the latter proposition which we propose farther to consider. Our purposes are to clear away the slanders and misconceptions of the opposers of the great Protestant doctrine, and to admonish ourselves and our brethren against the secret tendency, should it lurk in any of us, toward perverting the grace of the Redeemer to the excusing of our sluggishness. The theme which we argue is, in truth, just the one asserted by Paul:—

“Do we, then, make void the law through, faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” The “war is to be carried into Africa.” So far is it from being true that a free justification disparages the claims of holiness, it enhances them far above any force which they could derive from a plan of justification by works, even were such a plan permitted to sinners.

Let us, in advancing to this issue, sweep away a preliminary obstacle. The few nominal Christians who have been audacious enough to assert a theoretical antinomianism, sustain it, as we saw, by this false logic:—

“Since Christ has paid our debt vicariously, if the law of God put in any claim of positive obligation on believers, either preceptive or penal, this would be the intrinsic injustice of requiring payment twice for one claim.” This proceeds on the double error of regarding God’s claim of right upon man as one of commutative justice only, instead of rectoral justice, and of degrading Christ’s satisfaction for sinners to a mere pecuniary equivalent. Let us explain:—

God is not our equal, trading with us, but our creator, sovereign, proprietor, and chief end. Christ’s vicarious righteousness is not a mere commercial equivalent, but a gloriously suitable, yet free, moral equivalent, devised and wrought by divine grace at its own option. When a man is in debt to his fellow, under the rules of commutative justice, if his security offer to the creditor the precise amount of money due, in legal coin of the realm, it is “a legal tender.” The creditor is obliged to accept it; as payment, and has no option to say, “I prefer the money of the principal debtor himself.” If he says this, he loses his whole claim thenceforward, and the debtor goes free. But it is a miserable degradation of Christ’s satisfaction to conceive it thus. God, the creditor, is sovereign owner of the debtor. The debt is moral, and not commercial. There is no law superior to God, restraining his holy and righteous discretion as to the shape in which his justice shall demand and receive its satisfaction. Hence, when divine mercy proposed a vicarious satisfaction, the free, optional acceptance of the Sovereign was as essential to its validity as the divine worthiness of the Substitute.

Now, the greater includes the less, and the whole its parts. If the divine creditor has discretionary right to devise and accept a substitution, of course he has the included right, when he accepts it, to reserve any terms or conditions with the released debtor which he chooses. What terms he has seen fit, in his mercy, holiness and wisdom, to reserve and stipulate with us sinners, is therefore simply a question of fact. What saith he in his gospel of this? The substance of the answer is this:—

That he graciously accepts “Christ as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” reserving to himself these two points—both entirely consistent with a blessed reconciliation—that the beneficiary shall still observe the law as his rule of holy living (though no longer as his covenant of works), and that the Father shall have the option of chastening the reconciled child during his militant state, for his good, in love and not in wrath. “These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Now, such being the transactions, and God having expressly stipulated these reservations in the very offer of his mercy, it is a simple impertinence to say that he can no longer require obedience of us without claiming the same debt twice.

We can fully admit the truth of one part of the Romanist and Socinian objection:—

No doctrine can be true which abrogates the force of God’s commandments over his reasonable creatures. If the doctrine of a gracious justification did this, it could not be true. But such is not its effect. Our God claims holiness as his consummate attribute. “Evil shall not dwell with him.” Our obligation to imitate and obey him is more original even than any published precept, for it is founded on our natural relation to him, as moral creatures of a righteous and beneficent Sovereign. Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil; it was impossible that he should come on the former errand. Hence, whatever change of dispensation man’s sin and fall and God’s mercy may have prompted, it is simply impossible that there can be anywhere or for any object a dispensation of disobedience.

To rebut the charge that the teaching of a gracious justification encourages license, we might appeal first to experience. It was the testimony of Dr. Chalmers, who at first believed the charge, that he found those who boasted in the merit of their obedience to commend them to God less zealous to obey, while those who claimed no merit of reward for their works were most punctilious in their works. This seeming paradox, when honest observation first forced it on his attention, appeared unaccountable. Grace afterward taught him the beautiful solution. The fact which we claim in our favour can justly be put in a very pungent form against our accusers:—

That the most current charge the world has had to bring against the advocates of the evangelical doctrine is that of over-strictness. Who were the Protestants stigmatised in the seventeenth century as “Puritans” (purists in their conduct)? The especial advocates, among the Anglican clergy and people, of this doctrine of a gracious justification. We have seen the doctrine of Wesley; what was the name of reproach hurled at his adherents? They were “Methodists;” they were so strict in their obedience as to live by a methodus, forsooth!

But a century of the fruits of Christian charity, zeal and virtue, borne among Methodists by this hope of free justification, has transmuted the term of obloquy into a title of honour. Such is the inconsistency of the indictment. When the gospel doctrine is presented in theory, the world exclaims, “O! it breeds license of conduct; away with it.” But when it is fairly presented in the actual conduct of its representative advocates, the virtue which it prompts is “too strict.” This world, just now so jealous of relaxation of life, cannot endure the restraints of such a life.

But to proceed. It is argued that men cannot be longer induced to exert themselves in righteous living when you have assured, them that their righteousness can earn nothing, and. that the lack of it forfeits nothing. Such reasoning evidently proceeds upon the assumption that self-interest is the only, or at least the chief, motive to a Christian life. We might, then, dismiss the whole debate by saying that such is not our estimate of the life of faith; we can descend to no such grovelling scheme of morals. The believer has better motives to spur him to a ceaseless career of duty than a mercenary calculation of advantage to his self-love. Hence, even if all motives of self-interest were extinguished, other and nobler ones would remain. “But the evangelical doctrine does not propose to extinguish, neither does it neglect, the desire of good to one’s self. So far as a rational regard for our own welfare here and hereafter is a legitimate affection, it leaves it in full operation. This desire is enlightened, purified, subordinated to God’s will and glory. But we assert that all the force which it can have, or ought to have, as motive to stimulate effort, is left unbroken by the promise of justification without the merit of our own works. This we evince in three ways:—

First, The gospel teaches us that while believers are not rewarded on account of their works, they are rewarded according to their works. This is a plain distinction which the Romanists (as Möhler, in his Symbolism,) labour most deceitfully to confound. They represent us as teaching that works done by the aid of Christ’s grace are not morally good in God’s sight; that they must be classed as in themselves sins at least venial, if not mortal sins; that in God’s sight the sins of the unrenewed are as rewardable as the obedience of the regenerate. “Now, what we teach is, that an act done in sincerity and affection for God, agreeable to his precepts and by the aids of his grace, is the object of moral approbation with God; he is pleased by it. He does stand in moral contrast, in his view, with the sin which violates his precept. But we hold that this act, if its good motive be mixed with any remains of indwelling sin, must still be estimated by the heart-searching God as what it is, short of the perfection required by the divine law. We hold that even a perfect act of to-day could not atone for the delinquency of yesterday, because, even though we had “done all those things which are commanded us, we must say we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” We believe, with Paul, “that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh [already sinful and condemned by that law] be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” This is but saying, that a criminal who had confessed, or been convicted of murder, could not appeal to the statute against murder for acquittal, because the sole legal function of that statute as to that man was to affix his doom. Hence, while we ascribe to all gracious works a right moral quality, approvable by God so far as they are morally right, we refuse to ascribe to them the “condign merit” of the Romish divine; we do not believe that they create a claim of debt against God to bestow a reward. This were in every point of view preposterous; both because we had before forfeited all such claim, and incurred the opposite title, the title to punishment; because the credit of the works, in the highest sense, returns to God, whose grace enabled us to do them; and because he is our sovereign proprietor, to whom we and all our services originally belonged. (See Luke 17:9.) The slave did not deem that he had brought his owner in debt by rendering a service which the owner rightfully claimed as property. Hence we have no “condign merit” on which to claim even a restoration to favour.

But when our divine Substitute has effected that restoration to favour gratuitously, then our holy Father can be pleased with all truly good works, as thank-offerings of our gratitude to his undeserved grace. He declares that with such sacrifices “he is well pleased.” He has taught us, moreover, that in order to manifest his benevolence and holiness to the world, he will apportion the riches of the inheritance which Christ purchased for us, and bestowed “without money and without price,” to the amount of our sacrifices for him. And this is not a transaction of commutative or even of distributive justice, but a bestowal of fatherly love. Christ bought this privilege, also, for us.” “While death is the wages of sin, eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That the gift is proportioned by this rule is plain from the parable of the talents. The servant who gained for his lord an increase of ten pounds from one, is made ruler over ten cities; while the servant who gained five pounds, while commended in like manner, is made ruler over five cities. The apostle (in 2 Corinthians 9.), while inculcating alms-giving purely as a thank-offering to God, yet adds:—

“He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Hence it follows that a sluggish or unholy life, even if it did. not suggest any doubt of the whole inheritance, would at least rob it of a large part of its riches. The sordid pleasure of the self-indulgent is short-lived; the subtraction of joy and glory from the future prize will be everlasting. Here is a motive appealing to enlightened self-interest, to “which a living faith cannot be insensible.” Does any one say, No; any seat, the lowest within the gate of heaven, “will fully sate my ambition.” The answer is, that such an ambition can attest only a dead faith—a faith which is worthless to place the soul within the gate; for the soul that loves God and heaven must crave all of heaven that it can attain.

But, second, sluggishness in duty cannot be indulged without bringing our title to the inheritance into doubt. All know our Saviour’s maxim, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” He has given us this rule, not only for judging the validity of our neighbours’ titles, but of our own titles, to his favour. Indeed, while the Scriptures everywhere make our works naught, as meritorious grounds of justification, they make much of them as evidences or indices of our justification. They plainly assume that all other evidences would become invalid if they remained without this “vital sign—the fruits of holy living. These simple remarks give us at once the key to understand and reconcile two large groups of texts which some suppose contradictory. The one class runs thus:—

“If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.” “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 9:30, 31; 42:5, 6.) “I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.” (Psalm 71:16.) “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” (Psalm 143:2.) “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.) “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for, The just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11.) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” etc. (Titus 3:5.)

The other class reads thus:—

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3, 4.) “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.) “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:—


But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34, 35.) “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24.) “Little children, let no man deceive you:— 

He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7.) Such are the texts of the second class. Several of them are claimed by the Council of Trent and the Romish Catechism in support of their dogma of justification by their works of inwrought righteousness. To the inconsiderate there may seem to be a contrariety; but the easy and obvious solution is in the truth that, while our works are naught as a ground of merit for our justification, they are all-important as evidences that we are justified. The man who hath clean hands and a pure heart is the one who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord.

Obedience characterizes one as a friend of Christ. The fear of God and works of righteousness distinguish the man who is accepted of him. The faith which evinces its living power by no works liar, no power to justify. The justified person is the one that doeth just works. All this is true. But this is far short of saying that the merit of the clean hands and pure heart is what entitled the first-mentioned to his place in the hill of the Lord, that a sinner’s obedience deserved the bestowal of Christ’s friendship, that the fear of God and righteous works purchased Cornelius’s acceptance with him. In a word, the personal value of the believer’s good works to him in the transaction of his justification is not in their purchasing, but their indicative, power. In the eyes of an enlightened self-interest the latter may be as truly precious as the former. Let us suppose that there were a penniless young man, who had received from some generous friend the free gift of a beautiful landed estate in fee simple. The benefactor purchased it for him, we will say, for ten thousand pounds sterling. Upon installing the beneficiary (who is a pauper in his own resources) in the possession of it, he hands him a “title deed,” or written “instrument of conveyance,” which he recommends him to preserve jealously. Now, why should the beneficiary lock it up in his strong box as though it were a set of diamonds? Is it worth anything? In one sense, no. As merchantable “stationery” it is simply a sheet of spoiled parchment or “legal cap,” worthy of nobody’s desire but the rag-picker’s! It could purchase nothing, not a loaf, much less a whole estate. But, in another sense, yes. As evidence of title, if no other proof is available, it is worth all of ten thousand pounds. For, without it, the possessor of the land would be liable to be ousted at any time by the heirs of the vendor. He will do well, therefore, to guard it as carefully as though ‘it were ten thousand pounds in coin. So the humble believer, who claims no merit from his obedience, yet has a reason for valuing it. Self-love is not, indeed, his ruling spring of action; “the love of Christ constraineth him.” But so far as a regard for his own welfare is consistent with grateful love and devotion, he feels the preciousness of his sincere obedience as the only adequate evidence that his faith is justifying. Let us make a practical comparison of the stimulus of self-interest in his case with the case of the legalist. The latter, when betrayed by temptation into unchristian conduct, says to himself, with selfish alarm, “Ah! I must amend my ways, or the purchase money of my inheritance will be lacking.” The former, in similar backsliding, says, “My gracious redeemer offers me the inheritance without money and without price, but, ah! I must amend my ways, or the evidence that I am his beneficiary is lacking.” 

“Wherein is this stimulus less pungent than the other?”

This view implies, of course, that the believer, in examining his assurance of personal grace and salvation, always regards the fruits of holy living in himself as one essential ground thereof. They “spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree is discerned by its fruits.” (Art. X.) “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” (James.)

“Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you except ye be reprobates?” (Paul.) The relation of this confidence of hope to faith has been much and needlessly confused amidst the dust of this controversy.

Some Protestants, in their over-zeal for defending the believer’s right to confidence, have virtually impugned these words of the apostle, asserting that if a Christian permits anything in himself, in any form, to enter as a part of the ground of his confidence, he has forsaken a free justification, and is building again upon his own works. They would have our confidence grounded on nothing but our own immediate consciousness of faith embracing the Saviour. The Romanist who denies his trembling follower this blessed confidence altogether, yet echoes the argument, charging that the view of the Protestant churches, thus understood, really returns back to a reliance on works for our hope. On the other hand, Rome, not very consistently, urges that if the believer is allowed to ground a confidence of hope upon any consciousness of sincere faith, or witnessing of the Spirit; that if he is encouraged to argue any degree of hope whatsoever from anything else than an inwrought sanctification attested by good works, he is betrayed into sheer antinomianism. [And here Rome persistently proceeds:—

Since those good works are so imperfect in all Christians, except the martyrs, as to require penance and purgatory to atone for their defects, so the hope inferred from them must be always imperfect also, and dashed by doubts.] Now, it appears to us, that all this dust is cleared away by addressing the believer thus: True, to conclude that you have hitherto been justified in Christ, while entirely lacking the fruits of holiness which result from union to him, is antinomianism. But to make this past absence of fruits a reason for projecting this mistrust into the future, this would be legalism and unbelief. You, weak Christian, would say to an unbeliever, paralysed by his mistrust from taking Christ’s yoke, that his lack of love, peace, and strength for duty, might be very good proof that he had hitherto been an unrenewed sinner; but it is sheer unbelief to make this miserable past experience a ground for doubting and rejecting Christ’s full and free salvation offered to faith. You, our doubting brother, would require that sinner to believe in order to experience the peace and strength. You would not, indeed, encourage him to believe that he was already reconciled while disobedient, but you would tell him that he might be assuredly reconciled and obedient in believing. So the gospel replies to the doubting Christian, “Be not afraid, only believe,” and his joys and grace shall follow as the fruits, and not as the roots, of his trust. In other words, an experience of the power of grace, working through faith all holy living, is not the a priori source or cause of an interest in Christ [that would be legalism]; but it is the a posteriori sign, because the sure result of our interest in Christ. To refuse that sign would be antinomianism. Thus we find the two great truths, “Christ our only righteousness,” and, “by their fruits ye shall know them,” perfectly consistent.

The third point remains to show that a free justification does not diminish the believer’s legitimate self-interest in his good works. The gospel assigns a certain relation between faith and that righteousness of Christ which it embraces, on the one hand, and holy character and living on the other. The relation is that of means to end. It is true, indeed, that we are not reconciled to God by merits of our u n works, for we have none that are worthy.

But we are reconciled to him by the merits of another’s work, in order to become capable of good works. God “justifieth the ungodly,” in order that, being justified, lie may become godly by the in-working of the purchased grace. It is not necessary to multiply many references to the Scriptures to sustain this cardinal truth. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he ,hall save his people from their sins.” Such is the key-note of the gospel. “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that lie might sanctify and cleanse it with the. washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” “Who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Redemption from the curse, and gratuitous restoration to favour, are the means; restoration to holiness the end. Now, when we deny the place of means to our own righteousness, and assign it to the place of end, surely we have not depreciated its importance. The end is higher than the means. It may be true that the practical utility of the essential instrument is virtually that of the end. If there were a treasure in a vault, and there were no other possible means to reach it besides a certain lost key, then the discovery of that key would, in one sense, be worth the treasure. But, yet, the value of the key is derived solely from the value of the treasure. After the vault was rifled of all, the key would be useless. So that it remains, the end is practically higher than the means. The man who understands that Christ has justified him, not by, but in order to, good works, cannot possibly slight their importance. This is so plain that it is hard to see why the self-constituted advocate of good works is not satisfied. It leaves the interest which lie professes to patronize in the place of crowning importance. Is not that enough? The true solution of his dissatisfaction is, that this arrangement is unsatisfactory because by it “boasting is excluded.” This, and this alone, is the offence. Good works are provided for, and that in the most efficacious possible way; but it is a way which permits “no flesh to glory in his sight.” Hence alone the discontent.

This may be set in another light equally strong. No presentation of the plan of salvation can be more popular or concrete than this, that it is a plan to raise the heirs of hell to heaven. But what is heaven? The Bible never represents mere impunity as the inheritance of the believer; it is only an incident of that inheritance. The essential trait of heaven is holiness. A God of holiness is the source of its bliss, and moral likeness to him the way in which he makes us partakers of that bliss. Purity of heart is essentially the harmony of a rational nature, and is in itself peace. Sin is spiritual disease and death; to be sinful is to be wretched. These are the truths which lie at the very basis of both law and gospel. Hence, if God had no perfections of justice and holiness concerned in the work of redemption, and his sole aim were to gratify the attribute of benevolence by bestowing enjoyment upon sinners, this aim would still require their sanctification. For if sin is misery, sinners can only be made happy indeed by being made holy. The process of redemption, then, is one whose design throughout is holiness. But a justification encouraging sin would be a preposterous path to lead to such an end. The man who designs to reach the south does not travel toward the frozen north! That pretender to Christianity must be demented, truly, who would pursue a life of sin as the means of entering, through Christ, the way, into a state of perfect holiness.

Indeed, such a debate as Nicholas Amsdorf is said to have held, concerning the relative importance of faith and works in the Christian life, is preposterous. Both are of essential importance; the one as necessary means, the other as end. It is as though one should debate which is the more essential to a vine, roots or grapes? And when the generous vine displayed its luxuriant foliage to the sun, with the luscious clusters blushing through the leaves as they bent toward the earth, let us suppose that we heard some one argue thus:—

“Those beautiful clusters do not sustain the vine. It is the unsightly roots, grovelling unseen amidst the mould underneath, which perform that function. From these roots comes the vital sap which causes all this luxuriant beauty and fruitfulness. Therefore, grapes are of no account in the vine.” Such is the antinomian inference. We should answer:—

“Thou fool! True, the grapes do not sustain the vine, but the root sustains it for the sake of the grapes.

True, the fruit is the result and not the cause of the growth. But it is for the sake of this fruit alone that the vine is grown. Without its generous fruit, ‘what is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work, or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel.’ As a fruit tree, which is valueless for its timber, unfit even for the cheapest uses of the mechanic, and prized only for its fruit, if it be fruitless, is but rubbish, fit only for fuel, so the pretended believer who does not bear the fruits of holiness is ‘rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.’”

But these are merely the preludes of our argument. We now leave the defensive position for the aggressive. We claim that we do not “make void the law through faith;” and we also claim that by this doctrine” we establish the law.” The gospel scheme of a gratuitous justification is the best, yea, the only scheme, for evoking works that are really good. To introduce this positive part of our argument, we request the reader to study the simple, yet comprehensive, view by which the apostle (in the sixth chapter of Romans) refutes the abhorred inference that “we shall continue in sin that grace may abound.” What ideas of the gospel can be simpler than these?

Redemption repairs the fall. Christ, the second Adam, undoes for believers all that the fall did. But the fall left man both guilty and condemned, and inwardly depraved. As it left us, we were the “servants of sin” (Romans 6:17) as well as under condemnation. All of this made up or constituted that curse, that ruin, from which Christ came to lift us, at the prompting of redeeming love. He undertook for us, died for us.” He was made a curse for us,” and in this way “hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.” Now, can it be that it is but a partial redemption; that in the remedy the curse is divided, which in the ruin was one and indivisible, and a part is lifted from us, and a part left upon us? Surely not. If we are redeemed, we are redeemed from the whole curse, from the inward corruption as well as the outward wrath. And this is the more certain because the corruption, the spiritual death of soul into which the fall plunged us, is so inseparably connected, by action and reaction, with the condemning sentence. Sinners dread and hate God because his justice condemns them, and his justice condemns them because they are so wicked as to dread and hate him, the infinitely holy. Then, for the stronger reason, it cannot be that our Saviour has healed a part of this indivisible curse in his saved people, and left a part unhealed.

Again, how does Christ interpose for man? He offers himself as “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Hence, the believer “is not under the law, but under grace.” He does not live under the covenant of works as a plant of salvation, but under the covenant of grace; for Christ has fulfilled that broken covenant for us, under which we had fallen and could only perish. But see how, from this blessed fact, the apostle draws precisely the opposite inference from that of the legalist and antinomian (Romans 6:14). “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for (or because) ye are not under the law, but under grace.” And this is the consistent, the unavoidable inference. Under the covenant of works we fell, with Adam, into a state of condemnation and corruption. Because our gracious Redeemer has taken us out from under that covenant, therefore we must come out from under both the penalty and the dominion of sin, which make up the ruined state. If we have come out from the one, then from the other also.

But how? By our own strength? No. Christ, in redeeming us, bought for us grace also—grace to quicken and convert our souls, to deliver us from the bondage of sin, and make us servants of righteousness. And as the curse was one, inseparably one, so the gift is one glorious gift. United to Christ by faith, believers share his spiritual life as surely as they share the merit of his justifying righteousness. Just as surely as the body of the Redeemer was emancipated from the grave, so surely are their souls, by that death of the Lord, emancipated from the corruption and bondage of sin, if they cleave to him by faith. It is as impossible that the glorified Saviour can suffer and die again, after he proclaimed “It is finished,” as that the believer, who is in Christ by faith, can still live in Satan’s bondage. And this is precisely what our baptism means. That water, emblem of the sprinkling blood, of Calvary, is a “water of separation;” it separates us from our old, sinful life to a new, penitent and holy life; it marks a transition from the old to the new as clear and distinct as the tomb of Joseph made between the mortal, suffering life of Jesus and his glorified existence after his resurrection. He becomes to us not only Priest, but King, not only Victim, but Captain of our salvation; and no believer who has true faith ever dreams of or desires the separation of the offices. A simple faith embraces a whole Christ. Thus this ministration of free grace is also the most efficacious ministry of holiness.

In farther illustrating this inspired argument, we shall pursue two lines of thought, each of which is conclusive.

First, then, while the gospel requires us to discriminate justification from sanctification, “that boasting may be excluded,” it forbids us to separate them. Is it by the instrumentality of faith we receive Christ as our justification, without the merit of any of our works? Well. But this same faith, if vital enough to embrace Christ, is also vital enough to” work by love,” “to purify our hearts.” This, then, is the virtue of the free gospel, as a ministry of sanctification, that the very faith which embraces the gift becomes an inevitable and a divinely powerful principle of obedience. No system of legalism, devised for a sinful nature, can do that. Dead faith is an intellectual notion, a mere opinion of the head, which, if it is attended by any conative action of the heart, is only accompanied by the feeble and fickle desires of self-love and remorse. But this faith does not justify (as it does not sanctify). Living faith is a hearty, decisive determination of the intelligence and the will together, of the whole, free soul.” With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is the faith which attains a gratuitous justification. Now, what is its object? To this there is a general answer and a special answer. The first:—

Its object is the whole word of God so far as known; the second:—

The gospel promises. But the two answers find their consistency in this further truth, that faith embraces both objects on the authority of God, the same God speaking in them. The God who promises and. invites is the same God who instructs, commands, and threatens. Why is faith willing to risk its everlasting all upon his promises? Because she relies on his truth in them. But the same truth is in the precepts! Then the same faith will recognize its power and authority there also. Does faith respect God’s authority?—respect it enough to venture its immortality upon that authority?

Then surely it must respect it in both places. Hence the same faith “acteth differently upon that which each particular passage of the word containeth, yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings and embracing the promises, of God.”

Now, we ask, when God gives this faith to a man, is there any danger of its embracing the last object, the promises, and being oblivious of the others? Can it be vitally alive to the invitation, and dead to the precepts and threats? That vitality would be monstrous. As well might the surgeon tell us that he had so restored life to a paralysed limb that it could now thrill with. pleasure at a soothing touch of the gentle hand of affection, and yet that it was insensible when pierced with his steel to the bone; that it was fully sensitive to the genial warmth, but still callous to the devouring fire. Faith has been called the vital breath of a Christian soul. The analogy is good. Then it will breathe toward both precepts and promises if it is a living soul. It is as preposterous to deny this as it would be to tell us of a living infant breathing in only one lung, and yet normal and healthy. If its organs are neither monstrous nor diseased, it must breathe in both lungs in order to breathe in either, else in a few moments it will be a dead child. But it will breathe in both; to this every instinct of its vitality impels it; and it will endeavour to do so with. an energy which can be repressed by no violence except one which destroys life.

Thus faith must perform its vital action in both the spheres of obedience and of trust, or it cannot live. This becomes more manifest when we observe how intimately the precepts and promises are intermingled in the gospel. The requirement of duty and the promise of free grace are entwined together like two melodies mingling in one harmony; the ear of faith cannot separate either from the heavenly strain, nor would it mar the concord if it could. Not only do both parts of the teaching alternate, as. we pass from page to page of God’s word; they are offered to our faith in the very same breath. Would David (in the thirty-second Psalm) sing the blessedness of him” whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity?” He cannot conclude without adding, “and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Does the apostle reassure us with the delightful declaration that “there is now, therefore, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus?” He cannot even close his sentence without pausing to define those who are entitled to that blessed assurance, as those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” The faith, then, which is the instrument of a gratuitous justification can never neglect the precepts of its Saviour, for it is as much its nature to quicken the soul to the heeding of them as to the embracing of the promises.

The second line of argument by which we prove that the doctrine of a free justification is the best instrument for inciting to holy living, is suggested by the adaptation of the gospel, as a system of truth, to this end. It is the beautiful peculiarity of the system that God has so constructed it as to be the most efficient possible for the inculcation of holiness, as it is the most gracious possible for the encouragement of hope in a sinner’s bosom. Is it not just the assertion of the apostle,—when he says (Titus 2:11, 12), “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world?” etc. “Now, a wise Jehovah does not construct his works by chance. He, doubtless, designed this gospel for both these ends. We safely infer, hence, that it was no part of his purpose that the gospel of his grace should be a ministry of licentiousness; but he designed to redeem us unto holiness. Let any trait be examined which distinguishes the gospel from the revelation of God made in the works of nature to the natural reason; it will be found that that trait is a moving appeal to the soul for holy living. We might dwell upon the greater attractiveness which the gospel throws around the divine character, alluring us toward it in reconciling complacency. We might dwell upon the power of the example of Jesus, when he “suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps.” We might display the all-important influences of hope sweetly encouraged by promised grace, replacing stubborn fear desperation and self-accusation. It would indeed be profitable to unfold in contrast the chilling and depressing effects of a legalistic scheme operating upon the infirm, tottering efforts of fallen man. We could easily show how truly

“Hagar with her children is in bondage until this day.” The serious effort of duty cannot but bring the sins of our hearts into comparison with the exalted standard of a spiritual law. And as this disclosure is made to the self-righteous, but convicted, man, that the “law is spiritual, but he is carnal, sold under sin,” the task of winning a justification by rendering, in his own strength, an adequate obedience to this holy law, at once recognized and dreaded, presses upon the galled neck, until the fainting wretch is crushed to desperation. Many is the sinner whose remorseful straggles for reformation have been ended by this very cause, who has thrown off the futile and slavish endeavour, and who now goes on with a stolid hopelessness in those paths of sin which he is too weak to forsake, and which yet lead, as he knows, to perdition. Now, how inestimable is the boon of well-grounded hope to such a soul? Teach it that there is a way out of this slough of despair, that there is a gratuitous reconciliation, which enlists him under a gracious Captain who will “make strength perfect in his weakness,”

that the believing soul is “complete in him in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” so that the warfare may be hopefully renewed and the victory won, and the news is as life from the dead.

But our design is to explain these points; that this plan of gratuitous justification is the most efficient ministry of holiness, because it sets in the strongest possible light the demands of the divine holiness, the inflexibility of the law, the absolute necessity of conformity thereto, and the evil of sin; and because it supplies the generous incentive of devotion as our motive to duty. We may illustrate these positions most fairly, and also most forcibly, by showing the parallel applications of the gospel scheme and that of the opposers.

The legalist proposes, for instance, to pay a certain homage to the righteousness of God by signalising his reconciliation with a reform of his life, and the assumption of a certain round of duties, either of outward morality or ritualism. He expects the merit of these performances to satisfy the divine rectitude and to earn a favourable reward. Such is his theory. But unless he is besotted with sin, does he not see that his reformation is partial and unstable; that his duties are prompted by mixed motives, a part of his desire therein being morally indifferent, and a part positively selfish and deceitful; that his ritualism is often formal and apathetic, and that the whole service is tainted by a mercenary aim? This righteousness cannot even satisfy himself in his honest moments, yet he relies upon it to satisfy God’s holiness. Then, indeed, is he easily pleased! Then, indeed, is his holiness no very exacting thing! Why should man give himself much concern about the favour of so facile a ruler as this? The prize so easily won is as easily despised. But the gospel tells a very different story. It shows us a divine holiness so lofty and inflexible that it is incapable of conniving at defect; it will call nothing perfect which is not perfect, and yet can accept no less than perfection. So pure is this holiness that the slightest stain of sin renders our raiment unfit to appear before his judgment-seat. Nothing can be displayed there with acceptance except the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness. Not even the infinite pity which commends itself to us by sending his own Son to die for us when we were enemies, can sway that rectitude to reward anything less than perfection. Such is the God with whom we aspire to dwell in heaven; the God whose holy eyes must judge the imperfect deeds which we present to him as the evidences of our title to the righteousness of faith! No words are needed to show which of these creeds will most incite to watchfulness and holy fear.

But to hate and fear sin is to seek holiness. Let us contrast the lessons taught by the two creeds touching the evil of sin and the inflexibility of the law. The legal schemes recognize the existence of sin and guilt, and they propose their satisfaction for them. Saith the Socinian, they are remitted, out of the general kindliness of God, at the price of our repentance and reformation. Saith the ritual moralist, they are atoned for by the “sacrifice of the altar,” and by our penances, and alms, and contrition, and holy works. But what are these atonements? These reformations, are they not shallow and partial? These few penitential tears are drawn more by selfish fear than by generous grief and love. These penances are but the mercenary traffickings of remorse. These masses are but the vain mumblings of superstition; and the alms and works are wrought in vain glory and selfishness. Can sin and guilt be covered by so cheap an atonement as these? Then, indeed, are they no great things! God is easily appeased his justice easily satisfied, and what need is there that any sinner should stand in awe of a law which is only proclaimed in order to be set aside when the moment of its application arrives? Why regard sin as so dread a thing if it can be SO slightly washed away? But now what saith the gospel scheme? That this law, which so sternly prohibits every sin, is inexorable and eternal in every line, so that heaven and earth shall pass away sooner than one jot or tittle shall fail; that God descended into human flesh, and died on the cross, not to destroy it, but to fulfil; that when once the deadly stain of guilt falls upon a soul, so deep and dire is that taint in God’s eyes no penitential tears can avail to wash it out, though the head were waters, and the eyes a fountain of tears; no alms nor penances can hide it; no human priest juggle it away with his spiritual magic; nothing can purge it save the blood of the Divine Son, or else the endless burning of penal fires. True, that blood flows freely, un-bought, for every polluted soul, and wherever faith touches the priceless stream the deadly spot is cleansed; but yet the infinite riches of God’s throne must be given to purge it. Thus, while the legalist learns in his pride to depreciate his sin and despise the divine justice, the rescued believer stands with holy awe and adoring gratitude, ever learning a deeper, more solemn lesson of the dreadfulness of sin, as he looks from the blackness of the pit of retribution to the amazing price which was needed for his ransom, and the amazing love that paid it.

Socinian books, and many others which lean toward their errors, teem with assertions of the mischievous effects of the Bible doctrine of essential justice in God. They say that it paints the heavenly Father in a repulsive aspect; that it makes the penitent sinner recoil from him with dread; that it seeks to substitute fear for affection. They flout the idea that sin carries an intrinsic and necessary obligation to penalty. They tell us the pretended justice which demands it is but barbarian revenge cloaked under the veil of principle, and the creed which symbolized this necessity of just retribution by the perpetual stream of sacrificial blood is but “the theology of the shambles.” Instead of that account which the holy Scriptures give of the ground of Christ’s suffering, that they were because “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” these gentlemen propose various subordinate results as the solution of the events of Gethsemane and Calvary. Saith one, “It was designed solely as an example for us.” Another:—

“It was merely a touching attestation of the divine pity.”

Another:—

“It was the Father’s expedient to draw prodigal children to himself by a beautiful manifestation of out-gushing love.” Now, all this is true in its place; but they thrust the incidental design into the place of the essential, thus destroying the consistency and the moral effect of the whole plan. These statements express subordinate truths, but they are true, because, and only because, Christ’s sacrifice satisfied the divine perfections outraged by our sins. God and conscience both declare that justice is eternal; that it cannot properly give place to any expediency, however amiable; that the man, who “does evil that good may come” is worthy of a just damnation.

Therefore, if that awful instance of divine holiness and human innocency impersonated in Jesus, suffering the direst inflictions which providence has ever poured out on guilty men, is to be left unexplained by essential justice, then it is effectually emptied of all its encouraging lessons of divine pity and penitent hope. It rather stands out as a terrible anomaly, confounding justice with gratuitous cruelty, principle with expediency, innocence with the foulest guilt, and converting the foundations of the divine rectitude into a chaos, the contemplation of which freezes love into horror, and hope into despair. There is no longer a source left in Gethsemane or Calvary for a single influence which may allure the penitent soul to better things. We retort the charge, then, and assert (what experience bears out) that this humanitarian theology is as corrupting to man as it is dishonouring to God. When one of these professed advocates of “advanced thought” is heard babbling this shallow creed, if he be not simply babbling in the idleness of his conceit, he had best not be trusted with any rights of other people, for he is but confessing his own obtuseness to moral obligation. The obligation of ill-desert to penalty is as original as the obligation of well-desert to reward. He who boasts his influence to the one will not be slow to- betray the other. One who is ready so flippantly to strip his God of his judicial rights, is not likely to stickle at plundering his fellow-man of his’ rights. In this theory of sin, punishment, and atonement, he has adopted the creed of expediency. Will he not act on a similar one in his own affairs? Worst of all, he has fashioned to himself a God of expediency. Nothing can be so corrupting to the soul as to have an imperfect or sinful model exalted upon its throne as the object of its adoration, the standard of its imitation. “They that make idols are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” As the arrow is ever prone to sink below its aim, so men will ever allow themselves to be worse than the divinities they reverence. Nor can any preceptive stringency repair this corrupting effect. In his precepts God enjoins upon us a rigid standard. He that justifieth the wicked is as abominable to God as he that condemneth the righteous. If we presume to do evil that good may come, we are justly damned. If expediency prompts us to deny truth or right, we are forbidden to yield, on the peril of our souls. In this case, he that loveth his own life shall lose it. Thousands of God’s dear children have been required to be martyrs rather than deny the right. Now, God has also told us that our morality is to consist in the imitation of him. A father prohibits his sons, under the severest penalties, ever to postpone principle to expediency. But the sons see their father do the very thing as often as plausible occasion arises.

Such a family government may make them skulking hypocrites; it can never make them honest men.

Our crowning plea is, that the gospel plan of gratuitous justification is most promotive of good fruits, because it furnishes us with a supreme motive for obedience, which is at once the most permanent and energetic, and the most worthy. “We love him, because he first loved us.” Very little reflection is needed to see that when once human nature became godless, all plans of future blessedness, by what divines call a “covenant of works,” that is, engaging to dispense future reward for present service on the ground of merit, became ineffectual. Such was the dispensation of promise made to Adam:—

“Do and live.” For him it was then appropriate. His nature was then pure, and in harmony with the rectitude of his Maker and Lawgiver. The keeping of God’s commands, all of which his heart both approved and loved, was intrinsically pleasant to him; it was sweet to him to obey for the sake of the honour thus done to the Father whom he adored. When the additional appeal was made to his legitimate desire for his own welfare and for that of his expected offspring, by the promise and threat, this supplied a subordinate motive for the same obedience, consistent with the higher motives. Thus man’s free agency was placed under the most potent and beneficent influences conceivable by us before the gospel was revealed to work out for himself a holy and happy destiny. But, since the race has become “alienated from God by wicked works,” all this is changed, and that plan has become inappropriate.

Some one may reply:—

”But does not the Bible still say to sinners, ‘If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments?’”

We answer; Yes; Christ said this to the young ruler, but it was said in reply to his self-righteous question, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16.) He demanded to know the plan for saving himself by works; Christ could give him no other answer than the one given by the covenant of works. But the real design of the Saviour was, after all, to lead him to the experimental knowledge that this plan was now impracticable for sinners. And there can be no better exposition of the reason why, than that which is contained in this instance, viz. that from a sinner like him a covenant of works could only procure an obedience which was partial and mercenary. Men, since the fall, are alienated from God, opposed to godliness, supremely self-willed, and toward God supremely selfish. Now, a hireling may, for wages, serve a master whom he dislikes. That is to say the loose verbal usage of men speaks of his labour as the service o his employer. But, in strictness of speech, the unwilling hireling is serving himself instead of his employer. He labours, not for the employer, but for his wages; that is, for himself. The whole transaction is purely mercenary. And such is the best result which a legal scheme can produce from our fallen nature. But is such a pretended righteousness worthy of approbation before that God who “requireth truth in the inward parts?” To an earthly parent it would be an insult. How much more must it not be a dishonour to the Father of our spirits?

The gospel proposes, therefore, no such sorry scheme as this In devising a religion for sinners. God, acting with a wisdom worthy of his nature, has omitted the whole notion of purchase and merit as irrelevant to both the legal and moral state of creatures condemned and corrupted. He has provided a gratuitous salvation, in which satisfaction to the rights of the law is wondrously combined with the most persuasive love to the culprits, in which “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Providing in the unspeakable love and pity of redemption the sweetest conceivable instrument for alluring the hostile heart to himself, and turning its mistrust into grateful love, it bestows “remission of sins,” and “inheritance among all them which are sanctified,” simply “by faith which is in Christ,” as a free gift, the gift of the Father’s infinite mercy, Christ’s dying love, and the Holy Spirit’s condescension, in advance of all workings and earnings of the sinner’s own. And, in the bestowing of it, Christ says to the grateful, melting beneficiary, “If thou lovest me, keep my commandments.” Let it be supposed that any service is elicited by this tender appeal, then how superior, in its disinterestedness, to that mercenary trafficking for future advantage which the self-righteous heart had offered to God. But to compare them would be a disparagement to this evangelical obedience.

Evidently, if there is practical power in this gospel plan, its fruits, and its fruits alone, are suitable (while creating no claim of debt against our Proprietor and Redeemer) to receive the smile of his approbation. They are the work of his own grace, the results of Christ’s blood and the Spirit’s cleansing, the first flush of the returning image of God’s holiness.

But moralists sometimes reply, that while this theory may be very beautiful, it is impracticable. They say they know human nature, and they know how Utopian is the hope of governing mankind by disinterested devotion.

“Self-interest,” they exclaim, “is the main lever of human action, and if the divines wish to produce practical effects, they must place the plea of self-interest in the forefront of their appeal.” This we flatly deny. Believing, as we do, that human nature is godless and alienated from all heavenly goodness, we yet assert that it contains amidst its ruins enough to refute this miserable philosophy. There are men so degraded as to be supremely selfish, even toward their fellows. But when we look at the better instances of social virtue found among the ungodly, we find that self-interest is not the most abiding nor the most energetic principle of action.

Disinterested social affections endure more, and do more, than fear or avarice. That reader must be unblessed, indeed, with those affections who has not experienced this truth in his own history. Let him ask himself, whence it is that he receives the service which is most grateful to his own soul, as well as most prompt and punctual? Not from the mercenary hirelings who covet his gold, or who fear his frown, but from friends or children, who find their happiness in pleasing him. In the hours of his anguish and danger, who ministered to him with most unflagging and self-sacrificing zeal? It was a sister, a wife, or a daughter, who, exposed to no wrath or penalty from him, and utterly forgetful of the thought of all other reward than his rescue and his happiness, lavished their strength and care at his bedside with a perseverance which all his gold could not have purchased from a hireling nurse. But we find our best argument in witnessing the sacrifices of that affection which is the purest and most generous of all the remnants of Eden left in human hearts. In every virtuous household we see a ruler, who is served with an obedience more tireless and uncomplaining than fear ever exacted from the subjects of a despot. No slave of an eastern sultan, with the bow-string or the scimitar suspended over his neck, ever toiled for his monarch as the servant of this ruler for him. At his slightest call, ease and fatigue are alike disregarded; his voice silences every other wish, and life itself is not held too dear a sacrifice for him. That king is the infant in his cradle, and the servant is the virtuous mother! He is powerless, dependent, impotent to bestow reward or penalty; but that very helplessness is his sceptre, and by it he rules as autocrat, dominating every other motive in the mother’s heart. Love is the mightiest lever of human action, not fear nor selfishness. “For love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”

Now, then, if grace does beget evangelical love in the believer’s heart, we have in it a principle of new obedience as much more permanent and powerful as it is purer than the mercenary selfishness of the legalist.

But this is just what the gospel promises and effects. When the penitent beholds the divine compassion flowing in the redeeming blood of his Saviour, and comprehends the freeness and vastness of the love of redemption, he learns that most potent of all motives, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” We may righteously join in the indignant reply:

“Talk they of morals? O thou bleeding Lamb,

The great morality is love to thee!”

It thus appears that the charges of immoral results against the Bible doctrine of gratuitous justification are the antipodes of truth. That doctrine is the best, yea, the only adequate enforcement of true holiness. It is the glory of the gospel, that faith, and faith alone, “is the victory which overcometh the world.”
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