« السابقةمتابعة »
moral law is "spiritual," and takes cognizance of men's spirits: whatever therefore, in the state of our hearts, answers to the spirituality of the precept is holy. The least intermixture of unholiness, in the best and most spiritual exercises of the heart, or actions of the life, condemns us according to the legal covenant: but the actual existence of the smallest portion of a right and spiritual disposition, if it could be ascertained, would prove the possessor regenerate; being one of the "things which accompany salvation." Abraham might justly have been condemned, and needed merciful forgiveness for the weakness and wavering of that very faith by which he was justified: while the small measure of obedience, which Sarah rendered, in reverencing her husband; though she laughed in unbelief, denied her crime, and was sharply rebuked for it; is noticed with approbation by Peter, as a specimen of the "manner, in which holy "women who trusted in God adorned themselves."* So entirely distinct are the questions concerning holiness, and concerning the way of justification; except as the sanctification of the spirit evidences our interest in Christ by faith.
The case of Abraham, to which the apostle refers in the words before cited, is peculiarly unfavourable to the conclusions which many deduce from them for that patriarch had walked with God for many years before the transaction, concerning which the sacred historian records that " he believed in God, and it was accounted to him "for righteousness." Yet on this passage the
* 1 Pet. iii. 5.
apostle grounds his remark, "Now to him that "worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth "the ungodly, his faith is accounted to him for righteousness." But will any man maintain, that Abraham had been, even to that time, in all respects ungodly, and an enemy to God? and that he never had performed one good work in all the preceding years of his walking with God? Yet this must be the consequence of the absolute interpretation of this remarable text.-The same might also be shewn respecting David, at the time when he penned the thirty-second Psalm; to which the apostle referred as another illustration of his subject.*
Every degree of humility, fear of God, desire of happiness in his favour and service, love to his perfections and those things which he approves, hatred of what he abhors and forbids, simple belief of his testimony, reliance on his promises, and regard to his authority and glory, if it be genuine, accords to the spiritual precept of the law, and is so far holy. A transgressor, if renewed to a "right "spirit," and encouraged to hope for mercy, would plead guilty, apply for pardon, and approve of the most humbling and self-denying way of reconciliation, which the glory of his offended God required.
Sanctifying and sanctification, as these words relate to our present subject, denote the renewal of an unholy creature to a right spirit; and are applicable to every stage of this renovation, from its commencement in regeneration, to its comple
*Rom. iv. 6-8.
tion in glory. But no measure of sanctification can possibly form any part of a sinner's justifying righteousness: because, while it is imperfect, that imperfection needs forgiveness; and, when perfected, it can make no atonement for past sins, nor can it merit eternal life. It however distintinguishes a living faith from that which is dead and worthless; it forms our meetness for heaven; it enables us to glorify, and prepares us to rejoice in God; and it is a distinct part of our free salvation, no less valuable than justification itself;-as distinct as a gratuitous cure of the gaol-fever would be from the pardon of a felony, and the grant of an inheritance. If then the opinion, that saving faith is holy, even in its first and feeble actings, could countenance self-righteous confidence; more complete sanctification must have proportionably a still stronger tendency to it. Yet this is not supposed by the persons in question: for they see, that justification and sanctification, in the advanced Christian, are perfectly distinct: how is it then, that they do not recollect, that they are distinct at the first, as well as at the last? Or if they allow it, how can they but perceive that their objections in this respect are perfectly unfounded?
SAVING FAITH THE EFFECT OF REGENERATION.
THE holy nature of saving faith may be inferred from the consideration, that it is the gift of God, and wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit. To this it may indeed be objected, that many gifts are conferred by the same divine Agent, which are allowed to have nothing essentially holy in their nature. It should however be observed, that, in those things which inseparably " accompany sal"vation," the Holy Spirit directly acts upon the dispositions and affections of the heart, stamps his own image, and communicates his own holy nature to the soul, by permanently operating on all its faculties, as an in-dwelling source of life, light, purity, and felicity; whereas, in, imparting spiritual gifts or miraculous powers, he only works upon natural principles, or enables a man occasionally to perform supernatural actions, without any abiding union or assimilation. Balaam, Judas, and many who in Christ's name prophesied, cast out devils, and wrought miracles, continued all the while covetous, ambitious, malignant, or sensual workers of iniquity: but no man ever truly believed in Christ, while his heart continued the willing slave of any lust.-As these gifts and powers are not holy in their nature, or even in their effects; so neither are they connected with salvation, by any indissoluble bond: but faith in Christ is
more explicitly and frequently in scripture connected with eternal salvation, than any other exercise of the heart or soul whatever. If it therefore be not holy in its own nature; it is an exception to the general rule: for no other fruit, or gift, or operation, of the Holy Spirit, that invariably accompanies salvation, can be mentioned, which is not indisputably holy in its essential nature.
As unbelief springs from the "love of darkness " rather than light," because the deeds of the unbeliever are evil; so faith must arise from the love of light rather than darkness, because of an incipient disposition to keep God's commandments. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his "deeds may be made manifest that they are
wrought in God." When the "evil heart of un"belief" is removed, and the sinner has "received "the love of the truth;" then " with the heart he "believeth unto righteousness. But, in proportion as the doctrines of the gospel are proposed to the minds of proud and carnal men, with convincing energy, they excite the greater measure of scorn, rage, and enmity. The overbearing evidence, with which the hated light is poured in upon the reluctant understanding, disturbs and torments the conscience, affronts the self-complacency of the heart, and calls forth into vigorous opposition those evil propensities which before lay dormant. This was the effect of our Lord's discourses and those of his apostles, on the unbelieving priests, scribes, and Pharisees. Undeniable miracles, unanswerable arguments, decisive scriptural proofs, pointed warnings, and rebukes, and the clear light of divine truth, connected with the meekness of