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A MAN MAT 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.
THIS whole chapter of the apostle James is so
good a comment upon those parts of St, Paul's epistles, which the folifidian has drawn to his own purpose, that one should think it might prevent any misconstruction of them. Indeed some reformers, who favoured the solifidian scheme, wished to exclude this epistle from the canon of scripture. It still however, maintains its ground. The text contains a sort of challenge to those who hold faith independent of works. Shew me thy . 2
faith without thy works; and I will phew thee my faith by my works. '
In the following discourse, I shall consider the two opinions which the apostle characterizesfaith without works, and faith by works; and fhall endeavour to shew which has the more charitable tendency. .
The folifidian maintains, that faith is the end, or fum of religion--that it is this which juftifies=and that as to works, they should be considered merely as the test of faith.
The opposer of these doctrines allows, that faith is the true source of good works; but he contends, that it is a mean, not an end. Indeed he asserts, that neither faith, nor good works, can be said to justify any man, but the merits of Christ alone; for which good works, wrought through the agency of faith, are the special qualification.
Let us now from this state of the two opinions, which, I apprehend, is a fair one, see what effect they naturaily seem to have on the mind.
The solifidian trusts in faith folely for his justification, and conceives it therefore to be the sum of Christianity. Of course he allows no person, who has not his idea of faith, to be a good Christian; and if he speaks out, he will say, (indeed I have
heard him say it,) that he does not believe such a person to be in a state of salvation.
On the other hand, he who considers faith not as an end, but as the mean of a good life, confiders that person only as a bad Christian, whose life is wicked. He inay believe the solifidian, and many others, to be in error; yet still he considers them as good Christians, if their lives be without reproach.
We are far however from fuppofing, there are not many enlarged minds, which may hold the doctrine of faith, without any of these prejudices about them. All we mean is, that among the low and bigotted people of this persuasion, there is often found a want of charity,
I cor. i. 21.
FOR AFTER TAAT- THE WORLD BY WISDOM KNEW NOT GOD, IT PLEASED GOD BY THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING, (that is, by the fimplicity of the Gospel,) TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE.
W E have here a contrast between the heathen VV world, depending on its own wisdom and the Christian world, depending on the simple truths of the Gospel.
The philosophy of the heathen was carried to a great height. Their wise man, in lofty language, allowed himself inferior only to the gods. And yet, with all this pride and self-consequence, he was in fact ignorant of all those truths which most concerned him. He knew little of the nature of God-little of his own nature here—and still less
of his future state hereafter. In the mean time the Gospel gives him fufficient information on all these subjects.
From this contrast may be known, in what the fimplicity of the gospel consists; and how much better it is adapted to inculcate our duty to God and man, than any system of human ethics. Happiness is the great end we all aim at: and when the truths of the Gospel find a soil prepared for them, they producé, it may be shewn, every happiness that can be enjoyed in this world, and hoped for in the next. Whereas, the virtues of the world are often among the greatest sources of misery; and at best, cannot carry us beyond the world.