Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

mily on that subject; but the Homily, thongh very well adapted to answer the particular purpose, for which it was intended, as an exhortation to the people not to rest in a mere belief of the truths of Christianity, without being directed by them in their conduct, is not to be considered as a composition critically 'exact. Truth compels me to say, that Mr. Daubeny (see his Vindicia Eccleside Angelicane," p. 360, 371.) whether misled by haste, or quoting through an erroneous médiuin, has given a wrong representation of what the Homily says; á rei presentation, indeed, quite the reverse of what is the fact. In the hurry of consultation, the little bul important word "not,” might escape the eye; but it must be confessed, that, in a point, on which a part of the controa versy so much depended, more care ought to have been taken. Mrs. More further says, “ This faith, if real, must produce love; for, when our nrinds and hearts are thus impressed, our affections inuśt of nécessitý, yield to that impression.” This Mrs. More says with reference to the expression of St. Paul (Gal. v. 6.) where he speaks of

faith, which worketh by love." But, as the word heart is generally understood to include the affections, this is no more than saying, that, when our affections are impressed, they must be impressed; à proposition, whicli, though true, cannot possibly afford any inforination, or bé of any use. When Mrs. More first introduces this expressioni of St. Paul, she inentions it as a definition of Christianity; in which I should not be indisposed 10 agree with her ; but she afterwards seems to consider it as a definition of faith; in which she is certainly mistakén. St. Paul is not here defining faith, but pointing out the method, by which the salvation, promised to us through Christ, is to be obtained. It is indeed évidently absurd to consider "faith,and “ faith which worketh by love," as standing for exactly the same idea. Here, then, is the foundation of Mrs. More's mistake: she confounds “ faith," with

faith, which worketh by love ;” the cause, with the cause conjoined with the intended effect. The worthies who are recorded in the 11th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews; are cominended, not merely because they had faith, but because their faith was productive of its intended effect. They might have had faith, and faith in the seripture sense, Without its being productive of that effect; otherwise, the caution of St. James against an unproductive faith O 2

would

would not have been given. St. Paul also says expressly, “ These things I will that thou affirin consiantly, that they, which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works ;” a mode of expression, which he would scarcely have used, if he had thought, with Mrs. More, that belief necessarily implied good works. See Tit. iii. 8. For, admitting the good works here mentioned inore particularly to mean almıs-deeds, there is the same necessity of giving cautions to believers, that they be careful to maintain every other kind of good works.

The word faith is indeed sometimes used by St. Paul as a sort of technical term, denoting the substance of the Christian religion, and signifying the same as the word gospel, in opposition to the word law, which denotes the whole of the Jewish religion. See instances of this in Mr. Ludlam's Essay. But, whenever it is mentioned in scripture as that grace, which is now more commonly una derstood by the ierm, it means no more than an assent, on the authority of inspired persons, to those revealed truths, of which we have not the evidence of sense. This, I think, will appear, so far as those instances go, few considering the history of the persons mentioned in the 11th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, to whom the grace of faith is expressly attributed. So that when St. Paul, in the passage referred to, and on which Mrs. More has passed so high an encomium as to affirm, that " it substantially contains the whole scope and tenor of both Testaments," declares, “ In Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith, which worketh by love,” we are to understand him as saying, “In the Christian religion, it is not circumcision that is of any avail, but faith only ; nor is it any kind or des gree of faith, that is of avail, but that kind and degree of faith only, which worketh by love, or charity, that faith, which operates so powerfully on the affections, as to produce a spirit of universal benevolence ; for, that this is St. Paul's notion of love or charity, is erident from his distinct and beautiful account of it in the thirteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians. If St. Paul had com, prehended the idea of " love or charity” under the term faith, what need would there have been to speak of that particular faith, which worketh by love?" I repeat, therefore, that by the word faith, Mrs. More means what St. Paul means by the words“ faith which worketh by

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

him *.

love," and that Mrs. More and St. Paul are very much at variance, though she thinks, that she entirely agrees with . When the idea of love or charity or good works is comprehended under the term faith, it is undoubtedly true, that faith is necessarily productive of good works; but this is a inode of speaking, which at the best, is unmeaning, and which, as it is too commonly understood, is very liable to abuse, and very likely to be the occasion of pernicious effects. Had I not considered this latter to be the case, I should not have thought it right to extend this animadversion to so great a length, or worth while to enter upon it at all. I do not imagine, that Mrs. More, or indeed any person of a liberal education, can be led, merely by such an inaccuracy of language, to adopt any sentiments, or to pursue any conduct, which is inconsistent with the character of a true Christian; but I anı greatly apprehensive, that many ignorant people, especially those of the Methodistic persuasion, are encouraged by it in the foolish notion of setting faith and good works in opposition to each other, and of disparaging the latter in comparison with the former; a notion, which has occasioned much disquiet to the Christian world, and which, if it has not contributed to the increase of vice, has greatly hindered the progress of virtue. When faith is represented as the whole of religion, a wide door of self-deceit is set open. Men easily persuade themselves, that their assent to the truths of religion is that faith, which is sufficient for salvation; and thus, resting in fancied security,

In another part of her work, Mrs. More censures, seemingly with. out sufficient reason, two papers of the Spectator, i.e. Nos. 459 and 201, written by Mr. Addison. They are indeed written currente calamo, for which, of course, allowance must be made; but they contain, I

no fundamental error. With respect to the first, in which the respective merits of faith and morality are compared, it is but fair to suppose, though it is not expressly mentioned, that Mr. Addison, under the terin morality, comprehends what St. Paul has expressed by the term charity; in which case, be is supported, in giving the preference of morality over faith, by the authorit.y of St. Paul. See 1 Cor. xiii. 13. By the

way, if St. Paul, under the word faith, comprehended charity, as Mrs. More supposes, how could he with any propriety say, that " charity is greater than faith? With

respect to the other paper, though Mr. Addison's definitions of enthusiasm and superstition are less clear and distinct than those of Mrs. More, who rightly refers the one to hope, and the other to fear, yet they come to much the same thing ; Mr. Addison considering both enthusiasm and superstition as “the errors of a mistaken devotion," and Mrs. More as “ the consequence of a radical misconception of religion."

they

think,

they are at least negligent of abounding in good works, if they are not altogether careless about the nuture of their works *

Our good works, it is true, can no otherwise be acceptable to God, than as they are the evidence of our sincerity, and as they are beneficial to ourselves and our fellow-creatures. « For,” to use the words of Eliphaz to Job, “ Can a man be profitable unto God, as he, that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?” Job xxii. 2. But it is to be considered, that it is by good works, by the various exercises of love or charity, that the dispositions of our minds are to be improved, and that we are to be prepared for the enjoyment of heaven. It is, I think, agreed on all hands, that good works, when there is any opportunity of performing them, are necessary to salvation. Why, then, should a mode of expression be adopted, which, at least in the estimation of the unlearned, tends to lessen the idea of their necessity ? Many of the persons, who have adopted it, seem to conclude, because, as they suppose, their faith is right, that therefore their works are good. St. James has taught us, that the proper mode of proceeding is just the reverse of this ; that our faith is to be judged of by our works, not our works by our faith. "A man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works; show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” Jam. ii. 18. The apostle argues justly. Faith is a disposition or act of the mind, and exists, if it exist at all, to no useful purpose either to ourselves or others, unless it produce a correspondent course of action. As, in the case of predestination, those, who · believe that doctrine in the Calvinistic sense of it to be true, ought, agreeably to the advice of Bishop Barlow, rather to infer ascendendo, than descendendo, that is, conelude their election from the regularity of their lives, rather than rest their hopes of salvation on any absolute and irrespective decree; so, in the case of faith and works

[graphic]

* A Methodist in my neighbourhood lately said, “ At our meeting, wë do not go much upon works; we go all upon the right faith. If you have but the right Faith, you need not trouble yourself inore.” I am well assured, that Mrs. More cannot approve of any such doctrine as this; but she ought to consider, that her authority is likely to encourage many undisa tinguishing teachers, both within and without the church, in propagating such doctrine.

men

« EdellinenJatka »