For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Romans 2:17), and they gloried in the Law (Romans 2:23). But now? All glorying was shut out.
I. THE FALSE GLORYING. Man's almost universal perversion of religion. Religion should humble him, but he makes it the occasion of boasting. So eminently with the Jews.
1. In the Law. The Law was designed to teach sin, and quicken their longings for holiness. It had become an apparatus of self-righteousness.
2. In God. God made himself known to them, that through them he might be made known to others. And God was one. They, however, rested in him as theirs alone; and the very doctrine of the oneness of God was made the badge of separateness, and an instrument of bigotry.
II. GLORYING EXCLUDED. God will teach man humility; as towards himself, as towards man's fellow-men. And the gospel is a potent instrumentality to this end. So, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."
1. The law of faith: to which "the Law" must logically lead. We receive, as suppliants, on bended knee. "Not of works, lest any man should beast" (Ephesians 2:9).
2. The God of all. The very truth they held belied their pretensions; the God of all must be a God to all. So, then, the gospel was God's gift of grace to men, to be accepted by man's faith. None could do more; none might do less. Our Christian knowledge and belief, our name of Christ, an occasion of glorying? Yes, in a true sense (Galatians 6:14), but not boastfully. For the one should teach us a deep humility, with faith; the other a large, unfailing charity. "He is Lord of all." - T.F.L.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.I. THE TERMS OF THIS CONCLUSION.
1. "Justification" signifies, literally, acquittal. In a court of law such acquittal may be made on the ground of —(1) Innocence.(2) Of a sufficient satisfaction. The Scripture view of justification is acquittal on grounds consistent with the demands of justice.
2. "Deeds of the law." "Law" is the will of a superior properly sanctioned; and Paul employs the term to denote generally the will of God.(1) As made known by some deep and powerful impression where a written revelation has not been given.(2) As having been made known by a written record. The whole may be called the moral law; and when the apostle speaks of "deeds of the law," he refers to conformity to its requirements, the acting in consistency with the law written in the heart on the part of the Gentiles — the acting in consistency with the law inscribed on tables of stone by the Jews.
3. "Faith" is a repose upon Jesus Christ as given for us and offered to us — an appropriating confidence on the fact that He died for us, for me.
II. THE MODE BY WHICH THE APOSTLE ARRIVES AT THIS CONCLUSION. The apostle has shown —
1. That mankind are all sinners.(1) That the Gentiles are so morally fallen that there is scarcely a single crime which may not be charged upon them.(2) The Jews are no less criminal. Now, look how this stands as part of the argument. If a man is justified by the deeds of the law his whole conduct must be conformed to law. It follows, therefore, that if mankind have all broken the law, a man cannot be justified by the deeds of the law. But it is more important that we make an application of this to ourselves.
2. That we are justified solely by Christ, and, consequently, by faith. The slightest attention to the perfections of God must convince us that He can never dispense mercy except in connection with His justice and truth. God, having given us a law, and that law having been broken, was bound in His righteousness to punish the sinner, unless someone were to be punished for him, and He, in His infinite wisdom and love, was pleased to set forth Jesus Christ to be a propitiation. Now it follows that if we are to be saved alone through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can only be righteous through trusting in Him.
III. THE IMPROVEMENT WHICH THE APOSTLE MAKES OF THIS DOCTRINE.
1. He vindicates the subject from the charge of novelty. Anything perfectly new in religion must be false. Paul shows that the doctrine was as old as Abraham, and that it entered into the whole Jewish system. He then cites the case of David (Psalm 32) , and shows that, as it was the experience of David, it was the doctrine of the Jewish Church generally.
2. He guards the subject against licentious abuse. What has an immoral tendency in religion must be assumed to be fallacious. It was a very natural conclusion for some people to arrive at: "Why, if we are not justified by the deeds of law there is no use for law."(1) "On the contrary," says he, "we establish the law." We are justified by faith in Him who endured the penalty of the law for us. The law is thus made good, as it was fully honoured by Him on whom we repose, who was made our Substitute.(2) We "establish the law" in another way, for it immediately brings the soul into union with God, and God sends forth the Spirit of His Son into the heart; and as soon as we feel that we love God. Here is the principle of all holiness. There is nothing so powerful in the world as love: "faith works by love."
3. He uses the subject to excite confidence. "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not of the Gentiles also?"
(A. E. Farrar.)
1. We are just what God sees us to be. We are not necessarily what we think ourselves to be, because our judgment may be erroneous. We may be ignorant of what constitutes a true Christian. Or, knowing what a true Christian is, we may look too favourably upon certain false signs of religious life, and may thus, in either case, decide that we are Christians when we are not. In like manner our fellow men may be mistaken about us. But God makes no errors.
2. And we shall be just what God's dealings with us tend to make us. Our future will be the fruit and the effect of God's dealings with us here. And yet we often think more of being justified by man than by God. The reason of this is that we are unduly influenced by the present. The insignificant face of a man within a few feet of you will hide the face of the infinite and eternal God. But as we read the Scriptures, and as we open our hearts to the Spirit of God, our attention is called away from men to God, and from man's judgment to God the Judge of all.
3. The words before us are a conclusion derived from two propositions.(1) The universal unrighteousness of man, as seen in the Gentiles, as exhibited by the Jews, as declared by God's Word, and as made manifest by God's law.(2) The provision which God has made for free justification. If it be true that all men are unrighteous; that "God hath set forth Christ a propitiation," etc., it is not possible that a man can be justified by the deeds of the law. Look —
I. AT THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION HERE REJECTED. "The deeds of the law."
1. The deeds of the law are the natural means of justification. Angels are justified by them, and so was Adam. Righteous means too are these and necessary. Why do men in their attempts to magnify the gospel denounce the law? Is not the Lawgiver the redeeming God, and the redeeming God the Lawgiver? And if the gospel be the glorious gospel, the commandment is holy and just and good.
2. But we are in such a position that we cannot use these means for justification. And why not? Because by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, and because individually we have followed our first father.
II. THE MEANS ACKNOWLEDGED AND EXHIBITED. What would be our position if we had simply a revelation telling us that we cannot be justified by the deeds of the law? By imagination place yourselves in this position. It is sometimes necessary for the rich to put themselves by thought in the position of the poor in order to awaken thankfulness for their mercies, Now do this with regard to the grace of God. Just think of yourselves as before Sinai; think as though you had never seen Calvary, and then you will be better able to appreciate all the blessedness involved in the words, "A man is justified by faith," etc.
1. By faith in what? Not faith in anything. You may have faith in God and in many of God's words, and yet not be justified. The faith to which Paul directs your attention here is faith in the manifestation of the righteousness of God without the law.
2. Faith in what sense and to what extent? Not the belief that such a manifestation has been made, but such a belief as leads to the use of it. "Faith without works is dead." The faith to which Paul here points is faith that does work, that is work. It is the sort of faith which a starving man will have in the supply of food that you bring him.Conclusion: Now, supposing this to be the doctrine of the text, what do we learn?
1. Guilt does not of itself prevent justification. Your sins will not ruin you, but your unbelief.
2. No circumstances of any kind in the case of those who hear the gospel constitute an exception to the mode of justification. Say that you are the children of godly parents, that you have always been remarkable for morality, you must still be justified by faith without the deeds of the law. But justification is within reach of all who can believe. It is present privilege.
I. TO UNDERSTAND THE ARGUMENT WE MUST FIRST GRASP THE VITAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN WORKS AND FRUITS. Suppose you are crippled, and need constant attention. A servant for good pay may afford it; but there will be a certain hardness in it, and his work will be the basis of a claim. But if you have a wife or child, whose one desire is to be the minister of your needs, her joy in any alleviation she is able to afford rises into quite another region. The only return such service craves is that which it creates, increase of love. Now man's world is full of works; God's is full of fruits. How much of man's work is under hard compulsion — work for hire, which gold repays! But in God's great world we come into another region. The fields groaning with harvests, the trees bending with fruit, the birds caroling matins at heaven's gate, the insects humming eve's lullaby, do glad service to their Maker; and their reward is the mantle of beauty which His smile flings over all the worlds. And in this we have the key to the two theologies. Religion in Jewish and Roman schools is a working; in Paul's school, in Christ's, it is a life.
II. AND NOW LET US APPLY THIS TO THE MATTER IN HAND. The works of the Pharisaic school are sketched by an unerring hand (Matthew 23:23-27). Their works were abundant, their fruit nowhere. All within them that could bear fruit was dead. The evil in the Church began probably from a misreading of St. James. What St. James calls "faith and works," Paul calls faith — that is, faith which is alive, and can prove its vitality by its fruitfulness. But the Church soon began to lay the chief stress on the works. They are the part of the matter with which a priesthood can most profitably concern itself. Follow the track of Tetzel, and see what the Pharisaic doctrine of work inevitably grows to in time. And the fruit of it is two fold. To the earnest, life becomes a weary, hopeless drudgery — a "yoke" which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear; with which compare Luther's description of his agony of mind while a Roman monk; while with the sensual it develops a reckless profligacy which, by a little clever arrangement with the Chancery of heaven, can all be set right at last.
III. "WHEREFORE WE CONCLUDE THAT A MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE LAW," and we step out at once into a new and heavenly world (Galatians 3:10-14, 21-29). Paul's position and Luther's is that a soul in anguish on account of transgression must sweep clean out all anxieties as to what it can do to please the Father, beyond the filial act of looking to Him through Him who came to reveal Him. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
1. Well but, said the Judaising theologians to St. Paul, and the Romanising theologians to Luther, this is to do away with the very foundations of morality. But this depends wholly on what we mean by faith. If it be simply a mental consent to Scriptural statements then the Judaisers and the Romanists are right. But if we believe with Paul and Luther, that the act of faith is a vital act whereby the sinner becomes "dead to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ his Lord," then you have a guarantee for the fruits of faith, which may be regarded as the nobler works of the law, transfigured, glorified by life. It is a great mystery; so is the life of nature. It is the gift of God; so is the life of nature. As God has ordained the law by which the life of nature is quickened in the embryo, so has He ordained that in the spiritual sphere the "just by faith shall live."
2. And Paul's conception of the meaning of justification was very large and grand. Justified by faith the law has no claim against you, the devil no accusation. God beholds you as you are in Christ, whose image, forming within, shines through all the follies and weaknesses that defile your frail humanity, and obliterates them to heavenly sight. Your title to the name of son, and the son's inheritance, is absolute. You have not to win it. One thing alone vitiates it — unbelief. Let faith fail, the life fails. Fix the eye of faith again on Christ, cry to Him, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief," and the life rises again in the springs. Good works will flow from you as summer fruits from the sunny earth, music from a harp full strung, or light from the fountain of day. And they are beautiful to Him, for He creates them; what glory is in them, the newborn lay as tribute at His feet.
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)I. WHAT IS MEANT BY JUSTIFICATION. The justification here meant —
1. Is not —(1) That which comes upon all men, even infants, through the righteousness of Christ (Chronicles 5:14, 15, 18).(2) That which shall take place at the day of judgment (Romans 2:13-16; Matthew 12:37), which will be, not indeed by the merit (Romans 6:23), but by the evidence of works (Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).
2. But that which the true people of God possess on earth (1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:7); which is —(1) Not the declaration of innocence, which is the meaning of the word in courts of law (Psalm 143:2; Chronicles 3:20).(2) Not the being made innocent or holy, which would confound it with regeneration or sanctification.(3) But the having righteousness accounted to us; sin not imputed, sin pardoned; or the sentence of condemnation against us reversed, and our obligation to punishment cancelled by a judicial act of God. This implies, and draws after it, acceptance and adoption.
II. IN WHAT SENSE WE ARE TO BE "JUSTIFIED BY FAITH." When the apostle says we are "justified by faith" —
1. He does not speak of —(1) The moving cause of justification which is Divine grace; and hence we are said to be justified by grace (ver. 24; Titus 3:4-7).(2) Nor of the meritorious cause, which is the redemption of Christ (ver. 24, 25; Isaiah 53:11; 2 Corinthians 5:1, ult.); and hence we are said to be "justified by Christ" (Galatians 2:17).(3) Nor of the efficient cause, either of the preparation necessary, as conviction and repentance for sin, or of a sense of this justification; this is the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:7).(4) Nor of the instrumental cause on the part of God, which is part of His Word, viz., His declaration and promises respecting pardoning the penitent (John 15:3).
2. But of the instrumental cause on our part, which is faith — in Christ, as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour, able and willing to save (John 3:16-18; Galatians 2:16); this implies —(1) That we come to Him (John 6:37; John 7:37; Matthew 9:28).(2) That we trust in Him as "delivered for our offences" (Romans 4:25), trust in His blood (Romans 3:25).(3) That we receive Him (John 1:12) in God (Romans 4:24), in His mercy and promises through Christ (Romans 4:17-23). Those who have this faith are justified, and none without it. Thus, in different senses, we are justified by grace, by Christ, by the Spirit, by the Word, by faith.
III. HOW THIS IS "WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE LAW."
(J. Benson.)I. THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION.
1. On this subject great misconception prevails. There are two extremes into which men are betrayed.(1) That justification originates with the creature, instead of the Creator.(2) The exclusion of man from all active concern in the reception of the boon. In the former, sinners, like ancient Israel, attempt to establish a righteousness of their own; in the latter, justification is regarded as an act of the Divine government, irrespective of the production of moral character in the predestinated objects of it. Against both delusions we ought to be on our guard. The one is fraught with legal confidence, the other with antinomian licence.
2. That we may attach distinct ideas to the justification, it is necessary for us to consider it in reference to the attributes and revealed will of the Divine Lawgiver. "It is God that justifieth"; and the principles accordingly by which His decisions are conducted are those of unerring wisdom and unchangeable excellence. Now, the revealed ground of justification, when man was in a state of innocency, was a perfect conformity to the will of his heavenly Father. And will the unchangeable God now be satisfied with a less pure devotion to His will? Impossible! But, in Adam's case, the righteousness was his own; now it is that of our Surety. Still, the principle of justification is one and the same, at once satisfying the claims of justice and vindicating the equity of the law. The patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations were at one with the Christian in the revealed ground of acceptance. The victim presented at the altar was a confession that the life of the offerer had been forfeited by sin, and that the law of righteousness was obligatory. True believers worshipped the holy Lord God as also merciful and gracious. To them, as to us, justification was granted as an act of forgiving love.
3. Justification includes pardon of sin and acceptance with God. Both are due to the voluntary substitution of the Son of God in our nature, who by active obedience fulfilled the law to the uttermost, and by penal suffering redeemed us from its curse.
4. From this scheme human works are completely excluded. The origin, the progress, the revelation, the execution of it are all alike Divine. It was devised in the counsels of unsearchable Wisdom, flows from the unmerited riches of sovereign compassion, and glorifies the Divine government in the estimation of all orders of intelligent beings.
II. THE NATURE OF THAT FAITH BY WHICH WE ARE JUSTIFIED.
1. Note the relation which faith bears to the justifying act of God as an instrumental but not efficient cause. A mariner falls from the vessel's side and is in imminent danger of sinking; a rope is thrown out to him; he believes that this presents a way for his escape, and his faith may be said to save him from a watery grave. Unless he had confided in the rope, death would have been inevitable. Now, it is in a sense analogous to this that we are "justified by faith." It is not our faith that imparts a right to the blessings of redemption. Faith simply connects the needy but unworthy recipient with the munificent Giver. It is the opening of the mouth for the bread of life; the stretching forth of the withered hand towards the Divine Physician; the putting on the protecting robe against the inclemency of the storm.
2. Note its properties.(1) Its Divine origin. Like every other good gift, it cometh from above. "No man," says our Lord, "can come to Me, except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him." "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Hence we perceive an important distinction between a merely speculative or historical assent to the truth of God and that holy exercise of man's heart with which he believeth unto righteousness.(2) Its appropriating character. We may admit the existence and value of many things in which we feel little personal interest. Without calling in question a single fact or doctrine of Holy Scripture we may be unmoved by its most solemn and touching representations. It is otherwise when the slumbers of spiritual death are broken. Instead of boasting as heretofore of good deeds and virtuous aspirations, the language is, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" But whither shall he take himself for remission? Will he be satisfied with mere generalities, as that Christ Jesus "came into the world to save sinners," and that he need not therefore despair of mercy? Assuredly not. He is not satisfied till he can say, "He loved me and gave Himself for me."(3) It is inseparably connected with all other Christian graces. Faith "works by love"; "purifies the heart"; is "the substance of things hoped for."
(J. Sawer, M. A.)I. THE JUSTIFICATION OF SINNERS BEFORE GOD ENTIRELY EXCLUDES THEIR OWN WORKS.
1. When he says a man is justified by faith without works, he does not mean that there are different means of justification for different sinners, but that every individual sinner of the human family who is justified obtains this privilege by faith.
2. The moral law could not justify sinners; for by it, says the apostle, is the knowledge of sin. It points out the evil of sin as opposite to itself and to the Divine nature; it criminates sinners for their offences, and threatens deserved punishment; things as opposite to justification as anything can be.
3. Sinners cannot be justified by the works of the moral law, because, in their natural condition, they cannot obey any of its precepts. Their nature is corrupted, and all their actions polluted with sin. But actions from an impure source cannot justify, but must render men liable to condemnation. Besides, all men in their natural condition are under the curse of the law.
4. If it be pleaded that sincere though imperfect obedience will justify sinners, let me ask, Hath Jehovah anywhere in His Word required sincere obedience, or any degrees of it, as the ground of acceptance? Or can it be proved from the sacred oracles that one individual sinner of the human race ever yielded sincere obedience to the Divine law, till once he was renewed by the grace of God, and accepted through the merit of Christ? It cannot.
5. It is worthy of observation on this subject, that all the good works performed by believers in Christ Jesus are as much excluded from being the ground of justification as the works of sinners previous to conversion. All works really and instrumentally good are performed in a state of justification, are the proper and natural effects of it, and therefore cannot be the cause of it. They are proper and requisite to evidence the reality of justification to the consciences of believers and to the world, but were never designed by God to be the foundation of this important privilege.
II. THE EVANGELICAL DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
1. The righteousness which is the alone ground of the sinner's acceptance consists in the spotless and perfect righteousness of the Redeemer's nature and life, and in the complete satisfaction which He yielded to Divine justice. It glorifies the moral administration of Deity, and renders it amiably and awfully venerable.
2. Let us next inquire into the influence of faith on justification, and how it justifies.(1) This influence is pointed out by the apostle when he declares in the text, "A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." It is not a natural but a saving faith that justifies. By a natural faith is to be understood that assent of the understanding to the truths of Divine revelation which sinners are capable of yielding in their natural and unrenewed condition.(2) Let us now ascertain the particular sense in which faith justifies. It does not justify merely as it is a grace implanted in the heart, for in this respect it is the work of God, and not of man; though still the existence of the principle is necessary to all its subsequent operations, and lays a foundation for them in the soul. Nor does it justify by its own act, as separated from its object, the Redeemer's merit, as it is received by the believing sinner; for in this respect it is a duty, and as much excluded from the ground of justification as all other graces and duties are. Nor does it justify by any intrinsic merit in its principle or exercise, considered abstractly by themselves; for though it has in it a high degree of spiritual excellence, as a grace of the Spirit, yet the gifts of God can found no plea of personal merit in those who receive them. Neither does faith justify by assenting to this proposition, that the merit of Jesus is the only ground of the sinner's acceptance with God; for this doctrine may be assented to as a true doctrine by sinners who are never justified and saved. As in the former respects faith does not justify, in what determinate sense does it justify? I reply, that faith justifies, as it is the Divinely appointed mean or instrument, whereby the renewed sinner apprehends and applies the glorious Mediator in His all-perfect and meritorious righteousness for the pardon of sin, acceptance into the Divine favour, and as the ground of his title to all gospel blessings. The mediatorial righteousness is the object of justifying faith, and faith justifies as it is the instrument by which the believing soul takes hold of the Redeemer's righteousness as the alone ground of justification before God. The mediatorial righteousness justifies meritoriously, and faith instrumentally. It is necessary also to observe, that when faith justifies instrumentally, it is its primary act that justifies, and not any of its subsequent acts. By the continued actings of faith, sanctification is promoted, justification is evidenced, faith itself and the other Christian graces are invigorated, pious resolutions confirmed, communion with God maintained, the power and sweetness of religion experienced, Divine supplies are received, God and religion honoured, and the believer is gradually ripened for the inheritance of the saints in light. The more lively the actings of faith are, the more vigorous will the life of grace become in the soul, increasing degrees of Divine consolation will be felt, and the Christian will press forward with greater ardour to the glorious prize of his high calling.
III. THE PECULIAR EXCELLENCIES OF THIS GOSPEL METHOD OF JUSTIFICATION.
1. It is an amazing device of infinite wisdom, by which the perfections and the government of God are eminently glorified.
2. It excludes boasting in believers, hides pride from their eyes, and leads them to a humble dependence on redeeming merit, which is a temper highly becoming sinful creatures, and suitable to their condition.
3. It places all the children of God upon the same level, so that they are all one in Christ Jesus, and none of them have any superiority over the rest. There are many other differences between them, but here there is none, as they all stand on the same immovable foundation. What a powerful motive arises from this to brotherly love, and to every office of the most endearing friendship! What a noble incentive to gratitude to God, and the Saviour, and to the cultivation of holiness in the heart and in life!
4. This Divine method of acceptance establishes the faith and hope of Christians upon an immovable and everlasting foundation. Had their own graces, frames, or duties, been the ground of pardon and acceptance, they must have been left in the greatest uncertainty about their interest in the favour of God, and had their hearts filled with perplexing doubts and fears. But the mediation and merit of Jesus removes all ground of uncertainty and perturbation. Believers neither need to turn inward to their graces and frames, nor outward to their duties, to find the matter of their justification. This is abundantly provided for them by the grace of God in the merit of Jesus Christ, whose spotless obedience and unequalled sufferings are, by the wise and benign appointment of Jehovah, the alone ground of pardon and life to guilty men.
5. This Divine plan of acceptance affords support, comfort, and tranquillity, to true Christians under the pressures of life, the revolutions of the world, and the challenges of conscience.
6. The doctrine of justification by faith in the merit of Christ affords the most powerful methods to love, gratitude, and obedience. Does not love naturally beget love? and shall not a display of the love of God in justifying the ungodly through the mediation of His Son beget love in the justified sinner? and if he love God, will not love constrain him to keep His commandments?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)James 2:14): —
1. The Bible does certainly teach that a certain kind of faith, which even James would commend, is essential to salvation.(1) We see kindness and wisdom of God in this arrangement, inasmuch as it is a condition most easy to fulfil. And not only has man the capacity to believe, but he has a propensity to do so. He is a credulous being; he lives, and works, and hopes, and loves, and rests, by faith. Faith is the basis of society, the wheel of commerce, the tie of friendship, the channel of social intercourse.(2) Nor is it more kind than wise. I cannot see how man could have been saved without a certain kind of faith. Before he changes his character, he must have new convictions. Man must become a Christian, as he becomes a farmer, a mariner, a physician — by faith.
2. It has been thought by some that James disparages faith, and places himself in antagonism to Paul. But note —(1) The difference in the mental tendencies of the apostles. The natural tendency of Paul's mind was speculative. He delighted in the science of religion. The tendency of James was practical. He thought more about acts than ideas. He estimated the creed of a man by his works. With this mental difference, whilst both would hold the same great vital truth, one would be naturally more taken up with the speculative aspect, and the other with the practical.(2) The difference in the characters to whom the apostles wrote. Paul had in view the legalist; James had in view those who combined an orthodox creed with an unorthodox practice. One was against legalism, and the other against antinomianism. In further illustration of the real harmony between the two inspired men, note —
I. THAT THERE MAY BE A CERTAIN KIND OF WORK IN CONNECTION WITH RELIGION WHERE THERE IS NO GENUINE FAITH. Those which spring —
1. From the feeling of merit. Such were the works of the old Pharisees. What a deal of work there is done in connection with religion from this feeling now!
2. From a sympathy with the feelings and doings of others. It is customary in the circle to which the man belongs to attend places of worship, and to contribute to religious institutions; and he of course must do the same. Certain religious doings are fashionable; and the love of fashion and the fear of singularity will prompt them.
3. From official position. A man takes some office in connection with Christianity — Sabbath school teacher, deacon, etc. — and he may do the duties of his office without any genuine faith.
4. From the love of a sect. The partisan feeling in religion is ever wondrously active.
II. THERE MAY BE A CERTAIN KIND OF FAITH IN CONNECTION WITH RELIGION WHERE THERE IS NO GENUINE FAITH. There is a kind of faith something like that sentimental charity that will talk fluently and tenderly about the sufferings of the poor, but will do nothing to relieve their sufferings.
1. A traditional faith. Such as people get from their parents, their sect, which is adopted without any honest searching in the light of common sense and the Bible before God. People whose faith is of this description, had they been born in Turkey, would have been Mohammedans; in India, Hindoos. This faith is a serious evil: it warps the intellect, shuts out new truth, and obstructs free thought, piety, and progress. It is everlastingly quarrelling — anathematising heretics.
2. A speculative faith. Persons of this faith believe in God, Christ, heaven, and hell as propositions, but do not realise their bearing on themselves.
3. A sentimental faith. Persons of this class are carried about with every wind of doctrine; they are taken up with this preacher today, and that tomorrow. They are Arminians one Sunday, and Antinomians the next. These are mental children — clouds without water; the creatures of clap-trap and novelty.
III. THAT NEITHER THE WORKS UNCONNECTED WITH GENUINE FAITH, NOR THE FAITH UNCONNECTED WITH GENUINE WORKS, ARE OF ANY MORAL, SERVICE.
1. The works unconnected with genuine faith are of no moral service. Because —(1) The worth of a work in the sight of God is the motive. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."(2) The happiness of a work is in the motive. In the employment of man the outward act gives value to your service. So long as you can plough, sow, and build well, it does not matter what you think or feel. But, in religion, the feeling of the act is everything. The widow's mite is "more than all."
2. The faith unconnected with good works is of no moral service. What is a seed worth if it has not the germinating principle? What is the salt worth without its savour? What we want now is to have the creed of Churches worked out. This will do more against infidelity than all your libraries. "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord," etc.
IV. THAT THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL WILL NECESSARILY LEAD TO GOOD WORKS, AND THE WORKS OF THE GOSPEL NECESSARILY SPRING FROM GOSPEL FAITH. AND THUS PAUL AND JAMES AGREE.
1. The nature of the ease shows this. Faith in the gospel is faith in the infinite love of God for sinners. Can a man really believe in this without love rising in his heart to God? What is the first question of love? How shall I please? etc.
2. The biographies of believers show this. "When it pleased God," says Paul, "to reveal His Son in me, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood," etc. James preached against the mere creedist, and Paul against the mere work monger; and such preachers every age requires.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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