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by St. James, in that well known passage, which by some has been thought at variance with those just quoted from St. Paul ; whereas there really is a perfect accordance of doctrine between both. “A man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works : shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well : the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead!”
Another sense, in which the word “ faith” is used, is that firm persuasion of the veracity of Jesus, and confidence in His divine mission, which qualified a person for the reception of any favour from on high ; any act of Divine grace, in the communication of miraculous relief, in the power of bestowing it, or in the exercise of any spiritual office. Such I conceive to be the faith, spoken of in the text; for it is clearly mentioned in such a manner, as to be distinguished from other species of faith in other parts of the New Testament. When the centurion avowed his conviction of the power of our Saviour to perform a miraculous cure upon one who was absent, our Lord exclaimed; “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel !” When the disciples questioned their Master as to the reason, why they could not expel the demon from the epileptic youth, he replied, “ Because of your unbelief! For verily I say unto you,
have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder
· James, c. ii, 18–20.
place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."* When the impotent man at Lystra attracted the notice of St. Paul, it is said the Apostle “perceived he had faith to be healed.” St. James directs that “he, who lacks wisdom, should ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” But he adds " let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” The same Apostle states that “the prayer of faith shall save," or heal, “ the sick; and the Lord shall raise him up.
Here however the question may again recur, If the faith spoken of in these places, were a disposition of mind so meritorious as to be recompensed with some particular mark of Divine favour, how comes it to pass, that the disposition itself is represented to have proceeded from Divine favour? I can here only remind
you of the uniform practice of the Jews in referring immediately to God, every disposition of mind, every endowment of the soul. Every thing that affected them, externally or internally, they piously ascribed to Him, "from whom cometh every good and perfect gift.” In conformity with this universal practice, “ faith” is mentioned distinctly, in the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, as a spiritual gift; as possible to exist without one, spark of charity; and therefore, in reference to eternal salvation, valueless in the sight of God.
Though I have the gift of prophecy”, says the Apostle, “and understand all a Matt. xvii. 20.
b Acts, xiv. 8. < James, i. 5.
d Ib. c. v. 14.
mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
I think it therefore perfectly evident, from a consideration of the context, and the usage of the language,
that when St. Paul used the terms, “measure of faith”, he referred to the degree, in which the special gifts of the Spirit were at that time vouchsafed for instructing the Church, and promoting the ends of good government among its members; and that he intended to convey precisely the same ideas, when he added in the sixth verse, “ let us prophesy, according to the proportion of faith "--kata mu αναλογίαν της πίστεως. .
I have been the more anxious to convey to you à. elear apprehension of the Apostle's meaning in these eurious expressions, because a notion was imbibed by some of our earlier divines, and is eagerly caught at by Wesley, that ávaloyla Tas TT. OTEWs implies “con formity to some established rule of faith”; “ a close and intimate connexion between the chief heads of that faith, which was oncé delivered to the saints. As I have entered so fully into the right interpretation, it is, I should hope, unnecessary to oppress you with reasons for abandoning the wrong. I shall therefore take leave of this subject by laying before you Mr. Locke's explanation, with some pithy remarks in confirmation of it. “I (says the Apostle) according to the grace given me, direct you every one in the
a Wesley in loc.
use of your gifts, which according to the grace given you are different; whether it be the gift of prophecie, to prophesie according to the proportion or measure of that gift, or revelation that he hath. And let him not think that, because some things are, therefore every thing is, revealed to him. The same rule concerning the same matter St. Paul gives, Eph. iv. 6, that every member should act according to the measure of its own strength, power, and energie ;1 Cor. xiv. 29-32 may also give light to this place. This therefore is far from signifying that a man, in interpreting of Sacred Scripture, should explain the sense according to the system of his particular sect; which each party is pleased to call the analogie of faith. For this would be to make the Apostle to set that for a rule of interpretation, which had not its being till long after, and is the product of fallible men. The measure of faith, and proportion of faith”, adds this judicious Commentator, “signifies the same thing, viz. so much of that particular gift, which God was pleased to bestow on any one.”
II. Let us now turn to an expression in the concluding part of this chapter, which has been thought to contain matter of more serious difficulty, because it affects a lesson of practice. I will shortly state what the difficulty is; lay before you a very ingenious, but not quite satisfactory, solution that has been proposed; and then offer to your consideration my own view of the subject.
The whole passage is as follows: “ Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
The question here is, What is meant by, heaping coals of fire on his head? The general notion is, that it means bringing down the Divine vengeance upon an enemy's head.
“ You shall aggravate his condemnation, and subject him to a heavier load of wrath, if he doth not repent.” But some good and learned men conceive, that the bare suggestion of such a motive is inconsistent with the pure and benevolent principles of the Gospel. They argue thus: “ Is not this directing us to do good with a malicious intent? And how is it consistent with the advice the Apostle is here pressing upon us? It will not remove the difficulty to allege, that he does not mean we should do good to an enemy with an intent to bring down the vengeance of God upon him; but only shews, that this will be the event, if he persist in his unjust enmity. Supposing however the Apostle not to mean, we are to do an enemy good with an intention of subjecting him to the heavier wrath of God; yet it is evident, he must advise us to be beneficent, with the expectation of bringing down upon our enemy's head the severest vengeance, even by our beneficence. Which surely is a thought ill connected with Christian goodness." *